George Eliot.

Felix Holt, the radical online

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D A N A E S T : C O M P A N










oitTKAi'!' OF KsTiiKi; Lvox. . . Frederic Di ell/Kin Frontispiece
F.I. ix lloi.T AND JOB TrixiK . . \V. II. S/ielton .... 231
KI.IX \VOCNDKD IN THK HioT . . Henri/ SawUiam .... 334

S'!lli:i; l.'l'ON AND II AKOI.D TllAX-

SOMK . . F. Childe Hatsam . . 410


VOL. in. I



FIVE- AXD-TII TUT Y years ago the glory had not yet departed
from the old coach-roads : the great roadside inns were still
brilliant with ^veil-polished tankards, the smiling glances of
pretty barmaids, and the repartees of jocose ostlers ; the mail
still announced itself by the merry notes of the horn; the
hedge-cutter or the rick-thateher might still know the; exact
hour by the unfailing yet othenvise meteoric apparition of
the pea-green Tally-ho or the yellow Independent; and el-
derly gentlemen in pony-chaises, quartering nervously to make
way for the rolling swinging swiftness, had not ceased to re-
mark that times were finely changed since they iised to see
the pack-horses and hear the tinkling of their bells on this
very highway.

In those days there were pocket boroughs, a Birmingham
unrepresented in Parliament and compelled to make strong
representations out of it, unrepealed corn-laws, three-and-six-
pennv letters. ;i brawny ami many-breeding pauperism, and
other departed evils ; but there were some pleasant things too,
which have also departed, ^on o/nni" grandlor cr/v/.s >ju,n'
fifr/i'iwux Ji'ilrf. says the wise goddess : you have not the best
of it in all things. O youngsters ! the elderly man has his envia-
ble memories, and not the least of them is the memory of a
long journey in mid-spnug or autumn on the outside of a stage-
coach. Posterity may be shot, like a bullet through a tube,
by atmospheric pressure from Winchester to NVweastie: that
is a fine resuii to have amoir.; our hopes : but the slow old-
fashioned \\ay ot geltn.g from one i_ml of our country to the


other is the better tiling to have in the memory. The tube-jour-
ney can never lend much to picture and narrative ; it is as barren
as an exclamatory ! Whereas the happy outside passenger
seated on the box i'rom the dawn to the gloaming gathered
enough stories of English life, enough of English labors in
town and country, enough aspects of earth and sky, to make
episodes for a modern Odysse}. Suppose only that his jour-
ney took him through that central plain, watered at one
extremity by the Avon, at the other by the Trent. As the
morning silvered the meadows with their long lines of bushy
willows marking the watercourses, or burnished the golden
corn-ricks clustered near the long roofs of some midland home-
stead, he saw the full-udclered cows driven from their pasture
to the early milking. Perhaps it was the shepherd, head-
servant of the farm, who drove them, his sheep-dog following
with a heedless unofficial air as of a beadle in undress. The
shepherd with a slow and slouching walk, timed by the walk
of grazing beasts, moved aside, as if unwillingly, throwing out
a monosyllabic hint to his cattle , his glance, accustomed to
rest on things very near the earth, seemed to lift itself with
difficulty to the coaehman. Mail or stage coach for him be-
longed to that mysterious distant system of things called
" Gover'ment."' which, whatever it might be, was no business
of his. any more than the most outlying nebula or the coal-
sacks of the southern hemisphere : his solar system was the
parish ; the master's temper and the casualties of lambing-
time were his region of storms. He cut his bread and bacon
with his pocket-knife, and felt no bitterness except in the
matter of pami'T laborers and the bad-luck that sent contra-
rious seasons and tin 1 sheep-rot. He and his cows were soon
left behind, and the homestead too, with its pond overhung by
elder-trees, it-; untidy kitchen-garden and cone-shaped yew-
tree arbor. But everywhere the bushy hedgerows wasted the
land with their strag }\n'. r 1- auty, shrouded the grassy borders
of the pastures with catkined ha/rls, and tossed their long
blackberry branches on the cornfields. 'Perhaps they were
white with .May. or starred with pale pink dog-roses ; perhaps
M'fhins were already nutting amongst them, or gathering


the plenteous crabs. It was worth the journey only to see
those hedgerows, the liberal homes of unmarketable beauty
of the purple-blossomed ruby -berried nightshade, of the wild
convolvulus climbing and spreading in tendrilled strength till
it made a great curtain of pale-green hearts and white trum-
pets, of the many-tubed honeysuckle which, in its most deli-
cate fragrance, hid a charm more subtle and penetrating than
beauty. Even if it were winter the hedgerows showed then-
coral, the scarlet haws, the deep-crimson hips, with lingering
brown leaves to make a resting-place for the jewels of the
hoar-frost. Such hedgerows were often as tall as the laborers'
cottages dotted along the lanes, or clustered into a small ham-
let, their little dingy windows telling, like thick-filmed eyes,
of nothing but the darkness within. The passenger on the
coach-box, bowled along above such a hamlet, saw chiefly the
roofs of it : probably turned its back on the road, and seemed
to lie away from everything but its own patch of earth and
sky, away from the parish church by long fields and green
lanes, away from all intercourse except that of tramps. If its
face could be seen, it was most likely dirty ; but the dirt was
Protestant dirt, and the big, bold, gin-breathing tramps were
Protestant tramps. There was no sign of superstition near,
no crucifix or image to indicate a misguided reverence : the
inhabitants were probably so free from superstition that they
were in much less awe of the parson than of the overseer. Yet
they were saved from the excesses of Protestantism by not
knowing how to read, and by the absence of handlooms and
mines to be the pioneers of Dissent : they were kept safely in
the via nieitia of indifference, and could have registered them-
selves iu the census by a big black mark as members of the
Church of England.

P>ut there were trim cheerful villages too, with a neat or
handsome parsonage, and gray church set in the midst ; there
was the pleasant tinkle of the blacksmith's anvil, the patient
carthorses waiting at his door; the basket-maker peeling his
willow wands in the sunshine ; tin 1 , wheelwright putting the
last touch to a blue cart with red wheels: here and there; a
cottage with bright transparent windows showing pots full of


blooming balsams or geraniums, and little gardens in front all
double daisies or dark wallflowers ; at the well, clean and
comely women carrying yoked buckets, and towards the free
school small Britons dawdling on, and handling their marbles
in the pockets of unpatched corduroys adorned with brass but-
tons. The laud around was rich and marly, great corn-stalks
stood in the rick-yards for the rick-burners had not found
their way hither ; the homesteads were those of rich farmers
who paid no rent, or had the rare advantage of a lease, and
could afford to keep their corn till prices had risen. The
coach would be sure to overtake some of them on their way
to their outlying fields or to the market-town, sitting heavily
on their well-groomed horses, or weighing down one side of
an olive-green gig. They probably thought of the coach with
some contempt, as an accommodation for people who had not
their own gigs, or who, wanting to travel to London and such
distant places, belonged to the trading and less solid part of
the nation. The passenger on the box could see that this was
the district of protuberant optimists, sure that old England
was the best of all possible countries, and that if there were
any facts which had not fallen under their own observation,
they were facts not worth observing : the district of clean little
market-towns without manufactures, of fat livings, an aristo-
cratic clergy, and low poor-rates. But as the day wore on the
scene would change : the land would begin to be blackened
with coal-pits, the rattle of handlooms to be heard in hamlets
and villages. Here were powerful men walking qneerlv with
knees bent outward from squatting in the mine, going home to
throw themselves down in their blackened flannel and sleep
through the daylight, then rise and spend much of their high
wages at the ale-house with their fellows of the Benefit Club :
here the pale eager faces of handloom-weavers, men and wo-
men, haggard from sitting up late at night to finish the week's
work, hardly begun till the Wednesday. Everywhere the cot-
tages and tin' small children were dirty, for the languid mothers
gave their strength to tin 1 loom ; pinus Dissenting women, per-
haps, who took life patiently, and thought that salvation de-
pended chiefly on predestination, and not at all on cleanliness.


The gables of Dissenting chapels now made a visible sign of
religion, and of a meeting-place to counterbalance the ale-house,
even in the hamlets ; but if a couple of old termagants were
seen tearing each other's caps, it was a safe conclusion that,
if they had not received the sacraments of the Church, they had
not at least given in to schismatic rites, and were free from
the errors of Voluntaryism. The breath of the manufacturing
town, which made a cloudy day and a red gloom by night on
the horizon, diffused itself over all the surrounding country,
iilling the air with eager unrest. Here was a population not
convinced that old England was as good as possible ; here
were multitudinous men and women aware that their religion
was not exactly the religion of their rulers, who might there-
fore be better than they were, and who, if better, might alter
many things which now made the world perhaps more painful
than it need be, and certainly more sinful. Yet there were
the gray steeples too, and the churchyards, with their grassy
mounds and venerable headstones, sleeping in the sunlight ;
there were broad fields and homesteads, and iine old woods
covering a rising ground, or stretching far by the roadside,
allowing only peeps at the park and mansion which they shut
in from the working-day world. In these midland districts
the traveller passed rapidly from one phase of English life to
another : after looking down on a village dingy with coal-dust,
noisy with the shaking of looms, he might skirt a parish all of
fields, high hedges, and deep-rutted lanes; after the coach had
rattled over the pavement of a manufacturing town, the scene
of riots and trades-union meetings, it \vouhi take him in an-
other ten minutes into a, rural region, where the neighborhood
of the town was only felt in the advantages of a near market
for corn, cheese, and hay, and where men with a considerable
banking account; were arcustoni"d to say that "they never
meddled with politics themselves. '' The busy scenes of the
shuttle and the wheel, of the roaring furnace, of the shaft and
the pulley, seemed to make but crowded nests in the midst (if
the large-spaced, slow-moving lift of homesteads and far-away
cottages and oak-sheltered parks. Looking at the dwellings
scattered amongst the woody Hats and the ploughed uplands,


under the low gray sky which overhung them with an unchang-
ing stillness us if Time itself were pausing, it was easy for the
traveller to conceive that town and country had no pulse in
common, except where the handloonis made a far-reaching
straggling fringe about the great centres of manufacture ; that
till the agitation about the Catholics in '29, rural Englishmen
had hardly known more of Catholics than of the fossil mam-
mals ; and that their notion of He form was a confused combi-
nation of rick-burners, trades-unions, Nottingham riots, and in
general whatever required the calling out of the yeomanry.
It was still easier to see that, for the most part, they resisted
the rotation of crops and stood by their fallows : and the
coachman would perhaps tell how in one parish an innovating
farmer, who talked of Sir Humphry .Davy, had been fairly
driven out by popular dislike, as if he had been a confounded
Radical ; and how, the parson having one Sunday preached
from the words, '' Break up your fallow-ground,'' the people
thought he had made the text out of his own head, otherwise
it would never have come >: .so pat" on a matter of business;
but when they found it in the Bible at home, some said it was
an argument for fallows (else why should the .Bible mention
fallows ?), but a few of the weaker sort were shaken, and thought
it was an argument that fallows should be done away with,
else the Bible would have said, " Let your fallows lie ; " and
the next morning the parson had a stroke of apoplexy, which,
as coincident with a dispute about fallows, so set the parish
against the innovating farmer and the rotation of crops, that he
could stand his ground no longer, and transferred his lease.

The coachman was an excellent travelling companion and
commentator on the landscape : he could tell the names of sites
and persons, ami explain the meaning of groups, as well as the
shade of Virgil in a more memorable journey; he had as many
stories about parishes, and the men and women in them, as
the Wanderer in the "Excursion," only his style was different.
His view of life had originally been gmal. and such as became
a man who was well wanned within and without, and held a
position oi' easv. undisputed authority; but Ihe recent initia-
tion of Railways had. embittered him : he now, as in a perpetual


vision, saw the ruined country strewn with shattered limbs, and
regarded Mr. Huskisson's death as a proof of God's anger
against Stephenson. "Why, every inn on the road would be
shut up I " and at that word the coachman looked before him
with the blank gaze of one who had driven his coach to the
outermost edge of the universe, and saw his leaders plunging
into the abyss. Still he would soon relapse from the high
prophetic strain to the familiar one of narrative. He knew
whose the land was wherever he drove ; what noblemen had
half-ruined themselves by gambling ; who made handsome
returns of rent; and who was at daggers-drawn with his eldest
son. He perhaps remembered the fathers of actual baronets,
and knew stories of their extravagant or stingy housekeeping;
whom they had married, whom they had horsewhipped, whether
they were particular about preserving their game, and whether
they had had much to do with canal companies. About any
actual landed proprietor he could also tell whether he was a
Reformer or an Anti-Reformer. That was a distinction which
had ' turned up " in latter times, and along with it the paradox,
very puzzling to the coachman's mind, that there were men of
old family and largo estate who voted for the Bill. He did
not grapple with the paradox ; he let it pass, with all the dis-
creetness of an experienced theologian or learned scholiast, pre-
ferring to point his whip at some object which could raise no

No such paradox troubled our coachman when, leaving the
town of Treby Magna behind him, he drove between the hedges
for a mile <>r so, crossed the queer long bridge over the river
Lapp, and then put his horses to a swift gallop up the hill
by the low-nestled village of Little Treby, till they were on
the fine level road, skirted on one side by grand larches,
oaks, and wych elms, which sometimes opened so far as to let
the traveller see that there was a park behind thorn.

How many times in the year, as the coach rolled past the
neglectecl-looking lodges which int" minted the screen of trees,
and showed the river winding through a rniely-timbeTvi'i Mark,
hud the coachman answered 'Jie same questions, or told the
same things without being questioned ! That '.' <,h, thai, was


Transome Court, a place there had been a fine sight of lawsuits
about. Generations back, the heir of the Transonic name had
somehow bargained away the estate, and it fell to the Durfeys,
very distant connections, who only called themselves Tran-
Bomes because they had got the estate. But the Durfeys' claim
had been disputed over and over again; and the coachman, if
he had been asked, would have said, though he might have
to fall down dead the next minute, that property did n't always
get into the right hands. However, the lawyers had found
their luck in it ; and people who inherited estates that were
lawed about often lived in them as poorly as a mouse in a hol-
low cheese ; and. by what he could make out, that had been
the way with these present Durfeys, or Transomes, as they
called themselves. As for Mr. Transome, he was as poor, half-
witted a fellow as you'd wish to see ; but xhe was master, had
come of a high family, and had o, spirit you might see it in
her eye and the way she sat her horse. Forty years ago, when
she came into this country, they said she was a pictur' ; but
her family was poor, and so she took up \vith a hatchet-faced
fellow like this Transome. And the eldest sou had been just
such another as his father, only worse a wild sort of half-
natural, who got into bad company. They said his mother
hated him and wished him dead; for she'd got another son,
quite of a different cut, who had gone to foreign parts when he
was a youngster, nnd she wanted her favorite to be heir. But
heir or no heir, Lawyer Jermyn had had 7//.v picking out of the
estate. Not a door in his big house but what was the finest
polished oak, all got off the Trrnssome estate. IF anybody
liked to believe he paid for it. they were welcome. However,
Lawyer Jermyn had sat on that box-sent many and many a.
time. He had made the wills of most people thereabout. The
coachman would not say that Lawyer .Termvu was not the man
he would choose to make his own will some day. It was not
so well for a lawyer to be over-honest, else he might not be up
to other people's tricks. And as for the Transome business,
there had been ins and outs in time gone by, so that you
could n't look into it straight backward. At this Mr. Sampson
(everybody in North Loa.msliire knew Sampson's coach) would


scre-vf his features into a grimace expressive of entire neutrality,
and appear to aim his whip at a particular spot on the horse's
flank. If the passenger was curious for further knowledge
concerning the Transom e affairs, Sampson would shake his head
and say there had been fine stories in his time ; but he never
condescended to state what the stories were. Some attributed
this reticence to a wise incredulity, others to a want of memory,
others to simple ignorance. But at least Sampson was right
in saying that there had been fine stories meaning, ironically,
stories not altogether creditable to the parties concerned.

And such stories often come to be fine in a sense that is
not ironical. For there is seldom any wrong-doing which
does not carry along with it some downfall of blindly climbing
hopes, some hard entail of suffering, some quickly satiated
desire that survives, with the life in death of old paralytic
vice, to see itself cursed by its woful progeny some tragic
mark of kinship in the one brief life to the far-stretching
life that went before, and to the life that is to come after,
such as has raised the pity and terror of men ever since
they began to discern between will and destiny. But these
things are often unknown to the world ; for there is much pain
that is quite noiseless ; and vibrations that make human ago-
nies are often a mere whisper in the roar of hurrying exist-
ence. There are glances of hatred that stab and raise no cry
of murder ; robberies that leave man or woman forever beg-
gared of peace and joy, yet kept secret by the sufferer com-
mitted to no sound except that of low moans in the night, seen
in no writing except that made on the face by the slow months
of suppressed anguish and early morning tears. Many an in-
herited sorrow that has marred a life has been breathed into
no human ear.

The poets have told us of a dolorous enchanted forest in the
underworld. The thorn-bushes there, and the thick-barked
stems, have human histories hidden in them ; the power of un-
uttered cries dwells in the passionless-seeming branches, and
the red warm blood is darkly feeding the quivering nerves of
a sleepless memory that watches through all dreams. These
tilings are a parable.



He left me when the down upon his lip

Lay like the shadow of a hovering kiss.

"Beautiful mother, do riot grieve," he said ;

"I will he ^ri'ar. und build our fortunes high,

And you shall wear the longest train at court,

And look so queenly, all the lords shall say,

' She is a roval changeling : there 's some crown

Lacks the right head, since hers wears nought but braids,'"

Oh, he is coming now but I am gray

And he

ON the 1st of September, in the memorable year 1832, some
one was expected at T ran some Court. As early as two o'clock
in the afternoon the aged lodge-keeper had opened the heavy
gate, green as the tree trunks were green with nature's powdery
paint, deposited year after year. Already in the village of
Little Treby. \vliich lay on the side of a steep hill not far off
the lodge gates, the elder matrons sat in their best gowns at
the few cottage doors bordering the road, that they might be
ready to get up and make their curtsy when a travelling car-
riage should come in sight; and beyond the village several
small boys wore stationed on the lookout, intending to run a
race to tin- barn-like old church, where the sexton waited in the
bi'li'ry ready to set the one bell in joyful agitation just at the
right moment.

The old l<>dgo-keeper had opened the gate and left it in
the charge of his lame wife, because he was wanted at the
Court to sweep away the leaves, and perhaps to help in the
stabh-s. For though Transonic Court was a large mansion,
built in the fashion of Queen Anne's time, with a park and
grounds as fine as any to be seen in Loamshire. there were
very few servants about it. Especially, it seemed, there must
lie ;>. lack of gardeners ; for. except on the terrace surrounded
with a stone parapet in front of tlie house, where there was a


parterre kept v.'ith some neatness, grass had spread itself ovei
the gravel walks, and over all the low mounds once carefully
cut as black beds for the shrubs and larger plants. Many of
the windows had the shutters closed, and under the grand
Scotch fir that stooped towards one corner, the brown fir
needles of many years lay in a small stone balcony in front
of two such darkened windows. All round, both near and
far, there were grand trees, motionless in the still sunshine,
and, like all large motionless things, seeming to add to the
stillness. Here and there a leaf fluttered down ; petals fell
in a silent shower ; a heavy moth floated by, and, when it
settled, seemed to fall wearily ; the tiny birds alighted on the
walks, and hopped about in perfect tranquillity ; even a stray
rabbit sat nibbling a leaf that was to its liking, in the middle
of a grassy space, with an air that seemed quite impudent in
so timid a creature. No sound was to be heard louder than
a sleepy hum, and the soft monotony of running water hurry-
ing on to the river that divided the park. Standing on the
south or east side of the house, you would never have guessed
that an arrival was expected.

But on the west side, where the carriage entrance was, the
gates under the stone archway were thrown open ; and so was
the double door of the entrance-hall, letting in the warm light
on the scagliola pillars, the marble statues, and the broad
stone staircase, with its matting worn into large holes. And,
stronger sign of expectation than all, from one of the doors
which surrounded the entrance-hall, there came forth from
time to time a lady, who walked lightly over the polished
stone floor, and stood on the door-steps and watched and lis.
tened. She walked lightly, for her figure was slim and finely
formed, though she was between fifty and sixty. She was

Online LibraryGeorge EliotFelix Holt, the radical → online text (page 1 of 43)