BOOK II. OLD AND YOUNG.
22. CHAPTER XXII.
"Nous causames longtemps; elle etait simple et bonne.
Ne sachant pas le mal, elle faisait le bien;
Des richesses du coeur elle me fit l'aumone,
Et tout en ecoutant comme le coeur se donne,
Sans oser y penser je lui donnai le mien;
Elle emporta ma vie, et n'en sut jamais rien."
--ALFRED DE MUSSET.
Will Ladislaw was delightfully agreeable at dinner the next day,
and gave no opportunity for Mr. Casaubon to show disapprobation.
On the contrary it seemed to Dorothea that Will had a happier way
of drawing her husband into conversation and of deferentially
listening to him than she had ever observed in any one before.
To be sure, the listeners about Tipton were not highly gifted!
Will talked a good deal himself, but what he said was thrown in with
such rapidity, and with such an unimportant air of saying something
by the way, that it seemed a gay little chime after the great bell.
If Will was not always perfect, this was certainly one of his good days.
He described touches of incident among the poor people in Rome,
only to be seen by one who could move about freely; he found
himself in agreement with Mr. Casaubon as to the unsound opinions
of Middleton concerning the relations of Judaism and Catholicism;
and passed easily to a half-enthusiastic half-playful picture
of the enjoyment he got out of the very miscellaneousness of Rome,
which made the mind flexible with constant comparison, and saved
you from seeing the world's ages as a set of box-like partitions
without vital connection. Mr. Casaubon's studies, Will observed,
had always been of too broad a kind for that, and he had perhaps
never felt any such sudden effect, but for himself he confessed
that Rome had given him quite a new sense of history as a whole:
the fragments stimulated his imagination and made him constructive.
Then occasionally, but not too often, he appealed to Dorothea,
and discussed what she said, as if her sentiment were an item
to be considered in the final judgment even of the Madonna di
Foligno or the Laocoon. A sense of contributing to form the world's
opinion makes conversation particularly cheerful; and Mr. Casaubon
too was not without his pride in his young wife, who spoke better
than most women, as indeed he had perceived in choosing her.