BOOK VIII. SUNSET AND SUNRISE.
74. CHAPTER LXXIV.
"Mercifully grant that we may grow aged together."
--BOOK OF TOBIT: Marriage Prayer.
In Middlemarch a wife could not long remain ignorant that the town
held a bad opinion of her husband. No feminine intimate might carry
her friendship so far as to make a plain statement to the wife of the
unpleasant fact known or believed about her husband; but when a woman
with her thoughts much at leisure got them suddenly employed on
something grievously disadvantageous to her neighbors, various moral
impulses were called into play which tended to stimulate utterance.
Candor was one. To be candid, in Middlemarch phraseology, meant,
to use an early opportunity of letting your friends know that you
did not take a cheerful view of their capacity, their conduct,
or their position; and a robust candor never waited to be asked for
its opinion. Then, again, there was the love of truth--a wide phrase,
but meaning in this relation, a lively objection to seeing a wife
look happier than her husband's character warranted, or manifest
too much satisfaction in her lot--the poor thing should have some hint
given her that if she knew the truth she would have less complacency
in her bonnet, and in light dishes for a supper-party. Stronger
than all, there was the regard for a friend's moral improvement,
sometimes called her soul, which was likely to be benefited by remarks
tending to gloom, uttered with the accompaniment of pensive staring
at the furniture and a manner implying that the speaker would not tell
what was on her mind, from regard to the feelings of her hearer.
On the whole, one might say that an ardent charity was at work
setting the virtuous mind to make a neighbor unhappy for her good.