BOOK VIII. SUNSET AND SUNRISE.
74. CHAPTER LXXIV.
There were hardly any wives in Middlemarch whose matrimonial misfortunes
would in different ways be likely to call forth more of this moral
activity than Rosamond and her aunt Bulstrode. Mrs. Bulstrode
was not an object of dislike, and had never consciously injured any
human being. Men had always thought her a handsome comfortable woman,
and had reckoned it among the signs of Bulstrode's hypocrisy that he
had chosen a red-blooded Vincy, instead of a ghastly and melancholy
person suited to his low esteem for earthly pleasure. When the scandal
about her husband was disclosed they remarked of her--"Ah, poor woman!
She's as honest as the day--SHE never suspected anything wrong
in him, you may depend on it." Women, who were intimate with her,
talked together much of "poor Harriet," imagined what her feelings
must be when she came to know everything, and conjectured how much
she had already come to know. There was no spiteful disposition
towards her; rather, there was a busy benevolence anxious to ascertain
what it would be well for her to feel and do under the circumstances,
which of course kept the imagination occupied with her character
and history from the times when she was Harriet Vincy till now.
With the review of Mrs. Bulstrode and her position it was inevitable
to associate Rosamond, whose prospects were under the same blight
with her aunt's. Rosamond was more severely criticised and less pitied,
though she too, as one of the good old Vincy family who had always
been known in Middlemarch, was regarded as a victim to marriage
with an interloper. The Vincys had their weaknesses, but then they
lay on the surface: there was never anything bad to be "found out"
concerning them. Mrs. Bulstrode was vindicated from any resemblance
to her husband. Harriet's faults were her own.
"She has always been showy," said Mrs. Hackbutt, making tea for
a small party, "though she has got into the way of putting her
religion forward, to conform to her husband; she has tried to hold
her head up above Middlemarch by making it known that she invites
clergymen and heaven-knows-who from Riverston and those places."
"We can hardly blame her for that," said Mrs. Sprague; "because few
of the best people in the town cared to associate with Balstrode,
and she must have somebody to sit down at her table."