BOOK II. OLD AND YOUNG.
18. CHAPTER XVIII.
"Oh, sir, the loftiest hopes on earth
Draw lots with meaner hopes: heroic breasts,
Breathing bad air, ran risk of pestilence;
Or, lacking lime-juice when they cross the Line,
May languish with the scurvy."
Some weeks passed after this conversation before the question of the
chaplaincy gathered any practical import for Lydgate, and without telling
himself the reason, he deferred the predetermination on which side he
should give his vote. It would really have been a matter of total
indifference to him--that is to say, he would have taken the more
convenient side, and given his vote for the appointment of Tyke without
any hesitation--if he had not cared personally for Mr. Farebrother.
But his liking for the Vicar of St. Botolph's grew with
growing acquaintanceship. That, entering into Lydgate's position
as a new-comer who had his own professional objects to secure,
Mr. Farebrother should have taken pains rather to warn off than
to obtain his interest, showed an unusual delicacy and generosity,
which Lydgate's nature was keenly alive to. It went along with other
points of conduct in Mr. Fare brother which were exceptionally fine,
and made his character resemble those southern landscapes which seem
divided between natural grandeur and social slovenliness. Very few
men could have been as filial and chivalrous as he was to the mother,
aunt, and sister, whose dependence on him had in many ways shaped
his life rather uneasily for himself; few men who feel the pressure
of small needs are so nobly resolute not to dress up their inevitably
self-interested desires in a pretext of better motives. In these
matters he was conscious that his life would bear the closest scrutiny;
and perhaps the consciousness encouraged a little defiance towards
the critical strictness of persons whose celestial intimacies
seemed not to improve their domestic manners, and whose lofty aims
were not needed to account for their actions. Then, his preaching
was ingenious and pithy, like the preaching of the English Church
in its robust age, and his sermons were delivered without book.
People outside his parish went to hear him; and, since to fill the
church was always the most difficult part of a clergyman's function,
here was another ground for a careless sense of superiority.
Besides, he was a likable man: sweet-tempered, ready-witted, frank,
without grins of suppressed bitterness or other conversational
flavors which make half of us an affliction to our friends.
Lydgate liked him heartily, and wished for his friendship.