BOOK III. WAITING FOR DEATH.
33. CHAPTER XXXIII.
"Close up his eyes and draw the curtain close;
And let us all to meditation."
--2 Henry VI.
That night after twelve o'clock Mary Garth relieved the watch in
Mr. Featherstone's room, and sat there alone through the small hours.
She often chose this task, in which she found some pleasure,
notwithstanding the old man's testiness whenever he demanded
her attentions. There were intervals in which she could sit
perfectly still, enjoying the outer stillness and the subdued light.
The red fire with its gently audible movement seemed like a solemn
existence calmly independent of the petty passions, the imbecile desires,
the straining after worthless uncertainties, which were daily moving
her contempt. Mary was fond of her own thoughts, and could amuse
herself well sitting in twilight with her hands in her lap; for,
having early had strong reason to believe that things were not likely
to be arranged for her peculiar satisfaction, she wasted no time
in astonishment and annoyance at that fact. And she had already
come to take life very much as a comedy in which she had a proud,
nay, a generous resolution not to act the mean or treacherous part.
Mary might have become cynical if she had not had parents whom
she honored, and a well of affectionate gratitude within her, which
was all the fuller because she had learned to make no unreasonable claims.
She sat to-night revolving, as she was wont, the scenes of the day,
her lips often curling with amusement at the oddities to which her fancy
added fresh drollery: people were so ridiculous with their illusions,
carrying their fool's caps unawares, thinking their own lies
opaque while everybody else's were transparent, making themselves
exceptions to everything, as if when all the world looked yellow
under a lamp they alone were rosy. Yet there were some illusions
under Mary's eyes which were not quite comic to her. She was
secretly convinced, though she had no other grounds than her close
observation of old Featherstone's nature, that in spite of his
fondness for having the Vincys about him, they were as likely to be
disappointed as any of the relations whom he kept at a distance.
She had a good deal of disdain for Mrs. Vincy's evident alarm lest
she and Fred should be alone together, but it did not hinder her
from thinking anxiously of the way in which Fred would be affected,
if it should turn out that his uncle had left him as poor as ever.
She could make a butt of Fred when he was present, but she did
not enjoy his follies when he was absent.