BOOK V. THE DEAD HAND.
48. CHAPTER XLVIII
Surely the golden hours are turning gray
And dance no more, and vainly strive to run:
I see their white locks streaming in the wind--
Each face is haggard as it looks at me,
Slow turning in the constant clasping round
Dorothea's distress when she was leaving the church came chiefly
from the perception that Mr. Casaubon was determined not to speak
to his cousin, and that Will's presence at church had served
to mark more strongly the alienation between them. Will's coming
seemed to her quite excusable, nay, she thought it an amiable
movement in him towards a reconciliation which she herself had been
constantly wishing for. He had probably imagined, as she had,
that if Mr. Casaubon and he could meet easily, they would shake
hands and friendly intercourse might return. But now Dorothea felt
quite robbed of that hope. Will was banished further than ever,
for Mr. Casaubon must have been newly embittered by this thrusting
upon him of a presence which he refused to recognize.
He had not been very well that morning, suffering from some
difficulty in breathing, and had not preached in consequence;
she was not surprised, therefore, that he was nearly silent
at luncheon, still less that he made no allusion to Will Ladislaw.
For her own part she felt that she could never again introduce
that subject. They usually spent apart the hours between luncheon
and dinner on a Sunday; Mr. Casaubon in the library dozing chiefly,
and Dorothea in her boudoir, where she was wont to occupy
herself with some of her favorite books. There was a little
heap of them on the table in the bow-window--of various sorts,
from Herodotus, which she was learning to read with Mr. Casaubon,
to her old companion Pascal, and Keble's "Christian Year."
But to-day opened one after another, and could read none of them.
Everything seemed dreary: the portents before the birth of Cyrus--
Jewish antiquities--oh dear!--devout epigrams--the sacred chime
of favorite hymns--all alike were as flat as tunes beaten on wood:
even the spring flowers and the grass had a dull shiver in them
under the afternoon clouds that hid the sun fitfully; even the
sustaining thoughts which had become habits seemed to have in them
the weariness of long future days in which she would still live
with them for her sole companions. It was another or rather a
fuller sort of companionship that poor Dorothea was hungering for,
and the hunger had grown from the perpetual effort demanded by her
married life. She was always trying to be what her husband wished,
and never able to repose on his delight in what she was. The thing
that she liked, that she spontaneously cared to have, seemed to be
always excluded from her life; for if it was only granted and not
shared by her husband it might as well have been denied. About Will
Ladislaw there had been a difference between them from the first,
and it had ended, since Mr. Casaubon had so severely repulsed
Dorothea's strong feeling about his claims on the family property,
by her being convinced that she was in the right and her husband
in the wrong, but that she was helpless. This afternoon the
helplessness was more wretchedly benumbing than ever: she longed
for objects who could be dear to her, and to whom she could be dear.
She longed for work which would be directly beneficent like the
sunshine and the rain, and now it appeared that she was to live
more and more in a virtual tomb, where there was the apparatus
of a ghastly labor producing what would never see the light.
Today she had stood at the door of the tomb and seen Will Ladislaw
receding into the distant world of warm activity and fellowship--
turning his face towards her as he went.