BOOK VIII. SUNSET AND SUNRISE.
73. CHAPTER LXXIII.
Pity the laden one; this wandering woe
May visit you and me.
When Lydgate had allayed Mrs. Bulstrode's anxiety by telling her
that her husband had been seized with faintness at the meeting,
but that he trusted soon to see him better and would call again
the next day, unless she-sent for him earlier, he went directly home,
got on his horse, and rode three miles out of the town for the sake
of being out of reach.
He felt himself becoming violent and unreasonable as if raging
under the pain of stings: he was ready to curse the day on
which he had come to Middlemarch. Everything that bad happened
to him there seemed a mere preparation for this hateful fatality,
which had come as a blight on his honorable ambition, and must make
even people who had only vulgar standards regard his reputation
as irrevocably damaged. In such moments a man can hardly escape
being unloving. Lydgate thought of himself as the sufferer,
and of others as the agents who had injured his lot. He had meant
everything to turn out differently; and others had thrust themselves
into his life and thwarted his purposes. His marriage seemed an
unmitigated calamity; and he was afraid of going to Rosamond before
he had vented himself in this solitary rage, lest the mere sight
of her should exasperate him and make him behave unwarrantably.
There are episodes in most men's lives in which their highest
qualities can only cast a deterring shadow over the objects that fill
their inward vision: Lydgate's tenderheartedness was present just
then only as a dread lest he should offend against it, not as an
emotion that swayed him to tenderness. For he was very miserable.
Only those who know the supremacy of the intellectual life--
the life which has a seed of ennobling thought and purpose within it--
can understand the grief of one who falls from that serene activity
into the absorbing soul-wasting struggle with worldly annoyances.
How was he to live on without vindicating himself among people
who suspected him of baseness? How could he go silently away from
Middlemarch as if he were retreating before a just condemnation?
And yet how was he to set about vindicating himself?