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Community Post: Middlemarch





“Since I can do no good because a woman,
Reach constantly at something that is near it.

Miss Brooke had that kind of beauty which seems to be thrown into
relief by poor dress. Her hand and wrist were so finely formed that
she could wear sleeves not less bare of style than those in which the
Blessed Virgin appeared to Italian painters; and her profile as well as
her stature and bearing seemed to gain the more dignity from her plain
garments, which by the side of provincial fashion gave her the
impressiveness of a fine quotation from the Bible,—or from one of our
elder poets,—in a paragraph of to-day’s newspaper. She was usually
spoken of as being remarkably clever, but with the addition that her
sister Celia had more common-sense. Nevertheless, Celia wore scarcely
more trimmings; and it was only to close observers that her dress
differed from her sister’s, and had a shade of coquetry in its
arrangements; for Miss Brooke’s plain dressing was due to mixed
conditions, in most of which her sister shared. The pride of being
ladies had something to do with it: the Brooke connections, though not
exactly aristocratic, were unquestionably “good:” if you inquired
backward for a generation or two, you would not find any yard-measuring
or parcel-tying forefathers—anything lower than an admiral or a
clergyman; and there was even an ancestor discernible as a Puritan
gentleman who served under Cromwell, but afterwards conformed, and
managed to come out of all political troubles as the proprietor of a
respectable family estate. Young women of such birth, living in a
quiet country-house, and attending a village church hardly larger than
a parlor, naturally regarded frippery as the ambition of a huckster’s
daughter. Then there was well-bred economy, which in those days made
show in dress the first item to be deducted from, when any margin was
required for expenses more distinctive of rank. Such reasons would
have been enough to account for plain dress, quite apart from religious
feeling; but in Miss Brooke’s case, religion alone would have
determined it; and Celia mildly acquiesced in all her sister’s
sentiments, only infusing them with that common-sense which is able to
accept momentous doctrines without any eccentric agitation. Dorothea
knew many passages of Pascal’s Pensees and of Jeremy Taylor by heart;
and to her the destinies of mankind, seen by the light of Christianity,
made the solicitudes of feminine fashion appear an occupation for
Bedlam. She could not reconcile the anxieties of a spiritual life
involving eternal consequences, with a keen interest in gimp and
artificial protrusions of drapery. Her mind was theoretic, and yearned
by its nature after some lofty conception of the world which might
frankly include the parish of Tipton and her own rule of conduct there;
she was enamoured of intensity and greatness, and rash in embracing
whatever seemed to her to have those aspects; likely to seek martyrdom,
to make retractations, and then to incur martyrdom after all in a
quarter where she had not sought it. Certainly such elements in the
character of a marriageable girl tended to interfere with her lot, and
hinder it from being decided according to custom, by good looks,
vanity, and merely canine affection. With all this, she, the elder of
the sisters, was not yet twenty, and they had both been educated, since
they were about twelve years old and had lost their parents, on plans
at once narrow and promiscuous, first in an English family and
afterwards in a Swiss family at Lausanne, their bachelor uncle and
guardian trying in this way to remedy the disadvantages of their
orphaned condition.

It was hardly a year since they had come to live at Tipton Grange with
their uncle, a man nearly sixty, of acquiescent temper, miscellaneous
opinions, and uncertain vote. He had travelled in his younger years,
and was held in this part of the county to have contracted a too
rambling habit of mind. Mr. Brooke’s conclusions were as difficult to
predict as the weather: it was only safe to say that he would act with
benevolent intentions, and that he would spend as little money as
possible in carrying them out. For the most glutinously indefinite
minds enclose some hard grains of habit; and a man has been seen lax
about all his own interests except the retention of his snuff-box,
concerning which he was watchful, suspicious, and greedy of clutch.

In Mr. Brooke the hereditary strain of Puritan energy was clearly in
abeyance; but in his niece Dorothea it glowed alike through faults and
virtues, turning sometimes into impatience of her uncle’s talk or his
way of “letting things be” on his estate, and making her long all the
more for the time when she would be of age and have some command of
money for generous schemes. She was regarded as an heiress; for not
only had the sisters seven hundred a-year each from their parents, but
if Dorothea married and had a son, that son would inherit Mr. Brooke’s
estate, presumably worth about three thousand a-year—a rental which
seemed wealth to provincial families, still discussing Mr. Peel’s late
conduct on the Catholic question, innocent of future gold-fields, and
of that gorgeous plutocracy which has so nobly exalted the necessities
of genteel life.

And how should Dorothea not marry?—a girl so handsome and with such
prospects? Nothing could hinder it but her love of extremes, and her
insistence on regulating life according to notions which might cause a
wary man to hesitate before he made her an offer, or even might lead
her at last to refuse all offers. A young lady of some birth and
fortune, who knelt suddenly down on a brick floor by the side of a sick
laborer and prayed fervidly as if she thought herself living in the
time of the Apostles—who had strange whims of fasting like a Papist,
and of sitting up at night to read old theological books! Such a wife
might awaken you some fine morning with a new scheme for the
application of her income which would interfere with political economy
and the keeping of saddle-horses: a man would naturally think twice
before he risked himself in such fellowship. Women were expected to
have weak opinions; but the great safeguard of society and of domestic
life was, that opinions were not acted on. Sane people did what their
neighbors did, so that if any lunatics were at large, one might know
and avoid them.

The rural opinion about the new young ladies, even among the cottagers,
was generally in favor of Celia, as being so amiable and
innocent-looking, while Miss Brooke’s large eyes seemed, like her
religion, too unusual and striking. Poor Dorothea! compared with her,
the innocent-looking Celia was knowing and worldly-wise; so much
subtler is a human mind than the outside tissues which make a sort of
blazonry or clock-face for it.

Yet those who approached Dorothea, though prejudiced against her by
this alarming hearsay, found that she had a charm unaccountably
reconcilable with it. Most men thought her bewitching when she was on
horseback. She loved the fresh air and the various aspects of the
country, and when her eyes and cheeks glowed with mingled pleasure she
looked very little like a devotee. Riding was an indulgence which she
allowed herself in spite of conscientious qualms; she felt that she
enjoyed it in a pagan sensuous way, and always looked forward to
renouncing it.

She was open, ardent, and not in the least self-admiring; indeed, it
was pretty to see how her imagination adorned her sister Celia with
attractions altogether superior to her own, and if any gentleman
appeared to come to the Grange from some other motive than that of
seeing Mr. Brooke, she concluded that he must be in love with Celia:
Sir James Chettam, for example, whom she constantly considered from
Celia’s point of view, inwardly debating whether it would be good for
Celia to accept him. That he should be regarded as a suitor to herself
would have seemed to her a ridiculous irrelevance. Dorothea, with all
her eagerness to know the truths of life, retained very childlike ideas
about marriage. She felt sure that she would have accepted the
judicious Hooker, if she had been born in time to save him from that
wretched mistake he made in matrimony; or John Milton when his
blindness had come on; or any of the other great men whose odd habits
it would have been glorious piety to endure; but an amiable handsome
baronet, who said “Exactly” to her remarks even when she expressed
uncertainty,—how could he affect her as a lover? The really
delightful marriage must be that where your husband was a sort of
father, and could teach you even Hebrew, if you wished it.

These peculiarities of Dorothea’s character caused Mr. Brooke to be all
the more blamed in neighboring families for not securing some
middle-aged lady as guide and companion to his nieces. But he himself
dreaded so much the sort of superior woman likely to be available for
such a position, that he allowed himself to be dissuaded by Dorothea’s
objections, and was in this case brave enough to defy the world—that
is to say, Mrs. Cadwallader the Rector’s wife, and the small group of
gentry with whom he visited in the northeast corner of Loamshire. So
Miss Brooke presided in her uncle’s household, and did not at all
dislike her new authority, with the homage that belonged to it.

Sir James Chettam was going to dine at the Grange to-day with another
gentleman whom the girls had never seen, and about whom Dorothea felt
some venerating expectation. This was the Reverend Edward Casaubon,
noted in the county as a man of profound learning, understood for many
years to be engaged on a great work concerning religious history; also
as a man of wealth enough to give lustre to his piety, and having views
of his own which were to be more clearly ascertained on the publication
of his book. His very name carried an impressiveness hardly to be
measured without a precise chronology of scholarship.

Early in the day Dorothea had returned from the infant school which she
had set going in the village, and was taking her usual place in the
pretty sitting-room which divided the bedrooms of the sisters, bent on
finishing a plan for some buildings (a kind of work which she delighted
in), when Celia, who had been watching her with a hesitating desire to
propose something, said—

“Dorothea, dear, if you don’t mind—if you are not very busy—suppose
we looked at mamma’s jewels to-day, and divided them? It is exactly
six months to-day since uncle gave them to you, and you have not looked
at them yet.”

Celia’s face had the shadow of a pouting expression in it, the full
presence of the pout being kept back by an habitual awe of Dorothea and
principle; two associated facts which might show a mysterious
electricity if you touched them incautiously. To her relief,
Dorothea’s eyes were full of laughter as she looked up.

“What a wonderful little almanac you are, Celia! Is it six calendar or
six lunar months?”

“It is the last day of September now, and it was the first of April
when uncle gave them to you. You know, he said that he had forgotten
them till then. I believe you have never thought of them since you
locked them up in the cabinet here.”

“Well, dear, we should never wear them, you know.” Dorothea spoke in a
full cordial tone, half caressing, half explanatory. She had her
pencil in her hand, and was making tiny side-plans on a margin.

Celia colored, and looked very grave. “I think, dear, we are wanting
in respect to mamma’s memory, to put them by and take no notice of
them. And,” she added, after hesitating a little, with a rising sob of
mortification, “necklaces are quite usual now; and Madame Poincon, who
was stricter in some things even than you are, used to wear ornaments.
And Christians generally—surely there are women in heaven now who wore
jewels.” Celia was conscious of some mental strength when she really
applied herself to argument.

“You would like to wear them?” exclaimed Dorothea, an air of astonished
discovery animating her whole person with a dramatic action which she
had caught from that very Madame Poincon who wore the ornaments. “Of
course, then, let us have them out. Why did you not tell me before?
But the keys, the keys!” She pressed her hands against the sides of her
head and seemed to despair of her memory.

“They are here,” said Celia, with whom this explanation had been long
meditated and prearranged.

“Pray open the large drawer of the cabinet and get out the jewel-box.”

The casket was soon open before them, and the various jewels spread
out, making a bright parterre on the table. It was no great
collection, but a few of the ornaments were really of remarkable
beauty, the finest that was obvious at first being a necklace of purple
amethysts set in exquisite gold work, and a pearl cross with five
brilliants in it. Dorothea immediately took up the necklace and
fastened it round her sister’s neck, where it fitted almost as closely
as a bracelet; but the circle suited the Henrietta-Maria style of
Celia’s head and neck, and she could see that it did, in the pier-glass

“There, Celia! you can wear that with your Indian muslin. But this
cross you must wear with your dark dresses.”

Celia was trying not to smile with pleasure. “O Dodo, you must keep
the cross yourself.”

“No, no, dear, no,” said Dorothea, putting up her hand with careless

“Yes, indeed you must; it would suit you—in your black dress, now,”
said Celia, insistingly. “You might wear that.”

“Not for the world, not for the world. A cross is the last thing I
would wear as a trinket.” Dorothea shuddered slightly.

“Then you will think it wicked in me to wear it,” said Celia, uneasily.

“No, dear, no,” said Dorothea, stroking her sister’s cheek. “Souls
have complexions too: what will suit one will not suit another.”

“But you might like to keep it for mamma’s sake.”

“No, I have other things of mamma’s—her sandal-wood box which I am so
fond of—plenty of things. In fact, they are all yours, dear. We need
discuss them no longer. There—take away your property.”

Celia felt a little hurt. There was a strong assumption of superiority
in this Puritanic toleration, hardly less trying to the blond flesh of
an unenthusiastic sister than a Puritanic persecution.

“But how can I wear ornaments if you, who are the elder sister, will
never wear them?”

“Nay, Celia, that is too much to ask, that I should wear trinkets to
keep you in countenance. If I were to put on such a necklace as that,
I should feel as if I had been pirouetting. The world would go round
with me, and I should not know how to walk.”

Celia had unclasped the necklace and drawn it off. “It would be a
little tight for your neck; something to lie down and hang would suit
you better,” she said, with some satisfaction. The complete unfitness
of the necklace from all points of view for Dorothea, made Celia
happier in taking it. She was opening some ring-boxes, which disclosed
a fine emerald with diamonds, and just then the sun passing beyond a
cloud sent a bright gleam over the table.

“How very beautiful these gems are!” said Dorothea, under a new current
of feeling, as sudden as the gleam. “It is strange how deeply colors
seem to penetrate one, like scent. I suppose that is the reason why
gems are used as spiritual emblems in the Revelation of St. John. They
look like fragments of heaven. I think that emerald is more beautiful
than any of them.”

“And there is a bracelet to match it,” said Celia. “We did not notice
this at first.”

“They are lovely,” said Dorothea, slipping the ring and bracelet on her
finely turned finger and wrist, and holding them towards the window on
a level with her eyes. All the while her thought was trying to justify
her delight in the colors by merging them in her mystic religious joy.

“You would like those, Dorothea,” said Celia, rather falteringly,
beginning to think with wonder that her sister showed some weakness,
and also that emeralds would suit her own complexion even better than
purple amethysts. “You must keep that ring and bracelet—if nothing
else. But see, these agates are very pretty and quiet.”

“Yes! I will keep these—this ring and bracelet,” said Dorothea.
Then, letting her hand fall on the table, she said in another
tone—“Yet what miserable men find such things, and work at them, and
sell them!” She paused again, and Celia thought that her sister was
going to renounce the ornaments, as in consistency she ought to do.

“Yes, dear, I will keep these,” said Dorothea, decidedly. “But take
all the rest away, and the casket.”

She took up her pencil without removing the jewels, and still looking
at them. She thought of often having them by her, to feed her eye at
these little fountains of pure color.

“Shall you wear them in company?” said Celia, who was watching her with
real curiosity as to what she would do.

Dorothea glanced quickly at her sister. Across all her imaginative
adornment of those whom she loved, there darted now and then a keen
discernment, which was not without a scorching quality. If Miss Brooke
ever attained perfect meekness, it would not be for lack of inward fire.

“Perhaps,” she said, rather haughtily. “I cannot tell to what level I
may sink.”

Celia blushed, and was unhappy: she saw that she had offended her
sister, and dared not say even anything pretty about the gift of the
ornaments which she put back into the box and carried away. Dorothea
too was unhappy, as she went on with her plan-drawing, questioning the
purity of her own feeling and speech in the scene which had ended with
that little explosion.

Celia’s consciousness told her that she had not been at all in the
wrong: it was quite natural and justifiable that she should have asked
that question, and she repeated to herself that Dorothea was
inconsistent: either she should have taken her full share of the
jewels, or, after what she had said, she should have renounced them

“I am sure—at least, I trust,” thought Celia, “that the wearing of a
necklace will not interfere with my prayers. And I do not see that I
should be bound by Dorothea’s opinions now we are going into society,
though of course she herself ought to be bound by them. But Dorothea
is not always consistent.”

Thus Celia, mutely bending over her tapestry, until she heard her
sister calling her.

“Here, Kitty, come and look at my plan; I shall think I am a great
architect, if I have not got incompatible stairs and fireplaces.”

As Celia bent over the paper, Dorothea put her cheek against her
sister’s arm caressingly. Celia understood the action. Dorothea saw
that she had been in the wrong, and Celia pardoned her. Since they
could remember, there had been a mixture of criticism and awe in the
attitude of Celia’s mind towards her elder sister. The younger had
always worn a yoke; but is there any yoked creature without its private


“‘Dime; no ves aquel caballero que hacia nosotros viene
sobre un caballo rucio rodado que trae puesto en la cabeza
un yelmo de oro?’ ‘Lo que veo y columbro,’ respondio Sancho,
‘no es sino un hombre sobre un as no pardo como el mio, que
trae sobre la cabeza una cosa que relumbra.’ ‘Pues ese es el
yelmo de Mambrino,’ dijo Don Quijote.”—CERVANTES.

“‘Seest thou not yon cavalier who cometh toward us on a
dapple-gray steed, and weareth a golden helmet?’ ‘What I
see,’ answered Sancho, ‘is nothing but a man on a gray ass
like my own, who carries something shiny on his head.’ ‘Just
so,’ answered Don Quixote: ‘and that resplendent object is
the helmet of Mambrino.’”

“Sir Humphry Davy?” said Mr. Brooke, over the soup, in his easy smiling
way, taking up Sir James Chettam’s remark that he was studying Davy’s
Agricultural Chemistry. “Well, now, Sir Humphry Davy; I dined with him
years ago at Cartwright’s, and Wordsworth was there too—the poet
Wordsworth, you know. Now there was something singular. I was at
Cambridge when Wordsworth was there, and I never met him—and I dined
with him twenty years afterwards at Cartwright’s. There’s an oddity in
things, now. But Davy was there: he was a poet too. Or, as I may say,
Wordsworth was poet one, and Davy was poet two. That was true in every
sense, you know.”

Dorothea felt a little more uneasy than usual. In the beginning of
dinner, the party being small and the room still, these motes from the
mass of a magistrate’s mind fell too noticeably. She wondered how a
man like Mr. Casaubon would support such triviality. His manners, she
thought, were very dignified; the set of his iron-gray hair and his
deep eye-sockets made him resemble the portrait of Locke. He had the
spare form and the pale complexion which became a student; as different
as possible from the blooming Englishman of the red-whiskered type
represented by Sir James Chettam.

“I am reading the Agricultural Chemistry,” said this excellent baronet,
“because I am going to take one of the farms into my own hands, and see
if something cannot be done in setting a good pattern of farming among
my tenants. Do you approve of that, Miss Brooke?”

“A great mistake, Chettam,” interposed Mr. Brooke, “going into
electrifying your land and that kind of thing, and making a parlor of
your cow-house. It won’t do. I went into science a great deal myself
at one time; but I saw it would not do. It leads to everything; you
can let nothing alone. No, no—see that your tenants don’t sell their
straw, and that kind of thing; and give them draining-tiles, you know.
But your fancy farming will not do—the most expensive sort of whistle
you can buy: you may as well keep a pack of hounds.”

“Surely,” said Dorothea, “it is better to spend money in finding out
how men can make the most of the land which supports them all, than in
keeping dogs and horses only to gallop over it. It is not a sin to
make yourself poor in performing experiments for the good of all.”

She spoke with more energy than is expected of so young a lady, but Sir
James had appealed to her. He was accustomed to do so, and she had
often thought that she could urge him to many good actions when he was
her brother-in-law.

Mr. Casaubon turned his eyes very markedly on Dorothea while she was
speaking, and seemed to observe her newly.

“Young ladies don’t understand political economy, you know,” said Mr.
Brooke, smiling towards Mr. Casaubon. “I remember when we were all
reading Adam Smith. There is a book, now. I took in all the new
ideas at one time—human perfectibility, now. But some say, history
moves in circles; and that may be very well argued; I have argued it
myself. The fact is, human reason may carry you a little too far—over
the hedge, in fact. It carried me a good way at one time; but I saw it
would not do. I pulled up; I pulled up in time. But not too hard. I
have always been in favor of a little theory: we must have Thought;
else we shall be landed back in the dark ages. But talking of books,
there is Southey’s ‘Peninsular War.’ I am reading that of a morning.
You know Southey?”

“No” said Mr. Casaubon, not keeping pace with Mr. Brooke’s impetuous
reason, and thinking of the book only. “I have little leisure for such
literature just now. I have been using up my eyesight on old
characters lately; the fact is, I want a reader for my evenings; but I
am fastidious in voices, and I cannot endure listening to an imperfect
reader. It is a misfortune, in some senses: I feed too much on the
inward sources; I live too much with the dead. My mind is something
like the ghost of an ancient, wandering about the world and trying
mentally to construct it as it used to be, in spite of ruin and
confusing changes. But I find it necessary to use the utmost caution
about my eyesight.”

This was the first time that Mr. Casaubon had spoken at any length. He
delivered himself with precision, as if he had been called upon to make
a public statement; and the balanced sing-song neatness of his speech,
occasionally corresponded to by a movement of his head, was the more
conspicuous from its contrast with good Mr. Brooke’s scrappy
slovenliness. Dorothea said to herself that Mr. Casaubon was the most
interesting man she had ever seen, not excepting even Monsieur Liret,
the Vaudois clergyman who had given conferences on the history of the
Waldenses. To reconstruct a past world, doubtless with a view to the
highest purposes of truth—what a work to be in any way present at, to
assist in, though only as a lamp-holder! This elevating thought lifted
her above her annoyance at being twitted with her ignorance of
political economy, that never-explained science which was thrust as an
extinguisher over all her lights.

“But you are fond of riding, Miss Brooke,” Sir James presently took an
opportunity of saying. “I should have thought you would enter a little
into the pleasures of hunting. I wish you would let me send over a
chestnut horse for you to try. It has been trained for a lady. I saw
you on Saturday cantering over the hill on a nag not worthy of you. My
groom shall bring Corydon for you every day, if you will only mention
the time.”

“Thank you, you are very good. I mean to give up riding. I shall not
ride any more,” said Dorothea, urged to this brusque resolution by a
little annoyance that Sir James would be soliciting her attention when
she wanted to give it all to Mr. Casaubon.

“No, that is too hard,” said Sir James, in a tone of reproach that
showed strong interest. “Your sister is given to self-mortification,
is she not?” he continued, turning to Celia, who sat at his right hand.

“I think she is,” said Celia, feeling afraid lest she should say
something that would not please her sister, and blushing as prettily as
possible above her necklace. “She likes giving up.”

“If that were true, Celia, my giving-up would be self-indulgence, not
self-mortification. But there may be good reasons for choosing not to
do what is very agreeable,” said Dorothea.

Mr. Brooke was speaking at the same time, but it was evident that Mr.
Casaubon was observing Dorothea, and she was aware of it.

“Exactly,” said Sir James. “You give up from some high, generous

“No, indeed, not exactly. I did not say that of myself,” answered
Dorothea, reddening. Unlike Celia, she rarely blushed, and only from
high delight or anger. At this moment she felt angry with the perverse
Sir James. Why did he not pay attention to Celia, and leave her to
listen to Mr. Casaubon?—if that learned man would only talk, instead
of allowing himself to be talked to by Mr. Brooke, who was just then
informing him that the Reformation either meant something or it did
not, that he himself was a Protestant to the core, but that Catholicism
was a fact; and as to refusing an acre of your ground for a Romanist
chapel, all men needed the bridle of religion, which, properly
speaking, was the dread of a Hereafter.

“I made a great study of theology at one time,” said Mr. Brooke, as if
to explain the insight just manifested. “I know something of all
schools. I knew Wilberforce in his best days. Do you know

Mr. Casaubon said, “No.”

“Well, Wilberforce was perhaps not enough of a thinker; but if I went
into Parliament, as I have been asked to do, I should sit on the
independent bench, as Wilberforce did, and work at philanthropy.”

Mr. Casaubon bowed, and observed that it was a wide field.

“Yes,” said Mr. Brooke, with an easy smile, “but I have documents. I
began a long while ago to collect documents. They want arranging, but
when a question has struck me, I have written to somebody and got an
answer. I have documents at my back. But now, how do you arrange your

“In pigeon-holes partly,” said Mr. Casaubon, with rather a startled air
of effort.

“Ah, pigeon-holes will not do. I have tried pigeon-holes, but
everything gets mixed in pigeon-holes: I never know whether a paper is
in A or Z.”

“I wish you would let me sort your papers for you, uncle,” said
Dorothea. “I would letter them all, and then make a list of subjects
under each letter.”

Mr. Casaubon gravely smiled approval, and said to Mr. Brooke, “You have
an excellent secretary at hand, you perceive.”

“No, no,” said Mr. Brooke, shaking his head; “I cannot let young ladies
meddle with my documents. Young ladies are too flighty.”

Dorothea felt hurt. Mr. Casaubon would think that her uncle had some
special reason for delivering this opinion, whereas the remark lay in
his mind as lightly as the broken wing of an insect among all the other
fragments there, and a chance current had sent it alighting on her.

When the two girls were in the drawing-room alone, Celia said—

“How very ugly Mr. Casaubon is!”

“Celia! He is one of the most distinguished-looking men I ever saw.
He is remarkably like the portrait of Locke. He has the same deep

“Had Locke those two white moles with hairs on them?”

“Oh, I dare say! when people of a certain sort looked at him,” said
Dorothea, walking away a little.

“Mr. Casaubon is so sallow.”

“All the better. I suppose you admire a man with the complexion of a
cochon de lait.”

“Dodo!” exclaimed Celia, looking after her in surprise. “I never heard
you make such a comparison before.”

“Why should I make it before the occasion came? It is a good
comparison: the match is perfect.”

Miss Brooke was clearly forgetting herself, and Celia thought so.

“I wonder you show temper, Dorothea.”

“It is so painful in you, Celia, that you will look at human beings as
if they were merely animals with a toilet, and never see the great soul
in a man’s face.”

“Has Mr. Casaubon a great soul?” Celia was not without a touch of naive

“Yes, I believe he has,” said Dorothea, with the full voice of
decision. “Everything I see in him corresponds to his pamphlet on
Biblical Cosmology.”

“He talks very little,” said Celia

“There is no one for him to talk to.”

Celia thought privately, “Dorothea quite despises Sir James Chettam; I
believe she would not accept him.” Celia felt that this was a pity.
She had never been deceived as to the object of the baronet’s interest.
Sometimes, indeed, she had reflected that Dodo would perhaps not make a
husband happy who had not her way of looking at things; and stifled in
the depths of her heart was the feeling that her sister was too
religious for family comfort. Notions and scruples were like spilt
needles, making one afraid of treading, or sitting down, or even eating.

When Miss Brooke was at the tea-table, Sir James came to sit down by
her, not having felt her mode of answering him at all offensive. Why
should he? He thought it probable that Miss Brooke liked him, and
manners must be very marked indeed before they cease to be interpreted
by preconceptions either confident or distrustful. She was thoroughly
charming to him, but of course he theorized a little about his
attachment. He was made of excellent human dough, and had the rare
merit of knowing that his talents, even if let loose, would not set the
smallest stream in the county on fire: hence he liked the prospect of a
wife to whom he could say, “What shall we do?” about this or that; who
could help her husband out with reasons, and would also have the
property qualification for doing so. As to the excessive religiousness
alleged against Miss Brooke, he had a very indefinite notion of what it
consisted in, and thought that it would die out with marriage. In
short, he felt himself to be in love in the right place, and was ready
to endure a great deal of predominance, which, after all, a man could
always put down when he liked. Sir James had no idea that he should
ever like to put down the predominance of this handsome girl, in whose
cleverness he delighted. Why not? A man’s mind—what there is of
it—has always the advantage of being masculine,—as the smallest
birch-tree is of a higher kind than the most soaring palm,—and even
his ignorance is of a sounder quality. Sir James might not have
originated this estimate; but a kind Providence furnishes the limpest
personality with a little gunk or starch in the form of tradition.

“Let me hope that you will rescind that resolution about the horse,
Miss Brooke,” said the persevering admirer. “I assure you, riding is
the most healthy of exercises.”

“I am aware of it,” said Dorothea, coldly. “I think it would do Celia
good—if she would take to it.”

“But you are such a perfect horsewoman.”

“Excuse me; I have had very little practice, and I should be easily

“Then that is a reason for more practice. Every lady ought to be a
perfect horsewoman, that she may accompany her husband.”

“You see how widely we differ, Sir James. I have made up my mind that
I ought not to be a perfect horsewoman, and so I should never
correspond to your pattern of a lady.” Dorothea looked straight before
her, and spoke with cold brusquerie, very much with the air of a
handsome boy, in amusing contrast with the solicitous amiability of her

“I should like to know your reasons for this cruel resolution. It is
not possible that you should think horsemanship wrong.”

“It is quite possible that I should think it wrong for me.”

“Oh, why?” said Sir James, in a tender tone of remonstrance.

Mr. Casaubon had come up to the table, teacup in hand, and was

“We must not inquire too curiously into motives,” he interposed, in his
measured way. “Miss Brooke knows that they are apt to become feeble in
the utterance: the aroma is mixed with the grosser air. We must keep
the germinating grain away from the light.”

Dorothea colored with pleasure, and looked up gratefully to the
speaker. Here was a man who could understand the higher inward life,
and with whom there could be some spiritual communion; nay, who could
illuminate principle with the widest knowledge a man whose learning
almost amounted to a proof of whatever he believed!

Dorothea’s inferences may seem large; but really life could never have
gone on at any period but for this liberal allowance of conclusions,
which has facilitated marriage under the difficulties of civilization.
Has any one ever pinched into its pilulous smallness the cobweb of
pre-matrimonial acquaintanceship?

“Certainly,” said good Sir James. “Miss Brooke shall not be urged to
tell reasons she would rather be silent upon. I am sure her reasons
would do her honor.”

He was not in the least jealous of the interest with which Dorothea had
looked up at Mr. Casaubon: it never occurred to him that a girl to whom
he was meditating an offer of marriage could care for a dried bookworm
towards fifty, except, indeed, in a religious sort of way, as for a
clergyman of some distinction.

However, since Miss Brooke had become engaged in a conversation with
Mr. Casaubon about the Vaudois clergy, Sir James betook himself to
Celia, and talked to her about her sister; spoke of a house in town,
and asked whether Miss Brooke disliked London. Away from her sister,
Celia talked quite easily, and Sir James said to himself that the
second Miss Brooke was certainly very agreeable as well as pretty,
though not, as some people pretended, more clever and sensible than the
elder sister. He felt that he had chosen the one who was in all
respects the superior; and a man naturally likes to look forward to
having the best. He would be the very Mawworm of bachelors who
pretended not to expect it.


“Say, goddess, what ensued, when Raphael,
The affable archangel …
The story heard attentive, and was filled
With admiration, and deep muse, to hear
Of things so high and strange.”
—Paradise Lost, B. vii.

If it had really occurred to Mr. Casaubon to think of Miss Brooke as a
suitable wife for him, the reasons that might induce her to accept him
were already planted in her mind, and by the evening of the next day
the reasons had budded and bloomed. For they had had a long
conversation in the morning, while Celia, who did not like the company
of Mr. Casaubon’s moles and sallowness, had escaped to the vicarage to
play with the curate’s ill-shod but merry children.

Dorothea by this time had looked deep into the ungauged reservoir of
Mr. Casaubon’s mind, seeing reflected there in vague labyrinthine
extension every quality she herself brought; had opened much of her own
experience to him, and had understood from him the scope of his great
work, also of attractively labyrinthine extent. For he had been as
instructive as Milton’s “affable archangel;” and with something of the
archangelic manner he told her how he had undertaken to show (what
indeed had been attempted before, but not with that thoroughness,
justice of comparison, and effectiveness of arrangement at which Mr.
Casaubon aimed) that all the mythical systems or erratic mythical
fragments in the world were corruptions of a tradition originally
revealed. Having once mastered the true position and taken a firm
footing there, the vast field of mythical constructions became
intelligible, nay, luminous with the reflected light of
correspondences. But to gather in this great harvest of truth was no
light or speedy work. His notes already made a formidable range of
volumes, but the crowning task would be to condense these voluminous
still-accumulating results and bring them, like the earlier vintage of
Hippocratic books, to fit a little shelf. In explaining this to
Dorothea, Mr. Casaubon expressed himself nearly as he would have done
to a fellow-student, for he had not two styles of talking at command:
it is true that when he used a Greek or Latin phrase he always gave the
English with scrupulous care, but he would probably have done this in
any case. A learned provincial clergyman is accustomed to think of his
acquaintances as of “lords, knyghtes, and other noble and worthi men,
that conne Latyn but lytille.”

Dorothea was altogether captivated by the wide embrace of this
conception. Here was something beyond the shallows of ladies’ school
literature: here was a living Bossuet, whose work would reconcile
complete knowledge with devoted piety; here was a modern Augustine who
united the glories of doctor and saint.

The sanctity seemed no less clearly marked than the learning, for when
Dorothea was impelled to open her mind on certain themes which she
could speak of to no one whom she had before seen at Tipton, especially
on the secondary importance of ecclesiastical forms and articles of
belief compared with that spiritual religion, that submergence of self
in communion with Divine perfection which seemed to her to be expressed
in the best Christian books of widely distant ages, she found in Mr.
Casaubon a listener who understood her at once, who could assure her of
his own agreement with that view when duly tempered with wise
conformity, and could mention historical examples before unknown to her.

“He thinks with me,” said Dorothea to herself, “or rather, he thinks a
whole world of which my thought is but a poor twopenny mirror. And his
feelings too, his whole experience—what a lake compared with my little

Miss Brooke argued from words and dispositions not less unhesitatingly
than other young ladies of her age. Signs are small measurable things,
but interpretations are illimitable, and in girls of sweet, ardent
nature, every sign is apt to conjure up wonder, hope, belief, vast as a
sky, and colored by a diffused thimbleful of matter in the shape of
knowledge. They are not always too grossly deceived; for Sinbad
himself may have fallen by good-luck on a true description, and wrong
reasoning sometimes lands poor mortals in right conclusions: starting a
long way off the true point, and proceeding by loops and zigzags, we
now and then arrive just where we ought to be. Because Miss Brooke was
hasty in her trust, it is not therefore clear that Mr. Casaubon was
unworthy of it.

He stayed a little longer than he had intended, on a slight pressure of
invitation from Mr. Brooke, who offered no bait except his own
documents on machine-breaking and rick-burning. Mr. Casaubon was called
into the library to look at these in a heap, while his host picked up
first one and then the other to read aloud from in a skipping and
uncertain way, passing from one unfinished passage to another with a
“Yes, now, but here!” and finally pushing them all aside to open the
journal of his youthful Continental travels.

“Look here—here is all about Greece. Rhamnus, the ruins of
Rhamnus—you are a great Grecian, now. I don’t know whether you have
given much study to the topography. I spent no end of time in making
out these things—Helicon, now. Here, now!—‘We started the next
morning for Parnassus, the double-peaked Parnassus.’ All this volume is
about Greece, you know,” Mr. Brooke wound up, rubbing his thumb
transversely along the edges of the leaves as he held the book forward.

Mr. Casaubon made a dignified though somewhat sad audience; bowed in
the right place, and avoided looking at anything documentary as far as
possible, without showing disregard or impatience; mindful that this
desultoriness was associated with the institutions of the country, and
that the man who took him on this severe mental scamper was not only an
amiable host, but a landholder and custos rotulorum. Was his endurance
aided also by the reflection that Mr. Brooke was the uncle of Dorothea?

Certainly he seemed more and more bent on making her talk to him, on
drawing her out, as Celia remarked to herself; and in looking at her
his face was often lit up by a smile like pale wintry sunshine. Before
he left the next morning, while taking a pleasant walk with Miss Brooke
along the gravelled terrace, he had mentioned to her that he felt the
disadvantage of loneliness, the need of that cheerful companionship
with which the presence of youth can lighten or vary the serious toils
of maturity. And he delivered this statement with as much careful
precision as if he had been a diplomatic envoy whose words would be
attended with results. Indeed, Mr. Casaubon was not used to expect
that he should have to repeat or revise his communications of a
practical or personal kind. The inclinations which he had deliberately
stated on the 2d of October he would think it enough to refer to by the
mention of that date; judging by the standard of his own memory, which
was a volume where a vide supra could serve instead of repetitions, and
not the ordinary long-used blotting-book which only tells of forgotten
writing. But in this case Mr. Casaubon’s confidence was not likely to
be falsified, for Dorothea heard and retained what he said with the
eager interest of a fresh young nature to which every variety in
experience is an epoch.

It was three o’clock in the beautiful breezy autumn day when Mr.
Casaubon drove off to his Rectory at Lowick, only five miles from
Tipton; and Dorothea, who had on her bonnet and shawl, hurried along
the shrubbery and across the park that she might wander through the
bordering wood with no other visible companionship than that of Monk,
the Great St. Bernard dog, who always took care of the young ladies in
their walks. There had risen before her the girl’s vision of a
possible future for herself to which she looked forward with trembling
hope, and she wanted to wander on in that visionary future without
interruption. She walked briskly in the brisk air, the color rose in
her cheeks, and her straw bonnet (which our contemporaries might look
at with conjectural curiosity as at an obsolete form of basket) fell a
little backward. She would perhaps be hardly characterized enough if
it were omitted that she wore her brown hair flatly braided and coiled
behind so as to expose the outline of her head in a daring manner at a
time when public feeling required the meagreness of nature to be
dissimulated by tall barricades of frizzed curls and bows, never
surpassed by any great race except the Feejeean. This was a trait of
Miss Brooke’s asceticism. But there was nothing of an ascetic’s
expression in her bright full eyes, as she looked before her, not
consciously seeing, but absorbing into the intensity of her mood, the
solemn glory of the afternoon with its long swathes of light between
the far-off rows of limes, whose shadows touched each other.

All people, young or old (that is, all people in those ante-reform
times), would have thought her an interesting object if they had
referred the glow in her eyes and cheeks to the newly awakened ordinary
images of young love: the illusions of Chloe about Strephon have been
sufficiently consecrated in poetry, as the pathetic loveliness of all
spontaneous trust ought to be. Miss Pippin adoring young Pumpkin, and
dreaming along endless vistas of unwearying companionship, was a little
drama which never tired our fathers and mothers, and had been put into
all costumes. Let but Pumpkin have a figure which would sustain the
disadvantages of the shortwaisted swallow-tail, and everybody felt it
not only natural but necessary to the perfection of womanhood, that a
sweet girl should be at once convinced of his virtue, his exceptional
ability, and above all, his perfect sincerity. But perhaps no persons
then living—certainly none in the neighborhood of Tipton—would have
had a sympathetic understanding for the dreams of a girl whose notions
about marriage took their color entirely from an exalted enthusiasm
about the ends of life, an enthusiasm which was lit chiefly by its own
fire, and included neither the niceties of the trousseau, the pattern
of plate, nor even the honors and sweet joys of the blooming matron.

It had now entered Dorothea’s mind that Mr. Casaubon might wish to make
her his wife, and the idea that he would do so touched her with a sort
of reverential gratitude. How good of him—nay, it would be almost as
if a winged messenger had suddenly stood beside her path and held out
his hand towards her! For a long while she had been oppressed by the
indefiniteness which hung in her mind, like a thick summer haze, over
all her desire to make her life greatly effective. What could she do,
what ought she to do?—she, hardly more than a budding woman, but yet
with an active conscience and a great mental need, not to be satisfied
by a girlish instruction comparable to the nibblings and judgments of a
discursive mouse. With some endowment of stupidity and conceit, she
might have thought that a Christian young lady of fortune should find
her ideal of life in village charities, patronage of the humbler
clergy, the perusal of “Female Scripture Characters,” unfolding the
private experience of Sara under the Old Dispensation, and Dorcas under
the New, and the care of her soul over her embroidery in her own
boudoir—with a background of prospective marriage to a man who, if
less strict than herself, as being involved in affairs religiously
inexplicable, might be prayed for and seasonably exhorted. From such
contentment poor Dorothea was shut out. The intensity of her religious
disposition, the coercion it exercised over her life, was but one
aspect of a nature altogether ardent, theoretic, and intellectually
consequent: and with such a nature struggling in the bands of a narrow
teaching, hemmed in by a social life which seemed nothing but a
labyrinth of petty courses, a walled-in maze of small paths that led no
whither, the outcome was sure to strike others as at once exaggeration
and inconsistency. The thing which seemed to her best, she wanted to
justify by the completest knowledge; and not to live in a pretended
admission of rules which were never acted on. Into this soul-hunger as
yet all her youthful passion was poured; the union which attracted her
was one that would deliver her from her girlish subjection to her own
ignorance, and give her the freedom of voluntary submission to a guide
who would take her along the grandest path.

“I should learn everything then,” she said to herself, still walking
quickly along the bridle road through the wood. “It would be my duty
to study that I might help him the better in his great works. There
would be nothing trivial about our lives. Every-day things with us
would mean the greatest things. It would be like marrying Pascal. I
should learn to see the truth by the same light as great men have seen
it by. And then I should know what to do, when I got older: I should
see how it was possible to lead a grand life here—now—in England. I
don’t feel sure about doing good in any way now: everything seems like
going on a mission to a people whose language I don’t know;—unless it
were building good cottages—there can be no doubt about that. Oh, I
hope I should be able to get the people well housed in Lowick! I will
draw plenty of plans while I have time.”

Dorothea checked herself suddenly with self-rebuke for the presumptuous
way in which she was reckoning on uncertain events, but she was spared
any inward effort to change the direction of her thoughts by the
appearance of a cantering horseman round a turning of the road. The
well-groomed chestnut horse and two beautiful setters could leave no
doubt that the rider was Sir James Chettam. He discerned Dorothea,
jumped off his horse at once, and, having delivered it to his groom,
advanced towards her with something white on his arm, at which the two
setters were barking in an excited manner.

“How delightful to meet you, Miss Brooke,” he said, raising his hat and
showing his sleekly waving blond hair. “It has hastened the pleasure I
was looking forward to.”

Miss Brooke was annoyed at the interruption. This amiable baronet,
really a suitable husband for Celia, exaggerated the necessity of
making himself agreeable to the elder sister. Even a prospective
brother-in-law may be an oppression if he will always be presupposing
too good an understanding with you, and agreeing with you even when you
contradict him. The thought that he had made the mistake of paying his
addresses to herself could not take shape: all her mental activity was
used up in persuasions of another kind. But he was positively
obtrusive at this moment, and his dimpled hands were quite
disagreeable. Her roused temper made her color deeply, as she returned
his greeting with some haughtiness.

Sir James interpreted the heightened color in the way most gratifying
to himself, and thought he never saw Miss Brooke looking so handsome.

“I have brought a little petitioner,” he said, “or rather, I have
brought him to see if he will be approved before his petition is
offered.” He showed the white object under his arm, which was a tiny
Maltese puppy, one of nature’s most naive toys.

“It is painful to me to see these creatures that are bred merely as
pets,” said Dorothea, whose opinion was forming itself that very moment
(as opinions will) under the heat of irritation.

“Oh, why?” said Sir James, as they walked forward.

“I believe all the petting that is given them does not make them happy.
They are too helpless: their lives are too frail. A weasel or a mouse
that gets its own living is more interesting. I like to think that the
animals about us have souls something like our own, and either carry on
their own little affairs or can be companions to us, like Monk here.
Those creatures are parasitic.”

“I am so glad I know that you do not like them,” said good Sir James.
“I should never keep them for myself, but ladies usually are fond of
these Maltese dogs. Here, John, take this dog, will you?”

The objectionable puppy, whose nose and eyes were equally black and
expressive, was thus got rid of, since Miss Brooke decided that it had
better not have been born. But she felt it necessary to explain.

“You must not judge of Celia’s feeling from mine. I think she likes
these small pets. She had a tiny terrier once, which she was very fond
of. It made me unhappy, because I was afraid of treading on it. I am
rather short-sighted.”

“You have your own opinion about everything, Miss Brooke, and it is
always a good opinion.”

What answer was possible to such stupid complimenting?

“Do you know, I envy you that,” Sir James said, as they continued
walking at the rather brisk pace set by Dorothea.

“I don’t quite understand what you mean.”

“Your power of forming an opinion. I can form an opinion of persons.
I know when I like people. But about other matters, do you know, I
have often a difficulty in deciding. One hears very sensible things
said on opposite sides.”

“Or that seem sensible. Perhaps we don’t always discriminate between
sense and nonsense.”

Dorothea felt that she was rather rude.

“Exactly,” said Sir James. “But you seem to have the power of

“On the contrary, I am often unable to decide. But that is from
ignorance. The right conclusion is there all the same, though I am
unable to see it.”

“I think there are few who would see it more readily. Do you know,
Lovegood was telling me yesterday that you had the best notion in the
world of a plan for cottages—quite wonderful for a young lady, he
thought. You had a real genus, to use his expression. He said you
wanted Mr. Brooke to build a new set of cottages, but he seemed to
think it hardly probable that your uncle would consent. Do you know,
that is one of the things I wish to do—I mean, on my own estate. I
should be so glad to carry out that plan of yours, if you would let me
see it. Of course, it is sinking money; that is why people object to
it. Laborers can never pay rent to make it answer. But, after all, it
is worth doing.”

“Worth doing! yes, indeed,” said Dorothea, energetically, forgetting
her previous small vexations. “I think we deserve to be beaten out of
our beautiful houses with a scourge of small cords—all of us who let
tenants live in such sties as we see round us. Life in cottages might
be happier than ours, if they were real houses fit for human beings
from whom we expect duties and affections.”

“Will you show me your plan?”

“Yes, certainly. I dare say it is very faulty. But I have been
examining all the plans for cottages in Loudon’s book, and picked out
what seem the best things. Oh what a happiness it would be to set the
pattern about here! I think instead of Lazarus at the gate, we should
put the pigsty cottages outside the park-gate.”

Dorothea was in the best temper now. Sir James, as brother in-law,
building model cottages on his estate, and then, perhaps, others being
built at Lowick, and more and more elsewhere in imitation—it would be
as if the spirit of Oberlin had passed over the parishes to make the
life of poverty beautiful!

Sir James saw all the plans, and took one away to consult upon with
Lovegood. He also took away a complacent sense that he was making
great progress in Miss Brooke’s good opinion. The Maltese puppy was
not offered to Celia; an omission which Dorothea afterwards thought of
with surprise; but she blamed herself for it. She had been engrossing
Sir James. After all, it was a relief that there was no puppy to tread

Celia was present while the plans were being examined, and observed Sir
James’s illusion. “He thinks that Dodo cares about him, and she only
cares about her plans. Yet I am not certain that she would refuse him
if she thought he would let her manage everything and carry out all her
notions. And how very uncomfortable Sir James would be! I cannot bear

It was Celia’s private luxury to indulge in this dislike. She dared
not confess it to her sister in any direct statement, for that would be
laying herself open to a demonstration that she was somehow or other at
war with all goodness. But on safe opportunities, she had an indirect
mode of making her negative wisdom tell upon Dorothea, and calling her
down from her rhapsodic mood by reminding her that people were staring,
not listening. Celia was not impulsive: what she had to say could
wait, and came from her always with the same quiet staccato evenness.
When people talked with energy and emphasis she watched their faces and
features merely. She never could understand how well-bred persons
consented to sing and open their mouths in the ridiculous manner
requisite for that vocal exercise.

It was not many days before Mr. Casaubon paid a morning visit, on which
he was invited again for the following week to dine and stay the night.
Thus Dorothea had three more conversations with him, and was convinced
that her first impressions had been just. He was all she had at first
imagined him to be: almost everything he had said seemed like a
specimen from a mine, or the inscription on the door of a museum which
might open on the treasures of past ages; and this trust in his mental
wealth was all the deeper and more effective on her inclination because
it was now obvious that his visits were made for her sake. This
accomplished man condescended to think of a young girl, and take the
pains to talk to her, not with absurd compliment, but with an appeal to
her understanding, and sometimes with instructive correction. What
delightful companionship! Mr. Casaubon seemed even unconscious that
trivialities existed, and never handed round that small-talk of heavy
men which is as acceptable as stale bride-cake brought forth with an
odor of cupboard. He talked of what he was interested in, or else he
was silent and bowed with sad civility. To Dorothea this was adorable
genuineness, and religious abstinence from that artificiality which
uses up the soul in the efforts of pretence. For she looked as
reverently at Mr. Casaubon’s religious elevation above herself as she
did at his intellect and learning. He assented to her expressions of
devout feeling, and usually with an appropriate quotation; he allowed
himself to say that he had gone through some spiritual conflicts in his
youth; in short, Dorothea saw that here she might reckon on
understanding, sympathy, and guidance. On one—only one—of her
favorite themes she was disappointed. Mr. Casaubon apparently did not
care about building cottages, and diverted the talk to the extremely
narrow accommodation which was to be had in the dwellings of the
ancient Egyptians, as if to check a too high standard. After he was
gone, Dorothea dwelt with some agitation on this indifference of his;
and her mind was much exercised with arguments drawn from the varying
conditions of climate which modify human needs, and from the admitted
wickedness of pagan despots. Should she not urge these arguments on
Mr. Casaubon when he came again? But further reflection told her that
she was presumptuous in demanding his attention to such a subject; he
would not disapprove of her occupying herself with it in leisure
moments, as other women expected to occupy themselves with their dress
and embroidery—would not forbid it when—Dorothea felt rather ashamed
as she detected herself in these speculations. But her uncle had been
invited to go to Lowick to stay a couple of days: was it reasonable to
suppose that Mr. Casaubon delighted in Mr. Brooke’s society for its own
sake, either with or without documents?

Meanwhile that little disappointment made her delight the more in Sir
James Chettam’s readiness to set on foot the desired improvements. He
came much oftener than Mr. Casaubon, and Dorothea ceased to find him
disagreeable since he showed himself so entirely in earnest; for he had
already entered with much practical ability into Lovegood’s estimates,
and was charmingly docile. She proposed to build a couple of cottages,
and transfer two families from their old cabins, which could then be
pulled down, so that new ones could be built on the old sites. Sir
James said “Exactly,” and she bore the word remarkably well.

Certainly these men who had so few spontaneous ideas might be very
useful members of society under good feminine direction, if they were
fortunate in choosing their sisters-in-law! It is difficult to say
whether there was or was not a little wilfulness in her continuing
blind to the possibility that another sort of choice was in question in
relation to her. But her life was just now full of hope and action:
she was not only thinking of h

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