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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesMy Novel - Book 3 - Chapter 22
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My Novel - Book 3 - Chapter 22 Post by :directemailer Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Bulwer-lytton Date :May 2012 Read :873

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My Novel - Book 3 - Chapter 22

BOOK THIRD CHAPTER XXII

Yet Dr. Riccabocca was not rash. The man who wants his wedding-garment to fit him must allow plenty of time for the measure. But from that day, the Italian notably changed his manner towards Miss Hazeldean. He ceased that profusion of compliment in which he had hitherto carried off in safety all serious meaning. For indeed the doctor considered that compliments to a single gentleman were what the inky liquid it dispenses is to the cuttle-fish, that by obscuring the water sails away from its enemy. Neither did he, as before, avoid prolonged conversations with the young lady, and contrive to escape from all solitary rambles by her side. On the contrary, he now sought every occasion to be in her society; and entirely dropping the language of gallantry, he assumed something of the earnest tone of friendship. He bent down his intellect to examine and plumb her own. To use a very homely simile, he blew away that froth which there is on the surface of mere acquaintanceships, especially with the opposite sex; and which, while it lasts, scarce allows you to distinguish between small beer and double X. Apparently Dr. Riccabocca was satisfied with his scrutiny,--at all events under that froth there was no taste of bitter. The Italian might not find any great strength of intellect in Miss Jemima, but he found that, disentangled from many little whims and foibles,--which he had himself the sense to perceive were harmless enough if they lasted, and not so absolutely constitutional but what they might be removed by a tender hand,--Miss Hazeldean had quite enough sense to comprehend the plain duties of married life; and if the sense could fail, it found a substitute in good old homely English principles, and the instincts of amiable, kindly feelings.

I know not how it is, but your very clever man never seems to care so much as your less gifted mortals for cleverness in his helpmate. Your scholars and poets and ministers of state are more often than not found assorted with exceedingly humdrum, good sort of women, and apparently like them all the better for their deficiencies. Just see how happily Racine lived with his wife, and what an angel he thought her, and yet she had never read his plays. Certainly Goethe never troubled the lady who called him "Mr. Privy Councillor" with whims about "monads," and speculations on colour, nor those stiff metaphysical problems on which one breaks one's shins in the Second Past of the "Faust." Probably it may be that such great geniuses--knowing that, as compared with themselves, there is little difference between your clever woman and your humdrum woman--merge at once all minor distinctions, relinquish all attempts at sympathy in hard intellectual pursuits, and are quite satisfied to establish that tie which, after all, best resists wear and tear,--namely, the tough household bond between one human heart and another.

At all events, this, I suspect, was the reasoning of Dr. Riccabocca, when one morning, after a long walk with Miss Hazeldean, he muttered to himself,--


"Duro con duro
Non fete mai buon muro,"--


which may bear the paraphrase, "Bricks without mortar would make a very bad wall." There was quite enough in Miss Jemima's disposition to make excellent mortar: the doctor took the bricks to himself.

When his examination was concluded, our philosopher symbolically evinced the result he had arrived at by a very simple proceeding on his part, which would have puzzled you greatly if you had not paused, and meditated thereon, till you saw all that it implied. Dr. Riccabocca, took of his spectacles! He wiped them carefully, put them into their shagreen case, and locked them in his bureau,--that is to say, he left off wearing his spectacles.

You will observe that there was a wonderful depth of meaning in that critical symptom, whether it be regarded as a sign outward, positive, and explicit, or a sign metaphysical, mystical, and esoteric. For, as to the last, it denoted that the task of the spectacles was over; that, when a philosopher has made up his mind to marry, it is better henceforth to be shortsighted--nay, even somewhat purblind--than to be always scrutinizing the domestic felicity, to which he is about to resign himself, through a pair of cold, unillusory barnacles. As for the things beyond the hearth, if he cannot see without spectacles, is he not about to ally to his own defective vision a good sharp pair of eyes, never at fault where his interests are concerned? On the other hand, regarded positively, categorically, and explicitly, Dr. Roccabocca, by laying aside those spectacles, signified that he was about to commence that happy initiation of courtship when every man, be he ever so much a philosopher, wishes to look as young and as handsome as time and nature will allow. Vain task to speed the soft language of the eyes through the medium of those glassy interpreters! I remember, for my own part, that once, on a visit to the town of Adelaide, I--Pisistratus Caxton--was in great danger of falling in love,--with a young lady, too, who would have brought me a very good fortune,--when she suddenly produced from her reticule a very neat pair of No. 4, set in tortoiseshell, and fixing upon me their Gorgon gaze, froze the astonished Cupid into stone! And I hold it a great proof of the wisdom of Riccabocca, and of his vast experience in mankind, that he was not above the consideration of what your pseudo-sages would have regarded as foppish and ridiculous trifles. It argued all the better for that happiness which is our being's end and aim that in condescending to play the lover, he put those unbecoming petrifiers under lock and key.

And certainly, now the spectacles were abandoned, it was impossible to deny that the Italian had remarkably handsome eyes. Even through the spectacles, or lifted a little above them, they were always bright and expressive; but without those adjuncts, the blaze was softer and more tempered: they had that look which the French call veloute, or velvety; and he appeared altogether ten years younger. If our Ulysses, thus rejuvenated by his Minerva, has not fully made up his mind to make a Penelope of Miss Jemima, all I can say is, that he is worse than Polyphemus, who was only an Anthropophagos,--

He preys upon the weaker sex, and is a Gynopophagite!

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BOOK THIRD CHAPTER XXIII"And you commission me, then, to speak to our dear Jemima?" said Mrs. Dale, joyfully, and without any bitterness whatever in that "dear." DR. RICCABOCCA.--"Nay, before speaking to Miss Hazeldean, it would surely be proper to know how far my addresses would be acceptable to the family." MRS. DALE.--"Ah!" DR. RICCAROCCA.--"The squire is of course the head of the family." MRS. DALE (absent and distraite).--"The squire--yes, very true--quite proper." (Then, looking up, and with naivete) "Can you believe me? I never thought of the squire. And he is such an odd man, and has so many English prejudices,
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BOOK THIRD CHAPTER XXIDr. Riccabocca had been some little time in the solitude of the belvidere, when Lenny Fairfield, not knowing that his employer was therein, entered to lay down a book which the doctor had lent him, with injunctions to leave it on a certain table when done with. Riccabocca looked up at the sound of the young peasant's step. "I beg your honour's pardon, I did not know--" "Never mind: lay the book there. I wish to speak with you. You look well, my child: this air agrees with you as well as that of Hazeldean?" "Oh, yes, Sir!"
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