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SI LAS MARNE R.
George Eliot (in propria persona).
In old days there were angels who came and took men by the hand and led them away from the city of destruction. We see no white-winged angels now. But yet men are led away from threatening destruction : a hand is put into theirs, which leads them forth gently towards a calm and bright land, so that they look no more backward ; and the hand may be a little child's.
The gods of the hearth exist for us still ; and let all new faith be tolerant of that fetishism, lest it bruise its own roots.
That famous ring that pricked its owner when he forgot duty and followed desire—I wonder if it pricked very hard when he set out on the chase, or whether it pricked but lightly then, and only pierced to the quick when the chase had long been ended, and hope, folding her wings, looked backward and became regret ?
If there is an angel who records the sorrows of men as well as their sins, he knows how many and deep are the sorrows that spring from false ideas for which no man is culpable.
Our consciousness rarely registers the beginning of a growth within us any more than without us: there have been many circulations of the sap before we detect the smallest sign of the bud.
-0Favourable Chance, I fancy, is the god of all men who follow their own devices instead of obeying a law they believe in. Let even a polished man of these days get into a position he is ashamed to avow, and his mind will be bent on all the possible issues that may deliver him from the calculable results of that position. Let him live outside his income, or shirk the resolute honest work that brings wages, and he will presently find himself dreaming of a possible benefactor, a possible simpleton who may be cajoled into using his interest, a possible state of mind in some possible person not yet forthcoming. Let him neglect the responsibilities of his office, and he will inevitably anchor himself on the chance, that the thing left undone may turn out not to be of the supposed importance. Let him betray his friend's confidence, and he will adore that same cunning complexity called Chance, which gives him the hope that his friend will never know. Let him forsake a decent craft that he may pursue the gentilities of a profession to which nature never called him, and his religion will infallibly be the worship of blessed Chance, which he will believe in as the mighty creator of success. The evil principle deprecated in that religion, is the orderly sequence by · which the seed brings forth a crop after its kind.
-0To the peasants of old times, the world outside their own direct experience was a region of vagueness and mystery : to their untravelled thought a state of wandering was a conception as dim as the winter life of the swallows that came back with the spring ; and even a settler, if he came from distant parts, hardly ever ceased to be viewed with a remnant of distrust, which would have prevented any surprise if a long course of inoffensive conduct on his part had ended in the commission of a crime ; especially if he had any reputation for knowledge, or showed any skill in handicraft. All cleverness, whether in the rapid use of that difficult instrument the tongue, or in some other art unfamiliar to villagers, was in itself suspicious : honest folks, born and bred in a visible manner, were mostly not overwise or clever—at least, not beyond such a matter as knowing the signs of the weather ; and the process by which rapidity and dexterity of any kind were acquired was so wholly hidden, that they partook of the nature of conjuring.
The yoke a man creates for himself by wrong-doing will breed hate in the kindliest nature ; and the goodhumoured, affectionate-hearted Godfrey Cass was fast
becoming a bitter man, visited by cruel wishes, that seemed to enter, and depart, and enter again, like demons who had found in him a ready-garnished
-0No disposition is a security from evil wishes to a man whose happiness hangs on duplicity.
The prevarication and white lies which a mind that keeps itself ambitiously pure is as uneasy under as a great artist under the false touches that no eye detects but his own, are worn as lightly as mere trimmings when once the actions have become a lie.
It is seldom that the miserable can help regarding their misery as a wrong inflicted by those who are less miserable.
Just and self-reproving thoughts do not come to us too thickly, even in the purest air, and with the best lessons of heaven and earth ; how should those whitewinged delicate messengers make their way to Molly's poisoned chamber, inhabited by no higher memories than those of a bar-maid's paradise of pink ribbons and gentlemen's jokes ?
-oThe sense of security more frequently springs from habit than from conviction, and for this reason it often subsists after such a change in the conditions as might have been expected to suggest alarm. The lapse of time during which a given event has not happened, is, in this logic of habit, constantly alleged as a reason why the event should never happen, even when the lapse of time is precisely the added condition which makes the event imminent. A man will tell you that he has worked in a mine for forty years unhurt by an accident as a reason why he should apprehend no danger, though the roof is beginning to sink ; and it is often observable, that the older a man gets, the more difficult it is to him to retain a believing conception of his own death.
Instead of trying to still his fears, Godfrey encouraged them, with that superstitious impression which clings to us all, that if we expect evil very strongly it is the less likely to come.
A man falling into dark waters seeks a momentary footing even on sliding stones.
Every man's work, pursued steadily, tends to become an end in itself, and so to bridge over the loveless chasms of his life.
In the early ages of the world, we know, it was believed that each territory was inhabited and ruled by its own divinities, so that a man could cross the bordering heights and be out of the reach of his native gods, whose presence was confined to the streams and the groves and the hills among which he had lived from his birth.