The Gaskell Society

The Gaskell Society

Celebrating the life and work of Elizabeth Gaskell

We now visit Chapters 31-40 in our continuing our series of quotes from Wives and Daughters, compiled by Dr Diane Duffy. These chapters will be covered in her February 2023 meeting and you can read her discussion Points to Ponder at the February meeting page. 

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Chapter 31

Mr. Preston was not a man in whose breast such prejudices would die away. They were an excitement to him for one thing, and called out all his talent for intrigue on behalf of the party to which he was allied.

Mrs. Gibson was constantly making projects for throwing Roger and Cynthia together, that Molly chafed at the net spread so evidently, and at Roger’s blindness in coming so willingly to be entrapped.

The Squire had felt Mr. Preston’s speech about the dismissal of his work-people very keenly… as he would repeat to Roger-“I couldn’t help it—how could I?—I was drained dry of ready money—I wish the land was drained as dry as I am.

The things prescribed were what she would naturally have done; but because they were prescribed—by implication only, it is true—Molly would have resisted; have gone out, for instance, when she was expected to stay at home.;

“Roger, you’re the providence of the family,” exclaimed Osborne, suddenly struck by admiration at his brother’s conduct, and forgetting to contrast it with his own.

Chapter 32

Cynthia missed her slave, although she did not care for Roger one thousandth part of what he did for her; yet she had found it not unpleasant to have a man whom she respected, and whom men in general respected, the subject of her eye.

Cynthia’s love was the moon Roger yearned for; and Molly saw that it was far away and out of reach, else would she have strained her heart-cords to give it to Roger.

Cynthia did not love Roger. Molly could have cried with passionate regret at the thought of the unvalued treasure lying at Cynthia’s feet.

We’ve had the complaint of a doctor’s wife, now hear the moans of a peer’s daughter. Our house is so overrun with visitors! and literally to-day I have come to you for a little solitude.”

Lady Harriet had evidently taken for her step-daughter, and she contrived to place quiet obstacles in the way of a too frequent intercourse between the two.

Lady Harriet! I would not like her to think we made any difference in our meals because she stayed. But still you could put out the best service, and arrange some flowers, and ask cook what there is for dinner that she could send us for lunch

Lady Harriet sat down in a little low chair with her feet on the fender. This fender was strictly tabooed to all household and plebeian feet; indeed the position, if they assumed it, was considered low-bred and vulgar.

Cynthia now joined the party, pretty and elegant as she always was; but somehow she did not take Lady Harriet’s fancy; she only noticed her on account of her being her mother’s daughter.

So Mrs. Gibson, after all her precautions, had to submit to Lady Harriet’s leaving her half-an-hour earlier than she otherwise would have done in order to “make herself common” (as Mrs. Gibson expressed it) by calling on the Miss Brownings.

Molly made herself uncomfortable with questioning herself as to how far it was right to leave unnoticed the small domestic failings—the webs, the distortions of truth which had prevailed in their household since her father’s second marriage.

Chapter 33

The country surgeon felt the beauty of the seasons perhaps more than most men. He saw more of it by day, by night, in storm and sunshine, or in the still, soft, cloudy weather.

Chapter 34

There, bathed in the almost level rays of the autumn sunlight, lay the landscape she had known and loved from childhood; as quiet, as full of low humming life as it had been at this hour for many generations.

Chapter 35

Dr Gibson to his wife: “Well! you overheard our conversation, I suppose?”
   “Not much,” she answered eagerly, almost relieved by being thus helped out in her forced confession. “Only a sentence or two.”
I only wish it were Molly’s good fortune to meet with such another [as Roger].”
   “I will try for her; I will indeed,” said Mrs. Gibson, relieved by his change of tone.
   “No, don’t. That’s one thing I forbid. I’ll have no ‘trying’ for Molly.”

Mr. Gibson had been compelled to face and acknowledge the fact, that the wife he had chosen had a very different standard of conduct from that which he had upheld all his life, and had hoped to have seen inculcated in his daughter.

Madam your wife and I didn’t hit it off the only time I ever saw her. I won’t say she was silly, but I think one of us was silly, and it wasn’t me.

She liked Osborne extremely, much better than Roger; and would gladly have schemed to secure him for Cynthia, if she had not shrunk from the notion of her daughter’s becoming a widow.

Chapter 36

“I am not sure that I shall go,” put in Mrs. Gibson. She did not know why she said it, for she fully intended to go all the time; but having said it, she was bound to stick to it for a little while.

Chapter 37

 Cynthia put on all her pretty airs—her look of intent interest in what any one was saying to her; her unspoken deference; in short, all the unconscious ways she possessed by instinct of tickling the vanity of men.

Cynthia to Molly: I’m sure that Mr. Coxe came here with the intention of falling in love with you. I’m sure you saw it as plainly as I did, only you made yourself disagreeable, and I took pity on him, and consoled his wounded vanity.”

She wakened up in the morning with a dull sense of something being wrong; the world was out of joint, and, if she were born to set it right, she did not know how to do it.

Chapter 38

…with all Cynthia’s apparent frankness, there were certain limits beyond which her confidence did not go; where her reserve began, and her real self was shrouded in mystery.

Mrs. Gibson was in a flutter of sentimental delight, which she fancied was family affection, she might not have been quite so effervescent if Mr. Kirkpatrick had remained a struggling lawyer, with seven children, living in Doughty Street.