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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Music Has Charms to Soothe the Savage Breast

Bob brings Matilda to his father's house to meet the Garlands, Anne a little hesitant, having developed a liking for Bob since her youth.  Matilda is unfamiliar with rural life and Anne sympathizes with her.  As the family sits down to high tea, John arrives to meet his future sister-in-law.  The two recognize each other and Matilda immediately retires to her room, though Bob attributes it to fatigue.  Though the details are vague, Matilda has had some involvement with the men in John's regiment.  Matilda sneaks away in the middle of the night, helped by John, who can't allow her to marry his brother with her sordid past.  Bob is distraught when he finds his fiancee has left him and wonders if his family was too common for her genteel tastes.  Bob decides he needs some time to contemplate matters:

Miller Loveday and David, feeling themselves to be rather a desecration in the presence of Bob’s sacred emotions, managed to edge off by degrees, the former burying himself in the most floury recesses of the mill, his invariable resource when perturbed, the rumbling having a soothing effect upon the nerves of those properly trained to its music. (Chapter 19)

Bob buries himself in the flour of the mill in order to collect himself.  He has sustained quite a blow and the soothing nature of the mill is his refuge.  The mill is soothing to him because of the familiar rumblings.  What would be noise to others is music to Bob.  The familiarity of the place helps to calm his nerves.  This may be another indication that Matilda is the wrong woman for him because she did seem a good fit for rural life and this is where Bob is at peace.

The above painting is Gentle Music of a Bygone Day (1890) by John M. Strudwick.

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