Part 11 out of 16
laboratory assistant Marrable's; and Lily, the pale, neat-faced copying-
clerk, whose light-brown hair was set up in a small parallelogram above
his well-filled forehead, and whose shirt, taken with an otherwise seedy
costume, had a freshness that might be called insular, and perhaps even
Certainly a company select of the select among poor men, being drawn
together by a taste not prevalent even among the privileged heirs of
learning and its institutions; and not likely to amuse any gentleman in
search of crime or low comedy as the ground of interest in people whose
weekly income is only divisible into shillings. Deronda, even if he had
not been more than usually inclined to gravity under the influence of what
was pending between him and Mordecai, would not have set himself to find
food for laughter in the various shades of departure from the tone of
polished society sure to be observable in the air and talk of these men
who had probably snatched knowledge as most of us snatch indulgences,
making the utmost of scant opportunity. He looked around him with the
quiet air of respect habitual to him among equals, ordered whisky and
water, and offered the contents of his cigar-case, which,
characteristically enough, he always carried and hardly ever used for his
own behoof, having reasons for not smoking himself, but liking to indulge
others. Perhaps it was his weakness to be afraid of seeming straight-
laced, and turning himself into a sort of diagram instead of a growth
which can exercise the guiding attraction of fellowship. That he made a
decidedly winning impression on the company was proved by their showing
themselves no less at ease than before, and desirous of quickly resuming
their interrupted talk.
"This is what I call one of our touch-and-go nights, sir," said Miller,
who was implicitly accepted as a sort of moderator--on addressing Deronda
by way of explanation, and nodding toward each person whose name he
mentioned. "Sometimes we stick pretty close to the point. But tonight our
friend Pash, there, brought up the law of progress; and we got on
statistics; then Lily, there, saying we knew well enough before counting
that in the same state of society the same sort of things would happen,
and it was no more wonder that quantities should remain the same, than
that qualities should remain the same, for in relation to society numbers
are qualities--the number of drunkards is a quality in society--the
numbers are an index to the qualities, and give us no instruction, only
setting us to consider the causes of difference between different social
states--Lily saying this, we went off on the causes of social change, and
when you came in I was going upon the power of ideas, which I hold to be
the main transforming cause."
"I don't hold with you there, Miller," said Goodwin, the inlayer, more
concerned to carry on the subject than to wait for a word from the new
guest. "For either you mean so many sorts of things by ideas that I get no
knowledge by what you say, any more than if you said light was a cause; or
else you mean a particular sort of ideas, and then I go against your
meaning as too narrow. For, look at it in one way, all actions men put a
bit of thought into are ideas--say, sowing seed, or making a canoe, or
baking clay; and such ideas as these work themselves into life and go on
growing with it, but they can't go apart from the material that set them
to work and makes a medium for them. It's the nature of wood and stone
yielding to the knife that raises the idea of shaping them, and with
plenty of wood and stone the shaping will go on. I look at it, that such
ideas as are mixed straight away with all the other elements of life are
powerful along with 'em. The slower the mixing, the less power they have.
And as to the causes of social change, I look at it in this way--ideas are
a sort of parliament, but there's a commonwealth outside and a good deal
of the commonwealth is working at change without knowing what the
parliament is doing."
"But if you take ready mixing as your test of power," said Pash, "some of
the least practical ideas beat everything. They spread without being
understood, and enter into the language without being thought of."
"They may act by changing the distribution of gases," said Marrables;
"instruments are getting so fine now, men may come to register the spread
of a theory by observed changes in the atmosphere and corresponding
changes in the nerves."
"Yes," said Pash, his dark face lighting up rather impishly, "there is the
idea of nationalities; I dare say the wild asses are snuffing it, and
getting more gregarious."
"You don't share that idea?" said Deronda, finding a piquant incongruity
between Pash's sarcasm and the strong stamp of race on his features.
"Say, rather, he does not share that spirit," said Mordecai, who had
turned a melancholy glance on Pash. "Unless nationality is a feeling, what
force can it have as an idea?"
"Granted, Mordecai," said Pash, quite good-humoredly. "And as the feeling
of nationality is dying, I take the idea to be no better than a ghost,
already walking to announce the death."
"A sentiment may seem to be dying and yet revive into strong life," said
Deronda. "Nations have revived. We may live to see a great outburst of
force in the Arabs, who are being inspired with a new zeal."
"Amen, amen," said Mordecai, looking at Deronda with a delight which was
the beginning of recovered energy: his attitude was more upright, his face
was less worn.
"That may hold with backward nations," said Pash, "but with us in Europe
the sentiment of nationality is destined to die out. It will last a little
longer in the quarters where oppression lasts, but nowhere else. The whole
current of progress is setting against it."
"Ay," said Buchan, in a rapid thin Scotch tone which was like the letting
in of a little cool air on the conversation, "ye've done well to bring us
round to the point. Ye're all agreed that societies change--not always and
everywhere--but on the whole and in the long run. Now, with all deference,
I would beg t' observe that we have got to examine the nature of changes
before we have a warrant to call them progress, which word is supposed to
include a bettering, though I apprehend it to be ill-chosen for that
purpose, since mere motion onward may carry us to a bog or a precipice.
And the questions I would put are three: Is all change in the direction of
progress? if not, how shall we discern which change is progress and which
not? and thirdly, how far and in what way can we act upon the course of
change so as to promote it where it is beneficial, and divert it where it
But Buchan's attempt to impose his method on the talk was a failure. Lily
"Change and progress are merged in the idea of development. The laws of
development are being discovered, and changes taking place according to
them are necessarily progressive; that is to say, it we have any notion of
progress or improvement opposed to them, the notion is a mistake."
"I really can't see how you arrive at that sort of certitude about changes
by calling them development," said Deronda. "There will still remain the
degrees of inevitableness in relation to our own will and acts, and the
degrees of wisdom in hastening or retarding; there will still remain the
danger of mistaking a tendency which should be resisted for an inevitable
law that we must adjust ourselves to,--which seems to me as bad a
superstition or false god as any that has been set up without the
ceremonies of philosophising."
"That is a truth," said Mordecai. "Woe to the men who see no place for
resistance in this generation! I believe in a growth, a passage, and a new
unfolding of life whereof the seed is more perfect, more charged with the
elements that are pregnant with diviner form. The life of a people grows,
it is knit together and yet expanded, in joy and sorrow, in thought and
action; it absorbs the thought of other nations into its own forms, and
gives back the thought as new wealth to the world; it is a power and an
organ in the great body of the nations. But there may come a check, an
arrest; memories may be stifled, and love may be faint for the lack of
them; or memories may shrink into withered relics--the soul of a people,
whereby they know themselves to be one, may seem to be dying for want of
common action. But who shall say, 'The fountain of their life is dried up,
they shall forever cease to be a nation?' Who shall say it? Not he who
feels the life of his people stirring within his own. Shall he say, 'That
way events are wending, I will not resist?' His very soul is resistance,
and is as a seed of fire that may enkindle the souls of multitudes, and
make a new pathway for events."
"I don't deny patriotism," said Gideon, "but we all know you have a
particular meaning, Mordecai. You know Mordecai's way of thinking, I
suppose." Here Gideon had turned to Deronda, who sat next to him, but
without waiting for an answer he went on. "I'm a rational Jew myself. I
stand by my people as a sort of family relations, and I am for keeping up
our worship in a rational way. I don't approve of our people getting
baptised, because I don't believe in a Jew's conversion to the Gentile
part of Christianity. And now we have political equality, there's no
excuse for a pretense of that sort. But I am for getting rid of all of our
superstitions and exclusiveness. There's no reason now why we shouldn't
melt gradually into the populations we live among. That's the order of the
day in point of progress. I would as soon my children married Christians
as Jews. And I'm for the old maxim, 'A man's country is where he's well
"That country's not so easy to find, Gideon," said the rapid Pash, with a
shrug and grimace. "You get ten shillings a-week more than I do, and have
only half the number of children. If somebody will introduce a brisk trade
in watches among the 'Jerusalem wares,' I'll go--eh, Mordecai, what do you
Deronda, all ear for these hints of Mordecai's opinion, was inwardly
wondering at his persistence in coming to this club. For an enthusiastic
spirit to meet continually the fixed indifference of men familiar with the
object of his enthusiasm is the acceptance of a slow martyrdom, beside
which the fate of a missionary tomahawked without any considerate
rejection of his doctrines seems hardly worthy of compassion. But Mordecai
gave no sign of shrinking: this was a moment of spiritual fullness, and he
cared more for the utterance of his faith than for its immediate
reception. With a fervor which had no temper in it, but seemed rather the
rush of feeling in the opportunity of speech, he answered Pash:--
'What I say is, let every man keep far away from the brotherhood and
inheritance he despises. Thousands on thousands of our race have mixed
with the Gentiles as Celt with Saxon, and they may inherit the blessing
that belongs to the Gentile. You cannot follow them. You are one of the
multitudes over this globe who must walk among the nations and be known as
Jews, and with words on their lips which mean, 'I wish I had not been born
a Jew, I disown any bond with the long travail of my race, I will outdo
the Gentile in mocking at our separateness,' they all the while feel
breathing on them the breath of contempt because they are Jews, and they
will breathe it back poisonously. Can a fresh-made garment of citizenship
weave itself straightway into the flesh and change the slow deposit of
eighteen centuries? What is the citizenship of him who walks among a
people he has no hardy kindred and fellowship with, and has lost the sense
of brotherhood with his own race? It is a charter of selfish ambition and
rivalry in low greed. He is an alien of spirit, whatever he may be in
form; he sucks the blood of mankind, he is not a man, sharing in no loves,
sharing in no subjection of the soul, he mocks it all. Is it not truth I
"Not exactly, Mordecai," said Pash, "if you mean that I think the worse of
myself for being a Jew. What I thank our fathers for is that there are
fewer blockheads among us than among other races. But perhaps you are
right in thinking the Christians don't like me so well for it."
"Catholics and Protestants have not liked each other much better," said
the genial Gideon. "We must wait patiently for prejudices to die out. Many
of our people are on a footing with the best, and there's been a good
filtering of our blood into high families. I am for making our
"And so am I!" said Mordecai, quickly, leaning forward with the eagerness
of one who pleads in some decisive crisis, his long, thin hands clasped
together on his lap. "I, too, claim to be a rational Jew. But what is it
to be rational--what is it to feel the light of the divine reason growing
stronger within and without? It is to see more and more of the hidden
bonds that bind and consecrate change as a dependent growth--yea,
consecrate it with kinship: the past becomes my parent and the future
stretches toward me the appealing arms of children. Is it rational to
drain away the sap of special kindred that makes the families of men rich
in interchanged wealth, and various as the forests are various with the
glory of the cedar and the palm? When it is rational to say, 'I know not
my father or my mother, let my children be aliens to me, that no prayer of
mine may touch them,' then it will be rational for the Jew to say, 'I will
seek to know no difference between me and the Gentile, I will not cherish
the prophetic consciousness of our nationality--let the Hebrew cease to
be, and let all his memorials be antiquarian trifles, dead as the wall-
paintings of a conjectured race. Yet let his child learn by rote the
speech of the Greek, where he abjures his fellow-citizens by the bravery
of those who fought foremost at Marathon--let him learn to say that was
noble in the Greek, that is the spirit of an immortal nation! But the Jew
has no memories that bind him to action; let him laugh that his nation is
degraded from a nation; let him hold the monuments of his law which
carried within its frame the breath of social justice, of charity, and of
household sanctities--let him hold the energy of the prophets, the patient
care of the Masters, the fortitude of martyred generations, as mere stuff
for a professorship. The business of the Jew in all things is to be even
as the rich Gentile."
Mordecai threw himself back in his chair, and there was a moment's
silence. Not one member of the club shared his point of view or his
emotion; but his whole personality and speech had on them the effect of a
dramatic representation which had some pathos in it, though no practical
consequences; and usually he was at once indulged and contradicted.
Deronda's mind went back upon what must have been the tragic pressure of
outward conditions hindering this man, whose force he felt to be telling
on himself, from making any world for his thought in the minds of others--
like a poet among people of a strange speech, who may have a poetry of
their own, but have no ear for his cadence, no answering thrill to his
discovery of the latent virtues in his mother tongue.
The cool Buchan was the first to speak, and hint the loss of time. "I
submit," said he, "that ye're traveling away from the questions I put
"Say they're levanting, Buchan," said Miller, who liked his joke, and
would not have objected to be called Voltairian. "Never mind. Let us have
a Jewish night; we've not had one for a long while. Let us take the
discussion on Jewish ground. I suppose we've no prejudice here; we're all
philosophers; and we like our friends Mordecai, Pash, and Gideon, as well
as if they were no more kin to Abraham than the rest of us. We're all
related through Adam, until further showing to the contrary, and if you
look into history we've all got some discreditable forefathers. So I mean
no offence when I say I don't think any great things of the part the
Jewish people have played in the world. What then? I think they were
iniquitously dealt by in past times. And I suppose we don't want any men
to be maltreated, white, black, brown, or yellow--I know I've just given
my half-crown to the contrary. And that reminds me, I've a curious old
German book--I can't read it myself, but a friend of mine was reading out
of it to me the other day--about the prejudicies against the Jews, and the
stories used to be told against 'em, and what do you think one was? Why,
that they're punished with a bad odor in their bodies; and _that_, says
the author, date 1715 (I've just been pricing and marking the book this
very morning)--that is true, for the ancients spoke of it. But then, he
says, the other things are fables, such as that the odor goes away all at
once when they're baptized, and that every one of the ten tribes, mind
you, all the ten being concerned in the crucifixion, has got a particular
punishment over and above the smell:--Asher, I remember, has the right arm
a handbreadth shorter than the left, and Naphthali has pig's ears and a
smell of live pork. What do you think of that? There's been a good deal of
fun made of rabbinical fables, but in point of fables my opinion is, that
all over the world it's six of one and half-a-dozen of the other. However,
as I said before, I hold with the philosophers of the last century that
the Jews have played no great part as a people, though Pash will have it
they're clever enough to beat all the rest of the world. But if so, I ask,
why haven't they done it?"
"For the same reason that the cleverest men in the country don't get
themselves or their ideas into Parliament," said the ready Pash; "because
the blockheads are too many for 'em."
"That is a vain question," said Mordecai, "whether our people would beat
the rest of the world. Each nation has its own work, and is a member of
the world, enriched by the work of each. But it is true, as Jehuda-ha-Levi
first said, that Israel is the heart of mankind, if we mean by heart the
core of affection which binds a race and its families in dutiful love, and
the reverence for the human body which lifts the needs of our animal life
into religion, and the tenderness which is merciful to the poor and weak
and to the dumb creature that wears the yoke for us."
"They're not behind any nation in arrogance," said Lily; "and if they have
got in the rear, it has not been because they were over-modest."
"Oh, every nation brags in its turn," said Miller.
"Yes," said Pash, "and some of them in the Hebrew text."
"Well, whatever the Jews contributed at one time, they are a stand-still
people," said Lily. "They are the type of obstinate adherence to the
superannuated. They may show good abilities when they take up liberal
ideas, but as a race they have no development in them."
"That is false!" said Mordecai, leaning forward again with his former
eagerness. "Let their history be known and examined; let the seed be
sifted, let its beginning be traced to the weed of the wilderness--the
more glorious will be the energy that transformed it. Where else is there
a nation of whom it may be as truly said that their religion and law and
moral life mingled as the stream of blood in the heart and made one
growth--where else a people who kept and enlarged their spiritual store at
the very time when they are hated with a hatred as fierce as the forest
fires that chase the wild beast from his covert? There is a fable of the
Roman, that swimming to save his life he held the roll of his writings
between his teeth and saved them from the waters. But how much more than
that is true of our race? They struggled to keep their place among the
nations like heroes--yea, when the hand was hacked off, they clung with
their teeth; but when the plow and the harrow had passed over the last
visible signs of their national covenant, and the fruitfulness of their
land was stifled with the blood of the sowers and planters, they said,
'The spirit is alive, let us make it a lasting habitation--lasting because
movable--so that it may be carried from generation to generation, and our
sons unborn may be rich in the things that have been, and possess a hope
built on an unchangeable foundation.' They said it and they wrought it,
though often breathing with scant life, as in a coffin, or as lying
wounded amid a heap of slain. Hooted and scared like the unknown dog, the
Hebrew made himself envied for his wealth and wisdom, and was bled of them
to fill the bath of Gentile luxury; he absorbed knowledge, he diffused it;
his dispersed race was a new Phoenicia working the mines of Greece and
carrying their products to the world. The native spirit of our tradition
was not to stand still, but to use records as a seed and draw out the
compressed virtues of law and prophecy; and while the Gentile, who had
said, 'What is yours is ours, and no longer yours,' was reading the letter
of our law as a dark inscription, or was turning its parchments into shoe-
soles for an army rabid with lust and cruelty, our Masters were still
enlarging and illuminating with fresh-fed interpretation. But the
dispersion was wide, the yoke of oppression was a spiked torture as well
as a load; the exile was forced afar among brutish people, where the
consciousness of his race was no clearer to him than the light of the sun
to our fathers in the Roman persecution, who had their hiding-place in a
cave, and knew not that it was day save by the dimmer burning of their
candles. What wonder that multitudes of our people are ignorant, narrow,
superstitious? What wonder?"
Here Mordecai, whose seat was next the fireplace, rose and leaned his arm
on the little shelf; his excitement had risen, though his voice, which had
begun with unusual strength, was getting hoarser.
"What wonder? The night is unto them, that they have no vision; in their
darkness they are unable to divine; the sun is gone down over the
prophets, and the day is dark above them; their observances are as
nameless relics. But which among the chief of the Gentile nations has not
an ignorant multitude? They scorn our people's ignorant observance; but
the most accursed ignorance is that which has no observance--sunk to the
cunning greed of the fox, to which all law is no more than a trap or the
cry of the worrying hound. There is a degradation deep down below the
memory that has withered into superstition. In the multitudes of the
ignorant on three continents who observe our rites and make the confession
of the divine Unity, the soul of Judaism is not dead. Revive the organic
centre: let the unity of Israel which has made the growth and form of its
religion be an outward reality. Looking toward a land and a polity, our
dispersed people in all the ends of the earth may share the dignity of a
national life which has a voice among the peoples of the East and the
West--which will plant the wisdom and skill of our race so that it may be,
as of old, a medium of transmission and understanding. Let that come to
pass, and the living warmth will spread to the weak extremities of Israel,
and superstition will vanish, not in the lawlessness of the renegade, but
in the illumination of great facts which widen feeling, and make all
knowledge alive as the young offspring of beloved memories."
Mordecai's voice had sunk, but with the hectic brilliancy of his gaze it
was not the less impressive. His extraordinary excitement was certainly
due to Deronda's presence: it was to Deronda that he was speaking, and the
moment had a testamentary solemnity for him which rallied all his powers.
Yet the presence of those other familiar men promoted expression, for they
embodied the indifference which gave a resistant energy to his speech. Not
that he looked at Deronda: he seemed to see nothing immediately around
him, and if any one had grasped him he would probably not have known it.
Again the former words came back to Deronda's mind,--"You must hope my
hopes--see the vision I point to--behold a glory where I behold it." They
came now with gathered pathos. Before him stood, as a living, suffering
reality, what hitherto he had only seen as an effort of imagination,
which, in its comparative faintness, yet carried a suspicion, of being
exaggerated: a man steeped in poverty and obscurity, weakened by disease,
consciously within the shadow of advancing death, but living an intense
life in an invisible past and future, careless of his personal lot, except
for its possible making some obstruction to a conceived good which he
would never share except as a brief inward vision--a day afar off, whose
sun would never warm him, but into which he threw his soul's desire, with
a passion often wanting to the personal motives of healthy youth. It was
something more than a grandiose transfiguration of the parental love that
toils, renounces, endures, resists the suicidal promptings of despair--all
because of the little ones, whose future becomes present to the yearning
gaze of anxiety.
All eyes were fixed on Mordecai as he sat down again, and none with
unkindness; but it happened that the one who felt the most kindly was the
most prompted to speak in opposition. This was the genial and rational
Gideon, who also was not without a sense that he was addressing the guest
of the evening. He said--
"You have your own way of looking at things, Mordecai, and as you say,
your own way seems to you rational. I know you don't hold with the
restoration of Judea by miracle, and so on; but you are as well aware as I
am that the subject has been mixed with a heap of nonsense both by Jews
and Christians. And as to the connection of our race with Palestine, it
has been perverted by superstition till it's as demoralizing as the old
poor-law. The raff and scum go there to be maintained like able-bodied
paupers, and to be taken special care of by the angel Gabriel when they
die. It's no use fighting against facts. We must look where they point;
that's what I call rationality. The most learned and liberal men among us
who are attached to our religion are for clearing our liturgy of all such
notions as a literal fulfillment of the prophecies about restoration, and
so on. Prune it of a few useless rites and literal interpretations of that
sort, and our religion is the simplest of all religions, and makes no
barrier, but a union, between us and the rest of the world."
"As plain as a pike-staff," said Pash, with an ironical laugh. "You pluck
it up by the roots, strip off the leaves and bark, shave off the knots,
and smooth it at top and bottom; put it where you will, it will do no
harm, it will never sprout. You may make a handle of it, or you may throw
it on the bonfire of scoured rubbish. I don't see why our rubbish is to be
held sacred any more than the rubbish of Brahmanism or Buddhism."
"No," said Mordecai, "no, Pash, because you have lost the heart of the
Jew. Community was felt before it was called good. I praise no
superstition, I praise the living fountains of enlarging belief. What is
growth, completion, development? You began with that question, I apply it
to the history of our people. I say that the effect of our separateness
will not be completed and have its highest transformation unless our race
takes on again the character of a nationality. That is the fulfillment of
the religious trust that moulded them into a people, whose life has made
half the inspiration of the world. What is it to me that the ten tribes
are lost untraceably, or that multitudes of the children of Judah have
mixed themselves with the Gentile populations as a river with rivers?
Behold our people still! Their skirts spread afar; they are torn and
soiled and trodden on; but there is a jeweled breastplate. Let the wealthy
men, the monarchs of commerce, the learned in all knowledge, the skilful
in all arts, the speakers, the political counselors, who carry in their
veins the Hebrew blood which has maintained its vigor in all climates, and
the pliancy of the Hebrew genius for which difficulty means new device--
let them say, 'we will lift up a standard, we will unite in a labor hard
but glorious like that of Moses and Ezra, a labor which shall be a worthy
fruit of the long anguish whereby our fathers maintained their
separateness, refusing the ease of falsehood." They have wealth enough to
redeem the soil from debauched and paupered conquerors; they have the
skill of the statesman to devise, the tongue of the orator to persuade.
And is there no prophet or poet among us to make the ears of Christian
Europe tingle with shame at the hideous obloquy of Christian strife which
the Turk gazes at as at the fighting of beasts to which he has lent an
arena? There is store of wisdom among us to found a new Jewish polity,
grand, simple, just, like the old--a republic where there is equality of
protection, an equality which shone like a star on the forehead of our
ancient community, and gave it more than the brightness of Western freedom
amid the despotisms of the East. Then our race shall have an organic
centre, a heart and brain to watch and guide and execute; the outraged Jew
shall have a defense in the court of nations, as the outraged Englishman
of America. And the world will gain as Israel gains. For there will be a
community in the van of the East which carries the culture and the
sympathies of every great nation in its bosom: there will be a land set
for a halting-place of enmities, a neutral ground for the East as Belgium
is for the West. Difficulties? I know there are difficulties. But let the
spirit of sublime achievement move in the great among our people, and the
work will begin."
"Ay, we may safely admit that, Mordecai," said Pash. "When there are great
men on 'Change, and high-flying professors converted to your doctrine,
difficulties will vanish like smoke."
Deronda, inclined by nature to take the side of those on whom the arrows
of scorn were falling, could not help replying to Pash's outfling, and
"If we look back to the history of efforts which have made great changes,
it is astonishing how many of them seemed hopeless to those who looked on
in the beginning.
"Take what we have all heard and seen something of--the effort after the
unity of Italy, which we are sure soon to see accomplished to the very
last boundary. Look into Mazzini's account of his first yearning, when he
was a boy, after a restored greatness and a new freedom to Italy, and of
his first efforts as a young man to rouse the same feelings in other young
men, and get them to work toward a united nationality. Almost everything
seemed against him; his countrymen were ignorant or indifferent,
governments hostile, Europe incredulous. Of course the scorners often
seemed wise. Yet you see the prophecy lay with him. As long as there is a
remnant of national consciousness, I suppose nobody will deny that there
may be a new stirring of memories and hopes which may inspire arduous
"Amen," said Mordecai, to whom Deronda's words were a cordial. "What is
needed is the leaven--what is needed is the seed of fire. The heritage of
Israel is beating in the pulses of millions; it lives in their veins as a
power without understanding, like the morning exultation of herds; it is
the inborn half of memory, moving as in a dream among writings on the
walls, which it sees dimly but cannot divide into speech. Let the torch of
visible community be lit! Let the reason of Israel disclose itself in a
great outward deed, and let there be another great migration, another
choosing of Israel to be a nationality whose members may still stretch to
the ends of the earth, even as the sons of England and Germany, whom
enterprise carries afar, but who still have a national hearth and a
tribunal of national opinion. Will any say 'It cannot be'? Baruch Spinoza
had not a faithful Jewish heart, though he had sucked the life of his
intellect at the breasts of Jewish tradition. He laid bare his father's
nakedness and said, 'They who scorn him have the higher wisdom.' Yet
Baruch Spinoza confessed, he saw not why Israel should not again be a
chosen nation. Who says that the history and literature of our race are
dead? Are they not as living as the history and literature of Greece and
Rome, which have inspired revolutions, enkindled the thought of Europe,
and made the unrighteous powers tremble? These were an inheritance dug
from the tomb. Ours is an inheritance that has never ceased to quiver in
millions of human frames."
Mordecai had stretched his arms upward, and his long thin hands quivered
in the air for a moment after he had ceased to speak. Gideon was certainly
a little moved, for though there was no long pause before he made a remark
in objection, his tone was more mild and deprecatory than before; Pash,
meanwhile, pressing his lips together, rubbing his black head with both
his hands and wrinkling his brow horizontally, with the expression of one
who differs from every speaker, but does not think it worth while to say
so. There is a sort of human paste that when it comes near the fire of
enthusiasm is only baked into harder shape.
"It may seem well enough on one side to make so much of our memories and
inheritance as you do, Mordecai," said Gideon; "but there's another side.
It isn't all gratitude and harmless glory. Our people have inherited a
good deal of hatred. There's a pretty lot of curses still flying about,
and stiff settled rancor inherited from the times of persecution. How will
you justify keeping one sort of memory and throwing away the other? There
are ugly debts standing on both sides."
"I justify the choice as all other choice is justified," said Mordecai. "I
cherish nothing for the Jewish nation, I seek nothing for them, but the
good which promises good to all the nations. The spirit of our religious
life, which is one with our national life, is not hatred of aught but
wrong. The Master has said, an offence against man is worse than an
offence against God. But what wonder if there is hatred in the breasts of
Jews, who are children of the ignorant and oppressed--what wonder, since
there is hatred in the breasts of Christians? Our national life was a
growing light. Let the central fire be kindled again, and the light will
reach afar. The degraded and scorned of our race will learn to think of
their sacred land, not as a place for saintly beggary to await death in
loathsome idleness, but as a republic where the Jewish spirit manifests
itself in a new order founded on the old, purified and enriched by the
experience our greatest sons have gathered from the life of the ages. How
long is it?--only two centuries since a vessel carried over the ocean the
beginning of the great North American nation. The people grew like meeting
waters--they were various in habit and sect--there came a time, a century
ago, when they needed a polity, and there were heroes of peace among them.
What had they to form a polity with but memories of Europe, corrected by
the vision of a better? Let our wise and wealthy show themselves heroes.
They have the memories of the East and West, and they have the full vision
of a better. A new Persia with a purified religion magnified itself in art
and wisdom. So will a new Judaea, poised between East and West--a covenant
of reconciliation. Will any say, the prophetic vision of your race has
been hopelessly mixed with folly and bigotry: the angel of progress has no
message for Judaism--it is a half-buried city for the paid workers to lay
open--the waters are rushing by it as a forsaken field? I say that the
strongest principle of growth lies in human choice. The sons of Judah have
to choose that God may again choose them. The Messianic time is the time
when Israel shall will the planting of the national ensign. The Nile
overflowed and rushed onward: the Egyptian could not choose the overflow,
but he chose to work and make channels for the fructifying waters, and
Egypt became the land of corn. Shall man, whose soul is set in the royalty
of discernment and resolve, deny his rank and say, I am an onlooker, ask
no choice or purpose of me? That is the blasphemy of this time. The divine
principle of our race is action, choice, resolved memory. Let us
contradict the blasphemy, and help to will our own better future and the
better future of the world--not renounce our higher gift and say, 'Let us
be as if we were not among the populations;' but choose our full heritage,
claim the brotherhood of our nation, and carry into it a new brotherhood
with the nations of the Gentiles. The vision is there; it will be
With the last sentence, which was no more than a loud whisper, Mordecai
let his chin sink on his breast and his eyelids fall. No one spoke. It was
not the first time that he had insisted on the same ideas, but he was seen
to-night in a new phase. The quiet tenacity of his ordinary self differed
as much from his present exaltation of mood as a man in private talk,
giving reasons for a revolution of which no sign is discernable, differs
from one who feels himself an agent in a revolution begun. The dawn of
fulfillment brought to his hope by Deronda's presence had wrought
Mordecai's conception into a state of impassioned conviction, and he had
found strength in his excitement to pour forth the unlocked floods of
emotive argument, with a sense of haste as at a crisis which must be
seized. But now there had come with the quiescence of fatigue a sort of
thankful wonder that he had spoken--a contemplation of his life as a
journey which had come at last to this bourne. After a great excitement,
the ebbing strength of impulse is apt to leave us in this aloofness from
our active self. And in the moments after Mordecai had sunk his head, his
mind was wandering along the paths of his youth, and all the hopes which
had ended in bringing him hither.
Every one felt that the talk was ended, and the tone of phlegmatic
discussion made unseasonable by Mordecai's high-pitched solemnity. It was
as if they had come together to hear the blowing of the _shophar_, and had
nothing to do now but to disperse. The movement was unusually general, and
in less than ten minutes the room was empty of all except Mordecai and
Deronda. "Good-nights" had been given to Mordecai, but it was evident he
had not heard them, for he remained rapt and motionless. Deronda would not
disturb this needful rest, but waited for a spontaneous movement.
"My spirit is too weak; mortality
Weighs heavily on me like unwilling sleep,
And each imagined pinnacle and steep
Of godlike hardship tells me I must die
Like a sick eagle looking at the sky."
After a few minutes the unwonted stillness had penetrated Mordecai's
consciousness, and he looked up at Deronda, not in the least with
bewilderment and surprise, but with a gaze full of reposing satisfaction.
Deronda rose and placed his chair nearer, where there could be no imagined
need for raising the voice. Mordecai felt the action as a patient feels
the gentleness that eases his pillow. He began to speak in a low tone, as
if he were only thinking articulately, not trying to reach an audience.
"In the doctrine of the Cabbala, souls are born again and again in new
bodies till they are perfected and purified, and a soul liberated from a
worn-out body may join the fellow-soul that needs it, that they may be
perfected together, and their earthly work accomplished. Then they will
depart from the mortal region, and leave place for new souls to be born
out of the store in the eternal bosom. It is the lingering imperfection of
the souls already born into the mortal region that hinders the birth of
new souls and the preparation of the Messianic time:--thus the mind has
given shape to what is hidden, as the shadow of what is known, and has
spoken truth, though it were only in parable. When my long-wandering soul
is liberated from this weary body, it will join yours, and its work will
Mordecai's pause seemed an appeal which Deronda's feeling would not let
him leave unanswered. He tried to make it truthful; but for Mordecai's ear
it was inevitably filled with unspoken meaning. He only said--
"Everything I can in conscience do to make your life effective I will do."
"I know it," said Mordecai, in a tone of quiet certainty which dispenses
with further assurance. "I heard it. You see it all--you are by my side on
the mount of vision, and behold the paths of fulfillment which others
He was silent a moment or two, and then went on meditatively--
"You will take up my life where it was broken. I feel myself back in that
day when my life was broken. The bright morning sun was on the quay--it
was at Trieste--the garments of men from all nations shone like jewels--
the boats were pushing off--the Greek vessel that would land us at Beyrout
was to start in an hour. I was going with a merchant as his clerk and
companion. I said, I shall behold the lands and people of the East, and I
shall speak with a fuller vision. I breathed then as you do, without
labor; I had the light step and the endurance of youth, I could fast, I
could sleep on the hard ground. I had wedded poverty, and I loved my
bride--for poverty to me was freedom. My heart exulted as if it had been
the heart of Moses ben Maimon, strong with the strength of three score
years, and knowing the work that was to fill them. It was the first time I
had been south; the soul within me felt its former sun; and standing on
the quay, where the ground I stood on seemed to send forth light, and the
shadows had an azure glory as of spirits become visible, I felt myself in
the flood of a glorious life, wherein my own small year-counted existence
seemed to melt, so that I knew it not; and a great sob arose within me as
at the rush of waters that were too strong a bliss. So I stood there
awaiting my companion; and I saw him not till he said: 'Ezra, I have been
to the post and there is your letter.'"
"Ezra!" exclaimed Deronda, unable to contain himself.
"Ezra," repeated Mordecai, affirmatively, engrossed in memory. "I was
expecting a letter; for I wrote continually to my mother. And that sound
of my name was like the touch of a wand that recalled me to the body
wherefrom I had been released as it were to mingle with the ocean of human
existence, free from the pressure of individual bondage. I opened the
letter; and the name came again as a cry that would have disturbed me in
the bosom of heaven, and made me yearn to reach where that sorrow was--
'Ezra, my son!'"
Mordecai paused again, his imagination arrested by the grasp of that long-
passed moment. Deronda's mind was almost breathlessly suspended on what
was coming. A strange possibility had suddenly presented itself.
Mordecai's eyes were cast down in abstracted contemplation, and in a few
moments he went on--
"She was a mother of whom it might have come--yea, might have come to be
said, 'Her children arise up and call her blessed.' In her I understood
the meaning of that Master who, perceiving the footsteps of his mother,
rose up and said, 'The Majesty of the Eternal cometh near!' And that
letter was her cry from the depths of anguish and desolation--the cry of a
mother robbed of her little ones. I was her eldest. Death had taken four
babes one after the other. Then came, late, my little sister, who was,
more than all the rest, the desire of my mother's eyes; and the letter was
a piercing cry to me--'Ezra, my son, I am robbed of her. He has taken her
away and left disgrace behind. They will never come again.'"--Here Mordecai
lifted his eyes suddenly, laid his hand on Deronda's arm, and said, "Mine
was the lot of Israel. For the sin of the father my soul must go into
exile. For the sin of the father the work was broken, and the day of
fulfilment delayed. She who bore me was desolate, disgraced, destitute. I
turned back. On the instant I turned--her spirit and the spirit of her
fathers, who had worthy Jewish hearts, moved within me, and drew me. God,
in whom dwells the universe, was within me as the strength of obedience.
I turned and traveled with hardship--to save the scant money which she
would need. I left the sunshine, and traveled into freezing cold. In the
last stage I spent a night in exposure to cold and snow. And that was the
beginning of this slow death."
Mordecai let his eyes wander again and removed his hand. Deronda
resolutely repressed the questions which urged themselves within him.
While Mordecai was in this state of emotion, no other confidence must be
sought than what came spontaneously: nay, he himself felt a kindred
emotion which made him dread his own speech as too momentous.
"But I worked. We were destitute--every thing had been seized. And she was
ill: the clutch of anguish was too strong for her, and wrought with some
lurking disease. At times she could not stand for the beating of her
heart, and the images in her brain became as chambers of terror, where she
beheld my sister reared in evil. In the dead of night I heard her crying
for her child. Then I rose, and we stretched forth our arms together and
prayed. We poured forth our souls in desire that Mirah might be delivered
"Mirah?" Deronda repeated, wishing to assure, himself that his ears had
not been deceived by a forecasting imagination. "Did you say Mirah?"
"That was my little sister's name. After we had prayed for her, my mother
would rest awhile. It lasted hardly four years, and in the minute before
she died, we were praying the same prayer--I aloud, she silently. Her soul
went out upon its wings."
"Have you never since heard of your sister?" said Deronda, as quietly as
"Never. Never have I heard whether she was delivered according to our
prayer. I know not, I know not. Who shall say where the pathways lie? The
poisonous will of the wicked is strong. It poisoned my life--it is slowly
stifling this breath. Death delivered my mother, and I felt it a
blessedness that I was alone in the winters of suffering. But what are the
winters now?--they are far off"--here Mordecai again rested his hand on
Deronda's arm, and looked at him with that joy of the hectic patient which
pierces us to sadness--"there is nothing to wail in the withering of my
body. The work will be the better done. Once I said the work of this
beginning was mine, I am born to do it. Well, I shall do it. I shall live
in you. I shall live in you."
His grasp had become convulsive in its force, and Deronda, agitated as he
had never been before--the certainty that this was Mirah's brother
suffusing his own strange relation to Mordecai with a new solemnity and
tenderness--felt his strong young heart beating faster and his lips
paling. He shrank from speech. He feared, in Mordecai's present state of
exaltation (already an alarming strain on his feeble frame), to utter a
word of revelation about Mirah. He feared to make an answer below that
high pitch of expectation which resembled a flash from a dying fire,
making watchers fear to see it die the faster. His dominant impulse was to
do as he had once done before: he laid his firm, gentle hand on the hand
that grasped him. Mordecai's, as if it had a soul of its own--for he was
not distinctly willing to do what he did--relaxed its grasp, and turned
upward under Deronda's. As the two palms met and pressed each other
Mordecai recovered some sense of his surroundings, and said--
"Let us go now. I cannot talk any longer."
And in fact they parted at Cohen's door without having spoken to each
other again--merely with another pressure of the hands,
Deronda felt a weight on him which was half joy, half anxiety. The joy of
finding in Mirah's brother a nature even more than worthy of that relation
to her, had the weight of solemnity and sadness; the reunion of brother
and sister was in reality the first stage of a supreme parting--like that
farewell kiss which resembles greeting, that last glance of love which
becomes the sharpest pang of sorrow. Then there was the weight of anxiety
about the revelation of the fact on both sides, and the arrangements it
would be desirable to make beforehand. I suppose we should all have felt
as Deronda did, without sinking into snobbishness or the notion that the
primal duties of life demand a morning and an evening suit, that it was an
admissible desire to free Mirah's first meeting with her brother from all
jarring outward conditions. His own sense of deliverance from the dreaded
relationship of the other Cohens, notwithstanding their good nature, made
him resolve if possible to keep them in the background for Mirah, until
her acquaintance with them would be an unmarred rendering of gratitude for
any kindness they had shown to her brother. On all accounts he wished to
give Mordecai's surroundings not only more suited to his frail bodily
condition, but less of a hindrance to easy intercourse, even apart from
the decisive prospect of Mirah's taken up her abode with her brother, and
tending him through the precious remnant of his life. In the heroic drama,
great recognitions are not encumbered with these details; and certainly
Deronda had as reverential an interest in Mordecai and Mirah as he could
have had in the offspring of Agamemnon; but he was caring for destinies
still moving in the dim streets of our earthly life, not yet lifted among
the constellations, and his task presented itself to him as difficult and
delicate, especially in persuading Mordecai to change his abode and
habits. Concerning Mirah's feeling and resolve he had no doubt: there
would be a complete union of sentiment toward the departed mother, and
Mirah would understand her brother's greatness. Yes, greatness: that was
the word which Deronda now deliberately chose to signify the impression
that Mordecai had made on him. He said to himself, perhaps rather
defiantly toward the more negative spirit within him, that this man,
however erratic some of his interpretations might be--this consumptive
Jewish workman in threadbare clothing, lodged by charity, delivering
himself to hearers who took his thoughts without attaching more
consequences to them than the Flemings to the ethereal chimes ringing
above their market-places--had the chief elements of greatness; a mind
consciously, energetically moving with the larger march of human
destinies, but not the less full of conscience and tender heart for the
footsteps that tread near and need a leaning-place; capable of conceiving
and choosing a life's task with far-off issues, yet capable of the
unapplauded heroism which turns off the road of achievement at the call of
the nearer duty whose effect lies within the beatings of the hearts that
are close to us, as the hunger of the unfledged bird to the breast of its
Deronda to-night was stirred with, the feeling that the brief remnant of
this fervid life had become his charge. He had been peculiarly wrought on
by what he had seen at the club of the friendly indifference which
Mordecai must have gone on encountering. His own experience of the small
room that ardor can make for itself in ordinary minds had had the effect
of increasing his reserve; and while tolerance was the easiest attitude to
him, there was another bent in him also capable of becoming a weakness--
the dislike to appear exceptional or to risk an ineffective insistance on
his own opinion. But such caution appeared contemptible to him just now,
when he, for the first time, saw in a complete picture and felt as a
reality the lives that burn themselves out in solitary enthusiasm: martyrs
of obscure circumstance, exiled in the rarity of their own minds, whose
deliverances in other ears are no more than a long passionate soliloquy--
unless perhaps at last, when they are nearing the invisible shores, signs
of recognition and fulfilment may penetrate the cloud of loneliness; or
perhaps it may be with them as with the dying Copernicus made to touch the
first printed copy of his book when the sense of touch was gone, seeing it
only as a dim object through the deepening dusk.
Deronda had been brought near to one of those spiritual exiles, and it was
in his nature to feel the relation as a strong chain, nay, to feel his
imagination moving without repugnance in the direction of Mordecai's
desires. With all his latent objection to schemes only definite in their
generality and nebulous in detail--in the poise of his sentiments he felt
at one with this man who had made a visionary selection of him: the lines
of what may be called their emotional theory touched. He had not the
Jewish consciousness, but he had a yearning, grown the stronger for the
denial which had been his grievance, after the obligation of avowed filial
and social ties. His feeling was ready for difficult obedience. In this
way it came that he set about his new task ungrudgingly; and again he
thought of Mrs. Meyrick as his chief helper. To her first he must make
known the discovery of Mirah's brother, and with her he must consult on
all preliminaries of bringing the mutually lost together. Happily the best
quarter for a consumptive patient did not lie too far off the small house
at Chelsea, and the first office Deronda had to perform for this Hebrew
prophet who claimed him as a spiritual inheritor, was to get him a healthy
lodging. Such is the irony of earthly mixtures, that the heroes have not
always had carpets and teacups of their own; and, seen through the open
window by the mackerel-vender, may have been invited with some hopefulness
to pay three hundred per cent, in the form of fourpence. However,
Deronda's mind was busy with a prospective arrangement for giving a
furnished lodging some faint likeness to a refined home by dismantling his
own chambers of his best old books in vellum, his easiest chair, and the
bas-reliefs of Milton and Dante.
But was not Mirah to be there? What furniture can give such finish to a
room as a tender woman's face?--and is there any harmony of tints that has
such stirrings of delight as the sweet modulation of her voice? Here is
one good, at least, thought Deronda, that comes to Mordecai from his
having fixed his imagination on me. He has recovered a perfect sister,
whose affection is waiting for him.
Fairy folk a-listening
Hear the seed sprout in the spring.
And for music to their dance
Hear the hedgerows wake from trance,
Sap that trembles into buds
Sending little rythmic floods
Of fairy sound in fairy ears.
Thus all beauty that appears
Has birth as sound to finer sense
And lighter-clad intelligence.
And Gwendolen? She was thinking of Deronda much more than he was thinking
of her--often wondering what were his ideas "about things," and how his
life was occupied. But a lap-dog would be necessarily at a loss in framing
to itself the motives and adventures of doghood at large; and it was as
far from Gwendolen's conception that Deronda's life could be determined by
the historical destiny of the Jews, as that he could rise into the air on
a brazen horse, and so vanish from her horizon in the form of a twinkling
With all the sense of inferiority that had been forced upon her, it was
inevitable that she should imagine a larger place for herself in his
thoughts than she actually possessed. They must be rather old and wise
persons who are not apt to see their own anxiety or elation about
themselves reflected in other minds; and Gwendolen, with her youth and
inward solitude, may be excused for dwelling on signs of special interest
in her shown by the one person who had impressed her with the feeling of
submission, and for mistaking the color and proportion of those signs in
the mind of Deronda.
Meanwhile, what would he tell her that she ought to do? "He said, I must
get more interest in others, and more knowledge, and that I must care
about the best things--but how am I to begin?" She wondered what books he
would tell her to take up to her own room, and recalled the famous writers
that she had either not looked into or had found the most unreadable, with
a half-smiling wish that she could mischievously ask Deronda if they were
not the books called "medicine for the mind." Then she repented of her
sauciness, and when she was safe from observation carried up a
miscellaneous selection--Descartes, Bacon, Locke, Butler, Burke, Guizot--
knowing, as a clever young lady of education, that these authors were
ornaments of mankind, feeling sure that Deronda had read them, and hoping
that by dipping into them all in succession, with her rapid understanding
she might get a point of view nearer to his level.
But it was astonishing how little time she found for these vast mental
excursions. Constantly she had to be on the scene as Mrs. Grandcourt, and
to feel herself watched in that part by the exacting eyes of a husband who
had found a motive to exercise his tenacity--that of making his marriage
answer all the ends he chose, and with the more completeness the more he
discerned any opposing will in her. And she herself, whatever rebellion
might be going on within her, could not have made up her mind to failure
in her representation. No feeling had yet reconciled her for a moment to
any act, word, or look that would be a confession to the world: and what
she most dreaded in herself was any violent impulse that would make an
involuntary confession: it was the will to be silent in every other
direction that had thrown the more impetuosity into her confidences toward
Deronda, to whom her thought continually turned as a help against herself.
Her riding, her hunting, her visiting and receiving of visits, were all
performed in a spirit of achievement which served instead of zest and
young gladness, so that all around Diplow, in those weeks of the new year,
Mrs. Grandcourt was regarded as wearing her honors with triumph.
"She disguises it under an air of taking everything as a matter of
course," said Mrs. Arrowpoint. "A stranger might suppose that she had
condescended rather than risen. I always noticed that doubleness in her."
To her mother most of all Gwendolen was bent on acting complete
satisfaction, and poor Mrs. Davilow was so far deceived that she took the
unexpected distance at which she was kept, in spite of what she felt to be
Grandcourt's handsome behavior in providing for her, as a comparative
indifference in her daughter, now that marriage had created new interests.
To be fetched to lunch and then to dinner along with the Gascoignes, to be
driven back soon after breakfast the next morning, and to have brief calls
from Gwendolen in which her husband waited for her outside either on
horseback or sitting in the carriage, was all the intercourse allowed to
The truth was, that the second time Gwendolen proposed to invite her
mother with Mr. and Mrs. Gascoigne, Grandcourt had at first been silent,
and then drawled, "We can't be having _those people_ always. Gascoigne
talks too much. Country clergy are always bores--with their confounded
fuss about everything."
That speech was full of foreboding for Gwendolen. To have her mother
classed under "those people" was enough to confirm the previous dread of
bringing her too near. Still, she could not give the true reasons--she
could not say to her mother, "Mr. Grandcourt wants to recognize you as
little as possible; and besides it is better you should not see much of my
married life, else you might find out that I am miserable." So she waived
as lightly as she could every allusion to the subject; and when Mrs.
Davilow again hinted the possibility of her having a house close to
Ryelands, Gwendolen said, "It would not be so nice for you as being near
the rectory here, mamma. We shall perhaps be very little at Ryelands. You
would miss my aunt and uncle."
And all the while this contemptuous veto of her husband's on any intimacy
with her family, making her proudly shrink from giving them the aspect of
troublesome pensioners, was rousing more inward inclination toward them.
She had never felt so kindly toward her uncle, so much disposed to look
back on his cheerful, complacent activity and spirit of kind management,
even when mistaken, as more of a comfort than the neutral loftiness which
was every day chilling her. And here perhaps she was unconsciously finding
some of that mental enlargement which it was hard to get from her
occasional dashes into difficult authors, who instead of blending
themselves with her daily agitations required her to dismiss them.
It was a delightful surprise one day when Mr. and Mrs. Gascoigne were at
Offendene to see Gwendolen ride up without her husband--with the groom
only. All, including the four girls and Miss Merry, seated in the dining-
room at lunch, could see the welcome approach; and even the elder ones
were not without something of Isabel's romantic sense that the beautiful
sister on the splendid chestnut, which held its head as if proud to bear
her, was a sort of Harriet Byron or Miss Wardour reappearing out of her
"happiness ever after."
Her uncle went to the door to give her his hand, and she sprang from her
horse with an air of alacrity which might well encourage that notion of
guaranteed happiness; for Gwendolen was particularly bent to-day on
setting her mother's heart at rest, and her unusual sense of freedom in
being able to make this visit alone enabled her to bear up under the
pressure of painful facts which were urging themselves anew. The seven
family kisses were not so tiresome as they used to be.
"Mr. Grandcourt is gone out, so I determined to fill up the time by coming
to you, mamma," said Gwendolen, as she laid down her hat and seated
herself next to her mother; and then looking at her with a playfully
monitory air, "That is a punishment to you for not wearing better lace on
your head. You didn't think I should come and detect you--you dreadfully
careless-about-yourself mamma!" She gave a caressing touch to the dear
"Scold me, dear," said Mrs. Davilow, her delicate worn face flushing with
delight. "But I wish there was something you could eat after your ride--
instead of these scraps. Let Jocosa make you a cup of chocolate in your
old way. You used to like that."
Miss Merry immediately rose and went out, though Gwendolen said, "Oh, no,
a piece of bread, or one of those hard biscuits. I can't think about
eating. I am come to say good-bye."
"What! going to Ryelands again?" said Mr. Gascoigne.
"No, we are going to town," said Gwendolen, beginning to break up a piece
of bread, but putting no morsel into her mouth.
"It is rather early to go to town," said Mrs. Gascoigne, "and Mr.
Grandcourt not in Parliament."
"Oh, there is only one more day's hunting to be had, and Henleigh has some
business in town with lawyers, I think," said Gwendolen. "I am very glad.
I shall like to go to town."
"You will see your house in Grosvenor Square," said Mrs. Davilow. She and
the girls were devouring with their eyes every movement of their goddess,
soon to vanish.
"Yes," said Gwendolen, in a tone of assent to the interest of that
expectation. "And there is so much to be seen and done in town."
"I wish, my dear Gwendolen," said Mr. Gascoigne, in a kind of cordial
advice, "that you would use your influence with Mr. Grandcourt to induce
him to enter Parliament. A man of his position should make his weight felt
in politics. The best judges are confident that the ministry will have to
appeal to the country on this question of further Reform, and Mr.
Grandcourt should be ready for the opportunity. I am not quite sure that
his opinions and mine accord entirely; I have not heard him express
himself very fully. But I don't look at the matter from that point of
view. I am thinking of your husband's standing in the country. And he has
now come to that stage of life when a man like him should enter into
public affairs. A wife has great influence with her husband. Use yours in
that direction, my dear."
The rector felt that he was acquitting himself of a duty here, and giving
something like the aspect of a public benefit to his niece's match. To
Gwendolen the whole speech had the flavor of bitter comedy. If she had
been merry, she must have laughed at her uncle's explanation to her that
he had not heard Grandcourt express himself very fully on politics. And
the wife's great influence! General maxims about husbands and wives seemed
now of a precarious usefulness. Gwendolen herself had once believed in her
future influence as an omnipotence in managing--she did not know exactly
what. But her chief concern at present was to give an answer that would be
"I should be very glad, uncle. But I think Mr. Grandcourt would not like
the trouble of an election--at least, unless it could be without his
making speeches. I thought candidates always made speeches."
"Not necessarily--to any great extent," said Mr. Gascoigne. "A man of
position and weight can get on without much of it. A county member need
have very little trouble in that way, and both out of the House and in it
is liked the better for not being a speechifier. Tell Mr. Grandcourt that
I say so."
"Here comes Jocosa with my chocolate after all," said Gwendolen, escaping
from a promise to give information that would certainly have been received
in a way inconceivable to the good rector, who, pushing his chair a little
aside from the table and crossing his leg, looked as well as it he felt
like a worthy specimen of a clergyman and magistrate giving experienced
advice. Mr. Gascoigne had come to the conclusion that Grandcourt was a
proud man, but his own self-love, calmed through life by the consciousness
of his general value and personal advantages, was not irritable enough to
prevent him from hoping the best about his niece's husband because her
uncle was kept rather haughtily at a distance. A certain aloofness must be
allowed to the representative of an old family; you would not expect him
to be on intimate terms even with abstractions. But Mrs. Gascoigne was
less dispassionate on her husband's account, and felt Grandcourt's
haughtiness as something a little blameable in Gwendolen.
"Your uncle and Anna will very likely be in town about Easter," she said,
with a vague sense of expressing a slight discontent. "Dear Rex hopes to
come out with honors and a fellowship, and he wants his father and Anna to
meet him in London, that they may be jolly together, as he says. I
shouldn't wonder if Lord Brackenshaw invited them, he has been so very
kind since he came back to the Castle."
"I hope my uncle will bring Ann to stay in Grosvenor Square," said
Gwendolen, risking herself so far, for the sake of the present moment, but
in reality wishing that she might never be obliged to bring any of her
family near Grandcourt again. "I am very glad of Rex's good fortune."
"We must not be premature, and rejoice too much beforehand," said the
rector, to whom this topic was the happiest in the world, and altogether
allowable, now that the issue of that little affair about Gwendolen had
been so satisfactory. "Not but that I am in correspondence with impartial
judges, who have the highest hopes about my son, as a singularly clear-
headed young man. And of his excellent disposition and principle I have
had the best evidence."
"We shall have him a great lawyer some time," said Mrs. Gascoigne.
"How very nice!" said Gwendolen, with a concealed scepticism as to
niceness in general, which made the word quite applicable to lawyers.
"Talking of Lord Brackenshaw's kindness," said Mrs. Davilow, "you don't
know how delightful he has been, Gwendolen. He has begged me to consider
myself his guest in this house till I can get another that I like--he did
it in the most graceful way. But now a house has turned up. Old Mr. Jodson
is dead, and we can have his house. It is just what I want; small, but
with nothing hideous to make you miserable thinking about it. And it is
only a mile from the Rectory. You remember the low white house nearly
hidden by the trees, as we turn up the lane to the church?"
"Yes, but you have no furniture, poor mamma," said Gwendolen, in a
"Oh, I am saving money for that. You know who has made me rather rich,
dear," said Mrs. Davilow, laying her hand on Gwendolen's. "And Jocosa
really makes so little do for housekeeping--it is quite wonderful."
"Oh, please let me go up-stairs with you and arrange my hat, mamma," said
Gwendolen, suddenly putting up her hand to her hair and perhaps creating a
desired disarrangement. Her heart was swelling, and she was ready to cry.
Her mother _must_ have been worse off, if it had not been for Grandcourt.
"I suppose I shall never see all this again," said Gwendolen, looking
round her, as they entered the black and yellow bedroom, and then throwing
herself into a chair in front of the glass with a little groan as of
bodily fatigue. In the resolve not to cry she had become very pale.
"You are not well, dear?" said Mrs. Davilow.
"No; that chocolate has made me sick," said Gwendolen, putting up her hand
to be taken.
"I should be allowed to come to you if you were ill, darling," said Mrs.
Davilow, rather timidly, as she pressed the hand to her bosom. Something
had made her sure today that her child loved her--needed her as much as
"Oh, yes," said Gwendolen, leaning her head against her mother, though
speaking as lightly as she could. "But you know I never am ill. I am as
strong as possible; and you must not take to fretting about me, but make
yourself as happy as you can with the girls. They are better children to
you than I have been, you know." She turned up her face with a smile.
"You have always been good, my darling. I remember nothing else."
"Why, what did I ever do that was good to you, except marry Mr.
Grandcourt?" said Gwendolen, starting up with a desperate resolve to be
playful, and keep no more on the perilous edge of agitation. "And I should
not have done that unless it had pleased myself." She tossed up her chin,
and reached her hat.
"God forbid, child! I would not have had you marry for my sake. Your
happiness by itself is half mine."
"Very well," said Gwendolen, arranging her hat fastidiously, "then you
will please to consider that you are half happy, which is more than I am
used to seeing you." With the last words she again turned with her old
playful smile to her mother. "Now I am ready; but oh, mamma, Mr.
Grandcourt gives me a quantity of money, and expects me to spend it, and I
can't spend it; and you know I can't bear charity children and all that;
and here are thirty pounds. I wish the girls would spend it for me on
little things for themselves when you go to the new house. Tell them so."
Gwendolen put the notes into her mother's hands and looked away hastily,
moving toward the door.
"God bless you, dear," said Mrs. Davilow. "It will please them so that you
should have thought of them in particular."
"Oh, they are troublesome things; but they don't trouble me now," said
Gwendolen, turning and nodding playfully. She hardly understood her own
feeling in this act toward her sisters, but at any rate she did not wish
it to be taken as anything serious. She was glad to have got out of the
bedroom without showing more signs of emotion, and she went through the
rest of her visit and all the good-byes with a quiet propriety that made
her say to herself sarcastically as she rode away, "I think I am making a
very good Mrs. Grandcourt."
She believed that her husband had gone to Gadsmere that day--had inferred
this, as she had long ago inferred who were the inmates of what he had
described as "a dog-hutch of a place in a black country;" and the strange
conflict of feeling within her had had the characteristic effect of
sending her to Offendene with a tightened resolve--a form of excitement
which was native to her.
She wondered at her own contradictions. Why should she feel it bitter to
her that Grandcourt showed concern for the beings on whose account she
herself was undergoing remorse? Had she not before her marriage inwardly
determined to speak and act on their behalf?--and since he had lately
implied that he wanted to be in town because he was making arrangements
about his will, she ought to have been glad of any sign that he kept a
conscience awake toward those at Gadsmere; and yet, now that she was a
wife, the sense that Grandcourt was gone to Gadsmere was like red heat
near a burn. She had brought on herself this indignity in her own eyes--
this humiliation of being doomed to a terrified silence lest her husband
should discover with what sort of consciousness she had married him; and
as she had said to Deronda, she "must go on." After the intense moments of
secret hatred toward this husband who from the very first had cowed her,
there always came back the spiritual pressure which made submission
inevitable. There was no effort at freedoms that would not bring fresh and
worse humiliation. Gwendolen could dare nothing except an impulsive
action--least of all could she dare premeditatedly a vague future in which
the only certain condition was indignity. It spite of remorse, it still
seemed the worst result of her marriage that she should in any way make a
spectacle of herself; and her humiliation was lightened by her thinking
that only Mrs. Glasher was aware of the fact which caused it. For
Gwendolen had never referred the interview at the Whispering Stones to
Lush's agency; her disposition to vague terror investing with shadowy
omnipresence any threat of fatal power over her, and so hindering her from
imagining plans and channels by which news had been conveyed to the woman
who had the poisoning skill of a sorceress. To Gwendolen's mind the secret
lay with Mrs. Glasher, and there were words in the horrible letter which
implied that Mrs. Glasher would dread disclosure to the husband, as much
as the usurping Mrs. Grandcourt.
Something else, too, she thought of as more of a secret from her husband
than it really was--namely that suppressed struggle of desperate rebellion
which she herself dreaded. Grandcourt could not indeed fully imagine how
things affected Gwendolen: he had no imagination of anything in her but
what affected the gratification of his own will; but on this point he had
the sensibility which seems like divination. What we see exclusively we
are apt to see with some mistake of proportions; and Grandcourt was not
likely to be infallible in his judgments concerning this wife who was
governed by many shadowy powers, to him nonexistent. He magnified her
inward resistance, but that did not lessen his satisfaction in the mastery
Behold my lady's carriage stop the way.
With powdered lacquey and with charming bay;
She sweeps the matting, treads the crimson stair.
Her arduous function solely "to be there."
Like Sirious rising o'er the silent sea.
She hides her heart in lustre loftily.
So the Grandcourts were in Grosvenor Square in time to receive a card for
the musical party at Lady Mallinger's, there being reasons of business
which made Sir Hugo know beforehand that his ill-beloved nephew was coming
up. It was only a third evening after their arrival, and Gwendolen made
rather an absent-minded acquaintance with her new ceilings and furniture,
preoccupied with the certainty that she was going to speak to Deronda
again, and also to see the Miss Lapidoth who had gone through so much, and
was "capable of submitting to anything in the form of duty." For Gwendolen
had remembered nearly every word that Deronda had said about Mirah, and
especially that phrase, which she repeated to herself bitterly, having an
ill-defined consciousness that her own submission was something very
different. She would have been obliged to allow, if any one had said it to
her, that what she submitted to could not take the shape of duty, but was
submission to a yoke drawn on her by an action she was ashamed of, and
worn with a strength of selfish motives that left no weight for duty to
The drawing-rooms in Park Lane, all white, gold, and pale crimson, were
agreeably furnished, and not crowded with guests, before Mr. and Mrs.
Grandcourt entered; and more than half an hour of instrumental music was
being followed by an interval of movement and chat. Klesmer was there with
his wife, and in his generous interest for Mirah he proposed to accompany
her singing of Leo's "_O patria mia_," which he had before recommended her
to choose, as more distinctive of her than better known music. He was
already at the piano, and Mirah was standing there conspicuously, when
Gwendolen, magnificent in her pale green velvet and poisoned diamonds, was
ushered to a seat of honor well in view of them. With her long sight and
self-command she had the rare power of quickly distinguishing persons and
objects on entering a full room, and while turning her glance toward Mirah
she did not neglect to exchange a bow with Klesmer as she passed. The
smile seemed to each a lightning-flash back on that morning when it had
been her ambition to stand as the "little Jewess" was standing, and survey
a grand audience from the higher rank of her talent--instead of which she
was one of the ordinary crowd in silk and gems, whose utmost performance
it must be to admire or find fault. "He thinks I am in the right road
now," said the lurking resentment within her.
Gwendolen had not caught sight of Deronda in her passage, and while she
was seated acquitting herself in chat with Sir Hugo, she glanced round her
with careful ease, bowing a recognition here and there, and fearful lest
an anxious-looking exploration in search of Deronda might be observed by
her husband, and afterward rebuked as something "damnably vulgar." But all
traveling, even that of a slow gradual glance round a room, brings a
liability to undesired encounters, and amongst the eyes that met
Gwendolen's, forcing her into a slight bow, were those of the "amateur too
fond of Meyerbeer," Mr. Lush, whom Sir Hugo continued to find useful as a
half-caste among gentlemen. He was standing near her husband, who,
however, turned a shoulder toward him, and was being understood to listen
to Lord Pentreath. How was it that at this moment, for the first time,
there darted through Gwendolen, like a disagreeable sensation, the idea
that this man knew all about her husband's life? He had been banished from
her sight, according to her will, and she had been satisfied; he had sunk
entirely into the background of her thoughts, screened away from her by
the agitating figures that kept up an inward drama in which Lush had no
place. Here suddenly he reappeared at her husband's elbow, and there
sprang up in her, like an instantaneously fabricated memory in a dream,
the sense of his being connected with the secrets that made her wretched.
She was conscious of effort in turning her head away from him, trying to
continue her wandering survey as if she had seen nothing of more
consequence than the picture on the wall, till she discovered Deronda. But
he was not looking toward her, and she withdrew her eyes from him, without
having got any recognition, consoling herself with the assurance that he
must have seen her come in. In fact, he was not standing far from the door
with Hans Meyrick, whom he had been careful to bring into Lady Mallinger's
list. They were both a little more anxious than was comfortable lest Mirah
should not be heard to advantage. Deronda even felt himself on the brink
of betraying emotion, Mirah's presence now being linked with crowding
images of what had gone before and was to come after--all centering in the
brother he was soon to reveal to her; and he had escaped as soon as he
could from the side of Lady Pentreath, who had said in her violoncello
"Well, your Jewess is pretty--there's no denying that. But where is her
Jewish impudence? She looks as demure as a nun. I suppose she learned that
on the stage."
He was beginning to feel on Mirah's behalf something of what he had felt
for himself in his seraphic boyish time, when Sir Hugo asked him if he
would like to be a great singer--an indignant dislike to her being
remarked on in a free and easy way, as if she were an imported commodity
disdainfully paid for by the fashionable public, and he winced the more
because Mordecai, he knew, would feel that the name "Jewess" was taken as
a sort of stamp like the lettering of Chinese silk. In this susceptible
mood he saw the Grandcourts enter, and was immediately appealed to by Hans
about "that Vandyke duchess of a beauty." Pray excuse Deronda that in this
moment he felt a transient renewal of his first repulsion from Gwendolen,
as if she and her beauty and her failings were to blame for the
undervaluing of Mirah as a woman--a feeling something like class
animosity, which affection for what is not fully recognized by others,
whether in persons or in poetry, rarely allows us to escape. To Hans
admiring Gwendolen with his habitual hyperbole, he answered, with a
sarcasm that was not quite good-natured--
"I thought you could admire no style of woman but your Berenice."
"That is the style I worship--not admire," said Hans. "Other styles of
women I might make myself wicked for, but for Berenice I could make
myself--well, pretty good, which is something much more difficult."
"Hush," said Deronda, under the pretext that the singing was going to
begin. He was not so delighted with the answer as might have been
expected, and was relieved by Hans's movement to a more advanced spot.
Deronda had never before heard Mirah sing "_O patria mia_." He knew well
Leopardi's fine Ode to Italy (when Italy sat like a disconsolate mother in
chains, hiding her face on her knees and weeping), and the few selected
words were filled for him with the grandeur of the whole, which seemed to
breath an inspiration through the music. Mirah singing this, made Mordecai
more than ever one presence with her. Certain words not included in the
song nevertheless rang within Deronda as harmonies from the invisible--
"Non ti difende
Nessun de tuoi! L'armi, qua l'armi: io solo
Combattero, procombero sol io"--
[Footnote: Do none of thy children defend thee? Arms! bring me arms! alone
I will fight, alone I will fall.]
they seemed the very voice of that heroic passion which is falsely said to
devote itself in vain when it achieves the god-like end of manifesting
unselfish love. And that passion was present to Deronda now as the vivid
image of a man dying helplessly away from the possibility of battle.
Mirah was equal to his wishes. While the general applause was sounding,
Klesmer gave a more valued testimony, audible to her only--"Good, good--
the crescendo better than before." But her chief anxiety was to know that
she had satisfied Mr. Deronda: any failure on her part this evening would
have pained her as an especial injury to him. Of course all her prospects
were due to what he had done for her; still, this occasion of singing in
the house that was his home brought a peculiar demand. She looked toward
him in the distance, and he saw that she did; but he remained where he
was, and watched the streams of emulous admirers closing round her, till
presently they parted to make way for Gwendolen, who was taken up to be
introduced by Mrs. Klesmer. Easier now about "the little Jewess," Daniel
relented toward poor Gwendolen in her splendor, and his memory went back,
with some penitence for his momentary hardness, over all the signs and
confessions that she too needed a rescue, and one much more difficult than
that of the wanderer by the river--a rescue for which he felt himself
helpless. The silent question--"But is it not cowardly to make that a
reason for turning away?" was the form in which he framed his resolve to
go near her on the first opportunity, and show his regard for her past
confidence, in spite of Sir Hugo's unwelcome hints.
Klesmer, having risen to Gwendolen as she approached, and being included
by her in the opening conversation with Mirah, continued near them a
little while, looking down with a smile, which was rather in his eyes than
on his lips, at the piquant contrast of the two charming young creatures
seated on the red divan. The solicitude seemed to be all on the side of
the splendid one.
"You must let me say how much I am obliged to you," said Gwendolen. "I had
heard from Mr. Deronda that I should have a great treat in your singing,
but I was too ignorant to imagine how great."
"You are very good to say so," answered Mirah, her mind chiefly occupied
in contemplating Gwendolen. It was like a new kind of stage-experience to
her to be close to genuine grand ladies with genuine brilliants and
complexions, and they impressed her vaguely as coming out of some unknown
drama, in which their parts perhaps got more tragic as they went on.
"We shall all want to learn of you--I, at least," said Gwendolen. "I sing
very badly, as Herr Klesmer will tell you,"--here she glanced upward to
that higher power rather archly, and continued--"but I have been rebuked
for not liking to middling, since I can be nothing more. I think that is a
different doctrine from yours?" She was still looking at Klesmer, who said
"Not if it means that it would be worth while for you to study further,
and for Miss Lapidoth to have the pleasure of helping you." With that he
moved away, and Mirah taking everything with _naive_ seriousness, said--
"If you think I could teach you, I shall be very glad. I am anxious to
teach, but I have only just begun. If I do it well, it must be by
remembering how my master taught me."
Gwendolen was in reality too uncertain about herself to be prepared for
this simple promptitude of Mirah's, and in her wish to change the subject,
said, with some lapse from the good taste of her first address--
"You have not been long in London, I think?--but you were perhaps
introduced to Mr. Deronda abroad?"
"No," said Mirah; "I never saw him before I came to England in the
"But he has seen you often and heard you sing a great deal, has he not?"
said Gwendolen, led on partly by the wish to hear anything about Deronda,
and partly by the awkwardness which besets the readiest person, in
carrying on a dialogue when empty of matter. "He spoke of you to me with
the highest praise. He seemed to know you quite well."
"Oh, I was poor and needed help," said Mirah, in a new tone of feeling,"
and Mr. Deronda has given me the best friends in the world. That is the
only way he came to know anything about me--because he was sorry for me. I
had no friends when I came. I was in distress. I owe everything to him."
Poor Gwendolen, who had wanted to be a struggling artist herself, could
nevertheless not escape the impression that a mode of inquiry which would
have been rather rude toward herself was an amiable condescension to this
Jewess who was ready to give her lessons. The only effect on Mirah, as
always on any mention of Deronda, was to stir reverential gratitude and
anxiety that she should be understood to have the deepest obligation to
But both he and Hans, who were noticing the pair from a distance, would
have felt rather indignant if they had known that the conversation had led
up to Mirah's representation of herself in this light of neediness. In the
movement that prompted her, however, there was an exquisite delicacy,
which perhaps she could not have stated explicitly--the feeling that she
ought not to allow any one to assume in Deronda a relation of more
equality or less generous interest toward her than actually existed. Her
answer was delightful to Gwendolen: she thought of nothing but the ready
compassion which in another form she had trusted in and found herself; and
on the signals that Klesmer was about to play she moved away in much
content, entirely without presentiment that this Jewish _protege_ would
ever make a more important difference in her life than the possible
improvement of her singing--if the leisure and spirits of a Mrs.
Grandcourt would allow of other lessons than such as the world was giving
her at rather a high charge.
With her wonted alternation from resolute care of appearances to some rash
indulgence of an impulse, she chose, under the pretext of getting farther
from the instrument, not to go again to her former seat, but placed
herself on a settee where she could only have one neighbor. She was nearer
to Deronda than before: was it surprising that he came up in time to shake
hands before the music began--then, that after he had stood a little while
by the elbow of the settee at the empty end, the torrent-like confluences
of bass and treble seemed, like a convulsion of nature, to cast the
conduct of petty mortals into insignificance, and to warrant his sitting
But when at the end of Klesmer's playing there came the outburst of talk
under which Gwendolen had hoped to speak as she would to Deronda, she
observed that Mr. Lush was within hearing, leaning against the wall close
by them. She could not help her flush of anger, but she tried to have only
an air of polite indifference in saying--
"Miss Lapidoth is everything you described her to be."
"You have been very quick in discovering that," said Deronda, ironically.
"I have not found out all the excellencies you spoke of--I don't mean
that," said Gwendolen; "but I think her singing is charming, and herself,
too. Her face is lovely--not in the least common; and she is such a
complete little person. I should think she will be a great success."
This speech was grating on Deronda, and he would not answer it, but looked
gravely before him. She knew that he was displeased with her, and she was
getting so impatient under the neighborhood of Mr. Lush, which prevented
her from saying any word she wanted to say, that she meditated some
desperate step to get rid of it, and remained silent, too. That constraint
seemed to last a long while, neither Gwendolen nor Deronda looking at the
other, till Lush slowly relieved the wall of his weight, and joined some
one at a distance.
Gwendolen immediately said, "You despise me for talking artificially."
"No," said Deronda, looking at her coolly; "I think that is quite
excusable sometimes. But I did not think what you were last saying was
"There was something in it that displeased you," said Gwendolen. "What was
"It is impossible to explain such things," said Deronda. "One can never
communicate niceties of feeling about words and manner."
"You think I am shut out from understanding them," said Gwendolen, with a
slight tremor in her voice, which she was trying to conquer. "Have I shown
myself so very dense to everything you have said?" There was an
indescribable look of suppressed tears in her eyes, which were turned on
"Not at all," said Deronda, with some softening of voice. "But experience
differs for different people. We don't all wince at the same things. I
have had plenty of proof that you are not dense." He smiled at her.
"But one may feel things and are not able to do anything better for all
that," said Gwendolen, not smiling in return--the distance to which
Deronda's words seemed to throw her chilling her too much. "I begin to
think we can only get better by having people about us who raise good
feelings. You must not be surprised at anything in me. I think it is too
late for me to alter. I don't know how to set about being wise, as you
told me to be."
"I seldom find I do any good by my preaching. I might as well have kept
from meddling," said Deronda, thinking rather sadly that his interference
about that unfortunate necklace might end in nothing but an added pain to
him in seeing her after all hardened to another sort of gambling than
"Don't say that," said Gwendolen, hurriedly, feeling that this might be
her only chance of getting the words uttered, and dreading the increase of
her own agitation. "If you despair of me, I shall despair. Your saying
that I should not go on being selfish and ignorant has been some strength
to me. If you say you wish you had not meddled--that means you despair of
me and forsake me. And then you will decide for me that I shall not be
good. It is you who will decide; because you might have made me different
by keeping as near to me as you could, and believing in me."
She had not been looking at him as she spoke, but at the handle of the fan
which she held closed. With the last words she rose and left him,
returning to her former place, which had been left vacant; while every one
was settling into quietude in expectation of Mirah's voice, which
presently, with that wonderful, searching quality of subdued song in which
the melody seems simply an effect of the emotion, gave forth, _Per pieta
non dirmi addio_.
In Deronda's ear the strain was for the moment a continuance of
Gwendolen's pleading--a painful urging of something vague and difficult,
irreconcilable with pressing conditions, and yet cruel to resist. However
strange the mixture in her of a resolute pride and a precocious air of
knowing the world, with a precipitate, guileless indiscretion, he was
quite sure now that the mixture existed. Sir Hugo's hints had made him
alive to dangers that his own disposition might have neglected; but that
Gwendolen's reliance on him was unvisited by any dream of his being a man
who could misinterpret her was as manifest as morning, and made an appeal
which wrestled with his sense of present dangers, and with his foreboding
of a growing incompatible claim on him in her mind. There was a
foreshadowing of some painful collision: on the one side the grasp of
Mordecai's dying hand on him, with all the ideals and prospects it
aroused; on the other the fair creature in silk and gems, with her hidden
wound and her self-dread, making a trustful effort to lean and find
herself sustained. It was as if he had a vision of himself besought with
outstretched arms and cries, while he was caught by the waves and
compelled to mount the vessel bound for a far-off coast. That was the
strain of excited feeling in him that went along with the notes of Mirah's
song; but when it ceased he moved from his seat with the reflection that
he had been falling into an exaggeration of his own importance, and a
ridiculous readiness to accept Gwendolen's view of himself, as if he could
really have any decisive power over her.
"What an enviable fellow you are," said Hans to him, "sitting on a sofa
with that young duchess, and having an interesting quarrel with her!"
"Quarrel with her?" repeated Deronda, rather uncomfortably.
"Oh, about theology, of course; nothing personal. But she told you what
you ought to think, and then left you with a grand air which was
admirable. Is she an Antinomian--if so, tell her I am an Antinomian
painter, and introduce me. I should like to paint her and her husband. He
has the sort of handsome _physique_ that the Duke ought to have in
_Lucrezia Borgia_--if it could go with a fine baritone, which it can't."
Deronda devoutly hoped that Hans's account of the impression his dialogue
with Gwendolen had made on a distant beholder was no more than a bit of
fantastic representation, such as was common with him.
And Gwendolen was not without her after-thoughts that her husband's eyes
might have been on her, extracting something to reprove--some offence
against her dignity as his wife; her consciousness telling her that she
had not kept up the perfect air of equability in public which was her own
ideal. But Grandcourt made no observation on her behavior. All he said as
they were driving home was--
"Lush will dine with us among the other people to-morrow. You will treat
Gwendolen's heart began to beat violently. The words that she wanted to
utter, as one wants to return a blow, were. "You are breaking your promise
to me--the first promise you made me." But she dared not utter them. She
was as frightened at a quarrel as if she had foreseen that it would end
with throttling fingers on her neck. After a pause, she said in the tone
rather of defeat than resentment--
"I thought you did not intend him to frequent the house again."
"I want him just now. He is useful to me; and he must be treated civilly."
Silence. There may come a moment when even an excellent husband who has
dropped smoking under more or less of a pledge during courtship, for the
first time will introduce his cigar-smoke between himself and his wife,
with the tacit understanding that she will have to put up with it. Mr.
Lush was, so to speak, a very large cigar.
If these are the sort of lovers' vows at which Jove laughs, he must have a
merry time of it.
"If any one should importune me to give a reason why I loved him, I
feel it could no otherwise be expressed than by making answer,
'Because it was he, because it was I.' There is, beyond what I am able
to say, I know not what inexplicable power that brought on this
union."--MONTAIGNE: _On Friendship_.
The time had come to prepare Mordecai for the revelation of the restored
sister and for the change of abode which was desirable before Mirah's
meeting with her brother. Mrs. Meyrick, to whom Deronda had confided
everything except Mordecai's peculiar relation to himself, had been active
in helping him to find a suitable lodging in Brompton, not many minutes'
walk from her own house, so that the brother and sister would be within
reach of her motherly care. Her happy mixture of Scottish fervor and
Gallic liveliness had enabled her to keep the secret close from the girls
as well as from Hans, any betrayal to them being likely to reach Mirah in
some way that would raise an agitating suspicion, and spoil the important
opening of that work which was to secure her independence, as we rather
arbitrarily call one of the more arduous and dignified forms of our
dependence. And both Mrs. Meyrick and Deronda had more reasons than they
could have expressed for desiring that Mirah should be able to maintain
herself. Perhaps "the little mother" was rather helped in her secrecy by
some dubiousness in her sentiment about the remarkable brother described
to her; and certainly if she felt any joy and anticipatory admiration, it
was due to her faith in Deronda's judgment. The consumption was a
sorrowful fact that appealed to her tenderness; but how was she to be very
glad of an enthusiasm which, to tell the truth, she could only contemplate
as Jewish pertinacity, and as rather an undesirable introduction among
them all of a man whose conversation would not be more modern and
encouraging than that of Scott's Covenanters? Her mind was anything but
prosaic, and had her soberer share of Mab's delight in the romance of
Mirah's story and of her abode with them; but the romantic or unusual in
real life requires some adaptation. We sit up at night to read about
Sakya-Mouni, St. Francis, or Oliver Cromwell; but whether we should be
glad for any one at all like them to call on us the next morning, still
more, to reveal himself as a new relation, is quite another affair.
Besides, Mrs. Meyrick had hoped, as her children did, that the intensity
of Mirah's feeling about Judaism would slowly subside, and be merged in
the gradually deepening current of loving interchange with her new
friends. In fact, her secret favorite continuation of the romance had been
no discovery of Jewish relations, but something much more favorable to the
hopes she discerned in Hans. And now--here was a brother who would dip
Mirah's mind over again in the deepest dye of Jewish sentiment. She could
not help saying to Deronda--
"I am as glad as you are that the pawnbroker is not her brother: there are
Ezras and Ezras in the world; and really it is a comfort to think that all
Jews are not like those shopkeepers who _will not_ let you get out of
their shops: and besides, what he said to you about his mother and sister
makes me bless him. I am sure he's good. But I never did like anything
fanatical. I suppose I heard a little too much preaching in my youth and
lost my palate for it."
"I don't think you will find that Mordecai obtrudes any preaching," said
Deronda. "He is not what I should call fanatical. I call a man fanatical
when his enthusiasm is narrow and hoodwinked, so that he has no sense of
proportions, and becomes unjust and unsympathetic to men who are out of
his own track. Mordecai is an enthusiast; I should like to keep that word
for the highest order of minds--those who care supremely for grand and
general benefits to mankind. He is not a strictly orthodox Jew, and is
full of allowances for others; his conformity in many things is an
allowance for the condition of other Jews. The people he lives with are as
fond of him as possible, and they can't in the least understand his
"Oh, well, I can live up to the level of the pawnbroker's mother, and like
him for what I see to be good in him; and for what I don't see the merits
of I will take your word. According to your definition, I suppose one
might be fanatical in worshipping common-sense; for my poor husband used
to say the world would be a poor place if there were nothing but common-
sense in it. However, Mirah's brother will have good bedding--that I have
taken care of; and I shall have this extra window pasted up with paper to
prevent draughts." (The conversation was taking place in the destined
lodging.) "It is a comfort to think that the people of the house are no
strangers to me--no hypocritical harpies. And when the children know, we
shall be able to make the rooms much prettier."
"The next stage of the affair is to tell all to Mordecai, and get him to
move--which may be a more difficult business," said Deronda.
"And will you tell Mirah before I say anything to the children?" said Mrs.
Meyrick. But Deronda hesitated, and she went on in a tone of persuasive
deliberation--"No, I think not. Let me tell Hans and the girls the evening
before, and they will be away the next morning?"
"Yes, that will be best. But do justice to my account of Mordecai--or
Ezra, as I suppose Mirah will wish to call him: don't assist their
imagination by referring to Habakkuk Mucklewrath," said Deronda, smiling--
Mrs. Meyrick herself having used the comparison of the Covenanters.
"Trust me, trust me," said the little mother. "I shall have to persuade
them so hard to be glad, that I shall convert myself. When I am frightened
I find it a good thing to have somebody to be angry with for not being
brave: it warms the blood."
Deronda might have been more argumentative or persuasive about the view to
be taken of Mirah's brother, if he had been less anxiously preoccupied
with the more important task immediately before him, which he desired to
acquit himself of without wounding the Cohens. Mordecai, by a memorable
answer, had made it evident that he would be keenly alive to any
inadvertance in relation to their feelings. In the interval, he had been
meeting Mordecai at the _Hand and Banner_, but now after due reflection he
wrote to him saying that he had particular reasons for wishing to see him
in his own home the next evening, and would beg to sit with him in his
workroom for an hour, if the Cohens would not regard it as an intrusion.
He would call with the understanding that if there were any objection,
Mordecai would accompany him elsewhere. Deronda hoped in this way to
create a little expectation that would have a preparatory effect.
He was received with the usual friendliness, some additional costume in
the women and children, and in all the elders a slight air of wondering
which even in Cohen was not allowed to pass the bounds of silence--the
guest's transactions with Mordecai being a sort of mystery which he was
rather proud to think lay outside the sphere of light which enclosed his
own understanding. But when Deronda said, "I suppose Mordecai is at home
and expecting me," Jacob, who had profited by the family remarks, went up
to his knee and said, "What do you want to talk to Mordecai about?"
"Something that is very interesting to him," said Deronda, pinching the
lad's ear, "but that you can't understand."
"Can you say this?" said Jacob, immediately giving forth a string of his
rote-learned Hebrew verses with a wonderful mixture of the throaty and the
nasal, and nodding his small head at his hearer, with a sense of giving
formidable evidence which might rather alter their mutual position.
"No, really," said Deronda, keeping grave; "I can't say anything like it."
"I thought not," said Jacob, performing a dance of triumph with his small
scarlet legs, while he took various objects out of the deep pockets of his
knickerbockers and returned them thither, as a slight hint of his
resources; after which, running to the door of the workroom, he opened it
wide, set his back against it, and said, "Mordecai, here's the young
swell"--a copying of his father's phrase, which seemed to him well fitted
to cap the recitation of Hebrew.
He was called back with hushes by mother and grandmother, and Deronda,
entering and closing the door behind him, saw that a bit of carpet had
been laid down, a chair placed, and the fire and lights attended to, in
sign of the Cohens' respect. As Mordecai rose to greet him, Deronda was
struck with the air of solemn expectation in his face, such as would have
seemed perfectly natural if his letter had declared that some revelation
was to be made about the lost sister. Neither of them spoke, till Deronda,
with his usual tenderness of manner, had drawn the vacant chair from the
opposite side of the hearth and had seated himself near to Mordecai, who
then said, in a tone of fervid certainty--
"You are coming to tell me something that my soul longs for."
"It is true I have something very weighty to tell you--something I trust
that you will rejoice in," said Deronda, on his guard against the
probability that Mordecai had been preparing himself for something quite
different from the fact.
"It is all revealed--it is made clear to you," said Mordecai, more
eagerly, leaning forward with clasped hands. "You are even as my brother
that sucked the breasts of my mother--the heritage is yours--there is no
doubt to divide us."
"I have learned nothing new about myself," said Deronda. The
disappointment was inevitable: it was better not to let the feeling be
strained longer in a mistaken hope.
Mordecai sank back in his chair, unable for the moment to care what was
really coming. The whole day his mind had been in a state of tension
toward one fulfillment. The reaction was sickening and he closed his eyes.
"Except," Deronda went on gently, after a pause,--"except that I had
really some time ago come into another sort of hidden connection with you,
besides what you have spoken of as existing in your own feeling."
The eyes were not opened, but there was a fluttering in the lids.
"I had made the acquaintance of one in whom you are interested."
"One who is closely related to your departed mother," Deronda went on
wishing to make the disclosure gradual; but noticing a shrinking movement
in Mordecai, he added--"whom she and you held dear above all others."
Mordecai, with a sudden start, laid a spasmodic grasp on Deronda's wrist;
there was a great terror in him. And Deronda divined it. A tremor was
perceptible in his clear tones as he said--
"What was prayed for has come to pass: Mirah has been delivered from
Mordecai's grasp relaxed a little, but he was panting with a tearless sob.
Deronda went on: "Your sister is worthy of the mother you honored."
He waited there, and Mordecai, throwing himself backward in his chair,
again closed his eyes, uttering himself almost inaudibly for some minutes
in Hebrew, and then subsiding into a happy-looking silence. Deronda,
watching the expression in his uplifted face, could have imagined that he
was speaking with some beloved object: there was a new suffused sweetness,
something like that on the faces of the beautiful dead. For the first time
Deronda thought he discerned a family resemblance to Mirah.
Presently when Mordecai was ready to listen, the rest was told. But in
accounting for Mirah's flight he made the statement about the father's
conduct as vague as he could, and threw the emphasis on her yearning to
come to England as the place where she might find her mother. Also he kept
back the fact of Mirah's intention to drown herself, and his own part in
rescuing her; merely describing the home she had found with friends of
his, whose interest in her and efforts for her he had shared. What he
dwelt on finally was Mirah's feeling about her mother and brother; and in
relation to this he tried to give every detail.
"It was in search of them," said Deronda, smiling, "that I turned into
this house: the name Ezra Cohen was just then the most interesting name in
the world to me. I confess I had fear for a long while. Perhaps you will
forgive me now for having asked you that question about the elder Mrs.
Cohen's daughter. I cared very much what I should find Mirah's friends to
be. But I had found a brother worthy of her when I knew that her Ezra was
disguised under the name of Mordecai."
"Mordecai is really my name--Ezra Mordecai Cohen."
"Is there any kinship between this family and yours?" said Deronda.
"Only the kinship of Israel. My soul clings to these people, who have
sheltered me and given me succor out of the affection that abides in
Jewish hearts, as sweet odor in things long crushed and hidden from the
outer air. It is good for me to bear with their ignorance and be bound to
them in gratitude, that I may keep in mind the spiritual poverty of the
Jewish million, and not put impatient knowledge in the stead of loving
"But you don't feel bound to continue with them now there is a closer tie
to draw you?" said Deronda, not without fear that he might find an
obstacle to overcome. "It seems to me right now--is it not?--that you
should live with your sister; and I have prepared a home to take you to in
the neighborhood of her friends, that she may join you there. Pray grant
me this wish. It will enable me to be with you often in the hours when
Mirah is obliged to leave you. That is my selfish reason. But the chief
reason is, that Mirah will desire to watch over you, and that you ought to
give her the guardianship of a brother's presence. You shall have books
about you. I shall want to learn of you, and to take you out to see the
river and trees. And you will have the rest and comfort that you will be
more and more in need of--nay, that I need for you. This is the claim I
make on you, now that we have found each other."
Deronda spoke in a tone of earnest, affectionate pleading, such as he
might have used to a venerated elder brother. Mordecai's eyes were fixed
on him with a listening contemplation, and he was silent for a little
while after Deronda had ceased to speak. Then he said, with an almost
"And you would have me hold it doubtful whether you were born a Jew! Have
we not from the first touched each other with invisible fibres--have we
not quivered together like the leaves from a common stem with stirring
from a common root? I know what I am outwardly, I am one among the crowd
of poor--I am stricken, I am dying. But our souls know each other. They
gazed in silence as those who have long been parted and meet again, but
when they found voice they were assured, and all their speech is
understanding. The life of Israel is in your veins."
Deronda sat perfectly still, but felt his face tingling. It was impossible
either to deny or assent. He waited, hoping that Mordecai would presently
give him a more direct answer. And after a pause of meditation he did say.
"What you wish of me I will do. And our mother--may the blessing of the
Eternal be with her in our souls!--would have wished it too. I will accept
what your loving kindness has prepared, and Mirah's home shall be mine."
He paused a moment, and then added in a more melancholy tone, "But I shall
grieve to part from these parents and the little ones. You must tell them,
for my heart would fail me."
"I felt that you would want me to tell them. Shall we go now at once?"
said Deronda, much relieved by this unwavering compliance.
"Yes; let us not defer it. It must be done," said Mordecai, rising with
the air of a man who has to perform a painful duty. Then came, as an
afterthought, "But do not dwell on my sister more than is needful."
When they entered the parlor he said to the alert Jacob, "Ask your father
to come, and tell Sarah to mind the shop. My friend has something to say,"
he continued, turning to the elder Mrs. Cohen. It seemed part of
Mordecai's eccentricity that he should call this gentleman his friend; and
the two women tried to show their better manners by warm politeness in
begging Deronda to seat himself in the best place.
When Cohen entered with a pen behind his ear, he rubbed his hands and said
with loud satisfaction, "Well, sir! I'm glad you're doing us the honor to
join our family party again. We are pretty comfortable, I think."
He looked round with shiny gladness. And when all were seated on the
hearth the scene was worth peeping in upon: on one side Baby under her
scarlet quilt in the corner being rocked by the young mother, and Adelaide
Rebekah seated on the grandmother's knee; on the other, Jacob between his
father's legs; while the two markedly different figures of Deronda and
Mordecai were in the middle--Mordecai a little backward in the shade,
anxious to conceal his agitated susceptibility to what was going on around
him. The chief light came from the fire, which brought out the rich color
on a depth of shadow, and seemed to turn into speech the dark gems of eyes
that looked at each other kindly.
"I have just been telling Mordecai of an event that makes a great change
in his life," Deronda began, "but I hope you will agree with me that it is
a joyful one. Since he thinks of you as his best friends, he wishes me to
tell you for him at once."
"Relations with money, sir?" burst in Cohen, feeling a power of divination
which it was a pity to nullify by waiting for the fact.
"No; not exactly," said Deronda, smiling. "But a very precious relation
wishes to be reunited to him--a very good and lovely young sister, who
will care for his comfort in every way."
"No, not married."
"But with a maintenance?"
"With talents which will secure her a maintenance. A home is already
provided for Mordecai."
There was silence for a moment or two before the grandmother said in a
"Well, well! and so you're going away from us, Mordecai."
"And where there's no children as there is here," said the mother,
catching the wail.
"No Jacob, and no Adelaide, and no Eugenie!" wailed the grandmother again.
"Ay, ay, Jacob's learning 'ill all wear out of him. He must go to school.
It'll be hard times for Jacob," said Cohen, in a tone of decision.
In the wide-open ears of Jacob his father's words sounded like a doom,
giving an awful finish to the dirge-like effect of the whole announcement.
His face had been gathering a wondering incredulous sorrow at the notion
of Mordecai's going away: he was unable to imagine the change as anything
lasting; but at the mention of "hard times for Jacob" there was no further
suspense of feeling, and he broke forth in loud lamentation. Adelaide
Rebekah always cried when her brother cried, and now began to howl with
astonishing suddenness, whereupon baby awaking contributed angry screams,
and required to be taken out of the cradle. A great deal of hushing was
necessary, and Mordecai feeling the cries pierce him, put out his arms to
Jacob, who in the midst of his tears and sobs was turning his head right
and left for general observation. His father, who had been--saying, "Never
mind, old man; you shall go to the riders," now released him, and he went
to Mordecai, who clasped him, and laid his cheek on the little black head
without speaking. But Cohen, sensible that the master of the family must
make some apology for all this weakness, and that the occasion called for
a speech, addressed Deronda with some elevation of pitch, squaring his
elbows and resting a hand on each knee:--
"It's not as we're the people to grudge anybody's good luck, sir, or the
portion of their cup being made fuller, as I may say. I'm not an envious
man, and if anybody offered to set up Mordecai in a shop of my sort two
doors lower down, _I_ shouldn't make wry faces about it. I'm not one of
them that had need have a poor opinion of themselves, and be frightened at
anybody else getting a chance. If I'm offal, let a wise man come and tell
me, for I've never heard it yet. And in point of business, I'm not a class
of goods to be in danger. If anybody takes to rolling me, I can pack
myself up like a caterpillar, and find my feet when I'm let alone. And
though, as I may say, you're taking some of our good works from us, which
is property bearing interest, I'm not saying but we can afford that,
though my mother and my wife had the good will to wish and do for Mordecai
to the last; and a Jew must not be like a servant who works for reward--
though I see nothing against a reward if I can get it. And as to the extra
outlay in schooling, I'm neither poor nor greedy--I wouldn't hang myself
for sixpence, nor half a crown neither. But the truth of it is, the women
and children are fond of Mordecai. You may partly see how it is, sir, by
your own sense. A Jewish man is bound to thank God, day by day, that he