Part 12 out of 16
was not made a woman; but a woman has to thank God that He has made her
according to His will. And we all know what He has made her--a child-
bearing, tender-hearted thing is the woman of our people. Her children are
mostly stout, as I think you'll say Addy's are, and she's not mushy, but
her heart is tender. So you must excuse present company, sir, for not
being glad all at once. And as to this young lady--for by what you say
'young lady' is the proper term"--Cohen here threw some additional
emphasis into his look and tone--"we shall all be glad for Mordecai's sake
by-and-by, when we cast up our accounts and see where we are."
Before Deronda could summon any answer to this oddly mixed speech,
"Friends, friends! For food and raiment and shelter I would not have
sought better than you have given me. You have sweetened the morsel with
love; and what I thought of as a joy that would be left to me even in the
last months of my waning strength was to go on teaching the lad. But now I
am as one who had clad himself beforehand in his shroud, and used himself
to making the grave his bed, when the divine command sounded in his ears,
'Arise, and go forth; the night is not yet come.' For no light matter
would I have turned away from your kindness to take another's. But it has
been taught us, as you know, that _the reward of one duty is the power to
fulfill another_--so said Ben Azai. You have made your duty to one of the
poor among your brethren a joy to you and me; and your reward shall be
that you will not rest without the joy of like deeds in the time to come.
And may not Jacob come and visit me?"
Mordecai had turned with this question to Deronda, who said--
"Surely that can be managed. It is no further than Brompton."
Jacob, who had been gradually calmed by the need to hear what was going
forward, began now to see some daylight on the future, the word "visit"
having the lively charm of cakes and general relaxation at his
grandfather's, the dealer in knives. He danced away from Mordecai, and
took up a station of survey in the middle of the hearth with his hands in
"Well," said the grandmother, with a sigh of resignation, "I hope there'll
be nothing in the way of your getting _kosher_ meat, Mordecai. For you'll
have to trust to those you live with."
"That's all right, that's all right, you may be sure, mother," said Cohen,
as if anxious to cut off inquiry on matters in which he was uncertain of
the guest's position. "So, sir," he added, turning with a look of amused
enlightenment to Deronda, "it was better than learning you had to talk to
Mordecai about! I wondered to myself at the time. I thought somehow there
was a something."
"Mordecai will perhaps explain to you how it was that I was seeking him,"
said Deronda, feeling that he had better go, and rising as he spoke.
It was agreed that he should come again and the final move be made on the
next day but one; but when he was going Mordecai begged to walk with him
to the end of the street, and wrapped himself in coat and comforter. It
was a March evening, and Deronda did not mean to let him go far, but he
understood the wish to be outside the house with him in communicative
silence, after the exciting speech that had been filling the last hour. No
word was spoken until Deronda had proposed parting, when he said--
"Mirah would wish to thank the Cohens for their goodness. You would wish
her to do so--to come and see them, would you not?"
Mordecai did not answer immediately, but at length said--
"I cannot tell. I fear not. There is a family sorrow, and the sight of my
sister might be to them as the fresh bleeding of wounds. There is a
daughter and sister who will never be restored as Mirah is. But who knows
the pathways? We are all of us denying or fulfilling prayers--and men in
their careless deeds walk amidst invisible outstretched arms and pleadings
made in vain. In my ears I have the prayers of generations past and to
come. My life is as nothing to me but the beginning of fulfilment. And yet
I am only another prayer--which you will fulfil."
Deronda pressed his hand, and they parted.
"And you must love him ere to you
He will seem worthy of your love."
One might be tempted to envy Deronda providing new clothes for Mordecai,
and pleasing himself as if he were sketching a picture in imagining the
effect of the fine gray flannel shirts and a dressing-gown very much like
a Franciscan's brown frock, with Mordecai's head and neck above them. Half
his pleasure was the sense of seeing Mirah's brother through her eyes, and
securing her fervid joy from any perturbing impression. And yet, after he
had made all things ready, he was visited with doubt whether he were not
mistaking her, and putting the lower effect for the higher: was she not
just as capable as he himself had been of feeling the impressive
distinction in her brother all the more for that aspect of poverty which
was among the memorials of his past? But there were the Meyricks to be
propitiated toward this too Judaic brother; and Deronda detected himself
piqued into getting out of sight everything that might feed the ready
repugnance in minds unblessed with that precious "seeing," that bathing of
all objects in a solemnity as of sun-set glow, which is begotten of a
loving reverential emotion.
And his inclination would have been the more confirmed if he had heard the
dialogue round Mrs. Meyrick's fire late in the evening, after Mirah had
gone to her room. Hans, settled now in his Chelsea rooms, had stayed late,
and Mrs. Meyrick, poking the fire into a blaze, said--
"Now, Kate, put out your candle, and all come round the fire cosily. Hans,
dear, do leave off laughing at those poems for the ninety-ninth time, and
come too. I have something wonderful to tell."
"As if I didn't know that, ma. I have seen it in the corner of your eye
ever so long, and in your pretense of errands," said Kate, while the girls
came up to put their feet on the fender, and Hans, pushing his chair near
them, sat astride it, resting his fists and chin on the back.
"Well, then, if you are so wise, perhaps you know that Mirah's brother is
found!" said Mrs. Meyrick, in her clearest accents.
"Oh, confound it!" said Hans, in the same moment.
"Hans, that is wicked," said Mab. "Suppose we had lost you?"
"I _cannot_ help being rather sorry," said Kate. "And her mother?--where is
"Her mother is dead."
"I hope the brother is not a bad man," said Amy.
"Nor a fellow all smiles and jewelry--a Crystal Palace Assyrian with a hat
on," said Hans, in the worst humor.
"Were there ever such unfeeling children?" said Mrs. Meyrick, a little
strengthened by the need for opposition. "You don't think the least bit of
Mirah's joy in the matter."
"You know, ma, Mirah hardly remembers her brother," said Kate.
"People who are lost for twelve years should never come back again," said
Hans. "They are always in the way."
"Hans!" said Mrs. Meyrick, reproachfully. "If you had lost me for _twenty_
years, I should have thought--"
"I said twelve years," Hans broke in. "Anywhere about twelve years is the
time at which lost relations should keep out of the way."
"Well, but it's nice finding people--there is something to tell," said
Mab, clasping her knees. "Did Prince Camaralzaman find him?"
Then Mrs. Meyrick, in her neat, narrative way, told all she knew without
interruption. "Mr. Deronda has the highest admiration for him," she ended
--"seems quite to look up to him. And he says Mirah is just the sister to
understand this brother."
"Deronda is getting perfectly preposterous about those Jews," said Hans
with disgust, rising and setting his chair away with a bang. "He wants to
do everything he can to encourage Mirah in her prejudices."
"Oh, for shame, Hans!--to speak in that way of Mr. Deronda," said Mab. And
Mrs. Meyrick's face showed something like an under-current of expression
not allowed to get to the surface.
"And now we shall never be all together," Hans went on, walking about with
his hands thrust into the pockets of his brown velveteen coat, "but we
must have this prophet Elijah to tea with us, and Mirah will think of
nothing but sitting on the ruins of Jerusalem. She will be spoiled as an
artist--mind that--she will get as narrow as a nun. Everything will be
spoiled--our home and everything. I shall take to drinking."
"Oh, really, Hans," said Kate, impatiently. "I do think men are the most
contemptible animals in all creation. Every one of them must have
everything to his mind, else he is unbearable."
"Oh, oh, oh, it's very dreadful!" cried Mab. "I feel as if ancient Nineveh
were come again."
"I should like to know what is the good of having gone to the university
and knowing everything, if you are so childish, Hans," said Amy. "You
ought to put up with a man that Providence sends you to be kind to. _We_
shall have to put up with him."
"I hope you will all of you like the new Lamentations of Jeremiah--'to be
continued in our next'--that's all," said Hans, seizing his wide-awake.
"It's no use being one thing more than another if one has to endure the
company of those men with a fixed idea, staring blankly at you, and
requiring all your remarks to be small foot-notes to their text. If you're
to be under a petrifying wall, you'd better be an old boot. I don't feel
myself an old boot." Then abruptly, "Good night, little mother, bending to
kiss her brow in a hasty, desperate manner, and condescendingly, on his
way to the door, "Good-night, girls."
"Suppose Mirah knew how you are behaving," said Kate. But her answer was a
slam of the door. "I _should_ like to see Mirah when Mr. Deronda tells
her," she went on to her mother. "I know she will look so beautiful."
But Deronda, on second thoughts, had written a letter, which Mrs. Meyrick
received the next morning, begging her to make the revelation instead of
waiting for him, not giving the real reason--that he shrank from going
again through a narrative in which he seemed to be making himself
important and giving himself a character of general beneficence--but
saying that he wished to remain with Mordecai while Mrs. Meyrick would
bring Mirah on what was to be understood as a visit, so that there might
be a little interval before that change of abode which he expected that
Mirah herself would propose.
Deronda secretly felt some wondering anxiety how far Mordecai, after years
of solitary preoccupation with ideas likely to have become the more
exclusive from continual diminution of bodily strength, would allow him to
feel a tender interest in his sister over and above the rendering of pious
duties. His feeling for the Cohens, and especially for little Jacob,
showed a persistent activity of affection; but these objects had entered
into his daily life for years; and Deronda felt it noticeable that
Mordecai asked no new questions about Mirah, maintaining, indeed, an
unusual silence on all subjects, and appearing simply to submit to the
changes that were coming over his personal life. He donned the new clothes
obediently, but said afterward to Deronda, with a faint smile, "I must
keep my old garments by me for a remembrance." And when they were seated,
awaiting Mirah, he uttered no word, keeping his eyelids closed, but yet
showing restless feeling in his face and hands. In fact, Mordecai was
undergoing that peculiar nervous perturbation only known to those whose
minds, long and habitually moving with strong impetus in one current, are
suddenly compelled into a new or reopened channel. Susceptible people,
whose strength has been long absorbed by dormant bias, dread an interview
that imperiously revives the past, as they would dread a threatening
illness. Joy may be there, but joy, too, is terrible.
Deronda felt the infection of excitement, and when he heard the ring at
the door, he went out, not knowing exactly why, that he might see and
greet Mirah beforehand. He was startled to find that she had on the hat
and cloak in which he had first seen her--the memorable cloak that had
once been wetted for a winding-sheet. She had come down-stairs equipped in
this way; and when Mrs. Meyrick said, in a tone of question, "You like to
go in that dress, dear?" she answered, "My brother is poor, and I want to
look as much like him as I can, else he may feel distant from me"--
imagining that she should meet him in the workman's dress. Deronda could
not make any remark, but felt secretly rather ashamed of his own
fastidious arrangements. They shook hands silently, for Mirah looked pale
When Deronda opened the door for her, Mordecai had risen, and had his eyes
turned toward it with an eager gaze. Mirah took only two or three steps,
and then stood still. They looked at each other, motionless. It was less
their own presence that they felt than another's; they were meeting first
in memories, compared with which touch was no union. Mirah was the first
to break the silence, standing where she was.
"Ezra," she said, in exactly the same tone as when she was telling of her
mother's call to him.
Mordecai with a sudden movement advanced and laid his hand on her
shoulders. He was the head taller, and looked down at her tenderly while
he said, "That was our mother's voice. You remember her calling me?"
"Yes, and how you answered her--'Mother!'--and I knew you loved her."
Mirah threw her arms round her brother's neck, clasped her little hands
behind it, and drew down his face, kissing it with childlike lavishness,
Her hat fell backward on the ground and disclosed all her curls.
"Ah, the dear head, the dear head?" said Mordecai, in a low loving tone,
laying his thin hand gently on the curls.
"You are very ill, Ezra," said Mirah, sadly looking at him with more
"Yes, dear child, I shall not be long with you in the body," was the quiet
"Oh, I will love you and we will talk to each other," said Mirah, with a
sweet outpouring of her words, as spontaneous as bird-notes. "I will tell
you everything, and you will teach me:--you will teach me to be a good
Jewess--what she would have liked me to be. I shall always be with you
when I am not working. For I work now. I shall get money to keep us. Oh, I
have had such good friends."
Mirah until now had quite forgotten that any one was by, but here she
turned with the prettiest attitude, keeping one hand on her brother's arm
while she looked at Mrs. Meyrick and Deronda. The little mother's happy
emotion in witnessing this meeting of brother and sister had already won
her to Mordecai, who seemed to her really to have more dignity and
refinement than she had felt obliged to believe in from Deronda's account.
"See this dear lady!" said Mirah. "I was a stranger, a poor wanderer, and
she believed in me, and has treated me as a daughter. Please give my
brother your hand," she added, beseechingly, taking Mrs. Meyrick's hand
and putting it in Mordecai's, then pressing them both with her own and
lifting them to her lips.
"The Eternal Goodness has been with you," said Mordecai. "You have helped
to fulfill our mother's prayer."
"I think we will go now, shall we?--and return later," said Deronda,
laying a gentle pressure on Mrs. Meyrick's arm, and she immediately
complied. He was afraid of any reference to the facts about himself which
he had kept back from Mordecai, and he felt no uneasiness now in the
thought of the brother and sister being alone together.
'Tis hard and ill-paid task to order all things beforehand by the rule
of our own security, as is well hinted by Machiavelli concerning
Caesar Borgia, who, saith he, had thought of all that might occur on
his father's death, and had provided against every evil chance save
only one: it had never come into his mind that when his father died,
his own death would quickly follow.
Grandcourt's importance as a subject of this realm was of the grandly
passive kind which consists in the inheritance of land. Political and
social movements touched him only through the wire of his rental, and his
most careful biographer need not have read up on Schleswig-Holstein, the
policy of Bismarck, trade-unions, household suffrage, or even the last
commercial panic. He glanced over the best newspaper columns on these
topics, and his views on them can hardly be said to have wanted breadth,
since he embraced all Germans, all commercial men, and all voters liable
to use the wrong kind of soap, under the general epithet of "brutes;" but
he took no action on these much-agitated questions beyond looking from
under his eyelids at any man who mentioned them, and retaining a silence
which served to shake the opinions of timid thinkers.
But Grandcourt, within his own sphere of interest, showed some of the
qualities which have entered into triumphal diplomacy of the wildest
No movement of Gwendolen in relation to Deronda escaped him. He would have
denied that he was jealous; because jealousy would have implied some doubt
of his own power to hinder what he had determined against. That his wife
should have more inclination to another man's society than to his own
would not pain him: what he required was that she should be as fully aware
as she would have been of a locked hand-cuff, that her inclination was
helpless to decide anything in contradiction with his resolve. However
much of vacillating whim there might have been in his entrance on
matrimony, there was no vacillating in his interpretation of the bond. He
had not repented of his marriage; it had really brought more of aim into
his life, new objects to exert his will upon; and he had not repented of
his choice. His taste was fastidious, and Gwendolen satisfied it: he would
not have liked a wife who had not received some elevation of rank from
him; nor one who did not command admiration by her mien and beauty; nor
one whose nails were not of the right shape; nor one the lobe of whose ear
was at all too large and red; nor one who, even if her nails and ears were
right, was at the same time a ninny, unable to make spirited answers.
These requirements may not seem too exacting to refined contemporaries
whose own ability to fall in love has been held in suspense for lack of
indispensable details; but fewer perhaps may follow him in his contentment
that his wife should be in a temper which would dispose her to fly out if
she dared, and that she should have been urged into marrying him by other
feelings than passionate attachment. Still, for those who prefer command
to love, one does not see why the habit of mind should change precisely at
the point of matrimony.
Grandcourt did not feel that he had chosen the wrong wife; and having
taken on himself the part of husband, he was not going in any way to be
fooled, or allow himself to be seen in a light that could be regarded as
pitiable. This was his state of mind--not jealousy; still, his behavior in
some respects was as like jealousy as yellow is to yellow, which color we
know may be the effect of very different causes.
He had come up to town earlier than usual because he wished to be on the
spot for legal consultation as to the arrangements of his will, the
transference of mortgages, and that transaction with his uncle about the
succession to Diplow, which the bait of ready money, adroitly dangled
without importunity, had finally won him to agree upon. But another
acceptable accompaniment of his being in town was the presentation of
himself with the beautiful bride whom he had chosen to marry in spite of
what other people might have expected of him. It is true that Grandcourt
went about with the sense that he did not care a languid curse for any
one's admiration: but this state of not-caring, just as much as desire,
required its related object--namely, a world of admiring or envying
spectators: for if you are fond of looking stonily at smiling persons--the
persons must be and they must smile--a rudimentary truth which is surely
forgotten by those who complain of mankind as generally contemptible,
since any other aspect of the race must disappoint the voracity of their
contempt. Grandcourt, in town for the first time with his wife, had his
non-caring abstinence from curses enlarged and diversified by splendid
receptions, by conspicuous rides and drives, by presentations of himself
with her on all distinguished occasions. He wished her to be sought after;
he liked that "fellows" should be eager to talk with her and escort her
within his observation; there was even a kind of lofty coquetry on her
part that he would not have objected to. But what he did not like were her
ways in relation to Deronda.
After the musical party at Lady Mallinger's, when Grandcourt had observed
the dialogue on the settee as keenly as Hans had done, it was
characteristic of him that he named Deronda for invitation along with the
Mallinger's, tenaciously avoiding the possible suggestion to anybody
concerned that Deronda's presence or absence could be of the least
importance to him; and he made no direct observation to Gwendolen on her
behavior that evening, lest the expression of his disgust should be a
little too strong to satisfy his own pride. But a few days afterward he
remarked, without being careful of the _a propos_--
"Nothing makes a woman more of a gawky than looking out after people and
showing tempers in public. A woman ought to have good manners. Else it's
intolerable to appear with her."
Gwendolen made the expected application, and was not without alarm at the
notion of being a gawky. For she, too, with her melancholy distaste for
things, preferred that her distaste should include admirers. But the sense
of overhanging rebuke only intensified the strain of expectation toward
any meeting with Deronda. The novelty and excitement of her town life was
like the hurry and constant change of foreign travel; whatever might be
the inward despondency, there was a programme to be fulfilled, not without
gratification to many-sided self. But, as always happens with a deep
interest, the comparatively rare occasions on which she could exchange any
words with Deronda had a diffusive effect in her consciousness, magnifying
their communication with each other, and therefore enlarging the place she
imagined it to have in his mind. How could Deronda help this? He certainly
did not avoid her; rather he wished to convince her by every delicate
indirect means that her confidence in him had not been indiscreet since it
had not lowered his respect. Moreover he liked being near her--how could
it be otherwise? She was something more than a problem: she was a lovely
woman, for the turn of whose mind and fate he had a care which, however
futile it might be, kept soliciting him as a responsibility, perhaps all
the more that, when he dared to think of his own future, he saw it lying
far away from this splendid sad-hearted creature, who, because he had once
been impelled to arrest her attention momentarily, as he might have seized
her arm with warning to hinder her from stepping where there was danger,
had turned to him with a beseeching persistent need.
One instance in which Grandcourt stimulated a feeling in Gwendolen that he
would have liked to suppress without seeming to care about it, had
relation to Mirah. Gwendolen's inclination lingered over the project of
the singing lessons as a sort of obedience to Deronda's advice, but day
followed day with that want of perceived leisure which belongs to lives
where there is no work to mark off intervals; and the continual liability
to Grandcourt's presence and surveillance seemed to flatten every effort
to the level of the boredom which his manner expressed; his negative mind
was as diffusive as fog, clinging to all objects, and spoiling all
But one morning when they were breakfasting, Gwendolen, in a recurrent fit
of determination to exercise the old spirit, said, dallying prettily over
her prawns without eating them--
"I think of making myself accomplished while we are in town, and having
"Why?" said Grandcourt, languidly.
"Why?" echoed Gwendolen, playing at sauciness; "because I can't eat _pate
de foie gras_ to make me sleepy, and I can't smoke, and I can't go to the
club to make me like to come away again--I want a variety of _ennui_. What
would be the most convenient time, when you are busy with your lawyers and
people, for me to have lessons from that little Jewess, whose singing is
getting all the rage."
"Whenever you like," said Grandcourt, pushing away his plate, and leaning
back in his chair while he looked at her with his most lizard-like
expression and, played with the ears of the tiny spaniel on his lap
(Gwendolen had taken a dislike to the dogs because they fawned on him).
Then he said, languidly, "I don't see why a lady should sing. Amateurs
make fools of themselves. A lady can't risk herself in that way in
company. And one doesn't want to hear squalling in private."
"I like frankness: that seems to me a husband's great charm," said
Gwendolen, with her little upward movement of her chin, as she turned her
eyes away from his, and lifting a prawn before her, looked at the boiled
ingenuousness of its eyes as preferable to the lizard's. "But;" she added,
having devoured her mortification, "I suppose you don't object to Miss
Lapidoth's singing at our party on the fourth? I thought of engaging her.
Lady Brackenshaw had her, you know: and the Raymonds, who are very
particular about their music. And Mr. Deronda, who is a musician himself
and a first-rate judge, says there is no singing in such good taste as
hers for a drawing-room. I think his opinion is an authority."
She meant to sling a small stone at her husband in that way.
"It's very indecent of Deronda to go about praising that girl," said
Grandcourt in a tone of indifference.
"Indecent!" exclaimed Gwendolen, reddening and looking at him again,
overcome by startled wonder, and unable to reflect on the probable falsity
of the phrase--"to go about praising."
"Yes; and especially when she is patronized by Lady Mallinger. He ought to
hold his tongue about her. Men can see what is his relation to her."
"Men who judge of others by themselves," said Gwendolen, turning white
after her redness, and immediately smitten with a dread of her own words.
"Of course. And a woman should take their judgment--else she is likely to
run her head into the wrong place," said Grandcourt, conscious of using
pinchers on that white creature. "I suppose you take Deronda for a saint."
"Oh dear no?" said Gwendolen, summoning desperately her almost miraculous
power of self-control, and speaking in a high hard tone. "Only a little
less of a monster."
She rose, pushed her chair away without hurry, and walked out of the room
with something like the care of a man who is afraid of showing that he has
taken more wine than usual. She turned the keys inside her dressing-room
doors, and sat down for some time looking pale and quiet as when she was
leaving the breakfast-room. Even in the moments after reading the
poisonous letter she had hardly had more cruel sensations than now; for
emotion was at the acute point, where it is not distinguishable from
sensation. Deronda unlike what she had believed him to be, was an image
which affected her as a hideous apparition would have done, quite apart
from the way in which it was produced. It had taken hold of her as pain
before she could consider whether it were fiction or truth; and further to
hinder her power of resistance came the sudden perception, how very slight
were the grounds of her faith in Deronda--how little she knew of his life
--how childish she had been in her confidence. His rebukes and his
severity to her began to seem odious, along with all the poetry and lofty
doctrine in the world, whatever it might be; and the grave beauty of his
face seemed the most unpleasant mask that the common habits of men could
All this went on in her with the rapidity of a sick dream; and her start
into resistance was very much like a waking. Suddenly from out the gray
sombre morning there came a stream of sunshine, wrapping her in warmth and
light where she sat in stony stillness. She moved gently and looked round
her--there was a world outside this bad dream, and the dream proved
nothing; she rose, stretching her arms upward and clasping her hands with
her habitual attitude when she was seeking relief from oppressive feeling,
and walked about the room in this flood of sunbeams.
"It is not true! What does it matter whether _he_ believes it or not?"
This is what she repeated to herself--but this was not her faith come back
again; it was only the desperate cry of faith, finding suffocation
intolerable. And how could she go on through the day in this state? With
one of her impetuous alternations, her imagination flew to wild actions by
which she would convince herself of what she wished: she would go to Lady
Mallinger and question her about Mirah; she would write to Deronda and
upbraid him with making the world all false and wicked and hopeless to
her--to him she dared pour out all the bitter indignation of her heart.
No; she would go to Mirah. This last form taken by her need was more
definitely practicable, and quickly became imperious. No matter what came
of it. She had the pretext of asking Mirah to sing at her party on the
fourth. What was she going to say beside? How satisfy? She did not
foresee--she could not wait to foresee. If that idea which was maddening
her had been a living thing, she would have wanted to throttle it without
waiting to foresee what would come of the act. She rang her bell and asked
if Mr. Grandcourt were gone out: finding that he was, she ordered the
carriage, and began to dress for the drive; then she went down, and walked
about the large drawing-room like an imprisoned dumb creature, not
recognizing herself in the glass panels, not noting any object around her
in the painted gilded prison. Her husband would probably find out where
she had been, and punish her in some way or other--no matter--she could
neither desire nor fear anything just now but the assurance that she had
not been deluding herself in her trust.
She was provided with Mirah's address. Soon she was on the way with all
the fine equipage necessary to carry about her poor uneasy heart,
depending in its palpitations on some answer or other to questioning which
she did not know how she should put. She was as heedless of what happened
before she found that Miss Lapidoth was at home, as one is of lobbies and
passages on the way to a court of justice--heedless of everything till she
was in a room where there were folding-doors, and she heard Deronda's
voice behind it. Doubtless the identification was helped by forecast, but
she was as certain of it as if she had seen him. She was frightened at her
own agitation, and began to unbutton her gloves that she might button them
again, and bite her lips over the pretended difficulty, while the door
opened, and Mirah presented herself with perfect quietude and a sweet
smile of recognition. There was relief in the sight of her face, and
Gwendolen was able to smile in return, while she put out her hand in
silence; and as she seated herself, all the while hearing the voice, she
felt some reflux of energy in the confused sense that the truth could not
be anything that she dreaded. Mirah drew her chair very near, as if she
felt that the sound of the conversation should be subdued, and looked at
her visitor with placid expectation, while Gwendolen began in a low tone,
with something that seemed like bashfulness--
"Perhaps you wonder to see me--perhaps I ought to have written--but I
wished to make a particular request."
"I am glad to see you instead of having a letter," said Mirah, wondering
at the changed expression and manner of the "Vandyke duchess," as Hans had
taught her to call Gwendolen. The rich color and the calmness of her own
face were in strong contrast with the pale agitated beauty under the
"I thought," Gwendolen went on--"at least I hoped, you would not object to
sing at our house on the 4th--in the evening--at a party like Lady
Brackenshaw's. I should be so much obliged."
"I shall be very happy to sing for you. At ten?" said Mirah, while
Gwendolen seemed to get more instead of less embarrassed.
"At ten, please," she answered; then paused, and felt that she had nothing
more to say. She could not go. It was impossible to rise and say good-bye.
Deronda's voice was in her ears. She must say it--she could contrive no
"Mr. Deronda is in the next room."
"Yes," said Mirah, in her former tone. "He is reading Hebrew with my
"You have a brother?" said Gwendolen, who had heard this from Lady
Mallinger, but had not minded it then.
"Yes, a dear brother who is ill-consumptive, and Mr. Deronda is the best
of friends to him, as he has been to me," said Mirah, with the impulse
that will not let us pass the mention of a precious person indifferently.
"Tell me," said Gwendolen, putting her hand on Mirah's, and speaking
hardly above a whisper--"tell me--tell me the truth. You are sure he is
quite good. You know no evil of him. Any evil that people say of him is
Could the proud-spirited woman have behaved more like a child? But the
strange words penetrated Mirah with nothing but a sense of solemnity and
indignation. With a sudden light in her eyes and a tremor in her voice,
"Who are the people that say evil of him? I would not believe any evil of
him, if an angel came to tell it me. He found me when I was so miserable--
I was going to drown myself; I looked so poor and forsaken; you would have
thought I was a beggar by the wayside. And he treated me as if I had been
a king's daughter. He took me to the best of women. He found my brother
for me. And he honors my brother--though he too was poor--oh, almost as
poor as he could be. And my brother honors him. That is no light thing to
say"--here Mirah's tone changed to one of profound emphasis, and she shook
her head backward: "for my brother is very learned and great-minded. And
Mr. Deronda says there are few men equal to him." Some Jewish defiance had
flamed into her indignant gratitude and her anger could not help including
Gwendolen since she seemed to have doubted Deronda's goodness.
But Gwendolen was like one parched with thirst, drinking the fresh water
that spreads through the frame as a sufficient bliss. She did not notice
that Mirah was angry with her; she was not distinctly conscious of
anything but of the penetrating sense that Deronda and his life were no
more like her husband's conception than the morning in the horizon was
like the morning mixed with street gas. Even Mirah's words sank into the
indefiniteness of her relief. She could hardly have repeated them, or said
how her whole state of feeling was changed. She pressed Mirah's hand, and
said, "Thank you, thank you," in a hurried whisper, then rose, and added,
with only a hazy consciousness, "I must go, I shall see you--on the
fourth--I am so much obliged"--bowing herself out automatically, while
Mirah, opening the door for her, wondered at what seemed a sudden retreat
into chill loftiness.
Gwendolen, indeed, had no feeling to spare in any effusiveness toward the
creature who had brought her relief. The passionate need of contradiction
to Grandcourt's estimate of Deronda, a need which had blunted her
sensibility to everything else, was no sooner satisfied than she wanted to
be gone. She began to be aware that she was out of place, and to dread
Deronda's seeing her. And once in the carriage again, she had the vision
of what awaited her at home. When she drew up before the door in Grosvenor
Square, her husband was arriving with a cigar between his fingers. He
threw it away and handed her out, accompanying her up-stairs. She turned
into the drawing-room, lest he should follow her farther and give her no
place to retreat to; then she sat down with a weary air, taking off her
gloves, rubbing her hand over her forehead, and making his presence as
much of a cipher as possible. But he sat, too, and not far from her--just
in front, where to avoid looking at him must have the emphasis of effort.
"May I ask where you have been at this extraordinary hour?" said
"Oh, yes; I have been to Miss Lapidoth's, to ask her to come and sing for
us," said Gwendolen, laying her gloves on the little table beside her, and
looking down at them.
"And to ask her about her relations with Deronda?" said Grandcourt, with
the coldest possible sneer in his low voice which in poor Gwendolen's ear
For the first time since their marriage she flashed out upon him without
inward check. Turning her eyes full on his she said, in a biting tone--
"Yes; and what you said is false--a low, wicked falsehood."
"She told you so--did she?" returned Grandcourt, with a more thoroughly
Gwendolen was mute. The daring anger within her was turned into the rage
of dumbness. What reasons for her belief could she give? All the reasons
that seemed so strong and living within her--she saw them suffocated and
shrivelled up under her husband's breath. There was no proof to give, but
her own impression, which would seem to him her own folly. She turned her
head quickly away from him and looked angrily toward the end of the room:
she would have risen, but he was in her way.
Grandcourt saw his advantage. "It's of no consequence so far as her
singing goes," he said, in his superficial drawl. "You can have her to
sing, if you like." Then, after a pause, he added in his lowest imperious
tone, "But you will please to observe that you are not to go near that
house again. As my wife, you must take my word about what is proper for
you. When you undertook to be Mrs. Grandcourt, you undertook not to make a
fool of yourself. You have been making a fool of yourself this morning;
and if you were to go on as you have begun, you might soon get yourself
talked of at the clubs in a way you would not like. What do _you_ know
about the world? You have married _me_, and must be guided by my opinion."
Every slow sentence of that speech had a terrific mastery in it for
Gwendolen's nature. If the low tones had come from a physician telling her
that her symptoms were those of a fatal disease, and prognosticating its
course, she could not have been more helpless against the argument that
lay in it. But she was permitted to move now, and her husband never again
made any reference to what had occurred this morning. He knew the force of
his own words. If this white-handed man with the perpendicular profile had
been sent to govern a difficult colony, he might have won reputation among
his contemporaries. He had certainly ability, would have understood that
it was safer to exterminate than to cajole superseded proprietors, and
would not have flinched from making things safe in that way.
Gwendolen did not, for all this, part with her recovered faith;--rather,
she kept it with a more anxious tenacity, as a Protestant of old kept his
bible hidden or a Catholic his crucifix, according to the side favored by
the civil arm; and it was characteristic of her that apart from the
impression gained concerning Deronda in that visit, her imagination was
little occupied with Mirah or the eulogised brother. The one result
established for her was, that Deronda had acted simply as a generous
benefactor, and the phrase "reading Hebrew" had fleeted unimpressively
across her sense of hearing, as a stray stork might have made its peculiar
flight across her landscape without rousing any surprised reflection on
its natural history.
But the issue of that visit, as it regarded her husband, took a strongly
active part in the process which made an habitual conflict within her, and
was the cause of some external change perhaps not observed by any one
except Deronda. As the weeks went on bringing occasional transient
interviews with her, he thought that he perceived in her an intensifying
of her superficial hardness and resolute display, which made her abrupt
betrayals of agitation the more marked and disturbing to him.
In fact, she was undergoing a sort of discipline for the refractory which,
as little as possible like conversion, bends half the self with a terrible
strain, and exasperates the unwillingness of the other half. Grandcourt
had an active divination rather than discernment of refractoriness in her,
and what had happened about Mirah quickened his suspicion that there was
an increase of it dependent on the occasions when she happened to see
Deronda: there was some "confounded nonsense" between them: he did not
imagine it exactly as flirtation, and his imagination in other branches
was rather restricted; but it was nonsense that evidently kept up a kind
of simmering in her mind--an inward action which might become disagreeable
outward. Husbands in the old time are known to have suffered from a
threatening devoutness in their wives, presenting itself first
indistinctly as oddity, and ending in that mild form of lunatic asylum, a
nunnery: Grandcourt had a vague perception of threatening moods in
Gwendolen which the unity between them in his views of marriage required
him peremptorily to check. Among the means he chose, one was peculiar, and
was less ably calculated than the speeches we have just heard.
He determined that she should know the main purport of the will he was
making, but he could not communicate this himself, because it involved the
fact of his relation to Mrs. Glasher and her children; and that there
should be any overt recognition of this between Gwendolen and himself was
supremely repugnant to him. Like all proud, closely-wrapped natures, he
shrank from explicitness and detail, even on trivialities, if they were
personal: a valet must maintain a strict reserve with him on the subject
of shoes and stockings. And clashing was intolerable to him; his habitual
want was to put collision out of the question by the quiet massive
pressure of his rule. But he wished Gwendolen to know that before he made
her an offer it was no secret to him that she was aware of his relations
with Lydia, her previous knowledge being the apology for bringing the
subject before her now. Some men in his place might have thought of
writing what he wanted her to know, in the form of a letter. But
Grandcourt hated writing: even writing a note was a bore to him, and he
had long been accustomed to have all his writing done by Lush. We know
that there are persons who will forego their own obvious interest rather
than do anything so disagreeable as to write letters; and it is not
probable that these imperfect utilitarians would rush into manuscript and
syntax on a difficult subject in order to save another's feelings. To
Grandcourt it did not even occur that he should, would, or could write to
Gwendolen the information in question; and the only medium of
communication he could use was Lush, who, to his mind, was as much of an
implement as pen and paper. But here too Grandcourt had his reserves, and
would not have uttered a word likely to encourage Lush in an impudent
sympathy with any supposed grievance in a marriage which had been
discommended by him. Who that has a confidant escapes believing too little
in his penetration, and too much in his discretion? Grandcourt had always
allowed Lush to know his external affairs indiscriminately--
irregularities, debts, want of ready money; he had only used
discrimination about what he would allow his confidant to say to him; and
he had been so accustomed to this human tool, that the having him at call
in London was a recovery of lost ease. It followed that Lush knew all the
provisions of the will more exactly than they were known to the testator
Grandcourt did not doubt that Gwendolen, since she was a woman who could
put two and two together, knew or suspected Lush to be the contriver of
her interview with Lydia, and that this was the reason why her first
request was for his banishment. But the bent of a woman's inferences on
mixed subjects which excites mixed passions is not determined by her
capacity for simple addition; and here Grandcourt lacked the only organ of
thinking that could have saved him from mistake--namely, some experience
of the mixed passions concerned. He had correctly divined one-half of
Gwendolen's dread--all that related to her personal pride, and her
perception that his will must conquer hers; but the remorseful half, even
if he had known of her broken promise, was as much out of his imagination
as the other side of the moon. What he believed her to feel about Lydia
was solely a tongue-tied jealousy, and what he believed Lydia to have
written with the jewels was the fact that she had once been used to
wearing them, with other amenities such as he imputed to the intercourse
with jealous women. He had the triumphant certainty that he could
aggravate the jealousy and yet smite it with a more absolute dumbness. His
object was to engage all his wife's egoism on the same side as his own,
and in his employment of Lush he did not intend an insult to her: she
ought to understand that he was the only possible envoy. Grandcourt's view
of things was considerably fenced in by his general sense, that what
suited him others must put up with. There is no escaping the fact that
want of sympathy condemns us to corresponding stupidity. Mephistopheles
thrown upon real life, and obliged to manage his own plots, would
inevitably make blunders.
One morning he went to Gwendolen in the boudoir beyond the back drawing-
room, hat and gloves in hand, and said with his best-tempered, most
persuasive drawl, standing before her and looking down on her as she sat
with a book on her lap--
"A--Gwendolen, there's some business about property to be explained. I
have told Lush to come and explain it to you. He knows all about these
things. I am going out. He can come up now. He's the only person who can
explain. I suppose you'll not mind."
"You know that I do mind," said Gwendolen, angrily, starting up. "I shall
not see him." She showed the intention to dart away to the door.
Grandcourt was before her, with his back toward it. He was prepared for
her anger, and showed none in return, saying, with the same sort of
remonstrant tone that he might have used about an objection to dining
"It's no use making a fuss. There are plenty of brutes in the world that
one has to talk to. People with any _savoir vivre_ don't make a fuss about
such things. Some business must be done. You can't expect agreeable people
to do it. If I employ Lush, the proper thing for you is to take it as a
matter of course. Not to make a fuss about it. Not to toss your head and
bite your lips about people of that sort."
The drawling and the pauses with which this speech was uttered gave time
for crowding reflections in Gwendolen, quelling her resistance. What was
there to be told her about property? This word had certain dominant
associations for her, first with her mother, then with Mrs. Glasher and
her children. What would be the use if she refused to see Lush? Could she
ask Grandcourt to tell her himself? That might be intolerable, even if he
consented, which it was certain he would not, if he had made up his mind
to the contrary. The humiliation of standing an obvious prisoner, with her
husband barring the door, was not to be borne any longer, and she turned
away to lean against a cabinet, while Grandcourt again moved toward her.
"I have arranged for Lush to come up now, while I am out," he said, after
a long organ stop, during which Gwendolen made no sign. "Shall I tell him
he may come?"
Yet another pause before she could say "Yes"--her face turned obliquely
and her eyes cast down.
"I shall come back in time to ride, if you like to get ready," said
Grandcourt. No answer. "She is in a desperate rage," thought he. But the
rage was silent, and therefore not disagreeable to him. It followed that
he turned her chin and kissed her, while she still kept her eyelids down,
and she did not move them until he was on the other side of the door.
What was she to do? Search where she would in her consciousness, she found
no plea to justify a plaint. Any romantic allusions she had had in
marrying this man had turned on her power of using him as she liked. He
was using her as he liked.
She sat awaiting the announcement of Lush as a sort of searing operation
that she had to go through. The facts that galled her gathered a burning
power when she thought of their lying in his mind. It was all a part of
that new gambling, in which the losing was not simply a _minus_, but a
terrible _plus_ that had never entered into her reckoning.
Lush was neither quite pleased nor quite displeased with his task.
Grandcourt had said to him by way of conclusion, "Don't make yourself more
disagreeable than nature obliges you."
"That depends," thought Lush. But he said, "I will write a brief abstract
for Mrs. Grandcourt to read." He did not suggest that he should make the
whole communication in writing, which was a proof that the interview did
not wholly displease him.
Some provision was being made for himself in the will, and he had no
reason to be in a bad humor, even if a bad humor had been common with him.
He was perfectly convinced that he had penetrated all the secrets of the
situation; but he had no diabolical delight in it. He had only the small
movements of gratified self-loving resentment in discerning that this
marriage had fulfilled his own foresight in not being as satisfactory as
the supercilious young lady had expected it to be, and as Grandcourt
wished to feign that it was. He had no persistent spite much stronger than
what gives the seasoning of ordinary scandal to those who repeat it and
exaggerate it by their conjectures. With no active compassion or good-
will, he had just as little active malevolence, being chiefly occupied in
liking his particular pleasures, and not disliking anything but what
hindered those pleasures--everything else ranking with the last murder and
the last _opera bouffe_, under the head of things to talk about.
Nevertheless, he was not indifferent to the prospect of being treated
uncivilly by a beautiful woman, or to the counter-balancing fact that his
present commission put into his hands an official power of humiliating
her. He did not mean to use it needlessly; but there are some persons so
gifted in relation to us that their "How do you do?" seems charged with
By the time that Mr. Lush was announced, Gwendolen had braced herself to a
bitter resolve that he should not witness the slightest betrayal of her
feeling, whatever he might have to tell. She invited him to sit down with
stately quietude. After all, what was this man to her? He was not in the
least like her husband. Her power of hating a coarse, familiar-mannered
man, with clumsy hands, was now relaxed by the intensity with which she
hated his contrast.
He held a small paper folded in his hand while he spoke.
"I need hardly say that I should not have presented myself if Mr.
Grandcourt had not expressed a strong wish to that effect--as no doubt he
has mentioned to you."
From some voices that speech might have sounded entirely reverential, and
even timidly apologetic. Lush had no intention to the contrary, but to
Gwendolen's ear his words had as much insolence in them as his prominent
eyes, and the pronoun "you" was too familiar. He ought to have addressed
the folding-screen, and spoke of her as Mrs. Grandcourt. She gave the
smallest sign of a bow, and Lush went on, with a little awkwardness,
getting entangled in what is elegantly called tautology.
"My having been in Mr. Grandcourt's confidence for fifteen years or more--
since he was a youth, in fact--of course gives me a peculiar position. He
can speak to me of affairs that he could not mention to any one else; and,
in fact, he could not have employed any one else in this affair. I have
accepted the task out of friendship for him. Which is my apology for
accepting the task--if you would have preferred some one else."
He paused, but she made no sign, and Lush, to give himself a countenance
in an apology which met no acceptance, opened the folded paper, and looked
at it vaguely before he began to speak again.
"This paper contains some information about Mr. Grandcourt's will, an
abstract of a part he wished you to know--if you'll be good enough to cast
your eyes over it. But there is something I had to say by way of
introduction--which I hope you'll pardon me for, if it's not quite
agreeable." Lush found that he was behaving better than he had expected,
and had no idea how insulting he made himself with his "not quite
"Say what you have to say without apologizing, please," said Gwendolen,
with the air she might have bestowed on a dog-stealer come to claim a
reward for finding the dog he had stolen.
"I have only to remind you of something that occurred before your
engagement to Mr. Grandcourt," said Lush, not without the rise of some
willing insolence in exchange for her scorn. "You met a lady in Cardell
Chase, if you remember, who spoke to you of her position with regard to
Mr. Grandcourt. She had children with her--one a very fine boy."
Gwendolen's lips were almost as pale as her cheeks; her passion had no
weapons--words were no better than chips. This man's speech was like a
sharp knife-edge drawn across her skin: but even her indignation at the
employment of Lush was getting merged in a crowd of other feelings, dim
and alarming as a crowd of ghosts.
"Mr. Grandcourt was aware that you were acquainted with this unfortunate
affair beforehand, and he thinks it only right that his position and
intentions should be made quite clear to you. It is an affair of property
and prospects; and if there were any objection you had to make, if you
would mention it to me--it is a subject which of course he would rather
not speak about himself--if you will be good enough just to read this."
With the last words Lush rose and presented the paper to her.
When Gwendolen resolved that she would betray no feeling in the presence
of this man, she had not prepared herself to hear that her husband knew
the silent consciousness, the silently accepted terms on which she had
married him. She dared not raise her hand to take the paper, least it
should visibly tremble. For a moment Lush stood holding it toward her, and
she felt his gaze on her as ignominy, before she could say even with low-
"Lay it on the table. And go into the next room, please."
Lush obeyed, thinking as he took an easy-chair in the back drawing-room,
"My lady winces considerably. She didn't know what would be the charge for
that superfine article, Henleigh Grandcourt." But it seemed to him that a
penniless girl had done better than she had any right to expect, and that
she had been uncommonly knowing for her years and opportunities: her words
to Lydia meant nothing, and her running away had probably been part of her
adroitness. It had turned out a master-stroke.
Meanwhile Gwendolen was rallying her nerves to the reading of the paper.
She must read it. Her whole being--pride, longing for rebellion, dreams of
freedom, remorseful conscience, dread of fresh visitation--all made one
need to know what the paper contained. But at first it was not easy to
take in the meaning of the words. When she had succeeded, she found that
in the case of there being no son as issue of her marriage, Grandcourt had
made the small Henleigh his heir; that was all she cared to extract from
the paper with any distinctness. The other statement as to what provision
would be made for her in the same case, she hurried over, getting only a
confused perception of thousands and Gadsmere. It was enough. She could
dismiss the man in the next room with the defiant energy which had revived
in her at the idea that this question of property and inheritance was
meant as a finish to her humiliations and her thraldom.
She thrust the paper between the leaves of her book, which she took in her
hand, and walked with her stateliest air into the next room, where Lush
immediately arose, awaiting her approach. When she was four yards from
him, it was hardly an instant that she paused to say in a high tone, while
she swept him with her eyelashes--
"Tell Mr. Grandcourt that his arrangements are just what I desired"--
passing on without haste, and leaving Lush time to mingle some admiration
of her graceful back with that half-amused sense of her spirit and
impertinence, which he expressed by raising his eyebrows and just
thrusting his tongue between his teeth. He really did not want her to be
worse punished, and he was glad to think that it was time to go and lunch
at the club, where he meant to have a lobster salad.
What did Gwendolen look forward to? When her husband returned he found her
equipped in her riding-dress, ready to ride out with him. She was not
again going to be hysterical, or take to her bed and say she was ill. That
was the implicit resolve adjusting her muscles before she could have
framed it in words, as she walked out of the room, leaving Lush behind
her. She was going to act in the spirit of her message, and not to give
herself time to reflect. She rang the bell for her maid, and went with the
usual care through her change of toilet. Doubtless her husband had meant
to produce a great effect on her: by-and-by perhaps she would let him see
an effect the very opposite of what he intended; but at present all that
she could show was a defiant satisfaction in what had been presumed to be
disagreeable. It came as an instinct rather than a thought, that to show
any sign which could be interpreted as jealousy, when she had just been
insultingly reminded that the conditions were what she had accepted with
her eyes open, would be the worst self-humiliation. She said to herself
that she had not time to-day to be clear about her future actions; all she
could be clear about was that she would match her husband in ignoring any
ground for excitement. She not only rode, but went out with him to dine,
contributing nothing to alter their mutual manner, which was never that of
rapid interchange in discourse; and curiously enough she rejected a
handkerchief on which her maid had by mistake put the wrong scent--a scent
that Grandcourt had once objected to. Gwendolen would not have liked to be
an object of disgust to this husband whom she hated: she liked all disgust
to be on her side.
But to defer thought in this way was something like trying to talk without
singing in her own ears. The thought that is bound up with our passion is
as penetrative as air--everything is porous to it; bows, smiles,
conversation, repartee, are mere honeycombs where such thoughts rushes
freely, not always with a taste of honey. And without shutting herself up
in any solitude, Gwendolen seemed at the end of nine or ten hours to have
gone through a labyrinth of reflection, in which already the same
succession of prospects had been repeated, the same fallacious outlets
rejected, the same shrinking from the necessities of every course. Already
she was undergoing some hardening effect from feeling that she was under
eyes which saw her past actions solely in the light of her lowest motives.
She lived back in the scenes of her courtship, with the new bitter
consciousness of what had been in Grandcourt's mind--certain now, with her
present experience of him, that he had a peculiar triumph in conquering
her dumb repugnance, and that ever since their marriage he had had a cold
exultation in knowing her fancied secret. Her imagination exaggerated
every tyrannical impulse he was capable of. "I will insist on being
separated from him"--was her first darting determination; then, "I will
leave him whether he consents or not. If this boy becomes his heir, I have
made an atonement." But neither in darkness nor in daylight could she
imagine the scenes which must carry out those determinations with the
courage to feel them endurable. How could she run away to her own family--
carry distress among them, and render herself an object of scandal in the
society she had left behind her? What future lay before her as Mrs.
Grandcourt gone back to her mother, who would be made destitute again by
the rupture of the marriage for which one chief excuse had been that it
had brought that mother a maintenance? She had lately been seeing her
uncle and Anna in London, and though she had been saved from any
difficulty about inviting them to stay in Grosvenor Square by their wish
to be with Rex, who would not risk a meeting with her, the transient visit
she had had from them helped now in giving stronger color to the picture
of what it would be for her to take refuge in her own family. What could
she say to justify her flight? Her uncle would tell her to go back. Her
mother would cry. Her aunt and Anna would look at her with wondering
alarm. Her husband would have power to compel her. She had absolutely
nothing that she could allege against him in judicious or judicial ears.
And to "insist on separation!" That was an easy combination of words; but
considered as an action to be executed against Grandcourt, it would be
about as practicable as to give him a pliant disposition and a dread of
other people's unwillingness. How was she to begin? What was she to say
that would not be a condemnation of herself? "If I am to have misery
anyhow," was the bitter refrain of her rebellious dreams, "I had better
have the misery that I can keep to myself." Moreover, her capability of
rectitude told her again and again that she had no right to complain of
her contract, or to withdraw from it.
And always among the images that drove her back to submission was Deronda.
The idea of herself separated from her husband, gave Deronda a changed,
perturbing, painful place in her consciousness: instinctively she felt
that the separation would be from him too, and in the prospective vision
of herself as a solitary, dubiously-regarded woman, she felt some tingling
bashfulness at the remembrance of her behavior towards him. The
association of Deronda with a dubious position for herself was
intolerable. And what would he say if he knew everything? Probably that
she ought to bear what she had brought on herself, unless she were sure
that she could make herself a better woman by taking any other course. And
what sort of woman was she to be--solitary, sickened of life, looked at
with a suspicious kind of pity?--even if she could dream of success in
getting that dreary freedom. Mrs. Grandcourt "run away" would be a more
pitiable creature than Gwendolen Harleth condemned to teach the bishop's
daughters, and to be inspected by Mrs. Mompert.
One characteristic trait in her conduct is worth mentioning. She would not
look a second time at the paper Lush had given her; and before ringing for
her maid she locked it up in a traveling-desk which was at hand, proudly
resolved against curiosity about what was allotted to herself in
connection with Gadsmere--feeling herself branded in the minds of her
husband and his confidant with the meanness that would accept marriage and
wealth on any conditions, however dishonorable and humiliating.
Day after day the same pattern of thinking was repeated. There came
nothing to change the situation--no new elements in the sketch--only a
recurrence which engraved it. The May weeks went on into June, and still
Mrs. Grandcourt was outwardly in the same place, presenting herself as she
was expected to do in the accustomed scenes, with the accustomed grace,
beauty, and costume; from church at one end of the week, through all the
scale of desirable receptions, to opera at the other. Church was not
markedly distinguished in her mind from the other forms of self-
presentation, for marriage had included no instruction that enabled her to
connect liturgy and sermon with any larger order of the world than that of
unexplained and perhaps inexplicable social fashions. While a laudable
zeal was laboring to carry the light of spiritual law up the alleys where
law is chiefly known as the policeman, the brilliant Mrs. Grandcourt,
condescending a little to a fashionable rector and conscious of a feminine
advantage over a learned dean, was, so far as pastoral care and religious
fellowship were concerned, in as complete a solitude as a man in a
Can we wonder at the practical submission which hid her constructive
rebellion? The combination is common enough, as we know from the number of
persons who make us aware of it in their own case by a clamorous unwearied
statement of the reasons against their submitting to a situation which, on
inquiry, we discover to be the least disagreeable within their reach. Poor
Gwendolen had both too much and too little mental power and dignity to
make herself exceptional. No wonder that Deronda now marked some hardening
in a look and manner which were schooled daily to the suppression of
For example. One morning, riding in Rotten Row with Grandcourt by her
side, she saw standing against the railing at the turn, just facing them,
a dark-eyed lady with a little girl and a blonde boy, whom she at once
recognized as the beings in all the world the most painful for her to
behold. She and Grandcourt had just slackened their pace to a walk; he
being on the outer side was the nearer to the unwelcome vision, and
Gwendolen had not presence of mind to do anything but glance away from the
dark eyes that met hers piercingly toward Grandcourt, who wheeled past the
group with an unmoved face, giving no sign of recognition.
Immediately she felt a rising rage against him mingling with her shame for
herself, and the words, "You might at least have raised your hat to her,"
flew impetuously to her lips--but did not pass them. If as her husband, in
her company, he chose to ignore these creatures whom she herself had
excluded from the place she was filling, how could she be the person to
reproach him? She was dumb.
It was not chance, but her own design, that had brought Mrs. Glasher there
with her boy. She had come to town under the pretext of making purchases--
really wanting educational apparatus for her children, and had had
interviews with Lush in which she had not refused to soothe her uneasy
mind by representing the probabilities as all on the side of her ultimate
triumph. Let her keep quiet, and she might live to see the marriage
dissolve itself in one way or other--Lush hinted at several ways--leaving
the succession assured to her boy. She had had an interview with
Grandcourt, too, who had as usual told her to behave like a reasonable
woman, and threatened punishment if she were troublesome; but had, also as
usual, vindicated himself from any wish to be stingy, the money he was
receiving from Sir Hugo on account of Diplow encouraging him to be lavish.
Lydia, feeding on the probabilities in her favor, devoured her helpless
wrath along with that pleasanter nourishment; but she could not let her
discretion go entirely without the reward of making a Medusa-apparition
before Gwendolen, vindictiveness and jealousy finding relief in an outlet
of venom, though it were as futile as that of a viper already flung on the
other side of the hedge. Hence, each day, after finding out from Lush the
likely time for Gwendolen to be riding, she had watched at that post,
daring Grandcourt so far. Why should she not take little Henleigh into the
The Medusa-apparition was made effective beyond Lydia's conception by the
shock it gave Gwendolen actually to see Grandcourt ignoring this woman who
had once been the nearest in the world to him, along with the children she
had borne him. And all the while the dark shadow thus cast on the lot of a
woman destitute of acknowledged social dignity, spread itself over her
visions of a future that might be her own, and made part of her dread on
her own behalf. She shrank all the more from any lonely action. What
possible release could there be for her from this hated vantage ground,
which yet she dared not quit, any more than if fire had been raining
outside it? What release, but death? Not her own death. Gwendolen was not
a woman who could easily think of her own death as a near reality, or
front for herself the dark entrance on the untried and invisible. It
seemed more possible that Grandcourt should die:--and yet not likely. The
power of tyranny in him seemed a power of living in the presence of any
wish that he should die. The thought that his death was the only possible
deliverance for her was one with the thought that deliverance would never
come--the double deliverance from the injury with which other beings might
reproach her and from the yoke she had brought on her own neck. No! she
foresaw him always living, and her own life dominated by him; the "always"
of her young experience not stretching beyond the few immediate years that
seemed immeasurably long with her passionate weariness. The thought of his
dying would not subsist: it turned as with a dream-change into the terror
that she should die with his throttling fingers on her neck avenging that
thought. Fantasies moved within her like ghosts, making no break in her
more acknowledged consciousness and finding no obstruction in it: dark
rays doing their work invisibly in the broad light.
Only an evening or two after that encounter in the Park, there was a grand
concert at Klesmer's, who was living rather magnificently now in one of
the large houses in Grosvenor Place, a patron and prince among musical
professors. Gwendolen had looked forward to this occasion as one on which
she was sure to meet Deronda, and she had been meditating how to put a
question to him which, without containing a word that she would feel a
dislike to utter, would yet be explicit enough for him to understand it.
The struggle of opposite feelings would not let her abide by her instinct
that the very idea of Deronda's relation to her was a discouragement to
any desperate step towards freedom. The next wave of emotion was a longing
for some word of his to enforce a resolve. The fact that her opportunities
of conversation with him had always to be snatched in the doubtful privacy
of large parties, caused her to live through them many times beforehand,
imagining how they would take place and what she would say. The irritation
was proportionate when no opportunity came; and this evening at Klesmer's
she included Deronda in her anger, because he looked as calm as possible
at a distance from her, while she was in danger of betraying her
impatience to every one who spoke to her. She found her only safety in a
chill haughtiness which made Mr. Vandernoodt remark that Mrs. Grandcourt
was becoming a perfect match for her husband. When at last the chances of
the evening brought Deronda near her, Sir Hugo and Mrs. Raymond were close
by and could hear every word she said. No matter: her husband was not
near, and her irritation passed without check into a fit of daring which
restored the security of her self-possession. Deronda was there at last,
and she would compel him to do what she pleased. Already and without
effort rather queenly in her air as she stood in her white lace and green
leaves she threw a royal permissiveness into her way of saying, "I wish
you would come and see me to-morrow between five and six, Mr. Deronda."
There could be but one answer at that moment: "Certainly," with a tone of
Afterward it occurred to Deronda that he would write a note to excuse
himself. He had always avoided making a call at Grandcourt's. He could not
persuade himself to any step that might hurt her, and whether his excuse
were taken for indifference or for the affectation of indifference it
would be equally wounding. He kept his promise. Gwendolen had declined to
ride out on the plea of not feeling well enough having left her refusal to
the last moment when the horses were soon to be at the door--not without
alarm lest her husband should say that he too would stay at home. Become
almost superstitious about his power of suspicious divination, she had a
glancing forethought of what she would do in that case--namely, have
herself denied as not well. But Grandcourt accepted her excuse without
remark, and rode off.
Nevertheless when Gwendolen found herself alone, and had sent down the
order that only Mr. Deronda was to be admitted, she began to be alarmed at
what she had done, and to feel a growing agitation in the thought that he
would soon appear, and she should soon be obliged to speak: not of
trivialities, as if she had no serious motive in asking him to come: and
yet what she had been for hours determining to say began to seem
impossible. For the first time the impulse of appeal to him was being
checked by timidity, and now that it was too late she was shaken by the
possibility that he might think her invitation unbecoming. If so, she
would have sunk in his esteem. But immediately she resist ed this
intolerable fear as an infection from her husband's way of thinking. That
_he_ would say she was making a fool of herself was rather a reason why
such a judgment would be remote from Deronda's mind. But that she could
not rid herself from this sudden invasion of womanly reticence was
manifest in a kind of action which had never occurred to her before. In
her struggle between agitation and the effort to suppress it, she was
walking up and down the length of the two drawing-rooms, where at one end
a long mirror reflected her in her black dress, chosen in the early
morning with a half-admitted reference to this hour. But above this black
dress her head on its white pillar of a neck showed to advantage. Some
consciousness of this made her turn hastily and hurry to the boudoir,
where again there was a glass, but also, tossed over a chair, a large
piece of black lace which she snatched and tied over her crown of hair so
as completely to conceal her neck, and leave only her face looking out
from the black frame. In this manifest contempt of appearance, she thought
it possible to be freer from nervousness, but the black lace did not take
away the uneasiness from her eyes and lips.
She was standing in the middle of the room when Deronda was announced, and
as he approached her she perceived that he too for some reason was not his
usual self. She could not have defined the change except by saying that he
looked less happy than usual, and appeared to be under some effort in
speaking to her. And yet the speaking was the slightest possible. They
both said, "How do you do?" quite curtly; and Gwendolen, instead of
sitting down, moved to a little distance, resting her arms slightly on the
tall back of a chair, while Deronda stood where he was,--both feeling it
difficult to say any more, though the preoccupation in his mind could
hardly have been more remote than it was from Gwendolen's conception. She
naturally saw in his embarrassment some reflection of her own. Forced to
speak, she found all her training in concealment and self-command of no
use to her and began with timid awkwardness--
"You will wonder why. I begged you to come. I wanted to ask you something.
You said I was ignorant. That is true. And what can I do but ask you?"
And at this moment she was feeling it utterly impossible to put the
questions she had intended. Something hew in her nervous manner roused
Deronda's anxiety lest there might be a new crisis. He said with the
sadness of affection in his voice--
"My only regret is, that I can be of so little use to you." The words and
the tone touched a new spring in her, and she went on with more sense of
freedom, yet still not saying anything she had designed to say, and
beginning to hurry, that she might somehow arrive at the right words.
"I wanted to tell you that I have always been thinking of your advice, but
is it any use?--I can't make myself different, because things about me
raise bad feelings--and I must go on--I can alter nothing--it is no use."
She paused an instant, with the consciousness that she was not finding the
right words, but began again hurriedly, "But if I go on I shall get worse.
I want not to get worse. I should like to be what you wish. There are
people who are good and enjoy great things--I know there are. I am a
contemptible creature. I feel as if I should get wicked with hating
people. I have tried to think that I would go away from everybody. But I
can't. There are so many things to hinder me. You think, perhaps, that I
don't mind. But I do mind. I am afraid of everything. I am afraid of
getting wicked. Tell me what I can do."
She had forgotten everything but that image of her helpless misery which
she was trying to make present to Deronda in broken allusive speech--
wishing to convey but not express all her need. Her eyes were tearless,
and had a look of smarting in their dilated brilliancy; there was a
subdued sob in her voice which was more and more veiled, till it was
hardly above a whisper. She was hurting herself with the jewels that
glittered on her tightly-clasped fingers pressed against her heart.
The feeling Deronda endured in these moments he afterward called horrible.
Words seemed to have no more rescue in them than if he had been beholding
a vessel in peril of wreck--the poor ship with its many-lived anguish
beaten by the inescapable storm. How could he grasp the long-growing
process of this young creature's wretchedness?--how arrest and change it
with a sentence? He was afraid of his own voice. The words that rushed
into his mind seemed in their feebleness nothing better than despair made
audible, or than that insensibility to another's hardship which applies
precept to soothe pain. He felt himself holding a crowd of words
imprisoned within his lips, as if the letting them escape would be a
violation of awe before the mysteries of our human lot. The thought that
urged itself foremost was--"Confess everything to your husband; have
nothing concealed:"--the words carried in his mind a vision of reasons
which would have needed much fuller expressions for Gwendolen to apprehend
them, but before he had begun those brief sentences, the door opened and
the husband entered.
Grandcourt had deliberately gone out and turned back to satisfy a
suspicion. What he saw was Gwendolen's face of anguish framed black like a
nun's, and Deronda standing three yards from her with a look of sorrow
such as he might have bent on the last struggle of life in a beloved
object. Without any show of surprise Grandcourt nodded to Deronda, gave a
second look at Gwendolen, passed on, and seated himself easily at a little
distance crossing his legs, taking out his handkerchief and trifling with
Gwendolen had shrunk and changed her attitude on seeing him, but she did
not turn or move from her place. It was not a moment in which she could
feign anything, or manifest any strong revulsion of feeling: the
passionate movement of her last speech was still too strong within her.
What she felt beside was a dull despairing sense that her interview with
Deronda was at an end: a curtain had fallen. But he, naturally, was urged
into self-possession and effort by susceptibility to what might follow for
her from being seen by her husband in this betrayal of agitation; and
feeling that any pretence of ease in prolonging his visit would only
exaggerate Grandcourt's possible conjectures of duplicity, he merely
"I will not stay longer now. Good bye."
He put out his hand, and she let him press her poor little chill fingers;
but she said no good-bye.
When he had left the room, Gwendolen threw herself into a seat, with an
expectation as dull as her despair--the expectation that she was going to
be punished. But Grandcourt took no notice: he was satisfied to have let
her know that she had not deceived him, and to keep a silence which was
formidable with omniscience. He went out that evening, and her plea of
feeling ill was accepted without even a sneer.
The next morning at breakfast he said, "I am going yachting to the
"When?" said Gwendolen, with a leap of heart which had hope in it.
"The day after to-morrow. The yacht is at Marseilles. Lush is gone to get
"Shall I have mamma to stay with me, then?" said Gwendolen, the new sudden
possibility of peace and affection filling her mind like a burst of
"No; you will go with me."
Ever in his soul
That larger justice which makes gratitude
Triumphed above resentment. 'Tis the mark
Of regal natures, with the wider life.
And fuller capability of joy:--
Not wits exultant in the strongest lens
To show you goodness vanished into pulp
Never worth "thank you"--they're the devil's friars,
Vowed to be poor as he in love and trust,
Yet must go begging of a world that keeps
Some human property.
Deronda, in parting from Gwendolen, had abstained from saying, "I shall
not see you again for a long while: I am going away," lest Grandcourt
should understand him to imply that the fact was of importance to her.
He was actually going away under circumstances so momentous to himself
that when he set out to fulfill his promise of calling on her, he was
already under the shadow of a solemn emotion which revived the deepest
experience of his life.
Sir Hugo had sent for him to his chambers with the note--"Come
immediately. Something has happened:" a preparation that caused him some
relief when, on entering the baronet's study, he was received with grave
affection instead of the distress which he had apprehended.
"It is nothing to grieve you, sir?" said Deronda, in a tone rather of
restored confidence than question, as he took the hand held out to him.
There was an unusual meaning in Sir Hugo's look, and a subdued emotion in
his voice, as he said--
"No, Dan, no. Sit down. I have something to say."
Deronda obeyed, not without presentiment. It was extremely rare for Sir
Hugo to show so much serious feeling.
"Not to grieve me, my boy, no. At least, if there is nothing in it that
will grieve you too much. But I hardly expected that this--just this--
would ever happen. There have been reasons why I have never prepared you
for it. There have been reasons why I have never told you anything about
your parentage. But I have striven in every way not to make that an injury
Sir Hugo paused, but Deronda could not speak. He could not say, "I have
never felt it an injury." Even if that had been true, he could not have
trusted his voice to say anything. Far more than any one but himself could
know of was hanging on this moment when the secrecy was to be broken. Sir
Hugo had never seen the grand face he delighted in so pale--the lips
pressed together with such a look of pain. He went on with a more anxious
tenderness, as if he had a new fear of wounding.
"I have acted in obedience to your mother's wishes. The secrecy was her
wish. But now she desires to remove it. She desires to see you. I will put
this letter into your hands, which you can look at by-and-by. It will
merely tell you what she wishes you to do, and where you will find her."
Sir Hugo held out a letter written on foreign paper, which Deronda thrust
into his breast-pocket, with a sense of relief that he was not called on
to read anything immediately. The emotion on Daniel's face had gained on
the baronet, and was visibly shaking his composure. Sir Hugo found it
difficult to say more. And Deronda's whole soul was possessed by a
question which was the hardest in the world to utter. Yet he could not
bear to delay it. This was a sacramental moment. If he let it pass, he
could not recover the influences under which it was possible to utter the
words and meet the answer. For some moments his eyes were cast down, and
it seemed to both as if thoughts were in the air between them. But at last
Deronda looked at Sir Hugo, and said, with a tremulous reverence in his
voice--dreading to convey indirectly the reproach that affection had for
years been stifling--
"Is my father also living?"
The answer came immediately in a low emphatic tone--"No."
In the mingled emotions which followed that answer it was impossible to
distinguish joy from pain.
Some new light had fallen on the past for Sir Hugo too in this interview.
After a silence in which Deronda felt like one whose creed is gone before
he has religiously embraced another, the baronet said, in a tone of
"Perhaps I was wrong, Dan, to undertake what I did. And perhaps I liked it
a little too well--having you all to myself. But if you have had any pain
which I might have helped, I ask you to forgive me."
"The forgiveness has long been there," said Deronda "The chief pain has
always been on account of some one else--whom I never knew--whom I am now
to know. It has not hindered me from feeling an affection for you which
has made a large part of all the life I remember."
It seemed one impulse that made the two men clasp each other's hand for a
BOOK VII.--THE MOTHER AND THE SON
"If some mortal, born too soon,
Were laid away in some great trance--the ages
Coming and going all the while--till dawned
His true time's advent; and could then record
The words they spoke who kept watch by his bed,
Then I might tell more of the breath so light
Upon my eyelids, and the fingers warm
Among my hair. Youth is confused; yet never
So dull was I but, when that spirit passed,
I turned to him, scarce consciously, as turns
A water-snake when fairies cross his sleep."
This was the letter which Sir Hugo put into Deronda's hands:--
TO MY SON, DANIEL DERONDA.
My good friend and yours, Sir Hugo Mallinger, will have told you that
I wish to see you. My health is shaken, and I desire there should be
no time lost before I deliver to you what I have long withheld. Let
nothing hinder you from being at the _Albergo dell' Italia_ in
Genoa by the fourteenth of this month. Wait for me there. I am
uncertain when I shall be able to make the journey from Spezia, where
I shall be staying. That will depend on several things. Wait for me--
the Princess Halm-Eberstein. Bring with you the diamond ring that Sir
Hugo gave you. I shall like to see it again.--Your unknown mother,
This letter with its colorless wording gave Deronda no clue to what was in
reserve for him; but he could not do otherwise than accept Sir Hugo's
reticence, which seeded to imply some pledge not to anticipate the
mother's disclosures; and the discovery that his life-long conjectures had
been mistaken checked further surmise. Deronda could not hinder his
imagination from taking a quick flight over what seemed possibilities, but
he refused to contemplate any of them as more likely than another, lest he
should be nursing it into a dominant desire or repugnance, instead of
simply preparing himself with resolve to meet the fact bravely, whatever
it might turn out to be.
In this state of mind he could not have communicated to any one the reason
for the absence which in some quarters he was obliged to mention
beforehand, least of all to Mordecai, whom it would affect as powerfully
as it did himself, only in rather a different way. If he were to say, "I
am going to learn the truth about my birth," Mordecai's hope would gather
what might prove a painful, dangerous excitement. To exclude suppositions,
he spoke of his journey as being undertaken by Sir Hugo's wish, and threw
as much indifference as he could into his manner of announcing it, saying
he was uncertain of its duration, but it would perhaps be very short.
"I will ask to have the child Jacob to stay with me," said Mordecai,
comforting himself in this way, after the first mournful glances.
"I will drive round and ask Mrs. Cohen to let him come," said Mirah.
"The grandmother will deny you nothing," said Deronda. "I'm glad you were
a little wrong as well as I," he added, smiling at Mordecai. "You thought
that old Mrs. Cohen would not bear to see Mirah."
"I undervalued her heart," said Mordecai. "She is capable of rejoicing
that another's plant blooms though her own be withered."
"Oh, they are dear good people; I feel as if we all belonged to each
other," said Mirah, with a tinge of merriment in her smile.
"What should you have felt if that Ezra had been your brother?" said
Deronda, mischievously--a little provoked that she had taken kindly at
once to people who had caused him so much prospective annoyance on her
Mirah looked at him with a slight surprise for a moment, and then said,
"He is not a bad man--I think he would never forsake any one." But when
she uttered the words she blushed deeply, and glancing timidly at
Mordecai, turned away to some occupation. Her father was in her mind,
and this was a subject on which she and her brother had a painful mutual
consciousness. "If he should come and find us!" was a thought which to
Mirah sometimes made the street daylight as shadowy as a haunted forest
where each turn screened for her an imaginary apparition.
Deronda felt what was her involuntary allusion, and understood the blush.
How could he be slow to understand feelings which now seemed nearer than
ever to his own? for the words of his mother's letter implied that his
filial relation was not to be freed from painful conditions; indeed,
singularly enough that letter which had brought his mother nearer as a
living reality had thrown her into more remoteness for his affections. The
tender yearning after a being whose life might have been the worse for not
having his care and love, the image of a mother who had not had all her
dues, whether of reverence or compassion, had long been secretly present
with him in his observation of all the women he had come near. But it
seemed now that this picturing of his mother might fit the facts no better
than his former conceptions about Sir Hugo. He wondered to find that when
this mother's very hand-writing had come to him with words holding her
actual feeling, his affections had suddenly shrunk into a state of
comparative neutrality toward her. A veiled figure with enigmatic speech
had thrust away that image which, in spite of uncertainty, his clinging
thought had gradually modeled and made the possessor of his tenderness and
duteous longing. When he set off to Genoa, the interest really uppermost
in his mind had hardly so much relation to his mother as to Mordecai and
"God bless you, Dan!" Sir Hugo had said, when they shook hands. "Whatever
else changes for you, it can't change my being the oldest friend you have
known, and the one who has all along felt the most for you. I couldn't
have loved you better if you'd been my own-only I should have been better
pleased with thinking of you always as the future master of the Abbey
instead of my fine nephew; and then you would have seen it necessary for
you to take a political line. However--things must be as they may." It was
a defensive movement of the baronet's to mingle purposeless remarks with
the expression of serious feeling.
When Deronda arrived at the _Italia_ in Genoa, no Princess Halm-Eberstein
was there; but on the second day there was a letter for him, saying that
her arrival might happen within a week, or might be deferred a fortnight
and more; she was under circumstances which made it impossible for her to
fix her journey more precisely, and she entreated him to wait as patiently
as he could.
With this indefinite prospect of suspense on matters of supreme moment to
him, Deronda set about the difficult task of seeking amusement on
philosophic grounds, as a means of quieting excited feeling and giving
patience a lift over a weary road. His former visit to the superb city had
been only cursory, and left him much to learn beyond the prescribed round
of sight-seeing, by spending the cooler hours in observant wandering about
the streets, the quay, and the environs; and he often took a boat that he
might enjoy the magnificent view of the city and harbor from the sea. All
sights, all subjects, even the expected meeting with his mother, found a
central union in Mordecai and Mirah, and the ideas immediately associated
with them; and among the thoughts that most filled his mind while his boat
was pushing about within view of the grand harbor was that of the
multitudinous Spanish Jews centuries ago driven destitute from their
Spanish homes, suffered to land from the crowded ships only for a brief
rest on this grand quay of Genoa, overspreading it with a pall of famine
and plague--dying mothers and dying children at their breasts--fathers and
sons a-gaze at each other's haggardness, like groups from a hundred
Hunger-towers turned out beneath the midday sun. Inevitably dreamy
constructions of a possible ancestry for himself would weave themselves
with historic memories which had begun to have a new interest for him on
his discovery of Mirah, and now, under the influence of Mordecai, had
become irresistibly dominant. He would have sealed his mind against such
constructions if it had been possible, and he had never yet fully admitted
to himself that he wished the facts to verify Mordecai's conviction: he
inwardly repeated that he had no choice in the matter, and that wishing
was folly--nay, on the question of parentage, wishing seemed part of that
meanness which disowns kinship: it was a disowning by anticipation. What
he had to do was simply to accept the fact; and he had really no strong
presumption to go upon, now that he was assured of his mistake about Sir
Hugo. There had been a resolved concealment which made all inference
untrustworthy, and the very name he bore might be a false one. If Mordecai
was wrong--if he, the so-called Daniel Deronda, were held by ties entirely
aloof from any such course as his friend's pathetic hope had marked out?--
he would not say "I wish"; but he could not help feeling on which side the
Across these two importunate thoughts, which he resisted as much as one
can resist anything in that unstrung condition which belongs to suspense,
there came continually an anxiety which he made no effort to banish--
dwelling on it rather with a mournfulness, which often seems to us the
best atonement we can make to one whose need we have been unable to meet.
The anxiety was for Gwendolen. In the wonderful mixtures of our nature
there is a feeling distinct from that exclusive passionate love of which
some men and women (by no means all) are capable, which yet is not the
same with friendship, nor with a merely benevolent regard, whether
admiring or compassionate: a man, say--for it is a man who is here
concerned--hardly represents to himself this shade of feeling toward a
woman more nearly than in words, "I should have loved her, if----": the
"if" covering some prior growth in the inclinations, or else some
circumstances which have made an inward prohibitory law as a stay against
the emotions ready to quiver out of balance. The "if" in Deronda's case
carried reasons of both kinds; yet he had never throughout his relations
with Gwendolen been free from the nervous consciousness that there was
something to guard against not only on her account but on his own--some
precipitancy in the manifestations of impulsive feeling--some ruinous
inroad of what is but momentary on the permanent chosen treasure of the
heart--some spoiling of her trust, which wrought upon him now as if it had
been the retreating cry of a creature snatched and carried out of his
reach by swift horsemen or swifter waves, while his own strength was only
a stronger sense of weakness. How could his feelings for Gwendolen ever be
exactly like his feelings for other women, even when there was one by
whose side he desired to stand apart from them? Strangely the figure
entered into the pictures of his present and future; strangely (and now it
seemed sadly) their two lots had come in contact, hers narrowly personal,
his charged with far-reaching sensibilities, perhaps with durable
purposes, which were hardly more present to her than the reasons why men
migrate are present to the birds that come as usual for the crumbs and
find them no more. Not that Deronda was too ready to imagine himself of
supreme importance to a woman; but her words of insistance that he must
"remain near her--must not forsake her"--continually recurred to him with
the clearness and importunity of imagined sounds, such as Dante has said
pierce us like arrows whose points carry the sharpness of
"Lamenti saettaron me diversi
Ca che di piefermti avean gli strali?"
Day after day passed, and the very air of Italy seemed to carry the
consciousness that war had been declared against Austria, and every day
was a hurrying march of crowded Time toward the world-changing battle of
Sadowa. Meanwhile, in Genoa, the noons were getting hotter, the converging
outer roads getting deeper with white dust, the oleanders in the tubs
along the wayside gardens looking more and more like fatigued holiday-
makers, and the sweet evening ehanging her office-scattering abroad those
whom the midday had sent under shelter, and sowing all paths with happy
social sounds, little tinklings of mule-bells and whirrings of thrumbed
strings, light footsteps and voices, if not leisurely, then with the hurry
of pleasure in them; while the encircling heights, crowned with forts,
skirted with fine dwellings and gardens, seemed also to come forth and
gaze in fullness of beauty after their long siesta, till all strong color
melted in the stream of moonlight which made the Streets a new spectacle
with shadows, both still and moving, on cathedral steps and against the
facades of massive palaces; and then slowly with the descending moon all
sank in deep night and silence, and nothing shone but the port lights of
the great Lanterna in the blackness below, and the glimmering stars in the
blackness above. Deronda, in his suspense, watched this revolving of the
days as he might have watched a wonderful clock where the striking of the
hours was made solemn with antique figures advancing and retreating in
monitory procession, while he still kept his ear open for another kind of
signal which would have its solemnity too: He was beginning to sicken of
occupation, and found himself contemplating all activity with the
aloofness of a prisoner awaiting ransom. In his letters to Mordecai and
Hans, he had avoided writing about himself, but he was really getting into
that state of mind to which all subjects become personal; and the few
books he had brought to make him a refuge in study were becoming
unreadable, because the point of view that life would make for him was in
that agitating moment of uncertainty which is close upon decision.
Many nights were watched through by him in gazing from the open window of
his room on the double, faintly pierced darkness of the sea and the
heavens; often in Struggling under the oppressive skepticism which
represented his particular lot, with all the importance he was allowing
Mordecai to give it, as of no more lasting effect than a dream--a set of
changes which made passion to him, but beyond his consciousness were no
more than an imperceptible difference of mass and shadow; sometimes with a
reaction of emotive force which gave even to sustained disappointment,
even to the fulfilled demand of sacrifice, the nature of a satisfied
energy, and spread over his young future, whatever it might be, the
attraction of devoted service; sometimes with a sweet irresistible
hopefulness that the very best of human possibilities might befall him--
the blending of a complete personal love in one current with a larger
duty; and sometimes again in a mood of rebellion (what human creature
escapes it?) against things in general because they are thus and not
otherwise, a mood in which Gwendolen and her equivocal fate moved as busy
images of what was amiss in the world along with the concealments which he
had felt as a hardship in his own life, and which were acting in him now
under the form of an afflicting doubtfulness about the mother who had
announced herself coldly and still kept away.
But at last she was come. One morning in his third week of waiting there
was a new kind of knock at the door. A, servant in Chasseurs livery
entered and delivered in French the verbal message that, the Princess
Halm-Eberstein had arrived, that she was going to rest during the day, but
would be obliged if Monsieur would dine early, so as to be at liberty at
seven, when she would be able to receive him.
She held the spindle as she sat,
Errina with the thick-coiled mat
Of raven hair and deepest agate eyes,
Gazing with a sad surprise
At surging visions of her destiny--
To spin the byssus drearily
In insect-labor, while the throng
Of gods and men wrought deeds that poets wrought in song.
When Deronda presented himself at the door of his mother's apartment in
the _Italia_ he felt some revival of his boyhood with its premature
agitations. The two servants in the antechamber looked at him markedly, a
little surprised that the doctor their lady had come to consult was this
striking young gentleman whose appearance gave even the severe lines of an
evening dress the credit of adornment. But Deronda could notice nothing
until, the second door being opened, he found himself in the presence of a
figure which at the other end of the large room stood awaiting his
She was covered, except as to her face and part of her arms, with black
lace hanging loosely from the summit of her whitening hair to the long
train stretching from her tall figure. Her arms, naked to the elbow,
except for some rich bracelets, were folded before her, and the fine poise
of her head made it look handsomer than it really was. But Deronda felt no
interval of observation before he was close in front of her, holding the
hand she had put out and then raising it to his lips. She still kept her
hand in his and looked at him examiningly; while his chief consciousness
was that her eyes were piercing and her face so mobile that the next
moment she might look like a different person. For even while she was
examining him there was a play of the brow and nostril which made a tacit
language. Deronda dared no movement, not able to conceive what sort of
manifestation her feeling demanded; but he felt himself changing color
like a girl, and yet wondering at his own lack of emotion; he had lived
through so many ideal meetings with his mother, and they had seemed more
real than this! He could not even conjecture in what language she would
Speak to him. He imagined it would not be English. Suddenly, she let fall
his hand, and placed both hers on his shoulders, while her face gave out a
flash of admiration in which every worn line disappeared and seemed to
leave a restored youth.
"You are a beautiful creature!" she said, in a low melodious voice, with
syllables which had what might be called a foreign but agreeable outline.
"I knew you would be." Then she kissed him on each cheek, and he returned
the kisses. But it was something like a greeting between royalties.
She paused a moment while the lines were coming back into her face, and
then said in a colder tone, "I am your mother. But you can have no love
"I have thought of you more than of any other being in the world," said
Deronda, his voice trembling nervously.
"I am not like what you thought I was," said the mother decisively,
withdrawing her hands from his shoulders, and folding her arms as before,
looking at him as if she invited him to observe her. He had often pictured
her face in his imagination as one which had a likeness to his own: he saw
some of the likeness now, but amidst more striking differences. She was a
remarkable looking being. What was it that gave her son a painful sense of
aloofness?--Her worn beauty had a strangeness in it as if she were not
quite a human mother, but a Melusina, who had ties with some world which
is independent of ours.
"I used to think that you might be suffering," said Deronda, anxious above
all not to wound her. "I used to wish that I could be a comfort to you."
"I _am_ suffering. But with a suffering that you can't comfort," said the
Princess, in a harder voice than before, moving to a sofa where cushions
had been carefully arranged for her. "Sit down." She pointed to a seat
near her; and then discerning some distress in Deronda's face, she added,
more gently, "I am not suffering at this moment. I am at ease now. I am
able to talk."
Deronda seated himself and waited for her to speak again. It seemed as if
he were in the presence of a mysterious Fate rather than of the longed-for
mother. He was beginning to watch her with wonder, from the spiritual
distance to which she had thrown him.
"No," she began: "I did not send for you to comfort me. I could not know
beforehand--I don't know now--what you will feel toward me. I have not the
foolish notion that you can love me merely because I am your mother, when
you have never seen or heard of me in all your life. But I thought I chose
something better for you than being with me. I did not think I deprived
you of anything worth having."
"You cannot wish me to believe that your affection would not have been
worth having," said Deronda, finding that she paused as if she expected
him to make some answer.
"I don't mean to speak ill of myself," said the princess, with proud
impetuosity, "But I had not much affection to give you. I did not want
affection. I had been stifled with it. I wanted to live out the life that
was in me, and not to be hampered with other lives. You wonder what I was.
I was no princess then." She rose with a sudden movement, and stood as she
had done before. Deronda immediately rose too; he felt breathless.
"No princess in this tame life that I live in now. I was a great singer,
and I acted as well as I sang. All the rest were poor beside me. Men
followed me from one country to another. I was lining a myriad lives in
one. I did not want a child."
There was a passionate self-defence in her tone. She had cast all
precedent out of her mind. Precedent had no excuse for, her and she could
only seek a justification in the intensest words she could find for her
experience. She seemed to fling out the last words against some possible
reproach in the mind of her son, who had to stand and hear them--clutching
his coat-collar as if he were keeping himself above water by it, and
feeling his blood in the sort of commotion that might have been excited if
he had seen her going through some strange rite of a religion which gave a
sacredness to crime. What else had she to tell him? She went on with the
same intensity and a sort of pale illumination in her face.
"I did not want to marry. I was forced into marrying your father--forced,
I mean, by my father's wishes and commands; and besides, it was my best
way of getting some freedom. I could rule my husband, but not my father. I
had a right to be free. I had a right to seek my freedom from a bondage
that I hated."
She seated herself again, while there was that subtle movement in her eyes
and closed lips which is like the suppressed continuation of speech.
Deronda continued standing, and after a moment or two she looked up at him
with a less defiant pleading as she said--
"And the bondage I hated for myself I wanted to keep you from. What better
could the most loving mother have done? I relieved you from the bondage of
having been born a Jew."
"Then I _am_ a Jew?" Deronda burst out with a deep-voiced energy that made
his mother shrink a little backward against her cushions. "My father was a
Jew, and you are a Jewess?"
"Yes, your father was my cousin," said the mother, watching him with a
change in her look, as if she saw something that she might have to be
"I am glad of it," said Deronda, impetuously, in the veiled voice of
passion. He could not have imagined beforehand how he would have come to
say that which he had never hitherto admitted. He could not have dreamed
that it would be in impulsive opposition to his mother. He was shaken by a
mixed anger which no reflection could come soon enough to check, against
this mother who it seemed had borne him unwillingly, had willingly made
herself a stranger to him, and--perhaps--was now making herself known
unwillingly. This last suspicion seemed to flash some explanation over her
But the mother was equally shaken by an anger differently mixed, and her
frame was less equal to any repression. The shaking with her was visibly
physical, and her eyes looked the larger for her pallid excitement as she
"Why do you say you are glad? You are an English gentleman. I secured you
"You did not know what you secured me. How could you choose my birthright
for me?" said Deronda, throwing himself sideways into his chair again,
almost unconsciously, and leaning his arm over the back, while he looked
away from his mother.
He was fired with an intolerance that seemed foreign to him. But he was
now trying hard to master himself and keep silence. A horror had swept in
upon his anger lest he should say something too hard in this moment which
made an epoch never to be recalled. There was a pause before his mother
spoke again, and when she spoke her voice had become more firmly resistant
in its finely varied tones:
"I chose for you what I would have chosen for myself. How could I know
that you would have the spirit of my father in you? How could I know that
you would love what I hated?--if you really love to be a Jew." The last
words had such bitterness in them that any one overhearing might have
supposed some hatred had arisen between the mother and son.
But Deronda had recovered his fuller self. He was recalling his
sensibilities to what life had been and actually was for her whose best
years were gone, and who with the signs of suffering in her frame was now
exerting herself to tell him of a past which was not his alone but also
hers. His habitual shame at the acceptance of events as if they were his
only, helped him even here. As he looked at his mother silently after her
last words, his face regained some of its penetrative calm; yet it seemed
to have a strangely agitating influence over her: her eyes were fixed on
him with a sort of fascination, but not with any repose of maternal
"Forgive me, if I speak hastily," he said, with diffident gravity. "Why
have you resolved now on disclosing to me what you took care to have me
brought up in ignorance of? Why--since you seem angry that I should be
"Oh--the reasons of our actions!" said the Princess, with a ring of
something like sarcastic scorn. "When you are as old as I am, it will not
seem so simple a question--'Why did you do this?' People talk of their
motives in a cut and dried way. Every woman is supposed to have the same
set of motives, or else to be a monster. I am not a monster, but I have
not felt exactly what other women feel--or say they feel, for fear of
being thought unlike others. When you reproach me in your heart for
sending you away from me, you mean that I ought to say I felt about you as
other women say they feel about their children. I did _not_ feel that. I
was glad to be freed from you. But I did well for you, and I gave you your
father's fortune. Do I seem now to be revoking everything?--Well, there
are reasons. I feel many things that I cannot understand. A fatal illness
has been growing in me for a year. I shall very likely not live another
year. I will not deny anything I have done. I will not pretend to love
where I have no love. But shadows are rising round me. Sickness makes
them. If I have wronged the dead--I have but little time to do what I left
The varied transitions of tone with which this speech was delivered were
as perfect as the most accomplished actress could have made them. The
speech was in fact a piece of what may be called sincere acting; this
woman's nature was one in which all feeling--and all the more when it was
tragic as well as real--immediately became matter of conscious
representation: experience immediately passed into drama, and she acted
her own emotions. In a minor degree this is nothing uncommon, but in the
Princess the acting had a rare perfection of physiognomy, voice, and
gesture. It would not be true to say that she felt less because of this
double consciousness: she felt--that is, her mind went through--all the
more, but with a difference; each nucleus of pain or pleasure had a deep
atmosphere of the excitement or spiritual intoxication which at once
exalts and deadens. But Deronda made no reflection of this kind. All his
thoughts hung on the purport of what his mother was saying; her tones and
her wonderful face entered into his agitation without being noted. What he
longed for with an awed desire was to know as much as she would tell him
of the strange mental conflict under which it seemed he had been brought
into the world; what his compassionate nature made the controlling idea
within him were the suffering and the confession that breathed through her
later words, and these forbade any further question, when she paused and
remained silent, with her brow knit, her head turned a little away from
him, and her large eyes fixed as if on something incorporeal. He must wait
for her to speak again. She did so with strange abruptness, turning her
eyes upon him suddenly, and saying more quickly--
"Sir Hugo has written much about you. He tells me you have a wonderful
mind--you comprehend everything--you are wiser than he is with all his
sixty years. You say you are glad to know that you were born a Jew. I am
not going to tell you that I have changed my mind about that. Your
feelings are against mine. You don't thank me for what I did. Shall you
comprehend your mother, or only blame her?"
"There is not a fibre within me but makes me wish to comprehend her," said
Deronda, meeting her sharp gaze solemnly. "It is a bitter reversal of my
longing to think of blaming her. What I have been most trying to do for
fifteen years is to have some understanding of those who differ from
"Then you have become unlike your grandfather in that." said the mother,
"though you are a young copy of him in your face. He never comprehended
me, or if he did, he only thought of fettering me into obedience. I was to
be what he called 'the Jewish woman' under pain of his curse. I was to
feel everything I did not feel, and believe everything I did not believe.
I was to feel awe for the bit of parchment in the _mezuza_ over the door;
to dread lest a bit of butter should touch a bit of meat; to think it
beautiful that men should bind the _tephillin_ on them, and women not,--to
adore the wisdom of such laws, however silly they might seem to me. I was
to love the long prayers in the ugly synagogue, and the howling, and the
gabbling, and the dreadful fasts, and the tiresome feasts, and my father's
endless discoursing about our people, which was a thunder without meaning