Part 13 out of 16
in my ears. I was to care forever about what Israel had been; and I did
not care at all. I cared for the wide world, and all that I could
represent in it. I hated living under the shadow of my father's
strictness. Teaching, teaching for everlasting--'this you must be,' 'that
you must not be'--pressed on me like a frame that got tighter and tighter
as I grew. I wanted to live a large life, with freedom to do what every
one else did, and be carried along in a great current, not obliged to
care. Ah!"--here her tone changed to one of a more bitter incisiveness--"
you are glad to have been born a Jew. You say so. That is because you have
not been brought up as a Jew. That separateness seems sweet to you because
I saved you from it."
"When you resolved on that, you meant that I should never know my origin?"
said Deronda, impulsively. "You have at least changed in your feeling on
"Yes, that was what I meant. That is what I persevered in. And it is not
true to say that I have changed. Things have changed in spite of me. I am
still the same Leonora"--she pointed with her forefinger to her breast--
"here within me is the same desire, the same will, the same choice,
_but_"--she spread out her hands, palm upward, on each side of her, as she
paused with a bitter compression of her lip, then let her voice fall into
muffled, rapid utterance--"events come upon us like evil enchantments: and
thoughts, feelings, apparitions in the darkness are events--are they not?
I don't consent. We only consent to what we love. I obey something
tyrannic"--she spread out her hands again--"I am forced to be withered, to
feel pain, to be dying slowly. Do I love that? Well, I have been forced to
obey my dead father. I have been forced to tell you that you are a Jew,
and deliver to you what he commanded me to deliver."
"I beseech you to tell me what moved you--when you were young, I mean--to
take the course you did," said Deronda, trying by this reference to the
past to escape from what to him was the heart-rending piteousness of this
mingled suffering and defiance. "I gather that my grandfather opposed your
bent to be an artist. Though my own experience has been quite different, I
enter into the painfulness of your struggle. I can imagine the hardship of
an enforced renunciation."
"No," said the Princess, shaking her head and folding her arms with an air
of decision. "You are not a woman. You may try--but you can never imagine
what it is to have a man's force of genius in you, and yet to suffer the
slavery of being a girl. To have a pattern cut out--'this is the Jewish
woman; this is what you must be; this is what you are wanted for; a
woman's heart must be of such a size and no larger, else it must be
pressed small, like Chinese feet; her happiness is to be made as cakes
are, by a fixed receipt.' That was what my father wanted. He wished I had
been a son; he cared for me as a make-shift link. His heart was set on his
Judaism. He hated that Jewish women should be thought of by the Christian
world as a sort of ware to make public singers and actresses of. As if we
were not the more enviable for that! That is a chance of escaping from
"Was my grandfather a learned man?" said Deronda, eager to know
particulars that he feared his mother might not think of.
She answered impatiently, putting up her hand, "Oh, yes,--and a clever
physician--and good: I don't deny that he was good. A man to be admired in
a play--grand, with an iron will. Like the old Foscari before he pardons.
But such men turn their wives and daughters into slaves. They would rule
the world if they could; but not ruling the world, they throw all the
weight of their will on the necks and souls of women. But nature sometimes
thwarts them. My father had no other child than his daughter, and she was
She had folded her arms again, and looked as if she were ready to face
some impending attempt at mastery.
"Your father was different. Unlike me--all lovingness and affection. I
knew I could rule him; and I made him secretly promise me, before I
married him, that he would put no hindrance in the way of my being an
artist. My father was on his deathbed when we were married: from the first
he had fixed his mind on my marrying my cousin Ephraim. And when a woman's
will is as strong as the man's who wants to govern her, half her strength
must be concealment. I meant to have my will in the end, but I could only
have it by seeming to obey. I had an awe of my father--always I had had an
awe of him: it was impossible to help it. I hated to feel awed--I wished I
could have defied him openly; but I never could. It was what I could not
imagine: I could not act it to myself that I should begin to defy my
father openly and succeed. And I never would risk failure."
This last sentence was uttered with an abrupt emphasis, and she paused
after it as if the words had raised a crowd of remembrances which
obstructed speech. Her son was listening to her with feelings more and
more highly mixed; the first sense of being repelled by the frank coldness
which had replaced all his preconceptions of a mother's tender joy in the
sight of him; the first impulses of indignation at what shocked his most
cherished emotions and principles--all these busy elements of collision
between them were subsiding for a time, and making more and more room for
that effort at just allowance and that admiration of a forcible nature
whose errors lay along high pathways, which he would have felt if, instead
of being his mother, she had been a stranger who had appealed to his
sympathy. Still it was impossible to be dispassionate: he trembled lest
the next thing she had to say would be more repugnant to him than what had
gone before: he was afraid of the strange coercion she seemed to be under
to lay her mind bare: he almost wished he could say, "Tell me only what is
necessary," and then again he felt the fascination which made him watch
her and listen to her eagerly. He tried to recall her to particulars by
"Where was my grandfather's home?"
"Here in Genoa, where I was married; and his family had lived here
generations ago. But my father had been in various countries."
"You must surely have lived in England?"
"My mother was English--a Jewess of Portuguese descent. My father married
her in England. Certain circumstances of that marriage made all the
difference in my life: through that marriage my father thwarted his own
plans. My mother's sister was a singer, and afterward she married the
English partner of a merchant's house here in Genoa, and they came and
lived here eleven years. My mother died when I was eight years old, and my
father allowed me to be continually with my Aunt Leonora and be taught
under her eyes, as if he had not minded the danger of her encouraging my
wish to be a singer, as she had been. But this was it--I saw it again and
again in my father:--he did not guard against consequences, because he
felt sure he could hinder them if he liked. Before my aunt left Genoa, I
had had enough teaching to bring out the born singer and actress within
me: my father did not know everything that was done; but he knew that I
was taught music and singing--he knew my inclination. That was nothing to
him: he meant that I should obey his will. And he was resolved that I
should marry my cousin Ephraim, the only one left of my father's family
that he knew. I wanted not to marry. I thought of all plans to resist it,
but at last I found that I could rule my cousin, and I consented. My
father died three weeks after we were married, and then I had my way!"
She uttered these words almost exultantly; but after a little pause her
face changed, and she said in a biting tone, "It has not lasted, though.
My father is getting his way now."
She began to look more contemplatively again at her son, and presently
"You are like him--but milder--there is something of your own father in
you; and he made it the labor of his life to devote himself to me: wound
up his money-changing and banking, and lived to wait upon me--he went
against his conscience for me. As I loved the life of my art, so he loved
me. Let me look at your hand again: the hand with the ring on. It was your
He drew his chair nearer to her and gave her his hand. We know what kind
of a hand it was: her own, very much smaller, was of the same type. As he
felt the smaller hand holding his, as he saw nearer to him the face that
held the likeness of his own, aged not by time but by intensity, the
strong bent of his nature toward a reverential tenderness asserted itself
above every other impression and in his most fervent tone he said--
"Mother! take us all into your heart--the living and the dead. Forgive
every thing that hurts you in the past. Take my affection."
She looked at him admiringly rather than lovingly, then kissed him on the
brow, and saying sadly, "I reject nothing, but I have nothing to give,"
she released his hand and sank back on her cushions. Deronda turned pale
with what seems always more of a sensation than an emotion--the pain of
repulsed tenderness. She noticed the expression of pain, and said, still
with melodious melancholy in her tones--
"It is better so. We must part again soon and you owe me no duties. I did
not wish you to be born. I parted with you willingly. When your father
died I resolved that I would have no more ties, but such as I could free
myself from. I was the Alcharisi you have heard of: the name had magic
wherever it was carried. Men courted me. Sir Hugo Mallinger was one who
wished to marry me. He was madly in love with me. One day I asked him, 'Is
there a man capable of doing something for love of me, and expecting
nothing in return?' He said: 'What is it you want done?' I said, 'Take my
boy and bring him up as an Englishman, and never let him know anything
about his parents.' You were little more than two years old, and were
sitting on his foot. He declared that he would pay money to have such a
boy. I had not meditated much on the plan beforehand, but as soon as I had
spoken about it, it took possession of me as something I could not rest
without doing. At first he thought I was not serious, but I convinced him,
and he was never surprised at anything. He agreed that it would be for
your good, and the finest thing for you. A great singer and actress is a
queen, but she gives no royalty to her son. All that happened at Naples.
And afterward I made Sir Hugo the trustee of your fortune. That is what I
did; and I had a joy in doing it. My father had tyrannized over me--he
cared more about a grandson to come than he did about me: I counted as
nothing. You were to be such a Jew as he; you were to be what he wanted.
But you were my son, and it was my turn to say what you should be. I said
you should not know you were a Jew."
"And for months events have been preparing me to be glad that I am a Jew,"
said--Deronda, his opposition roused again. The point touched the quick of
his experience. "It would always have been better that I should have known
the truth. I have always been rebelling against the secrecy that looked
like shame. It is no shame to have Jewish parents--the shame is to disown
"You say it was a shame to me, then, that I used that secrecy," said his
mother, with a flash of new anger. "There is no shame attaching to me. I
have no reason to be ashamed. I rid myself of the Jewish tatters and
gibberish that make people nudge each other at sight of us, as if we were
tattooed under our clothes, though our faces are as whole as theirs. I
delivered you from the pelting contempt that pursues Jewish separateness.
I am not ashamed that I did it. It was the better for you."
"Then why have you now undone the secrecy?--no, not undone it--the effects
will never be undone. But why have you now sent for me to tell me that I
am a Jew?" said Deronda, with an intensity of opposition in feeling that
was almost bitter. It seemed as if her words had called out a latent
obstinacy of race in him.
"Why?--ah, why?" said the Princess, rising quickly and walking to the
other side of the room, where she turned round and slowly approached him,
as he, too, stood up. Then she began to speak again in a more veiled
voice. "I can't explain; I can only say what is. I don't love my father's
religion now any more than I did then. Before I married the second time I
was baptized; I made myself like the people I lived among. I had a right
to do it; I was not like a brute, obliged to go with my own herd. I have
not repented; I will not say that I have repented. But yet"--here she had
come near to her son, and paused; then again retreated a little and stood
still, as if resolute not to give way utterly to an imperious influence;
but, as she went on speaking, she became more and more unconscious of
anything but the awe that subdued her voice. "It is illness, I don't doubt
that it has been gathering illness--my mind has gone back: more than a
year ago it began. You see my gray hair, my worn look: it has all come
fast. Sometimes I am in an agony of pain--I dare say I shall be to-night.
Then it is as if all the life I have chosen to live, all thoughts, all
will, forsook me and left me alone in spots of memory, and I can't get
away: my pain seems to keep me there. My childhood--my girlhood--the day
of my marriage--the day of my father's death--there seems to be nothing
since. Then a great horror comes over me: what do I know of life or death?
and what my father called 'right' may be a power that is laying hold of
me--that is clutching me now. Well, I will satisfy him. I cannot go into
the darkness without satisfying him. I have hidden what was his. I thought
once I would burn it. I have not burned it. I thank God I have not burned
She threw herself on her cushions again, visibly fatigued. Deronda, moved
too strongly by her suffering for other impulses to act within him, drew
near her, and said, entreatingly--
"Will you not spare yourself this evening? Let us leave the rest till to-
"No," she said decisively. "I will confess it all, now that I have come up
to it. Often when I am at ease it all fades away; my whole self comes
quite back; but I know it will sink away again, and the other will come--
the poor, solitary, forsaken remains of self, that can resist nothing. It
was my nature to resist, and say, 'I have a right to resist.' Well, I say
so still when I have any strength in me. You have heard me say it, and I
don't withdraw it. But when my strength goes, some other right forces
itself upon me like iron in an inexorable hand; and even when I am at
ease, it is beginning to make ghosts upon the daylight. And now you have
made it worse for me," she said, with a sudden return of impetuosity; "but
I shall have told you everything. And what reproach is there against me,"
she added bitterly, "since I have made you glad to be a Jew? Joseph
Kalonymos reproached me: he said you had been turned into a proud
Englishman, who resented being touched by a Jew. I wish you had!" she
ended, with a new marvelous alternation. It was as if her mind were
breaking into several, one jarring the other into impulsive action.
"Who is Joseph Kalonymos?" said Deronda, with a darting recollection of
that Jew who touched his arm in the Frankfort synagogue.
"Ah! some vengeance sent him back from the East, that he might see you and
come to reproach me. He was my father's friend. He knew of your birth: he
knew of my husband's death, and once, twenty years ago, after he had been
away in the Levant, he came to see me and inquire about you. I told him
that you were dead: I meant you to be dead to all the world of my
childhood. If I had said that your were living, he would have interfered
with my plans: he would have taken on him to represent my father, and have
tried to make me recall what I had done. What could I do but say you were
dead? The act was done. If I had told him of it there would have been
trouble and scandal--and all to conquer me, who would not have been
conquered. I was strong then, and I would have had my will, though there
might have been a hard fight against me. I took the way to have it without
any fight. I felt then that I was not really deceiving: it would have come
to the same in the end; or if not to the same, to something worse. He
believed me and begged that I would give up to him the chest that my
father had charged me and my husband to deliver to our eldest son. I knew
what was in the chest--things that had been dinned in my ears since I had
had any understanding--things that were thrust on my mind that I might
feel them like a wall around my life--my life that was growing like a
tree. Once, after my husband died, I was going to burn the chest. But it
was difficult to burn; and burning a chest and papers looks like a
shameful act. I have committed no shameful act--except what Jews would
call shameful. I had kept the chest, and I gave it to Joseph Kalonymos. He
went away mournful, and said, 'If you marry again, and if another grandson
is born to him who is departed, I will deliver up the chest to him.' I
bowed in silence. I meant not to marry again--no more than I meant to be
the shattered woman that I am now."
She ceased speaking, and her head sank back while she looked vaguely
before her. Her thought was traveling through the years, and when she
began to speak again her voice had lost its argumentative spirit, and had
fallen into a veiled tone of distress.
"But months ago this Kalonymos saw you in the synagogue at Frankfort. He
saw you enter the hotel, and he went to ask your name. There was nobody
else in the world to whom the name would have told anything about me."
"Then it is not my real name?" said Deronda, with a dislike even to this
trifling part of the disguise which had been thrown round him.
"Oh, as real as another," said his mother, indifferently. "The Jews have
always been changing their names. My father's family had kept the name of
Charisi: my husband was a Charisi. When I came out as a singer, we made it
Alcharisi. But there had been a branch of the family my father had lost
sight of who called themselves Deronda, and when I wanted a name for you,
and Sir Hugo said, 'Let it be a foreign name,' I thought of Deronda. But
Joseph Kalonymos had heard my father speak of the Deronda branch, and the
name confirmed his suspicion. He began to suspect what had been done. It
was as if everything had been whispered to him in the air. He found out
where I was. He took a journey into Russia to see me; he found me weak and
shattered. He had come back again, with his white hair, and with rage in
his soul against me. He said I was going down to the grave clad in
falsehood and robbery--falsehood to my father and robbery of my own child.
He accused me of having kept the knowledge of your birth from you, and
having brought you up as if you had been the son of an English gentleman.
Well, it was true; and twenty years before I would have maintained that I
had a right to do it. But I can maintain nothing now. No faith is strong
within me. My father may have God on his side. This man's words were like
lion's teeth upon me. My father's threats eat into me with my pain. If I
tell everything--if I deliver up everything--what else can be demanded of
me? I cannot make myself love the people I have never loved--is it not
enough that I lost the life I did love?"
She had leaned forward a little in her low-toned pleading, that seemed
like a smothered cry: her arms and hands were stretched out at full
length, as if strained in beseeching, Deronda's soul was absorbed in the
anguish of compassion. He could not mind now that he had been repulsed
before. His pity made a flood of forgiveness within him. His single
impulse was to kneel by her and take her hand gently, between his palms,
while he said in that exquisite voice of soothing which expresses oneness
with the sufferer--
"Mother, take comfort!"
She did not seem inclined to repulse him now, but looked down at him and
let him take both her hands to fold between his. Gradually tears gathered,
but she pressed her handkerchief against her eyes and then leaned her
cheek against his brow, as if she wished that they should not look at each
"Is it not possible that I could be near you often and comfort you?" said
Deronda. He was under that stress of pity that propels us on sacrifices.
"No, not possible," she answered, lifting up her head again and
withdrawing her hand as if she wished him to move away. "I have a husband
and five children. None of them know of your existence."
Deronda felt painfully silenced. He rose and stood at a little distance.
"You wonder why I married," she went on presently, under the influence of
a newly-recurring thought. "I meant never to marry again. I meant to be
free and to live for my art. I had parted with you. I had no bonds. For
nine years I was a queen. I enjoyed the life I had longed for. But
something befell me. It was like a fit of forgetfulness. I began to sing
out of tune. They told me of it. Another woman was thrusting herself in my
place. I could not endure the prospect of failure and decline. It was
horrible to me." She started up again, with a shudder, and lifted
screening hands like one who dreads missiles. "It drove me to marry. I
made believe that I preferred being the wife of a Russian noble to being
the greatest lyric actress of Europe; I made believe--I acted that part.
It was because I felt my greatness sinking away from me, as I feel my life
sinking now. I would not wait till men said, 'She had better go.'"
She sank into her seat again, and looked at the evening sky as she went
on: "I repented. It was a resolve taken in desperation. That singing out
of tune was only like a fit of illness; it went away. I repented; but it
was too late. I could not go back. All things hindered, me--all things."
A new haggardness had come in her face, but her son refrained from again
urging her to leave further speech till the morrow: there was evidently
some mental relief for her in an outpouring such as she could never have
allowed herself before. He stood still while she maintained silence longer
than she knew, and the light was perceptibly fading. At last she turned to
him and said--
"I can bear no more now." She put out her hand, but then quickly withdrew
it saying, "Stay. How do I know that I can see you again? I cannot bear to
be seen when I am in pain."
She drew forth a pocket-book, and taking out a letter said, "This is
addressed to the banking-house in Mainz, where you are to go for your
grandfather's chest. It is a letter written by Joseph Kalonymos: if he is
not there himself, this order of his will be obeyed."
When Deronda had taken the letter, she said, with effort but more gently
than before, "Kneel again, and let me kiss you."
He obeyed, and holding his head between her hands, she kissed him solemnly
on the brow. "You see, I had no life left to love you with," she said, in
a low murmur. "But there is more fortune for you. Sir Hugo was to keep it
in reserve. I gave you all your father's fortune. They can never accuse me
of robbery there."
"If you had needed anything I would have worked for you," said Deronda,
conscious of disappointed yearning--a shutting out forever from long early
vistas of affectionate imagination.
"I need nothing that the skill of man can give me," said his mother, still
holding his head, and perusing his features. "But perhaps now I have
satisfied my father's will, your face will come instead of his--your
young, loving face."
"But you will see me again?" said Deronda, anxiously.
"Yes--perhaps. Wait, wait. Leave me now."
"La meme fermete qui sert a resister a l'amour sert aussi a le rendre
violent et durable; et les personnes faibles qui sont toujours
agitees des passions n'en sont presque jamais veritablement remplies."
Among Deronda's letters the next morning was one from Hans Meyrick of four
quarto pages, in the small, beautiful handwriting which ran in the Meyrick
MY DEAR DERONDA,--In return for your sketch of Italian movements and
your view of the world's affairs generally, I may say that here at
home the most judicious opinion going as to the effects of present
causes is that "time will show." As to the present causes of past
effects, it is now seen that the late swindling telegrams account for
the last year's cattle plague--which is a refutation of philosophy
falsely so called, and justifies the compensation to the farmers. My
own idea that a murrain will shortly break out in the commercial
class, and that the cause will subsequently disclose itself in the
ready sale of all rejected pictures, has been called an unsound use of
analogy; but there are minds that will not hesitate to rob even the
neglected painter of his solace. To my feeling there is great beauty
in the conception that some bad judge might give a high price for my
Berenice series, and that the men in the city would have already been
punished for my ill-merited luck.
Meanwhile I am consoling myself for your absence by finding my
advantage in it--shining like Hesperus when Hyperion has departed;
sitting with our Hebrew prophet, and making a study of his head, in
the hours when he used to be occupied with you--getting credit with
him as a learned young Gentile, who would have been a Jew if he could
--and agreeing with him in the general principle, that whatever is
best is for that reason Jewish. I never held it my _forte_ to be
a severe reasoner, but I can see that if whatever is best is A, and B
happens to be best, B must be A, however little you might have
expected it beforehand. On that principle I could see the force of a
pamphlet I once read to prove that all good art was Protestant.
However, our prophet is an uncommonly interesting sitter--a better
model than Rembrandt had for his Rabbi--and I never come away from him
without a new discovery. For one thing, it is a constant wonder to me
that, with all his fiery feeling for his race and their traditions, he
is no straight-laced Jew, spitting after the word Christian, and
enjoying the prospect that the Gentile mouth will water in vain for a
slice of the roasted Leviathan, while Israel will be sending up plates
for more, _ad libitum_, (You perceive that my studies had taught
me what to expect from the orthodox Jew.) I confess that I have always
held lightly by your account of Mordecai, as apologetic, and merely
part of your disposition to make an antedeluvian point of view lest
you should do injustice to the megatherium. But now I have given ear
to him in his proper person, I find him really a sort of
philosophical-allegorical-mystical believer, and yet with a sharp
dialectic point, so that any argumentative rattler of peas in a
bladder might soon be pricked in silence by him. The mixture may be
one of the Jewish prerogatives, for what I know. In fact, his mind
seems so broad that I find my own correct opinions lying in it quite
commodiously, and how they are to be brought into agreement with the
vast remainder is his affair, not mine. I leave it to him to settle
our basis, never yet having seen a basis which is not a world-
supporting elephant, more or less powerful and expensive to keep. My
means will not allow me to keep a private elephant. I go into mystery
instead, as cheaper and more lasting--a sort of gas which is likely to
be continually supplied by the decomposition of the elephants. And if
I like the look of an opinion, I treat it civilly, without suspicious
inquiries. I have quite a friendly feeling toward Mordecai's notion
that a whole Christian is three-fourths a Jew, and that from the
Alexandrian time downward the most comprehensive minds have been
Jewish; for I think of pointing out to Mirah that, Arabic and other
incidents of life apart, there is really little difference between me
and--Maimonides. But I have lately been finding out that it is your
shallow lover who can't help making a declaration. If Mirah's ways
were less distracting, and it were less of a heaven to be in her
presence and watch her, I must long ago have flung myself at her feet,
and requested her to tell me, with less indirectness, whether she
wished me to blow my brains out. I have a knack of hoping, which is as
good as an estate in reversion, if one can keep from the temptation of
turning it into certainty, which may spoil all. My Hope wanders among
the orchard blossoms, feels the warm snow falling on it through the
sunshine, and is in doubt of nothing; but, catching sight of Certainty
in the distance, sees an ugly Janus-faced deity, with a dubious wink
on the hither side of him, and turns quickly away. But you, with your
supreme reasonableness, and self-nullification, and preparation for
the worst--you know nothing about Hope, that immortal, delicious
maiden forever courted forever propitious, whom fools have called
deceitful, as if it were Hope that carried the cup of disappointment,
whereas it is her deadly enemy, Certainty, whom she only escapes by
transformation. (You observe my new vein of allegory?) Seriously,
however, I must be permitted to allege that truth will prevail, that
prejudice will melt before it, that diversity, accompanied by merit,
will make itself felt as fascination, and that no virtuous aspiration
will be frustrated--all which, if I mistake not, are doctrines of the
schools, and they imply that the Jewess I prefer will prefer me. Any
blockhead can cite generalities, but the mind-master discerns the
particular cases they represent.
I am less convinced that my society makes amends to Mordecai for your
absence, but another substitute occasionally comes in the form of
Jacob Cohen. It is worth while to catch our prophet's expression when
he has that remarkable type of young Israel on his knee, and pours
forth some Semitic inspiration with a sublime look of melancholy
patience and devoutness. Sometimes it occurs to Jacob that Hebrew will
be more edifying to him if he stops his ears with his palms, and
imitates the venerable sounds as heard through that muffled medium.
When Mordecai gently draws down the little fists and holds them fast,
Jacob's features all take on an extraordinary activity, very much as
if he was walking through a menagerie and trying to imitate every
animal in turn, succeeding best with the owl and the peccary. But I
dare say you have seen something of this. He treats me with the
easiest familiarity, and seems in general to look at me as a second-
hand Christian commodity, likely to come down in price; remarking on
my disadvantages with a frankness which seems to imply some thoughts
of future purchase. It is pretty, though, to see the change in him if
Mirah happens to come in. He turns child suddenly--his age usually
strikes one as being like the Israelitish garments in the desert,
perhaps near forty, yet with an air of recent production. But, with
Mirah, he reminds me of the dogs that have been brought up by women,
and remain manageable by them only. Still, the dog is fond of Mordecai
too, and brings sugar-plums to share with him, filling his own mouth
to rather an embarrassing extent, and watching how Mordecai deals with
a smaller supply. Judging from this modern Jacob at the age of six, my
astonishment is that his race has not bought us all up long ago, and
pocketed our feebler generations in the form of stock and scrip, as so
much slave property. There is one Jewess I should not mind being slave
to. But I wish I did not imagine that Mirah gets a little sadder, and
tries all the while to hide it. It is natural enough, of course, while
she has to watch the slow death of this brother, whom she has taken to
worshipping with such looks of loving devoutness that I am ready to
wish myself in his place.
For the rest, we are a little merrier than usual. Rex Gascoigne--you
remember a head you admired among my sketches, a fellow with a good
upper lip, reading law--has got some rooms in town now not far off us,
and has had a neat sister (upper lip also good) staying with him the
last fortnight. I have introduced them both to my mother and the
girls, who have found out from Miss Gascoigne that she is cousin to
your Vandyke duchess!!! I put the notes of exclamation to mark the
surprise that the information at first produced on my feeble
understanding. On reflection I discovered that there was not the least
ground for surprise, unless I had beforehand believed that nobody
could be anybody's cousin without my knowing it. This sort of
surprise, I take it, depends on a liveliness of the spine, with a more
or less constant nullity of brain. There was a fellow I used to meet
at Rome who was in an effervescence of surprise at contact with the
simplest information. Tell him what you would--that you were fond of
easy boots--he would always say, "No! are you?" with the same energy
of wonder: the very fellow of whom pastoral Browne wrote
"A wretch so empty that if e'er there be
In nature found the least vacuity
'Twill be in him."
I have accounted for it all--he had a lively spine.
However, this cousinship with the duchess came out by chance one day
that Mirah was with them at home and they were talking about the
Mallingers. _Apropos_; I am getting so important that I have
rival invitations. Gascoigne wants me to go down with him to his
father's rectory in August and see the country round there. But I
think self-interest well understood will take me to Topping Abbey, for
Sir Hugo has invited me, and proposes--God bless him for his rashness!
--that I should make a picture of his three daughters sitting on a
bank--as he says, in the Gainsborough style. He came to my studio the
other day and recommended me to apply myself to portrait. Of course I
know what that means.--"My good fellow, your attempts at the historic
and poetic are simply pitiable. Your brush is just that of a
successful portrait-painter--it has a little truth and a great
facility in falsehood--your idealism will never do for gods and
goddesses and heroic story, but it may fetch a high price as flattery.
Fate, my friend, has made you the hinder wheel--_rota posterior
curras, et in axe secundo_--run behind, because you can't help it."
--What great effort it evidently costs our friends to give us these
candid opinions! I have even known a man to take the trouble to call,
in order to tell me that I had irretrievably exposed my want of
judgment in treating my subject, and that if I had asked him we would
have lent me his own judgment. Such was my ingratitude and my
readiness at composition, that even while he was speaking I inwardly
sketched a Last Judgment with that candid friend's physiognomy on the
left. But all this is away from Sir Hugo, whose manner of implying
that one's gifts are not of the highest order is so exceedingly good-
natured and comfortable that I begin to feel it an advantage not to be
among those poor fellows at the tip-top. And his kindness to me tastes
all the better because it comes out of his love for you, old boy. His
chat is uncommonly amusing. By the way, he told me that your Vandyke
duchess is gone with her husband yachting to the Mediterranean. I
bethink me that it is possible to land from a yacht, or to be taken on
to a yacht from the land. Shall you by chance have an opportunity of
continuing your theological discussion with the fair Supralapsarian--I
think you said her tenets were of that complexion? Is Duke Alphonso
also theological?--perhaps an Arian who objects to triplicity. (Stage
direction. While D. is reading, a profound scorn gathers in his face
till at the last word he flings down the letter, grasps his coat-
collar in a statuesque attitude and so remains with a look generally
tremendous, throughout the following soliloquy, "O night, O blackness,
Excuse the brevity of this letter. You are not used to more from me
than a bare statement of facts, without comment or digression. One
fact I have omitted--that the Klesmers on the eve of departure have
behaved magnificently, shining forth as might be expected from the
planets of genius and fortune in conjunction. Mirah is rich with their
What luck it will be if you come back and present yourself at the
Abbey while I am there! I am going to behave with consummate
discretion and win golden opinions, But I shall run up to town now and
then, just for a peep into Gad Eden. You see how far I have got in
Hebrew lore--up with my Lord Bolingbroke, who knew no Hebrew, but
"understood that sort of learning and what is writ about it." If Mirah
commanded, I would go to a depth below the tri-literal roots. Already
it makes no difference to me whether the points are there or not. But
while her brother's life lasts I suspect she would not listen to a
lover, even one whose "hair is like a flock of goats on Mount Gilead"
--and I flatter myself that few heads would bear that trying
comparison better than mine. So I stay with my hope among the orchard-
Some months before, this letter from Hans would have divided Deronda's
thoughts irritatingly: its romancing, about Mirah would have had an
unpleasant edge, scarcely anointed with any commiseration for his friend's
probable disappointment. But things had altered since March. Mirah was no
longer so critically placed with regard to the Meyricks, and Deronda's own
position had been undergoing a change which had just been crowned by the
revelation of his birth. The new opening toward the future, though he
would not trust in any definite visions, inevitably shed new lights, and
influenced his mood toward past and present; hence, what Hans called his
hope now seemed to Deronda, not a mischievous unreasonableness which
roused his indignation, but an unusually persistent bird-dance of an
extravagant fancy, and he would have felt quite able to pity any
consequent suffering of his friend's, if he had believed in the suffering
as probable. But some of the busy thought filling that long day, which
passed without his receiving any new summons from his mother, was given to
the argument that Hans Meyrick's nature was not one in which love could
strike the deep roots that turn disappointment into sorrow: it was too
restless, too readily excitable by novelty, too ready to turn itself into
imaginative material, and wear its grief as a fantastic costume. "Already
he is beginning to play at love: he is taking the whole affair as a
comedy," said Deronda to himself; "he knows very well that there is no
chance for him. Just like him--never opening his eyes on any possible
objection I could have to receive his outpourings about Mirah. Poor old
Hans! If we were under a fiery hail together he would howl like a Greek,
and if I did not howl too it would never occur to him that I was as badly
off as he. And yet he is tender-hearted and affectionate in intention, and
I can't say that he is not active in imagining what goes on in other
people--but then he always imagines it to fit his own inclination."
With this touch of causticity Deronda got rid of the slight heat at
present raised by Hans's naive expansiveness. The nonsense about
Gwendolen, conveying the fact that she was gone yachting with her husband,
only suggested a disturbing sequel to his own strange parting with her.
But there was one sentence in the letter which raised a more immediate,
active anxiety. Hans's suspicion of a hidden sadness in Mirah was not in
the direction of his wishes, and hence, instead of distrusting his
observation here, Deronda began to conceive a cause for the sadness. Was
it some event that had occurred during his absence, or only the growing
fear of some event? Was it something, perhaps alterable, in the new
position which had been made for her? Or--had Mordecai, against his
habitual resolve, communicated to her those peculiar cherished hopes about
him, Deronda, and had her quickly sensitive nature been hurt by the
discovery that her brother's will or tenacity of visionary conviction had
acted coercively on their friendship--been hurt by the fear that there was
more of pitying self-suppression than of equal regard in Deronda's
relation to him? For amidst all Mirah's quiet renunciation, the evident
thirst of soul with which she received the tribute of equality implied a
corresponding pain if she found that what she had taken for a purely
reverential regard toward her brother had its mixture of condescension.
In this last conjecture of Deronda's he was not wrong as to the quality in
Mirah's nature on which he was founding--the latent protest against the
treatment she had all her life being subject to until she met him. For
that gratitude which would not let her pass by any notice of their
acquaintance without insisting on the depth of her debt to him, took half
its fervor from the keen comparison with what others had thought enough to
render to her. Deronda's affinity in feeling enabled him to penetrate such
secrets. But he was not near the truth in admitting the idea that Mordecai
had broken his characteristic reticence. To no soul but Deronda himself
had he yet breathed the history of their relation to each other, or his
confidence about his friend's origin: it was not only that these subjects
were for him too sacred to be spoken of without weighty reason, but that
he had discerned Deronda's shrinking at any mention of his birth; and the
severity of reserve which had hindered Mordecai from answering a question
on a private affair of the Cohen family told yet more strongly here.
"Ezra, how is it?" Mirah one day said to him--"I am continually going to
speak to Mr. Deronda as if he were a Jew?"
He smiled at her quietly, and said, "I suppose it is because he treats us
as if he were our brother. But he loves not to have the difference of
birth dwelt upon."
"He has never lived with his parents, Mr. Hans, says," continued Mirah, to
whom this was necessarily a question of interest about every one for whom
she had a regard.
"Seek not to know such things from Mr. Hans," said Mordecai, gravely,
laying his hand on her curls, as he was wont. "What Daniel Deronda wishes
us to know about himself is for him to tell us."
And Mirah felt herself rebuked, as Deronda had done. But to be rebuked in
this way by Mordecai made her rather proud.
"I see no one so great as my brother," she said to Mrs. Meyrick one day
that she called at the Chelsea house on her way home, and, according to
her hope, found the little mother alone. "It is difficult to think that he
belongs to the same world as those people I used to live amongst. I told
you once that they made life seem like a madhouse; but when I am with Ezra
he makes me feel that his life is a great good, though he has suffered so
much; not like me, who wanted to die because I had suffered a little, and
only for a little while. His soul is so full, it is impossible for him to
wish for death as I did. I get the same sort of feeling from him that I
got yesterday, when I was tired, and came home through the park after the
sweet rain had fallen and the sunshine lay on the grass and flowers.
Everything in the sky and under the sky looked so pure and beautiful that
the weariness and trouble and folly seemed only a small part of what is,
and I became more patient and hopeful."
A dove-like note of melancholy in this speech caused Mrs. Meyrick to look
at Mirah with new examination. After laying down her hat and pushing her
curls flat, with an air of fatigue, she placed herself on a chair opposite
her friend in her habitual attitude, her feet and hands just crossed; and
at a distance she might have seemed a colored statue of serenity. But Mrs.
Meyrick discerned a new look of suppressed suffering in her face, which
corresponded to the hint that to be patient and hopeful required some
"Is there any fresh trouble on your mind, my dear?" said Mrs. Meyrick,
giving up her needlework as a sign of concentrated attention.
Mirah hesitated before she said, "I am too ready to speak of troubles, I
think. It seems unkind to put anything painful into other people's minds,
unless one were sure it would hinder something worse. And perhaps I am too
hasty and fearful."
"Oh, my dear, mothers are made to like pain and trouble for the sake of
their children. Is it because the singing lessons are so few, and are
likely to fall off when the season comes to an end? Success in these
things can't come all at once." Mrs. Meyrick did not believe that she was
touching the real grief; but a guess that could be corrected would make an
easier channel for confidence.
"No, not that," said Mirah, shaking her head gently. "I have been a little
disappointed because so many ladies said they wanted me to give them or
their daughters lessons, and then I never heard of them again, But perhaps
after the holidays I shall teach in some schools. Besides, you know, I am
as rich as a princess now. I have not touched the hundred pounds that Mrs.
Klesmer gave me; and I should never be afraid that Ezra would be in want
of anything, because there is Mr. Deronda," and he said, "It is the chief
honor of my life that your brother will share anything with me. Oh, no!
Ezra and I can have no fears for each other about such things as food and
"But there is some other fear on your mind," said Mrs. Meyrick not without
divination--"a fear of something that may disturb your peace; Don't be
forecasting evil, dear child, unless it is what you can guard against.
Anxiety is good for nothing if we can't turn it into a defense. But
there's no defense against all the things that might be. Have you any more
reason for being anxious now than you had a month ago?"
"Yes, I have," said Mirah. "I have kept it from Ezra. I have not dared to
tell him. Pray forgive me that I can't do without telling you. I _have_
more reason for being anxious. It is five days ago now. I am quite sure I
saw my father."
Mrs. Meyrick shrank into a smaller space, packing her arms across her
chest and leaning forward--to hinder herself from pelting that father with
her worst epithets.
"The year has changed him," Mirah went on. "He had already been much
altered and worn in the time before I left him. You remember I said how he
used sometimes to cry. He was always excited one way or the other. I have
told Ezra everything that I told you, and he says that my father had taken
to gambling, which makes people easily distressed, and then again exalted.
And now--it was only a moment that I saw him--his face was more haggard,
and his clothes were shabby. He was with a much worse-looking man, who
carried something, and they were hurrying along after an omnibus."
"Well, child, he did not see you, I hope?"
"No. I had just come from Mrs. Raymond's, and I was waiting to cross near
the Marble Arch. Soon he was on the omnibus and gone out of sight. It was
a dreadful moment. My old life seemed to have come back again, and it was
worse than it had ever been before. And I could not help feeling it a new
deliverance that he was gone out of sight without knowing that I was
there. And yet it hurt me that I was feeling so--it seemed hateful in me--
almost like words I once had to speak in a play, that 'I had warmed my
hands in the blood of my kindred.' For where might my father be going?
What may become of him? And his having a daughter who would own him in
spite of all, might have hindered the worst. Is there any pain like seeing
what ought to be the best things in life turned into the worst? All those
opposite feelings were meeting and pressing against each other, and took
up all my strength. No one could act that. Acting is slow and poor to what
we go through within. I don't know how I called a cab. I only remember
that I was in it when I began to think, 'I cannot tell Ezra; he must not
"You are afraid of grieving him?" Mrs. Meyrick asked, when Mirah had
paused a little.
"Yes--and there is something more," said Mirah, hesitatingly, as if she
were examining her feeling before she would venture to speak of it. "I
want to tell you; I cannot tell any one else. I could not have told my own
mother: I should have closed it up before her. I feel shame for my father,
and it is perhaps strange--but the shame is greater before Ezra than
before any one else in the world. He desired me to tell him all about my
life, and I obeyed him. But it is always like a smart to me to know that
those things about my father are in Ezra's mind. And--can you believe it?
when the thought haunts me how it would be if my father were to come and
show himself before us both, what seems as if it would scorch me most is
seeing my father shrinking before Ezra. That is the truth. I don't know
whether it is a right feeling. But I can't help thinking that I would
rather try to maintain my father in secret, and bear a great deal in that
way, if I could hinder him from meeting my brother."
"You must not encourage that feeling, Mirah," said Mrs. Meyrick, hastily.
"It would be very dangerous; it would be wrong. You must not have
concealment of that sort."
"But ought I now to tell Ezra that I have seen my father?" said Mirah,
with deprecation in her tone.
"No," Mrs. Meyrick answered, dubitatively. "I don't know that it is
necessary to do that. Your father may go away with the birds. It is not
clear that he came after you; you may never see him again. And then your
brother will have been spared a useless anxiety. But promise me that if
your father sees you--gets hold of you in any way again--and you will let
us all know. Promise me that solemnly, Mirah. I have a right to ask it."
Mirah reflected a little, then leaned forward to put her hands in Mrs.
Meyrick's, and said, "Since you ask it, I do promise. I will bear this
feeling of shame. I have been so long used to think that I must bear that
sort of inward pain. But the shame for my father burns me more when I
think of his meeting Ezra." She was silent a moment or two, and then said,
in a new tone of yearning compassion, "And we are his children--and he was
once young like us--and my mother loved him. Oh! I cannot help seeing it
all close, and it hurts me like a cruelty."
Mirah shed no tears: the discipline of her whole life had been against
indulgence in such manifestation, which soon falls under the control of
strong motives; but it seemed that the more intense expression of sorrow
had entered into her voice. Mrs. Meyrick, with all her quickness and
loving insight, did not quite understand that filial feeling in Mirah
which had active roots deep below her indignation for the worst offenses.
She could conceive that a mother would have a clinging pity and shame for
a reprobate son, but she was out of patience with what she held an
exaggerated susceptibility on behalf of this father, whose reappearance
inclined her to wish him under the care of a turnkey. Mirah's promise,
however, was some security against her weakness.
That incident was the only reason that Mirah herself could have stated for
the hidden sadness which Hans had divined. Of one element in her changed
mood she could have given no definite account: it was something as dim as
the sense of approaching weather-change, and had extremely slight external
promptings, such as we are often ashamed to find all we can allege in
support of the busy constructions that go on within us, not only without
effort, but even against it, under the influence of any blind emotional
stirring. Perhaps the first leaven of uneasiness was laid by Gwendolen's
behavior on that visit which was entirely superfluous as a means of
engaging Mirah to sing, and could have no other motive than the excited
and strange questioning about Deronda. Mirah had instinctively kept the
visit a secret, but the active remembrance of it had raised a new
susceptibility in her, and made her alive as she had never been before to
the relations Deronda must have with that society which she herself was
getting frequent glimpses of without belonging to it. Her peculiar life
and education had produced in her an extraordinary mixture of
unworldliness, with knowledge of the world's evil, and even this knowledge
was a strange blending of direct observation with the effects of reading
and theatrical study. Her memory was furnished with abundant passionate
situation and intrigue, which she never made emotionally her own, but felt
a repelled aloofness from, as she had done from the actual life around
her. Some of that imaginative knowledge began now to weave itself around
Mrs. Grandcourt; and though Mirah would admit no position likely to affect
her reverence for Deronda, she could not avoid a new painfully vivid
association of his general life with a world away from her own, where
there might be some involvement of his feeling and action with a woman
like Gwendolen, who was increasingly repugnant to her--increasingly, even
after she had ceased to see her; for liking and disliking can grow in
meditation as fast as in the more immediate kind of presence. Any
disquietude consciously due to the idea that Deronda's deepest care might
be for something remote not only from herself but even from his friendship
for her brother, she would have checked with rebuking questions:--What was
she but one who had shared his generous kindness with many others? and his
attachment to her brother, was it not begun late to be soon ended? Other
ties had come before, and others would remain after this had been cut by
swift-coming death. But her uneasiness had not reached that point of self-
recognition in which she would have been ashamed of it as an indirect,
presumptuous claim on Deronda's feeling. That she or any one else should
think of him as her possible lover was a conception which had never
entered her mind; indeed it was equally out of the question with Mrs.
Meyrick and the girls, who with Mirah herself regarded his intervention in
her life as something exceptional, and were so impressed by his mission as
her deliverer and guardian that they would have held it an offense to hint
at his holding any other relation toward her: a point of view which Hans
also had readily adopted. It is a little hard upon some men that they
appear to sink for us in becoming lovers. But precisely to this innocence
of the Meyricks was owing the disturbance of Mirah's unconsciousness. The
first occasion could hardly have been more trivial, but it prepared her
emotive nature for a deeper effect from what happened afterward.
It was when Anna Gascoigne, visiting the Meyricks; was led to speak of her
cousinship with Gwendolen. The visit had been arranged that Anna might see
Mirah; the three girls were at home with their mother, and there was
naturally a flux of talk among six feminine creatures, free from the
presence of a distorting male standard. Anna Gascoigne felt herself much
at home with the Meyrick girls, who knew what it was to have a brother,
and to be generally regarded as of minor importance in the world; and she
had told Rex that she thought the University very nice, because brothers
made friends there whose families were not rich and grand, and yet (like
the University) were very nice. The Meyricks seemed to her almost
alarmingly clever, and she consulted them much on the best mode of
teaching Lotta, confiding to them that she herself was the least clever of
her family. Mirah had lately come in, and there was a complete bouquet of
young faces around the tea-table--Hafiz, seated a little aloft with large
eyes on the alert, regarding the whole scene as an apparatus for supplying
his allowance of milk.
"Think of our surprise, Mirah," said Kate. "We were speaking of Mr.
Deronda and the Mallingers, and it turns out that Miss Gascoigne knows
"I only knew about them," said Anna, a little flushed with excitement,
what she had heard and now saw of the lovely Jewess being an almost
startling novelty to her. "I have not even seen them. But some months ago,
my cousin married Sir Hugo Mallinger's nephew, Mr. Grandcourt, who lived
in Sir Hugo's place at Diplow, near us."
"There!" exclaimed Mab, clasping her hands. "Something must come of that.
Mrs. Grandcourt, the Vandyke duchess, is your cousin?"
"Oh, yes; I was her bridesmaid," said Anna. "Her mamma and mine are
sisters. My aunt was much richer before last year, but then she and mamma
lost all their fortune. Papa is a clergyman, you know, so it makes very
little difference to us, except that we keep no carriage, and have no
dinner parties--and I like it better. But it was very sad for poor Aunt
Davilow, for she could not live with us, because she has four daughters
besides Gwendolen; but then, when she married Mr. Grandcourt, it did not
signify so much, because of his being so rich."
"Oh, this finding out relationships is delightful!" said Mab. "It is like
a Chinese puzzle that one has to fit together. I feel sure something
wonderful may be made of it, but I can't tell what."
"Dear me, Mab," said Amy, "relationships must branch out. The only
difference is, that we happen to know some of the people concerned. Such
things are going on every day."
"And pray, Amy, why do you insist on the number nine being so wonderful?"
said Mab. "I am sure that is happening every day. Never mind, Miss
Gascoigne; please go on. And Mr. Deronda?--have you never seen Mr.
Deronda? You _must_ bring him in."
"No, I have not seen him," said Anna; "but he was at Diplow before my
cousin was married, and I have heard my aunt speaking of him to papa. She
said what you have been saying about him--only not so much: I mean, about
Mr. Deronda living with Sir Hugo Mallinger, and being so nice, she
thought. We talk a great deal about every one who comes near Pennicote,
because it is so seldom there is any one new. But I remember, when I asked
Gwendolen what she thought of Mr. Deronda, she said, 'Don't mention it,
Anna: but I think his hair is dark.' That was her droll way of answering:
she was always so lively. It is really rather wonderful that I should come
to hear so much about him, all through Mr. Hans knowing Rex, and then my
having the pleasure of knowing you," Anna ended, looking at Mrs. Meyrick
with a shy grace.
"The pleasure is on our side too; but the wonder would have been, if you
had come to this house without hearing of Mr. Deronda--wouldn't it,
Mirah?" said Mrs. Meyrick.
Mirah smiled acquiescently, but had nothing to say. A confused discontent
took possession of her at the mingling of names and images to which she
had been listening.
"My son calls Mrs. Grandcourt the Vandyke duchess," continued Mrs.
Meyrick, turning again to Anna; "he thinks her so striking and
"Yes," said Anna. "Gwendolen was always so beautiful--people fell
dreadfully in love with her. I thought it a pity, because it made them
"And how do you like Mr. Grandcourt, the happy lover?" said Mrs. Meyrick,
who, in her way, was as much interested as Mab in the hints she had been
hearing of vicissitude in in the life of a widow with daughters.
"Papa approved of Gwendolen's accepting him, and my aunt says he is very
generous," said Anna, beginning with a virtuous intention of repressing
her own sentiments; but then, unable to resist a rare occasion for
speaking them freely, she went on--"else I should have thought he was not
very nice--rather proud, and not at all lively, like Gwendolen. I should
have thought some one younger and more lively would have suited her
better. But, perhaps, having a brother who seems to us better than any one
makes us think worse of others."
"Wait till you see Mr. Deronda," said Mab, nodding significantly.
"Nobody's brother will do after him."
"Our brothers _must_ do for people's husbands," said Kate, curtly,
"because they will not get Mr. Deronda. No woman will do for him to
"No woman ought to want him to marry him," said Mab, with indignation.
"_I_ never should. Fancy finding out that he had a tailor's bill, and used
boot-hooks, like Hans. Who ever thought of his marrying?"
"I have," said Kate. "When I drew a wedding for a frontispiece to 'Hearts
and Diamonds,' I made a sort of likeness to him for the bridegroom, and I
went about looking for a grand woman who would do for his countess, but I
saw none that would not be poor creatures by the side of him."
"You should have seen this Mrs. Grandcourt then," said Mrs. Meyrick. "Hans
says that she and Mr. Deronda set each other off when they are side by
side. She is tall and fair. But you know her, Mirah--you can always say
something descriptive. What do _you_ think of Mrs. Grandcourt?"
"I think she is the _Princess of Eboli_ in _Don Carlos_," said Mirah, with
a quick intensity. She was pursuing an association in her own mind not
intelligible to her hearers--an association with a certain actress as well
as the part she represented.
"Your comparison is a riddle for me, my dear," said Mrs. Meyrick, smiling.
"You said that Mrs. Grandcourt was tall and fair," continued Mirah,
slightly paler. "That is quite true."
Mrs. Meyrick's quick eye and ear detected something unusual, but
immediately explained it to herself. Fine ladies had often wounded Mirah
by caprices of manner and intention.
"Mrs. Grandcourt had thought of having lessons of Mirah," she said turning
to Anna. "But many have talked of having lessons, and then have found no
time. Fashionable ladies have too much work to do."
And the chat went on without further insistance on the _Princess of
Eboli_. That comparison escaped Mirah's lips under the urgency of a pang
unlike anything she had felt before. The conversation from the beginning
had revived unpleasant impressions, and Mrs. Meyrick's suggestion of
Gwendolen's figure by the side of Deronda's had the stinging effect of a
voice outside her, confirming her secret conviction that this tall and
fair woman had some hold on his lot. For a long while afterward she felt
as if she had had a jarring shock through her frame.
In the evening, putting her cheek against her brother's shoulder as she
was sitting by him, while he sat propped up in bed under a new difficulty
of breathing, she said--
"Ezra, does it ever hurt your love for Mr. Deronda that so much of his
life was all hidden away from you--that he is amongst persons and cares
about persons who are all so unlike us--I mean unlike you?"
"No, assuredly no," said Mordecai. "Rather it is a precious thought to me
that he has a preparation which I lacked, and is an accomplished
Egyptian." Then, recollecting that his words had reference which his
sister must not yet understand, he added. "I have the more to give him,
since his treasure differs from mine. That is a blessedness in
Mirah mused a little.
"Still," she said, "it would be a trial to your love for him if that other
part of his life were like a crowd in which he had got entangled, so that
he was carried away from you--I mean in his thoughts, and not merely
carried out of sight as he is now--and not merely for a little while, but
continually. How should you bear that! Our religion commands us to bear.
But how should you bear it?"
"Not well, my sister--not well; but it will never happen," said Mordecai,
looking at her with a tender smile. He thought that her heart needed
comfort on his account.
Mirah said no more. She mused over the difference between her own state of
mind and her brother's, and felt her comparative pettiness. Why could she
not be completely satisfied with what satisfied his larger judgment? She
gave herself no fuller reason than a painful sense of unfitness--in what?
Airy possibilities to which she could give no outline, but to which one
name and one figure gave the wandering persistency of a blot in her
vision. Here lay the vaguer source of the hidden sadness rendered
noticeable to Hans by some diminution of that sweet ease, that ready
joyousness of response in her speech and smile, which had come with the
new sense of freedom and safety, and had made her presence like the
freshly-opened daisies and clear bird-notes after the rain. She herself
regarded her uneasiness as a sort of ingratitude and dullness of
sensibility toward the great things that had been given her in her new
life; and whenever she threw more energy than usual into her singing, it
was the energy of indignation against the shallowness of her own content.
In that mood she once said, "Shall I tell you what is the difference
between you and me, Ezra? You are a spring in the drought, and I am an
acorn-cup; the waters of heaven fill me, but the least little shake leaves
"Why, what has shaken thee?" said Mordecai. He fell into this antique form
of speech habitually in talking to his sister and to the Cohen children.
"Thoughts," said Mirah; "thoughts that come like the breeze and shake me--
bad people, wrong things, misery--and how they might touch our life."
"We must take our portion, Mirah. It is there. On whose shoulder would we
lay it, that we might be free?"
The one voluntary sign she made of her inward care was this distant
"My desolation does begin to make
A better life."
--SHAKESPEARE: _Antony and Cleopatra._
Before Deronda was summoned to a second interview with his mother, a day
had passed in which she had only sent him a message to say that she was
not yet well enough to receive him again; but on the third morning he had
a note saying, "I leave to-day. Come and see me at once."
He was shown into the same room as before; but it was much darkened with
blinds and curtains. The Princess was not there, but she presently
entered, dressed in a loose wrap of some soft silk, in color a dusky
orange, her head again with black lace floating about it, her arms showing
themselves bare from under her wide sleeves. Her face seemed even more
impressive in the sombre light, the eyes larger, the lines more vigorous.
You might have imagined her a sorceress who would stretch forth her
wonderful hand and arm to mix youth-potions for others, but scorned to mix
them for herself, having had enough of youth.
She put her arms on her son's shoulders at once, and kissed him on both
cheeks, then seated herself among her cushions with an air of assured
firmness and dignity unlike her fitfulness in their first interview, and
told Deronda to sit down by her. He obeyed, saying, "You are quite
relieved now, I trust?"
"Yes, I am at ease again. Is there anything more that you would like to
ask me?" she said, with the matter of a queen rather than of a mother.
"Can I find the house in Genoa where you used to live with my
grandfather?" said Deronda.
"No," she answered, with a deprecating movement of her arm, "it is pulled
down--not to be found. But about our family, and where my father lived at
various times--you will find all that among the papers in the chest,
better than I can tell you. My father, I told you, was a physician. My
mother was a Morteira. I used to hear all those things without listening.
You will find them all. I was born amongst them without my will. I
banished them as soon as I could."
Deronda tried to hide his pained feeling, and said, "Anything else that I
should desire to know from you could only be what it is some satisfaction
to your own feeling to tell me."
"I think I have told you everything that could be demanded of me," said
the Princess, looking coldly meditative. It seemed as if she had exhausted
her emotion in their former interview. The fact was, she had said to
herself, "I have done it all. I have confessed all. I will not go through
it again. I will save myself from agitation." And she was acting out that
But to Deronda's nature the moment was cruel; it made the filial yearning
of his life a disappointed pilgrimage to a shrine where there were no
longer the symbols of sacredness. It seemed that all the woman lacking in
her was present in him, as he said, with some tremor in his voice--
"Then are we to part and I never be anything to you?"
"It is better so," said the Princess, in a softer, mellower voice. "There
could be nothing but hard duty for you, even if it were possible for you
to take the place of my son. You would not love me. Don't deny it," she
said, abruptly, putting up her hand. "I know what is the truth. You don't
like what I did. You are angry with me. You think I robbed you of
something. You are on your grandfather's side, and you will always have a
condemnation of me in your heart."
Deronda felt himself under a ban of silence. He rose from his seat by her,
preferring to stand, if he had to obey that imperious prohibition of any
tenderness. But his mother now looked up at him with a new admiration in
her glance, saying--
"You are wrong to be angry with me. You are the better for what I did."
After pausing a little, she added, abruptly, "And now tell me what you
"Do you mean now, immediately," said Deronda; "or as to the course of my
"I mean in the future. What difference will it make to you that I have
told you about your birth?"
"A very great difference," said Deronda, emphatically. "I can hardly think
of anything that would make a greater difference."
"What shall you do then?" said the Princess, with more sharpness. "Make
yourself just like your grandfather--be what he wished you--turn yourself
into a Jew like him?"
"That is impossible. The effect of my education can never be done away
with. The Christian sympathies in which my mind was reared can never die
out of me," said Deronda, with increasing tenacity of tone. "But I
consider it my duty--it is the impulse of my feeling--to identify myself,
as far as possible, with my hereditary people, and if I can see any work
to be done for them that I can give my soul and hand to I shall choose to
His mother had her eyes fixed on him with a wondering speculation,
examining his face as if she thought that by close attention she could
read a difficult language there. He bore her gaze very firmly, sustained
by a resolute opposition, which was the expression of his fullest self.
She bent toward him a little, and said, with a decisive emphasis--
"You are in love with a Jewess."
Deronda colored and said, "My reasons would be independent of any such
"I know better. I have seen what men are," said the Princess,
peremptorily. "Tell me the truth. She is a Jewess who will not accept any
one but a Jew. There _are_ a few such," she added, with a touch of scorn.
Deronda had that objection to answer which we all have known in speaking
to those who are too certain of their own fixed interpretations to be
enlightened by anything we may say. But besides this, the point
immediately in question was one on which he felt a repugnance either to
deny or affirm. He remained silent, and she presently said--
"You love her as your father loved me, and she draws you after her as I
Those words touched Deronda's filial imagination, and some tenderness in
his glance was taken by his mother as an assent. She went on with rising
passion: "But I was leading him the other way. And now your grandfather is
getting his revenge."
"Mother," said Deronda, remonstrantly, "don't let us think of it in that
way. I will admit that there may come some benefit from the education you
chose for me. I prefer cherishing the benefit with gratitude, to dwelling
with resentment on the injury. I think it would have been right that I
should have been brought up with the consciousness that I was a Jew, but
it must always have been a good to me to have as wide an instruction and
sympathy as possible. And now, you have restored me my inheritance--events
have brought a fuller restitution than you could have made--you have been
saved from robbing my people of my service and me of my duty: can you not
bring your whole soul to consent to this?"
Deronda paused in his pleading: his mother looked at him listeningly, as
if the cadence of his voice were taking her ear, yet she shook her head
slowly. He began again, even more urgently.
"You have told me that you sought what you held the best for me: open your
heart to relenting and love toward my grandfather, who sought what he held
the best for you."
"Not for me, no," she said, shaking her head with more absolute denial,
and folding her arms tightly. "I tell you, he never thought of his
daughter except as an instrument. Because I had wants outside his purpose,
I was to be put in a frame and tortured. If that is the right law for the
world, I will not say that I love it. If my acts were wrong--if it is God
who is exacting from me that I should deliver up what I withheld--who is
punishing me because I deceived my father and did not warn him that I
should contradict his trust--well, I have told everything. I have done
what I could. And _your_ soul consents. That is enough. I have after all
been the instrument my father wanted.--'I desire a grandson who shall have
a true Jewish heart. Every Jew should rear his family as if he hoped that
a Deliverer might spring from it.'"
In uttering these last sentences the Princess narrowed her eyes, waved her
head up and down, and spoke slowly with a new kind of chest-voice, as if
she were quoting unwillingly.
"Were those my grandfather's words?" said Deronda.
"Yes, yes; and you will find them written. I wanted to thwart him," said
the Princess, with a sudden outburst of the passion she had shown in the
former interview. Then she added more slowly, "You would have me love what
I have hated from the time I was so high"--here she held her left hand a
yard from the floor.--"That can never be. But what does it matter? His
yoke has been on me, whether I loved it or not. You are the grandson he
wanted. You speak as men do--as if you felt yourself wise. What does it
Her tone was abrupt and scornful. Deronda, in his pained feeling, and
under the solemn urgency of the moment, had to keep a clutching
remembrance of their relationship, lest his words should become cruel. He
began in a deep entreating tone:
"Mother, don't say that I feel myself wise. We are set in the midst of
difficulties. I see no other way to get any clearness than by being
truthful--not by keeping back facts which may--which should carry
obligation within them--which should make the only guidance toward duty.
No wonder if such facts come to reveal themselves in spite of
concealments. The effects prepared by generations are likely to triumph
over a contrivance which would bend them all to the satisfaction of self.
Your will was strong, but my grandfather's trust which you accepted and
did not fulfill--what you call his yoke--is the expression of something
stronger, with deeper, farther-spreading roots, knit into the foundations
of sacredness for all men. You renounced me--you still banish me--as a
son"--there was an involuntary movement of indignation in Deronda's voice
--"But that stronger Something has determined that I shall be all the more
the grandson whom also you willed to annihilate."
His mother was watching him fixedly, and again her face gathered
admiration. After a moment's silence she said, in a low, persuasive tone--
"Sit down again," and he obeyed, placing himself beside her. She laid her
hand on his shoulder and went on--
"You rebuke me. Well--I am the loser. And you are angry because I banish
you. What could you do for me but weary your own patience? Your mother is
a shattered woman. My sense of life is little more than a sense of what
was--except when the pain is present. You reproach me that I parted with
you. I had joy enough without you then. Now you are come back to me, and I
cannot make you a joy. Have you the cursing spirit of the Jew in you? Are
you not able to forgive me? Shall you be glad to think that I am punished
because I was not a Jewish mother to you?"
"How can you ask me that?" said Deronda, remonstrantly. "Have I not
besought you that I might now at least be a son to you? My grief is that
you have declared me helpless to comfort you. I would give up much that is
dear for the sake of soothing your anguish."
"You shall give up nothing," said his mother, with the hurry of agitation.
"You shall be happy. You shall let me think of you as happy. I shall have
done you no harm. You have no reason to curse me. You shall feel for me as
they feel for the dead whom they say prayers for--you shall long that I
may be freed from all suffering--from all punishment. And I shall see you
instead of always seeing your grandfather. Will any harm come to me
because I broke his trust in the daylight after he was gone into darkness?
I cannot tell:--if you think _Kaddish_ will help me--say it, say it. You
will come between me and the dead. When I am in your mind, you will look
as you do now--always as if you were a tender son--always--as if I had
been a tender mother."
She seemed resolved that her agitation should not conquer her, but he felt
her hand trembling on his shoulder. Deep, deep compassion hemmed in all
words. With a face of beseeching he put his arm around her and pressed her
head tenderly under his. They sat so for some moments. Then she lifted her
head again and rose from her seat with a great sigh, as if in that breath
she were dismissing a weight of thoughts. Deronda, standing in front of
her, felt that the parting was near. But one of her swift alternations had
come upon his mother.
"Is she beautiful?" she said, abruptly.
"Who?" said Deronda, changing color.
"The woman you love."
It was not a moment for deliberate explanation. He was obliged to say,
"No, I think not."
"Not one who must have a path of her own?"
"I think her nature is not given to make great claims."
"She is not like that?" said the Princess, taking from her wallet a
miniature with jewels around it, and holding it before her son. It was her
own in all the fire of youth, and as Deronda looked at it with admiring
sadness, she said, "Had I not a rightful claim to be something more than a
mere daughter and mother? The voice and the genius matched the face.
Whatever else was wrong, acknowledge that I had a right to be an artist,
though my father's will was against it. My nature gave me a charter."
"I do acknowledge that," said Deronda, looking from the miniature to her
face, which even in its worn pallor had an expression of living force
beyond anything that the pencil could show.
"Will you take the portrait?" said the Princess, more gently. "If she is a
kind woman, teach her to think of me kindly."
"I shall be grateful for the portrait," said Deronda, "but--I ought to
say, I have no assurance that she whom I love will have any love for me. I
have kept silence."
"Who and what is she?" said the mother. The question seemed a command.
"She was brought up as a singer for the stage," said Deronda, with inward
reluctance. "Her father took her away early from her mother, and her life
has been unhappy. She is very young--only twenty. Her father wished to
bring her up in disregard--even in dislike of her Jewish origin, but she
has clung with all her affection to the memory of her mother and the
fellowship of her people."
"Ah, like you. She is attached to the Judaism she knows nothing of," said
the Princess, peremptorily. "That is poetry--fit to last through an opera
night. Is she fond of her artist's life--is her singing worth anything?"
"Her singing is exquisite. But her voice is not suited to the stage. I
think that the artist's life has been made repugnant to her."
"Why, she is made for you then. Sir Hugo said you were bitterly against
being a singer, and I can see that you would never have let yourself be
merged in a wife, as your father was."
"I repeat," said Deronda, emphatically--"I repeat that I have no assurance
of her love for me, of the possibility that we can ever be united. Other
things--painful issues may lie before me. I have always felt that I should
prepare myself to renounce, not cherish that prospect. But I suppose I
might feel so of happiness in general. Whether it may come or not, one
should try and prepare one's self to do without it."
"Do you feel in that way?" said his mother, laying her hands on his
shoulders, and perusing his face, while she spoke in a low meditative
tone, pausing between her sentences. "Poor boy!----I wonder how it would
have been if I had kept you with me----whether you would have turned your
heart to the old things against mine----and we should have quarreled----
your grandfather would have been in you----and you would have hampered my
life with your young growth from the old root."
"I think my affection might have lasted through all our quarreling," said
Deronda, saddened more and more, "and that would not have hampered--surely
it would have enriched your life."
"Not then, not then----I did not want it then----I might have been glad of
it now," said the mother, with a bitter melancholy, "if I could have been
glad of anything."
"But you love your other children, and they love you?" said Deronda,
"Oh, yes," she answered, as to a question about a matter of course, while
she folded her arms again. "But,"----she added in a deeper tone,----"I am
not a loving woman. That is the truth. It is a talent to love--I lack it.
Others have loved me--and I have acted their love. I know very well what
love makes of men and women--it is subjection. It takes another for a
larger self, enclosing this one,"--she pointed to her own bosom. "I was
never willingly subject to any man. Men have been subject to me."
"Perhaps the man who was subject was the happier of the two," said
Deronda--not with a smile, but with a grave, sad sense of his mother's
"Perhaps--but I _was_ happy--for a few years I was happy. If I had not
been afraid of defeat and failure, I might have gone on. I miscalculated.
What then? It is all over. Another life! Men talk of 'another life,' as if
it only began on the other side of the grave. I have long entered on
another life." With the last words she raised her arms till they were bare
to the elbow, her brow was contracted in one deep fold, her eyes were
closed, her voice was smothered: in her dusky flame-colored garment, she
looked like a dreamed visitant from some region of departed mortals.
Deronda's feeling was wrought to a pitch of acuteness in which he was no
longer quite master of himself. He gave an audible sob. His mother, opened
her eyes, and letting her hands again rest on his shoulders, said--
"Good-bye, my son, good-bye. We shall hear no more of each other. Kiss
He clasped his arms round her neck, and they kissed each other.
Deronda did not know how he got out of the room. He felt an older man. All
his boyish yearnings and anxieties about his mother had vanished. He had
gone through a tragic experience which must forever solemnize his life and
deepen the significance of the acts by which he bound himself to others.
"The unwilling brain
Feigns often what it would not; and we trust
Imagination with such phantasies
As the tongue dares not fashion into words;
Which have no words, their horror makes them dim
To the mind's eye."
Madonna Pia, whose husband, feeling himself injured by her, took her to
his castle amid the swampy flats of the Maremma and got rid of her there,
makes a pathetic figure in Dante's Purgatory, among the sinners who
repented at the last and desire to be remembered compassionately by their
fellow-countrymen. We know little about the grounds of mutual discontent
between the Siennese couple, but we may infer with some confidence that
the husband had never been a very delightful companion, and that on the
flats of the Maremma his disagreeable manners had a background which threw
them out remarkably; whence in his desire to punish his wife to the
unmost, the nature of things was so far against him that in relieving
himself of her he could not avoid making the relief mutual. And thus,
without any hardness to the poor Tuscan lady, who had her deliverance long
ago, one may feel warranted in thinking of her with a less sympathetic
interest than of the better known Gwendolen who, instead of being
delivered from her errors or earth and cleansed from their effect in
purgatory, is at the very height of her entanglement in those fatal meshes
which are woven within more closely than without, and often make the
inward torture disproportionate to what is discernable as outward cause.
In taking his wife with him on a yachting expedition, Grandcourt had no
intention to get rid of her; on the contrary, he wanted to feel more
securely that she was his to do as he liked with, and to make her feel it
also. Moreover, he was himself very fond of yachting: its dreamy do-
nothing absolutism, unmolested by social demands, suited his disposition,
and he did not in the least regard it as an equivalent for the dreariness
of the Maremma. He had his reasons for carrying Gwendolen out of reach,
but they were not reasons that can seem black in the mere statement. He
suspected a growing spirit of opposition in her, and his feeling about the
sentimental inclination she betrayed for Deronda was what in another man
he would have called jealously. In himself it seemed merely a resolution
to put an end to such foolery as must have been going on in that
prearranged visit of Deronda's which he had divined and interrupted.
And Grandcourt might have pleaded that he was perfectly justified in
taking care that his wife should fulfill the obligations she had accepted.
Her marriage was a contract where all the ostensible advantages were on
her side, and it was only of those advantages that her husband should use
his power to hinder her from any injurious self committal or unsuitable
behavior. He knew quite well that she had not married him--had not
overcome her repugnance to certain facts--out of love to him personally;
he had won her by the rank and luxuries he had to give her, and these she
had got: he had fulfilled his side of the contract.
And Gwendolen, we know, was thoroughly aware of the situation. She could
not excuse herself by saying that there had been a tacit part of the
contract on her side--namely, that she meant to rule and have her own way.
With all her early indulgence in the disposition to dominate, she was not
one of the narrow-brained women who through life regard all their own
selfish demands as rights, and every claim upon themselves as an injury.
She had a root of conscience in her, and the process of purgatory had
begun for her on the green earth: she knew that she had been wrong.
But now enter into the soul of this young creature as she found herself,
with the blue Mediterranean dividing her from the world, on the tiny
plank-island of a yacht, the domain of the husband to whom she felt that
she had sold herself, and had been paid the strict price--nay, paid more
than she had dared to ask in the handsome maintenance of her mother:--the
husband to whom she had sold her truthfulness and sense of justice, so
that he held them throttled into silence, collared and dragged behind him
to witness what he would, without remonstrance.
What had she to complain of? The yacht was of the prettiest; the cabin
fitted up to perfection, smelling of cedar, soft-cushioned, hung with
silk, expanded with mirrors; the crew such as suited an elegant toy, one
of them having even ringlets, as well as a bronze complexion and fine
teeth; and Mr. Lush was not there, for he had taken his way back to
England as soon as he had seen all and everything on board. Moreover,
Gwendolen herself liked the sea: it did not make her ill; and to observe
the rigging of the vessel and forecast the necessary adjustments was a
sort of amusement that might have gratified her activity and enjoyment of
imaginary rule; the weather was fine, and they were coasting southward,
where even the rain-furrowed, heat-cracked clay becomes gem-like with
purple shadows, and where one may float between blue and blue in an open-
eyed dream that the world has done with sorrow.
But what can still that hunger of the heart which sickens the eye for
beauty, and makes sweet-scented ease an oppression? What sort of Moslem
paradise would quiet the terrible fury of moral repulsion and cowed
resistance which, like an eating pain intensifying into torture,
concentrates the mind in that poisonous misery? While Gwendolen, throned
on her cushions at evening, and beholding the glory of sea and sky
softening as if with boundless love around her, was hoping that Grandcourt
in his march up and down was not going to pause near her, not going to
look at her or speak to her, some woman, under a smoky sky, obliged to
consider the price of eggs in arranging her dinner, was listening for the
music of a footstep that would remove all risk from her foretaste of joy;
some couple, bending cheek by cheek, over a bit of work done by the one
and delighted in by the other, were reckoning the earnings that would make
them rich enough for a holiday among the furze and heather.
Had Grandcourt the least conception of what was going on in the breast of
his wife? He conceived that she did not love him; but was that necessary?
She was under his power, and he was not accustomed to soothe himself, as
some cheerfully-disposed persons are, with the conviction that he was very
generally and justly beloved. But what lay quite away from his conception
was, that she could have any special repulsion for him personally. How
could she? He himself knew what personal repulsion was--nobody better; his
mind was much furnished with a sense of what brutes his fellow-creatures
were, both masculine and feminine; what odious familiarities they had,
what smirks, what modes of flourishing their handkerchiefs, what costume,
what lavender water, what bulging eyes, and what foolish notions of making
themselves agreeable by remarks which were not wanted. In this critical
view of mankind there was an affinity between him and Gwendolen before
their marriage, and we know that she had been attractingly wrought upon by
the refined negations he presented to her. Hence he understood her
repulsion for Lush. But how was he to understand or conceive her present
repulsion for Henleigh Grandcourt? Some men bring themselves to believe,
and not merely maintain, the non-existence of an external world; a few
others believe themselves objects of repulsion to a woman without being
told so in plain language. But Grandcourt did not belong to this eccentric
body of thinkers. He had all his life had reason to take a flattering view
of his own attractiveness, and to place himself in fine antithesis to the
men who, he saw at once, must be revolting to a woman of taste. He had no
idea of moral repulsion, and could not have believed, if he had been told
it, that there may be a resentment and disgust which will gradually make
beauty more detestable than ugliness, through exasperation at that outward
virtue in which hateful things can flaunt themselves or find a
How, then, could Grandcourt divine what was going on in Gwendolen's
For their behavior to each other scandalized no observer--not even the
foreign maid, warranted against sea-sickness; nor Grandcourt's own
experienced valet: still less the picturesque crew, who regarded them as a
model couple in high life. Their companionship consisted chiefly in a
well-bred silence. Grandcourt had no humorous observations at which
Gwendolen could refuse to smile, no chit-chat to make small occasions of
dispute. He was perfectly polite in arranging an additional garment over
her when needful, and in handing her any object that he perceived her to
need, and she could not fall into the vulgarity of accepting or rejecting
such politeness rudely.
Grandcourt put up his telescope and said, "There's a plantation of sugar-
canes at the foot of that rock; should you like to look?"
Gwendolen said, "Yes, please," remembering that she must try and interest
herself in sugar-canes as something outside her personal affairs. Then
Grandcourt would walk up and down and smoke for a long while, pausing
occasionally to point out a sail on the horizon, and at last would seat
himself and look at Gwendolen with his narrow immovable gaze, as if she
were part of the complete yacht; while she, conscious of being looked at
was exerting her ingenuity not to meet his eyes. At dinner he would remark
that the fruit was getting stale, and they must put in somewhere for more;
or, observing that she did not drink the wine, he asked her if she would
like any other kind better. A lady was obliged to respond to these things
suitably; and even if she had not shrunk from quarrelling on other
grounds, quarreling with Grandcourt was impossible; she might as well have
made angry remarks to a dangerous serpent ornamentally coiled in her cabin
without invitation. And what sort of dispute could a woman of any pride
and dignity begin on a yacht?
Grandcourt had intense satisfaction in leading his wife captive after this
fashion; it gave their life on a small scale a royal representation and
publicity in which every thing familiar was got rid of, and every body
must do what was expected of them whatever might be their private protest
--the protest (kept strictly private) adding to the piquancy of despotism.
To Gwendolen, who even in the freedom of her maiden time, had had very
faint glimpses of any heroism or sublimity, the medium that now thrust
itself everywhere before her view was this husband and her relation to
him. The beings closest to us, whether in love or hate, are often
virtually our interpreters of the world, and some feather-headed gentleman
or lady whom in passing we regret to take as legal tender for a human
being, may be acting as a melancholy theory of life in the minds of those
who live with them--like a piece of yellow and wavy glass that distorts
form and makes color an affliction. Their trivial sentences, their petty
standards, their low suspicions, their loveless _ennui_, may be making
somebody else's life no better than a promenade through a pantheon of ugly
idols. Gwendolen had that kind of window before her, affecting the distant
equally with the near. Some unhappy wives are soothed by the possibility
that they may become mothers; but Gwendolen felt that to desire a child
for herself would have been a consenting to the completion of the injury
she had been guilty of. She was reduced to dread lest she should become a
mother. It was not the image of a new sweetly-budding life that came as a
vision of deliverance from the monotony of distaste: it was an image of
another sort. In the irritable, fluctuating stages of despair, gleams of
hope came in the form of some possible accident. To dwell on the benignity
of accident was a refuge from worse temptation.
The embitterment of hatred is often as unaccountable to onlookers as the
growth of devoted love, and it not only seems but is really out of direct
relation with any outward causes to be alleged. Passion is of the nature
of seed, and finds nourishment within, tending to a predominance which
determines all currents toward itself, and makes the whole life its
tributary. And the intensest form of hatred is that rooted in fear, which
compels to silence and drives vehemence into a constructive
vindictiveness, an imaginary annihilation of the detested object,
something like the hidden rites of vengeance with which the persecuted
have made a dark vent for their rage, and soothed their suffering into
dumbness. Such hidden rites went on in the secrecy of Gwendolen's mind,
but not with soothing effect--rather with the effect of a struggling
terror. Side by side with the dread of her husband had grown the self-
dread, which urged her to flee from the pursuing images wrought by her
pent-up impulse. The vision of her past wrong-doing, and what it had
brought on her, came with a pale ghastly illumination over every imagined
deed that was a rash effort at freedom, such as she had made in her
marriage. Moreover, she had learned to see all her acts through the
impression they would make on Deronda: whatever relief might come to her,
she could not sever it from the judgment of her that would be created in
his mind. Not one word of flattery, of indulgence, of dependence on her
favor, could be fastened on by her in all their intercourse, to weaken his
restraining power over her (in this way Deronda's effort over himself was
repaid); and amid the dreary uncertainties of her spoiled life the
possible remedies that lay in his mind, nay, the remedy that lay in her
feeling for him, made her only hope. He seemed to her a terrible-browed
angel, from whom she could not think of concealing any deed so as to win
an ignorant regard from him: it belonged to the nature of their relation
that she should be truthful, for his power over her had begun in the
raising of a self-discontent which could be satisfied only by genuine
change. But in no concealment had she now any confidence: her vision of
what she had to dread took more decidedly than ever the form of some
fiercely impulsive deed, committed as in a dream that she would
instantaneously wake from to find the effects real though the images had
been false: to find death under her hands, but instead of darkness,
daylight; instead of satisfied hatred, the dismay of guilt; instead of
freedom, the palsy of a new terror--a white dead face from which she was
forever trying to flee and forever held back. She remembered Deronda's
words: they were continually recurring in her thought--
"Turn your fear into a safeguard. Keep your dread fixed on the idea of
increasing your remorse. * * * Take your fear as a safeguard. It is like
quickness of hearing. It may make consequences passionately present to
And so it was. In Gwendolen's consciousness temptation and dread met and
stared like two pale phantoms, each seeing itself in the other--each
obstructed by its own image; and all the while her fuller self beheld the
apparitions and sobbed for deliverance from them.
Inarticulate prayers, no more definite than a cry, often swept out from
her into the vast silence, unbroken except by her husband's breathing or
the plash of the wave or the creaking of the masts; but if ever she
thought of definite help, it took the form of Deronda's presence and
words, of the sympathy he might have for her, of the direction he might
give her. It was sometimes after a white-lipped fierce-eyed temptation
with murdering fingers had made its demon-visit that these best moments of
inward crying and clinging for rescue would come to her, and she would lie
with wide-open eyes in which the rising tears seemed a blessing, and the
thought, "I will not mind if I can keep from getting wicked," seemed an
answer to the indefinite prayer.
So the days passed, taking with them light breezes beyond and about the
Balearic Isles, and then to Sardinia, and then with gentle change
persuading them northward again toward Corsica. But this floating, gentle-
wafted existence, with its apparently peaceful influences, was becoming as
bad as a nightmare to Gwendolen.
"How long are we to be yachting?" she ventured to ask one day after they
had been touching at Ajaccio, and the mere fact of change in going ashore
had given her a relief from some of the thoughts which seemed now to cling
about the very rigging of the vessel, mix with the air in the red silk
cabin below, and make the smell of the sea odious.
"What else should we do?" said Grandcourt. "I'm not tired of it. I don't
see why we shouldn't stay out any length of time. There's less to bore one
in this way. And where would you go to? I'm sick of foreign places. And we
shall have enough of Ryelands. Would you rather be at Ryeland's?"
"Oh, no," said Gwendolen, indifferently, finding all places alike
undescribable as soon as she imagined herself and her husband in them. "I
only wondered how long you would like this."
"I like yachting longer than anything else," said Grandcourt; "and I had
none last year. I suppose you are beginning to tire of it. Women are so
confoundedly whimsical. They expect everything to give way to them."
"Oh, dear, no!" said Gwendolen, letting out her scorn in a flute-like
tone. "I never expect you to give way."
"Why should I?" said Grandcourt, with his inward voice, looking at her,
and then choosing an orange--for they were at table.
She made up her mind to a length of yatching that she could not see
beyond; but the next day, after a squall which had made her rather ill for
the first time, he came down to her and said--
"There's been the devil's own work in the night. The skipper says we shall
have to stay at Genoa for a week while things are set right."
"Do you mind that?" said Gwendolen, who lay looking very white amidst her
"I should think so. Who wants to be broiling at Genoa?"
"It will be a change," said Gwendolen, made a little incautious by her
"_I_ don't want any change. Besides, the place is intolerable; and one
can't move along the roads. I shall go out in a boat, as I used to do, and
manage it myself. One can get a few hours every day in that way instead of
striving in a damnable hotel."
Here was a prospect which held hope in it. Gwendolen thought of hours when
she would be alone, since Grandcourt would not want to take her in the
said boat, and in her exultation at this unlooked-for relief, she had
wild, contradictory fancies of what she might do with her freedom--that
"running away" which she had already innumerable times seen to be a worse
evil than any actual endurance, now finding new arguments as an escape
from her worse self. Also, visionary relief on a par with the fancy of a
prisoner that the night wind may blow down the wall of his prison and save
him from desperate devices, insinuated itself as a better alternative,
lawful to wish for.
The fresh current of expectation revived her energies, and enabled her to
take all things with an air of cheerfulness and alacrity that made a
change marked enough to be noticed by her husband. She watched through the
evening lights to the sinking of the moon with less of awed loneliness
than was habitual to her--nay, with a vague impression that in this mighty
frame of things there might be some preparation of rescue for her. Why
not?--since the weather had just been on her side. This possibility of
hoping, after her long fluctuation amid fears, was like a first return of
hunger to the long-languishing patient.
She was waked the next morning by the casting of the anchor in the port of
Genoa--waked from a strangely-mixed dream in which she felt herself
escaping over the Mont Cenis, and wondering to find it warmer even in the
moonlight on the snow, till suddenly she met Deronda, who told her to go
In an hour or so from that dream she actually met Deronda. But is was on
the palatial staircase of the _Italia_, where she was feeling warm in her
light woolen dress and straw hat; and her husband was by her side.
There was a start of surprise in Deronda before he could raise his hat and
pass on. The moment did not seem to favor any closer greeting, and the
circumstances under which they had last parted made him doubtful whether
Grandcourt would be civilly inclined to him.
The doubt might certainly have been changed into a disagreeable certainty,
for Grandcourt on this unaccountable appearance of Deronda at Genoa of all
places, immediately tried to conceive how there could have been an
arrangement between him and Gwendolen. It is true that before they were
well in their rooms, he had seen how difficult it was to shape such an
arrangement with any probability, being too cool-headed to find it at once
easily credible that Gwendolen had not only while in London hastened to
inform Deronda of the yachting project, but had posted a letter to him
from Marseilles or Barcelona, advising him to travel to Genoa in time for
the chance of meeting her there, or of receiving a letter from her telling
of some other destination--all which must have implied a miraculous
foreknowledge in her, and in Deronda a bird-like facility in flying about
and perching idly. Still he was there, and though Grandcourt would not
make a fool of himself by fabrications that others might call
preposterous, he was not, for all that, disposed to admit fully that
Deronda's presence was, so far as Gwendolen was concerned, a mere
accident. It was a disgusting fact; that was enough; and no doubt she was
well pleased. A man out of temper does not wait for proofs before feeling
toward all things animate and inanimate as if they were in a conspiracy
against him, but at once threshes his horse or kicks his dog in
consequence. Grandcourt felt toward Gwendolen and Deronda as if he knew
them to be in a conspiracy against him, and here was an event in league
with them. What he took for clearly certain--and so far he divined the
truth--was that Gwendolen was now counting on an interview with Deronda
whenever her husband's back was turned.
As he sat taking his coffee at a convenient angle for observing her, he
discerned something which he felt sure was the effect of a secret delight
--some fresh ease in moving and speaking, some peculiar meaning in her
eyes, whatever she looked on. Certainly her troubles had not marred her
beauty. Mrs. Grandcourt was handsomer than Gwendolen Harleth: her grace
and expression were informed by a greater variety of inward experience,
giving new play to her features, new attitudes in movement and repose; her
whole person and air had the nameless something which often makes a woman
more interesting after marriage than before, less confident that all
things are according to her opinion, and yet with less of deer-like
shyness--more fully a human being.
This morning the benefits of the voyage seemed to be suddenly revealing
themselves in a new elasticity of mien. As she rose from the table and put
her two heavily-jewelled hands on each side of her neck, according to her
wont, she had no art to conceal that sort of joyous expectation which
makes the present more bearable than usual, just as when a man means to go
out he finds it easier to be amiable to the family for a quarter of an
hour beforehand. It is not impossible that a terrier whose pleasure was
concerned would perceive those amiable signs and know their meaning--know
why his master stood in a peculiar way, talked with alacrity, and even had
a peculiar gleam in his eye, so that on the least movement toward the
door, the terrier would scuttle to be in time. And, in dog fashion,
Grandcourt discerned the signs of Gwendolen's expectation, interpreting
them with the narrow correctness which leaves a world of unknown feeling
"A--just ring, please, and tell Gibbs to order some dinner for us at
three," said Grandcourt, as he too rose, took out a cigar, and then
stretched his hand toward the hat that lay near. "I'm going to send Angus
to find a little sailing-boat for us to go out in; one that I can manage,
with you at the tiller. It's uncommonly pleasant these fine evenings--the
least boring of anything we can do."
Gwendolen turned cold. There was not only the cruel disappointment; there
was the immediate conviction that her husband had determined to take her
because he would not leave her out of his sight; and probably this dual
solitude in a boat was the more attractive to him because it would be
wearisome to her. They were not on the plank-island; she felt it the more
possible to begin a contest. But the gleaming content had died out of her.
There was a change in her like that of a glacier after sunset.
"I would rather not go in the boat," she said. "Take some one else with
"Very well; if you don't go, I shall not go," said Grandcourt. "We shall
stay suffocating here, that's all."
"I can't bear to go in a boat," said Gwendolen, angrily.
"That is a sudden change," said Grandcourt, with a slight sneer. "But,
since you decline, we shall stay indoors."
He laid down his hat again, lit his cigar, and walked up and down the
room, pausing now and then to look out of the windows. Gwendolen's temper
told her to persist. She knew very well now that Grandcourt would not go
without her; but if he must tyrannize over her, he should not do it
precisely in the way he would choose. She would oblige him to stay in the
hotel. Without speaking again, she passed into the adjoining bedroom and
threw herself into a chair with her anger, seeing no purpose or issue--
only feeling that the wave of evil had rushed back upon her, and dragged
her away from her momentary breathing-place.
Presently Grandcourt came in with his hat on, but threw it off and sat
down sideways on a chair nearly in front of her, saying, in his
"Have you come round yet? or do you find it agreeable to be out of temper.
You make things uncommonly pleasant for me."
"Why do you want to make them unpleasant for _me_?" said Gwendolen,
getting helpless again, and feeling the hot tears rise.
"Now, will you be good enough to say what it is you have to complain of?"
said Grandcourt, looking into her eyes, and using his most inward voice.
"Is it that I stay indoors when you stay?"
She could give no answer. The sort of truth that made any excuse for her
anger could not be uttered. In the conflict of despair and humiliation she
began to sob, and the tears rolled down her cheeks--a form of agitation
which she had never shown before in her husband's presence.
"I hope this is useful," said Grandcourt, after a moment or two. "All I
can say is, it's most confoundedly unpleasant. What the devil women can
see in this kind of thing, I don't know. _You_ see something to be got by
it, of course. All I can see is, that we shall be shut up here when we
might have been having a pleasant sail."
"Let us go, then," said Gwendolen, impetuously. "Perhaps we shall be
drowned." She began to sob again.
This extraordinary behavior, which had evidently some relation to Deronda,
gave more definiteness to Grandcourt's conclusions. He drew his chair
quite close in front of her, and said, in a low tone, "Just be quiet and
listen, will you?"
There seemed to be a magical effect in this close vicinity. Gwendolen
shrank and ceased to sob. She kept her eyelids down and clasped her hands
"Let us understand each other," said Grandcourt, in the same tone. "I know
very well what this nonsense means. But if you suppose I am going to let
you make a fool of me, just dismiss that notion from your mind. What are
you looking forward to, if you can't behave properly as my wife? There is
disgrace for you, if you like to have it, but I don't know anything else;
and as to Deronda, it's quite clear that he hangs back from you."
"It's all false!" said Gwendolen, bitterly. "You don't in the least
imagine what is in my mind. I have seen enough of the disgrace that comes
in that way. And you had better leave me at liberty to speak with any one
I like. It will be better for you."
"You will allow me to judge of that," said Grandcourt, rising and moving
to a little distance toward the window, but standing there playing with
his whiskers as if he were awaiting something.
Gwendolen's words had so clear and tremendous a meaning for herself that
she thought they must have expressed it to Grandcourt, and had no sooner
uttered them than she dreaded their effect. But his soul was garrisoned
against presentiments and fears: he had the courage and confidence that
belong to domination, and he was at that moment feeling perfectly
satisfied that he held his wife with bit and bridle. By the time they had
been married a year she would cease to be restive. He continued standing
with his air of indifference, till she felt her habitual stifling
consciousness of having an immovable obstruction in her life, like the
nightmare of beholding a single form that serves to arrest all passage
though the wide country lies open.
"What decision have you come to?" he said, presently looking at her. "What
orders shall I give?"
"Oh, let us go," said Gwendolen. The walls had begun to be an
imprisonment, and while there was breath in this man he would have the
mastery over her. His words had the power of thumb-screws and the cold
touch of the rock. To resist was to act like a stupid animal unable to
So the boat was ordered. She even went down to the quay again with him to
see it before midday. Grandcourt had recovered perfect quietude of temper,
and had a scornful satisfaction in the attention given by the nautical
groups to the _milord_, owner of the handsome yacht which had just put in
for repairs, and who being an Englishman was naturally so at home on the
sea that he could manage a sail with the same ease that he could manage a
horse. The sort of exultation he had discerned in Gwendolen this morning
she now thought that she discerned in him; and it was true that he had set
his mind on this boating, and carried out his purpose as something that
people might not expect him to do, with the gratified impulse of a strong
will which had nothing better to exert itself upon. He had remarkable
physical courage, and was proud of it--or rather he had a great contempt
for the coarser, bulkier men who generally had less. Moreover, he was
ruling that Gwendolen should go with him.
And when they came down again at five o'clock, equipped for their boating,
the scene was as good as a theatrical representation for all beholders.
This handsome, fair-skinned English couple, manifesting the usual
eccentricity of their nation, both of them proud, pale, and calm, without
a smile on their faces, moving like creatures who were fulfilling a
supernatural destiny--it was a thing to go out and see, a thing to paint.
The husband's chest, back, and arms, showed very well in his close-fitting
dress, and the wife was declared to be a statue.
Some suggestions were proffered concerning a possible change in the
breeze, and the necessary care in putting about, but Grandcourt's manner
made the speakers understand that they were too officious, and that he
knew better than they.
Gwendolen, keeping her impassable air, as they moved away from the strand,
felt her imagination obstinately at work. She was not afraid of any