Part 14 out of 16
outward dangers--she was afraid of her own wishes which were taking shapes
possible and impossible, like a cloud of demon-faces. She was afraid of
her own hatred, which under the cold iron touch that had compelled her to-
day had gathered a fierce intensity. As she sat guiding the tiller under
her husband's eyes, doing just what he told her, the strife within her
seemed like her own effort to escape from herself. She clung to the
thought of Deronda: she persuaded herself that he would not go away while
she was there--he knew that she needed help. The sense that he was there
would save her from acting out the evil within. And yet quick, quick, came
images, plans of evil that would come again and seize her in the night,
like furies preparing the deed that they would straightway avenge.
They were taken out of the port and carried eastward by a gentle breeze.
Some clouds tempered the sunlight, and the hour was always deepening
toward the supreme beauty of evening. Sails larger and smaller changed
their aspect like sensitive things, and made a cheerful companionship,
alternately near and far. The grand city shone more vaguely, the mountains
looked out above it, and there was stillness as in an island sanctuary.
Yet suddenly Gwendolen let her hands fall, and said in a scarcely audible
tone, "God help me!"
"What is the matter?" said Grandcourt, not distinguishing the words.
"Oh, nothing," said Gwendolen, rousing herself from her momentary
forgetfulness and resuming the ropes.
"Don't you find this pleasant?" said Grandcourt.
"You admit now we couldn't have done anything better?"
"No--I see nothing better. I think we shall go on always, like the Flying
Dutchman," said Gwendolen wildly.
Grandcourt gave her one of his narrow examining glances, and then said,
"If you like, we can go to Spezia in the morning, and let them take us up
"No; I shall like nothing better than this."
"Very well: we'll do the same to-morrow. But we must be turning in soon. I
shall put about."
"Ritorna a tua scienza
Che vuoi, quanto la cosa e piu perfetta
Piu senta if bene, e cosi la doglienza."
When Deronda met Gwendolen and Grandcourt on the staircase, his mind was
seriously preoccupied. He had just been summoned to the second interview
with his mother.
In two hours after his parting from her he knew that the Princess Halm-
Eberstein had left the hotel, and so far as the purpose of his journey to
Genoa was concerned, he might himself have set off on his way to Mainz, to
deliver the letter from Joseph Kalonymos, and get possession of the family
chest. But mixed mental conditions, which did not resolve themselves into
definite reasons, hindered him from departure. Long after the farewell he
was kept passive by a weight of retrospective feeling. He lived again,
with the new keenness of emotive memory, through the exciting scenes which
seemed past only in the sense of preparation for their actual presence in
his soul. He allowed himself in his solitude to sob, with perhaps more
than a woman's acuteness of compassion, over that woman's life so near to
his, and yet so remote. He beheld the world changed for him by the
certitude of ties that altered the poise of hopes and fears, and gave him
a new sense of fellowship, as if under cover of the night he had joined
the wrong band of wanderers, and found with the rise of morning that the
tents of his kindred were grouped far off. He had a quivering imaginative
sense of close relation to the grandfather who had been animated by strong
impulses and beloved thoughts, which were now perhaps being roused from
their slumber within himself. And through all this passionate meditation
Mordecai and Mirah were always present, as beings who clasped hands with
him in sympathetic silence.
Of such quick, responsive fibre was Deronda made, under that mantle of
self-controlled reserve into which early experience had thrown so much of
his young strength.
When the persistent ringing of a bell as a signal reminded him of the hour
he thought of looking into _Bradshaw_, and making the brief necessary
preparations for starting by the next train--thought of it, but made no
movement in consequence. Wishes went to Mainz and what he was to get
possession of there--to London and the beings there who made the strongest
attachments of his life; but there were other wishes that clung in these
moments to Genoa, and they kept him where he was by that force which urges
us to linger over an interview that carries a presentiment of final
farewell or of overshadowing sorrow. Deronda did not formally say, "I will
stay over to-night, because it is Friday, and I should like to go to the
evening service at the synagogue where they must all have gone; and
besides, I may see the Grandcourts again." But simply, instead of packing
and ringing for his bill, he sat doing nothing at all, while his mind went
to the synagogue and saw faces there probably little different from those
of his grandfather's time, and heard the Spanish-Hebrew liturgy which had
lasted through the seasons of wandering generations like a plant with
wandering seed, that gives the far-off lands a kinship to the exile's
home--while, also, his mind went toward Gwendolen, with anxious
remembrance of what had been, and with a half-admitted impression that it
would be hardness in him willingly to go away at once without making some
effort, in spite of Grandcourt's probable dislike, to manifest the
continuance of his sympathy with her since their abrupt parting.
In this state of mind he deferred departure, ate his dinner without sense
of flavor, rose from it quickly to find the synagogue, and in passing the
porter asked if Mr. and Mrs. Grandcourt were still in the hotel, and what
was the number of their apartment. The porter gave him the number, but
added that they were gone out boating. That information had somehow power
enough over Deronda to divide his thoughts with the memories wakened among
the sparse _talithim_ and keen dark faces of worshippers whose way of
taking awful prayers and invocations with the easy familiarity which might
be called Hebrew dyed Italian, made him reflect that his grandfather,
according to the Princess's hints of his character, must have been almost
as exceptional a Jew as Mordecai. But were not men of ardent zeal and far-
reaching hope everywhere exceptional? the men who had the visions which,
as Mordecai said, were the creators and feeders of the world--moulding and
feeding the more passive life which without them would dwindle and shrivel
into the narrow tenacity of insects, unshaken by thoughts beyond the reach
of their antennae. Something of a mournful impatience perhaps added itself
to the solicitude about Gwendolen (a solicitude that had room to grow in
his present release from immediate cares) as an incitement to hasten from
the synagogue and choose to take his evening walk toward the quay, always
a favorite haunt with him, and just now attractive with the possibility
that he might be in time to see the Grandcourts come in from their
boating. In this case, he resolved that he would advance to greet them
deliberately, and ignore any grounds that the husband might have for
wishing him elsewhere.
The sun had set behind a bank of cloud, and only a faint yellow light was
giving its farewell kisses to the waves, which were agitated by an active
breeze. Deronda, sauntering slowly within sight of what took place on the
strand, observed the groups there concentrating their attention on a
sailing-boat which was advancing swiftly landward, being rowed by two men.
Amidst the clamorous talk in various languages, Deronda held it the surer
means of getting information not to ask questions, but to elbow his way to
the foreground and be an unobstructed witness of what was occurring.
Telescopes were being used, and loud statements made that the boat held
somebody who had been drowned. One said it was the _milord_ who had gone
out in a sailing boat; another maintained that the prostrate figure he
discerned was _miladi_; a Frenchman who had no glass would rather say that
it was _milord_ who had probably taken his wife out to drown her,
according to the national practice--a remark which an English skipper
immediately commented on in our native idiom (as nonsense which--had
undergone a mining operation), and further dismissed by the decision that
the reclining figure was a woman. For Deronda, terribly excited by
fluctuating fears, the strokes of the oars as he watched them were divided
by swift visions of events, possible and impossible, which might have
brought about this issue, or this broken-off fragment of an issue, with a
worse half undisclosed--if this woman apparently snatched from the waters
were really Mrs. Grandcourt.
But soon there was no longer any doubt: the boat was being pulled to land,
and he saw Gwendolen half raising herself on her hands, by her own effort,
under her heavy covering of tarpaulin and pea-jackets--pale as one of the
sheeted dead, shivering, with wet hair streaming, a wild amazed
consciousness in her eyes, as if she had waked up in a world where some
judgment was impending, and the beings she saw around were coming to seize
her. The first rower who jumped to land was also wet through, and ran off;
the sailors, close about the boat, hindered Deronda from advancing, and he
could only look on while Gwendolen gave sacred glances, and seemed to
shrink with terror as she was carefully, tenderly helped out, and led on
by the strong arms of those rough, bronzed men, her wet clothes clinging
about her limbs, and adding to the impediment of her weakness. Suddenly
her wandering eyes fell on Deronda, standing before her, and immediately,
as if she had been expecting him and looking for him, she tried to stretch
out her arms, which were held back by her supporters, saying, in a muffled
"It is come, it is come! He is dead!"
"Hush, hush!" said Deronda, in a tone of authority; "quiet yourself." Then
to the men who were assisting her, "I am a connection of this lady's
husband. If you will get her on to the _Italia_ as quickly as possible, I
will undertake everything else."
He stayed behind to hear from the remaining boatman that her husband had
gone down irrecoverably, and that his boat was left floating empty. He and
his comrade had heard a cry, had come up in time to see the lady jump in
after her husband, and had got her out fast enough to save her from much
After this, Deronda hastened to the hotel to assure himself that the best
medical help would be provided; and being satisfied on this point, he
telegraphed the event to Sir Hugo, begging him to come forthwith, and also
to Mr. Gascoigne, whose address at the rectory made his nearest known way
of getting the information to Gwendolen's mother. Certain words of
Gwendolen's in the past had come back to him with the effectiveness of an
inspiration: in moments of agitated confession she had spoken of her
mother's presence, as a possible help, if she could have had it.
"The pang, the curse with which they died,
Had never passed away:
I could not draw my eyes from theirs,
Nor lift them up to pray."
Deronda did not take off his clothes that night. Gwendolen, after
insisting on seeing him again before she would consent to be undressed,
had been perfectly quiet, and had only asked him, with a whispering,
repressed eagerness, to promise that he would come to her when she sent
for him in the morning. Still, the possibility that a change might come
over her, the danger of a supervening feverish condition, and the
suspicion that something in the late catastrophe was having an effect
which might betray itself in excited words, acted as a foreboding within
him. He mentioned to her attendant that he should keep himself ready to be
called if there were any alarming change of symptoms, making it understood
by all concerned that he was in communication with her friends in England,
and felt bound meanwhile to take all care on her behalf--a position which
it was the easier for him to assume, because he was well known to
Grandcourt's valet, the only old servant who had come on the late voyage.
But when fatigue from the strangely various emotion of the day at last
sent Deronda to sleep, he remained undisturbed except by the morning
dreams, which came as a tangled web of yesterday's events, and finally
waked him, with an image drawn by his pressing anxiety.
Still, it was morning, and there had been no summons--an augury which
cheered him while he made his toilet, and reflected that it was too early
to send inquiries. Later, he learned that she had passed a too wakeful
night, but had shown no violent signs of agitation, and was at last
sleeping. He wondered at the force that dwelt in this creature, so alive
to dread; for he had an irresistible impression that even under the
effects of a severe physical shock she was mastering herself with a
determination of concealment. For his own part, he thought that his
sensibilities had been blunted by what he had been going through in the
meeting with his mother: he seemed to himself now to be only fulfilling
claims, and his more passionate sympathy was in abeyance. He had lately
been living so keenly in an experience quite apart from Gwendolen's lot,
that his present cares for her were like a revisiting of scenes familiar
in the past, and there was not yet a complete revival of the inward
response to them.
Meanwhile he employed himself in getting a formal, legally recognized
statement from the fisherman who had rescued Gwendolen. Few details came
to light. The boat in which Grandcourt had gone out had been found
drifting with its sail loose, and had been towed in. The fishermen thought
it likely that he had been knocked overboard by the flapping of the sail
while putting about, and that he had not known how to swim; but, though
they were near, their attention had been first arrested by a cry which
seemed like that of a man in distress, and while they were hastening with
their oars, they heard a shriek from the lady, and saw her jump in.
On re-entering the hotel, Deronda was told that Gwendolen had risen, and
was desiring to see him. He was shown into a room darkened by blinds and
curtains, where she was seated with a white shawl wrapped round her,
looking toward the opening door like one waiting uneasily. But her long
hair was gathered up and coiled carefully, and, through all, the blue
stars in her ears had kept their place: as she started impulsively to her
full height, sheathed in her white shawl, her face and neck not less
white, except for a purple line under her eyes, her lips a little apart
with the peculiar expression of one accused and helpless, she looked like
the unhappy ghost of that Gwendolen Harleth whom Deronda had seen turning
with firm lips and proud self-possession from her losses at the gaming
table. The sight pierced him with pity, and the effects of all their past
relations began to revive within him.
"I beseech you to rest--not to stand," said Deronda, as he approached her;
and she obeyed, falling back into her chair again.
"Will you sit down near me?" she said. "I want to speak very low."
She was in a large arm-chair, and he drew a small one near to her side.
The action seemed to touch her peculiarly: turning her pale face full upon
his, which was very near, she said, in the lowest audible tone, "You know
I am a guilty woman?"
Deronda himself turned paler as he said, "I know nothing." He did not dare
to say more.
"He is dead." She uttered this with the same undertoned decision.
"Yes," said Deronda, in a mournful suspense which made him reluctant to
"His face will not be seen above the water again," said Gwendolen, in a
tone that was not louder, but of a suppressed eagerness, while she held
both her hands clenched.
"Not by any one else--only by me--a dead face--I shall never get away from
It was with an inward voice of desperate self-repression that she spoke
these last words, while she looked away from Deronda toward something at a
distance from her on the floor. She was seeing the whole event--her own
acts included--through an exaggerating medium of excitement and horror?
Was she in a state of delirium into which there entered a sense of
concealment and necessity for self-repression? Such thoughts glanced
through Deronda as a sort of hope. But imagine the conflict of feeling
that kept him silent. She was bent on confession, and he dreaded hearing
her confession. Against his better will he shrank from the task that was
laid on him: he wished, and yet rebuked the wish as cowardly, that she
could bury her secrets in her own bosom. He was not a priest. He dreaded
the weight of this woman's soul flung upon his own with imploring
dependence. But she spoke again, hurriedly, looking at him--
"You will not say that I ought to tell the world? you will not say that I
ought to be disgraced? I could not do it. I could not bear it. I cannot
have my mother know. Not if I were dead. I could not have her know. I must
tell you; but you will not say that any one else should know."
"I can say nothing in my ignorance," said Deronda, mournfully, "except
that I desire to help you."
"I told you from the beginning--as soon as I could--I told you I was
afraid of myself." There was a piteous pleading in the low murmur in which
Deronda turned his ear only. Her face afflicted him too much. "I felt a
hatred in me that was always working like an evil spirit--contriving
things. Everything I could do to free myself came into my mind; and it got
worse--all things got worse. That is why I asked you to come to me in
town. I thought then I would tell you the worst about myself. I tried. But
I could not tell everything. And _he_ came in."
She paused, while a shudder passed through her; but soon went on.
"I will tell you everything now. Do you think a woman who cried, and
prayed, and struggled to be saved from herself, could be a murderess?"
"Great God!" said Deronda, in a deep, shaken voice, "don't torture me
needlessly. You have not murdered him. You threw yourself into the water
with the impulse to save him. Tell me the rest afterward. This death was
an accident that you could not have hindered."
"Don't be impatient with me." The tremor, the childlike beseeching in
these words compelled Deronda to turn his head and look at her face. The
poor quivering lips went on. "You said--you used to say--you felt more for
those who had done something wicked and were miserable; you said they
might get better--they might be scourged into something better. If you had
not spoken in that way, Everything would have been worse. I _did_ remember
all you said to me. It came to me always. It came to me at the very last--
that was the reason why I--But now, if you cannot bear with me when I tell
you everything--if you turn away from me and forsake me, what shall I do?
Am I worse than I was when you found me and wanted to make me better? All
the wrong I have done was in me then--and more--and more--if you had not
come and been patient with me. And now--will you forsake me?"
Her hands, which had been so tightly clenched some minutes before, were
now helplessly relaxed and trembling on the arm of her chair. Her
quivering lips remained parted as she ceased speaking. Deronda could not
answer; he was obliged to look away. He took one of her hands, and clasped
it as if they were going to walk together like two children: it was the
only way in which he could answer, "I will not forsake you." And all the
while he felt as if he were putting his name to a blank paper which might
be filled up terribly. Their attitude, his adverted face with its
expression of a suffering which he was solemnly resolved to undergo, might
have told half the truth of the situation to a beholder who had suddenly
That grasp was an entirely new experience to Gwendolen: she had never
before had from any man a sign of tenderness which her own being had
needed, and she interpreted its powerful effect on her into a promise of
inexhaustible patience and constancy. The stream of renewed strength made
it possible for her to go on as she had begun--with that fitful, wandering
confession where the sameness of experience seems to nullify the sense of
time or of order in events. She began again in a fragmentary way--
"All sorts of contrivances in my mind--but all so difficult. And I fought
against them--I was terrified at them--I saw his dead face"--here her
voice sank almost to a whisper close to Deronda's ear--"ever so long ago
I saw it and I wished him to be dead. And yet it terrified me. I was like
two creatures. I could not speak--I wanted to kill--it was as strong as
thirst--and then directly--I felt beforehand I had done something
dreadful, unalterable--that would make me like an evil spirit. And it
She was silent a moment or two, as if her memory had lost itself in a web
where each mesh drew all the rest.
"It had all been in my mind when I first spoke to you--when we were at the
Abbey. I had done something then. I could not tell you that. It was the
only thing I did toward carrying out my thoughts. They went about over
everything; but they all remained like dreadful dreams--all but one. I did
one act--and I never undid it--it is there still--as long ago as when we
were at Ryelands. There it was--something my fingers longed for among the
beautiful toys in the cabinet in my boudoir--small and sharp like a long
willow leaf in a silver sheath. I locked it in the drawer of my dressing-
case. I was continually haunted with it and how I should use it. I fancied
myself putting it under my pillow. But I never did. I never looked at it
again. I dared not unlock the drawer: it had a key all to itself; and not
long ago, when we were in the yacht, I dropped the key into the deep
water. It was my wish to drop it and deliver myself. After that I began to
think how I could open the drawer without the key: and when I found we
were to stay at Genoa, it came into my mind that I could get it opened
privately at the hotel. But then, when we were going up the stairs, I met
you; and I thought I should talk to you alone and tell you this--
everything I could not tell you in town; and then I was forced to go out
in the boat."
A sob had for the first time risen with the last words, and she sank back
in her chair. The memory of that acute disappointment seemed for the
moment to efface what had come since. Deronda did not look at her, but he
"And it has all remained in your imagination. It has gone on only in your
thought. To the last the evil temptation has been resisted?"
There was silence. The tears had rolled down her cheeks. She pressed her
handkerchief against them and sat upright. She was summoning her
resolution; and again, leaning a little toward Deronda's ear, she began in
"No, no; I will tell you everything as God knows it. I will tell you no
falsehood; I will tell you the exact truth. What should I do else? I used
to think I could never be wicked. I thought of wicked people as if they
were a long way off me. Since then I have been wicked. I have felt wicked.
And everything has been a punishment to me--all the things I used to wish
for--it is as if they had been made red-hot. The very daylight has often
been a punishment to me. Because--you know--I ought not to have married.
That was the beginning of it. I wronged some one else. I broke my promise.
I meant to get pleasure for myself, and it all turned to misery. I wanted
to make my gain out of another's loss--you remember?--it was like
roulette--and the money burned into me. And I could not complain. It was
as if I had prayed that another should lose and I should win. And I had
won, I knew it all--I knew I was guilty. When we were on the sea, and I
lay awake at night in the cabin, I sometimes felt that everything I had
done lay open without excuse--nothing was hidden--how could anything be
known to me only?--it was not my own knowledge, it was God's that had
entered into me, and even the stillness--everything held a punishment for
me--everything but you. I always thought that you would not want me to be
punished--you would have tried and helped me to be better. And only
thinking of that helped me. You will not change--you will not want to
punish me now?"
Again a sob had risen.
"God forbid!" groaned Deronda. But he sat motionless.
This long wandering with the conscious-stricken one over her past was
difficult to bear, but he dared not again urge her with a question. He
must let her mind follow its own need. She unconsciously left intervals in
her retrospect, not clearly distinguishing between what she said and what
she had only an inward vision of. Her next words came after such an
"That all made it so hard when I was forced to go in the boat. Because
when I saw you it was an unexpected joy, and I thought I could tell you
everything--about the locked-up drawer and what I had not told you before.
And if I had told you, and knew it was in your mind, it would have less
power over me. I hoped and trusted in that. For after all my struggles and
my crying, the hatred and rage, the temptation that frightened me, the
longing, the thirst for what I dreaded, always came back. And that
disappointment--when I was quite shut out from speaking to you, and was
driven to go in the boat--brought all the evil back, as if I had been
locked in a prison with it and no escape. Oh, it seems so long ago now
since I stepped into that boat! I could have given up everything in that
moment, to have the forked lightning for a weapon to strike him dead."
Some of the compressed fierceness that she was recalling seemed to find
its way into her undertoned utterance. After a little silence she said,
with agitated hurry--
"If he were here again, what should I do? I cannot wish him here--and yet
I cannot bear his dead face. I was a coward. I ought to have borne
contempt. I ought to have gone away--gone and wandered like a beggar
rather than to stay to feel like a fiend. But turn where I would there was
something I could not bear. Sometimes I thought he would kill _me_ if I
resisted his will. But now--his dead face is there, and I cannot bear it."
Suddenly loosing Deronda's hand, she started up, stretching her arms to
their full length upward, and said with a sort of moan--
"I have been a cruel woman! What can _I_ do but cry for help? _I_ am
sinking. Die--die--you are forsaken--go down, go down into darkness.
Forsaken--no pity--_I_ shall be forsaken."
She sank in her chair again and broke into sobs. Even Deronda had no place
in her consciousness at that moment. He was completely unmanned. Instead
of finding, as he had imagined, that his late experience had dulled his
susceptibility to fresh emotion, it seemed that the lot of this young
creature, whose swift travel from her bright rash girlhood into this agony
of remorse he had had to behold in helplessness, pierced him the deeper
because it came close upon another sad revelation of spiritual conflict:
he was in one of those moments when the very anguish of passionate pity
makes us ready to choose that we will know pleasure no more, and live only
for the stricken and afflicted. He had risen from his seat while he
watched that terrible outburst--which seemed the more awful to him
because, even in this supreme agitation, she kept the suppressed voice of
one who confesses in secret. At last he felt impelled to turn his back
toward her and walk to a distance.
But presently there was stillness. Her mind had opened to the sense that
he had gone away from her. When Deronda turned round to approach her
again, he saw her face bent toward him, her eyes dilated, her lips parted.
She was an image of timid forlorn beseeching--too timid to entreat in
words while he kept himself aloof from her. Was she forsaken by him--now--
already? But his eyes met hers sorrowfully--met hers for the first time
fully since she had said, "You know I am a guilty woman," and that full
glance in its intense mournfulness seemed to say, "I know it, but I shall
all the less forsake you." He sat down by her side again in the same
attitude--without turning his face toward her and without again taking her
Once more Gwendolen was pierced, as she had been by his face of sorrow at
the Abbey, with a compunction less egoistic than that which urged her to
confess, and she said, in a tone of loving regret--
"I make you very unhappy."
Deronda gave an indistinct "Oh," just shrinking together and changing his
attitude a little, Then he had gathered resolution enough to say clearly,
"There is no question of being happy or unhappy. What I most desire at
this moment is what will most help you. Tell me all you feel it a relief
Devoted as these words were, they widened his spiritual distance from her,
and she felt it more difficult to speak: she had a vague need of getting
nearer to that compassion which seemed to be regarding her from a halo of
superiority, and the need turned into an impulse to humble herself more.
She was ready to throw herself on her knees before him; but no--her
wonderfully mixed consciousness held checks on that impulse, and she was
kept silent and motionless by the pressure of opposing needs. Her
stillness made Deronda at last say--
"Perhaps you are too weary. Shall I go away, and come again whenever you
"No, no," said Gwendolen--the dread of his leaving her bringing back her
power of speech. She went on with her low-toned eagerness, "I want to tell
you what it was that came over me in that boat. I was full of rage at
being obliged to go--full of rage--and I could do nothing but sit there
like a galley slave. And then we got away--out of the port--into the deep
--and everything was still--and we never looked at each other, only he
spoke to order me--and the very light about me seemed to hold me a
prisoner and force me to sit as I did. It came over me that when I was a
child I used to fancy sailing away into a world where people were not
forced to live with any one they did not like--I did not like my father-
in-law to come home. And now, I thought, just the opposite had come to me.
I had stepped into a boat, and my life was a sailing and sailing away--
gliding on and no help--always into solitude with _him_, away from
deliverance. And because I felt more helpless than ever, my thoughts went
out over worse things--I longed for worse things--I had cruel wishes--I
fancied impossible ways of--I did not want to die myself; I was afraid of
our being drowned together. If it had been any use I should have prayed--I
should have prayed that something might befall him. I should have prayed
that he might sink out of my sight and leave me alone. I knew no way of
killing hint there, but I did, I did kill him in my thoughts."
She sank into silence for a minute, submerged by the weight of memory
which no words could represent.
"But yet, all the while I felt that I was getting more wicked. And what
had been with me so much, came to me just then--what you once said--about
dreading to increase my wrong-doing and my remorse--I should hope for
nothing then. It was all like a writing of fire within me. Getting wicked
was misery--being shut out forever from knowing what you--what better
lives were. That had always been coming back to me then--but yet with a
despair--a feeling that it was no use--evil wishes were too strong. I
remember then letting go the tiller and saying 'God help me!' But then I
was forced to take it again and go on; and the evil longings, the evil
prayers came again and blotted everything else dim, till, in the midst of
them--I don't know how it was--he was turning the sail--there was a gust--
he was struck--I know nothing--I only know that I saw my wish outside me."
She began to speak more hurriedly, and in more of a whisper.
"I saw him sink, and my heart gave a leap as if it were going out of me. I
think I did not move. I kept my hands tight. It was long enough for me to
be glad, and yet to think it was no use--he would come up again. And he
_was_ come--farther off--the boat had moved. It was all like lightning.
'The rope!' he called out in a voice--not his own--I hear it now--and I
stooped for the rope--I felt I must--I felt sure he could swim, and he
would come back whether or not, and I dreaded him. That was in my mind--he
would come back. But he was gone down again, and I had the rope in my
hand--no, there he was again--his face above the water--and he cried
again--and I held my hand, and my heart said, 'Die!'--and he sank; and I
felt 'It is done--I am wicked, I am lost!--and I had the rope in my hand--
I don't know what I thought--I was leaping away from myself--I would have
saved him then. I was leaping from my crime, and there it was--close to me
as I fell--there was the dead face--dead, dead. It can never be altered.
That was what happened. That was what I did. You know it all. It can never
She sank back in her chair, exhausted with the agitation of memory and
speech. Deronda felt the burden on his spirit less heavy than the
foregoing dread. The word "guilty" had held a possibility of
interpretations worse than the fact; and Gwendolen's confession, for the
very reason that her conscience made her dwell on the determining power of
her evil thoughts, convinced him the more that there had been throughout a
counterbalancing struggle of her better will. It seemed almost certain
that her murderous thought had had no outward effect--that, quite apart
from it, the death was inevitable. Still, a question as to the outward
effectiveness of a criminal desire dominant enough to impel even a
momentary act, cannot alter our judgment of the desire; and Deronda shrank
from putting that question forward in the first instance. He held it
likely that Gwendolen's remorse aggravated her inward guilt, and that she
gave the character of decisive action to what had been an inappreciably
instantaneous glance of desire. But her remorse was the precious sign of a
recoverable nature; it was the culmination of that self-disapproval which
had been the awakening of a new life within her; it marked her off from
the criminals whose only regret is failure in securing their evil wish.
Deronda could not utter one word to diminish that sacred aversion to her
worst self--that thorn-pressure which must come with the crowning of the
sorrowful better, suffering because of the worse. All this mingled thought
and feeling kept him silent; speech was too momentous to be ventured on
rashly. There were no words of comfort that did not carry some sacrilege.
If he had opened his lips to speak, he could only have echoed, "It can
never be altered--it remains unaltered, to alter other things." But he was
silent and motionless--he did not know how long--before he turned to look
at her, and saw her sunk back with closed eyes, like a lost, weary, storm-
beaten white doe, unable to rise and pursue its unguided way. He rose and
stood before her. The movement touched her consciousness, and she opened
her eyes with a slight quivering that seemed like fear.
"You must rest now. Try to rest: try to sleep. And may I see you again
this evening--to-morrow--when you have had some rest? Let us say no more
The tears came, and she could not answer except by a slight movement of
the head. Deronda rang for attendance, spoke urgently of the necessity
that she should be got to rest, and then left her.
"The unripe grape, the ripe, and the dried. All things are changes,
not into nothing, but into that which is not at present."--MARCUS
Deeds are the pulse of Time, his beating life,
And righteous or unrighteous, being done,
Must throb in after-throbs till Time itself
Be laid in darkness, and the universe
Quiver and breathe upon no mirror more.
In the evening she sent for him again. It was already near the hour at
which she had been brought in from the sea the evening before, and the
light was subdued enough with blinds drawn up and windows open. She was
seated gazing fixedly on the sea, resting her cheek on her hand, looking
less shattered than when he had left her, but with a deep melancholy in
her expression which as Deronda approached her passed into an anxious
timidity. She did not put out her hand, but said, "How long ago it is!"
Then, "Will you sit near me again a little while?"
He placed himself by her side as he had done before, and seeing that she
turned to him with that indefinable expression which implies a wish to say
something, he waited for her to speak. But again she looked toward the
window silently, and again turned with the same expression, which yet did
not issue in speech. There was some fear hindering her, and Deronda,
wishing to relieve her timidity, averted his face. Presently he heard her
"You will not say that any one else should know?"
"Most decidedly not," said Deronda. "There is no action that ought to be
taken in consequence. There is no injury that could be righted in that
way. There is no retribution that any mortal could apportion justly."
She was so still during a pause that she seemed to be holding her breath
before she said--
"But if I had not had that murderous will--that moment--if I had thrown
the rope on the instant--perhaps it would have hindered death?"
"No--I think not," said Deronda, slowly. "If it were true that he could
swim, he must have been seized with cramp. With your quickest, utmost
effort, it seems impossible that you could have done anything to save him.
That momentary murderous will cannot, I think, have altered the course of
events. Its effect is confined to the motives in your own breast. Within
ourselves our evil will is momentous, and sooner or later it works its way
outside us--it may be in the vitiation that breeds evil acts, but also it
may be in the self-abhorrence that stings us into better striving."
"I am saved from robbing others--there are others--they will have
everything--they will have what they ought to have. I knew that some time
before I left town. You do not suspect me of wrong desires about those
things?" She spoke hesitatingly.
"I had not thought of them," said Deronda; "I was thinking too much of the
"Perhaps you don't quite know the beginning of it all," said Gwendolen,
slowly, as if she were overcoming her reluctance. "There was some one else
he ought to have married. And I knew it, and I told her I would not hinder
it. And I went away--that was when you first saw me. But then we became
poor all at once, and I was very miserable, and I was tempted. I thought,
'I shall do as I like and make everything right.' I persuaded myself. And
it was all different. It was all dreadful. Then came hatred and wicked
thoughts. That was how it all came. I told you I was afraid of myself. And
I did what you told me--I did try to make my fear a safeguard. I thought
of what would be if I--I felt what would come--how I should dread the
morning--wishing it would be always night--and yet in the darkness always
seeing something--seeing death. If you did not know how miserable I was,
you might--but now it has all been no use. I can care for nothing but
saving the rest from knowing--poor mamma, who has never been happy."
There was silence again before she said with a repressed sob--"You cannot
bear to look at me any more. You think I am too wicked. You do not
believe that I can become any better--worth anything--worthy enough--I
shall always be too wicked to--" The voice broke off helpless.
Deronda's heart was pierced. He turned his eyes on her poor beseeching
face and said, "I believe that you may become worthier than you have ever
yet been--worthy to lead a life that may be a blessing. No evil dooms us
hopelessly except the evil we love, and desire to continue in, and make no
effort to escape from. You _have_ made efforts--you will go on making
"But you were the beginning of them. You must not forsake me," said
Gwendolen, leaning with her clasped hands on the arm of her chair and
looking at him, while her face bore piteous traces of the life-experience
concentrated in the twenty-four hours--that new terrible life lying on the
other side of the deed which fulfills a criminal desire. "I will bear any
penance. I will lead any life you tell me. But you must not forsake me.
You must be near. If you had been near me--if I could have said everything
to you, I should have been different. You will not forsake me?"
"It could never be my impulse to forsake you," said Deronda promptly, with
that voice which, like his eyes, had the unintentional effect of making
his ready sympathy seem more personal and special than it really was. And
in that moment he was not himself quite free from a foreboding of some
such self-committing effect. His strong feeling for this stricken creature
could not hinder rushing images of future difficulty. He continued to meet
her appealing eyes as he spoke, but it was with the painful consciousness
that to her ear his words might carry a promise which one day would seem
unfulfilled: he was making an indefinite promise to an indefinite hope.
Anxieties, both immediate and distant, crowded on his thought, and it was
under their influence that, after a moment's silence, he said--
"I expect Sir Hugh Mallinger to arrive by to-morrow night at least; and I
am not without hope that Mrs. Davilow may shortly follow him. Her presence
will be the greatest comfort to you--it will give you a motive to save her
from unnecessary pain?"
"Yes, yes--I will try. And you will not go away?"
"Not till after Sir Hugo has come."
"But we shall all go to England?"
"As soon as possible," said Deronda, not wishing to enter into
Gwendolen looked toward the window again with an expression which seemed
like a gradual awakening to new thoughts. The twilight was perceptibly
deepening, but Deronda could see a movement in her eyes and hands such as
accompanies a return of perception in one who has been stunned.
"You will always be with Sir Hugo now!" she said presently, looking at
him. "You will always live at the Abbey--or else at Diplow?"
"I am quite uncertain where I shall live," said Deronda, coloring.
She was warned by his changed color that she had spoken too rashly, and
fell silent. After a little while she began, again looking away--
"It is impossible to think how my life will go on. I think now it would be
better for me to be poor and obliged to work."
"New promptings will come as the days pass. When you are among your
friends again, you will discern new duties," said Deronda. "Make it a task
now to get as well and calm--as much like yourself as you can, before--"
"Before my mother comes," said Gwendolen. "Ah! I must be changed. I have
not looked at myself. Should you have known me," she added, turning toward
him, "if you had met me now?--should you have known me for the one you saw
"Yes, I should have known you," said Deronda, mournfully. "The outside
change is not great. I should have seen at once that it was you, and that
you had gone through some great sorrow."
"Don't wish now that you had never seen me; don't wish that," said
Gwendolen, imploringly, while the tears gathered.
"I should despise myself for wishing it," said Deronda. "How could I know
what I was wishing? We must find our duties in what comes to us, not in
what we imagine might have been. If I took to foolish wishing of that
sort, I should wish--not that I had never seen you, but that I had been
able to save you from this."
"You have saved me from worse," said Gwendolen, in a sobbing voice. "I
should have been worse if it had not been for you. If you had not been
good, I should have been more wicked than I am."
"It will be better for me to go now," said Deronda, worn in spirit by the
perpetual strain of this scene. "Remember what we said of your task--to
get well and calm before other friends come."
He rose as he spoke, and she gave him her hand submissively. But when he
had left her she sank on her knees, in hysterical crying. The distance
between them was too great. She was a banished soul--beholding a possible
life which she had sinned herself away from.
She was found in this way, crushed on the floor. Such grief seemed natural
in a poor lady whose husband had been drowned in her presence.
BOOK VIII.--FRUIT AND SEED.
"Much adoe there was, God wot;
He wold love and she wold not."
Extension, we know, is a very imperfect measure of things; and the length
of the sun's journeying can no more tell us how life has advanced than the
acreage of a field can tell us what growths may be active within it. A man
may go south, and, stumbling over a bone, may meditate upon it till he has
found a new starting-point for anatomy; or eastward, and discover a new
key to language telling a new story of races; or he may head an expedition
that opens new continental pathways, get himself mained in body, and go
through a whole heroic poem of resolve and endurance; and at the end of a
few months he may come back to find his neighbors grumbling at the same
parish grievance as before, or to see the same elderly gentleman treading
the pavement in discourse with himself, shaking his head after the same
percussive butcher's boy, and pausing at the same shop-window to look at
the same prints. If the swiftest thinking has about the pace of a
greyhound, the slowest must be supposed to move, like the limpet, by an
apparent sticking, which after a good while is discerned to be a slight
progression. Such differences are manifest in the variable intensity which
we call human experience, from the revolutionary rush of change which
makes a new inner and outer life, to that quiet recurrence of the
familiar, which has no other epochs than those of hunger and the heavens.
Something of this contrast was seen in the year's experience which had
turned the brilliant, self-confident Gwendolen Harleth of the Archery
Meeting into the crushed penitent impelled to confess her unworthiness
where it would have been her happiness to be held worthy; while it had
left her family in Pennicote without deeper change than that of some
outward habits, and some adjustment of prospects and intentions to reduced
income, fewer visits, and fainter compliments. The rectory was as pleasant
a home as before: and the red and pink peonies on the lawn, the rows of
hollyhocks by the hedges, had bloomed as well this year as last: the
rector maintained his cheerful confidence in the good will of patrons and
his resolution to deserve it by diligence in the fulfillment of his
duties, whether patrons were likely to hear of it or not; doing nothing
solely with an eye to promotion except, perhaps, the writing of two
ecclesiastical articles, which having no signature, were attributed to
some one else, except by the patrons who had a special copy sent them, and
these certainly knew the author but did not read the articles. The rector,
however, chewed no poisonous cud of suspicion on this point: he made
marginal notes on his own copies to render them a more interesting loan,
and was gratified that the Archdeacon and other authorities had nothing to
say against the general tenor of his argument. Peaceful authorship!--
living in the air of the fields and downs, and not in the thrice-breathed
breath of criticism--bringing no Dantesque leanness; rather, assisting
nutrition by complacency, and perhaps giving a more suffusive sense of
achievement than the production of a whole _Divina Commedia_. Then there
was the father's recovered delight in his favorite son, which was a
happiness outweighing the loss of eighteen hundred a year. Of whatever
nature might be the hidden change wrought in Rex by the disappointment of
his first love, it was apparently quite secondary to that evidence of more
serious ambition which dated from the family misfortune; indeed, Mr.
Gascoigne was inclined to regard the little affair which had caused him so
much anxiety the year before as an evaporation of superfluous moisture, a
kind of finish to the baking process which the human dough demands. Rex
had lately come down for a summer visit to the rectory, bringing Anna
home, and while he showed nearly the old liveliness with his brothers and
sisters, he continued in his holiday the habits of the eager student,
rising early in the morning and shutting himself up early in the evenings
to carry on a fixed course of study.
"You don't repent the choice of the law as a profession, Rex?" said his
"There is no profession I would choose before it," said Rex. "I should
like to end my life as a first-rate judge, and help to draw up a code. I
reverse the famous dictum. I should say, 'Give me something to do with
making the laws, and let who will make the songs.'"
"You will have to stow in an immense amount of rubbish, I suppose--that's
the worst of it," said the rector.
"I don't see that law-rubbish is worse than any other sort. It is not so
bad as the rubbishy literature that people choke their minds with. It
doesn't make one so dull. Our wittiest men have often been lawyers. Any
orderly way of looking at things as cases and evidence seems to me better
than a perpetual wash of odds and ends bearing on nothing in particular.
And then, from a higher point of view, the foundations and the growth of
law make the most interesting aspects of philosophy and history. Of course
there will be a good deal that is troublesome, drudging, perhaps
exasperating. But the great prizes in life can't be won easily--I see
"Well, my boy, the best augury of a man's success in his profession is
that he thinks it the finest in the world. But I fancy it so with most
work when a man goes into it with a will. Brewitt, the blacksmith, said to
me the other day that his 'prentice had no mind to his trade; 'and yet,
sir,' said Brewitt, 'what would a young fellow have if he doesn't like the
The rector cherished a fatherly delight, which he allowed to escape him
only in moderation. Warham, who had gone to India, he had easily borne
parting with, but Rex was that romance of later life which a man sometimes
finds in a son whom he recognizes as superior to himself, picturing a
future eminence for him according to a variety of famous examples. It was
only to his wife that he said with decision: "Rex will be a distinguished
man, Nancy, I am sure of it--as sure as Paley's father was about his son."
"Was Paley an old bachelor?" said Mrs. Gascoigne.
"That is hardly to the point, my dear," said the rector, who did not
remember that irrelevant detail. And Mrs. Gascoigne felt that she had
spoken rather weakly.
This quiet trotting of time at the rectory was shared by the group who had
exchanged the faded dignity of Offendene for the low white house not a
mile off, well enclosed with evergreens, and known to the villagers, as
"Jodson's." Mrs. Davilow's delicate face showed only a slight deepening of
its mild melancholy, her hair only a few more silver lines, in consequence
of the last year's trials; the four girls had bloomed out a little from
being less in the shade; and the good Jocosa preserved her serviceable
neutrality toward the pleasures and glories of the world as things made
for those who were not "in a situation."
The low narrow drawing-room, enlarged by two quaint projecting windows,
with lattices wide open on a July afternoon to the scent of monthly roses,
the faint murmurs of the garden, and the occasional rare sound of hoofs
and wheels seeming to clarify the succeeding silence, made rather a
crowded, lively scene, Rex and Anna being added to the usual group of six.
Anna, always a favorite with her younger cousins, had much to tell of her
new experience, and the acquaintances she had made in London, and when on
her first visit she came alone, many questions were asked her about
Gwendolen's house in Grosvenor Square, what Gwendolen herself had said,
and what any one else had said about Gwendolen. Had Anna been to see
Gwendolen after she had known about the yacht? No:--an answer which left
speculation free concerning everything connected with that interesting
unknown vessel beyond the fact that Gwendolen had written just before she
set out to say that Mr. Grandcourt and she were going yachting on the
Mediterranean, and again from Marseilles to say that she was sure to like
the yachting, the cabins were very elegant, and she would probably not
send another letter till she had written quite a long diary filled with
_dittos_. Also, this movement of Mr. and Mrs. Grandcourt had been
mentioned in "the newspaper;" so that altogether this new phase of
Gwendolen's exalted life made a striking part of the sisters' romance, the
book-devouring Isabel throwing in a corsair or two to make an adventure
that might end well.
But when Rex was present, the girls, according to instructions, never
started this fascinating topic, and to-day there had only been animated
descriptions of the Meyricks and their extraordinary Jewish friends, which
caused some astonished questioning from minds to which the idea of live
Jews, out of a book, suggested a difference deep enough to be almost
zoological, as of a strange race in Pliny's Natural History that might
sleep under the shade of its own ears. Bertha could not imagine what Jews
believed now; and she had a dim idea that they rejected the Old Testament
since it proved the New; Miss Merry thought that Mirah and her brother
could "never have been properly argued with," and the amiable Alice did
not mind what the Jews believed, she was sure she "couldn't bear them."
Mrs. Davilow corrected her by saying that the great Jewish families who
were in society were quite what they ought to be both in London and Paris,
but admitted that the commoner unconverted Jews were objectionable; and
Isabel asked whether Mirah talked just as they did, or whether you might
be with her and not find out that she was a Jewess.
Rex, who had no partisanship with the Israelites, having made a
troublesome acquaintance with the minutiae of their ancient history in the
form of "cram," was amusing himself by playfully exaggerating the notion
of each speaker, while Anna begged them all to understand that he was only
joking, when the laughter was interrupted by the bringing in of a letter
for Mrs. Davilow. A messenger had run with it in great haste from the
rectory. It enclosed a telegram, and as Mrs. Davilow read and re-read it
in silence and agitation, all eyes were turned on her with anxiety, but no
one dared to speak. Looking up at last and seeing the young faces "painted
with fear," she remembered that they might be imagining something worse
than the truth, something like her own first dread which made her unable
to understand what was written, and she said, with a sob which was half
"My dears, Mr. Grandcourt--" She paused an instant, and then began again,
"Mr. Grandcourt is drowned."
Rex started up as if a missile had been suddenly thrown into the room. He
could not help himself, and Anna's first look was at him. But then,
gathering some self-command while Mrs. Davilow was reading what the rector
had written on the enclosing paper, he said--
"Can I do anything, aunt? Can I carry any word to my father from you?"
"Yes, dear. Tell him I will be ready--he is very good. He says he will go
with me to Genoa--he will be here at half-past six. Jocosa and Alice, help
me to get ready. She is safe--Gwendolen is safe--but she must be ill. I am
sure she must be very ill. Rex, dear--Rex and Anna--go and and tell your
father I will be quite ready. I would not for the world lose another
night. And bless him for being ready so soon. I can travel night and day
till we get there."
Rex and Anna hurried away through the sunshine which was suddenly solemn
to them, without uttering a word to each other: she chiefly possessed by
solicitude about any reopening of his wound, he struggling with a
tumultuary crowd of thoughts that were an offence against his better will.
The tumult being undiminished when they were at the rectory gate, he
"Nannie, I will leave you to say everything to my father. If he wants me
immediately, let me know. I shall stay in the shrubbery for ten minutes--
only ten minutes."
Who has been quite free from egoistic escapes of the imagination,
picturing desirable consequences on his own future in the presence of
another's misfortune, sorrow, or death? The expected promotion or legacy
is the common type of a temptation which makes speech and even prayer a
severe avoidance of the most insistent thoughts, and sometimes raises an
inward shame, a self-distaste that is worse than any other form of
unpleasant companionship. In Rex's nature the shame was immediate, and
overspread like an ugly light all the hurrying images of what might come,
which thrust themselves in with the idea that Gwendolen was again free--
overspread them, perhaps, the more persistently because every phantasm of
a hope was quickly nullified by a more substantial obstacle. Before the
vision of "Gwendolen free" rose the impassable vision of "Gwendolen rich,
exalted, courted;" and if in the former time, when both their lives were
fresh, she had turned from his love with repugnance, what ground was there
for supposing that her heart would be more open to him in the future?
These thoughts, which he wanted to master and suspend, were like a
tumultuary ringing of opposing chimes that he could not escape from by
running. During the last year he had brought himself into a state of calm
resolve, and now it seemed that three words had been enough to undo all
that difficult work, and cast him back into the wretched fluctuations of a
longing which he recognized as simply perturbing and hopeless. And at this
moment the activity of such longing had an untimeliness that made it
repulsive to his better self. Excuse poor Rex; it was not much more than
eighteen months since he had been laid low by an archer who sometimes
touches his arrow with a subtle, lingering poison. The disappointment of a
youthful passion has effects as incalculable as those of small-pox which
may make one person plain and a genius, another less plain and more
foolish, another plain without detriment to his folly, and leave perhaps
the majority without obvious change. Everything depends--not on the mere
fact of disappointment, but--on the nature affected and the force that
stirs it. In Rex's well-endowed nature, brief as the hope had been, the
passionate stirring had gone deep, and the effect of disappointment was
revolutionary, though fraught with a beneficent new order which retained
most of the old virtues; in certain respects he believed that it had
finally determined the bias and color of his life. Now, however, it seemed
that his inward peace was hardly more than that of republican Florence,
and his heart no better than the alarm-bell that made work slack and
Rex's love had been of that sudden, penetrating, clinging sort which the
ancients knew and sung, and in singing made a fashion of talk for many
moderns whose experience has by no means a fiery, demonic character. To
have the consciousness suddenly steeped with another's personality, to
have the strongest inclinations possessed by an image which retains its
dominance in spite of change and apart from worthiness--nay, to feel a
passion which clings faster for the tragic pangs inflicted by a cruel,
reorganized unworthiness--is a phase of love which in the feeble and
common-minded has a repulsive likeness to his blind animalism insensible
to the higher sway of moral affinity or heaven-lit admiration. But when
this attaching force is present in a nature not of brutish
unmodifiableness, but of a human dignity that can risk itself safely, it
may even result in a devotedness not unfit to be called divine in a higher
sense than the ancient. Phlegmatic rationality stares and shakes its head
at these unaccountable prepossessions, but they exist as undeniably as the
winds and waves, determining here a wreck and there a triumphant voyage.
This sort of passion had nested in the sweet-natured, strong Rex, and he
had made up his mind to its companionship, as if it had been an object
supremely dear, stricken dumb and helpless, and turning all the future of
tenderness into a shadow of the past. But he had also made up his mind
that his life was not to be pauperized because he had had to renounce one
sort of joy; rather, he had begun life again with a new counting-up of the
treasures that remained to him, and he had even felt a release of power
such as may come from ceasing to be afraid of your own neck.
And now, here he was pacing the shrubbery, angry with himself that the
sense of irrevocableness in his lot, which ought in reason to have been as
strong as ever, had been shaken by a change of circumstances that could
make no change in relation to him. He told himself the truth quite
"She would never love me; and that is not the question--I could never
approach her as a lover in her present position. I am exactly of no
consequence at all, and am not likely to be of much consequence till my
head is turning gray. But what has that to do with it? She would not have
me on any terms, and I would not ask her. It is a meanness to be thinking
about it now--no better than lurking about the battle-field to strip the
dead; but there never was more gratuitous sinning. I have nothing to gain
there--absolutely nothing. * * * Then why can't I face the facts, and
behave as they demand, instead of leaving my father to suppose that there
are matters he can't speak to me about, though I might be useful in them?"
The last thought made one wave with the impulse that sent Rex walking
firmly into the house and through the open door of the study, where he saw
his father packing a traveling-desk.
"Can I be of any use, sir?" said Rex, with rallied courage, as his father
looked up at him.
"Yes, my boy; when I'm gone, just see to my letters, and answer where
necessary, and send me word of everything. Dymock will manage the parish
very well, and you will stay with your mother, or, at least, go up and
down again, till I come back, whenever that may be."
"You will hardly be very long, sir, I suppose," said Rex, beginning to
strap a railway rug. "You will perhaps bring my cousin back to England?"
He forced himself to speak of Gwendolen for the first time, and the rector
noticed the epoch with satisfaction.
"That depends," he answered, taking the subject as a matter-of-course
between them. "Perhaps her mother may stay there with her, and I may come
back very soon. This telegram leaves us in ignorance which is rather
anxious. But no doubt the arrangements of the will lately made are
satisfactory, and there may possibly be an heir yet to be born. In any
case, I feel confident that Gwendolen will be liberally--I should expect,
"It must have been a great shock for her," said Rex, getting more resolute
after the first twinge had been borne. "I suppose he was a devoted
"No doubt of it," said the rector, in his most decided manner. "Few men of
his position would have come forward as he did under the circumstances."
Rex had never seen Grandcourt, had never been spoken to about him by any
one of the family, and knew nothing of Gwendolen's flight from her suitor
to Leubronn. He only knew that Grandcourt, being very much in love with
her, had made her an offer in the first weeks of her sudden poverty, and
had behaved very handsomely in providing for her mother and sisters. That
was all very natural and what Rex himself would have liked to do.
Grandcourt had been a lucky fellow, and had had some happiness before he
got drowned. Yet Rex wondered much whether Gwendolen had been in love with
the successful suitor, or had only forborne to tell him that she hated
being made love to.
"I count myself in nothing else so happy
As in a soul remembering my good friends."
Sir Hugo Mallinger was not so prompt in starting for Genoa as Mr.
Gascoigne had been, and Deronda on all accounts would not take his
departure until he had seen the baronet. There was not only Grandcourt's
death, but also the late crisis in his own life to make reasons why his
oldest friend would desire to have the unrestrained communication of
speech with him, for in writing he had not felt able to give any details
concerning the mother who had come and gone like an apparition. It was not
till the fifth evening that Deronda, according to telegram, waited for Sir
Hugo at the station, where he was to arrive between eight and nine; and
while he was looking forward to the sight of the kind, familiar face,
which was part of his earliest memories, something like a smile, in spite
of his late tragic experience, might have been detected in his eyes and
the curve of his lips at the idea of Sir Hugo's pleasure in being now
master of his estates, able to leave them to his daughters, or at least--
according to a view of inheritance which had just been strongly impressed
on Deronda's imagination--to take makeshift feminine offspring as
intermediate to a satisfactory heir in a grandson. We should be churlish
creatures if we could have no joy in our fellow-mortals' joy, unless it
were in agreement with our theory of righteous distribution and our
highest ideal of human good: what sour corners our mouths would get--our
eyes, what frozen glances! and all the while our own possessions and
desires would not exactly adjust themselves to our ideal. We must have
some comradeship with imperfection; and it is, happily, possible to feel
gratitude even where we discern a mistake that may have been injurious,
the vehicle of the mistake being an affectionate intention prosecuted
through a life-time of kindly offices. Deronda's feeling and judgment were
strongly against the action of Sir Hugo in making himself the agent of a
falsity--yes, a falsity: he could give no milder name to the concealment
under which he had been reared. But the baronet had probably had no clear
knowledge concerning the mother's breach of trust, and with his light,
easy way of taking life, had held it a reasonable preference in her that
her son should be made an English gentleman, seeing that she had the
eccentricity of not caring to part from her child, and be to him as if she
were not. Daniel's affectionate gratitude toward Sir Hugo made him wish to
find grounds of excuse rather than blame; for it is as possible to be
rigid in principle and tender in blame, as it is to suffer from the sight
of things hung awry, and yet to be patient with the hanger who sees amiss.
If Sir Hugo in his bachelorhood had been beguiled into regarding children
chiefly as a product intended to make life more agreeable to the full-
grown, whose convenience alone was to be consulted in the disposal of
them--why, he had shared an assumption which, if not formally avowed, was
massively acted on at that date of the world's history; and Deronda, with
all his keen memory of the painful inward struggle he had gone through in
his boyhood, was able also to remember the many signs that his experience
had been entirely shut out from Sir Hugo's conception. Ignorant kindness
may have the effect of cruelty; but to be angry with it as if it were
direct cruelty would be an ignorant _un_kindness, the most remote from
Deronda's large imaginative lenience toward others. And perhaps now, after
the searching scenes of the last ten days, in which the curtain had been
lifted for him from the secrets of lives unlike his own, he was more than
ever disposed to check that rashness of indignation or resentment which
has an unpleasant likeness to the love of punishing. When he saw Sir
Hugo's familiar figure descending from the railway carriage, the life-long
affection which had been well accustomed to make excuses, flowed in and
submerged all newer knowledge that might have seemed fresh ground for
"Well, Dan," said Sir Hugo, with a serious fervor, grasping Deronda's
hand. He uttered no other words of greeting; there was too strong a rush
of mutual consciousness. The next thing was to give orders to the courier,
and then to propose walking slowly in, the mild evening, there being no
hurry to get to the hotel.
"I have taken my journey easily, and am in excellent condition," he said,
as he and Deronda came out under the starlight, which was still faint with
the lingering sheen of day. "I didn't hurry in setting off, because I
wanted to inquire into things a little, and so I got sight of your letter
to Lady Mallinger before I started. But now, how is the widow?"
"Getting calmer," said Deronda. "She seems to be escaping the bodily
illness that one might have feared for her, after her plunge and terrible
excitement. Her uncle and mother came two days ago, and she is being well
taken care of."
"Any prospect of an heir being born?"
"From what Mr. Gascoigne said to me, I conclude not. He spoke as if it
were a question whether the widow would have the estates for her life."
"It will not be much of a wrench to her affections, I fancy, this loss of
the husband?" said Sir Hugo, looking round at Deronda.
"The suddenness of the death has been a great blow to her," said Deronda,
quietly evading the question.
"I wonder whether Grandcourt gave her any notion what were the provisions
of his will?" said Sir Hugo.
"Do you know what they are, sir?" parried Deronda.
"Yes, I do," said the baronet, quickly. "Gad! if there is no prospect of a
legitimate heir, he has left everything to a boy he had by a Mrs. Glasher;
you know nothing about the affair, I suppose, but she was a sort of wife
to him for a good many years, and there are three older children--girls.
The boy is to take his father's name; he is Henleigh already, and he is to
be Henleigh Mallinger Grandcourt. The Mallinger will be of no use to him,
I am happy to say; but the young dog will have more than enough with his
fourteen years' minority--no need to have had holes filled up with my
fifty thousand for Diplow that he had no right to: and meanwhile my
beauty, the young widow, is to put up with a poor two thousand a year and
the house at Gadsmere--a nice kind of banishment for her if she chose to
shut herself up there, which I don't think she will. The boy's mother has
been living there of late years. I'm perfectly disgusted with Grandcourt.
I don't know that I'm obliged to think the better of him because he's
drowned, though, so far as my affairs are concerned, nothing in his life
became him like the leaving it."
"In my opinion he did wrong when he married this wife--not in leaving his
estates to the son," said Deronda, rather dryly.
"I say nothing against his leaving the land to the lad," said Sir Hugo;
"but since he had married this girl he ought to have given her a handsome
provision, such as she could live on in a style fitted to the rank he had
raised her to. She ought to have had four or five thousand a year and the
London house for her life; that's what I should have done for her. I
suppose, as she was penniless, her friends couldn't stand out for a
settlement, else it's ill trusting to the will a man may make after he's
married. Even a wise man generally lets some folly ooze out of him in his
will--my father did, I know; and if a fellow has any spite or tyranny in
him, he's likely to bottle off a good deal for keeping in that sort of
document. It's quite clear Grandcourt meant that his death should put an
extinguisher on his wife, if she bore him no heir."
"And, in the other case, I suppose everything would have been reversed--
illegitimacy would have had the extinguisher?" said Deronda, with some
"Precisely--Gadsmere and the two thousand. It's queer. One nuisance is
that Grandcourt has made me an executor; but seeing he was the son of my
only brother, I can't refuse to act. And I shall mind it less if I can be
of any use to the widow. Lush thinks she was not in ignorance about the
family under the rose, and the purport of the will. He hints that there
was no very good understanding between the couple. But I fancy you are the
man who knew most about what Mrs. Grandcourt felt or did not feel--eh,
Dan?" Sir Hugo did not put this question with his usual jocoseness, but
rather with a lowered tone of interested inquiry; and Deronda felt that
any evasion would be misinterpreted. He answered gravely--
"She was certainly not happy. They were unsuited to each other. But as to
the disposal of the property--from all I have seen of her, I should
predict that she will be quite contented with it."
"Then she is not much like the rest of her sex; that's all I can say,"
said Sir Hugo, with a slight shrug. "However, she ought to be something
extraordinary, for there must be an entanglement between your horoscope
and hers--eh? When that tremendous telegram came, the first thing Lady
Mallinger said was, 'How very strange that it should be Daniel who sends
it!' But I have had something of the same sort in my own life. I was once
at a foreign hotel where a lady had been left by her husband without
money. When I heard of it, and came forward to help her, who should she be
but an early flame of mine, who had been fool enough to marry an Austrian
baron with a long mustache and short affection? But it was an affair of my
own that called me there--nothing to do with knight-errantry, any more
than you coming to Genoa had to do with the Grandcourts."
There was silence for a little while. Sir Hugo had begun to talk of the
Grandcourts as the less difficult subject between himself and Deronda; but
they were both wishing to overcome a reluctance to perfect frankness on
the events which touched their relation to each other. Deronda felt that
his letter, after the first interview with his mother, had been rather a
thickening than a breaking of the ice, and that he ought to wait for the
first opening to come from Sir Hugo. Just when they were about to lose
sight of the port, the baronet turned, and pausing as if to get a last
view, said in a tone of more serious feeling--"And about the main
business of your coming to Genoa, Dan? You have not been deeply pained by
anything you have learned, I hope? There is nothing that you feel need
change your position in any way? You know, whatever happens to you must
always be of importance to me."
"I desire to meet your goodness by perfect confidence, sir," said Deronda.
"But I can't answer those questions truly by a simple yes or no. Much that
I have heard about the past has pained me. And it has been a pain to meet
and part with my mother in her suffering state, as I have been compelled
to do, But it is no pain--it is rather a clearing up of doubts for which I
am thankful, to know my parentage. As to the effect on my position, there
will be no change in my gratitude to you, sir, for the fatherly care and
affection you have always shown me. But to know that I was born a Jew, may
have a momentous influence on my life, which I am hardly able to tell you
of at present."
Deronda spoke the last sentence with a resolve that overcame some
diffidence. He felt that the differences between Sir Hugo's nature and his
own would have, by-and-by, to disclose themselves more markedly than had
ever yet been needful. The baronet gave him a quick glance, and turned to
walk on. After a few moments' silence, in which he had reviewed all the
material in his memory which would enable him to interpret Deronda's
words, he said--
"I have long expected something remarkable from you, Dan; but, for God's
sake, don't go into any eccentricities! I can tolerate any man's
difference of opinion, but let him tell it me without getting himself up
as a lunatic. At this stage of the world, if a man wants to be taken
seriously, he must keep clear of melodrama. Don't misunderstand me. I am
not suspecting you of setting up any lunacy on your own account. I only
think you might easily be led arm in arm with a lunatic, especially if he
wanted defending. You have a passion for people who are pelted, Dan. I'm
sorry for them too; but so far as company goes, it's a bad ground of
selection. However, I don't ask you to anticipate your inclination in
anything you have to tell me. When you make up your mind to a course that
requires money, I have some sixteen thousand pounds that have been
accumulating for you over and above what you have been having the interest
of as income. And now I am come, I suppose you want to get back to England
as soon as you can?"
"I must go first to Mainz to get away a chest of my grandfather's, and
perhaps to see a friend of his," said Deronda. "Although the chest has
been lying there these twenty years, I have an unreasonable sort of
nervous eagerness to get it away under my care, as if it were more likely
now than before that something might happen to it. And perhaps I am the
more uneasy, because I lingered after my mother left, instead of setting
out immediately. Yet I can't regret that I was here--else Mrs. Grandcourt
would have had none but servants to act for her."
"Yes, yes," said Sir Hugo, with a flippancy which was an escape of some
vexation hidden under his more serious speech; "I hope you are not going
to set a dead Jew above a living Christian."
Deronda colored, and repressed a retort. They were just turning into the
"But I shall say no more of this at this time; for this is to be felt
and not to be talked of; and they who never touched it with their
fingers may secretly perhaps laugh at it in their hearts and be never
the wiser."--JEREMY TAYLOR.
The Roman Emperor in the legend put to death ten learned Israelites to
avenge the sale of Joseph by his brethren. And there have always been
enough of his kidney, whose piety lies in punishing who can see the
justice of grudges but not of gratitude. For you shall never convince
the stronger feeling that it hath not the stronger reason, or incline
him who hath no love to believe that there is good ground for loving.
As we may learn from the order of word-making, wherein _love_
When Deronda presented his letter at the banking-house in the _Schuster
Strasse_ at Mainz, and asked for Joseph Kalonymos, he was presently shown
into an inner room, where, seated at a table arranging open letters, was
the white-bearded man whom he had seen the year before in the synagogue at
Frankfort. He wore his hat--it seemed to be the same old felt hat as
before--and near him was a packed portmanteau with a wrap and overcoat
upon it. On seeing Deronda enter he rose, but did not advance or put out
his hand. Looking at him with small penetrating eyes which glittered like
black gems in the midst of his yellowish face and white hair, he said in
"Good! It is now you who seek me, young man."
"Yes; I seek you with gratitude, as a friend of my grandfather's," said
Deronda, "and I am under an obligation to you for giving yourself much
trouble on my account." He spoke without difficulty in that liberal German
tongue which takes many strange accents to its maternal bosom.
Kalonymos now put out his hand and said cordially, "So you are no longer
angry at being something more than an Englishman?"
"On the contrary. I thank you heartily for helping to save me from
remaining in ignorance of my parentage, and for taking care of the chest
that my grandfather left in trust for me."
"Sit down, sit down," said Kalonymos, in a quick undertone, seating
himself again, and pointing to a chair near him. Then deliberately laying
aside his hat and showing a head thickly covered, with white hair, he
stroked and clutched his beard while he looked examiningly at the young
face before him. The moment wrought strongly on Deronda's imaginative
susceptibility: in the presence of one linked still in zealous friendship
with the grandfather whose hope had yearned toward him when he was unborn,
and who, though dead, was yet to speak with him in those written memorials
which, says Milton, "contain a potency of life in them to be as active as
that soul whose progeny they are," he seemed to himself to be touching the
electric chain of his own ancestry; and he bore the scrutinizing look of
Kalonymos with a delighted awe, something like what one feels in the
solemn commemoration of acts done long ago but still telling markedly on
the life of to-day. Impossible for men of duller, fibre--men whose
affection is not ready to diffuse itself through the wide travel of
imagination, to comprehend, perhaps even to credit this sensibility of
Deronda's; but it subsisted, like their own dullness, notwithstanding
their lack of belief in it--and it gave his face an expression which
seemed very satisfactory to the observer.
He said in Hebrew, quoting from one of the fine hymns in the Hebrew
liturgy, "As thy goodness has been great to the former generations, even
so may it be to the latter." Then after pausing a little he began, "Young
man, I rejoice that I was not yet set off again on my travels, and that
you are come in time for me to see the image of my friend as he was in his
youth--no longer perverted from the fellowship of your people--no longer
shrinking in proud wrath from the touch of him who seemed to be claiming
you as a Jew. You come with thankfulness yourself to claim the kindred and
heritage that wicked contrivance would have robbed you of. You come with a
willing soul to declare, 'I am the grandson of Daniel Charisi.' Is it not
"Assuredly it is," said Deronda. "But let me say that I should at no time
have been inclined to treat a Jew with incivility simply because he was a
Jew. You can understand that I shrank from saying to a stranger, 'I know
nothing of my mother,'"
"A sin, a sin!" said Kalonymos, putting up his hand and closing his eyes
in disgust. "A robbery of our people--as when our youths and maidens were
reared for the Roman Edom. But it is frustrated. I have frustrated it.
When Daniel Charisi--may his Rock and his Redeemer guard him!--when Daniel
Charisi was a stripling and I was a lad little above his shoulder, we made
a solemn vow always to be friends. He said, 'Let us bind ourselves with
duty, as if we were sons of the same mother.' That was his bent from first
to last--as he said, to fortify his soul with bonds. It was a saying of
his, 'Let us bind love with duty; for duty is the love of law; and law is
the nature of the Eternal.' So we bound ourselves. And though we were much
apart in our later life, the bond has never been broken. When he was dead,
they sought to rob him; but they could not rob him of me. I rescued that
remainder of him which he had prized and preserved for his offspring. And
I have restored to him the offspring they had robbed him of. I will bring
you the chest forthwith."
Kalonymos left the room for a few minutes, and returned with a clerk who
carried the chest, set it down on the floor, drew off a leather cover, and
went out again. It was not very large, but was made heavy by ornamental
bracers and handles of gilt iron. The wood was beautifully incised with
"So!" said Kalonymos, returning to his seat. "And here is the curious
key," he added, taking it from a small leathern bag. "Bestow it carefully.
I trust you are methodic and wary." He gave Deronda the monitory and
slightly suspicious look with which age is apt to commit any object to the
keeping of youth.
"I shall be more careful of this than of any other property," said
Deronda, smiling and putting the key in his breast-pocket. "I never before
possessed anything that was a sign to me of so much cherished hope and
effort. And I shall never forget that the effort was partly yours. Have
you time to tell me more of my grandfather? Or shall I be trespassing in
"Stay yet a while. In an hour and eighteen minutes I start for Trieste,"
said Kalonymos, looking at his watch, "and presently my sons will expect my
attention. Will you let me make you known to them, so that they may have
the pleasure of showing hospitality to my friend's grandson? They dwell
here in ease and luxury, though I choose to be a wanderer."
"I shall be glad if you will commend me to their acquaintance for some
future opportunity," said Deronda. "There are pressing claims calling me
to England--friends who may be much in need of my presence. I have been
kept away from them too long by unexpected circumstances. But to know more
of you and your family would be motive enough to bring me again to Mainz."
"Good! Me you will hardly find, for I am beyond my threescore years and
ten, and I am a wanderer, carrying my shroud with me. But my sons and
their children dwell here in wealth and unity. The days are changed for us
since Karl the Great fetched my ancestors from Italy to bring some
tincture of knowledge to our rough German brethren. I and my
contemporaries have had to fight for it too. Our youth fell on evil days;
but this we have won; we increase our wealth in safety, and the learning
of all Germany is fed and fattened by Jewish brains--though they keep not
always their Jewish hearts. Have you been left altogether ignorant of your
people's life, young man?"
"No," said Deronda, "I have lately, before I had any true suspicion of my
parentage, been led to study everything belonging to their history with
more interest than any other subject. It turns out that I have been making
myself ready to understand my grandfather a little." He was anxious less
the time should be consumed before this circuitous course of talk could
lead them back to the topic he most cared about. Age does not easily
distinguish between what it needs to express and what youth needs to know-
distance seeming to level the objects of memory; and keenly active as
Joseph Kalonymos showed himself, an inkstand in the wrong place would have
hindered his imagination from getting to Beyrout: he had been used to
unite restless travel with punctilious observation. But Deronda's last
sentence answered its purpose.
"So-you would perhaps have been such a man as he if your education had not
hindered; for you are like him in features:--yet not altogether, young
man. He had an iron will in his face: it braced up everybody about him.
When he was quite young he had already got one deep upright line in his
brow. I see none of that in you. Daniel Charisi used to say, 'Better, a
wrong will than a wavering; better a steadfast enemy than an uncertain
friend; better a false belief than no belief at all.' What he despised
most was indifference. He had longer reasons than I can give you."
"Yet his knowledge was not narrow?" said Deronda, with a tacit reference
to the usual excuse for indecision--that it comes from knowing too much.
"Narrow? no," said Kalonymos, shaking his head with a compassionate smile
"From his childhood upward, he drank in learning as easily as the plant
sucks up water. But he early took to medicine and theories about life and
health. He traveled to many countries, and spent much of his substance in
seeing and knowing. What he used to insist on was that the strength and
wealth of mankind depended on the balance of separateness and
communication, and he was bitterly against our people losing themselves
among the Gentiles; 'It's no better,' said he, 'than the many sorts of
grain going back from their variety into sameness.' He mingled all sorts
of learning; and in that he was like our Arabic writers in the golden
time. We studied together, but he went beyond me. Though we were bosom
friends, and he poured himself out to me, we were as different as the
inside and outside of the bowl. I stood up for two notions of my own: I
took Charisi's sayings as I took the shape of the trees: they were there,
not to be disputed about. It came to the same thing in both of us; we were
both faithful Jews, thankful not to be Gentiles. And since I was a ripe
man, I have been what I am now, for all but age-loving to wander, loving
transactions, loving to behold all things, and caring nothing about
hardship. Charisi thought continually of our people's future: he went with
all his soul into that part of our religion: I, not. So we have freedom, I
am content. Our people wandered before they were driven. Young man when I
am in the East, I lie much on deck and watch the greater stars. The sight
of them satisfies me. I know them as they rise, and hunger not to know
more. Charisi was satisfied with no sight, but pieced it out with what had
been before and what would come after. Yet we loved each other, and as he
said, he bound our love with duty; we solemnly pledged ourselves to help
and defend each other to the last. I have fulfilled my pledge." Here
Kalonymos rose, and Deronda, rising also, said--
"And in being faithful to him you have caused justice to be done to me. It
would have been a robbery of me too that I should never have known of the
inheritance he had prepared for me. I thank you with my whole soul."
"Be worthy of him, young man. What is your vocation?" This question was
put with a quick abruptness which embarrassed Deronda, who did not feel it
quite honest to allege his law-reading as a vocation. He answered--
"I cannot say that I have any."
"Get one, get one. The Jew must be diligent. You will call yourself a Jew
and profess the faith of your fathers?" said Kalonymos, putting his hand
on Deronda's shoulder and looking sharply in his face.
"I shall call myself a Jew," said Deronda, deliberately, becoming slightly
paler under the piercing eyes of his questioner. "But I will not say that
I shall profess to believe exactly as my fathers have believed. Our
fathers themselves changed the horizon of their belief and learned of
other races. But I think I can maintain my grandfather's notion of
separateness with communication. I hold that my first duty is to my own
people, and if there is anything to be done toward restoring or perfecting
their common life, I shall make that my vocation."
It happened to Deronda at that moment, as it has often happened to others,
that the need for speech made an epoch in resolve. His respect for the
questioner would not let him decline to answer, and by the necessity to
answer he found out the truth for himself.
"Ah, you argue and you look forward--you are Daniel Charisi's grandson,"
said Kalonymos, adding a benediction in Hebrew.
With that they parted; and almost as soon as Deronda was in London, the
aged man was again on shipboard, greeting the friendly stars without any
"Within the gentle heart Love shelters him,
As birds within the green shade of the grove.
Before the gentle heart, in Nature's scheme,
Love was not, nor the gentle heart ere Love."
--GUIDO GUNICELLI (_Rossetti's Translation_).
There was another house besides the white house at Pennicote, another
breast besides Rex Gascoigne's, in which the news of Grandcourt's death
caused both strong agitation and the effort to repress it.
It was Hans Meyrick's habit to send or bring in the _Times_ for his
mother's reading. She was a great reader of news, from the widest-reaching
politics to the list of marriages; the latter, she said, giving her the
pleasant sense of finishing the fashionable novels without having read
them, and seeing the heroes and heroines happy without knowing what poor
creatures they were. On a Wednesday, there were reasons why Hans always
chose to bring the paper, and to do so about the time that Mirah had
nearly ended giving Mab her weekly lesson, avowing that he came then
because he wanted to hear Mirah sing. But on the particular Wednesday now
in question, after entering the house as quietly as usual with his latch-
key, he appeared in the parlor, shaking the _Times_ aloft with a crackling
noise, in remorseless interruption of Mab's attempt to render _Lascia
ch'io pianga_ with a remote imitation of her teacher. Piano and song
ceased immediately; Mirah, who had been playing the accompaniment,
involuntarily started up and turned round, the crackling sound, after the
occasional trick of sounds, having seemed to her something thunderous; and
"O-o-o, Hans! why do you bring a more horrible noise than my singing?"
"What on earth is the wonderful news?" said Mrs. Meyrick, who was the only
other person in the room. "Anything about Italy--anything about the
Austrians giving up Venice?"
"Nothing about Italy, but something from Italy," said Hans, with a
peculiarity in his tone and manner which set his mother interpreting.
Imagine how some of us feel and behave when an event, not disagreeable
seems to be confirming and carrying out our private constructions. We say,
"What do you think?" in a pregnant tone to some innocent person who has
not embarked his wisdom in the same boat with ours, and finds our
"Nothing bad?" said Mrs. Meyrick anxiously, thinking immediately of
Deronda; and Mirah's heart had been already clutched by the same thought.
"Not bad for anybody we care much about," said Hans, quickly; "rather
uncommonly lucky, I think. I never knew anybody die conveniently before.
Considering what a dear gazelle I am, I am constantly wondering to find
"Oh me, Hans!" said Mab, impatiently, "if you must talk of yourself, let
it be behind your own back. What _is_ it that has happened?"
"Duke Alfonso is drowned, and the Duchess is alive, that's all," said
Hans, putting the paper before Mrs. Meyrick, with his finger against a
paragraph. "But more than all is--Deronda was at Genoa in the same hotel
with them, and he saw her brought in by the fishermen who had got her out
of the water time enough to save her from any harm. It seems they saw her
jump in after her husband, which was a less judicious action than I should
have expected of the Duchess. However Deronda is a lucky fellow in being
there to take care of her."
Mirah had sunk on the music stool again, with her eyelids down and her
hands tightly clasped; and Mrs. Meyrick, giving up the paper to Mab,
"Poor thing! she must have been fond of her husband to jump in after him."
"It was an inadvertence--a little absence of mind," said Hans, creasing
his face roguishly, and throwing himself into a chair not far from Mirah.
"Who can be fond of a jealous baritone, with freezing glances, always
singing asides?--that was the husband's _role_, depend upon it. Nothing
can be neater than his getting drowned. The Duchess is at liberty now to
marry a man with a fine head of hair, and glances that will melt instead
of freezing her. And I shall be invited to the wedding."
Here Mirah started from her sitting posture, and fixing her eyes on Hans,
with an angry gleam in them, she said, in a deeply-shaken voice of
"Mr. Hans, you ought not to speak in that way. Mr. Deronda would not like
you to speak so. Why will you say he is lucky--why will you use words of
that sort about life and death--when what is life to one is death to
another? How do you know it would be lucky if he loved Mrs. Grandcourt? It
might be a great evil to him. She would take him away from my brother--I
know she would. Mr. Deronda would not call that lucky to pierce my
All three were struck with the sudden transformation. Mirah's face, with a
look of anger that might have suited Ithuriel, pale, even to the lips that
were usually so rich of tint, was not far from poor Hans, who sat
transfixed, blushing under it as if he had been a girl, while he said,
"I am a fool and a brute, and I withdraw every word. I'll go and hang
myself like Judas--if it's allowable to mention him." Even in Hans's
sorrowful moments, his improvised words had inevitably some drollery.
But Mirah's anger was not appeased: how could it be? She had burst into
indignant speech as creatures in intense pain bite and make their teeth
meet even through their own flesh, by way of making their agony bearable.
She said no more, but, seating herself at the piano, pressed the sheet of
music before her, as if she thought of beginning to play again.
It was Mab who spoke, while. Mrs. Meyrick's face seemed to reflect some of
"Mirah is quite right to scold you, Hans. You are always taking Mr.
Deronda's name in vain. And it is horrible, joking in that way about his
marrying Mrs. Grandcourt. Men's minds must be very black, I think," ended
Mab, with much scorn.
"Quite true, my dear," said Hans, in a low tone, rising and turning on his
heel to walk toward the back window.
"We had better go on, Mab; you have not given your full time to the
lesson," said Mirah, in a higher tone than usual. "Will you sing this
again, or shall I sing it to you?"
"Oh, please sing it to me," said Mab, rejoiced to take no more notice of
what had happened.
And Mirah immediately sang _Lascia ch'io pianga_, giving forth its
melodious sobs and cries with new fullness and energy. Hans paused in his
walk and leaned against the mantel-piece, keeping his eyes carefully away
from his mother's. When Mirah had sung her last note and touched the last
chord, she rose and said, "I must go home now. Ezra expects me."
She gave her hand silently to Mrs. Meyrick and hung back a little, not
daring to look at her, instead of kissing her, as usual. But the little
mother drew Mirah's face down to hers, and said, soothingly, "God bless
you, my dear." Mirah felt that she had committed an offense against Mrs.
Meyrick by angrily rebuking Hans, and mixed with the rest of her suffering
was the sense that she had shown something like a proud ingratitude, an
unbecoming assertion of superiority. And her friend had divined this
Meanwhile Hans had seized his wide-awake, and was ready to open the door.
"Now, Hans," said Mab, with what was really a sister's tenderness
cunningly disguised, "you are not going to walk home with Mirah. I am sure
she would rather not. You are so dreadfully disagreeable to-day."
"I shall go to take care of her, if she does not forbid me," said Hans,
opening the door.
Mirah said nothing, and when he had opened the outer door for her and
closed it behind him, he walked by her side unforbidden. She had not the
courage to begin speaking to him again--conscious that she had perhaps
been unbecomingly severe in her words to him, yet finding only severer
words behind them in her heart. Besides, she was pressed upon by a crowd
of thoughts thrusting themselves forward as interpreters of that
consciousness which still remained unaltered to herself.
Hans, on his side, had a mind equally busy. Mirah's anger had waked in him
a new perception, and with it the unpleasant sense that he was a dolt not
to have had it before. Suppose Mirah's heart were entirely preoccupied
with Deronda in another character than that of her own and her brother's
benefactor; the supposition was attended in Hans's mind with anxieties
which, to do him justice, were not altogether selfish. He had a strong
persuasion, which only direct evidence to the contrary could have
dissipated, and that was that there was a serious attachment between
Deronda and Mrs. Grandcourt; he had pieced together many fragments of
observation, and gradually gathered knowledge, completed by what his
sisters had heard from Anna Gascoigne, which convinced him not only that
Mrs. Grandcourt had a passion for Deronda, but also, notwithstanding his
friend's austere self-repression, that Deronda's susceptibility about her
was the sign of concealed love. Some men, having such a conviction, would
have avoided allusions that could have roused that susceptibility; but
Hans's talk naturally fluttered toward mischief, and he was given to a
form of experiment on live animals which consisted in irritating his
friends playfully. His experiments had ended in satisfying him that what
he thought likely was true.
On the other hand, any susceptibility Deronda had manifested about a
lover's attentions being shown to Mirah, Hans took to be sufficiently
accounted for by the alleged reason, namely, her dependent position; for
he credited his friend with all possible unselfish anxiety for those whom
he could rescue and protect. And Deronda's insistence that Mirah would
never marry one who was not a Jew necessarily seemed to exclude himself,
since Hans shared the ordinary opinion, which he knew nothing to disturb,
that Deronda was the son of Sir Hugo Mallinger.
Thus he felt himself in clearness about the state of Deronda's affections;
but now, the events which really struck him as concurring toward the
desirable union with Mrs. Grandcourt, had called forth a flash of
revelation from Mirah--a betrayal of her passionate feeling on this
subject which had made him melancholy on her account as well as his own--
yet on the whole less melancholy than if he had imagined Deronda's hopes
fixed on her. It is not sublime, but it is common, for a man to see the
beloved object unhappy because his rival loves another, with more
fortitude and a milder jealousy than if he saw her entirely happy in his
rival. At least it was so with the mercurial Hans, who fluctuated between
the contradictory states of feeling, wounded because Mirah was wounded,
and of being almost obliged to Deronda for loving somebody else. It was
impossible for him to give Mirah any direct sign of the way in which he
had understood her anger, yet he longed that his speechless companionship
should be eloquent in a tender, penitent sympathy which is an admissible
form of wooing a bruised heart.
Thus the two went side by side in a companionship that yet seemed an
agitated communication, like that of two chords whose quick vibrations lie
outside our hearing. But when they reached the door of Mirah's home, and
Hans said "Good-bye," putting out his hand with an appealing look of
penitence, she met the look with melancholy gentleness, and said, "Will
you not come in and see my brother?"
Hans could not but interpret this invitation as a sign of pardon. He had
not enough understanding of what Mirah's nature had been wrought into by
her early experience, to divine how the very strength of her late
excitement had made it pass more quickly into the resolute acceptance of
pain. When he had said, "If you will let me," and they went in together,
half his grief was gone, and he was spinning a little romance of how his
devotion might make him indispensable to Mirah in proportion as Deronda
gave his devotion elsewhere. This was quite fair, since his friend was
provided for according to his own heart; and on the question of Judaism
Hans felt thoroughly fortified:--who ever heard in tale or history that a
woman's love went in the track of her race and religion? Moslem and Jewish
damsels were always attracted toward Christians, and now if Mirah's heart
had gone forth too precipitately toward Deronda, here was another case in
point. Hans was wont to make merry with his own arguments, to call himself
a Giaour, and antithesis the sole clue to events; but he believed a little
in what he laughed at. And thus his bird-like hope, constructed on the
lightest principles, soared again in spite of heavy circumstances.
They found Mordecai looking singularly happy, holding a closed letter in
his hand, his eyes glowing with a quiet triumph which in his emaciated
face gave the idea of a conquest over assailing death. After the greeting
between him and Hans, Mirah put her arm round her brother's neck and
looked down at the letter in his hand, without the courage to ask about
it, though she felt sure that it was the cause of his happiness.
"A letter from Daniel Deronda," said Mordecai, answering her look. "Brief
--only saying that he hopes soon to return. Unexpected claims have
detained him. The promise of seeing him again is like the bow in the cloud
to me," continued Mordecai, looking at Hans; "and to you it must be a
gladness. For who has two friends like him?"
While Hans was answering Mirah slipped away to her own room; but not to
indulge in any outburst of the passion within her. If the angels, once
supposed to watch the toilet of women, had entered the little chamber with
her and let her shut the door behind them, they would only have seen her
take off her hat, sit down and press her hands against her temples as if
she had suddenly reflected that her head ached; then rise to dash cold
water on her eyes and brow and hair till her backward curls were full of
crystal beads, while she had dried her brow and looked out like a freshly-
opened flower from among the dewy tresses of the woodland; then give deep
sighs of relief, and putting on her little slippers, sit still after that
action for a couple of minutes, which seemed to her so long, so full of
things to come, that she rose with an air of recollection, and went down
to make tea.
Something of the old life had returned. She had been used to remember that
she must learn her part, must go to rehearsal, must act and sing in the
evening, must hide her feelings from her father; and the more painful her
life grew, the more she had been used to hide. The force of her nature had
long found its chief action in resolute endurance, and to-day the violence
of feeling which had caused the first jet of anger had quickly transformed
itself into a steady facing of trouble, the well-known companion of her
young years. But while she moved about and spoke as usual, a close
observer might have discerned a difference between this apparent calm,
which was the effect of restraining energy, and the sweet genuine calm of
the months when she first felt a return of her infantine happiness.
Those who have been indulged by fortune and have always thought of
calamity as what happens to others, feel a blind incredulous rage at the
reversal of their lot, and half believe that their wild cries will alter
the course of the storm. Mirah felt no such surprise when familiar Sorrow
came back from brief absence, and sat down with her according to the old
use and wont. And this habit of expecting trouble rather than joy,
hindered her from having any persistent belief in opposition to the
probabilities which were not merely suggested by Hans, but were supported
by her own private knowledge and long-growing presentiment. An attachment
between Deronda and Mrs. Grandcourt, to end in their future marriage, had
the aspect of a certainty for her feeling. There had been no fault in him:
facts had ordered themselves so that there was a tie between him and this
woman who belonged to another world than hers and Ezra's--nay, who seemed
another sort of being than Deronda, something foreign that would be a
disturbance in his life instead of blending with it. Well, well--but if it
could have been deferred so as to make no difference while Ezra was there!
She did not know all the momentousness of the relation between Deronda and
her brother, but she had seen, and instinctively felt enough to forebode
its being incongruous with any close tie to Mrs. Grandcourt; at least this
was the clothing that Mirah first gave to her mortal repugnance. But in
the still, quick action of her consciousness, thoughts went on like
changing states of sensation unbroken by her habitual acts; and this
inward language soon said distinctly that the mortal repugnance would
remain even if Ezra were secured from loss.
"What I have read about and sung about and seen acted, is happening to me
--this that I am feeling is the love that makes jealousy;" so impartially
Mirah summed up the charge against herself. But what difference could this
pain of hers make to any one else? It must remain as exclusively her own,
and hidden, as her early yearning and devotion to her lost mother. But
unlike that devotion, it was something that she felt to be a misfortune of
her nature--a discovery that what should have been pure gratitude and
reverence had sunk into selfish pain, that the feeling she had hitherto
delighted to pour out in words was degraded into something she was ashamed
to betray--an absurd longing that she who had received all and given
nothing should be of importance where she was of no importance--an angry
feeling toward another woman who possessed the good she wanted. But what
notion, what vain reliance could it be that had lain darkly within her and
was now burning itself into sight as disappointment and jealousy? It was
as if her soul had been steeped in poisonous passion by forgotten dreams
of deep sleep, and now flamed out in this unaccountable misery. For with
her waking reason she had never entertained what seemed the wildly
unfitting thought that Deronda could love her. The uneasiness she had felt
before had been comparatively vague and easily explained as part of a
general regret that he was only a visitant in her and her brother's world,
from which the world where his home lay was as different as a portico with
lights and lacqueys was different from the door of a tent, where the only
splendor came from the mysterious inaccessible stars. But her feeling was
no longer vague: the cause of her pain--the image of Mrs. Grandcourt by
Deronda's side, drawing him farther and farther into the distance, was as
definite as pincers on her flesh. In the Psyche-mould of Mirah's frame
there rested a fervid quality of emotion, sometimes rashly supposed to
require the bulk of a Cleopatra; her impressions had the thoroughness and
tenacity that give to the first selection of passionate feeling the
character of a lifelong faithfulness. And now a selection had declared
itself, which gave love a cruel heart of jealousy: she had been used to a
strong repugnance toward certain objects that surrounded her, and to walk
inwardly aloof from them while they touched her sense. And now her
repugnance concentrated itself on Mrs. Grandcourt, of whom she
involuntarily conceived more evil than she knew. "I could bear everything
that used to be--but this is worse--this is worse,--I used not to have
horrible feelings!" said the poor child in a loud whisper to her pillow.
Strange that she should have to pray against any feeling which concerned
But this conclusion had been reached through an evening spent in attending
to Mordecai, whose exaltation of spirit in the prospect of seeing his
friend again, disposed him to utter many thoughts aloud to Mirah, though
such communication was often interrupted by intervals apparently filled
with an inward utterance that animated his eyes and gave an occasional
silent action to his lips. One thought especially occupied him.
"Seest thou, Mirah," he said once, after a long silence, "the _Shemah_,
wherein we briefly confess the divine Unity, is the chief devotional
exercise of the Hebrew; and this made our religion the fundamental
religion for the whole world; for the divine Unity embraced as its
consequence the ultimate unity of mankind. See, then--the nation which has
been scoffed at for its separateness, has given a binding theory to the
human race. Now, in complete unity a part possesses the whole as the whole
possesses every part: and in this way human life is tending toward the
image of the Supreme Unity: for as our life becomes more spiritual by
capacity of thought, and joy therein, possession tends to become more
universal, being independent of gross material contact; so that in a brief
day the soul of man may know in fuller volume the good which has been and
is, nay, is to come, than all he could possess in a whole life where he
had to follow the creeping paths of the senses. In this moment, my sister,
I hold the joy of another's future within me: a future which these eyes
will not see, and which my spirit may not then recognize as mine. I
recognize it now, and love it so, that I can lay down this poor life upon
its altar and say: 'Burn, burn indiscernibly into that which shall be,
which is my love and not me.' Dost thou understand, Mirah?"
"A little," said Mirah, faintly, "but my mind is too poor to have felt
"And yet," said Mordecai, rather insistently, "women are specially framed
for the love which feels possession in renouncing, and is thus a fit image
of what I mean. Somewhere in the later _Midrash_, I think, is the story of
a Jewish maiden who loved a Gentile king so well, that this was what she
did:--she entered into prison and changed clothes with the woman who was
beloved by the king, that she might deliver that woman from death by dying
in her stead, and leave the king to be happy in his love which was not for
her. This is the surpassing love, that loses self in the object of love."
"No, Ezra, no," said Mirah, with low-toned intensity, "that was not it.
She wanted the king when she was dead to know what she had done, and feel
that she was better than the other. It was her strong self, wanting to
conquer, that made her die."
Mordecai was silent a little, and then argued--
"That might be, Mirah. But if she acted so, believing the king would never
"You can make the story so in your mind, Ezra, because you are great, and
like to fancy the greatest that could be. But I think it was not really
like that. The Jewish girl must have had jealousy in her heart, and she
wanted somehow to have the first place in the king's mind. That is what
she would die for."
"My sister, thou hast read too many plays, where the writers delight in
showing the human passions as indwelling demons, unmixed with the
relenting and devout elements of the soul. Thou judgest by the plays, and
not by thy own heart, which is like our mother's."
Mirah made no answer.
"Das Gluck ist eine leichte Dirne,
Und weilt nicht gern am selben Ort;
Sie streicht das Haar dir von der Stirn