Part 15 out of 16
Und kusst dich rasch und flattert fort
Frau Ungluck hat im Gegentheile
Dich liebefest an's Herz gedruckt;
Sie sagt, sie habe keine Eile,
Setzt sich zu dir ans Bett und strickt."
Something which Mirah had lately been watching for as the fulfilment of a
threat, seemed now the continued visit of that familiar sorrow which had
lately come back, bringing abundant luggage.
Turning out of Knightsbridge, after singing at a charitable morning
concert in a wealthy house, where she had been recommended by Klesmer, and
where there had been the usual groups outside to see the departing
company, she began to feel herself dogged by footsteps that kept an even
pace with her own. Her concert dress being simple black, over which she
had thrown a dust cloak, could not make her an object of unpleasant
attention, and render walking an imprudence; but this reflection did not
occur to Mirah: another kind of alarm lay uppermost in her mind. She
immediately thought of her father, and could no more look round than if
she had felt herself tracked by a ghost. To turn and face him would be
voluntarily to meet the rush of emotions which beforehand seemed
intolerable. If it were her father he must mean to claim recognition, and
he would oblige her to face him. She must wait for that compulsion. She
walked on, not quickening her pace--of what use was that?--but picturing
what was about to happen as if she had the full certainty that the man
behind her was her father; and along with her picturing went a regret that
she had given her word to Mrs. Meyrick not to use any concealment about
him. The regret at last urged her, at least, to try and hinder any sudden
betrayal that would cause her brother an unnecessary shock. Under the
pressure of this motive, she resolved to turn before she reached her own
door, and firmly will the encounter instead of merely submitting to it.
She had already reached the entrance of the small square where her home
lay, and had made up her mind to turn, when she felt her embodied
presentiment getting closer to her, then slipping to her side, grasping
her wrist, and saying, with a persuasive curl of accent, "Mirah!"
She paused at once without any start; it was the voice she expected, and
she was meeting the expected eyes. Her face was as grave as if she had
been looking at her executioner, while his was adjusted to the intention
of soothing and propitiating her. Once a handsome face, with bright color,
it was now sallow and deep-lined, and had that peculiar impress of
impudent suavity which comes from courting favor while accepting
disrespect. He was lightly made and active, with something of youth about
him which made the signs of age seem a disguise; and in reality he was
hardly fifty-seven. His dress was shabby, as when she had seen him before.
The presence of this unreverend father now, more than ever, affected Mirah
with the mingled anguish of shame and grief, repulsion and pity--more than
ever, now that her own world was changed into one where there was no
comradeship to fence him from scorn and contempt.
Slowly, with a sad, tremulous voice, she said, "It is you, father."
"Why did you run away from me, child?" he began with rapid speech which
was meant to have a tone of tender remonstrance, accompanied with various
quick gestures like an abbreviated finger-language. "What were you afraid
of? You knew I never made you do anything against your will. It was for
your sake I broke up your engagement in the Vorstadt, because I saw it
didn't suit you, and you repaid me by leaving me to the bad times that
came in consequence. I had made an easier engagement for you at the
Vorstadt Theater in Dresden: I didn't tell you, because I wanted to take
you by surprise. And you left me planted there--obliged to make myself
scarce because I had broken contract. That was hard lines for me, after I
had given up everything for the sake of getting you an education which was
to be a fortune to you. What father devoted himself to his daughter more
than I did to you? You know how I bore that disappointment in your voice,
and made the best of it: and when I had nobody besides you, and was
getting broken, as a man must who has had to fight his way with his
brains--you chose that time to leave me. Who else was it you owed
everything to, if not to me? and where was your feeling in return? For
what my daughter cared, I might have died in a ditch."
Lapidoth stopped short here, not from lack of invention, but because he
had reached a pathetic climax, and gave a sudden sob, like a woman's,
taking out hastily an old yellow silk handkerchief. He really felt that
his daughter had treated him ill--a sort of sensibility which is naturally
strong in unscrupulous persons, who put down what is owing to them,
without any _per contra_. Mirah, in spite of that sob, had energy enough
not to let him suppose that he deceived her. She answered more firmly,
though it was the first time she had ever used accusing words to him.
"You know why I left you, father; and I had reason to distrust you,
because I felt sure that you had deceived my mother. If I could have
trusted you, I would have stayed with you and worked for you."
"I never meant to deceive your mother, Mirah," said Lapidoth, putting back
his handkerchief, but beginning with a voice that seemed to struggle
against further sobbing. "I meant to take you back to her, but chances
hindered me just at the time, and then there came information of her
death. It was better for you that I should stay where I was, and your
brother could take care of himself. Nobody had any claim on me but you. I
had word of your mother's death from a particular friend, who had
undertaken to manage things for me, and I sent him over money to pay
expenses. There's one chance to be sure--" Lapidoth had quickly conceived
that he must guard against something unlikely, yet possible--"he may have
written me lies for the sake of getting the money out of me."
Mirah made no answer; she could not bear to utter the only true one--"I
don't believe one word of what you say"--and she simply showed a wish that
they should walk on, feeling that their standing still might draw down
unpleasant notice. Even as they walked along, their companionship might
well have made a passer-by turn back to look at them. The figure of Mirah,
with her beauty set off by the quiet, careful dress of an English lady,
made a strange pendant to this shabby, foreign-looking, eager, and
gesticulating man, who withal had an ineffaceable jauntiness of air,
perhaps due to the bushy curls of his grizzled hair, the smallness of his
hands and feet, and his light walk.
"You seem to have done well for yourself, Mirah? _You_ are in no want, I
see," said the father, looking at her with emphatic examination.
"Good friends who found me in distress have helped me to get work," said
Mirah, hardly knowing what she actually said, from being occupied with
what she would presently have to say. "I give lessons. I have sung in
private houses. I have just been singing at a private concert." She
paused, and then added, with significance, "I have very good friends, who
know all about me."
"And you would be ashamed they should see your father in this plight? No
wonder. I came to England with no prospect, but the chance of finding you.
It was a mad quest; but a father's heart is superstitious--feels a
loadstone drawing it somewhere or other. I might have done very well,
staying abroad: when I hadn't you to take care of, I could have rolled or
settled as easily as a ball; but it's hard being lonely in the world, when
your spirit's beginning to break. And I thought my little Mirah would
repent leaving her father when she came to look back. I've had a sharp
pinch to work my way; I don't know what I shall come down to next. Talents
like mine are no use in this country. When a man's getting out at elbows
nobody will believe in him. I couldn't get any decent employ with my
appearance. I've been obliged to get pretty low for a shilling already."
Mirah's anxiety was quick enough to imagine her father's sinking into a
further degradation, which she was bound to hinder if she could. But
before she could answer his string of inventive sentences, delivered with
as much glibness as if they had been learned by rote, he added promptly---
"Where do you live, Mirah?"
"Here, in this square. We are not far from the house."
"Any one to take care of you?"
"Yes," said Mirah again, looking full at the keen face which was turned
toward hers--"my brother."
The father's eyelids fluttered as if the lightning had come across them,
and there was a slight movement of the shoulders. But he said, after a
just perceptible pause: "Ezra? How did you know--how did you find him?"
"That would take long to tell. Here we are at the door. My brother would
not wish me to close it on you."
Mirah was already on the doorstep, but had her face turned toward her
father, who stood below her on the pavement. Her heart had begun to beat
faster with the prospect of what was coming in the presence of Ezra; and
already in this attitude of giving leave to the father whom she had been
used to obey--in this sight of him standing below her, with a perceptible
shrinking from the admission which he had been indirectly asking for, she
had a pang of the peculiar, sympathetic humiliation and shame--the stabbed
heart of reverence--which belongs to a nature intensely filial.
"Stay a minute, _Liebchen_," said Lapidoth, speaking in a lowered tone;
"what sort of man has Ezra turned out?"
"A good man--a wonderful man," said Mirah, with slow emphasis, trying to
master the agitation which made her voice more tremulous as she went on.
She felt urged to prepare her father for the complete penetration of
himself which awaited him. "But he was very poor when my friends found him
for me--a poor workman. Once--twelve years ago--he was strong and happy,
going to the East, which he loved to think of; and my mother called him
back because--because she had lost me. And he went to her, and took care
of her through great trouble, and worked for her till she died--died in
grief. And Ezra, too, had lost his health and strength. The cold had
seized him coming back to my mother, because she was forsaken. For years
he has been getting weaker--always poor, always working--but full of
knowledge, and great-minded. All who come near him honor him. To stand
before him is like standing before a prophet of God"--Mirah ended with
difficulty, her heart throbbing--"falsehoods are no use."
She had cast down her eyes that she might not see her father while she
spoke the last words--unable to bear the ignoble look of frustration that
gathered in his face. But he was none the less quick in invention and
"Mirah, _Liebchen_," he said, in the old caressing way, "shouldn't you
like me to make myself a little more respectable before my son sees me? If
I had a little sum of money, I could fit myself out and come home to you
as your father ought, and then I could offer myself for some decent place.
With a good shirt and coat on my back, people would be glad enough to have
me. I could offer myself for a courier, if I didn't look like a broken-
down mountebank. I should like to be with my children, and forget and
forgive. But you have never seen your father look like this before. If you
had ten pounds at hand--or I could appoint you to bring it me somewhere--I
could fit myself out by the day after to-morrow."
Mirah felt herself under a temptation which she must try to overcome. She
answered, obliging herself to look at him again--
"I don't like to deny you what you ask, father; but I have given a promise
not to do things for you in secret. It _is_ hard to see you looking needy;
but we will bear that for a little while; and then you can have new
clothes, and we can pay for them." Her practical sense made her see now
what was Mrs. Meyrick's wisdom in exacting a promise from her.
Lapidoth's good humor gave way a little. He said, with a sneer, "You are a
hard and fast young lady--you have been learning useful virtues--keeping
promises not to help your father with a pound or two when you are getting
money to dress yourself in silk--your father who made an idol of you, and
gave up the best part of his life to providing for you."
"It seems cruel--I know it seems cruel," said Mirah, feeling this a worse
moment than when she meant to drown herself. Her lips were suddenly pale.
"But, father, it is more cruel to break the promises people trust in. That
broke my mother's heart--it has broken Ezra's life. You and I must eat now
this bitterness from what has been. Bear it. Bear to come in and be cared
for as you are."
"To-morrow, then," said Lapidoth, almost turning on his heel away from
this pale, trembling daughter, who seemed now to have got the inconvenient
world to back her; but he quickly turned on it again, with his hands
feeling about restlessly in his pockets, and said, with some return to his
appealing tone, "I'm a little cut up with all this, Mirah. I shall get up
my spirits by to-morrow. If you've a little money in your pocket, I
suppose it isn't against your promise to give me a trifle--to buy a cigar
Mirah could not ask herself another question--could not do anything else
than put her cold trembling hands in her pocket for her _portemonnaie_ and
hold it out. Lapidoth grasped it at once, pressed her fingers the while,
said, "Good-bye, my little girl--to-morrow then!" and left her. He had not
taken many steps before he looked carefully into all the folds of the
purse, found two half-sovereigns and odd silver, and, pasted against the
folding cover, a bit of paper on which Ezra had inscribed, in a beautiful
Hebrew character, the name of his mother, the days of her birth, marriage,
and death, and the prayer, "May Mirah be delivered from evil." It was
Mirah's liking to have this little inscription on many articles that she
used. The father read it, and had a quick vision of his marriage day, and
the bright, unblamed young fellow he was at that time; teaching many
things, but expecting by-and-by to get money more easily by writing; and
very fond of his beautiful bride Sara--crying when she expected him to
cry, and reflecting every phase of her feeling with mimetic
susceptibility. Lapidoth had traveled a long way from that young self, and
thought of all that this inscription signified with an unemotional memory,
which was like the ocular perception of a touch to one who has lost the
sense of touch, or like morsels on an untasting palate, having shape and
grain, but no flavor. Among the things we may gamble away in a lazy
selfish life is the capacity for truth, compunction, or any unselfish
regret--which we may come to long for as one in slow death longs to feel
laceration, rather than be conscious of a widening margin where
consciousness once was. Mirah's purse was a handsome one--a gift to her,
which she had been unable to reflect about giving away--and Lapidoth
presently found himself outside of his reverie, considering what the purse
would fetch in addition to the sum it contained, and what prospect there
was of his being able to get more from his daughter without submitting to
adopt a penitential form of life under the eyes of that formidable son. On
such a subject his susceptibilities were still lively.
Meanwhile Mirah had entered the house with her power of reticence overcome
by the cruelty of her pain. She found her brother quietly reading and
sifting old manuscripts of his own, which he meant to consign to Deronda.
In the reaction from the long effort to master herself, she fell down
before him and clasped his knees, sobbing, and crying, "Ezra, Ezra!"
He did not speak. His alarm for her spending itself on conceiving the
cause of her distress, the more striking from the novelty in her of this
violent manifestation. But Mirah's own longing was to be able to speak and
tell him the cause. Presently she raised her hand, and still sobbing, said
"Ezra, my father! our father! He followed me. I wanted him to come in. I
said you would let him come in. And he said No, he would not--not now, but
to-morrow. And he begged for money from me. And I gave him my purse, and
he went away."
Mirah's words seemed to herself to express all the misery she felt in
them. Her brother found them less grievous than his preconceptions, and
said gently, "Wait for calm, Mirah, and then tell me all,"--putting off
her hat and laying his hands tenderly on her head. She felt the soothing
influence, and in a few minutes told him as exactly as she could all that
"He will not come to-morrow," said Mordecai. Neither of them said to the
other what they both thought, namely, that he might watch for Mirah's
outgoings and beg from her again.
"Seest thou," he presently added, "our lot is the lot of Israel. The grief
and the glory are mingled as the smoke and the flame. It is because we
children have inherited the good that we feel the evil. These things are
wedded for us, as our father was wedded to our mother."
The surroundings were of Brompton, but the voice might have come from a
Rabbi transmitting the sentences of an elder time to be registered in
_Babli_--by which (to our ears) affectionate-sounding diminutive is meant
the voluminous Babylonian Talmud. "The Omnipresent," said a Rabbi, "is
occupied in making marriages." The levity of the saying lies in the ear of
him who hears it; for by marriages the speaker meant all the wondrous
combinations of the universe whose issue makes our good and evil.
"Moses, trotz seiner Bafeindung der Kunst, dennoch selber ein grosser
Kunstler war und den wahren Kunstlergeist besass. Nur war dieser
Kunstlergeist bei ihm, wie bei seinen agyptischen Landsleuteu, nurauf
das Colossale und Unverwustliche gerichtet. Aber nicht vie die
Aegypter formirte er seine Kunstwerke aus Backstem und Granit, sondern
er baute Menchen-pyramiden, er meisselte Menschen Obelisken, ernahm
einen armen Hirtenstamm und Schuf daraus ein Volk, das ebenfalls den
Jahrhahunderten, trotzen sollte * * * er Schuf Israel."--HEINE:
Imagine the difference in Deronda's state of mind when he left England and
when he returned to it. He had set out for Genoa in total uncertainty how
far the actual bent of his wishes and affections would be encouraged--how
far the claims revealed to him might draw him into new paths, far away
from the tracks his thoughts had lately been pursuing with a consent of
desire which uncertainty made dangerous. He came back with something like
a discovered charter warranting the inherited right that his ambition had
begun to yearn for: he came back with what was better than freedom--with a
duteous bond which his experience had been preparing him to accept gladly,
even if it had been attended with no promise of satisfying a secret
passionate longing never yet allowed to grow into a hope. But now he dared
avow to himself the hidden selection of his love. Since the hour when he
left the house at Chelsea in full-hearted silence under the effect of
Mirah's farewell look and words--their exquisite appealingness stirring in
him that deep-laid care for womanhood which had begun when his own lip was
like a girl's--her hold on his feeling had helped him to be blameless in
word and deed under the difficult circumstances we know of. There seemed
no likelihood that he could ever woo this creature who had become dear to
him amidst associations that forbade wooing; yet she had taken her place
in his soul as a beloved type--reducing the power of other fascination and
making a difference in it that became deficiency. The influence had been
continually strengthened. It had lain in the course of poor Gwendolen's
lot that her dependence on Deronda tended to rouse in him the enthusiasm
of self-martyring pity rather than of personal love, and his less
constrained tenderness flowed with the fuller stream toward an indwelling
image in all things unlike Gwendolen. Still more, his relation to Mordecai
had brought with it a new nearness to Mirah which was not the less
agitating because there was no apparent change in his position toward her;
and she had inevitably been bound up in all the thoughts that made him
shrink from an issue disappointing to her brother. This process had not
gone on unconsciously in Deronda: he was conscious of it as we are of some
covetousness that it would be better to nullify by encouraging other
thoughts than to give it the insistency of confession even to ourselves:
but the jealous fire had leaped out at Hans's pretensions, and when his
mother accused him of being in love with a Jewess any evasion suddenly
seemed an infidelity. His mother had compelled him to a decisive
acknowledgment of his love, as Joseph Kalonymos had compelled him to a
definite expression of his resolve. This new state of decision wrought on
Deronda with a force which surprised even himself. There was a release of
all the energy which had long been spent in self-checking and suppression
because of doubtful conditions; and he was ready to laugh at his own
impetuosity when, as he neared England on his way from Mainz, he felt the
remaining distance more and more of an obstruction. It was as if he had
found an added soul in finding his ancestry--his judgment no longer
wandering in the mazes of impartial sympathy, but choosing, with that
partiality which is man's best strength, the closer fellowship that makes
sympathy practical--exchanging that bird's eye reasonableness which soars
to avoid preference and loses all sense of quality for the generous
reasonableness of drawing shoulder to shoulder with men of like
inheritance. He wanted now to be again with Mordecai, to pour forth
instead of restraining his feeling, to admit agreement and maintain
dissent, and all the while to find Mirah's presence without the
embarrassment of obviously seeking it, to see her in the light of a new
possibility, to interpret her looks and words from a new starting-point.
He was not greatly alarmed about the effect of Hans's attentions, but he
had a presentiment that her feeling toward himself had from the first lain
in a channel from which it was not likely to be diverted into love. To
astonish a woman by turning into her lover when she has been thinking of
you merely as a Lord Chancellor is what a man naturally shrinks from: he
is anxious to create an easier transition.
What wonder that Deronda saw no other course than to go straight from the
London railway station to the lodgings in that small square in Brompton?
Every argument was in favor of his losing no time. He had promised to run
down the next day to see Lady Mallinger at the Abbey, and it was already
sunset. He wished to deposit the precious chest with Mordecai, who would
study its contents, both in his absence and in company with him; and that
he should pay this visit without pause would gratify Mordecai's heart.
Hence, and for other reasons, it gratified Deronda's heart. The strongest
tendencies of his nature were rushing in one current--the fervent
affectionateness which made him delight in meeting the wish of beings near
to him, and the imaginative need of some far-reaching relation to make the
horizon of his immediate, daily acts. It has to be admitted that in this
classical, romantic, world-historic position of his, bringing as it were
from its hiding-place his hereditary armor, he wore--but so, one must
suppose, did the most ancient heroes, whether Semitic or Japhetic--the
summer costume of his contemporaries. He did not reflect that the drab
tints were becoming to him, for he rarely went to the expense of such
thinking; but his own depth of coloring, which made the becomingness, got
an added radiance in the eyes, a fleeting and returning glow in the skin,
as he entered the house wondering what exactly he should find. He made his
entrance as noiseless as possible.
It was the evening of that same afternoon on which Mirah had had the
interview with her father. Mordecai, penetrated by her grief, and also the
sad memories which the incident had awakened, had not resumed his task of
sifting papers: some of them had fallen scattered on the floor in the
first moments of anxiety, and neither he nor Mirah had thought of laying
them in order again. They had sat perfectly still together, not knowing
how long; while the clock ticked on the mantelpiece, and the light was
fading, Mirah, unable to think of the food that she ought to have been
taking, had not moved since she had thrown off her dust-cloak and sat down
beside Mordecai with her hand in his, while he had laid his head backward,
with closed eyes and difficult breathing, looking, Mirah thought, as he
would look when the soul within him could no longer live in its straitened
home. The thought that his death might be near was continually visiting
her when she saw his face in this way, without its vivid animation; and
now, to the rest of her grief, was added the regret that she had been
unable to control the violent outburst which had shaken him. She sat
watching him--her oval cheeks pallid, her eyes with the sorrowful
brilliancy left by young tears, her curls in as much disorder as a just-
awakened child's--watching that emaciated face, where it might have been
imagined that a veil had been drawn never to be lifted, as if it were her
dead joy which had left her strong enough to live on in sorrow. And life
at that moment stretched before Mirah with more than a repetition of
former sadness. The shadow of the father was there, and more than that, a
double bereavement--of one living as well as one dead.
But now the door was opened, and while none entered, a well-known voice
said: "Daniel Deronda--may he come in?"
"Come! come!" said Mordecai, immediately rising with an irradiated face
and opened eyes--apparently as little surprised as if he had seen Deronda
in the morning, and expected this evening visit; while Mirah started up
blushing with confused, half-alarmed expectation.
Yet when Deronda entered, the sight of him was like the clearness after
rain: no clouds to come could hinder the cherishing beam of that moment.
As he held out his right hand to Mirah, who was close to her brother's
left, he laid his other hand on Mordecai's right shoulder, and stood so a
moment, holding them both at once, uttering no word, but reading their
faces, till he said anxiously to Mirah, "Has anything happened?--any
"Talk not of trouble now," said Mordecai, saving her from the need to
answer. "There is joy in your face--let the joy be ours."
Mirah thought, "It is for something he cannot tell us." But they all sat
down, Deronda drawing a chair close in front of Mordecai.
"That is true," he said, emphatically. "I have a joy which will remain to
us even in the worst trouble. I did not tell you the reason of my journey
abroad, Mordecai, because--never mind--I went to learn my parentage. And
you were right. I am a Jew."
The two men clasped hands with a movement that seemed part of the flash
from Mordecai's eyes, and passed through Mirah like an electric shock. But
Deronda went on without pause, speaking from Mordecai's mind as much as
from his own--
"We have the same people. Our souls have the same vocation. We shall not
be separated by life or by death."
Mordecai's answer was uttered in Hebrew, and in no more than a loud
whisper. It was in the liturgical words which express the religious bond:
"Our God and the God of our fathers."
The weight of feeling pressed too strongly on that ready-winged speech
which usually moved in quick adaptation to every stirring of his fervor.
Mirah fell on her knees by her brother's side, and looked at his now
illuminated face, which had just before been so deathly. The action was an
inevitable outlet of the violent reversal from despondency to a gladness
which came over her as solemnly as if she had been beholding a religious
rite. For the moment she thought of the effect on her own life only
through the effect on her brother.
"And it is not only that I am a Jew," Deronda went on, enjoying one of
those rare moments when our yearnings and our acts can be completely one,
and the real we behold is our ideal good; "but I come of a strain that has
ardently maintained the fellowship of our race--a line of Spanish Jews
that has borne many students and men of practical power. And I possess
what will give us a sort of communion with them. My grandfather, Daniel
Charisi, preserved manuscripts, family records stretching far back, in the
hope that they would pass into the hands of his grandson. And now his hope
is fulfilled, in spite of attempts to thwart it by hiding my parentage
from me. I possess the chest containing them, with his own papers, and it
is down below in this house. I mean to leave it with you, Mordecai, that
you may help me to study the manuscripts. Some of them I can read easily
enough--those in Spanish and Italian. Others are in Hebrew, and, I think,
Arabic; but there seem to be Latin translations. I was only able to look
at them cursorily while I stayed at Mainz. We will study them together."
Deronda ended with that bright smile which, beaming out from the habitual
gravity of his face, seemed a revelation (the reverse of the continual
smile that discredits all expression). But when this happy glance passed
from Mordecai to rest on Mirah, it acted like a little too much sunshine,
and made her change her attitude. She had knelt under an impulse with
which any personal embarrassment was incongruous, and especially any
thoughts about how Mrs. Grandcourt might stand to this new aspect of
things--thoughts which made her color under Deronda's glance, and rise to
take her seat again in her usual posture of crossed hands and feet, with
the effort to look as quiet as possible. Deronda, equally sensitive,
imagined that the feeling of which he was conscious, had entered too much
into his eyes, and had been repugnant to her. He was ready enough to
believe that any unexpected manifestation might spoil her feeling toward
him--and then his precious relation to brother and sister would be marred.
If Mirah could have no love for him, any advances of love on his part
would make her wretched in that continual contact with him which would
While such feelings were pulsating quickly in Deronda and Mirah, Mordecai,
seeing nothing in his friend's presence and words but a blessed
fulfillment, was already speaking with his old sense of enlargement in
"Daniel, from the first, I have said to you, we know not all the pathways.
Has there not been a meeting among them, as of the operations in one soul,
where an idea being born and breathing draws the elements toward it, and
is fed and glows? For all things are bound together in that Omnipresence
which is the place and habitation of the world, and events are of a glass
wherethrough our eyes see some of the pathways. And if it seems that the
erring and unloving wills of men have helped to prepare you, as Moses was
prepared, to serve your people the better, that depends on another order
than the law which must guide our footsteps. For the evil will of man
makes not a people's good except by stirring the righteous will of man;
and beneath all the clouds with which our thought encompasses the Eternal,
this is clear--that a people can be blessed only by having counsellors and
a multitude whose will moves in obedience to the laws of justice and love.
For see, now, it was your loving will that made a chief pathway, and
resisted the effect of evil; for, by performing the duties of brotherhood
to my sister, and seeking out her brother in the flesh, your soul has been
prepared to receive with gladness this message of the Eternal, 'behold the
multitude of your brethren.'"
"It is quite true that you and Mirah have been my teachers," said Deronda.
"If this revelation had been made to me before I knew you both, I think my
mind would have rebelled against it. Perhaps I should have felt then--'If
I could have chosen, I would not have been a Jew.' What I feel now is--
that my whole being is a consent to the fact. But it has been the gradual
accord between your mind and mine which has brought about that full
At the moment Deronda was speaking, that first evening in the book-shop
was vividly in his remembrance, with all the struggling aloofness he had
then felt from Mordecai's prophetic confidence. It was his nature to
delight in satisfying to the utmost the eagerly-expectant soul, which
seemed to be looking out from the face before him, like the long-enduring
watcher who at last sees the mountain signal-flame; and he went on with
"It is through your inspiration that I have discerned what may be my
life's task. It is you who have given shape to what, I believe, was an
inherited yearning--the effect of brooding, passionate thoughts in many
ancestors--thoughts that seem to have been intensely present in my
grandfather. Suppose the stolen offspring of some mountain tribe brought
up in a city of the plain, or one with an inherited genius for painting,
and born blind--the ancestral life would lie within them as a dim longing
for unknown objects and sensations, and the spell-bound habit of their
inherited frames would be like a cunningly-wrought musical instrument,
never played on, but quivering throughout in uneasy mysterious meanings of
its intricate structure that, under the right touch, gives music.
Something like that, I think, has been my experience. Since I began to
read and know, I have always longed for some ideal task, in which I might
feel myself the heart and brain of a multitude--some social captainship,
which would come to me as a duty, and not be striven for as a personal
prize. You have raised the image of such a task for me--to bind our race
together in spite of heresy. You have said to me--'Our religion united us
before it divided us--it made us a people before it made Rabbanites and
Karaites.' I mean to try what can be done with that union--I mean to work
in your spirit. Failure will not be ignoble, but it would be ignoble for
me not to try."
"Even as my brother that fed at the breasts of my mother," said Mordecai,
falling back in his chair with a look of exultant repose, as after some
To estimate the effect of this ardent outpouring from Deronda we must
remember his former reserve, his careful avoidance of premature assent or
delusive encouragement, which gave to this decided pledge of himself a
sacramental solemnity, both for his own mind and Mordecai's. On Mirah the
effect was equally strong, though with a difference: she felt a surprise
which had no place in her brother's mind, at Deronda's suddenly revealed
sense of nearness to them: there seemed to be a breaking of day around her
which might show her other facts unlike her forebodings in the darkness.
But after a moment's silence Mordecai spoke again--
"It has begun already--the marriage of our souls. It waits but the passing
away of this body, and then they who are betrothed shall unite in a
stricter bond, and what is mine shall be thine. Call nothing mine that I
have written, Daniel; for though our masters delivered rightly that
everything should be quoted in the name of him that said it--and their
rule is good--yet it does not exclude the willing marriage which melts
soul into soul, and makes thought fuller as the clear waters are made
fuller, where the fullness is inseparable and the clearness is
inseparable. For I have judged what I have written, and I desire the body
that I gave my thought to pass away as this fleshly body will pass; but
let the thought be born again from our fuller soul which shall be called
"You must not ask me to promise that," said Deronda, smiling. "I must be
convinced first of special reasons for it in the writings themselves. And
I am too backward a pupil yet. That blent* transmission must go on without
any choice of ours; but what we can't hinder must not make our rule for
what we ought to choose. I think our duty is faithful tradition where we
can attain it. And so you would insist for any one but yourself. Don't ask
me to deny my spiritual parentage, when I am finding the clue of my life
in the recognition of natural parentage."
"I will ask for no promise till you see the reason," said Mordecai. "You
have said the truth: I would obey the Master's rule for another. But for
years my hope, nay, my confidence, has been, not that the imperfect image
of my thought, which is an ill-shaped work of the youthful carver who has
seen a heavenly pattern, and trembles in imitating the vision--not that
this should live, but that my vision and passion should enter into yours--
yea, into yours; for he whom I longed for afar, was he not you whom I
discerned as mine when you came near? Nevertheless, you shall judge. For
my soul is satisfied." Mordecai paused, and then began in a changed tone,
reverting to previous suggestions from Deronda's disclosure: "What moved
your parents----?" but he immediately checked himself, and added, "Nay, I
ask not that you should tell me aught concerning others, unless it is your
"Some time--gradually--you will know all," said Deronda. "But now tell me
more about yourselves, and how the time has passed since I went away. I am
sure there has been some trouble. Mirah has been in distress about
He looked at Mirah, but she immediately turned to her brother, appealing
to him to give the difficult answer. She hoped he would not think it
necessary to tell Deronda the facts about her father on such an evening as
this. Just when Deronda had brought himself so near, and identified
himself with her brother, it was cutting to her that he should hear of
this disgrace clinging about them, which seemed to have become partly his.
To relieve herself she rose to take up her hat and cloak, thinking she
would go to her own room: perhaps they would speak more easily when she
had left them. But meanwhile Mordecai said--
"To day there has been a grief. A duty which seemed to have gone far into
the distance, has come back and turned its face upon us, and raised no
gladness--has raised a dread that we must submit to. But for the moment we
are delivered from any visible yoke. Let us defer speaking of it as if
this evening which is deepening about us were the beginning of the
festival in which we must offer the first fruits of our joy, and mingle no
mourning with them."
Deronda divined the hinted grief, and left it in silence, rising as he saw
Mirah rise, and saying to her, "Are you going? I must leave almost
immediately--when I and Mrs. Adam have mounted the precious chest, and I
have delivered the key to Mordecai--no, Ezra,--may I call him Ezra now? I
have learned to think of him as Ezra since I have heard you call him so."
"Please call him Ezra," said Mirah, faintly, feeling a new timidity under
Deronda's glance and near presence. Was there really something different
about him, or was the difference only in her feeling? The strangely
various emotions of the last few hours had exhausted her; she was faint
with fatigue and want of food. Deronda, observing her pallor and
tremulousness, longed to show more feeling, but dared not. She put out her
hand with an effort to smile, and then he opened the door for her. That
A man of refined pride shrinks from making a lover's approaches to a woman
whose wealth or rank might make them appear presumptuous or low-motived;
but Deronda was finding a more delicate difficulty in a position which,
superficially taken, was the reverse of that--though to an ardent
reverential love, the loved woman has always a kind of wealth and rank
which makes a man keenly susceptible about the aspect of his addresses.
Deronda's difficulty was what any generous man might have felt in some
degree; but it affected him peculiarly through his imaginative sympathy
with a mind in which gratitude was strong. Mirah, he knew, felt herself
bound to him by deep obligations, which to her sensibilities might give
every wish of his the aspect of a claim; and an inability to fulfill it
would cause her a pain continually revived by their inevitable communion
in care of Ezra. Here were fears not of pride only, but of extreme
tenderness. Altogether, to have the character of a benefactor seemed to
Deronda's anxiety an insurmountable obstacle to confessing himself a
lover, unless in some inconceivable way it could be revealed to him that
Mirah's heart had accepted him beforehand. And the agitation on his own
account, too, was not small.
Even a man who has practised himself in love-making till his own glibness
has rendered him sceptical, may at last be overtaken by the lover's awe--
may tremble, stammer, and show other signs of recovered sensibility no
more in the range of his acquired talents than pins and needles after
numbness: how much more may that energetic timidity possess a man whose
inward history has cherished his susceptibilities instead of dulling them,
and has kept all the language of passion fresh and rooted as the lovely
leafage about the hill-side spring!
As for Mirah her dear head lay on its pillow that night with its former
suspicions thrown out of shape but still present, like an ugly story which
had been discredited but not therefore dissipated. All that she was
certain of about Deronda seemed to prove that he had no such fetters upon
him as she had been allowing herself to believe in. His whole manner as
well as his words implied that there were no hidden bonds remaining to
have any effect in determining his future. But notwithstanding this
plainly reasonable inference, uneasiness still clung about Mirah's heart.
Deronda was not to blame, but he had an importance for Mrs. Grandcourt
which must give her some hold on him. And the thought of any close
confidence between them stirred the little biting snake that had long lain
curled and harmless in Mirah's gentle bosom.
But did she this evening feel as completely as before that her jealousy
was no less remote from any possibility for herself personally than if her
human soul had been lodged in the body of a fawn that Deronda had saved
from the archers? Hardly. Something indefinable had happened and made a
difference. The soft warm rain of blossoms which had fallen just where she
was--did it really come because she was there? What spirit was there among
"Questa montagna e tale,
Che sempre al cominciar di sotto a grave.
E quanto uom piu va su e men fa male."
--DANTE: _Il Purgatorio_.
It was not many days after her mother's arrival that Gwendolen would
consent to remain at Genoa. Her desire to get away from that gem of the
sea, helped to rally her strength and courage. For what place, though it
were the flowery vale of Enna, may not the inward sense turn into a circle
of punishment where the flowers are no better than a crop of flame-tongues
burning the soles of our feet?
"I shall never like to see the Mediterranean again," said Gwendolen, to
her mother, who thought that she quite understood her child's feeling
--even in her tacit prohibition of any express reference to her late
Mrs. Davilow, indeed, though compelled formally to regard this time as one
of severe calamity, was virtually enjoying her life more than she had ever
done since her daughter's marriage. It seemed that her darling was brought
back to her not merely with all the old affection, but with a conscious
cherishing of her mother's nearness, such as we give to a possession that
we have been on the brink of losing.
"Are you there, mamma?" cried Gwendolen, in the middle of the night (a bed
had been made for her mother in the same room with hers), very much as she
would have done in her early girlhood, if she had felt frightened in lying
"Yes, dear; can I do anything for you?"
"No, thank you; only I like so to know you are there. Do you mind my
waking you?" (This question would hardly have been Gwendolen's in her
"I was not asleep, darling."
"It seemed not real that you were with me. I wanted to make it real. I can
bear things if you are with me. But you must not lie awake, anxious about
me. You must be happy now. You must let me make you happy now at last--
else what shall I do?"
"God bless you, dear; I have the best happiness I can have, when you make
much of me."
But the next night, hearing that she was sighing and restless Mrs. Davilow
said, "Let me give you your sleeping-draught, Gwendolen."
"No, mamma, thank you; I don't want to sleep."
"It would be so good for you to sleep more, my darling."
"Don't say what would be good for me, mamma," Gwendolen answered,
impetuously. "You don't know what would be good for me. You and my uncle
must not contradict me and tell me anything is good for me when I feel it
is not good."
Mrs. Davilow was silent, not wondering that the poor child was irritable.
Presently Gwendolen said--
"I was always naughty to you, mamma."
"No, dear, no."
"Yes, I was," said Gwendolen insistently. "It is because I was always
wicked that I am miserable now."
She burst into sobs and cries. The determination to be silent about all
the facts of her married life and its close, reacted in these escapes of
But dim lights of interpretation were breaking on the mother's mind
through the information that came from Sir Hugo to Mr. Gascoigne, and,
with some omissions, from Mr. Gascoigne to herself. The good-natured
baronet, while he was attending to all decent measures in relation to his
nephew's death, and the possible washing ashore of the body, thought it
the kindest thing he could do to use his present friendly intercourse with
the rector as an opportunity for communicating with him, in the mildest
way, the purport of Grandcourt's will, so as to save him the additional
shock that would be in store for him if he carried his illusions all the
way home. Perhaps Sir Hugo would have been communicable enough without
that kind motive, but he really felt the motive. He broke the unpleasant
news to the rector by degrees: at first he only implied his fear that the
widow was not so splendidly provided for as Mr. Gascoigne, nay, as the
baronet himself had expected; and only at last, after some previous vague
reference to large claims on Grandcourt, he disclosed the prior relations
which, in the unfortunate absence of a legitimate heir, had determined all
the splendor in another direction.
The rector was deeply hurt, and remembered, more vividly than he had ever
done before, how offensively proud and repelling the manners of the
deceased had been toward him--remembered also that he himself, in that
interesting period just before the arrival of the new occupant at Diplow,
had received hints of former entangling dissipations, and an undue
addiction to pleasure, though he had not foreseen that the pleasure which
had probably, so to speak, been swept into private rubbish-heaps, would
ever present itself as an array of live caterpillars, disastrous to the
green meat of respectable people. But he did not make these retrospective
thoughts audible to Sir Hugo, or lower himself by expressing any
indignation on merely personal grounds, but behaved like a man of the
world who had become a conscientious clergyman. His first remark was--
"When a young man makes his will in health, he usually counts on living a
long while. Probably Mr. Grandcourt did not believe that this will would
ever have its present effect." After a moment, he added, "The effect is
painful in more ways than one. Female morality is likely to suffer from
this marked advantage and prominence being given to illegitimate
"Well, in point of fact," said Sir Hugo, in his comfortable way, "since
the boy is there, this was really the best alternative for the disposal of
the estates. Grandcourt had nobody nearer than his cousin. And it's a
chilling thought that you go out of this life only for the benefit of a
cousin. A man gets a little pleasure in making his will, if it's for the
good of his own curly heads; but it's a nuisance when you're giving the
bequeathing to a used-up fellow like yourself, and one you don't care two
straws for. It's the next worse thing to having only a life interest in
your estates. No; I forgive Grandcourt for that part of his will. But,
between ourselves, what I don't forgive him for, is the shabby way he has
provided for your niece--_our_ niece, I will say--no better a position
than if she had been a doctor's widow. Nothing grates on me more than that
posthumous grudgingness toward a wife. A man ought to have some pride and
fondness for his widow. _I_ should, I know. I take it as a test of a man,
that he feels the easier about his death when he can think of his wife and
daughters being comfortable after it. I like that story of the fellows in
the Crimean war, who were ready to go to the bottom of the sea if their
widows were provided for."
"It has certainly taken me by surprise," said Mr. Gascoigne, "all the more
because, as the one who stood in the place of father to my niece, I had
shown my reliance on Mr. Grandcourt's apparent liberality in money matters
by making no claims for her beforehand. That seemed to me due to him under
the circumstances. Probably you think me blamable."
"Not blamable exactly. I respect a man for trusting another. But take my
advice. If you marry another niece, though it may be to the Archbishop of
Canterbury, bind him down. Your niece can't be married for the first time
twice over. And if he's a good fellow, he'll wish to be bound. But as to
Mrs. Grandcourt, I can only say that I feel my relation to her all the
nearer because I think that she has not been well treated. And I hope you
will urge her to rely on me as a friend."
Thus spake the chivalrous Sir Hugo, in his disgust at the young and
beautiful widow of a Mallinger Grandcourt being left with only two
thousand a year and a house in a coal-mining district. To the rector that
income naturally appeared less shabby and less accompanied with mortifying
privations; but in this conversation he had devoured a much keener sense
than the baronet's of the humiliation cast over his niece, and also over
her nearest friends, by the conspicuous publishing of her husband's
relation to Mrs. Glasher. And like all men who are good husbands and
fathers, he felt the humiliation through the minds of the women who would
be chiefly affected by it; so that the annoyance of first hearing the
facts was far slighter than what he felt in communicating them to Mrs.
Davilow, and in anticipating Gwendolen's feeling whenever her mother saw
fit to tell her of them. For the good rector had an innocent conviction
that his niece was unaware of Mrs. Glasher's existence, arguing with
masculine soundness from what maidens and wives were likely to know, do,
and suffer, and having had a most imperfect observation of the particular
maiden and wife in question. Not so Gwendolen's mother, who now thought
that she saw an explanation of much that had been enigmatic in her child's
conduct and words before and after her engagement, concluding that in some
inconceivable way Gwendolen had been informed of this left-handed marriage
and the existence of the children. She trusted to opportunities that would
arise in moments of affectionate confidence before and during their
journey to England, when she might gradually learn how far the actual
state of things was clear to Gwendolen, and prepare her for anything that
might be a disappointment. But she was spared from devices on the subject.
"I hope you don't expect that I am going to be rich and grand, mamma,"
said Gwendolen, not long after the rector's communication; "perhaps I
shall have nothing at all."
She was dressed, and had been sitting long in quiet meditation. Mrs.
Davilow was startled, but said, after a moment's reflection--
"Oh yes, dear, you will have something. Sir Hugo knows all about the
"That will not decide," said Gwendolen, abruptly.
"Surely, dear: Sir Hugo says you are to have two thousand a year and the
house at Gadsmere."
"What I have will depend on what I accept," said Gwendolen. "You and my
uncle must not attempt to cross me and persuade me about this. I will do
everything I can do to make you happy, but in anything about my husband I
must not be interfered with. Is eight hundred a year enough for you,
"More than enough, dear. You must not think of giving me so much." Mrs.
Davilow paused a little, and then said, "Do you know who is to have the
estates and the rest of the money?"
"Yes," said Gwendolen, waving her hand in dismissal of the subject. "I
know everything. It is all perfectly right, and I wish never to have it
The mother was silent, looked away, and rose to fetch a fan-screen, with a
slight flush on her delicate cheeks. Wondering, imagining, she did not
like to meet her daughter's eyes, and sat down again under a sad
constraint. What wretchedness her child had perhaps gone through, which
yet must remain as it always had been, locked away from their mutual
speech. But Gwendolen was watching her mother with that new divination
which experience had given her; and in tender relenting at her own
peremptoriness, said, "Come and sit nearer to me, mamma, and don't be
Mrs. Davilow did as she was told, but bit her lips in the vain attempt to
hinder smarting tears. Gwendolen leaned toward her caressingly and said,
"I mean to be very wise; I do, really. And good--oh, so good to you, dear,
old, sweet mamma, you won't know me. Only you must not cry."
The resolve that Gwendolen had in her mind was that she would ask Deronda
whether she ought to accept any of her husband's money--whether she might
accept what would enable her to provide for her mother. The poor thing
felt strong enough to do anything that would give her a higher place in
An invitation that Sir Hugo pressed on her with kind urgency was that she
and Mrs. Davilow should go straight with him to Park Lane, and make his
house their abode as long as mourning and other details needed attending
to in London. Town, he insisted, was just then the most retired of places;
and he proposed to exert himself at once in getting all articles belonging
to Gwendolen away from the house in Grosvenor Square. No proposal could
have suited her better than this of staying a little while in Park Lane.
It would be easy for her there to have an interview with Deronda, if she
only knew how to get a letter into his hands, asking him to come to her.
During the journey, Sir Hugo, having understood that she was acquainted
with the purport of her husband's will, ventured to talk before her and to
her about her future arrangements, referring here and there to mildly
agreeable prospects as matters of course, and otherwise shedding a
decorous cheerfulness over her widowed position. It seemed to him really
the more graceful course for a widow to recover her spirits on finding
that her husband had not dealt as handsomely by her as he might have done;
it was the testator's fault if he compromised all her grief at his
departure by giving a testamentary reason for it, so that she might be
supposed to look sad, not because he had left her, but because he had left
her poor. The baronet, having his kindliness doubly fanned by the
favorable wind on his fortunes and by compassion for Gwendolen, had become
quite fatherly in his behavior to her, called her "my dear," and in
mentioning Gadsmere to Mr. Gascoigne, with its various advantages and
disadvantages, spoke of what "we" might do to make the best of that
property. Gwendolen sat by in pale silence while Sir Hugo, with his face
turned toward Mrs. Davilow or Mr. Gascoigne, conjectured that Mrs.
Grandcourt might perhaps prefer letting Gadsmere to residing there during
any part of the year, in which case he thought that it might be leased on
capital terms to one of the fellows engaged with the coal: Sir Hugo had
seen enough of the place to know that it was as comfortable and
picturesque a box as any man need desire, providing his desires were
circumscribed within a coal area.
"_I_ shouldn't mind about the soot myself," said the baronet, with that
dispassionateness which belongs to the potential mood. "Nothing is more
healthy. And if one's business lay there, Gadsmere would be a paradise. It
makes quite a feature in Scrogg's history of the county, with the little
tower and the fine piece of water--the prettiest print in the book."
"A more important place than Offendene, I suppose?" said Mr. Gascoigne.
"Much," said the baronet, decisively. "I was there with my poor brother--
it is more than a quarter of a century ago, but I remember it very well.
The rooms may not be larger, but the grounds are on a different scale."
"Our poor dear Offendene is empty after all," said Mrs. Davilow. "When it
came to the point, Mr. Haynes declared off, and there has been no one to
take it since. I might as well have accepted Lord Brackenshaw's kind offer
that I should remain in it another year rent-free: for I should have kept
the place aired and warmed."
"I hope you've something snug instead," said Sir Hugo.
"A little too snug," said Mr. Gascoigne, smiling at his sister-in-law.
"You are rather thick upon the ground."
Gwendolen had turned with a changed glance when her mother spoke of
Offendene being empty. This conversation passed during one of the long
unaccountable pauses often experienced in foreign trains at some country
station. There was a dreamy, sunny stillness over the hedgeless fields
stretching to the boundary of poplars; and to Gwendolen the talk within
the carriage seemed only to make the dreamland larger with an indistinct
region of coal-pits, and a purgatorial Gadsmere which she would never
visit; till at her mother's words, this mingled, dozing view seemed to
dissolve and give way to a more wakeful vision of Offendene and Pennicote
under their cooler lights. She saw the gray shoulders of the downs, the
cattle-specked fields, the shadowy plantations with rutted lanes where the
barked timber lay for a wayside seat, the neatly-clipped hedges on the
road from the parsonage to Offendene, the avenue where she was gradually
discerned from the window, the hall-door opening, and her mother or one of
the troublesome sisters coming out to meet her. All that brief experience
of a quiet home which had once seemed a dullness to be fled from, now came
back to her as a restful escape, a station where she found the breath of
morning and the unreproaching voice of birds after following a lure
through a long Satanic masquerade, which she had entered on with an
intoxicated belief in its disguises, and had seen the end of in shrieking
fear lest she herself had become one of the evil spirits who were dropping
their human mummery and hissing around her with serpent tongues.
In this way Gwendolen's mind paused over Offendene and made it the scene
of many thoughts; but she gave no further outward sign of interest in this
conversation, any more than in Sir Hugo's opinion on the telegraphic cable
or her uncle's views of the Church Rate Abolition Bill. What subjects will
not our talk embrace in leisurely dayjourneying from Genoa to London? Even
strangers, after glancing from China to Peru and opening their mental
stores with a liberality threatening a mutual impression of poverty on any
future meeting, are liable to become excessively confidential. But the
baronet and the rector were under a still stronger pressure toward
cheerful communication: they were like acquaintances compelled to a long
drive in a mourning-coach who having first remarked that the occasion is a
melancholy one, naturally proceed to enliven it by the most miscellaneous
discourse. "I don't mind telling _you_," said Sir Hugo to the rector, in
mentioning some private details; while the rector, without saying so, did
not mind telling the baronet about his sons, and the difficulty of placing
them in the world. By the dint of discussing all persons and things within
driving-reach of Diplow, Sir Hugo got himself wrought to a pitch of
interest in that former home, and of conviction that it was his pleasant
duty to regain and strengthen his personal influence in the neighborhood,
that made him declare his intention of taking his family to the place for
a month or two before the autumn was over; and Mr. Gascoigne cordially
rejoiced in that prospect. Altogether, the journey was continued and ended
with mutual liking between the male fellow-travellers.
Meanwhile Gwendolen sat by like one who had visited the spirit-world and
was full to the lips of an unutterable experience that threw a strange
unreality over all the talk she was hearing of her own and the world's
business; and Mrs. Davilow was chiefly occupied in imagining what her
daughter was feeling, and in wondering what was signified by her hinted
doubt whether she would accept her husband's bequest. Gwendolen in fact
had before her the unsealed wall of an immediate purpose shutting off
every other resolution. How to scale the wall? She wanted again to see and
consult Deronda, that she might secure herself against any act he would
disapprove. Would her remorse have maintained its power within her, or
would she have felt absolved by secrecy, if it had not been for that outer
conscience which was made for her by Deronda? It is hard to say how much
we could forgive ourselves if we were secure from judgment by another
whose opinion is the breathing-medium of all our joy--who brings to us
with close pressure and immediate sequence that judgment of the Invisible
and Universal which self-flattery and the world's tolerance would easily
melt and disperse. In this way our brother may be in the stead of God to
us, and his opinion which has pierced even to the joints and marrow, may
be our virtue in the making. That mission of Deronda to Gwendolen had
begun with what she had felt to be his judgment of her at the gaming-
table. He might easily have spoiled it:--much of our lives is spent in
marring our own influence and turning others' belief in us into a widely
concluding unbelief which they call knowledge of the world, while it is
really disappointment in you or me. Deronda had not spoiled his mission.
But Gwendolen had forgotten to ask him for his address in case she wanted
to write, and her only way of reaching him was through Sir Hugo. She was
not in the least blind to the construction that all witnesses might put on
her giving signs of dependence on Deronda, and her seeking him more than
he sought her: Grandcourt's rebukes had sufficiently enlightened her
pride. But the force, the tenacity of her nature had thrown itself into
that dependence, and she would no more let go her hold on Deronda's help,
or deny herself the interview her soul needed, because of witnesses, than
if she had been in prison in danger of being condemned to death. When she
was in Park Lane and knew that the baronet would be going down to the
Abbey immediately (just to see his family for a couple of days and then
return to transact needful business for Gwendolen), she said to him
without any air of hesitation, while her mother was present--
"Sir Hugo, I wish to see Mr. Deronda again as soon as possible. I don't
know his address. Will you tell it me, or let him know that I want to see
A quick thought passed across Sir Hugo's face, but made no difference to
the ease with which he said, "Upon my word, I don't know whether he's at
his chambers or the Abbey at this moment. But I'll make sure of him. I'll
send a note now to his chambers telling him to come, and if he's at the
Abbey I can give him your message and send him up at once. I am sure he
will want to obey your wish," the baronet ended, with grave kindness, as
if nothing could seem to him more in the appropriate course of things than
that she should send such a message.
But he was convinced that Gwendolen had a passionate attachment to
Deronda, the seeds of which had been laid long ago, and his former
suspicion now recurred to him with more strength than ever, that her
feeling was likely to lead her into imprudences--in which kind-hearted Sir
Hugo was determined to screen and defend her as far as lay in his power.
To him it was as pretty a story as need be that this fine creature and his
favorite Dan should have turned out to be formed for each other, and that
the unsuitable husband should have made his exit in such excellent time.
Sir Hugo liked that a charming woman should be made as happy as possible.
In truth, what most vexed his mind in this matter at present was a doubt
whether the too lofty and inscrutable Dan had not got some scheme or other
in his head, which would prove to be dearer to him than the lovely Mrs.
Grandcourt, and put that neatly-prepared marriage with her out of the
question. It was among the usual paradoxes of feeling that Sir Hugo, who
had given his fatherly cautions to Deronda against too much tenderness in
his relations with the bride, should now feel rather irritated against him
by the suspicion that he had not fallen in love as he ought to have done.
Of course all this thinking on Sir Hugo's part was eminently premature,
only a fortnight or so after Grandcourt's death. But it is the trick of
thinking to be either premature or behind-hand.
However, he sent the note to Deronda's chambers, and it found him there.
"O, welcome, pure-eyed Faith, white-handed Hope,
Thou hovering angel, girt with golden wings!"
Deronda did not obey Gwendolen's new summons without some agitation. Not
his vanity, but his keen sympathy made him susceptible to the danger that
another's heart might feel larger demands on him than he would be able to
fulfill; and it was no longer a matter of argument with him, but of
penetrating consciousness, that Gwendolen's soul clung to his with a
passionate need. We do not argue the existence of the anger or the scorn
that thrills through us in a voice; we simply feel it, and it admits of no
disproof. Deronda felt this woman's destiny hanging on his over a
precipice of despair. Any one who knows him cannot wonder at his inward
confession, that if all this had happened little more than a year ago, he
would hardly have asked himself whether he loved her; the impetuous
determining impulse which would have moved him would have been to save her
from sorrow, to shelter her life forevermore from the dangers of
loneliness, and carry out to the last the rescue he had begun in that
monitory redemption of the necklace. But now, love and duty had thrown
other bonds around him, and that impulse could no longer determine his
life; still, it was present in him as a compassionate yearning, a painful
quivering at the very imagination of having again and again to meet the
appeal of her eyes and words. The very strength of the bond, the certainty
of the resolve, that kept him asunder from her, made him gaze at her lot
apart with the more aching pity.
He awaited her coming in the back drawing-room--part of that white and
crimson space where they had sat together at the musical party, where
Gwendolen had said for the first time that her lot depended on his not
forsaking her, and her appeal had seemed to melt into the melodic cry--
_Per pieta non dirmi addio_. But the melody had come from Mirah's dear
Deronda walked about this room, which he had for years known by heart,
with a strange sense of metamorphosis in his own life. The familiar
objects around him, from Lady Mallinger's gently smiling portrait to the
also human and urbane faces of the lions on the pilasters of the chimney-
piece, seemed almost to belong to a previous state of existence which he
was revisiting in memory only, not in reality; so deep and transforming
had been the impressions he had lately experienced, so new were the
conditions under which he found himself in the house he had been
accustomed to think of as a home--standing with his hat in his hand
awaiting the entrance of a young creature whose life had also been
undergoing a transformation--a tragic transformation toward a wavering
result, in which he felt with apprehensiveness that his own action was
still bound up.
But Gwendolen was come in, looking changed; not only by her mourning
dress, but by a more satisfied quietude of expression than he had seen in
her face at Genoa. Her satisfaction was that Deronda was there; but there
was no smile between them as they met and clasped hands; each was full of
remembrance--full of anxious prevision. She said, "It was good of you to
come. Let us sit down," immediately seating herself in the nearest chair.
He placed himself opposite to her.
"I asked you to come because I want you to tell me what I ought to do,"
she began, at once. "Don't be afraid of telling me what you think is
right, because it seems hard. I have made up my mind to do it. I was
afraid once of being poor; I could not bear to think of being under other
people; and that was why I did something--why I married. I have borne
worse things now. I think I could bear to be poor, if you think I ought.
Do you know about my husband's will?"
"Yes, Sir Hugo told me," said Deronda, already guessing the question she
had to ask.
"Ought I to take anything he has left me? I will tell you what I have been
thinking," said Gwendolen, with a more nervous eagerness. "Perhaps you may
not quite know that I really did think a good deal about my mother when I
married. I _was_ selfish, but I did love her, and feel about her poverty;
and what comforted me most at first, when I was miserable, was her being
better off because I had married. The thing that would be hardest to me
now would be to see her in poverty again; and I have been thinking that if
I took enough to provide for her, and no more--nothing for myself--it
would not be wrong; for I was very precious to my mother--and he took me
from her--and he meant--and if she had known--"
Gwendolen broke off. She had been preparing herself for this interview by
thinking of hardly anything else than this question of right toward her
mother; but the question had carried with it thoughts and reasons which it
was impossible for her to utter, and these perilous remembrances swarmed
between her words, making her speech more and more agitated and tremulous.
She looked down helplessly at her hands, now unladen of all rings except
"Do not hurt yourself by speaking of that," said Deronda, tenderly. "There
is no need; the case is very simple. I think I can hardly judge wrongly
about it. You consult me because I am the only person to whom you have
confided the most painful part of your experience: and I can understand
your scruples." He did not go on immediately, waiting for her to recover
herself. The silence seemed to Gwendolen full of the tenderness that she
heard in his voice, and she had courage to lift up her eyes and look at
him as he said, "You are conscious of something which you feel to be a
crime toward one who is dead. You think that you have forfeited all claim
as a wife. You shrink from taking what was his. You want to keep yourself
from profiting by his death. Your feeling even urges you to some self-
punishment--some scourging of the self that disobeyed your better will--
the will that struggled against temptation. I have known something of that
myself. Do I understand you?"
"Yes--at least, I want to be good--not like what I have been," said
Gwendolen. "I will try to bear what you think I ought to bear. I have
tried to tell you the worst about myself. What ought I to do?"
"If no one but yourself were concerned in this question of income," said
Deronda, "I should hardly dare to urge you against any remorseful
prompting; but I take as a guide now, your feeling about Mrs. Davilow,
which seems to me quite just. I cannot think that your husband's dues even
to yourself are nullified by any act you have committed. He voluntarily
entered into your life, and affected its course in what is always the most
momentous way. But setting that aside, it was due from him in his position
that he should provide for your mother, and he of course understood that
if this will took effect she would share the provision he had made for
"She has had eight hundred a year. What I thought of was to take that and
leave the rest," said Gwendolen. She had been so long inwardly arguing
for this as a permission, that her mind could not at once take another
"I think it is not your duty to fix a limit in that way," said Deronda.
"You would be making a painful enigma for Mrs. Davilow; an income from
which you shut yourself out must be embittered to her. And your own course
would become too difficult. We agreed at Genoa that the burden on your
conscience is one what no one ought to be admitted to the knowledge of.
The future beneficence of your life will be best furthered by your saving
all others from the pain of that knowledge. In my opinion you ought simply
to abide by the provisions of your husband's will, and let your remorse
tell only on the use that you will make of your monetary independence."
In uttering the last sentence Deronda automatically took up his hat which
he had laid on the floor beside him. Gwendolen, sensitive to his slightest
movement, felt her heart giving a great leap, as if it too had a
consciousness of its own, and would hinder him from going: in the same
moment she rose from her chair, unable to reflect that the movement was an
acceptance of his apparent intention to leave her; and Deronda, of course,
also rose, advancing a little.
"I will do what you tell me," said Gwendolen, hurriedly; "but what else
shall I do?" No other than these simple words were possible to her; and
even these were too much for her in a state of emotion where her proud
secrecy was disenthroned: as the child-like sentences fell from her lips
they re-acted on her like a picture of her own helplessness, and she could
not check the sob which sent the large tears to her eyes. Deronda, too,
felt a crushing pain; but imminent consequences were visible to him, and
urged him to the utmost exertion of conscience. When she had pressed her
tears away, he said, in a gently questioning tone--
"You will probably be soon going with Mrs. Davilow into the country."
"Yes, in a week or ten days." Gwendolen waited an instant, turning her
eyes vaguely toward the window, as if looking at some imagined prospect.
"I want to be kind to them all--they can be happier than I can. Is that
the best I can do?"
"I think so. It is a duty that cannot be doubtful," said Deronda. He
paused a little between his sentences, feeling a weight of anxiety on all
his words. "Other duties will spring from it. Looking at your life as a
debt may seem the dreariest view of things at a distance; but it cannot
really be so. What makes life dreary is the want of motive: but once
beginning to act with that penitential, loving purpose you have in your
mind, there will be unexpected satisfactions--there will be newly-opening
needs--continually coming to carry you on from day to day. You will find
your life growing like a plant."
Gwendolen turned her eyes on him with the look of one athirst toward the
sound of unseen waters. Deronda felt the look as if she had been
stretching her arms toward him from a forsaken shore. His voice took an
affectionate imploringness when he said--
"This sorrow, which has cut down to the root, has come to you while you
are so young--try to think of it not as a spoiling of your life, but as a
preparation for it. Let it be a preparation----" Any one overhearing his
tones would have thought he was entreating for his own happiness. "See!
you have been saved from the worst evils that might have come from your
marriage, which you feel was wrong. You have had a vision of injurious,
selfish action--a vision of possible degradation; think that a severe
angel, seeing you along the road of error, grasped you by the wrist and
showed you the horror of the life you must avoid. And it has come to you
in your spring-time. Think of it as a preparation. You can, you will, be
among the best of women, such as make others glad that they were born."
The words were like the touch of a miraculous hand to Gwendolen. Mingled
emotions streamed through her frame with a strength that seemed the
beginning of a new existence, having some new power or other which stirred
in her vaguely. So pregnant is the divine hope of moral recovery with the
energy that fulfills it. So potent in us is the infused action of another
soul, before which we bow in complete love. But the new existence seemed
inseparable from Deronda: the hope seemed to make his presence permanent.
It was not her thought, that he loved her, and would cling to her--a
thought would have tottered with improbability; it was her spiritual
breath. For the first time since that terrible moment on the sea a flush
rose and spread over her cheek, brow and neck, deepened an instant or two,
and then gradually disappeared. She did not speak.
Deronda advanced and put out his hand, saying, "I must not weary you."
She was startled by the sense that he was going, and put her hand in his,
still without speaking.
"You look ill yet--unlike yourself," he added, while he held her hand.
"I can't sleep much," she answered, with some return of her dispirited
manner. "Things repeat themselves in me so. They come back--they will all
come back," she ended, shudderingly, a chill fear threatening her.
"By degrees they will be less insistent," said Deronda. He could not drop
her hand or move away from her abruptly.
"Sir Hugo says he shall come to stay at Diplow," said Gwendolen, snatching
at previously intended words which had slipped away from her. "You will
"Probably," said Deronda, and then feeling that the word was cold, he
added, correctively, "Yes, I shall come," and then released her hand, with
the final friendly pressure of one who has virtually said good-bye.
"And not again here, before I leave town?" said Gwendolen, with timid
sadness, looking as pallid as ever.
What could Deronda say? "If I can be of any use--if you wish me--certainly
"I must wish it," said Gwendolen, impetuously; "you know I must wish it.
What strength have I? Who else is there?" Again a sob was rising.
Deronda felt a pang, which showed itself in his face. He looked miserable
as he said, "I will certainly come."
Gwendolen perceived the change in his face; but the intense relief of
expecting him to come again could not give way to any other feeling, and
there was a recovery of the inspired hope and courage in her.
"Don't be unhappy about me," she said, in a tone of affectionate
assurance. "I shall remember your words--every one of them. I shall
remember what you believe about me; I shall try."
She looked at him firmly, and put out her hand again as if she had
forgotten what had passed since those words of his which she promised to
remember. But there was no approach to a smile on her lips. She had never
smiled since her husband's death. When she stood still and in silence, she
looked like a melancholy statue of the Gwendolen whose laughter had once
been so ready when others were grave.
It is only by remembering the searching anguish which had changed the
aspect of the world for her that we can understand her behavior to
Deronda--the unreflecting openness, nay, the importunate pleading, with
which she expressed her dependence on him. Considerations such as would
have filled the minds of indifferent spectators could not occur to her,
any more than if flames had been mounting around her, and she had flung
herself into his open arms and clung about his neck that he might carry
her into safety. She identified him with the struggling regenerative
process in her which had begun with his action. Is it any wonder that she
saw her own necessity reflected in his feeling? She was in that state of
unconscious reliance and expectation which is a common experience with us
when we are preoccupied with our own trouble or our own purposes. We
diffuse our feeling over others, and count on their acting from our
motives. Her imagination had not been turned to a future union with
Deronda by any other than the spiritual tie which had been continually
strengthening; but also it had not been turned toward a future separation
from him. Love-making and marriage--how could they now be the imagery in
which poor Gwendolen's deepest attachment could spontaneously clothe
itself? Mighty Love had laid his hand upon her; but what had he demanded
of her? Acceptance of rebuke--the hard task of self-change--confession--
endurance. If she cried toward him, what then? She cried as the child
cries whose little feet have fallen backward--cried to be taken by the
hand, lest she should lose herself.
The cry pierced Deronda. What position could have been more difficult for
a man full of tenderness, yet with clear foresight? He was the only
creature who knew the real nature of Gwendolen's trouble: to withdraw
himself from any appeal of hers would be to consign her to a dangerous
loneliness. He could not reconcile himself to the cruelty of apparently
rejecting her dependence on him; and yet in the nearer or farther distance
he saw a coming wrench, which all present strengthening of their bond
would make the harder.
He was obliged to risk that. He went once and again to Park Lane before
Gwendolen left; but their interviews were in the presence of Mrs. Davilow,
and were therefore less agitating. Gwendolen, since she had determined to
accept her income, had conceived a project which she liked to speak of: it
was, to place her mother and sisters with herself in Offendene again, and,
as she said, piece back her life unto that time when they first went
there, and when everything was happiness about her, only she did not know
it. The idea had been mentioned to Sir Hugo, who was going to exert
himself about the letting of Gadsmere for a rent which would more than pay
the rent of Offendene. All this was told to Deronda, who willingly dwelt
on a subject that seemed to give some soothing occupation to Gwendolen. He
said nothing and she asked nothing, of what chiefly occupied himself. Her
mind was fixed on his coming to Diplow before the autumn was over; and she
no more thought of the Lapidoths--the little Jewess and her brother--as
likely to make a difference in her destiny, than of the fermenting
political and social leaven which was making a difference in the history
of the world. In fact poor Gwendolen's memory had been stunned, and all
outside the lava-lit track of her troubled conscience, and her effort to
get deliverance from it, lay for her in dim forgetfulness.
"One day still fierce 'mid many a day struck calm."
--BROWNING: _The King and the Book_.
Meanwhile Ezra and Mirah, whom Gwendolen did not include in her thinking
about Deronda, were having their relation to him drawn closer and brought
into fuller light.
The father Lapidoth had quitted his daughter at the doorstep, ruled by
that possibility of staking something in play of betting which presented
itself with the handling of any sum beyond the price of staying actual
hunger, and left no care for alternative prospects or resolutions. Until
he had lost everything he never considered whether he would apply to Mirah
again or whether he would brave his son's presence. In the first moment he
had shrunk from encountering Ezra as he would have shrunk from any other
situation of disagreeable constraint; and the possession of Mirah's purse
was enough to banish the thought of future necessities. The gambling
appetite is more absolutely dominant than bodily hunger, which can be
neutralized by an emotional or intellectual excitation; but the passion
for watching chances--the habitual suspensive poise of the mind in actual
or imaginary play--nullifies the susceptibility of other excitation. In
its final, imperious stage, it seems the unjoyous dissipation of demons,
seeking diversion on the burning marl of perdition.
But every form of selfishness, however abstract and unhuman, requires the
support of at least one meal a day; and though Lapidoth's appetite for
food and drink was extremely moderate, he had slipped into a shabby,
unfriendly form of life in which the appetite could not be satisfied
without some ready money. When, in a brief visit at a house which
announced "Pyramids" on the window-blind, he had first doubled and trebled
and finally lost Mirah's thirty shillings, he went out with her empty
purse in his pocket, already balancing in his mind whether he should get
another immediate stake by pawning the purse, or whether he should go back
to her giving himself a good countenance by restoring the purse, and
declaring that he had used the money in paying a score that was standing
against him. Besides, among the sensibilities still left strong in
Lapidoth was the sensibility to his own claims, and he appeared to himself
to have a claim on any property his children might possess, which was
stronger than the justice of his son's resentment. After all, to take up
his lodging with his children was the best thing he could do; and the more
he thought of meeting Ezra the less he winced from it, his imagination
being more wrought on by the chances of his getting something into his
pocket with safety and without exertion, than by the threat of a private
humiliation. Luck had been against him lately; he expected it to turn--and
might not the turn begin with some opening of supplies which would present
itself through his daughter's affairs and the good friends she had spoken
of? Lapidoth counted on the fascination of his cleverness--an old habit of
mind which early experience had sanctioned: and it is not only women who
are unaware of their diminished charm, or imagine that they can feign not
to be worn out.
The result of Lapidoth's rapid balancing was that he went toward the
little square in Brompton with the hope that, by walking about and
watching, he might catch sight of Mirah going out or returning, in which
case his entrance into the house would be made easier. But it was already
evening--the evening of the day next to that which he had first seen her;
and after a little waiting, weariness made him reflect that he might ring,
and if she were not at home he might ask the time at which she was
expected. But on coming near the house he knew that she was at home: he
heard her singing.
Mirah, seated at the piano, was pouring forth "_Herz, mein Herz_," while
Ezra was listening with his eyes shut, when Mrs. Adam opened the door, and
said in some embarrassment--
"A gentleman below says he is your father, miss."
"I will go down to him," said Mirah, starting up immediately and looking
at her brother.
"No, Mirah, not so," said Ezra, with decision. "Let him come up, Mrs.
Mirah stood with her hands pinching each other, and feeling sick with
anxiety, while she continued looking at Ezra, who had also risen, and was
evidently much shaken. But there was an expression in his face which she
had never seen before; his brow was knit, his lips seemed hardened with
the same severity that gleamed from his eye.
When Mrs. Adam opened the door to let in the father, she could not help
casting a look at the group, and after glancing from the younger man to
the elder, said to herself as she closed the door, "Father, sure enough."
The likeness was that of outline, which is always most striking at the
first moment; the expression had been wrought into the strongest contrasts
by such hidden or inconspicuous differences as can make the genius of a
Cromwell within the outward type of a father who was no more than a
Lapidoth had put on a melancholy expression beforehand, but there was some
real wincing in his frame as he said--
"Well, Ezra, my boy, you hardly know me after so many years."
"I know you--too well--father," said Ezra, with a slow biting solemnity
which made the word father a reproach.
"Ah, you are not pleased with me. I don't wonder at it. Appearances have
been against me. When a man gets into straits he can't do just as he would
by himself or anybody else, _I_'ve suffered enough, I know," said
Lapidoth, quickly. In speaking he always recovered some glibness and
hardihood; and now turning toward Mirah, he held out her purse, saying,
"Here's your little purse, my dear. I thought you'd be anxious about it
because of that bit of writing. I've emptied it, you'll see, for I had a
score to pay for food and lodging. I knew you would like me to clear
myself, and here I stand--without a single farthing in my pocket--at the
mercy of my children; You can turn me out if you like, without getting a
policeman. Say the word, Mirah; say, 'Father, I've had enough of you; you
made a pet of me, and spent your all on me, when I couldn't have done
without you; but I can do better without you now,'--say that, and I'm gone
out like a spark. I shan't spoil your pleasure again." The tears were in
his voice as usual, before he had finished.
"You know I could never say it, father," answered Mirah, with not the less
anguish because she felt the falsity of everything in his speech except
the implied wish to remain in the house.
"Mirah, my sister, leave us!" said Ezra, in a tone of authority.
She looked at her brother falteringly, beseechingly--in awe of his
decision, yet unable to go without making a plea for this father who was
like something that had grown in her flesh with pain. She went close to
her brother, and putting her hand in his, said, in a low voice, but not so
low as to be unheard by Lapidoth, "Remember, Ezra--you said my mother
would not have shut him out."
"Trust me, and go," said Ezra.
She left the room, but after going a few steps up the stairs, sat down
with a palpitating heart. If, because of anything her brother said to him,
he went away---
Lapidoth had some sense of what was being prepared for him in his son's
mind, but he was beginning to adjust himself to the situation and find a
point of view that would give him a cool superiority to any attempt at
humiliating him. This haggard son, speaking as from a sepulchre, had the
incongruity which selfish levity learns to see in suffering, and until the
unrelenting pincers of disease clutch its own flesh. Whatever preaching he
might deliver must be taken for a matter of course, as a man finding
shelter from hail in an open cathedral! might take a little religious
howling that happened to be going on there.
Lapidoth was not born with this sort of callousness: he had achieved it.
"This home that we have here," Ezra began, "is maintained partly by the
generosity of a beloved friend who supports me, and partly by the labors
of my sister, who supports herself. While we have a home we will not shut
you out from it. We will not cast you out to the mercy of your vices. For
you are our father, and though you have broken your bond, we acknowledge
ours. But I will never trust you. You absconded with money, leaving your
debts unpaid; you forsook my mother; you robbed her of her little child
and broke her heart; you have become a gambler, and where shame and
conscience were there sits an insatiable desire; you were ready to sell my
sister--you had sold her, but the price was denied you. The man who has
done these things must never expect to be trusted any more. We will share
our food with you--you shall have a bed, and clothing. We will do this
duty to you, because you are our father. But you will never be trusted.
You are an evil man: you made the misery of our mother. That such a man is
our father is a brand on our flesh which will not cease smarting. But the
Eternal has laid it upon us; and though human justice were to flog you for
crimes, and your body fell helpless before the public scorn, we would
still say, 'This is our father; make way, that we may carry him out of
Lapidoth, in adjusting himself to what was coming, had not been able to
foresee the exact intensity of the lightning or the exact course it would
take--that it would not fall outside his frame but through it. He could
not foresee what was so new to him as this voice from the soul of his son.
It touched that spring of hysterical excitability which Mirah used to
witness in him when he sat at home and sobbed. As Ezra ended, Lapidoth
threw himself into a chair and cried like a woman, burying his face
against the table--and yet, strangely, while this hysterical crying was an
inevitable reaction in him under the stress of his son's words, it was
also a conscious resource in a difficulty; just as in early life, when he
was a bright-faced curly young man, he had been used to avail himself of
this subtly-poised physical susceptibility to turn the edge of resentment
Ezra sat down again and said nothing--exhausted by the shock of his own
irrepressible utterance, the outburst of feelings which for years he had
borne in solitude and silence. His thin hands trembled on the arms of the
chair; he would hardly have found voice to answer a question; he felt as
if he had taken a step toward beckoning Death. Meanwhile Mirah's quick
expectant ear detected a sound which her heart recognized: she could not
stay out of the room any longer. But on opening the door her immediate
alarm was for Ezra, and it was to his side that she went, taking his
trembling hand in hers, which he pressed and found support in; but he did
not speak or even look at her. The father with his face buried was
conscious that Mirah had entered, and presently lifted up his head,
pressed his handkerchief against his eyes, put out his hand toward her,
and said with plaintive hoarseness, "Good-bye, Mirah; your father will not
trouble you again. He deserves to die like a dog by the roadside, and he
will. If your mother had lived, she would have forgiven me--thirty-four
years ago I put the ring on her finger under the _Chuppa_, and we were
made one. She would have forgiven me, and we should have spent our old age
together. But I haven't deserved it. Good-bye."
He rose from the chair as he said the last "good-bye.' Mirah had put her
hand in his and held him. She was not tearful and grieving, but frightened
and awe-struck, as she cried out--
"No, father, no!" Then turning to her brother, "Ezra, you have not
forbidden him?--Stay, father, and leave off wrong things. Ezra, I cannot
bear it. How can I say to my father, 'Go and die!'"
"I have not said it," Ezra answered, with great effort. "I have said, stay
and be sheltered."
"Then you will stay, father--and be taken care of--and come with me," said
Mirah, drawing him toward the door.
This was really what Lapidoth wanted. And for the moment he felt a sort of
comfort in recovering his daughter's dutiful attendance, that made a
change of habits seem possible to him. She led him down to the parlor
below, and said--
"This is my sitting-room when I am not with Ezra, and there is a bed-room
behind which shall be yours. You will stay and be good, father. Think that
you are come back to my mother, and that she has forgiven you--she speaks
to you through me." Mirah's tones were imploring, but she could not give
one of her former caresses.
Lapidoth quickly recovered his composure, began to speak to Mirah of the
improvement in her voice, and other easy subjects, and when Mrs. Adam came
to lay out his supper, entered into converse with her in order to show her
that he was not a common person, though his clothes were just now against
But in his usual wakefulness at night, he fell to wondering what money
Mirah had by her, and went back over old Continental hours at _Roulette_,
reproducing the method of his play, and the chances that had frustrated
it. He had had his reasons for coming to England, but for most things it
was a cursed country.
These were the stronger visions of the night with Lapidoth, and not the
worn frame of his ireful son uttering a terrible judgment. Ezra did pass
across the gaming-table, and his words were audible; but he passed like an
insubstantial ghost, and his words had the heart eaten out of them by
numbers and movements that seemed to make the very tissue of Lapidoth's
The godhead in us wrings our noble deeds
From our reluctant selves.
It was an unpleasant surprise to Deronda when he returned from the Abbey
to find the undesirable father installed in the lodgings at Brompton.
Mirah had felt it necessary to speak of Deronda to her father, and even to
make him as fully aware as she could of the way in which the friendship
with Ezra had begun, and of the sympathy which had cemented it. She passed
more lightly over what Deronda had done for her, omitting altogether the
rescue from drowning, and speaking of the shelter she had found in Mrs.
Meyrick's family so as to leave her father to suppose that it was through
these friends Deronda had become acquainted with her. She could not
persuade herself to more completeness in her narrative: she could not let
the breath of her father's soul pass over her relation to Deronda. And
Lapidoth, for reasons, was not eager in his questioning about the
circumstances of her flight and arrival in England. But he was much
interested in the fact of his children having a beneficent friend
apparently high in the world.
It was the brother who told Deronda of this new condition added to their
life. "I am become calm in beholding him now," Ezra ended, "and I try to
think it possible that my sister's tenderness, and the daily tasting a
life of peace, may win him to remain aloof from temptation. I have
enjoined her, and she has promised, to trust him with no money. I have
convinced her that he will buy with it his own destruction."
Deronda first came on the third day from Ladipoth's arrival. The new
clothes for which he had been measured were not yet ready, and wishing to
make a favorable impression, he did not choose to present himself in the
old ones. He watched for Deronda's departure, and, getting a view of him
from the window, was rather surprised at his youthfulness, which Mirah had
not mentioned, and which he had somehow thought out of the question in a
personage who had taken up a grave friendship and hoary studies with the
sepulchral Ezra. Lapidoth began to imagine that Deronda's real or chief
motive must be that he was in love with Mirah. And so much the better; for
a tie to Mirah had more promise of indulgence for her father than a tie to
Ezra: and Lapidoth was not without the hope of recommending himself to
Deronda, and of softening any hard prepossessions. He was behaving with
much amiability, and trying in all ways at his command to get himself into
easy domestication with his children--entering into Mirah's music, showing
himself docile about smoking, which Mrs. Adam could not tolerate in her
parlor, and walking out in the square with his German pipe, and the
tobacco with which Mirah supplied him. He was too acute to offer any
present remonstrance against the refusal of money, which Mirah told him
that she must persist in as a solemn duty promised to her brother. He was
comfortable enough to wait.
The next time Deronda came, Lapidoth, equipped in his new clothes, and
satisfied with his own appearance, was in the room with Ezra, who was
teaching himself, as a part of his severe duty, to tolerate his father's
presence whenever it was imposed. Deronda was cold and distant, the first
sight of this man, who had blighted the lives of his wife and children,
creating in him a repulsion that was even a physical discomfort. But
Lapidoth did not let himself be discouraged, asked leave to stay and hear
the reading of papers from the old chest, and actually made himself useful
in helping to decipher some difficult German manuscript. This led him to
suggest that it might be desirable to make a transcription of the
manuscript, and he offered his services for this purpose, and also to make
copies of any papers in Roman characters. Though Ezra's young eyes he
observed were getting weak, his own were still strong. Deronda accepted
the offer, thinking that Lapidoth showed a sign of grace in the
willingness to be employed usefully; and he saw a gratified expression in
Ezra's face, who, however, presently said, "Let all the writing be done
here; for I cannot trust the papers out of my sight, lest there be an
accident by burning or otherwise." Poor Ezra felt very much as if he had a
convict on leave under his charge. Unless he saw his father working, it
was not possible to believe that he would work in good faith. But by this
arrangement he fastened on himself the burden of his father's presence,
which was made painful not only through his deepest, longest associations,
but also through Lapidoth's restlessness of temperament, which showed
itself the more as he become familiarized with his situation, and lost any
awe he had felt of his son. The fact was, he was putting a strong
constraint on himself in confining his attention for the sake of winning
Deronda's favor; and like a man in an uncomfortable garment he gave
himself relief at every opportunity, going out to smoke, or moving about
and talking, or throwing himself back in his chair and remaining silent,
but incessantly carrying on a dumb language of facial movement or
gesticulation: and if Mirah were in the room, he would fall into his old
habit of talk with her, gossiping about their former doings and
companions, or repeating quirks and stories, and plots of the plays he
used to adapt, in the belief that he could at will command the vivacity of
his earlier time. All this was a mortal infliction to Ezra; and when Mirah
was at home she tried to relieve him, by getting her father down into the
parlor and keeping watch over him there. What duty is made of a single
difficult resolve? The difficulty lies in the daily unflinching support of
consequences that mar the blessed return of morning with the prospect of
irritation to be suppressed or shame to be endured. And such consequences
were being borne by these, as by many other heroic children of an unworthy
father--with the prospect, at least to Mirah, of their stretching onward
through the solid part of life.
Meanwhile Lapidoth's presence had raised a new impalpable partition
between Deronda and Mirah--each of them dreading the soiling inferences of
his mind, each of them interpreting mistakenly the increased reserve and
diffidence of the other. But it was not very long before some light came
As soon as he could, after returning from his brief visit to the Abbey, he
had called at Hans Meyrick's rooms, feeling it, on more grounds than one,
a due of friendship that Hans should be at once acquainted with the
reasons of his late journey, and the changes of intention it had brought
about. Hans was not there; he was said to be in the country for a few
days; and Deronda, after leaving a note, waited a week, rather expecting a
note in return. But receiving no word, and fearing some freak of feeling
in the incalculably susceptible Hans, whose proposed sojourn at the Abbey
he knew had been deferred, he at length made a second call, and was
admitted into the painting-room, where he found his friend in a light
coat, without a waistcoat, his long hair still wet from a bath, but with a
face looking worn and wizened--anything but country-like. He had taken up
his palette and brushes, and stood before his easel when Deronda entered,
but the equipment and attitude seemed to have been got up on short notice.
As they shook hands, Deronda said, "You don't look much as if you had been
in the country, old fellow. Is it Cambridge you have been to?"
"No," said Hans, curtly, throwing down his palette with the air of one who
has begun to feign by mistake; then pushing forward a chair for Deronda,
he threw himself into another, and leaned backward with his hands behind
his head, while he went on, "I've been to I-don't-know-where--No man's
land--and a mortally unpleasant country it is."
"You don't mean to say you have been drinking, Hans," said Deronda, who
had seated himself opposite, in anxious survey.
"Nothing so good. I've been smoking opium. I always meant to do it some
time or other, to try how much bliss could be got by it; and having found
myself just now rather out of other bliss, I thought it judicious to seize
the opportunity. But I pledge you my word I shall never tap a cask of that
bliss again. It disagrees with my constitution."
"What has been the matter? You were in good spirits enough when you wrote
"Oh, nothing in particular. The world began to look seedy--a sort of
cabbage-garden with all the cabbages cut. A malady of genius, you may be
sure," said Hans, creasing his face into a smile; "and, in fact, I was
tired of being virtuous without reward, especially in this hot London
"Nothing else? No real vexation?" said Deronda.
Hans shook his head.
"I came to tell you of my own affairs, but I can't do it with a good grace
if you are to hide yours."
"Haven't an affair in the world," said Hans, in a flighty way, "except a
quarrel with a bric-a-brac man. Besides, as it is the first time in our
lives that you ever spoke to me about your own affairs, you are only
beginning to pay a pretty long debt."
Deronda felt convinced that Hans was behaving artificially, but he trusted
to a return of the old frankness by-and-by if he gave his own confidence.
"You laughed at the mystery of my journey to Italy, Hans," he began. "It
was for an object that touched my happiness at the very roots. I had never
known anything about my parents, and I really went to Genoa to meet my
mother. My father has been long dead--died when I was an infant. My mother
was the daughter of an eminent Jew; my father was her cousin. Many things
had caused me to think of this origin as almost a probability before I set
out. I was so far prepared for the result that I was glad of it--glad to
find myself a Jew."
"You must not expect me to look surprised, Deronda," said Hans, who had
changed his attitude, laying one leg across the other and examining the
heel of his slipper.
"You knew it?"
"My mother told me. She went to the house the morning after you had been
there--brother and sister both told her. You may imagine we can't rejoice
as they do. But whatever you are glad of, I shall come to be glad of in
the end--_when_ exactly the end may be I can't predict," said Hans,
speaking in a low tone, which was as usual with him as it was to be out of
humor with his lot, and yet bent on making no fuss about it.
"I quite understand that you can't share my feeling," said Deronda; "but I
could not let silence lie between us on what casts quite a new light over
my future. I have taken up some of Mordecai's ideas, and I mean to try and
carry them out, so far as one man's efforts can go. I dare say I shall by
and by travel to the East and be away for some years."
Hans said nothing, but rose, seized his palette and began to work his
brush on it, standing before his picture with his back to Deronda, who
also felt himself at a break in his path embarrassed by Hans's
Presently Hans said, again speaking low, and without turning, "Excuse the
question, but does Mrs. Grandcourt know of all this?"
"No; and I must beg of you, Hans," said Deronda, rather angrily, "to cease
joking on that subject. Any notions you have are wide of the truth--are
the very reverse of the truth."
"I am no more inclined to joke than I shall be at my own funeral," said
Hans. "But I am not at all sure that you are aware what are my notions on
"Perhaps not," said Deronda. "But let me say, once for all, that in
relation to Mrs. Grandcourt, I never have had, and never shall have the
position of a lover. If you have ever seriously put that interpretation on
anything you have observed, you are supremely mistaken."
There was silence a little while, and to each the silence was like an
irritating air, exaggerating discomfort.
"Perhaps I have been mistaken in another interpretation, also," said Hans,
"What is that?"
"That you had no wish to hold the position of a lover toward another
woman, who is neither wife nor widow."
"I can't pretend not to understand you, Meyrick. It is painful that our
wishes should clash. I hope you will tell me if you have any ground for
supposing that you would succeed."
"That seems rather a superfluous inquiry on your part, Deronda," said
Hans, with some irritation.
"Because you are perfectly convinced on the subject--and probably have had
the very best evidence to convince you."
"I will be more frank with you than you are with me," said Deronda, still
heated by Hans' show of temper, and yet sorry for him. "I have never had
the slightest evidence that I should succeed myself. In fact, I have very
Hans looked round hastily at his friend, but immediately turned to his
"And in our present situation," said Deronda, hurt by the idea that Hans
suspected him of insincerity, and giving an offended emphasis to his
words, "I don't see how I can deliberately make known my feeling to her.
If she could not return it, I should have embittered her best comfort; for
neither she nor I can be parted from her brother, and we should have to
meet continually. If I were to cause her that sort of pain by an unwilling
betrayal of my feeling, I should be no better than a mischievous animal."
"I don't know that I have ever betrayed _my_ feeling to her," said Hans,
as if he were vindicating himself.
"You mean that we are on a level, then; you have no reason to envy me."
"Oh, not the slightest," said Hans, with bitter irony. "You have measured
my conceit and know what it out-tops ail your advantages."
"I am a nuisance to you, Meyrick. I am sorry, but I can't help it," said
Deronda, rising. "After what passed between us before, I wished to have
this explanation; and I don't see that any pretensions of mine have made a
real difference to you. They are not likely to make any pleasant
difference to myself under present circumstances. Now the father is there
--did you know that the father is there?"
"Yes. If he were not a Jew I would permit myself to damn him--with faint
praise, I mean," said Hans, but with no smile.
"She and I meet under greater constraint than ever. Things might go on in
this way for two years without my getting any insight into her feeling
toward me. That is the whole state of affairs, Hans. Neither you nor I
have injured the other, that I can see. We must put up with this sort of
rivalry in a hope that is likely enough to come to nothing. Our friendship
can bear that strain, surely."
"No, it can't," said Hans, impetuously, throwing down his tools, thrusting
his hands into his coat-pockets, and turning round to face Deronda, who
drew back a little and looked at him with amazement. Hans went on in the
"Our friendship--my friendship--can't bear the strain of behaving to you
like an ungrateful dastard and grudging you your happiness. For you _are_
the happiest dog in the world. If Mirah loves anybody better than her
brother, _you are the man_."
Hans turned on his heel and threw himself into his chair, looking up at
Deronda with an expression the reverse of tender. Something like a shock
passed through Deronda, and, after an instant, he said--
"It is a good-natured fiction of yours, Hans."
"I am not in a good-natured mood. I assure you I found the fact
disagreeable when it was thrust on me--all the more, or perhaps all the
less, because I believed then that your heart was pledged to the duchess.
But now, confound you! you turn out to be in love in the right place--a
Jew--and everything eligible."
"Tell me what convinced you--there's a good fellow," said Deronda,
distrusting a delight that he was unused to.
"Don't ask. Little mother was witness. The upshot is, that Mirah is
jealous of the duchess, and the sooner you relieve your mind the better.
There! I've cleared off a score or two, and may be allowed to swear at you
for getting what you deserve--which is just the very best luck I know of."
"God bless you, Hans!" said Deronda, putting out his hand, which the other
took and wrung in silence.
"All thoughts, all passions, all delights,
Whatever stirs this mortal frame,
All are but ministers of Love,
And feed his sacred flame."
Deronda's eagerness to confess his love could hardly have had a stronger
stimulus than Hans had given it in his assurance that Mirah needed relief
from jealousy. He went on his next visit to Ezra with the determination to
be resolute in using--nay, in requesting--an opportunity of private
conversation with her. If she accepted his love, he felt courageous about
all other consequences, and as her betrothed husband he would gain a
protective authority which might be a desirable defense for her in future
difficulties with her father. Deronda had not observed any signs of
growing restlessness in Lapidoth, or of diminished desire to recommend
himself; but he had forebodings of some future struggle, some
mortification, or some intolerable increase of domestic disquietude in
which he might save Ezra and Mirah from being helpless victims.
His forebodings would have been strengthened if he had known what was
going on in the father's mind. That amount of restlessness, that
desultoriness of attention, which made a small torture to Ezra, was to
Lapidoth an irksome submission to restraint, only made bearable by his
thinking of it as a means of by-and-by securing a well-conditioned
freedom. He began with the intention of awaiting some really good chance,
such as an opening for getting a considerable sum from Deronda; but all
the while he was looking about curiously, and trying to discover where