Part 16 out of 16
Mirah deposited her money and her keys. The imperious gambling desire
within him, which carried on its activity through every other occupation,
and made a continuous web of imagination that held all else in its meshes,
would hardly have been under the control of a contracted purpose, if he
had been able to lay his hands on any sum worth capturing. But Mirah, with
her practical clear-sightedness, guarded against any frustration of the
promise she had given to Ezra, by confiding all money, except what she was
immediately in want of, to Mrs. Meyrick's care, and Lapidoth felt himself
under an irritating completeness of supply in kind as in a lunatic asylum
where everything was made safe against him. To have opened a desk or
drawer of Mirah's, and pocketed any bank-notes found there, would have
been to his mind a sort of domestic appropriation which had no disgrace in
it; the degrees of liberty a man allows himself with other people's
property being often delicately drawn, even beyond the boundary where the
law begins to lay its hold--which is the reason why spoons are a safer
investment than mining shares. Lapidoth really felt himself injuriously
treated by his daughter, and thought that he ought to have had what he
wanted of her other earnings as he had of her apple-tart. But he remained
submissive; indeed, the indiscretion that most tempted him, was not any
insistance with Mirah, but some kind of appeal to Deronda. Clever persons
who have nothing else to sell can often put a good price on their absence,
and Lapidoth's difficult search for devices forced upon him the idea that
his family would find themselves happier without him, and that Deronda
would be willing to advance a considerable sum for the sake of getting rid
of him. But, in spite of well-practiced hardihood, Lapidoth was still in
some awe of Ezra's imposing friend, and deferred his purpose indefinitely.
On this day, when Deronda had come full of a gladdened consciousness,
which inevitably showed itself in his air and speech, Lapidoth was at a
crisis of discontent and longing that made his mind busy with schemes of
freedom, and Deronda's new amenity encouraged them. This pre-occupation
was at last so strong as to interfere with his usual show of interest in
what went forward, and his persistence in sitting by even when there was
reading which he could not follow. After sitting a little while, he went
out to smoke and walk in the square, and the two friends were all the
easier. Mirah was not at home, but she was sure to be in again before
Deronda left, and his eyes glowed with a secret anticipation: he thought
that when he saw her again he should see some sweetness of recognition for
himself to which his eyes had been sealed before. There was an additional
playful affectionateness in his manner toward Ezra.
"This little room is too close for you, Ezra," he said, breaking off his
reading. "The week's heat we sometimes get here is worse than the heat in
Genoa, where one sits in the shaded coolness of large rooms. You must have
a better home now. I shall do as I like with you, being the stronger
half." He smiled toward Ezra, who said--
"I am straitened for nothing except breath. But you, who might be in a
spacious palace, with the wide green country around you, find this a
narrow prison. Nevertheless, I cannot say, 'Go.'"
"Oh, the country would be a banishment while you are here," said Deronda,
rising and walking round the double room, which yet offered no long
promenade, while he made a great fan of his handkerchief. "This is the
happiest room in the world to me. Besides, I will imagine myself in the
East, since I am getting ready to go there some day. Only I will not wear
a cravat and a heavy ring there," he ended emphatically, pausing to take
off those superfluities and deposit them on a small table behind Ezra, who
had the table in front of him covered with books and papers.
"I have been wearing my memorable ring ever since I came home," he went
on, as he reseated himself. "But I am such a Sybarite that I constantly
put it off as a burden when I am doing anything. I understand why the
Romans had summer rings--_if_ they had them. Now then, I shall get on
They were soon absorbed in their work again. Deronda was reading a piece
of rabbinical Hebrew under Ezra's correction and comment, and they took
little notice when Lapidoth re-entered and took a seat somewhat in the
His rambling eyes quickly alighted on the ring that sparkled on the bit of
dark mahogany. During his walk, his mind had been occupied with the
fiction of an advantageous opening for him abroad, only requiring a sum of
ready money, which, on being communicated to Deronda in private, might
immediately draw from him a question as to the amount of the required sum:
and it was this part of his forecast that Lapidoth found the most
debatable, there being a danger in asking too much, and a prospective
regret in asking too little. His own desire gave him no limit, and he was
quite without guidance as to the limit of Deronda's willingness. But now,
in the midst of these airy conditions preparatory to a receipt which
remained indefinite, this ring, which on Deronda's finger had become
familiar to Lapidoth's envy, suddenly shone detached and within easy
grasp. Its value was certainly below the smallest of the imaginary sums
that his purpose fluctuated between; but then it was before him as a solid
fact, and his desire at once leaped into the thought (not yet an
intention) that if he were quietly to pocket that ring and walk away he
would have the means of comfortable escape from present restraint, without
trouble, and also without danger; for any property of Deronda's (available
without his formal consent) was all one with his children's property,
since their father would never be prosecuted for taking it. The details of
this thinking followed each other so quickly that they seemed to rise
before him as one picture. Lapidoth had never committed larceny; but
larceny is a form of appropriation for which people are punished by law;
and, take this ring from a virtual relation, who would have been willing
to make a much heavier gift, would not come under the head of larceny.
Still, the heavier gift was to be preferred, if Lapidoth could only make
haste enough in asking for it, and the imaginary action of taking the
ring, which kept repeating itself like an inward tune, sank into a
rejected idea. He satisfied his urgent longing by resolving to go below,
and watch for the moment of Deronda's departure, when he would ask leave
to join him in his walk and boldly carry out his meditated plan. He rose
and stood looking out of the window, but all the while he saw what lay
beyond him--the brief passage he would have to make to the door close by
the table where the ring was. However he was resolved to go down; but--by
no distinct change of resolution, rather by a dominance of desire, like
the thirst of the drunkard--it so happened that in passing the table his
fingers fell noiselessly on the ring, and he found himself in the passage
with the ring in his hand. It followed that he put on his hat and quitted
the house. The possibility of again throwing himself on his children
receded into the indefinite distance, and before he was out on the square
his sense of haste had concentrated itself on selling the ring and getting
Deronda and Ezra were just aware of his exit; that was all. But, by-and-
by, Mirah came in and made a real interruption. She had not taken off her
hat; and when Deronda rose and advanced to shake hands with her, she said,
in a confusion at once unaccountable and troublesome to herself--
"I only came in to see that Ezra had his new draught. I must go directly
to Mrs. Meyrick's to fetch something."
"Pray allow me to walk with you," said Deronda urgently. "I must not tire
Ezra any further; besides my brains are melting. I want to go to Mrs.
Meyrick's: may I go with you?"
"Oh, yes," said Mirah, blushing still more, with the vague sense of
something new in Deronda, and turning away to pour out Ezra's draught;
Ezra meanwhile throwing back his head with his eyes shut, unable to get
his mind away from the ideas that had been filling it while the reading
was going on. Deronda for a moment stood thinking of nothing but the walk,
till Mirah turned round again and brought the draught, when he suddenly
remembered that he had laid aside his cravat, and saying--"Pray excuse my
dishabille--I did not mean you to see it," he went to the little table,
took up his cravat, and exclaimed with a violent impulse of surprise,
"Good heavens, where is my ring gone?" beginning to search about on the
Ezra looked round the corner of his chair. Mirah, quick as thought, went
to the spot where Deronda was seeking, and said, "Did you lay it down?"
"Yes," said Deronda, still unvisited by any other explanation than that
the ring had fallen and was lurking in shadow, indiscernable on the
variegated carpet. He was moving the bits of furniture near, and searching
in all possible and impossible places with hand and eyes.
But another explanation had visited Mirah and taken the color from her
cheeks. She went to Ezra's ear and whispered "Was my father here?" He bent
his head in reply, meeting her eyes with terrible understanding. She
darted back to the spot where Deronda was still casting down his eyes in
that hopeless exploration which are apt to carry on over a space we have
examined in vain. "You have not found it?" she said, hurriedly.
He, meeting her frightened gaze, immediately caught alarm from it and
answered, "I perhaps put it in my pocket," professing to feel for it
She watched him and said, "It is not there?--you put it on the table,"
with a penetrating voice that would not let him feign to have found it in
his pocket; and immediately she rushed out of the room. Deronda followed
her--she was gone into the sitting-room below to look for her father--she
opened the door of the bedroom to see if he were there--she looked where
his hat usually hung--she turned with her hands clasped tight and her lips
pale, gazing despairingly out of the window. Then she looked up at
Deronda, who had not dared to speak to her in her white agitation. She
looked up at him, unable to utter a word--the look seemed a tacit
acceptance of the humiliation she felt in his presence. But he, taking her
clasped hands between both his, said, in a tone of reverent adoration--
"Mirah, let me think that he is my father as well as yours--that we can
have no sorrow, no disgrace, no joy apart. I will rather take your grief
to be mine than I would take the brightest joy of another woman. Say you
will not reject me--say you will take me to share all things with you. Say
you will promise to be my wife--say it now. I have been in doubt so long--
I have had to hide my love so long. Say that now and always I may prove to
you that I love you with complete love."
The change in Mirah had been gradual. She had not passed at once from
anguish to the full, blessed consciousness that, in this moment of grief
and shame, Deronda was giving her the highest tribute man can give to
woman. With the first tones and the first words, she had only a sense of
solemn comfort, referring this goodness of Deronda's to his feeling for
Ezra. But by degrees the rapturous assurance of unhoped-for good took
possession of her frame: her face glowed under Deronda's as he bent over
her; yet she looked up still with intense gravity, as when she had first
acknowledged with religious gratitude that he had thought her "worthy of
the best;" and when he had finished, she could say nothing--she could only
lift up her lips to his and just kiss them, as if that were the simplest
"yes." They stood then, only looking at each other, he holding her hands
between his--too happy to move, meeting so fully in their new
consciousness that all signs would have seemed to throw them farther
apart, till Mirah said in a whisper: "Let us go and comfort Ezra."
"The human nature unto which I felt
That I belonged, and reverenced with love,
Was not a punctual presence, but a spirit
Diffused through time and space, with aid derived
Of evidence from monuments, erect,
Prostrate, or leaning toward their common rest
In earth, the widely scattered wreck sublime
Of vanished nations."
--WORDSWORTH: _The Prelude_.
Sir Hugo carried out his plan of spending part of the autumn at Diplow,
and by the beginning of October his presence was spreading some
cheerfulness in the neighborhood, among all ranks and persons concerned,
from the stately home of Brackenshaw and Quetcham to the respectable shop-
parlors in Wanchester. For Sir Hugo was a man who liked to show himself
and be affable, a Liberal of good lineage, who confided entirely in reform
as not likely to make any serious difference in English habits of feeling,
one of which undoubtedly is the liking to behold society well fenced and
adorned with hereditary rank. Hence he made Diplow a most agreeable house,
extending his invitations to old Wanchester solicitors and young village
curates, but also taking some care in the combination of the guests, and
not feeding all the common poultry together, so that they should think
their meal no particular compliment. Easy-going Lord Brackenshaw, for
example, would not mind meeting Robinson the attorney, but Robinson would
have been naturally piqued if he had been asked to meet a set of people
who passed for his equals. On all these points Sir Hugo was well informed
enough at once to gain popularity for himself and give pleasure to others
--two results which eminently suited his disposition. The rector of
Pennicote now found a reception at Diplow very different from the haughty
tolerance he had undergone during the reign of Grandcourt. It was not that
the baronet liked Mr. Gascoigne; it was that he desired to keep up a
marked relation of friendliness with him on account of Mrs. Grandcourt,
for whom Sir Hugo's chivalry had become more and more engaged. Why? The
chief reason was one that he could not fully communicate, even to Lady
Mallinger--for he would not tell what he thought one woman's secret to
another, even though the other was his wife--which shows that his chivalry
included a rare reticence.
Deronda, after he had become engaged to Mirah, felt it right to make a
full statement of his position and purposes to Sir Hugo, and he chose to
make it by letter. He had more than a presentiment that his fatherly
friend would feel some dissatisfaction, if not pain, at this turn of his
destiny. In reading unwelcome news, instead of hearing it, there is the
advantage that one avoids a hasty expression of impatience which may
afterward be repented of. Deronda dreaded that verbal collision which
makes otherwise pardonable feeling lastingly offensive.
And Sir Hugo, though not altogether surprised, was thoroughly vexed. His
immediate resource was to take the letter to Lady Mallinger, who would be
sure to express an astonishment which her husband could argue against as
unreasonable, and in this way divide the stress of his discontent. And in
fact when she showed herself astonished and distressed that all Daniel's
wonderful talents, and the comfort of having him in the house, should have
ended in his going mad in this way about the Jews, the baronet could say--
"Oh, nonsense, my dear! depend upon it, Dan will not make a fool of
himself. He has large notions about Judaism--political views which you
can't understand. No fear but Dan will keep himself head uppermost."
But with regard to the prospective marriage she afforded him no counter-
irritant. The gentle lady observed, without rancor, that she had little
dreamed of what was coming when she had Mirah to sing at her musical party
and give lessons to Amabel. After some hesitation, indeed, she confessed
it _had_ passed through her mind that after a proper time Daniel might
marry Mrs. Grandcourt--because it seemed so remarkable that she should be
at Genoa just at that time--and although she herself was not fond of
widows she could not help thinking that such a marriage would have been
better than his going altogether with the Jews. But Sir Hugo was so
strongly of the same opinion that he could not correct it as a feminine
mistake; and his ill-humor at the disproof of his disagreeable conclusions
on behalf of Gwendolen was left without vent. He desired Lady Mallinger
not to breathe a word about the affair till further notice, saying to
himself, "If it is an unkind cut to the poor thing (meaning Gwendolen),
the longer she is without knowing it the better, in her present nervous
state. And she will best learn it from Dan himself." Sir Hugo's
conjectures had worked so industriously with his knowledge, that he
fancied himself well informed concerning the whole situation.
Meanwhile his residence with his family at Diplow enabled him to continue
his fatherly attentions to Gwendolen; and in these Lady Mallinger,
notwithstanding her small liking for widows, was quite willing to second
The plan of removal to Offendene had been carried out; and Gwendolen, in
settling there, maintained a calm beyond her mother's hopes. She was
experiencing some of that peaceful melancholy which comes from the
renunciation of demands for self, and from taking the ordinary good of
existence, and especially kindness, even from a dog, as a gift above
expectation. Does one who has been all but lost in a pit of darkness
complain of the sweet air and the daylight? There is a way of looking at
our life daily as an escape, and taking the quiet return of morn and
evening--still more the star-like out-glowing of some pure fellow-feeling,
some generous impulse breaking our inward darkness--as a salvation that
reconciles us to hardship. Those who have a self-knowledge prompting such
self-accusation as Hamlet's, can understand this habitual feeling of
rescue. And it was felt by Gwendolen as she lived through and through
again the terrible history of her temptations, from their first form of
illusory self-pleasing when she struggled away from the hold of
conscience, to their latest form of an urgent hatred dragging her toward
its satisfaction, while she prayed and cried for the help of that
conscience which she had once forsaken. She was now dwelling on every word
of Deronda's that pointed to her past deliverance from the worst evil in
herself, and the worst infliction of it on others, and on every word that
carried a force to resist self-despair.
But she was also upborne by the prospect of soon seeing him again: she did
not imagine him otherwise than always within her reach, her supreme need
of him blinding her to the separateness of his life, the whole scene of
which she filled with his relation to her--no unique preoccupation of
Gwendolen's, for we are all apt to fall into this passionate egoism of
imagination, not only toward our fellow-men, but toward God. And the
future which she turned her face to with a willing step was one where she
would be continually assimilating herself to some type that he would hold
before her. Had he not first risen on her vision as a corrective presence
which she had recognized in the beginning with resentment, and at last
with entire love and trust? She could not spontaneously think of an end to
that reliance, which had become to her imagination like the firmness of
the earth, the only condition of her walking.
And Deronda was not long before he came to Diplow, which was a more
convenient distance from town than the Abbey. He had wished to carry out a
plan for taking Ezra and Mirah to a mild spot on the coast, while he
prepared another home which Mirah might enter as his bride, and where they
might unitedly watch over her brother. But Ezra begged not to be removed,
unless it were to go with them to the East. All outward solicitations were
becoming more and more of a burden to him; but his mind dwelt on the
possibility of this voyage with a visionary joy. Deronda, in his
preparations for the marriage, which he hoped might not be deferred beyond
a couple of months, wished to have fuller consultation as to his resources
and affairs generally with Sir Hugo, and here was a reason for not
delaying his visit to Diplow. But he thought quite as much of another
reason--his promise to Gwendolen. The sense of blessedness in his own lot
had yet an aching anxiety at his heart: this may be held paradoxical, for
the beloved lover is always called happy, and happiness is considered as a
well-fleshed indifference to sorrow outside it. But human experience is
usually paradoxical, if that means incongruous with the phrases of
current, talk or even current philosophy. It was no treason to Mirah, but
a part of that full nature which made his love for her the more worthy,
that his joy in her could hold by its side the care for another. For what
is love itself, for the one we love best?--an enfolding of immeasurable
cares which yet are better than any joys outside our love.
Deronda came twice to Diplow, and saw Gwendolen twice--and yet he went
back to town without having told her anything about the change in his lot
and prospects. He blamed himself; but in all momentous communication
likely to give pain we feel dependent on some preparatory turn of words or
associations, some agreement of the other's mood with the probable effect
of what we have to impart. In the first interview Gwendolen was so
absorbed in what she had to say to him, so full of questions which he must
answer, about the arrangement of her life, what she could do to make
herself less ignorant, how she could be kindest to everybody, and make
amends for her selfishness and try to be rid of it, that Deronda utterly
shrank from waiving her immediate wants in order to speak of himself, nay,
from inflicting a wound on her in these moments when she was leaning on
him for help in her path. In the second interview, when he went with new
resolve to command the conversation into some preparatory track, he found
her in a state of deep depression, overmastered by some distasteful
miserable memories which forced themselves on her as something more real
and ample than any new material out of which she could mould her future.
She cried hysterically, and said that he would always despise her. He
could only seek words of soothing and encouragement: and when she
gradually revived under them, with that pathetic look of renewed childlike
interest which we see in eyes where the lashes are still beaded with
tears, it was impossible to lay another burden on her.
But time went on, and he felt it a pressing duty to make the difficult
disclosure. Gwendolen, it was true, never recognized his having any
affairs; and it had never even occurred to her to ask him why he happened
to be at Genoa. But this unconsciousness of hers would make a sudden
revelation of affairs that were determining his course in life all the
heavier blow to her; and if he left the revelation to be made by different
persons, she would feel that he had treated her with cruel
inconsiderateness. He could not make the communication in writing: his
tenderness could not bear to think of her reading his virtual farewell in
solitude, and perhaps feeling his words full of a hard gladness for
himself and indifference for her. He went down to Diplow again, feeling
that every other peril was to be incurred rather than that of returning
and leaving her still in ignorance.
On this third visit Deronda found Hans Meyrick installed with his easel at
Diplow, beginning his picture of the three daughters sitting on a bank,
"in the Gainsborough style," and varying his work by rambling to Pennicote
to sketch the village children and improve his acquaintance with the
Gascoignes. Hans appeared to have recovered his vivacity, but Deronda
detected some feigning in it, as we detect the artificiality of a lady's
bloom from its being a little too high-toned and steadily persistent (a
"Fluctuating Rouge" not having yet appeared among the advertisements).
Also with all his grateful friendship and admiration for Deronda, Hans
could not help a certain irritation against him, such as extremely
incautious, open natures are apt to feel when the breaking of a friend's
reserve discloses a state of things not merely unsuspected but the reverse
of what had been hoped and ingeniously conjectured. It is true that poor
Hans had always cared chiefly to confide in Deronda, and had been quite
incurious as to any confidence that might have been given in return; but
what outpourer of his own affairs is not tempted to think any hint of his
friend's affairs is an egotisic irrelevance? That was no reason why it was
not rather a sore reflection to Hans that while he had been all along
naively opening his heart about Mirah, Deronda had kept secret a feeling
of rivalry which now revealed itself as the important determining fact.
Moreover, it is always at their peril that our friends turn out to be
something more than we were aware of. Hans must be excused for these
promptings of bruised sensibility, since he had not allowed them to govern
his substantial conduct: he had the consciousness of having done right by
his fortunate friend; or, as he told himself, "his metal had given a
better ring than he would have sworn to beforehand." For Hans had always
said that in point of virtue he was a _dilettante_: which meant that he
was very fond of it in other people, but if he meddled with it himself he
cut a poor figure. Perhaps in reward of his good behavior he gave his
tongue the more freedom; and he was too fully possessed by the notion of
Deronda's happiness to have a conception of what lie was feeling about
Gwendolen, so that he spoke of her without hesitation.
"When did you come down, Hans?" said Deronda, joining him in the grounds
where he was making a study of the requisite bank and trees.
"Oh, ten days ago; before the time Sir Hugo fixed. I ran down with Rex
Gascoigne and stayed at the rectory a day or two. I'm up in all the gossip
of these parts; I know the state of the wheelright's interior, and have
assisted at an infant school examination. Sister Anna, with the good upper
lip, escorted me, else I should have been mobbed by three urchins and an
idiot, because of my long hair and a general appearance which departs from
the Pennicote type of the beautiful. Altogether, the village is idyllic.
Its only fault is a dark curate with broad shoulders and broad trousers
who ought to have gone into the heavy drapery line. The Gascoignes are
perfect--besides being related to the Vandyke duchess. I caught a glimpse
of her in her black robes at a distance, though she doesn't show to
"She was not staying at the rectory?" said Deronda,
"No; but I was taken to Offendene to see the old house, and as a
consequence I saw the duchess' family. I suppose you have been there and
know all about them?"
"Yes, I have been there," said Deronda, quietly.
"A fine old place. An excellent setting for a widow with romantic
fortunes. And she seems to have had several romances. I think I have found
out that there was one between her and my friend Rex."
"Not long before her marriage, then?" said Deronda, really interested,
"for they had only been a year at Offendene. How came you to know anything
"Oh--not ignorant of what it is to be a miserable devil. I learn to gloat
on the signs of misery in others. I found out that Rex never goes to
Offendene, and has never seen the duchess since she came back; and Miss
Gascoigne let fall something in our talk about charade-acting--for I went
through some of my nonsense to please the young ones--something that
proved to me that Rex was once hovering about his fair cousin close enough
to get singed. I don't know what was her part in the affair. Perhaps the
duke came in and carried her off. That is always the way when an
exceptionally worthy young man forms an attachment. I understand now why
Gascoigne talks of making the law his mistress and remaining a bachelor.
But these are green resolves. Since the duke did not get himself drowned
for your sake, it may turn out to be for my friend Rex's sake. Who knows?"
"Is it absolutely necessary that Mrs. Grandcourt should marry again?" said
Deronda, ready to add that Hans's success in constructing her fortunes
hitherto had not been enough to warrant a new attempt.
"You monster!" retorted Hans, "do you want her to wear weeds for _you_ all
her life--burn herself in perpetual suttee while you are alive and merry?"
Deronda could say nothing, but he looked so much annoyed that Hans turned
the current of his chat, and when he was alone shrugged his shoulders a
little over the thought that there really had been some stronger feeling
between Deronda and the duchess than Mirah would like to know of. "Why
didn't she fall in love with me?" thought Hans, laughing at himself. "She
would have had no rivals. No woman ever wanted to discuss theology with
No wonder that Deronda winced under that sort of joking with a whip-lash.
It touched sensibilities that were already quivering with the anticipation
of witnessing some of that pain to which even Hans's light words seemed to
give more reality:--any sort of recognition by another giving emphasis to
the subject of our anxiety. And now he had come down with the firm resolve
that he would not again evade the trial. The next day he rode to
Offendene. He had sent word that he intended to call and to ask if
Gwendolen could receive him; and he found her awaiting him in the old
drawing-room where some chief crises of her life had happened. She seemed
less sad than he had seen her since her husband's death; there was no
smile on her face, but a placid self-possession, in contrast with the mood
in which he had last found her. She was all the more alive to the sadness
perceptible in Deronda; and they were no sooner seated--he at a little
distance opposite to her--than she said:
"You were afraid of coming to see me, because I was so full of grief and
despair the last time. But I am not so today. I have been sorry ever
since. I have been making it a reason why I should keep up my hope and be
as cheerful as I can, because I would not give you any pain about me."
There was an unwonted sweetness in Gwendolen's tone and look as she
uttered these words that seemed to Deronda to infuse the utmost cruelty
into the task now laid upon him. But he felt obliged to make his answer a
beginning of the task.
"I _am_ in some trouble to-day," he said, looking at her rather
mournfully; "but it is because I have things to tell you which you will
almost think it a want of confidence on my part not to have spoken of
before. They are things affecting my own life--my own future. I shall seem
to have made an ill return to you for the trust you have placed in me--
never to have given you an idea of events that make great changes for me.
But when we have been together we have hardly had time to enter into
subjects which at the moment were really less pressing to me than the
trials you have been going through." There was a sort of timid tenderness
in Deronda's deep tones, and he paused with a pleading look, as if it had
been Gwendolen only who had conferred anything in her scenes of beseeching
A thrill of surprise was visible in her. Such meaning as she found in his
words had shaken her, but without causing fear. Her mind had flown at once
to some change in his position with regard to Sir Hugo and Sir Hugo's
property. She said, with a sense of comfort from Deronda's way of asking
"You never thought of anything but what you could do to help me; and I was
so troublesome. How could you tell me things?"
"It will perhaps astonish you," said Deronda, "that I have only quite
lately known who were my parents."
Gwendolen was not astonished: she felt the more assured that her
expectations of what was coming were right. Deronda went on without check.
"The reason why you found me in Italy was that I had gone there to learn
that--in fact, to meet my mother. It was by her wish that I was brought up
in ignorance of my parentage. She parted with me after my father's death,
when I was a little creature. But she is now very ill, and she felt that
the secrecy ought not to be any longer maintained. Her chief reason had
been that she did not wish me to know I was a Jew."
"_A Jew_!" Gwendolen exclaimed, in a low tone of amazement, with an
utterly frustrated look, as if some confusing potion were creeping through
Deronda colored, and did not speak, while Gwendolen, with her eyes fixed
on the floor, was struggling to find her way in the dark by the aid of
various reminiscences. She seemed at last to have arrived at some
judgment, for she looked up at Deronda again and said, as if remonstrating
against the mother's conduct--
"What difference need that have made?"
"It has made a great difference to me that I have known it," said Deronda,
emphatically; but he could not go on easily--the distance between her
ideas and his acted like a difference of native language, making him
uncertain what force his words would carry.
Gwendolen meditated again, and then said feelingly, "I hope there is
nothing to make you mind. _You_ are just the same as if you were not a
She meant to assure him that nothing of that external sort could affect
the way in which she regarded him, or the way in which he could influence
her. Deronda was a little helped by this misunderstanding.
"The discovery was far from being painful to me," he said, "I had been
gradually prepared for it, and I was glad of it. I had been prepared for
it by becoming intimate with a very remarkable Jew, whose ideas have
attracted me so much that I think of devoting the best part of my life to
some effort at giving them effect."
Again Gwendolen seemed shaken--again there was a look of frustration, but
this time it was mingled with alarm. She looked at Deronda with lips
childishly parted. It was not that she had yet connected his words with
Mirah and her brother, but that they had inspired her with a dreadful
presentiment of mountainous travel for her mind before it could reach
Deronda's. Great ideas in general which she had attributed to him seemed
to make no great practical difference, and were not formidable in the same
way as these mysteriously-shadowed particular ideas. He could not quite
divine what was going on within her; he could only seek the least abrupt
path of disclosure.
"That is an object," he said, after a moment, "which will by-and-by force
me to leave England for some time--for some years. I have purposes which
will take me to the East."
Here was something clearer, but all the more immediately agitating.
Gwendolen's lips began to tremble. "But you will come back?" she said,
tasting her own tears as they fell, before she thought of drying them.
Deronda could not sit still. He rose, and went to prop himself against the
corner of the mantel-piece, at a different angle from her face. But when
she had pressed her handkerchief against her cheeks, she turned and looked
up at him, awaiting an answer.
"If I live," said Deronda--"_some time_."
They were both silent. He could not persuade himself to say more unless
she led up to it by a question; and she was apparently meditating
something that she had to say.
"What are you going to do?" she asked, at last, very mildly. "Can I
understand the ideas, or am I too ignorant?"
"I am going to the East to become better acquainted with the condition of
my race in various countries there," said Deronda, gently--anxious to be
as explanatory as he could on what was the impersonal part of their
separateness from each other. "The idea that I am possessed with is that
of restoring a political existence to my people, making them a nation
again, giving them a national center, such as the English has, though they
too are scattered over the face of the globe. That is a task which
presents itself to me as a duty; I am resolved to begin it, however
feebly. I am resolved to devote my life to it. At the least, I may awaken
a movement in other minds, such as has been awakened in my own."
There was a long silence between them. The world seemed getting larger
round poor Gwendolen, and she more solitary and helpless in the midst. The
thought that he might come back after going to the East, sank before the
bewildering vision of these wild-stretching purposes in which she felt
herself reduced to a mere speck. There comes a terrible moment to many
souls when the great movements of the world, the larger destinies of
mankind, which have lain aloof in newspapers and other neglected reading,
enter like an earthquake into their own lives--where the slow urgency of
growing generations turns into the tread of an invading army or the dire
clash of civil war, and gray fathers know nothing to seek for but the
corpses of their blooming sons, and girls forgot all vanity to make lint
and bandages which may serve for the shattered limbs of their betrothed
husbands. Then it is as if the Invisible Power that had been the object of
lip-worship and lip-resignation became visible, according to the imagery
of the Hebrew poet, making the flames his chariot, and riding on the wings
of the wind, till the mountains smoke and the plains shudder under the
rolling fiery visitations. Often the good cause seems to lie prostrate
under the thunder of relenting force, the martyrs live reviled, they die,
and no angel is seen holding forth the crown and the palm branch. Then it
is that the submission of the soul to the Highest is tested, and even in
the eyes of frivolity life looks out from the scene of human struggle with
the awful face of duty, and a religion shows itself which is something
else than a private consolation.
That was the sort of crisis which was at this moment beginning in
Gwendolen's small life: she was for the first time feeling the pressure of
a vast mysterious movement, for the first time being dislodged from her
supremacy in her own world, and getting a sense that her horizon was but a
dipping onward of an existence with which her own was revolving. Ail the
troubles of her wifehood and widowhood had still left her with the
implicit impression which had accompanied her from childhood, that
whatever surrounded her was somehow specially for her, and it was because
of this that no personal jealousy had been roused in her relation to
Deronda: she could not spontaneously think of him as rightfully belonging
to others more than to her. But here had come a shock which went deeper
than personal jealousy--something spiritual and vaguely tremendous that
thrust her away, and yet quelled all her anger into self-humiliation.
There had been a long silence. Deronda had stood still, even thankful for
an interval before he needed to say more, and Gwendolen had sat like a
statue with her wrists lying over each other and her eyes fixed--the
intensity of her mental action arresting all other excitation. At length
something occurred to her that made her turn her face to Deronda and say
in a trembling voice--
"Is that all you can tell me?"
The question was like a dart to him. "The Jew whom I mentioned just now,"
he answered, not without a certain tremor in his tones too, "the
remarkable man who has greatly influenced my mind, has not perhaps been
totally unheard of by you. He is the brother of Miss Lapidoth, whom you
have often heard sing."
A great wave of remembrance passed through Gwendolen and spread as a deep,
painful flush over neck and face. It had come first at the scene of that
morning when she had called on Mirah, and heard Deronda's voice reading,
and been told, without then heeding it, that he was reading Hebrew with
"He is very ill--very near death now," Deronda went on, nervously, and
then stopped short. He felt that he must wait. Would she divine the rest?
"Did she tell you that I went to her?" said Gwendolen, abruptly, looking
up at him.
"No," said Deronda. "I don't understand you."
She turned away her eyes again, and sat thinking. Slowly the color dried
out of face and neck, and she was as pale as before--with that almost
withered paleness which is seen after a painful flush. At last she said--
without turning toward him--in a low, measured voice, as if she were only
thinking aloud in preparation for future speech--
"But _can_ you marry?"
"Yes," said Deronda, also in a low voice. "I am going to marry."
At first there was no change in Gwendolen's attitude: she only began to
tremble visibly; then she looked before her with dilated eyes, as at
something lying in front of her, till she stretched her arms out straight,
and cried with a smothered voice--
"I said I should be forsaken. I have been a cruel woman. And I am
Deronda's anguish was intolerable. He could not help himself. He seized
her outstretched hands and held them together, and kneeled at her feet.
She was the victim of his happiness.
"I am cruel, too, I am cruel," he repeated, with a sort of groan, looking
up at her imploringly.
His presence and touch seemed to dispel a horrible vision, and she met his
upward look of sorrow with something like the return of consciousness
after fainting. Then she dwelt on it with that growing pathetic movement
of the brow which accompanies the revival of some tender recollection. The
look of sorrow brought back what seemed a very far-off moment--the first
time she had ever seen it, in the library at the Abbey. Sobs rose, and
great tears fell fast. Deronda would not let her hands go--held them still
with one of his, and himself pressed her handkerchief against her eyes.
She submitted like a half-soothed child, making an effort to speak, which
was hindered by struggling sobs. At last she succeeded in saying,
"I said--I said--it should be better--better with me--for having known
His eyes too were larger with tears. She wrested one of her hands from
his, and returned his action, pressing his tears away.
"We shall not be quite parted," he said. "I will write to you always, when
I can, and you will answer?"
He waited till she said in a whisper, "I will try."
"I shall be more with you than I used to be," Deronda said with gentle
urgency, releasing her hands and rising from his kneeling posture. "If we
had been much together before, we should have felt our differences more,
and seemed to get farther apart. Now we can perhaps never see each other
again. But our minds may get nearer."
Gwendolen said nothing, but rose too, automatically. Her withered look of
grief, such as the sun often shines on when the blinds are drawn up after
the burial of life's joy, made him hate his own words: they seemed to have
the hardness of easy consolation in them. She felt that he was going, and
that nothing could hinder it. The sense of it was like a dreadful whisper
in her ear, which dulled all other consciousness; and she had not known
that she was rising.
Deronda could not speak again. He thought that they must part in silence,
but it was difficult to move toward the parting, till she looked at him
with a sort of intention in her eyes, which helped him. He advanced to put
out his hand silently, and when she had placed hers within it, she said
what her mind had been laboring with--
"You have been very good to me. I have deserved nothing. I will try--try
to live. I shall think of you. What good have I been? Only harm. Don't let
me be harm to _you_. It shall be the better for me--"
She could not finish. It was not that she was sobbing, but that the
intense effort with which she spoke made her too tremulous. The burden of
that difficult rectitude toward him was a weight her frame tottered under.
She bent forward to kiss his cheek, and he kissed hers. Then they looked
at each other for an instant with clasped hands, and he turned away.
When he was quite gone, her mother came in and found her sitting
"Gwendolen, dearest, you look very ill," she said, bending over her and
touching her cold hands.
"Yes, mamma. But don't be afraid. I am going to live," said Gwendolen,
bursting out hysterically.
Her mother persuaded her to go to bed, and watched by her. Through the day
and half the night she fell continually into fits of shrieking, but cried
in the midst of them to her mother, "Don't be afraid. I shall live. I mean
After all, she slept; and when she waked in the morning light, she looked
up fixedly at her mother and said tenderly, "Ah, poor mamma! You have been
sitting up with me. Don't be unhappy. I shall live. I shall be better."
In the checkered area of human experience the seasons are all mingled
as in the golden age: fruit and blossom hang together; in the same
moment the sickle is reaping and the seed is sprinkled; one tends the
green cluster and another treads the winepress. Nay, in each of our
lives harvest and spring-time are continually one, until himself
gathers us and sows us anew in his invisible fields.
Among the blessings of love there is hardly one more exquisite than the
sense that in uniting the beloved life to ours we can watch over its
happiness, bring comfort where hardship was, and over memories of
privation and suffering open the sweetest fountains of joy. Deronda's love
for Mirah was strongly imbued with that blessed protectiveness. Even with
infantine feet she had begun to tread among thorns; and the first time he
had beheld her face it had seemed to him the girlish image of despair.
But now she was glowing like a dark-tipped yet delicate ivory-tinted
flower in the warm sunlight of content, thinking of any possible grief as
part of that life with Deronda, which she could call by no other name than
good. And he watched the sober gladness which gave new beauty to her
movements; and her habitual attitudes of repose, with a delight which made
him say to himself that it was enough of personal joy for him to save her
from pain. She knew nothing of Hans's struggle or of Gwendolen's pang; for
after the assurance that Deronda's hidden love had been for her, she
easily explained Gwendolen's eager solicitude about him as part of a
grateful dependence on his goodness, such as she herself had known. And
all Deronda's words about Mrs. Grandcourt confirmed that view of their
relation, though he never touched on it except in the most distant manner.
Mirah was ready to believe that he had been a rescuing angel to many
besides herself. The only wonder was, that she among them all was to have
the bliss of being continually by his side.
So, when the bridal veil was around Mirah it hid no doubtful tremors--only
a thrill of awe at the acceptance of a great gift which required great
uses. And the velvet canopy never covered a more goodly bride and
bridegroom, to whom their people might more wisely wish offspring; more
truthful lips never touched the sacrament marriage-wine; the marriage-
blessing never gathered stronger promise of fulfillment than in the
integrity of their mutual pledge. Naturally, they were married according
to the Jewish rite. And since no religion seems yet to have demanded that
when we make a feast we should invite only the highest rank of our
acquaintances, few, it is to be hoped, will be offended to learn that
among the guests at Deronda's little wedding-feast was the entire Cohen
family, with the one exception of the baby who carried on her teething
intelligently at home. How could Mordecai have borne that those friends of
his adversity should have been shut out from rejoicing in common with him?
Mrs. Meyrick so fully understood this that she had quite reconciled
herself to meeting the Jewish pawnbroker, and was there with her three
daughters--all of them enjoying the consciousness that Mirah's marriage to
Deronda crowned a romance which would always make a sweet memory to them.
For which of them, mother or girls, had not had a generous part in it--
giving their best in feeling and in act to her who needed? If Hans could
have been there, it would have been better; but Mab had already observed
that men must suffer for being so inconvenient; suppose she, Kate, and Amy
had all fallen in love with Mr. Deronda?--but being women they were not so
The Meyricks were rewarded for conquering their prejudices by hearing a
speech from Mr. Cohen, which had the rare quality among speeches of not
being quite after the usual pattern. Jacob ate beyond his years, and
contributed several small whinnying laughs as a free accompaniment of his
father's speech, not irreverently, but from a lively sense that his family
was distinguishing itself; while Adelaide Rebekah, in a new Sabbath frock,
maintained throughout a grave air of responsibility.
Mordecai's brilliant eyes, sunken in their large sockets, dwelt on the
scene with the cherishing benignancy of a spirit already lifted into an
aloofness which nullified only selfish requirements and left sympathy
alive. But continually, after his gaze had been traveling round on the
others, it returned to dwell on Deronda with a fresh gleam of trusting
The wedding-feast was humble, but Mirah was not without splendid wedding-
gifts. As soon as the betrothal had been known, there were friends who had
entertained graceful devices. Sir Hugo and Lady Mallinger had taken
trouble to provide a complete equipment for Eastern travel, as well as a
precious locket containing an inscription--"_To the bride of our dear
Daniel Deronda all blessings. H. and L. M._" The Klesmers sent a perfect
watch, also with a pretty inscription.
But something more precious than gold and gems came to Deronda from the
neighborhood of Diplow on the morning of his marriage. It was a letter
containing these words:--
Do not think of me sorrowfully on your wedding-day. I have remembered
your words--that I may live to be one of the best of women, who
make others glad that they were born. I do not yet see how that can
be, but you know better than I. If it ever comes true, it will be
because you helped me. I only thought of myself, and I made you
grieve. It hurts me now to think of your grief. You must not grieve
any more for me. It is better--it shall be better with me because I
have known you.
The preparations for the departure of all three to the East began at once;
for Deronda could not deny Ezra's wish that they should set out on the
voyage forthwith, so that he might go with them, instead of detaining them
to watch over him. He had no belief that Ezra's life would last through
the voyage, for there were symptoms which seemed to show that the last
stage of his malady had set in. But Ezra himself had said, "Never mind
where I die, so that I am with you."
He did not set out with them. One morning early he said to Deronda, "Do
not quit me to-day. I shall die before it is ended."
He chose to be dressed and sit up in his easy chair as usual, Deronda and
Mirah on each side of him, and for some hours he was unusually silent, not
even making the effort to speak, but looking at them occasionally with
eyes full of some restful meaning, as if to assure them that while this
remnant of breathing-time was difficult, he felt an ocean of peace beneath
It was not till late in the afternoon, when the light was falling, that he
took a hand of each in his and said, looking at Deronda, "Death is coming
to me as the divine kiss which is both parting and reunion--which takes me
from your bodily eyes and gives me full presence in your soul. Where thou
goest, Daniel, I shall go. Is it not begun? Have I not breathed my soul
into you? We shall live together."
He paused, and Deronda waited, thinking that there might be another word
for him. But slowly and with effort Ezra, pressing on their hands, raised
himself and uttered in Hebrew the confession of the divine Unity, which
long for generations has been on the lips of the dying Israelite.
He sank back gently into his chair, and did not speak again. But it was
some hours before he had ceased to breathe, with Mirah's and Deronda's
arms around him.
"Nothing is here for tears, nothing to wail
Or knock the breast; no weakness, no contempt,
Dispraise or blame; nothing but well and fair,
And what may quiet us in a death so noble."