Part 6 out of 16
might not resent, but would probably revenge.
"Well, my darling," said gentle Mrs. Davilow, entering, "I see by the
wheel-marks that Klesmer has been here. Have you been satisfied with the
interview?" She had some guesses as to its object, but felt timid about
"Satisfied, mamma? oh, yes," said Gwendolen, in a high, hard tone, for
which she must be excused, because she dreaded a scene of emotion. If she
did not set herself resolutely to feign proud indifference, she felt that
she must fall into a passionate outburst of despair, which would cut her
mamma more deeply than all the rest of their calamities.
"Your uncle and aunt were disappointed at not seeing you," said Mrs.
Davilow, coming near the piano, and watching Gwendolen's movements. "I
only said that you wanted rest."
"Quite right, mamma," said Gwendolen, in the same tone, turning to put
away some music.
"Am I not to know anything now, Gwendolen? Am I always to be in the dark?"
said Mrs. Davilow, too keenly sensitive to her daughter's manner and
expression not to fear that something painful had occurred.
"There is really nothing to tell now, mamma," said Gwendolen, in a still
higher voice. "I had a mistaken idea about something I could do. Herr
Klesmer has undeceived me. That is all."
"Don't look and speak in that way, my dear child: I cannot bear it," said
Mrs. Davilow, breaking down. She felt an undefinable terror.
Gwendolen looked at her a moment in silence, biting her inner lip; then
she went up to her, and putting her hands on her mamma's shoulders, said,
with a drop in her voice to the lowest undertone, "Mamma, don't speak to
me now. It is useless to cry and waste our strength over what can't be
altered. You will live at Sawyer's Cottage, and I am going to the bishop's
daughters. There is no more to be said. Things cannot be altered, and who
cares? It makes no difference to any one else what we do. We must try not
to care ourselves. We must not give way. I dread giving way. Help me to be
Mrs. Davilow was like a frightened child under her daughter's face and
voice; her tears were arrested and she went away in silence.
"I question things but do not find
One that will answer to my mind:
And all the world appears unkind."
Gwendolen was glad that she had got through her interview with Klesmer
before meeting her uncle and aunt. She had made up her mind now that there
were only disagreeables before her, and she felt able to maintain a dogged
calm in the face of any humiliation that might be proposed.
The meeting did not happen until the Monday, when Gwendolen went to the
rectory with her mamma. They had called at Sawyer's Cottage by the way,
and had seen every cranny of the narrow rooms in a mid-day light,
unsoftened by blinds and curtains; for the furnishing to be done by
gleanings from the rectory had not yet begun.
"How _shall_ you endure it, mamma?" said Gwendolen, as they walked away.
She had not opened her lips while they were looking round at the bare
walls and floors, and the little garden with the cabbage-stalks, and the
yew arbor all dust and cobwebs within. "You and the four girls all in that
closet of a room, with the green and yellow paper pressing on your eyes?
And without me?"
"It will be some comfort that you have not to bear it too, dear."
"If it were not that I must get some money, I would rather be there than
go to be a governess."
"Don't set yourself against it beforehand, Gwendolen. If you go to the
palace you will have every luxury about you. And you know how much you
have always cared for that. You will not find it so hard as going up and
down those steep narrow stairs, and hearing the crockery rattle through
the house, and the dear girls talking."
"It is like a bad dream," said Gwendolen, impetuously. "I cannot believe
that my uncle will let you go to such a place. He ought to have taken some
"Don't be unreasonable, dear child. What could he have done?"
"That was for him to find out. It seems to me a very extraordinary world
if people in our position must sink in this way all at once," said
Gwendolen, the other worlds with which she was conversant being
constructed with a sense of fitness that arranged her own future
It was her temper that framed her sentences under this entirely new
pressure of evils: she could have spoken more suitably on the vicissitudes
in other people's lives, though it was never her aspiration to express
herself virtuously so much as cleverly--a point to be remembered in
extenuation of her words, which were usually worse than she was.
And, notwithstanding the keen sense of her own bruises, she was capable of
some compunction when her uncle and aunt received her with a more
affectionate kindness than they had ever shown before. She could not but
be struck by the dignified cheerfulness with which they talked of the
necessary economies in their way of living, and in the education of the
boys. Mr. Gascoigne's worth of character, a little obscured by wordly
opportunities--as the poetic beauty of women is obscured by the demands of
fashionable dressing--showed itself to great advantage under this sudden
reduction of fortune. Prompt and methodical, he had set himself not only
to put down his carriage, but to reconsider his worn suits of clothes, to
leave off meat for breakfast, to do without periodicals, to get Edwy from
school and arrange hours of study for all the boys under himself, and to
order the whole establishment on the sparest footing possible. For all
healthy people economy has its pleasures; and the rector's spirit had
spread through the household. Mrs. Gascoigne and Anna, who always made
papa their model, really did not miss anything they cared about for
themselves, and in all sincerity felt that the saddest part of the family
losses was the change for Mrs. Davilow and her children.
Anna for the first time could merge her resentment on behalf of Rex in her
sympathy with Gwendolen; and Mrs. Gascoigne was disposed to hope that
trouble would have a salutary effect on her niece, without thinking it her
duty to add any bitters by way of increasing the salutariness. They had
both been busy devising how to get blinds and curtains for the cottage out
of the household stores; but with delicate feeling they left these matters
in the back-ground, and talked at first of Gwendolen's journey, and the
comfort it was to her mamma to have her at home again.
In fact there was nothing for Gwendolen to take as a justification for
extending her discontent with events to the persons immediately around
her, and she felt shaken into a more alert attention, as if by a call to
drill that everybody else was obeying, when her uncle began in a voice of
firm kindness to talk to her of the efforts he had been making to get her
a situation which would offer her as many advantages as possible. Mr.
Gascoigne had not forgotten Grandcourt, but the possibility of further
advances from that quarter was something too vague for a man of his good
sense to be determined by it: uncertainties of that kind must not now
slacken his action in doing the best he could for his niece under actual
"I felt that there was no time to be lost, Gwendolen; for a position in a
good family where you will have some consideration is not to be had at a
moment's notice. And however long we waited we could hardly find one where
you would be better off than at Bishop Mompert's. I am known to both him
and Mrs. Mompert, and that of course is an advantage to you. Our
correspondence has gone on favorably; but I cannot be surprised that Mrs.
Mompert wishes to see you before making an absolute engagement. She thinks
of arranging for you to meet her at Wanchester when she is on her way to
town. I dare say you will feel the interview rather trying for you, my
dear; but you will have a little time to prepare your mind."
"Do you know _why_ she wants to see me, uncle?" said Gwendolen, whose mind
had quickly gone over various reasons that an imaginary Mrs. Mompert with
three daughters might be supposed to entertain, reasons all of a
disagreeable kind to the person presenting herself for inspection.
The rector smiled. "Don't be alarmed, my dear. She would like to have a
more precise idea of you than my report can give. And a mother is
naturally scrupulous about a companion for her daughters. I have told her
you are very young. But she herself exercises a close supervision over her
daughters' education, and that makes her less anxious as to age. She is a
woman of taste and also of strict principle, and objects to having a
French person in the house. I feel sure that she will think your manners
and accomplishments as good as she is likely to find; and over the
religious and moral tone of the education she, and indeed the bishop
himself, will preside."
Gwendolen dared not answer, but the repression of her decided dislike to
the whole prospect sent an unusually deep flush over her face and neck,
subsiding as quickly as it came. Anna, full of tender fears, put her
little hand into her cousin's, and Mr. Gascoigne was too kind a man not to
conceive something of the trial which this sudden change must be for a
girl like Gwendolen. Bent on giving a cheerful view of things, he went on,
in an easy tone of remark, not as if answering supposed objections--
"I think so highly of the position, that I should have been tempted to try
and get it for Anna, if she had been at all likely to meet Mrs. Mompert's
wants. It is really a home, with a continuance of education in the highest
sense: 'governess' is a misnomer. The bishop's views are of a more
decidedly Low Church color than my own--he is a close friend of Lord
Grampian's; but, though privately strict, he is not by any means narrow in
public matters. Indeed, he has created as little dislike in his diocese as
any bishop on the bench. He has always remained friendly to me, though
before his promotion, when he was an incumbent of this diocese, we had a
little controversy about the Bible Society."
The rector's words were too pregnant with satisfactory meaning to himself
for him to imagine the effect they produced in the mind of his niece.
"Continuance of education"--"bishop's views"--"privately strict"--"Bible
Society,"--it was as if he had introduced a few snakes at large for the
instruction of ladies who regarded them as all alike furnished with
poison-bags, and, biting or stinging, according to convenience. To
Gwendolen, already shrinking from the prospect open to her, such phrases
came like the growing heat of a burning glass--not at all as the links of
persuasive reflection which they formed for the good uncle. She began,
desperately, to seek an alternative.
"There was another situation, I think, mamma spoke of?" she said, with
'"Yes," said the rector, in rather a depreciatory tone; "but that is in a
school. I should not have the same satisfaction in your taking that. It
would be much harder work, you are aware, and not so good in any other
respect. Besides, you have not an equal chance of getting it."
"Oh dear no," said Mrs. Gascoigne, "it would be much less appropriate, You
might not have a bedroom to yourself." And Gwendolen's memories of school
suggested other particulars which forced her to admit to herself that this
alternative would be no relief. She turned to her uncle again and said,
apparently in acceptance of his ideas--
"When is Mrs. Mompert likely to send for me?"
"That is rather uncertain, but she has promised not to entertain any other
proposal till she has seen you. She has entered with much feeling into
your position. It will be within the next fortnight, probably. But I must
be off now. I am going to let part of my glebe uncommonly well."
The rector ended very cheerfully, leaving the room with the satisfactory
conviction that Gwendolen was going to adapt herself to circumstances like
a girl of good sense. Having spoken appropriately, he naturally supposed
that the effects would be appropriate; being accustomed, as a household
and parish authority, to be asked to "speak to" refractory persons, with
the understanding that the measure was morally coercive.
"What a stay Henry is to us all?" said Mrs. Gascoigne, when her husband
had left the room.
"He is indeed," said Mrs. Davilow, cordially. "I think cheerfulness is a
fortune in itself. I wish I had it."
"And Rex is just like him," said Mrs. Gascoigne. "I must tell you the
comfort we have had in a letter from him. I must read you a little bit,"
she added, taking the letter from her pocket, while Anna looked rather
frightened--she did not know why, except that it had been a rule with her
not to mention Rex before Gwendolen.
The proud mother ran her eyes over the letter, seeking for sentences to
read aloud. But apparently she had found it sown with what might seem to
be closer allusions than she desired to the recent past, for she looked
up, folding the letter, and saying--
"However, he tells us that our trouble has made a man of him; he sees a
reason for any amount of work: he means to get a fellowship, to take
pupils, to set one of his brothers going, to be everything that is most
remarkable. The letter is full of fun--just like him. He says, 'Tell
mother she has put out an advertisement for a jolly good hard-working son,
in time to hinder me from taking ship; and I offer myself for the place.'
The letter came on Friday. I never saw my husband so much moved by
anything since Rex was born. It seemed a gain to balance our loss."
This letter, in fact, was what had helped both Mrs. Gascoigne and Anna to
show Gwendolen an unmixed kindliness; and she herself felt very amiably
about it, smiling at Anna, and pinching her chin, as much as to say,
"Nothing is wrong with you now, is it?" She had no gratuitously ill-
natured feeling, or egoistic pleasure in making men miserable. She only
had an intense objection to their making her miserable.
But when the talk turned on furniture for the cottage Gwendolen was not
roused to show even a languid interest. She thought that she had done as
much as could be expected of her this morning, and indeed felt at an
heroic pitch in keeping to herself the struggle that was going on within
her. The recoil of her mind from the only definite prospect allowed her,
was stronger than even she had imagined beforehand. The idea of presenting
herself before Mrs. Mompert in the first instance, to be approved or
disapproved, came as pressure on an already painful bruise; even as a
governess, it appeared she was to be tested and was liable to rejection.
After she had done herself the violence to accept the bishop and his wife,
they were still to consider whether they would accept her; it was at her
peril that she was to look, speak, or be silent. And even when she had
entered on her dismal task of self-constraint in the society of three
girls whom she was bound incessantly to edify, the same process of
inspection was to go on: there was always to be Mrs. Mompert's
supervision; always something or other would be expected of her to which
she had not the slightest inclination; and perhaps the bishop would
examine her on serious topics. Gwendolen, lately used to the social
successes of a handsome girl, whose lively venturesomeness of talk has the
effect of wit, and who six weeks before would have pitied the dullness of
the bishop rather than have been embarrassed by him, saw the life before
her as an entrance into a penitentiary. Wild thoughts of running away to
be an actress, in spite of Klesmer, came to her with the lure of freedom;
but his words still hung heavily on her soul; they had alarmed her pride
and even her maidenly dignity: dimly she conceived herself getting amongst
vulgar people who would treat her with rude familiarity--odious men, whose
grins and smirks would not be seen through the strong grating of polite
society. Gwendolen's daring was not in the least that of the adventuress;
the demand to be held a lady was in her very marrow; and when she had
dreamed that she might be the heroine of the gaming-table, it was with the
understanding that no one should treat her with the less consideration, or
presume to look at her with irony as Deronda had done. To be protected and
petted, and to have her susceptibilities consulted in every detail, had
gone along with her food and clothing as matters of course in her life:
even without any such warning as Klesmer's she could not have thought it
an attractive freedom to be thrown in solitary dependence on the doubtful
civility of strangers. The endurance of the episcopal penitentiary was
less repulsive than that; though here too she would certainly never be
petted or have her susceptibilities consulted. Her rebellion against this
hard necessity which had come just to her of all people in the world--to
her whom all circumstances had concurred in preparing for something quite
different--was exaggerated instead of diminished as one hour followed
another, with the imagination of what she might have expected in her lot
and what it was actually to be. The family troubles, she thought, were
easier for every one than for her--even for poor dear mamma, because she
had always used herself to not enjoying. As to hoping that if she went to
the Momperts' and was patient a little while, things might get better--it
would be stupid to entertain hopes for herself after all that had
happened: her talents, it appeared, would never be recognized as anything
remarkable, and there was not a single direction in which probability
seemed to flatter her wishes. Some beautiful girls who, like her, had read
romances where even plain governesses are centres of attraction and are
sought in marriage, might have solaced themselves a little by transporting
such pictures into their own future; but even if Gwendolen's experience
had led her to dwell on love-making and marriage as her elysium, her heart
was too much oppressed by what was near to her, in both the past and the
future, for her to project her anticipations very far off. She had a
world-nausea upon her, and saw no reason all through her life why she
should wish to live. No religious view of trouble helped her: her troubles
had in her opinion all been caused by other people's disagreeable or
wicked conduct; and there was really nothing pleasant to be counted on in
the world: that was her feeling; everything else she had heard said about
trouble was mere phrase-making not attractive enough for her to have
caught it up and repeated it. As to the sweetness of labor and fulfilled
claims; the interest of inward and outward activity; the impersonal
delights of life as a perpetual discovery; the dues of courage, fortitude,
industry, which it is mere baseness not to pay toward the common burden;
the supreme worth of the teacher's vocation;--these, even if they had been
eloquently preached to her, could have been no more than faintly
apprehended doctrines: the fact which wrought upon her was her invariable
observation that for a lady to become a governess--to "take a situation"--
was to descend in life and to be treated at best with a compassionate
patronage. And poor Gwendolen had never dissociated happiness from
personal pre-eminence and _eclat_. That where these threatened to forsake
her, she should take life to be hardly worth the having, cannot make her
so unlike the rest of us, men or women, that we should cast her out of our
compassion; our moments of temptation to a mean opinion of things in
general being usually dependent on some susceptibility about ourselves and
some dullness to subjects which every one else would consider more
important. Surely a young creature is pitiable who has the labyrinth of
life before her and no clue--to whom distrust in herself and her good
fortune has come as a sudden shock, like a rent across the path that she
was treading carelessly.
In spite of her healthy frame, her irreconcilable repugnance affected her
even physically; she felt a sort of numbness and could set about nothing;
the least urgency, even that she should take her meals, was an irritation
to her; the speech of others on any subject seemed unreasonable, because
it did not include her feeling and was an ignorant claim on her. It was
not in her nature to busy herself with the fancies of suicide to which
disappointed young people are prone: what occupied and exasperated her was
the sense that there was nothing for her but to live in a way she hated.
She avoided going to the rectory again: it was too intolerable to have to
look and talk as if she were compliant; and she could not exert herself to
show interest about the furniture of that horrible cottage. Miss Merry was
staying on purpose to help, and such people as Jocosa liked that sort of
thing. Her mother had to make excuses for her not appearing, even when
Anna came to see her. For that calm which Gwendolen had promised herself
to maintain had changed into sick motivelessness: she thought, "I suppose
I shall begin to pretend by-and-by, but why should I do it now?"
Her mother watched her with silent distress; and, lapsing into the habit
of indulgent tenderness, she began to think what she imagined that
Gwendolen was thinking, and to wish that everything should give way to the
possibility of making her darling less miserable.
One day when she was in the black and yellow bedroom and her mother was
lingering there under the pretext of considering and arranging Gwendolen's
articles of dress, she suddenly roused herself to fetch the casket which
contained the ornaments.
"Mamma," she began, glancing over the upper layer, "I had forgotten these
things. Why didn't you remind me of them? Do see about getting them sold.
You will not mind about parting with them. You gave them all to me long
She lifted the upper tray and looked below.
"If we can do without them, darling, I would rather keep them for you,"
said Mrs. Davilow, seating herself beside Gwendolen with a feeling of
relief that she was beginning to talk about something. The usual relation
between them had become reversed. It was now the mother who tried to cheer
the daughter. "Why, how came you to put that pocket handkerchief in here?"
It was the handkerchief with the corner torn off which Gwendolen had
thrust in with the turquoise necklace.
"It happened to be with the necklace--I was in a hurry." said Gwendolen,
taking the handkerchief away and putting it in her pocket. "Don't sell the
necklace, mamma," she added, a new feeling having come over her about that
rescue of it which had formerly been so offensive.
"No, dear, no; it was made out of your dear father's chain. And I should
prefer not selling the other things. None of them are of any great value.
All my best ornaments were taken from me long ago."
Mrs. Davilow colored. She usually avoided any reference to such facts
about Gwendolen's step-father as that he had carried off his wife's
jewelry and disposed of it. After a moment's pause she went on--
"And these things have not been reckoned on for any expenses. Carry them
"That would be quite useless, mamma," said Gwendolen, coldly. "Governesses
don't wear ornaments. You had better get me a gray frieze livery and a
straw poke, such as my aunt's charity children wear."
"No, dear, no; don't take that view of it. I feel sure the Momperts will
like you the better for being graceful and elegant."
"I am not at all sure what the Momperts will like me to be. It is enough
that I am expected to be what they like," said Gwendolen bitterly.
"If there is anything you would object to less--anything that could be
done--instead of your going to the bishop's, do say so, Gwendolen. Tell me
what is in your heart. I will try for anything you wish," said the mother,
beseechingly. "Don't keep things away from me. Let us bear them together."
"Oh, mamma, there is nothing to tell. I can't do anything better. I must
think myself fortunate if they will have me. I shall get some money for
you. That is the only thing I have to think of. I shall not spend any
money this year: you will have all the eighty pounds. I don't know how far
that will go in housekeeping; but you need not stitch your poor fingers to
the bone, and stare away all the sight that the tears have left in your
Gwendolen did not give any caresses with her words as she had been used to
do. She did not even look at her mother, but was looking at the turquoise
necklace as she turned it over her fingers.
"Bless you for your tenderness, my good darling!" said Mrs. Davilow, with
tears in her eyes. "Don't despair because there are clouds now. You are so
young. There may be great happiness in store for you yet."
"I don't see any reason for expecting it, mamma," said Gwendolen, in a
hard tone; and Mrs. Davilow was silent, thinking as she had often thought
before--"What did happen between her and Mr. Grandcourt?"
"I _will_ keep this necklace, mamma," said Gwendolen, laying it apart and
then closing the casket. "But do get the other things sold, even if they
will not bring much. Ask my uncle what to do with them. I shall certainly
not use them again. I am going to take the veil. I wonder if all the poor
wretches who have ever taken it felt as I do."
"Don't exaggerate evils, dear."
"How can any one know that I exaggerate, when I am speaking of my own
feeling? I did not say what any one else felt."
She took out the torn handkerchief from her pocket again, and wrapped it
deliberately round the necklace. Mrs. Davilow observed the action with
some surprise, but the tone of her last words discouraged her from asking
The "feeling" Gwendolen spoke of with an air of tragedy was not to be
explained by the mere fact that she was going to be a governess: she was
possessed by a spirit of general disappointment. It was not simply that
she had a distaste for what she was called on to do: the distaste spread
itself over the world outside her penitentiary, since she saw nothing very
pleasant in it that seemed attainable by her even if she were free.
Naturally her grievances did not seem to her smaller than some of her male
contemporaries held theirs to be when they felt a profession too narrow
for their powers, and had an _a priori_ conviction that it was not worth
while to put forth their latent abilities. Because her education had been
less expensive than theirs, it did not follow that she should have wider
emotions or a keener intellectual vision. Her griefs were feminine; but to
her as a woman they were not the less hard to bear, and she felt an equal
right to the Promethean tone.
But the movement of mind which led her to keep the necklace, to fold it up
in the handkerchief, and rise to put it in her _necessaire_, where she had
first placed it when it had been returned to her, was more peculiar, and
what would be called less reasonable. It came from that streak of
superstition in her which attached itself both to her confidence and her
terror--a superstition which lingers in an intense personality even in
spite of theory and science; any dread or hope for self being stronger
than all reasons for or against it. Why she should suddenly determine not
to part with the necklace was not much clearer to her than why she should
sometimes have been frightened to find herself in the fields alone: she
had a confused state of emotion about Deronda--was it wounded pride and
resentment, or a certain awe and exceptional trust? It was something vague
and yet mastering, which impelled her to this action about the necklace.
There, is a great deal of unmapped country within us which would have to
be taken into account in an explanation of our gusts and storms.
How trace the why and wherefore in a mind reduced to the barrenness of
a fastidious egoism, in which all direct desires are dulled, and have
dwindled from motives into a vacillating expectation of motives: a
mind made up of moods, where a fitful impulse springs here and there
conspicuously rank amid the general weediness? 'Tis a condition apt to
befall a life too much at large, unmoulded by the pressure of
obligation. _Nam deteriores omnes sumus licentiae_, or, as a more
familiar tongue might deliver it, _"As you like" is a bad finger-
Potentates make known their intentions and affect the funds at a small
expense of words. So when Grandcourt, after learning that Gwendolen had
left Leubronn, incidentally pronounced that resort of fashion a beastly
hole, worse than Baden, the remark was conclusive to Mr. Lush that his
patron intended straightway to return to Diplow. The execution was sure to
be slower than the intention, and, in fact, Grandcourt did loiter through
the next day without giving any distinct orders about departure--perhaps
because he discerned that Lush was expecting them: he lingered over his
toilet, and certainly came down with a faded aspect of perfect distinction
which made fresh complexions and hands with the blood in them, seem signs
of raw vulgarity; he lingered on the terrace, in the gambling-rooms, in
the reading-room, occupying himself in being indifferent to everybody and
everything around him. When he met Lady Mallinger, however, he took some
trouble--raised his hat, paused, and proved that he listened to her
recommendation of the waters by replying, "Yes; I heard somebody say how
providential it was that there always happened to be springs at gambling
"Oh, that was a joke," said innocent Lady Mallinger, misled by
Grandcourt's languid seriousness, "in imitation of the old one about the
towns and the rivers, you know."
"Ah, perhaps," said Grandcourt, without change of expression. Lady
Mallinger thought this worth telling to Sir Hugo, who said, "Oh, my dear,
he is not a fool. You must not suppose that he can't see a joke. He can
play his cards as well as most of us."
"He has never seemed to me a very sensible man," said Lady Mallinger, in
excuse of herself. She had a secret objection to meeting Grandcourt, who
was little else to her than a large living sign of what she felt to be her
failure as a wife--the not having presented Sir Hugo with a son. Her
constant reflection was that her husband might fairly regret his choice,
and if he had not been very good might have treated her with some
roughness in consequence, gentlemen naturally disliking to be
Deronda, too, had a recognition from Grandcourt, for which he was not
grateful, though he took care to return it with perfect civility. No
reasoning as to the foundations of custom could do away with the early-
rooted feeling that his birth had been attended with injury for which his
father was to blame; and seeing that but for this injury Grandcourt's
prospects might have been his, he was proudly resolute not to behave in
any way that might be interpreted into irritation on that score. He saw a
very easy descent into mean unreasoning rancor and triumph in others'
frustration; and being determined not to go down that ugly pit, he turned
his back on it, clinging to the kindlier affections within him as a
possession. Pride certainly helped him well--the pride of not recognizing
a disadvantage for one's self which vulgar minds are disposed to
exaggerate, such as the shabby equipage of poverty: he would not have a
man like Grandcourt suppose himself envied by him. But there is no
guarding against interpretation. Grandcourt did believe that Deronda, poor
devil, who he had no doubt was his cousin by the father's side, inwardly
winced under their mutual position; wherefore the presence of that less
lucky person was more agreeable to him than it would otherwise have been.
An imaginary envy, the idea that others feel their comparative deficiency,
is the ordinary _cortege_ of egoism; and his pet dogs were not the only
beings that Grandcourt liked to feel his power over in making them
jealous. Hence he was civil enough to exchange several words with Deronda
on the terrace about the hunting round Diplow, and even said, "You had
better come over for a run or two when the season begins."
Lush, not displeased with delay, amused himself very well, partly in
gossiping with Sir Hugo and in answering his questions about Grandcourt's
affairs so far as they might affect his willingness to part with his
interest in Diplow. Also about Grandcourt's personal entanglements, the
baronet knew enough already for Lush to feel released from silence on a
sunny autumn day, when there was nothing more agreeable to do in lounging
promenades than to speak freely of a tyrannous patron behind his back. Sir
Hugo willingly inclined his ear to a little good-humored scandal, which he
was fond of calling _traits de moeurs_; but he was strict in keeping such
communications from hearers who might take them too seriously. Whatever
knowledge he had of his nephew's secrets, he had never spoken of it to
Deronda, who considered Grandcourt a pale-blooded mortal, but was far from
wishing to hear how the red corpuscles had been washed out of him. It was
Lush's policy and inclination to gratify everybody when he had no reason
to the contrary; and the baronet always treated him well, as one of those
easy-handled personages who, frequenting the society of gentlemen, without
being exactly gentlemen themselves, can be the more serviceable, like the
second-best articles of our wardrobe, which we use with a comfortable
freedom from anxiety.
"Well, you will let me know the turn of events," said Sir Hugo, "if this
marriage seems likely to come off after all, or if anything else happens
to make the want of money pressing. My plan would be much better for him
than burdening Ryelands."
"That's true," said Lush, "only it must not be urged on him--just placed
in his way that the scent may tickle him. Grandcourt is not a man to be
always led by what makes for his own interest; especially if you let him
see that it makes for your interest too. I'm attached to him, of course.
I've given up everything else for the sake of keeping by him, and it has
lasted a good fifteen years now. He would not easily get any one else to
fill my place. He's a peculiar character, is Henleigh Grandcourt, and it
has been growing on him of late years. However, I'm of a constant
disposition, and I've been a sort of guardian to him since he was twenty;
an uncommonly fascinating fellow he was then, to be sure--and could be
now, if he liked. I'm attached to him; and it would be a good deal worse
for him if he missed me at his elbow."
Sir Hugo did not think it needful to express his sympathy or even assent,
and perhaps Lush himself did not expect this sketch of his motives to be
taken as exact. But how can a man avoid himself as a subject in
conversation? And he must make some sort of decent toilet in words, as in
cloth and linen. Lush's listener was not severe: a member of Parliament
could allow for the necessities of verbal toilet; and the dialogue went on
without any change of mutual estimate.
However, Lush's easy prospect of indefinite procrastination was cut off
the next morning by Grandcourt's saluting him with the question--
"Are you making all the arrangements for our starting by the Paris train?"
"I didn't know you meant to start," said Lush, not exactly taken by
"You might have known," said Grandcourt, looking at the burned length of
his cigar, and speaking in that lowered tone which was usual with him when
he meant to express disgust and be peremptory. "Just see to everything,
will you? and mind no brute gets into the same carriage with us. And leave
my P. P. C. at the Mallingers."
In consequence they were at Paris the next day; but here Lush was
gratified by the proposal or command that he should go straight on to
Diplow and see that everything was right, while Grandcourt and the valet
remained behind; and it was not until several days later that Lush
received the telegram ordering the carriage to the Wanchester station.
He had used the interim actively, not only in carrying out Grandcourt's
orders about the stud and household, but in learning all he could of
Gwendolen, and how things were going on at Offendene. What was the
probable effect that the news of the family misfortunes would have on
Grandcourt's fitful obstinacy he felt to be quite incalculable. So far as
the girl's poverty might be an argument that she would accept an offer
from him now in spite of any previous coyness, it might remove that bitter
objection to risk a repulse which Lush divined to be one of Grandcourt's
deterring motives; on the other hand, the certainty of acceptance was just
"the sort of thing" to make him lapse hither and thither with no more
apparent will than a moth. Lush had had his patron under close observation
for many years, and knew him perhaps better than he knew any other
subject; but to know Grandcourt was to doubt what he would do in any
particular case. It might happen that he would behave with an apparent
magnanimity, like the hero of a modern French drama, whose sudden start
into moral splendor after much lying and meanness, leaves you little
confidence as to any part of his career that may follow the fall of the
curtain. Indeed, what attitude would have been more honorable for a final
scene than that of declining to seek an heiress for her money, and
determining to marry the attractive girl who had none? But Lush had some
general certainties about Grandcourt, and one was that of all inward
movements those of generosity were least likely to occur in him. Of what
use, however, is a general certainty that an insect will not walk with his
head hindmost, when what you need to know is the play of inward stimulus
that sends him hither and thither in a network of possible paths? Thus
Lush was much at fault as to the probable issue between Grandcourt and
Gwendolen, when what he desired was a perfect confidence that they would
never be married. He would have consented willingly that Grandcourt should
marry an heiress, or that he should marry Mrs. Glasher: in the one match
there would have been the immediate abundance that prospective heirship
could not supply, in the other there would have been the security of the
wife's gratitude, for Lush had always been Mrs. Glasher's friend; and that
the future Mrs. Grandcourt should not be socially received could not
affect his private comfort. He would not have minded, either, that there
should be no marriage in question at all; but he felt himself justified in
doing his utmost to hinder a marriage with a girl who was likely to bring
nothing but trouble to her husband--not to speak of annoyance if not
ultimate injury to her husband's old companion, whose future Mr. Lush
earnestly wished to make as easy as possible, considering that he had well
deserved such compensation for leading a dog's life, though that of a dog
who enjoyed many tastes undisturbed, and who profited by a large
establishment. He wished for himself what he felt to be good, and was not
conscious of wishing harm to any one else; unless perhaps it were just now
a little harm to the inconvenient and impertinent Gwendolen. But the
easiest-humored of luxury and music, the toad-eater the least liable to
nausea, must be expected to have his susceptibilities. And Mr. Lush was
accustomed to be treated by the world in general as an apt, agreeable
fellow: he had not made up his mind to be insulted by more than one
With this imperfect preparation of a war policy, Lush was awaiting
Grandcourt's arrival, doing little more than wondering how the campaign
would begin. The first day Grandcourt was much occupied with the stables,
and amongst other things he ordered a groom to put a side-saddle on
Criterion and let him review the horse's paces. This marked indication of
purpose set Lush on considering over again whether he should incur the
ticklish consequences of speaking first, while he was still sure that no
compromising step had been taken; and he rose the next morning almost
resolved that if Grandcourt seemed in as good a humor as yesterday and
entered at all into talk, he would let drop the interesting facts about
Gwendolen and her family, just to see how they would work, and to get some
guidance. But Grandcourt did not enter into talk, and in answer to a
question even about his own convenience, no fish could have maintained a
more unwinking silence. After he had read his letters he gave various
orders to be executed or transmitted by Lush, and then thrust his shoulder
toward that useful person, who accordingly rose to leave the room. But
before he was out of the door Grandcourt turned his head slightly and gave
a broken, languid "Oh."
"What is it?" said Lush, who, it must have been observed, did not take his
dusty puddings with a respectful air.
"Shut the door, will you? I can't speak into the corridor."
Lush closed the door, came forward, and chose to sit down.
After a little pause Grandcourt said, "Is Miss Harleth at Offendene?" He
was quite certain that Lush had made it his business to inquire about her,
and he had some pleasure in thinking that Lush did not want _him_ to
"Well, I hardly know," said Lush, carelessly. "The family's utterly done
up. They and the Gascoignes too have lost all their money. It's owing to
some rascally banking business. The poor mother hasn't a _sou_, it seems.
She and the girls have to huddle themselves into a little cottage like a
"Don't lie to me, if you please," said Grandcourt, in his lowest audible
tone. "It's not amusing, and it answers no other purpose."
"What do you mean?" said Lush, more nettled than was common with him--the
prospect before him being more than commonly disturbing.
"Just tell me the truth, will you?"
"It's no invention of mine. I have heard the story from several--Bazley,
Brackenshaw's man, for one. He is getting a new tenant for Offendene."
"I don't mean that. Is Miss Harleth there, or is she not?" said
Grandcourt, in his former tone.
"Upon my soul, I can't tell," said Lush, rather sulkily. "She may have
left yesterday. I heard she had taken a situation as governess; she may be
gone to it for what I know. But if you wanted to see her no doubt the
mother would send for her back." This sneer slipped off his tongue without
"Send Hutchins to inquire whether she will be there tomorrow." Lush did
not move. Like many persons who have thought over beforehand what they
shall say in given cases, he was impelled by an unexpected irritation to
say some of those prearranged things before the cases were given.
Grandcourt, in fact, was likely to get into a scrape so tremendous that it
was impossible to let him take the first step toward it without
remonstrance. Lush retained enough caution to use a tone of rational
friendliness, still he felt his own value to his patron, and was prepared
to be daring.
"It would be as well for you to remember, Grandcourt, that you are coming
under closer fire now. There can be none of the ordinary flirting done,
which may mean everything or nothing. You must make up your mind whether
you wish to be accepted; and more than that, how you would like being
refused. Either one or the other. You can't be philandering after her
again for six weeks."
Grandcourt said nothing, but pressed the newspaper down on his knees and
began to light another cigar. Lush took this as a sign that he was willing
to listen, and was the more bent on using the opportunity; he wanted, if
possible, to find out which would be the more potent cause of hesitation--
probable acceptance or probable refusal.
"Everything has a more serious look now than it had before. There is her
family to be provided for. You could not let your wife's mother live in
beggary. It will be a confoundedly hampering affair. Marriage will pin you
down in a way you haven't been used to; and in point of money you have not
too much elbow-room. And after all, what will you get by it? You are
master over your estates, present or future, as far as choosing your heir
goes; it's a pity to go on encumbering them for a mere whim, which you may
repent of in a twelvemonth. I should be sorry to see you making a mess of
your life in that way. If there were anything solid to be gained by the
marriage, that would be a different affair."
Lush's tone had gradually become more and more unctuous in its
friendliness of remonstrance, and he was almost in danger of forgetting
that he was merely gambling in argument. When he left off, Grandcourt took
his cigar out of his mouth, and looking steadily at the moist end while he
adjusted the leaf with his delicate finger-tips, said--
"I knew before that you had an objection to my marrying Miss Harleth."
Here he made a little pause before he continued. "But I never considered
that a reason against it."
"I never supposed you did," answered Lush, not unctuously but dryly. "It
was not _that_ I urged as a reason. I should have thought it might have
been a reason against it, after all your experience, that you would be
acting like the hero of a ballad, and making yourself absurd--and all for
what? You know you couldn't make up your mind before. It's impossible you
can care much about her. And as for the tricks she is likely to play, you
may judge of that from what you heard at Leubronn. However, what I wished
to point out to you was, that there can be no shilly-shally now."
"Perfectly," said Grandcourt, looking round at Lush and fixing him with
narrow eyes; "I don't intend that there should be. I dare say it's
disagreeable to you. But if you suppose I care a damn for that you are
most stupendously mistaken."
"Oh, well," said Lush, rising with his hands in his pockets, and feeling
some latent venom still within him, "if you have made up your mind!--only
there's another aspect of the affair. I have been speaking on the
supposition that it was absolutely certain she would accept you, and that
destitution would have no choice. But I am not so sure that the young lady
is to be counted on. She is kittle cattle to shoe, I think. And she had
her reasons for running away before." Lush had moved a step or two till he
stood nearly in front of Grandcourt, though at some distance from him. He
did not feel himself much restrained by consequences, being aware that the
only strong hold he had on his present position was his serviceableness;
and even after a quarrel the want of him was likely sooner or later to
recur. He foresaw that Gwendolen would cause him to be ousted for a time,
and his temper at this moment urged him to risk a quarrel.
"She had her reasons," he repeated more significantly.
"I had come to that conclusion before," said Grandcourt, with contemptuous
"Yes, but I hardly think you know what her reasons were."
"You do, apparently," said Grandcourt, not betraying by so much as an
eyelash that he cared for the reasons.
"Yes, and you had better know too, that you may judge of the influence you
have over her if she swallows her reasons and accepts you. For my own part
I would take odds against it. She saw Lydia in Cardell Chase and heard the
Grandcourt made no immediate answer, and only went on smoking. He was so
long before he spoke that Lush moved about and looked out of the windows,
unwilling to go away without seeing some effect of his daring move. He had
expected that Grandcourt would tax him with having contrived the affair,
since Mrs. Glasher was then living at Gadsmere, a hundred miles off, and
he was prepared to admit the fact: what he cared about was that Grandcourt
should be staggered by the sense that his intended advances must be made
to a girl who had that knowledge in her mind and had been scared by it. At
length Grandcourt, seeing Lush turn toward him, looked at him again and
said, contemptuously, "What follows?"
Here certainly was a "mate" in answer to Lush's "check:" and though his
exasperation with Grandcourt was perhaps stronger than it had ever been
before, it would have been idiocy to act as if any further move could be
useful. He gave a slight shrug with one shoulder, and was going to walk
away, when Grandcourt, turning on his seat toward the table, said, as
quietly as if nothing had occurred, "Oblige me by pushing that pen and
paper here, will you?"
No thunderous, bullying superior could have exercised the imperious spell
that Grandcourt did. Why, instead of being obeyed, he had never been told
to go to a warmer place, was perhaps a mystery to those who found
themselves obeying him. The pen and paper were pushed to him, and as he
took them he said, "Just wait for this letter."
He scrawled with ease, and the brief note was quickly addressed. "Let
Hutchins go with it at once, will you?" said Grandcourt, pushing the
letter away from him.
As Lush had expected, it was addressed to Miss Harleth, Offendene. When
his irritation had cooled down he was glad there had been no explosive
quarrel; but he felt sure that there was a notch made against him, and
that somehow or other he was intended to pay. It was also clear to him
that the immediate effect of his revelation had been to harden
Grandcourt's previous determination. But as to the particular movements
that made this process in his baffling mind, Lush could only toss up his
chin in despair of a theory.
He brings white asses laden with the freight
Of Tyrian vessels, purple, gold and balm,
To bribe my will: I'll bid them chase him forth,
Nor let him breathe the taint of his surmise
On my secure resolve.
Ay, 'tis secure:
And therefore let him come to spread his freight.
For firmness hath its appetite and craves
The stronger lure, more strongly to resist;
Would know the touch of gold to fling it off;
Scent wine to feel its lip the soberer;
Behold soft byssus, ivory, and plumes
To say, "They're fair, but I will none of them,"
And flout Enticement in the very face.
Mr. Gascoigne one day came to Offendene with what he felt to be the
satisfactory news that Mrs. Mompert had fixed Tuesday in the following
week for her interview with Gwendolen at Wanchester. He said nothing of
his having incidentally heard that Mr. Grandcourt had returned to Diplow;
knowing no more than she did that Leubronn had been the goal of her
admirer's journeying, and feeling that it would be unkind uselessly to
revive the memory of a brilliant prospect under the present reverses. In
his secret soul he thought of his niece's unintelligible caprice with
regret, but he vindicated her to himself by considering that Grandcourt
had been the first to behave oddly, in suddenly walking away when there
had the best opportunity for crowning his marked attentions. The rector's
practical judgment told him that his chief duty to his niece now was to
encourage her resolutely to face the change in her lot, since there was no
manifest promise of any event that would avert it.
"You will find an interest in varied experience, my dear, and I have no
doubt you will be a more valuable woman for having sustained such a part
as you are called to."
"I cannot pretend to believe that I shall like it," said Gwendolen, for
the first time showing her uncle some petulance. "But I am quite aware
that I am obliged to bear it."
She remembered having submitted to his admonition on a different occasion
when she was expected to like a very different prospect.
"And your good sense will teach you to behave suitably under it," said Mr.
Gascoigne, with a shade more gravity. "I feel sure that Mrs. Mompert will
be pleased with you. You will know how to conduct yourself to a woman who
holds in all senses the relation of a superior to you. This trouble has
come on you young, but that makes it in some respects easier, and there is
a benefit in all chastisement if we adjust our minds to it."
This was precisely what Gwendolen was unable to do; and after her uncle
was gone, the bitter tears, which had rarely come during the late trouble,
rose and fell slowly as she sat alone. Her heart denied that the trouble
was easier because she was young. When was she to have any happiness, if
it did not come while she was young? Not that her visions of possible
happiness for herself were as unmixed with necessary evil as they used to
be--not that she could still imagine herself plucking the fruits of life
without suspicion of their core. But this general disenchantment with the
world--nay, with herself, since it appeared that she was not made for easy
pre-eminence--only intensified her sense of forlornness; it was a visibly
sterile distance enclosing the dreary path at her feet, in which she had
no courage to tread. She was in that first crisis of passionate youthful
rebellion against what is not fitly called pain, but rather the absence of
joy--that first rage of disappointment in life's morning, which we whom
the years have subdued are apt to remember but dimly as part of our own
experience, and so to be intolerant of its self-enclosed unreasonableness
and impiety. What passion seems more absurd, when we have got outside it
and looked at calamity as a collective risk, than this amazed anguish that
I and not Thou, He or She, should be just the smitten one? Yet perhaps
some who have afterward made themselves a willing fence before the breast
of another, and have carried their own heart-wound in heroic silence--some
who have made their deeds great, nevertheless began with this angry
amazement at their own smart, and on the mere denial of their fantastic
desires raged as if under the sting of wasps which reduced the universe
for them to an unjust infliction of pain. This was nearly poor Gwendolen's
condition. What though such a reverse as hers had often happened to other
girls? The one point she had been all her life learning to care for was,
that it had happened to _her_: it was what _she_ felt under Klesmer's
demonstration that she was not remarkable enough to command for tune by
force of will and merit; it was what _she_ would feel under the rigors of
Mrs. Mompert's constant expectation, under the dull demand that she should
be cheerful with three Miss Momperts, under the necessity of showing
herself entirely submissive, and keeping her thoughts to herself. To be a
queen disthroned is not so hard as some other down-stepping: imagine one
who had been made to believe in his own divinity finding all homage
withdrawn, and himself unable to perform a miracle that would recall the
homage and restore his own confidence. Something akin to this illusion and
this helplessness had befallen the poor spoiled child, with the lovely
lips and eyes and the majestic figure--which seemed now to have no magic
She rose from the low ottoman where she had been sitting purposeless, and
walked up and down the drawing-room, resting her elbow on one palm while
she leaned down her cheek on the other, and a slow tear fell. She thought,
"I have always, ever since I was little, felt that mamma was not a happy
woman; and now I dare say I shall be more unhappy than she has been."
Her mind dwelt for a few moments on the picture of herself losing her
youth and ceasing to enjoy--not minding whether she did this or that: but
such picturing inevitably brought back the image of her mother.
"Poor mamma! it will be still worse for her now. I can get a little money
for her--that is all I shall care about now." And then with an entirely
new movement of her imagination, she saw her mother getting quite old and
white, and herself no longer young but faded, and their two faces meeting
still with memory and love, and she knowing what was in her mother's mind
--"Poor Gwen too is sad and faded now"--and then, for the first time, she
sobbed, not in anger, but with a sort of tender misery.
Her face was toward the door, and she saw her mother enter. She barely saw
that; for her eyes were large with tears, and she pressed her handkerchief
against them hurriedly. Before she took it away she felt her mother's arms
round her, and this sensation, which seemed a prolongation of her inward
vision, overcame her will to be reticent; she sobbed anew in spite of
herself, as they pressed their cheeks together.
Mrs. Davilow had brought something in her hand which had already caused
her an agitating anxiety, and she dared not speak until her darling had
become calmer. But Gwendolen, with whom weeping had always been a painful
manifestation to be resisted, if possible, again pressed her handkerchief
against her eyes, and, with a deep breath, drew her head backward and
looked at her mother, who was pale and tremulous.
"It was nothing, mamma," said Gwendolen, thinking that her mother had been
moved in this way simply by finding her in distress. "It is all over now."
But Mrs. Davilow had withdrawn her arms, and Gwendolen perceived a letter
in her hand.
"What is that letter?--worse news still?" she asked, with a touch of
"I don't know what you will think it, dear," said Mrs. Davilow, keeping
the letter in her hand. "You will hardly guess where it comes from."
"Don't ask me to guess anything," said Gwendolen, rather impatiently, as
if a bruise were being pressed.
"It is addressed to you, dear."
Gwendolen gave the slightest perceptible toss of the head.
"It comes from Diplow," said Mrs. Davilow, giving her the letter.
She knew Grandcourt's indistinct handwriting, and her mother was not
surprised to see her blush deeply; but watching her as she read, and
wondering much what was the purport of the letter, she saw the color die
out. Gwendolen's lips even were pale as she turned the open note toward
her mother. The words were few and formal:
Mr. Grandcourt presents his compliments to Miss Harleth, and begs to know
whether he may be permitted to call at Offendene tomorrow after two and to
see her alone. Mr. Grandcourt has just returned from Leubronn, where he
had hoped to find Miss Harleth.
Mrs. Davilow read, and then looked at her daughter inquiringly, leaving
the note in her hand. Gwendolen let it fall to the floor, and turned away.
"It must be answered, darling," said Mrs. Davilow, timidly. "The man
Gwendolen sank on the settee, clasped her hands, and looked straight
before her, not at her mother. She had the expression of one who had been
startled by a sound and was listening to know what would come of it. The
sudden change of the situation was bewildering. A few minutes before she
was looking along an inescapable path of repulsive monotony, with hopeless
inward rebellion against the imperious lot which left her no choice: and
lo, now, a moment of choice was come. Yet--was it triumph she felt most or
terror? Impossible for Gwendolen not to feel some triumph in a tribute to
her power at a time when she was first tasting the bitterness of
insignificance: again she seemed to be getting a sort of empire over her
own life. But how to use it? Here came the terror. Quick, quick, like
pictures in a book beaten open with a sense of hurry, came back vividly,
yet in fragments, all that she had gone through in relation to Grandcourt
--the allurements, the vacillations, the resolve to accede, the final
repulsion; the incisive face of that dark-eyed lady with the lovely boy:
her own pledge (was it a pledge not to marry him?)--the new disbelief in
the worth of men and things for which that scene of disclosure had become
a symbol. That unalterable experience made a vision at which in the first
agitated moment, before tempering reflections could suggest themselves,
her native terror shrank.
Where was the good of choice coming again? What did she wish? Anything
different? No! And yet in the dark seed-growths of consciousness a new
wish was forming itself--"I wish I had never known it!" Something,
anything she wished for that would have saved her from the dread to let
It was no long while--yet it seemed long to Mrs. Davilow, before she
thought it well to say, gently--
"It will be necessary for you to write, dear. Or shall I write an answer
for you--which you will dictate?"
"No, mamma," said Gwendolen, drawing a deep breath. "But please lay me out
the pen and paper."
That was gaining time. Was she to decline Grandcourt's visit--close the
shutters--not even look out on what would happen?--though with the
assurance that she should remain just where she was? The young activity
within her made a warm current through her terror and stirred toward
something that would be an event--toward an opportunity
in which she could look and speak with the former effectiveness.
The interest of the morrow was no longer at a deadlock.
"There is really no reason on earth why you should be so
alarmed at the man's waiting a few minutes, mamma," said
Gwendolen, remonstrantly, as Mrs. Davilow, having prepared
the writing materials, looked toward her expectantly. "Servants expect
nothing else than to wait. It is not to be supposed that I must write on
"No, dear," said Mrs. Davilow, in the tone of one corrected, turning to
sit down and take up a bit of work that lay at hand; "he can wait another
quarter of an hour, if you like."
If was very simple speech and action on her part, but it was what might
have been subtly calculated. Gwendolen felt a contradictory desire to be
hastened: hurry would save her from deliberate choice.
"I did not mean him to wait long enough for that needlework to be
finished," she said, lifting her hands to stroke the backward curves of
her hair, while she rose from her seat and stood still.
"But if you don't feel able to decide?" said Mrs. Davilow, sympathizingly.
"I _must_ decide," said Gwendolen, walking to the writing-table and
seating herself. All the while there was a busy undercurrent in her, like
the thought of a man who keeps up a dialogue while he is considering how
he can slip away. Why should she not let him come? It bound her to
nothing. He had been to Leubronn after her: of course he meant a direct
unmistakable renewal of the suit which before had been only implied. What
then? She could reject him. Why was she to deny herself the freedom of
doing this--which she would like to do?
"If Mr. Grandcourt has only just returned from Leubronn," said Mrs.
Davilow, observing that Gwendolen leaned back in her chair after taking
the pen in her hand--"I wonder whether he has heard of our misfortunes?"
"That could make no difference to a man in his position," said Gwendolen,
"It would to some men," said Mrs. Davilow. "They would not like to take a
wife from a family in a state of beggary almost, as we are. Here we are at
Offendene with a great shell over us, as usual. But just imagine his
finding us at Sawyer's Cottage. Most men are afraid of being bored or
taxed by a wife's family. If Mr. Grandcourt did know, I think it a strong
proof of his attachment to you."
Mrs. Davilow spoke with unusual emphasis: it was the first time she had
ventured to say anything about Grandcourt which would necessarily seem
intended as an argument in favor of him, her habitual impression being
that such arguments would certainly be useless and might be worse. The
effect of her words now was stronger than she could imagine. They raised a
new set of possibilities in Gwendolen's mind--a vision of what Grandcourt
might do for her mother if she, Gwendolen, did--what she was no going to
do. She was so moved by a new rush of ideas that, like one conscious of
being urgently called away, she felt that the immediate task must be
hastened: the letter must be written, else it might be endlessly deferred.
After all, she acted in a hurry, as she had wished to do. To act in a
hurry was to have a reason for keeping away from an absolute decision, and
to leave open as many issues as possible.
She wrote: "Miss Harleth presents her compliments to Mr. Grandcourt. She
will be at home after two o'clock to-morrow."
Before addressing the note she said, "Pray ring the bell, mamma, if there
is any one to answer it." She really did not know who did the work of the
It was not till after the letter had been taken away and Gwendolen had
risen again, stretching out one arm and then resting it on her head, with
a low moan which had a sound of relief in it, that Mrs. Davilow ventured
"What did you say, Gwen?"
"I said that I should be at home," answered Gwendolen, rather loftily.
Then after a pause, "You must not expect, because Mr. Grandcourt is
coming, that anything is going to happen, mamma."
"I don't allow myself to expect anything, dear. I desire you to follow
your own feeling. You have never told me what that was."
"What is the use of telling?" said Gwendolen, hearing a reproach in that
true statement. "When I have anything pleasant to tell, you may be sure I
will tell you."
"But Mr. Grandcourt will consider that you have already accepted him, in
allowing him to come. His note tells you plainly enough that he is coming
to make you an offer."
"Very well; and I wish to have the pleasure of refusing him."
"Mrs. Davilow looked up in wonderment, but Gwendolen implied her wish not
to be questioned further by saying--
"Put down that detestable needle-work, and let us walk in the avenue. I am
Desire has trimmed the sails, and Circumstance
Brings but the breeze to fill them.
While Grandcourt on his beautiful black Yarico, the groom behind him on
Criterion, was taking the pleasant ride from Diplow to Offendene,
Gwendolen was seated before the mirror while her mother gathered up the
lengthy mass of light-brown hair which she had been carefully brushing.
"Only gather it up easily and make a coil, mamma," said Gwendolen.
"Let me bring you some ear-rings, Gwen," said Mrs. Davilow, when the hair
was adjusted, and they were both looking at the reflection in the glass.
It was impossible for them not to notice that the eyes looked brighter
than they had done of late, that there seemed to be a shadow lifted from
the face, leaving all the lines once more in their placid youthfulness.
The mother drew some inference that made her voice rather cheerful. "You
do want your earrings?"
"No, mamma; I shall not wear any ornaments, and I shall put on my black
silk. Black is the only wear when one is going to refuse an offer," said
Gwendolen, with one of her old smiles at her mother, while she rose to
throw off her dressing-gown.
"Suppose the offer is not made after all," said Mrs. Davilow, not without
a sly intention.
"Then that will be because I refuse it beforehand," said Gwendolen. "It
comes to the same thing."
There was a proud little toss of the head as she said this; and when she
walked down-stairs in her long black robes, there was just that firm poise
of head and elasticity of form which had lately been missing, as in a
parched plant. Her mother thought, "She is quite herself again. It must be
pleasure in his coming. Can her mind be really made up against him?"
Gwendolen would have been rather angry if that thought had been uttered;
perhaps all the more because through the last twenty hours, with a brief
interruption of sleep, she had been so occupied with perpetually
alternating images and arguments for and against the possibility of her
marrying Grandcourt, that the conclusion which she had determined on
beforehand ceased to have any hold on her consciousness: the alternate dip
of counterbalancing thoughts begotten of counterbalancing desires had
brought her into a state in which no conclusion could look fixed to her.
She would have expressed her resolve as before; but it was a form out of
which the blood had been sucked--no more a part of quivering life than the
"God's will be done" of one who is eagerly watching chances. She did not
mean to accept Grandcourt; from the first moment of receiving his letter
she had meant to refuse him; still, that could not but prompt her to look
the unwelcome reasons full in the face until she had a little less awe of
them, could not hinder her imagination from filling out her knowledge in
various ways, some of which seemed to change the aspect of what she knew.
By dint of looking at a dubious object with a constructive imagination,
who can give it twenty different shapes. Her indistinct grounds of
hesitation before the interview at the Whispering Stones, at present
counted for nothing; they were all merged in the final repulsion. If it
had not been for that day in Cardell Chase, she said to herself now, there
would have been no obstacle to her marrying Grandcourt. On that day and
after it, she had not reasoned and balanced; she had acted with a force of
impulse against which all questioning was no more than a voice against a
torrent. The impulse had come--not only from her maidenly pride and
jealousy, not only from the shock of another woman's calamity thrust close
on her vision, but--from her dread of wrong-doing, which was vague, it was
true, and aloof from the daily details of her life, but not the less
strong. Whatever was accepted as consistent with being a lady she had no
scruple about; but from the dim region of what was called disgraceful,
wrong, guilty, she shrunk with mingled pride and terror; and even apart
from shame, her feeling would have made her place any deliberate injury of
another in the region of guilt.
But now--did she know exactly what was the state of the case with regard
to Mrs. Glasher and her children? She had given a sort of promise--had
said, "I will not interfere with your wishes." But would another woman who
married Grandcourt be in fact the decisive obstacle to her wishes, or be
doing her and her boy any real injury? Might it not be just as well, nay
better, that Grandcourt should marry? For what could not a woman do when
she was married, if she knew how to assert herself? Here all was
constructive imagination. Gwendolen had about as accurate a conception of
marriage--that is to say, of the mutual influences, demands, duties of man
and woman in the state of matrimony--as she had of magnetic currents and
the law of storms.
"Mamma managed baldly," was her way of summing up what she had seen of her
mother's experience: she herself would manage quite differently. And the
trials of matrimony were the last theme into which Mrs. Davilow could
choose to enter fully with this daughter.
"I wonder what mamma and my uncle would say if they knew about Mrs.
Glasher!" thought Gwendolen in her inward debating; not that she could
imagine herself telling them, even if she had not felt bound to silence.
"I wonder what anybody would say; or what they would say to Mr.
Grandcourt's marrying some one else and having other children!" To
consider what "anybody" would say, was to be released from the difficulty
of judging where everything was obscure to her when feeling had ceased to
be decisive. She had only to collect her memories, which proved to her
that "anybody" regarded the illegitimate children as more rightfully to be
looked shy on and deprived of social advantages than illegitimate fathers.
The verdict of "anybody" seemed to be that she had no reason to concern
herself greatly on behalf of Mrs. Glasher and her children.
But there was another way in which they had caused her concern. What
others might think, could not do away with a feeling which in the first
instance would hardly be too strongly described as indignation and
loathing that she should have been expected to unite herself with an
outworn life, full of backward secrets which must have been more keenly
felt than any association with _her_. True, the question of love on her
own part had occupied her scarcely at all in relation to Grandcourt. The
desirability of marriage for her had always seemed due to other feeling
than love; and to be enamored was the part of the man, on whom the
advances depended. Gwendolen had found no objection to Grandcourt's way of
being enamored before she had had that glimpse of his past, which she
resented as if it had been a deliberate offense against her. His advances
to _her_ were deliberate, and she felt a retrospective disgust for them.
Perhaps other men's lives were of the same kind--full of secrets which
made the ignorant suppositions of the women they wanted to marry a farce
at which they were laughing in their sleeves.
These feelings of disgust and indignation had sunk deep; and though other
troublous experience in the last weeks had dulled them from passion into
remembrance, it was chiefly their reverberating activity which kept her
firm to the understanding with herself, that she was not going to accept
Grandcourt. She had never meant to form a new determination; she had only
been considering what might be thought or said. If anything could have
induced her to change, it would have been the prospect of making all
things easy for "poor mamma:" that, she admitted, was a temptation. But
no! she was going to refuse him. Meanwhile, the thought that he was coming
to be refused was inspiriting: she had the white reins in her hands again;
there was a new current in her frame, reviving her from the beaten-down
consciousness in which she had been left by the interview with Klesmer.
She was not now going to crave an opinion of her capabilities; she was
going to exercise her power.
Was this what made her heart palpitate annoyingly when she heard the
horse's footsteps on the gravel?--when Miss Merry, who opened the door to
Grandcourt, came to tell her that he was in the drawing-room? The hours of
preparation and the triumph of the situation were apparently of no use:
she might as well have seen Grandcourt coming suddenly on her in the midst
of her despondency. While walking into the drawing-room, she had to
concentrate all her energy in that self-control, which made her appear
gravely gracious--as she gave her hand to him, and answered his hope that
she was quite well in a voice as low and languid as his own. A moment
afterward, when they were both of them seated on two of the wreath-painted
chairs--Gwendolen upright with downcast eyelids, Grandcourt about two
yards distant, leaning one arm over the back of his chair and looking at
her, while he held his hat in his left hand--any one seeing them as a
picture would have concluded that they were in some stage of love-making
suspense. And certainly the love-making had begun: she already felt
herself being wooed by this silent man seated at an agreeable distance,
with the subtlest atmosphere of attar of roses and an attention bent
wholly on her. And he also considered himself to be wooing: he was not a
man to suppose that his presence carried no consequences; and he was
exactly the man to feel the utmost piquancy in a girl whom he had not
found quite calculable.
"I was disappointed not to find you at Leubronn," he began, his usual
broken drawl having just a shade of amorous languor in it. "The place was
intolerable without you. A mere kennel of a place. Don't you think so?"
"I can't judge what it would be without myself," said Gwendolen, turning
her eyes on him, with some recovered sense of mischief. "_With_ myself I
like it well enough to have stayed longer, if I could. But I was obliged
to come home on account of family troubles."
"It was very cruel of you to go to Leubronn," said Grandcourt, taking no
notice of the troubles, on which Gwendolen--she hardly knew why--wished
that there should be a clear understanding at once. "You must have known
that it would spoil everything: you knew you were the heart and soul of
everything that went on. Are you quite reckless about me?"
It would be impossible to say "yes" in a tone that would be taken
seriously; equally impossible to say "no;" but what else could she say? In
her difficulty, she turned down her eyelids again and blushed over face
and neck. Grandcourt saw her in a new phase, and believed that she was
showing her inclination. But he was determined that she should show it
"Perhaps there is some deeper interest? Some attraction--some engagement--
which it would have been only fair to make me aware of? Is there any man
who stands between us?"
Inwardly the answer framed itself. "No; but there is a woman." Yet how
could she utter this? Even if she had not promised that woman to be
silent, it would have been impossible for her to enter on the subject with
Grandcourt. But how could she arrest his wooing by beginning to make a
formal speech--"I perceive your intention--it is most flattering, etc."? A
fish honestly invited to come and be eaten has a clear course in
declining, but how if it finds itself swimming against a net? And apart
from the network, would she have dared at once to say anything decisive?
Gwendolen had not time to be clear on that point. As it was, she felt
compelled to silence, and after a pause, Grandcourt said--
"Am I to understand that some one else is preferred?"
Gwendolen, now impatient of her own embarrassment, determined to rush at
the difficulty and free herself. She raised her eyes again and said with
something of her former clearness and defiance, "No"--wishing him to
understand, "What then? I may not be ready to take _you_." There was
nothing that Grandcourt could not understand which he perceived likely to
affect his _amour propre_.
"The last thing I would do, is to importune you. I should not hope to win
you by making myself a bore. If there were no hope for me, I would ask you
to tell me so at once, that I might just ride away to--no matter where."
Almost to her own astonishment, Gwendolen felt a sudden alarm at the image
of Grandcourt finally riding away. What would be left her then? Nothing
but the former dreariness. She liked him to be there. She snatched at the
subject that would defer any decisive answer.
"I fear you are not aware of what has happened to us. I have lately had to
think so much of my mamma's troubles, that other subjects have been quite
thrown into the background. She has lost all her fortune, and we are going
to leave this place. I must ask you to excuse my seeming preoccupied."
In eluding a direct appeal Gwendolen recovered some of her self-
possession. She spoke with dignity and looked straight at Grandcourt,
whose long, narrow, impenetrable eyes met hers, and mysteriously arrested
them: mysteriously; for the subtly-varied drama between man and woman is
often such as can hardly be rendered in words put together like dominoes,
according to obvious fixed marks. The word of all work, Love, will no more
express the myriad modes of mutual attraction, than the word Thought can
inform you what is passing through your neighbor's mind. It would be hard
to tell on which side--Gwendolen's or Grandcourt's--the influence was more
mixed. At that moment his strongest wish was to be completely master of
this creature--this piquant combination of maidenliness and mischief: that
she knew things which had made her start away from him, spurred him to
triumph over that repugnance; and he was believing that he should triumph.
And she--ah, piteous equality in the need to dominate!--she was overcome
like the thirsty one who is drawn toward the seeming water in the desert,
overcome by the suffused sense that here in this man's homage to her lay
the rescue from helpless subjection to an oppressive lot.
All the while they were looking at each other; and Grandcourt said, slowly
and languidly, as if it were of no importance, other things having been
"You will tell me now, I hope, that Mrs. Davilow's loss of fortune will
not trouble you further. You will trust me to prevent it from weighing
upon her. You will give me the claim to provide against that."
The little pauses and refined drawlings with which this speech was
uttered, gave time for Gwendolen to go through the dream of a life. As the
words penetrated her, they had the effect of a draught of wine, which
suddenly makes all things easier, desirable things not so wrong, and
people in general less disagreeable. She had a momentary phantasmal love
for this man who chose his words so well, and who was a mere incarnation
of delicate homage. Repugnance, dread, scruples--these were dim as
remembered pains, while she was already tasting relief under the immediate
pain of hopelessness. She imagined herself already springing to her
mother, and being playful again. Yet when Grandcourt had ceased to speak,
there was an instant in which she was conscious of being at the turning of
"You are very generous," she said, not moving her eyes, and speaking with
a gentle intonation.
"You accept what will make such things a matter of course?" said
Grandcourt, without any new eagerness. "You consent to become my wife?"
This time Gwendolen remained quite pale. Something made her rise from her
seat in spite of herself and walk to a little distance. Then she turned
and with her hands folded before her stood in silence.
Grandcourt immediately rose too, resting his hat on the chair, but still
keeping hold of it. The evident hesitation of this destitute girl to take
his splendid offer stung him into a keenness of interest such as he had
not known for years. None the less because he attributed her hesitation
entirely to her knowledge about Mrs. Glasher. In that attitude of
preparation, he said--
"Do you command me to go?" No familiar spirit could have suggested to him
more effective words.
"No," said Gwendolen. She could not let him go: that negative was a
clutch. She seemed to herself to be, after all, only drifted toward the
tremendous decision--but drifting depends on something besides the
currents when the sails have been set beforehand.
"You accept my devotion?" said Grandcourt, holding his hat by his side and
looking straight into her eyes, without other movement. Their eyes meeting
in that way seemed to allow any length of pause: but wait as long as she
would, how could she contradict herself! What had she detained him for? He
had shut out any explanation.
"Yes," came as gravely from Gwendolen's lips as if she had been answering
to her name in a court of justice. He received it gravely, and they still
looked at each other in the same attitude. Was there ever such a way
before of accepting the bliss-giving "Yes"? Grandcourt liked better to be
at that distance from her, and to feel under a ceremony imposed by an
indefinable prohibition that breathed from Gwendolen's bearing.
But he did at length lay down his hat and advance to take her hand, just
pressing his lips upon it and letting it go again. She thought his
behavior perfect, and gained a sense of freedom which made her almost
ready to be mischievous. Her "Yes" entailed so little at this moment that
there was nothing to screen the reversal of her gloomy prospects; her
vision was filled by her own release from the Momperts, and her mother's
release from Sawyer's Cottage. With a happy curl of the lips, she said--
"Will you not see mamma? I will fetch her."
"Let us wait a little," said Grandcourt, in his favorite attitude, having
his left forefinger and thumb in his waist-coat pocket, and with his right
hand caressing his whisker, while he stood near Gwendolen and looked at
her--not unlike a gentleman who has a felicitous introduction at an
"Have you anything else to say to me," said Gwendolen, playfully.
"Yes--I know having things said to you is a great bore," said Grandcourt,
"Not when they are things I like to hear."
"Will it bother you to be asked how soon we can be married?"
"I think it will, to-day," said Gwendolen, putting up her chin saucily.
"Not to-day, then, but to-morrow. Think of it before I come to-morrow. In
a fortnight--or three weeks--as soon as possible."
"Ah, you think you will be tired of my company," said Gwendolen. "I notice
when people are married the husband is not so much with his wife as when
they are engaged. But perhaps I shall like that better, too."
She laughed charmingly.
"You shall have whatever you like," said Grandcourt.
"And nothing that I don't like?--please say that; because I think I
dislike what I don't like more than I like what I like," said Gwendolen,
finding herself in the woman's paradise, where all her nonsense is
Grandcourt paused; these were subtilties in which he had much experience
of his own. "I don't know--this is such a brute of a world, things are
always turning up that one doesn't like. I can't always hinder your being
bored. If you like to ride Criterion, I can't hinder his coming down by
some chance or other."
"Ah, my friend Criterion, how is he?"
"He is outside: I made the groom ride him, that you might see him. He had
the side-saddle on for an hour or two yesterday. Come to the window and
look at him."
They could see the two horses being taken slowly round the sweep, and the
beautiful creatures, in their fine grooming, sent a thrill of exultation
through Gwendolen. They were the symbols of command and luxury, in
delightful contrast with the ugliness of poverty and humiliation at which
she had lately been looking close.
"Will you ride Criterion to-morrow?" said Grandcourt. "If you will,
everything shall be arranged."
"I should like it of all things," said Gwendolen. "I want to lose myself
in a gallop again. But now I must go and fetch mamma."
"Take my arm to the door, then," said Grandcourt, and she accepted. Their
faces were very near each other, being almost on a level, and he was
looking at her. She thought his manners as a lover more agreeable than any
she had seen described. She had no alarm lest he meant to kiss her, and
was so much at her ease, that she suddenly paused in the middle of the
room and said half archly, half earnestly--
"Oh, while I think of it--there is something I dislike that you can save
me from. I do _not_ like Mr. Lush's company."
"You shall not have it. I'll get rid of him."
"You are not fond of him yourself?"
"Not in the least. I let him hang on me because he has always been a poor
devil," said Grandcourt, in an _adagio_ of utter indifference. "They got
him to travel with me when I was a lad. He was always that coarse-haired
kind of brute--sort of cross between a hog and a _dilettante_."
Gwendolen laughed. All that seemed kind and natural enough: Grandcourt's
fastidiousness enhanced the kindness. And when they reached the door, his
way of opening it for her was the perfection of easy homage. Really, she
thought, he was likely to be the least disagreeable of husbands.
Mrs. Davilow was waiting anxiously in her bed-room when Gwendolen entered,
stepped toward her quickly, and kissing her on both cheeks said in a low
tone, "Come down, mamma, and see Mr. Grandcourt. I am engaged to him."
"My darling child," said Mrs. Davilow, with a surprise that was rather
solemn than glad.
"Yes," said Gwendolen, in the same tone, and with a quickness which
implied that it was needless to ask questions. "Everything is settled. You
are not going to Sawyer's Cottage, I am not going to be inspected by Mrs.
Mompert, and everything is to be as I like. So come down with me
BOOK IV--GWENDOLEN GETS HER CHOICE.
"Il est plus aise de connoitre l'homme en general que de connoitre un
homme en particulier.--LA ROCHEFOUCAULD."
An hour after Grandcourt had left, the important news of Gwendolen's
engagement was known at the rectory, and Mr. and Mrs. Gascoigne, with
Anna, spent the evening at Offendene.
"My dear, let me congratulate you on having created a strong attachment,"
said the rector. "You look serious, and I don't wonder at it: a lifelong
union is a solemn thing. But from the way Mr. Grandcourt has acted and
spoken I think we may already see some good arising out of our adversity.
It has given you an opportunity of observing your future husband's
Mr. Gascoigne referred to Grandcourt's mode of implying that he would
provide for Mrs. Davilow--a part of the love-making which Gwendolen had
remembered to cite to her mother with perfect accuracy.
"But I have no doubt that Mr. Grandcourt would have behaved quite as
handsomely if you had not gone away to Germany, Gwendolen, and had been
engaged to him, as you no doubt might have been, more than a month ago,"
said Mrs. Gascoigne, feeling that she had to discharge a duty on this
occasion. "But now there is no more room for caprice; indeed, I trust you
have no inclination to any. A woman has a great debt of gratitude to a man
who perseveres in making her such an offer. But no doubt you feel
"I am not at all sure that I do, aunt," said Gwendolen, with saucy
gravity. "I don't know everything it is proper to feel on being engaged."
The rector patted her shoulder and smiled as at a bit of innocent
naughtiness, and his wife took his behavior as an indication that she was
not to be displeased. As for Anna, she kissed Gwendolen and said, "I do
hope you will be happy," but then sank into the background and tried to
keep the tears back too. In the late days she had been imagining a little
romance about Rex--how if he still longed for Gwendolen her heart might be
softened by trouble into love, so that they could by-and-by be married.
And the romance had turned to a prayer that she, Anna, might be able to
rejoice like a good sister, and only think of being useful in working for
Gwendolen, as long as Rex was not rich. But now she wanted grace to
rejoice in something else. Miss Merry and the four girls, Alice with the
high shoulders, Bertha and Fanny the whisperers, and Isabel the listener,
were all present on this family occasion, when everything seemed
appropriately turning to the honor and glory of Gwendolen, and real life
was as interesting as "Sir Charles Grandison." The evening passed chiefly
in decisive remarks from the rector, in answer to conjectures from the two
elder ladies. According to him, the case was not one in which he could
think it his duty to mention settlements: everything must, and doubtless
would safely be left to Mr. Grandcourt.
"I should like to know exactly what sort of places Ryelands and Gadsmere
are," said Mrs. Davilow.
"Gadsmere, I believe, is a secondary place," said Mr. Gascoigne; "But
Ryelands I know to be one of our finest seats. The park is extensive and
the woods of a very valuable order. The house was built by Inigo Jones,
and the ceilings are painted in the Italian style. The estate is said to
be worth twelve thousand a year, and there are two livings, one a rectory,
in the gift of the Grandcourts. There may be some burdens on the land.
Still, Mr. Grandcourt was an only child."
"It would be most remarkable," said Mrs. Gascoigne, "if he were to become
Lord Stannery in addition to everything else. Only think: there is the
Grandcourt estate, the Mallinger estate, _and_ the baronetcy, _and_ the
peerage,"--she was marking off the items on her fingers, and paused on the
fourth while she added, "but they say there will be no land coming to him
with the peerage." It seemed a pity there was nothing for the fifth
"The peerage," said the rector, judiciously, "must be regarded as a remote
chance. There are two cousins between the present peer and Mr. Grandcourt.
It is certainly a serious reflection how death and other causes do
sometimes concentrate inheritances on one man. But an excess of that kind
is to be deprecated. To be Sir Mallinger Grandcourt Mallinger--I suppose
that will be his style--with corresponding properties, is a valuable
talent enough for any man to have committed to him. Let us hope it will be
"And what a position for the wife, Gwendolen!" said Mrs. Gascoigne; "a
great responsibility indeed. But you must lose no time in writing to Mrs.
Mompert, Henry. It is a good thing that you have an engagement of marriage
to offer as an excuse, else she might feel offended. She is rather a high
"I am rid of that horror," thought Gwendolen, to whom the name of Mompert
had become a sort of Mumbo-jumbo. She was very silent through the evening,
and that night could hardly sleep at all in her little white bed. It was a
rarity in her strong youth to be wakeful: and perhaps a still greater
rarity for her to be careful that her mother should not know of her
restlessness. But her state of mind was altogether new: she who had been
used to feel sure of herself, and ready to manage others, had just taken a
decisive step which she had beforehand thought that she would not take--
nay, perhaps, was bound not to take. She could not go backward now; she
liked a great deal of what lay before her; and there was nothing for her
to like if she went back. But her resolution was dogged by the shadow of
that previous resolve which had at first come as the undoubting movement
of her whole being. While she lay on her pillow with wide-open eyes,
"looking on darkness which the blind do see," she was appalled by the idea
that she was going to do what she had once started away from with
repugnance. It was new to her that a question of right or wrong in her
conduct should rouse her terror; she had known no compunction that atoning
caresses and presents could not lay to rest. But here had come a moment
when something like a new consciousness was awaked. She seemed on the edge
of adopting deliberately, as a notion for all the rest of her life, what
she had rashly said in her bitterness, when her discovery had driven her
away to Leubronn:--that it did not signify what she did; she had only to
amuse herself as best she could. That lawlessness, that casting away of
all care for justification, suddenly frightened her: it came to her with
the shadowy array of possible calamity behind it--calamity which had
ceased to be a mere name for her; and all the infiltrated influences of
disregarded religious teaching, as well as the deeper impressions of
something awful and inexorable enveloping her, seemed to concentrate
themselves in the vague conception of avenging power. The brilliant
position she had longed for, the imagined freedom she would create for
herself in marriage, the deliverance from the dull insignificance of her
girlhood--all immediately before her; and yet they had come to her hunger
like food with the taint of sacrilege upon it, which she must snatch with
terror. In the darkness and loneliness of her little bed, her more
resistant self could not act against the first onslaught of dread after
her irrevocable decision. That unhappy-faced woman and her children--
Grandcourt and his relations with her--kept repeating themselves in her
imagination like the clinging memory of a disgrace, and gradually
obliterated all other thought, leaving only the consciousness that she had
taken those scenes into her life. Her long wakefulness seemed a delirium;
a faint, faint light penetrated beside the window-curtain; the chillness
increased. She could bear it no longer, and cried "Mamma!"
"Yes, dear," said Mrs. Davilow, immediately, in a wakeful voice.
"Let me come to you."
She soon went to sleep on her mother's shoulder, and slept on till late,
when, dreaming of a lit-up ball-room, she opened her eyes on her mother
standing by the bedside with a small packet in her hand.
"I am sorry to wake you, darling, but I thought it better to give you this
at once. The groom has brought Criterion; he has come on another horse,
and says he is to stay here."
Gwendolen sat up in bed and opened the packet. It was a delicate enameled
casket, and inside was a splendid diamond ring with a letter which
contained a folded bit of colored paper and these words:--
Pray wear this ring when I come at twelve in sign of our betrothal. I
enclose a check drawn in the name of Mr. Gascoigne, for immediate
expenses. Of course Mrs. Davilow will remain at Offendene, at least
for some time. I hope, when I come, you will have granted me an early
day, when you may begin to command me at a shorter distance.
H. M. GRANDCOURT.
The checks was for five hundred pounds, and Gwendolen turned it toward her
mother, with the letter.
"How very kind and delicate!" said Mrs. Davilow, with much feeling. "But I
really should like better not to be dependent on a son-in-law. I and the
girls could get along very well."
"Mamma, if you say that again, I will not marry him," said Gwendolen,
"My dear child, I trust you are not going to marry only for my sake," said
Mrs. Davilow, depreciatingly.
Gwendolen tossed her head on the pillow away from her mother, and let the
ring lie. She was irritated at this attempt to take away a motive. Perhaps
the deeper cause of her irritation was the consciousness that she was not
going to marry solely for her mamma's sake--that she was drawn toward the
marriage in ways against which stronger reasons than her mother's
renunciation were yet not strong enough to hinder her. She had waked up to
the signs that she was irrevocably engaged, and all the ugly visions, the
alarms, the arguments of the night, must be met by daylight, in which
probably they would show themselves weak. "What I long for is your
happiness, dear," continued Mrs. Davilow, pleadingly. "I will not say
anything to vex you. Will you not put on the ring?"
For a few moments Gwendolen did not answer, but her thoughts were active.
At last she raised herself with a determination to do as she would do if
she had started on horseback, and go on with spirit, whatever ideas might
be running in her head.
"I thought the lover always put on the betrothal ring himself," she said
laughingly, slipping the ring on her finger, and looking at it with a
charming movement of her head. "I know why he has sent it," she added,
nodding at her mamma."
"He would rather make me put it on than ask me to let him do it. Aha! he
is very proud. But so am I. We shall match each other. I should hate a man
who went down on his knees, and came fawning on me. He really is not
"That is very moderate praise, Gwen."
"No, it is not, for a man," said Gwendolen gaily. "But now I must get up
and dress. Will you come and do my hair, mamma, dear," she went on,
drawing down her mamma's face to caress it with her own cheeks, "and not
be so naughty any more as to talk of living in poverty? You must bear to
be made comfortable, even if you don't like it. And Mr. Grandcourt behaves
perfectly, now, does he not?"
"Certainly he does," said Mrs. Davilow, encouraged, and persuaded that
after all Gwendolen was fond of her betrothed. She herself thought him a
man whose attentions were likely to tell on a girl's feeling. Suitors must
often be judged as words are, by the standing and the figure they make in
polite society: it is difficult to know much else of them. And all the
mother's anxiety turned not on Grandcourt's character, but on Gwendolen's
mood in accepting him.
The mood was necessarily passing through a new phase this morning. Even in
the hour of making her toilet, she had drawn on all the knowledge she had
for grounds to justify her marriage. And what she most dwelt on was the
determination, that when she was Grandcourt's wife, she would urge him to
the most liberal conduct toward Mrs. Glasher's children.
"Of what use would it be to her that I should not marry him? He could have
married her if he liked; but he did _not_ like. Perhaps she is to blame
for that. There must be a great deal about her that I know nothing of. And
he must have been good to her in many ways, else she would not have wanted
to marry him."
But that last argument at once began to appear doubtful. Mrs. Glasher
naturally wished to exclude other children who would stand between
Grandcourt and her own: and Gwendolen's comprehension of this feeling
prompted another way of reconciling claims.
"Perhaps we shall have no children. I hope we shall not. And he might
leave the estate to the pretty little boy. My uncle said that Mr.
Grandcourt could do as he liked with the estates. Only when Sir Hugo
Mallinger dies there will be enough for two."
This made Mrs. Glasher appear quite unreasonable in demanding that her boy
should be sole heir; and the double property was a security that
Grandcourt's marriage would do her no wrong, when the wife was Gwendolen
Harleth with all her proud resolution not to be fairly accused. This
maiden had been accustomed to think herself blameless; other persons only
It was striking, that in the hold which this argument of her doing no
wrong to Mrs. Glasher had taken on her mind, her repugnance to the idea of
Grandcourt's past had sunk into a subordinate feeling. The terror she had
felt in the night-watches at overstepping the border of wickedness by
doing what she had at first felt to be wrong, had dulled any emotions
about his conduct. She was thinking of him, whatever he might be, as a man
over whom she was going to have indefinite power; and her loving him
having never been a question with her, any agreeableness he had was so
much gain. Poor Gwendolen had no awe of unmanageable forces in the state
of matrimony, but regarded it as altogether a matter of management, in
which she would know how to act. In relation to Grandcourt's past she
encouraged new doubts whether he were likely to have differed much from
other men; and she devised little schemes for learning what was expected
of men in general.
But whatever else might be true in the world, her hair was dressed
suitably for riding, and she went down in her riding-habit, to avoid delay
before getting on horseback. She wanted to have her blood stirred once
more with the intoxication of youth, and to recover the daring with which
she had been used to think of her course in life. Already a load was
lifted off her; for in daylight and activity it was less oppressive to
have doubts about her choice, than to feel that she had no choice but to
endure insignificance and servitude.
"Go back and make yourself look like a duchess, mamma," she said, turning
suddenly as she was going down-stairs. "Put your point-lace over your
head. I must have you look like a duchess. You must not take things
When Grandcourt raised her left hand gently and looked at the ring, she
said gravely, "It was very good of you to think of everything and send me
"You will tell me if there is anything I forget?" he said, keeping the
hand softly within his own. "I will do anything you wish."
"But I am very unreasonable in my wishes," said Gwendolen, smiling.
"Yes, I expect that. Women always are."
"Then I will not be unreasonable," said Gwendolen, taking away her hand
and tossing her head saucily. "I will not be told that I am what women
"I did not say that," said Grandcourt, looking at her with his usual
gravity. "You are what no other woman is."
"And what is that, pray?" said Gwendolen, moving to a distance with a
little air of menace.
Grandcourt made his pause before he answered. "You are the woman I love."
"Oh, what nice speeches!" said Gwendolen, laughing. The sense of that love
which he must once have given to another woman under strange circumstances
was getting familiar.
"Give me a nice speech in return. Say when we are to be married."
"Not yet. Not till we have had a gallop over the downs. I am so thirsty
for that, I can think of nothing else. I wish the hunting had begun.
Sunday the twentieth, twenty-seventh, Monday, Tuesday." Gwendolen was
counting on her fingers with the prettiest nod while she looked at
Grandcourt, and at last swept one palm over the other while she said
triumphantly, "It will begin in ten days!"
"Let us be married in ten days, then," said Grandcourt, "and we shall not
be bored about the stables."
"What do women always say in answer to that?" said Gwendolen,
"They agree to it," said the lover, rather off his guard.
"Then I will not!" said Gwendolen, taking up her gauntlets and putting
them on, while she kept her eyes on him with gathering fun in them.
The scene was pleasant on both sides. A cruder lover would have lost the
view of her pretty ways and attitudes, and spoiled all by stupid attempts
at caresses, utterly destructive of drama. Grandcourt preferred the drama;
and Gwendolen, left at ease, found her spirits rising continually as she
played at reigning. Perhaps if Klesmer had seen more of her in this
unconscious kind of acting, instead of when she was trying to be
theatrical, he might have rated her chance higher.
When they had had a glorious gallop, however, she was in a state of
exhilaration that disposed her to think well of hastening the marriage
which would make her life all of apiece with this splendid kind of
enjoyment. She would not debate any more about an act to which she had
committed herself; and she consented to fix the wedding on that day three
weeks, notwithstanding the difficulty of fulfilling the customary laws of
Lush, of course, was made aware of the engagement by abundant signs,
without being formally told. But he expected some communication as a
consequence of it, and after a few days he became rather impatient under
Grandcourt's silence, feeling sure that the change would affect his
personal prospects, and wishing to know exactly how. His tactics no longer
included any opposition--which he did not love for its own sake. He might
easily cause Grandcourt a great deal of annoyance, but it would be to his
own injury, and to create annoyance was not a motive with him. Miss
Gwendolen he would certainly not have been sorry to frustrate a little,
but--after all there was no knowing what would come. It was nothing new
that Grandcourt should show a perverse wilfulness; yet in his freak about
this girl he struck Lush rather newly as something like a man who was
_fey_--led on by an ominous fatality; and that one born to his fortune
should make a worse business of his life than was necessary, seemed really
pitiable. Having protested against the marriage, Lush had a second-sight
for its evil consequences. Grandcourt had been taking the pains to write
letters and give orders himself instead of employing Lush, and appeared to
be ignoring his usefulness, even choosing, against the habit of years, to
breakfast alone in his dressing-room. But a _tete-a-tete_ was not to be
avoided in a house empty of guests; and Lush hastened to use an
opportunity of saying--it was one day after dinner, for there were
difficulties in Grandcourt's dining at Offendene--
"And when is the marriage to take place?"
Grandcourt, who drank little wine, had left the table and was lounging,
while he smoked, in an easy chair near the hearth, where a fire of oak
boughs was gaping to its glowing depths, and edging them with a delicate
tint of ashes delightful to behold. The chair of red-brown velvet brocade
was a becoming back-ground for his pale-tinted, well-cut features and
exquisite long hands. Omitting the cigar, you might have imagined him a
portrait by Moroni, who would have rendered wonderfully the impenetrable
gaze and air of distinction; and a portrait by that great master would
have been quite as lively a companion as Grandcourt was disposed to be.
But he answered without unusual delay.
"On the tenth."
"I suppose you intend to remain here."
"We shall go to Ryelands for a little while; but we shall return here for
the sake of the hunting."
After this word there was the languid inarticulate sound frequent with
Grandcourt when he meant to continue speaking, and Lush waited for
something more. Nothing came, and he was going to put another question,
when the inarticulate sound began again and introduced the mildly uttered
"You had better make some new arrangement for yourself."
"What! I am to cut and run?" said Lush, prepared to be good-tempered on
"Something of that kind."
"The bride objects to me. I hope she will make up to you for the want of
"I can't help your being so damnably disagreeable to women," said
Grandcourt, in soothing apology.
"To one woman, if you please."
"It makes no difference since she is the one in question."
"I suppose I am not to be turned adrift after fifteen years without some
"You must have saved something out of me."
"Deuced little. I have often saved something for you."
"You can have three hundred a year. But you must live in town and be ready
to look after things when I want you. I shall be rather hard up."
"If you are not going to be at Ryelands this winter, I might run down
there and let you know how Swinton goes on."
"If you like. I don't care a toss where you are, so that you keep out of
"Much obliged," said Lush, able to take the affair more easily than he had
expected. He was supported by the secret belief that he should by-and-by
be wanted as much as ever.
"Perhaps you will not object to packing up as soon as possible," said
Grandcourt. "The Torringtons are coming, and Miss Harleth will be riding
"With all my heart. Can't I be of use in going to Gadsmere."
"No. I am going myself."