Part 7 out of 16
"About your being rather hard up. Have you thought of that plan--"
"Just leave me alone, will you?" said Grandcourt, in his lowest audible
tone, tossing his cigar into the fire, and rising to walk away.
He spent the evening in the solitude of the smaller drawing-room, whose,
with various new publications on the table of the kind a gentleman may
like to have on hand without touching, he employed himself (as a
philosopher might have done) in sitting meditatively on the sofa and
abstaining from literature--political, comic, cynical, or romantic. In
this way hours may pass surprisingly soon, without the arduous invisible
chase of philosophy; not from love of thought, but from hatred of effort--
from a state of the inward world, something like premature age, where the
need for action lapses into a mere image of what has been, is, and may or
might be; where impulse is born and dies in a phantasmal world, pausing in
rejection of even a shadowy fulfillment. That is a condition which often
comes with whitening hair; and sometimes, too, an intense obstinacy and
tenacity of rule, like the main trunk of an exorbitant egoism, conspicuous
in proportion as the varied susceptibilities of younger years are stripped
But Grandcourt's hair, though he had not much of it, was of a fine, sunny
blonde, and his moods were not entirely to be explained as ebbing energy.
We mortals have a strange spiritual chemistry going on within us, so that
a lazy stagnation or even a cottony milkiness may be preparing one knows
not what biting or explosive material. The navvy waking from sleep and
without malice heaving a stone to crush the life out of his still sleeping
comrade, is understood to lack the trained motive which makes a character
fairly calculable in its actions; but by a roundabout course even a
gentleman may make of himself a chancy personage, raising an uncertainty
as to what he may do next, that sadly spoils companionship.
Grandcourt's thoughts this evening were like the circlets one sees in a
dark pool, continually dying out and continually started again by some
impulse from below the surface. The deeper central impulse came from the
image of Gwendolen; but the thoughts it stirred would be imperfectly
illustrated by a reference to the amatory poets of all ages. It was
characteristic that he got none of his satisfaction from the belief that
Gwendolen was in love with him; and that love had overcome the jealous
resentment which had made her run away from him. On the contrary, he
believed that this girl was rather exceptional in the fact that, in spite
of his assiduous attention to her, she was not in love with him; and it
seemed to him very likely that if it had not been for the sudden poverty
which had come over her family, she would not have accepted him. From the
very first there had been an exasperating fascination in the tricksiness
with which she had--not met his advances, but--wheeled away from them. She
had been brought to accept him in spite of everything--brought to kneel
down like a horse under training for the arena, though she might have an
objection to it all the while. On the whole, Grandcourt got more pleasure
out of this notion than he could have done out of winning a girl of whom
he was sure that she had a strong inclination for him personally. And yet
this pleasure in mastering reluctance flourished along with the habitual
persuasion that no woman whom he favored could be quite indifferent to his
personal influence; and it seemed to him not unlikely that by-and-by
Gwendolen might be more enamored of him than he of her. In any case, she
would have to submit; and he enjoyed thinking of her as his future wife,
whose pride and spirit were suited to command every one but himself. He
had no taste for a woman who was all tenderness to him, full of
petitioning solicitude and willing obedience. He meant to be master of a
woman who would have liked to master him, and who perhaps would have been
capable of mastering another man.
Lush, having failed in his attempted reminder to Grandcourt, thought it
well to communicate with Sir Hugo, in whom, as a man having perhaps
interest enough to command the bestowal of some place where the work was
light, gentlemanly, and not ill-paid, he was anxious to cultivate a sense
of friendly obligation, not feeling at all secure against the future need
of such a place. He wrote the following letter, and addressed it to Park
Lane, whither he knew the family had returned from Leubronn:--
MY DEAR SIR HUGO--Since we came home the marriage has been absolutely
decided on, and is to take place in less than three weeks. It is so
far the worse for him that her mother has lately lost all her fortune,
and he will have to find supplies. Grandcourt, I know, is feeling the
want of cash; and unless some other plan is resorted to, he will be
raising money in a foolish way. I am going to leave Diplow
immediately, and I shall not be able to start the topic. What I should
advise is, that Mr. Deronda, who I know has your confidence, should
propose to come and pay a short visit here, according to invitation
(there are going to be other people in the house), and that you should
put him fully in possession of your wishes and the possible extent of
your offer. Then, that he should introduce the subject to Grandcourt
so as not to imply that you suspect any particular want of money on
his part, but only that there is a strong wish on yours, What I have
formerly said to him has been in the way of a conjecture that you
might be willing to give a good sum for his chance of Diplow; but if
Mr. Deronda came armed with a definite offer, that would take another
sort of hold. Ten to one he will not close for some time to come; but
the proposal will have got a stronger lodgment in his mind; and though
at present he has a great notion of the hunting here, I see a
likelihood, under the circumstances, that he will get a distaste for
the neighborhood, and there will be the notion of the money sticking
by him without being urged. I would bet on your ultimate success. As I
am not to be exiled to Siberia, but am to be within call, it is
possible that, by and by, I may be of more service to you. But at
present I can think of no medium so good as Mr. Deronda. Nothing puts
Grandcourt in worse humor than having the lawyers thrust their paper
under his nose uninvited.
Trusting that your visit to Leubronn has put you in excellent
condition for the winter, I remain, my dear Sir Hugo,
Yours very faithfully,
THOMAS CRANMER LUSH.
Sir Hugo, having received this letter at breakfast, handed it to Deronda,
who, though he had chambers in town, was somehow hardly ever in them, Sir
Hugo not being contented without him. The chatty baronet would have liked
a young companion even if there had been no peculiar reasons for
attachment between them: one with a fine harmonious unspoiled face fitted
to keep up a cheerful view of posterity and inheritance generally,
notwithstanding particular disappointments; and his affection for Deronda
was not diminished by the deep-lying though not obtrusive difference in
their notions and tastes. Perhaps it was all the stronger; acting as the
same sort of difference does between a man and a woman in giving a
piquancy to the attachment which subsists in spite of it. Sir Hugo did not
think unapprovingly of himself; but he looked at men and society from a
liberal-menagerie point of view, and he had a certain pride in Deronda's
differing from him, which, if it had found voice, might have said--"You
see this fine young fellow--not such as you see every day, is he?--he
belongs to me in a sort of way. I brought him up from a child; but you
would not ticket him off easily, he has notions of his own, and he's as
far as the poles asunder from what I was at his age." This state of
feeling was kept up by the mental balance in Deronda, who was moved by an
affectionateness such as we are apt to call feminine, disposing him to
yield in ordinary details, while he had a certain inflexibility of
judgment, and independence of opinion, held to be rightfully masculine.
When he had read the letter, he returned it without speaking, inwardly
wincing under Lush's mode of attributing a neutral usefulness to him in
the family affairs.
"What do you say, Dan? It would be pleasant enough for you. You have not
seen the place for a good many years now, and you might have a famous run
with the harriers if you went down next week," said Sir Hugo.
"I should not go on that account," said Deronda, buttering his bread
attentively. He had an objection to this transparent kind of
persuasiveness, which all intelligent animals are seen to treat with
indifference. If he went to Diplow he should be doing something
disagreeable to oblige Sir Hugo.
"I think Lush's notion is a good one. And it would be a pity to lose the
"That is a different matter--if you think my going of importance to your
object," said Deronda, still with that aloofness of manner which implied
some suppression. He knew that the baronet had set his heart on the
"Why, you will see the fair gambler, the Leubronn Diana, I shouldn't
wonder," said Sir Hugo, gaily. "We shall have to invite her to the Abbey,
when they are married," he added, turning to Lady Mallinger, as if she too
had read the letter.
"I cannot conceive whom you mean," said Lady Mallinger, who in fact had
not been listening, her mind having been taken up with her first sips of
coffee, the objectionable cuff of her sleeve, and the necessity of
carrying Theresa to the dentist--innocent and partly laudable
preoccupations, as the gentle lady's usually were. Should her appearance
be inquired after, let it be said that she had reddish blonde hair (the
hair of the period), a small Roman nose, rather prominent blue eyes and
delicate eyelids, with a figure which her thinner friends called fat, her
hands showing curves and dimples like a magnified baby's.
"I mean that Grandcourt is going to marry the girl you saw at Leubronn--
don't you remember her--the Miss Harleth who used to play at roulette."
"Dear me! Is that a good match for him?"
"That depends on the sort of goodness he wants," said Sir Hugo, smiling.
"However, she and her friends have nothing, and she will bring him
expenses. It's a good match for my purposes, because if I am willing to
fork out a sum of money, he may be willing to give up his chance of
Diplow, so that we shall have it out and out, and when I die you will have
the consolation of going to the place you would like to go to--wherever I
"I wish you would not talk of dying in that light way, dear."
"It's rather a heavy way, Lou, for I shall have to pay a heavy sum--forty
thousand, at least."
"But why are we to invite them to the Abbey?" said Lady Mallinger. "I do
_not_ like women who gamble, like Lady Cragstone."
"Oh, you will not mind her for a week. Besides, she is not like Lady
Cragstone because she gambled a little, any more than I am like a broker
because I'm a Whig. I want to keep Grandcourt in good humor, and to let
him see plenty of this place, that he may think the less of Diplow. I
don't know yet whether I shall get him to meet me in this matter. And if
Dan were to go over on a visit there, he might hold out the bait to him.
It would be doing me a great service." This was meant for Deronda.
"Daniel is not fond of Mr. Grandcourt, I think, is he?" said Lady
Mallinger, looking at Deronda inquiringly.
"There is no avoiding everybody one doesn't happen to be fond of," said
Deronda. "I will go to Diplow--I don't know that I have anything better to
do--since Sir Hugo wishes it."
"That's a trump!" said Sir Hugo, well pleased. "And if you don't find it
very pleasant, it's so much experience. Nothing used to come amiss to me
when I was young. You must see men and manners."
"Yes; but I have seen that man, and something of his manners too," said
"Not nice manners, I think," said Lady Mallinger.
"Well, you see they succeed with your sex," said Sir Hugo, provokingly.
"And he was an uncommonly good-looking fellow when he was two or three and
twenty--like his father. He doesn't take after his father in marrying the
heiress, though. If he had got Miss Arrowpoint and my land too, confound
him, he would have had a fine principality."
Deronda, in anticipating the projected visit, felt less disinclination
than when consenting to it. The story of that girl's marriage did interest
him: what he had heard through Lush of her having run away from the suit
of the man she was now going to take as a husband, had thrown a new sort
of light on her gambling; and it was probably the transition from that
fevered worldliness into poverty which had urged her acceptance where she
must in some way have felt repulsion. All this implied a nature liable to
difficulty and struggle--elements of life which had a predominant
attraction for his sympathy, due perhaps to his early pain in dwelling on
the conjectured story of his own existence. Persons attracted him, as Hans
Meyrick had done, in proportion to the possibility of his defending them,
rescuing them, telling upon their lives with some sort of redeeming
influence; and he had to resist an inclination, easily accounted for, to
withdraw coldly from the fortunate. But in the movement which had led him
to repurchase Gwendolen's necklace for her, and which was at work in him
still, there was something beyond his habitual compassionate fervor--
something due to the fascination of her womanhood. He was very open to
that sort of charm, and mingled it with the consciously Utopian pictures
of his own future; yet any one able to trace the folds of his character
might have conceived that he would be more likely than many less
passionate men to love a woman without telling her of it. Sprinkle food
before a delicate-eared bird: there is nothing he would more willingly
take, yet he keeps aloof, because of his sensibility to checks which to
you are imperceptible. And one man differs from another, as we all differ
from the Bosjesman, in a sensibility to checks, that come from variety of
needs, spiritual or other. It seemed to forshadow that capability of
reticence in Deronda that his imagination was much occupied with two
women, to neither of whom would he have held it possible that he should
ever make love. Hans Meyrick had laughed at him for having something of
the knight-errant in his disposition; and he would have found his proof if
he had known what was just now going on in Deronda's mind about Mirah and
Deronda wrote without delay to announce his visit to Diplow, and received
in reply a polite assurance that his coming would give great pleasure.
That was not altogether untrue. Grandcourt thought it probable that the
visit was prompted by Sir Hugo's desire to court him for a purpose which
he did not make up his mind to resist; and it was not a disagreeable idea
to him that this fine fellow, whom he believed to be his cousin under the
rose, would witness, perhaps with some jealousy, Henleigh Mallinger
Grandcourt play the commanding part of betrothed lover to a splendid girl
whom the cousin had already looked at with admiration.
Grandcourt himself was not jealous of anything unless it threatened his
mastery--which he did not think himself likely to lose.
"Surely whoever speaks to me in the right voice,
him or her I shall follow.
As the water follows the moon, silently,
with fluid steps anywhere around the globe."
"Now my cousins are at Diplow," said Grandcourt, "will you go there?--to-
morrow? The carriage shall come for Mrs. Davilow. You can tell me what you
would like done in the rooms. Things must be put in decent order while we
are away at Ryelands. And to-morrow is the only day."
He was sitting sideways on a sofa in the drawing-room at Offendene, one
hand and elbow resting on the back, and the other hand thrust between his
crossed knees--in the attitude of a man who is much interested in watching
the person next to him. Gwendolen, who had always disliked needlework, had
taken to it with apparent zeal since her engagement, and now held a piece
of white embroidery which, on examination, would have shown many false
stitches. During the last eight or nine days their hours had been chiefly
spent on horseback, but some margin had always been left for this more
difficult sort of companionship, which, however, Gwendolen had not found
disagreeable. She was very well satisfied with Grandcourt. His answers to
her lively questions about what he had seen and done in his life, bore
drawling very well. From the first she had noticed that he knew what to
say; and she was constantly feeling not only that he had nothing of the
fool in his composition, but that by some subtle means he communicated to
her the impression that all the folly lay with other people, who did what
he did not care to do. A man who seems to have been able to command the
best, has a sovereign power of depreciation. Then Grandcourt's behavior as
a lover had hardly at all passed the limit of an amorous homage which was
inobtrusive as a wafted odor of roses, and spent all its effects in a
gratified vanity. One day, indeed, he had kissed not her cheek but her
neck a little below her ear; and Gwendolen, taken by surprise, had started
up with a marked agitation which made him rise too and say, "I beg your
pardon--did I annoy you?" "Oh, it was nothing," said Gwendolen, rather
afraid of herself, "only I cannot bear--to be kissed under my ear." She
sat down again with a little playful laugh, but all the while she felt her
heart beating with a vague fear: she was no longer at liberty to flout him
as she had flouted poor Rex. Her agitation seemed not uncomplimentary, and
he had been contented not to transgress again.
To-day a slight rain hindered riding; but to compensate, a package had
come from London, and Mrs. Davilow had just left the room after bringing
in for admiration the beautiful things (of Grandcourt's ordering) which
lay scattered about on the tables. Gwendolen was just then enjoying the
scenery of her life. She let her hands fall on her lap, and said with a
pretty air of perversity--
"Why is to-morrow the only day?"
"Because the next day is the first with the hounds," said Grandcourt.
"And after that?"
"After that I must go away for a couple of days--it's a bore--but I shall
go one day and come back the next." Grandcourt noticed a change in her
face, and releasing his hand from under his knees, he laid it on hers, and
said, "You object to my going away?"
"It's no use objecting," said Gwendolen, coldly. She was resisting to the
utmost her temptation to tell him that she suspected to whom he was going
--the temptation to make a clean breast, speaking without restraint.
"Yes it is," said Grandcourt, enfolding her hand. "I will put off going.
And I will travel at night, so as only to be away one day." He thought
that he knew the reason of what he inwardly called this bit of temper, and
she was particularly fascinating to him at this moment.
"Then don't put off going, but travel at night," said Gwendolen, feeling
that she could command him, and finding in this peremptoriness a small
outlet for her irritation.
"Then you will go to Diplow to-morrow?"
"Oh, yes, if you wish it," said Gwendolen, in a high tone of careless
assent. Her concentration in other feelings had really hindered her from
taking notice that her hand was being held.
"How you treat us poor devils of men!" said Grandcourt. lowering his tone.
"We are always getting the worst of it."
"_Are_ you?" said Gwendolen, in a tone of inquiry, looking at him more
naively than usual. She longed to believe this commonplace _badinage_ as
the serious truth about her lover: in that case, she too was justified. If
she knew everything, Mrs. Glasher would appear more blamable than
Grandcourt. "_Are_ you always getting the worst?"
"Yes. Are you as kind to me as I am to you?" said Grandcourt, looking into
her eyes with his narrow gaze.
Gwendolen felt herself stricken. She was conscious of having received so
much, that her sense of command was checked, and sank away in the
perception that, look around her as she might, she could not turn back: it
was as if she had consented to mount a chariot where another held the
reins; and it was not in her nature to leap out in the eyes of the world.
She had not consented in ignorance, and all she could say now would be a
confession that she had not been ignorant. Her right to explanation was
gone. All she had to do now was to adjust herself, so that the spikes of
that unwilling penance which conscience imposed should not gall her. With
a sort of mental shiver, she resolutely changed her mental attitude. There
had been a little pause, during which she had not turned away her eyes;
and with a sudden break into a smile, she said--
"If I were as kind to you as you are to me, that would spoil your
generosity: it would no longer be as great as it could be--and it is that
"Then I am not to ask for one kiss," said Grandcourt, contented to pay a
large price for this new kind of love-making, which introduced marriage by
the finest contrast.
"Not one?" said Gwendolen, getting saucy, and nodding at him defiantly.
He lifted her little left hand to his lips, and then released it
respectfully. Clearly it was faint praise to say of him that he was not
disgusting: he was almost charming; and she felt at this moment that it
was not likely she could ever have loved another man better than this one.
His reticence gave her some inexplicable, delightful consciousness.
"Apropos," she said, taking up her work again, "is there any one besides
Captain and Mrs. Torrington at Diplow?--or do you leave them _tete-a-
tete_? I suppose he converses in cigars, and she answers with her
"She has a sister with her," said Grandcourt, with his shadow of a smile,
"and there are two men besides--one of them you know, I believe."
"Ah, then, I have a poor opinion of him," said Gwendolen, shaking her
"You saw him at Leubronn--young Deronda--a young fellow with the
Gwendolen felt as if her heart were making a sudden gambol, and her
fingers, which tried to keep a firm hold on her work got cold.
"I never spoke to him," she said, dreading any discernible change in
herself. "Is he not disagreeable?"
"No, not particularly," said Grandcourt, in his most languid way. "He
thinks a little too much of himself. I thought he had been introduced to
"No. Some one told me his name the evening before I came away? that was
all. What is he?"
"A sort of ward of Sir Hugo Mallinger's. Nothing of any consequence."
"Oh, poor creature! How very unpleasant for him!" said Gwendolen, speaking
from the lip, and not meaning any sarcasm. "I wonder if it has left off
raining!" she added, rising and going to look out of the window.
Happily it did not rain the next day, and Gwendolen rode to Diplow on
Criterion as she had done on that former day when she returned with her
mother in the carriage. She always felt the more daring for being in her
riding-dress; besides having the agreeable belief that she looked as well
as possible in it--a sustaining consciousness in any meeting which seems
formidable. Her anger toward Deronda had changed into a superstitious
dread--due, perhaps, to the coercion he had exercised over her thought--
lest the first interference of his in her life might foreshadow some
future influence. It is of such stuff that superstitions are commonly
made: an intense feeling about ourselves which makes the evening star
shine at us with a threat, and the blessing of a beggar encourage us. And
superstitions carry consequences which often verify their hope or their
The time before luncheon was taken up for Gwendolen by going over the
rooms with Mrs. Torrington and Mrs. Davilow; and she thought it likely
that if she saw Deronda, there would hardly be need for more than a bow
between them. She meant to notice him as little as possible.
And after all she found herself under an inward compulsion too strong for
her pride. From the first moment of their being in the room together, she
seemed to herself to be doing nothing but notice him; everything else was
automatic performance of an habitual part.
When he took his place at lunch, Grandcourt had said, "Deronda, Miss
Harleth tells me you were not introduced to her at Leubronn?"
"Miss Harleth hardly remembers me, I imagine," said Deronda, looking at
her quite simply, as they bowed. "She was intensely occupied when I saw
"*Now, did he suppose that she had not suspected him of being the person
who redeemed her necklace?"*
"On the contrary. I remember you very well," said Gwendolen, feeling
rather nervous, but governing herself and looking at him in return with
new examination. "You did not approve of my playing at roulette."
"How did you come to that conclusion?" said Deronda, gravely.
"Oh, you cast an evil eye on my play, said Gwendolen, with a turn of her
head and a smile." I began to lose as soon as you came to look on. I had
always been winning till then."
"Roulette in such a kennel as Leubronn is a horrid bore," said Grandcourt.
"_I_ found it a bore when I began to lose," said Gwendolen. Her face was
turned toward Grandcourt as she smiled and spoke, but she gave a sidelong
glance at Deronda, and saw his eyes fixed on her with a look so gravely
penetrating that it had a keener edge for her than his ironical smile at
her losses--a keener edge than Klesmer's judgment. She wheeled her neck
round as if she wanted to listen to what was being said by the rest, while
she was only thinking of Deronda. His face had that disturbing kind of
form and expression which threatens to affect opinion--as if one's
standard was somehow wrong. (Who has not seen men with faces of this
corrective power till they frustrated it by speech or action?) His voice,
heard now for the first time, was to Grandcourt's toneless drawl, which
had been in her ears every day, as the deep notes of a violoncello to the
broken discourse of poultry and other lazy gentry in the afternoon
sunshine. Grandcourt, she inwardly conjectured, was perhaps right in
saying that Deronda thought too much of himself:--a favorite way of
explaining a superiority that humiliates. However the talk turned on the
rinderpest and Jamaica, and no more was said about roulette. Grandcourt
held that the Jamaica negro was a beastly sort of baptist Caliban; Deronda
said he had always felt a little with Caliban, who naturally had his own
point of view and could sing a good song; Mrs. Davilow observed that her
father had an estate in Barbadoes, but that she herself had never been in
the West Indies; Mrs. Torrington was sure she should never sleep in her
bed if she lived among blacks; her husband corrected her by saying that
the blacks would be manageable enough if it were not for the half-breeds;
and Deronda remarked that the whites had to thank themselves for the half-
While this polite pea-shooting was going on, Gwendolen trifled with her
jelly, and looked at every speaker in turn that she might feel at ease in
looking at Deronda.
"I wonder what he thinks of me, really? He must have felt interested in
me, else he would not have sent me my necklace. I wonder what he thinks of
my marriage? What notions has he to make him so grave about things? Why is
he come to Diplow?"
These questions ran in her mind as the voice of an uneasy longing to be
judged by Deronda with unmixed admiration--a longing which had had its
seed in her first resentment at his critical glance. Why did she care so
much about the opinion of this man who was "nothing of any consequence"?
She had no time to find the reason--she was too much engaged in caring. In
the drawing-room, when something had called Grandcourt away, she went
quite unpremeditatedly up to Deronda, who was standing at a table apart,
turning over some prints, and said to him--
"Shall you hunt to-morrow, Mr. Deronda?"
"Yes, I believe so."
"You don't object to hunting, then?"
"I find excuses for it. It is a sin I am inclined to--when I can't get
boating or cricketing."
"Do you object to my hunting?" said Gwendolen, with a saucy movement of
"I have no right to object to anything you choose to do."
"You thought you had a right to object to my gambling," persisted
"I was sorry for it. I am not aware that I told you of my objection," said
Deronda, with his usual directness of gaze--a large-eyed gravity, innocent
of any intention. His eyes had a peculiarity which has drawn many men into
trouble; they were of a dark yet mild intensity which seemed to express a
special interest in every one on whom he fixed them, and might easily help
to bring on him those claims which ardently sympathetic people are often
creating in the minds of those who need help. In mendicant fashion we make
the goodness of others a reason for exorbitant demands on them. That sort
of effect was penetrating Gwendolen.
"You hindered me from gambling again," she answered. But she had no sooner
spoken than she blushed over face and neck; and Deronda blushed, too,
conscious that in the little affair of the necklace he had taken a
It was impossible to speak further; and she turned away to a window,
feeling that she had stupidly said what she had not meant to say, and yet
being rather happy that she had plunged into this mutual understanding.
Deronda also did not like it. Gwendolen seemed more decidedly attractive
than before; and certainly there had been changes going on within her
since that time at Leubronn: the struggle of mind attending a conscious
error had wakened something like a new soul, which had better, but also
worse, possibilities than her former poise of crude self-confidence: among
the forces she had come to dread was something within her that troubled
That evening Mrs. Davilow said, "Was it really so, or only a joke of
yours, about Mr. Deronda's spoiling your play, Gwen?"
Her curiosity had been excited, and she could venture to ask a question
that did not concern Mr. Grandcourt.
"Oh, it merely happened that he was looking on when I began to lose," said
Gwendolen, carelessly. "I noticed him."
"I don't wonder at that: he is a striking young man. He puts me in mind of
Italian paintings. One would guess, without being told, that there was
foreign blood in his veins."
"Is there?" said Gwendolen.
"Mrs. Torrington says so. I asked particularly who he was, and she told me
that his mother was some foreigner of high rank."
"His mother?" said Gwendolen, rather sharply. "Then who was his father?"
"Well--every one says he is the son of Sir Hugo Mallinger, who brought him
up; though he passes for a ward. She says, if Sir Hugo Mallinger could
have done as he liked with his estates, he would have left them to this
Mr. Deronda, since he has no legitimate son."
Gwendolen was silent; but her mother observed so marked an effect in her
face that she was angry with herself for having repeated Mrs. Torrington's
gossip. It seemed, on reflection, unsuited to the ear of her daughter, for
whom Mrs. Davilow disliked what is called knowledge of the world; and
indeed she wished that she herself had not had any of it thrust upon her.
An image which had immediately arisen in Gwendolen's mind was that of the
unknown mother--no doubt a dark-eyed woman--probably sad. Hardly any face
could be less like Deronda's than that represented as Sir Hugo's in a
crayon portrait at Diplow. A dark-eyed woman, no longer young, had become
"stuff o' the conscience" to Gwendolen.
That night when she had got into her little bed, and only a dim light was
burning, she said--
"Mamma, have men generally children before they are married?"
"No, dear, no," said Mrs. Davilow. "Why do you ask such a question?" (But
she began to think that she saw the why.)
"If it were so, I ought to know," said Gwendolen, with some indignation.
"You are thinking of what I said about Mr. Deronda and Sir Hugo Mallinger.
That is a very unusual case, dear,"
"Does Lady Mallinger know?"
"She knows enough to satisfy her. That is quite clear, because Mr. Deronda
has lived with them."
"And people think no worse of him?"
"Well, of course he is under some disadvantage: it is not as if he were
Lady Mallinger's son. He does not inherit the property, and he is not of
any consequence in the world. But people are not obliged to know anything
about his birth; you see, he is very well received."
"I wonder whether he knows about it; and whether he is angry with his
"My dear child, why should you think of that?"
"Why?" said Gwendolen, impetuously, sitting up in her bed. "Haven't
children reason to be angry with their parents? How can they help their
parents marrying or not marrying?"
But a consciousness rushed upon her, which made her fall back again on her
pillow. It was not only what she would have felt months before--that she
might seem to be reproaching her mother for that second marriage of hers;
what she chiefly felt now was, that she had been led on to a condemnation
which seemed to make her own marriage a forbidden thing.
There was no further talk, and till sleep came over her Gwendolen lay
struggling with the reasons against that marriage--reasons which pressed
upon her newly now that they were unexpectedly mirrored in the story of a
man whose slight relations with her had, by some hidden affinity, bitten
themselves into the most permanent layers of feeling. It was
characteristic that, with all her debating, she was never troubled by the
question whether the indefensibleness of her marriage did not include the
fact that she had accepted Grandcourt solely as a man whom it was
convenient for her to marry, not in the least as one to whom she would be
binding herself in duty. Gwendolen's ideas were pitiably crude; but many
grand difficulties of life are apt to force themselves on us in our
crudity. And to judge wisely, I suppose we must know how things appear to
the unwise; that kind of appearance making the larger part of the world's
In the morning there was a double excitement for her. She was going to
hunt, from which scruples about propriety had threatened to hinder her,
until it was found that Mrs. Torrington was horsewoman enough to accompany
her--going to hunt for the first time since her escapade with Rex; and she
was going again to see Deronda, in whom, since last night, her interest
had so gathered that she expected, as people do about revealed
celebrities, to see something in his appearance which she had missed
What was he going to be? What sort of life had he before him--he being
nothing of any consequence? And with only a little difference in events he
might have been as important as Grandcourt, nay--her imagination
inevitably went into that direction--might have held the very estates
which Grandcourt was to have. But now, Deronda would probably some day see
her mistress of the Abbey at Topping, see her bearing the title which
would have been his own wife's. These obvious, futile thoughts of what
might have been, made a new epoch for Gwendolen. She, whose unquestionable
habit it had been to take the best that came to her for less than her own
claim, had now to see the position which tempted her in a new light, as a
hard, unfair exclusion of others. What she had now heard about Deronda
seemed to her imagination to throw him into one group with Mrs. Glasher
and her children; before whom she felt herself in an attitude of apology--
she who had hitherto been surrounded by a group that in her opinion had
need be apologetic to her. Perhaps Deronda himself was thinking of these
things. Could he know of Mrs. Glasher? If he knew that she knew, he would
despise her; but he could have no such knowledge. Would he, without that,
despise her for marrying Grandcourt? His possible judgment of her actions
was telling on her as importunately as Klesmer's judgment of her powers;
but she found larger room for resistance to a disapproval of her marriage,
because it is easier to make our conduct seem justifiable to ourselves
than to make our ability strike others. "How can I help it?" is not our
favorite apology for incompetency. But Gwendolen felt some strength in
"How can I help what other people have done? Things would not come right
if I were to turn round now and declare that I would not marry Mr.
Grandcourt." And such turning round was out of the question. The horses in
the chariot she had mounted were going at full speed.
This mood of youthful, elated desperation had a tidal recurrence. She
could dare anything that lay before her sooner than she could choose to go
backward, into humiliation; and it was even soothing to think that there
would now be as much ill-doing in the one as in the other. But the
immediate delightful fact was the hunt, where she would see Deronda, and
where he would see her; for always lurking ready to obtrude before other
thoughts about him was the impression that he was very much interested in
her. But to-day she was resolved not to repeat her folly of yesterday, as
if she were anxious to say anything to him. Indeed, the hunt would be too
And so it was for a long while. Deronda was there, and within her sight
very often; but this only added to the stimulus of a pleasure which
Gwendolen had only once before tasted, and which seemed likely always to
give a delight independent of any crosses, except such as took away the
chance of riding. No accident happened to throw them together; the run
took them within convenient reach of home, and the agreeable sombreness of
the gray November afternoon, with a long stratum of yellow light in the
west, Gwendolen was returning with the company from Diplow, who were
attending her on the way to Offendene. Now the sense of glorious
excitement was over and gone, she was getting irritably disappointed that
she had had no opportunity of speaking to Deronda, whom she would not see
again, since he was to go away in a couple of days. What was she going to
say? That was not quite certain. She wanted to speak to him. Grandcourt
was by her side; Mrs. Torrington, her husband, and another gentleman in
advance; and Deronda's horse she could hear behind. The wish to speak to
him and have him speaking to her was becoming imperious; and there was no
chance of it unless she simply asserted her will and defied everything.
Where the order of things could give way to Miss Gwendolen, it must be
made to do so. They had lately emerged from a wood of pines and beeches,
where the twilight stillness had a repressing effect, which increased her
impatience. The horse-hoofs again heard behind at some little distance
were a growing irritation. She reined in her horse and looked behind her;
Grandcourt after a few paces, also paused; but she, waving her whip and
nodding sideways with playful imperiousness, said, "Go on! I want to speak
to Mr. Deronda."
Grandcourt hesitated; but that he would have done after any proposition.
It was an awkward situation for him. No gentleman, before marriage; could
give the emphasis of refusal to a command delivered in this playful way.
He rode on slowly, and she waited till Deronda came up. He looked at her
with tacit inquiry, and she said at once, letting her horse go alongside
"Mr. Deronda, you must enlighten my ignorance. I want to know why you
thought it wrong for me to gamble. Is it because I am a woman?"
"Not altogether; but I regretted it the more because you were a woman,"
said Deronda, with an irrepressible smile. Apparently it must be
understood between them now that it was he who sent the necklace. "I think
it would be better for men not to gamble. It is a besotting kind of taste,
likely to turn into a disease. And, besides, there is something revolting
to me in raking a heap of money together, and internally chuckling over
it, when others are feeling the loss of it. I should even call it base, if
it were more than an exceptional lapse. There are enough inevitable turns
of fortune which force us to see that our gain is another's loss:--that is
one of the ugly aspects of life. One would like to reduce it as much as
one could, not get amusement out of exaggerating it." Deronda's voice had
gathered some indignation while he was speaking.
"But you do admit that we can't help things," said Gwendolen, with a drop
in her tone. The answer had not been anything like what she had expected.
"I mean that things are so in spite of us; we can't always help it that
our gain is another's loss."
"Clearly. Because of that, we should help it where we can."
Gwendolen, biting her lip inside, paused a moment, and then forcing
herself to speak with an air of playfulness again, said--
"But why should you regret it more because I am a woman?"
"Perhaps because we need that you should be better than we are."
"But suppose _we_ need that men should be better than we are," said
Gwendolen with a little air of "check!"
"That is rather a difficulty," said Deronda, smiling. "I suppose I should
have said, we each of us think it would be better for the other to be
"You see, I needed you to be better than I was--and you thought so," said
Gwendolen, nodding and laughing, while she put her horse forward and
joined Grandcourt, who made no observation.
"Don't you want to know what I had to say to Mr. Deronda?" said Gwendolen,
whose own pride required her to account for her conduct.
"A--no," said Grandcourt, coldly.
"Now that is the first impolite word you have spoken--that you don't wish
to hear what I had to say," said Gwendolen, playing at a pout.
"I wish to hear what you say to me--not to other men," said Grandcourt.
"Then you wish to hear this. I wanted to make him tell me why he objected
to my gambling, and he gave me a little sermon."
"Yes--but excuse me the sermon." If Gwendolen imagined that Grandcourt
cared about her speaking to Deronda, he wished her to understand that she
was mistaken. But he was not fond of being told to ride on. She saw he was
piqued, but did not mind. She had accomplished her object of speaking
again to Deronda before he raised his hat and turned with the rest toward
Diplow, while her lover attended her to Offendene, where he was to bid
farewell before a whole day's absence on the unspecified journey.
Grandcourt had spoken truth in calling the journey a bore: he was going by
train to Gadsmere.
No penitence and no confessional,
No priest ordains it, yet they're forced to sit
Amid deep ashes of their vanished years.
Imagine a rambling, patchy house, the best part built of gray stone, and
red-tiled, a round tower jutting at one of the corners, the mellow
darkness of its conical roof surmounted by a weather-cock making an
agreeable object either amidst the gleams and greenth of summer or the
low-hanging clouds and snowy branches of winter: the ground shady with
spreading trees: a great tree flourishing on one side, backward some
Scotch firs on a broken bank where the roots hung naked, and beyond, a
rookery: on the other side a pool overhung with bushes, where the water-
fowl fluttered and screamed: all around, a vast meadow which might be
called a park, bordered by an old plantation and guarded by stone ledges
which looked like little prisons. Outside the gate the country, once
entirely rural and lovely, now black with coal mines, was chiefly peopled
by men and brethren with candles stuck in their hats, and with a diabolic
complexion which laid them peculiarly open to suspicion in the eyes of the
children at Gadsmere--Mrs. Glasher's four beautiful children, who had
dwelt there for about three years. Now, in November, when the flower-beds
were empty, the trees leafless, and the pool blackly shivering, one might
have said that the place was sombrely in keeping with the black roads and
black mounds which seemed to put the district in mourning;--except when
the children were playing on the gravel with the dogs for their
companions. But Mrs. Glasher, under her present circumstances, liked
Gadsmere as well as she would have liked any other abode. The complete
seclusion of the place, which the unattractiveness of the country secured,
was exactly to her taste. When she drove her two ponies with a waggonet
full of children, there were no gentry in carriages to be met, only men of
business in gigs; at church there were no eyes she cared to avoid, for the
curate's wife and the curate himself were either ignorant of anything to
her disadvantage, or ignored it: to them she was simply a widow lady, the
tenant of Gadsmere; and the name of Grandcourt was of little interest in
that district compared with the names of Fletcher and Gawcome, the lessees
of the collieries.
It was full ten years since the elopement of an Irish officer's beautiful
wife with young Grandcourt, and a consequent duel where the bullets
wounded the air only, had made some little noise. Most of those who
remembered the affair now wondered what had become of that Mrs. Glasher,
whose beauty and brilliancy had made her rather conspicuous to them in
foreign places, where she was known to be living with young Grandcourt.
That he should have disentangled himself from that connection seemed only
natural and desirable. As to her, it was thought that a woman who was
understood to have forsaken her child along with her husband had probably
sunk lower. Grandcourt had of course got weary of her. He was much given
to the pursuit of women: but a man in his position would by this time
desire to make a suitable marriage with the fair young daughter of a noble
house. No one talked of Mrs. Glasher now, any more than they talked of the
victim in a trial for manslaughter ten years before: she was a lost vessel
after whom nobody would send out an expedition of search; but Grandcourt
was seen in harbor with his colors flying, registered as seaworthy as
Yet, in fact, Grandcourt had never disentangled himself from Mrs. Glasher.
His passion for her had been the strongest and most lasting he had ever
known; and though it was now as dead as the music of a cracked flute, it
had left a certain dull disposedness, which, on the death of her husband
three years before, had prompted in him a vacillating notion of marrying
her, in accordance with the understanding often expressed between them
during the days of his first ardor. At that early time Grandcourt would
willingly have paid for the freedom to be won by a divorce; but the
husband would not oblige him, not wanting to be married again himself, and
not wishing to have his domestic habits printed in evidence.
The altered poise which the years had brought in Mrs. Glasher was just the
reverse. At first she was comparatively careless about the possibility of
marriage. It was enough that she had escaped from a disagreeable husband
and found a sort of bliss with a lover who had completely fascinated her--
young, handsome, amorous, and living in the best style, with equipage and
conversation of the kind to be expected in young men of fortune who have
seen everything. She was an impassioned, vivacious woman, fond of
adoration, exasperated by five years of marital rudeness; and the sense of
release was so strong upon her that it stilled anxiety for more than she
actually enjoyed. An equivocal position was of no importance to her then;
she had no envy for the honors of a dull, disregarded wife: the one spot
which spoiled her vision of her new pleasant world, was the sense that she
left her three-year-old boy, who died two years afterward, and whose first
tones saying "mamma" retained a difference from those of the children that
came after. But now the years had brought many changes besides those in
the contour of her cheek and throat; and that Grandcourt should marry her
had become her dominant desire. The equivocal position which she had not
minded about for herself was now telling upon her through her children,
whom she loved with a devotion charged with the added passion of
atonement. She had no repentance except in this direction. If Grandcourt
married her, the children would be none the worse off for what had passed:
they would see their mother in a dignified position, and they would be at
no disadvantage with the world: her son could be made his father's heir.
It was the yearning for this result which gave the supreme importance to
Grandcourt's feeling for her; her love for him had long resolved itself
into anxiety that he should give her the unique, permanent claim of a
wife, and she expected no other happiness in marriage than the
satisfaction of her maternal love and pride--including her pride for
herself in the presence of her children. For the sake of that result she
was prepared even with a tragic firmness to endure anything quietly in
marriage; and she had acuteness enough to cherish Grandcourt's flickering
purpose negatively, by not molesting him with passionate appeals and with
scene-making. In her, as in every one else who wanted anything of him, his
incalculable turns, and his tendency to harden under beseeching, had
created a reasonable dread:--a slow discovery, of which no presentiment
had been given in the bearing of a youthful lover with a fine line of face
and the softest manners. But reticence had necessarily cost something to
this impassioned woman, and she was the bitterer for it. There is no
quailing--even that forced on the helpless and injured--which has not an
ugly obverse: the withheld sting was gathering venom. She was absolutely
dependent on Grandcourt; for though he had been always liberal in expenses
for her, he had kept everything voluntary on his part; and with the goal
of marriage before her, she would ask for nothing less. He had said that
he would never settle anything except by will; and when she was thinking
of alternatives for the future it often occurred to her that, even if she
did not become Grandcourt's wife, he might never have a son who would have
a legitimate claim on him, and the end might be that her son would be made
heir to the best part of his estates. No son at that early age could
promise to have more of his father's physique. But her becoming
Grandcourt's wife was so far from being an extravagant notion of
possibility, that even Lush had entertained it, and had said that he would
as soon bet on it as on any other likelihood with regard to his familiar
companion. Lush, indeed, on inferring that Grandcourt had a preconception
of using his residence at Diplow in order to win Miss Arrowpoint, had
thought it well to fan that project, taking it as a tacit renunciation of
the marriage with Mrs. Glasher, which had long been a mark for the
hovering and wheeling of Grandcourt's caprice. But both prospects had been
negatived by Gwendolen's appearance on the scene; and it was natural
enough for Mrs. Glasher to enter with eagerness into Lush's plan of
hindering that new danger by setting up a barrier in the mind of the girl
who was being sought as a bride. She entered into it with an eagerness
which had passion in it as well as purpose, some of the stored-up venom
delivering itself in that way.
After that, she had heard from Lush of Gwendolen's departure, and the
probability that all danger from her was got rid of; but there had been no
letter to tell her that the danger had returned and had become a
certainty. She had since then written to Grandcourt, as she did
habitually, and he had been longer than usual in answering. She was
inferring that he might intend coming to Gadsmere at the time when he was
actually on the way; and she was not without hope--what construction of
another's mind is not strong wishing equal to?--that a certain sickening
from that frustrated courtship might dispose him to slip the more easily
into the old track of intention.
Grandcourt had two grave purposes in coming to Gadsmere: to convey the
news of his approaching marriage in person, in order to make this first
difficulty final; and to get from Lydia his mother's diamonds, which long
ago he had confided to her and wished her to wear. Her person suited
diamonds, and made them look as if they were worth some of the money given
for them. These particular diamonds were not mountains of light--they were
mere peas and haricots for the ears, neck and hair; but they were worth
some thousands, and Grandcourt necessarily wished to have them for his
wife. Formerly when he had asked Lydia to put them into his keeping again,
simply on the ground that they would be safer and ought to be deposited at
the bank, she had quietly but absolutely refused, declaring that they were
quite safe; and at last had said, "If you ever marry another woman I will
give them up to her: are you going to marry another woman?" At that time
Grandcourt had no motive which urged him to persist, and he had this grace
in him, that the disposition to exercise power either by cowing or
disappointing others or exciting in them a rage which they dared not
express--a disposition which was active in him as other propensities
became languid--had always been in abeyance before Lydia. A severe
interpreter might say that the mere facts of their relation to each other,
the melancholy position of this woman who depended on his will, made a
standing banquet for his delight in dominating. But there was something
else than this in his forbearance toward her: there was the surviving
though metamorphosed effect of the power she had had over him; and it was
this effect, the fitful dull lapse toward solicitations that once had the
zest now missing from life, which had again and again inclined him to
espouse a familiar past rather than rouse himself to the expectation of
novelty. But now novelty had taken hold of him and urged him to make the
most of it.
Mrs. Glasher was seated in the pleasant room where she habitually passed
her mornings with her children round her. It had a square projecting
window and looked on broad gravel and grass, sloping toward a little brook
that entered the pool. The top of a low, black cabinet, the old oak table,
the chairs in tawny leather, were littered with the children's toys, books
and garden garments, at which a maternal lady in pastel looked down from
the walls with smiling indulgence. The children were all there. The three
girls, seated round their mother near the widow, were miniature portraits
of her--dark-eyed, delicate-featured brunettes with a rich bloom on their
cheeks, their little nostrils and eyebrows singularly finished as if they
were tiny women, the eldest being barely nine. The boy was seated on the
carpet at some distance, bending his blonde head over the animals from a
Noah ark, admonishing them separately in a voice of threatening command,
and occasionally licking the spotted ones to see if the colors would hold.
Josephine, the eldest, was having her French lesson; and the others, with
their dolls on their laps, sat demurely enough for images of the Madonna.
Mrs. Glasher's toilet had been made very carefully--each day now she said
to herself that Grandcourt might come in. Her head, which, spite of
emaciation, had an ineffaceable beauty in the fine profile, crisp curves
of hair, and clearly-marked eyebrows, rose impressively above her bronze-
colored silk and velvet, and the gold necklace which Grandcourt had first
clasped round her neck years ago. Not that she had any pleasure in her
toilet; her chief thought of herself seen in the glass was, "How
changed!"--but such good in life as remained to her she would keep. If her
chief wish were fulfilled, she could imagine herself getting the
comeliness of a matron fit for the highest rank. The little faces beside
her, almost exact reductions of her own, seemed to tell of the blooming
curves which had once been where now was sunken pallor. But the children
kissed the pale cheeks and never found them deficient. That love was now
the one end of her life.
Suddenly Mrs. Glasher turned away her head from Josephine's book and
listened. "Hush, dear! I think some one is coming."
Henleigh the boy jumped up and said, "Mamma, is it the miller with my
He got no answer, and going up to his mamma's knee repeated his question
in an insistent tone. But the door opened, and the servant announced Mr.
Grandcourt. Mrs. Glasher rose in some agitation. Henleigh frowned at him
in disgust at his not being the miller, and the three little girls lifted
up their dark eyes to him timidly. They had none of them any particular
liking for this friend of mamma's--in fact, when he had taken Mrs.
Glasher's hand and then turned to put his other hand on Henleigh's head,
that energetic scion began to beat the friend's arm away with his fists.
The little girls submitted bashfully to be patted under the chin and
kissed, but on the whole it seemed better to send them into the garden,
where they were presently dancing and chatting with the dogs on the
"How far are you come?" said Mrs. Glasher, as Grandcourt put away his hat
"From Diplow," he answered slowly, seating himself opposite her and
looking at her with an unnoting gaze which she noted.
"You are tired, then."
"No, I rested at the Junction--a hideous hole. These railway journeys are
always a confounded bore. But I had coffee and smoked."
Grandcourt drew out his handkerchief, rubbed his face, and in returning
the handkerchief to his pocket looked at his crossed knee and blameless
boot, as if any stranger were opposite to him, instead of a woman
quivering with a suspense which every word and look of his was to incline
toward hope or dread. But he was really occupied with their interview and
what it was likely to include. Imagine the difference in rate of emotion
between this woman whom the years had worn to a more conscious dependence
and sharper eagerness, and this man whom they were dulling into a more
"I expected to see you--it was so long since I had heard from you. I
suppose the weeks seem longer at Gadsmere than they do at Diplow," said
Mrs. Glasher. She had a quick, incisive way of speaking that seemed to go
with her features, as the tone and _timbre_ of a violin go with its form.
"Yes," drawled Grandcourt. "But you found the money paid into the bank."
"Oh, yes," said Mrs. Glasher, curtly, tingling with impatience. Always
before--at least she fancied so--Grandcourt had taken more notice of her
and the children than he did to-day.
"Yes," he resumed, playing with his whisker, and at first not looking at
her, "the time has gone on at rather a rattling pace with me; generally it
is slow enough. But there has been a good deal happening, as you know"--
here he turned his eyes upon her.
"What do I know?" said she, sharply.
He left a pause before he said, without change of manner, "That I was
thinking of marrying. You saw Miss Harleth?"
"_She_ told you that?"
The pale cheeks looked even paler, perhaps from the fierce brightness in
the eyes above them.
"No. Lush told me," was the slow answer. It was as if the thumb-screw and
the iron boot were being placed by creeping hands within sight of the
"Good God! say at once that you are going to marry her," she burst out,
passionately, her knees shaking and her hands tightly clasped.
"Of course, this kind of thing must happen some time or other, Lydia,"
said he; really, now the thumb-screw was on, not wishing to make the pain
"You didn't always see the necessity."
"Perhaps not. I see it now."
In those few under-toned words of Grandcourt's she felt as absolute a
resistance as if her thin fingers had been pushing at a fast shut iron
door. She knew her helplessness, and shrank from testing it by any appeal
--shrank from crying in a dead ear and clinging to dead knees, only to see
the immovable face and feel the rigid limbs. She did not weep nor speak;
she was too hard pressed by the sudden certainty which had as much of
chill sickness in it as of thought and emotion. The defeated clutch of
struggling hope gave her in these first moments a horrible sensation. At
last she rose, with a spasmodic effort, and, unconscious of every thing
but her wretchedness, pressed her forehead against the hard, cold glass of
the window. The children, playing on the gravel, took this as a sign that
she wanted them, and, running forward, stood in front of her with their
sweet faces upturned expectantly. This roused her: she shook her head at
them, waved them off, and overcome with this painful exertion, sank back
in the nearest chair.
Grandcourt had risen too. He was doubly annoyed--at the scene itself, and
at the sense that no imperiousness of his could save him from it; but the
task had to be gone through, and there was the administrative necessity of
arranging things so that there should be as little annoyance as possible
in the future. He was leaning against the corner of the fire-place. She
looked up at him and said, bitterly--
"All this is of no consequence to you. I and the children are importunate
creatures. You wish to get away again and be with Miss Harleth."
"Don't make the affair more disagreeable than it need be. Lydia. It is of
no use to harp on things that can't be Altered. Of course, its deucedly
disagreeable to me to see you making yourself miserable. I've taken this
journey to tell you what you must make up your mind to:--you and the
children will be provided for as usual;--and there's an end of it."
Silence. She dared not answer. This woman with the intense, eager look had
had the iron of the mother's anguish in her soul, and it had made her
sometimes capable of a repression harder than shrieking and struggle. But
underneath the silence there was an outlash of hatred and vindictiveness:
she wished that the marriage might make two others wretched, besides
herself. Presently he went on--
"It will be better for you. You may go on living here. But I think of by-
and-by settling a good sum on you and the children, and you can live where
you like. There will be nothing for you to complain of then. Whatever
happens, you will feel secure. Nothing could be done beforehand. Every
thing has gone on in a hurry."
Grandcourt ceased his slow delivery of sentences. He did not expect her to
thank him, but he considered that she might reasonably be contented; if it
were possible for Lydia to be contented. She showed no change, and after a
minute he said--
"You have never had any reason to fear that I should be illiberal. I don't
care a curse about the money."
"If you did care about it, I suppose you would not give it us," said
Lydia. The sarcasm was irrepressible.
"That's a devilishly unfair thing to say," Grandcourt replied, in a lower
tone; "and I advise you not to say that sort of thing again."
"Should you punish me by leaving the children in beggary?" In spite of
herself, the one outlet of venom had brought the other.
"There is no question about leaving the children in beggary," said
Grandcourt, still in his low voice. "I advise you not to say things that
you will repent of."
"I am used to repenting," said she, bitterly. "Perhaps you will repent.
You have already repented of loving me."
"All this will only make it uncommonly difficult for us to meet again.
What friend have you besides me?"
The words came like a low moan. At the same moment there flashed through
her the wish that after promising himself a better happiness than that he
had had with her, he might feel a misery and loneliness which would drive
him back to her to find some memory of a time when he was young, glad, and
hopeful. But no! he would go scathless; it was she that had to suffer.
With this the scorching words were ended. Grandcourt had meant to stay
till evening; he wished to curtail his visit, but there was no suitable
train earlier than the one he had arranged to go by, and he had still to
speak to Lydia on the second object of his visit, which like a second
surgical operation seemed to require an interval. The hours had to go by;
there was eating to be done; the children came in--all this mechanism of
life had to be gone through with the dreary sense of constraint which is
often felt in domestic quarrels of a commoner kind. To Lydia it was some
slight relief for her stifled fury to have the children present: she felt
a savage glory in their loveliness, as if it would taunt Grandcourt with
his indifference to her and them--a secret darting of venom which was
strongly imaginative. He acquitted himself with all the advantage of a man
whose grace of bearing has long been moulded on an experience of boredom--
nursed the little Antonia, who sat with her hands crossed and eyes
upturned to his bald head, which struck her as worthy of observation--and
propitiated Henleigh by promising him a beautiful saddle and bridle. It
was only the two eldest girls who had known him as a continual presence;
and the intervening years had overlaid their infantine memories with a
bashfulness which Grandcourt's bearing was not likely to dissipate. He and
Lydia occasionally, in the presence of the servants, made a conventional
remark; otherwise they never spoke; and the stagnant thought in
Grandcourt's mind all the while was of his own infatuation in having given
her those diamonds, which obliged him to incur the nuisance of speaking
about them. He had an ingrained care for what he held to belong to his
caste, and about property he liked to be lordly; also he had a
consciousness of indignity to himself in having to ask for anything in the
world. But however he might assert his independence of Mrs. Glasher's
past, he had made a past for himself which was a stronger yoke than any he
could impose. He must ask for the diamonds which he had promised to
At last they were alone again, with the candles above them, face to face
with each other. Grandcourt looked at his watch, and then said, in an
apparently indifferent drawl, "There is one thing I had to mention, Lydia.
My diamonds--you have them."
"Yes, I have them," she answered promptly, rising and standing with her
arms thrust down and her fingers threaded, while Grandcourt sat still. She
had expected the topic, and made her resolve about it. But she meant to
carry out her resolve, if possible, without exasperating him. During the
hours of silence she had longed to recall the words which had only widened
the breach between them.
"They are in this house, I suppose?"
"No; not in this house."
"I thought you said you kept them by you."
"When I said so it was true. They are in the bank at Dudley."
"Get them away, will you? I must make an arrangement for your delivering
them to some one."
"Make no arrangement. They shall be delivered to the person you intended
them for. _I_ will make the arrangement."
"What do you mean?"
"What I say. I have always told you that I would give them up to your
wife. I shall keep my word. She is not your wife yet."
"This is foolery," said Grandcourt, with undertoned disgust. It was too
irritating that this indulgence of Lydia had given her a sort of mastery
over him in spite of dependent condition.
She did not speak. He also rose now, but stood leaning against the mantle-
piece with his side-face toward her.
"The diamonds must be delivered to me before my marriage," he began again.
"What is your wedding-day?"
"The tenth. There is no time to be lost."
"And where do you go after the marriage?"
He did not reply except by looking more sullen. Presently he said, "You
must appoint a day before then, to get them from the bank and meet me--or
somebody else I will commission;--it's a great nuisance, Mention a day."
"No; I shall not do that. They shall be delivered to her safely. I shall
keep my word."
"Do you mean to say," said Grandcourt, just audibly, turning to face her,
"that you will not do as I tell you?"
"Yes, I mean that," was the answer that leaped out, while her eyes flashed
close to him. The poor creature was immediately conscious that if her
words had any effect on her own lot, the effect must be mischievous, and
might nullify all the remaining advantage of her long patience. But the
word had been spoken.
He was in a position the most irritating to him. He could not shake her
nor touch her hostilely; and if he could, the process would not bring his
mother's diamonds. He shrank from the only sort of threat that would
frighten her--if she believed it. And in general, there was nothing he
hated more than to be forced into anything like violence even in words:
his will must impose itself without trouble. After looking at her for a
moment, he turned his side-face toward her again, leaning as before, and
"Infernal idiots that women are!"
"Why will you not tell me where you are going after the marriage? I could
be at the wedding if I liked, and learn in that way," said Lydia, not
shrinking from the one suicidal form of threat within her power.
"Of course, if you like, you can play the mad woman," said Grandcourt,
with _sotto voce_ scorn. "It is not to be supposed that you will wait to
think what good will come of it--or what you owe to me."
He was in a state of disgust and embitterment quite new in the history of
their relation to each other. It was undeniable that this woman, whose
life he had allowed to send such deep suckers into his, had a terrible
power of annoyance in her; and the rash hurry of his proceedings had left
her opportunities open. His pride saw very ugly possibilities threatening
it, and he stood for several minutes in silence reviewing the situation--
considering how he could act upon her. Unlike himself she was of a direct
nature, with certain simple strongly-colored tendencies, and there was one
often-experienced effect which he thought he could count upon now. As Sir
Hugo had said of him, Grandcourt knew how to play his cards upon occasion.
He did not speak again, but looked at his watch, rang the bell, and
ordered the vehicle to be brought round immediately. Then he removed
farther from her, walked as if in expectation of a summons, and remained
silent without turning his eyes upon her.
She was suffering the horrible conflict of self-reproach and tenacity. She
saw beforehand Grandcourt leaving her without even looking at her again--
herself left behind in lonely uncertainty--hearing nothing from him--not
knowing whether she had done her children harm--feeling that she had
perhaps made him hate her;--all the wretchedness of a creature who had
defeated her own motives. And yet she could not bear to give up a purpose
which was a sweet morsel to her vindictiveness. If she had not been a
mother she would willingly have sacrificed herself to her revenge--to what
she felt to be the justice of hindering another from getting happiness by
willingly giving her over to misery. The two dominant passions were at
struggle. She must satisfy them both.
"Don't let us part in anger, Henleigh," she began, without changing her
voice or attitude: "it is a very little thing I ask. If I were refusing to
give anything up that you call yours it would be different: that would be
a reason for treating me as if you hated me. But I ask such a little
thing. If you will tell me where you are going on the wedding-day I will
take care that the diamonds shall be delivered to her without scandal.
Without scandal," she repeated entreatingly.
"Such preposterous whims make a woman odious," said Grandcourt, not giving
way in look or movement. "What is the use of talking to mad people?"
"Yes, I am foolish--loneliness has made me foolish--indulge me." Sobs rose
as she spoke. "If you will indulge me in this one folly I will be very
meek--I will never trouble you." She burst into hysterical crying, and
said again almost with a scream--"I will be very meek after that."
There was a strange mixture of acting and reality in this passion. She
kept hold of her purpose as a child might tighten its hand over a small
stolen thing, crying and denying all the while. Even Grandcourt was
wrought upon by surprise: this capricious wish, this childish violence,
was as unlike Lydia's bearing as it was incongruous with her person. Both
had always had a stamp of dignity on them. Yet she seemed more manageable
in this state than in her former attitude of defiance. He came close up to
her again, and said, in his low imperious tone, "Be quiet, and hear what I
tell you, I will never forgive you if you present yourself again and make
She pressed her handkerchief against her face, and when she could speak
firmly said, in the muffled voice that follows sobbing, "I will not--if
you will let me have my way--I promise you not to thrust myself forward
again. I have never broken my word to you--how many have you broken to me?
When you gave me the diamonds to wear you were not thinking of having
another wife. And I now give them up--I don't reproach you--I only ask you
to let me give them up in my own way. Have I not borne it well? Everything
is to be taken away from me, and when I ask for a straw, a chip--you deny
it me." She had spoken rapidly, but after a little pause she said more
slowly, her voice freed from its muffled tone: "I will not bear to have it
Grandcourt had a baffling sense that he had to deal with something like
madness; he could only govern by giving way. The servant came to say the
fly was ready. When the door was shut again Grandcourt said sullenly, "We
are going to Ryelands then."
"They shall be delivered to her there," said Lydia, with decision.
"Very well, I am going." He felt no inclination even to take her hand: she
had annoyed him too sorely. But now that she had gained her point, she was
prepared to humble herself that she might propitiate him.
"Forgive me; I will never vex you again," she said, with beseeching looks.
Her inward voice said distinctly--"It is only I who have to forgive." Yet
she was obliged to ask forgiveness.
"You had better keep that promise. You have made me feel uncommonly ill
with your folly," said Grandcourt, apparently choosing this statement as
the strongest possible use of language.
"Poor thing!" cried Lydia, with a faint smile;--was he aware of the minor
fact that he made her feel ill this morning?
But with the quick transition natural to her, she was now ready to coax
him if he would let her, that they might part in some degree reconciled.
She ventured to lay her hand on his shoulder, and he did not move away
from her: she had so far succeeded in alarming him, that he was not sorry
for these proofs of returned subjection.
"Light a cigar," she said, soothingly, taking the case from his breast-
pocket and opening it.
Amidst such caressing signs of mutual fear they parted. The effect that
clung and gnawed within Grandcourt was a sense of imperfect mastery.
"A wild dedication of yourselves
To unpath'd waters, undreamed shores."
On the day when Gwendolen Harleth was married and became Mrs. Grandcourt,
the morning was clear and bright, and while the sun was low a slight frost
crisped the leaves. The bridal party was worth seeing, and half Pennicote
turned out to see it, lining the pathway up to the church. An old friend
of the rector's performed the marriage ceremony, the rector himself acting
as father, to the great advantage of the procession. Only two faces, it
was remarked, showed signs of sadness--Mrs. Davilow's and Anna's. The
mother's delicate eyelids were pink, as if she had been crying half the
night; and no one was surprised that, splendid as the match was, she
should feel the parting from a daughter who was the flower of her children
and of her own life. It was less understood why Anna should be troubled
when she was being so well set off by the bridesmaid's dress. Every one
else seemed to reflect the brilliancy of the occasion--the bride most of
all. Of her it was agreed that as to figure and carriage she was worthy to
be a "lady o' title": as to face, perhaps it might be thought that a title
required something more rosy; but the bridegroom himself not being fresh-
colored--being indeed, as the miller's wife observed, very much of her own
husband's complexion--the match was the more complete. Anyhow he must be
very fond of her; and it was to be hoped that he would never cast it up to
her that she had been going out to service as a governess, and her mother
to live at Sawyer's Cottage--vicissitudes which had been much spoken of in
the village. The miller's daughter of fourteen could not believe that high
gentry behaved badly to their wives, but her mother instructed her--"Oh,
child, men's men: gentle or simple, they're much of a muchness. I've heard
my mother say Squire Pelton used to take his dogs and a long whip into his
wife's room, and flog 'em there to frighten her; and my mother was lady's-
maid there at the very time."
"That's unlucky talk for a wedding, Mrs. Girdle," said the tailor. "A
quarrel may end wi' the whip, but it begins wi' the tongue, and it's the
women have got the most o' that."
"The Lord gave it 'em to use, I suppose," said Mrs. Girdle. "_He_ never
meant you to have it all your own way."
"By what I can make out from the gentleman as attends to the grooming at
Offendene," said the tailor, "this Mr. Grandcourt has wonderful little
tongue. Everything must be done dummy-like without his ordering."
"Then he's the more whip, I doubt," said Mrs. Girdle. "_She's_ got tongue
enough, I warrant her. See, there they come out together!"
"What wonderful long corners she's got to her eyes!" said the tailor. "She
makes you feel comical when she looks at you."
Gwendolen, in fact, never showed more elasticity in her bearing, more
lustre in her long brown glance: she had the brilliancy of strong
excitement, which will sometimes come even from pain. It was not pain,
however, that she was feeling: she had wrought herself up to much the same
condition as that in which she stood at the gambling-table when Deronda
was looking at her, and she began to lose. There was an enjoyment in it:
whatever uneasiness a growing conscience had created was disregarded as an
ailment might have been, amidst the gratification of that ambitious vanity
and desire for luxury within her which it would take a great deal of slow
poisoning to kill. This morning she could not have said truly that she
repented her acceptance of Grandcourt, or that any fears in hazy
perspective could hinder the glowing effect of the immediate scene in
which she was the central object. That she was doing something wrong--that
a punishment might be hanging over her--that the woman to whom she had
given a promise and broken it, was thinking of her in bitterness and
misery with a just reproach--that Deronda with his way of looking into
things very likely despised her for marrying Grandcourt, as he had
despised her for gambling--above all, that the cord which united her with
this lover and which she had heretofore held by the hand, was now being
flung over her neck,--all this yeasty mingling of dimly understood facts
with vague but deep impressions, and with images half real, half
fantastic, had been disturbing her during the weeks of her engagement. Was
that agitating experience nullified this morning? No: it was surmounted
and thrust down with a sort of exulting defiance as she felt herself
standing at the game of life with many eyes upon her, daring everything to
win much--or if to lose, still with _eclat_ and a sense of importance. But
this morning a losing destiny for herself did not press upon her as a
fear: she thought that she was entering on a fuller power of managing
circumstances--with all the official strength of marriage, which some
women made so poor a use of. That intoxication of youthful egoism out of
which she had been shaken by trouble, humiliation, and a new sense of
culpability, had returned upon her under a newly-fed strength of the old
fumes. She did not in the least present the ideal of the tearful,
tremulous bride. Poor Gwendolen, whom some had judged much too forward and
instructed in the world's ways!--with her erect head and elastic footstep
she was walking among illusions; and yet, too, there was an under-
consciousness of her that she was a little intoxicated.
"Thank God you bear it so well, my darling!" said Mrs. Davilow, when she
had helped Gwendolen to doff her bridal white and put on her traveling
dress. All the trembling had been done by the poor mother, and her
agitation urged Gwendolen doubly to take the morning as if it were a
"Why, you might have said that, if I had been going to Mrs. Mompert's, you
dear, sad, incorrigible mamma!" said Gwendolen just putting her hands to
her mother's cheeks with laughing tenderness--then retreating a little and
spreading out her arms as if to exhibit herself: "Here am I--Mrs.
Grandcourt! what else would you have me, but what I am sure to be? You
know you were ready to die with vexation when you thought that I would not
be Mrs. Grandcourt."
"Hush, hush, my child, for heaven's sake!" said Mrs. Davilow, almost in a
whisper. "How can I help feeling it when I am parting from you. But I can
bear anything gladly if you are happy."
"Not gladly, mamma, no!" said Gwendolen, shaking her head, with a bright
smile. "Willingly you would bear it, but always sorrowfully. Sorrowing is
your sauce; you can take nothing without it." Then, clasping her mother's
shoulders and raining kisses first on one cheek and then on the other
between her words, she said, gaily, "And you shall sorrow over my having
everything at my beck---and enjoying everything glorious--splendid houses
--and horses--and diamonds, I shall have diamonds--and going to court--and
being Lady Certainly--and Lady Perhaps--and grand here--and tantivy there
--and always loving you better than anybody else in the world."
"My sweet child!--But I shall not be jealous if you love your husband
better; and he will expect to be first."
Gwendolen thrust out her lips and chin with a pretty grimace, saying,
"Rather a ridiculous expectation. However, I don't mean to treat him ill,
unless he deserves it."
Then the two fell into a clinging embrace, and Gwendolen could not hinder
a rising sob when she said, "I wish you were going with me, mamma."
But the slight dew on her long eyelashes only made her the more charming
when she gave her hand to Grandcourt to be led to the carriage.
The rector looked in on her to give a final "Good-bye; God bless you; we
shall see you again before long," and then returned to Mrs. Davilow,
saying half cheerfully, half solemnly--
"Let us be thankful, Fanny. She is in a position well suited to her, and
beyond what I should have dared to hope for. And few women can have been
chosen more entirely for their own sake. You should feel yourself a happy
* * * * *
There was a railway journey of some fifty miles before the new husband and
wife reached the station near Ryelands. The sky had veiled itself since
the morning, and it was hardly more than twilight when they entered the
park-gates, but still Gwendolen, looking out of the carriage-window as
they drove rapidly along, could see the grand outlines and the nearer
beauties of the scene--the long winding drive bordered with evergreens
backed by huge gray stems: then the opening of wide grassy spaces and
undulations studded with dark clumps; till at last came a wide level where
the white house could be seen, with a hanging wood for a back-ground, and
the rising and sinking balustrade of a terrace in front.
Gwendolen had been at her liveliest during the journey, chatting
incessantly, ignoring any change in their mutual position since yesterday;
and Grandcourt had been rather ecstatically quiescent, while she turned
his gentle seizure of her hand into a grasp of his hand by both hers, with
an increased vivacity as of a kitten that will not sit quiet to be petted.
She was really getting somewhat febrile in her excitement; and now in this
drive through the park her usual susceptibility to changes of light and
scenery helped to make her heart palpitate newly. Was it at the novelty
simply, or the almost incredible fulfilment about to be given to her
girlish dreams of being "somebody"--walking through her own furlong of
corridor and under her own ceilings of an out-of-sight loftiness, where
her own painted Spring was shedding painted flowers, and her own fore-
shortened Zephyrs were blowing their trumpets over her; while her own
servants, lackeys in clothing but men in bulk and shape, were as nought in
her presence, and revered the propriety of her insolence to them:--being
in short the heroine of an admired play without the pains of art? Was it
alone the closeness of this fulfilment which made her heart flutter? or
was it some dim forecast, the insistent penetration of suppressed
experience, mixing the expectation of a triumph with the dread of a
crisis? Hers was one of the natures in which exultation inevitably
carries an infusion of dread ready to curdle and declare itself.
She fell silent in spite of herself as they approached the gates, and when
her husband said, "Here we are at home!" and for the first time kissed her
on the lips, she hardly knew of it: it was no more than the passive
acceptance of a greeting in the midst of an absorbing show. Was not all
her hurrying life of the last three months a show, in which her
consciousness was a wondering spectator? After the half-willful excitement
of the day, a numbness had come over her personality.
But there was a brilliant light in the hall--warmth, matting, carpets,
full-length portraits, Olympian statues, assiduous servants. Not many
servants, however: only a few from Diplow in addition to those constantly
in charge of the house; and Gwendolen's new maid, who had come with her,
was taken under guidance by the housekeeper. Gwendolen felt herself being
led by Grandcourt along a subtly-scented corridor, into an ante-room where
she saw an open doorway sending out a rich glow of light and color.
"These are our dens," said Grandcourt. "You will like to be quiet here
till dinner. We shall dine early."
He pressed her hand to his lips and moved away, more in love than he had
ever expected to be.
Gwendolen, yielded up her hat and mantle, threw herself into a chair by
the glowing hearth, and saw herself repeated in glass panels with all her
faint-green satin surroundings. The housekeeper had passed into this
boudoir from the adjoining dressing-room and seemed disposed to linger,
Gwendolen thought, in order to look at the new mistress of Ryelands, who,
however, being impatient for solitude said to her, "Will you tell Hudson
when she has put out my dress to leave everything? I shall not want her
again, unless I ring."
The housekeeper, coming forward, said, "Here is a packet, madam, which I
was ordered to give into nobody's hands but yours, when you were alone.
The person who brought it said it was a present particularly ordered by
Mr. Grandcourt; but he was not to know of its arrival till he saw you wear
it. Excuse me, madam; I felt it right to obey orders."
Gwendolen took the packet and let it lie on her lap till she heard the
doors close. It came into her mind that the packet might contain the
diamonds which Grandcourt had spoken of as being deposited somewhere and
to be given to her on her marriage. In this moment of confused feeling and
creeping luxurious languor she was glad of this diversion--glad of such an
event as having her own diamonds to try on.
Within all the sealed paper coverings was a box, but within the box there
_was_ a jewel-case; and now she felt no doubt that she had the diamonds.
But on opening the case, in the same instant that she saw them gleam she
saw a letter lying above them. She knew the handwriting of the address. It
was as if an adder had lain on them. Her heart gave a leap which seemed to
have spent all her strength; and as she opened the bit of thin paper, it
shook with the trembling of her hands. But it was legible as print, and
thrust its words upon her.
These diamonds, which were once given with ardent love to Lydia
Glasher, she passes on to you. You have broken your word to her, that
you might possess what was hers. Perhaps you think of being happy, as
she once was, and of having beautiful children such as hers, who will
thrust hers aside. God is too just for that. The man you have married
has a withered heart. His best young love was mine: you could not take
that from me when you took the rest. It is dead: but I am the grave
in which your chance of happiness is buried as well as mine. You had
your warning. You have chosen to injure me and my children. He had
meant to marry me. He would have married me at last, if you had not
broken your word. You will have your punishment. I desire it with all
Will you give him this letter to set him against me and ruin us more--
me and my children? Shall you like to stand before your husband with
these diamonds on you, and these words of mine in his thoughts and
yours? Will he think you have any right to complain when he has made
you miserable? You took him with your eyes open. The willing wrong you
have done me will be your curse.
It seemed at first as if Gwendolen's eyes were spell-bound in reading the
horrible words of the letter over and over again as a doom of penance; but
suddenly a new spasm of terror made her lean forward and stretch out the
paper toward the fire, lest accusation and proof at once should meet all
eyes. It flew like a feather from her trembling fingers and was caught up
in a great draught of flame. In her movement the casket fell on the floor
and the diamonds rolled out. She took no notice, but fell back in her
chair again helpless. She could not see the reflections of herself then;
they were like so many women petrified white; but coming near herself you
might have seen the tremor in her lips and hands. She sat so for a long
while, knowing little more than that she was feeling ill, and that those
written words kept repeating themselves to her.
Truly here were poisoned gems, and the poison had entered into this poor
After that long while, there was a tap at the door and Grandcourt entered,
dressed for dinner. The sight of him brought a new nervous shock, and
Gwendolen screamed again and again with hysterical violence. He had
expected to see her dressed and smiling, ready to be led down. He saw her
pallid, shrieking as it seemed with terror, the jewels scattered around
her on the floor. Was it a fit of madness?
In some form or other the furies had crossed his threshold.
In all ages it hath been a favorite text that a potent love hath the
nature of an isolated fatality, whereto the mind's opinions and wonted
resolves are altogether alien; as, for example, Daphnis his frenzy,
wherein it had little availed him to have been convinced of Heraclitus
his doctrine; or the philtre-bred passion of Tristan, who, though he
had been as deep as Duns Scotus, would have had his reasoning marred
by that cup too much; or Romeo in his sudden taking for Juliet,
wherein any objections he might have held against Ptolemy had made
little difference to his discourse under the balcony. Yet all love is
not such, even though potent; nay, this passion hath as large scope as
any for allying itself with every operation of the soul: so that it
shall acknowledge an effect from the imagined light of unproven
firmaments, and have its scale set to the grander orbits of what hath
been and shall be.
Deronda, on his return to town, could assure Sir Hugo of his having lodged
in Grandcourt's mind a distinct understanding that he could get fifty
thousand pounds by giving up a prospect which was probably distant, and
not absolutely certain; but he had no further sign of Grandcourt's
disposition in the matter than that he was evidently inclined to keep up
"And what did you think of the future bride on a nearer survey?" said Sir
"I thought better of her than I did in Leubronn. Roulette was not a good
setting for her; it brought out something of the demon. At Dinlow she
seemed much more womanly and attractive--less hard and self-possessed. I
thought her mouth and eyes had quite a different expression."
"Don't flirt with her too much, Dan," said Sir Hugo, meaning to be
agreeably playful. "If you make Grandcourt savage when they come to the
Abbey at Christmas, it will interfere with my affairs."
"I can stay in town, sir."
"No, no. Lady Mallinger and the children can't do without you at
Christmas. Only don't make mischief--unless you can get up a duel, and
manage to shoot Grandcourt, which might be worth a little inconvenience."
"I don't think you ever saw me flirt," said Deronda, not amused.
"Oh, haven't I, though?" said Sir Hugo, provokingly. "You are always
looking tenderly at the women, and talking to them in a Jesuitical way.
You are a dangerous young fellow--a kind of Lovelace who will make the
Clarissas run after you instead of you running after them."
What was the use of being exasperated at a tasteless joke?--only the
exasperation comes before the reflection on utility. Few friendly remarks
are more annoying than the information that we are always seeming to do
what we never mean to do. Sir Hugo's notion of flirting, it was to be
hoped, was rather peculiar; for his own part, Deronda was sure that he had
never flirted. But he was glad that the baronet had no knowledge about the
repurchase of Gwendolen's necklace to feed his taste for this kind of
He would be on his guard in future; for example, in his behavior at Mrs.
Meyrick's, where he was about to pay his first visit since his arrival
from Leubronn. For Mirah was certainly a creature in whom it was difficult
not to show a tender kind of interest both by looks and speech.
Mrs. Meyrick had not failed to send Deronda a report of Mirah's well-being
in her family. "We are getting fonder of her every day," she had written.
"At breakfast-time we all look toward the door with expectation to see her
come in; and we watch her and listen to her as if she were a native from a
new country. I have not heard a word from her lips that gives me a doubt
about her. She is quite contented and full of gratitude. My daughters are
learning from her, and they hope to get her other pupils; for she is
anxious not to eat the bread of idleness, but to work, like my girls. Mab
says our life has become like a fairy tale, and all she is afraid of is
that Mirah will turn into a nightingale again and fly away from us. Her
voice is just perfect: not loud and strong, but searching and melting,
like the thoughts of what has been. That is the way old people like me
feel a beautiful voice."
But Mrs. Meyrick did not enter into particulars which would have required
her to say that Amy and Mab, who had accompanied Mirah to the synagogue,
found the Jewish faith less reconcilable with their wishes in her case
than in that of Scott's Rebecca. They kept silence out of delicacy to
Mirah, with whom her religion was too tender a subject to be touched
lightly; but after a while Amy, who was much of a practical reformer,
could not restrain a question.
"Excuse me, Mirah, but _does_ it seem quite right to you that the women
should sit behind rails in a gallery apart?"
"Yes, I never thought of anything else," said Mirah, with mild surprise.
"And you like better to see the men with their hats on?" said Mab,
cautiously proposing the smallest item of difference.
"Oh, yes. I like what I have always seen there, because it brings back to
me the same feelings--the feelings I would not part with for anything else
in the world."
After this, any criticism, whether of doctrine or practice, would have
seemed to these generous little people an inhospitable cruelty. Mirah's
religion was of one fibre with her affections, and had never presented
itself to her as a set of propositions.
"She says herself she is a very bad Jewess, and does not half know her
people's religion," said Amy, when Mirah was gone to bed. "Perhaps it
would gradually melt away from her, and she would pass into Christianity
like the rest of the world, if she got to love us very much, and never
found her mother. It is so strange to be of the Jews' religion now."
"Oh, oh, oh!" cried Mab. "I wish I were not such a hideous Christian. How
can an ugly Christian, who is always dropping her work, convert a
beautiful Jewess, who has not a fault?"
"It may be wicked of me," said shrewd Kate, "but I cannot help wishing
that her mother may not be found. There might be something unpleasant.
"I don't think it, my dear," said Mrs. Meyrick. "I believe Mirah is cut
out after the pattern of her mother. And what a joy it would be to her to
have such a daughter brought back again! But a mother's feelings are not
worth reckoning, I suppose" (she shot a mischievous glance at her own
daughters), "and a dead mother is worth more that a living one?"
"Well, and so she may be, little mother," said Kate; "but we would rather
hold you cheaper, and have you alive."
Not only the Meyricks, whose various knowledge had been acquired by the
irregular foraging to which clever girls have usually been reduced, but
Deronda himself, with all his masculine instruction, had been roused by
this apparition of Mirah to the consciousness of knowing hardly anything
about modern Judaism or the inner Jewish history. The Chosen People have
been commonly treated as a people chosen for the sake of somebody else;
and their thinking as something (no matter exactly what) that ought to
have been entirely otherwise; and Deronda, like his neighbors, had
regarded Judaism as a sort of eccentric fossilized form which an
accomplished man might dispense with studying, and leave to specialists.
But Mirah, with her terrified flight from one parent, and her yearning
after the other, had flashed on him the hitherto neglected reality that
Judaism was something still throbbing in human lives, still making for
them the only conceivable vesture of the world; and in the idling
excursion on which he immediately afterward set out with Sir Hugo he began
to look for the outsides of synagogues, and the title of books about the
Jews. This awakening of a new interest--this passing from the supposition
that we hold the right opinions on a subject we are careless about, to a
sudden care for it, and a sense that our opinions were ignorance--is an
effectual remedy for _ennui_, which, unhappily, cannot be secured on a
physician's prescription; but Deronda had carried it with him, and endured
his weeks of lounging all the better. It was on this journey that he first
entered a Jewish synagogue--at Frankfort--where his party rested on a
Friday. In exploring the Juden-gasse, which he had seen long before, he
remembered well enough its picturesque old houses; what his eyes chiefly
dwelt on now were the human types there; and his thought, busily
connecting them with the past phases of their race, stirred that fibre of
historic sympathy which had helped to determine in him certain traits
worth mentioning for those who are interested in his future. True, when a
young man has a fine person, no eccentricity of manners, the education of
a gentleman, and a present income, it is not customary to feel a prying
curiosity about his way of thinking, or his peculiar tastes. He may very
well be settled in life as an agreeable clever young fellow without
passing a special examination on those heads. Later, when he is getting
rather slovenly and portly, his peculiarities are more distinctly
discerned, and it is taken as a mercy if they are not highly
objectionable. But any one wishing to understand the effect of after-
events on Deronda should know a little more of what he was at five-and-
twenty than was evident in ordinary intercourse.
It happened that the very vividness of his impressions had often made him
the more enigmatic to his friends, and had contributed to an apparent
indefiniteness in his sentiments. His early-wakened sensibility and
reflectiveness had developed into a many-sided sympathy, which threatened
to hinder any persistent course of action: as soon as he took up any
antagonism, though only in thought, he seemed to himself like the Sabine
warriors in the memorable story--with nothing to meet his spear but flesh
of his flesh, and objects that he loved. His imagination had so wrought
itself to the habit of seeing things as they probably appeared to others,
that a strong partisanship, unless it were against an immediate
oppression, had become an insincerity for him. His plenteous, flexible
sympathy had ended by falling into one current with that reflective
analysis which tends to neutralize sympathy. Few men were able to keep
themselves clearer of vices than he; yet he hated vices mildly, being used
to think of them less in the abstract than as a part of mixed human
natures having an individual history, which it was the bent of his mind to
trace with understanding and pity. With the same innate balance he was
fervidly democratic in his feeling for the multitude, and yet, through his
affections and imagination, intensely conservative; voracious of
speculations on government and religion, yet both to part with long-
sanctioned forms which, for him, were quick with memories and sentiments
that no argument could lay dead. We fall on the leaning side; and Deronda
suspected himself of loving too well the losing causes of the world.
Martyrdom changes sides, and he was in danger of changing with it, having
a strong repugnance to taking up that clue of success which the order of
the world often forces upon us and makes it treason against the common
weal to reject. And yet his fear of falling into an unreasoning narrow
hatred made a check for him: he apologized for the heirs of privilege; he
shrank with dislike from the loser's bitterness and the denunciatory tone
of the unaccepted innovator. A too reflective and diffusive sympathy was
in danger of paralyzing in him that indignation against wrong and that
selectness of fellowship which are the conditions of moral force; and in
the last few years of confirmed manhood he had become so keenly aware of
this that what he most longed for was either some external event, or some
inward light, that would urge him into a definite line of action, and
compress his wandering energy. He was ceasing to care for knowledge--he
had no ambition for practice--unless they could both be gathered up into
one current with his emotions; and he dreaded, as if it were a dwelling-
place of lost souls, that dead anatomy of culture which turns the universe
into a mere ceaseless answer to queries, and knows, not everything, but
everything else about everything--as if one should be ignorant of nothing
concerning the scent of violets except the scent itself for which one had
no nostril. But how and whence was the needed event to come?--the
influence that would justify partiality, and make him what he longed to
be, yet was unable to make himself--an organic part of social life,
instead of roaming in it like a yearning disembodied spirit, stirred with
a vague social passion, but without fixed local habitation to render
fellowship real? To make a little difference for the better was what he
was not contented to live without; but how to make it? It is one thing to
see your road, another to cut it. He found some of the fault in his birth
and the way he had been brought up, which had laid no special demands on
him and had given him no fixed relationship except one of a doubtful kind;
but he did not attempt to hide from himself that he had fallen into a
meditative numbness, and was gliding farther and farther from that life of
practically energetic sentiment which he would have proclaimed (if he had
been inclined to proclaim anything) to be the best of all life, and for
himself the only way worth living. He wanted some way of keeping emotion
and its progeny of sentiments--which make the savors of life--substantial
and strong in the face of a reflectiveness that threatened to nullify all
differences. To pound the objects of sentiment into small dust, yet keep
sentiment alive and active, was something like the famous recipe for
making cannon--to first take a round hole and then enclose it with iron;
whatever you do keeping fast hold of your round hole. Yet how distinguish
what our will may wisely save in its completeness, from the heaping of
cat-mummies and the expensive cult of enshrined putrefactions?
Something like this was the common under-current in Deronda's mind while
he was reading law or imperfectly attending to polite conversation.
Meanwhile he had not set about one function in particular with zeal and
steadiness. Not an admirable experience, to be proposed as an ideal; but a
form of struggle before break of day which some young men since the
patriarch have had to pass through, with more or less of bruising if not
I have said that under his calm exterior he had a fervor which made him
easily feel the presence of poetry in everyday events; and the forms of
the Juden-gasse, rousing the sense of union with what is remote, set him
musing on two elements of our historic life which that sense raises into
the same region of poetry;--the faint beginnings of faiths and
institutions, and their obscure lingering decay; the dust and withered
remnants with which they are apt to be covered, only enhancing for the
awakened perception the impressiveness either of a sublimely penetrating
life, as in the twin green leaves that will become the sheltering tree, or
of a pathetic inheritance in which all the grandeur and the glory have
become a sorrowing memory.
This imaginative stirring, as he turned out of the Juden-gasse, and
continued to saunter in the warm evening air, meaning to find his way to
the synagogue, neutralized the repellent effect of certain ugly little
incidents on his way. Turning into an old book-shop to ask the exact time
of service at the synagogue, he was affectionately directed by a
precocious Jewish youth, who entered cordially into his wanting, not the
fine new building of the Reformed but the old Rabbinical school of the
orthodox; and then cheated him like a pure Teuton, only with more amenity,
in his charge for a book quite out of request as one "nicht so leicht zu
bekommen." Meanwhile at the opposite counter a deaf and grisly tradesman
was casting a flinty look at certain cards, apparently combining
advantages of business with religion, and shoutingly proposed to him in
Jew-dialect by a dingy man in a tall coat hanging from neck to heel, a bag
in hand, and a broad low hat surmounting his chosen nose--who had no
sooner disappeared than another dingy man of the same pattern issued from
the background glooms of the shop and also shouted in the same dialect. In
fact, Deronda saw various queer-looking Israelites not altogether without
guile, and just distinguishable from queer-looking Christians of the same
mixed _morale_. In his anxiety about Mirah's relatives, he had lately been
thinking of vulgar Jews with a sort of personal alarm. But a little
comparison will often diminish our surprise and disgust at the aberrations
of Jews and other dissidents whose lives do not offer a consistent or
lovely pattern of their creed; and this evening Deronda, becoming more
conscious that he was falling into unfairness and ridiculous exaggeration,
began to use that corrective comparison: he paid his thaler too much,
without prejudice to his interests in the Hebrew destiny, or his wish to
find the _Rabbinische Schule_, which he arrived at by sunset, and entered
with a good congregation of men.
He happened to take his seat in a line with an elderly man from whom he
was distant enough to glance at him more than once as rather a noticeable
figure--his ample white beard and felt hat framing a profile of that fine
contour which may as easily be Italian as Hebrew. He returned Deronda's
notice till at last their eyes met; an undesirable chance with unknown
persons, and a reason to Deronda for not looking again; but he immediately
found an open prayer-book pushed toward him and had to bow his thanks.
However, the congregation had mustered, the reader had mounted to the
_almemor_ or platform, and the service began. Deronda, having looked
enough at the German translation of the Hebrew in the book before him to
know that he was chiefly hearing Psalms and Old Testament passages or
phrases, gave himself up to that strongest effect of chanted liturgies
which is independent of detailed verbal meaning--like the effect of an
Allegri's _Miserere_ or a Palestrina's _Magnificat_. The most powerful
movement of feeling with a liturgy is the prayer which seeks for nothing
special, but is a yearning to escape from the limitations of our own
weakness and an invocation of all Good to enter and abide with us; or else
a self-oblivious lifting up of Gladness, a _Gloria in excelsis_ that such
Good exists; both the yearning and the exaltation gathering their utmost
force from the sense of communion in a form which has expressed them both,
for long generations of struggling fellow-men. The Hebrew liturgy, like
others, has its transitions of litany, lyric, proclamation, dry statement
and blessing; but this evening, all were one for Deronda: the chant of the
_Chazaris_ or Reader's grand wide-ranging voice with its passage from
monotony to sudden cries, the outburst of sweet boys' voices from the
little choir, the devotional swaying of men's bodies backward and forward,
the very commonness of the building and shabbiness of the scene where a
national faith, which had penetrated the thinking of half the world, and
moulded the splendid forms of that world's religion, was finding a remote,
obscure echo--all were blent for him as one expression of a binding
history, tragic and yet glorious. He wondered at the strength of his own
feeling; it seemed beyond the occasion--what one might imagine to be a
divine influx in the darkness, before there was any vision to interpret.
The whole scene was a coherent strain, its burden a passionate regret,
which, if he had known the liturgy for the Day of Reconciliation, he might
have clad in its authentic burden; "Happy the eye which saw all these
things; but verily to hear only of them afflicts our soul. Happy the eye
that saw our temple and the joy of our congregation; but verily to hear
only of them afflicts our soul. Happy the eye that saw the fingers when
tuning every kind of song; but verily to hear only of them afflicts our
But with the cessation of the devotional sounds and the movement of many
indifferent faces and vulgar figures before him there darted into his mind
the frigid idea that he had probably been alone in his feeling, and
perhaps the only person in the congregation for whom the service was more
than a dull routine. There was just time for this chilling thought before
he had bowed to his civil neighbor and was moving away with the rest--when
he felt a hand on his arm, and turning with the rather unpleasant
sensation which this abrupt sort of claim is apt to bring, he saw close to
him the white-bearded face of that neighbor, who said to him in German,
"Excuse me, young gentleman--allow me--what is your parentage--your
mother's family--her maiden name?"
Deronda had a strongly resistant feeling: he was inclined to shake off
hastily the touch on his arm; but he managed to slip it away and said
coldly, "I am an Englishman."
The questioner looked at him dubiously still for an instant, then just
lifted his hat and turned away; whether under a sense of having made a
mistake or of having been repulsed, Deronda was uncertain. In his walk
back to the hotel he tried to still any uneasiness on the subject by
reflecting that he could not have acted differently. How could he say that
he did not know the name of his mother's family to that total stranger?--
who indeed had taken an unwarrantable liberty in the abruptness of his
question, dictated probably by some fancy of likeness such as often occurs
without real significance. The incident, he said to himself, was trivial;