Daniel Deronda

by George Eliot




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Chapter XXXV

Were uneasiness of conscience measured by extent of crime, human history had been different, and one should look to see the contrivers of greedy wars and the mighty marauders of the money-market in one troop of self-lacerating penitents with the meaner robber and cutpurse and the murderer that doth his butchery in small with his own hand. No doubt wickedness hath its rewards to distribute; but who so wins in this devil’s game must needs be baser, more cruel, more brutal than the order of this planet will allow for the multitude born of woman, the most of these carrying a form of conscience⁠—a fear which is the shadow of justice, a pity which is the shadow of love⁠—that hindereth from the prize of serene wickedness, itself difficult of maintenance in our composite flesh.

On the twenty-ninth of December Deronda knew that the Grandcourts had arrived at the Abbey, but he had had no glimpse of them before he went to dress for dinner. There had been a splendid fall of snow, allowing the party of children the rare pleasures of snowballing and snow-building, and in the Christmas holidays the Mallinger girls were content with no amusement unless it were joined in and managed by “cousin,” as they had always called Deronda. After that outdoor exertion he had been playing billiards, and thus the hours had passed without his dwelling at all on the prospect of meeting Gwendolen at dinner. Nevertheless that prospect was interesting to him; and when, a little tired and heated with working at amusement, he went to his room before the half-hour bell had rung, he began to think of it with some speculation on the sort of influence her marriage with Grandcourt would have on her, and on the probability that there would be some discernible shades of change in her manner since he saw her at Diplow, just as there had been since his first vision of her at Leubronn.

“I fancy there are some natures one could see growing or degenerating every day, if one watched them,” was his thought. “I suppose some of us go on faster than others: and I am sure she is a creature who keeps strong traces of anything that has once impressed her. That little affair of the necklace, and the idea that somebody thought her gambling wrong, had evidently bitten into her. But such impressibility leads both ways: it may drive one to desperation as soon as to anything better. And whatever fascinations Grandcourt may have for capricious tastes⁠—good heavens! who can believe that he would call out the tender affections in daily companionship? One might be tempted to horsewhip him for the sake of getting some show of passion into his face and speech. I’m afraid she married him out of ambition⁠—to escape poverty. But why did she run out of his way at first? The poverty came after, though. Poor thing! she may have been urged into it. How can one feel anything else than pity for a young creature like that⁠—full of unused life⁠—ignorantly rash⁠—hanging all her blind expectations on that remnant of a human being.”

Doubtless the phrases which Deronda’s meditation applied to the bridegroom were the less complimentary for the excuses and pity in which it clad the bride. His notion of Grandcourt as a “remnant” was founded on no particular knowledge, but simply on the impression which ordinary polite intercourse had given him that Grandcourt had worn out all his natural healthy interest in things.

In general, one may be sure that whenever a marriage of any mark takes place, male acquaintances are likely to pity the bride, female acquaintances the bridegroom: each, it is thought, might have done better; and especially where the bride is charming, young gentlemen on the scene are apt to conclude that she can have no real attachment to a fellow so uninteresting to themselves as her husband, but has married him on other grounds. Who, under such circumstances, pities the husband? Even his female friends are apt to think his position retributive: he should have chosen someone else. But perhaps Deronda may be excused that he did not prepare any pity for Grandcourt, who had never struck acquaintances as likely to come out of his experiences with more suffering than he inflicted; whereas, for Gwendolen, young, headlong, eager for pleasure, fed with the flattery which makes a lovely girl believe in her divine right to rule⁠—how quickly might life turn from expectancy to a bitter sense of the irremediable! After what he had seen of her he must have had rather dull feelings not to have looked forward with some interest to her entrance into the room. Still, since the honeymoon was already three weeks in the distance, and Gwendolen had been enthroned, not only at Ryelands, but at Diplow, she was likely to have composed her countenance with suitable manifestation or concealment, not being one who would indulge the curious by a helpless exposure of her feelings.

A various party had been invited to meet the new couple; the old aristocracy was represented by Lord and Lady Pentreath; the old gentry by young Mr. and Mrs. Fitzadam of the Worcestershire branch of the Fitzadams; politics and the public good, as specialized in the cider interest, by Mr. Fenn, member for West Orchards, accompanied by his two daughters; Lady Mallinger’s family, by her brother, Mr. Raymond, and his wife; the useful bachelor element by Mr. Sinker, the eminent counsel, and by Mr. Vandernoodt, whose acquaintance Sir Hugo had found pleasant enough at Leubronn to be adopted in England.

All had assembled in the drawing-room before the new couple appeared. Meanwhile, the time was being passed chiefly in noticing the children⁠—various little Raymonds, nephews and nieces of Lady Mallinger’s with her own three girls, who were always allowed to appear at this hour. The scene was really delightful⁠—enlarged by full-length portraits with deep backgrounds, inserted in the cedar paneling⁠—surmounted by a ceiling that glowed with the rich colors of the coats of arms ranged between the sockets⁠—illuminated almost as much by the red fire of oak-boughs as by the pale wax-lights⁠—stilled by the deep-piled carpet and by the high English breeding that subdues all voices; while the mixture of ages, from the white-haired Lord and Lady Pentreath to the four-year-old Edgar Raymond, gave a varied charm to the living groups. Lady Mallinger, with fair matronly roundness and mildly prominent blue eyes, moved about in her black velvet, carrying a tiny white dog on her arm as a sort of finish to her costume; the children were scattered among the ladies, while most of the gentlemen were standing rather aloof, conversing with that very moderate vivacity observable during the long minutes before dinner. Deronda was a little out of the circle in a dialogue fixed upon him by Mr. Vandernoodt, a man of the best Dutch blood imported at the revolution: for the rest, one of those commodious persons in society who are nothing particular themselves, but are understood to be acquainted with the best in every department; close-clipped, pale-eyed, nonchalant, as good a foil as could well be found to the intense coloring and vivid gravity of Deronda.

He was talking of the bride and bridegroom, whose appearance was being waited for. Mr. Vandernoodt was an industrious gleaner of personal details, and could probably tell everything about a great philosopher or physicist except his theories or discoveries; he was now implying that he had learned many facts about Grandcourt since meeting him at Leubronn.

“Men who have seen a good deal of life don’t always end by choosing their wives so well. He has had rather an anecdotic history⁠—gone rather deep into pleasures, I fancy, lazy as he is. But, of course, you know all about him.”

“No, really,” said Deronda, in an indifferent tone. “I know little more of him than that he is Sir Hugo’s nephew.”

But now the door opened and deferred any satisfaction of Mr. Vandernoodt’s communicativeness.

The scene was one to set off any figure of distinction that entered on it, and certainly when Mr. and Mrs. Grandcourt entered, no beholder could deny that their figures had distinction. The bridegroom had neither more nor less easy perfection of costume, neither more nor less well-cut impassibility of face, than before his marriage. It was to be supposed of him that he would put up with nothing less than the best in outward equipment, wife included; and the bride was what he might have been expected to choose. “By George, I think she’s handsomer, if anything!” said Mr. Vandernoodt. And Deronda was of the same opinion, but he said nothing. The white silk and diamonds⁠—it may seem strange, but she did wear diamonds on her neck, in her ears, in her hair⁠—might have something to do with the new imposingness of her beauty, which flashed on him as more unquestionable if not more thoroughly satisfactory than when he had first seen her at the gaming-table. Some faces which are peculiar in their beauty are like original works of art: for the first time they are almost always met with question. But in seeing Gwendolen at Diplow, Deronda had discerned in her more than he had expected of that tender appealing charm which we call womanly. Was there any new change since then? He distrusted his impressions; but as he saw her receiving greetings with what seemed a proud cold quietude and a superficial smile, there seemed to be at work within her the same demonic force that had possessed her when she took him in her resolute glance and turned away a loser from the gaming-table. There was no time for more of a conclusion⁠—no time even for him to give his greeting before the summons to dinner.

He sat not far from opposite to her at table, and could sometimes hear what she said in answer to Sir Hugo, who was at his liveliest in conversation with her; but though he looked toward her with the intention of bowing, she gave him no opportunity of doing so for some time. At last Sir Hugo, who might have imagined that they had already spoken to each other, said, “Deronda, you will like to hear what Mrs. Grandcourt tells me about your favorite Klesmer.”

Gwendolen’s eyelids had been lowered, and Deronda, already looking at her, thought he discovered a quivering reluctance as she was obliged to raise them and return his unembarrassed bow and smile, her own smile being one of the lip merely. It was but an instant, and Sir Hugo continued without pause,

“The Arrowpoints have condoned the marriage, and he is spending the Christmas with his bride at Quetcham.”

“I suppose he will be glad of it for the sake of his wife, else I dare say he would not have minded keeping at a distance,” said Deronda.

“It’s a sort of troubadour story,” said Lady Pentreath, an easy, deep-voiced old lady; “I’m glad to find a little romance left among us. I think our young people now are getting too worldly wise.”

“It shows the Arrowpoints’ good sense, however, to have adopted the affair, after the fuss in the paper,” said Sir Hugo. “And disowning your own child because of a mésalliance is something like disowning your one eye: everybody knows it’s yours, and you have no other to make an appearance with.”

“As to mésalliance, there’s no blood on any side,” said Lady Pentreath. “Old Admiral Arrowpoint was one of Nelson’s men, you know⁠—a doctor’s son. And we all know how the mother’s money came.”

“If they were any mésalliance in the case, I should say it was on Klesmer’s side,” said Deronda.

“Ah, you think it is a case of the immortal marrying the mortal. What is your opinion?” said Sir Hugo, looking at Gwendolen.

“I have no doubt that Herr Klesmer thinks himself immortal. But I dare say his wife will burn as much incense before him as he requires,” said Gwendolen. She had recovered any composure that she might have lost.

“Don’t you approve of a wife burning incense before her husband?” said Sir Hugo, with an air of jocoseness.

“Oh, yes,” said Gwendolen, “if it were only to make others believe in him.” She paused a moment and then said with more gayety, “When Herr Klesmer admires his own genius, it will take off some of the absurdity if his wife says Amen.”

“Klesmer is no favorite of yours, I see,” said Sir Hugo.

“I think very highly of him, I assure you,” said Gwendolen. “His genius is quite above my judgment, and I know him to be exceedingly generous.”

She spoke with the sudden seriousness which is often meant to correct an unfair or indiscreet sally, having a bitterness against Klesmer in her secret soul which she knew herself unable to justify. Deronda was wondering what he should have thought of her if he had never heard of her before: probably that she put on a little hardness and defiance by way of concealing some painful consciousness⁠—if, indeed, he could imagine her manners otherwise than in the light of his suspicion. But why did she not recognize him with more friendliness?

Sir Hugo, by way of changing the subject, said to her, “Is not this a beautiful room? It was part of the refectory of the Abbey. There was a division made by those pillars and the three arches, and afterward they were built up. Else it was half as large again originally. There used to be rows of Benedictines sitting where we are sitting. Suppose we were suddenly to see the lights burning low and the ghosts of the old monks rising behind all our chairs!”

“Please don’t!” said Gwendolen, with a playful shudder. “It is very nice to come after ancestors and monks, but they should know their places and keep underground. I should be rather frightened to go about this house all alone. I suppose the old generations must be angry with us because we have altered things so much.”

“Oh, the ghosts must be of all political parties,” said Sir Hugo. “And those fellows who wanted to change things while they lived and couldn’t do it must be on our side. But if you would not like to go over the house alone, you will like to go in company, I hope. You and Grandcourt ought to see it all. And we will ask Deronda to go round with us. He is more learned about it than I am.” The baronet was in the most complaisant of humors.

Gwendolen stole a glance at Deronda, who must have heard what Sir Hugo said, for he had his face turned toward them helping himself to an entrée; but he looked as impassive as a picture. At the notion of Deronda’s showing her and Grandcourt the place which was to be theirs, and which she with painful emphasis remembered might have been his (perhaps, if others had acted differently), certain thoughts had rushed in⁠—thoughts repeated within her, but now returning on an occasion embarrassingly new; and was conscious of something furtive and awkward in her glance which Sir Hugo must have noticed. With her usual readiness of resource against betrayal, she said, playfully, “You don’t know how much I am afraid of Mr. Deronda.”

“How’s that? Because you think him too learned?” said Sir Hugo, whom the peculiarity of her glance had not escaped.

“No. It is ever since I first saw him at Leubronn. Because when he came to look on at the roulette-table, I began to lose. He cast an evil eye on my play. He didn’t approve it. He has told me so. And now whatever I do before him, I am afraid he will cast an evil eye upon it.”

“Gad! I’m rather afraid of him myself when he doesn’t approve,” said Sir Hugo, glancing at Deronda; and then turning his face toward Gwendolen, he said less audibly, “I don’t think ladies generally object to have his eyes upon them.” The baronet’s small chronic complaint of facetiousness was at this moment almost as annoying to Gwendolen as it often was to Deronda.

“I object to any eyes that are critical,” she said, in a cool, high voice, with a turn of her neck. “Are there many of these old rooms left in the Abbey?”

“Not many. There is a fine cloistered court with a long gallery above it. But the finest bit of all is turned into stables. It is part of the old church. When I improved the place I made the most of every other bit; but it was out of my reach to change the stables, so the horses have the benefit of the fine old choir. You must go and see it.”

“I shall like to see the horses as well as the building,” said Gwendolen.

“Oh, I have no stud to speak of. Grandcourt will look with contempt at my horses,” said Sir Hugo. “I’ve given up hunting, and go on in a jog-trot way, as becomes an old gentlemen with daughters. The fact is, I went in for doing too much at this place. We all lived at Diplow for two years while the alterations were going on: Do you like Diplow?”

“Not particularly,” said Gwendolen, with indifference. One would have thought that the young lady had all her life had more family seats than she cared to go to.

“Ah! it will not do after Ryelands,” said Sir Hugo, well pleased. “Grandcourt, I know, took it for the sake of the hunting. But he found something so much better there,” added the baronet, lowering his voice, “that he might well prefer it to any other place in the world.”

“It has one attraction for me,” said Gwendolen, passing over this compliment with a chill smile, “that it is within reach of Offendene.”

“I understand that,” said Sir Hugo, and then let the subject drop.

What amiable baronet can escape the effect of a strong desire for a particular possession? Sir Hugo would have been glad that Grandcourt, with or without reason, should prefer any other place to Diplow; but inasmuch as in the pure process of wishing we can always make the conditions of our gratification benevolent, he did wish that Grandcourt’s convenient disgust for Diplow should not be associated with his marriage with this very charming bride. Gwendolen was much to the baronet’s taste, but, as he observed afterward to Lady Mallinger, he should never have taken her for a young girl who had married beyond her expectations.

Deronda had not heard much of this conversation, having given his attention elsewhere, but the glimpses he had of Gwendolen’s manner deepened the impression that it had something newly artificial.

Later, in the drawing-room, Deronda, at somebody’s request, sat down to the piano and sang. Afterward, Mrs. Raymond took his place; and on rising he observed that Gwendolen had left her seat, and had come to this end of the room, as if to listen more fully, but was now standing with her back to everyone, apparently contemplating a fine cowled head carved in ivory which hung over a small table. He longed to go to her and speak. Why should he not obey such an impulse, as he would have done toward any other lady in the room? Yet he hesitated some moments, observing the graceful lines of her back, but not moving.

If you have any reason for not indulging a wish to speak to a fair woman, it is a bad plan to look long at her back: the wish to see what it screens becomes the stronger. There may be a very sweet smile on the other side. Deronda ended by going to the end of the small table, at right angles to Gwendolen’s position, but before he could speak she had turned on him no smile, but such an appealing look of sadness, so utterly different from the chill effort of her recognition at table, that his speech was checked. For what was an appreciative space of time to both, though the observation of others could not have measured it, they looked at each other⁠—she seeming to take the deep rest of confession, he with an answering depth of sympathy that neutralized all other feelings.

“Will you not join in the music?” he said, by way of meeting the necessity for speech.

That her look of confession had been involuntary was shown by that just perceptible shake and change of countenance with which she roused herself to reply calmly, “I join in it by listening. I am fond of music.”

“Are you not a musician?”

“I have given a great deal of time to music. But I have not talent enough to make it worth while. I shall never sing again.”

“But if you are fond of music, it will always be worth while in private, for your own delight. I make it a virtue to be content with my middlingness,” said Deronda, smiling; “it is always pardonable, so that one does not ask others to take it for superiority.”

“I cannot imitate you,” said Gwendolen, recovering her tone of artificial vivacity. “To be middling with me is another phrase for being dull. And the worst fault I have to find with the world is that it is dull. Do you know, I am going to justify gambling in spite of you. It is a refuge from dullness.”

“I don’t admit the justification,” said Deronda. “I think what we call the dullness of things is a disease in ourselves. Else how can anyone find an intense interest in life? And many do.”

“Ah, I see! The fault I find in the world is my own fault,” said Gwendolen, smiling at him. Then after a moment, looking up at the ivory again, she said, “Do you never find fault with the world or with others?”

“Oh, yes. When I am in a grumbling mood.”

“And hate people? Confess you hate them when they stand in your way⁠—when their gain is your loss? That is your own phrase, you know.”

“We are often standing in each other’s way when we can’t help it. I think it is stupid to hate people on that ground.”

“But if they injure you and could have helped it?” said Gwendolen with a hard intensity unaccountable in incidental talk like this.

Deronda wondered at her choice of subjects. A painful impression arrested his answer a moment, but at last he said, with a graver, deeper intonation, “Why, then, after all, I prefer my place to theirs.”

“There I believe you are right,” said Gwendolen, with a sudden little laugh, and turned to join the group at the piano.

Deronda looked around for Grandcourt, wondering whether he followed his bride’s movements with any attention; but it was rather undiscerning to him to suppose that he could find out the fact. Grandcourt had a delusive mood of observing whatever had an interest for him, which could be surpassed by no sleepy-eyed animal on the watch for prey. At that moment he was plunged in the depth of an easy chair, being talked to by Mr. Vandernoodt, who apparently thought the acquaintance of such a bridegroom worth cultivating; and an incautious person might have supposed it safe to telegraph secrets in front of him, the common prejudice being that your quick observer is one whose eyes have quick movements. Not at all. If you want a respectable witness who will see nothing inconvenient, choose a vivacious gentleman, very much on the alert, with two eyes wide open, a glass in one of them, and an entire impartiality as to the purpose of looking. If Grandcourt cared to keep anyone under his power he saw them out of the corners of his long narrow eyes, and if they went behind him he had a constructive process by which he knew what they were doing there. He knew perfectly well where his wife was, and how she was behaving. Was he going to be a jealous husband? Deronda imagined that to be likely; but his imagination was as much astray about Grandcourt as it would have been about an unexplored continent where all the species were peculiar. He did not conceive that he himself was a likely subject of jealousy, or that he should give any pretext for it; but the suspicion that a wife is not happy naturally leads one to speculate on the husband’s private deportment; and Deronda found himself after one o’clock in the morning in the rather ludicrous position of sitting up severely holding a Hebrew grammar in his hands (for somehow, in deference to Mordecai, he had begun to study Hebrew), with the consciousness that he had been in that attitude nearly an hour, and had thought of nothing but Gwendolen and her husband. To be an unusual young man means for the most part to get a difficult mastery over the usual, which is often like the sprite of ill-luck you pack up your goods to escape from, and see grinning at you from the top of your luggage van. The peculiarities of Deronda’s nature had been acutely touched by the brief incident and words which made the history of his intercourse with Gwendolen; and this evening’s slight addition had given them an importunate recurrence. It was not vanity⁠—it was ready sympathy that had made him alive to a certain appealingness in her behavior toward him; and the difficulty with which she had seemed to raise her eyes to bow to him, in the first instance, was to be interpreted now by that unmistakable look of involuntary confidence which she had afterward turned on him under the consciousness of his approach.

“What is the use of it all?” thought Deronda, as he threw down his grammar, and began to undress. “I can’t do anything to help her⁠—nobody can, if she has found out her mistake already. And it seems to me that she has a dreary lack of the ideas that might help her. Strange and piteous to think what a center of wretchedness a delicate piece of human flesh like that might be, wrapped round with fine raiment, her ears pierced for gems, her head held loftily, her mouth all smiling pretense, the poor soul within her sitting in sick distaste of all things! But what do I know of her? There may be a demon in her to match the worst husband, for what I can tell. She was clearly an ill-educated, worldly girl: perhaps she is a coquette.”

This last reflection, not much believed in, was a self-administered dose of caution, prompted partly by Sir Hugo’s much-contemned joking on the subject of flirtation. Deronda resolved not to volunteer any tête-à-tête with Gwendolen during the days of her stay at the Abbey; and he was capable of keeping a resolve in spite of much inclination to the contrary.

But a man cannot resolve about a woman’s actions, least of all about those of a woman like Gwendolen, in whose nature there was a combination of proud reserve with rashness, of perilously poised terror with defiance, which might alternately flatter and disappoint control. Few words could less represent her than “coquette.” She had a native love of homage, and belief in her own power; but no cold artifice for the sake of enslaving. And the poor thing’s belief in her power, with her other dreams before marriage, had often to be thrust aside now like the toys of a sick child, which it looks at with dull eyes, and has no heart to play with, however it may try.

The next day at lunch Sir Hugo said to her, “The thaw has gone on like magic, and it’s so pleasant out of doors just now⁠—shall we go and see the stables and the other odd bits about the place?”

“Yes, pray,” said Gwendolen. “You will like to see the stables, Henleigh?” she added, looking at her husband.

“Uncommonly,” said Grandcourt, with an indifference which seemed to give irony to the word, as he returned her look. It was the first time Deronda had seen them speak to each other since their arrival, and he thought their exchange of looks as cold or official as if it had been a ceremony to keep up a charter. Still, the English fondness for reserve will account for much negation; and Grandcourt’s manners with an extra veil of reserve over them might be expected to present the extreme type of the national taste.

“Who else is inclined to make the tour of the house and premises?” said Sir Hugo. “The ladies must muffle themselves; there is only just about time to do it well before sunset. You will go, Dan, won’t you?”

“Oh, yes,” said Deronda, carelessly, knowing that Sir Hugo would think any excuse disobliging.

“All meet in the library, then, when they are ready⁠—say in half an hour,” said the baronet. Gwendolen made herself ready with wonderful quickness, and in ten minutes came down into the library in her sables, plume, and little thick boots. As soon as she entered the room she was aware that someone else was there: it was precisely what she had hoped for. Deronda was standing with his back toward her at the far end of the room, and was looking over a newspaper. How could little thick boots make any noise on an Axminster carpet? And to cough would have seemed an intended signaling which her pride could not condescend to; also, she felt bashful about walking up to him and letting him know that she was there, though it was her hunger to speak to him which had set her imagination on constructing this chance of finding him, and had made her hurry down, as birds hover near the water which they dare not drink. Always uneasily dubious about his opinion of her, she felt a peculiar anxiety today, lest he might think of her with contempt, as one triumphantly conscious of being Grandcourt’s wife, the future lady of this domain. It was her habitual effort now to magnify the satisfactions of her pride, on which she nourished her strength; but somehow Deronda’s being there disturbed them all. There was not the faintest touch of coquetry in the attitude of her mind toward him: he was unique to her among men, because he had impressed her as being not her admirer but her superior: in some mysterious way he was becoming a part of her conscience, as one woman whose nature is an object of reverential belief may become a new conscience to a man.

And now he would not look round and find out that she was there! The paper crackled in his hand, his head rose and sank, exploring those stupid columns, and he was evidently stroking his beard; as if this world were a very easy affair to her. Of course all the rest of the company would soon be down, and the opportunity of her saying something to efface her flippancy of the evening before, would be quite gone. She felt sick with irritation⁠—so fast do young creatures like her absorb misery through invisible suckers of their own fancies⁠—and her face had gathered that peculiar expression which comes with a mortification to which tears are forbidden.

At last he threw down the paper and turned round.

“Oh, you are there already,” he said, coming forward a step or two: “I must go and put on my coat.”

He turned aside and walked out of the room. This was behaving quite badly. Mere politeness would have made him stay to exchange some words before leaving her alone. It was true that Grandcourt came in with Sir Hugo immediately after, so that the words must have been too few to be worth anything. As it was, they saw him walking from the library door.

“A⁠—you look rather ill,” said Grandcourt, going straight up to her, standing in front of her, and looking into her eyes. “Do you feel equal to the walk?”

“Yes, I shall like it,” said Gwendolen, without the slightest movement except this of the lips.

“We could put off going over the house, you know, and only go out of doors,” said Sir Hugo, kindly, while Grandcourt turned aside.

“Oh, dear no!” said Gwendolen, speaking with determination; “let us put off nothing. I want a long walk.”

The rest of the walking party⁠—two ladies and two gentlemen besides Deronda⁠—had now assembled; and Gwendolen rallying, went with due cheerfulness by the side of Sir Hugo, paying apparently an equal attention to the commentaries Deronda was called upon to give on the various architectural fragments, to Sir Hugo’s reasons for not attempting to remedy the mixture of the undisguised modern with the antique⁠—which in his opinion only made the place the more truly historical. On their way to the buttery and kitchen they took the outside of the house and paused before a beautiful pointed doorway, which was the only old remnant in the east front.

“Well, now, to my mind,” said Sir Hugo, “that is more interesting standing as it is in the middle of what is frankly four centuries later, than if the whole front had been dressed up in a pretense of the thirteenth century. Additions ought to smack of the time when they are made and carry the stamp of their period. I wouldn’t destroy any old bits, but that notion of reproducing the old is a mistake, I think. At least, if a man likes to do it he must pay for his whistle. Besides, where are you to stop along that road⁠—making loopholes where you don’t want to peep, and so on? You may as well ask me to wear out the stones with kneeling; eh, Grandcourt?”

“A confounded nuisance,” drawled Grandcourt. “I hate fellows wanting to howl litanies⁠—acting the greatest bores that have ever existed.”

“Well, yes, that’s what their romanticism must come to,” said Sir Hugo, in a tone of confidential assent⁠—“that is if they carry it out logically.”

“I think that way of arguing against a course because it may be ridden down to an absurdity would soon bring life to a standstill,” said Deronda. “It is not the logic of human action, but of a roasting-jack, that must go on to the last turn when it has been once wound up. We can do nothing safely without some judgment as to where we are to stop.”

“I find the rule of the pocket the best guide,” said Sir Hugo, laughingly. “And as for most of your new-old building, you had need to hire men to scratch and chip it all over artistically to give it an elderly-looking surface; which at the present rate of labor would not answer.”

“Do you want to keep up the old fashions, then, Mr. Deronda?” said Gwendolen, taking advantage of the freedom of grouping to fall back a little, while Sir Hugo and Grandcourt went on.

“Some of them. I don’t see why we should not use our choice there as we do elsewhere⁠—or why either age or novelty by itself is an argument for or against. To delight in doing things because our fathers did them is good if it shuts out nothing better; it enlarges the range of affection⁠—and affection is the broadest basis of good in life.”

“Do you think so?” said Gwendolen with a little surprise. “I should have thought you cared most about ideas, knowledge, wisdom, and all that.”

“But to care about them is a sort of affection,” said Deronda, smiling at her sudden naivete. “Call it attachment; interest, willing to bear a great deal for the sake of being with them and saving them from injury. Of course, it makes a difference if the objects of interest are human beings; but generally in all deep affections the objects are a mixture⁠—half persons and half ideas⁠—sentiments and affections flow in together.”

“I wonder whether I understand that,” said Gwendolen, putting up her chin in her old saucy manner. “I believe I am not very affectionate; perhaps you mean to tell me, that is the reason why I don’t see much good in life.”

“No, I did not mean to tell you that; but I admit that I should think it true if I believed what you say of yourself,” said Deronda, gravely.

Here Sir Hugo and Grandcourt turned round and paused.

“I never can get Mr. Deronda to pay me a compliment,” said Gwendolen. “I have quite a curiosity to see whether a little flattery can be extracted from him.”

“Ah!” said Sir Hugo, glancing at Deronda, “the fact is, it is useless to flatter a bride. We give it up in despair. She has been so fed on sweet speeches that everything we say seems tasteless.”

“Quite true,” said Gwendolen, bending her head and smiling. “Mr. Grandcourt won me by neatly-turned compliments. If there had been one word out of place it would have been fatal.”

“Do you hear that?” said Sir Hugo, looking at the husband.

“Yes,” said Grandcourt, without change of countenance. “It’s a deucedly hard thing to keep up, though.”

All this seemed to Sir Hugo a natural playfulness between such a husband and wife; but Deronda wondered at the misleading alternations in Gwendolen’s manner, which at one moment seemed to excite sympathy by childlike indiscretion, at another to repel it by proud concealment. He tried to keep out of her way by devoting himself to Miss Juliet Fenn, a young lady whose profile had been so unfavorably decided by circumstances over which she had no control, that Gwendolen some months ago had felt it impossible to be jealous of her. Nevertheless, when they were seeing the kitchen⁠—a part of the original building in perfect preservation⁠—the depth of shadow in the niches of the stone walls and groined vault, the play of light from the huge glowing fire on polished tin, brass, and copper, the fine resonance that came with every sound of voice or metal, were all spoiled for Gwendolen, and Sir Hugo’s speech about them was made rather importunate, because Deronda was discoursing to the other ladies and kept at a distance from her. It did not signify that the other gentlemen took the opportunity of being near her: of what use in the world was their admiration while she had an uneasy sense that there was some standard in Deronda’s mind which measured her into littleness? Mr. Vandernoodt, who had the mania of always describing one thing while you were looking at another, was quite intolerable with his insistence on Lord Blough’s kitchen, which he had seen in the north.

“Pray don’t ask us to see two kitchens at once. It makes the heat double. I must really go out of it,” she cried at last, marching resolutely into the open air, and leaving the others in the rear. Grandcourt was already out, and as she joined him, he said,

“I wondered how long you meant to stay in that damned place”⁠—one of the freedoms he had assumed as a husband being the use of his strongest epithets. Gwendolen, turning to see the rest of the party approach, said,

“It was certainly rather too warm in one’s wraps.”

They walked on the gravel across a green court, where the snow still lay in islets on the grass, and in masses on the boughs of the great cedar and the crenelated coping of the stone walls, and then into a larger court, where there was another cedar, to find the beautiful choir long ago turned into stables, in the first instance perhaps after an impromptu fashion by troopers, who had a pious satisfaction in insulting the priests of Baal and the images of Ashtoreth, the queen of heaven. The exterior⁠—its west end, save for the stable door, walled in with brick and covered with ivy⁠—was much defaced, maimed of finial and gargoyle, the friable limestone broken and fretted, and lending its soft gray to a powdery dark lichen; the long windows, too, were filled in with brick as far as the springing of the arches, the broad clerestory windows with wire or ventilating blinds. With the low wintry afternoon sun upon it, sending shadows from the cedar boughs, and lighting up the touches of snow remaining on every ledge, it had still a scarcely disturbed aspect of antique solemnity, which gave the scene in the interior rather a startling effect; though, ecclesiastical or reverential indignation apart, the eyes could hardly help dwelling with pleasure on its piquant picturesqueness. Each finely-arched chapel was turned into a stall, where in the dusty glazing of the windows there still gleamed patches of crimson, orange, blue, and palest violet; for the rest, the choir had been gutted, the floor leveled, paved, and drained according to the most approved fashion, and a line of loose boxes erected in the middle: a soft light fell from the upper windows on sleek brown or gray flanks and haunches; on mild equine faces looking out with active nostrils over the varnished brown boarding; on the hay hanging from racks where the saints once looked down from the altarpieces, and on the pale golden straw scattered or in heaps; on a little white-and-liver-colored spaniel making his bed on the back of an elderly hackney, and on four ancient angels, still showing signs of devotion like mutilated martyrs⁠—while over all, the grand pointed roof, untouched by reforming wash, showed its lines and colors mysteriously through veiling shadow and cobweb, and a hoof now and then striking against the boards seemed to fill the vault with thunder, while outside there was the answering bay of the bloodhounds.

“Oh, this is glorious!” Gwendolen burst forth, in forgetfulness of everything but the immediate impression: there had been a little intoxication for her in the grand spaces of courts and building, and the fact of her being an important person among them. “This is glorious! Only I wish there were a horse in every one of the boxes. I would ten times rather have these stables than those at Diplow.”

But she had no sooner said this than some consciousness arrested her, and involuntarily she turned her eyes toward Deronda, who oddly enough had taken off his felt hat and stood holding it before him as if they had entered a room or an actual church. He, like others, happened to be looking at her, and their eyes met⁠—to her intense vexation, for it seemed to her that by looking at him she had betrayed the reference of her thoughts, and she felt herself blushing: she exaggerated the impression that even Sir Hugo as well as Deronda would have of her bad taste in referring to the possession of anything at the Abbey: as for Deronda, she had probably made him despise her. Her annoyance at what she imagined to be the obviousness of her confusion robbed her of her usual facility in carrying it off by playful speech, and turning up her face to look at the roof, she wheeled away in that attitude. If any had noticed her blush as significant, they had certainly not interpreted it by the secret windings and recesses of her feeling. A blush is no language: only a dubious flag-signal which may mean either of two contradictories. Deronda alone had a faint guess at some part of her feeling; but while he was observing her he was himself under observation.

“Do you take off your hat to horses?” said Grandcourt, with a slight sneer.

“Why not?” said Deronda, covering himself. He had really taken off the hat automatically, and if he had been an ugly man might doubtless have done so with impunity; ugliness having naturally the air of involuntary exposure, and beauty, of display.

Gwendolen’s confusion was soon merged in the survey of the horses, which Grandcourt politely abstained from appraising, languidly assenting to Sir Hugo’s alternate depreciation and eulogy of the same animal, as one that he should not have bought when he was younger, and piqued himself on his horses, but yet one that had better qualities than many more expensive brutes.

“The fact is, stables dive deeper and deeper into the pocket nowadays, and I am very glad to have got rid of that démangeaison,” said Sir Hugo, as they were coming out.

“What is a man to do, though?” said Grandcourt. “He must ride. I don’t see what else there is to do. And I don’t call it riding to sit astride a set of brutes with every deformity under the sun.”

This delicate diplomatic way of characterizing Sir Hugo’s stud did not require direct notice; and the baronet, feeling that the conversation had worn rather thin, said to the party generally, “Now we are going to see the cloister⁠—the finest bit of all⁠—in perfect preservation; the monks might have been walking there yesterday.”

But Gwendolen had lingered behind to look at the kenneled bloodhounds, perhaps because she felt a little dispirited; and Grandcourt waited for her.

“You had better take my arm,” he said, in his low tone of command; and she took it.

“It’s a great bore being dragged about in this way, and no cigar,” said Grandcourt.

“I thought you would like it.”

“Like it!⁠—one eternal chatter. And encouraging those ugly girls⁠—inviting one to meet such monsters. How that fat Deronda can bear looking at her⁠—”

“Why do you call him a fat? Do you object to him so much?”

“Object? no. What do I care about his being a fat? It’s of no consequence to me. I’ll invite him to Diplow again if you like.”

“I don’t think he would come. He is too clever and learned to care about us,” said Gwendolen, thinking it useful for her husband to be told (privately) that it was possible for him to be looked down upon.

“I never saw that make much difference in a man. Either he is a gentleman, or he is not,” said Grandcourt.

That a new husband and wife should snatch a moment’s tête-à-tête was what could be understood and indulged; and the rest of the party left them in the rear till, re-entering the garden, they all paused in that cloistered court where, among the falling rose-petals thirteen years before, we saw a boy becoming acquainted with his first sorrow. This cloister was built of a harder stone than the church, and had been in greater safety from the wearing weather. It was a rare example of a northern cloister with arched and pillared openings not intended for glazing, and the delicately-wrought foliage of the capitals seemed still to carry the very touches of the chisel. Gwendolen had dropped her husband’s arm and joined the other ladies, to whom Deronda was noticing the delicate sense which had combined freedom with accuracy in the imitation of natural forms.

“I wonder whether one oftener learns to love real objects through their representations, or the representations through the real objects,” he said, after pointing out a lovely capital made by the curled leaves of greens, showing their reticulated underside with the firm gradual swell of its central rib. “When I was a little fellow these capitals taught me to observe and delight in the structure of leaves.”

“I suppose you can see every line of them with your eyes shut,” said Juliet Fenn.

“Yes. I was always repeating them, because for a good many years this court stood for me as my only image of a convent, and whenever I read of monks and monasteries, this was my scenery for them.”

“You must love this place very much,” said Miss Fenn, innocently, not thinking of inheritance. “So many homes are like twenty others. But this is unique, and you seem to know every cranny of it. I dare say you could never love another home so well.”

“Oh, I carry it with me,” said Deronda, quietly, being used to all possible thoughts of this kind. “To most men their early home is no more than a memory of their early years, and I’m not sure but they have the best of it. The image is never marred. There’s no disappointment in memory, and one’s exaggerations are always on the good side.”

Gwendolen felt sure that he spoke in that way out of delicacy to her and Grandcourt⁠—because he knew they must hear him; and that he probably thought of her as a selfish creature who only cared about possessing things in her own person. But whatever he might say, it must have been a secret hardship to him that any circumstances of his birth had shut him out from the inheritance of his father’s position; and if he supposed that she exulted in her husband’s taking it, what could he feel for her but scornful pity? Indeed it seemed clear to her that he was avoiding her, and preferred talking to others⁠—which nevertheless was not kind in him.

With these thoughts in her mind she was prevented by a mixture of pride and timidity from addressing him again, and when they were looking at the rows of quaint portraits in the gallery above the cloisters, she kept up her air of interest and made her vivacious remarks without any direct appeal to Deronda. But at the end she was very weary of her assumed spirits, and as Grandcourt turned into the billiard-room, she went to the pretty boudoir which had been assigned to her, and shut herself up to look melancholy at her ease. No chemical process shows a more wonderful activity than the transforming influence of the thoughts we imagine to be going on in another. Changes in theory, religion, admirations, may begin with a suspicion of dissent or disapproval, even when the grounds of disapproval are but matter of searching conjecture.

Poor Gwendolen was conscious of an uneasy, transforming process⁠—all the old nature shaken to its depths, its hopes spoiled, its pleasures perturbed, but still showing wholeness and strength in the will to reassert itself. After every new shock of humiliation she tried to adjust herself and seize her old supports⁠—proud concealment, trust in new excitements that would make life go by without much thinking; trust in some deed of reparation to nullify her self-blame and shield her from a vague, ever-visiting dread of some horrible calamity; trust in the hardening effect of use and wont that would make her indifferent to her miseries.

Yes⁠—miseries. This beautiful, healthy young creature, with her two-and-twenty years and her gratified ambition, no longer felt inclined to kiss her fortunate image in the glass. She looked at it with wonder that she could be so miserable. One belief which had accompanied her through her unmarried life as a self-cajoling superstition, encouraged by the subordination of everyone about her⁠—the belief in her own power of dominating⁠—was utterly gone. Already, in seven short weeks, which seemed half her life, her husband had gained a mastery which she could no more resist than she could have resisted the benumbing effect from the touch of a torpedo. Gwendolen’s will had seemed imperious in its small girlish sway; but it was the will of a creature with a large discourse of imaginative fears: a shadow would have been enough to relax its hold. And she had found a will like that of a crab or a boa-constrictor, which goes on pinching or crushing without alarm at thunder. Not that Grandcourt was without calculation of the intangible effects which were the chief means of mastery; indeed, he had a surprising acuteness in detecting that situation of feeling in Gwendolen which made her proud and rebellious spirit dumb and helpless before him.

She had burned Lydia Glasher’s letter with an instantaneous terror lest other eyes should see it, and had tenaciously concealed from Grandcourt that there was any other cause of her violent hysterics than the excitement and fatigue of the day: she had been urged into an implied falsehood. “Don’t ask me⁠—it was my feeling about everything⁠—it was the sudden change from home.” The words of that letter kept repeating themselves, and hung on her consciousness with the weight of a prophetic doom. “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 my soul. 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.”

The words had nestled their venomous life within her, and stirred continually the vision of the scene at the Whispering Stones. That scene was now like an accusing apparition: she dreaded that Grandcourt should know of it⁠—so far out of her sight now was that possibility she had once satisfied herself with, of speaking to him about Mrs. Glasher and her children, and making them rich amends. Any endurance seemed easier than the mortal humiliation of confessing that she knew all before she married him, and in marrying him had broken her word. For the reasons by which she had justified herself when the marriage tempted her, and all her easy arrangement of her future power over her husband to make him do better than he might be inclined to do, were now as futile as the burned-out lights which set off a child’s pageant. Her sense of being blameworthy was exaggerated by a dread both definite and vague. The definite dread was lest the veil of secrecy should fall between her and Grandcourt, and give him the right to taunt her. With the reading of that letter had begun her husband’s empire of fear.

And her husband all the while knew it. He had not, indeed, any distinct knowledge of her broken promise, and would not have rated highly the effect of that breach on her conscience; but he was aware not only of what Lush had told him about the meeting at the Whispering Stones, but also of Gwendolen’s concealment as to the cause of her sudden illness. He felt sure that Lydia had enclosed something with the diamonds, and that this something, whatever it was, had at once created in Gwendolen a new repulsion for him and a reason for not daring to manifest it. He did not greatly mind, or feel as many men might have felt, that his hopes in marriage were blighted: he had wanted to marry Gwendolen, and he was not a man to repent. Why should a gentleman whose other relations in life are carried on without the luxury of sympathetic feeling, be supposed to require that kind of condiment in domestic life? What he chiefly felt was that a change had come over the conditions of his mastery, which, far from shaking it, might establish it the more thoroughly. And it was established. He judged that he had not married a simpleton unable to perceive the impossibility of escape, or to see alternative evils: he had married a girl who had spirit and pride enough not to make a fool of herself by forfeiting all the advantages of a position which had attracted her; and if she wanted pregnant hints to help her in making up her mind properly he would take care not to withhold them.

Gwendolen, indeed, with all that gnawing trouble in her consciousness, had hardly for a moment dropped the sense that it was her part to bear herself with dignity, and appear what is called happy. In disclosure of disappointment or sorrow she saw nothing but a humiliation which would have been vinegar to her wounds. Whatever her husband might have come at last to be to her, she meant to wear the yoke so as not to be pitied. For she did think of the coming years with presentiment: she was frightened at Grandcourt. The poor thing had passed from her girlish sauciness of superiority over this inert specimen of personal distinction into an amazed perception of her former ignorance about the possible mental attitude of a man toward the woman he sought in marriage⁠—of her present ignorance as to what their life with each other might turn into. For novelty gives immeasurableness to fear, and fills the early time of all sad changes with phantoms of the future. Her little coquetries, voluntary or involuntary, had told on Grandcourt during courtship, and formed a medium of communication between them, showing him in the light of a creature such as she could understand and manage: but marriage had nullified all such interchange, and Grandcourt had become a blank uncertainty to her in everything but this, that he would do just what he willed, and that she had neither devices at her command to determine his will, nor any rational means of escaping it.

What had occurred between them and her wearing the diamonds was typical. One evening, shortly before they came to the Abbey, they were going to dine at Brackenshaw Castle. Gwendolen had said to herself that she would never wear those diamonds: they had horrible words clinging and crawling about them, as from some bad dream, whose images lingered on the perturbed sense. She came down dressed in her white, with only a streak of gold and a pendant of emeralds, which Grandcourt had given her, round her neck, and the little emerald stars in her ears.

Grandcourt stood with his back to the fire and looked at her as she entered.

“Am I altogether as you like?” she said, speaking rather gaily. She was not without enjoyment in this occasion of going to Brackenshaw Castle with her new dignities upon her, as men whose affairs are sadly involved will enjoy dining out among persons likely to be under a pleasant mistake about them.

“No,” said Grandcourt.

Gwendolen felt suddenly uncomfortable, wondering what was to come. She was not unprepared for some struggle about the diamonds; but suppose he were going to say, in low, contemptuous tones, “You are not in any way what I like.” It was very bad for her to be secretly hating him; but it would be much worse when he gave the first sign of hating her.

“Oh, mercy!” she exclaimed, the pause lasting till she could bear it no longer. “How am I to alter myself?”

“Put on the diamonds,” said Grandcourt, looking straight at her with his narrow glance.

Gwendolen paused in her turn, afraid of showing any emotion, and feeling that nevertheless there was some change in her eyes as they met his. But she was obliged to answer, and said as indifferently as she could, “Oh, please not. I don’t think diamonds suit me.”

“What you think has nothing to do with it,” said Grandcourt, his sotto voce imperiousness seeming to have an evening quietude and finish, like his toilet. “I wish you to wear the diamonds.”

“Pray excuse me; I like these emeralds,” said Gwendolen, frightened in spite of her preparation. That white hand of his which was touching his whisker was capable, she fancied, of clinging round her neck and threatening to throttle her; for her fear of him, mingling with the vague foreboding of some retributive calamity which hung about her life, had reached a superstitious point.

“Oblige me by telling me your reason for not wearing the diamonds when I desire it,” said Grandcourt. His eyes were still fixed upon her, and she felt her own eyes narrowing under them as if to shut out an entering pain.

Of what use was the rebellion within her? She could say nothing that would not hurt her worse than submission. Turning slowly and covering herself again, she went to her dressing-room. As she reached out the diamonds, it occurred to her that her unwillingness to wear them might have already raised a suspicion in Grandcourt that she had some knowledge about them which he had not given her. She fancied that his eyes showed a delight in torturing her. How could she be defiant? She had nothing to say that would touch him⁠—nothing but what would give him a more painful grasp on her consciousness.

“He delights in making the dogs and horses quail: that is half his pleasure in calling them his,” she said to herself, as she opened the jewel-case with a shivering sensation.

“It will come to be so with me; and I shall quail. What else is there for me? I will not say to the world, ‘Pity me.’ ”

She was about to ring for her maid when she heard the door open behind her. It was Grandcourt who came in.

“You want someone to fasten them,” he said, coming toward her.

She did not answer, but simply stood still, leaving him to take out the ornaments and fasten them as he would. Doubtless he had been used to fasten them on someone else. With a bitter sort of sarcasm against herself, Gwendolen thought, “What a privilege this is, to have robbed another woman of!”

“What makes you so cold?” said Grandcourt, when he had fastened the last earring. “Pray put plenty of furs on. I hate to see a woman come into a room looking frozen. If you are to appear as a bride at all, appear decently.”

This marital speech was not exactly persuasive, but it touched the quick of Gwendolen’s pride and forced her to rally. The words of the bad dream crawled about the diamonds still, but only for her: to others they were brilliants that suited her perfectly, and Grandcourt inwardly observed that she answered to the rein.

“Oh, yes, mamma, quite happy,” Gwendolen had said on her return to Diplow. “Not at all disappointed in Ryelands. It is a much finer place than this⁠—larger in every way. But don’t you want some more money?”

“Did you not know that Mr. Grandcourt left me a letter on your wedding-day? I am to have eight hundred a year. He wishes me to keep Offendene for the present, while you are at Diplow. But if there were some pretty cottage near the park at Ryelands we might live there without much expense, and I should have you most of the year, perhaps.”

“We must leave that to Mr. Grandcourt, mamma.”

“Oh, certainly. It is exceedingly handsome of him to say that he will pay the rent for Offendene till June. And we can go on very well⁠—without any manservant except Crane, just for out-of-doors. Our good Merry will stay with us and help me to manage everything. It is natural that Mr. Grandcourt should wish me to live in a good style of house in your neighborhood, and I cannot decline. So he said nothing about it to you?”

“No; he wished me to hear it from you, I suppose.”

Gwendolen in fact had been very anxious to have some definite knowledge of what would be done for her mother, but at no moment since her marriage had she been able to overcome the difficulty of mentioning the subject to Grandcourt. Now, however, she had a sense of obligation which would not let her rest without saying to him, “It is very good of you to provide for mamma. You took a great deal on yourself in marrying a girl who had nothing but relations belonging to her.”

Grandcourt was smoking, and only said carelessly, “Of course I was not going to let her live like a gamekeeper’s mother.”

“At least he is not mean about money,” thought Gwendolen, “and mamma is the better off for my marriage.”

She often pursued the comparison between what might have been, if she had not married Grandcourt, and what actually was, trying to persuade herself that life generally was barren of satisfaction, and that if she had chosen differently she might now have been looking back with a regret as bitter as the feeling she was trying to argue away. Her mother’s dullness, which used to irritate her, she was at present inclined to explain as the ordinary result of woman’s experience. True, she still saw that she would “manage differently from mamma;” but her management now only meant that she would carry her troubles with spirit, and let none suspect them. By and by she promised herself that she should get used to her heart-sores, and find excitements that would carry her through life, as a hard gallop carried her through some of the morning hours. There was gambling: she had heard stories at Leubronn of fashionable women who gambled in all sorts of ways. It seemed very flat to her at this distance, but perhaps if she began to gamble again, the passion might awake. Then there was the pleasure of producing an effect by her appearance in society: what did celebrated beauties do in town when their husbands could afford display? All men were fascinated by them: they had a perfect equipage and toilet, walked into public places, and bowed, and made the usual answers, and walked out again, perhaps they bought china, and practiced accomplishments. If she could only feel a keen appetite for those pleasures⁠—could only believe in pleasure as she used to do! Accomplishments had ceased to have the exciting quality of promising any preeminence to her; and as for fascinated gentlemen⁠—adorers who might hover round her with languishment, and diversify married life with the romantic stir of mystery, passion, and danger, which her French reading had given her some girlish notion of⁠—they presented themselves to her imagination with the fatal circumstance that, instead of fascinating her in return, they were clad in her own weariness and disgust. The admiring male, rashly adjusting the expression of his features and the turn of his conversation to her supposed tastes, had always been an absurd object to her, and at present seemed rather detestable. Many courses are actually pursued⁠—follies and sins both convenient and inconvenient⁠—without pleasure or hope of pleasure; but to solace ourselves with imagining any course beforehand, there must be some foretaste of pleasure in the shape of appetite; and Gwendolen’s appetite had sickened. Let her wander over the possibilities of her life as she would, an uncertain shadow dogged her. Her confidence in herself and her destiny had turned into remorse and dread; she trusted neither herself nor her future.

This hidden helplessness gave fresh force to the hold Deronda had from the first taken on her mind, as one who had an unknown standard by which he judged her. Had he some way of looking at things which might be a new footing for her⁠—an inward safeguard against possible events which she dreaded as stored-up retribution? It is one of the secrets in that change of mental poise which has been fitly named conversion, that to many among us neither heaven nor earth has any revelation till some personality touches theirs with a peculiar influence, subduing them into receptiveness. It had been Gwendolen’s habit to think of the persons around her as stale books, too familiar to be interesting. Deronda had lit up her attention with a sense of novelty: not by words only, but by imagined facts, his influence had entered into the current of that self-suspicion and self-blame which awakens a new consciousness.

“I wish he could know everything about me without my telling him,” was one of her thoughts, as she sat leaning over the end of a couch, supporting her head with her hand, and looking at herself in a mirror⁠—not in admiration, but in a sad kind of companionship. “I wish he knew that I am not so contemptible as he thinks me; that I am in deep trouble, and want to be something better if I could.” Without the aid of sacred ceremony or costume, her feelings had turned this man, only a few years older than herself, into a priest; a sort of trust less rare than the fidelity that guards it. Young reverence for one who is also young is the most coercive of all: there is the same level of temptation, and the higher motive is believed in as a fuller force⁠—not suspected to be a mere residue from weary experience.

But the coercion is often stronger on the one who takes the reverence. Those who trust us educate us. And perhaps in that ideal consecration of Gwendolen’s, some education was being prepared for Deronda.

Chapter XXXVI

Rien ne pèse tant qu’un secret
Le porter loin est difficile aux dames:
Et je sçais mesme sur ce fait
Bon nombre d’hommes qui sont femmes.
La Fontaine

Meanwhile Deronda had been fastened and led off by Mr. Vandernoodt, who wished for a brisker walk, a cigar, and a little gossip. Since we cannot tell a man his own secrets, the restraint of being in his company often breeds a desire to pair off in conversation with some more ignorant person, and Mr. Vandernoodt presently said,

“What a washed-out piece of cambric Grandcourt is! But if he is a favorite of yours, I withdraw the remark.”

“Not the least in the world,” said Deronda.

“I thought not. One wonders how he came to have a great passion again; and he must have had⁠—to marry in this way. Though Lush, his old chum, hints that he married this girl out of obstinacy. By George! it was a very accountable obstinacy. A man might make up his mind to marry her without the stimulus of contradiction. But he must have made himself a pretty large drain of money, eh?”

“I know nothing of his affairs.”

“What! not of the other establishment he keeps up?”

“Diplow? Of course. He took that of Sir Hugo. But merely for the year.”

“No, no; not Diplow: Gadsmere. Sir Hugo knows, I’ll answer for it.”

Deronda said nothing. He really began to feel some curiosity, but he foresaw that he should hear what Mr. Vandernoodt had to tell, without the condescension of asking.

“Lush would not altogether own to it, of course. He’s a confidant and go-between of Grandcourt’s. But I have it on the best authority. The fact is, there’s another lady with four children at Gadsmere. She has had the upper hand of him these ten years and more, and by what I can understand has it still⁠—left her husband for him, and used to travel with him everywhere. Her husband’s dead now; I found a fellow who was in the same regiment with him, and knew this Mrs. Glasher before she took wing. A fiery dark-eyed woman⁠—a noted beauty at that time⁠—he thought she was dead. They say she has Grandcourt under her thumb still, and it’s a wonder he didn’t marry her, for there’s a very fine boy, and I understand Grandcourt can do absolutely as he pleases with the estates. Lush told me as much as that.”

“What right had he to marry this girl?” said Deronda, with disgust.

Mr. Vandernoodt, adjusting the end of his cigar, shrugged his shoulders and put out his lips.

She can know nothing of it,” said Deronda, emphatically. But that positive statement was immediately followed by an inward query⁠—“Could she have known anything of it?”

“It’s rather a piquant picture,” said Mr. Vandernoodt⁠—“Grandcourt between two fiery women. For depend upon it this light-haired one has plenty of devil in her. I formed that opinion of her at Leubronn. It’s a sort of Medea and Creüsa business. Fancy the two meeting! Grandcourt is a new kind of Jason: I wonder what sort of a part he’ll make of it. It’s a dog’s part at best. I think I hear Ristori now, saying, ‘Jasone! Jasone!’ These fine women generally get hold of a stick.”

“Grandcourt can bite, I fancy,” said Deronda. “He is no stick.”

“No, no; I meant Jason. I can’t quite make out Grandcourt. But he’s a keen fellow enough⁠—uncommonly well built too. And if he comes into all this property, the estates will bear dividing. This girl, whose friends had come to beggary, I understand, may think herself lucky to get him. I don’t want to be hard on a man because he gets involved in an affair of that sort. But he might make himself more agreeable. I was telling him a capital story last night, and he got up and walked away in the middle. I felt inclined to kick him. Do you suppose that is inattention or insolence, now?”

“Oh, a mixture. He generally observes the forms: but he doesn’t listen much,” said Deronda. Then, after a moment’s pause, he went on, “I should think there must be some exaggeration or inaccuracy in what you have heard about this lady at Gadsmere.”

“Not a bit, depend upon it; it has all lain snug of late years. People have forgotten all about it. But there the nest is, and the birds are in it. And I know Grandcourt goes there. I have good evidence that he goes there. However, that’s nobody’s business but his own. The affair has sunk below the surface.”

“I wonder you could have learned so much about it,” said Deronda, rather drily.

“Oh, there are plenty of people who knew all about it; but such stories get packed away like old letters. They interest me. I like to know the manners of my time⁠—contemporary gossip, not antediluvian. These Dryasdust fellows get a reputation by raking up some small scandal about Semiramis or Nitocris, and then we have a thousand and one poems written upon it by all the warblers big and little. But I don’t care a straw about the faux pas of the mummies. You do, though. You are one of the historical men⁠—more interested in a lady when she’s got a rag face and skeleton toes peeping out. Does that flatter your imagination?”

“Well, if she had any woes in her love, one has the satisfaction of knowing that she’s well out of them.”

“Ah, you are thinking of the Medea, I see.”

Deronda then chose to point to some giant oaks worth looking at in their bareness. He also felt an interest in this piece of contemporary gossip, but he was satisfied that Mr. Vandernoodt had no more to tell about it.

Since the early days when he tried to construct the hidden story of his own birth, his mind had perhaps never been so active in weaving probabilities about any private affair as it had now begun to be about Gwendolen’s marriage. This unavowed relation of Grandcourt’s⁠—could she have gained some knowledge of it, which caused her to shrink from the match⁠—a shrinking finally overcome by the urgence of poverty? He could recall almost every word she had said to him, and in certain of these words he seemed to discern that she was conscious of having done some wrong⁠—inflicted some injury. His own acute experience made him alive to the form of injury which might affect the unavowed children and their mother. Was Mrs. Grandcourt, under all her determined show of satisfaction, gnawed by a double, a treble-headed grief⁠—self-reproach, disappointment, jealousy? He dwelt especially on all the slight signs of self-reproach: he was inclined to judge her tenderly, to excuse, to pity. He thought he had found a key now by which to interpret her more clearly: what magnifying of her misery might not a young creature get into who had wedded her fresh hopes to old secrets! He thought he saw clearly enough now why Sir Hugo had never dropped any hint of this affair to him; and immediately the image of this Mrs. Glasher became painfully associated with his own hidden birth. Gwendolen knowing of that woman and her children, marrying Grandcourt, and showing herself contented, would have been among the most repulsive of beings to him; but Gwendolen tasting the bitterness of remorse for having contributed to their injury was brought very near to his fellow-feeling. If it were so, she had got to a common plane of understanding with him on some difficulties of life which a woman is rarely able to judge of with any justice or generosity; for, according to precedent, Gwendolen’s view of her position might easily have been no other than that her husband’s marriage with her was his entrance on the path of virtue, while Mrs. Glasher represented his forsaken sin. And Deronda had naturally some resentment on behalf of the Hagars and Ishmaels.

Undeniably Deronda’s growing solicitude about Gwendolen depended chiefly on her peculiar manner toward him; and I suppose neither man nor woman would be the better for an utter insensibility to such appeals. One sign that his interest in her had changed its footing was that he dismissed any caution against her being a coquette setting snares to involve him in a vulgar flirtation, and determined that he would not again evade any opportunity of talking to her. He had shaken off Mr. Vandernoodt, and got into a solitary corner in the twilight; but half an hour was long enough to think of those possibilities in Gwendolen’s position and state of mind; and on forming the determination not to avoid her, he remembered that she was likely to be at tea with the other ladies in the drawing-room. The conjecture was true; for Gwendolen, after resolving not to go down again for the next four hours, began to feel, at the end of one, that in shutting herself up she missed all chances of seeing and hearing, and that her visit would only last two days more. She adjusted herself, put on her little air of self-possession, and going down, made herself resolutely agreeable. Only ladies were assembled, and Lady Pentreath was amusing them with a description of a drawing-room under the Regency, and the figure that was cut by ladies and gentlemen in 1819, the year she was presented⁠—when Deronda entered.

“Shall I be acceptable?” he said. “Perhaps I had better go back and look for the others. I suppose they are in the billiard-room.”

“No, no; stay where you are,” said Lady Pentreath. “They were all getting tired of me; let us hear what you have to say.”

“That is rather an embarrassing appeal,” said Deronda, drawing up a chair near Lady Mallinger’s elbow at the tea-table. “I think I had better take the opportunity of mentioning our songstress,” he added, looking at Lady Mallinger⁠—“unless you have done so.”

“Oh, the little Jewess!” said Lady Mallinger. “No, I have not mentioned her. It never entered my head that anyone here wanted singing lessons.”

“All ladies know someone else who wants singing lessons,” said Deronda. “I have happened to find an exquisite singer,”⁠—here he turned to Lady Pentreath. “She is living with some ladies who are friends of mine⁠—the mother and sisters of a man who was my chum at Cambridge. She was on the stage at Vienna; but she wants to leave that life, and maintain herself by teaching.”

“There are swarms of those people, aren’t there?” said the old lady. “Are her lessons to be very cheap or very expensive? Those are the two baits I know of.”

“There is another bait for those who hear her,” said Deronda. “Her singing is something quite exceptional, I think. She has had such first-rate teaching⁠—or rather first-rate instinct with her teaching⁠—that you might imagine her singing all came by nature.”

“Why did she leave the stage, then?” said Lady Pentreath. “I’m too old to believe in first-rate people giving up first-rate chances.”

“Her voice was too weak. It is a delicious voice for a room. You who put up with my singing of Schubert would be enchanted with hers,” said Deronda, looking at Mrs. Raymond. “And I imagine she would not object to sing at private parties or concerts. Her voice is quite equal to that.”

“I am to have her in my drawing-room when we go up to town,” said Lady Mallinger. “You shall hear her then. I have not heard her myself yet; but I trust Daniel’s recommendation. I mean my girls to have lessons of her.”

“Is it a charitable affair?” said Lady Pentreath. “I can’t bear charitable music.”

Lady Mallinger, who was rather helpless in conversation, and felt herself under an engagement not to tell anything of Mirah’s story, had an embarrassed smile on her face, and glanced at Deronda.

“It is a charity to those who want to have a good model of feminine singing,” said Deronda. “I think everybody who has ears would benefit by a little improvement on the ordinary style. If you heard Miss Lapidoth”⁠—here he looked at Gwendolen⁠—“perhaps you would revoke your resolution to give up singing.”

“I should rather think my resolution would be confirmed,” said Gwendolen. “I don’t feel able to follow your advice of enjoying my own middlingness.”

“For my part,” said Deronda, “people who do anything finely always inspirit me to try. I don’t mean that they make me believe I can do it as well. But they make the thing, whatever it may be, seem worthy to be done. I can bear to think my own music not good for much, but the world would be more dismal if I thought music itself not good for much. Excellence encourages one about life generally; it shows the spiritual wealth of the world.”

“But then, if we can’t imitate it, it only makes our own life seem the tamer,” said Gwendolen, in a mood to resent encouragement founded on her own insignificance.

“That depends on the point of view, I think,” said Deronda. “We should have a poor life of it if we were reduced for all our pleasure to our own performances. A little private imitation of what is good is a sort of private devotion to it, and most of us ought to practice art only in the light of private study⁠—preparation to understand and enjoy what the few can do for us. I think Miss Lapidoth is one of the few.”

“She must be a very happy person, don’t you think?” said Gwendolen, with a touch of sarcasm, and a turn of her neck toward Mrs. Raymond.

“I don’t know,” answered the independent lady; “I must hear more of her before I say that.”

“It may have been a bitter disappointment to her that her voice failed her for the stage,” said Juliet Fenn, sympathetically.

“I suppose she’s past her best, though,” said the deep voice of Lady Pentreath.

“On the contrary, she has not reached it,” said Deronda. “She is barely twenty.”

“And very pretty,” interposed Lady Mallinger, with an amiable wish to help Deronda. “And she has very good manners. I’m sorry she’s a bigoted Jewess; I should not like it for anything else, but it doesn’t matter in singing.”

“Well, since her voice is too weak for her to scream much, I’ll tell Lady Clementina to set her on my nine granddaughters,” said Lady Pentreath; “and I hope she’ll convince eight of them that they have not voice enough to sing anywhere but at church. My notion is, that many of our girls nowadays want lessons not to sing.”

“I have had my lessons in that,” said Gwendolen, looking at Deronda. “You see Lady Pentreath is on my side.”

While she was speaking, Sir Hugo entered with some of the other gentlemen, including Grandcourt, and standing against the group at the low tea-table said,

“What imposition is Deronda putting on you, ladies⁠—slipping in among you by himself?”

“Wanting to pass off an obscurity on us as better than any celebrity,” said Lady Pentreath⁠—“a pretty singing Jewess who is to astonish these young people. You and I, who heard Catalani in her prime, are not so easily astonished.”

Sir Hugo listened with his good-humored smile as he took a cup of tea from his wife, and then said, “Well, you know, a Liberal is bound to think that there have been singers since Catalani’s time.”

“Ah, you are younger than I am. I dare say you are one of the men who ran after Alcharisi. But she married off and left you all in the lurch.”

“Yes, yes; it’s rather too bad when these great singers marry themselves into silence before they have a crack in their voices. And the husband is a public robber. I remember Leroux saying, ‘A man might as well take down a fine peal of church bells and carry them off to the steppes,’ ” said Sir Hugo, setting down his cup and turning away, while Deronda, who had moved from his place to make room for others, and felt that he was not in request, sat down a little apart. Presently he became aware that, in the general dispersion of the group, Gwendolen had extricated herself from the attentions of Mr. Vandernoodt and had walked to the piano, where she stood apparently examining the music which lay on the desk. Will anyone be surprised at Deronda’s concluding that she wished him to join her? Perhaps she wanted to make amends for the unpleasant tone of resistance with which she had met his recommendation of Mirah, for he had noticed that her first impulse often was to say what she afterward wished to retract. He went to her side and said,

“Are you relenting about the music and looking for something to play or sing?”

“I am not looking for anything, but I am relenting,” said Gwendolen, speaking in a submissive tone.

“May I know the reason?”

“I should like to hear Miss Lapidoth and have lessons from her, since you admire her so much⁠—that is, of course, when we go to town. I mean lessons in rejoicing at her excellence and my own deficiency,” said Gwendolen, turning on him a sweet, open smile.

“I shall be really glad for you to see and hear her,” said Deronda, returning the smile in kind.

“Is she as perfect in everything else as in her music?”

“I can’t vouch for that exactly. I have not seen enough of her. But I have seen nothing in her that I could wish to be different. She has had an unhappy life. Her troubles began in early childhood, and she has grown up among very painful surroundings. But I think you will say that no advantages could have given her more grace and truer refinement.”

“I wonder what sort of trouble hers were?”

“I have not any very precise knowledge. But I know that she was on the brink of drowning herself in despair.”

“And what hindered her?” said Gwendolen, quickly, looking at Deronda.

“Some ray or other came⁠—which made her feel that she ought to live⁠—that it was good to live,” he answered, quietly. “She is full of piety, and seems capable of submitting to anything when it takes the form of duty.”

“Those people are not to be pitied,” said Gwendolen, impatiently. “I have no sympathy with women who are always doing right. I don’t believe in their great sufferings.” Her fingers moved quickly among the edges of the music.

“It is true,” said Deronda, “that the consciousness of having done wrong is something deeper, more bitter. I suppose we faulty creatures can never feel so much for the irreproachable as for those who are bruised in the struggle with their own faults. It is a very ancient story, that of the lost sheep⁠—but it comes up afresh every day.”

“That is a way of speaking⁠—it is not acted upon, it is not real,” said Gwendolen, bitterly. “You admire Miss Lapidoth because you think her blameless, perfect. And you know you would despise a woman who had done something you thought very wrong.”

“That would depend entirely upon her own view of what she had done,” said Deronda.

“You would be satisfied if she were very wretched, I suppose,” said Gwendolen, impetuously.

“No, not satisfied⁠—full of sorrow for her. It was not a mere way of speaking. I did not mean to say that the finer nature is not more adorable; I meant that those who would be comparatively uninteresting beforehand may become worthier of sympathy when they do something that awakens in them a keen remorse. Lives are enlarged in different ways. I dare say some would never get their eyes opened if it were not for a violent shock from the consequences of their own actions. And when they are suffering in that way one must care for them more than for the comfortably self-satisfied.” Deronda forgot everything but his vision of what Gwendolen’s experience had probably been, and urged by compassion let his eyes and voice express as much interest as they would.

Gwendolen had slipped on to the music-stool, and looked up at him with pain in her long eyes, like a wounded animal asking for help.

“Are you persuading Mrs. Grandcourt to play to us, Dan?” said Sir Hugo, coming up and putting his hand on Deronda’s shoulder with a gentle, admonitory pinch.

“I cannot persuade myself,” said Gwendolen, rising.

Others had followed Sir Hugo’s lead, and there was an end of any liability to confidences for that day. But the next was New Year’s Eve; and a grand dance, to which the chief tenants were invited, was to be held in the picture-gallery above the cloister⁠—the sort of entertainment in which numbers and general movement may create privacy. When Gwendolen was dressing, she longed, in remembrance of Leubronn, to put on the old turquoise necklace for her sole ornament; but she dared not offend her husband by appearing in that shabby way on an occasion when he would demand her utmost splendor. Determined to wear the memorial necklace somehow, she wound it thrice round her wrist and made a bracelet of it⁠—having gone to her room to put it on just before the time of entering the ballroom.

It was always a beautiful scene, this dance on New Year’s Eve, which had been kept up by the family tradition as nearly in the old fashion as inexorable change would allow. Red carpet was laid down for the occasion: hothouse plants and evergreens were arranged in bowers at the extremities and in every recess of the gallery; and the old portraits stretching back through generations, even to the pre-portraying period, made a piquant line of spectators. Some neighboring gentry, major and minor, were invited; and it was certainly an occasion when a prospective master and mistress of Abbott’s and King’s Topping might see their future glory in an agreeable light, as a picturesque provincial supremacy with a rent-roll personified by the most prosperous-looking tenants. Sir Hugo expected Grandcourt to feel flattered by being asked to the Abbey at a time which included this festival in honor of the family estate; but he also hoped that his own hale appearance might impress his successor with the probable length of time that would elapse before the succession came, and with the wisdom of preferring a good actual sum to a minor property that must be waited for. All present, down to the least important farmer’s daughter, knew that they were to see “young Grandcourt,” Sir Hugo’s nephew, the presumptive heir and future baronet, now visiting the Abbey with his bride after an absence of many years; any coolness between uncle and nephew having, it is understood, given way to a friendly warmth. The bride opening the ball with Sir Hugo was necessarily the cynosure of all eyes; and less than a year before, if some magic mirror could have shown Gwendolen her actual position, she would have imagined herself moving in it with a glow of triumphant pleasure, conscious that she held in her hands a life full of favorable chances which her cleverness and spirit would enable her to make the best of. And now she was wondering that she could get so little joy out of the exultation to which she had been suddenly lifted, away from the distasteful petty empire of her girlhood with its irksome lack of distinction and superfluity of sisters. She would have been glad to be even unreasonably elated, and to forget everything but the flattery of the moment; but she was like one courting sleep, in whom thoughts insist like willful tormentors.

Wondering in this way at her own dullness, and all the while longing for an excitement that would deaden importunate aches, she was passing through files of admiring beholders in the country-dance with which it was traditional to open the ball, and was being generally regarded by her own sex as an enviable woman. It was remarked that she carried herself with a wonderful air, considering that she had been nobody in particular, and without a farthing to her fortune. If she had been a duke’s daughter, or one of the royal princesses, she could not have taken the honors of the evening more as a matter of course. Poor Gwendolen! It would by-and-by become a sort of skill in which she was automatically practiced to bear this last great gambling loss with an air of perfect self-possession.

The next couple that passed were also worth looking at. Lady Pentreath had said, “I shall stand up for one dance, but I shall choose my partner. Mr. Deronda, you are the youngest man, I mean to dance with you. Nobody is old enough to make a good pair with me. I must have a contrast.” And the contrast certainly set off the old lady to the utmost. She was one of those women who are never handsome till they are old, and she had had the wisdom to embrace the beauty of age as early as possible. What might have seemed harshness in her features when she was young, had turned now into a satisfactory strength of form and expression which defied wrinkles, and was set off by a crown of white hair; her well-built figure was well covered with black drapery, her ears and neck comfortably caressed with lace, showing none of those withered spaces which one would think it a pitiable condition of poverty to expose. She glided along gracefully enough, her dark eyes still with a mischievous smile in them as she observed the company. Her partner’s young richness of tint against the flattened hues and rougher forms of her aged head had an effect something like that of a fine flower against a lichenous branch. Perhaps the tenants hardly appreciated this pair. Lady Pentreath was nothing more than a straight, active old lady: Mr. Deronda was a familiar figure regarded with friendliness; but if he had been the heir, it would have been regretted that his face was not as unmistakably English as Sir Hugo’s.

Grandcourt’s appearance when he came up with Lady Mallinger was not impeached with foreignness: still the satisfaction in it was not complete. It would have been matter of congratulation if one who had the luck to inherit two old family estates had had more hair, a fresher color, and a look of greater animation; but that fine families dwindled off into females, and estates ran together into the single heirship of a mealy-complexioned male, was a tendency in things which seemed to be accounted for by a citation of other instances. It was agreed that Mr. Grandcourt could never be taken for anything but what he was⁠—a born gentleman; and that, in fact, he looked like an heir. Perhaps the person least complacently disposed toward him at that moment was Lady Mallinger, to whom going in procession up this country-dance with Grandcourt was a blazonment of herself as the infelicitous wife who had produced nothing but daughters, little better than no children, poor dear things, except for her own fondness and for Sir Hugo’s wonderful goodness to them. But such inward discomfort could not prevent the gentle lady from looking fair and stout to admiration, or her full blue eyes from glancing mildly at her neighbors. All the mothers and fathers held it a thousand pities that she had not had a fine boy, or even several⁠—which might have been expected, to look at her when she was first married.

The gallery included only three sides of the quadrangle, the fourth being shut off as a lobby or corridor: one side was used for dancing, and the opposite side for the supper-table, while the intermediate part was less brilliantly lit, and fitted with comfortable seats. Later in the evening Gwendolen was in one of these seats, and Grandcourt was standing near her. They were not talking to each other: she was leaning backward in her chair, and he against the wall; and Deronda, happening to observe this, went up to ask her if she had resolved not to dance any more. Having himself been doing hard duty in this way among the guests, he thought he had earned the right to sink for a little while into the background, and he had spoken little to Gwendolen since their conversation at the piano the day before. Grandcourt’s presence would only make it the easier to show that pleasure in talking to her even about trivialities which would be a sign of friendliness; and he fancied that her face looked blank. A smile beamed over it as she saw him coming, and she raised herself from her leaning posture. Grandcourt had been grumbling at the ennui of staying so long in this stupid dance, and proposing that they should vanish: she had resisted on the ground of politeness⁠—not without being a little frightened at the probability that he was silently angry with her. She had her reason for staying, though she had begun to despair of the opportunity for the sake of which she had put the old necklace on her wrist. But now at last Deronda had come.

“Yes; I shall not dance any more. Are you not glad?” she said, with some gayety, “you might have felt obliged humbly to offer yourself as a partner, and I feel sure you have danced more than you like already.”

“I will not deny that,” said Deronda, “since you have danced as much as you like.”

“But will you take trouble for me in another way, and fetch me a glass of that fresh water?”

It was but a few steps that Deronda had to go for the water. Gwendolen was wrapped in the lightest, softest of white woolen burnouses, under which her hands were hidden. While he was gone she had drawn off her glove, which was finished with a lace ruffle, and when she put up her hand to take the glass and lifted it to her mouth, the necklace-bracelet, which in its triple winding adapted itself clumsily to her wrist, was necessarily conspicuous. Grandcourt saw it, and saw that it was attracting Deronda’s notice.

“What is that hideous thing you have got on your wrist?” said the husband.

“That?” said Gwendolen, composedly, pointing to the turquoises, while she still held the glass; “it is an old necklace I like to wear. I lost it once, and someone found it for me.”

With that she gave the glass again to Deronda, who immediately carried it away, and on returning said, in order to banish any consciousness about the necklace,

“It is worth while for you to go and look out at one of the windows on that side. You can see the finest possible moonlight on the stone pillars and carving, and shadows waving across it in the wind.”

“I should like to see it. Will you go?” said Gwendolen, looking up at her husband.

He cast his eyes down at her, and saying, “No, Deronda will take you,” slowly moved from his leaning attitude, and walked away.

Gwendolen’s face for a moment showed a fleeting vexation: she resented this show of indifference toward her. Deronda felt annoyed, chiefly for her sake; and with a quick sense, that it would relieve her most to behave as if nothing peculiar had occurred, he said, “Will you take my arm and go, while only servants are there?” He thought that he understood well her action in drawing his attention to the necklace: she wished him to infer that she had submitted her mind to rebuke⁠—her speech and manner had from the first fluctuated toward that submission⁠—and that she felt no lingering resentment. Her evident confidence in his interpretation of her appealed to him as a peculiar claim.

When they were walking together, Gwendolen felt as if the annoyance which had just happened had removed another film of reserve from between them, and she had more right than before to be as open as she wished. She did not speak, being filled with the sense of silent confidence, until they were in front of the window looking out on the moonlit court. A sort of bower had been made round the window, turning it into a recess. Quitting his arm, she folded her hands in her burnous, and pressed her brow against the glass. He moved slightly away, and held the lapels of his coat with his thumbs under the collar as his manner was: he had a wonderful power of standing perfectly still, and in that position reminded one sometimes of Dante’s spiriti magni con occhi tardi e gravi. (Doubtless some of these danced in their youth, doubted of their own vocation, and found their own times too modern.) He abstained from remarking on the scene before them, fearing that any indifferent words might jar on her: already the calm light and shadow, the ancient steadfast forms, and aloofness enough from those inward troubles which he felt sure were agitating her. And he judged aright: she would have been impatient of polite conversation. The incidents of the last minute or two had receded behind former thoughts which she had imagined herself uttering to Deronda, which now urged themselves to her lips. In a subdued voice, she said,

“Suppose I had gambled again, and lost the necklace again, what should you have thought of me?”

“Worse than I do now.”

“Then you are mistaken about me. You wanted me not to do that⁠—not to make my gain out of another’s loss in that way⁠—and I have done a great deal worse.”

“I can’t imagine temptations,” said Deronda. “Perhaps I am able to understand what you mean. At least I understand self-reproach.” In spite of preparation he was almost alarmed at Gwendolen’s precipitancy of confidence toward him, in contrast with her habitual resolute concealment.

“What should you do if you were like me⁠—feeling that you were wrong and miserable, and dreading everything to come?” It seemed that she was hurrying to make the utmost use of this opportunity to speak as she would.

“That is not to be amended by doing one thing only⁠—but many,” said Deronda, decisively.

“What?” said Gwendolen, hastily, moving her brow from the glass and looking at him.

He looked full at her in return, with what she thought was severity. He felt that it was not a moment in which he must let himself be tender, and flinch from implying a hard opinion.

“I mean there are many thoughts and habits that may help us to bear inevitable sorrow. Multitudes have to bear it.”

She turned her brow to the window again, and said impatiently, “You must tell me then what to think and what to do; else why did you not let me go on doing as I liked and not minding? If I had gone on gambling I might have won again, and I might have got not to care for anything else. You would not let me do that. Why shouldn’t I do as I like, and not mind? Other people do.” Poor Gwendolen’s speech expressed nothing very clearly except her irritation.

“I don’t believe you would ever get not to mind,” said Deronda, with deep-toned decision. “If it were true that baseness and cruelty made an escape from pain, what difference would that make to people who can’t be quite base or cruel? Idiots escape some pain; but you can’t be an idiot. Some may do wrong to another without remorse; but suppose one does feel remorse? I believe you could never lead an injurious life⁠—all reckless lives are injurious, pestilential⁠—without feeling remorse.” Deronda’s unconscious fervor had gathered as he went on: he was uttering thoughts which he had used for himself in moments of painful meditation.

“Then tell me what better I can do,” said Gwendolen, insistently.

“Many things. Look on other lives besides your own. See what their troubles are, and how they are borne. Try to care about something in this vast world besides the gratification of small selfish desires. Try to care for what is best in thought and action⁠—something that is good apart from the accidents of your own lot.”

For an instant or two Gwendolen was mute. Then, again moving her brow from the glass, she said,

“You mean that I am selfish and ignorant.”

He met her fixed look in silence before he answered firmly⁠—“You will not go on being selfish and ignorant!”

She did not turn away her glance or let her eyelids fall, but a change came over her face⁠—that subtle change in nerve and muscle which will sometimes give a childlike expression even to the elderly: it is the subsidence of self-assertion.

“Shall I lead you back?” said Deronda, gently, turning and offering her his arm again. She took it silently, and in that way they came in sight of Grandcourt, who was walking slowly near their former place. Gwendolen went up to him and said, “I am ready to go now. Mr. Deronda will excuse us to Lady Mallinger.”

“Certainly,” said Deronda. “Lord and Lady Pentreath disappeared some time ago.”

Grandcourt gave his arm in silent compliance, nodding over his shoulder to Deronda, and Gwendolen too only half turned to bow and say, “Thanks.” The husband and wife left the gallery and paced the corridors in silence. When the door had closed on them in the boudoir, Grandcourt threw himself into a chair and said, with undertoned peremptoriness, “Sit down.” She, already in the expectation of something unpleasant, had thrown off her burnous with nervous unconsciousness, and immediately obeyed. Turning his eyes toward her, he began,

“Oblige me in future by not showing whims like a mad woman in a play.”

“What do you mean?” said Gwendolen.

“I suppose there is some understanding between you and Deronda about that thing you have on your wrist. If you have anything to say to him, say it. But don’t carry on a telegraphing which other people are supposed not to see. It’s damnably vulgar.”

“You can know all about the necklace,” said Gwendolen, her angry pride resisting the nightmare of fear.

“I don’t want to know. Keep to yourself whatever you like.” Grandcourt paused between each sentence, and in each his speech seemed to become more preternaturally distinct in its inward tones. “What I care to know I shall know without your telling me. Only you will please to behave as becomes my wife. And not make a spectacle of yourself.”

“Do you object to my talking to Mr. Deronda?”

“I don’t care two straws about Deronda, or any other conceited hanger-on. You may talk to him as much as you like. He is not going to take my place. You are my wife. And you will either fill your place properly⁠—to the world and to me⁠—or you will go to the devil.”

“I never intended anything but to fill my place properly,” said Gwendolen, with bitterest mortification in her soul.

“You put that thing on your wrist, and hid it from me till you wanted him to see it. Only fools go into that deaf and dumb talk, and think they’re secret. You will understand that you are not to compromise yourself. Behave with dignity. That’s all I have to say.”

With that last word Grandcourt rose, turned his back to the fire and looked down on her. She was mute. There was no reproach that she dared to fling back at him in return for these insulting admonitions, and the very reason she felt them to be insulting was that their purport went with the most absolute dictate of her pride. What she would least like to incur was the making a fool of herself and being compromised. It was futile and irrelevant to try and explain that Deronda too had only been a monitor⁠—the strongest of all monitors. Grandcourt was contemptuous, not jealous; contemptuously certain of all the subjection he cared for. Why could she not rebel and defy him? She longed to do it. But she might as well have tried to defy the texture of her nerves and the palpitation of her heart. Her husband had a ghostly army at his back, that could close round her wherever she might turn. She sat in her splendid attire, like a white image of helplessness, and he seemed to gratify himself with looking at her. She could not even make a passionate exclamation, or throw up her arms, as she would have done in her maiden days. The sense of his scorn kept her still.

“Shall I ring?” he said, after what seemed to her a long while. She moved her head in assent, and after ringing he went to his dressing-room.

Certain words were gnawing within her. “The wrong you have done me will be your own curse.” As he closed the door, the bitter tears rose, and the gnawing words provoked an answer: “Why did you put your fangs into me and not into him?” It was uttered in a whisper, as the tears came up silently. But she immediately pressed her handkerchief against her eyes, and checked her tendency to sob.

The next day, recovered from the shuddering fit of this evening scene, she determined to use the charter which Grandcourt had scornfully given her, and to talk as much as she liked with Deronda; but no opportunities occurred, and any little devices she could imagine for creating them were rejected by her pride, which was now doubly active. Not toward Deronda himself⁠—she was singularly free from alarm lest he should think her openness wanting in dignity: it was part of his power over her that she believed him free from all misunderstanding as to the way in which she appealed to him; or rather, that he should misunderstand her had never entered into her mind. But the last morning came, and still she had never been able to take up the dropped thread of their talk, and she was without devices. She and Grandcourt were to leave at three o’clock. It was too irritating that after a walk in the grounds had been planned in Deronda’s hearing, he did not present himself to join in it. Grandcourt was gone with Sir Hugo to King’s Topping, to see the old manor-house; others of the gentlemen were shooting; she was condemned to go and see the decoy and the waterfowl, and everything else that she least wanted to see, with the ladies, with old Lord Pentreath and his anecdotes, with Mr. Vandernoodt and his admiring manners. The irritation became too strong for her; without premeditation, she took advantage of the winding road to linger a little out of sight, and then set off back to the house, almost running when she was safe from observation. She entered by a side door, and the library was on her left hand; Deronda, she knew, was often there; why might she not turn in there as well as into any other room in the house? She had been taken there expressly to see the illuminated family tree, and other remarkable things⁠—what more natural than that she should like to look in again? The thing most to be feared was that the room would be empty of Deronda, for the door was ajar. She pushed it gently, and looked round it. He was there, writing busily at a distant table, with his back toward the door (in fact, Sir Hugo had asked him to answer some constituents’ letters which had become pressing). An enormous log fire, with the scent of Russia from the books, made the great room as warmly odorous as a private chapel in which the censers have been swinging. It seemed too daring to go in⁠—too rude to speak and interrupt him; yet she went in on the noiseless carpet, and stood still for two or three minutes, till Deronda, having finished a letter, pushed it aside for signature, and threw himself back to consider whether there were anything else for him to do, or whether he could walk out for the chance of meeting the party which included Gwendolen, when he heard her voice saying, “Mr. Deronda.”

It was certainly startling. He rose hastily, turned round, and pushed away his chair with a strong expression of surprise.

“Am I wrong to come in?” said Gwendolen.

“I thought you were far on your walk,” said Deronda.

“I turned back,” said Gwendolen.

“Do you intend to go out again? I could join you now, if you would allow me.”

“No; I want to say something, and I can’t stay long,” said Gwendolen, speaking quickly in a subdued tone, while she walked forward and rested her arms and muff on the back of the chair he had pushed away from him. “I want to tell you that it is really so⁠—I can’t help feeling remorse for having injured others. That was what I meant when I said that I had done worse than gamble again and pawn the necklace again⁠—something more injurious, as you called it. And I can’t alter it. I am punished, but I can’t alter it. You said I could do many things. Tell me again. What should you do⁠—what should you feel if you were in my place?”

The hurried directness with which she spoke⁠—the absence of all her little airs, as if she were only concerned to use the time in getting an answer that would guide her, made her appeal unspeakably touching.

Deronda said, “I should feel something of what you feel⁠—deep sorrow.”

“But what would you try to do?” said Gwendolen, with urgent quickness.

“Order my life so as to make any possible amends, and keep away from doing any sort of injury again,” said Deronda, catching her sense that the time for speech was brief.

“But I can’t⁠—I can’t; I must go on,” said Gwendolen, in a passionate loud whisper. “I have thrust out others⁠—I have made my gain out of their loss⁠—tried to make it⁠—tried. And I must go on. I can’t alter it.”

It was impossible to answer this instantaneously. Her words had confirmed his conjecture, and the situation of all concerned rose in swift images before him. His feeling for those who had been thrust out sanctioned her remorse; he could not try to nullify it, yet his heart was full of pity for her. But as soon as he could he answered⁠—taking up her last words,

“That is the bitterest of all⁠—to wear the yoke of our own wrongdoing. But if you submitted to that as men submit to maiming or lifelong incurable disease?⁠—and made the unalterable wrong a reason for more effort toward a good, that may do something to counterbalance the evil? One who has committed irremediable errors may be scourged by that consciousness into a higher course than is common. There are many examples. Feeling what it is to have spoiled one life may well make us long to save other lives from being spoiled.”

“But you have not wronged anyone, or spoiled their lives,” said Gwendolen, hastily. “It is only others who have wronged you.”

Deronda colored slightly, but said immediately⁠—“I suppose our keen feeling for ourselves might end in giving us a keen feeling for others, if, when we are suffering acutely, we were to consider that others go through the same sharp experience. That is a sort of remorse before commission. Can’t you understand that?”

“I think I do⁠—now,” said Gwendolen. “But you were right⁠—I am selfish. I have never thought much of anyone’s feelings, except my mother’s. I have not been fond of people. But what can I do?” she went on, more quickly. “I must get up in the morning and do what everyone else does. It is all like a dance set beforehand. I seem to see all that can be⁠—and I am tired and sick of it. And the world is all confusion to me”⁠—she made a gesture of disgust. “You say I am ignorant. But what is the good of trying to know more, unless life were worth more?”

“This good,” said Deronda promptly, with a touch of indignant severity, which he was inclined to encourage as his own safeguard; “life would be worth more to you: some real knowledge would give you an interest in the world beyond the small drama of personal desires. It is the curse of your life⁠—forgive me⁠—of so many lives, that all passion is spent in that narrow round, for want of ideas and sympathies to make a larger home for it. Is there any single occupation of mind that you care about with passionate delight or even independent interest?”

Deronda paused, but Gwendolen, looking startled and thrilled as by an electric shock, said nothing, and he went on more insistently,

“I take what you said of music for a small example⁠—it answers for all larger things⁠—you will not cultivate it for the sake of a private joy in it. What sort of earth or heaven would hold any spiritual wealth in it for souls pauperized by inaction? If one firmament has no stimulus for our attention and awe, I don’t see how four would have it. We should stamp every possible world with the flatness of our own inanity⁠—which is necessarily impious, without faith or fellowship. The refuge you are needing from personal trouble is the higher, the religious life, which holds an enthusiasm for something more than our own appetites and vanities. The few may find themselves in it simply by an elevation of feeling; but for us who have to struggle for our wisdom, the higher life must be a region in which the affections are clad with knowledge.”

The half-indignant remonstrance that vibrated in Deronda’s voice came, as often happens, from the habit of inward argument with himself rather than from severity toward Gwendolen: but it had a more beneficial effect on her than any soothings. Nothing is feebler than the indolent rebellion of complaint; and to be roused into self-judgment is comparative activity. For the moment she felt like a shaken child⁠—shaken out of its wailing into awe, and she said humbly,

“I will try. I will think.”

They both stood silent for a minute, as if some third presence had arrested them⁠—for Deronda, too, was under that sense of pressure which is apt to come when our own winged words seem to be hovering around us⁠—till Gwendolen began again,

“You said affection was the best thing, and I have hardly any⁠—none about me. If I could, I would have mamma; but that is impossible. Things have changed to me so⁠—in such a short time. What I used not to like I long for now. I think I am almost getting fond of the old things now they are gone.” Her lip trembled.

“Take the present suffering as a painful letting in of light,” said Deronda, more gently. “You are conscious of more beyond the round of your own inclinations⁠—you know more of the way in which your life presses on others, and their life on yours. I don’t think you could have escaped the painful process in some form or other.”

“But it is a very cruel form,” said Gwendolen, beating her foot on the ground with returning agitation. “I am frightened at everything. I am frightened at myself. When my blood is fired I can do daring things⁠—take any leap; but that makes me frightened at myself.” She was looking at nothing outside her; but her eyes were directed toward the window, away from Deronda, who, with quick comprehension said,

“Turn your fear into a safeguard. Keep your dread fixed on the idea of increasing that remorse which is so bitter to you. Fixed meditation may do a great deal toward defining our longing or dread. We are not always in a state of strong emotion, and when we are calm we can use our memories and gradually change the bias of our fear, as we do our tastes. Take your fear as a safeguard. It is like quickness of hearing. It may make consequences passionately present to you. Try to take hold of your sensibility, and use it as if it were a faculty, like vision.” Deronda uttered each sentence more urgently; he felt as if he were seizing a faint chance of rescuing her from some indefinite danger.

“Yes, I know; I understand what you mean,” said Gwendolen in her loud whisper, not turning her eyes, but lifting up her small gloved hand and waving it in deprecation of the notion that it was easy to obey that advice. “But if feelings rose⁠—there are some feelings⁠—hatred and anger⁠—how can I be good when they keep rising? And if there came a moment when I felt stifled and could bear it no longer⁠—” She broke off, and with agitated lips looked at Deronda, but the expression on his face pierced her with an entirely new feeling. He was under the baffling difficulty of discerning that what he had been urging on her was thrown into the pallid distance of mere thought before the outburst of her habitual emotion. It was as if he saw her drowning while his limbs were bound. The pained compassion which was spread over his features as he watched her, affected her with a compunction unlike any she had felt before, and in a changed and imploring tone she said,

“I am grieving you. I am ungrateful. You can help me. I will think of everything. I will try. Tell me⁠—it will not be a pain to you that I have dared to speak of my trouble to you? You began it, you know, when you rebuked me.” There was a melancholy smile on her lips as she said that, but she added more entreatingly, “It will not be a pain to you?”

“Not if it does anything to save you from an evil to come,” said Deronda, with strong emphasis; “otherwise, it will be a lasting pain.”

“No⁠—no⁠—it shall not be. It may be⁠—it shall be better with me because I have known you.” She turned immediately, and quitted the room.

When she was on the first landing of the staircase, Sir Hugo passed across the hall on his way to the library, and saw her. Grandcourt was not with him.

Deronda, when the baronet entered, was standing in his ordinary attitude, grasping his coat-collar, with his back to the table, and with that indefinable expression by which we judge that a man is still in the shadow of a scene which he has just gone through. He moved, however, and began to arrange the letters.

“Has Mrs. Grandcourt been in here?” said Sir Hugo.

“Yes, she has.”

“Where are the others?”

“I believe she left them somewhere in the grounds.”

After a moment’s silence, in which Sir Hugo looked at a letter without reading it, he said “I hope you are not playing with fire, Dan⁠—you understand me?”

“I believe I do, sir,” said Deronda, after a slight hesitation, which had some repressed anger in it. “But there is nothing answering to your metaphor⁠—no fire, and therefore no chance of scorching.”

Sir Hugo looked searchingly at him, and then said, “So much the better. For, between ourselves, I fancy there may be some hidden gunpowder in that establishment.”

Chapter XXXVII

Pardon, my lord⁠—I speak for Sigismund.
For him? Oh, ay⁠—for him I always hold
A pardon safe in bank, sure he will draw
Sooner or later on me. What his need?
Mad project broken? fine mechanic wings
That would not fly? durance, assault on watch,
Bill for Epernay, not a crust to eat?
Oh, none of these, my lord; he has escaped
From Circe’s herd, and seeks to win the love
Of your fair ward Cecilia: but would win
First your consent. You frown.
Distinguish words.
I said I held a pardon, not consent.

In spite of Deronda’s reasons for wishing to be in town again⁠—reasons in which his anxiety for Mirah was blent with curiosity to know more of the enigmatic Mordecai⁠—he did not manage to go up before Sir Hugo, who preceded his family that he might be ready for the opening of Parliament on the sixth of February. Deronda took up his quarters in Park Lane, aware that his chambers were sufficiently tenanted by Hans Meyrick. This was what he expected; but he found other things not altogether according to his expectations.

Most of us remember Retzsch’s drawing of destiny in the shape of Mephistopheles playing at chess with man for his soul, a game in which we may imagine the clever adversary making a feint of unintended moves so as to set the beguiled mortal on carrying his defensive pieces away from the true point of attack. The fiend makes preparation his favorite object of mockery, that he may fatally persuade us against our taking out waterproofs when he is well aware the sky is going to clear, foreseeing that the imbecile will turn this delusion into a prejudice against waterproofs instead of giving a closer study to the weather-signs. It is a peculiar test of a man’s mettle when, after he has painfully adjusted himself to what seems a wise provision, he finds all his mental precaution a little beside the mark, and his excellent intentions no better than miscalculated dovetails, accurately cut from a wrong starting-point. His magnanimity has got itself ready to meet misbehavior, and finds quite a different call upon it. Something of this kind happened to Deronda.

His first impression was one of pure pleasure and amusement at finding his sitting-room transformed into an atelier strewed with miscellaneous drawings and with the contents of two chests from Rome, the lower half of the windows darkened with baize, and the blonde Hans in his weird youth as the presiding genius of the littered place⁠—his hair longer than of old, his face more whimsically creased, and his high voice as usual getting higher under the excitement of rapid talk. The friendship of the two had been kept up warmly since the memorable Cambridge time, not only by correspondence but by little episodes of companionship abroad and in England, and the original relation of confidence on one side and indulgence on the other had been developed in practice, as is wont to be the case where such spiritual borrowing and lending has been well begun.

“I knew you would like to see my casts and antiquities,” said Hans, after the first hearty greetings and inquiries, “so I didn’t scruple to unlade my chests here. But I’ve found two rooms at Chelsea not many hundred yards from my mother and sisters, and I shall soon be ready to hang out there⁠—when they’ve scraped the walls and put in some new lights. That’s all I’m waiting for. But you see I don’t wait to begin work: you can’t conceive what a great fellow I’m going to be. The seed of immortality has sprouted within me.”

“Only a fungoid growth, I dare say⁠—a growing disease in the lungs,” said Deronda, accustomed to treat Hans in brotherly fashion. He was walking toward some drawings propped on the ledge of his bookcases; five rapidly-sketched heads⁠—different aspects of the same face. He stood at a convenient distance from them, without making any remark. Hans, too, was silent for a minute, took up his palette and began touching the picture on his easel.

“What do you think of them?” he said at last.

“The full face looks too massive; otherwise the likenesses are good,” said Deronda, more coldly than was usual with him.

“No, it is not too massive,” said Hans, decisively. “I have noted that. There is always a little surprise when one passes from the profile to the full face. But I shall enlarge her scale for Berenice. I am making a Berenice series⁠—look at the sketches along there⁠—and now I think of it, you are just the model I want for the Agrippa.” Hans, still with pencil and palette in hand, had moved to Deronda’s side while he said this, but he added hastily, as if conscious of a mistake, “No, no, I forgot; you don’t like sitting for your portrait, confound you! However, I’ve picked up a capital Titus. There are to be five in the series. The first is Berenice clasping the knees of Gessius Florus and beseeching him to spare her people; I’ve got that on the easel. Then, this, where she is standing on the Xystus with Agrippa, entreating the people not to injure themselves by resistance.”

“Agrippa’s legs will never do,” said Deronda.

“The legs are good realistically,” said Hans, his face creasing drolly; “public men are often shaky about the legs⁠—‘Their legs, the emblem of their various thought,’ as somebody says in The Rehearsal.”

“But these are as impossible as the legs of Raphael’s Alcibiades,” said Deronda.

“Then they are good ideally,” said Hans. “Agrippa’s legs were possibly bad; I idealize that and make them impossibly bad. Art, my Eugenius, must intensify. But never mind the legs now: the third sketch in the series is Berenice exulting in the prospects of being Empress of Rome, when the news has come that Vespasian is declared Emperor and her lover Titus his successor.”

“You must put a scroll in her mouth, else people will not understand that. You can’t tell that in a picture.”

“It will make them feel their ignorance then⁠—an excellent aesthetic effect. The fourth is, Titus sending Berenice away from Rome after she has shared his palace for ten years⁠—both reluctant, both sad⁠—invitus invitam, as Suetonius hath it. I’ve found a model for the Roman brute.”

“Shall you make Berenice look fifty? She must have been that.”

“No, no; a few mature touches to show the lapse of time. Dark-eyed beauty wears well, hers particularly. But now, here is the fifth: Berenice seated lonely on the ruins of Jerusalem. That is pure imagination. That is what ought to have been⁠—perhaps was. Now, see how I tell a pathetic negative. Nobody knows what became of her⁠—that is finely indicated by the series coming to a close. There is no sixth picture.” Here Hans pretended to speak with a gasping sense of sublimity, and drew back his head with a frown, as if looking for a like impression on Deronda. “I break off in the Homeric style. The story is chipped off, so to speak, and passes with a ragged edge into nothing⁠—le néant; can anything be more sublime, especially in French? The vulgar would desire to see her corpse and burial⁠—perhaps her will read and her linen distributed. But now come and look at this on the easel. I have made some way there.”

“That beseeching attitude is really good,” said Deronda, after a moment’s contemplation. “You have been very industrious in the Christmas holidays; for I suppose you have taken up the subject since you came to London.” Neither of them had yet mentioned Mirah.

“No,” said Hans, putting touches to his picture, “I made up my mind to the subject before. I take that lucky chance for an augury that I am going to burst on the world as a great painter. I saw a splendid woman in the Trastevere⁠—the grandest women there are half Jewesses⁠—and she set me hunting for a fine situation of a Jewess at Rome. Like other men of vast learning, I ended by taking what lay on the surface. I’ll show you a sketch of the Trasteverina’s head when I can lay my hands on it.”

“I should think she would be a more suitable model for Berenice,” said Deronda, not knowing exactly how to express his discontent.

“Not a bit of it. The model ought to be the most beautiful Jewess in the world, and I have found her.”

“Have you made yourself sure that she would like to figure in that character? I should think no woman would be more abhorrent to her. Does she quite know what you are doing?”

“Certainly. I got her to throw herself precisely into this attitude. Little mother sat for Gessius Florus, and Mirah clasped her knees.” Here Hans went a little way off and looked at the effect of his touches.

“I dare say she knows nothing about Berenice’s history,” said Deronda, feeling more indignation than he would have been able to justify.

“Oh, yes, she does⁠—ladies’ edition. Berenice was a fervid patriot, but was beguiled by love and ambition into attaching herself to the arch-enemy of her people. Whence the Nemesis. Mirah takes it as a tragic parable, and cries to think what the penitent Berenice suffered as she wandered back to Jerusalem and sat desolate amidst desolation. That was her own phrase. I couldn’t find it in my heart to tell her I invented that part of the story.”

“Show me your Trasteverina,” said Deronda, chiefly in order to hinder himself from saying something else.

“Shall you mind turning over that folio?” said Hans. “My studies of heads are all there. But they are in confusion. You will perhaps find her next to a crop-eared undergraduate.”

After Deronda had been turning over the drawings a minute or two, he said,

“These seem to be all Cambridge heads and bits of country. Perhaps I had better begin at the other end.”

“No; you’ll find her about the middle. I emptied one folio into another.”

“Is this one of your undergraduates?” said Deronda, holding up a drawing. “It’s an unusually agreeable face.”

“That! Oh, that’s a man named Gascoigne⁠—Rex Gascoigne. An uncommonly good fellow; his upper lip, too, is good. I coached him before he got his scholarship. He ought to have taken honors last Easter. But he was ill, and has had to stay up another year. I must look him up. I want to know how he’s going on.”

“Here she is, I suppose,” said Deronda, holding up a sketch of the Trasteverina.

“Ah,” said Hans, looking at it rather contemptuously, “too coarse. I was unregenerate then.”

Deronda was silent while he closed the folio, leaving the Trasteverina outside. Then clasping his coat-collar, and turning toward Hans, he said, “I dare say my scruples are excessive, Meyrick, but I must ask you to oblige me by giving up this notion.”

Hans threw himself into a tragic attitude, and screamed, “What! my series⁠—my immortal Berenice series? Think of what you are saying, man⁠—destroying, as Milton says, not a life but an immortality. Wait before you answer, that I may deposit the implements of my art and be ready to uproot my hair.”

Here Hans laid down his pencil and palette, threw himself backward into a great chair, and hanging limply over the side, shook his long hair over his face, lifted his hooked fingers on each side his head, and looked up with comic terror at Deronda, who was obliged to smile, as he said,

“Paint as many Berenices as you like, but I wish you could feel with me⁠—perhaps you will, on reflection⁠—that you should choose another model.”

“Why?” said Hans, standing up, and looking serious again.

“Because she may get into such a position that her face is likely to be recognized. Mrs. Meyrick and I are anxious for her that she should be known as an admirable singer. It is right, and she wishes it, that she should make herself independent. And she has excellent chances. One good introduction is secured already, and I am going to speak to Klesmer. Her face may come to be very well known, and⁠—well, it is useless to attempt to explain, unless you feel as I do. I believe that if Mirah saw the circumstances clearly, she would strongly object to being exhibited in this way⁠—to allowing herself to be used as a model for a heroine of this sort.”

As Hans stood with his thumbs in the belt of his blouse, listening to this speech, his face showed a growing surprise melting into amusement, that at last would have its way in an explosive laugh: but seeing that Deronda looked gravely offended, he checked himself to say, “Excuse my laughing, Deronda. You never gave me an advantage over you before. If it had been about anything but my own pictures, I should have swallowed every word because you said it. And so you actually believe that I should get my five pictures hung on the line in a conspicuous position, and carefully studied by the public? Zounds, man! cider-cup and conceit never gave me half such a beautiful dream. My pictures are likely to remain as private as the utmost hypersensitiveness could desire.”

Hans turned to paint again as a way of filling up awkward pauses. Deronda stood perfectly still, recognizing his mistake as to publicity, but also conscious that his repugnance was not much diminished. He was the reverse of satisfied either with himself or with Hans; but the power of being quiet carries a man well through moments of embarrassment. Hans had a reverence for his friend which made him feel a sort of shyness at Deronda’s being in the wrong; but it was not in his nature to give up anything readily, though it were only a whim⁠—or rather, especially if it were a whim, and he presently went on, painting the while,

“But even supposing I had a public rushing after my pictures as if they were a railway series including nurses, babies and bonnet-boxes, I can’t see any justice in your objection. Every painter worth remembering has painted the face he admired most, as often as he could. It is a part of his soul that goes out into his pictures. He diffuses its influence in that way. He puts what he hates into a caricature. He puts what he adores into some sacred, heroic form. If a man could paint the woman he loves a thousand times as the Stella Maris to put courage into the sailors on board a thousand ships, so much the more honor to her. Isn’t that better than painting a piece of staring immodesty and calling it by a worshipful name?”

“Every objection can be answered if you take broad ground enough, Hans: no special question of conduct can be properly settled in that way,” said Deronda, with a touch of peremptoriness. “I might admit all your generalities, and yet be right in saying you ought not to publish Mirah’s face as a model for Berenice. But I give up the question of publicity. I was unreasonable there.” Deronda hesitated a moment. “Still, even as a private affair, there might be good reasons for your not indulging yourself too much in painting her from the point of view you mention. You must feel that her situation at present is a very delicate one; and until she is in more independence, she should be kept as carefully as a bit of Venetian glass, for fear of shaking her out of the safe place she is lodged in. Are you quite sure of your own discretion? Excuse me, Hans. My having found her binds me to watch over her. Do you understand me?”

“Perfectly,” said Hans, turning his face into a good-humored smile. “You have the very justifiable opinion of me that I am likely to shatter all the glass in my way, and break my own skull into the bargain. Quite fair. Since I got into the scrape of being born, everything I have liked best has been a scrape either for myself or somebody else. Everything I have taken to heartily has somehow turned into a scrape. My painting is the last scrape; and I shall be all my life getting out of it. You think now I shall get into a scrape at home. No; I am regenerate. You think I must be over head and ears in love with Mirah. Quite right; so I am. But you think I shall scream and plunge and spoil everything. There you are mistaken⁠—excusably, but transcendently mistaken. I have undergone baptism by immersion. Awe takes care of me. Ask the little mother.”

“You don’t reckon a hopeless love among your scrapes, then,” said Deronda, whose voice seemed to get deeper as Hans’s went higher.

“I don’t mean to call mine hopeless,” said Hans, with provoking coolness, laying down his tools, thrusting his thumbs into his belt, and moving away a little, as if to contemplate his picture more deliberately.

“My dear fellow, you are only preparing misery for yourself,” said Deronda, decisively. “She would not marry a Christian, even if she loved him. Have you heard her⁠—of course you have⁠—heard her speak of her people and her religion?”

“That can’t last,” said Hans. “She will see no Jew who is tolerable. Every male of that race is insupportable⁠—‘insupportably advancing’⁠—his nose.”

“She may rejoin her family. That is what she longs for. Her mother and brother are probably strict Jews.”

“I’ll turn proselyte, if she wishes it,” said Hans, with a shrug and a laugh.

“Don’t talk nonsense, Hans. I thought you professed a serious love for her,” said Deronda, getting heated.

“So I do. You think it desperate, but I don’t.”

“I know nothing; I can’t tell what has happened. We must be prepared for surprises. But I can hardly imagine a greater surprise to me than that there should have seemed to be anything in Mirah’s sentiments for you to found a romantic hope on.” Deronda felt that he was too contemptuous.

“I don’t found my romantic hopes on a woman’s sentiments,” said Hans, perversely inclined to be the merrier when he was addressed with gravity. “I go to science and philosophy for my romance. Nature designed Mirah to fall in love with me. The amalgamation of races demands it⁠—the mitigation of human ugliness demands it⁠—the affinity of contrasts assures it. I am the utmost contrast to Mirah⁠—a bleached Christian, who can’t sing two notes in tune. Who has a chance against me?”

“I see now; it was all persiflage. You don’t mean a word you say, Meyrick,” said Deronda, laying his hand on Meyrick’s shoulder, and speaking in a tone of cordial relief. “I was a wiseacre to answer you seriously.”

“Upon my honor I do mean it, though,” said Hans, facing round and laying his left hand on Deronda’s shoulder, so that their eyes fronted each other closely. “I am at the confessional. I meant to tell you as soon as you came. My mother says you are Mirah’s guardian, and she thinks herself responsible to you for every breath that falls on Mirah in her house. Well, I love her⁠—I worship her⁠—I won’t despair⁠—I mean to deserve her.”

“My dear fellow, you can’t do it,” said Deronda, quickly.

“I should have said, I mean to try.”

“You can’t keep your resolve, Hans. You used to resolve what you would do for your mother and sisters.”

“You have a right to reproach me, old fellow,” said Hans, gently.

“Perhaps I am ungenerous,” said Deronda, not apologetically, however. “Yet it can’t be ungenerous to warn you that you are indulging mad, quixotic expectations.”

“Who will be hurt but myself, then?” said Hans, putting out his lip. “I am not going to say anything to her unless I felt sure of the answer. I dare not ask the oracles: I prefer a cheerful caliginosity, as Sir Thomas Browne might say. I would rather run my chance there and lose, than be sure of winning anywhere else. And I don’t mean to swallow the poison of despair, though you are disposed to thrust it on me. I am giving up wine, so let me get a little drunk on hope and vanity.”

“With all my heart, if it will do you any good,” said Deronda, loosing Hans’s shoulder, with a little push. He made his tone kindly, but his words were from the lip only. As to his real feeling he was silenced.

He was conscious of that peculiar irritation which will sometimes befall the man whom others are inclined to trust as a mentor⁠—the irritation of perceiving that he is supposed to be entirely off the same plane of desire and temptation as those who confess to him. Our guides, we pretend, must be sinless: as if those were not often the best teachers who only yesterday got corrected for their mistakes. Throughout their friendship Deronda had been used to Hans’s egotism, but he had never before felt intolerant of it: when Hans, habitually pouring out his own feelings and affairs, had never cared for any detail in return, and, if he chanced to know any, had soon forgotten it. Deronda had been inwardly as well as outwardly indulgent⁠—nay, satisfied. But now he had noted with some indignation, all the stronger because it must not be betrayed, Hans’s evident assumption that for any danger of rivalry or jealousy in relation to Mirah, Deronda was not as much out of the question as the angel Gabriel. It is one thing to be resolute in placing one’s self out of the question, and another to endure that others should perform that exclusion for us. He had expected that Hans would give him trouble: what he had not expected was that the trouble would have a strong element of personal feeling. And he was rather ashamed that Hans’s hopes caused him uneasiness in spite of his well-warranted conviction that they would never be fulfilled. They had raised an image of Mirah changing; and however he might protest that the change would not happen, the protest kept up the unpleasant image. Altogether poor Hans seemed to be entering into Deronda’s experience in a disproportionate manner⁠—going beyond his part of rescued prodigal, and rousing a feeling quite distinct from compassionate affection.

When Deronda went to Chelsea he was not made as comfortable as he ought to have been by Mrs. Meyrick’s evident release from anxiety about the beloved but incalculable son. Mirah seemed livelier than before, and for the first time he saw her laugh. It was when they were talking of Hans, he being naturally the mother’s first topic. Mirah wished to know if Deronda had seen Mr. Hans going through a sort of character piece without changing his dress.

“He passes from one figure to another as if he were a bit of flame where you fancied the figures without seeing them,” said Mirah, full of her subject; “he is so wonderfully quick. I used never to like comic things on the stage⁠—they were dwelt on too long; but all in one minute Mr. Hans makes himself a blind bard, and then Rienzi addressing the Romans, and then an opera-dancer, and then a desponding young gentleman⁠—I am sorry for them all, and yet I laugh, all in one”⁠—here Mirah gave a little laugh that might have entered into a song.

“We hardly thought that Mirah could laugh till Hans came,” said Mrs. Meyrick, seeing that Deronda, like herself, was observing the pretty picture.

“Hans seems in great force just now,” said Deronda in a tone of congratulation. “I don’t wonder at his enlivening you.”

“He’s been just perfect ever since he came back,” said Mrs. Meyrick, keeping to herself the next clause⁠—“if it will but last.”

“It is a great happiness,” said Mirah, “to see the son and brother come into this dear home. And I hear them all talk about what they did together when they were little. That seems like heaven, and to have a mother and brother who talk in that way. I have never had it.”

“Nor I,” said Deronda, involuntarily.

“No?” said Mirah, regretfully. “I wish you had. I wish you had had every good.” The last words were uttered with a serious ardor as if they had been part of a litany, while her eyes were fixed on Deronda, who with his elbow on the back of his chair was contemplating her by the new light of the impression she had made on Hans, and the possibility of her being attracted by that extraordinary contrast. It was no more than what had happened on each former visit of his, that Mirah appeared to enjoy speaking of what she felt very much as a little girl fresh from school pours forth spontaneously all the long-repressed chat for which she has found willing ears. For the first time in her life Mirah was among those whom she entirely trusted, and her original visionary impression that Deronda was a divinely-sent messenger hung about his image still, stirring always anew the disposition to reliance and openness. It was in this way she took what might have been the injurious flattery of admiring attention into which her helpless dependence had been suddenly transformed. Everyone around her watched for her looks and words, and the effect on her was simply that of having passed from a trifling imprisonment into an exhilarating air which made speech and action a delight. To her mind it was all a gift from others’ goodness. But that word of Deronda’s implying that there had been some lack in his life which might be compared with anything she had known in hers, was an entirely new inlet of thought about him. After her first expression of sorrowful surprise she went on,

“But Mr. Hans said yesterday that you thought so much of others you hardly wanted anything for yourself. He told us a wonderful story of Buddha giving himself to the famished tigress to save her and her little ones from starving. And he said you were like Buddha. That is what we all imagine of you.”

“Pray don’t imagine that,” said Deronda, who had lately been finding such suppositions rather exasperating. “Even if it were true that I thought so much of others, it would not follow that I had no wants for myself. When Buddha let the tigress eat him he might have been very hungry himself.”

“Perhaps if he was starved he would not mind so much about being eaten,” said Mab, shyly.

“Please don’t think that, Mab; it takes away the beauty of the action,” said Mirah.

“But if it were true, Mirah?” said the rational Amy, having a half-holiday from her teaching; “you always take what is beautiful as if it were true.”

“So it is,” said Mirah, gently. “If people have thought what is the most beautiful and the best thing, it must be true. It is always there.”

“Now, Mirah, what do you mean?” said Amy.

“I understand her,” said Deronda, coming to the rescue.

“It is a truth in thought though it may never have been carried out in action. It lives as an idea. Is that it?” He turned to Mirah, who was listening with a blind look in her lovely eyes.

“It must be that, because you understand me, but I cannot quite explain,” said Mirah, rather abstractedly⁠—still searching for some expression.

“But was it beautiful for Buddha to let the tiger eat him?” said Amy, changing her ground. “It would be a bad pattern.”

“The world would get full of fat tigers,” said Mab.

Deronda laughed, but defended the myth. “It is like a passionate word,” he said; “the exaggeration is a flash of fervor. It is an extreme image of what is happening every day⁠—the transmutation of self.”

“I think I can say what I mean, now,” said Mirah, who had not heard the intermediate talk. “When the best thing comes into our thoughts, it is like what my mother has been to me. She has been just as really with me as all the other people about me⁠—often more really with me.”

Deronda, inwardly wincing under this illustration, which brought other possible realities about that mother vividly before him, presently turned the conversation by saying, “But we must not get too far away from practical matters. I came, for one thing, to tell of an interview I had yesterday, which I hope Mirah will find to have been useful to her. It was with Klesmer, the great pianist.”

“Ah?” said Mrs. Meyrick, with satisfaction. “You think he will help her?”

“I hope so. He is very much occupied, but has promised to fix a time for receiving and hearing Miss Lapidoth, as we must learn to call her”⁠—here Deronda smiled at Mirah⁠—“If she consents to go to him.”

“I shall be very grateful,” said Mirah. “He wants to hear me sing, before he can judge whether I ought to be helped.”

Deronda was struck with her plain sense about these matters of practical concern.

“It will not be at all trying to you, I hope, if Mrs. Meyrick will kindly go with you to Klesmer’s house.”

“Oh, no, not at all trying. I have been doing that all my life⁠—I mean, told to do things that others may judge of me. And I have gone through a bad trial of that sort. I am prepared to bear it, and do some very small thing. Is Klesmer a severe man?”

“He is peculiar, but I have not had experience enough of him to know whether he would be what you would call severe.”

“I know he is kindhearted⁠—kind in action, if not in speech.”

“I have been used to be frowned at and not praised,” said Mirah.

“By the by, Klesmer frowns a good deal,” said Deronda, “but there is often a sort of smile in his eyes all the while. Unhappily he wears spectacles, so you must catch him in the right light to see the smile.”

“I shall not be frightened,” said Mirah. “If he were like a roaring lion, he only wants me to sing. I shall do what I can.”

“Then I feel sure you will not mind being invited to sing in Lady Mallinger’s drawing-room,” said Deronda. “She intends to ask you next month, and will invite many ladies to hear you, who are likely to want lessons from you for their daughters.”

“How fast we are mounting!” said Mrs. Meyrick, with delight. “You never thought of getting grand so quickly, Mirah.”

“I am a little frightened at being called Miss Lapidoth,” said Mirah, coloring with a new uneasiness. “Might I be called Cohen?”

“I understand you,” said Deronda, promptly. “But I assure you, you must not be called Cohen. The name is inadmissible for a singer. This is one of the trifles in which we must conform to vulgar prejudice. We could choose some other name, however⁠—such as singers ordinarily choose⁠—an Italian or Spanish name, which would suit your physique.” To Deronda just now the name Cohen was equivalent to the ugliest of yellow badges.

Mirah reflected a little, anxiously, then said, “No. If Cohen will not do, I will keep the name I have been called by. I will not hide myself. I have friends to protect me. And now⁠—if my father were very miserable and wanted help⁠—no,” she said, looking at Mrs. Meyrick, “I should think, then, that he was perhaps crying as I used to see him, and had nobody to pity him, and I had hidden myself from him. He had none belonging to him but me. Others that made friends with him always left him.”

“Keep to what you feel right, my dear child,” said Mrs. Meyrick. “I would not persuade you to the contrary.” For her own part she had no patience or pity for that father, and would have left him to his crying.

Deronda was saying to himself, “I am rather base to be angry with Hans. How can he help being in love with her? But it is too absurdly presumptuous for him even to frame the idea of appropriating her, and a sort of blasphemy to suppose that she could possibly give herself to him.”

What would it be for Daniel Deronda to entertain such thoughts? He was not one who could quite naively introduce himself where he had just excluded his friend, yet it was undeniable that what had just happened made a new stage in his feeling toward Mirah. But apart from other grounds for self-repression, reasons both definite and vague made him shut away that question as he might have shut up a half-opened writing that would have carried his imagination too far, and given too much shape to presentiments. Might there not come a disclosure which would hold the missing determination of his course? What did he really know about his origin? Strangely in these latter months when it seemed right that he should exert his will in the choice of a destination, the passion of his nature had got more and more locked by this uncertainty. The disclosure might bring its pain, indeed the likelihood seemed to him to be all on that side; but if it helped him to make his life a sequence which would take the form of duty⁠—if it saved him from having to make an arbitrary selection where he felt no preponderance of desire? Still more, he wanted to escape standing as a critic outside the activities of men, stiffened into the ridiculous attitude of self-assigned superiority. His chief tether was his early inwrought affection for Sir Hugo, making him gratefully deferential to wishes with which he had little agreement: but gratitude had been sometimes disturbed by doubts which were near reducing it to a fear of being ungrateful. Many of us complain that half our birthright is sharp duty: Deronda was more inclined to complain that he was robbed of this half; yet he accused himself, as he would have accused another, of being weakly self-conscious and wanting in resolve. He was the reverse of that type painted for us in Faulconbridge and Edmund of Gloster, whose coarse ambition for personal success is inflamed by a defiance of accidental disadvantages. To Daniel the words Father and Mother had the altar-fire in them; and the thought of all closest relations of our nature held still something of the mystic power which had made his neck and ears burn in boyhood. The average man may regard this sensibility on the question of birth as preposterous and hardly credible; but with the utmost respect for his knowledge as the rock from which all other knowledge is hewn, it must be admitted that many well-proved facts are dark to the average man, even concerning the action of his own heart and the structure of his own retina. A century ago he and all his forefathers had not had the slightest notion of that electric discharge by means of which they had all wagged their tongues mistakenly; any more than they were awake to the secluded anguish of exceptional sensitiveness into which many a carelessly-begotten child of man is born.

Perhaps the ferment was all the stronger in Deronda’s mind because he had never had a confidant to whom he could open himself on these delicate subjects. He had always been leaned on instead of being invited to lean. Sometimes he had longed for the sort of friend to whom he might possibly unfold his experience: a young man like himself who sustained a private grief and was not too confident about his own career; speculative enough to understand every moral difficulty, yet socially susceptible, as he himself was, and having every outward sign of equality either in bodily or spiritual wrestling⁠—for he had found it impossible to reciprocate confidences with one who looked up to him. But he had no expectation of meeting the friend he imagined. Deronda’s was not one of those quiveringly-poised natures that lend themselves to second-sight.


There be who hold that the deeper tragedy were a Prometheus Bound not after but before he had well got the celestial fire into the narthex whereby it might be conveyed to mortals: thrust by the Kratos and Bia of instituted methods into a solitude of despised ideas, fastened in throbbing helplessness by the fatal pressure of poverty and disease⁠—a solitude where many pass by, but none regard.

“Second-sight” is a flag over disputed ground. But it is matter of knowledge that there are persons whose yearnings, conceptions⁠—nay, traveled conclusions⁠—continually take the form of images which have a foreshadowing power; the deed they would do starts up before them in complete shape, making a coercive type; the event they hunger for or dread rises into vision with a seed-like growth, feeding itself fast on unnumbered impressions. They are not always the less capable of the argumentative process, nor less sane than the commonplace calculators of the market: sometimes it may be that their natures have manifold openings, like the hundred-gated Thebes, where there may naturally be a greater and more miscellaneous inrush than through a narrow beadle-watched portal. No doubt there are abject specimens of the visionary, as there is a minim mammal which you might imprison in the finger of your glove. That small relative of the elephant has no harm in him; but what great mental or social type is free from specimens whose insignificance is both ugly and noxious? One is afraid to think of all that the genus “patriot” embraces; or of the elbowing there might be at the day of judgment for those who ranked as authors, and brought volumes either in their hands or on trucks.

This apology for inevitable kinship is meant to usher in some facts about Mordecai, whose figure had bitten itself into Deronda’s mind as a new question which he felt an interest in getting answered. But the interest was no more than a vaguely-expectant suspense: the consumptive-looking Jew, apparently a fervid student of some kind, getting his crust by a quiet handicraft, like Spinoza, fitted into none of Deronda’s anticipations.

It was otherwise with the effect of their meeting on Mordecai. For many winters, while he had been conscious of an ebbing physical life, and as widening spiritual loneliness, all his passionate desire had concentrated itself in the yearning for some young ear into which he could pour his mind as a testament, some soul kindred enough to accept the spiritual product of his own brief, painful life, as a mission to be executed. It was remarkable that the hopefulness which is often the beneficent illusion of consumptive patients, was in Mordecai wholly diverted from the prospect of bodily recovery and carried into the current of this yearning for transmission. The yearning, which had panted upward from out of overwhelming discouragements, had grown into a hope⁠—the hope into a confident belief, which, instead of being checked by the clear conception he had of his hastening decline, took rather the intensity of expectant faith in a prophecy which has only brief space to get fulfilled in.

Some years had now gone since he had first begun to measure men with a keen glance, searching for a possibility which became more and more a distinct conception. Such distinctness as it had at first was reached chiefly by a method of contrast: he wanted to find a man who differed from himself. Tracing reasons in that self for the rebuffs he had met with and the hindrances that beset him, he imagined a man who would have all the elements necessary for sympathy with him, but in an embodiment unlike his own: he must be a Jew, intellectually cultured, morally fervid⁠—in all this a nature ready to be plenished from Mordecai’s; but his face and frame must be beautiful and strong, he must have been used to all the refinements of social life, his voice must flow with a full and easy current, his circumstances be free from sordid need: he must glorify the possibilities of the Jew, not sit and wonder as Mordecai did, bearing the stamp of his people amid the sign of poverty and waning breath. Sensitive to physical characteristics, he had, both abroad and in England, looked at pictures as well as men, and in a vacant hour he had sometimes lingered in the National Gallery in search of paintings which might feed his hopefulness with grave and noble types of the human form, such as might well belong to men of his own race. But he returned in disappointment. The instances are scattered but thinly over the galleries of Europe, in which the fortune or selection even of the chief masters has given to art a face at once young, grand, and beautiful, where, if there is any melancholy, it is no feeble passivity, but enters into the foreshadowed capability of heroism.

Some observant persons may perhaps remember his emaciated figure, and dark eyes deep in their sockets, as he stood in front of a picture that had touched him either to new or habitual meditation: he commonly wore a cloth cap with black fur round it, which no painter would have asked him to take off. But spectators would be likely to think of him as an odd-looking Jew who probably got money out of pictures; and Mordecai, when he looked at them, was perfectly aware of the impression he made. Experience had rendered him morbidly alive to the effect of a man’s poverty and other physical disadvantages in cheapening his ideas, unless they are those of a Peter the Hermit who has a tocsin for the rabble. But he was too sane and generous to attribute his spiritual banishment solely to the excusable prejudices of others; certain incapacities of his own had made the sentence of exclusion; and hence it was that his imagination had constructed another man who would be something more ample than the second soul bestowed, according to the notion of the Cabalists, to help out the insufficient first⁠—who would be a blooming human life, ready to incorporate all that was worthiest in an existence whose visible, palpable part was burning itself fast away. His inward need for the conception of this expanded, prolonged self was reflected as an outward necessity. The thoughts of his heart (that ancient phrase best shadows the truth) seemed to him too precious, too closely interwoven with the growth of things not to have a further destiny. And as the more beautiful, the stronger, the more executive self took shape in his mind, he loved it beforehand with an affection half identifying, half contemplative and grateful.

Mordecai’s mind wrought so constantly in images, that his coherent trains of thought often resembled the significant dreams attributed to sleepers by waking persons in their most inventive moments: nay, they often resembled genuine dreams in their way of breaking off the passage from the known to the unknown. Thus, for a long while, he habitually thought of the Being answering to his need as one distantly approaching or turning his back toward him, darkly painted against a golden sky. The reason of the golden sky lay in one of Mordecai’s habits. He was keenly alive to some poetic aspects of London; and a favorite resort of his, when strength and leisure allowed, was to some of the bridges, especially about sunrise or sunset. Even when he was bending over watch-wheels and trinkets, or seated in a small upper room looking out on dingy bricks and dingy cracked windows, his imagination spontaneously planted him on some spot where he had a far-stretching scene; his thoughts went on in wide spaces; and whenever he could, he tried to have in reality the influences of a large sky. Leaning on the parapet of Blackfriar’s Bridge, and gazing meditatively, the breadth and calm of the river, with its long vista half hazy, half luminous, the grand dim masses of tall forms of buildings which were the signs of world-commerce, the oncoming of boats and barges from the still distance into sound and color, entered into his mood and blent themselves indistinguishably with his thinking, as a fine symphony to which we can hardly be said to listen, makes a medium that bears up our spiritual wings. Thus it happened that the figure representative of Mordecai’s longing was mentally seen darkened by the excess of light in the aerial background. But in the inevitable progress of his imagination toward fuller detail, he ceased to see the figure with its back toward him. It began to advance, and a face became discernible; the words youth, beauty, refinement, Jewish birth, noble gravity, turned into hardly individual but typical form and color: gathered from his memory of faces seen among the Jews of Holland and Bohemia, and from the paintings which revived that memory. Reverently let it be said of this mature spiritual need that it was akin to the boy’s and girl’s picturing of the future beloved; but the stirrings of such young desire are feeble compared with the passionate current of an ideal life straining to embody itself, made intense by resistance to imminent dissolution. The visionary form became a companion and auditor; keeping a place not only in the waking imagination, but in those dreams of lighter slumber of which it is truest to say, “I sleep, but my heart waketh”⁠—when the disturbing trivial story of yesterday is charged with the impassioned purpose of years.

Of late the urgency of irremediable time, measured by the gradual choking of life, had turned Mordecai’s trust into an agitated watch for the fulfillment that must be at hand. Was the bell on the verge of tolling, the sentence about to be executed? The deliverer’s footstep must be near⁠—the deliverer who was to rescue Mordecai’s spiritual travail from oblivion, and give it an abiding-place in the best heritage of his people. An insane exaggeration of his own value, even if his ideas had been as true and precious as those of Columbus or Newton, many would have counted this yearning, taking it as the sublimer part for a man to say, “If not I, then another,” and to hold cheap the meaning of his own life. But the fuller nature desires to be an agent, to create, and not merely to look on: strong love hungers to bless, and not merely to behold blessing. And while there is warmth enough in the sun to feed an energetic life, there will still be men to feel, “I am lord of this moment’s change, and will charge it with my soul.”

But with that mingling of inconsequence which belongs to us all, and not unhappily, since it saves us from many effects of mistake, Mordecai’s confidence in the friend to come did not suffice to make him passive, and he tried expedients, pathetically humble, such as happened to be within his reach, for communicating something of himself. It was now two years since he had taken up his abode under Ezra Cohen’s roof, where he was regarded with much goodwill as a compound of workman, dominie, vessel of charity, inspired idiot, man of piety, and (if he were inquired into) dangerous heretic. During that time little Jacob had advanced into knickerbockers, and into that quickness of apprehension which has been already made manifest in relation to hardware and exchange. He had also advanced in attachment to Mordecai, regarding him as an inferior, but liking him none the worse, and taking his helpful cleverness as he might have taken the services of an enslaved Djinn. As for Mordecai, he had given Jacob his first lessons, and his habitual tenderness easily turned into the teacher’s fatherhood. Though he was fully conscious of the spiritual distance between the parents and himself, and would never have attempted any communication to them from his peculiar world, the boy moved him with that idealizing affection which merges the qualities of the individual child in the glory of childhood and the possibilities of a long future. And this feeling had drawn him on, at first without premeditation, and afterward with conscious purpose, to a sort of outpouring in the ear of the boy which might have seemed wild enough to any excellent man of business who overheard it. But none overheard when Jacob went up to Mordecai’s room one day, for example, in which there was little work to be done, or at an hour when the work was ended, and after a brief lesson in English reading or in numeration, was induced to remain standing at his teacher’s knees, or chose to jump astride them, often to the patient fatigue of the wasted limbs. The inducement was perhaps the mending of a toy, or some little mechanical device in which Mordecai’s well-practiced fingertips had an exceptional skill; and with the boy thus tethered, he would begin to repeat a Hebrew poem of his own, into which years before he had poured his first youthful ardors for that conception of a blended past and future which was the mistress of his soul, telling Jacob to say the words after him.

“The boy will get them engraved within him,” thought Mordecai; “it is a way of printing.”

None readier than Jacob at this fascinating game of imitating unintelligible words; and if no opposing diversion occurred he would sometimes carry on his share in it as long as the teacher’s breath would last out. For Mordecai threw into each repetition the fervor befitting a sacred occasion. In such instances, Jacob would show no other distraction than reaching out and surveying the contents of his pockets; or drawing down the skin of his cheeks to make his eyes look awful, and rolling his head to complete the effect; or alternately handling his own nose and Mordecai’s as if to test the relation of their masses. Under all this the fervid reciter would not pause, satisfied if the young organs of speech would submit themselves. But most commonly a sudden impulse sent Jacob leaping away into some antic or active amusement, when, instead of following the recitation he would return upon the foregoing words most ready to his tongue, and mouth or gabble, with a seesaw suited to the action of his limbs, a verse on which Mordecai had spent some of his too scanty heart’s blood. Yet he waited with such patience as a prophet needs, and began his strange printing again undiscouraged on the morrow, saying inwardly,

“My words may rule him some day. Their meaning may flash out on him. It is so with a nation⁠—after many days.”

Meanwhile Jacob’s sense of power was increased and his time enlivened by a store of magical articulation with which he made the baby crow, or drove the large cat into a dark corner, or promised himself to frighten any incidental Christian of his own years. One week he had unfortunately seen a street mountebank, and this carried off his muscular imitativeness in sad divergence from New Hebrew poetry, after the model of Jehuda ha-Levi. Mordecai had arrived at a fresh passage in his poem; for as soon as Jacob had got well used to one portion, he was led on to another, and a fresh combination of sounds generally answered better in keeping him fast for a few minutes. The consumptive voice, generally a strong high baritone, with its variously mingling hoarseness, like a haze amidst illuminations, and its occasional incipient gasp had more than the usual excitement, while it gave forth Hebrew verses with a meaning something like this:

“Away from me the garment of forgetfulness.
Withering the heart;
The oil and wine from presses of the Goyim,
Poisoned with scorn.
Solitude is on the sides of Mount Nebo,
In its heart a tomb:
There the buried ark and golden cherubim
Make hidden light:
There the solemn gaze unchanged,
The wings are spread unbroken:
Shut beneath in silent awful speech
The Law lies graven.
Solitude and darkness are my covering,
And my heart a tomb;
Smite and shatter it, O Gabriel!
Shatter it as the clay of the founder
Around the golden image.”

In the absorbing enthusiasm with which Mordecai had intoned rather than spoken this last invocation, he was unconscious that Jacob had ceased to follow him and had started away from his knees; but pausing he saw, as by a sudden flash, that the lad had thrown himself on his hands with his feet in the air, mountebank fashion, and was picking up with his lips a bright farthing which was a favorite among his pocket treasures. This might have been reckoned among the tricks Mordecai was used to, but at this moment it jarred him horribly, as if it had been a Satanic grin upon his prayer.

“Child! child!” he called out with a strange cry that startled Jacob to his feet, and then he sank backward with a shudder, closing his eyes.

“What?” said Jacob, quickly. Then, not getting an immediate answer, he pressed Mordecai’s knees with a shaking movement, in order to rouse him. Mordecai opened his eyes with a fierce expression in them, leaned forward, grasped the little shoulders, and said in a quick, hoarse whisper,

“A curse is on your generation, child. They will open the mountain and drag forth the golden wings and coin them into money, and the solemn faces they will break up into earrings for wanton women! And they shall get themselves a new name, but the angel of ignominy, with the fiery brand, shall know them, and their heart shall be the tomb of dead desires that turn their life to rottenness.”

The aspect and action of Mordecai were so new and mysterious to Jacob⁠—they carried such a burden of obscure threat⁠—it was as if the patient, indulgent companion had turned into something unknown and terrific: the sunken dark eyes and hoarse accents close to him, the thin grappling fingers, shook Jacob’s little frame into awe, and while Mordecai was speaking he stood trembling with a sense that the house was tumbling in and they were not going to have dinner any more. But when the terrible speech had ended and the pinch was relaxed, the shock resolved itself into tears; Jacob lifted up his small patriarchal countenance and wept aloud. This sign of childish grief at once recalled Mordecai to his usual gentle self: he was not able to speak again at present, but with a maternal action he drew the curly head toward him and pressed it tenderly against his breast. On this Jacob, feeling the danger well-nigh over, howled at ease, beginning to imitate his own performance and improve upon it⁠—a sort of transition from impulse into art often observable. Indeed, the next day he undertook to terrify Adelaide Rebekah in like manner, and succeeded very well.

But Mordecai suffered a check which lasted long, from the consciousness of a misapplied agitation; sane as well as excitable, he judged severely his moments of aberration into futile eagerness, and felt discredited with himself. All the more his mind was strained toward the discernment of that friend to come, with whom he would have a calm certainty of fellowship and understanding.

It was just then that, in his usual midday guardianship of the old bookshop, he was struck by the appearance of Deronda, and it is perhaps comprehensible now why Mordecai’s glance took on a sudden eager interest as he looked at the newcomer: he saw a face and frame which seemed to him to realize the long-conceived type. But the disclaimer of Jewish birth was for the moment a backward thrust of double severity, the particular disappointment tending to shake his confidence in the more indefinite expectation. Nevertheless, when he found Deronda seated at the Cohens’ table, the disclaimer was for the moment nullified: the first impression returned with added force, seeming to be guaranteed by this second meeting under circumstance more peculiar than the former; and in asking Deronda if he knew Hebrew, Mordecai was so possessed by the new inrush of belief, that he had forgotten the absence of any other condition to the fulfillment of his hopes. But the answering “No” struck them all down again, and the frustration was more painful than before. After turning his back on the visitor that Sabbath evening, Mordecai went through days of a deep discouragement, like that of men on a doomed ship, who having strained their eyes after a sail, and beheld it with rejoicing, behold it never advance, and say, “Our sick eyes make it.” But the long-contemplated figure had come as an emotional sequence of Mordecai’s firmest theoretic convictions; it had been wrought from the imagery of his most passionate life; and it inevitably reappeared⁠—reappeared in a more specific self-asserting form than ever. Deronda had that sort of resemblance to the preconceived type which a finely individual bust or portrait has to the more generalized copy left in our minds after a long interval: we renew our memory with delight, but we hardly know with how much correction. And now, his face met Mordecai’s inward gaze as it had always belonged to the awaited friend, raying out, moreover, some of that influence which belongs to breathing flesh; till by-and-by it seemed that discouragement had turned into a new obstinacy of resistance, and the ever-recurrent vision had the force of an outward call to disregard counter-evidence, and keep expectation awake. It was Deronda now who was seen in the often painful night-watches, when we are all liable to be held with the clutch of a single thought⁠—whose figure, never with its back turned, was seen in moments of soothed reverie or soothed dozing, painted on that golden sky which was the doubly blessed symbol of advancing day and of approaching rest.

Mordecai knew that the nameless stranger was to come and redeem his ring; and, in spite of contrary chances, the wish to see him again was growing into a belief that he should see him. In the January weeks, he felt an increasing agitation of that subdued hidden quality which hinders nervous people from any steady occupation on the eve of an anticipated change. He could not go on with his printing of Hebrew on little Jacob’s mind; or with his attendance at a weekly club, which was another effort of the same forlorn hope: something else was coming. The one thing he longed for was to get as far as the river, which he could do but seldom and with difficulty. He yearned with a poet’s yearning for the wide sky, the far-reaching vista of bridges, the tender and fluctuating lights on the water which seems to breathe with a life that can shiver and mourn, be comforted and rejoice.

Chapter XXXIX

Vor den Wissenden sich stellen,
Sicher ist’s in allen Fällen!
Wenn du lange dich gequälet,
Weiß er gleich, wo dir es fehlet.
Auch auf Beifall darfst du hoffen;
Denn er weiß, wo du’s getroffen.
Goethe: West-östlicher Divan

Momentous things happened to Deronda the very evening of that visit to the small house at Chelsea, when there was the discussion about Mirah’s public name. But for the family group there, what appeared to be the chief sequence connected with it occurred two days afterward. About four o’clock wheels paused before the door, and there came one of those knocks with an accompanying ring which serve to magnify the sense of social existence in a region where the most enlivening signals are usually those of the muffin-man. All the girls were at home, and the two rooms were thrown together to make space for Kate’s drawing, as well as a great length of embroidery which had taken the place of the satin cushions⁠—a sort of pièce de résistance in the courses of needlework, taken up by any clever fingers that happened to be at liberty. It stretched across the front room picturesquely enough, Mrs. Meyrick bending over it on one corner, Mab in the middle, and Amy at the other end. Mirah, whose performances in point of sewing were on the makeshift level of the tailorbird’s, her education in that branch having been much neglected, was acting as reader to the party, seated on a campstool; in which position she also served Kate as model for a title-page vignette, symbolizing a fair public absorbed in the successive volumes of the family tea-table. She was giving forth with charming distinctness the delightful Essay of Elia, The Praise of Chimney-Sweeps, and all were smiling over the “innocent blackness,” when the imposing knock and ring called their thoughts to loftier spheres, and they looked up in wonderment.

“Dear me!” said Mrs. Meyrick; “can it be Lady Mallinger? Is there a grand carriage, Amy?”

“No⁠—only a hansom cab. It must be a gentleman.”

“The Prime Minister, I should think,” said Kate dryly. “Hans says the greatest man in London may get into a hansom cab.”

“Oh, oh, oh!” cried Mab. “Suppose it should be Lord Russell!”

The five bright faces were all looking amused when the old maidservant bringing in a card distractedly left the parlor-door open, and there was seen bowing toward Mrs. Meyrick a figure quite unlike that of the respected Premier⁠—tall and physically impressive even in his kid and kerseymere, with massive face, flamboyant hair, and gold spectacles: in fact, as Mrs. Meyrick saw from the card, Julius Klesmer.

Even embarrassment could hardly have made the “little mother” awkward, but quick in her perceptions she was at once aware of the situation, and felt well satisfied that the great personage had come to Mirah instead of requiring her to come to him; taking it as a sign of active interest. But when he entered, the rooms shrank into closets, the cottage piano, Mab thought, seemed a ridiculous toy, and the entire family existence as petty and private as an establishment of mice in the Tuileries. Klesmer’s personality, especially his way of glancing round him, immediately suggested vast areas and a multitudinous audience, and probably they made the usual scenery of his consciousness, for we all of us carry on our thinking in some habitual locus where there is a presence of other souls, and those who take in a larger sweep than their neighbors are apt to seem mightily vain and affected. Klesmer was vain, but not more so than many contemporaries of heavy aspect, whose vanity leaps out and startles one like a spear out of a walking-stick; as to his carriage and gestures, these were as natural to him as the length of his fingers; and the rankest affectation he could have shown would have been to look diffident and demure. While his grandiose air was making Mab feel herself a ridiculous toy to match the cottage piano, he was taking in the details around him with a keen and thoroughly kind sensibility. He remembered a home no larger than this on the outskirts of Bohemia; and in the figurative Bohemia too he had had large acquaintance with the variety and romance which belong to small incomes. He addressed Mrs. Meyrick with the utmost deference.

“I hope I have not taken too great a freedom. Being in the neighborhood, I ventured to save time by calling. Our friend, Mr. Deronda, mentioned to me an understanding that I was to have the honor of becoming acquainted with a young lady here⁠—Miss Lapidoth.”

Klesmer had really discerned Mirah in the first moment of entering, but, with subtle politeness, he looked round bowingly at the three sisters as if he were uncertain which was the young lady in question.

“Those are my daughters: this is Miss Lapidoth,” said Mrs. Meyrick, waving her hand toward Mirah.

“Ah,” said Klesmer, in a tone of gratified expectation, turning a radiant smile and deep bow to Mirah, who, instead of being in the least taken by surprise, had a calm pleasure in her face. She liked the look of Klesmer, feeling sure that he would scold her, like a great musician and a kind man.

“You will not object to beginning our acquaintance by singing to me,” he added, aware that they would all be relieved by getting rid of preliminaries.

“I shall be very glad. It is good of you to be willing to listen to me,” said Mirah, moving to the piano. “Shall I accompany myself?”

“By all means,” said Klesmer, seating himself, at Mrs. Meyrick’s invitation, where he could have a good view of the singer. The acute little mother would not have acknowledged the weakness, but she really said to herself, “He will like her singing better if he sees her.”

All the feminine hearts except Mirah’s were beating fast with anxiety, thinking Klesmer terrific as he sat with his listening frown on, and only daring to look at him furtively. If he did say anything severe it would be so hard for them all. They could only comfort themselves with thinking that Prince Camaralzaman, who had heard the finest things, preferred Mirah’s singing to any other: also she appeared to be doing her very best, as if she were more instead of less at ease than usual.

The song she had chosen was a fine setting of some words selected from Leopardi’s grand Ode to Italy:,

“O patria mia, vedo le mura c gli archi
E le colonne e i simula-cri e l’erme
Torridegli avi nostri⁠—”

This was recitative: then followed,

“Ma la gloria⁠—non vedo,”

a mournful melody, a rhythmic plaint. After this came a climax of devout triumph⁠—passing from the subdued adoration of a happy Andante in the words,

“Beatissimi voi.
Che offriste il petto alle nemiche lance
Per amor di costei che al sol vi diede,”

to the joyous outburst of an exultant Allegro in,

“Oh viva, oh viva:
Beatissimi voi
Mentre nel monde si favelli o scriva.”

When she had ended, Klesmer said after a moment,

“That is old Leo’s music.”

“Yes, he was my last master⁠—at Vienna: so fierce and so good,” said Mirah, with a melancholy smile. “He prophesied that my voice would not do for the stage. And he was right.”

Continue, if you please,” said Klesmer, putting out his lips and shaking his long fingers, while he went on with a smothered articulation quite unintelligible to the audience.

The three girls detested him unanimously for not saying one word of praise. Mrs. Meyrick was a little alarmed.

Mirah, simply bent on doing what Klesmer desired, and imagining that he would now like to hear her sing some German, went through Prince Radzivill’s music to Gretchen’s songs in the Faust, one after the other without any interrogatory pause. When she had finished he rose and walked to the extremity of the small space at command, then walked back to the piano, where Mirah had risen from her seat and stood looking toward him with her little hands crossed before her, meekly awaiting judgment; then with a sudden unknitting of his brow and with beaming eyes, he stretched out his hand and said abruptly, “Let us shake hands: you are a musician.”

Mab felt herself beginning to cry, and all the three girls held Klesmer adorable. Mrs. Meyrick took a long breath.

But straightway the frown came again, the long hand, back uppermost, was stretched out in quite a different sense to touch with fingertip the back of Mirah’s, and with protruded lip he said,

“Not for great tasks. No high roofs. We are no skylarks. We must be modest.” Klesmer paused here. And Mab ceased to think him adorable: “as if Mirah had shown the least sign of conceit!”

Mirah was silent, knowing that there was a specific opinion to be waited for, and Klesmer presently went on⁠—“I would not advise⁠—I would not further your singing in any larger space than a private drawing-room. But you will do there. And here in London that is one of the best careers open. Lessons will follow. Will you come and sing at a private concert at my house on Wednesday?”

“Oh, I shall be grateful,” said Mirah, putting her hands together devoutly. “I would rather get my bread in that way than by anything more public. I will try to improve. What should I work at most?”

Klesmer made a preliminary answer in noises which sounded like words bitten in two and swallowed before they were half out, shaking his fingers the while, before he said, quite distinctly, “I shall introduce you to Astorga: he is the foster-father of good singing and will give you advice.” Then addressing Mrs. Meyrick, he added, “Mrs. Klesmer will call before Wednesday, with your permission.”

“We shall feel that to be a great kindness,” said Mrs. Meyrick.

“You will sing to her,” said Klesmer, turning again to Mirah. “She is a thorough musician, and has a soul with more ears to it than you will often get in a musician. Your singing will satisfy her:

‘Vor den Wissenden sich stellen;’

you know the rest?”

“ ‘Sicher ist’s in alien Fällen.’ ”

said Mirah, promptly. And Klesmer saying “Schön!” put out his hand again as a goodbye.

He had certainly chosen the most delicate way of praising Mirah, and the Meyrick girls had now given him all their esteem. But imagine Mab’s feeling when suddenly fixing his eyes on her, he said decisively, “That young lady is musical, I see!” She was a mere blush and sense of scorching.

“Yes,” said Mirah, on her behalf. “And she has a touch.”

“Oh, please, Mirah⁠—a scramble, not a touch,” said Mab, in anguish, with a horrible fear of what the next thing might be: this dreadful divining personage⁠—evidently Satan in gray trousers⁠—might order her to sit down to the piano, and her heart was like molten wax in the midst of her. But this was cheap payment for her amazed joy when Klesmer said benignantly, turning to Mrs. Meyrick, “Will she like to accompany Miss Lapidoth and hear the music on Wednesday?”

“There could hardly be a greater pleasure for her,” said Mrs. Meyrick. “She will be most glad and grateful.”

Thereupon Klesmer bowed round to the three sisters more grandly than they had ever been bowed to before. Altogether it was an amusing picture⁠—the little room with so much of its diagonal taken up in Klesmer’s magnificent bend to the small feminine figures like images a little less than life-size, the grave Holbein faces on the walls, as many as were not otherwise occupied, looking hard at this stranger who by his face seemed a dignified contemporary of their own, but whose garments seemed a deplorable mockery of the human form.

Mrs. Meyrick could not help going out of the room with Klesmer and closing the door behind her. He understood her, and said with a frowning nod,

“She will do: if she doesn’t attempt too much and her voice holds out, she can make an income. I know that is the great point: Deronda told me. You are taking care of her. She looks like a good girl.”

“She is an angel,” said the warmhearted woman.

“No,” said Klesmer, with a playful nod; “she is a pretty Jewess: the angels must not get the credit of her. But I think she has found a guardian angel,” he ended, bowing himself out in this amiable way.

The four young creatures had looked at each other mutely till the door banged and Mrs. Meyrick re-entered. Then there was an explosion. Mab clapped her hands and danced everywhere inconveniently; Mrs. Meyrick kissed Mirah and blessed her; Amy said emphatically, “We can never get her a new dress before Wednesday!” and Kate exclaimed, “Thank heaven my table is not knocked over!”

Mirah had reseated herself on the music-stool without speaking, and the tears were rolling down her cheeks as she looked at her friends.

“Now, now, Mab!” said Mrs. Meyrick; “come and sit down reasonably and let us talk?”

“Yes, let us talk,” said Mab, cordially, coming back to her low seat and caressing her knees. “I am beginning to feel large again. Hans said he was coming this afternoon. I wish he had been here⁠—only there would have been no room for him. Mirah, what are you looking sad for?”

“I am too happy,” said Mirah. “I feel so full of gratitude to you all; and he was so very kind.”

“Yes, at last,” said Mab, sharply. “But he might have said something encouraging sooner. I thought him dreadfully ugly when he sat frowning, and only said, ‘Continue.’ I hated him all the long way from the top of his hair to the toe of his polished boot.”

“Nonsense, Mab; he has a splendid profile,” said Kate.

Now, but not then. I cannot bear people to keep their minds bottled up for the sake of letting them off with a pop. They seem to grudge making you happy unless they can make you miserable beforehand. However, I forgive him everything,” said Mab, with a magnanimous air, “but he has invited me. I wonder why he fixed on me as the musical one? Was it because I have a bulging forehead, ma, and peep from under it like a newt from under a stone?”

“It was your way of listening to the singing, child,” said Mrs. Meyrick. “He has magic spectacles and sees everything through them, depend upon it. But what was that German quotation you were so ready with, Mirah⁠—you learned puss?”

“Oh, that was not learning,” said Mirah, her tearful face breaking into an amused smile. “I said it so many times for a lesson. It means that it is safer to do anything⁠—singing or anything else⁠—before those who know and understand all about it.”

“That was why you were not one bit frightened, I suppose,” said Amy. “But now, what we have to talk about is a dress for you on Wednesday.”

“I don’t want anything better than this black merino,” said Mirah, rising to show the effect. “Some white gloves and some new bottines.” She put out her little foot, clad in the famous felt slipper.

“There comes Hans,” said Mrs. Meyrick. “Stand still, and let us hear what he says about the dress. Artists are the best people to consult about such things.”

“You don’t consult me, ma,” said Kate, lifting up her eyebrow with a playful complainingness. “I notice mothers are like the people I deal with⁠—the girls’ doings are always priced low.”

“My dear child, the boys are such a trouble⁠—we could never put up with them, if we didn’t make believe they were worth more,” said Mrs. Meyrick, just as her boy entered. “Hans, we want your opinion about Mirah’s dress. A great event has happened. Klesmer has been here, and she is going to sing at his house on Wednesday among grand people. She thinks this dress will do.”

“Let me see,” said Hans. Mirah in her childlike way turned toward him to be looked at; and he, going to a little further distance, knelt with one knee on a hassock to survey her.

“This would be thought a very good stage-dress for me,” she said, pleadingly, “in a part where I was to come on as a poor Jewess and sing to fashionable Christians.”

“It would be effective,” said Hans, with a considering air; “it would stand out well among the fashionable chiffons.”

“But you ought not to claim all the poverty on your side, Mirah,” said Amy. “There are plenty of poor Christians and dreadfully rich Jews and fashionable Jewesses.”

“I didn’t mean any harm,” said Mirah. “Only I have been used to thinking about my dress for parts in plays. And I almost always had a part with a plain dress.”

“That makes me think it questionable,” said Hans, who had suddenly become as fastidious and conventional on this occasion as he had thought Deronda was, apropos of the Berenice-pictures. “It looks a little too theatrical. We must not make you a role of the poor Jewess⁠—or of being a Jewess at all.” Hans had a secret desire to neutralize the Jewess in private life, which he was in danger of not keeping secret.

“But it is what I am really. I am not pretending anything. I shall never be anything else,” said Mirah. “I always feel myself a Jewess.”

“But we can’t feel that about you,” said Hans, with a devout look. “What does it signify whether a perfect woman is a Jewess or not?”

“That is your kind way of praising me; I never was praised so before,” said Mirah, with a smile, which was rather maddening to Hans and made him feel still more of a cosmopolitan.

“People don’t think of me as a British Christian,” he said, his face creasing merrily. “They think of me as an imperfectly handsome young man and an unpromising painter.”

“But you are wandering from the dress,” said Amy. “If that will not do, how are we to get another before Wednesday? and tomorrow Sunday?”

“Indeed this will do,” said Mirah, entreatingly. “It is all real, you know,” here she looked at Hans⁠—“even if it seemed theatrical. Poor Berenice sitting on the ruins⁠—anyone might say that was theatrical, but I know that this is just what she would do.”

“I am a scoundrel,” said Hans, overcome by this misplaced trust. “That is my invention. Nobody knows that she did that. Shall you forgive me for not saying so before?”

“Oh, yes,” said Mirah, after a momentary pause of surprise. “You knew it was what she would be sure to do⁠—a Jewess who had not been faithful⁠—who had done what she did and was penitent. She could have no joy but to afflict herself; and where else would she go? I think it is very beautiful that you should enter so into what a Jewess would feel.”

“The Jewesses of that time sat on ruins,” said Hans, starting up with a sense of being checkmated. “That makes them convenient for pictures.”

“But the dress⁠—the dress,” said Amy; “is it settled?”

“Yes; is it not?” said Mirah, looking doubtfully at Mrs. Meyrick, who in her turn looked up at her son, and said, “What do you think, Hans?”

“That dress will not do,” said Hans, decisively. “She is not going to sit on ruins. You must jump into a cab with her, little mother, and go to Regent Street. It’s plenty of time to get anything you like⁠—a black silk dress such as ladies wear. She must not be taken for an object of charity. She has talents to make people indebted to her.”

“I think it is what Mr. Deronda would like⁠—for her to have a handsome dress,” said Mrs. Meyrick, deliberating.

“Of course it is,” said Hans, with some sharpness. “You may take my word for what a gentleman would feel.”

“I wish to do what Mr. Deronda would like me to do,” said Mirah, gravely, seeing that Mrs. Meyrick looked toward her; and Hans, turning on his heel, went to Kate’s table and took up one of her drawings as if his interest needed a new direction.

“Shouldn’t you like to make a study of Klesmer’s head, Hans?” said Kate. “I suppose you have often seen him?”

“Seen him!” exclaimed Hans, immediately throwing back his head and mane, seating himself at the piano and looking round him as if he were surveying an amphitheatre, while he held his fingers down perpendicularly toward the keys. But then in another instant he wheeled round on the stool, looked at Mirah and said, half timidly⁠—“Perhaps you don’t like this mimicry; you must always stop my nonsense when you don’t like it.”

Mirah had been smiling at the swiftly-made image, and she smiled still, but with a touch of something else than amusement, as she said⁠—“Thank you. But you have never done anything I did not like. I hardly think he could, belonging to you,” she added, looking at Mrs. Meyrick.

In this way Hans got food for his hope. How could the rose help it when several bees in succession took its sweet odor as a sign of personal attachment?

Chapter XL

Within the soul a faculty abides,
That with interpositions, which would hide
And darken, so can deal, that they become
Contingencies of pomp; and serve to exalt
Her native brightness, as the ample moon,
In the deep stillness of a summer even,
Rising behind a thick and lofty grove,
Burns, like an unconsuming fire of light,
In the green trees; and, kindling on all sides
Their leafy umbrage, turns the dusky veil
Into a substance glorious as her own,
Yea, with her own incorporated, by power
Capacious and serene.
Wordsworth: Excursion, Book IV

Deronda came out of the narrow house at Chelsea in a frame of mind that made him long for some good bodily exercise to carry off what he was himself inclined to call the fumes of his temper. He was going toward the city, and the sight of the Chelsea Stairs with the waiting boats at once determined him to avoid the irritating inaction of being driven in a cab, by calling a wherry and taking an oar.

His errand was to go to Ram’s bookshop, where he had yesterday arrived too late for Mordecai’s midday watch, and had been told that he invariably came there again between five and six. Some further acquaintance with this remarkable inmate of the Cohens was particularly desired by Deronda as a preliminary to redeeming his ring: he wished that their conversation should not again end speedily with that drop of Mordecai’s interest which was like the removal of a drawbridge, and threatened to shut out any easy communication in future. As he got warmed with the use of the oar, fixing his mind on the errand before him and the ends he wanted to achieve on Mirah’s account, he experienced, as was wont with him, a quick change of mental light, shifting his point of view to that of the person whom he had been thinking of hitherto chiefly as serviceable to his own purposes, and was inclined to taunt himself with being not much better than an enlisting sergeant, who never troubles himself with the drama that brings him the needful recruits.

“I suppose if I got from this man the information I am most anxious about,” thought Deronda, “I should be contented enough if he felt no disposition to tell me more of himself, or why he seemed to have some expectation from me which was disappointed. The sort of curiosity he stirs would die out; and yet it might be that he had neared and parted as one can imagine two ships doing, each freighted with an exile who would have recognized the other if the two could have looked out face to face. Not that there is any likelihood of a peculiar tie between me and this poor fellow, whose voyage, I fancy, must soon be over. But I wonder whether there is much of that momentous mutual missing between people who interchange blank looks, or even long for one another’s absence in a crowded place. However, one makes one’s self chances of missing by going on the recruiting sergeant’s plan.”

When the wherry was approaching Blackfriars Bridge, where Deronda meant to land, it was half-past four, and the gray day was dying gloriously, its western clouds all broken into narrowing purple strata before a wide-spreading saffron clearness, which in the sky had a monumental calm, but on the river, with its changing objects, was reflected as a luminous movement, the alternate flash of ripples or currents, the sudden glow of the brown sail, the passage of laden barges from blackness into color, making an active response to that brooding glory.

Feeling well heated by this time, Deronda gave up the oar and drew over him again his Inverness cape. As he lifted up his head while fastening the topmost button his eyes caught a well-remembered face looking toward him over the parapet of the bridge⁠—brought out by the western light into startling distinctness and brilliancy⁠—an illuminated type of bodily emaciation and spiritual eagerness. It was the face of Mordecai, who also, in his watch toward the west, had caught sight of the advancing boat, and had kept it fast within his gaze, at first simply because it was advancing, then with a recovery of impressions that made him quiver as with a presentiment, till at last the nearing figure lifted up its face toward him⁠—the face of his visions⁠—and then immediately, with white uplifted hand, beckoned again and again.

For Deronda, anxious that Mordecai should recognize and await him, had lost no time before signaling, and the answer came straightway. Mordecai lifted his cap and waved it⁠—feeling in that moment that his inward prophecy was fulfilled. Obstacles, incongruities, all melted into the sense of completion with which his soul was flooded by this outward satisfaction of his longing. His exultation was not widely different from that of the experimenter, bending over the first stirrings of change that correspond to what in the fervor of concentrated prevision his thought has foreshadowed. The prefigured friend had come from the golden background, and had signaled to him: this actually was: the rest was to be.

In three minutes Deronda had landed, had paid his boatman, and was joining Mordecai, whose instinct it was to stand perfectly still and wait for him.

“I was very glad to see you standing here,” said Deronda, “for I was intending to go on to the bookshop and look for you again. I was there yesterday⁠—perhaps they mentioned it to you?”

“Yes,” said Mordecai; “that was the reason I came to the bridge.”

This answer, made with simple gravity, was startlingly mysterious to Deronda. Were the peculiarities of this man really associated with any sort of mental alienation, according to Cohen’s hint?

“You knew nothing of my being at Chelsea?” he said, after a moment.

“No; but I expected you to come down the river. I have been waiting for you these five years.” Mordecai’s deep-sunk eyes were fixed on those of the friend who had at last arrived with a look of affectionate dependence, at once pathetic and solemn. Deronda’s sensitiveness was not the less responsive because he could not but believe that this strangely-disclosed relation was founded on an illusion.

“It will be a satisfaction to me if I can be of any real use to you,” he answered, very earnestly. “Shall we get into a cab and drive to⁠—wherever you wish to go? You have probably had walking enough with your short breath.”

“Let us go to the bookshop. It will soon be time for me to be there. But now look up the river,” said Mordecai, turning again toward it and speaking in undertones of what may be called an excited calm⁠—so absorbed by a sense of fulfillment that he was conscious of no barrier to a complete understanding between him and Deronda. “See the sky, how it is slowly fading. I have always loved this bridge: I stood on it when I was a little boy. It is a meeting-place for the spiritual messengers. It is true⁠—what the Masters said⁠—that each order of things has its angel: that means the full message of each from what is afar. Here I have listened to the messages of earth and sky; when I was stronger I used to stay and watch for the stars in the deep heavens. But this time just about sunset was always what I loved best. It has sunk into me and dwelt with me⁠—fading, slowly fading: it was my own decline: it paused⁠—it waited, till at last it brought me my new life⁠—my new self⁠—who will live when this breath is all breathed out.”

Deronda did not speak. He felt himself strangely wrought upon. The first-prompted suspicion that Mordecai might be liable to hallucinations of thought⁠—might have become a monomaniac on some subject which had given too severe a strain to his diseased organism⁠—gave way to a more submissive expectancy. His nature was too large, too ready to conceive regions beyond his own experience, to rest at once in the easy explanation, “madness,” whenever a consciousness showed some fullness and conviction where his own was blank. It accorded with his habitual disposition that he should meet rather than resist any claim on him in the shape of another’s need; and this claim brought with it a sense of solemnity which seemed a radiation from Mordecai, as utterly nullifying his outward poverty and lifting him into authority as if he had been that preternatural guide seen in the universal legend, who suddenly drops his mean disguise and stands a manifest Power. That impression was the more sanctioned by a sort of resolved quietude which the persuasion of fulfillment had produced in Mordecai’s manner. After they had stood a moment in silence he said, “Let us go now,” and when they were riding he added, “We will get down at the end of the street and walk to the shop. You can look at the books, and Mr. Ram will be going away directly and leave us alone.”

It seemed that this enthusiast was just as cautious, just as much alive to judgments in other minds as if he had been that antipode of all enthusiasm called “a man of the world.”

While they were rattling along in the cab, Mirah was still present with Deronda in the midst of this strange experience, but he foresaw that the course of conversation would be determined by Mordecai, not by himself: he was no longer confident what questions he should be able to ask; and with a reaction on his own mood, he inwardly said, “I suppose I am in a state of complete superstition, just as if I were awaiting the destiny that could interpret the oracle. But some strong relation there must be between me and this man, since he feels it strongly. Great heaven! what relation has proved itself more potent in the world than faith even when mistaken⁠—than expectation even when perpetually disappointed? Is my side of the relation to be disappointing or fulfilling?⁠—well, if it is ever possible for me to fulfill I will not disappoint.”

In ten minutes the two men, with as intense a consciousness as if they had been two undeclared lovers, felt themselves alone in the small gas-lit bookshop and turned face to face, each baring his head from an instinctive feeling that they wished to see each other fully. Mordecai came forward to lean his back against the little counter, while Deronda stood against the opposite wall hardly more than four feet off. I wish I could perpetuate those two faces, as Titian’s Tribute Money has perpetuated two types presenting another sort of contrast. Imagine⁠—we all of us can⁠—the pathetic stamp of consumption with its brilliancy of glance to which the sharply-defined structure of features reminding one of a forsaken temple, give already a far-off look as of one getting unwillingly out of reach; and imagine it on a Jewish face naturally accentuated for the expression of an eager mind⁠—the face of a man little above thirty, but with that age upon it which belongs to time lengthened by suffering, the hair and beard, still black, throwing out the yellow pallor of the skin, the difficult breathing giving more decided marking to the mobile nostril, the wasted yellow hands conspicuous on the folded arms: then give to the yearning consumptive glance something of the slowly dying mother’s look, when her one loved son visits her bedside, and the flickering power of gladness leaps out as she says, “My boy!”⁠—for the sense of spiritual perpetuation in another resembles that maternal transference of self.

Seeing such a portrait you would see Mordecai. And opposite to him was a face not more distinctively oriental than many a type seen among what we call the Latin races; rich in youthful health, and with a forcible masculine gravity in its repose, that gave the value of judgment to the reverence with which he met the gaze of this mysterious son of poverty who claimed him as a long-expected friend. The more exquisite quality of Deronda’s nature⁠—that keenly perceptive sympathetic emotiveness which ran along with his speculative tendency⁠—was never more thoroughly tested. He felt nothing that could be called belief in the validity of Mordecai’s impressions concerning him or in the probability of any greatly effective issue: what he felt was a profound sensibility to a cry from the depths of another and accompanying that, the summons to be receptive instead of superciliously prejudging. Receptiveness is a rare and massive power, like fortitude; and this state of mind now gave Deronda’s face its utmost expression of calm benignant force⁠—an expression which nourished Mordecai’s confidence and made an open way before him. He began to speak.

“You cannot know what has guided me to you and brought us together at this moment. You are wondering.”

“I am not impatient,” said Deronda. “I am ready to listen to whatever you may wish to disclose.”

“You see some of the reasons why I needed you,” said Mordecai, speaking quietly, as if he wished to reserve his strength. “You see that I am dying. You see that I am as one shut up behind bars by the wayside, who if he spoke to any would be met only by head-shaking and pity. The day is closing⁠—the light is fading⁠—soon we should not have been able to discern each other. But you have come in time.”

“I rejoice that I am come in time,” said Deronda, feelingly. He would not say, “I hope you are not mistaken in me,”⁠—the very word “mistaken,” he thought, would be a cruelty at that moment.

“But the hidden reasons why I need you began afar off,” said Mordecai; “began in my early years when I was studying in another land. Then ideas, beloved ideas, came to me, because I was a Jew. They were a trust to fulfill, because I was a Jew. They were an inspiration, because I was a Jew, and felt the heart of my race beating within me. They were my life; I was not fully born till then. I counted this heart, and this breath, and this right hand”⁠—Mordecai had pathetically pressed his hand upon his breast, and then stretched its wasted fingers out before him⁠—“I counted my sleep and my waking, and the work I fed my body with, and the sights that fed my eyes⁠—I counted them but as fuel to the divine flame. But I had done as one who wanders and engraves his thought in rocky solitudes, and before I could change my course came care and labor and disease, and blocked the way before me, and bound me with the iron that eats itself into the soul. Then I said, ‘How shall I save the life within me from being stifled with this stifled breath?’ ”

Mordecai paused to rest that poor breath which had been taxed by the rising excitement of his speech. And also he wished to check that excitement. Deronda dared not speak: the very silence in the narrow space seemed alive with mingled awe and compassion before this struggling fervor. And presently Mordecai went on:

“But you may misunderstand me. I speak not as an ignorant dreamer⁠—as one bred up in the inland valleys, thinking ancient thoughts anew, and not knowing them ancient, never having stood by the great waters where the world’s knowledge passes to and fro. English is my mother-tongue, England is the native land of this body, which is but as a breaking pot of earth around the fruit-bearing tree, whose seed might make the desert rejoice. But my true life was nourished in Holland at the feet of my mother’s brother, a Rabbi skilled in special learning: and when he died I went to Hamburg to study, and afterwards to Göttingen, that I might take a larger outlook on my people, and on the Gentile world, and drank knowledge at all sources. I was a youth; I felt free; I saw our chief seats in Germany; I was not then in utter poverty. And I had possessed myself of a handicraft. For I said, I care not if my lot be as that of Joshua ben Chananja: after the last destruction he earned his bread by making needles, but in his youth he had been a singer on the steps of the Temple, and had a memory of what was before the glory departed. I said, let my body dwell in poverty, and my hands be as the hands of the toiler: but let my soul be as a temple of remembrance where the treasures of knowledge enter and the inner sanctuary is hope. I knew what I chose. They said, ‘He feeds himself on visions,’ and I denied not; for visions are the creators and feeders of the world. I see, I measure the world as it is, which the vision will create anew. You are not listening to one who raves aloof from the lives of his fellows.”

Mordecai paused, and Deronda, feeling that the pause was expectant, said, “Do me the justice to believe that I was not inclined to call your words raving. I listen that I may know, without prejudgment. I have had experience which gives me a keen interest in the story of a spiritual destiny embraced willingly, and embraced in youth.”

“A spiritual destiny embraced willingly⁠—in youth?” Mordecai repeated in a corrective tone. “It was the soul fully born within me, and it came in my boyhood. It brought its own world⁠—a medieval world, where there are men who made the ancient language live again in new psalms of exile. They had absorbed the philosophy of the Gentile into the faith of the Jew, and they still yearned toward a center for our race. One of their souls was born again within me, and awakened amid the memories of their world. It traveled into Spain and Provence; it debated with Aben-Ezra; it took ship with Jehuda ha-Levi; it heard the roar of the Crusaders and the shrieks of tortured Israel. And when its dumb tongue was loosed, it spoke the speech they had made alive with the new blood of their ardor, their sorrow, and their martyred trust: it sang with the cadence of their strain.”

Mordecai paused again, and then said in a loud, hoarse whisper,

“While it is imprisoned in me, it will never learn another.”

“Have you written entirely in Hebrew, then?” said Deronda, remembering with some anxiety the former question as to his own knowledge of that tongue.

“Yes⁠—yes,” said Mordecai, in a tone of deep sadness: “in my youth I wandered toward that solitude, not feeling that it was a solitude. I had the ranks of the great dead around me; the martyrs gathered and listened. But soon I found that the living were deaf to me. At first I saw my life spread as a long future: I said part of my Jewish heritage is an unbreaking patience; part is skill to seek divers methods and find a rooting-place where the planters despair. But there came new messengers from the Eternal. I had to bow under the yoke that presses on the great multitude born of woman: family troubles called me⁠—I had to work, to care, not for myself alone. I was left solitary again; but already the angel of death had turned to me and beckoned, and I felt his skirts continually on my path. I loosed not my effort. I besought hearing and help. I spoke; I went to men of our people⁠—to the rich in influence or knowledge, to the rich in other wealth. But I found none to listen with understanding. I was rebuked for error; I was offered a small sum in charity. No wonder. I looked poor; I carried a bundle of Hebrew manuscript with me; I said, our chief teachers are misleading the hope of our race. Scholar and merchant were both too busy to listen. Scorn stood as interpreter between me and them. One said, ‘The book of Mormon would never have answered in Hebrew; and if you mean to address our learned men, it is not likely you can teach them anything.’ He touched a truth there.”

The last words had a perceptible irony in their hoarsened tone.

“But though you had accustomed yourself to write in Hebrew, few, surely, can use English better,” said Deronda, wanting to hint consolation in a new effort for which he could smooth the way.

Mordecai shook his head slowly, and answered,

“Too late⁠—too late. I can write no more. My writing would be like this gasping breath. But the breath may wake the fount of pity⁠—the writing not. If I could write now and used English, I should be as one who beats a board to summon those who have been used to no signal but a bell. My soul has an ear to hear the faults of its own speech. New writing of mine would be like this body”⁠—Mordecai spread his arms⁠—“within it there might be the Ruach-ha-kodesh⁠—the breath of divine thought⁠—but, men would smile at it and say, ‘A poor Jew!’ and the chief smilers would be of my own people.”

Mordecai let his hands fall, and his head sink in melancholy: for the moment he had lost hold of his hope. Despondency, conjured up by his own words, had floated in and hovered above him with eclipsing wings. He had sunk into momentary darkness,

“I feel with you⁠—I feel strongly with you,” said Deronda, in a clear deep voice which was itself a cordial, apart from the words of sympathy. “But forgive me if I speak hastily⁠—for what you have actually written there need be no utter burial. The means of publication are within reach. If you will rely on me, I can assure you of all that is necessary to that end.”

“That is not enough,” said Mordecai, quickly, looking up again with the flash of recovered memory and confidence. “That is not all my trust in you. You must be not only a hand to me, but a soul⁠—believing my belief⁠—being moved by my reasons⁠—hoping my hope⁠—seeing the vision I point to⁠—beholding a glory where I behold it!”⁠—Mordecai had taken a step nearer as he spoke, and now laid his hand on Deronda’s arm with a tight grasp; his face little more than a foot off had something like a pale flame in it⁠—an intensity of reliance that acted as a peremptory claim, while he went on⁠—“You will be my life: it will be planted afresh; it will grow. You shall take the inheritance; it has been gathering for ages. The generations are crowding on my narrow life as a bridge: what has been and what is to be are meeting there; and the bridge is breaking. But I have found you. You have come in time. You will take the inheritance which the base son refuses because of the tombs which the plow and harrow may not pass over or the gold-seeker disturb: you will take the sacred inheritance of the Jew.”

Deronda had become as pallid as Mordecai. Quick as an alarm of flood or fire, there spread within him not only a compassionate dread of discouraging this fellowman who urged a prayer as one in the last agony, but also the opposing dread of fatally feeding an illusion, and being hurried on to a self-committal which might turn into a falsity. The peculiar appeal to his tenderness overcame the repulsion that most of us experience under a grasp and speech which assumed to dominate. The difficulty to him was to inflict the accents of hesitation and doubt on this ardent suffering creature, who was crowding too much of his brief being into a moment of perhaps extravagant trust. With exquisite instinct, Deronda, before he opened his lips, placed his palm gently on Mordecai’s straining hand⁠—an act just then equal to many speeches. And after that he said, without haste, as if conscious that he might be wrong,

“Do you forget what I told you when we first saw each other? Do you remember that I said I was not of your race?”

“It can’t be true,” Mordecai whispered immediately, with no sign of shock. The sympathetic hand still upon him had fortified the feeling which was stronger than those words of denial. There was a perceptible pause, Deronda feeling it impossible to answer, conscious indeed that the assertion “It can’t be true”⁠—had the pressure of argument for him. Mordecai, too entirely possessed by the supreme importance of the relation between himself and Deronda to have any other care in his speech, followed up that assertion by a second, which came to his lips as a mere sequence of his long-cherished conviction⁠—“You are not sure of your own origin.”

“How do you know that?” said Daniel, with an habitual shrinking which made him remove his hands from Mordecai’s, who also relaxed his hold, and fell back into his former leaning position.

“I know it⁠—I know it; what is my life else?” said Mordecai, with a low cry of impatience. “Tell me everything: tell me why you deny.”

He could have no conception what that demand was to the hearer⁠—how probingly it touched the hidden sensibility, the vividly conscious reticence of years; how the uncertainty he was insisting on as part of his own hope had always for Daniel been a threatening possibility of painful revelation about his mother. But the moment had influences which were not only new but solemn to Deronda; any evasion here might turn out to be a hateful refusal of some task that belonged to him, some act of due fellowship; in any case it would be a cruel rebuff to a being who was appealing to him as a forlorn hope under the shadow of a coming doom. After a few moments, he said, with a great effort over himself⁠—determined to tell all the truth briefly,

“I have never known my mother. I have no knowledge about her. I have never called any man father. But I am convinced that my father is an Englishman.”

Deronda’s deep tones had a tremor in them as he uttered this confession; and all the while there was an undercurrent of amazement in him at the strange circumstances under which he uttered it. It seemed as if Mordecai were hardly overrating his own power to determine the action of the friend whom he had mysteriously chosen.

“It will be seen⁠—it will be declared,” said Mordecai, triumphantly. “The world grows, and its frame is knit together by the growing soul; dim, dim at first, then clearer and more clear, the consciousness discerns remote stirrings. As thoughts move within us darkly, and shake us before they are fully discerned⁠—so events⁠—so beings: they are knit with us in the growth of the world. You have risen within me like a thought not fully spelled; my soul is shaken before the words are all there. The rest will come⁠—it will come.”

“We must not lose sight of the fact that the outward event has not always been a fulfillment of the firmest faith,” said Deronda, in a tone that was made hesitating by the painfully conflicting desires, not to give any severe blow to Mordecai, and not to give his confidence a sanction which might have the severest of blows in reserve.

Mordecai’s face, which had been illuminated to the utmost in that last declaration of his confidence, changed under Deronda’s words, not only into any show of collapsed trust: the force did not disappear from the expression, but passed from the triumphant into the firmly resistant.

“You would remind me that I may be under an illusion⁠—that the history of our people’s trust has been full of illusion. I face it all.” Here Mordecai paused a moment. Then bending his head a little forward, he said, in his hoarse whisper, “So it might be with my trust, if you would make it an illusion. But you will not.

The very sharpness with which these words penetrated Deronda made him feel the more that here was a crisis in which he must be firm.

“What my birth was does not lie in my will,” he answered. “My sense of claims on me cannot be independent of my knowledge there. And I cannot promise you that I will try to hasten a disclosure. Feelings which have struck root through half my life may still hinder me from doing what I have never been able to do. Everything must be waited for. I must know more of the truth about my own life, and I must know more of what it would become if it were made a part of yours.”

Mordecai had folded his arms again while Deronda was speaking, and now answered with equal firmness, though with difficult breathing,

“You shall know. What are we met for, but that you should know. Your doubts lie as light as dust on my belief. I know the philosophies of this time and of other times; if I chose I could answer a summons before their tribunals. I could silence the beliefs which are the mother-tongue of my soul and speak with the rote-learned language of a system, that gives you the spelling of all things, sure of its alphabet covering them all. I could silence them: may not a man silence his awe or his love, and take to finding reasons, which others demand? But if his love lies deeper than any reasons to be found? Man finds his pathways: at first they were foot tracks, as those of the beast in the wilderness: now they are swift and invisible: his thought dives through the ocean, and his wishes thread the air: has he found all the pathways yet? What reaches him, stays with him, rules him: he must accept it, not knowing its pathway. Say, my expectation of you has grown but as false hopes grow. That doubt is in your mind? Well, my expectation was there, and you are come. Men have died of thirst. But I was thirsty, and the water is on my lips! What are doubts to me? In the hour when you come to me and say, ‘I reject your soul: I know that I am not a Jew: we have no lot in common’⁠—I shall not doubt. I shall be certain⁠—certain that I have been deluded. That hour will never come!”

Deronda felt a new chord sounding in his speech: it was rather imperious than appealing⁠—had more of conscious power than of the yearning need which had acted as a beseeching grasp on him before. And usually, though he was the reverse of pugnacious, such a change of attitude toward him would have weakened his inclination to admit a claim. But here there was something that balanced his resistance and kept it aloof. This strong man whose gaze was sustainedly calm and his fingernails pink with health, who was exercised in all questioning, and accused of excessive mental independence, still felt a subduing influence over him in the tenacious certitude of the fragile creature before him, whose pallid yellow nostril was tense with effort as his breath labored under the burden of eager speech. The influence seemed to strengthen the bond of sympathetic obligation. In Deronda at this moment the desire to escape what might turn into a trying embarrassment was no more likely to determine action than the solicitations of indolence are likely to determine it in one with whom industry is a daily law. He answered simply,

“It is my wish to meet and satisfy your wishes wherever that is possible to me. It is certain to me at least that I desire not to undervalue your toil and your suffering. Let me know your thoughts. But where can we meet?”

“I have thought of that,” said Mordecai. “It is not hard for you to come into this neighborhood later in the evening? You did so once.”

“I can manage it very well occasionally,” said Deronda. “You live under the same roof with the Cohens, I think?”

Before Mordecai could answer, Mr. Ram re-entered to take his place behind the counter. He was an elderly son of Abraham, whose childhood had fallen on the evil times at the beginning of this century, and who remained amid this smart and instructed generation as a preserved specimen, soaked through and through with the effect of the poverty and contempt which were the common heritage of most English Jews seventy years ago. He had none of the oily cheerfulness observable in Mr. Cohen’s aspect: his very features⁠—broad and chubby⁠—showed that tendency to look mongrel without due cause, which, in a miscellaneous London neighborhood, may perhaps be compared with the marvels of imitation in insects, and may have been nature’s imperfect effort on behalf of the pure Caucasian to shield him from the shame and spitting to which purer features would have been exposed in the times of zeal. Mr. Ram dealt ably in books, in the same way that he would have dealt in tins of meat and other commodities⁠—without knowledge or responsibility as to the proportion of rottenness or nourishment they might contain. But he believed in Mordecai’s learning as something marvellous, and was not sorry that his conversation should be sought by a bookish gentleman, whose visits had twice ended in a purchase. He greeted Deronda with a crabbed goodwill, and, putting on large silver spectacles, appeared at once to abstract himself in the daily accounts.

But Deronda and Mordecai were soon in the street together, and without any explicit agreement as to their direction, were walking toward Ezra Cohen’s.

“We can’t meet there: my room is too narrow,” said Mordecai, taking up the thread of talk where they had dropped it. “But there is a tavern not far from here where I sometimes go to a club. It is the Hand and Banner, in the street at the next turning, five doors down. We can have the parlor there any evening.”

“We can try that for once,” said Deronda. “But you will perhaps let me provide you with some lodging, which would give you more freedom and comfort than where you are.”

“No; I need nothing. My outer life is as nought. I will take nothing less precious from you than your soul’s brotherhood. I will think of nothing else yet. But I am glad you are rich. You did not need money on that diamond ring. You had some other motive for bringing it.”

Deronda was a little startled by this clear-sightedness; but before he could reply Mordecai added⁠—“it is all one. Had you been in need of the money, the great end would have been that we should meet again. But you are rich?” he ended, in a tone of interrogation.

“Not rich, except in the sense that everyone is rich who has more than he needs for himself.”

“I desired that your life should be free,” said Mordecai, dreamily⁠—“mine has been a bondage.”

It was clear that he had no interest in the fact of Deronda’s appearance at the Cohens’ beyond its relation to his own ideal purpose. Despairing of leading easily up to the question he wished to ask, Deronda determined to put it abruptly, and said,

“Can you tell me why Mrs. Cohen, the mother, must not be spoken to about her daughter?”

There was no immediate answer, and he thought that he should have to repeat the question. The fact was that Mordecai had heard the words, but had to drag his mind to a new subject away from his passionate preoccupation. After a few moments, he replied with a careful effort such as he would have used if he had been asked the road to Holborn:

“I know the reason. But I will not speak even of trivial family affairs which I have heard in the privacy of the family. I dwell in their tent as in a sanctuary. Their history, so far as they injure none other, is their own possession.”

Deronda felt the blood mounting to his cheeks as a sort of rebuke he was little used to, and he also found himself painfully baffled where he had reckoned with some confidence on getting decisive knowledge. He became the more conscious of emotional strain from the excitements of the day; and although he had the money in his pocket to redeem his ring, he recoiled from the further task of a visit to the Cohens’, which must be made not only under the former uncertainty, but under a new disappointment as to the possibility of its removal.

“I will part from you now,” he said, just before they could reach Cohen’s door; and Mordecai paused, looking up at him with an anxious fatigued face under the gaslight.

“When will you come back?” he said, with slow emphasis.

“May I leave that unfixed? May I ask for you at the Cohens’ any evening after your hour at the bookshop? There is no objection, I suppose, to their knowing that you and I meet in private?”

“None,” said Mordecai. “But the days I wait now are longer than the years of my strength. Life shrinks: what was but a tithe is now the half. My hope abides in you.”

“I will be faithful,” said Deronda⁠—he could not have left those words unuttered. “I will come the first evening I can after seven: on Saturday or Monday, if possible. Trust me.”

He put out his ungloved hand. Mordecai, clasping it eagerly, seemed to feel a new instreaming of confidence, and he said with some recovered energy⁠—“This is come to pass, and the rest will come.”

That was their goodbye.



Chapter XLI

This, too is probable, according to that saying of Agathon: “It is a part of probability that many improbable things will happen.”
Aristotle: Poetics

Imagine the conflict in a mind like Deronda’s given not only to feel strongly but to question actively, on the evening after the interview with Mordecai. To a young man of much duller susceptibilities the adventure might have seemed enough out of the common way to divide his thoughts; but it had stirred Deronda so deeply, that with the usual reaction of his intellect he began to examine the grounds of his emotion, and consider how far he must resist its guidance. The consciousness that he was half dominated by Mordecai’s energetic certitude, and still more by his fervent trust, roused his alarm. It was his characteristic bias to shrink from the moral stupidity of valuing lightly what had come close to him, and of missing blindly in his own life of today the crisis which he recognized as momentous and sacred in the historic life of men. If he had read of this incident as having happened centuries ago in Rome, Greece, Asia Minor, Palestine, Cairo, to some man young as himself, dissatisfied with his neutral life, and wanting some closer fellowship, some more special duty to give him ardor for the possible consequences of his work, it would have appeared to him quite natural that the incident should have created a deep impression on that far-off man, whose clothing and action would have been seen in his imagination as part of an age chiefly known to us through its more serious effects. Why should he be ashamed of his own agitated feeling merely because he dressed for dinner, wore a white tie, and lived among people who might laugh at his owning any conscience in the matter, as the solemn folly of taking himself too seriously?⁠—that bugbear of circles in which the lack of grave emotion passes for wit. From such cowardice before modish ignorance and obtuseness, Deronda shrank. But he also shrank from having his course determined by mere contagion, without consent of reason; or from allowing a reverential pity for spiritual struggle to hurry him along a dimly-seen path.

What, after all, had really happened? He knew quite accurately the answer Sir Hugo would have given: “A consumptive Jew, possessed by a fanaticism which obstacles and hastening death intensified, had fixed on Deronda as the antitype of some visionary image, the offspring of wedded hope and despair: despair of his own life, irrepressible hope in the propagation of his fanatical beliefs. The instance was perhaps odd, exceptional in its form, but substantially it was not rare. Fanaticism was not so common as bankruptcy, but taken in all its aspects it was abundant enough. While Mordecai was waiting on the bridge for the fulfillment of his visions, another man was convinced that he had the mathematical key of the universe which would supersede Newton, and regarded all known physicists as conspiring to stifle his discovery and keep the universe locked; another, that he had the metaphysical key, with just that hair’s-breadth of difference from the old wards which would make it fit exactly. Scattered here and there in every direction you might find a terrible person, with more or less power of speech, and with an eye either glittering or preternaturally dull, on the lookout for the man who must hear him; and in most cases he had volumes which it was difficult to get printed, or if printed to get read. This Mordecai happened to have a more pathetic aspect, a more passionate, penetrative speech than was usual with such monomaniacs; he was more poetical than a social reformer with colored views of the new moral world in parallelograms, or than an enthusiast in sewage; still he came under the same class. It would be only right and kind to indulge him a little, to comfort him with such help as was practicable; but what likelihood was there that his notions had the sort of value he ascribed to them? In such cases a man of the world knows what to think beforehand. And as to Mordecai’s conviction that he had found a new executive self, it might be preparing for him the worst of disappointments⁠—that which presents itself as final.”

Deronda’s ear caught all these negative whisperings; nay, he repeated them distinctly to himself. It was not the first but it was the most pressing occasion on which he had had to face this question of the family likeness among the heirs of enthusiasm, whether prophets or dreamers of dreams, whether the

“Great benefactors of mankind, deliverers,”

or the devotees of phantasmal discovery⁠—from the first believer in his own unmanifested inspiration, down to the last inventor of an ideal machine that will achieve perpetual motion. The kinship of human passion, the sameness of mortal scenery, inevitably fill fact with burlesque and parody. Error and folly have had their hecatombs of martyrs. Reduce the grandest type of man hitherto known to an abstract statement of his qualities and efforts, and he appears in dangerous company: say that, like Copernicus and Galileo, he was immovably convinced in the face of hissing incredulity; but so is the contriver of perpetual motion. We cannot fairly try the spirits by this sort of test. If we want to avoid giving the dose of hemlock or the sentence of banishment in the wrong case, nothing will do but a capacity to understand the subject-matter on which the immovable man is convinced, and fellowship with human travail, both near and afar, to hinder us from scanning any deep experience lightly. Shall we say, “Let the ages try the spirits, and see what they are worth?” Why, we are the beginning of the ages, which can only be just by virtue of just judgments in separate human breasts⁠—separate yet combined. Even steam-engines could not have got made without that condition, but must have stayed in the mind of James Watt.

This track of thinking was familiar enough to Deronda to have saved him from any contemptuous prejudgment of Mordecai, even if their communication had been free from that peculiar claim on himself strangely ushered in by some long-growing preparation in the Jew’s agitated mind. This claim, indeed, considered in what is called a rational way, might seem justifiably dismissed as illusory and even preposterous; but it was precisely what turned Mordecai’s hold on him from an appeal to his ready sympathy into a clutch on his struggling conscience. Our consciences are not all of the same pattern, an inner deliverance of fixed laws: they are the voice of sensibilities as various as our memories (which also have their kinship and likeness). And Deronda’s conscience included sensibilities beyond the common, enlarged by his early habit of thinking himself imaginatively into the experience of others.

What was the claim this eager soul made upon him?⁠—“You must believe my beliefs⁠—be moved by my reasons⁠—hope my hopes⁠—see the vision I point to⁠—behold a glory where I behold it!” To take such a demand in the light of an obligation in any direct sense would have been preposterous⁠—to have seemed to admit it would have been dishonesty; and Deronda, looking on the agitation of those moments, felt thankful that in the midst of his compassion he had preserved himself from the bondage of false concessions. The claim hung, too, on a supposition which might be⁠—nay, probably was⁠—in discordance with the full fact: the supposition that he, Deronda, was of Jewish blood. Was there ever a more hypothetic appeal?

But since the age of thirteen Deronda had associated the deepest experience of his affections with what was a pure supposition, namely, that Sir Hugo was his father: that was a hypothesis which had been the source of passionate struggle within him; by its light he had been accustomed to subdue feelings and to cherish them. He had been well used to find a motive in a conception which might be disproved; and he had been also used to think of some revelation that might influence his view of the particular duties belonging to him. To be in a state of suspense, which was also one of emotive activity and scruple, was a familiar attitude of his conscience.

And now, suppose that wish-begotten belief in his Jewish birth, and that extravagant demand of discipleship, to be the foreshadowing of an actual discovery and a genuine spiritual result: suppose that Mordecai’s ideas made a real conquest over Deronda’s conviction? Nay, it was conceivable that as Mordecai needed and believed that, he had found an active replenishment of himself, so Deronda might receive from Mordecai’s mind the complete ideal shape of that personal duty and citizenship which lay in his own thought like sculptured fragments certifying some beauty yearned after but not traceable by divination.

As that possibility presented itself in his meditations, he was aware that it would be called dreamy, and began to defend it. If the influence he imagined himself submitting to had been that of some honored professor, some authority in a seat of learning, some philosopher who had been accepted as a voice of the age, would a thorough receptiveness toward direction have been ridiculed? Only by those who hold it a sign of weakness to be obliged for an idea, and prefer to hint that they have implicitly held in a more correct form whatever others have stated with a sadly shortcoming explicitness. After all, what was there but vulgarity in taking the fact that Mordecai was a poor Jewish workman, and that he was to be met perhaps on a sanded floor in the parlor of the Hand and Banner as a reason for determining beforehand that there was not some spiritual force within him that might have a determining effect on a white-handed gentleman? There is a legend told of the Emperor Domitian, that having heard of a Jewish family, of the house of David, whence the ruler of the world was to spring, he sent for its members in alarm, but quickly released them on observing that they had the hands of work-people⁠—being of just the opposite opinion with that Rabbi who stood waiting at the gate of Rome in confidence that the Messiah would be found among the destitute who entered there. Both Emperor and Rabbi were wrong in their trust of outward signs: poverty and poor clothes are no sign of inspiration, said Deronda to his inward objector, but they have gone with it in some remarkable cases. And to regard discipleship as out of the question because of them, would be mere dullness of imagination.

A more plausible reason for putting discipleship out of the question was the strain of visionary excitement in Mordecai, which turned his wishes into overmastering impressions, and made him read outward facts as fulfillment. Was such a temper of mind likely to accompany that wise estimate of consequences which is the only safeguard from fatal error, even to ennobling motive? But it remained to be seen whether that rare conjunction existed or not in Mordecai: perhaps his might be one of the natures where a wise estimate of consequences is fused in the fires of that passionate belief which determines the consequences it believes in. The inspirations of the world have come in that way too: even strictly-measuring science could hardly have got on without that forecasting ardor which feels the agitations of discovery beforehand, and has a faith in its preconception that surmounts many failures of experiment. And in relation to human motives and actions, passionate belief has a fuller efficacy. Here enthusiasm may have the validity of proof, and happening in one soul, give the type of what will one day be general.

At least, Deronda argued, Mordecai’s visionary excitability was hardly a reason for concluding beforehand that he was not worth listening to except for pity’s sake. Suppose he had introduced himself as one of the strictest reasoners. Do they form a body of men hitherto free from false conclusions and illusory speculations? The driest argument has its hallucinations, too hastily concluding that its net will now at last be large enough to hold the universe. Men may dream in demonstrations, and cut out an illusory world in the shape of axioms, definitions, and propositions, with a final exclusion of fact signed Q.E.D. No formulas for thinking will save us mortals from mistake in our imperfect apprehension of the matter to be thought about. And since the unemotional intellect may carry us into a mathematical dreamland where nothing is but what is not, perhaps an emotional intellect may have absorbed into its passionate vision of possibilities some truth of what will be⁠—the more comprehensive massive life feeding theory with new material, as the sensibility of the artist seizes combinations which science explains and justifies. At any rate, presumptions to the contrary are not to be trusted. We must be patient with the inevitable makeshift of our human thinking, whether in its sum total or in the separate minds that have made the sum. Columbus had some impressions about himself which we call superstitions, and used some arguments which we disapprove; but he had also some sound physical conceptions, and he had the passionate patience of genius to make them tell on mankind. The world has made up its mind rather contemptuously about those who were deaf to Columbus.

“My contempt for them binds me to see that I don’t adopt their mistake on a small scale,” said Deronda, “and make myself deaf with the assumption that there cannot be any momentous relation between this Jew and me, simply because he has clad it in illusory notions. What I can be to him, or he to me, may not at all depend on his persuasion about the way we came together. To me the way seems made up of plainly discernible links. If I had not found Mirah, it is probable that I should not have begun to be specially interested in the Jews, and certainly I should not have gone on that loitering search after an Ezra Cohen which made me pause at Ram’s bookshop and ask the price of Maimon. Mordecai, on his side, had his visions of a disciple, and he saw me by their light; I corresponded well enough with the image his longing had created. He took me for one of his race. Suppose that his impression⁠—the elderly Jew at Frankfort seemed to have something like it⁠—suppose in spite of all presumptions to the contrary, that his impression should somehow be proved true, and that I should come actually to share any of the ideas he is devoted to? This is the only question which really concerns the effect of our meeting on my life.

“But if the issue should be quite different?⁠—well, there will be something painful to go through. I shall almost inevitably have to be an active cause of that poor fellow’s crushing disappointment. Perhaps this issue is the one I had need prepare myself for. I fear that no tenderness of mine can make his suffering lighter. Would the alternative⁠—that I should not disappoint him⁠—be less painful to me?”

Here Deronda wavered. Feelings had lately been at work within him which had very much modified the reluctance he would formerly have had to think of himself as probably a Jew. And, if you like, he was romantic. That young energy and spirit of adventure which have helped to create the worldwide legions of youthful heroes going to seek the hidden tokens of their birth and its inheritance of tasks, gave him a certain quivering interest in the bare possibility that he was entering on a like track⁠—all the more because the track was one of thought as well as action.

“The bare possibility.” He could not admit it to be more. The belief that his father was an Englishman only grew firmer under the weak assaults of unwarranted doubt. And that a moment should ever come in which that belief was declared a delusion, was something of which Deronda would not say, “I should be glad.” His lifelong affection for Sir Hugo, stronger than all his resentment, made him shrink from admitting that wish.

Which way soever the truth might lie, he repeated to himself what he had said to Mordecai⁠—that he could not without farther reasons undertake to hasten its discovery. Nay, he was tempted now to regard his uncertainty as a condition to be cherished for the present. If further intercourse revealed nothing but illusions as what he was expected to share in, the want of any valid evidence that he was a Jew might save Mordecai the worst shock in the refusal of fraternity. It might even be justifiable to use the uncertainty on this point in keeping up a suspense which would induce Mordecai to accept those offices of friendship that Deronda longed to urge on him.

These were the meditations that busied Deronda in the interval of four days before he could fulfill his promise to call for Mordecai at Ezra Cohen’s, Sir Hugo’s demands on him often lasting to an hour so late as to put the evening expedition to Holborn out of the question.

Chapter XLII

Wenn es eine Stufenleiter von Leiden giebt, so hat Israel die höchste Staffel erstiegen; wen die Dauer der Schmerzen und die Geduld, mit welcher sie ertragen werden, adeln, so nehmen es die Juden mit den Hochgeborenen aller Länder auf; wenn eine Literatur reich genannt wird, die wenige klassische Trauerspiele besitzt, welcher Platz gebührt dann einer Tragodie die anderthalb Jahrtausende wahrt, gedichtet und dargestellt von den Helden selber?
Zunz: Die Synagogale Poesie des Mittelalters

“If there are ranks in suffering, Israel takes precedence of all the nations⁠—if the duration of sorrows and the patience with which they are borne ennoble, the Jews are among the aristocracy of every land⁠—if a literature is called rich in the possession of a few classic tragedies, what shall we say to a National Tragedy lasting for fifteen hundred years, in which the poets and the actors were also the heroes?”

Deronda had lately been reading that passage of Zunz, and it occurred to him by way of contrast when he was going to the Cohens, who certainly bore no obvious stamp of distinction in sorrow or in any other form of aristocracy. Ezra Cohen was not clad in the sublime pathos of the martyr, and his taste for money-getting seemed to be favored with that success which has been the most exasperating difference in the greed of Jews during all the ages of their dispersion. This Jeshurun of a pawnbroker was not a symbol of the great Jewish tragedy; and yet was there not something typical in the fact that a life like Mordecai’s⁠—a frail incorporation of the national consciousness, breathing with difficult breath⁠—was nested in the self-gratulating ignorant prosperity of the Cohens?

Glistening was the gladness in their faces when Deronda reappeared among them. Cohen himself took occasion to intimate that although the diamond ring, let alone a little longer, would have bred more money, he did not mind that⁠—not a sixpence⁠—when compared with the pleasure of the women and children in seeing a young gentleman whose first visit had been so agreeable that they had “done nothing but talk of it ever since.” Young Mrs. Cohen was very sorry that baby was asleep, and then very glad that Adelaide was not yet gone to bed, entreating Deronda not to stay in the shop, but to go forthwith into the parlor to see “mother and the children.” He willingly accepted the invitation, having provided himself with portable presents; a set of paper figures for Adelaide, and an ivory cup and ball for Jacob.

The grandmother had a pack of cards before her and was making “plates” with the children. A plate had just been thrown down and kept itself whole.

“Stop!” said Jacob, running to Deronda as he entered. “Don’t tread on my plate. Stop and see me throw it up again.”

Deronda complied, exchanging a smile of understanding with the grandmother, and the plate bore several tossings before it came to pieces; then the visitor was allowed to come forward and seat himself. He observed that the door from which Mordecai had issued on the former visit was now closed, but he wished to show his interest in the Cohens before disclosing a yet stronger interest in their singular inmate.

It was not until he had Adelaide on his knee, and was setting up the paper figures in their dance on the table, while Jacob was already practicing with the cup and ball, that Deronda said,

“Is Mordecai in just now?”

“Where is he, Addy?” said Cohen, who had seized an interval of business to come and look on.

“In the workroom there,” said his wife, nodding toward the closed door.

“The fact is, sir,” said Cohen, “we don’t know what’s come to him this last day or two. He’s always what I may call a little touched, you know,”⁠—here Cohen pointed to his own forehead⁠—“not quite so rational in all things, like you and me; but he’s mostly wonderful regular and industrious so far as a poor creature can be, and takes as much delight in the boy as anybody could. But this last day or two he’s been moving about like a sleepwalker, or else sitting as still as a wax figure.”

“It’s the disease, poor dear creature,” said the grandmother, tenderly. “I doubt whether he can stand long against it.”

“No; I think its only something he’s got in his head,” said Mrs. Cohen the younger. “He’s been turning over writing continually, and when I speak to him it takes him ever so long to hear and answer.”

“You may think us a little weak ourselves,” said Cohen, apologetically. “But my wife and mother wouldn’t part with him if he was a still worse encumbrance. It isn’t that we don’t know the long and short of matters, but it’s our principle. There’s fools do business at a loss and don’t know it. I’m not one of ’em.”

“Oh, Mordecai carries a blessing inside him,” said the grandmother.

“He’s got something the matter inside him,” said Jacob, coming up to correct this erratum of his grandmother’s. “He said he couldn’t talk to me, and he wouldn’t have a bit o’ bun.”

“So far from wondering at your feeling for him,” said Deronda, “I already feel something of the same sort myself. I have lately talked to him at Ram’s bookshop⁠—in fact, I promised to call for him here, that we might go out together.”

“That’s it, then!” said Cohen, slapping his knee. “He’s been expecting you, and it’s taken hold of him. I suppose he talks about his learning to you. It’s uncommonly kind of you, sir; for I don’t suppose there’s much to be got out of it, else it wouldn’t have left him where he is. But there’s the shop.” Cohen hurried out, and Jacob, who had been listening inconveniently near to Deronda’s elbow, said to him with obliging familiarity, “I’ll call Mordecai for you, if you like.”

“No, Jacob,” said his mother; “open the door for the gentleman, and let him go in himself Hush! Don’t make a noise.”

Skillful Jacob seemed to enter into the play, and turned the handle of the door as noiselessly as possible, while Deronda went behind him and stood on the threshold. The small room was lit only by a dying fire and one candle with a shade over it. On the board fixed under the window, various objects of jewelry were scattered: some books were heaped in the corner beyond them. Mordecai was seated on a high chair at the board with his back to the door, his hands resting on each other and on the board, a watch propped on a stand before him. He was in a state of expectation as sickening as that of a prisoner listening for the delayed deliverance⁠—when he heard Deronda’s voice saying, “I am come for you. Are you ready?”

Immediately he turned without speaking, seized his furred cap which lay near, and moved to join Deronda. It was but a moment before they were both in the sitting-room, and Jacob, noticing the change in his friend’s air and expression, seized him by the arm and said, “See my cup and ball!” sending the ball up close to Mordecai’s face, as something likely to cheer a convalescent. It was a sign of the relieved tension in Mordecai’s mind that he could smile and say, “Fine, fine!”

“You have forgotten your greatcoat and comforter,” said young Mrs. Cohen, and he went back into the workroom and got them.

“He’s come to life again, do you see?” said Cohen, who had re-entered⁠—speaking in an undertone. “I told you so: I’m mostly right.” Then in his usual voice, “Well, sir, we mustn’t detain you now, I suppose; but I hope this isn’t the last time we shall see you.”

“Shall you come again?” said Jacob, advancing. “See, I can catch the ball; I’ll bet I catch it without stopping, if you come again.”

“He has clever hands,” said Deronda, looking at the grandmother. “Which side of the family does he get them from?”

But the grandmother only nodded towards her son, who said promptly, “My side. My wife’s family are not in that line. But bless your soul! ours is a sort of cleverness as good as gutta percha; you can twist it which way you like. There’s nothing some old gentlemen won’t do if you set ’em to it.” Here Cohen winked down at Jacob’s back, but it was doubtful whether this judicious allusiveness answered its purpose, for its subject gave a nasal whinnying laugh and stamped about singing, “Old gentlemen, old gentlemen,” in chiming cadence.

Deronda thought, “I shall never know anything decisive about these people until I ask Cohen pointblank whether he lost a sister named Mirah when she was six years old.” The decisive moment did not yet seem easy for him to face. Still his first sense of repulsion at the commonness of these people was beginning to be tempered with kindlier feeling. However unrefined their airs and speech might be, he was forced to admit some moral refinement in their treatment of the consumptive workman, whose mental distinction impressed them chiefly as a harmless, silent raving.

“The Cohens seem to have an affection for you,” said Deronda, as soon as he and Mordecai were off the doorstep.

“And I for them,” was the immediate answer. “They have the heart of the Israelite within them, though they are as the horse and the mule, without understanding beyond the narrow path they tread.”

“I have caused you some uneasiness, I fear,” said Deronda, “by my slowness in fulfilling my promise. I wished to come yesterday, but I found it impossible.”

“Yes⁠—yes, I trusted you. But it is true I have been uneasy, for the spirit of my youth has been stirred within me, and this body is not strong enough to bear the beating of its wings. I am as a man bound and imprisoned through long years: behold him brought to speech of his fellow and his limbs set free: he weeps, he totters, the joy within him threatens to break and overthrow the tabernacle of flesh.”

“You must not speak too much in this evening air,” said Deronda, feeling Mordecai’s words of reliance like so many cords binding him painfully. “Cover your mouth with the woolen scarf. We are going to the Hand and Banner, I suppose, and shall be in private there?”

“No, that is my trouble that you did not come yesterday. For this is the evening of the club I spoke of, and we might not have any minutes alone until late, when all the rest are gone. Perhaps we had better seek another place. But I am used to that only. In new places the outer world presses on me and narrows the inward vision. And the people there are familiar with my face.”

“I don’t mind the club if I am allowed to go in,” said Deronda. “It is enough that you like this place best. If we have not enough time I will come again. What sort of club is it?”

“It is called ‘The Philosophers.’ They are few⁠—like the cedars of Lebanon⁠—poor men given to thought. But none so poor as I am: and sometimes visitors of higher worldly rank have been brought. We are allowed to introduce a friend, who is interested in our topics. Each orders beer or some other kind of drink, in payment for the room. Most of them smoke. I have gone when I could, for there are other men of my race who come, and sometimes I have broken silence. I have pleased myself with a faint likeness between these poor philosophers and the Masters who handed down the thought of our race⁠—the great Transmitters, who labored with their hands for scant bread, but preserved and enlarged for us the heritage of memory, and saved the soul of Israel alive as a seed among the tombs. The heart pleases itself with faint resemblances.”

“I shall be very glad to go and sit among them, if that will suit you. It is a sort of meeting I should like to join in,” said Deronda, not without relief in the prospect of an interval before he went through the strain of his next private conversation with Mordecai.

In three minutes they had opened the glazed door with the red curtain, and were in the little parlor, hardly much more than fifteen feet square, where the gaslight shone through a slight haze of smoke on what to Deronda was a new and striking scene. Half-a-dozen men of various ages, from between twenty and thirty to fifty, all shabbily dressed, most of them with clay pipes in their mouths, were listening with a look of concentrated intelligence to a man in a pepper-and-salt dress, with blonde hair, short nose, broad forehead and general breadth, who, holding his pipe slightly uplifted in the left hand, and beating his knee with the right, was just finishing a quotation from Shelley (the comparison of the avalanche in his Prometheus Unbound)

“As thought by thought is piled, till some great truth
Is loosened, and the nations echo round.”

The entrance of the newcomers broke the fixity of attention, and called for rearrangement of seats in the too narrow semicircle round the fireplace and the table holding the glasses, spare pipes and tobacco. This was the soberest of clubs; but sobriety is no reason why smoking and “taking something” should be less imperiously needed as a means of getting a decent status in company and debate. Mordecai was received with welcoming voices which had a slight cadence of compassion in them, but naturally all glances passed immediately to his companion.

“I have brought a friend who is interested in our subjects,” said Mordecai. “He has traveled and studied much.”

“Is the gentlemen anonymous? Is he a Great Unknown?” said the broad-chested quoter of Shelley, with a humorous air.

“My name is Daniel Deronda. I am unknown, but not in any sense great.” The smile breaking over the stranger’s grave face as he said this was so agreeable that there was a general indistinct murmur, equivalent to a “Hear, hear,” and the broad man said,

“You recommend the name, sir, and are welcome. Here, Mordecai, come to this corner against me,” he added, evidently wishing to give the coziest place to the one who most needed it.

Deronda was well satisfied to get a seat on the opposite side, where his general survey of the party easily included Mordecai, who remained an eminently striking object in this group of sharply-characterized figures, more than one of whom, even to Daniel’s little exercised discrimination, seemed probably of Jewish descent.

In fact pure English blood (if leech or lancet can furnish us with the precise product) did not declare itself predominantly in the party at present assembled. Miller, the broad man, an exceptional secondhand bookseller who knew the insides of books, had at least grandparents who called themselves German, and possibly faraway ancestors who denied themselves to be Jews; Buchan, the saddler, was Scotch; Pash, the watchmaker, was a small, dark, vivacious, triple-baked Jew; Gideon, the optical instrument maker, was a Jew of the red-haired, generous-featured type easily passing for Englishmen of unusually cordial manners: and Croop, the dark-eyed shoemaker, was probably more Celtic than he knew. Only three would have been discernable everywhere as Englishmen: the wood-inlayer Goodwin, well-built, open-faced, pleasant-voiced; the florid laboratory assistant Marrables; and Lily, the pale, neat-faced copying-clerk, whose light-brown hair was set up in a small parallelogram above his well-filled forehead, and whose shirt, taken with an otherwise seedy costume, had a freshness that might be called insular, and perhaps even something narrower.

Certainly a company select of the select among poor men, being drawn together by a taste not prevalent even among the privileged heirs of learning and its institutions; and not likely to amuse any gentleman in search of crime or low comedy as the ground of interest in people whose weekly income is only divisible into shillings. Deronda, even if he had not been more than usually inclined to gravity under the influence of what was pending between him and Mordecai, would not have set himself to find food for laughter in the various shades of departure from the tone of polished society sure to be observable in the air and talk of these men who had probably snatched knowledge as most of us snatch indulgences, making the utmost of scant opportunity. He looked around him with the quiet air of respect habitual to him among equals, ordered whisky and water, and offered the contents of his cigar-case, which, characteristically enough, he always carried and hardly ever used for his own behoof, having reasons for not smoking himself, but liking to indulge others. Perhaps it was his weakness to be afraid of seeming straightlaced, and turning himself into a sort of diagram instead of a growth which can exercise the guiding attraction of fellowship. That he made a decidedly winning impression on the company was proved by their showing themselves no less at ease than before, and desirous of quickly resuming their interrupted talk.

“This is what I call one of our touch-and-go nights, sir,” said Miller, who was implicitly accepted as a sort of moderator⁠—on addressing Deronda by way of explanation, and nodding toward each person whose name he mentioned. “Sometimes we stick pretty close to the point. But tonight our friend Pash, there, brought up the law of progress; and we got on statistics; then Lily, there, saying we knew well enough before counting that in the same state of society the same sort of things would happen, and it was no more wonder that quantities should remain the same, than that qualities should remain the same, for in relation to society numbers are qualities⁠—the number of drunkards is a quality in society⁠—the numbers are an index to the qualities, and give us no instruction, only setting us to consider the causes of difference between different social states⁠—Lily saying this, we went off on the causes of social change, and when you came in I was going upon the power of ideas, which I hold to be the main transforming cause.”

“I don’t hold with you there, Miller,” said Goodwin, the inlayer, more concerned to carry on the subject than to wait for a word from the new guest. “For either you mean so many sorts of things by ideas that I get no knowledge by what you say, any more than if you said light was a cause; or else you mean a particular sort of ideas, and then I go against your meaning as too narrow. For, look at it in one way, all actions men put a bit of thought into are ideas⁠—say, sowing seed, or making a canoe, or baking clay; and such ideas as these work themselves into life and go on growing with it, but they can’t go apart from the material that set them to work and makes a medium for them. It’s the nature of wood and stone yielding to the knife that raises the idea of shaping them, and with plenty of wood and stone the shaping will go on. I look at it, that such ideas as are mixed straight away with all the other elements of life are powerful along with ’em. The slower the mixing, the less power they have. And as to the causes of social change, I look at it in this way⁠—ideas are a sort of parliament, but there’s a commonwealth outside and a good deal of the commonwealth is working at change without knowing what the parliament is doing.”

“But if you take ready mixing as your test of power,” said Pash, “some of the least practical ideas beat everything. They spread without being understood, and enter into the language without being thought of.”

“They may act by changing the distribution of gases,” said Marrables; “instruments are getting so fine now, men may come to register the spread of a theory by observed changes in the atmosphere and corresponding changes in the nerves.”

“Yes,” said Pash, his dark face lighting up rather impishly, “there is the idea of nationalities; I dare say the wild asses are snuffing it, and getting more gregarious.”

“You don’t share that idea?” said Deronda, finding a piquant incongruity between Pash’s sarcasm and the strong stamp of race on his features.

“Say, rather, he does not share that spirit,” said Mordecai, who had turned a melancholy glance on Pash. “Unless nationality is a feeling, what force can it have as an idea?”

“Granted, Mordecai,” said Pash, quite good-humoredly. “And as the feeling of nationality is dying, I take the idea to be no better than a ghost, already walking to announce the death.”

“A sentiment may seem to be dying and yet revive into strong life,” said Deronda. “Nations have revived. We may live to see a great outburst of force in the Arabs, who are being inspired with a new zeal.”

“Amen, amen,” said Mordecai, looking at Deronda with a delight which was the beginning of recovered energy: his attitude was more upright, his face was less worn.

“That may hold with backward nations,” said Pash, “but with us in Europe the sentiment of nationality is destined to die out. It will last a little longer in the quarters where oppression lasts, but nowhere else. The whole current of progress is setting against it.”

“Ay,” said Buchan, in a rapid thin Scotch tone which was like the letting in of a little cool air on the conversation, “ye’ve done well to bring us round to the point. Ye’re all agreed that societies change⁠—not always and everywhere⁠—but on the whole and in the long run. Now, with all deference, I would beg t’ observe that we have got to examine the nature of changes before we have a warrant to call them progress, which word is supposed to include a bettering, though I apprehend it to be ill-chosen for that purpose, since mere motion onward may carry us to a bog or a precipice. And the questions I would put are three: Is all change in the direction of progress? if not, how shall we discern which change is progress and which not? and thirdly, how far and in what way can we act upon the course of change so as to promote it where it is beneficial, and divert it where it is injurious?”

But Buchan’s attempt to impose his method on the talk was a failure. Lily immediately said,

“Change and progress are merged in the idea of development. The laws of development are being discovered, and changes taking place according to them are necessarily progressive; that is to say, if we have any notion of progress or improvement opposed to them, the notion is a mistake.”

“I really can’t see how you arrive at that sort of certitude about changes by calling them development,” said Deronda. “There will still remain the degrees of inevitableness in relation to our own will and acts, and the degrees of wisdom in hastening or retarding; there will still remain the danger of mistaking a tendency which should be resisted for an inevitable law that we must adjust ourselves to⁠—which seems to me as bad a superstition or false god as any that has been set up without the ceremonies of philosophizing.”

“That is a truth,” said Mordecai. “Woe to the men who see no place for resistance in this generation! I believe in a growth, a passage, and a new unfolding of life whereof the seed is more perfect, more charged with the elements that are pregnant with diviner form. The life of a people grows, it is knit together and yet expanded, in joy and sorrow, in thought and action; it absorbs the thought of other nations into its own forms, and gives back the thought as new wealth to the world; it is a power and an organ in the great body of the nations. But there may come a check, an arrest; memories may be stifled, and love may be faint for the lack of them; or memories may shrink into withered relics⁠—the soul of a people, whereby they know themselves to be one, may seem to be dying for want of common action. But who shall say, ‘The fountain of their life is dried up, they shall forever cease to be a nation?’ Who shall say it? Not he who feels the life of his people stirring within his own. Shall he say, ‘That way events are wending, I will not resist?’ His very soul is resistance, and is as a seed of fire that may enkindle the souls of multitudes, and make a new pathway for events.”

“I don’t deny patriotism,” said Gideon, “but we all know you have a particular meaning, Mordecai. You know Mordecai’s way of thinking, I suppose.” Here Gideon had turned to Deronda, who sat next to him, but without waiting for an answer he went on. “I’m a rational Jew myself. I stand by my people as a sort of family relations, and I am for keeping up our worship in a rational way. I don’t approve of our people getting baptised, because I don’t believe in a Jew’s conversion to the Gentile part of Christianity. And now we have political equality, there’s no excuse for a pretense of that sort. But I am for getting rid of all of our superstitions and exclusiveness. There’s no reason now why we shouldn’t melt gradually into the populations we live among. That’s the order of the day in point of progress. I would as soon my children married Christians as Jews. And I’m for the old maxim, ‘A man’s country is where he’s well off.’ ”

“That country’s not so easy to find, Gideon,” said the rapid Pash, with a shrug and grimace. “You get ten shillings a-week more than I do, and have only half the number of children. If somebody will introduce a brisk trade in watches among the ‘Jerusalem wares,’ I’ll go⁠—eh, Mordecai, what do you say?”

Deronda, all ear for these hints of Mordecai’s opinion, was inwardly wondering at his persistence in coming to this club. For an enthusiastic spirit to meet continually the fixed indifference of men familiar with the object of his enthusiasm is the acceptance of a slow martyrdom, beside which the fate of a missionary tomahawked without any considerate rejection of his doctrines seems hardly worthy of compassion. But Mordecai gave no sign of shrinking: this was a moment of spiritual fullness, and he cared more for the utterance of his faith than for its immediate reception. With a fervor which had no temper in it, but seemed rather the rush of feeling in the opportunity of speech, he answered Pash:,

“What I say is, let every man keep far away from the brotherhood and inheritance he despises. Thousands on thousands of our race have mixed with the Gentiles as Celt with Saxon, and they may inherit the blessing that belongs to the Gentile. You cannot follow them. You are one of the multitudes over this globe who must walk among the nations and be known as Jews, and with words on their lips which mean, ‘I wish I had not been born a Jew, I disown any bond with the long travail of my race, I will outdo the Gentile in mocking at our separateness,’ they all the while feel breathing on them the breath of contempt because they are Jews, and they will breathe it back poisonously. Can a fresh-made garment of citizenship weave itself straightway into the flesh and change the slow deposit of eighteen centuries? What is the citizenship of him who walks among a people he has no hardy kindred and fellowship with, and has lost the sense of brotherhood with his own race? It is a charter of selfish ambition and rivalry in low greed. He is an alien of spirit, whatever he may be in form; he sucks the blood of mankind, he is not a man, sharing in no loves, sharing in no subjection of the soul, he mocks it all. Is it not truth I speak, Pash?”

“Not exactly, Mordecai,” said Pash, “if you mean that I think the worse of myself for being a Jew. What I thank our fathers for is that there are fewer blockheads among us than among other races. But perhaps you are right in thinking the Christians don’t like me so well for it.”

“Catholics and Protestants have not liked each other much better,” said the genial Gideon. “We must wait patiently for prejudices to die out. Many of our people are on a footing with the best, and there’s been a good filtering of our blood into high families. I am for making our expectations rational.”

“And so am I!” said Mordecai, quickly, leaning forward with the eagerness of one who pleads in some decisive crisis, his long, thin hands clasped together on his lap. “I, too, claim to be a rational Jew. But what is it to be rational⁠—what is it to feel the light of the divine reason growing stronger within and without? It is to see more and more of the hidden bonds that bind and consecrate change as a dependent growth⁠—yea, consecrate it with kinship: the past becomes my parent and the future stretches toward me the appealing arms of children. Is it rational to drain away the sap of special kindred that makes the families of men rich in interchanged wealth, and various as the forests are various with the glory of the cedar and the palm? When it is rational to say, ‘I know not my father or my mother, let my children be aliens to me, that no prayer of mine may touch them,’ then it will be rational for the Jew to say, ‘I will seek to know no difference between me and the Gentile, I will not cherish the prophetic consciousness of our nationality⁠—let the Hebrew cease to be, and let all his memorials be antiquarian trifles, dead as the wall-paintings of a conjectured race. Yet let his child learn by rote the speech of the Greek, where he abjures his fellow-citizens by the bravery of those who fought foremost at Marathon⁠—let him learn to say that was noble in the Greek, that is the spirit of an immortal nation! But the Jew has no memories that bind him to action; let him laugh that his nation is degraded from a nation; let him hold the monuments of his law which carried within its frame the breath of social justice, of charity, and of household sanctities⁠—let him hold the energy of the prophets, the patient care of the Masters, the fortitude of martyred generations, as mere stuff for a professorship. The business of the Jew in all things is to be even as the rich Gentile.’ ”

Mordecai threw himself back in his chair, and there was a moment’s silence. Not one member of the club shared his point of view or his emotion; but his whole personality and speech had on them the effect of a dramatic representation which had some pathos in it, though no practical consequences; and usually he was at once indulged and contradicted. Deronda’s mind went back upon what must have been the tragic pressure of outward conditions hindering this man, whose force he felt to be telling on himself, from making any world for his thought in the minds of others⁠—like a poet among people of a strange speech, who may have a poetry of their own, but have no ear for his cadence, no answering thrill to his discovery of the latent virtues in his mother tongue.

The cool Buchan was the first to speak, and hint the loss of time. “I submit,” said he, “that ye’re traveling away from the questions I put concerning progress.”

“Say they’re levanting, Buchan,” said Miller, who liked his joke, and would not have objected to be called Voltairian. “Never mind. Let us have a Jewish night; we’ve not had one for a long while. Let us take the discussion on Jewish ground. I suppose we’ve no prejudice here; we’re all philosophers; and we like our friends Mordecai, Pash, and Gideon, as well as if they were no more kin to Abraham than the rest of us. We’re all related through Adam, until further showing to the contrary, and if you look into history we’ve all got some discreditable forefathers. So I mean no offence when I say I don’t think any great things of the part the Jewish people have played in the world. What then? I think they were iniquitously dealt by in past times. And I suppose we don’t want any men to be maltreated, white, black, brown, or yellow⁠—I know I’ve just given my half-crown to the contrary. And that reminds me, I’ve a curious old German book⁠—I can’t read it myself, but a friend of mine was reading out of it to me the other day⁠—about the prejudicies against the Jews, and the stories used to be told against ’em, and what do you think one was? Why, that they’re punished with a bad odor in their bodies; and that, says the author, date 1715 (I’ve just been pricing and marking the book this very morning)⁠—that is true, for the ancients spoke of it. But then, he says, the other things are fables, such as that the odor goes away all at once when they’re baptized, and that every one of the ten tribes, mind you, all the ten being concerned in the crucifixion, has got a particular punishment over and above the smell:⁠—Asher, I remember, has the right arm a handbreadth shorter than the left, and Naphthali has pig’s ears and a smell of live pork. What do you think of that? There’s been a good deal of fun made of rabbinical fables, but in point of fables my opinion is, that all over the world it’s six of one and half-a-dozen of the other. However, as I said before, I hold with the philosophers of the last century that the Jews have played no great part as a people, though Pash will have it they’re clever enough to beat all the rest of the world. But if so, I ask, why haven’t they done it?”

“For the same reason that the cleverest men in the country don’t get themselves or their ideas into Parliament,” said the ready Pash; “because the blockheads are too many for ’em.”

“That is a vain question,” said Mordecai, “whether our people would beat the rest of the world. Each nation has its own work, and is a member of the world, enriched by the work of each. But it is true, as Jehuda-ha-Levi first said, that Israel is the heart of mankind, if we mean by heart the core of affection which binds a race and its families in dutiful love, and the reverence for the human body which lifts the needs of our animal life into religion, and the tenderness which is merciful to the poor and weak and to the dumb creature that wears the yoke for us.”

“They’re not behind any nation in arrogance,” said Lily; “and if they have got in the rear, it has not been because they were overmodest.”

“Oh, every nation brags in its turn,” said Miller.

“Yes,” said Pash, “and some of them in the Hebrew text.”

“Well, whatever the Jews contributed at one time, they are a standstill people,” said Lily. “They are the type of obstinate adherence to the superannuated. They may show good abilities when they take up liberal ideas, but as a race they have no development in them.”

“That is false!” said Mordecai, leaning forward again with his former eagerness. “Let their history be known and examined; let the seed be sifted, let its beginning be traced to the weed of the wilderness⁠—the more glorious will be the energy that transformed it. Where else is there a nation of whom it may be as truly said that their religion and law and moral life mingled as the stream of blood in the heart and made one growth⁠—where else a people who kept and enlarged their spiritual store at the very time when they are hated with a hatred as fierce as the forest fires that chase the wild beast from his covert? There is a fable of the Roman, that swimming to save his life he held the roll of his writings between his teeth and saved them from the waters. But how much more than that is true of our race? They struggled to keep their place among the nations like heroes⁠—yea, when the hand was hacked off, they clung with their teeth; but when the plow and the harrow had passed over the last visible signs of their national covenant, and the fruitfulness of their land was stifled with the blood of the sowers and planters, they said, ‘The spirit is alive, let us make it a lasting habitation⁠—lasting because movable⁠—so that it may be carried from generation to generation, and our sons unborn may be rich in the things that have been, and possess a hope built on an unchangeable foundation.’ They said it and they wrought it, though often breathing with scant life, as in a coffin, or as lying wounded amid a heap of slain. Hooted and scared like the unknown dog, the Hebrew made himself envied for his wealth and wisdom, and was bled of them to fill the bath of Gentile luxury; he absorbed knowledge, he diffused it; his dispersed race was a new Phoenicia working the mines of Greece and carrying their products to the world. The native spirit of our tradition was not to stand still, but to use records as a seed and draw out the compressed virtues of law and prophecy; and while the Gentile, who had said, ‘What is yours is ours, and no longer yours,’ was reading the letter of our law as a dark inscription, or was turning its parchments into shoe-soles for an army rabid with lust and cruelty, our Masters were still enlarging and illuminating with fresh-fed interpretation. But the dispersion was wide, the yoke of oppression was a spiked torture as well as a load; the exile was forced afar among brutish people, where the consciousness of his race was no clearer to him than the light of the sun to our fathers in the Roman persecution, who had their hiding-place in a cave, and knew not that it was day save by the dimmer burning of their candles. What wonder that multitudes of our people are ignorant, narrow, superstitious? What wonder?”

Here Mordecai, whose seat was next the fireplace, rose and leaned his arm on the little shelf; his excitement had risen, though his voice, which had begun with unusual strength, was getting hoarser.

“What wonder? The night is unto them, that they have no vision; in their darkness they are unable to divine; the sun is gone down over the prophets, and the day is dark above them; their observances are as nameless relics. But which among the chief of the Gentile nations has not an ignorant multitude? They scorn our people’s ignorant observance; but the most accursed ignorance is that which has no observance⁠—sunk to the cunning greed of the fox, to which all law is no more than a trap or the cry of the worrying hound. There is a degradation deep down below the memory that has withered into superstition. In the multitudes of the ignorant on three continents who observe our rites and make the confession of the divine Unity, the soul of Judaism is not dead. Revive the organic centre: let the unity of Israel which has made the growth and form of its religion be an outward reality. Looking toward a land and a polity, our dispersed people in all the ends of the earth may share the dignity of a national life which has a voice among the peoples of the East and the West⁠—which will plant the wisdom and skill of our race so that it may be, as of old, a medium of transmission and understanding. Let that come to pass, and the living warmth will spread to the weak extremities of Israel, and superstition will vanish, not in the lawlessness of the renegade, but in the illumination of great facts which widen feeling, and make all knowledge alive as the young offspring of beloved memories.”

Mordecai’s voice had sunk, but with the hectic brilliancy of his gaze it was not the less impressive. His extraordinary excitement was certainly due to Deronda’s presence: it was to Deronda that he was speaking, and the moment had a testamentary solemnity for him which rallied all his powers. Yet the presence of those other familiar men promoted expression, for they embodied the indifference which gave a resistant energy to his speech. Not that he looked at Deronda: he seemed to see nothing immediately around him, and if anyone had grasped him he would probably not have known it. Again the former words came back to Deronda’s mind⁠—“You must hope my hopes⁠—see the vision I point to⁠—behold a glory where I behold it.” They came now with gathered pathos. Before him stood, as a living, suffering reality, what hitherto he had only seen as an effort of imagination, which, in its comparative faintness, yet carried a suspicion, of being exaggerated: a man steeped in poverty and obscurity, weakened by disease, consciously within the shadow of advancing death, but living an intense life in an invisible past and future, careless of his personal lot, except for its possible making some obstruction to a conceived good which he would never share except as a brief inward vision⁠—a day afar off, whose sun would never warm him, but into which he threw his soul’s desire, with a passion often wanting to the personal motives of healthy youth. It was something more than a grandiose transfiguration of the parental love that toils, renounces, endures, resists the suicidal promptings of despair⁠—all because of the little ones, whose future becomes present to the yearning gaze of anxiety.

All eyes were fixed on Mordecai as he sat down again, and none with unkindness; but it happened that the one who felt the most kindly was the most prompted to speak in opposition. This was the genial and rational Gideon, who also was not without a sense that he was addressing the guest of the evening. He said,

“You have your own way of looking at things, Mordecai, and as you say, your own way seems to you rational. I know you don’t hold with the restoration of Judea by miracle, and so on; but you are as well aware as I am that the subject has been mixed with a heap of nonsense both by Jews and Christians. And as to the connection of our race with Palestine, it has been perverted by superstition till it’s as demoralizing as the old poor-law. The raff and scum go there to be maintained like able-bodied paupers, and to be taken special care of by the angel Gabriel when they die. It’s no use fighting against facts. We must look where they point; that’s what I call rationality. The most learned and liberal men among us who are attached to our religion are for clearing our liturgy of all such notions as a literal fulfillment of the prophecies about restoration, and so on. Prune it of a few useless rites and literal interpretations of that sort, and our religion is the simplest of all religions, and makes no barrier, but a union, between us and the rest of the world.”

“As plain as a pikestaff,” said Pash, with an ironical laugh. “You pluck it up by the roots, strip off the leaves and bark, shave off the knots, and smooth it at top and bottom; put it where you will, it will do no harm, it will never sprout. You may make a handle of it, or you may throw it on the bonfire of scoured rubbish. I don’t see why our rubbish is to be held sacred any more than the rubbish of Brahmanism or Buddhism.”

“No,” said Mordecai, “no, Pash, because you have lost the heart of the Jew. Community was felt before it was called good. I praise no superstition, I praise the living fountains of enlarging belief. What is growth, completion, development? You began with that question, I apply it to the history of our people. I say that the effect of our separateness will not be completed and have its highest transformation unless our race takes on again the character of a nationality. That is the fulfillment of the religious trust that moulded them into a people, whose life has made half the inspiration of the world. What is it to me that the ten tribes are lost untraceably, or that multitudes of the children of Judah have mixed themselves with the Gentile populations as a river with rivers? Behold our people still! Their skirts spread afar; they are torn and soiled and trodden on; but there is a jeweled breastplate. Let the wealthy men, the monarchs of commerce, the learned in all knowledge, the skilful in all arts, the speakers, the political counselors, who carry in their veins the Hebrew blood which has maintained its vigor in all climates, and the pliancy of the Hebrew genius for which difficulty means new device⁠—let them say, ‘we will lift up a standard, we will unite in a labor hard but glorious like that of Moses and Ezra, a labor which shall be a worthy fruit of the long anguish whereby our fathers maintained their separateness, refusing the ease of falsehood.’ They have wealth enough to redeem the soil from debauched and paupered conquerors; they have the skill of the statesman to devise, the tongue of the orator to persuade. And is there no prophet or poet among us to make the ears of Christian Europe tingle with shame at the hideous obloquy of Christian strife which the Turk gazes at as at the fighting of beasts to which he has lent an arena? There is store of wisdom among us to found a new Jewish polity, grand, simple, just, like the old⁠—a republic where there is equality of protection, an equality which shone like a star on the forehead of our ancient community, and gave it more than the brightness of Western freedom amid the despotisms of the East. Then our race shall have an organic centre, a heart and brain to watch and guide and execute; the outraged Jew shall have a defense in the court of nations, as the outraged Englishmen of America. And the world will gain as Israel gains. For there will be a community in the van of the East which carries the culture and the sympathies of every great nation in its bosom: there will be a land set for a halting-place of enmities, a neutral ground for the East as Belgium is for the West. Difficulties? I know there are difficulties. But let the spirit of sublime achievement move in the great among our people, and the work will begin.”

“Ay, we may safely admit that, Mordecai,” said Pash. “When there are great men on ’Change, and high-flying professors converted to your doctrine, difficulties will vanish like smoke.”

Deronda, inclined by nature to take the side of those on whom the arrows of scorn were falling, could not help replying to Pash’s outfling, and said,

“If we look back to the history of efforts which have made great changes, it is astonishing how many of them seemed hopeless to those who looked on in the beginning.

“Take what we have all heard and seen something of⁠—the effort after the unity of Italy, which we are sure soon to see accomplished to the very last boundary. Look into Mazzini’s account of his first yearning, when he was a boy, after a restored greatness and a new freedom to Italy, and of his first efforts as a young man to rouse the same feelings in other young men, and get them to work toward a united nationality. Almost everything seemed against him; his countrymen were ignorant or indifferent, governments hostile, Europe incredulous. Of course the scorners often seemed wise. Yet you see the prophecy lay with him. As long as there is a remnant of national consciousness, I suppose nobody will deny that there may be a new stirring of memories and hopes which may inspire arduous action.”

“Amen,” said Mordecai, to whom Deronda’s words were a cordial. “What is needed is the leaven⁠—what is needed is the seed of fire. The heritage of Israel is beating in the pulses of millions; it lives in their veins as a power without understanding, like the morning exultation of herds; it is the inborn half of memory, moving as in a dream among writings on the walls, which it sees dimly but cannot divide into speech. Let the torch of visible community be lit! Let the reason of Israel disclose itself in a great outward deed, and let there be another great migration, another choosing of Israel to be a nationality whose members may still stretch to the ends of the earth, even as the sons of England and Germany, whom enterprise carries afar, but who still have a national hearth and a tribunal of national opinion. Will any say ‘It cannot be’? Baruch Spinoza had not a faithful Jewish heart, though he had sucked the life of his intellect at the breasts of Jewish tradition. He laid bare his father’s nakedness and said, ‘They who scorn him have the higher wisdom.’ Yet Baruch Spinoza confessed, he saw not why Israel should not again be a chosen nation. Who says that the history and literature of our race are dead? Are they not as living as the history and literature of Greece and Rome, which have inspired revolutions, enkindled the thought of Europe, and made the unrighteous powers tremble? These were an inheritance dug from the tomb. Ours is an inheritance that has never ceased to quiver in millions of human frames.”

Mordecai had stretched his arms upward, and his long thin hands quivered in the air for a moment after he had ceased to speak. Gideon was certainly a little moved, for though there was no long pause before he made a remark in objection, his tone was more mild and deprecatory than before; Pash, meanwhile, pressing his lips together, rubbing his black head with both his hands and wrinkling his brow horizontally, with the expression of one who differs from every speaker, but does not think it worth while to say so. There is a sort of human paste that when it comes near the fire of enthusiasm is only baked into harder shape.

“It may seem well enough on one side to make so much of our memories and inheritance as you do, Mordecai,” said Gideon; “but there’s another side. It isn’t all gratitude and harmless glory. Our people have inherited a good deal of hatred. There’s a pretty lot of curses still flying about, and stiff settled rancor inherited from the times of persecution. How will you justify keeping one sort of memory and throwing away the other? There are ugly debts standing on both sides.”

“I justify the choice as all other choice is justified,” said Mordecai. “I cherish nothing for the Jewish nation, I seek nothing for them, but the good which promises good to all the nations. The spirit of our religious life, which is one with our national life, is not hatred of aught but wrong. The Master has said, an offence against man is worse than an offence against God. But what wonder if there is hatred in the breasts of Jews, who are children of the ignorant and oppressed⁠—what wonder, since there is hatred in the breasts of Christians? Our national life was a growing light. Let the central fire be kindled again, and the light will reach afar. The degraded and scorned of our race will learn to think of their sacred land, not as a place for saintly beggary to await death in loathsome idleness, but as a republic where the Jewish spirit manifests itself in a new order founded on the old, purified and enriched by the experience our greatest sons have gathered from the life of the ages. How long is it?⁠—only two centuries since a vessel carried over the ocean the beginning of the great North American nation. The people grew like meeting waters⁠—they were various in habit and sect⁠—there came a time, a century ago, when they needed a polity, and there were heroes of peace among them. What had they to form a polity with but memories of Europe, corrected by the vision of a better? Let our wise and wealthy show themselves heroes. They have the memories of the East and West, and they have the full vision of a better. A new Persia with a purified religion magnified itself in art and wisdom. So will a new Judaea, poised between East and West⁠—a covenant of reconciliation. Will any say, the prophetic vision of your race has been hopelessly mixed with folly and bigotry: the angel of progress has no message for Judaism⁠—it is a half-buried city for the paid workers to lay open⁠—the waters are rushing by it as a forsaken field? I say that the strongest principle of growth lies in human choice. The sons of Judah have to choose that God may again choose them. The Messianic time is the time when Israel shall will the planting of the national ensign. The Nile overflowed and rushed onward: the Egyptian could not choose the overflow, but he chose to work and make channels for the fructifying waters, and Egypt became the land of corn. Shall man, whose soul is set in the royalty of discernment and resolve, deny his rank and say, I am an onlooker, ask no choice or purpose of me? That is the blasphemy of this time. The divine principle of our race is action, choice, resolved memory. Let us contradict the blasphemy, and help to will our own better future and the better future of the world⁠—not renounce our higher gift and say, ‘Let us be as if we were not among the populations;’ but choose our full heritage, claim the brotherhood of our nation, and carry into it a new brotherhood with the nations of the Gentiles. The vision is there; it will be fulfilled.”

With the last sentence, which was no more than a loud whisper, Mordecai let his chin sink on his breast and his eyelids fall. No one spoke. It was not the first time that he had insisted on the same ideas, but he was seen tonight in a new phase. The quiet tenacity of his ordinary self differed as much from his present exaltation of mood as a man in private talk, giving reasons for a revolution of which no sign is discernable, differs from one who feels himself an agent in a revolution begun. The dawn of fulfillment brought to his hope by Deronda’s presence had wrought Mordecai’s conception into a state of impassioned conviction, and he had found strength in his excitement to pour forth the unlocked floods of emotive argument, with a sense of haste as at a crisis which must be seized. But now there had come with the quiescence of fatigue a sort of thankful wonder that he had spoken⁠—a contemplation of his life as a journey which had come at last to this bourne. After a great excitement, the ebbing strength of impulse is apt to leave us in this aloofness from our active self. And in the moments after Mordecai had sunk his head, his mind was wandering along the paths of his youth, and all the hopes which had ended in bringing him hither.

Everyone felt that the talk was ended, and the tone of phlegmatic discussion made unseasonable by Mordecai’s high-pitched solemnity. It was as if they had come together to hear the blowing of the shophar, and had nothing to do now but to disperse. The movement was unusually general, and in less than ten minutes the room was empty of all except Mordecai and Deronda. “Good nights” had been given to Mordecai, but it was evident he had not heard them, for he remained rapt and motionless. Deronda would not disturb this needful rest, but waited for a spontaneous movement.

Chapter XLIII

My spirit is too weak; mortality
Weighs heavily on me like unwilling sleep,
And each imagined pinnacle and steep
Of godlike hardship tells me I must die
Like a sick eagle looking at the sky.

After a few minutes the unwonted stillness had penetrated Mordecai’s consciousness, and he looked up at Deronda, not in the least with bewilderment and surprise, but with a gaze full of reposing satisfaction. Deronda rose and placed his chair nearer, where there could be no imagined need for raising the voice. Mordecai felt the action as a patient feels the gentleness that eases his pillow. He began to speak in a low tone, as if he were only thinking articulately, not trying to reach an audience.

“In the doctrine of the Cabbala, souls are born again and again in new bodies till they are perfected and purified, and a soul liberated from a worn-out body may join the fellow-soul that needs it, that they may be perfected together, and their earthly work accomplished. Then they will depart from the mortal region, and leave place for new souls to be born out of the store in the eternal bosom. It is the lingering imperfection of the souls already born into the mortal region that hinders the birth of new souls and the preparation of the Messianic time:⁠—thus the mind has given shape to what is hidden, as the shadow of what is known, and has spoken truth, though it were only in parable. When my long-wandering soul is liberated from this weary body, it will join yours, and its work will be perfected.”

Mordecai’s pause seemed an appeal which Deronda’s feeling would not let him leave unanswered. He tried to make it truthful; but for Mordecai’s ear it was inevitably filled with unspoken meaning. He only said,

“Everything I can in conscience do to make your life effective I will do.”

“I know it,” said Mordecai, in a tone of quiet certainty which dispenses with further assurance. “I heard it. You see it all⁠—you are by my side on the mount of vision, and behold the paths of fulfillment which others deny.”

He was silent a moment or two, and then went on meditatively,

“You will take up my life where it was broken. I feel myself back in that day when my life was broken. The bright morning sun was on the quay⁠—it was at Trieste⁠—the garments of men from all nations shone like jewels⁠—the boats were pushing off⁠—the Greek vessel that would land us at Beyrout was to start in an hour. I was going with a merchant as his clerk and companion. I said, I shall behold the lands and people of the East, and I shall speak with a fuller vision. I breathed then as you do, without labor; I had the light step and the endurance of youth, I could fast, I could sleep on the hard ground. I had wedded poverty, and I loved my bride⁠—for poverty to me was freedom. My heart exulted as if it had been the heart of Moses ben Maimon, strong with the strength of three score years, and knowing the work that was to fill them. It was the first time I had been south; the soul within me felt its former sun; and standing on the quay, where the ground I stood on seemed to send forth light, and the shadows had an azure glory as of spirits become visible, I felt myself in the flood of a glorious life, wherein my own small year-counted existence seemed to melt, so that I knew it not; and a great sob arose within me as at the rush of waters that were too strong a bliss. So I stood there awaiting my companion; and I saw him not till he said: ‘Ezra, I have been to the post and there is your letter.’ ”

“Ezra!” exclaimed Deronda, unable to contain himself.

“Ezra,” repeated Mordecai, affirmatively, engrossed in memory. “I was expecting a letter; for I wrote continually to my mother. And that sound of my name was like the touch of a wand that recalled me to the body wherefrom I had been released as it were to mingle with the ocean of human existence, free from the pressure of individual bondage. I opened the letter; and the name came again as a cry that would have disturbed me in the bosom of heaven, and made me yearn to reach where that sorrow was⁠—‘Ezra, my son!’ ”

Mordecai paused again, his imagination arrested by the grasp of that long-passed moment. Deronda’s mind was almost breathlessly suspended on what was coming. A strange possibility had suddenly presented itself. Mordecai’s eyes were cast down in abstracted contemplation, and in a few moments he went on,

“She was a mother of whom it might have come⁠—yea, might have come to be said, ‘Her children arise up and call her blessed.’ In her I understood the meaning of that Master who, perceiving the footsteps of his mother, rose up and said, ‘The Majesty of the Eternal cometh near!’ And that letter was her cry from the depths of anguish and desolation⁠—the cry of a mother robbed of her little ones. I was her eldest. Death had taken four babes one after the other. Then came, late, my little sister, who was, more than all the rest, the desire of my mother’s eyes; and the letter was a piercing cry to me⁠—‘Ezra, my son, I am robbed of her. He has taken her away and left disgrace behind. They will never come again.’ ”⁠—Here Mordecai lifted his eyes suddenly, laid his hand on Deronda’s arm, and said, “Mine was the lot of Israel. For the sin of the father my soul must go into exile. For the sin of the father the work was broken, and the day of fulfilment delayed. She who bore me was desolate, disgraced, destitute. I turned back. On the instant I turned⁠—her spirit and the spirit of her fathers, who had worthy Jewish hearts, moved within me, and drew me. God, in whom dwells the universe, was within me as the strength of obedience. I turned and traveled with hardship⁠—to save the scant money which she would need. I left the sunshine, and traveled into freezing cold. In the last stage I spent a night in exposure to cold and snow. And that was the beginning of this slow death.”

Mordecai let his eyes wander again and removed his hand. Deronda resolutely repressed the questions which urged themselves within him. While Mordecai was in this state of emotion, no other confidence must be sought than what came spontaneously: nay, he himself felt a kindred emotion which made him dread his own speech as too momentous.

“But I worked. We were destitute⁠—everything had been seized. And she was ill: the clutch of anguish was too strong for her, and wrought with some lurking disease. At times she could not stand for the beating of her heart, and the images in her brain became as chambers of terror, where she beheld my sister reared in evil. In the dead of night I heard her crying for her child. Then I rose, and we stretched forth our arms together and prayed. We poured forth our souls in desire that Mirah might be delivered from evil.”

“Mirah?” Deronda repeated, wishing to assure, himself that his ears had not been deceived by a forecasting imagination. “Did you say Mirah?”

“That was my little sister’s name. After we had prayed for her, my mother would rest awhile. It lasted hardly four years, and in the minute before she died, we were praying the same prayer⁠—I aloud, she silently. Her soul went out upon its wings.”

“Have you never since heard of your sister?” said Deronda, as quietly as he could.

“Never. Never have I heard whether she was delivered according to our prayer. I know not, I know not. Who shall say where the pathways lie? The poisonous will of the wicked is strong. It poisoned my life⁠—it is slowly stifling this breath. Death delivered my mother, and I felt it a blessedness that I was alone in the winters of suffering. But what are the winters now?⁠—they are far off”⁠—here Mordecai again rested his hand on Deronda’s arm, and looked at him with that joy of the hectic patient which pierces us to sadness⁠—“there is nothing to wail in the withering of my body. The work will be the better done. Once I said the work of this beginning was mine, I am born to do it. Well, I shall do it. I shall live in you. I shall live in you.”

His grasp had become convulsive in its force, and Deronda, agitated as he had never been before⁠—the certainty that this was Mirah’s brother suffusing his own strange relation to Mordecai with a new solemnity and tenderness⁠—felt his strong young heart beating faster and his lips paling. He shrank from speech. He feared, in Mordecai’s present state of exaltation (already an alarming strain on his feeble frame), to utter a word of revelation about Mirah. He feared to make an answer below that high pitch of expectation which resembled a flash from a dying fire, making watchers fear to see it die the faster. His dominant impulse was to do as he had once done before: he laid his firm, gentle hand on the hand that grasped him. Mordecai’s, as if it had a soul of its own⁠—for he was not distinctly willing to do what he did⁠—relaxed its grasp, and turned upward under Deronda’s. As the two palms met and pressed each other Mordecai recovered some sense of his surroundings, and said,

“Let us go now. I cannot talk any longer.”

And in fact they parted at Cohen’s door without having spoken to each other again⁠—merely with another pressure of the hands.

Deronda felt a weight on him which was half joy, half anxiety. The joy of finding in Mirah’s brother a nature even more than worthy of that relation to her, had the weight of solemnity and sadness; the reunion of brother and sister was in reality the first stage of a supreme parting⁠—like that farewell kiss which resembles greeting, that last glance of love which becomes the sharpest pang of sorrow. Then there was the weight of anxiety about the revelation of the fact on both sides, and the arrangements it would be desirable to make beforehand. I suppose we should all have felt as Deronda did, without sinking into snobbishness or the notion that the primal duties of life demand a morning and an evening suit, that it was an admissible desire to free Mirah’s first meeting with her brother from all jarring outward conditions. His own sense of deliverance from the dreaded relationship of the other Cohens, notwithstanding their good nature, made him resolve if possible to keep them in the background for Mirah, until her acquaintance with them would be an unmarred rendering of gratitude for any kindness they had shown to her brother. On all accounts he wished to give Mordecai surroundings not only more suited to his frail bodily condition, but less of a hindrance to easy intercourse, even apart from the decisive prospect of Mirah’s taking up her abode with her brother, and tending him through the precious remnant of his life. In the heroic drama, great recognitions are not encumbered with these details; and certainly Deronda had as reverential an interest in Mordecai and Mirah as he could have had in the offspring of Agamemnon; but he was caring for destinies still moving in the dim streets of our earthly life, not yet lifted among the constellations, and his task presented itself to him as difficult and delicate, especially in persuading Mordecai to change his abode and habits. Concerning Mirah’s feeling and resolve he had no doubt: there would be a complete union of sentiment toward the departed mother, and Mirah would understand her brother’s greatness. Yes, greatness: that was the word which Deronda now deliberately chose to signify the impression that Mordecai had made on him. He said to himself, perhaps rather defiantly toward the more negative spirit within him, that this man, however erratic some of his interpretations might be⁠—this consumptive Jewish workman in threadbare clothing, lodged by charity, delivering himself to hearers who took his thoughts without attaching more consequences to them than the Flemings to the ethereal chimes ringing above their marketplaces⁠—had the chief elements of greatness; a mind consciously, energetically moving with the larger march of human destinies, but not the less full of conscience and tender heart for the footsteps that tread near and need a leaning-place; capable of conceiving and choosing a life’s task with far-off issues, yet capable of the unapplauded heroism which turns off the road of achievement at the call of the nearer duty whose effect lies within the beatings of the hearts that are close to us, as the hunger of the unfledged bird to the breast of its parent.

Deronda tonight was stirred with the feeling that the brief remnant of this fervid life had become his charge. He had been peculiarly wrought on by what he had seen at the club of the friendly indifference which Mordecai must have gone on encountering. His own experience of the small room that ardor can make for itself in ordinary minds had had the effect of increasing his reserve; and while tolerance was the easiest attitude to him, there was another bent in him also capable of becoming a weakness⁠—the dislike to appear exceptional or to risk an ineffective insistence on his own opinion. But such caution appeared contemptible to him just now, when he, for the first time, saw in a complete picture and felt as a reality the lives that burn themselves out in solitary enthusiasm: martyrs of obscure circumstance, exiled in the rarity of their own minds, whose deliverances in other ears are no more than a long passionate soliloquy⁠—unless perhaps at last, when they are nearing the invisible shores, signs of recognition and fulfilment may penetrate the cloud of loneliness; or perhaps it may be with them as with the dying Copernicus made to touch the first printed copy of his book when the sense of touch was gone, seeing it only as a dim object through the deepening dusk.

Deronda had been brought near to one of those spiritual exiles, and it was in his nature to feel the relation as a strong chain, nay, to feel his imagination moving without repugnance in the direction of Mordecai’s desires. With all his latent objection to schemes only definite in their generality and nebulous in detail⁠—in the poise of his sentiments he felt at one with this man who had made a visionary selection of him: the lines of what may be called their emotional theory touched. He had not the Jewish consciousness, but he had a yearning, grown the stronger for the denial which had been his grievance, after the obligation of avowed filial and social ties. His feeling was ready for difficult obedience. In this way it came that he set about his new task ungrudgingly; and again he thought of Mrs. Meyrick as his chief helper. To her first he must make known the discovery of Mirah’s brother, and with her he must consult on all preliminaries of bringing the mutually lost together. Happily the best quarter for a consumptive patient did not lie too far off the small house at Chelsea, and the first office Deronda had to perform for this Hebrew prophet who claimed him as a spiritual inheritor, was to get him a healthy lodging. Such is the irony of earthly mixtures, that the heroes have not always had carpets and teacups of their own; and, seen through the open window by the mackerel-vender, may have been invited with some hopefulness to pay three hundred percent, in the form of fourpence. However, Deronda’s mind was busy with a prospective arrangement for giving a furnished lodging some faint likeness to a refined home by dismantling his own chambers of his best old books in vellum, his easiest chair, and the bas-reliefs of Milton and Dante.

But was not Mirah to be there? What furniture can give such finish to a room as a tender woman’s face?⁠—and is there any harmony of tints that has such stirrings of delight as the sweet modulation of her voice? Here is one good, at least, thought Deronda, that comes to Mordecai from his having fixed his imagination on me. He has recovered a perfect sister, whose affection is waiting for him.

Chapter XLIV

Fairy folk a-listening
Hear the seed sprout in the spring.
And for music to their dance
Hear the hedgerows wake from trance,
Sap that trembles into buds
Sending little rhythmic floods
Of fairy sound in fairy ears.
Thus all beauty that appears
Has birth as sound to finer sense
And lighter-clad intelligence.

And Gwendolen? She was thinking of Deronda much more than he was thinking of her⁠—often wondering what were his ideas “about things,” and how his life was occupied. But a lapdog would be necessarily at a loss in framing to itself the motives and adventures of doghood at large; and it was as far from Gwendolen’s conception that Deronda’s life could be determined by the historical destiny of the Jews, as that he could rise into the air on a brazen horse, and so vanish from her horizon in the form of a twinkling star.

With all the sense of inferiority that had been forced upon her, it was inevitable that she should imagine a larger place for herself in his thoughts than she actually possessed. They must be rather old and wise persons who are not apt to see their own anxiety or elation about themselves reflected in other minds; and Gwendolen, with her youth and inward solitude, may be excused for dwelling on signs of special interest in her shown by the one person who had impressed her with the feeling of submission, and for mistaking the color and proportion of those signs in the mind of Deronda.

Meanwhile, what would he tell her that she ought to do? “He said, I must get more interest in others, and more knowledge, and that I must care about the best things⁠—but how am I to begin?” She wondered what books he would tell her to take up to her own room, and recalled the famous writers that she had either not looked into or had found the most unreadable, with a half-smiling wish that she could mischievously ask Deronda if they were not the books called “medicine for the mind.” Then she repented of her sauciness, and when she was safe from observation carried up a miscellaneous selection⁠—Descartes, Bacon, Locke, Butler, Burke, Guizot⁠—knowing, as a clever young lady of education, that these authors were ornaments of mankind, feeling sure that Deronda had read them, and hoping that by dipping into them all in succession, with her rapid understanding she might get a point of view nearer to his level.

But it was astonishing how little time she found for these vast mental excursions. Constantly she had to be on the scene as Mrs. Grandcourt, and to feel herself watched in that part by the exacting eyes of a husband who had found a motive to exercise his tenacity⁠—that of making his marriage answer all the ends he chose, and with the more completeness the more he discerned any opposing will in her. And she herself, whatever rebellion might be going on within her, could not have made up her mind to failure in her representation. No feeling had yet reconciled her for a moment to any act, word, or look that would be a confession to the world: and what she most dreaded in herself was any violent impulse that would make an involuntary confession: it was the will to be silent in every other direction that had thrown the more impetuosity into her confidences toward Deronda, to whom her thought continually turned as a help against herself. Her riding, her hunting, her visiting and receiving of visits, were all performed in a spirit of achievement which served instead of zest and young gladness, so that all around Diplow, in those weeks of the new year, Mrs. Grandcourt was regarded as wearing her honors with triumph.

“She disguises it under an air of taking everything as a matter of course,” said Mrs. Arrowpoint. “A stranger might suppose that she had condescended rather than risen. I always noticed that doubleness in her.”

To her mother most of all Gwendolen was bent on acting complete satisfaction, and poor Mrs. Davilow was so far deceived that she took the unexpected distance at which she was kept, in spite of what she felt to be Grandcourt’s handsome behavior in providing for her, as a comparative indifference in her daughter, now that marriage had created new interests. To be fetched to lunch and then to dinner along with the Gascoignes, to be driven back soon after breakfast the next morning, and to have brief calls from Gwendolen in which her husband waited for her outside either on horseback or sitting in the carriage, was all the intercourse allowed to her mother.

The truth was, that the second time Gwendolen proposed to invite her mother with Mr. and Mrs. Gascoigne, Grandcourt had at first been silent, and then drawled, “We can’t be having those people always. Gascoigne talks too much. Country clergy are always bores⁠—with their confounded fuss about everything.”

That speech was full of foreboding for Gwendolen. To have her mother classed under “those people” was enough to confirm the previous dread of bringing her too near. Still, she could not give the true reasons⁠—she could not say to her mother, “Mr. Grandcourt wants to recognize you as little as possible; and besides it is better you should not see much of my married life, else you might find out that I am miserable.” So she waived as lightly as she could every allusion to the subject; and when Mrs. Davilow again hinted the possibility of her having a house close to Ryelands, Gwendolen said, “It would not be so nice for you as being near the rectory here, mamma. We shall perhaps be very little at Ryelands. You would miss my aunt and uncle.”

And all the while this contemptuous veto of her husband’s on any intimacy with her family, making her proudly shrink from giving them the aspect of troublesome pensioners, was rousing more inward inclination toward them. She had never felt so kindly toward her uncle, so much disposed to look back on his cheerful, complacent activity and spirit of kind management, even when mistaken, as more of a comfort than the neutral loftiness which was every day chilling her. And here perhaps she was unconsciously finding some of that mental enlargement which it was hard to get from her occasional dashes into difficult authors, who instead of blending themselves with her daily agitations required her to dismiss them.

It was a delightful surprise one day when Mr. and Mrs. Gascoigne were at Offendene to see Gwendolen ride up without her husband⁠—with the groom only. All, including the four girls and Miss Merry, seated in the dining-room at lunch, could see the welcome approach; and even the elder ones were not without something of Isabel’s romantic sense that the beautiful sister on the splendid chestnut, which held its head as if proud to bear her, was a sort of Harriet Byron or Miss Wardour reappearing out of her “happiness ever after.”

Her uncle went to the door to give her his hand, and she sprang from her horse with an air of alacrity which might well encourage that notion of guaranteed happiness; for Gwendolen was particularly bent today on setting her mother’s heart at rest, and her unusual sense of freedom in being able to make this visit alone enabled her to bear up under the pressure of painful facts which were urging themselves anew. The seven family kisses were not so tiresome as they used to be.

“Mr. Grandcourt is gone out, so I determined to fill up the time by coming to you, mamma,” said Gwendolen, as she laid down her hat and seated herself next to her mother; and then looking at her with a playfully monitory air, “That is a punishment to you for not wearing better lace on your head. You didn’t think I should come and detect you⁠—you dreadfully careless-about-yourself mamma!” She gave a caressing touch to the dear head.

“Scold me, dear,” said Mrs. Davilow, her delicate worn face flushing with delight. “But I wish there was something you could eat after your ride⁠—instead of these scraps. Let Jocosa make you a cup of chocolate in your old way. You used to like that.”

Miss Merry immediately rose and went out, though Gwendolen said, “Oh, no, a piece of bread, or one of those hard biscuits. I can’t think about eating. I am come to say goodbye.”

“What! going to Ryelands again?” said Mr. Gascoigne.

“No, we are going to town,” said Gwendolen, beginning to break up a piece of bread, but putting no morsel into her mouth.

“It is rather early to go to town,” said Mrs. Gascoigne, “and Mr. Grandcourt not in Parliament.”

“Oh, there is only one more day’s hunting to be had, and Henleigh has some business in town with lawyers, I think,” said Gwendolen. “I am very glad. I shall like to go to town.”

“You will see your house in Grosvenor Square,” said Mrs. Davilow. She and the girls were devouring with their eyes every movement of their goddess, soon to vanish.

“Yes,” said Gwendolen, in a tone of assent to the interest of that expectation. “And there is so much to be seen and done in town.”

“I wish, my dear Gwendolen,” said Mr. Gascoigne, in a kind of cordial advice, “that you would use your influence with Mr. Grandcourt to induce him to enter Parliament. A man of his position should make his weight felt in politics. The best judges are confident that the ministry will have to appeal to the country on this question of further Reform, and Mr. Grandcourt should be ready for the opportunity. I am not quite sure that his opinions and mine accord entirely; I have not heard him express himself very fully. But I don’t look at the matter from that point of view. I am thinking of your husband’s standing in the country. And he has now come to that stage of life when a man like him should enter into public affairs. A wife has great influence with her husband. Use yours in that direction, my dear.”

The rector felt that he was acquitting himself of a duty here, and giving something like the aspect of a public benefit to his niece’s match. To Gwendolen the whole speech had the flavor of bitter comedy. If she had been merry, she must have laughed at her uncle’s explanation to her that he had not heard Grandcourt express himself very fully on politics. And the wife’s great influence! General maxims about husbands and wives seemed now of a precarious usefulness. Gwendolen herself had once believed in her future influence as an omnipotence in managing⁠—she did not know exactly what. But her chief concern at present was to give an answer that would be felt appropriate.

“I should be very glad, uncle. But I think Mr. Grandcourt would not like the trouble of an election⁠—at least, unless it could be without his making speeches. I thought candidates always made speeches.”

“Not necessarily⁠—to any great extent,” said Mr. Gascoigne. “A man of position and weight can get on without much of it. A county member need have very little trouble in that way, and both out of the House and in it is liked the better for not being a speechifier. Tell Mr. Grandcourt that I say so.”

“Here comes Jocosa with my chocolate after all,” said Gwendolen, escaping from a promise to give information that would certainly have been received in a way inconceivable to the good rector, who, pushing his chair a little aside from the table and crossing his leg, looked as well as if he felt like a worthy specimen of a clergyman and magistrate giving experienced advice. Mr. Gascoigne had come to the conclusion that Grandcourt was a proud man, but his own self-love, calmed through life by the consciousness of his general value and personal advantages, was not irritable enough to prevent him from hoping the best about his niece’s husband because her uncle was kept rather haughtily at a distance. A certain aloofness must be allowed to the representative of an old family; you would not expect him to be on intimate terms even with abstractions. But Mrs. Gascoigne was less dispassionate on her husband’s account, and felt Grandcourt’s haughtiness as something a little blameable in Gwendolen.

“Your uncle and Anna will very likely be in town about Easter,” she said, with a vague sense of expressing a slight discontent. “Dear Rex hopes to come out with honors and a fellowship, and he wants his father and Anna to meet him in London, that they may be jolly together, as he says. I shouldn’t wonder if Lord Brackenshaw invited them, he has been so very kind since he came back to the Castle.”

“I hope my uncle will bring Ann to stay in Grosvenor Square,” said Gwendolen, risking herself so far, for the sake of the present moment, but in reality wishing that she might never be obliged to bring any of her family near Grandcourt again. “I am very glad of Rex’s good fortune.”

“We must not be premature, and rejoice too much beforehand,” said the rector, to whom this topic was the happiest in the world, and altogether allowable, now that the issue of that little affair about Gwendolen had been so satisfactory. “Not but that I am in correspondence with impartial judges, who have the highest hopes about my son, as a singularly clearheaded young man. And of his excellent disposition and principle I have had the best evidence.”

“We shall have him a great lawyer some time,” said Mrs. Gascoigne.

“How very nice!” said Gwendolen, with a concealed scepticism as to niceness in general, which made the word quite applicable to lawyers.

“Talking of Lord Brackenshaw’s kindness,” said Mrs. Davilow, “you don’t know how delightful he has been, Gwendolen. He has begged me to consider myself his guest in this house till I can get another that I like⁠—he did it in the most graceful way. But now a house has turned up. Old Mr. Jodson is dead, and we can have his house. It is just what I want; small, but with nothing hideous to make you miserable thinking about it. And it is only a mile from the Rectory. You remember the low white house nearly hidden by the trees, as we turn up the lane to the church?”

“Yes, but you have no furniture, poor mamma,” said Gwendolen, in a melancholy tone.

“Oh, I am saving money for that. You know who has made me rather rich, dear,” said Mrs. Davilow, laying her hand on Gwendolen’s. “And Jocosa really makes so little do for housekeeping⁠—it is quite wonderful.”

“Oh, please let me go upstairs with you and arrange my hat, mamma,” said Gwendolen, suddenly putting up her hand to her hair and perhaps creating a desired disarrangement. Her heart was swelling, and she was ready to cry. Her mother must have been worse off, if it had not been for Grandcourt. “I suppose I shall never see all this again,” said Gwendolen, looking round her, as they entered the black and yellow bedroom, and then throwing herself into a chair in front of the glass with a little groan as of bodily fatigue. In the resolve not to cry she had become very pale.

“You are not well, dear?” said Mrs. Davilow.

“No; that chocolate has made me sick,” said Gwendolen, putting up her hand to be taken.

“I should be allowed to come to you if you were ill, darling,” said Mrs. Davilow, rather timidly, as she pressed the hand to her bosom. Something had made her sure today that her child loved her⁠—needed her as much as ever.

“Oh, yes,” said Gwendolen, leaning her head against her mother, though speaking as lightly as she could. “But you know I never am ill. I am as strong as possible; and you must not take to fretting about me, but make yourself as happy as you can with the girls. They are better children to you than I have been, you know.” She turned up her face with a smile.

“You have always been good, my darling. I remember nothing else.”

“Why, what did I ever do that was good to you, except marry Mr. Grandcourt?” said Gwendolen, starting up with a desperate resolve to be playful, and keep no more on the perilous edge of agitation. “And I should not have done that unless it had pleased myself.” She tossed up her chin, and reached her hat.

“God forbid, child! I would not have had you marry for my sake. Your happiness by itself is half mine.”

“Very well,” said Gwendolen, arranging her hat fastidiously, “then you will please to consider that you are half happy, which is more than I am used to seeing you.” With the last words she again turned with her old playful smile to her mother. “Now I am ready; but oh, mamma, Mr. Grandcourt gives me a quantity of money, and expects me to spend it, and I can’t spend it; and you know I can’t bear charity children and all that; and here are thirty pounds. I wish the girls would spend it for me on little things for themselves when you go to the new house. Tell them so.” Gwendolen put the notes into her mother’s hands and looked away hastily, moving toward the door.

“God bless you, dear,” said Mrs. Davilow. “It will please them so that you should have thought of them in particular.”

“Oh, they are troublesome things; but they don’t trouble me now,” said Gwendolen, turning and nodding playfully. She hardly understood her own feeling in this act toward her sisters, but at any rate she did not wish it to be taken as anything serious. She was glad to have got out of the bedroom without showing more signs of emotion, and she went through the rest of her visit and all the goodbyes with a quiet propriety that made her say to herself sarcastically as she rode away, “I think I am making a very good Mrs. Grandcourt.”

She believed that her husband had gone to Gadsmere that day⁠—had inferred this, as she had long ago inferred who were the inmates of what he had described as “a dog-hutch of a place in a black country;” and the strange conflict of feeling within her had had the characteristic effect of sending her to Offendene with a tightened resolve⁠—a form of excitement which was native to her.

She wondered at her own contradictions. Why should she feel it bitter to her that Grandcourt showed concern for the beings on whose account she herself was undergoing remorse? Had she not before her marriage inwardly determined to speak and act on their behalf?⁠—and since he had lately implied that he wanted to be in town because he was making arrangements about his will, she ought to have been glad of any sign that he kept a conscience awake toward those at Gadsmere; and yet, now that she was a wife, the sense that Grandcourt was gone to Gadsmere was like red heat near a burn. She had brought on herself this indignity in her own eyes⁠—this humiliation of being doomed to a terrified silence lest her husband should discover with what sort of consciousness she had married him; and as she had said to Deronda, she “must go on.” After the intense moments of secret hatred toward this husband who from the very first had cowed her, there always came back the spiritual pressure which made submission inevitable. There was no effort at freedoms that would not bring fresh and worse humiliation. Gwendolen could dare nothing except an impulsive action⁠—least of all could she dare premeditatedly a vague future in which the only certain condition was indignity. In spite of remorse, it still seemed the worst result of her marriage that she should in any way make a spectacle of herself; and her humiliation was lightened by her thinking that only Mrs. Glasher was aware of the fact which caused it. For Gwendolen had never referred the interview at the Whispering Stones to Lush’s agency; her disposition to vague terror investing with shadowy omnipresence any threat of fatal power over her, and so hindering her from imagining plans and channels by which news had been conveyed to the woman who had the poisoning skill of a sorceress. To Gwendolen’s mind the secret lay with Mrs. Glasher, and there were words in the horrible letter which implied that Mrs. Glasher would dread disclosure to the husband, as much as the usurping Mrs. Grandcourt.

Something else, too, she thought of as more of a secret from her husband than it really was⁠—namely that suppressed struggle of desperate rebellion which she herself dreaded. Grandcourt could not indeed fully imagine how things affected Gwendolen: he had no imagination of anything in her but what affected the gratification of his own will; but on this point he had the sensibility which seems like divination. What we see exclusively we are apt to see with some mistake of proportions; and Grandcourt was not likely to be infallible in his judgments concerning this wife who was governed by many shadowy powers, to him nonexistent. He magnified her inward resistance, but that did not lessen his satisfaction in the mastery of it.

Chapter XLV

Behold my lady’s carriage stop the way.
With powdered lackey and with charming bay;
She sweeps the matting, treads the crimson stair.
Her arduous function solely “to be there.”
Like Sirius rising o’er the silent sea.
She hides her heart in lustre loftily.

So the Grandcourts were in Grosvenor Square in time to receive a card for the musical party at Lady Mallinger’s, there being reasons of business which made Sir Hugo know beforehand that his ill-beloved nephew was coming up. It was only the third evening after their arrival, and Gwendolen made rather an absentminded acquaintance with her new ceilings and furniture, preoccupied with the certainty that she was going to speak to Deronda again, and also to see the Miss Lapidoth who had gone through so much, and was “capable of submitting to anything in the form of duty.” For Gwendolen had remembered nearly every word that Deronda had said about Mirah, and especially that phrase, which she repeated to herself bitterly, having an ill-defined consciousness that her own submission was something very different. She would have been obliged to allow, if anyone had said it to her, that what she submitted to could not take the shape of duty, but was submission to a yoke drawn on her by an action she was ashamed of, and worn with a strength of selfish motives that left no weight for duty to carry.

The drawing-rooms in Park Lane, all white, gold, and pale crimson, were agreeably furnished, and not crowded with guests, before Mr. and Mrs. Grandcourt entered; and more than half an hour of instrumental music was being followed by an interval of movement and chat. Klesmer was there with his wife, and in his generous interest for Mirah he proposed to accompany her singing of Leo’s “O patria mia,” which he had before recommended her to choose, as more distinctive of her than better known music. He was already at the piano, and Mirah was standing there conspicuously, when Gwendolen, magnificent in her pale green velvet and poisoned diamonds, was ushered to a seat of honor well in view of them. With her long sight and self-command she had the rare power of quickly distinguishing persons and objects on entering a full room, and while turning her glance toward Mirah she did not neglect to exchange a bow with Klesmer as she passed. The smile seemed to each a lightning-flash back on that morning when it had been her ambition to stand as the “little Jewess” was standing, and survey a grand audience from the higher rank of her talent⁠—instead of which she was one of the ordinary crowd in silk and gems, whose utmost performance it must be to admire or find fault. “He thinks I am in the right road now,” said the lurking resentment within her.

Gwendolen had not caught sight of Deronda in her passage, and while she was seated acquitting herself in chat with Sir Hugo, she glanced round her with careful ease, bowing a recognition here and there, and fearful lest an anxious-looking exploration in search of Deronda might be observed by her husband, and afterward rebuked as something “damnably vulgar.” But all traveling, even that of a slow gradual glance round a room, brings a liability to undesired encounters, and amongst the eyes that met Gwendolen’s, forcing her into a slight bow, were those of the “amateur too fond of Meyerbeer,” Mr. Lush, whom Sir Hugo continued to find useful as a half-caste among gentlemen. He was standing near her husband, who, however, turned a shoulder toward him, and was being understood to listen to Lord Pentreath. How was it that at this moment, for the first time, there darted through Gwendolen, like a disagreeable sensation, the idea that this man knew all about her husband’s life? He had been banished from her sight, according to her will, and she had been satisfied; he had sunk entirely into the background of her thoughts, screened away from her by the agitating figures that kept up an inward drama in which Lush had no place. Here suddenly he reappeared at her husband’s elbow, and there sprang up in her, like an instantaneously fabricated memory in a dream, the sense of his being connected with the secrets that made her wretched. She was conscious of effort in turning her head away from him, trying to continue her wandering survey as if she had seen nothing of more consequence than the picture on the wall, till she discovered Deronda. But he was not looking toward her, and she withdrew her eyes from him, without having got any recognition, consoling herself with the assurance that he must have seen her come in. In fact, he was not standing far from the door with Hans Meyrick, whom he had been careful to bring into Lady Mallinger’s list. They were both a little more anxious than was comfortable lest Mirah should not be heard to advantage. Deronda even felt himself on the brink of betraying emotion, Mirah’s presence now being linked with crowding images of what had gone before and was to come after⁠—all centering in the brother he was soon to reveal to her; and he had escaped as soon as he could from the side of Lady Pentreath, who had said in her violoncello voice,

“Well, your Jewess is pretty⁠—there’s no denying that. But where is her Jewish impudence? She looks as demure as a nun. I suppose she learned that on the stage.”

He was beginning to feel on Mirah’s behalf something of what he had felt for himself in his seraphic boyish time, when Sir Hugo asked him if he would like to be a great singer⁠—an indignant dislike to her being remarked on in a free and easy way, as if she were an imported commodity disdainfully paid for by the fashionable public, and he winced the more because Mordecai, he knew, would feel that the name “Jewess” was taken as a sort of stamp like the lettering of Chinese silk. In this susceptible mood he saw the Grandcourts enter, and was immediately appealed to by Hans about “that Vandyke duchess of a beauty.” Pray excuse Deronda that in this moment he felt a transient renewal of his first repulsion from Gwendolen, as if she and her beauty and her failings were to blame for the undervaluing of Mirah as a woman⁠—a feeling something like class animosity, which affection for what is not fully recognized by others, whether in persons or in poetry, rarely allows us to escape. To Hans admiring Gwendolen with his habitual hyperbole, he answered, with a sarcasm that was not quite good-natured,

“I thought you could admire no style of woman but your Berenice.”

“That is the style I worship⁠—not admire,” said Hans. “Other styles of women I might make myself wicked for, but for Berenice I could make myself⁠—well, pretty good, which is something much more difficult.”

“Hush,” said Deronda, under the pretext that the singing was going to begin. He was not so delighted with the answer as might have been expected, and was relieved by Hans’s movement to a more advanced spot.

Deronda had never before heard Mirah sing “O patria mia.” He knew well Leopardi’s fine Ode to Italy (when Italy sat like a disconsolate mother in chains, hiding her face on her knees and weeping), and the few selected words were filled for him with the grandeur of the whole, which seemed to breathe an inspiration through the music. Mirah singing this, made Mordecai more than ever one presence with her. Certain words not included in the song nevertheless rang within Deronda as harmonies from the invisible,

“Non ti difende
Nessun dè tuoi! L’armi, qua l’armi: io solo
Combatteró, procomberó sol io⁠—”[2]

they seemed the very voice of that heroic passion which is falsely said to devote itself in vain when it achieves the godlike end of manifesting unselfish love. And that passion was present to Deronda now as the vivid image of a man dying helplessly away from the possibility of battle.

Mirah was equal to his wishes. While the general applause was sounding, Klesmer gave a more valued testimony, audible to her only⁠—“Good, good⁠—the crescendo better than before.” But her chief anxiety was to know that she had satisfied Mr. Deronda: any failure on her part this evening would have pained her as an especial injury to him. Of course all her prospects were due to what he had done for her; still, this occasion of singing in the house that was his home brought a peculiar demand. She looked toward him in the distance, and he saw that she did; but he remained where he was, and watched the streams of emulous admirers closing round her, till presently they parted to make way for Gwendolen, who was taken up to be introduced by Mrs. Klesmer. Easier now about “the little Jewess,” Daniel relented toward poor Gwendolen in her splendor, and his memory went back, with some penitence for his momentary hardness, over all the signs and confessions that she too needed a rescue, and one much more difficult than that of the wanderer by the river⁠—a rescue for which he felt himself helpless. The silent question⁠—“But is it not cowardly to make that a reason for turning away?” was the form in which he framed his resolve to go near her on the first opportunity, and show his regard for her past confidence, in spite of Sir Hugo’s unwelcome hints.

Klesmer, having risen to Gwendolen as she approached, and being included by her in the opening conversation with Mirah, continued near them a little while, looking down with a smile, which was rather in his eyes than on his lips, at the piquant contrast of the two charming young creatures seated on the red divan. The solicitude seemed to be all on the side of the splendid one.

“You must let me say how much I am obliged to you,” said Gwendolen. “I had heard from Mr. Deronda that I should have a great treat in your singing, but I was too ignorant to imagine how great.”

“You are very good to say so,” answered Mirah, her mind chiefly occupied in contemplating Gwendolen. It was like a new kind of stage-experience to her to be close to genuine grand ladies with genuine brilliants and complexions, and they impressed her vaguely as coming out of some unknown drama, in which their parts perhaps got more tragic as they went on.

“We shall all want to learn of you⁠—I, at least,” said Gwendolen. “I sing very badly, as Herr Klesmer will tell you,”⁠—here she glanced upward to that higher power rather archly, and continued⁠—“but I have been rebuked for not liking to be middling, since I can be nothing more. I think that is a different doctrine from yours?” She was still looking at Klesmer, who said quickly,

“Not if it means that it would be worth while for you to study further, and for Miss Lapidoth to have the pleasure of helping you.” With that he moved away, and Mirah taking everything with naive seriousness, said,

“If you think I could teach you, I shall be very glad. I am anxious to teach, but I have only just begun. If I do it well, it must be by remembering how my master taught me.”

Gwendolen was in reality too uncertain about herself to be prepared for this simple promptitude of Mirah’s, and in her wish to change the subject, said, with some lapse from the good taste of her first address,

“You have not been long in London, I think?⁠—but you were perhaps introduced to Mr. Deronda abroad?”

“No,” said Mirah; “I never saw him before I came to England in the summer.”

“But he has seen you often and heard you sing a great deal, has he not?” said Gwendolen, led on partly by the wish to hear anything about Deronda, and partly by the awkwardness which besets the readiest person, in carrying on a dialogue when empty of matter. “He spoke of you to me with the highest praise. He seemed to know you quite well.”

“Oh, I was poor and needed help,” said Mirah, in a new tone of feeling, “and Mr. Deronda has given me the best friends in the world. That is the only way he came to know anything about me⁠—because he was sorry for me. I had no friends when I came. I was in distress. I owe everything to him.”

Poor Gwendolen, who had wanted to be a struggling artist herself, could nevertheless not escape the impression that a mode of inquiry which would have been rather rude toward herself was an amiable condescension to this Jewess who was ready to give her lessons. The only effect on Mirah, as always on any mention of Deronda, was to stir reverential gratitude and anxiety that she should be understood to have the deepest obligation to him.

But both he and Hans, who were noticing the pair from a distance, would have felt rather indignant if they had known that the conversation had led up to Mirah’s representation of herself in this light of neediness. In the movement that prompted her, however, there was an exquisite delicacy, which perhaps she could not have stated explicitly⁠—the feeling that she ought not to allow anyone to assume in Deronda a relation of more equality or less generous interest toward her than actually existed. Her answer was delightful to Gwendolen: she thought of nothing but the ready compassion which in another form she had trusted in and found herself; and on the signals that Klesmer was about to play she moved away in much content, entirely without presentiment that this Jewish protégé would ever make a more important difference in her life than the possible improvement of her singing⁠—if the leisure and spirits of a Mrs. Grandcourt would allow of other lessons than such as the world was giving her at rather a high charge.

With her wonted alternation from resolute care of appearances to some rash indulgence of an impulse, she chose, under the pretext of getting farther from the instrument, not to go again to her former seat, but placed herself on a settee where she could only have one neighbor. She was nearer to Deronda than before: was it surprising that he came up in time to shake hands before the music began⁠—then, that after he had stood a little while by the elbow of the settee at the empty end, the torrent-like confluences of bass and treble seemed, like a convulsion of nature, to cast the conduct of petty mortals into insignificance, and to warrant his sitting down?

But when at the end of Klesmer’s playing there came the outburst of talk under which Gwendolen had hoped to speak as she would to Deronda, she observed that Mr. Lush was within hearing, leaning against the wall close by them. She could not help her flush of anger, but she tried to have only an air of polite indifference in saying,

“Miss Lapidoth is everything you described her to be.”

“You have been very quick in discovering that,” said Deronda, ironically.

“I have not found out all the excellencies you spoke of⁠—I don’t mean that,” said Gwendolen; “but I think her singing is charming, and herself, too. Her face is lovely⁠—not in the least common; and she is such a complete little person. I should think she will be a great success.”

This speech was grating on Deronda, and he would not answer it, but looked gravely before him. She knew that he was displeased with her, and she was getting so impatient under the neighborhood of Mr. Lush, which prevented her from saying any word she wanted to say, that she meditated some desperate step to get rid of it, and remained silent, too. That constraint seemed to last a long while, neither Gwendolen nor Deronda looking at the other, till Lush slowly relieved the wall of his weight, and joined someone at a distance.

Gwendolen immediately said, “You despise me for talking artificially.”

“No,” said Deronda, looking at her coolly; “I think that is quite excusable sometimes. But I did not think what you were last saying was altogether artificial.”

“There was something in it that displeased you,” said Gwendolen. “What was it?”

“It is impossible to explain such things,” said Deronda. “One can never communicate niceties of feeling about words and manner.”

“You think I am shut out from understanding them,” said Gwendolen, with a slight tremor in her voice, which she was trying to conquer. “Have I shown myself so very dense to everything you have said?” There was an indescribable look of suppressed tears in her eyes, which were turned on him.

“Not at all,” said Deronda, with some softening of voice. “But experience differs for different people. We don’t all wince at the same things. I have had plenty of proof that you are not dense.” He smiled at her.

“But one may feel things and are not able to do anything better for all that,” said Gwendolen, not smiling in return⁠—the distance to which Deronda’s words seemed to throw her chilling her too much. “I begin to think we can only get better by having people about us who raise good feelings. You must not be surprised at anything in me. I think it is too late for me to alter. I don’t know how to set about being wise, as you told me to be.”

“I seldom find I do any good by my preaching. I might as well have kept from meddling,” said Deronda, thinking rather sadly that his interference about that unfortunate necklace might end in nothing but an added pain to him in seeing her after all hardened to another sort of gambling than roulette.

“Don’t say that,” said Gwendolen, hurriedly, feeling that this might be her only chance of getting the words uttered, and dreading the increase of her own agitation. “If you despair of me, I shall despair. Your saying that I should not go on being selfish and ignorant has been some strength to me. If you say you wish you had not meddled⁠—that means you despair of me and forsake me. And then you will decide for me that I shall not be good. It is you who will decide; because you might have made me different by keeping as near to me as you could, and believing in me.”

She had not been looking at him as she spoke, but at the handle of the fan which she held closed. With the last words she rose and left him, returning to her former place, which had been left vacant; while everyone was settling into quietude in expectation of Mirah’s voice, which presently, with that wonderful, searching quality of subdued song in which the melody seems simply an effect of the emotion, gave forth, Per pietà non dirmi addio.

In Deronda’s ear the strain was for the moment a continuance of Gwendolen’s pleading⁠—a painful urging of something vague and difficult, irreconcilable with pressing conditions, and yet cruel to resist. However strange the mixture in her of a resolute pride and a precocious air of knowing the world, with a precipitate, guileless indiscretion, he was quite sure now that the mixture existed. Sir Hugo’s hints had made him alive to dangers that his own disposition might have neglected; but that Gwendolen’s reliance on him was unvisited by any dream of his being a man who could misinterpret her was as manifest as morning, and made an appeal which wrestled with his sense of present dangers, and with his foreboding of a growing incompatible claim on him in her mind. There was a foreshadowing of some painful collision: on the one side the grasp of Mordecai’s dying hand on him, with all the ideals and prospects it aroused; on the other the fair creature in silk and gems, with her hidden wound and her self-dread, making a trustful effort to lean and find herself sustained. It was as if he had a vision of himself besought with outstretched arms and cries, while he was caught by the waves and compelled to mount the vessel bound for a far-off coast. That was the strain of excited feeling in him that went along with the notes of Mirah’s song; but when it ceased he moved from his seat with the reflection that he had been falling into an exaggeration of his own importance, and a ridiculous readiness to accept Gwendolen’s view of himself, as if he could really have any decisive power over her.

“What an enviable fellow you are,” said Hans to him, “sitting on a sofa with that young duchess, and having an interesting quarrel with her!”

“Quarrel with her?” repeated Deronda, rather uncomfortably.

“Oh, about theology, of course; nothing personal. But she told you what you ought to think, and then left you with a grand air which was admirable. Is she an Antinomian⁠—if so, tell her I am an Antinomian painter, and introduce me. I should like to paint her and her husband. He has the sort of handsome physique that the Duke ought to have in Lucrezia Borgia⁠—if it could go with a fine baritone, which it can’t.”

Deronda devoutly hoped that Hans’s account of the impression his dialogue with Gwendolen had made on a distant beholder was no more than a bit of fantastic representation, such as was common with him.

And Gwendolen was not without her afterthoughts that her husband’s eyes might have been on her, extracting something to reprove⁠—some offence against her dignity as his wife; her consciousness telling her that she had not kept up the perfect air of equability in public which was her own ideal. But Grandcourt made no observation on her behavior. All he said as they were driving home was,

“Lush will dine with us among the other people tomorrow. You will treat him civilly.”

Gwendolen’s heart began to beat violently. The words that she wanted to utter, as one wants to return a blow, were, “You are breaking your promise to me⁠—the first promise you made me.” But she dared not utter them. She was as frightened at a quarrel as if she had foreseen that it would end with throttling fingers on her neck. After a pause, she said in the tone rather of defeat than resentment,

“I thought you did not intend him to frequent the house again.”

“I want him just now. He is useful to me; and he must be treated civilly.”

Silence. There may come a moment when even an excellent husband who has dropped smoking under more or less of a pledge during courtship, for the first time will introduce his cigar-smoke between himself and his wife, with the tacit understanding that she will have to put up with it. Mr. Lush was, so to speak, a very large cigar.

If these are the sort of lovers’ vows at which Jove laughs, he must have a merry time of it.

Chapter XLVI

If anyone should importune me to give a reason why I loved him, I feel it could no otherwise be expressed than by making answer, “Because it was he, because it was I.” There is, beyond what I am able to say, I know not what inexplicable power that brought on this union.
Montaigne: On Friendship

The time had come to prepare Mordecai for the revelation of the restored sister and for the change of abode which was desirable before Mirah’s meeting with her brother. Mrs. Meyrick, to whom Deronda had confided everything except Mordecai’s peculiar relation to himself, had been active in helping him to find a suitable lodging in Brompton, not many minutes’ walk from her own house, so that the brother and sister would be within reach of her motherly care. Her happy mixture of Scottish fervor and Gaelic liveliness had enabled her to keep the secret close from the girls as well as from Hans, any betrayal to them being likely to reach Mirah in some way that would raise an agitating suspicion, and spoil the important opening of that work which was to secure her independence, as we rather arbitrarily call one of the more arduous and dignified forms of our dependence. And both Mrs. Meyrick and Deronda had more reasons than they could have expressed for desiring that Mirah should be able to maintain herself. Perhaps “the little mother” was rather helped in her secrecy by some dubiousness in her sentiment about the remarkable brother described to her; and certainly if she felt any joy and anticipatory admiration, it was due to her faith in Deronda’s judgment. The consumption was a sorrowful fact that appealed to her tenderness; but how was she to be very glad of an enthusiasm which, to tell the truth, she could only contemplate as Jewish pertinacity, and as rather an undesirable introduction among them all of a man whose conversation would not be more modern and encouraging than that of Scott’s Covenanters? Her mind was anything but prosaic, and had her soberer share of Mab’s delight in the romance of Mirah’s story and of her abode with them; but the romantic or unusual in real life requires some adaptation. We sit up at night to read about Sakya-Mouni, St. Francis, or Oliver Cromwell; but whether we should be glad for anyone at all like them to call on us the next morning, still more, to reveal himself as a new relation, is quite another affair. Besides, Mrs. Meyrick had hoped, as her children did, that the intensity of Mirah’s feeling about Judaism would slowly subside, and be merged in the gradually deepening current of loving interchange with her new friends. In fact, her secret favorite continuation of the romance had been no discovery of Jewish relations, but something much more favorable to the hopes she discerned in Hans. And now⁠—here was a brother who would dip Mirah’s mind over again in the deepest dye of Jewish sentiment. She could not help saying to Deronda,

“I am as glad as you are that the pawnbroker is not her brother: there are Ezras and Ezras in the world; and really it is a comfort to think that all Jews are not like those shopkeepers who will not let you get out of their shops: and besides, what he said to you about his mother and sister makes me bless him. I am sure he’s good. But I never did like anything fanatical. I suppose I heard a little too much preaching in my youth and lost my palate for it.”

“I don’t think you will find that Mordecai obtrudes any preaching,” said Deronda. “He is not what I should call fanatical. I call a man fanatical when his enthusiasm is narrow and hoodwinked, so that he has no sense of proportions, and becomes unjust and unsympathetic to men who are out of his own track. Mordecai is an enthusiast; I should like to keep that word for the highest order of minds⁠—those who care supremely for grand and general benefits to mankind. He is not a strictly orthodox Jew, and is full of allowances for others; his conformity in many things is an allowance for the condition of other Jews. The people he lives with are as fond of him as possible, and they can’t in the least understand his ideas.”

“Oh, well, I can live up to the level of the pawnbroker’s mother, and like him for what I see to be good in him; and for what I don’t see the merits of I will take your word. According to your definition, I suppose one might be fanatical in worshipping common-sense; for my poor husband used to say the world would be a poor place if there were nothing but common-sense in it. However, Mirah’s brother will have good bedding⁠—that I have taken care of; and I shall have this extra window pasted up with paper to prevent draughts.” (The conversation was taking place in the destined lodging.) “It is a comfort to think that the people of the house are no strangers to me⁠—no hypocritical harpies. And when the children know, we shall be able to make the rooms much prettier.”

“The next stage of the affair is to tell all to Mordecai, and get him to move⁠—which may be a more difficult business,” said Deronda.

“And will you tell Mirah before I say anything to the children?” said Mrs. Meyrick. But Deronda hesitated, and she went on in a tone of persuasive deliberation⁠—“No, I think not. Let me tell Hans and the girls the evening before, and they will be away the next morning?”

“Yes, that will be best. But do justice to my account of Mordecai⁠—or Ezra, as I suppose Mirah will wish to call him: don’t assist their imagination by referring to Habakkuk Mucklewrath,” said Deronda, smiling⁠—Mrs. Meyrick herself having used the comparison of the Covenanters.

“Trust me, trust me,” said the little mother. “I shall have to persuade them so hard to be glad, that I shall convert myself. When I am frightened I find it a good thing to have somebody to be angry with for not being brave: it warms the blood.”

Deronda might have been more argumentative or persuasive about the view to be taken of Mirah’s brother, if he had been less anxiously preoccupied with the more important task immediately before him, which he desired to acquit himself of without wounding the Cohens. Mordecai, by a memorable answer, had made it evident that he would be keenly alive to any inadvertance in relation to their feelings. In the interval, he had been meeting Mordecai at the Hand and Banner, but now after due reflection he wrote to him saying that he had particular reasons for wishing to see him in his own home the next evening, and would beg to sit with him in his workroom for an hour, if the Cohens would not regard it as an intrusion. He would call with the understanding that if there were any objection, Mordecai would accompany him elsewhere. Deronda hoped in this way to create a little expectation that would have a preparatory effect.

He was received with the usual friendliness, some additional costume in the women and children, and in all the elders a slight air of wondering which even in Cohen was not allowed to pass the bounds of silence⁠—the guest’s transactions with Mordecai being a sort of mystery which he was rather proud to think lay outside the sphere of light which enclosed his own understanding. But when Deronda said, “I suppose Mordecai is at home and expecting me,” Jacob, who had profited by the family remarks, went up to his knee and said, “What do you want to talk to Mordecai about?”

“Something that is very interesting to him,” said Deronda, pinching the lad’s ear, “but that you can’t understand.”

“Can you say this?” said Jacob, immediately giving forth a string of his rote-learned Hebrew verses with a wonderful mixture of the throaty and the nasal, and nodding his small head at his hearer, with a sense of giving formidable evidence which might rather alter their mutual position.

“No, really,” said Deronda, keeping grave; “I can’t say anything like it.”

“I thought not,” said Jacob, performing a dance of triumph with his small scarlet legs, while he took various objects out of the deep pockets of his knickerbockers and returned them thither, as a slight hint of his resources; after which, running to the door of the workroom, he opened it wide, set his back against it, and said, “Mordecai, here’s the young swell”⁠—a copying of his father’s phrase, which seemed to him well fitted to cap the recitation of Hebrew.

He was called back with hushes by mother and grandmother, and Deronda, entering and closing the door behind him, saw that a bit of carpet had been laid down, a chair placed, and the fire and lights attended to, in sign of the Cohens’ respect. As Mordecai rose to greet him, Deronda was struck with the air of solemn expectation in his face, such as would have seemed perfectly natural if his letter had declared that some revelation was to be made about the lost sister. Neither of them spoke, till Deronda, with his usual tenderness of manner, had drawn the vacant chair from the opposite side of the hearth and had seated himself near to Mordecai, who then said, in a tone of fervid certainty,

“You are coming to tell me something that my soul longs for.”

“It is true I have something very weighty to tell you⁠—something I trust that you will rejoice in,” said Deronda, on his guard against the probability that Mordecai had been preparing himself for something quite different from the fact.

“It is all revealed⁠—it is made clear to you,” said Mordecai, more eagerly, leaning forward with clasped hands. “You are even as my brother that sucked the breasts of my mother⁠—the heritage is yours⁠—there is no doubt to divide us.”

“I have learned nothing new about myself,” said Deronda. The disappointment was inevitable: it was better not to let the feeling be strained longer in a mistaken hope.

Mordecai sank back in his chair, unable for the moment to care what was really coming. The whole day his mind had been in a state of tension toward one fulfillment. The reaction was sickening and he closed his eyes.

“Except,” Deronda went on gently, after a pause⁠—“except that I had really some time ago come into another sort of hidden connection with you, besides what you have spoken of as existing in your own feeling.”

The eyes were not opened, but there was a fluttering in the lids.

“I had made the acquaintance of one in whom you are interested.”

“One who is closely related to your departed mother,” Deronda went on wishing to make the disclosure gradual; but noticing a shrinking movement in Mordecai, he added⁠—“whom she and you held dear above all others.”

Mordecai, with a sudden start, laid a spasmodic grasp on Deronda’s wrist; there was a great terror in him. And Deronda divined it. A tremor was perceptible in his clear tones as he said,

“What was prayed for has come to pass: Mirah has been delivered from evil.”

Mordecai’s grasp relaxed a little, but he was panting with a tearless sob.

Deronda went on: “Your sister is worthy of the mother you honored.”

He waited there, and Mordecai, throwing himself backward in his chair, again closed his eyes, uttering himself almost inaudibly for some minutes in Hebrew, and then subsiding into a happy-looking silence. Deronda, watching the expression in his uplifted face, could have imagined that he was speaking with some beloved object: there was a new suffused sweetness, something like that on the faces of the beautiful dead. For the first time Deronda thought he discerned a family resemblance to Mirah.

Presently when Mordecai was ready to listen, the rest was told. But in accounting for Mirah’s flight he made the statement about the father’s conduct as vague as he could, and threw the emphasis on her yearning to come to England as the place where she might find her mother. Also he kept back the fact of Mirah’s intention to drown herself, and his own part in rescuing her; merely describing the home she had found with friends of his, whose interest in her and efforts for her he had shared. What he dwelt on finally was Mirah’s feeling about her mother and brother; and in relation to this he tried to give every detail.

“It was in search of them,” said Deronda, smiling, “that I turned into this house: the name Ezra Cohen was just then the most interesting name in the world to me. I confess I had fear for a long while. Perhaps you will forgive me now for having asked you that question about the elder Mrs. Cohen’s daughter. I cared very much what I should find Mirah’s friends to be. But I had found a brother worthy of her when I knew that her Ezra was disguised under the name of Mordecai.”

“Mordecai is really my name⁠—Ezra Mordecai Cohen.”

“Is there any kinship between this family and yours?” said Deronda.

“Only the kinship of Israel. My soul clings to these people, who have sheltered me and given me succor out of the affection that abides in Jewish hearts, as sweet odor in things long crushed and hidden from the outer air. It is good for me to bear with their ignorance and be bound to them in gratitude, that I may keep in mind the spiritual poverty of the Jewish million, and not put impatient knowledge in the stead of loving wisdom.”

“But you don’t feel bound to continue with them now there is a closer tie to draw you?” said Deronda, not without fear that he might find an obstacle to overcome. “It seems to me right now⁠—is it not?⁠—that you should live with your sister; and I have prepared a home to take you to in the neighborhood of her friends, that she may join you there. Pray grant me this wish. It will enable me to be with you often in the hours when Mirah is obliged to leave you. That is my selfish reason. But the chief reason is, that Mirah will desire to watch over you, and that you ought to give her the guardianship of a brother’s presence. You shall have books about you. I shall want to learn of you, and to take you out to see the river and trees. And you will have the rest and comfort that you will be more and more in need of⁠—nay, that I need for you. This is the claim I make on you, now that we have found each other.”

Deronda spoke in a tone of earnest, affectionate pleading, such as he might have used to a venerated elder brother. Mordecai’s eyes were fixed on him with a listening contemplation, and he was silent for a little while after Deronda had ceased to speak. Then he said, with an almost reproachful emphasis,

“And you would have me hold it doubtful whether you were born a Jew! Have we not from the first touched each other with invisible fibres⁠—have we not quivered together like the leaves from a common stem with stirring from a common root? I know what I am outwardly, I am one among the crowd of poor⁠—I am stricken, I am dying. But our souls know each other. They gazed in silence as those who have long been parted and meet again, but when they found voice they were assured, and all their speech is understanding. The life of Israel is in your veins.”

Deronda sat perfectly still, but felt his face tingling. It was impossible either to deny or assent. He waited, hoping that Mordecai would presently give him a more direct answer. And after a pause of meditation he did say, firmly,

“What you wish of me I will do. And our mother⁠—may the blessing of the Eternal be with her in our souls!⁠—would have wished it too. I will accept what your loving kindness has prepared, and Mirah’s home shall be mine.” He paused a moment, and then added in a more melancholy tone, “But I shall grieve to part from these parents and the little ones. You must tell them, for my heart would fail me.”

“I felt that you would want me to tell them. Shall we go now at once?” said Deronda, much relieved by this unwavering compliance.

“Yes; let us not defer it. It must be done,” said Mordecai, rising with the air of a man who has to perform a painful duty. Then came, as an afterthought, “But do not dwell on my sister more than is needful.”

When they entered the parlor he said to the alert Jacob, “Ask your father to come, and tell Sarah to mind the shop. My friend has something to say,” he continued, turning to the elder Mrs. Cohen. It seemed part of Mordecai’s eccentricity that he should call this gentleman his friend; and the two women tried to show their better manners by warm politeness in begging Deronda to seat himself in the best place.

When Cohen entered with a pen behind his ear, he rubbed his hands and said with loud satisfaction, “Well, sir! I’m glad you’re doing us the honor to join our family party again. We are pretty comfortable, I think.”

He looked round with shiny gladness. And when all were seated on the hearth the scene was worth peeping in upon: on one side Baby under her scarlet quilt in the corner being rocked by the young mother, and Adelaide Rebekah seated on the grandmother’s knee; on the other, Jacob between his father’s legs; while the two markedly different figures of Deronda and Mordecai were in the middle⁠—Mordecai a little backward in the shade, anxious to conceal his agitated susceptibility to what was going on around him. The chief light came from the fire, which brought out the rich color on a depth of shadow, and seemed to turn into speech the dark gems of eyes that looked at each other kindly.

“I have just been telling Mordecai of an event that makes a great change in his life,” Deronda began, “but I hope you will agree with me that it is a joyful one. Since he thinks of you as his best friends, he wishes me to tell you for him at once.”

“Relations with money, sir?” burst in Cohen, feeling a power of divination which it was a pity to nullify by waiting for the fact.

“No; not exactly,” said Deronda, smiling. “But a very precious relation wishes to be reunited to him⁠—a very good and lovely young sister, who will care for his comfort in every way.”

“Married, sir?”

“No, not married.”

“But with a maintenance?”

“With talents which will secure her a maintenance. A home is already provided for Mordecai.”

There was silence for a moment or two before the grandmother said in a wailing tone,

“Well, well! and so you’re going away from us, Mordecai.”

“And where there’s no children as there is here,” said the mother, catching the wail.

“No Jacob, and no Adelaide, and no Eugenie!” wailed the grandmother again.

“Ay, ay, Jacob’s learning ’ill all wear out of him. He must go to school. It’ll be hard times for Jacob,” said Cohen, in a tone of decision.

In the wide-open ears of Jacob his father’s words sounded like a doom, giving an awful finish to the dirge-like effect of the whole announcement. His face had been gathering a wondering incredulous sorrow at the notion of Mordecai’s going away: he was unable to imagine the change as anything lasting; but at the mention of “hard times for Jacob” there was no further suspense of feeling, and he broke forth in loud lamentation. Adelaide Rebekah always cried when her brother cried, and now began to howl with astonishing suddenness, whereupon baby awaking contributed angry screams, and required to be taken out of the cradle. A great deal of hushing was necessary, and Mordecai feeling the cries pierce him, put out his arms to Jacob, who in the midst of his tears and sobs was turning his head right and left for general observation. His father, who had been saying, “Never mind, old man; you shall go to the riders,” now released him, and he went to Mordecai, who clasped him, and laid his cheek on the little black head without speaking. But Cohen, sensible that the master of the family must make some apology for all this weakness, and that the occasion called for a speech, addressed Deronda with some elevation of pitch, squaring his elbows and resting a hand on each knee:

“It’s not as we’re the people to grudge anybody’s good luck, sir, or the portion of their cup being made fuller, as I may say. I’m not an envious man, and if anybody offered to set up Mordecai in a shop of my sort two doors lower down, I shouldn’t make wry faces about it. I’m not one of them that had need have a poor opinion of themselves, and be frightened at anybody else getting a chance. If I’m offal, let a wise man come and tell me, for I’ve never heard it yet. And in point of business, I’m not a class of goods to be in danger. If anybody takes to rolling me, I can pack myself up like a caterpillar, and find my feet when I’m let alone. And though, as I may say, you’re taking some of our good works from us, which is property bearing interest, I’m not saying but we can afford that, though my mother and my wife had the good will to wish and do for Mordecai to the last; and a Jew must not be like a servant who works for reward⁠—though I see nothing against a reward if I can get it. And as to the extra outlay in schooling, I’m neither poor nor greedy⁠—I wouldn’t hang myself for sixpence, nor half a crown neither. But the truth of it is, the women and children are fond of Mordecai. You may partly see how it is, sir, by your own sense. A Jewish man is bound to thank God, day by day, that he was not made a woman; but a woman has to thank God that He has made her according to His will. And we all know what He has made her⁠—a childbearing, tenderhearted thing is the woman of our people. Her children are mostly stout, as I think you’ll say Addy’s are, and she’s not mushy, but her heart is tender. So you must excuse present company, sir, for not being glad all at once. And as to this young lady⁠—for by what you say ‘young lady’ is the proper term”⁠—Cohen here threw some additional emphasis into his look and tone⁠—“we shall all be glad for Mordecai’s sake by-and-by, when we cast up our accounts and see where we are.”

Before Deronda could summon any answer to this oddly mixed speech, Mordecai exclaimed,

“Friends, friends! For food and raiment and shelter I would not have sought better than you have given me. You have sweetened the morsel with love; and what I thought of as a joy that would be left to me even in the last months of my waning strength was to go on teaching the lad. But now I am as one who had clad himself beforehand in his shroud, and used himself to making the grave his bed, when the divine command sounded in his ears, ‘Arise, and go forth; the night is not yet come.’ For no light matter would I have turned away from your kindness to take another’s. But it has been taught us, as you know, that the reward of one duty is the power to fulfill another⁠—so said Ben Azai. You have made your duty to one of the poor among your brethren a joy to you and me; and your reward shall be that you will not rest without the joy of like deeds in the time to come. And may not Jacob come and visit me?”

Mordecai had turned with this question to Deronda, who said,

“Surely that can be managed. It is no further than Brompton.”

Jacob, who had been gradually calmed by the need to hear what was going forward, began now to see some daylight on the future, the word “visit” having the lively charm of cakes and general relaxation at his grandfather’s, the dealer in knives. He danced away from Mordecai, and took up a station of survey in the middle of the hearth with his hands in his knickerbockers.

“Well,” said the grandmother, with a sigh of resignation, “I hope there’ll be nothing in the way of your getting kosher meat, Mordecai. For you’ll have to trust to those you live with.”

“That’s all right, that’s all right, you may be sure, mother,” said Cohen, as if anxious to cut off inquiry on matters in which he was uncertain of the guest’s position. “So, sir,” he added, turning with a look of amused enlightenment to Deronda, “it was better than learning you had to talk to Mordecai about! I wondered to myself at the time. I thought somehow there was a something.”

“Mordecai will perhaps explain to you how it was that I was seeking him,” said Deronda, feeling that he had better go, and rising as he spoke.

It was agreed that he should come again and the final move be made on the next day but one; but when he was going Mordecai begged to walk with him to the end of the street, and wrapped himself in coat and comforter. It was a March evening, and Deronda did not mean to let him go far, but he understood the wish to be outside the house with him in communicative silence, after the exciting speech that had been filling the last hour. No word was spoken until Deronda had proposed parting, when he said,

“Mirah would wish to thank the Cohens for their goodness. You would wish her to do so⁠—to come and see them, would you not?”

Mordecai did not answer immediately, but at length said,

“I cannot tell. I fear not. There is a family sorrow, and the sight of my sister might be to them as the fresh bleeding of wounds. There is a daughter and sister who will never be restored as Mirah is. But who knows the pathways? We are all of us denying or fulfilling prayers⁠—and men in their careless deeds walk amidst invisible outstretched arms and pleadings made in vain. In my ears I have the prayers of generations past and to come. My life is as nothing to me but the beginning of fulfilment. And yet I am only another prayer⁠—which you will fulfil.”

Deronda pressed his hand, and they parted.

Chapter XLVII

And you must love him ere to you
He will seem worthy of your love.

One might be tempted to envy Deronda providing new clothes for Mordecai, and pleasing himself as if he were sketching a picture in imagining the effect of the fine gray flannel shirts and a dressing-gown very much like a Franciscan’s brown frock, with Mordecai’s head and neck above them. Half his pleasure was the sense of seeing Mirah’s brother through her eyes, and securing her fervid joy from any perturbing impression. And yet, after he had made all things ready, he was visited with doubt whether he were not mistaking her, and putting the lower effect for the higher: was she not just as capable as he himself had been of feeling the impressive distinction in her brother all the more for that aspect of poverty which was among the memorials of his past? But there were the Meyricks to be propitiated toward this too Judaic brother; and Deronda detected himself piqued into getting out of sight everything that might feed the ready repugnance in minds unblessed with that precious “seeing,” that bathing of all objects in a solemnity as of sunset glow, which is begotten of a loving reverential emotion.

And his inclination would have been the more confirmed if he had heard the dialogue round Mrs. Meyrick’s fire late in the evening, after Mirah had gone to her room. Hans, settled now in his Chelsea rooms, had stayed late, and Mrs. Meyrick, poking the fire into a blaze, said,

“Now, Kate, put out your candle, and all come round the fire cosily. Hans, dear, do leave off laughing at those poems for the ninety-ninth time, and come too. I have something wonderful to tell.”

“As if I didn’t know that, ma. I have seen it in the corner of your eye ever so long, and in your pretense of errands,” said Kate, while the girls came up to put their feet on the fender, and Hans, pushing his chair near them, sat astride it, resting his fists and chin on the back.

“Well, then, if you are so wise, perhaps you know that Mirah’s brother is found!” said Mrs. Meyrick, in her clearest accents.

“Oh, confound it!” said Hans, in the same moment.

“Hans, that is wicked,” said Mab. “Suppose we had lost you?”

“I cannot help being rather sorry,” said Kate. “And her mother?⁠—where is she?”

“Her mother is dead.”

“I hope the brother is not a bad man,” said Amy.

“Nor a fellow all smiles and jewelry⁠—a Crystal Palace Assyrian with a hat on,” said Hans, in the worst humor.

“Were there ever such unfeeling children?” said Mrs. Meyrick, a little strengthened by the need for opposition. “You don’t think the least bit of Mirah’s joy in the matter.”

“You know, ma, Mirah hardly remembers her brother,” said Kate.

“People who are lost for twelve years should never come back again,” said Hans. “They are always in the way.”

“Hans!” said Mrs. Meyrick, reproachfully. “If you had lost me for twenty years, I should have thought⁠—”

“I said twelve years,” Hans broke in. “Anywhere about twelve years is the time at which lost relations should keep out of the way.”

“Well, but it’s nice finding people⁠—there is something to tell,” said Mab, clasping her knees. “Did Prince Camaralzaman find him?”

Then Mrs. Meyrick, in her neat, narrative way, told all she knew without interruption. “Mr. Deronda has the highest admiration for him,” she ended⁠—“seems quite to look up to him. And he says Mirah is just the sister to understand this brother.”

“Deronda is getting perfectly preposterous about those Jews,” said Hans with disgust, rising and setting his chair away with a bang. “He wants to do everything he can to encourage Mirah in her prejudices.”

“Oh, for shame, Hans!⁠—to speak in that way of Mr. Deronda,” said Mab. And Mrs. Meyrick’s face showed something like an undercurrent of expression not allowed to get to the surface.

“And now we shall never be all together,” Hans went on, walking about with his hands thrust into the pockets of his brown velveteen coat, “but we must have this prophet Elijah to tea with us, and Mirah will think of nothing but sitting on the ruins of Jerusalem. She will be spoiled as an artist⁠—mind that⁠—she will get as narrow as a nun. Everything will be spoiled⁠—our home and everything. I shall take to drinking.”

“Oh, really, Hans,” said Kate, impatiently. “I do think men are the most contemptible animals in all creation. Every one of them must have everything to his mind, else he is unbearable.”

“Oh, oh, oh, it’s very dreadful!” cried Mab. “I feel as if ancient Nineveh were come again.”

“I should like to know what is the good of having gone to the university and knowing everything, if you are so childish, Hans,” said Amy. “You ought to put up with a man that Providence sends you to be kind to. We shall have to put up with him.”

“I hope you will all of you like the new Lamentations of Jeremiah⁠—‘to be continued in our next’⁠—that’s all,” said Hans, seizing his wide-awake. “It’s no use being one thing more than another if one has to endure the company of those men with a fixed idea, staring blankly at you, and requiring all your remarks to be small footnotes to their text. If you’re to be under a petrifying wall, you’d better be an old boot. I don’t feel myself an old boot.” Then abruptly, “Good night, little mother,” bending to kiss her brow in a hasty, desperate manner, and condescendingly, on his way to the door, “Good night, girls.”

“Suppose Mirah knew how you are behaving,” said Kate. But her answer was a slam of the door. “I should like to see Mirah when Mr. Deronda tells her,” she went on to her mother. “I know she will look so beautiful.”

But Deronda, on second thoughts, had written a letter, which Mrs. Meyrick received the next morning, begging her to make the revelation instead of waiting for him, not giving the real reason⁠—that he shrank from going again through a narrative in which he seemed to be making himself important and giving himself a character of general beneficence⁠—but saying that he wished to remain with Mordecai while Mrs. Meyrick would bring Mirah on what was to be understood as a visit, so that there might be a little interval before that change of abode which he expected that Mirah herself would propose.

Deronda secretly felt some wondering anxiety how far Mordecai, after years of solitary preoccupation with ideas likely to have become the more exclusive from continual diminution of bodily strength, would allow him to feel a tender interest in his sister over and above the rendering of pious duties. His feeling for the Cohens, and especially for little Jacob, showed a persistent activity of affection; but these objects had entered into his daily life for years; and Deronda felt it noticeable that Mordecai asked no new questions about Mirah, maintaining, indeed, an unusual silence on all subjects, and appearing simply to submit to the changes that were coming over his personal life. He donned the new clothes obediently, but said afterward to Deronda, with a faint smile, “I must keep my old garments by me for a remembrance.” And when they were seated, awaiting Mirah, he uttered no word, keeping his eyelids closed, but yet showing restless feeling in his face and hands. In fact, Mordecai was undergoing that peculiar nervous perturbation only known to those whose minds, long and habitually moving with strong impetus in one current, are suddenly compelled into a new or reopened channel. Susceptible people, whose strength has been long absorbed by dormant bias, dread an interview that imperiously revives the past, as they would dread a threatening illness. Joy may be there, but joy, too, is terrible.

Deronda felt the infection of excitement, and when he heard the ring at the door, he went out, not knowing exactly why, that he might see and greet Mirah beforehand. He was startled to find that she had on the hat and cloak in which he had first seen her⁠—the memorable cloak that had once been wetted for a winding-sheet. She had come downstairs equipped in this way; and when Mrs. Meyrick said, in a tone of question, “You like to go in that dress, dear?” she answered, “My brother is poor, and I want to look as much like him as I can, else he may feel distant from me”⁠—imagining that she should meet him in the workman’s dress. Deronda could not make any remark, but felt secretly rather ashamed of his own fastidious arrangements. They shook hands silently, for Mirah looked pale and awed.

When Deronda opened the door for her, Mordecai had risen, and had his eyes turned toward it with an eager gaze. Mirah took only two or three steps, and then stood still. They looked at each other, motionless. It was less their own presence that they felt than another’s; they were meeting first in memories, compared with which touch was no union. Mirah was the first to break the silence, standing where she was.

“Ezra,” she said, in exactly the same tone as when she was telling of her mother’s call to him.

Mordecai with a sudden movement advanced and laid his hand on her shoulders. He was the head taller, and looked down at her tenderly while he said, “That was our mother’s voice. You remember her calling me?”

“Yes, and how you answered her⁠—‘Mother!’⁠—and I knew you loved her.” Mirah threw her arms round her brother’s neck, clasped her little hands behind it, and drew down his face, kissing it with childlike lavishness. Her hat fell backward on the ground and disclosed all her curls.

“Ah, the dear head, the dear head!” said Mordecai, in a low loving tone, laying his thin hand gently on the curls.

“You are very ill, Ezra,” said Mirah, sadly looking at him with more observation.

“Yes, dear child, I shall not be long with you in the body,” was the quiet answer.

“Oh, I will love you and we will talk to each other,” said Mirah, with a sweet outpouring of her words, as spontaneous as bird-notes. “I will tell you everything, and you will teach me:⁠—you will teach me to be a good Jewess⁠—what she would have liked me to be. I shall always be with you when I am not working. For I work now. I shall get money to keep us. Oh, I have had such good friends.”

Mirah until now had quite forgotten that anyone was by, but here she turned with the prettiest attitude, keeping one hand on her brother’s arm while she looked at Mrs. Meyrick and Deronda. The little mother’s happy emotion in witnessing this meeting of brother and sister had already won her to Mordecai, who seemed to her really to have more dignity and refinement than she had felt obliged to believe in from Deronda’s account.

“See this dear lady!” said Mirah. “I was a stranger, a poor wanderer, and she believed in me, and has treated me as a daughter. Please give my brother your hand,” she added, beseechingly, taking Mrs. Meyrick’s hand and putting it in Mordecai’s, then pressing them both with her own and lifting them to her lips.

“The Eternal Goodness has been with you,” said Mordecai. “You have helped to fulfill our mother’s prayer.”

“I think we will go now, shall we?⁠—and return later,” said Deronda, laying a gentle pressure on Mrs. Meyrick’s arm, and she immediately complied. He was afraid of any reference to the facts about himself which he had kept back from Mordecai, and he felt no uneasiness now in the thought of the brother and sister being alone together.

Chapter XLVIII

’Tis hard and ill-paid task to order all things beforehand by the rule of our own security, as is well hinted by Machiavelli concerning Caesar Borgia, who, saith he, had thought of all that might occur on his father’s death, and had provided against every evil chance save only one: it had never come into his mind that when his father died, his own death would quickly follow.

Grandcourt’s importance as a subject of this realm was of the grandly passive kind which consists in the inheritance of land. Political and social movements touched him only through the wire of his rental, and his most careful biographer need not have read up on Schleswig-Holstein, the policy of Bismarck, trade-unions, household suffrage, or even the last commercial panic. He glanced over the best newspaper columns on these topics, and his views on them can hardly be said to have wanted breadth, since he embraced all Germans, all commercial men, and all voters liable to use the wrong kind of soap, under the general epithet of “brutes;” but he took no action on these much-agitated questions beyond looking from under his eyelids at any man who mentioned them, and retaining a silence which served to shake the opinions of timid thinkers.

But Grandcourt, within his own sphere of interest, showed some of the qualities which have entered into triumphal diplomacy of the wildest continental sort.

No movement of Gwendolen in relation to Deronda escaped him. He would have denied that he was jealous; because jealousy would have implied some doubt of his own power to hinder what he had determined against. That his wife should have more inclination to another man’s society than to his own would not pain him: what he required was that she should be as fully aware as she would have been of a locked handcuff, that her inclination was helpless to decide anything in contradiction with his resolve. However much of vacillating whim there might have been in his entrance on matrimony, there was no vacillating in his interpretation of the bond. He had not repented of his marriage; it had really brought more of aim into his life, new objects to exert his will upon; and he had not repented of his choice. His taste was fastidious, and Gwendolen satisfied it: he would not have liked a wife who had not received some elevation of rank from him; nor one who did not command admiration by her mien and beauty; nor one whose nails were not of the right shape; nor one the lobe of whose ear was at all too large and red; nor one who, even if her nails and ears were right, was at the same time a ninny, unable to make spirited answers. These requirements may not seem too exacting to refined contemporaries whose own ability to fall in love has been held in suspense for lack of indispensable details; but fewer perhaps may follow him in his contentment that his wife should be in a temper which would dispose her to fly out if she dared, and that she should have been urged into marrying him by other feelings than passionate attachment. Still, for those who prefer command to love, one does not see why the habit of mind should change precisely at the point of matrimony.

Grandcourt did not feel that he had chosen the wrong wife; and having taken on himself the part of husband, he was not going in any way to be fooled, or allow himself to be seen in a light that could be regarded as pitiable. This was his state of mind⁠—not jealousy; still, his behavior in some respects was as like jealousy as yellow is to yellow, which color we know may be the effect of very different causes.

He had come up to town earlier than usual because he wished to be on the spot for legal consultation as to the arrangements of his will, the transference of mortgages, and that transaction with his uncle about the succession to Diplow, which the bait of ready money, adroitly dangled without importunity, had finally won him to agree upon. But another acceptable accompaniment of his being in town was the presentation of himself with the beautiful bride whom he had chosen to marry in spite of what other people might have expected of him. It is true that Grandcourt went about with the sense that he did not care a languid curse for anyone’s admiration: but this state of not-caring, just as much as desire, required its related object⁠—namely, a world of admiring or envying spectators: for if you are fond of looking stonily at smiling persons⁠—the persons must be and they must smile⁠—a rudimentary truth which is surely forgotten by those who complain of mankind as generally contemptible, since any other aspect of the race must disappoint the voracity of their contempt. Grandcourt, in town for the first time with his wife, had his non-caring abstinence from curses enlarged and diversified by splendid receptions, by conspicuous rides and drives, by presentations of himself with her on all distinguished occasions. He wished her to be sought after; he liked that “fellows” should be eager to talk with her and escort her within his observation; there was even a kind of lofty coquetry on her part that he would not have objected to. But what he did not like were her ways in relation to Deronda.

After the musical party at Lady Mallinger’s, when Grandcourt had observed the dialogue on the settee as keenly as Hans had done, it was characteristic of him that he named Deronda for invitation along with the Mallingers, tenaciously avoiding the possible suggestion to anybody concerned that Deronda’s presence or absence could be of the least importance to him; and he made no direct observation to Gwendolen on her behavior that evening, lest the expression of his disgust should be a little too strong to satisfy his own pride. But a few days afterward he remarked, without being careful of the à propos,

“Nothing makes a woman more of a gawky than looking out after people and showing tempers in public. A woman ought to have good manners. Else it’s intolerable to appear with her.”

Gwendolen made the expected application, and was not without alarm at the notion of being a gawky. For she, too, with her melancholy distaste for things, preferred that her distaste should include admirers. But the sense of overhanging rebuke only intensified the strain of expectation toward any meeting with Deronda. The novelty and excitement of her town life was like the hurry and constant change of foreign travel; whatever might be the inward despondency, there was a programme to be fulfilled, not without gratification to many-sided self. But, as always happens with a deep interest, the comparatively rare occasions on which she could exchange any words with Deronda had a diffusive effect in her consciousness, magnifying their communication with each other, and therefore enlarging the place she imagined it to have in his mind. How could Deronda help this? He certainly did not avoid her; rather he wished to convince her by every delicate indirect means that her confidence in him had not been indiscreet since it had not lowered his respect. Moreover he liked being near her⁠—how could it be otherwise? She was something more than a problem: she was a lovely woman, for the turn of whose mind and fate he had a care which, however futile it might be, kept soliciting him as a responsibility, perhaps all the more that, when he dared to think of his own future, he saw it lying far away from this splendid sad-hearted creature, who, because he had once been impelled to arrest her attention momentarily, as he might have seized her arm with warning to hinder her from stepping where there was danger, had turned to him with a beseeching persistent need.

One instance in which Grandcourt stimulated a feeling in Gwendolen that he would have liked to suppress without seeming to care about it, had relation to Mirah. Gwendolen’s inclination lingered over the project of the singing lessons as a sort of obedience to Deronda’s advice, but day followed day with that want of perceived leisure which belongs to lives where there is no work to mark off intervals; and the continual liability to Grandcourt’s presence and surveillance seemed to flatten every effort to the level of the boredom which his manner expressed; his negative mind was as diffusive as fog, clinging to all objects, and spoiling all contact.

But one morning when they were breakfasting, Gwendolen, in a recurrent fit of determination to exercise the old spirit, said, dallying prettily over her prawns without eating them,

“I think of making myself accomplished while we are in town, and having singing lessons.”

“Why?” said Grandcourt, languidly.

“Why?” echoed Gwendolen, playing at sauciness; “because I can’t eat pâté de foie gras to make me sleepy, and I can’t smoke, and I can’t go to the club to make me like to come away again⁠—I want a variety of ennui. What would be the most convenient time, when you are busy with your lawyers and people, for me to have lessons from that little Jewess, whose singing is getting all the rage.”

“Whenever you like,” said Grandcourt, pushing away his plate, and leaning back in his chair while he looked at her with his most lizard-like expression and, played with the ears of the tiny spaniel on his lap (Gwendolen had taken a dislike to the dogs because they fawned on him).

Then he said, languidly, “I don’t see why a lady should sing. Amateurs make fools of themselves. A lady can’t risk herself in that way in company. And one doesn’t want to hear squalling in private.”

“I like frankness: that seems to me a husband’s great charm,” said Gwendolen, with her little upward movement of her chin, as she turned her eyes away from his, and lifting a prawn before her, looked at the boiled ingenuousness of its eyes as preferable to the lizard’s. “But;” she added, having devoured her mortification, “I suppose you don’t object to Miss Lapidoth’s singing at our party on the fourth? I thought of engaging her. Lady Brackenshaw had her, you know: and the Raymonds, who are very particular about their music. And Mr. Deronda, who is a musician himself and a first-rate judge, says there is no singing in such good taste as hers for a drawing-room. I think his opinion is an authority.”

She meant to sling a small stone at her husband in that way.

“It’s very indecent of Deronda to go about praising that girl,” said Grandcourt in a tone of indifference.

“Indecent!” exclaimed Gwendolen, reddening and looking at him again, overcome by startled wonder, and unable to reflect on the probable falsity of the phrase⁠—“to go about praising.”

“Yes; and especially when she is patronized by Lady Mallinger. He ought to hold his tongue about her. Men can see what is his relation to her.”

“Men who judge of others by themselves,” said Gwendolen, turning white after her redness, and immediately smitten with a dread of her own words.

“Of course. And a woman should take their judgment⁠—else she is likely to run her head into the wrong place,” said Grandcourt, conscious of using pinchers on that white creature. “I suppose you take Deronda for a saint.”

“Oh dear no!” said Gwendolen, summoning desperately her almost miraculous power of self-control, and speaking in a high hard tone. “Only a little less of a monster.”

She rose, pushed her chair away without hurry, and walked out of the room with something like the care of a man who is afraid of showing that he has taken more wine than usual. She turned the keys inside her dressing-room doors, and sat down for some time looking pale and quiet as when she was leaving the breakfast-room. Even in the moments after reading the poisonous letter she had hardly had more cruel sensations than now; for emotion was at the acute point, where it is not distinguishable from sensation. Deronda unlike what she had believed him to be, was an image which affected her as a hideous apparition would have done, quite apart from the way in which it was produced. It had taken hold of her as pain before she could consider whether it were fiction or truth; and further to hinder her power of resistance came the sudden perception, how very slight were the grounds of her faith in Deronda⁠—how little she knew of his life⁠—how childish she had been in her confidence. His rebukes and his severity to her began to seem odious, along with all the poetry and lofty doctrine in the world, whatever it might be; and the grave beauty of his face seemed the most unpleasant mask that the common habits of men could put on.

All this went on in her with the rapidity of a sick dream; and her start into resistance was very much like a waking. Suddenly from out the gray sombre morning there came a stream of sunshine, wrapping her in warmth and light where she sat in stony stillness. She moved gently and looked round her⁠—there was a world outside this bad dream, and the dream proved nothing; she rose, stretching her arms upward and clasping her hands with her habitual attitude when she was seeking relief from oppressive feeling, and walked about the room in this flood of sunbeams.

“It is not true! What does it matter whether he believes it or not?” This is what she repeated to herself⁠—but this was not her faith come back again; it was only the desperate cry of faith, finding suffocation intolerable. And how could she go on through the day in this state? With one of her impetuous alternations, her imagination flew to wild actions by which she would convince herself of what she wished: she would go to Lady Mallinger and question her about Mirah; she would write to Deronda and upbraid him with making the world all false and wicked and hopeless to her⁠—to him she dared pour out all the bitter indignation of her heart. No; she would go to Mirah. This last form taken by her need was more definitely practicable, and quickly became imperious. No matter what came of it. She had the pretext of asking Mirah to sing at her party on the fourth. What was she going to say beside? How satisfy? She did not foresee⁠—she could not wait to foresee. If that idea which was maddening her had been a living thing, she would have wanted to throttle it without waiting to foresee what would come of the act. She rang her bell and asked if Mr. Grandcourt were gone out: finding that he was, she ordered the carriage, and began to dress for the drive; then she went down, and walked about the large drawing-room like an imprisoned dumb creature, not recognizing herself in the glass panels, not noting any object around her in the painted gilded prison. Her husband would probably find out where she had been, and punish her in some way or other⁠—no matter⁠—she could neither desire nor fear anything just now but the assurance that she had not been deluding herself in her trust.

She was provided with Mirah’s address. Soon she was on the way with all the fine equipage necessary to carry about her poor uneasy heart, depending in its palpitations on some answer or other to questioning which she did not know how she should put. She was as heedless of what happened before she found that Miss Lapidoth was at home, as one is of lobbies and passages on the way to a court of justice⁠—heedless of everything till she was in a room where there were folding-doors, and she heard Deronda’s voice behind it. Doubtless the identification was helped by forecast, but she was as certain of it as if she had seen him. She was frightened at her own agitation, and began to unbutton her gloves that she might button them again, and bite her lips over the pretended difficulty, while the door opened, and Mirah presented herself with perfect quietude and a sweet smile of recognition. There was relief in the sight of her face, and Gwendolen was able to smile in return, while she put out her hand in silence; and as she seated herself, all the while hearing the voice, she felt some reflux of energy in the confused sense that the truth could not be anything that she dreaded. Mirah drew her chair very near, as if she felt that the sound of the conversation should be subdued, and looked at her visitor with placid expectation, while Gwendolen began in a low tone, with something that seemed like bashfulness,

“Perhaps you wonder to see me⁠—perhaps I ought to have written⁠—but I wished to make a particular request.”

“I am glad to see you instead of having a letter,” said Mirah, wondering at the changed expression and manner of the “Vandyke duchess,” as Hans had taught her to call Gwendolen. The rich color and the calmness of her own face were in strong contrast with the pale agitated beauty under the plumed hat.

“I thought,” Gwendolen went on⁠—“at least I hoped, you would not object to sing at our house on the 4th⁠—in the evening⁠—at a party like Lady Brackenshaw’s. I should be so much obliged.”

“I shall be very happy to sing for you. At ten?” said Mirah, while Gwendolen seemed to get more instead of less embarrassed.

“At ten, please,” she answered; then paused, and felt that she had nothing more to say. She could not go. It was impossible to rise and say goodbye. Deronda’s voice was in her ears. She must say it⁠—she could contrive no other sentence,

“Mr. Deronda is in the next room.”

“Yes,” said Mirah, in her former tone. “He is reading Hebrew with my brother.”

“You have a brother?” said Gwendolen, who had heard this from Lady Mallinger, but had not minded it then.

“Yes, a dear brother who is ill⁠—consumptive, and Mr. Deronda is the best of friends to him, as he has been to me,” said Mirah, with the impulse that will not let us pass the mention of a precious person indifferently.

“Tell me,” said Gwendolen, putting her hand on Mirah’s, and speaking hardly above a whisper⁠—“tell me⁠—tell me the truth. You are sure he is quite good. You know no evil of him. Any evil that people say of him is false.”

Could the proud-spirited woman have behaved more like a child? But the strange words penetrated Mirah with nothing but a sense of solemnity and indignation. With a sudden light in her eyes and a tremor in her voice, she said,

“Who are the people that say evil of him? I would not believe any evil of him, if an angel came to tell it me. He found me when I was so miserable⁠—I was going to drown myself; I looked so poor and forsaken; you would have thought I was a beggar by the wayside. And he treated me as if I had been a king’s daughter. He took me to the best of women. He found my brother for me. And he honors my brother⁠—though he too was poor⁠—oh, almost as poor as he could be. And my brother honors him. That is no light thing to say”⁠—here Mirah’s tone changed to one of profound emphasis, and she shook her head backward: “for my brother is very learned and great-minded. And Mr. Deronda says there are few men equal to him.” Some Jewish defiance had flamed into her indignant gratitude and her anger could not help including Gwendolen since she seemed to have doubted Deronda’s goodness.

But Gwendolen was like one parched with thirst, drinking the fresh water that spreads through the frame as a sufficient bliss. She did not notice that Mirah was angry with her; she was not distinctly conscious of anything but of the penetrating sense that Deronda and his life were no more like her husband’s conception than the morning in the horizon was like the morning mixed with street gas. Even Mirah’s words sank into the indefiniteness of her relief. She could hardly have repeated them, or said how her whole state of feeling was changed. She pressed Mirah’s hand, and said, “Thank you, thank you,” in a hurried whisper, then rose, and added, with only a hazy consciousness, “I must go, I shall see you⁠—on the fourth⁠—I am so much obliged”⁠—bowing herself out automatically, while Mirah, opening the door for her, wondered at what seemed a sudden retreat into chill loftiness.

Gwendolen, indeed, had no feeling to spare in any effusiveness toward the creature who had brought her relief. The passionate need of contradiction to Grandcourt’s estimate of Deronda, a need which had blunted her sensibility to everything else, was no sooner satisfied than she wanted to be gone. She began to be aware that she was out of place, and to dread Deronda’s seeing her. And once in the carriage again, she had the vision of what awaited her at home. When she drew up before the door in Grosvenor Square, her husband was arriving with a cigar between his fingers. He threw it away and handed her out, accompanying her upstairs. She turned into the drawing-room, lest he should follow her farther and give her no place to retreat to; then she sat down with a weary air, taking off her gloves, rubbing her hand over her forehead, and making his presence as much of a cipher as possible. But he sat, too, and not far from her⁠—just in front, where to avoid looking at him must have the emphasis of effort.

“May I ask where you have been at this extraordinary hour?” said Grandcourt.

“Oh, yes; I have been to Miss Lapidoth’s, to ask her to come and sing for us,” said Gwendolen, laying her gloves on the little table beside her, and looking down at them.

“And to ask her about her relations with Deronda?” said Grandcourt, with the coldest possible sneer in his low voice which in poor Gwendolen’s ear was diabolical.

For the first time since their marriage she flashed out upon him without inward check. Turning her eyes full on his she said, in a biting tone,

“Yes; and what you said is false⁠—a low, wicked falsehood.”

“She told you so⁠—did she?” returned Grandcourt, with a more thoroughly distilled sneer.

Gwendolen was mute. The daring anger within her was turned into the rage of dumbness. What reasons for her belief could she give? All the reasons that seemed so strong and living within her⁠—she saw them suffocated and shrivelled up under her husband’s breath. There was no proof to give, but her own impression, which would seem to him her own folly. She turned her head quickly away from him and looked angrily toward the end of the room: she would have risen, but he was in her way.

Grandcourt saw his advantage. “It’s of no consequence so far as her singing goes,” he said, in his superficial drawl. “You can have her to sing, if you like.” Then, after a pause, he added in his lowest imperious tone, “But you will please to observe that you are not to go near that house again. As my wife, you must take my word about what is proper for you. When you undertook to be Mrs. Grandcourt, you undertook not to make a fool of yourself. You have been making a fool of yourself this morning; and if you were to go on as you have begun, you might soon get yourself talked of at the clubs in a way you would not like. What do you know about the world? You have married me, and must be guided by my opinion.”

Every slow sentence of that speech had a terrific mastery in it for Gwendolen’s nature. If the low tones had come from a physician telling her that her symptoms were those of a fatal disease, and prognosticating its course, she could not have been more helpless against the argument that lay in it. But she was permitted to move now, and her husband never again made any reference to what had occurred this morning. He knew the force of his own words. If this white-handed man with the perpendicular profile had been sent to govern a difficult colony, he might have won reputation among his contemporaries. He had certainly ability, would have understood that it was safer to exterminate than to cajole superseded proprietors, and would not have flinched from making things safe in that way.

Gwendolen did not, for all this, part with her recovered faith;⁠—rather, she kept it with a more anxious tenacity, as a Protestant of old kept his bible hidden or a Catholic his crucifix, according to the side favored by the civil arm; and it was characteristic of her that apart from the impression gained concerning Deronda in that visit, her imagination was little occupied with Mirah or the eulogised brother. The one result established for her was, that Deronda had acted simply as a generous benefactor, and the phrase “reading Hebrew” had fleeted unimpressively across her sense of hearing, as a stray stork might have made its peculiar flight across her landscape without rousing any surprised reflection on its natural history.

But the issue of that visit, as it regarded her husband, took a strongly active part in the process which made an habitual conflict within her, and was the cause of some external change perhaps not observed by anyone except Deronda. As the weeks went on bringing occasional transient interviews with her, he thought that he perceived in her an intensifying of her superficial hardness and resolute display, which made her abrupt betrayals of agitation the more marked and disturbing to him.

In fact, she was undergoing a sort of discipline for the refractory which, as little as possible like conversion, bends half the self with a terrible strain, and exasperates the unwillingness of the other half. Grandcourt had an active divination rather than discernment of refractoriness in her, and what had happened about Mirah quickened his suspicion that there was an increase of it dependent on the occasions when she happened to see Deronda: there was some “confounded nonsense” between them: he did not imagine it exactly as flirtation, and his imagination in other branches was rather restricted; but it was nonsense that evidently kept up a kind of simmering in her mind⁠—an inward action which might become disagreeable outward. Husbands in the old time are known to have suffered from a threatening devoutness in their wives, presenting itself first indistinctly as oddity, and ending in that mild form of lunatic asylum, a nunnery: Grandcourt had a vague perception of threatening moods in Gwendolen which the unity between them in his views of marriage required him peremptorily to check. Among the means he chose, one was peculiar, and was less ably calculated than the speeches we have just heard.

He determined that she should know the main purport of the will he was making, but he could not communicate this himself, because it involved the fact of his relation to Mrs. Glasher and her children; and that there should be any overt recognition of this between Gwendolen and himself was supremely repugnant to him. Like all proud, closely-wrapped natures, he shrank from explicitness and detail, even on trivialities, if they were personal: a valet must maintain a strict reserve with him on the subject of shoes and stockings. And clashing was intolerable to him; his habitual want was to put collision out of the question by the quiet massive pressure of his rule. But he wished Gwendolen to know that before he made her an offer it was no secret to him that she was aware of his relations with Lydia, her previous knowledge being the apology for bringing the subject before her now. Some men in his place might have thought of writing what he wanted her to know, in the form of a letter. But Grandcourt hated writing: even writing a note was a bore to him, and he had long been accustomed to have all his writing done by Lush. We know that there are persons who will forego their own obvious interest rather than do anything so disagreeable as to write letters; and it is not probable that these imperfect utilitarians would rush into manuscript and syntax on a difficult subject in order to save another’s feelings. To Grandcourt it did not even occur that he should, would, or could write to Gwendolen the information in question; and the only medium of communication he could use was Lush, who, to his mind, was as much of an implement as pen and paper. But here too Grandcourt had his reserves, and would not have uttered a word likely to encourage Lush in an impudent sympathy with any supposed grievance in a marriage which had been discommended by him. Who that has a confidant escapes believing too little in his penetration, and too much in his discretion? Grandcourt had always allowed Lush to know his external affairs indiscriminately⁠—irregularities, debts, want of ready money; he had only used discrimination about what he would allow his confidant to say to him; and he had been so accustomed to this human tool, that the having him at call in London was a recovery of lost ease. It followed that Lush knew all the provisions of the will more exactly than they were known to the testator himself.

Grandcourt did not doubt that Gwendolen, since she was a woman who could put two and two together, knew or suspected Lush to be the contriver of her interview with Lydia, and that this was the reason why her first request was for his banishment. But the bent of a woman’s inferences on mixed subjects which excites mixed passions is not determined by her capacity for simple addition; and here Grandcourt lacked the only organ of thinking that could have saved him from mistake⁠—namely, some experience of the mixed passions concerned. He had correctly divined one-half of Gwendolen’s dread⁠—all that related to her personal pride, and her perception that his will must conquer hers; but the remorseful half, even if he had known of her broken promise, was as much out of his imagination as the other side of the moon. What he believed her to feel about Lydia was solely a tongue-tied jealousy, and what he believed Lydia to have written with the jewels was the fact that she had once been used to wearing them, with other amenities such as he imputed to the intercourse with jealous women. He had the triumphant certainty that he could aggravate the jealousy and yet smite it with a more absolute dumbness. His object was to engage all his wife’s egoism on the same side as his own, and in his employment of Lush he did not intend an insult to her: she ought to understand that he was the only possible envoy. Grandcourt’s view of things was considerably fenced in by his general sense, that what suited him others must put up with. There is no escaping the fact that want of sympathy condemns us to corresponding stupidity. Mephistopheles thrown upon real life, and obliged to manage his own plots, would inevitably make blunders.

One morning he went to Gwendolen in the boudoir beyond the back drawing-room, hat and gloves in hand, and said with his best-tempered, most persuasive drawl, standing before her and looking down on her as she sat with a book on her lap,

“A⁠—Gwendolen, there’s some business about property to be explained. I have told Lush to come and explain it to you. He knows all about these things. I am going out. He can come up now. He’s the only person who can explain. I suppose you’ll not mind.”

“You know that I do mind,” said Gwendolen, angrily, starting up. “I shall not see him.” She showed the intention to dart away to the door. Grandcourt was before her, with his back toward it. He was prepared for her anger, and showed none in return, saying, with the same sort of remonstrant tone that he might have used about an objection to dining out,

“It’s no use making a fuss. There are plenty of brutes in the world that one has to talk to. People with any savoir vivre don’t make a fuss about such things. Some business must be done. You can’t expect agreeable people to do it. If I employ Lush, the proper thing for you is to take it as a matter of course. Not to make a fuss about it. Not to toss your head and bite your lips about people of that sort.”

The drawling and the pauses with which this speech was uttered gave time for crowding reflections in Gwendolen, quelling her resistance. What was there to be told her about property? This word had certain dominant associations for her, first with her mother, then with Mrs. Glasher and her children. What would be the use if she refused to see Lush? Could she ask Grandcourt to tell her himself? That might be intolerable, even if he consented, which it was certain he would not, if he had made up his mind to the contrary. The humiliation of standing an obvious prisoner, with her husband barring the door, was not to be borne any longer, and she turned away to lean against a cabinet, while Grandcourt again moved toward her.

“I have arranged for Lush to come up now, while I am out,” he said, after a long organ stop, during which Gwendolen made no sign. “Shall I tell him he may come?”

Yet another pause before she could say “Yes”⁠—her face turned obliquely and her eyes cast down.

“I shall come back in time to ride, if you like to get ready,” said Grandcourt. No answer. “She is in a desperate rage,” thought he. But the rage was silent, and therefore not disagreeable to him. It followed that he turned her chin and kissed her, while she still kept her eyelids down, and she did not move them until he was on the other side of the door.

What was she to do? Search where she would in her consciousness, she found no plea to justify a plaint. Any romantic illusions she had had in marrying this man had turned on her power of using him as she liked. He was using her as he liked.

She sat awaiting the announcement of Lush as a sort of searing operation that she had to go through. The facts that galled her gathered a burning power when she thought of their lying in his mind. It was all a part of that new gambling, in which the losing was not simply a minus, but a terrible plus that had never entered into her reckoning.

Lush was neither quite pleased nor quite displeased with his task. Grandcourt had said to him by way of conclusion, “Don’t make yourself more disagreeable than nature obliges you.”

“That depends,” thought Lush. But he said, “I will write a brief abstract for Mrs. Grandcourt to read.” He did not suggest that he should make the whole communication in writing, which was a proof that the interview did not wholly displease him.

Some provision was being made for himself in the will, and he had no reason to be in a bad humor, even if a bad humor had been common with him. He was perfectly convinced that he had penetrated all the secrets of the situation; but he had no diabolical delight in it. He had only the small movements of gratified self-loving resentment in discerning that this marriage had fulfilled his own foresight in not being as satisfactory as the supercilious young lady had expected it to be, and as Grandcourt wished to feign that it was. He had no persistent spite much stronger than what gives the seasoning of ordinary scandal to those who repeat it and exaggerate it by their conjectures. With no active compassion or goodwill, he had just as little active malevolence, being chiefly occupied in liking his particular pleasures, and not disliking anything but what hindered those pleasures⁠—everything else ranking with the last murder and the last opéra bouffe, under the head of things to talk about. Nevertheless, he was not indifferent to the prospect of being treated uncivilly by a beautiful woman, or to the counterbalancing fact that his present commission put into his hands an official power of humiliating her. He did not mean to use it needlessly; but there are some persons so gifted in relation to us that their “How do you do?” seems charged with offense.

By the time that Mr. Lush was announced, Gwendolen had braced herself to a bitter resolve that he should not witness the slightest betrayal of her feeling, whatever he might have to tell. She invited him to sit down with stately quietude. After all, what was this man to her? He was not in the least like her husband. Her power of hating a coarse, familiar-mannered man, with clumsy hands, was now relaxed by the intensity with which she hated his contrast.

He held a small paper folded in his hand while he spoke.

“I need hardly say that I should not have presented myself if Mr. Grandcourt had not expressed a strong wish to that effect⁠—as no doubt he has mentioned to you.”

From some voices that speech might have sounded entirely reverential, and even timidly apologetic. Lush had no intention to the contrary, but to Gwendolen’s ear his words had as much insolence in them as his prominent eyes, and the pronoun “you” was too familiar. He ought to have addressed the folding-screen, and spoke of her as Mrs. Grandcourt. She gave the smallest sign of a bow, and Lush went on, with a little awkwardness, getting entangled in what is elegantly called tautology.

“My having been in Mr. Grandcourt’s confidence for fifteen years or more⁠—since he was a youth, in fact⁠—of course gives me a peculiar position. He can speak to me of affairs that he could not mention to anyone else; and, in fact, he could not have employed anyone else in this affair. I have accepted the task out of friendship for him. Which is my apology for accepting the task⁠—if you would have preferred someone else.”

He paused, but she made no sign, and Lush, to give himself a countenance in an apology which met no acceptance, opened the folded paper, and looked at it vaguely before he began to speak again.

“This paper contains some information about Mr. Grandcourt’s will, an abstract of a part he wished you to know⁠—if you’ll be good enough to cast your eyes over it. But there is something I had to say by way of introduction⁠—which I hope you’ll pardon me for, if it’s not quite agreeable.” Lush found that he was behaving better than he had expected, and had no idea how insulting he made himself with his “not quite agreeable.”

“Say what you have to say without apologizing, please,” said Gwendolen, with the air she might have bestowed on a dog-stealer come to claim a reward for finding the dog he had stolen.

“I have only to remind you of something that occurred before your engagement to Mr. Grandcourt,” said Lush, not without the rise of some willing insolence in exchange for her scorn. “You met a lady in Cardell Chase, if you remember, who spoke to you of her position with regard to Mr. Grandcourt. She had children with her⁠—one a very fine boy.”

Gwendolen’s lips were almost as pale as her cheeks; her passion had no weapons⁠—words were no better than chips. This man’s speech was like a sharp knife-edge drawn across her skin: but even her indignation at the employment of Lush was getting merged in a crowd of other feelings, dim and alarming as a crowd of ghosts.

“Mr. Grandcourt was aware that you were acquainted with this unfortunate affair beforehand, and he thinks it only right that his position and intentions should be made quite clear to you. It is an affair of property and prospects; and if there were any objection you had to make, if you would mention it to me⁠—it is a subject which of course he would rather not speak about himself⁠—if you will be good enough just to read this.” With the last words Lush rose and presented the paper to her.

When Gwendolen resolved that she would betray no feeling in the presence of this man, she had not prepared herself to hear that her husband knew the silent consciousness, the silently accepted terms on which she had married him. She dared not raise her hand to take the paper, least it should visibly tremble. For a moment Lush stood holding it toward her, and she felt his gaze on her as ignominy, before she could say even with low-toned haughtiness,

“Lay it on the table. And go into the next room, please.”

Lush obeyed, thinking as he took an easy-chair in the back drawing-room, “My lady winces considerably. She didn’t know what would be the charge for that superfine article, Henleigh Grandcourt.” But it seemed to him that a penniless girl had done better than she had any right to expect, and that she had been uncommonly knowing for her years and opportunities: her words to Lydia meant nothing, and her running away had probably been part of her adroitness. It had turned out a masterstroke.

Meanwhile Gwendolen was rallying her nerves to the reading of the paper. She must read it. Her whole being⁠—pride, longing for rebellion, dreams of freedom, remorseful conscience, dread of fresh visitation⁠—all made one need to know what the paper contained. But at first it was not easy to take in the meaning of the words. When she had succeeded, she found that in the case of there being no son as issue of her marriage, Grandcourt had made the small Henleigh his heir; that was all she cared to extract from the paper with any distinctness. The other statement as to what provision would be made for her in the same case, she hurried over, getting only a confused perception of thousands and Gadsmere. It was enough. She could dismiss the man in the next room with the defiant energy which had revived in her at the idea that this question of property and inheritance was meant as a finish to her humiliations and her thraldom.

She thrust the paper between the leaves of her book, which she took in her hand, and walked with her stateliest air into the next room, where Lush immediately arose, awaiting her approach. When she was four yards from him, it was hardly an instant that she paused to say in a high tone, while she swept him with her eyelashes,

“Tell Mr. Grandcourt that his arrangements are just what I desired”⁠—passing on without haste, and leaving Lush time to mingle some admiration of her graceful back with that half-amused sense of her spirit and impertinence, which he expressed by raising his eyebrows and just thrusting his tongue between his teeth. He really did not want her to be worse punished, and he was glad to think that it was time to go and lunch at the club, where he meant to have a lobster salad.

What did Gwendolen look forward to? When her husband returned he found her equipped in her riding-dress, ready to ride out with him. She was not again going to be hysterical, or take to her bed and say she was ill. That was the implicit resolve adjusting her muscles before she could have framed it in words, as she walked out of the room, leaving Lush behind her. She was going to act in the spirit of her message, and not to give herself time to reflect. She rang the bell for her maid, and went with the usual care through her change of toilet. Doubtless her husband had meant to produce a great effect on her: by-and-by perhaps she would let him see an effect the very opposite of what he intended; but at present all that she could show was a defiant satisfaction in what had been presumed to be disagreeable. It came as an instinct rather than a thought, that to show any sign which could be interpreted as jealousy, when she had just been insultingly reminded that the conditions were what she had accepted with her eyes open, would be the worst self-humiliation. She said to herself that she had not time today to be clear about her future actions; all she could be clear about was that she would match her husband in ignoring any ground for excitement. She not only rode, but went out with him to dine, contributing nothing to alter their mutual manner, which was never that of rapid interchange in discourse; and curiously enough she rejected a handkerchief on which her maid had by mistake put the wrong scent⁠—a scent that Grandcourt had once objected to. Gwendolen would not have liked to be an object of disgust to this husband whom she hated: she liked all disgust to be on her side.

But to defer thought in this way was something like trying to talk without singing in her own ears. The thought that is bound up with our passion is as penetrative as air⁠—everything is porous to it; bows, smiles, conversation, repartee, are mere honeycombs where such thoughts rushes freely, not always with a taste of honey. And without shutting herself up in any solitude, Gwendolen seemed at the end of nine or ten hours to have gone through a labyrinth of reflection, in which already the same succession of prospects had been repeated, the same fallacious outlets rejected, the same shrinking from the necessities of every course. Already she was undergoing some hardening effect from feeling that she was under eyes which saw her past actions solely in the light of her lowest motives. She lived back in the scenes of her courtship, with the new bitter consciousness of what had been in Grandcourt’s mind⁠—certain now, with her present experience of him, that he had a peculiar triumph in conquering her dumb repugnance, and that ever since their marriage he had had a cold exultation in knowing her fancied secret. Her imagination exaggerated every tyrannical impulse he was capable of. “I will insist on being separated from him”⁠—was her first darting determination; then, “I will leave him whether he consents or not. If this boy becomes his heir, I have made an atonement.” But neither in darkness nor in daylight could she imagine the scenes which must carry out those determinations with the courage to feel them endurable. How could she run away to her own family⁠—carry distress among them, and render herself an object of scandal in the society she had left behind her? What future lay before her as Mrs. Grandcourt gone back to her mother, who would be made destitute again by the rupture of the marriage for which one chief excuse had been that it had brought that mother a maintenance? She had lately been seeing her uncle and Anna in London, and though she had been saved from any difficulty about inviting them to stay in Grosvenor Square by their wish to be with Rex, who would not risk a meeting with her, the transient visit she had had from them helped now in giving stronger color to the picture of what it would be for her to take refuge in her own family. What could she say to justify her flight? Her uncle would tell her to go back. Her mother would cry. Her aunt and Anna would look at her with wondering alarm. Her husband would have power to compel her. She had absolutely nothing that she could allege against him in judicious or judicial ears. And to “insist on separation!” That was an easy combination of words; but considered as an action to be executed against Grandcourt, it would be about as practicable as to give him a pliant disposition and a dread of other people’s unwillingness. How was she to begin? What was she to say that would not be a condemnation of herself? “If I am to have misery anyhow,” was the bitter refrain of her rebellious dreams, “I had better have the misery that I can keep to myself.” Moreover, her capability of rectitude told her again and again that she had no right to complain of her contract, or to withdraw from it.

And always among the images that drove her back to submission was Deronda. The idea of herself separated from her husband, gave Deronda a changed, perturbing, painful place in her consciousness: instinctively she felt that the separation would be from him too, and in the prospective vision of herself as a solitary, dubiously-regarded woman, she felt some tingling bashfulness at the remembrance of her behavior towards him. The association of Deronda with a dubious position for herself was intolerable. And what would he say if he knew everything? Probably that she ought to bear what she had brought on herself, unless she were sure that she could make herself a better woman by taking any other course. And what sort of woman was she to be⁠—solitary, sickened of life, looked at with a suspicious kind of pity?⁠—even if she could dream of success in getting that dreary freedom. Mrs. Grandcourt “run away” would be a more pitiable creature than Gwendolen Harleth condemned to teach the bishop’s daughters, and to be inspected by Mrs. Mompert.

One characteristic trait in her conduct is worth mentioning. She would not look a second time at the paper Lush had given her; and before ringing for her maid she locked it up in a traveling-desk which was at hand, proudly resolved against curiosity about what was allotted to herself in connection with Gadsmere⁠—feeling herself branded in the minds of her husband and his confidant with the meanness that would accept marriage and wealth on any conditions, however dishonorable and humiliating.

Day after day the same pattern of thinking was repeated. There came nothing to change the situation⁠—no new elements in the sketch⁠—only a recurrence which engraved it. The May weeks went on into June, and still Mrs. Grandcourt was outwardly in the same place, presenting herself as she was expected to do in the accustomed scenes, with the accustomed grace, beauty, and costume; from church at one end of the week, through all the scale of desirable receptions, to opera at the other. Church was not markedly distinguished in her mind from the other forms of self-presentation, for marriage had included no instruction that enabled her to connect liturgy and sermon with any larger order of the world than that of unexplained and perhaps inexplicable social fashions. While a laudable zeal was laboring to carry the light of spiritual law up the alleys where law is chiefly known as the policeman, the brilliant Mrs. Grandcourt, condescending a little to a fashionable rector and conscious of a feminine advantage over a learned dean, was, so far as pastoral care and religious fellowship were concerned, in as complete a solitude as a man in a lighthouse.

Can we wonder at the practical submission which hid her constructive rebellion? The combination is common enough, as we know from the number of persons who make us aware of it in their own case by a clamorous unwearied statement of the reasons against their submitting to a situation which, on inquiry, we discover to be the least disagreeable within their reach. Poor Gwendolen had both too much and too little mental power and dignity to make herself exceptional. No wonder that Deronda now marked some hardening in a look and manner which were schooled daily to the suppression of feeling.

For example. One morning, riding in Rotten Row with Grandcourt by her side, she saw standing against the railing at the turn, just facing them, a dark-eyed lady with a little girl and a blonde boy, whom she at once recognized as the beings in all the world the most painful for her to behold. She and Grandcourt had just slackened their pace to a walk; he being on the outer side was the nearer to the unwelcome vision, and Gwendolen had not presence of mind to do anything but glance away from the dark eyes that met hers piercingly toward Grandcourt, who wheeled past the group with an unmoved face, giving no sign of recognition.

Immediately she felt a rising rage against him mingling with her shame for herself, and the words, “You might at least have raised your hat to her,” flew impetuously to her lips⁠—but did not pass them. If as her husband, in her company, he chose to ignore these creatures whom she herself had excluded from the place she was filling, how could she be the person to reproach him? She was dumb.

It was not chance, but her own design, that had brought Mrs. Glasher there with her boy. She had come to town under the pretext of making purchases⁠—really wanting educational apparatus for her children, and had had interviews with Lush in which she had not refused to soothe her uneasy mind by representing the probabilities as all on the side of her ultimate triumph. Let her keep quiet, and she might live to see the marriage dissolve itself in one way or other⁠—Lush hinted at several ways⁠—leaving the succession assured to her boy. She had had an interview with Grandcourt, too, who had as usual told her to behave like a reasonable woman, and threatened punishment if she were troublesome; but had, also as usual, vindicated himself from any wish to be stingy, the money he was receiving from Sir Hugo on account of Diplow encouraging him to be lavish. Lydia, feeding on the probabilities in her favor, devoured her helpless wrath along with that pleasanter nourishment; but she could not let her discretion go entirely without the reward of making a Medusa-apparition before Gwendolen, vindictiveness and jealousy finding relief in an outlet of venom, though it were as futile as that of a viper already flung on the other side of the hedge. Hence, each day, after finding out from Lush the likely time for Gwendolen to be riding, she had watched at that post, daring Grandcourt so far. Why should she not take little Henleigh into the Park?

The Medusa-apparition was made effective beyond Lydia’s conception by the shock it gave Gwendolen actually to see Grandcourt ignoring this woman who had once been the nearest in the world to him, along with the children she had borne him. And all the while the dark shadow thus cast on the lot of a woman destitute of acknowledged social dignity, spread itself over her visions of a future that might be her own, and made part of her dread on her own behalf. She shrank all the more from any lonely action. What possible release could there be for her from this hated vantage ground, which yet she dared not quit, any more than if fire had been raining outside it? What release, but death? Not her own death. Gwendolen was not a woman who could easily think of her own death as a near reality, or front for herself the dark entrance on the untried and invisible. It seemed more possible that Grandcourt should die:⁠—and yet not likely. The power of tyranny in him seemed a power of living in the presence of any wish that he should die. The thought that his death was the only possible deliverance for her was one with the thought that deliverance would never come⁠—the double deliverance from the injury with which other beings might reproach her and from the yoke she had brought on her own neck. No! she foresaw him always living, and her own life dominated by him; the “always” of her young experience not stretching beyond the few immediate years that seemed immeasurably long with her passionate weariness. The thought of his dying would not subsist: it turned as with a dream-change into the terror that she should die with his throttling fingers on her neck avenging that thought. Fantasies moved within her like ghosts, making no break in her more acknowledged consciousness and finding no obstruction in it: dark rays doing their work invisibly in the broad light.

Only an evening or two after that encounter in the Park, there was a grand concert at Klesmer’s, who was living rather magnificently now in one of the large houses in Grosvenor Place, a patron and prince among musical professors. Gwendolen had looked forward to this occasion as one on which she was sure to meet Deronda, and she had been meditating how to put a question to him which, without containing a word that she would feel a dislike to utter, would yet be explicit enough for him to understand it. The struggle of opposite feelings would not let her abide by her instinct that the very idea of Deronda’s relation to her was a discouragement to any desperate step towards freedom. The next wave of emotion was a longing for some word of his to enforce a resolve. The fact that her opportunities of conversation with him had always to be snatched in the doubtful privacy of large parties, caused her to live through them many times beforehand, imagining how they would take place and what she would say. The irritation was proportionate when no opportunity came; and this evening at Klesmer’s she included Deronda in her anger, because he looked as calm as possible at a distance from her, while she was in danger of betraying her impatience to everyone who spoke to her. She found her only safety in a chill haughtiness which made Mr. Vandernoodt remark that Mrs. Grandcourt was becoming a perfect match for her husband. When at last the chances of the evening brought Deronda near her, Sir Hugo and Mrs. Raymond were close by and could hear every word she said. No matter: her husband was not near, and her irritation passed without check into a fit of daring which restored the security of her self-possession. Deronda was there at last, and she would compel him to do what she pleased. Already and without effort rather queenly in her air as she stood in her white lace and green leaves she threw a royal permissiveness into her way of saying, “I wish you would come and see me tomorrow between five and six, Mr. Deronda.”

There could be but one answer at that moment: “Certainly,” with a tone of obedience.

Afterward it occurred to Deronda that he would write a note to excuse himself. He had always avoided making a call at Grandcourt’s. He could not persuade himself to any step that might hurt her, and whether his excuse were taken for indifference or for the affectation of indifference it would be equally wounding. He kept his promise. Gwendolen had declined to ride out on the plea of not feeling well enough having left her refusal to the last moment when the horses were soon to be at the door⁠—not without alarm lest her husband should say that he too would stay at home. Become almost superstitious about his power of suspicious divination, she had a glancing forethought of what she would do in that case⁠—namely, have herself denied as not well. But Grandcourt accepted her excuse without remark, and rode off.

Nevertheless when Gwendolen found herself alone, and had sent down the order that only Mr. Deronda was to be admitted, she began to be alarmed at what she had done, and to feel a growing agitation in the thought that he would soon appear, and she should soon be obliged to speak: not of trivialities, as if she had no serious motive in asking him to come: and yet what she had been for hours determining to say began to seem impossible. For the first time the impulse of appeal to him was being checked by timidity, and now that it was too late she was shaken by the possibility that he might think her invitation unbecoming. If so, she would have sunk in his esteem. But immediately she resisted this intolerable fear as an infection from her husband’s way of thinking. That he would say she was making a fool of herself was rather a reason why such a judgment would be remote from Deronda’s mind. But that she could not rid herself from this sudden invasion of womanly reticence was manifest in a kind of action which had never occurred to her before. In her struggle between agitation and the effort to suppress it, she was walking up and down the length of the two drawing-rooms, where at one end a long mirror reflected her in her black dress, chosen in the early morning with a half-admitted reference to this hour. But above this black dress her head on its white pillar of a neck showed to advantage. Some consciousness of this made her turn hastily and hurry to the boudoir, where again there was a glass, but also, tossed over a chair, a large piece of black lace which she snatched and tied over her crown of hair so as completely to conceal her neck, and leave only her face looking out from the black frame. In this manifest contempt of appearance, she thought it possible to be freer from nervousness, but the black lace did not take away the uneasiness from her eyes and lips.

She was standing in the middle of the room when Deronda was announced, and as he approached her she perceived that he too for some reason was not his usual self. She could not have defined the change except by saying that he looked less happy than usual, and appeared to be under some effort in speaking to her. And yet the speaking was the slightest possible. They both said, “How do you do?” quite curtly; and Gwendolen, instead of sitting down, moved to a little distance, resting her arms slightly on the tall back of a chair, while Deronda stood where he was⁠—both feeling it difficult to say any more, though the preoccupation in his mind could hardly have been more remote than it was from Gwendolen’s conception. She naturally saw in his embarrassment some reflection of her own. Forced to speak, she found all her training in concealment and self-command of no use to her and began with timid awkwardness,

“You will wonder why I begged you to come. I wanted to ask you something. You said I was ignorant. That is true. And what can I do but ask you?”

And at this moment she was feeling it utterly impossible to put the questions she had intended. Something new in her nervous manner roused Deronda’s anxiety lest there might be a new crisis. He said with the sadness of affection in his voice,

“My only regret is, that I can be of so little use to you.” The words and the tone touched a new spring in her, and she went on with more sense of freedom, yet still not saying anything she had designed to say, and beginning to hurry, that she might somehow arrive at the right words.

“I wanted to tell you that I have always been thinking of your advice, but is it any use?⁠—I can’t make myself different, because things about me raise bad feelings⁠—and I must go on⁠—I can alter nothing⁠—it is no use.”

She paused an instant, with the consciousness that she was not finding the right words, but began again hurriedly, “But if I go on I shall get worse. I want not to get worse. I should like to be what you wish. There are people who are good and enjoy great things⁠—I know there are. I am a contemptible creature. I feel as if I should get wicked with hating people. I have tried to think that I would go away from everybody. But I can’t. There are so many things to hinder me. You think, perhaps, that I don’t mind. But I do mind. I am afraid of everything. I am afraid of getting wicked. Tell me what I can do.”

She had forgotten everything but that image of her helpless misery which she was trying to make present to Deronda in broken allusive speech⁠—wishing to convey but not express all her need. Her eyes were tearless, and had a look of smarting in their dilated brilliancy; there was a subdued sob in her voice which was more and more veiled, till it was hardly above a whisper. She was hurting herself with the jewels that glittered on her tightly-clasped fingers pressed against her heart.

The feeling Deronda endured in these moments he afterward called horrible. Words seemed to have no more rescue in them than if he had been beholding a vessel in peril of wreck⁠—the poor ship with its many-lived anguish beaten by the inescapable storm. How could he grasp the long-growing process of this young creature’s wretchedness?⁠—how arrest and change it with a sentence? He was afraid of his own voice. The words that rushed into his mind seemed in their feebleness nothing better than despair made audible, or than that insensibility to another’s hardship which applies precept to soothe pain. He felt himself holding a crowd of words imprisoned within his lips, as if the letting them escape would be a violation of awe before the mysteries of our human lot. The thought that urged itself foremost was⁠—“Confess everything to your husband; have nothing concealed:”⁠—the words carried in his mind a vision of reasons which would have needed much fuller expressions for Gwendolen to apprehend them, but before he had begun those brief sentences, the door opened and the husband entered.

Grandcourt had deliberately gone out and turned back to satisfy a suspicion. What he saw was Gwendolen’s face of anguish framed black like a nun’s, and Deronda standing three yards from her with a look of sorrow such as he might have bent on the last struggle of life in a beloved object. Without any show of surprise Grandcourt nodded to Deronda, gave a second look at Gwendolen, passed on, and seated himself easily at a little distance crossing his legs, taking out his handkerchief and trifling with it elegantly.

Gwendolen had shrunk and changed her attitude on seeing him, but she did not turn or move from her place. It was not a moment in which she could feign anything, or manifest any strong revulsion of feeling: the passionate movement of her last speech was still too strong within her. What she felt beside was a dull despairing sense that her interview with Deronda was at an end: a curtain had fallen. But he, naturally, was urged into self-possession and effort by susceptibility to what might follow for her from being seen by her husband in this betrayal of agitation; and feeling that any pretense of ease in prolonging his visit would only exaggerate Grandcourt’s possible conjectures of duplicity, he merely said,

“I will not stay longer now. Goodbye.”

He put out his hand, and she let him press her poor little chill fingers; but she said no goodbye.

When he had left the room, Gwendolen threw herself into a seat, with an expectation as dull as her despair⁠—the expectation that she was going to be punished. But Grandcourt took no notice: he was satisfied to have let her know that she had not deceived him, and to keep a silence which was formidable with omniscience. He went out that evening, and her plea of feeling ill was accepted without even a sneer.

The next morning at breakfast he said, “I am going yachting to the Mediterranean.”

“When?” said Gwendolen, with a leap of heart which had hope in it.

“The day after tomorrow. The yacht is at Marseilles. Lush is gone to get everything ready.”

“Shall I have mamma to stay with me, then?” said Gwendolen, the new sudden possibility of peace and affection filling her mind like a burst of morning light.

“No; you will go with me.”

Chapter XLIX

Ever in his soul
That larger justice which makes gratitude
Triumphed above resentment. ’Tis the mark
Of regal natures, with the wider life.
And fuller capability of joy:⁠—
Not wits exultant in the strongest lens
To show you goodness vanished into pulp
Never worth “thank you”⁠—they’re the devil’s friars,
Vowed to be poor as he in love and trust,
Yet must go begging of a world that keeps
Some human property.

Deronda, in parting from Gwendolen, had abstained from saying, “I shall not see you again for a long while: I am going away,” lest Grandcourt should understand him to imply that the fact was of importance to her.

He was actually going away under circumstances so momentous to himself that when he set out to fulfill his promise of calling on her, he was already under the shadow of a solemn emotion which revived the deepest experience of his life.

Sir Hugo had sent for him to his chambers with the note⁠—“Come immediately. Something has happened:” a preparation that caused him some relief when, on entering the baronet’s study, he was received with grave affection instead of the distress which he had apprehended.

“It is nothing to grieve you, sir?” said Deronda, in a tone rather of restored confidence than question, as he took the hand held out to him. There was an unusual meaning in Sir Hugo’s look, and a subdued emotion in his voice, as he said,

“No, Dan, no. Sit down. I have something to say.”

Deronda obeyed, not without presentiment. It was extremely rare for Sir Hugo to show so much serious feeling.

“Not to grieve me, my boy, no. At least, if there is nothing in it that will grieve you too much. But I hardly expected that this⁠—just this⁠—would ever happen. There have been reasons why I have never prepared you for it. There have been reasons why I have never told you anything about your parentage. But I have striven in every way not to make that an injury to you.”

Sir Hugo paused, but Deronda could not speak. He could not say, “I have never felt it an injury.” Even if that had been true, he could not have trusted his voice to say anything. Far more than anyone but himself could know of was hanging on this moment when the secrecy was to be broken. Sir Hugo had never seen the grand face he delighted in so pale⁠—the lips pressed together with such a look of pain. He went on with a more anxious tenderness, as if he had a new fear of wounding.

“I have acted in obedience to your mother’s wishes. The secrecy was her wish. But now she desires to remove it. She desires to see you. I will put this letter into your hands, which you can look at by-and-by. It will merely tell you what she wishes you to do, and where you will find her.”

Sir Hugo held out a letter written on foreign paper, which Deronda thrust into his breast-pocket, with a sense of relief that he was not called on to read anything immediately. The emotion on Daniel’s face had gained on the baronet, and was visibly shaking his composure. Sir Hugo found it difficult to say more. And Deronda’s whole soul was possessed by a question which was the hardest in the world to utter. Yet he could not bear to delay it. This was a sacramental moment. If he let it pass, he could not recover the influences under which it was possible to utter the words and meet the answer. For some moments his eyes were cast down, and it seemed to both as if thoughts were in the air between them. But at last Deronda looked at Sir Hugo, and said, with a tremulous reverence in his voice⁠—dreading to convey indirectly the reproach that affection had for years been stifling,

“Is my father also living?”

The answer came immediately in a low emphatic tone⁠—“No.”

In the mingled emotions which followed that answer it was impossible to distinguish joy from pain.

Some new light had fallen on the past for Sir Hugo too in this interview. After a silence in which Deronda felt like one whose creed is gone before he has religiously embraced another, the baronet said, in a tone of confession,

“Perhaps I was wrong, Dan, to undertake what I did. And perhaps I liked it a little too well⁠—having you all to myself. But if you have had any pain which I might have helped, I ask you to forgive me.”

“The forgiveness has long been there,” said Deronda. “The chief pain has always been on account of someone else⁠—whom I never knew⁠—whom I am now to know. It has not hindered me from feeling an affection for you which has made a large part of all the life I remember.”

It seemed one impulse that made the two men clasp each other’s hand for a moment.


The Mother and the Son

Chapter L

If some mortal, born too soon,
Were laid away in some great trance⁠—the ages
Coming and going all the while⁠—till dawned
His true time’s advent; and could then record
The words they spoke who kept watch by his bed,
Then I might tell more of the breath so light
Upon my eyelids, and the fingers warm
Among my hair. Youth is confused; yet never
So dull was I but, when that spirit passed,
I turned to him, scarce consciously, as turns
A water-snake when fairies cross his sleep.
Browning: Paracelsus

This was the letter which Sir Hugo put into Deronda’s hands:,

To My Son, Daniel Deronda. My good friend and yours, Sir Hugo Mallinger, will have told you that I wish to see you. My health is shaken, and I desire there should be no time lost before I deliver to you what I have long withheld. Let nothing hinder you from being at the Albergo dell’ Italia in Genoa by the fourteenth of this month. Wait for me there. I am uncertain when I shall be able to make the journey from Spezia, where I shall be staying. That will depend on several things. Wait for me⁠—the Princess Halm-Eberstein. Bring with you the diamond ring that Sir Hugo gave you. I shall like to see it again.⁠—Your Unknown Mother, Leonora Halm-Eberstein.

This letter with its colorless wording gave Deronda no clue to what was in reserve for him; but he could not do otherwise than accept Sir Hugo’s reticence, which seemed to imply some pledge not to anticipate the mother’s disclosures; and the discovery that his lifelong conjectures had been mistaken checked further surmise. Deronda could not hinder his imagination from taking a quick flight over what seemed possibilities, but he refused to contemplate any of them as more likely than another, lest he should be nursing it into a dominant desire or repugnance, instead of simply preparing himself with resolve to meet the fact bravely, whatever it might turn out to be.

In this state of mind he could not have communicated to anyone the reason for the absence which in some quarters he was obliged to mention beforehand, least of all to Mordecai, whom it would affect as powerfully as it did himself, only in rather a different way. If he were to say, “I am going to learn the truth about my birth,” Mordecai’s hope would gather what might prove a painful, dangerous excitement. To exclude suppositions, he spoke of his journey as being undertaken by Sir Hugo’s wish, and threw as much indifference as he could into his manner of announcing it, saying he was uncertain of its duration, but it would perhaps be very short.

“I will ask to have the child Jacob to stay with me,” said Mordecai, comforting himself in this way, after the first mournful glances.

“I will drive round and ask Mrs. Cohen to let him come,” said Mirah.

“The grandmother will deny you nothing,” said Deronda. “I’m glad you were a little wrong as well as I,” he added, smiling at Mordecai. “You thought that old Mrs. Cohen would not bear to see Mirah.”

“I undervalued her heart,” said Mordecai. “She is capable of rejoicing that another’s plant blooms though her own be withered.”

“Oh, they are dear good people; I feel as if we all belonged to each other,” said Mirah, with a tinge of merriment in her smile.

“What should you have felt if that Ezra had been your brother?” said Deronda, mischievously⁠—a little provoked that she had taken kindly at once to people who had caused him so much prospective annoyance on her account.

Mirah looked at him with a slight surprise for a moment, and then said, “He is not a bad man⁠—I think he would never forsake anyone.” But when she uttered the words she blushed deeply, and glancing timidly at Mordecai, turned away to some occupation. Her father was in her mind, and this was a subject on which she and her brother had a painful mutual consciousness. “If he should come and find us!” was a thought which to Mirah sometimes made the street daylight as shadowy as a haunted forest where each turn screened for her an imaginary apparition.

Deronda felt what was her involuntary allusion, and understood the blush. How could he be slow to understand feelings which now seemed nearer than ever to his own? for the words of his mother’s letter implied that his filial relation was not to be freed from painful conditions; indeed, singularly enough that letter which had brought his mother nearer as a living reality had thrown her into more remoteness for his affections. The tender yearning after a being whose life might have been the worse for not having his care and love, the image of a mother who had not had all her dues, whether of reverence or compassion, had long been secretly present with him in his observation of all the women he had come near. But it seemed now that this picturing of his mother might fit the facts no better than his former conceptions about Sir Hugo. He wondered to find that when this mother’s very handwriting had come to him with words holding her actual feeling, his affections had suddenly shrunk into a state of comparative neutrality toward her. A veiled figure with enigmatic speech had thrust away that image which, in spite of uncertainty, his clinging thought had gradually modeled and made the possessor of his tenderness and duteous longing. When he set off to Genoa, the interest really uppermost in his mind had hardly so much relation to his mother as to Mordecai and Mirah.

“God bless you, Dan!” Sir Hugo had said, when they shook hands. “Whatever else changes for you, it can’t change my being the oldest friend you have known, and the one who has all along felt the most for you. I couldn’t have loved you better if you’d been my own⁠—only I should have been better pleased with thinking of you always as the future master of the Abbey instead of my fine nephew; and then you would have seen it necessary for you to take a political line. However⁠—things must be as they may.” It was a defensive movement of the baronet’s to mingle purposeless remarks with the expression of serious feeling.

When Deronda arrived at the Italia in Genoa, no Princess Halm-Eberstein was there; but on the second day there was a letter for him, saying that her arrival might happen within a week, or might be deferred a fortnight and more; she was under circumstances which made it impossible for her to fix her journey more precisely, and she entreated him to wait as patiently as he could.

With this indefinite prospect of suspense on matters of supreme moment to him, Deronda set about the difficult task of seeking amusement on philosophic grounds, as a means of quieting excited feeling and giving patience a lift over a weary road. His former visit to the superb city had been only cursory, and left him much to learn beyond the prescribed round of sightseeing, by spending the cooler hours in observant wandering about the streets, the quay, and the environs; and he often took a boat that he might enjoy the magnificent view of the city and harbor from the sea. All sights, all subjects, even the expected meeting with his mother, found a central union in Mordecai and Mirah, and the ideas immediately associated with them; and among the thoughts that most filled his mind while his boat was pushing about within view of the grand harbor was that of the multitudinous Spanish Jews centuries ago driven destitute from their Spanish homes, suffered to land from the crowded ships only for a brief rest on this grand quay of Genoa, overspreading it with a pall of famine and plague⁠—dying mothers and dying children at their breasts⁠—fathers and sons a-gaze at each other’s haggardness, like groups from a hundred Hunger-towers turned out beneath the midday sun. Inevitably dreamy constructions of a possible ancestry for himself would weave themselves with historic memories which had begun to have a new interest for him on his discovery of Mirah, and now, under the influence of Mordecai, had become irresistibly dominant. He would have sealed his mind against such constructions if it had been possible, and he had never yet fully admitted to himself that he wished the facts to verify Mordecai’s conviction: he inwardly repeated that he had no choice in the matter, and that wishing was folly⁠—nay, on the question of parentage, wishing seemed part of that meanness which disowns kinship: it was a disowning by anticipation. What he had to do was simply to accept the fact; and he had really no strong presumption to go upon, now that he was assured of his mistake about Sir Hugo. There had been a resolved concealment which made all inference untrustworthy, and the very name he bore might be a false one. If Mordecai was wrong⁠—if he, the so-called Daniel Deronda, were held by ties entirely aloof from any such course as his friend’s pathetic hope had marked out?⁠—he would not say “I wish”; but he could not help feeling on which side the sacrifice lay.

Across these two importunate thoughts, which he resisted as much as one can resist anything in that unstrung condition which belongs to suspense, there came continually an anxiety which he made no effort to banish⁠—dwelling on it rather with a mournfulness, which often seems to us the best atonement we can make to one whose need we have been unable to meet. The anxiety was for Gwendolen. In the wonderful mixtures of our nature there is a feeling distinct from that exclusive passionate love of which some men and women (by no means all) are capable, which yet is not the same with friendship, nor with a merely benevolent regard, whether admiring or compassionate: a man, say⁠—for it is a man who is here concerned⁠—hardly represents to himself this shade of feeling toward a woman more nearly than in words, “I should have loved her, if⁠—”: the “if” covering some prior growth in the inclinations, or else some circumstances which have made an inward prohibitory law as a stay against the emotions ready to quiver out of balance. The “if” in Deronda’s case carried reasons of both kinds; yet he had never throughout his relations with Gwendolen been free from the nervous consciousness that there was something to guard against not only on her account but on his own⁠—some precipitancy in the manifestations of impulsive feeling⁠—some ruinous inroad of what is but momentary on the permanent chosen treasure of the heart⁠—some spoiling of her trust, which wrought upon him now as if it had been the retreating cry of a creature snatched and carried out of his reach by swift horsemen or swifter waves, while his own strength was only a stronger sense of weakness. How could his feelings for Gwendolen ever be exactly like his feelings for other women, even when there was one by whose side he desired to stand apart from them? Strangely the figure entered into the pictures of his present and future; strangely (and now it seemed sadly) their two lots had come in contact, hers narrowly personal, his charged with far-reaching sensibilities, perhaps with durable purposes, which were hardly more present to her than the reasons why men migrate are present to the birds that come as usual for the crumbs and find them no more. Not that Deronda was too ready to imagine himself of supreme importance to a woman; but her words of insistence that he must “remain near her⁠—must not forsake her”⁠—continually recurred to him with the clearness and importunity of imagined sounds, such as Dante has said pierce us like arrows whose points carry the sharpness of pity,

“Lamenti saettaron me diversi
Che di pieta ferrati avean gli strali.”

Day after day passed, and the very air of Italy seemed to carry the consciousness that war had been declared against Austria, and every day was a hurrying march of crowded Time toward the world-changing battle of Sadowa. Meanwhile, in Genoa, the noons were getting hotter, the converging outer roads getting deeper with white dust, the oleanders in the tubs along the wayside gardens looking more and more like fatigued holidaymakers, and the sweet evening changing her office⁠—scattering abroad those whom the midday had sent under shelter, and sowing all paths with happy social sounds, little tinklings of mule-bells and whirrings of thrumbed strings, light footsteps and voices, if not leisurely, then with the hurry of pleasure in them; while the encircling heights, crowned with forts, skirted with fine dwellings and gardens, seemed also to come forth and gaze in fullness of beauty after their long siesta, till all strong color melted in the stream of moonlight which made the streets a new spectacle with shadows, both still and moving, on cathedral steps and against the façades of massive palaces; and then slowly with the descending moon all sank in deep night and silence, and nothing shone but the port lights of the great Lanterna in the blackness below, and the glimmering stars in the blackness above. Deronda, in his suspense, watched this revolving of the days as he might have watched a wonderful clock where the striking of the hours was made solemn with antique figures advancing and retreating in monitory procession, while he still kept his ear open for another kind of signal which would have its solemnity too: He was beginning to sicken of occupation, and found himself contemplating all activity with the aloofness of a prisoner awaiting ransom. In his letters to Mordecai and Hans, he had avoided writing about himself, but he was really getting into that state of mind to which all subjects become personal; and the few books he had brought to make him a refuge in study were becoming unreadable, because the point of view that life would make for him was in that agitating moment of uncertainty which is close upon decision.

Many nights were watched through by him in gazing from the open window of his room on the double, faintly pierced darkness of the sea and the heavens; often in struggling under the oppressive skepticism which represented his particular lot, with all the importance he was allowing Mordecai to give it, as of no more lasting effect than a dream⁠—a set of changes which made passion to him, but beyond his consciousness were no more than an imperceptible difference of mass and shadow; sometimes with a reaction of emotive force which gave even to sustained disappointment, even to the fulfilled demand of sacrifice, the nature of a satisfied energy, and spread over his young future, whatever it might be, the attraction of devoted service; sometimes with a sweet irresistible hopefulness that the very best of human possibilities might befall him⁠—the blending of a complete personal love in one current with a larger duty; and sometimes again in a mood of rebellion (what human creature escapes it?) against things in general because they are thus and not otherwise, a mood in which Gwendolen and her equivocal fate moved as busy images of what was amiss in the world along with the concealments which he had felt as a hardship in his own life, and which were acting in him now under the form of an afflicting doubtfulness about the mother who had announced herself coldly and still kept away.

But at last she was come. One morning in his third week of waiting there was a new kind of knock at the door. A servant in Chasseurs livery entered and delivered in French the verbal message that, the Princess Halm-Eberstein had arrived, that she was going to rest during the day, but would be obliged if Monsieur would dine early, so as to be at liberty at seven, when she would be able to receive him.

Chapter LI

She held the spindle as she sat,
Errina with the thick-coiled mat
Of raven hair and deepest agate eyes,
Gazing with a sad surprise
At surging visions of her destiny⁠—
To spin the byssus drearily
In insect-labor, while the throng
Of gods and men wrought deeds that poets wrought in song.

When Deronda presented himself at the door of his mother’s apartment in the Italia he felt some revival of his boyhood with its premature agitations. The two servants in the antechamber looked at him markedly, a little surprised that the doctor their lady had come to consult was this striking young gentleman whose appearance gave even the severe lines of an evening dress the credit of adornment. But Deronda could notice nothing until, the second door being opened, he found himself in the presence of a figure which at the other end of the large room stood awaiting his approach.

She was covered, except as to her face and part of her arms, with black lace hanging loosely from the summit of her whitening hair to the long train stretching from her tall figure. Her arms, naked to the elbow, except for some rich bracelets, were folded before her, and the fine poise of her head made it look handsomer than it really was. But Deronda felt no interval of observation before he was close in front of her, holding the hand she had put out and then raising it to his lips. She still kept her hand in his and looked at him examiningly; while his chief consciousness was that her eyes were piercing and her face so mobile that the next moment she might look like a different person. For even while she was examining him there was a play of the brow and nostril which made a tacit language. Deronda dared no movement, not able to conceive what sort of manifestation her feeling demanded; but he felt himself changing color like a girl, and yet wondering at his own lack of emotion; he had lived through so many ideal meetings with his mother, and they had seemed more real than this! He could not even conjecture in what language she would speak to him. He imagined it would not be English. Suddenly, she let fall his hand, and placed both hers on his shoulders, while her face gave out a flash of admiration in which every worn line disappeared and seemed to leave a restored youth.

“You are a beautiful creature!” she said, in a low melodious voice, with syllables which had what might be called a foreign but agreeable outline. “I knew you would be.” Then she kissed him on each cheek, and he returned the kisses. But it was something like a greeting between royalties.

She paused a moment while the lines were coming back into her face, and then said in a colder tone, “I am your mother. But you can have no love for me.”

“I have thought of you more than of any other being in the world,” said Deronda, his voice trembling nervously.

“I am not like what you thought I was,” said the mother decisively, withdrawing her hands from his shoulders, and folding her arms as before, looking at him as if she invited him to observe her. He had often pictured her face in his imagination as one which had a likeness to his own: he saw some of the likeness now, but amidst more striking differences. She was a remarkable looking being. What was it that gave her son a painful sense of aloofness?⁠—Her worn beauty had a strangeness in it as if she were not quite a human mother, but a Melusina, who had ties with some world which is independent of ours.

“I used to think that you might be suffering,” said Deronda, anxious above all not to wound her. “I used to wish that I could be a comfort to you.”

“I am suffering. But with a suffering that you can’t comfort,” said the Princess, in a harder voice than before, moving to a sofa where cushions had been carefully arranged for her. “Sit down.” She pointed to a seat near her; and then discerning some distress in Deronda’s face, she added, more gently, “I am not suffering at this moment. I am at ease now. I am able to talk.”

Deronda seated himself and waited for her to speak again. It seemed as if he were in the presence of a mysterious Fate rather than of the longed-for mother. He was beginning to watch her with wonder, from the spiritual distance to which she had thrown him.

“No,” she began: “I did not send for you to comfort me. I could not know beforehand⁠—I don’t know now⁠—what you will feel toward me. I have not the foolish notion that you can love me merely because I am your mother, when you have never seen or heard of me in all your life. But I thought I chose something better for you than being with me. I did not think I deprived you of anything worth having.”

“You cannot wish me to believe that your affection would not have been worth having,” said Deronda, finding that she paused as if she expected him to make some answer.

“I don’t mean to speak ill of myself,” said the princess, with proud impetuosity, “But I had not much affection to give you. I did not want affection. I had been stifled with it. I wanted to live out the life that was in me, and not to be hampered with other lives. You wonder what I was. I was no princess then.” She rose with a sudden movement, and stood as she had done before. Deronda immediately rose too; he felt breathless.

“No princess in this tame life that I live in now. I was a great singer, and I acted as well as I sang. All the rest were poor beside me. Men followed me from one country to another. I was living a myriad lives in one. I did not want a child.”

There was a passionate self-defence in her tone. She had cast all precedent out of her mind. Precedent had no excuse for her and she could only seek a justification in the intensest words she could find for her experience. She seemed to fling out the last words against some possible reproach in the mind of her son, who had to stand and hear them⁠—clutching his coat-collar as if he were keeping himself above water by it, and feeling his blood in the sort of commotion that might have been excited if he had seen her going through some strange rite of a religion which gave a sacredness to crime. What else had she to tell him? She went on with the same intensity and a sort of pale illumination in her face.

“I did not want to marry. I was forced into marrying your father⁠—forced, I mean, by my father’s wishes and commands; and besides, it was my best way of getting some freedom. I could rule my husband, but not my father. I had a right to be free. I had a right to seek my freedom from a bondage that I hated.”

She seated herself again, while there was that subtle movement in her eyes and closed lips which is like the suppressed continuation of speech. Deronda continued standing, and after a moment or two she looked up at him with a less defiant pleading as she said,

“And the bondage I hated for myself I wanted to keep you from. What better could the most loving mother have done? I relieved you from the bondage of having been born a Jew.”

“Then I am a Jew?” Deronda burst out with a deep-voiced energy that made his mother shrink a little backward against her cushions. “My father was a Jew, and you are a Jewess?”

“Yes, your father was my cousin,” said the mother, watching him with a change in her look, as if she saw something that she might have to be afraid of.

“I am glad of it,” said Deronda, impetuously, in the veiled voice of passion. He could not have imagined beforehand how he would have come to say that which he had never hitherto admitted. He could not have dreamed that it would be in impulsive opposition to his mother. He was shaken by a mixed anger which no reflection could come soon enough to check, against this mother who it seemed had borne him unwillingly, had willingly made herself a stranger to him, and⁠—perhaps⁠—was now making herself known unwillingly. This last suspicion seemed to flash some explanation over her speech.

But the mother was equally shaken by an anger differently mixed, and her frame was less equal to any repression. The shaking with her was visibly physical, and her eyes looked the larger for her pallid excitement as she said violently,

“Why do you say you are glad? You are an English gentleman. I secured you that.”

“You did not know what you secured me. How could you choose my birthright for me?” said Deronda, throwing himself sideways into his chair again, almost unconsciously, and leaning his arm over the back, while he looked away from his mother.

He was fired with an intolerance that seemed foreign to him. But he was now trying hard to master himself and keep silence. A horror had swept in upon his anger lest he should say something too hard in this moment which made an epoch never to be recalled. There was a pause before his mother spoke again, and when she spoke her voice had become more firmly resistant in its finely varied tones:

“I chose for you what I would have chosen for myself. How could I know that you would have the spirit of my father in you? How could I know that you would love what I hated?⁠—if you really love to be a Jew.” The last words had such bitterness in them that anyone overhearing might have supposed some hatred had arisen between the mother and son.

But Deronda had recovered his fuller self. He was recalling his sensibilities to what life had been and actually was for her whose best years were gone, and who with the signs of suffering in her frame was now exerting herself to tell him of a past which was not his alone but also hers. His habitual shame at the acceptance of events as if they were his only, helped him even here. As he looked at his mother silently after her last words, his face regained some of its penetrative calm; yet it seemed to have a strangely agitating influence over her: her eyes were fixed on him with a sort of fascination, but not with any repose of maternal delight.

“Forgive me, if I speak hastily,” he said, with diffident gravity. “Why have you resolved now on disclosing to me what you took care to have me brought up in ignorance of? Why⁠—since you seem angry that I should be glad?”

“Oh⁠—the reasons of our actions!” said the Princess, with a ring of something like sarcastic scorn. “When you are as old as I am, it will not seem so simple a question⁠—‘Why did you do this?’ People talk of their motives in a cut and dried way. Every woman is supposed to have the same set of motives, or else to be a monster. I am not a monster, but I have not felt exactly what other women feel⁠—or say they feel, for fear of being thought unlike others. When you reproach me in your heart for sending you away from me, you mean that I ought to say I felt about you as other women say they feel about their children. I did not feel that. I was glad to be freed from you. But I did well for you, and I gave you your father’s fortune. Do I seem now to be revoking everything?⁠—Well, there are reasons. I feel many things that I cannot understand. A fatal illness has been growing in me for a year. I shall very likely not live another year. I will not deny anything I have done. I will not pretend to love where I have no love. But shadows are rising round me. Sickness makes them. If I have wronged the dead⁠—I have but little time to do what I left undone.”

The varied transitions of tone with which this speech was delivered were as perfect as the most accomplished actress could have made them. The speech was in fact a piece of what may be called sincere acting; this woman’s nature was one in which all feeling⁠—and all the more when it was tragic as well as real⁠—immediately became matter of conscious representation: experience immediately passed into drama, and she acted her own emotions. In a minor degree this is nothing uncommon, but in the Princess the acting had a rare perfection of physiognomy, voice, and gesture. It would not be true to say that she felt less because of this double consciousness: she felt⁠—that is, her mind went through⁠—all the more, but with a difference; each nucleus of pain or pleasure had a deep atmosphere of the excitement or spiritual intoxication which at once exalts and deadens. But Deronda made no reflection of this kind. All his thoughts hung on the purport of what his mother was saying; her tones and her wonderful face entered into his agitation without being noted. What he longed for with an awed desire was to know as much as she would tell him of the strange mental conflict under which it seemed he had been brought into the world; what his compassionate nature made the controlling idea within him were the suffering and the confession that breathed through her later words, and these forbade any further question, when she paused and remained silent, with her brow knit, her head turned a little away from him, and her large eyes fixed as if on something incorporeal. He must wait for her to speak again. She did so with strange abruptness, turning her eyes upon him suddenly, and saying more quickly,

“Sir Hugo has written much about you. He tells me you have a wonderful mind⁠—you comprehend everything⁠—you are wiser than he is with all his sixty years. You say you are glad to know that you were born a Jew. I am not going to tell you that I have changed my mind about that. Your feelings are against mine. You don’t thank me for what I did. Shall you comprehend your mother, or only blame her?”

“There is not a fibre within me but makes me wish to comprehend her,” said Deronda, meeting her sharp gaze solemnly. “It is a bitter reversal of my longing to think of blaming her. What I have been most trying to do for fifteen years is to have some understanding of those who differ from myself.”

“Then you have become unlike your grandfather in that,” said the mother, “though you are a young copy of him in your face. He never comprehended me, or if he did, he only thought of fettering me into obedience. I was to be what he called ‘the Jewish woman’ under pain of his curse. I was to feel everything I did not feel, and believe everything I did not believe. I was to feel awe for the bit of parchment in the mezuza over the door; to dread lest a bit of butter should touch a bit of meat; to think it beautiful that men should bind the tephillin on them, and women not⁠—to adore the wisdom of such laws, however silly they might seem to me. I was to love the long prayers in the ugly synagogue, and the howling, and the gabbling, and the dreadful fasts, and the tiresome feasts, and my father’s endless discoursing about our people, which was a thunder without meaning in my ears. I was to care forever about what Israel had been; and I did not care at all. I cared for the wide world, and all that I could represent in it. I hated living under the shadow of my father’s strictness. Teaching, teaching for everlasting⁠—‘this you must be,’ ‘that you must not be’⁠—pressed on me like a frame that got tighter and tighter as I grew. I wanted to live a large life, with freedom to do what everyone else did, and be carried along in a great current, not obliged to care. Ah!”⁠—here her tone changed to one of a more bitter incisiveness⁠—“you are glad to have been born a Jew. You say so. That is because you have not been brought up as a Jew. That separateness seems sweet to you because I saved you from it.”

“When you resolved on that, you meant that I should never know my origin?” said Deronda, impulsively. “You have at least changed in your feeling on that point.”

“Yes, that was what I meant. That is what I persevered in. And it is not true to say that I have changed. Things have changed in spite of me. I am still the same Leonora”⁠—she pointed with her forefinger to her breast⁠—“here within me is the same desire, the same will, the same choice, but”⁠—she spread out her hands, palm upward, on each side of her, as she paused with a bitter compression of her lip, then let her voice fall into muffled, rapid utterance⁠—“events come upon us like evil enchantments: and thoughts, feelings, apparitions in the darkness are events⁠—are they not? I don’t consent. We only consent to what we love. I obey something tyrannic”⁠—she spread out her hands again⁠—“I am forced to be withered, to feel pain, to be dying slowly. Do I love that? Well, I have been forced to obey my dead father. I have been forced to tell you that you are a Jew, and deliver to you what he commanded me to deliver.”

“I beseech you to tell me what moved you⁠—when you were young, I mean⁠—to take the course you did,” said Deronda, trying by this reference to the past to escape from what to him was the heartrending piteousness of this mingled suffering and defiance. “I gather that my grandfather opposed your bent to be an artist. Though my own experience has been quite different, I enter into the painfulness of your struggle. I can imagine the hardship of an enforced renunciation.”

“No,” said the Princess, shaking her head and folding her arms with an air of decision. “You are not a woman. You may try⁠—but you can never imagine what it is to have a man’s force of genius in you, and yet to suffer the slavery of being a girl. To have a pattern cut out⁠—‘this is the Jewish woman; this is what you must be; this is what you are wanted for; a woman’s heart must be of such a size and no larger, else it must be pressed small, like Chinese feet; her happiness is to be made as cakes are, by a fixed receipt.’ That was what my father wanted. He wished I had been a son; he cared for me as a makeshift link. His heart was set on his Judaism. He hated that Jewish women should be thought of by the Christian world as a sort of ware to make public singers and actresses of. As if we were not the more enviable for that! That is a chance of escaping from bondage.”

“Was my grandfather a learned man?” said Deronda, eager to know particulars that he feared his mother might not think of.

She answered impatiently, putting up her hand, “Oh, yes⁠—and a clever physician⁠—and good: I don’t deny that he was good. A man to be admired in a play⁠—grand, with an iron will. Like the old Foscari before he pardons. But such men turn their wives and daughters into slaves. They would rule the world if they could; but not ruling the world, they throw all the weight of their will on the necks and souls of women. But nature sometimes thwarts them. My father had no other child than his daughter, and she was like himself.”

She had folded her arms again, and looked as if she were ready to face some impending attempt at mastery.

“Your father was different. Unlike me⁠—all lovingness and affection. I knew I could rule him; and I made him secretly promise me, before I married him, that he would put no hindrance in the way of my being an artist. My father was on his deathbed when we were married: from the first he had fixed his mind on my marrying my cousin Ephraim. And when a woman’s will is as strong as the man’s who wants to govern her, half her strength must be concealment. I meant to have my will in the end, but I could only have it by seeming to obey. I had an awe of my father⁠—always I had had an awe of him: it was impossible to help it. I hated to feel awed⁠—I wished I could have defied him openly; but I never could. It was what I could not imagine: I could not act it to myself that I should begin to defy my father openly and succeed. And I never would risk failure.”

This last sentence was uttered with an abrupt emphasis, and she paused after it as if the words had raised a crowd of remembrances which obstructed speech. Her son was listening to her with feelings more and more highly mixed; the first sense of being repelled by the frank coldness which had replaced all his preconceptions of a mother’s tender joy in the sight of him; the first impulses of indignation at what shocked his most cherished emotions and principles⁠—all these busy elements of collision between them were subsiding for a time, and making more and more room for that effort at just allowance and that admiration of a forcible nature whose errors lay along high pathways, which he would have felt if, instead of being his mother, she had been a stranger who had appealed to his sympathy. Still it was impossible to be dispassionate: he trembled lest the next thing she had to say would be more repugnant to him than what had gone before: he was afraid of the strange coercion she seemed to be under to lay her mind bare: he almost wished he could say, “Tell me only what is necessary,” and then again he felt the fascination which made him watch her and listen to her eagerly. He tried to recall her to particulars by asking,

“Where was my grandfather’s home?”

“Here in Genoa, where I was married; and his family had lived here generations ago. But my father had been in various countries.”

“You must surely have lived in England?”

“My mother was English⁠—a Jewess of Portuguese descent. My father married her in England. Certain circumstances of that marriage made all the difference in my life: through that marriage my father thwarted his own plans. My mother’s sister was a singer, and afterward she married the English partner of a merchant’s house here in Genoa, and they came and lived here eleven years. My mother died when I was eight years old, and my father allowed me to be continually with my Aunt Leonora and be taught under her eyes, as if he had not minded the danger of her encouraging my wish to be a singer, as she had been. But this was it⁠—I saw it again and again in my father:⁠—he did not guard against consequences, because he felt sure he could hinder them if he liked. Before my aunt left Genoa, I had had enough teaching to bring out the born singer and actress within me: my father did not know everything that was done; but he knew that I was taught music and singing⁠—he knew my inclination. That was nothing to him: he meant that I should obey his will. And he was resolved that I should marry my cousin Ephraim, the only one left of my father’s family that he knew. I wanted not to marry. I thought of all plans to resist it, but at last I found that I could rule my cousin, and I consented. My father died three weeks after we were married, and then I had my way!” She uttered these words almost exultantly; but after a little pause her face changed, and she said in a biting tone, “It has not lasted, though. My father is getting his way now.”

She began to look more contemplatively again at her son, and presently said,

“You are like him⁠—but milder⁠—there is something of your own father in you; and he made it the labor of his life to devote himself to me: wound up his money-changing and banking, and lived to wait upon me⁠—he went against his conscience for me. As I loved the life of my art, so he loved me. Let me look at your hand again: the hand with the ring on. It was your father’s ring.”

He drew his chair nearer to her and gave her his hand. We know what kind of a hand it was: her own, very much smaller, was of the same type. As he felt the smaller hand holding his, as he saw nearer to him the face that held the likeness of his own, aged not by time but by intensity, the strong bent of his nature toward a reverential tenderness asserted itself above every other impression and in his most fervent tone he said,

“Mother! take us all into your heart⁠—the living and the dead. Forgive everything that hurts you in the past. Take my affection.”

She looked at him admiringly rather than lovingly, then kissed him on the brow, and saying sadly, “I reject nothing, but I have nothing to give,” she released his hand and sank back on her cushions. Deronda turned pale with what seems always more of a sensation than an emotion⁠—the pain of repulsed tenderness. She noticed the expression of pain, and said, still with melodious melancholy in her tones,

“It is better so. We must part again soon and you owe me no duties. I did not wish you to be born. I parted with you willingly. When your father died I resolved that I would have no more ties, but such as I could free myself from. I was the Alcharisi you have heard of: the name had magic wherever it was carried. Men courted me. Sir Hugo Mallinger was one who wished to marry me. He was madly in love with me. One day I asked him, ‘Is there a man capable of doing something for love of me, and expecting nothing in return?’ He said: ‘What is it you want done?’ I said, ‘Take my boy and bring him up as an Englishman, and never let him know anything about his parents.’ You were little more than two years old, and were sitting on his foot. He declared that he would pay money to have such a boy. I had not meditated much on the plan beforehand, but as soon as I had spoken about it, it took possession of me as something I could not rest without doing. At first he thought I was not serious, but I convinced him, and he was never surprised at anything. He agreed that it would be for your good, and the finest thing for you. A great singer and actress is a queen, but she gives no royalty to her son. All that happened at Naples. And afterward I made Sir Hugo the trustee of your fortune. That is what I did; and I had a joy in doing it. My father had tyrannized over me⁠—he cared more about a grandson to come than he did about me: I counted as nothing. You were to be such a Jew as he; you were to be what he wanted. But you were my son, and it was my turn to say what you should be. I said you should not know you were a Jew.”

“And for months events have been preparing me to be glad that I am a Jew,” said Deronda, his opposition roused again. The point touched the quick of his experience. “It would always have been better that I should have known the truth. I have always been rebelling against the secrecy that looked like shame. It is no shame to have Jewish parents⁠—the shame is to disown it.”

“You say it was a shame to me, then, that I used that secrecy,” said his mother, with a flash of new anger. “There is no shame attaching to me. I have no reason to be ashamed. I rid myself of the Jewish tatters and gibberish that make people nudge each other at sight of us, as if we were tattooed under our clothes, though our faces are as whole as theirs. I delivered you from the pelting contempt that pursues Jewish separateness. I am not ashamed that I did it. It was the better for you.”

“Then why have you now undone the secrecy?⁠—no, not undone it⁠—the effects will never be undone. But why have you now sent for me to tell me that I am a Jew?” said Deronda, with an intensity of opposition in feeling that was almost bitter. It seemed as if her words had called out a latent obstinacy of race in him.

“Why?⁠—ah, why?” said the Princess, rising quickly and walking to the other side of the room, where she turned round and slowly approached him, as he, too, stood up. Then she began to speak again in a more veiled voice. “I can’t explain; I can only say what is. I don’t love my father’s religion now any more than I did then. Before I married the second time I was baptized; I made myself like the people I lived among. I had a right to do it; I was not like a brute, obliged to go with my own herd. I have not repented; I will not say that I have repented. But yet”⁠—here she had come near to her son, and paused; then again retreated a little and stood still, as if resolute not to give way utterly to an imperious influence; but, as she went on speaking, she became more and more unconscious of anything but the awe that subdued her voice. “It is illness, I don’t doubt that it has been gathering illness⁠—my mind has gone back: more than a year ago it began. You see my gray hair, my worn look: it has all come fast. Sometimes I am in an agony of pain⁠—I dare say I shall be tonight. Then it is as if all the life I have chosen to live, all thoughts, all will, forsook me and left me alone in spots of memory, and I can’t get away: my pain seems to keep me there. My childhood⁠—my girlhood⁠—the day of my marriage⁠—the day of my father’s death⁠—there seems to be nothing since. Then a great horror comes over me: what do I know of life or death? and what my father called ‘right’ may be a power that is laying hold of me⁠—that is clutching me now. Well, I will satisfy him. I cannot go into the darkness without satisfying him. I have hidden what was his. I thought once I would burn it. I have not burned it. I thank God I have not burned it!”

She threw herself on her cushions again, visibly fatigued. Deronda, moved too strongly by her suffering for other impulses to act within him, drew near her, and said, entreatingly,

“Will you not spare yourself this evening? Let us leave the rest till tomorrow.”

“No,” she said decisively. “I will confess it all, now that I have come up to it. Often when I am at ease it all fades away; my whole self comes quite back; but I know it will sink away again, and the other will come⁠—the poor, solitary, forsaken remains of self, that can resist nothing. It was my nature to resist, and say, ‘I have a right to resist.’ Well, I say so still when I have any strength in me. You have heard me say it, and I don’t withdraw it. But when my strength goes, some other right forces itself upon me like iron in an inexorable hand; and even when I am at ease, it is beginning to make ghosts upon the daylight. And now you have made it worse for me,” she said, with a sudden return of impetuosity; “but I shall have told you everything. And what reproach is there against me,” she added bitterly, “since I have made you glad to be a Jew? Joseph Kalonymos reproached me: he said you had been turned into a proud Englishman, who resented being touched by a Jew. I wish you had!” she ended, with a new marvelous alternation. It was as if her mind were breaking into several, one jarring the other into impulsive action.

“Who is Joseph Kalonymos?” said Deronda, with a darting recollection of that Jew who touched his arm in the Frankfort synagogue.

“Ah! some vengeance sent him back from the East, that he might see you and come to reproach me. He was my father’s friend. He knew of your birth: he knew of my husband’s death, and once, twenty years ago, after he had been away in the Levant, he came to see me and inquire about you. I told him that you were dead: I meant you to be dead to all the world of my childhood. If I had said that you were living, he would have interfered with my plans: he would have taken on him to represent my father, and have tried to make me recall what I had done. What could I do but say you were dead? The act was done. If I had told him of it there would have been trouble and scandal⁠—and all to conquer me, who would not have been conquered. I was strong then, and I would have had my will, though there might have been a hard fight against me. I took the way to have it without any fight. I felt then that I was not really deceiving: it would have come to the same in the end; or if not to the same, to something worse. He believed me and begged that I would give up to him the chest that my father had charged me and my husband to deliver to our eldest son. I knew what was in the chest⁠—things that had been dinned in my ears since I had had any understanding⁠—things that were thrust on my mind that I might feel them like a wall around my life⁠—my life that was growing like a tree. Once, after my husband died, I was going to burn the chest. But it was difficult to burn; and burning a chest and papers looks like a shameful act. I have committed no shameful act⁠—except what Jews would call shameful. I had kept the chest, and I gave it to Joseph Kalonymos. He went away mournful, and said, ‘If you marry again, and if another grandson is born to him who is departed, I will deliver up the chest to him.’ I bowed in silence. I meant not to marry again⁠—no more than I meant to be the shattered woman that I am now.”

She ceased speaking, and her head sank back while she looked vaguely before her. Her thought was traveling through the years, and when she began to speak again her voice had lost its argumentative spirit, and had fallen into a veiled tone of distress.

“But months ago this Kalonymos saw you in the synagogue at Frankfort. He saw you enter the hotel, and he went to ask your name. There was nobody else in the world to whom the name would have told anything about me.”

“Then it is not my real name?” said Deronda, with a dislike even to this trifling part of the disguise which had been thrown round him.

“Oh, as real as another,” said his mother, indifferently. “The Jews have always been changing their names. My father’s family had kept the name of Charisi: my husband was a Charisi. When I came out as a singer, we made it Alcharisi. But there had been a branch of the family my father had lost sight of who called themselves Deronda, and when I wanted a name for you, and Sir Hugo said, ‘Let it be a foreign name,’ I thought of Deronda. But Joseph Kalonymos had heard my father speak of the Deronda branch, and the name confirmed his suspicion. He began to suspect what had been done. It was as if everything had been whispered to him in the air. He found out where I was. He took a journey into Russia to see me; he found me weak and shattered. He had come back again, with his white hair, and with rage in his soul against me. He said I was going down to the grave clad in falsehood and robbery⁠—falsehood to my father and robbery of my own child. He accused me of having kept the knowledge of your birth from you, and having brought you up as if you had been the son of an English gentleman. Well, it was true; and twenty years before I would have maintained that I had a right to do it. But I can maintain nothing now. No faith is strong within me. My father may have God on his side. This man’s words were like lion’s teeth upon me. My father’s threats eat into me with my pain. If I tell everything⁠—if I deliver up everything⁠—what else can be demanded of me? I cannot make myself love the people I have never loved⁠—is it not enough that I lost the life I did love?”

She had leaned forward a little in her low-toned pleading, that seemed like a smothered cry: her arms and hands were stretched out at full length, as if strained in beseeching, Deronda’s soul was absorbed in the anguish of compassion. He could not mind now that he had been repulsed before. His pity made a flood of forgiveness within him. His single impulse was to kneel by her and take her hand gently, between his palms, while he said in that exquisite voice of soothing which expresses oneness with the sufferer,

“Mother, take comfort!”

She did not seem inclined to repulse him now, but looked down at him and let him take both her hands to fold between his. Gradually tears gathered, but she pressed her handkerchief against her eyes and then leaned her cheek against his brow, as if she wished that they should not look at each other.

“Is it not possible that I could be near you often and comfort you?” said Deronda. He was under that stress of pity that propels us on sacrifices.

“No, not possible,” she answered, lifting up her head again and withdrawing her hand as if she wished him to move away. “I have a husband and five children. None of them know of your existence.”

Deronda felt painfully silenced. He rose and stood at a little distance.

“You wonder why I married,” she went on presently, under the influence of a newly-recurring thought. “I meant never to marry again. I meant to be free and to live for my art. I had parted with you. I had no bonds. For nine years I was a queen. I enjoyed the life I had longed for. But something befell me. It was like a fit of forgetfulness. I began to sing out of tune. They told me of it. Another woman was thrusting herself in my place. I could not endure the prospect of failure and decline. It was horrible to me.” She started up again, with a shudder, and lifted screening hands like one who dreads missiles. “It drove me to marry. I made believe that I preferred being the wife of a Russian noble to being the greatest lyric actress of Europe; I made believe⁠—I acted that part. It was because I felt my greatness sinking away from me, as I feel my life sinking now. I would not wait till men said, ‘She had better go.’ ”

She sank into her seat again, and looked at the evening sky as she went on: “I repented. It was a resolve taken in desperation. That singing out of tune was only like a fit of illness; it went away. I repented; but it was too late. I could not go back. All things hindered, me⁠—all things.”

A new haggardness had come in her face, but her son refrained from again urging her to leave further speech till the morrow: there was evidently some mental relief for her in an outpouring such as she could never have allowed herself before. He stood still while she maintained silence longer than she knew, and the light was perceptibly fading. At last she turned to him and said,

“I can bear no more now.” She put out her hand, but then quickly withdrew it saying, “Stay. How do I know that I can see you again? I cannot bear to be seen when I am in pain.”

She drew forth a pocketbook, and taking out a letter said, “This is addressed to the banking-house in Mainz, where you are to go for your grandfather’s chest. It is a letter written by Joseph Kalonymos: if he is not there himself, this order of his will be obeyed.”

When Deronda had taken the letter, she said, with effort but more gently than before, “Kneel again, and let me kiss you.”

He obeyed, and holding his head between her hands, she kissed him solemnly on the brow. “You see, I had no life left to love you with,” she said, in a low murmur. “But there is more fortune for you. Sir Hugo was to keep it in reserve. I gave you all your father’s fortune. They can never accuse me of robbery there.”

“If you had needed anything I would have worked for you,” said Deronda, conscious of disappointed yearning⁠—a shutting out forever from long early vistas of affectionate imagination.

“I need nothing that the skill of man can give me,” said his mother, still holding his head, and perusing his features. “But perhaps now I have satisfied my father’s will, your face will come instead of his⁠—your young, loving face.”

“But you will see me again?” said Deronda, anxiously.

“Yes⁠—perhaps. Wait, wait. Leave me now.”

Chapter LII

La même fermeté qui sert à résister à l’amour sert aussi à le rendre violent et durable; et les personnes faibles qui sont toujours agitées des passions n’en sont presque jamais véritablement remplies.
La Rochefoucauld

Among Deronda’s letters the next morning was one from Hans Meyrick of four quarto pages, in the small, beautiful handwriting which ran in the Meyrick family.

My Dear Deronda⁠—In return for your sketch of Italian movements and your view of the world’s affairs generally, I may say that here at home the most judicious opinion going as to the effects of present causes is that “time will show.” As to the present causes of past effects, it is now seen that the late swindling telegrams account for the last year’s cattle plague⁠—which is a refutation of philosophy falsely so called, and justifies the compensation to the farmers. My own idea that a murrain will shortly break out in the commercial class, and that the cause will subsequently disclose itself in the ready sale of all rejected pictures, has been called an unsound use of analogy; but there are minds that will not hesitate to rob even the neglected painter of his solace. To my feeling there is great beauty in the conception that some bad judge might give a high price for my Berenice series, and that the men in the city would have already been punished for my ill-merited luck.
Meanwhile I am consoling myself for your absence by finding my advantage in it⁠—shining like Hesperus when Hyperion has departed; sitting with our Hebrew prophet, and making a study of his head, in the hours when he used to be occupied with you⁠—getting credit with him as a learned young Gentile, who would have been a Jew if he could⁠—and agreeing with him in the general principle, that whatever is best is for that reason Jewish. I never held it my forte to be a severe reasoner, but I can see that if whatever is best is A, and B happens to be best, B must be A, however little you might have expected it beforehand. On that principle I could see the force of a pamphlet I once read to prove that all good art was Protestant. However, our prophet is an uncommonly interesting sitter⁠—a better model than Rembrandt had for his Rabbi⁠—and I never come away from him without a new discovery. For one thing, it is a constant wonder to me that, with all his fiery feeling for his race and their traditions, he is no straightlaced Jew, spitting after the word Christian, and enjoying the prospect that the Gentile mouth will water in vain for a slice of the roasted Leviathan, while Israel will be sending up plates for more, ad libitum, (You perceive that my studies had taught me what to expect from the orthodox Jew.) I confess that I have always held lightly by your account of Mordecai, as apologetic, and merely part of your disposition to make an antedeluvian point of view lest you should do injustice to the megatherium. But now I have given ear to him in his proper person, I find him really a sort of philosophical-allegorical-mystical believer, and yet with a sharp dialectic point, so that any argumentative rattler of peas in a bladder might soon be pricked in silence by him. The mixture may be one of the Jewish prerogatives, for what I know. In fact, his mind seems so broad that I find my own correct opinions lying in it quite commodiously, and how they are to be brought into agreement with the vast remainder is his affair, not mine. I leave it to him to settle our basis, never yet having seen a basis which is not a world-supporting elephant, more or less powerful and expensive to keep. My means will not allow me to keep a private elephant. I go into mystery instead, as cheaper and more lasting⁠—a sort of gas which is likely to be continually supplied by the decomposition of the elephants. And if I like the look of an opinion, I treat it civilly, without suspicious inquiries. I have quite a friendly feeling toward Mordecai’s notion that a whole Christian is three-fourths a Jew, and that from the Alexandrian time downward the most comprehensive minds have been Jewish; for I think of pointing out to Mirah that, Arabic and other incidents of life apart, there is really little difference between me and⁠—Maimonides. But I have lately been finding out that it is your shallow lover who can’t help making a declaration. If Mirah’s ways were less distracting, and it were less of a heaven to be in her presence and watch her, I must long ago have flung myself at her feet, and requested her to tell me, with less indirectness, whether she wished me to blow my brains out. I have a knack of hoping, which is as good as an estate in reversion, if one can keep from the temptation of turning it into certainty, which may spoil all. My Hope wanders among the orchard blossoms, feels the warm snow falling on it through the sunshine, and is in doubt of nothing; but, catching sight of Certainty in the distance, sees an ugly Janus-faced deity, with a dubious wink on the hither side of him, and turns quickly away. But you, with your supreme reasonableness, and self-nullification, and preparation for the worst⁠—you know nothing about Hope, that immortal, delicious maiden forever courted forever propitious, whom fools have called deceitful, as if it were Hope that carried the cup of disappointment, whereas it is her deadly enemy, Certainty, whom she only escapes by transformation. (You observe my new vein of allegory?) Seriously, however, I must be permitted to allege that truth will prevail, that prejudice will melt before it, that diversity, accompanied by merit, will make itself felt as fascination, and that no virtuous aspiration will be frustrated⁠—all which, if I mistake not, are doctrines of the schools, and they imply that the Jewess I prefer will prefer me. Any blockhead can cite generalities, but the mind-master discerns the particular cases they represent.
I am less convinced that my society makes amends to Mordecai for your absence, but another substitute occasionally comes in the form of Jacob Cohen. It is worth while to catch our prophet’s expression when he has that remarkable type of young Israel on his knee, and pours forth some Semitic inspiration with a sublime look of melancholy patience and devoutness. Sometimes it occurs to Jacob that Hebrew will be more edifying to him if he stops his ears with his palms, and imitates the venerable sounds as heard through that muffled medium. When Mordecai gently draws down the little fists and holds them fast, Jacob’s features all take on an extraordinary activity, very much as if he was walking through a menagerie and trying to imitate every animal in turn, succeeding best with the owl and the peccary. But I dare say you have seen something of this. He treats me with the easiest familiarity, and seems in general to look at me as a secondhand Christian commodity, likely to come down in price; remarking on my disadvantages with a frankness which seems to imply some thoughts of future purchase. It is pretty, though, to see the change in him if Mirah happens to come in. He turns child suddenly⁠—his age usually strikes one as being like the Israelitish garments in the desert, perhaps near forty, yet with an air of recent production. But, with Mirah, he reminds me of the dogs that have been brought up by women, and remain manageable by them only. Still, the dog is fond of Mordecai too, and brings sugarplums to share with him, filling his own mouth to rather an embarrassing extent, and watching how Mordecai deals with a smaller supply. Judging from this modern Jacob at the age of six, my astonishment is that his race has not bought us all up long ago, and pocketed our feebler generations in the form of stock and scrip, as so much slave property. There is one Jewess I should not mind being slave to. But I wish I did not imagine that Mirah gets a little sadder, and tries all the while to hide it. It is natural enough, of course, while she has to watch the slow death of this brother, whom she has taken to worshipping with such looks of loving devoutness that I am ready to wish myself in his place.
For the rest, we are a little merrier than usual. Rex Gascoigne⁠—you remember a head you admired among my sketches, a fellow with a good upper lip, reading law⁠—has got some rooms in town now not far off us, and has had a neat sister (upper lip also good) staying with him the last fortnight. I have introduced them both to my mother and the girls, who have found out from Miss Gascoigne that she is cousin to your Vandyke duchess!!! I put the notes of exclamation to mark the surprise that the information at first produced on my feeble understanding. On reflection I discovered that there was not the least ground for surprise, unless I had beforehand believed that nobody could be anybody’s cousin without my knowing it. This sort of surprise, I take it, depends on a liveliness of the spine, with a more or less constant nullity of brain. There was a fellow I used to meet at Rome who was in an effervescence of surprise at contact with the simplest information. Tell him what you would⁠—that you were fond of easy boots⁠—he would always say, “No! are you?” with the same energy of wonder: the very fellow of whom pastoral Browne wrote prophetically,

“A wretch so empty that if e’er there be
In nature found the least vacuity
’Twill be in him.”

I have accounted for it all⁠—he had a lively spine.
However, this cousinship with the duchess came out by chance one day that Mirah was with them at home and they were talking about the Mallingers. Apropos; I am getting so important that I have rival invitations. Gascoigne wants me to go down with him to his father’s rectory in August and see the country round there. But I think self-interest well understood will take me to Topping Abbey, for Sir Hugo has invited me, and proposes⁠—God bless him for his rashness!⁠—that I should make a picture of his three daughters sitting on a bank⁠—as he says, in the Gainsborough style. He came to my studio the other day and recommended me to apply myself to portrait. Of course I know what that means.⁠—“My good fellow, your attempts at the historic and poetic are simply pitiable. Your brush is just that of a successful portrait-painter⁠—it has a little truth and a great facility in falsehood⁠—your idealism will never do for gods and goddesses and heroic story, but it may fetch a high price as flattery. Fate, my friend, has made you the hinder wheel⁠—rota posterior curras, et in axe secundo⁠—run behind, because you can’t help it.”⁠—What great effort it evidently costs our friends to give us these candid opinions! I have even known a man to take the trouble to call, in order to tell me that I had irretrievably exposed my want of judgment in treating my subject, and that if I had asked him we would have lent me his own judgment. Such was my ingratitude and my readiness at composition, that even while he was speaking I inwardly sketched a Last Judgment with that candid friend’s physiognomy on the left. But all this is away from Sir Hugo, whose manner of implying that one’s gifts are not of the highest order is so exceedingly good-natured and comfortable that I begin to feel it an advantage not to be among those poor fellows at the tip-top. And his kindness to me tastes all the better because it comes out of his love for you, old boy. His chat is uncommonly amusing. By the way, he told me that your Vandyke duchess is gone with her husband yachting to the Mediterranean. I bethink me that it is possible to land from a yacht, or to be taken on to a yacht from the land. Shall you by chance have an opportunity of continuing your theological discussion with the fair Supralapsarian⁠—I think you said her tenets were of that complexion? Is Duke Alphonso also theological?⁠—perhaps an Arian who objects to triplicity. (Stage direction. While D. is reading, a profound scorn gathers in his face till at the last word he flings down the letter, grasps his coat-collar in a statuesque attitude and so remains with a look generally tremendous, throughout the following soliloquy, “O night, O blackness, etc., etc.”)
Excuse the brevity of this letter. You are not used to more from me than a bare statement of facts, without comment or digression. One fact I have omitted⁠—that the Klesmers on the eve of departure have behaved magnificently, shining forth as might be expected from the planets of genius and fortune in conjunction. Mirah is rich with their oriental gifts. What luck it will be if you come back and present yourself at the Abbey while I am there! I am going to behave with consummate discretion and win golden opinions. But I shall run up to town now and then, just for a peep into Gad Eden. You see how far I have got in Hebrew lore⁠—up with my Lord Bolingbroke, who knew no Hebrew, but “understood that sort of learning and what is writ about it.” If Mirah commanded, I would go to a depth below the tri-literal roots. Already it makes no difference to me whether the points are there or not. But while her brother’s life lasts I suspect she would not listen to a lover, even one whose “hair is like a flock of goats on Mount Gilead”⁠—and I flatter myself that few heads would bear that trying comparison better than mine. So I stay with my hope among the orchard-blossoms.
Your Devoted, Hans Meyrick.

Some months before, this letter from Hans would have divided Deronda’s thoughts irritatingly: its romancing, about Mirah would have had an unpleasant edge, scarcely anointed with any commiseration for his friend’s probable disappointment. But things had altered since March. Mirah was no longer so critically placed with regard to the Meyricks, and Deronda’s own position had been undergoing a change which had just been crowned by the revelation of his birth. The new opening toward the future, though he would not trust in any definite visions, inevitably shed new lights, and influenced his mood toward past and present; hence, what Hans called his hope now seemed to Deronda, not a mischievous unreasonableness which roused his indignation, but an unusually persistent bird-dance of an extravagant fancy, and he would have felt quite able to pity any consequent suffering of his friend’s, if he had believed in the suffering as probable. But some of the busy thought filling that long day, which passed without his receiving any new summons from his mother, was given to the argument that Hans Meyrick’s nature was not one in which love could strike the deep roots that turn disappointment into sorrow: it was too restless, too readily excitable by novelty, too ready to turn itself into imaginative material, and wear its grief as a fantastic costume. “Already he is beginning to play at love: he is taking the whole affair as a comedy,” said Deronda to himself; “he knows very well that there is no chance for him. Just like him⁠—never opening his eyes on any possible objection I could have to receive his outpourings about Mirah. Poor old Hans! If we were under a fiery hail together he would howl like a Greek, and if I did not howl too it would never occur to him that I was as badly off as he. And yet he is tenderhearted and affectionate in intention, and I can’t say that he is not active in imagining what goes on in other people⁠—but then he always imagines it to fit his own inclination.”

With this touch of causticity Deronda got rid of the slight heat at present raised by Hans’s naive expansiveness. The nonsense about Gwendolen, conveying the fact that she was gone yachting with her husband, only suggested a disturbing sequel to his own strange parting with her. But there was one sentence in the letter which raised a more immediate, active anxiety. Hans’s suspicion of a hidden sadness in Mirah was not in the direction of his wishes, and hence, instead of distrusting his observation here, Deronda began to conceive a cause for the sadness. Was it some event that had occurred during his absence, or only the growing fear of some event? Was it something, perhaps alterable, in the new position which had been made for her? Or⁠—had Mordecai, against his habitual resolve, communicated to her those peculiar cherished hopes about him, Deronda, and had her quickly sensitive nature been hurt by the discovery that her brother’s will or tenacity of visionary conviction had acted coercively on their friendship⁠—been hurt by the fear that there was more of pitying self-suppression than of equal regard in Deronda’s relation to him? For amidst all Mirah’s quiet renunciation, the evident thirst of soul with which she received the tribute of equality implied a corresponding pain if she found that what she had taken for a purely reverential regard toward her brother had its mixture of condescension.

In this last conjecture of Deronda’s he was not wrong as to the quality in Mirah’s nature on which he was founding⁠—the latent protest against the treatment she had all her life being subject to until she met him. For that gratitude which would not let her pass by any notice of their acquaintance without insisting on the depth of her debt to him, took half its fervor from the keen comparison with what others had thought enough to render to her. Deronda’s affinity in feeling enabled him to penetrate such secrets. But he was not near the truth in admitting the idea that Mordecai had broken his characteristic reticence. To no soul but Deronda himself had he yet breathed the history of their relation to each other, or his confidence about his friend’s origin: it was not only that these subjects were for him too sacred to be spoken of without weighty reason, but that he had discerned Deronda’s shrinking at any mention of his birth; and the severity of reserve which had hindered Mordecai from answering a question on a private affair of the Cohen family told yet more strongly here.

“Ezra, how is it?” Mirah one day said to him⁠—“I am continually going to speak to Mr. Deronda as if he were a Jew?”

He smiled at her quietly, and said, “I suppose it is because he treats us as if he were our brother. But he loves not to have the difference of birth dwelt upon.”

“He has never lived with his parents, Mr. Hans, says,” continued Mirah, to whom this was necessarily a question of interest about everyone for whom she had a regard.

“Seek not to know such things from Mr. Hans,” said Mordecai, gravely, laying his hand on her curls, as he was wont. “What Daniel Deronda wishes us to know about himself is for him to tell us.”

And Mirah felt herself rebuked, as Deronda had done. But to be rebuked in this way by Mordecai made her rather proud.

“I see no one so great as my brother,” she said to Mrs. Meyrick one day that she called at the Chelsea house on her way home, and, according to her hope, found the little mother alone. “It is difficult to think that he belongs to the same world as those people I used to live amongst. I told you once that they made life seem like a madhouse; but when I am with Ezra he makes me feel that his life is a great good, though he has suffered so much; not like me, who wanted to die because I had suffered a little, and only for a little while. His soul is so full, it is impossible for him to wish for death as I did. I get the same sort of feeling from him that I got yesterday, when I was tired, and came home through the park after the sweet rain had fallen and the sunshine lay on the grass and flowers. Everything in the sky and under the sky looked so pure and beautiful that the weariness and trouble and folly seemed only a small part of what is, and I became more patient and hopeful.”

A dove-like note of melancholy in this speech caused Mrs. Meyrick to look at Mirah with new examination. After laying down her hat and pushing her curls flat, with an air of fatigue, she placed herself on a chair opposite her friend in her habitual attitude, her feet and hands just crossed; and at a distance she might have seemed a colored statue of serenity. But Mrs. Meyrick discerned a new look of suppressed suffering in her face, which corresponded to the hint that to be patient and hopeful required some extra influence.

“Is there any fresh trouble on your mind, my dear?” said Mrs. Meyrick, giving up her needlework as a sign of concentrated attention.

Mirah hesitated before she said, “I am too ready to speak of troubles, I think. It seems unkind to put anything painful into other people’s minds, unless one were sure it would hinder something worse. And perhaps I am too hasty and fearful.”

“Oh, my dear, mothers are made to like pain and trouble for the sake of their children. Is it because the singing lessons are so few, and are likely to fall off when the season comes to an end? Success in these things can’t come all at once.” Mrs. Meyrick did not believe that she was touching the real grief; but a guess that could be corrected would make an easier channel for confidence.

“No, not that,” said Mirah, shaking her head gently. “I have been a little disappointed because so many ladies said they wanted me to give them or their daughters lessons, and then I never heard of them again. But perhaps after the holidays I shall teach in some schools. Besides, you know, I am as rich as a princess now. I have not touched the hundred pounds that Mrs. Klesmer gave me; and I should never be afraid that Ezra would be in want of anything, because there is Mr. Deronda, and he said, ‘It is the chief honor of my life that your brother will share anything with me.’ Oh, no! Ezra and I can have no fears for each other about such things as food and clothing.”

“But there is some other fear on your mind,” said Mrs. Meyrick not without divination⁠—“a fear of something that may disturb your peace. Don’t be forecasting evil, dear child, unless it is what you can guard against. Anxiety is good for nothing if we can’t turn it into a defense. But there’s no defense against all the things that might be. Have you any more reason for being anxious now than you had a month ago?”

“Yes, I have,” said Mirah. “I have kept it from Ezra. I have not dared to tell him. Pray forgive me that I can’t do without telling you. I have more reason for being anxious. It is five days ago now. I am quite sure I saw my father.”

Mrs. Meyrick shrank into a smaller space, packing her arms across her chest and leaning forward⁠—to hinder herself from pelting that father with her worst epithets.

“The year has changed him,” Mirah went on. “He had already been much altered and worn in the time before I left him. You remember I said how he used sometimes to cry. He was always excited one way or the other. I have told Ezra everything that I told you, and he says that my father had taken to gambling, which makes people easily distressed, and then again exalted. And now⁠—it was only a moment that I saw him⁠—his face was more haggard, and his clothes were shabby. He was with a much worse-looking man, who carried something, and they were hurrying along after an omnibus.”

“Well, child, he did not see you, I hope?”

“No. I had just come from Mrs. Raymond’s, and I was waiting to cross near the Marble Arch. Soon he was on the omnibus and gone out of sight. It was a dreadful moment. My old life seemed to have come back again, and it was worse than it had ever been before. And I could not help feeling it a new deliverance that he was gone out of sight without knowing that I was there. And yet it hurt me that I was feeling so⁠—it seemed hateful in me⁠—almost like words I once had to speak in a play, that ‘I had warmed my hands in the blood of my kindred.’ For where might my father be going? What may become of him? And his having a daughter who would own him in spite of all, might have hindered the worst. Is there any pain like seeing what ought to be the best things in life turned into the worst? All those opposite feelings were meeting and pressing against each other, and took up all my strength. No one could act that. Acting is slow and poor to what we go through within. I don’t know how I called a cab. I only remember that I was in it when I began to think, ‘I cannot tell Ezra; he must not know.’ ”

“You are afraid of grieving him?” Mrs. Meyrick asked, when Mirah had paused a little.

“Yes⁠—and there is something more,” said Mirah, hesitatingly, as if she were examining her feeling before she would venture to speak of it. “I want to tell you; I cannot tell anyone else. I could not have told my own mother: I should have closed it up before her. I feel shame for my father, and it is perhaps strange⁠—but the shame is greater before Ezra than before anyone else in the world. He desired me to tell him all about my life, and I obeyed him. But it is always like a smart to me to know that those things about my father are in Ezra’s mind. And⁠—can you believe it? when the thought haunts me how it would be if my father were to come and show himself before us both, what seems as if it would scorch me most is seeing my father shrinking before Ezra. That is the truth. I don’t know whether it is a right feeling. But I can’t help thinking that I would rather try to maintain my father in secret, and bear a great deal in that way, if I could hinder him from meeting my brother.”

“You must not encourage that feeling, Mirah,” said Mrs. Meyrick, hastily. “It would be very dangerous; it would be wrong. You must not have concealment of that sort.”

“But ought I now to tell Ezra that I have seen my father?” said Mirah, with deprecation in her tone.

“No,” Mrs. Meyrick answered, dubitatively. “I don’t know that it is necessary to do that. Your father may go away with the birds. It is not clear that he came after you; you may never see him again. And then your brother will have been spared a useless anxiety. But promise me that if your father sees you⁠—gets hold of you in any way again⁠—you will let us all know. Promise me that solemnly, Mirah. I have a right to ask it.”

Mirah reflected a little, then leaned forward to put her hands in Mrs. Meyrick’s, and said, “Since you ask it, I do promise. I will bear this feeling of shame. I have been so long used to think that I must bear that sort of inward pain. But the shame for my father burns me more when I think of his meeting Ezra.” She was silent a moment or two, and then said, in a new tone of yearning compassion, “And we are his children⁠—and he was once young like us⁠—and my mother loved him. Oh! I cannot help seeing it all close, and it hurts me like a cruelty.”

Mirah shed no tears: the discipline of her whole life had been against indulgence in such manifestation, which soon falls under the control of strong motives; but it seemed that the more intense expression of sorrow had entered into her voice. Mrs. Meyrick, with all her quickness and loving insight, did not quite understand that filial feeling in Mirah which had active roots deep below her indignation for the worst offenses. She could conceive that a mother would have a clinging pity and shame for a reprobate son, but she was out of patience with what she held an exaggerated susceptibility on behalf of this father, whose reappearance inclined her to wish him under the care of a turnkey. Mirah’s promise, however, was some security against her weakness.

That incident was the only reason that Mirah herself could have stated for the hidden sadness which Hans had divined. Of one element in her changed mood she could have given no definite account: it was something as dim as the sense of approaching weather-change, and had extremely slight external promptings, such as we are often ashamed to find all we can allege in support of the busy constructions that go on within us, not only without effort, but even against it, under the influence of any blind emotional stirring. Perhaps the first leaven of uneasiness was laid by Gwendolen’s behavior on that visit which was entirely superfluous as a means of engaging Mirah to sing, and could have no other motive than the excited and strange questioning about Deronda. Mirah had instinctively kept the visit a secret, but the active remembrance of it had raised a new susceptibility in her, and made her alive as she had never been before to the relations Deronda must have with that society which she herself was getting frequent glimpses of without belonging to it. Her peculiar life and education had produced in her an extraordinary mixture of unworldliness, with knowledge of the world’s evil, and even this knowledge was a strange blending of direct observation with the effects of reading and theatrical study. Her memory was furnished with abundant passionate situation and intrigue, which she never made emotionally her own, but felt a repelled aloofness from, as she had done from the actual life around her. Some of that imaginative knowledge began now to weave itself around Mrs. Grandcourt; and though Mirah would admit no position likely to affect her reverence for Deronda, she could not avoid a new painfully vivid association of his general life with a world away from her own, where there might be some involvement of his feeling and action with a woman like Gwendolen, who was increasingly repugnant to her⁠—increasingly, even after she had ceased to see her; for liking and disliking can grow in meditation as fast as in the more immediate kind of presence. Any disquietude consciously due to the idea that Deronda’s deepest care might be for something remote not only from herself but even from his friendship for her brother, she would have checked with rebuking questions:⁠—What was she but one who had shared his generous kindness with many others? and his attachment to her brother, was it not begun late to be soon ended? Other ties had come before, and others would remain after this had been cut by swift-coming death. But her uneasiness had not reached that point of self-recognition in which she would have been ashamed of it as an indirect, presumptuous claim on Deronda’s feeling. That she or anyone else should think of him as her possible lover was a conception which had never entered her mind; indeed it was equally out of the question with Mrs. Meyrick and the girls, who with Mirah herself regarded his intervention in her life as something exceptional, and were so impressed by his mission as her deliverer and guardian that they would have held it an offense to him at his holding any other relation toward her: a point of view which Hans also had readily adopted. It is a little hard upon some men that they appear to sink for us in becoming lovers. But precisely to this innocence of the Meyricks was owing the disturbance of Mirah’s unconsciousness. The first occasion could hardly have been more trivial, but it prepared her emotive nature for a deeper effect from what happened afterward.

It was when Anna Gascoigne, visiting the Meyricks; was led to speak of her cousinship with Gwendolen. The visit had been arranged that Anna might see Mirah; the three girls were at home with their mother, and there was naturally a flux of talk among six feminine creatures, free from the presence of a distorting male standard. Anna Gascoigne felt herself much at home with the Meyrick girls, who knew what it was to have a brother, and to be generally regarded as of minor importance in the world; and she had told Rex that she thought the University very nice, because brothers made friends there whose families were not rich and grand, and yet (like the University) were very nice. The Meyricks seemed to her almost alarmingly clever, and she consulted them much on the best mode of teaching Lotta, confiding to them that she herself was the least clever of her family. Mirah had lately come in, and there was a complete bouquet of young faces around the tea-table⁠—Hafiz, seated a little aloft with large eyes on the alert, regarding the whole scene as an apparatus for supplying his allowance of milk.

“Think of our surprise, Mirah,” said Kate. “We were speaking of Mr. Deronda and the Mallingers, and it turns out that Miss Gascoigne knows them.”

“I only knew about them,” said Anna, a little flushed with excitement, what she had heard and now saw of the lovely Jewess being an almost startling novelty to her. “I have not even seen them. But some months ago, my cousin married Sir Hugo Mallinger’s nephew, Mr. Grandcourt, who lived in Sir Hugo’s place at Diplow, near us.”

“There!” exclaimed Mab, clasping her hands. “Something must come of that. Mrs. Grandcourt, the Vandyke duchess, is your cousin?”

“Oh, yes; I was her bridesmaid,” said Anna. “Her mamma and mine are sisters. My aunt was much richer before last year, but then she and mamma lost all their fortune. Papa is a clergyman, you know, so it makes very little difference to us, except that we keep no carriage, and have no dinner parties⁠—and I like it better. But it was very sad for poor Aunt Davilow, for she could not live with us, because she has four daughters besides Gwendolen; but then, when she married Mr. Grandcourt, it did not signify so much, because of his being so rich.”

“Oh, this finding out relationships is delightful!” said Mab. “It is like a Chinese puzzle that one has to fit together. I feel sure something wonderful may be made of it, but I can’t tell what.”

“Dear me, Mab,” said Amy, “relationships must branch out. The only difference is, that we happen to know some of the people concerned. Such things are going on every day.”

“And pray, Amy, why do you insist on the number nine being so wonderful?” said Mab. “I am sure that is happening every day. Never mind, Miss Gascoigne; please go on. And Mr. Deronda?⁠—have you never seen Mr. Deronda? You must bring him in.”

“No, I have not seen him,” said Anna; “but he was at Diplow before my cousin was married, and I have heard my aunt speaking of him to papa. She said what you have been saying about him⁠—only not so much: I mean, about Mr. Deronda living with Sir Hugo Mallinger, and being so nice, she thought. We talk a great deal about everyone who comes near Pennicote, because it is so seldom there is anyone new. But I remember, when I asked Gwendolen what she thought of Mr. Deronda, she said, ‘Don’t mention it, Anna: but I think his hair is dark.’ That was her droll way of answering: she was always so lively. It is really rather wonderful that I should come to hear so much about him, all through Mr. Hans knowing Rex, and then my having the pleasure of knowing you,” Anna ended, looking at Mrs. Meyrick with a shy grace.

“The pleasure is on our side too; but the wonder would have been, if you had come to this house without hearing of Mr. Deronda⁠—wouldn’t it, Mirah?” said Mrs. Meyrick.

Mirah smiled acquiescently, but had nothing to say. A confused discontent took possession of her at the mingling of names and images to which she had been listening.

“My son calls Mrs. Grandcourt the Vandyke duchess,” continued Mrs. Meyrick, turning again to Anna; “he thinks her so striking and picturesque.”

“Yes,” said Anna. “Gwendolen was always so beautiful⁠—people fell dreadfully in love with her. I thought it a pity, because it made them unhappy.”

“And how do you like Mr. Grandcourt, the happy lover?” said Mrs. Meyrick, who, in her way, was as much interested as Mab in the hints she had been hearing of vicissitude in the life of a widow with daughters.

“Papa approved of Gwendolen’s accepting him, and my aunt says he is very generous,” said Anna, beginning with a virtuous intention of repressing her own sentiments; but then, unable to resist a rare occasion for speaking them freely, she went on⁠—“else I should have thought he was not very nice⁠—rather proud, and not at all lively, like Gwendolen. I should have thought someone younger and more lively would have suited her better. But, perhaps, having a brother who seems to us better than anyone makes us think worse of others.”

“Wait till you see Mr. Deronda,” said Mab, nodding significantly. “Nobody’s brother will do after him.”

“Our brothers must do for people’s husbands,” said Kate, curtly, “because they will not get Mr. Deronda. No woman will do for him to marry.”

“No woman ought to want him to marry him,” said Mab, with indignation. “I never should. Fancy finding out that he had a tailor’s bill, and used boot-hooks, like Hans. Who ever thought of his marrying?”

“I have,” said Kate. “When I drew a wedding for a frontispiece to Hearts and Diamonds, I made a sort of likeness to him for the bridegroom, and I went about looking for a grand woman who would do for his countess, but I saw none that would not be poor creatures by the side of him.”

“You should have seen this Mrs. Grandcourt then,” said Mrs. Meyrick. “Hans says that she and Mr. Deronda set each other off when they are side by side. She is tall and fair. But you know her, Mirah⁠—you can always say something descriptive. What do you think of Mrs. Grandcourt?”

“I think she is the Princess of Eboli in Don Carlos,” said Mirah, with a quick intensity. She was pursuing an association in her own mind not intelligible to her hearers⁠—an association with a certain actress as well as the part she represented.

“Your comparison is a riddle for me, my dear,” said Mrs. Meyrick, smiling.

“You said that Mrs. Grandcourt was tall and fair,” continued Mirah, slightly paler. “That is quite true.”

Mrs. Meyrick’s quick eye and ear detected something unusual, but immediately explained it to herself. Fine ladies had often wounded Mirah by caprices of manner and intention.

“Mrs. Grandcourt had thought of having lessons of Mirah,” she said turning to Anna. “But many have talked of having lessons, and then have found no time. Fashionable ladies have too much work to do.”

And the chat went on without further insistence on the Princess of Eboli. That comparison escaped Mirah’s lips under the urgency of a pang unlike anything she had felt before. The conversation from the beginning had revived unpleasant impressions, and Mrs. Meyrick’s suggestion of Gwendolen’s figure by the side of Deronda’s had the stinging effect of a voice outside her, confirming her secret conviction that this tall and fair woman had some hold on his lot. For a long while afterward she felt as if she had had a jarring shock through her frame.

In the evening, putting her cheek against her brother’s shoulder as she was sitting by him, while he sat propped up in bed under a new difficulty of breathing, she said,

“Ezra, does it ever hurt your love for Mr. Deronda that so much of his life was all hidden away from you⁠—that he is amongst persons and cares about persons who are all so unlike us⁠—I mean unlike you?”

“No, assuredly no,” said Mordecai. “Rather it is a precious thought to me that he has a preparation which I lacked, and is an accomplished Egyptian.” Then, recollecting that his words had reference which his sister must not yet understand, he added, “I have the more to give him, since his treasure differs from mine. That is a blessedness in friendship.”

Mirah mused a little.

“Still,” she said, “it would be a trial to your love for him if that other part of his life were like a crowd in which he had got entangled, so that he was carried away from you⁠—I mean in his thoughts, and not merely carried out of sight as he is now⁠—and not merely for a little while, but continually. How should you bear that! Our religion commands us to bear. But how should you bear it?”

“Not well, my sister⁠—not well; but it will never happen,” said Mordecai, looking at her with a tender smile. He thought that her heart needed comfort on his account.

Mirah said no more. She mused over the difference between her own state of mind and her brother’s, and felt her comparative pettiness. Why could she not be completely satisfied with what satisfied his larger judgment? She gave herself no fuller reason than a painful sense of unfitness⁠—in what? Airy possibilities to which she could give no outline, but to which one name and one figure gave the wandering persistency of a blot in her vision. Here lay the vaguer source of the hidden sadness rendered noticeable to Hans by some diminution of that sweet ease, that ready joyousness of response in her speech and smile, which had come with the new sense of freedom and safety, and had made her presence like the freshly-opened daisies and clear bird-notes after the rain. She herself regarded her uneasiness as a sort of ingratitude and dullness of sensibility toward the great things that had been given her in her new life; and whenever she threw more energy than usual into her singing, it was the energy of indignation against the shallowness of her own content. In that mood she once said, “Shall I tell you what is the difference between you and me, Ezra? You are a spring in the drought, and I am an acorn-cup; the waters of heaven fill me, but the least little shake leaves me empty.”

“Why, what has shaken thee?” said Mordecai. He fell into this antique form of speech habitually in talking to his sister and to the Cohen children.

“Thoughts,” said Mirah; “thoughts that come like the breeze and shake me⁠—bad people, wrong things, misery⁠—and how they might touch our life.”

“We must take our portion, Mirah. It is there. On whose shoulder would we lay it, that we might be free?”

The one voluntary sign she made of her inward care was this distant allusion.

Chapter LIII

“My desolation does begin to make
A better life.”
Shakespeare: Antony and Cleopatra

Before Deronda was summoned to a second interview with his mother, a day had passed in which she had only sent him a message to say that she was not yet well enough to receive him again; but on the third morning he had a note saying, “I leave today. Come and see me at once.”

He was shown into the same room as before; but it was much darkened with blinds and curtains. The Princess was not there, but she presently entered, dressed in a loose wrap of some soft silk, in color a dusky orange, her head again with black lace floating about it, her arms showing themselves bare from under her wide sleeves. Her face seemed even more impressive in the sombre light, the eyes larger, the lines more vigorous. You might have imagined her a sorceress who would stretch forth her wonderful hand and arm to mix youth-potions for others, but scorned to mix them for herself, having had enough of youth.

She put her arms on her son’s shoulders at once, and kissed him on both cheeks, then seated herself among her cushions with an air of assured firmness and dignity unlike her fitfulness in their first interview, and told Deronda to sit down by her. He obeyed, saying, “You are quite relieved now, I trust?”

“Yes, I am at ease again. Is there anything more that you would like to ask me?” she said, with the matter of a queen rather than of a mother.

“Can I find the house in Genoa where you used to live with my grandfather?” said Deronda.

“No,” she answered, with a deprecating movement of her arm, “it is pulled down⁠—not to be found. But about our family, and where my father lived at various times⁠—you will find all that among the papers in the chest, better than I can tell you. My father, I told you, was a physician. My mother was a Morteira. I used to hear all those things without listening. You will find them all. I was born amongst them without my will. I banished them as soon as I could.”

Deronda tried to hide his pained feeling, and said, “Anything else that I should desire to know from you could only be what it is some satisfaction to your own feeling to tell me.”

“I think I have told you everything that could be demanded of me,” said the Princess, looking coldly meditative. It seemed as if she had exhausted her emotion in their former interview. The fact was, she had said to herself, “I have done it all. I have confessed all. I will not go through it again. I will save myself from agitation.” And she was acting out that scheme.

But to Deronda’s nature the moment was cruel; it made the filial yearning of his life a disappointed pilgrimage to a shrine where there were no longer the symbols of sacredness. It seemed that all the woman lacking in her was present in him, as he said, with some tremor in his voice,

“Then are we to part and I never be anything to you?”

“It is better so,” said the Princess, in a softer, mellower voice. “There could be nothing but hard duty for you, even if it were possible for you to take the place of my son. You would not love me. Don’t deny it,” she said, abruptly, putting up her hand. “I know what is the truth. You don’t like what I did. You are angry with me. You think I robbed you of something. You are on your grandfather’s side, and you will always have a condemnation of me in your heart.”

Deronda felt himself under a ban of silence. He rose from his seat by her, preferring to stand, if he had to obey that imperious prohibition of any tenderness. But his mother now looked up at him with a new admiration in her glance, saying,

“You are wrong to be angry with me. You are the better for what I did.” After pausing a little, she added, abruptly, “And now tell me what you shall do?”

“Do you mean now, immediately,” said Deronda; “or as to the course of my future life?”

“I mean in the future. What difference will it make to you that I have told you about your birth?”

“A very great difference,” said Deronda, emphatically. “I can hardly think of anything that would make a greater difference.”

“What shall you do then?” said the Princess, with more sharpness. “Make yourself just like your grandfather⁠—be what he wished you⁠—turn yourself into a Jew like him?”

“That is impossible. The effect of my education can never be done away with. The Christian sympathies in which my mind was reared can never die out of me,” said Deronda, with increasing tenacity of tone. “But I consider it my duty⁠—it is the impulse of my feeling⁠—to identify myself, as far as possible, with my hereditary people, and if I can see any work to be done for them that I can give my soul and hand to I shall choose to do it.”

His mother had her eyes fixed on him with a wondering speculation, examining his face as if she thought that by close attention she could read a difficult language there. He bore her gaze very firmly, sustained by a resolute opposition, which was the expression of his fullest self. She bent toward him a little, and said, with a decisive emphasis,

“You are in love with a Jewess.”

Deronda colored and said, “My reasons would be independent of any such fact.”

“I know better. I have seen what men are,” said the Princess, peremptorily. “Tell me the truth. She is a Jewess who will not accept anyone but a Jew. There are a few such,” she added, with a touch of scorn.

Deronda had that objection to answer which we all have known in speaking to those who are too certain of their own fixed interpretations to be enlightened by anything we may say. But besides this, the point immediately in question was one on which he felt a repugnance either to deny or affirm. He remained silent, and she presently said,

“You love her as your father loved me, and she draws you after her as I drew him.”

Those words touched Deronda’s filial imagination, and some tenderness in his glance was taken by his mother as an assent. She went on with rising passion: “But I was leading him the other way. And now your grandfather is getting his revenge.”

“Mother,” said Deronda, remonstrantly, “don’t let us think of it in that way. I will admit that there may come some benefit from the education you chose for me. I prefer cherishing the benefit with gratitude, to dwelling with resentment on the injury. I think it would have been right that I should have been brought up with the consciousness that I was a Jew, but it must always have been a good to me to have as wide an instruction and sympathy as possible. And now, you have restored me my inheritance⁠—events have brought a fuller restitution than you could have made⁠—you have been saved from robbing my people of my service and me of my duty: can you not bring your whole soul to consent to this?”

Deronda paused in his pleading: his mother looked at him listeningly, as if the cadence of his voice were taking her ear, yet she shook her head slowly. He began again, even more urgently.

“You have told me that you sought what you held the best for me: open your heart to relenting and love toward my grandfather, who sought what he held the best for you.”

“Not for me, no,” she said, shaking her head with more absolute denial, and folding her arms tightly. “I tell you, he never thought of his daughter except as an instrument. Because I had wants outside his purpose, I was to be put in a frame and tortured. If that is the right law for the world, I will not say that I love it. If my acts were wrong⁠—if it is God who is exacting from me that I should deliver up what I withheld⁠—who is punishing me because I deceived my father and did not warn him that I should contradict his trust⁠—well, I have told everything. I have done what I could. And your soul consents. That is enough. I have after all been the instrument my father wanted.⁠—‘I desire a grandson who shall have a true Jewish heart. Every Jew should rear his family as if he hoped that a Deliverer might spring from it.’ ”

In uttering these last sentences the Princess narrowed her eyes, waved her head up and down, and spoke slowly with a new kind of chest-voice, as if she were quoting unwillingly.

“Were those my grandfather’s words?” said Deronda.

“Yes, yes; and you will find them written. I wanted to thwart him,” said the Princess, with a sudden outburst of the passion she had shown in the former interview. Then she added more slowly, “You would have me love what I have hated from the time I was so high”⁠—here she held her left hand a yard from the floor.⁠—“That can never be. But what does it matter? His yoke has been on me, whether I loved it or not. You are the grandson he wanted. You speak as men do⁠—as if you felt yourself wise. What does it all mean?”

Her tone was abrupt and scornful. Deronda, in his pained feeling, and under the solemn urgency of the moment, had to keep a clutching remembrance of their relationship, lest his words should become cruel. He began in a deep entreating tone:

“Mother, don’t say that I feel myself wise. We are set in the midst of difficulties. I see no other way to get any clearness than by being truthful⁠—not by keeping back facts which may⁠—which should carry obligation within them⁠—which should make the only guidance toward duty. No wonder if such facts come to reveal themselves in spite of concealments. The effects prepared by generations are likely to triumph over a contrivance which would bend them all to the satisfaction of self. Your will was strong, but my grandfather’s trust which you accepted and did not fulfill⁠—what you call his yoke⁠—is the expression of something stronger, with deeper, farther-spreading roots, knit into the foundations of sacredness for all men. You renounced me⁠—you still banish me⁠—as a son”⁠—there was an involuntary movement of indignation in Deronda’s voice⁠—“But that stronger Something has determined that I shall be all the more the grandson whom also you willed to annihilate.”

His mother was watching him fixedly, and again her face gathered admiration. After a moment’s silence she said, in a low, persuasive tone,

“Sit down again,” and he obeyed, placing himself beside her. She laid her hand on his shoulder and went on,

“You rebuke me. Well⁠—I am the loser. And you are angry because I banish you. What could you do for me but weary your own patience? Your mother is a shattered woman. My sense of life is little more than a sense of what was⁠—except when the pain is present. You reproach me that I parted with you. I had joy enough without you then. Now you are come back to me, and I cannot make you a joy. Have you the cursing spirit of the Jew in you? Are you not able to forgive me? Shall you be glad to think that I am punished because I was not a Jewish mother to you?”

“How can you ask me that?” said Deronda, remonstrantly. “Have I not besought you that I might now at least be a son to you? My grief is that you have declared me helpless to comfort you. I would give up much that is dear for the sake of soothing your anguish.”

“You shall give up nothing,” said his mother, with the hurry of agitation. “You shall be happy. You shall let me think of you as happy. I shall have done you no harm. You have no reason to curse me. You shall feel for me as they feel for the dead whom they say prayers for⁠—you shall long that I may be freed from all suffering⁠—from all punishment. And I shall see you instead of always seeing your grandfather. Will any harm come to me because I broke his trust in the daylight after he was gone into darkness? I cannot tell:⁠—if you think Kaddish will help me⁠—say it, say it. You will come between me and the dead. When I am in your mind, you will look as you do now⁠—always as if you were a tender son⁠—always⁠—as if I had been a tender mother.”

She seemed resolved that her agitation should not conquer her, but he felt her hand trembling on his shoulder. Deep, deep compassion hemmed in all words. With a face of beseeching he put his arm around her and pressed her head tenderly under his. They sat so for some moments. Then she lifted her head again and rose from her seat with a great sigh, as if in that breath she were dismissing a weight of thoughts. Deronda, standing in front of her, felt that the parting was near. But one of her swift alternations had come upon his mother.

“Is she beautiful?” she said, abruptly.

“Who?” said Deronda, changing color.

“The woman you love.”

It was not a moment for deliberate explanation. He was obliged to say, “Yes.”

“Not ambitious?”

“No, I think not.”

“Not one who must have a path of her own?”

“I think her nature is not given to make great claims.”

“She is not like that?” said the Princess, taking from her wallet a miniature with jewels around it, and holding it before her son. It was her own in all the fire of youth, and as Deronda looked at it with admiring sadness, she said, “Had I not a rightful claim to be something more than a mere daughter and mother? The voice and the genius matched the face. Whatever else was wrong, acknowledge that I had a right to be an artist, though my father’s will was against it. My nature gave me a charter.”

“I do acknowledge that,” said Deronda, looking from the miniature to her face, which even in its worn pallor had an expression of living force beyond anything that the pencil could show.

“Will you take the portrait?” said the Princess, more gently. “If she is a kind woman, teach her to think of me kindly.”

“I shall be grateful for the portrait,” said Deronda, “but⁠—I ought to say, I have no assurance that she whom I love will have any love for me. I have kept silence.”

“Who and what is she?” said the mother. The question seemed a command.

“She was brought up as a singer for the stage,” said Deronda, with inward reluctance. “Her father took her away early from her mother, and her life has been unhappy. She is very young⁠—only twenty. Her father wished to bring her up in disregard⁠—even in dislike of her Jewish origin, but she has clung with all her affection to the memory of her mother and the fellowship of her people.”

“Ah, like you. She is attached to the Judaism she knows nothing of,” said the Princess, peremptorily. “That is poetry⁠—fit to last through an opera night. Is she fond of her artist’s life⁠—is her singing worth anything?”

“Her singing is exquisite. But her voice is not suited to the stage. I think that the artist’s life has been made repugnant to her.”

“Why, she is made for you then. Sir Hugo said you were bitterly against being a singer, and I can see that you would never have let yourself be merged in a wife, as your father was.”

“I repeat,” said Deronda, emphatically⁠—“I repeat that I have no assurance of her love for me, of the possibility that we can ever be united. Other things⁠—painful issues may lie before me. I have always felt that I should prepare myself to renounce, not cherish that prospect. But I suppose I might feel so of happiness in general. Whether it may come or not, one should try and prepare one’s self to do without it.”

“Do you feel in that way?” said his mother, laying her hands on his shoulders, and perusing his face, while she spoke in a low meditative tone, pausing between her sentences. “Poor boy!⁠—I wonder how it would have been if I had kept you with me⁠—whether you would have turned your heart to the old things against mine⁠—and we should have quarreled⁠—your grandfather would have been in you⁠—and you would have hampered my life with your young growth from the old root.”

“I think my affection might have lasted through all our quarreling,” said Deronda, saddened more and more, “and that would not have hampered⁠—surely it would have enriched your life.”

“Not then, not then⁠—I did not want it then⁠—I might have been glad of it now,” said the mother, with a bitter melancholy, “if I could have been glad of anything.”

“But you love your other children, and they love you?” said Deronda, anxiously.

“Oh, yes,” she answered, as to a question about a matter of course, while she folded her arms again. “But,”⁠—she added in a deeper tone⁠—“I am not a loving woman. That is the truth. It is a talent to love⁠—I lack it. Others have loved me⁠—and I have acted their love. I know very well what love makes of men and women⁠—it is subjection. It takes another for a larger self, enclosing this one,”⁠—she pointed to her own bosom. “I was never willingly subject to any man. Men have been subject to me.”

“Perhaps the man who was subject was the happier of the two,” said Deronda⁠—not with a smile, but with a grave, sad sense of his mother’s privation.

“Perhaps⁠—but I was happy⁠—for a few years I was happy. If I had not been afraid of defeat and failure, I might have gone on. I miscalculated. What then? It is all over. Another life! Men talk of ‘another life,’ as if it only began on the other side of the grave. I have long entered on another life.” With the last words she raised her arms till they were bare to the elbow, her brow was contracted in one deep fold, her eyes were closed, her voice was smothered: in her dusky flame-colored garment, she looked like a dreamed visitant from some region of departed mortals.

Deronda’s feeling was wrought to a pitch of acuteness in which he was no longer quite master of himself. He gave an audible sob. His mother opened her eyes, and letting her hands again rest on his shoulders, said,

“Goodbye, my son, goodbye. We shall hear no more of each other. Kiss me.”

He clasped his arms round her neck, and they kissed each other.

Deronda did not know how he got out of the room. He felt an older man. All his boyish yearnings and anxieties about his mother had vanished. He had gone through a tragic experience which must forever solemnize his life and deepen the significance of the acts by which he bound himself to others.

Chapter LIV

The unwilling brain
Feigns often what it would not; and we trust
Imagination with such fantasies
As the tongue dares not fashion into words;
Which have no words, their horror makes them dim
To the mind’s eye.

Madonna Pia, whose husband, feeling himself injured by her, took her to his castle amid the swampy flats of the Maremma and got rid of her there, makes a pathetic figure in Dante’s Purgatory, among the sinners who repented at the last and desire to be remembered compassionately by their fellow-countrymen. We know little about the grounds of mutual discontent between the Siennese couple, but we may infer with some confidence that the husband had never been a very delightful companion, and that on the flats of the Maremma his disagreeable manners had a background which threw them out remarkably; whence in his desire to punish his wife to the upmost, the nature of things was so far against him that in relieving himself of her he could not avoid making the relief mutual. And thus, without any hardness to the poor Tuscan lady, who had her deliverance long ago, one may feel warranted in thinking of her with a less sympathetic interest than of the better known Gwendolen who, instead of being delivered from her errors on earth and cleansed from their effect in purgatory, is at the very height of her entanglement in those fatal meshes which are woven within more closely than without, and often make the inward torture disproportionate to what is discernable as outward cause.

In taking his wife with him on a yachting expedition, Grandcourt had no intention to get rid of her; on the contrary, he wanted to feel more securely that she was his to do as he liked with, and to make her feel it also. Moreover, he was himself very fond of yachting: its dreamy do-nothing absolutism, unmolested by social demands, suited his disposition, and he did not in the least regard it as an equivalent for the dreariness of the Maremma. He had his reasons for carrying Gwendolen out of reach, but they were not reasons that can seem black in the mere statement. He suspected a growing spirit of opposition in her, and his feeling about the sentimental inclination she betrayed for Deronda was what in another man he would have called jealousy. In himself it seemed merely a resolution to put an end to such foolery as must have been going on in that prearranged visit of Deronda’s which he had divined and interrupted.

And Grandcourt might have pleaded that he was perfectly justified in taking care that his wife should fulfill the obligations she had accepted. Her marriage was a contract where all the ostensible advantages were on her side, and it was only of those advantages that her husband should use his power to hinder her from any injurious self committal or unsuitable behavior. He knew quite well that she had not married him⁠—had not overcome her repugnance to certain facts⁠—out of love to him personally; he had won her by the rank and luxuries he had to give her, and these she had got: he had fulfilled his side of the contract.

And Gwendolen, we know, was thoroughly aware of the situation. She could not excuse herself by saying that there had been a tacit part of the contract on her side⁠—namely, that she meant to rule and have her own way. With all her early indulgence in the disposition to dominate, she was not one of the narrow-brained women who through life regard all their own selfish demands as rights, and every claim upon themselves as an injury. She had a root of conscience in her, and the process of purgatory had begun for her on the green earth: she knew that she had been wrong.

But now enter into the soul of this young creature as she found herself, with the blue Mediterranean dividing her from the world, on the tiny plank-island of a yacht, the domain of the husband to whom she felt that she had sold herself, and had been paid the strict price⁠—nay, paid more than she had dared to ask in the handsome maintenance of her mother:⁠—the husband to whom she had sold her truthfulness and sense of justice, so that he held them throttled into silence, collared and dragged behind him to witness what he would, without remonstrance.

What had she to complain of? The yacht was of the prettiest; the cabin fitted up to perfection, smelling of cedar, soft-cushioned, hung with silk, expanded with mirrors; the crew such as suited an elegant toy, one of them having even ringlets, as well as a bronze complexion and fine teeth; and Mr. Lush was not there, for he had taken his way back to England as soon as he had seen all and everything on board. Moreover, Gwendolen herself liked the sea: it did not make her ill; and to observe the rigging of the vessel and forecast the necessary adjustments was a sort of amusement that might have gratified her activity and enjoyment of imaginary rule; the weather was fine, and they were coasting southward, where even the rain-furrowed, heat-cracked clay becomes gem-like with purple shadows, and where one may float between blue and blue in an open-eyed dream that the world has done with sorrow.

But what can still that hunger of the heart which sickens the eye for beauty, and makes sweet-scented ease an oppression? What sort of Muslim paradise would quiet the terrible fury of moral repulsion and cowed resistance which, like an eating pain intensifying into torture, concentrates the mind in that poisonous misery? While Gwendolen, throned on her cushions at evening, and beholding the glory of sea and sky softening as if with boundless love around her, was hoping that Grandcourt in his march up and down was not going to pause near her, not going to look at her or speak to her, some woman, under a smoky sky, obliged to consider the price of eggs in arranging her dinner, was listening for the music of a footstep that would remove all risk from her foretaste of joy; some couple, bending cheek by cheek, over a bit of work done by the one and delighted in by the other, were reckoning the earnings that would make them rich enough for a holiday among the furze and heather.

Had Grandcourt the least conception of what was going on in the breast of his wife? He conceived that she did not love him; but was that necessary? She was under his power, and he was not accustomed to soothe himself, as some cheerfully-disposed persons are, with the conviction that he was very generally and justly beloved. But what lay quite away from his conception was, that she could have any special repulsion for him personally. How could she? He himself knew what personal repulsion was⁠—nobody better; his mind was much furnished with a sense of what brutes his fellow-creatures were, both masculine and feminine; what odious familiarities they had, what smirks, what modes of flourishing their handkerchiefs, what costume, what lavender water, what bulging eyes, and what foolish notions of making themselves agreeable by remarks which were not wanted. In this critical view of mankind there was an affinity between him and Gwendolen before their marriage, and we know that she had been attractingly wrought upon by the refined negations he presented to her. Hence he understood her repulsion for Lush. But how was he to understand or conceive her present repulsion for Henleigh Grandcourt? Some men bring themselves to believe, and not merely maintain, the nonexistence of an external world; a few others believe themselves objects of repulsion to a woman without being told so in plain language. But Grandcourt did not belong to this eccentric body of thinkers. He had all his life had reason to take a flattering view of his own attractiveness, and to place himself in fine antithesis to the men who, he saw at once, must be revolting to a woman of taste. He had no idea of moral repulsion, and could not have believed, if he had been told it, that there may be a resentment and disgust which will gradually make beauty more detestable than ugliness, through exasperation at that outward virtue in which hateful things can flaunt themselves or find a supercilious advantage.

How, then, could Grandcourt divine what was going on in Gwendolen’s breast?

For their behavior to each other scandalized no observer⁠—not even the foreign maid, warranted against seasickness; nor Grandcourt’s own experienced valet: still less the picturesque crew, who regarded them as a model couple in high life. Their companionship consisted chiefly in a well-bred silence. Grandcourt had no humorous observations at which Gwendolen could refuse to smile, no chitchat to make small occasions of dispute. He was perfectly polite in arranging an additional garment over her when needful, and in handing her any object that he perceived her to need, and she could not fall into the vulgarity of accepting or rejecting such politeness rudely.

Grandcourt put up his telescope and said, “There’s a plantation of sugar-canes at the foot of that rock; should you like to look?”

Gwendolen said, “Yes, please,” remembering that she must try and interest herself in sugar-canes as something outside her personal affairs. Then Grandcourt would walk up and down and smoke for a long while, pausing occasionally to point out a sail on the horizon, and at last would seat himself and look at Gwendolen with his narrow immovable gaze, as if she were part of the complete yacht; while she, conscious of being looked at was exerting her ingenuity not to meet his eyes. At dinner he would remark that the fruit was getting stale, and they must put in somewhere for more; or, observing that she did not drink the wine, he asked her if she would like any other kind better. A lady was obliged to respond to these things suitably; and even if she had not shrunk from quarrelling on other grounds, quarreling with Grandcourt was impossible; she might as well have made angry remarks to a dangerous serpent ornamentally coiled in her cabin without invitation. And what sort of dispute could a woman of any pride and dignity begin on a yacht?

Grandcourt had intense satisfaction in leading his wife captive after this fashion; it gave their life on a small scale a royal representation and publicity in which everything familiar was got rid of, and everybody must do what was expected of them whatever might be their private protest⁠—the protest (kept strictly private) adding to the piquancy of despotism.

To Gwendolen, who even in the freedom of her maiden time, had had very faint glimpses of any heroism or sublimity, the medium that now thrust itself everywhere before her view was this husband and her relation to him. The beings closest to us, whether in love or hate, are often virtually our interpreters of the world, and some feather-headed gentleman or lady whom in passing we regret to take as legal tender for a human being, may be acting as a melancholy theory of life in the minds of those who live with them⁠—like a piece of yellow and wavy glass that distorts form and makes color an affliction. Their trivial sentences, their petty standards, their low suspicions, their loveless ennui, may be making somebody else’s life no better than a promenade through a pantheon of ugly idols. Gwendolen had that kind of window before her, affecting the distant equally with the near. Some unhappy wives are soothed by the possibility that they may become mothers; but Gwendolen felt that to desire a child for herself would have been a consenting to the completion of the injury she had been guilty of. She was reduced to dread lest she should become a mother. It was not the image of a new sweetly-budding life that came as a vision of deliverance from the monotony of distaste: it was an image of another sort. In the irritable, fluctuating stages of despair, gleams of hope came in the form of some possible accident. To dwell on the benignity of accident was a refuge from worse temptation.

The embitterment of hatred is often as unaccountable to onlookers as the growth of devoted love, and it not only seems but is really out of direct relation with any outward causes to be alleged. Passion is of the nature of seed, and finds nourishment within, tending to a predominance which determines all currents toward itself, and makes the whole life its tributary. And the intensest form of hatred is that rooted in fear, which compels to silence and drives vehemence into a constructive vindictiveness, an imaginary annihilation of the detested object, something like the hidden rites of vengeance with which the persecuted have made a dark vent for their rage, and soothed their suffering into dumbness. Such hidden rites went on in the secrecy of Gwendolen’s mind, but not with soothing effect⁠—rather with the effect of a struggling terror. Side by side with the dread of her husband had grown the self-dread, which urged her to flee from the pursuing images wrought by her pent-up impulse. The vision of her past wrongdoing, and what it had brought on her, came with a pale ghastly illumination over every imagined deed that was a rash effort at freedom, such as she had made in her marriage. Moreover, she had learned to see all her acts through the impression they would make on Deronda: whatever relief might come to her, she could not sever it from the judgment of her that would be created in his mind. Not one word of flattery, of indulgence, of dependence on her favor, could be fastened on by her in all their intercourse, to weaken his restraining power over her (in this way Deronda’s effort over himself was repaid); and amid the dreary uncertainties of her spoiled life the possible remedies that lay in his mind, nay, the remedy that lay in her feeling for him, made her only hope. He seemed to her a terrible-browed angel, from whom she could not think of concealing any deed so as to win an ignorant regard from him: it belonged to the nature of their relation that she should be truthful, for his power over her had begun in the raising of a self-discontent which could be satisfied only by genuine change. But in no concealment had she now any confidence: her vision of what she had to dread took more decidedly than ever the form of some fiercely impulsive deed, committed as in a dream that she would instantaneously wake from to find the effects real though the images had been false: to find death under her hands, but instead of darkness, daylight; instead of satisfied hatred, the dismay of guilt; instead of freedom, the palsy of a new terror⁠—a white dead face from which she was forever trying to flee and forever held back. She remembered Deronda’s words: they were continually recurring in her thought,

“Turn your fear into a safeguard. Keep your dread fixed on the idea of increasing your remorse⁠ ⁠… Take your fear as a safeguard. It is like quickness of hearing. It may make consequences passionately present to you.”

And so it was. In Gwendolen’s consciousness temptation and dread met and stared like two pale phantoms, each seeing itself in the other⁠—each obstructed by its own image; and all the while her fuller self beheld the apparitions and sobbed for deliverance from them.

Inarticulate prayers, no more definite than a cry, often swept out from her into the vast silence, unbroken except by her husband’s breathing or the plash of the wave or the creaking of the masts; but if ever she thought of definite help, it took the form of Deronda’s presence and words, of the sympathy he might have for her, of the direction he might give her. It was sometimes after a white-lipped fierce-eyed temptation with murdering fingers had made its demon-visit that these best moments of inward crying and clinging for rescue would come to her, and she would lie with wide-open eyes in which the rising tears seemed a blessing, and the thought, “I will not mind if I can keep from getting wicked,” seemed an answer to the indefinite prayer.

So the days passed, taking with them light breezes beyond and about the Balearic Isles, and then to Sardinia, and then with gentle change persuading them northward again toward Corsica. But this floating, gentle-wafted existence, with its apparently peaceful influences, was becoming as bad as a nightmare to Gwendolen.

“How long are we to be yachting?” she ventured to ask one day after they had been touching at Ajaccio, and the mere fact of change in going ashore had given her a relief from some of the thoughts which seemed now to cling about the very rigging of the vessel, mix with the air in the red silk cabin below, and make the smell of the sea odious.

“What else should we do?” said Grandcourt. “I’m not tired of it. I don’t see why we shouldn’t stay out any length of time. There’s less to bore one in this way. And where would you go to? I’m sick of foreign places. And we shall have enough of Ryelands. Would you rather be at Ryelands?”

“Oh, no,” said Gwendolen, indifferently, finding all places alike undescribable as soon as she imagined herself and her husband in them. “I only wondered how long you would like this.”

“I like yachting longer than anything else,” said Grandcourt; “and I had none last year. I suppose you are beginning to tire of it. Women are so confoundedly whimsical. They expect everything to give way to them.”

“Oh, dear, no!” said Gwendolen, letting out her scorn in a flute-like tone. “I never expect you to give way.”

“Why should I?” said Grandcourt, with his inward voice, looking at her, and then choosing an orange⁠—for they were at table.

She made up her mind to a length of yachting that she could not see beyond; but the next day, after a squall which had made her rather ill for the first time, he came down to her and said,

“There’s been the devil’s own work in the night. The skipper says we shall have to stay at Genoa for a week while things are set right.”

“Do you mind that?” said Gwendolen, who lay looking very white amidst her white drapery.

“I should think so. Who wants to be broiling at Genoa?”

“It will be a change,” said Gwendolen, made a little incautious by her languor.

I don’t want any change. Besides, the place is intolerable; and one can’t move along the roads. I shall go out in a boat, as I used to do, and manage it myself. One can get a few hours every day in that way instead of striving in a damnable hotel.”

Here was a prospect which held hope in it. Gwendolen thought of hours when she would be alone, since Grandcourt would not want to take her in the said boat, and in her exultation at this unlooked-for relief, she had wild, contradictory fancies of what she might do with her freedom⁠—that “running away” which she had already innumerable times seen to be a worse evil than any actual endurance, now finding new arguments as an escape from her worse self. Also, visionary relief on a par with the fancy of a prisoner that the night wind may blow down the wall of his prison and save him from desperate devices, insinuated itself as a better alternative, lawful to wish for.

The fresh current of expectation revived her energies, and enabled her to take all things with an air of cheerfulness and alacrity that made a change marked enough to be noticed by her husband. She watched through the evening lights to the sinking of the moon with less of awed loneliness than was habitual to her⁠—nay, with a vague impression that in this mighty frame of things there might be some preparation of rescue for her. Why not?⁠—since the weather had just been on her side. This possibility of hoping, after her long fluctuation amid fears, was like a first return of hunger to the long-languishing patient.

She was waked the next morning by the casting of the anchor in the port of Genoa⁠—waked from a strangely-mixed dream in which she felt herself escaping over the Mont Cenis, and wondering to find it warmer even in the moonlight on the snow, till suddenly she met Deronda, who told her to go back.

In an hour or so from that dream she actually met Deronda. But it was on the palatial staircase of the Italia, where she was feeling warm in her light woolen dress and straw hat; and her husband was by her side.

There was a start of surprise in Deronda before he could raise his hat and pass on. The moment did not seem to favor any closer greeting, and the circumstances under which they had last parted made him doubtful whether Grandcourt would be civilly inclined to him.

The doubt might certainly have been changed into a disagreeable certainty, for Grandcourt on this unaccountable appearance of Deronda at Genoa of all places, immediately tried to conceive how there could have been an arrangement between him and Gwendolen. It is true that before they were well in their rooms, he had seen how difficult it was to shape such an arrangement with any probability, being too cool-headed to find it at once easily credible that Gwendolen had not only while in London hastened to inform Deronda of the yachting project, but had posted a letter to him from Marseilles or Barcelona, advising him to travel to Genoa in time for the chance of meeting her there, or of receiving a letter from her telling of some other destination⁠—all which must have implied a miraculous foreknowledge in her, and in Deronda a birdlike facility in flying about and perching idly. Still he was there, and though Grandcourt would not make a fool of himself by fabrications that others might call preposterous, he was not, for all that, disposed to admit fully that Deronda’s presence was, so far as Gwendolen was concerned, a mere accident. It was a disgusting fact; that was enough; and no doubt she was well pleased. A man out of temper does not wait for proofs before feeling toward all things animate and inanimate as if they were in a conspiracy against him, but at once threshes his horse or kicks his dog in consequence. Grandcourt felt toward Gwendolen and Deronda as if he knew them to be in a conspiracy against him, and here was an event in league with them. What he took for clearly certain⁠—and so far he divined the truth⁠—was that Gwendolen was now counting on an interview with Deronda whenever her husband’s back was turned.

As he sat taking his coffee at a convenient angle for observing her, he discerned something which he felt sure was the effect of a secret delight⁠—some fresh ease in moving and speaking, some peculiar meaning in her eyes, whatever she looked on. Certainly her troubles had not marred her beauty. Mrs. Grandcourt was handsomer than Gwendolen Harleth: her grace and expression were informed by a greater variety of inward experience, giving new play to her features, new attitudes in movement and repose; her whole person and air had the nameless something which often makes a woman more interesting after marriage than before, less confident that all things are according to her opinion, and yet with less of deer-like shyness⁠—more fully a human being.

This morning the benefits of the voyage seemed to be suddenly revealing themselves in a new elasticity of mien. As she rose from the table and put her two heavily-jewelled hands on each side of her neck, according to her wont, she had no art to conceal that sort of joyous expectation which makes the present more bearable than usual, just as when a man means to go out he finds it easier to be amiable to the family for a quarter of an hour beforehand. It is not impossible that a terrier whose pleasure was concerned would perceive those amiable signs and know their meaning⁠—know why his master stood in a peculiar way, talked with alacrity, and even had a peculiar gleam in his eye, so that on the least movement toward the door, the terrier would scuttle to be in time. And, in dog fashion, Grandcourt discerned the signs of Gwendolen’s expectation, interpreting them with the narrow correctness which leaves a world of unknown feeling behind.

“A⁠—just ring, please, and tell Gibbs to order some dinner for us at three,” said Grandcourt, as he too rose, took out a cigar, and then stretched his hand toward the hat that lay near. “I’m going to send Angus to find a little sailing-boat for us to go out in; one that I can manage, with you at the tiller. It’s uncommonly pleasant these fine evenings⁠—the least boring of anything we can do.”

Gwendolen turned cold. There was not only the cruel disappointment; there was the immediate conviction that her husband had determined to take her because he would not leave her out of his sight; and probably this dual solitude in a boat was the more attractive to him because it would be wearisome to her. They were not on the plank-island; she felt it the more possible to begin a contest. But the gleaming content had died out of her. There was a change in her like that of a glacier after sunset.

“I would rather not go in the boat,” she said. “Take someone else with you.”

“Very well; if you don’t go, I shall not go,” said Grandcourt. “We shall stay suffocating here, that’s all.”

“I can’t bear to go in a boat,” said Gwendolen, angrily.

“That is a sudden change,” said Grandcourt, with a slight sneer. “But, since you decline, we shall stay indoors.”

He laid down his hat again, lit his cigar, and walked up and down the room, pausing now and then to look out of the windows. Gwendolen’s temper told her to persist. She knew very well now that Grandcourt would not go without her; but if he must tyrannize over her, he should not do it precisely in the way he would choose. She would oblige him to stay in the hotel. Without speaking again, she passed into the adjoining bedroom and threw herself into a chair with her anger, seeing no purpose or issue⁠—only feeling that the wave of evil had rushed back upon her, and dragged her away from her momentary breathing-place.

Presently Grandcourt came in with his hat on, but threw it off and sat down sideways on a chair nearly in front of her, saying, in his superficial drawl,

“Have you come round yet? or do you find it agreeable to be out of temper. You make things uncommonly pleasant for me.”

“Why do you want to make them unpleasant for me?” said Gwendolen, getting helpless again, and feeling the hot tears rise.

“Now, will you be good enough to say what it is you have to complain of?” said Grandcourt, looking into her eyes, and using his most inward voice. “Is it that I stay indoors when you stay?”

She could give no answer. The sort of truth that made any excuse for her anger could not be uttered. In the conflict of despair and humiliation she began to sob, and the tears rolled down her cheeks⁠—a form of agitation which she had never shown before in her husband’s presence.

“I hope this is useful,” said Grandcourt, after a moment or two. “All I can say is, it’s most confoundedly unpleasant. What the devil women can see in this kind of thing, I don’t know. You see something to be got by it, of course. All I can see is, that we shall be shut up here when we might have been having a pleasant sail.”

“Let us go, then,” said Gwendolen, impetuously. “Perhaps we shall be drowned.” She began to sob again.

This extraordinary behavior, which had evidently some relation to Deronda, gave more definiteness to Grandcourt’s conclusions. He drew his chair quite close in front of her, and said, in a low tone, “Just be quiet and listen, will you?”

There seemed to be a magical effect in this close vicinity. Gwendolen shrank and ceased to sob. She kept her eyelids down and clasped her hands tightly.

“Let us understand each other,” said Grandcourt, in the same tone. “I know very well what this nonsense means. But if you suppose I am going to let you make a fool of me, just dismiss that notion from your mind. What are you looking forward to, if you can’t behave properly as my wife? There is disgrace for you, if you like to have it, but I don’t know anything else; and as to Deronda, it’s quite clear that he hangs back from you.”

“It’s all false!” said Gwendolen, bitterly. “You don’t in the least imagine what is in my mind. I have seen enough of the disgrace that comes in that way. And you had better leave me at liberty to speak with anyone I like. It will be better for you.”

“You will allow me to judge of that,” said Grandcourt, rising and moving to a little distance toward the window, but standing there playing with his whiskers as if he were awaiting something.

Gwendolen’s words had so clear and tremendous a meaning for herself that she thought they must have expressed it to Grandcourt, and had no sooner uttered them than she dreaded their effect. But his soul was garrisoned against presentiments and fears: he had the courage and confidence that belong to domination, and he was at that moment feeling perfectly satisfied that he held his wife with bit and bridle. By the time they had been married a year she would cease to be restive. He continued standing with his air of indifference, till she felt her habitual stifling consciousness of having an immovable obstruction in her life, like the nightmare of beholding a single form that serves to arrest all passage though the wide country lies open.

“What decision have you come to?” he said, presently looking at her. “What orders shall I give?”

“Oh, let us go,” said Gwendolen. The walls had begun to be an imprisonment, and while there was breath in this man he would have the mastery over her. His words had the power of thumbscrews and the cold touch of the rock. To resist was to act like a stupid animal unable to measure results.

So the boat was ordered. She even went down to the quay again with him to see it before midday. Grandcourt had recovered perfect quietude of temper, and had a scornful satisfaction in the attention given by the nautical groups to the milord, owner of the handsome yacht which had just put in for repairs, and who being an Englishman was naturally so at home on the sea that he could manage a sail with the same ease that he could manage a horse. The sort of exultation he had discerned in Gwendolen this morning she now thought that she discerned in him; and it was true that he had set his mind on this boating, and carried out his purpose as something that people might not expect him to do, with the gratified impulse of a strong will which had nothing better to exert itself upon. He had remarkable physical courage, and was proud of it⁠—or rather he had a great contempt for the coarser, bulkier men who generally had less. Moreover, he was ruling that Gwendolen should go with him.

And when they came down again at five o’clock, equipped for their boating, the scene was as good as a theatrical representation for all beholders. This handsome, fair-skinned English couple, manifesting the usual eccentricity of their nation, both of them proud, pale, and calm, without a smile on their faces, moving like creatures who were fulfilling a supernatural destiny⁠—it was a thing to go out and see, a thing to paint. The husband’s chest, back, and arms, showed very well in his close-fitting dress, and the wife was declared to be a statue.

Some suggestions were proffered concerning a possible change in the breeze, and the necessary care in putting about, but Grandcourt’s manner made the speakers understand that they were too officious, and that he knew better than they.

Gwendolen, keeping her impassable air, as they moved away from the strand, felt her imagination obstinately at work. She was not afraid of any outward dangers⁠—she was afraid of her own wishes which were taking shapes possible and impossible, like a cloud of demon-faces. She was afraid of her own hatred, which under the cold iron touch that had compelled her today had gathered a fierce intensity. As she sat guiding the tiller under her husband’s eyes, doing just what he told her, the strife within her seemed like her own effort to escape from herself. She clung to the thought of Deronda: she persuaded herself that he would not go away while she was there⁠—he knew that she needed help. The sense that he was there would save her from acting out the evil within. And yet quick, quick, came images, plans of evil that would come again and seize her in the night, like furies preparing the deed that they would straightway avenge.

They were taken out of the port and carried eastward by a gentle breeze. Some clouds tempered the sunlight, and the hour was always deepening toward the supreme beauty of evening. Sails larger and smaller changed their aspect like sensitive things, and made a cheerful companionship, alternately near and far. The grand city shone more vaguely, the mountains looked out above it, and there was stillness as in an island sanctuary. Yet suddenly Gwendolen let her hands fall, and said in a scarcely audible tone, “God help me!”

“What is the matter?” said Grandcourt, not distinguishing the words.

“Oh, nothing,” said Gwendolen, rousing herself from her momentary forgetfulness and resuming the ropes.

“Don’t you find this pleasant?” said Grandcourt.


“You admit now we couldn’t have done anything better?”

“No⁠—I see nothing better. I think we shall go on always, like the Flying Dutchman,” said Gwendolen wildly.

Grandcourt gave her one of his narrow examining glances, and then said, “If you like, we can go to Spezia in the morning, and let them take us up there.”

“No; I shall like nothing better than this.”

“Very well: we’ll do the same tomorrow. But we must be turning in soon. I shall put about.”

Chapter LV

Ritorna a tua scienza
Che vuol, quanto la cosa è più perfetta
Più senta il bene, e cosi la doglienza.

When Deronda met Gwendolen and Grandcourt on the staircase, his mind was seriously preoccupied. He had just been summoned to the second interview with his mother.

In two hours after his parting from her he knew that the Princess Halm-Eberstein had left the hotel, and so far as the purpose of his journey to Genoa was concerned, he might himself have set off on his way to Mainz, to deliver the letter from Joseph Kalonymos, and get possession of the family chest. But mixed mental conditions, which did not resolve themselves into definite reasons, hindered him from departure. Long after the farewell he was kept passive by a weight of retrospective feeling. He lived again, with the new keenness of emotive memory, through the exciting scenes which seemed past only in the sense of preparation for their actual presence in his soul. He allowed himself in his solitude to sob, with perhaps more than a woman’s acuteness of compassion, over that woman’s life so near to his, and yet so remote. He beheld the world changed for him by the certitude of ties that altered the poise of hopes and fears, and gave him a new sense of fellowship, as if under cover of the night he had joined the wrong band of wanderers, and found with the rise of morning that the tents of his kindred were grouped far off. He had a quivering imaginative sense of close relation to the grandfather who had been animated by strong impulses and beloved thoughts, which were now perhaps being roused from their slumber within himself. And through all this passionate meditation Mordecai and Mirah were always present, as beings who clasped hands with him in sympathetic silence.

Of such quick, responsive fibre was Deronda made, under that mantle of self-controlled reserve into which early experience had thrown so much of his young strength.

When the persistent ringing of a bell as a signal reminded him of the hour he thought of looking into Bradshaw, and making the brief necessary preparations for starting by the next train⁠—thought of it, but made no movement in consequence. Wishes went to Mainz and what he was to get possession of there⁠—to London and the beings there who made the strongest attachments of his life; but there were other wishes that clung in these moments to Genoa, and they kept him where he was by that force which urges us to linger over an interview that carries a presentiment of final farewell or of overshadowing sorrow. Deronda did not formally say, “I will stay over tonight, because it is Friday, and I should like to go to the evening service at the synagogue where they must all have gone; and besides, I may see the Grandcourts again.” But simply, instead of packing and ringing for his bill, he sat doing nothing at all, while his mind went to the synagogue and saw faces there probably little different from those of his grandfather’s time, and heard the Spanish-Hebrew liturgy which had lasted through the seasons of wandering generations like a plant with wandering seed, that gives the far-off lands a kinship to the exile’s home⁠—while, also, his mind went toward Gwendolen, with anxious remembrance of what had been, and with a half-admitted impression that it would be hardness in him willingly to go away at once without making some effort, in spite of Grandcourt’s probable dislike, to manifest the continuance of his sympathy with her since their abrupt parting.

In this state of mind he deferred departure, ate his dinner without sense of flavor, rose from it quickly to find the synagogue, and in passing the porter asked if Mr. and Mrs. Grandcourt were still in the hotel, and what was the number of their apartment. The porter gave him the number, but added that they were gone out boating. That information had somehow power enough over Deronda to divide his thoughts with the memories wakened among the sparse talithim and keen dark faces of worshippers whose way of taking awful prayers and invocations with the easy familiarity which might be called Hebrew dyed Italian, made him reflect that his grandfather, according to the Princess’s hints of his character, must have been almost as exceptional a Jew as Mordecai. But were not men of ardent zeal and far-reaching hope everywhere exceptional? the men who had the visions which, as Mordecai said, were the creators and feeders of the world⁠—moulding and feeding the more passive life which without them would dwindle and shrivel into the narrow tenacity of insects, unshaken by thoughts beyond the reach of their antennae. Something of a mournful impatience perhaps added itself to the solicitude about Gwendolen (a solicitude that had room to grow in his present release from immediate cares) as an incitement to hasten from the synagogue and choose to take his evening walk toward the quay, always a favorite haunt with him, and just now attractive with the possibility that he might be in time to see the Grandcourts come in from their boating. In this case, he resolved that he would advance to greet them deliberately, and ignore any grounds that the husband might have for wishing him elsewhere.

The sun had set behind a bank of cloud, and only a faint yellow light was giving its farewell kisses to the waves, which were agitated by an active breeze. Deronda, sauntering slowly within sight of what took place on the strand, observed the groups there concentrating their attention on a sailing-boat which was advancing swiftly landward, being rowed by two men. Amidst the clamorous talk in various languages, Deronda held it the surer means of getting information not to ask questions, but to elbow his way to the foreground and be an unobstructed witness of what was occurring. Telescopes were being used, and loud statements made that the boat held somebody who had been drowned. One said it was the milord who had gone out in a sailing boat; another maintained that the prostrate figure he discerned was miladi; a Frenchman who had no glass would rather say that it was milord who had probably taken his wife out to drown her, according to the national practice⁠—a remark which an English skipper immediately commented on in our native idiom (as nonsense which⁠—had undergone a mining operation), and further dismissed by the decision that the reclining figure was a woman. For Deronda, terribly excited by fluctuating fears, the strokes of the oars as he watched them were divided by swift visions of events, possible and impossible, which might have brought about this issue, or this broken-off fragment of an issue, with a worse half undisclosed⁠—if this woman apparently snatched from the waters were really Mrs. Grandcourt.

But soon there was no longer any doubt: the boat was being pulled to land, and he saw Gwendolen half raising herself on her hands, by her own effort, under her heavy covering of tarpaulin and pea-jackets⁠—pale as one of the sheeted dead, shivering, with wet hair streaming, a wild amazed consciousness in her eyes, as if she had waked up in a world where some judgment was impending, and the beings she saw around were coming to seize her. The first rower who jumped to land was also wet through, and ran off; the sailors, close about the boat, hindered Deronda from advancing, and he could only look on while Gwendolen gave scared glances, and seemed to shrink with terror as she was carefully, tenderly helped out, and led on by the strong arms of those rough, bronzed men, her wet clothes clinging about her limbs, and adding to the impediment of her weakness. Suddenly her wandering eyes fell on Deronda, standing before her, and immediately, as if she had been expecting him and looking for him, she tried to stretch out her arms, which were held back by her supporters, saying, in a muffled voice,

“It is come, it is come! He is dead!”

“Hush, hush!” said Deronda, in a tone of authority; “quiet yourself.” Then to the men who were assisting her, “I am a connection of this lady’s husband. If you will get her on to the Italia as quickly as possible, I will undertake everything else.”

He stayed behind to hear from the remaining boatman that her husband had gone down irrecoverably, and that his boat was left floating empty. He and his comrade had heard a cry, had come up in time to see the lady jump in after her husband, and had got her out fast enough to save her from much damage.

After this, Deronda hastened to the hotel to assure himself that the best medical help would be provided; and being satisfied on this point, he telegraphed the event to Sir Hugo, begging him to come forthwith, and also to Mr. Gascoigne, whose address at the rectory made his nearest known way of getting the information to Gwendolen’s mother. Certain words of Gwendolen’s in the past had come back to him with the effectiveness of an inspiration: in moments of agitated confession she had spoken of her mother’s presence, as a possible help, if she could have had it.

Chapter LVI

The pang, the curse with which they died,
Had never passed away:
I could not draw my eyes from theirs,
Nor lift them up to pray.

Deronda did not take off his clothes that night. Gwendolen, after insisting on seeing him again before she would consent to be undressed, had been perfectly quiet, and had only asked him, with a whispering, repressed eagerness, to promise that he would come to her when she sent for him in the morning. Still, the possibility that a change might come over her, the danger of a supervening feverish condition, and the suspicion that something in the late catastrophe was having an effect which might betray itself in excited words, acted as a foreboding within him. He mentioned to her attendant that he should keep himself ready to be called if there were any alarming change of symptoms, making it understood by all concerned that he was in communication with her friends in England, and felt bound meanwhile to take all care on her behalf⁠—a position which it was the easier for him to assume, because he was well known to Grandcourt’s valet, the only old servant who had come on the late voyage.

But when fatigue from the strangely various emotion of the day at last sent Deronda to sleep, he remained undisturbed except by the morning dreams, which came as a tangled web of yesterday’s events, and finally waked him, with an image drawn by his pressing anxiety.

Still, it was morning, and there had been no summons⁠—an augury which cheered him while he made his toilet, and reflected that it was too early to send inquiries. Later, he learned that she had passed a too wakeful night, but had shown no violent signs of agitation, and was at last sleeping. He wondered at the force that dwelt in this creature, so alive to dread; for he had an irresistible impression that even under the effects of a severe physical shock she was mastering herself with a determination of concealment. For his own part, he thought that his sensibilities had been blunted by what he had been going through in the meeting with his mother: he seemed to himself now to be only fulfilling claims, and his more passionate sympathy was in abeyance. He had lately been living so keenly in an experience quite apart from Gwendolen’s lot, that his present cares for her were like a revisiting of scenes familiar in the past, and there was not yet a complete revival of the inward response to them.

Meanwhile he employed himself in getting a formal, legally recognized statement from the fishermen who had rescued Gwendolen. Few details came to light. The boat in which Grandcourt had gone out had been found drifting with its sail loose, and had been towed in. The fishermen thought it likely that he had been knocked overboard by the flapping of the sail while putting about, and that he had not known how to swim; but, though they were near, their attention had been first arrested by a cry which seemed like that of a man in distress, and while they were hastening with their oars, they heard a shriek from the lady, and saw her jump in.

On re-entering the hotel, Deronda was told that Gwendolen had risen, and was desiring to see him. He was shown into a room darkened by blinds and curtains, where she was seated with a white shawl wrapped round her, looking toward the opening door like one waiting uneasily. But her long hair was gathered up and coiled carefully, and, through all, the blue stars in her ears had kept their place: as she started impulsively to her full height, sheathed in her white shawl, her face and neck not less white, except for a purple line under her eyes, her lips a little apart with the peculiar expression of one accused and helpless, she looked like the unhappy ghost of that Gwendolen Harleth whom Deronda had seen turning with firm lips and proud self-possession from her losses at the gaming table. The sight pierced him with pity, and the effects of all their past relations began to revive within him.

“I beseech you to rest⁠—not to stand,” said Deronda, as he approached her; and she obeyed, falling back into her chair again.

“Will you sit down near me?” she said. “I want to speak very low.”

She was in a large armchair, and he drew a small one near to her side. The action seemed to touch her peculiarly: turning her pale face full upon his, which was very near, she said, in the lowest audible tone, “You know I am a guilty woman?”

Deronda himself turned paler as he said, “I know nothing.” He did not dare to say more.

“He is dead.” She uttered this with the same undertoned decision.

“Yes,” said Deronda, in a mournful suspense which made him reluctant to speak.

“His face will not be seen above the water again,” said Gwendolen, in a tone that was not louder, but of a suppressed eagerness, while she held both her hands clenched.


“Not by anyone else⁠—only by me⁠—a dead face⁠—I shall never get away from it.”

It was with an inward voice of desperate self-repression that she spoke these last words, while she looked away from Deronda toward something at a distance from her on the floor. She was seeing the whole event⁠—her own acts included⁠—through an exaggerating medium of excitement and horror? Was she in a state of delirium into which there entered a sense of concealment and necessity for self-repression? Such thoughts glanced through Deronda as a sort of hope. But imagine the conflict of feeling that kept him silent. She was bent on confession, and he dreaded hearing her confession. Against his better will he shrank from the task that was laid on him: he wished, and yet rebuked the wish as cowardly, that she could bury her secrets in her own bosom. He was not a priest. He dreaded the weight of this woman’s soul flung upon his own with imploring dependence. But she spoke again, hurriedly, looking at him,

“You will not say that I ought to tell the world? you will not say that I ought to be disgraced? I could not do it. I could not bear it. I cannot have my mother know. Not if I were dead. I could not have her know. I must tell you; but you will not say that anyone else should know.”

“I can say nothing in my ignorance,” said Deronda, mournfully, “except that I desire to help you.”

“I told you from the beginning⁠—as soon as I could⁠—I told you I was afraid of myself.” There was a piteous pleading in the low murmur in which Deronda turned his ear only. Her face afflicted him too much. “I felt a hatred in me that was always working like an evil spirit⁠—contriving things. Everything I could do to free myself came into my mind; and it got worse⁠—all things got worse. That is why I asked you to come to me in town. I thought then I would tell you the worst about myself. I tried. But I could not tell everything. And he came in.”

She paused, while a shudder passed through her; but soon went on.

“I will tell you everything now. Do you think a woman who cried, and prayed, and struggled to be saved from herself, could be a murderess?”

“Great God!” said Deronda, in a deep, shaken voice, “don’t torture me needlessly. You have not murdered him. You threw yourself into the water with the impulse to save him. Tell me the rest afterward. This death was an accident that you could not have hindered.”

“Don’t be impatient with me.” The tremor, the childlike beseeching in these words compelled Deronda to turn his head and look at her face. The poor quivering lips went on. “You said⁠—you used to say⁠—you felt more for those who had done something wicked and were miserable; you said they might get better⁠—they might be scourged into something better. If you had not spoken in that way, everything would have been worse. I did remember all you said to me. It came to me always. It came to me at the very last⁠—that was the reason why I⁠—But now, if you cannot bear with me when I tell you everything⁠—if you turn away from me and forsake me, what shall I do? Am I worse than I was when you found me and wanted to make me better? All the wrong I have done was in me then⁠—and more⁠—and more⁠—if you had not come and been patient with me. And now⁠—will you forsake me?”

Her hands, which had been so tightly clenched some minutes before, were now helplessly relaxed and trembling on the arm of her chair. Her quivering lips remained parted as she ceased speaking. Deronda could not answer; he was obliged to look away. He took one of her hands, and clasped it as if they were going to walk together like two children: it was the only way in which he could answer, “I will not forsake you.” And all the while he felt as if he were putting his name to a blank paper which might be filled up terribly. Their attitude, his adverted face with its expression of a suffering which he was solemnly resolved to undergo, might have told half the truth of the situation to a beholder who had suddenly entered.

That grasp was an entirely new experience to Gwendolen: she had never before had from any man a sign of tenderness which her own being had needed, and she interpreted its powerful effect on her into a promise of inexhaustible patience and constancy. The stream of renewed strength made it possible for her to go on as she had begun⁠—with that fitful, wandering confession where the sameness of experience seems to nullify the sense of time or of order in events. She began again in a fragmentary way,

“All sorts of contrivances in my mind⁠—but all so difficult. And I fought against them⁠—I was terrified at them⁠—I saw his dead face”⁠—here her voice sank almost to a whisper close to Deronda’s ear⁠—“ever so long ago I saw it and I wished him to be dead. And yet it terrified me. I was like two creatures. I could not speak⁠—I wanted to kill⁠—it was as strong as thirst⁠—and then directly⁠—I felt beforehand I had done something dreadful, unalterable⁠—that would make me like an evil spirit. And it came⁠—it came.”

She was silent a moment or two, as if her memory had lost itself in a web where each mesh drew all the rest.

“It had all been in my mind when I first spoke to you⁠—when we were at the Abbey. I had done something then. I could not tell you that. It was the only thing I did toward carrying out my thoughts. They went about over everything; but they all remained like dreadful dreams⁠—all but one. I did one act⁠—and I never undid it⁠—it is there still⁠—as long ago as when we were at Ryelands. There it was⁠—something my fingers longed for among the beautiful toys in the cabinet in my boudoir⁠—small and sharp like a long willow leaf in a silver sheath. I locked it in the drawer of my dressing-case. I was continually haunted with it and how I should use it. I fancied myself putting it under my pillow. But I never did. I never looked at it again. I dared not unlock the drawer: it had a key all to itself; and not long ago, when we were in the yacht, I dropped the key into the deep water. It was my wish to drop it and deliver myself. After that I began to think how I could open the drawer without the key: and when I found we were to stay at Genoa, it came into my mind that I could get it opened privately at the hotel. But then, when we were going up the stairs, I met you; and I thought I should talk to you alone and tell you this⁠—everything I could not tell you in town; and then I was forced to go out in the boat.”

A sob had for the first time risen with the last words, and she sank back in her chair. The memory of that acute disappointment seemed for the moment to efface what had come since. Deronda did not look at her, but he said, insistently,

“And it has all remained in your imagination. It has gone on only in your thought. To the last the evil temptation has been resisted?”

There was silence. The tears had rolled down her cheeks. She pressed her handkerchief against them and sat upright. She was summoning her resolution; and again, leaning a little toward Deronda’s ear, she began in a whisper,

“No, no; I will tell you everything as God knows it. I will tell you no falsehood; I will tell you the exact truth. What should I do else? I used to think I could never be wicked. I thought of wicked people as if they were a long way off me. Since then I have been wicked. I have felt wicked. And everything has been a punishment to me⁠—all the things I used to wish for⁠—it is as if they had been made red-hot. The very daylight has often been a punishment to me. Because⁠—you know⁠—I ought not to have married. That was the beginning of it. I wronged someone else. I broke my promise. I meant to get pleasure for myself, and it all turned to misery. I wanted to make my gain out of another’s loss⁠—you remember?⁠—it was like roulette⁠—and the money burned into me. And I could not complain. It was as if I had prayed that another should lose and I should win. And I had won, I knew it all⁠—I knew I was guilty. When we were on the sea, and I lay awake at night in the cabin, I sometimes felt that everything I had done lay open without excuse⁠—nothing was hidden⁠—how could anything be known to me only?⁠—it was not my own knowledge, it was God’s that had entered into me, and even the stillness⁠—everything held a punishment for me⁠—everything but you. I always thought that you would not want me to be punished⁠—you would have tried and helped me to be better. And only thinking of that helped me. You will not change⁠—you will not want to punish me now?”

Again a sob had risen.

“God forbid!” groaned Deronda. But he sat motionless.

This long wandering with the conscious-stricken one over her past was difficult to bear, but he dared not again urge her with a question. He must let her mind follow its own need. She unconsciously left intervals in her retrospect, not clearly distinguishing between what she said and what she had only an inward vision of. Her next words came after such an interval.

“That all made it so hard when I was forced to go in the boat. Because when I saw you it was an unexpected joy, and I thought I could tell you everything⁠—about the locked-up drawer and what I had not told you before. And if I had told you, and knew it was in your mind, it would have less power over me. I hoped and trusted in that. For after all my struggles and my crying, the hatred and rage, the temptation that frightened me, the longing, the thirst for what I dreaded, always came back. And that disappointment⁠—when I was quite shut out from speaking to you, and was driven to go in the boat⁠—brought all the evil back, as if I had been locked in a prison with it and no escape. Oh, it seems so long ago now since I stepped into that boat! I could have given up everything in that moment, to have the forked lightning for a weapon to strike him dead.”

Some of the compressed fierceness that she was recalling seemed to find its way into her undertoned utterance. After a little silence she said, with agitated hurry,

“If he were here again, what should I do? I cannot wish him here⁠—and yet I cannot bear his dead face. I was a coward. I ought to have borne contempt. I ought to have gone away⁠—gone and wandered like a beggar rather than stay to feel like a fiend. But turn where I would there was something I could not bear. Sometimes I thought he would kill me if I resisted his will. But now⁠—his dead face is there, and I cannot bear it.”

Suddenly loosing Deronda’s hand, she started up, stretching her arms to their full length upward, and said with a sort of moan,

“I have been a cruel woman! What can I do but cry for help? I am sinking. Die⁠—die⁠—you are forsaken⁠—go down, go down into darkness. Forsaken⁠—no pity⁠—I shall be forsaken.”

She sank in her chair again and broke into sobs. Even Deronda had no place in her consciousness at that moment. He was completely unmanned. Instead of finding, as he had imagined, that his late experience had dulled his susceptibility to fresh emotion, it seemed that the lot of this young creature, whose swift travel from her bright rash girlhood into this agony of remorse he had had to behold in helplessness, pierced him the deeper because it came close upon another sad revelation of spiritual conflict: he was in one of those moments when the very anguish of passionate pity makes us ready to choose that we will know pleasure no more, and live only for the stricken and afflicted. He had risen from his seat while he watched that terrible outburst⁠—which seemed the more awful to him because, even in this supreme agitation, she kept the suppressed voice of one who confesses in secret. At last he felt impelled to turn his back toward her and walk to a distance.

But presently there was stillness. Her mind had opened to the sense that he had gone away from her. When Deronda turned round to approach her again, he saw her face bent toward him, her eyes dilated, her lips parted. She was an image of timid forlorn beseeching⁠—too timid to entreat in words while he kept himself aloof from her. Was she forsaken by him⁠—now⁠—already? But his eyes met hers sorrowfully⁠—met hers for the first time fully since she had said, “You know I am a guilty woman,” and that full glance in its intense mournfulness seemed to say, “I know it, but I shall all the less forsake you.” He sat down by her side again in the same attitude⁠—without turning his face toward her and without again taking her hand.

Once more Gwendolen was pierced, as she had been by his face of sorrow at the Abbey, with a compunction less egoistic than that which urged her to confess, and she said, in a tone of loving regret,

“I make you very unhappy.”

Deronda gave an indistinct “Oh,” just shrinking together and changing his attitude a little. Then he had gathered resolution enough to say clearly, “There is no question of being happy or unhappy. What I most desire at this moment is what will most help you. Tell me all you feel it a relief to tell.”

Devoted as these words were, they widened his spiritual distance from her, and she felt it more difficult to speak: she had a vague need of getting nearer to that compassion which seemed to be regarding her from a halo of superiority, and the need turned into an impulse to humble herself more. She was ready to throw herself on her knees before him; but no⁠—her wonderfully mixed consciousness held checks on that impulse, and she was kept silent and motionless by the pressure of opposing needs. Her stillness made Deronda at last say,

“Perhaps you are too weary. Shall I go away, and come again whenever you wish it?”

“No, no,” said Gwendolen⁠—the dread of his leaving her bringing back her power of speech. She went on with her low-toned eagerness, “I want to tell you what it was that came over me in that boat. I was full of rage at being obliged to go⁠—full of rage⁠—and I could do nothing but sit there like a galley slave. And then we got away⁠—out of the port⁠—into the deep⁠—and everything was still⁠—and we never looked at each other, only he spoke to order me⁠—and the very light about me seemed to hold me a prisoner and force me to sit as I did. It came over me that when I was a child I used to fancy sailing away into a world where people were not forced to live with anyone they did not like⁠—I did not like my father-in-law to come home. And now, I thought, just the opposite had come to me. I had stepped into a boat, and my life was a sailing and sailing away⁠—gliding on and no help⁠—always into solitude with him, away from deliverance. And because I felt more helpless than ever, my thoughts went out over worse things⁠—I longed for worse things⁠—I had cruel wishes⁠—I fancied impossible ways of⁠—I did not want to die myself; I was afraid of our being drowned together. If it had been any use I should have prayed⁠—I should have prayed that something might befall him. I should have prayed that he might sink out of my sight and leave me alone. I knew no way of killing him there, but I did, I did kill him in my thoughts.”

She sank into silence for a minute, submerged by the weight of memory which no words could represent.

“But yet, all the while I felt that I was getting more wicked. And what had been with me so much, came to me just then⁠—what you once said⁠—about dreading to increase my wrongdoing and my remorse⁠—I should hope for nothing then. It was all like a writing of fire within me. Getting wicked was misery⁠—being shut out forever from knowing what you⁠—what better lives were. That had always been coming back to me then⁠—but yet with a despair⁠—a feeling that it was no use⁠—evil wishes were too strong. I remember then letting go the tiller and saying ‘God help me!’ But then I was forced to take it again and go on; and the evil longings, the evil prayers came again and blotted everything else dim, till, in the midst of them⁠—I don’t know how it was⁠—he was turning the sail⁠—there was a gust⁠—he was struck⁠—I know nothing⁠—I only know that I saw my wish outside me.”

She began to speak more hurriedly, and in more of a whisper.

“I saw him sink, and my heart gave a leap as if it were going out of me. I think I did not move. I kept my hands tight. It was long enough for me to be glad, and yet to think it was no use⁠—he would come up again. And he was come⁠—farther off⁠—the boat had moved. It was all like lightning. ‘The rope!’ he called out in a voice⁠—not his own⁠—I hear it now⁠—and I stooped for the rope⁠—I felt I must⁠—I felt sure he could swim, and he would come back whether or not, and I dreaded him. That was in my mind⁠—he would come back. But he was gone down again, and I had the rope in my hand⁠—no, there he was again⁠—his face above the water⁠—and he cried again⁠—and I held my hand, and my heart said, ‘Die!’⁠—and he sank; and I felt ‘It is done⁠—I am wicked, I am lost!⁠—and I had the rope in my hand⁠—I don’t know what I thought⁠—I was leaping away from myself⁠—I would have saved him then. I was leaping from my crime, and there it was⁠—close to me as I fell⁠—there was the dead face⁠—dead, dead. It can never be altered. That was what happened. That was what I did. You know it all. It can never be altered.”

She sank back in her chair, exhausted with the agitation of memory and speech. Deronda felt the burden on his spirit less heavy than the foregoing dread. The word “guilty” had held a possibility of interpretations worse than the fact; and Gwendolen’s confession, for the very reason that her conscience made her dwell on the determining power of her evil thoughts, convinced him the more that there had been throughout a counterbalancing struggle of her better will. It seemed almost certain that her murderous thought had had no outward effect⁠—that, quite apart from it, the death was inevitable. Still, a question as to the outward effectiveness of a criminal desire dominant enough to impel even a momentary act, cannot alter our judgment of the desire; and Deronda shrank from putting that question forward in the first instance. He held it likely that Gwendolen’s remorse aggravated her inward guilt, and that she gave the character of decisive action to what had been an inappreciably instantaneous glance of desire. But her remorse was the precious sign of a recoverable nature; it was the culmination of that self-disapproval which had been the awakening of a new life within her; it marked her off from the criminals whose only regret is failure in securing their evil wish. Deronda could not utter one word to diminish that sacred aversion to her worst self⁠—that thorn-pressure which must come with the crowning of the sorrowful better, suffering because of the worse. All this mingled thought and feeling kept him silent; speech was too momentous to be ventured on rashly. There were no words of comfort that did not carry some sacrilege. If he had opened his lips to speak, he could only have echoed, “It can never be altered⁠—it remains unaltered, to alter other things.” But he was silent and motionless⁠—he did not know how long⁠—before he turned to look at her, and saw her sunk back with closed eyes, like a lost, weary, storm-beaten white doe, unable to rise and pursue its unguided way. He rose and stood before her. The movement touched her consciousness, and she opened her eyes with a slight quivering that seemed like fear.

“You must rest now. Try to rest: try to sleep. And may I see you again this evening⁠—tomorrow⁠—when you have had some rest? Let us say no more now.”

The tears came, and she could not answer except by a slight movement of the head. Deronda rang for attendance, spoke urgently of the necessity that she should be got to rest, and then left her.

Chapter LVII

The unripe grape, the ripe, and the dried. All things are changes, not into nothing, but into that which is not at present.
Marcus Aurelius

“Deeds are the pulse of Time, his beating life,
And righteous or unrighteous, being done,
Must throb in after-throbs till Time itself
Be laid in darkness, and the universe
Quiver and breathe upon no mirror more.”

In the evening she sent for him again. It was already near the hour at which she had been brought in from the sea the evening before, and the light was subdued enough with blinds drawn up and windows open. She was seated gazing fixedly on the sea, resting her cheek on her hand, looking less shattered than when he had left her, but with a deep melancholy in her expression which as Deronda approached her passed into an anxious timidity. She did not put out her hand, but said, “How long ago it is!” Then, “Will you sit near me again a little while?”

He placed himself by her side as he had done before, and seeing that she turned to him with that indefinable expression which implies a wish to say something, he waited for her to speak. But again she looked toward the window silently, and again turned with the same expression, which yet did not issue in speech. There was some fear hindering her, and Deronda, wishing to relieve her timidity, averted his face. Presently he heard her cry imploringly,

“You will not say that anyone else should know?”

“Most decidedly not,” said Deronda. “There is no action that ought to be taken in consequence. There is no injury that could be righted in that way. There is no retribution that any mortal could apportion justly.”

She was so still during a pause that she seemed to be holding her breath before she said,

“But if I had not had that murderous will⁠—that moment⁠—if I had thrown the rope on the instant⁠—perhaps it would have hindered death?”

“No⁠—I think not,” said Deronda, slowly. “If it were true that he could swim, he must have been seized with cramp. With your quickest, utmost effort, it seems impossible that you could have done anything to save him. That momentary murderous will cannot, I think, have altered the course of events. Its effect is confined to the motives in your own breast. Within ourselves our evil will is momentous, and sooner or later it works its way outside us⁠—it may be in the vitiation that breeds evil acts, but also it may be in the self-abhorrence that stings us into better striving.”

“I am saved from robbing others⁠—there are others⁠—they will have everything⁠—they will have what they ought to have. I knew that some time before I left town. You do not suspect me of wrong desires about those things?” She spoke hesitatingly.

“I had not thought of them,” said Deronda; “I was thinking too much of the other things.”

“Perhaps you don’t quite know the beginning of it all,” said Gwendolen, slowly, as if she were overcoming her reluctance. “There was someone else he ought to have married. And I knew it, and I told her I would not hinder it. And I went away⁠—that was when you first saw me. But then we became poor all at once, and I was very miserable, and I was tempted. I thought, ‘I shall do as I like and make everything right.’ I persuaded myself. And it was all different. It was all dreadful. Then came hatred and wicked thoughts. That was how it all came. I told you I was afraid of myself. And I did what you told me⁠—I did try to make my fear a safeguard. I thought of what would be if I⁠—I felt what would come⁠—how I should dread the morning⁠—wishing it would be always night⁠—and yet in the darkness always seeing something⁠—seeing death. If you did not know how miserable I was, you might⁠—but now it has all been no use. I can care for nothing but saving the rest from knowing⁠—poor mamma, who has never been happy.”

There was silence again before she said with a repressed sob⁠—“You cannot bear to look at me any more. You think I am too wicked. You do not believe that I can become any better⁠—worth anything⁠—worthy enough⁠—I shall always be too wicked to⁠—” The voice broke off helpless.

Deronda’s heart was pierced. He turned his eyes on her poor beseeching face and said, “I believe that you may become worthier than you have ever yet been⁠—worthy to lead a life that may be a blessing. No evil dooms us hopelessly except the evil we love, and desire to continue in, and make no effort to escape from. You have made efforts⁠—you will go on making them.”

“But you were the beginning of them. You must not forsake me,” said Gwendolen, leaning with her clasped hands on the arm of her chair and looking at him, while her face bore piteous traces of the life-experience concentrated in the twenty-four hours⁠—that new terrible life lying on the other side of the deed which fulfills a criminal desire. “I will bear any penance. I will lead any life you tell me. But you must not forsake me. You must be near. If you had been near me⁠—if I could have said everything to you, I should have been different. You will not forsake me?”

“It could never be my impulse to forsake you,” said Deronda promptly, with that voice which, like his eyes, had the unintentional effect of making his ready sympathy seem more personal and special than it really was. And in that moment he was not himself quite free from a foreboding of some such self-committing effect. His strong feeling for this stricken creature could not hinder rushing images of future difficulty. He continued to meet her appealing eyes as he spoke, but it was with the painful consciousness that to her ear his words might carry a promise which one day would seem unfulfilled: he was making an indefinite promise to an indefinite hope. Anxieties, both immediate and distant, crowded on his thought, and it was under their influence that, after a moment’s silence, he said,

“I expect Sir Hugo Mallinger to arrive by tomorrow night at least; and I am not without hope that Mrs. Davilow may shortly follow him. Her presence will be the greatest comfort to you⁠—it will give you a motive to save her from unnecessary pain?”

“Yes, yes⁠—I will try. And you will not go away?”

“Not till after Sir Hugo has come.”

“But we shall all go to England?”

“As soon as possible,” said Deronda, not wishing to enter into particulars.

Gwendolen looked toward the window again with an expression which seemed like a gradual awakening to new thoughts. The twilight was perceptibly deepening, but Deronda could see a movement in her eyes and hands such as accompanies a return of perception in one who has been stunned.

“You will always be with Sir Hugo now!” she said presently, looking at him. “You will always live at the Abbey⁠—or else at Diplow?”

“I am quite uncertain where I shall live,” said Deronda, coloring.

She was warned by his changed color that she had spoken too rashly, and fell silent. After a little while she began, again looking away,

“It is impossible to think how my life will go on. I think now it would be better for me to be poor and obliged to work.”

“New promptings will come as the days pass. When you are among your friends again, you will discern new duties,” said Deronda. “Make it a task now to get as well and calm⁠—as much like yourself as you can, before⁠—” He hesitated.

“Before my mother comes,” said Gwendolen. “Ah! I must be changed. I have not looked at myself. Should you have known me,” she added, turning toward him, “if you had met me now?⁠—should you have known me for the one you saw at Leubronn?”

“Yes, I should have known you,” said Deronda, mournfully. “The outside change is not great. I should have seen at once that it was you, and that you had gone through some great sorrow.”

“Don’t wish now that you had never seen me; don’t wish that,” said Gwendolen, imploringly, while the tears gathered.

“I should despise myself for wishing it,” said Deronda. “How could I know what I was wishing? We must find our duties in what comes to us, not in what we imagine might have been. If I took to foolish wishing of that sort, I should wish⁠—not that I had never seen you, but that I had been able to save you from this.”

“You have saved me from worse,” said Gwendolen, in a sobbing voice. “I should have been worse if it had not been for you. If you had not been good, I should have been more wicked than I am.”

“It will be better for me to go now,” said Deronda, worn in spirit by the perpetual strain of this scene. “Remember what we said of your task⁠—to get well and calm before other friends come.”

He rose as he spoke, and she gave him her hand submissively. But when he had left her she sank on her knees, in hysterical crying. The distance between them was too great. She was a banished soul⁠—beholding a possible life which she had sinned herself away from.

She was found in this way, crushed on the floor. Such grief seemed natural in a poor lady whose husband had been drowned in her presence.


Fruit and Seed

Chapter LVIII

Much adoe there was, God wot;
He wold love and she wold not.
Nicholas Breton

Extension, we know, is a very imperfect measure of things; and the length of the sun’s journeying can no more tell us how life has advanced than the acreage of a field can tell us what growths may be active within it. A man may go south, and, stumbling over a bone, may meditate upon it till he has found a new starting-point for anatomy; or eastward, and discover a new key to language telling a new story of races; or he may head an expedition that opens new continental pathways, get himself maimed in body, and go through a whole heroic poem of resolve and endurance; and at the end of a few months he may come back to find his neighbors grumbling at the same parish grievance as before, or to see the same elderly gentleman treading the pavement in discourse with himself, shaking his head after the same percussive butcher’s boy, and pausing at the same shopwindow to look at the same prints. If the swiftest thinking has about the pace of a greyhound, the slowest must be supposed to move, like the limpet, by an apparent sticking, which after a good while is discerned to be a slight progression. Such differences are manifest in the variable intensity which we call human experience, from the revolutionary rush of change which makes a new inner and outer life, to that quiet recurrence of the familiar, which has no other epochs than those of hunger and the heavens.

Something of this contrast was seen in the year’s experience which had turned the brilliant, self-confident Gwendolen Harleth of the Archery Meeting into the crushed penitent impelled to confess her unworthiness where it would have been her happiness to be held worthy; while it had left her family in Pennicote without deeper change than that of some outward habits, and some adjustment of prospects and intentions to reduced income, fewer visits, and fainter compliments. The rectory was as pleasant a home as before: and the red and pink peonies on the lawn, the rows of hollyhocks by the hedges, had bloomed as well this year as last: the rector maintained his cheerful confidence in the good will of patrons and his resolution to deserve it by diligence in the fulfillment of his duties, whether patrons were likely to hear of it or not; doing nothing solely with an eye to promotion except, perhaps, the writing of two ecclesiastical articles, which having no signature, were attributed to someone else, except by the patrons who had a special copy sent them, and these certainly knew the author but did not read the articles. The rector, however, chewed no poisonous cud of suspicion on this point: he made marginal notes on his own copies to render them a more interesting loan, and was gratified that the Archdeacon and other authorities had nothing to say against the general tenor of his argument. Peaceful authorship!⁠—living in the air of the fields and downs, and not in the thrice-breathed breath of criticism⁠—bringing no Dantesque leanness; rather, assisting nutrition by complacency, and perhaps giving a more suffusive sense of achievement than the production of a whole Divina Commedia. Then there was the father’s recovered delight in his favorite son, which was a happiness outweighing the loss of eighteen hundred a year. Of whatever nature might be the hidden change wrought in Rex by the disappointment of his first love, it was apparently quite secondary to that evidence of more serious ambition which dated from the family misfortune; indeed, Mr. Gascoigne was inclined to regard the little affair which had caused him so much anxiety the year before as an evaporation of superfluous moisture, a kind of finish to the baking process which the human dough demands. Rex had lately come down for a summer visit to the rectory, bringing Anna home, and while he showed nearly the old liveliness with his brothers and sisters, he continued in his holiday the habits of the eager student, rising early in the morning and shutting himself up early in the evenings to carry on a fixed course of study.

“You don’t repent the choice of the law as a profession, Rex?” said his father.

“There is no profession I would choose before it,” said Rex. “I should like to end my life as a first-rate judge, and help to draw up a code. I reverse the famous dictum. I should say, ‘Give me something to do with making the laws, and let who will make the songs.’ ”

“You will have to stow in an immense amount of rubbish, I suppose⁠—that’s the worst of it,” said the rector.

“I don’t see that law-rubbish is worse than any other sort. It is not so bad as the rubbishy literature that people choke their minds with. It doesn’t make one so dull. Our wittiest men have often been lawyers. Any orderly way of looking at things as cases and evidence seems to me better than a perpetual wash of odds and ends bearing on nothing in particular. And then, from a higher point of view, the foundations and the growth of law make the most interesting aspects of philosophy and history. Of course there will be a good deal that is troublesome, drudging, perhaps exasperating. But the great prizes in life can’t be won easily⁠—I see that.”

“Well, my boy, the best augury of a man’s success in his profession is that he thinks it the finest in the world. But I fancy it so with most work when a man goes into it with a will. Brewitt, the blacksmith, said to me the other day that his ’prentice had no mind to his trade; ‘and yet, sir,’ said Brewitt, ‘what would a young fellow have if he doesn’t like the blacksmithing?’ ”

The rector cherished a fatherly delight, which he allowed to escape him only in moderation. Warham, who had gone to India, he had easily borne parting with, but Rex was that romance of later life which a man sometimes finds in a son whom he recognizes as superior to himself, picturing a future eminence for him according to a variety of famous examples. It was only to his wife that he said with decision: “Rex will be a distinguished man, Nancy, I am sure of it⁠—as sure as Paley’s father was about his son.”

“Was Paley an old bachelor?” said Mrs. Gascoigne.

“That is hardly to the point, my dear,” said the rector, who did not remember that irrelevant detail. And Mrs. Gascoigne felt that she had spoken rather weakly.

This quiet trotting of time at the rectory was shared by the group who had exchanged the faded dignity of Offendene for the low white house not a mile off, well enclosed with evergreens, and known to the villagers, as “Jodson’s.” Mrs. Davilow’s delicate face showed only a slight deepening of its mild melancholy, her hair only a few more silver lines, in consequence of the last year’s trials; the four girls had bloomed out a little from being less in the shade; and the good Jocosa preserved her serviceable neutrality toward the pleasures and glories of the world as things made for those who were not “in a situation.”

The low narrow drawing-room, enlarged by two quaint projecting windows, with lattices wide open on a July afternoon to the scent of monthly roses, the faint murmurs of the garden, and the occasional rare sound of hoofs and wheels seeming to clarify the succeeding silence, made rather a crowded, lively scene, Rex and Anna being added to the usual group of six. Anna, always a favorite with her younger cousins, had much to tell of her new experience, and the acquaintances she had made in London, and when on her first visit she came alone, many questions were asked her about Gwendolen’s house in Grosvenor Square, what Gwendolen herself had said, and what anyone else had said about Gwendolen. Had Anna been to see Gwendolen after she had known about the yacht? No:⁠—an answer which left speculation free concerning everything connected with that interesting unknown vessel beyond the fact that Gwendolen had written just before she set out to say that Mr. Grandcourt and she were going yachting on the Mediterranean, and again from Marseilles to say that she was sure to like the yachting, the cabins were very elegant, and she would probably not send another letter till she had written quite a long diary filled with dittos. Also, this movement of Mr. and Mrs. Grandcourt had been mentioned in “the newspaper;” so that altogether this new phase of Gwendolen’s exalted life made a striking part of the sisters’ romance, the book-devouring Isabel throwing in a corsair or two to make an adventure that might end well.

But when Rex was present, the girls, according to instructions, never started this fascinating topic, and today there had only been animated descriptions of the Meyricks and their extraordinary Jewish friends, which caused some astonished questioning from minds to which the idea of live Jews, out of a book, suggested a difference deep enough to be almost zoological, as of a strange race in Pliny’s Natural History that might sleep under the shade of its own ears. Bertha could not imagine what Jews believed now; and she had a dim idea that they rejected the Old Testament since it proved the New; Miss Merry thought that Mirah and her brother could “never have been properly argued with,” and the amiable Alice did not mind what the Jews believed, she was sure she “couldn’t bear them.” Mrs. Davilow corrected her by saying that the great Jewish families who were in society were quite what they ought to be both in London and Paris, but admitted that the commoner unconverted Jews were objectionable; and Isabel asked whether Mirah talked just as they did, or whether you might be with her and not find out that she was a Jewess.

Rex, who had no partisanship with the Israelites, having made a troublesome acquaintance with the minutiae of their ancient history in the form of “cram,” was amusing himself by playfully exaggerating the notion of each speaker, while Anna begged them all to understand that he was only joking, when the laughter was interrupted by the bringing in of a letter for Mrs. Davilow. A messenger had run with it in great haste from the rectory. It enclosed a telegram, and as Mrs. Davilow read and reread it in silence and agitation, all eyes were turned on her with anxiety, but no one dared to speak. Looking up at last and seeing the young faces “painted with fear,” she remembered that they might be imagining something worse than the truth, something like her own first dread which made her unable to understand what was written, and she said, with a sob which was half relief,

“My dears, Mr. Grandcourt⁠—” She paused an instant, and then began again, “Mr. Grandcourt is drowned.”

Rex started up as if a missile had been suddenly thrown into the room. He could not help himself, and Anna’s first look was at him. But then, gathering some self-command while Mrs. Davilow was reading what the rector had written on the enclosing paper, he said,

“Can I do anything, aunt? Can I carry any word to my father from you?”

“Yes, dear. Tell him I will be ready⁠—he is very good. He says he will go with me to Genoa⁠—he will be here at half-past six. Jocosa and Alice, help me to get ready. She is safe⁠—Gwendolen is safe⁠—but she must be ill. I am sure she must be very ill. Rex, dear⁠—Rex and Anna⁠—go and tell your father I will be quite ready. I would not for the world lose another night. And bless him for being ready so soon. I can travel night and day till we get there.”

Rex and Anna hurried away through the sunshine which was suddenly solemn to them, without uttering a word to each other: she chiefly possessed by solicitude about any reopening of his wound, he struggling with a tumultuary crowd of thoughts that were an offence against his better will. The tumult being undiminished when they were at the rectory gate, he said,

“Nannie, I will leave you to say everything to my father. If he wants me immediately, let me know. I shall stay in the shrubbery for ten minutes⁠—only ten minutes.”

Who has been quite free from egoistic escapes of the imagination, picturing desirable consequences on his own future in the presence of another’s misfortune, sorrow, or death? The expected promotion or legacy is the common type of a temptation which makes speech and even prayer a severe avoidance of the most insistent thoughts, and sometimes raises an inward shame, a self-distaste that is worse than any other form of unpleasant companionship. In Rex’s nature the shame was immediate, and overspread like an ugly light all the hurrying images of what might come, which thrust themselves in with the idea that Gwendolen was again free⁠—overspread them, perhaps, the more persistently because every phantasm of a hope was quickly nullified by a more substantial obstacle. Before the vision of “Gwendolen free” rose the impassable vision of “Gwendolen rich, exalted, courted;” and if in the former time, when both their lives were fresh, she had turned from his love with repugnance, what ground was there for supposing that her heart would be more open to him in the future?

These thoughts, which he wanted to master and suspend, were like a tumultuary ringing of opposing chimes that he could not escape from by running. During the last year he had brought himself into a state of calm resolve, and now it seemed that three words had been enough to undo all that difficult work, and cast him back into the wretched fluctuations of a longing which he recognized as simply perturbing and hopeless. And at this moment the activity of such longing had an untimeliness that made it repulsive to his better self. Excuse poor Rex; it was not much more than eighteen months since he had been laid low by an archer who sometimes touches his arrow with a subtle, lingering poison. The disappointment of a youthful passion has effects as incalculable as those of smallpox which may make one person plain and a genius, another less plain and more foolish, another plain without detriment to his folly, and leave perhaps the majority without obvious change. Everything depends⁠—not on the mere fact of disappointment, but⁠—on the nature affected and the force that stirs it. In Rex’s well-endowed nature, brief as the hope had been, the passionate stirring had gone deep, and the effect of disappointment was revolutionary, though fraught with a beneficent new order which retained most of the old virtues; in certain respects he believed that it had finally determined the bias and color of his life. Now, however, it seemed that his inward peace was hardly more than that of republican Florence, and his heart no better than the alarm-bell that made work slack and tumult busy.

Rex’s love had been of that sudden, penetrating, clinging sort which the ancients knew and sung, and in singing made a fashion of talk for many moderns whose experience has by no means a fiery, demonic character. To have the consciousness suddenly steeped with another’s personality, to have the strongest inclinations possessed by an image which retains its dominance in spite of change and apart from worthiness⁠—nay, to feel a passion which clings faster for the tragic pangs inflicted by a cruel, reorganized unworthiness⁠—is a phase of love which in the feeble and common-minded has a repulsive likeness to his blind animalism insensible to the higher sway of moral affinity or heaven-lit admiration. But when this attaching force is present in a nature not of brutish unmodifiableness, but of a human dignity that can risk itself safely, it may even result in a devotedness not unfit to be called divine in a higher sense than the ancient. Phlegmatic rationality stares and shakes its head at these unaccountable prepossessions, but they exist as undeniably as the winds and waves, determining here a wreck and there a triumphant voyage.

This sort of passion had nested in the sweet-natured, strong Rex, and he had made up his mind to its companionship, as if it had been an object supremely dear, stricken dumb and helpless, and turning all the future of tenderness into a shadow of the past. But he had also made up his mind that his life was not to be pauperized because he had had to renounce one sort of joy; rather, he had begun life again with a new counting-up of the treasures that remained to him, and he had even felt a release of power such as may come from ceasing to be afraid of your own neck.

And now, here he was pacing the shrubbery, angry with himself that the sense of irrevocableness in his lot, which ought in reason to have been as strong as ever, had been shaken by a change of circumstances that could make no change in relation to him. He told himself the truth quite roughly,

“She would never love me; and that is not the question⁠—I could never approach her as a lover in her present position. I am exactly of no consequence at all, and am not likely to be of much consequence till my head is turning gray. But what has that to do with it? She would not have me on any terms, and I would not ask her. It is a meanness to be thinking about it now⁠—no better than lurking about the battlefield to strip the dead; but there never was more gratuitous sinning. I have nothing to gain there⁠—absolutely nothing. Then why can’t I face the facts, and behave as they demand, instead of leaving my father to suppose that there are matters he can’t speak to me about, though I might be useful in them?”

The last thought made one wave with the impulse that sent Rex walking firmly into the house and through the open door of the study, where he saw his father packing a traveling-desk.

“Can I be of any use, sir?” said Rex, with rallied courage, as his father looked up at him.

“Yes, my boy; when I’m gone, just see to my letters, and answer where necessary, and send me word of everything. Dymock will manage the parish very well, and you will stay with your mother, or, at least, go up and down again, till I come back, whenever that may be.”

“You will hardly be very long, sir, I suppose,” said Rex, beginning to strap a railway rug. “You will perhaps bring my cousin back to England?” He forced himself to speak of Gwendolen for the first time, and the rector noticed the epoch with satisfaction.

“That depends,” he answered, taking the subject as a matter-of-course between them. “Perhaps her mother may stay there with her, and I may come back very soon. This telegram leaves us in ignorance which is rather anxious. But no doubt the arrangements of the will lately made are satisfactory, and there may possibly be an heir yet to be born. In any case, I feel confident that Gwendolen will be liberally⁠—I should expect, splendidly⁠—provided for.”

“It must have been a great shock for her,” said Rex, getting more resolute after the first twinge had been borne. “I suppose he was a devoted husband.”

“No doubt of it,” said the rector, in his most decided manner. “Few men of his position would have come forward as he did under the circumstances.”

Rex had never seen Grandcourt, had never been spoken to about him by anyone of the family, and knew nothing of Gwendolen’s flight from her suitor to Leubronn. He only knew that Grandcourt, being very much in love with her, had made her an offer in the first weeks of her sudden poverty, and had behaved very handsomely in providing for her mother and sisters. That was all very natural and what Rex himself would have liked to do. Grandcourt had been a lucky fellow, and had had some happiness before he got drowned. Yet Rex wondered much whether Gwendolen had been in love with the successful suitor, or had only forborne to tell him that she hated being made love to.

Chapter LIX

I count myself in nothing else so happy
As in a soul remembering my good friends.

Sir Hugo Mallinger was not so prompt in starting for Genoa as Mr. Gascoigne had been, and Deronda on all accounts would not take his departure until he had seen the baronet. There was not only Grandcourt’s death, but also the late crisis in his own life to make reasons why his oldest friend would desire to have the unrestrained communication of speech with him, for in writing he had not felt able to give any details concerning the mother who had come and gone like an apparition. It was not till the fifth evening that Deronda, according to telegram, waited for Sir Hugo at the station, where he was to arrive between eight and nine; and while he was looking forward to the sight of the kind, familiar face, which was part of his earliest memories, something like a smile, in spite of his late tragic experience, might have been detected in his eyes and the curve of his lips at the idea of Sir Hugo’s pleasure in being now master of his estates, able to leave them to his daughters, or at least⁠—according to a view of inheritance which had just been strongly impressed on Deronda’s imagination⁠—to take makeshift feminine offspring as intermediate to a satisfactory heir in a grandson. We should be churlish creatures if we could have no joy in our fellow-mortals’ joy, unless it were in agreement with our theory of righteous distribution and our highest ideal of human good: what sour corners our mouths would get⁠—our eyes, what frozen glances! and all the while our own possessions and desires would not exactly adjust themselves to our ideal. We must have some comradeship with imperfection; and it is, happily, possible to feel gratitude even where we discern a mistake that may have been injurious, the vehicle of the mistake being an affectionate intention prosecuted through a lifetime of kindly offices. Deronda’s feeling and judgment were strongly against the action of Sir Hugo in making himself the agent of a falsity⁠—yes, a falsity: he could give no milder name to the concealment under which he had been reared. But the baronet had probably had no clear knowledge concerning the mother’s breach of trust, and with his light, easy way of taking life, had held it a reasonable preference in her that her son should be made an English gentleman, seeing that she had the eccentricity of not caring to part from her child, and be to him as if she were not. Daniel’s affectionate gratitude toward Sir Hugo made him wish to find grounds of excuse rather than blame; for it is as possible to be rigid in principle and tender in blame, as it is to suffer from the sight of things hung awry, and yet to be patient with the hanger who sees amiss. If Sir Hugo in his bachelorhood had been beguiled into regarding children chiefly as a product intended to make life more agreeable to the full-grown, whose convenience alone was to be consulted in the disposal of them⁠—why, he had shared an assumption which, if not formally avowed, was massively acted on at that date of the world’s history; and Deronda, with all his keen memory of the painful inward struggle he had gone through in his boyhood, was able also to remember the many signs that his experience had been entirely shut out from Sir Hugo’s conception. Ignorant kindness may have the effect of cruelty; but to be angry with it as if it were direct cruelty would be an ignorant unkindness, the most remote from Deronda’s large imaginative lenience toward others. And perhaps now, after the searching scenes of the last ten days, in which the curtain had been lifted for him from the secrets of lives unlike his own, he was more than ever disposed to check that rashness of indignation or resentment which has an unpleasant likeness to the love of punishing. When he saw Sir Hugo’s familiar figure descending from the railway carriage, the lifelong affection which had been well accustomed to make excuses, flowed in and submerged all newer knowledge that might have seemed fresh ground for blame.

“Well, Dan,” said Sir Hugo, with a serious fervor, grasping Deronda’s hand. He uttered no other words of greeting; there was too strong a rush of mutual consciousness. The next thing was to give orders to the courier, and then to propose walking slowly in the mild evening, there being no hurry to get to the hotel.

“I have taken my journey easily, and am in excellent condition,” he said, as he and Deronda came out under the starlight, which was still faint with the lingering sheen of day. “I didn’t hurry in setting off, because I wanted to inquire into things a little, and so I got sight of your letter to Lady Mallinger before I started. But now, how is the widow?”

“Getting calmer,” said Deronda. “She seems to be escaping the bodily illness that one might have feared for her, after her plunge and terrible excitement. Her uncle and mother came two days ago, and she is being well taken care of.”

“Any prospect of an heir being born?”

“From what Mr. Gascoigne said to me, I conclude not. He spoke as if it were a question whether the widow would have the estates for her life.”

“It will not be much of a wrench to her affections, I fancy, this loss of the husband?” said Sir Hugo, looking round at Deronda.

“The suddenness of the death has been a great blow to her,” said Deronda, quietly evading the question.

“I wonder whether Grandcourt gave her any notion what were the provisions of his will?” said Sir Hugo.

“Do you know what they are, sir?” parried Deronda.

“Yes, I do,” said the baronet, quickly. “Gad! if there is no prospect of a legitimate heir, he has left everything to a boy he had by a Mrs. Glasher; you know nothing about the affair, I suppose, but she was a sort of wife to him for a good many years, and there are three older children⁠—girls. The boy is to take his father’s name; he is Henleigh already, and he is to be Henleigh Mallinger Grandcourt. The Mallinger will be of no use to him, I am happy to say; but the young dog will have more than enough with his fourteen years’ minority⁠—no need to have had holes filled up with my fifty thousand for Diplow that he had no right to: and meanwhile my beauty, the young widow, is to put up with a poor two thousand a year and the house at Gadsmere⁠—a nice kind of banishment for her if she chose to shut herself up there, which I don’t think she will. The boy’s mother has been living there of late years. I’m perfectly disgusted with Grandcourt. I don’t know that I’m obliged to think the better of him because he’s drowned, though, so far as my affairs are concerned, nothing in his life became him like the leaving it.”

“In my opinion he did wrong when he married this wife⁠—not in leaving his estates to the son,” said Deronda, rather dryly.

“I say nothing against his leaving the land to the lad,” said Sir Hugo; “but since he had married this girl he ought to have given her a handsome provision, such as she could live on in a style fitted to the rank he had raised her to. She ought to have had four or five thousand a year and the London house for her life; that’s what I should have done for her. I suppose, as she was penniless, her friends couldn’t stand out for a settlement, else it’s ill trusting to the will a man may make after he’s married. Even a wise man generally lets some folly ooze out of him in his will⁠—my father did, I know; and if a fellow has any spite or tyranny in him, he’s likely to bottle off a good deal for keeping in that sort of document. It’s quite clear Grandcourt meant that his death should put an extinguisher on his wife, if she bore him no heir.”

“And, in the other case, I suppose everything would have been reversed⁠—illegitimacy would have had the extinguisher?” said Deronda, with some scorn.

“Precisely⁠—Gadsmere and the two thousand. It’s queer. One nuisance is that Grandcourt has made me an executor; but seeing he was the son of my only brother, I can’t refuse to act. And I shall mind it less if I can be of any use to the widow. Lush thinks she was not in ignorance about the family under the rose, and the purport of the will. He hints that there was no very good understanding between the couple. But I fancy you are the man who knew most about what Mrs. Grandcourt felt or did not feel⁠—eh, Dan?” Sir Hugo did not put this question with his usual jocoseness, but rather with a lowered tone of interested inquiry; and Deronda felt that any evasion would be misinterpreted. He answered gravely,

“She was certainly not happy. They were unsuited to each other. But as to the disposal of the property⁠—from all I have seen of her, I should predict that she will be quite contented with it.”

“Then she is not much like the rest of her sex; that’s all I can say,” said Sir Hugo, with a slight shrug. “However, she ought to be something extraordinary, for there must be an entanglement between your horoscope and hers⁠—eh? When that tremendous telegram came, the first thing Lady Mallinger said was, ‘How very strange that it should be Daniel who sends it!’ But I have had something of the same sort in my own life. I was once at a foreign hotel where a lady had been left by her husband without money. When I heard of it, and came forward to help her, who should she be but an early flame of mine, who had been fool enough to marry an Austrian baron with a long mustache and short affection? But it was an affair of my own that called me there⁠—nothing to do with knight-errantry, any more than you coming to Genoa had to do with the Grandcourts.”

There was silence for a little while. Sir Hugo had begun to talk of the Grandcourts as the less difficult subject between himself and Deronda; but they were both wishing to overcome a reluctance to perfect frankness on the events which touched their relation to each other. Deronda felt that his letter, after the first interview with his mother, had been rather a thickening than a breaking of the ice, and that he ought to wait for the first opening to come from Sir Hugo. Just when they were about to lose sight of the port, the baronet turned, and pausing as if to get a last view, said in a tone of more serious feeling⁠—“And about the main business of your coming to Genoa, Dan? You have not been deeply pained by anything you have learned, I hope? There is nothing that you feel need change your position in any way? You know, whatever happens to you must always be of importance to me.”

“I desire to meet your goodness by perfect confidence, sir,” said Deronda. “But I can’t answer those questions truly by a simple yes or no. Much that I have heard about the past has pained me. And it has been a pain to meet and part with my mother in her suffering state, as I have been compelled to do. But it is no pain⁠—it is rather a clearing up of doubts for which I am thankful, to know my parentage. As to the effect on my position, there will be no change in my gratitude to you, sir, for the fatherly care and affection you have always shown me. But to know that I was born a Jew, may have a momentous influence on my life, which I am hardly able to tell you of at present.”

Deronda spoke the last sentence with a resolve that overcame some diffidence. He felt that the differences between Sir Hugo’s nature and his own would have, by-and-by, to disclose themselves more markedly than had ever yet been needful. The baronet gave him a quick glance, and turned to walk on. After a few moments’ silence, in which he had reviewed all the material in his memory which would enable him to interpret Deronda’s words, he said,

“I have long expected something remarkable from you, Dan; but, for God’s sake, don’t go into any eccentricities! I can tolerate any man’s difference of opinion, but let him tell it me without getting himself up as a lunatic. At this stage of the world, if a man wants to be taken seriously, he must keep clear of melodrama. Don’t misunderstand me. I am not suspecting you of setting up any lunacy on your own account. I only think you might easily be led arm in arm with a lunatic, especially if he wanted defending. You have a passion for people who are pelted, Dan. I’m sorry for them too; but so far as company goes, it’s a bad ground of selection. However, I don’t ask you to anticipate your inclination in anything you have to tell me. When you make up your mind to a course that requires money, I have some sixteen thousand pounds that have been accumulating for you over and above what you have been having the interest of as income. And now I am come, I suppose you want to get back to England as soon as you can?”

“I must go first to Mainz to get away a chest of my grandfather’s, and perhaps to see a friend of his,” said Deronda. “Although the chest has been lying there these twenty years, I have an unreasonable sort of nervous eagerness to get it away under my care, as if it were more likely now than before that something might happen to it. And perhaps I am the more uneasy, because I lingered after my mother left, instead of setting out immediately. Yet I can’t regret that I was here⁠—else Mrs. Grandcourt would have had none but servants to act for her.”

“Yes, yes,” said Sir Hugo, with a flippancy which was an escape of some vexation hidden under his more serious speech; “I hope you are not going to set a dead Jew above a living Christian.”

Deronda colored, and repressed a retort. They were just turning into the Italia.

Chapter LX

But I shall say no more of this at this time; for this is to be felt and not to be talked of; and they who never touched it with their fingers may secretly perhaps laugh at it in their hearts and be never the wiser.
Jeremy Taylor

The Roman Emperor in the legend put to death ten learned Israelites to avenge the sale of Joseph by his brethren. And there have always been enough of his kidney, whose piety lies in punishing who can see the justice of grudges but not of gratitude. For you shall never convince the stronger feeling that it hath not the stronger reason, or incline him who hath no love to believe that there is good ground for loving. As we may learn from the order of word-making, wherein love precedeth lovable.

When Deronda presented his letter at the banking-house in the Schuster Strasse at Mainz, and asked for Joseph Kalonymos, he was presently shown into an inner room, where, seated at a table arranging open letters, was the white-bearded man whom he had seen the year before in the synagogue at Frankfort. He wore his hat⁠—it seemed to be the same old felt hat as before⁠—and near him was a packed portmanteau with a wrap and overcoat upon it. On seeing Deronda enter he rose, but did not advance or put out his hand. Looking at him with small penetrating eyes which glittered like black gems in the midst of his yellowish face and white hair, he said in German,

“Good! It is now you who seek me, young man.”

“Yes; I seek you with gratitude, as a friend of my grandfather’s,” said Deronda, “and I am under an obligation to you for giving yourself much trouble on my account.” He spoke without difficulty in that liberal German tongue which takes many strange accents to its maternal bosom.

Kalonymos now put out his hand and said cordially, “So you are no longer angry at being something more than an Englishman?”

“On the contrary. I thank you heartily for helping to save me from remaining in ignorance of my parentage, and for taking care of the chest that my grandfather left in trust for me.”

“Sit down, sit down,” said Kalonymos, in a quick undertone, seating himself again, and pointing to a chair near him. Then deliberately laying aside his hat and showing a head thickly covered, with white hair, he stroked and clutched his beard while he looked examiningly at the young face before him. The moment wrought strongly on Deronda’s imaginative susceptibility: in the presence of one linked still in zealous friendship with the grandfather whose hope had yearned toward him when he was unborn, and who, though dead, was yet to speak with him in those written memorials which, says Milton, “contain a potency of life in them to be as active as that soul whose progeny they are,” he seemed to himself to be touching the electric chain of his own ancestry; and he bore the scrutinizing look of Kalonymos with a delighted awe, something like what one feels in the solemn commemoration of acts done long ago but still telling markedly on the life of today. Impossible for men of duller fibre⁠—men whose affection is not ready to diffuse itself through the wide travel of imagination, to comprehend, perhaps even to credit this sensibility of Deronda’s; but it subsisted, like their own dullness, notwithstanding their lack of belief in it⁠—and it gave his face an expression which seemed very satisfactory to the observer.

He said in Hebrew, quoting from one of the fine hymns in the Hebrew liturgy, “As thy goodness has been great to the former generations, even so may it be to the latter.” Then after pausing a little he began, “Young man, I rejoice that I was not yet set off again on my travels, and that you are come in time for me to see the image of my friend as he was in his youth⁠—no longer perverted from the fellowship of your people⁠—no longer shrinking in proud wrath from the touch of him who seemed to be claiming you as a Jew. You come with thankfulness yourself to claim the kindred and heritage that wicked contrivance would have robbed you of. You come with a willing soul to declare, ‘I am the grandson of Daniel Charisi.’ Is it not so?”

“Assuredly it is,” said Deronda. “But let me say that I should at no time have been inclined to treat a Jew with incivility simply because he was a Jew. You can understand that I shrank from saying to a stranger, ‘I know nothing of my mother.’ ”

“A sin, a sin!” said Kalonymos, putting up his hand and closing his eyes in disgust. “A robbery of our people⁠—as when our youths and maidens were reared for the Roman Edom. But it is frustrated. I have frustrated it. When Daniel Charisi⁠—may his Rock and his Redeemer guard him!⁠—when Daniel Charisi was a stripling and I was a lad little above his shoulder, we made a solemn vow always to be friends. He said, ‘Let us bind ourselves with duty, as if we were sons of the same mother.’ That was his bent from first to last⁠—as he said, to fortify his soul with bonds. It was a saying of his, ‘Let us bind love with duty; for duty is the love of law; and law is the nature of the Eternal.’ So we bound ourselves. And though we were much apart in our later life, the bond has never been broken. When he was dead, they sought to rob him; but they could not rob him of me. I rescued that remainder of him which he had prized and preserved for his offspring. And I have restored to him the offspring they had robbed him of. I will bring you the chest forthwith.”

Kalonymos left the room for a few minutes, and returned with a clerk who carried the chest, set it down on the floor, drew off a leather cover, and went out again. It was not very large, but was made heavy by ornamental bracers and handles of gilt iron. The wood was beautifully incised with Arabic lettering.

“So!” said Kalonymos, returning to his seat. “And here is the curious key,” he added, taking it from a small leathern bag. “Bestow it carefully. I trust you are methodic and wary.” He gave Deronda the monitory and slightly suspicious look with which age is apt to commit any object to the keeping of youth.

“I shall be more careful of this than of any other property,” said Deronda, smiling and putting the key in his breast-pocket. “I never before possessed anything that was a sign to me of so much cherished hope and effort. And I shall never forget that the effort was partly yours. Have you time to tell me more of my grandfather? Or shall I be trespassing in staying longer?”

“Stay yet a while. In an hour and eighteen minutes I start for Trieste,” said Kalonymos, looking at his watch, “and presently my sons will expect my attention. Will you let me make you known to them, so that they may have the pleasure of showing hospitality to my friend’s grandson? They dwell here in ease and luxury, though I choose to be a wanderer.”

“I shall be glad if you will commend me to their acquaintance for some future opportunity,” said Deronda. “There are pressing claims calling me to England⁠—friends who may be much in need of my presence. I have been kept away from them too long by unexpected circumstances. But to know more of you and your family would be motive enough to bring me again to Mainz.”

“Good! Me you will hardly find, for I am beyond my threescore years and ten, and I am a wanderer, carrying my shroud with me. But my sons and their children dwell here in wealth and unity. The days are changed for us since Karl the Great fetched my ancestors from Italy to bring some tincture of knowledge to our rough German brethren. I and my contemporaries have had to fight for it too. Our youth fell on evil days; but this we have won; we increase our wealth in safety, and the learning of all Germany is fed and fattened by Jewish brains⁠—though they keep not always their Jewish hearts. Have you been left altogether ignorant of your people’s life, young man?”

“No,” said Deronda, “I have lately, before I had any true suspicion of my parentage, been led to study everything belonging to their history with more interest than any other subject. It turns out that I have been making myself ready to understand my grandfather a little.” He was anxious less the time should be consumed before this circuitous course of talk could lead them back to the topic he most cared about. Age does not easily distinguish between what it needs to express and what youth needs to know⁠—distance seeming to level the objects of memory; and keenly active as Joseph Kalonymos showed himself, an inkstand in the wrong place would have hindered his imagination from getting to Beyrout: he had been used to unite restless travel with punctilious observation. But Deronda’s last sentence answered its purpose.

“So⁠—you would perhaps have been such a man as he if your education had not hindered; for you are like him in features:⁠—yet not altogether, young man. He had an iron will in his face: it braced up everybody about him. When he was quite young he had already got one deep upright line in his brow. I see none of that in you. Daniel Charisi used to say, ‘Better, a wrong will than a wavering; better a steadfast enemy than an uncertain friend; better a false belief than no belief at all.’ What he despised most was indifference. He had longer reasons than I can give you.”

“Yet his knowledge was not narrow?” said Deronda, with a tacit reference to the usual excuse for indecision⁠—that it comes from knowing too much.

“Narrow? no,” said Kalonymos, shaking his head with a compassionate smile “From his childhood upward, he drank in learning as easily as the plant sucks up water. But he early took to medicine and theories about life and health. He traveled to many countries, and spent much of his substance in seeing and knowing. What he used to insist on was that the strength and wealth of mankind depended on the balance of separateness and communication, and he was bitterly against our people losing themselves among the Gentiles; ‘It’s no better,’ said he, ‘than the many sorts of grain going back from their variety into sameness.’ He mingled all sorts of learning; and in that he was like our Arabic writers in the golden time. We studied together, but he went beyond me. Though we were bosom friends, and he poured himself out to me, we were as different as the inside and outside of the bowl. I stood up for two notions of my own: I took Charisi’s sayings as I took the shape of the trees: they were there, not to be disputed about. It came to the same thing in both of us; we were both faithful Jews, thankful not to be Gentiles. And since I was a ripe man, I have been what I am now, for all but age⁠—loving to wander, loving transactions, loving to behold all things, and caring nothing about hardship. Charisi thought continually of our people’s future: he went with all his soul into that part of our religion: I, not. So we have freedom, I am content. Our people wandered before they were driven. Young man, when I am in the East, I lie much on deck and watch the greater stars. The sight of them satisfies me. I know them as they rise, and hunger not to know more. Charisi was satisfied with no sight, but pieced it out with what had been before and what would come after. Yet we loved each other, and as he said, he bound our love with duty; we solemnly pledged ourselves to help and defend each other to the last. I have fulfilled my pledge.” Here Kalonymos rose, and Deronda, rising also, said,

“And in being faithful to him you have caused justice to be done to me. It would have been a robbery of me too that I should never have known of the inheritance he had prepared for me. I thank you with my whole soul.”

“Be worthy of him, young man. What is your vocation?” This question was put with a quick abruptness which embarrassed Deronda, who did not feel it quite honest to allege his law-reading as a vocation. He answered,

“I cannot say that I have any.”

“Get one, get one. The Jew must be diligent. You will call yourself a Jew and profess the faith of your fathers?” said Kalonymos, putting his hand on Deronda’s shoulder and looking sharply in his face.

“I shall call myself a Jew,” said Deronda, deliberately, becoming slightly paler under the piercing eyes of his questioner. “But I will not say that I shall profess to believe exactly as my fathers have believed. Our fathers themselves changed the horizon of their belief and learned of other races. But I think I can maintain my grandfather’s notion of separateness with communication. I hold that my first duty is to my own people, and if there is anything to be done toward restoring or perfecting their common life, I shall make that my vocation.”

It happened to Deronda at that moment, as it has often happened to others, that the need for speech made an epoch in resolve. His respect for the questioner would not let him decline to answer, and by the necessity to answer he found out the truth for himself.

“Ah, you argue and you look forward⁠—you are Daniel Charisi’s grandson,” said Kalonymos, adding a benediction in Hebrew.

With that they parted; and almost as soon as Deronda was in London, the aged man was again on shipboard, greeting the friendly stars without any eager curiosity.

Chapter LXI

Within the gentle heart Love shelters him,
As birds within the green shade of the grove.
Before the gentle heart, in Nature’s scheme,
Love was not, nor the gentle heart ere Love.
Guido Guinicelli (Rossetti’s Translation)

There was another house besides the white house at Pennicote, another breast besides Rex Gascoigne’s, in which the news of Grandcourt’s death caused both strong agitation and the effort to repress it.

It was Hans Meyrick’s habit to send or bring in the Times for his mother’s reading. She was a great reader of news, from the widest-reaching politics to the list of marriages; the latter, she said, giving her the pleasant sense of finishing the fashionable novels without having read them, and seeing the heroes and heroines happy without knowing what poor creatures they were. On a Wednesday, there were reasons why Hans always chose to bring the paper, and to do so about the time that Mirah had nearly ended giving Mab her weekly lesson, avowing that he came then because he wanted to hear Mirah sing. But on the particular Wednesday now in question, after entering the house as quietly as usual with his latchkey, he appeared in the parlor, shaking the Times aloft with a crackling noise, in remorseless interruption of Mab’s attempt to render Lascia ch’io pianga with a remote imitation of her teacher. Piano and song ceased immediately; Mirah, who had been playing the accompaniment, involuntarily started up and turned round, the crackling sound, after the occasional trick of sounds, having seemed to her something thunderous; and Mab said,

“O-o-o, Hans! why do you bring a more horrible noise than my singing?”

“What on earth is the wonderful news?” said Mrs. Meyrick, who was the only other person in the room. “Anything about Italy⁠—anything about the Austrians giving up Venice?”

“Nothing about Italy, but something from Italy,” said Hans, with a peculiarity in his tone and manner which set his mother interpreting. Imagine how some of us feel and behave when an event, not disagreeable seems to be confirming and carrying out our private constructions. We say, “What do you think?” in a pregnant tone to some innocent person who has not embarked his wisdom in the same boat with ours, and finds our information flat.

“Nothing bad?” said Mrs. Meyrick anxiously, thinking immediately of Deronda; and Mirah’s heart had been already clutched by the same thought.

“Not bad for anybody we care much about,” said Hans, quickly; “rather uncommonly lucky, I think. I never knew anybody die conveniently before. Considering what a dear gazelle I am, I am constantly wondering to find myself alive.”

“Oh me, Hans!” said Mab, impatiently, “if you must talk of yourself, let it be behind your own back. What is it that has happened?”

“Duke Alfonso is drowned, and the Duchess is alive, that’s all,” said Hans, putting the paper before Mrs. Meyrick, with his finger against a paragraph. “But more than all is⁠—Deronda was at Genoa in the same hotel with them, and he saw her brought in by the fishermen who had got her out of the water time enough to save her from any harm. It seems they saw her jump in after her husband, which was a less judicious action than I should have expected of the Duchess. However Deronda is a lucky fellow in being there to take care of her.”

Mirah had sunk on the music stool again, with her eyelids down and her hands tightly clasped; and Mrs. Meyrick, giving up the paper to Mab, said,

“Poor thing! she must have been fond of her husband to jump in after him.”

“It was an inadvertence⁠—a little absence of mind,” said Hans, creasing his face roguishly, and throwing himself into a chair not far from Mirah. “Who can be fond of a jealous baritone, with freezing glances, always singing asides?⁠—that was the husband’s role, depend upon it. Nothing can be neater than his getting drowned. The Duchess is at liberty now to marry a man with a fine head of hair, and glances that will melt instead of freezing her. And I shall be invited to the wedding.”

Here Mirah started from her sitting posture, and fixing her eyes on Hans, with an angry gleam in them, she said, in a deeply-shaken voice of indignation,

“Mr. Hans, you ought not to speak in that way. Mr. Deronda would not like you to speak so. Why will you say he is lucky⁠—why will you use words of that sort about life and death⁠—when what is life to one is death to another? How do you know it would be lucky if he loved Mrs. Grandcourt? It might be a great evil to him. She would take him away from my brother⁠—I know she would. Mr. Deronda would not call that lucky to pierce my brother’s heart.”

All three were struck with the sudden transformation. Mirah’s face, with a look of anger that might have suited Ithuriel, pale, even to the lips that were usually so rich of tint, was not far from poor Hans, who sat transfixed, blushing under it as if he had been a girl, while he said, nervously,

“I am a fool and a brute, and I withdraw every word. I’ll go and hang myself like Judas⁠—if it’s allowable to mention him.” Even in Hans’s sorrowful moments, his improvised words had inevitably some drollery.

But Mirah’s anger was not appeased: how could it be? She had burst into indignant speech as creatures in intense pain bite and make their teeth meet even through their own flesh, by way of making their agony bearable. She said no more, but, seating herself at the piano, pressed the sheet of music before her, as if she thought of beginning to play again.

It was Mab who spoke, while Mrs. Meyrick’s face seemed to reflect some of Hans’ discomfort.

“Mirah is quite right to scold you, Hans. You are always taking Mr. Deronda’s name in vain. And it is horrible, joking in that way about his marrying Mrs. Grandcourt. Men’s minds must be very black, I think,” ended Mab, with much scorn.

“Quite true, my dear,” said Hans, in a low tone, rising and turning on his heel to walk toward the back window.

“We had better go on, Mab; you have not given your full time to the lesson,” said Mirah, in a higher tone than usual. “Will you sing this again, or shall I sing it to you?”

“Oh, please sing it to me,” said Mab, rejoiced to take no more notice of what had happened.

And Mirah immediately sang Lascia ch’io pianga, giving forth its melodious sobs and cries with new fullness and energy. Hans paused in his walk and leaned against the mantelpiece, keeping his eyes carefully away from his mother’s. When Mirah had sung her last note and touched the last chord, she rose and said, “I must go home now. Ezra expects me.”

She gave her hand silently to Mrs. Meyrick and hung back a little, not daring to look at her, instead of kissing her, as usual. But the little mother drew Mirah’s face down to hers, and said, soothingly, “God bless you, my dear.” Mirah felt that she had committed an offense against Mrs. Meyrick by angrily rebuking Hans, and mixed with the rest of her suffering was the sense that she had shown something like a proud ingratitude, an unbecoming assertion of superiority. And her friend had divined this compunction.

Meanwhile Hans had seized his wide-awake, and was ready to open the door.

“Now, Hans,” said Mab, with what was really a sister’s tenderness cunningly disguised, “you are not going to walk home with Mirah. I am sure she would rather not. You are so dreadfully disagreeable today.”

“I shall go to take care of her, if she does not forbid me,” said Hans, opening the door.

Mirah said nothing, and when he had opened the outer door for her and closed it behind him, he walked by her side unforbidden. She had not the courage to begin speaking to him again⁠—conscious that she had perhaps been unbecomingly severe in her words to him, yet finding only severer words behind them in her heart. Besides, she was pressed upon by a crowd of thoughts thrusting themselves forward as interpreters of that consciousness which still remained unaltered to herself.

Hans, on his side, had a mind equally busy. Mirah’s anger had waked in him a new perception, and with it the unpleasant sense that he was a dolt not to have had it before. Suppose Mirah’s heart were entirely preoccupied with Deronda in another character than that of her own and her brother’s benefactor; the supposition was attended in Hans’s mind with anxieties which, to do him justice, were not altogether selfish. He had a strong persuasion, which only direct evidence to the contrary could have dissipated, and that was that there was a serious attachment between Deronda and Mrs. Grandcourt; he had pieced together many fragments of observation, and gradually gathered knowledge, completed by what his sisters had heard from Anna Gascoigne, which convinced him not only that Mrs. Grandcourt had a passion for Deronda, but also, notwithstanding his friend’s austere self-repression, that Deronda’s susceptibility about her was the sign of concealed love. Some men, having such a conviction, would have avoided allusions that could have roused that susceptibility; but Hans’s talk naturally fluttered toward mischief, and he was given to a form of experiment on live animals which consisted in irritating his friends playfully. His experiments had ended in satisfying him that what he thought likely was true.

On the other hand, any susceptibility Deronda had manifested about a lover’s attentions being shown to Mirah, Hans took to be sufficiently accounted for by the alleged reason, namely, her dependent position; for he credited his friend with all possible unselfish anxiety for those whom he could rescue and protect. And Deronda’s insistence that Mirah would never marry one who was not a Jew necessarily seemed to exclude himself, since Hans shared the ordinary opinion, which he knew nothing to disturb, that Deronda was the son of Sir Hugo Mallinger.

Thus he felt himself in clearness about the state of Deronda’s affections; but now, the events which really struck him as concurring toward the desirable union with Mrs. Grandcourt, had called forth a flash of revelation from Mirah⁠—a betrayal of her passionate feeling on this subject which had made him melancholy on her account as well as his own⁠—yet on the whole less melancholy than if he had imagined Deronda’s hopes fixed on her. It is not sublime, but it is common, for a man to see the beloved object unhappy because his rival loves another, with more fortitude and a milder jealousy than if he saw her entirely happy in his rival. At least it was so with the mercurial Hans, who fluctuated between the contradictory states of feeling, wounded because Mirah was wounded, and of being almost obliged to Deronda for loving somebody else. It was impossible for him to give Mirah any direct sign of the way in which he had understood her anger, yet he longed that his speechless companionship should be eloquent in a tender, penitent sympathy which is an admissible form of wooing a bruised heart.

Thus the two went side by side in a companionship that yet seemed an agitated communication, like that of two chords whose quick vibrations lie outside our hearing. But when they reached the door of Mirah’s home, and Hans said “Goodbye,” putting out his hand with an appealing look of penitence, she met the look with melancholy gentleness, and said, “Will you not come in and see my brother?”

Hans could not but interpret this invitation as a sign of pardon. He had not enough understanding of what Mirah’s nature had been wrought into by her early experience, to divine how the very strength of her late excitement had made it pass more quickly into the resolute acceptance of pain. When he had said, “If you will let me,” and they went in together, half his grief was gone, and he was spinning a little romance of how his devotion might make him indispensable to Mirah in proportion as Deronda gave his devotion elsewhere. This was quite fair, since his friend was provided for according to his own heart; and on the question of Judaism Hans felt thoroughly fortified:⁠—who ever heard in tale or history that a woman’s love went in the track of her race and religion? Muslim and Jewish damsels were always attracted toward Christians, and now if Mirah’s heart had gone forth too precipitately toward Deronda, here was another case in point. Hans was wont to make merry with his own arguments, to call himself a Giaour, and antithesis the sole clue to events; but he believed a little in what he laughed at. And thus his birdlike hope, constructed on the lightest principles, soared again in spite of heavy circumstances.

They found Mordecai looking singularly happy, holding a closed letter in his hand, his eyes glowing with a quiet triumph which in his emaciated face gave the idea of a conquest over assailing death. After the greeting between him and Hans, Mirah put her arm round her brother’s neck and looked down at the letter in his hand, without the courage to ask about it, though she felt sure that it was the cause of his happiness.

“A letter from Daniel Deronda,” said Mordecai, answering her look. “Brief⁠—only saying that he hopes soon to return. Unexpected claims have detained him. The promise of seeing him again is like the bow in the cloud to me,” continued Mordecai, looking at Hans; “and to you it must be a gladness. For who has two friends like him?”

While Hans was answering Mirah slipped away to her own room; but not to indulge in any outburst of the passion within her. If the angels, once supposed to watch the toilet of women, had entered the little chamber with her and let her shut the door behind them, they would only have seen her take off her hat, sit down and press her hands against her temples as if she had suddenly reflected that her head ached; then rise to dash cold water on her eyes and brow and hair till her backward curls were full of crystal beads, while she had dried her brow and looked out like a freshly-opened flower from among the dewy tresses of the woodland; then give deep sighs of relief, and putting on her little slippers, sit still after that action for a couple of minutes, which seemed to her so long, so full of things to come, that she rose with an air of recollection, and went down to make tea.

Something of the old life had returned. She had been used to remember that she must learn her part, must go to rehearsal, must act and sing in the evening, must hide her feelings from her father; and the more painful her life grew, the more she had been used to hide. The force of her nature had long found its chief action in resolute endurance, and today the violence of feeling which had caused the first jet of anger had quickly transformed itself into a steady facing of trouble, the well-known companion of her young years. But while she moved about and spoke as usual, a close observer might have discerned a difference between this apparent calm, which was the effect of restraining energy, and the sweet genuine calm of the months when she first felt a return of her infantine happiness.

Those who have been indulged by fortune and have always thought of calamity as what happens to others, feel a blind incredulous rage at the reversal of their lot, and half believe that their wild cries will alter the course of the storm. Mirah felt no such surprise when familiar Sorrow came back from brief absence, and sat down with her according to the old use and wont. And this habit of expecting trouble rather than joy, hindered her from having any persistent belief in opposition to the probabilities which were not merely suggested by Hans, but were supported by her own private knowledge and long-growing presentiment. An attachment between Deronda and Mrs. Grandcourt, to end in their future marriage, had the aspect of a certainty for her feeling. There had been no fault in him: facts had ordered themselves so that there was a tie between him and this woman who belonged to another world than hers and Ezra’s⁠—nay, who seemed another sort of being than Deronda, something foreign that would be a disturbance in his life instead of blending with it. Well, well⁠—but if it could have been deferred so as to make no difference while Ezra was there! She did not know all the momentousness of the relation between Deronda and her brother, but she had seen, and instinctively felt enough to forebode its being incongruous with any close tie to Mrs. Grandcourt; at least this was the clothing that Mirah first gave to her mortal repugnance. But in the still, quick action of her consciousness, thoughts went on like changing states of sensation unbroken by her habitual acts; and this inward language soon said distinctly that the mortal repugnance would remain even if Ezra were secured from loss.

“What I have read about and sung about and seen acted, is happening to me⁠—this that I am feeling is the love that makes jealousy;” so impartially Mirah summed up the charge against herself. But what difference could this pain of hers make to anyone else? It must remain as exclusively her own, and hidden, as her early yearning and devotion to her lost mother. But unlike that devotion, it was something that she felt to be a misfortune of her nature⁠—a discovery that what should have been pure gratitude and reverence had sunk into selfish pain, that the feeling she had hitherto delighted to pour out in words was degraded into something she was ashamed to betray⁠—an absurd longing that she who had received all and given nothing should be of importance where she was of no importance⁠—an angry feeling toward another woman who possessed the good she wanted. But what notion, what vain reliance could it be that had lain darkly within her and was now burning itself into sight as disappointment and jealousy? It was as if her soul had been steeped in poisonous passion by forgotten dreams of deep sleep, and now flamed out in this unaccountable misery. For with her waking reason she had never entertained what seemed the wildly unfitting thought that Deronda could love her. The uneasiness she had felt before had been comparatively vague and easily explained as part of a general regret that he was only a visitant in her and her brother’s world, from which the world where his home lay was as different as a portico with lights and lackeys was different from the door of a tent, where the only splendor came from the mysterious inaccessible stars. But her feeling was no longer vague: the cause of her pain⁠—the image of Mrs. Grandcourt by Deronda’s side, drawing him farther and farther into the distance, was as definite as pincers on her flesh. In the Psyche-mould of Mirah’s frame there rested a fervid quality of emotion, sometimes rashly supposed to require the bulk of a Cleopatra; her impressions had the thoroughness and tenacity that give to the first selection of passionate feeling the character of a lifelong faithfulness. And now a selection had declared itself, which gave love a cruel heart of jealousy: she had been used to a strong repugnance toward certain objects that surrounded her, and to walk inwardly aloof from them while they touched her sense. And now her repugnance concentrated itself on Mrs. Grandcourt, of whom she involuntarily conceived more evil than she knew. “I could bear everything that used to be⁠—but this is worse⁠—this is worse⁠—I used not to have horrible feelings!” said the poor child in a loud whisper to her pillow. Strange that she should have to pray against any feeling which concerned Deronda!

But this conclusion had been reached through an evening spent in attending to Mordecai, whose exaltation of spirit in the prospect of seeing his friend again, disposed him to utter many thoughts aloud to Mirah, though such communication was often interrupted by intervals apparently filled with an inward utterance that animated his eyes and gave an occasional silent action to his lips. One thought especially occupied him.

“Seest thou, Mirah,” he said once, after a long silence, “the Shemah, wherein we briefly confess the divine Unity, is the chief devotional exercise of the Hebrew; and this made our religion the fundamental religion for the whole world; for the divine Unity embraced as its consequence the ultimate unity of mankind. See, then⁠—the nation which has been scoffed at for its separateness, has given a binding theory to the human race. Now, in complete unity a part possesses the whole as the whole possesses every part: and in this way human life is tending toward the image of the Supreme Unity: for as our life becomes more spiritual by capacity of thought, and joy therein, possession tends to become more universal, being independent of gross material contact; so that in a brief day the soul of man may know in fuller volume the good which has been and is, nay, is to come, than all he could possess in a whole life where he had to follow the creeping paths of the senses. In this moment, my sister, I hold the joy of another’s future within me: a future which these eyes will not see, and which my spirit may not then recognize as mine. I recognize it now, and love it so, that I can lay down this poor life upon its altar and say: ‘Burn, burn indiscernibly into that which shall be, which is my love and not me.’ Dost thou understand, Mirah?”

“A little,” said Mirah, faintly, “but my mind is too poor to have felt it.”

“And yet,” said Mordecai, rather insistently, “women are specially framed for the love which feels possession in renouncing, and is thus a fit image of what I mean. Somewhere in the later Midrash, I think, is the story of a Jewish maiden who loved a Gentile king so well, that this was what she did:⁠—she entered into prison and changed clothes with the woman who was beloved by the king, that she might deliver that woman from death by dying in her stead, and leave the king to be happy in his love which was not for her. This is the surpassing love, that loses self in the object of love.”

“No, Ezra, no,” said Mirah, with low-toned intensity, “that was not it. She wanted the king when she was dead to know what she had done, and feel that she was better than the other. It was her strong self, wanting to conquer, that made her die.”

Mordecai was silent a little, and then argued,

“That might be, Mirah. But if she acted so, believing the king would never know.”

“You can make the story so in your mind, Ezra, because you are great, and like to fancy the greatest that could be. But I think it was not really like that. The Jewish girl must have had jealousy in her heart, and she wanted somehow to have the first place in the king’s mind. That is what she would die for.”

“My sister, thou hast read too many plays, where the writers delight in showing the human passions as indwelling demons, unmixed with the relenting and devout elements of the soul. Thou judgest by the plays, and not by thy own heart, which is like our mother’s.”

Mirah made no answer.

Chapter LXII

Das Glück ist eine leichte Dirne,
Und weilt nicht gern am selben Ort;
Sie streicht das Haar dir von der Stirne
Und kusst dich rasch und flattert fort

Frau Unglück hat im Gegentheile
Dich liebefest an’s Herz gedrückt;
Sie sagt, sie habe keine Eile,
Setzt sich zu dir an’s Bett und strickt.

Something which Mirah had lately been watching for as the fulfilment of a threat, seemed now the continued visit of that familiar sorrow which had lately come back, bringing abundant luggage.

Turning out of Knightsbridge, after singing at a charitable morning concert in a wealthy house, where she had been recommended by Klesmer, and where there had been the usual groups outside to see the departing company, she began to feel herself dogged by footsteps that kept an even pace with her own. Her concert dress being simple black, over which she had thrown a dust cloak, could not make her an object of unpleasant attention, and render walking an imprudence; but this reflection did not occur to Mirah: another kind of alarm lay uppermost in her mind. She immediately thought of her father, and could no more look round than if she had felt herself tracked by a ghost. To turn and face him would be voluntarily to meet the rush of emotions which beforehand seemed intolerable. If it were her father he must mean to claim recognition, and he would oblige her to face him. She must wait for that compulsion. She walked on, not quickening her pace⁠—of what use was that?⁠—but picturing what was about to happen as if she had the full certainty that the man behind her was her father; and along with her picturing went a regret that she had given her word to Mrs. Meyrick not to use any concealment about him. The regret at last urged her, at least, to try and hinder any sudden betrayal that would cause her brother an unnecessary shock. Under the pressure of this motive, she resolved to turn before she reached her own door, and firmly will the encounter instead of merely submitting to it. She had already reached the entrance of the small square where her home lay, and had made up her mind to turn, when she felt her embodied presentiment getting closer to her, then slipping to her side, grasping her wrist, and saying, with a persuasive curl of accent, “Mirah!”

She paused at once without any start; it was the voice she expected, and she was meeting the expected eyes. Her face was as grave as if she had been looking at her executioner, while his was adjusted to the intention of soothing and propitiating her. Once a handsome face, with bright color, it was now sallow and deep-lined, and had that peculiar impress of impudent suavity which comes from courting favor while accepting disrespect. He was lightly made and active, with something of youth about him which made the signs of age seem a disguise; and in reality he was hardly fifty-seven. His dress was shabby, as when she had seen him before. The presence of this unreverend father now, more than ever, affected Mirah with the mingled anguish of shame and grief, repulsion and pity⁠—more than ever, now that her own world was changed into one where there was no comradeship to fence him from scorn and contempt.

Slowly, with a sad, tremulous voice, she said, “It is you, father.”

“Why did you run away from me, child?” he began with rapid speech which was meant to have a tone of tender remonstrance, accompanied with various quick gestures like an abbreviated finger-language. “What were you afraid of? You knew I never made you do anything against your will. It was for your sake I broke up your engagement in the Vorstadt, because I saw it didn’t suit you, and you repaid me by leaving me to the bad times that came in consequence. I had made an easier engagement for you at the Vorstadt Theater in Dresden: I didn’t tell you, because I wanted to take you by surprise. And you left me planted there⁠—obliged to make myself scarce because I had broken contract. That was hard lines for me, after I had given up everything for the sake of getting you an education which was to be a fortune to you. What father devoted himself to his daughter more than I did to you? You know how I bore that disappointment in your voice, and made the best of it: and when I had nobody besides you, and was getting broken, as a man must who has had to fight his way with his brains⁠—you chose that time to leave me. Who else was it you owed everything to, if not to me? and where was your feeling in return? For what my daughter cared, I might have died in a ditch.”

Lapidoth stopped short here, not from lack of invention, but because he had reached a pathetic climax, and gave a sudden sob, like a woman’s, taking out hastily an old yellow silk handkerchief. He really felt that his daughter had treated him ill⁠—a sort of sensibility which is naturally strong in unscrupulous persons, who put down what is owing to them, without any per contra. Mirah, in spite of that sob, had energy enough not to let him suppose that he deceived her. She answered more firmly, though it was the first time she had ever used accusing words to him.

“You know why I left you, father; and I had reason to distrust you, because I felt sure that you had deceived my mother. If I could have trusted you, I would have stayed with you and worked for you.”

“I never meant to deceive your mother, Mirah,” said Lapidoth, putting back his handkerchief, but beginning with a voice that seemed to struggle against further sobbing. “I meant to take you back to her, but chances hindered me just at the time, and then there came information of her death. It was better for you that I should stay where I was, and your brother could take care of himself. Nobody had any claim on me but you. I had word of your mother’s death from a particular friend, who had undertaken to manage things for me, and I sent him over money to pay expenses. There’s one chance to be sure⁠—” Lapidoth had quickly conceived that he must guard against something unlikely, yet possible⁠—“he may have written me lies for the sake of getting the money out of me.”

Mirah made no answer; she could not bear to utter the only true one⁠—“I don’t believe one word of what you say”⁠—and she simply showed a wish that they should walk on, feeling that their standing still might draw down unpleasant notice. Even as they walked along, their companionship might well have made a passerby turn back to look at them. The figure of Mirah, with her beauty set off by the quiet, careful dress of an English lady, made a strange pendant to this shabby, foreign-looking, eager, and gesticulating man, who withal had an ineffaceable jauntiness of air, perhaps due to the bushy curls of his grizzled hair, the smallness of his hands and feet, and his light walk.

“You seem to have done well for yourself, Mirah? You are in no want, I see,” said the father, looking at her with emphatic examination.

“Good friends who found me in distress have helped me to get work,” said Mirah, hardly knowing what she actually said, from being occupied with what she would presently have to say. “I give lessons. I have sung in private houses. I have just been singing at a private concert.” She paused, and then added, with significance, “I have very good friends, who know all about me.”

“And you would be ashamed they should see your father in this plight? No wonder. I came to England with no prospect, but the chance of finding you. It was a mad quest; but a father’s heart is superstitious⁠—feels a loadstone drawing it somewhere or other. I might have done very well, staying abroad: when I hadn’t you to take care of, I could have rolled or settled as easily as a ball; but it’s hard being lonely in the world, when your spirit’s beginning to break. And I thought my little Mirah would repent leaving her father when she came to look back. I’ve had a sharp pinch to work my way; I don’t know what I shall come down to next. Talents like mine are no use in this country. When a man’s getting out at elbows nobody will believe in him. I couldn’t get any decent employ with my appearance. I’ve been obliged to get pretty low for a shilling already.”

Mirah’s anxiety was quick enough to imagine her father’s sinking into a further degradation, which she was bound to hinder if she could. But before she could answer his string of inventive sentences, delivered with as much glibness as if they had been learned by rote, he added promptly,

“Where do you live, Mirah?”

“Here, in this square. We are not far from the house.”

“In lodgings?”


“Anyone to take care of you?”

“Yes,” said Mirah again, looking full at the keen face which was turned toward hers⁠—“my brother.”

The father’s eyelids fluttered as if the lightning had come across them, and there was a slight movement of the shoulders. But he said, after a just perceptible pause: “Ezra? How did you know⁠—how did you find him?”

“That would take long to tell. Here we are at the door. My brother would not wish me to close it on you.”

Mirah was already on the doorstep, but had her face turned toward her father, who stood below her on the pavement. Her heart had begun to beat faster with the prospect of what was coming in the presence of Ezra; and already in this attitude of giving leave to the father whom she had been used to obey⁠—in this sight of him standing below her, with a perceptible shrinking from the admission which he had been indirectly asking for, she had a pang of the peculiar, sympathetic humiliation and shame⁠—the stabbed heart of reverence⁠—which belongs to a nature intensely filial.

“Stay a minute, Liebchen,” said Lapidoth, speaking in a lowered tone; “what sort of man has Ezra turned out?”

“A good man⁠—a wonderful man,” said Mirah, with slow emphasis, trying to master the agitation which made her voice more tremulous as she went on. She felt urged to prepare her father for the complete penetration of himself which awaited him. “But he was very poor when my friends found him for me⁠—a poor workman. Once⁠—twelve years ago⁠—he was strong and happy, going to the East, which he loved to think of; and my mother called him back because⁠—because she had lost me. And he went to her, and took care of her through great trouble, and worked for her till she died⁠—died in grief. And Ezra, too, had lost his health and strength. The cold had seized him coming back to my mother, because she was forsaken. For years he has been getting weaker⁠—always poor, always working⁠—but full of knowledge, and great-minded. All who come near him honor him. To stand before him is like standing before a prophet of God”⁠—Mirah ended with difficulty, her heart throbbing⁠—“falsehoods are no use.”

She had cast down her eyes that she might not see her father while she spoke the last words⁠—unable to bear the ignoble look of frustration that gathered in his face. But he was none the less quick in invention and decision.

“Mirah, Liebchen,” he said, in the old caressing way, “shouldn’t you like me to make myself a little more respectable before my son sees me? If I had a little sum of money, I could fit myself out and come home to you as your father ought, and then I could offer myself for some decent place. With a good shirt and coat on my back, people would be glad enough to have me. I could offer myself for a courier, if I didn’t look like a broken-down mountebank. I should like to be with my children, and forget and forgive. But you have never seen your father look like this before. If you had ten pounds at hand⁠—or I could appoint you to bring it me somewhere⁠—I could fit myself out by the day after tomorrow.”

Mirah felt herself under a temptation which she must try to overcome. She answered, obliging herself to look at him again,

“I don’t like to deny you what you ask, father; but I have given a promise not to do things for you in secret. It is hard to see you looking needy; but we will bear that for a little while; and then you can have new clothes, and we can pay for them.” Her practical sense made her see now what was Mrs. Meyrick’s wisdom in exacting a promise from her.

Lapidoth’s good humor gave way a little. He said, with a sneer, “You are a hard and fast young lady⁠—you have been learning useful virtues⁠—keeping promises not to help your father with a pound or two when you are getting money to dress yourself in silk⁠—your father who made an idol of you, and gave up the best part of his life to providing for you.”

“It seems cruel⁠—I know it seems cruel,” said Mirah, feeling this a worse moment than when she meant to drown herself. Her lips were suddenly pale. “But, father, it is more cruel to break the promises people trust in. That broke my mother’s heart⁠—it has broken Ezra’s life. You and I must eat now this bitterness from what has been. Bear it. Bear to come in and be cared for as you are.”

“Tomorrow, then,” said Lapidoth, almost turning on his heel away from this pale, trembling daughter, who seemed now to have got the inconvenient world to back her; but he quickly turned on it again, with his hands feeling about restlessly in his pockets, and said, with some return to his appealing tone, “I’m a little cut up with all this, Mirah. I shall get up my spirits by tomorrow. If you’ve a little money in your pocket, I suppose it isn’t against your promise to give me a trifle⁠—to buy a cigar with.”

Mirah could not ask herself another question⁠—could not do anything else than put her cold trembling hands in her pocket for her portemonnaie and hold it out. Lapidoth grasped it at once, pressed her fingers the while, said, “Goodbye, my little girl⁠—tomorrow then!” and left her. He had not taken many steps before he looked carefully into all the folds of the purse, found two half-sovereigns and odd silver, and, pasted against the folding cover, a bit of paper on which Ezra had inscribed, in a beautiful Hebrew character, the name of his mother, the days of her birth, marriage, and death, and the prayer, “May Mirah be delivered from evil.” It was Mirah’s liking to have this little inscription on many articles that she used. The father read it, and had a quick vision of his marriage day, and the bright, unblamed young fellow he was at that time; teaching many things, but expecting by-and-by to get money more easily by writing; and very fond of his beautiful bride Sara⁠—crying when she expected him to cry, and reflecting every phase of her feeling with mimetic susceptibility. Lapidoth had traveled a long way from that young self, and thought of all that this inscription signified with an unemotional memory, which was like the ocular perception of a touch to one who has lost the sense of touch, or like morsels on an untasting palate, having shape and grain, but no flavor. Among the things we may gamble away in a lazy selfish life is the capacity for ruth, compunction, or any unselfish regret⁠—which we may come to long for as one in slow death longs to feel laceration, rather than be conscious of a widening margin where consciousness once was. Mirah’s purse was a handsome one⁠—a gift to her, which she had been unable to reflect about giving away⁠—and Lapidoth presently found himself outside of his reverie, considering what the purse would fetch in addition to the sum it contained, and what prospect there was of his being able to get more from his daughter without submitting to adopt a penitential form of life under the eyes of that formidable son. On such a subject his susceptibilities were still lively.

Meanwhile Mirah had entered the house with her power of reticence overcome by the cruelty of her pain. She found her brother quietly reading and sifting old manuscripts of his own, which he meant to consign to Deronda. In the reaction from the long effort to master herself, she fell down before him and clasped his knees, sobbing, and crying, “Ezra, Ezra!”

He did not speak. His alarm for her spending itself on conceiving the cause of her distress, the more striking from the novelty in her of this violent manifestation. But Mirah’s own longing was to be able to speak and tell him the cause. Presently she raised her hand, and still sobbing, said brokenly,

“Ezra, my father! our father! He followed me. I wanted him to come in. I said you would let him come in. And he said No, he would not⁠—not now, but tomorrow. And he begged for money from me. And I gave him my purse, and he went away.”

Mirah’s words seemed to herself to express all the misery she felt in them. Her brother found them less grievous than his preconceptions, and said gently, “Wait for calm, Mirah, and then tell me all,”⁠—putting off her hat and laying his hands tenderly on her head. She felt the soothing influence, and in a few minutes told him as exactly as she could all that had happened.

“He will not come tomorrow,” said Mordecai. Neither of them said to the other what they both thought, namely, that he might watch for Mirah’s outgoings and beg from her again.

“Seest thou,” he presently added, “our lot is the lot of Israel. The grief and the glory are mingled as the smoke and the flame. It is because we children have inherited the good that we feel the evil. These things are wedded for us, as our father was wedded to our mother.”

The surroundings were of Brompton, but the voice might have come from a Rabbi transmitting the sentences of an elder time to be registered in Babli⁠—by which (to our ears) affectionate-sounding diminutive is meant the voluminous Babylonian Talmud. “The Omnipresent,” said a Rabbi, “is occupied in making marriages.” The levity of the saying lies in the ear of him who hears it; for by marriages the speaker meant all the wondrous combinations of the universe whose issue makes our good and evil.

Chapter LXIII

Moses, trotz seiner Befeindung der Kunst, dennoch selber ein großer Künstler war und den wahren Künstlergeist besaß. Nur war dieser Künstlergeist bei ihm, wie bei seinen ägyptischen Landsleuten, nur auf das Kolossale und Unverwüstliche gerichtet. Aber nicht wie die Ägypter formierte er seine Kunstwerke aus Backstein und Granit, sondern er baute Menschenpyramiden, er meisselte Menschenobelisken, er nahm einen armen Hirtenstamm und schuf daraus ein Volk, das ebenfalls den Jahrhunderten trotzen sollte⁠ ⁠… er schuf Israel!
Heine: Gestandnisse

Imagine the difference in Deronda’s state of mind when he left England and when he returned to it. He had set out for Genoa in total uncertainty how far the actual bent of his wishes and affections would be encouraged⁠—how far the claims revealed to him might draw him into new paths, far away from the tracks his thoughts had lately been pursuing with a consent of desire which uncertainty made dangerous. He came back with something like a discovered charter warranting the inherited right that his ambition had begun to yearn for: he came back with what was better than freedom⁠—with a duteous bond which his experience had been preparing him to accept gladly, even if it had been attended with no promise of satisfying a secret passionate longing never yet allowed to grow into a hope. But now he dared avow to himself the hidden selection of his love. Since the hour when he left the house at Chelsea in full-hearted silence under the effect of Mirah’s farewell look and words⁠—their exquisite appealingness stirring in him that deep-laid care for womanhood which had begun when his own lip was like a girl’s⁠—her hold on his feeling had helped him to be blameless in word and deed under the difficult circumstances we know of. There seemed no likelihood that he could ever woo this creature who had become dear to him amidst associations that forbade wooing; yet she had taken her place in his soul as a beloved type⁠—reducing the power of other fascination and making a difference in it that became deficiency. The influence had been continually strengthened. It had lain in the course of poor Gwendolen’s lot that her dependence on Deronda tended to rouse in him the enthusiasm of self-martyring pity rather than of personal love, and his less constrained tenderness flowed with the fuller stream toward an indwelling image in all things unlike Gwendolen. Still more, his relation to Mordecai had brought with it a new nearness to Mirah which was not the less agitating because there was no apparent change in his position toward her; and she had inevitably been bound up in all the thoughts that made him shrink from an issue disappointing to her brother. This process had not gone on unconsciously in Deronda: he was conscious of it as we are of some covetousness that it would be better to nullify by encouraging other thoughts than to give it the insistency of confession even to ourselves: but the jealous fire had leaped out at Hans’s pretensions, and when his mother accused him of being in love with a Jewess any evasion suddenly seemed an infidelity. His mother had compelled him to a decisive acknowledgment of his love, as Joseph Kalonymos had compelled him to a definite expression of his resolve. This new state of decision wrought on Deronda with a force which surprised even himself. There was a release of all the energy which had long been spent in self-checking and suppression because of doubtful conditions; and he was ready to laugh at his own impetuosity when, as he neared England on his way from Mainz, he felt the remaining distance more and more of an obstruction. It was as if he had found an added soul in finding his ancestry⁠—his judgment no longer wandering in the mazes of impartial sympathy, but choosing, with that partiality which is man’s best strength, the closer fellowship that makes sympathy practical⁠—exchanging that bird’s eye reasonableness which soars to avoid preference and loses all sense of quality for the generous reasonableness of drawing shoulder to shoulder with men of like inheritance. He wanted now to be again with Mordecai, to pour forth instead of restraining his feeling, to admit agreement and maintain dissent, and all the while to find Mirah’s presence without the embarrassment of obviously seeking it, to see her in the light of a new possibility, to interpret her looks and words from a new starting-point. He was not greatly alarmed about the effect of Hans’s attentions, but he had a presentiment that her feeling toward himself had from the first lain in a channel from which it was not likely to be diverted into love. To astonish a woman by turning into her lover when she has been thinking of you merely as a Lord Chancellor is what a man naturally shrinks from: he is anxious to create an easier transition.

What wonder that Deronda saw no other course than to go straight from the London railway station to the lodgings in that small square in Brompton? Every argument was in favor of his losing no time. He had promised to run down the next day to see Lady Mallinger at the Abbey, and it was already sunset. He wished to deposit the precious chest with Mordecai, who would study its contents, both in his absence and in company with him; and that he should pay this visit without pause would gratify Mordecai’s heart. Hence, and for other reasons, it gratified Deronda’s heart. The strongest tendencies of his nature were rushing in one current⁠—the fervent affectionateness which made him delight in meeting the wish of beings near to him, and the imaginative need of some far-reaching relation to make the horizon of his immediate, daily acts. It has to be admitted that in this classical, romantic, world-historic position of his, bringing as it were from its hiding-place his hereditary armor, he wore⁠—but so, one must suppose, did the most ancient heroes, whether Semitic or Japhetic⁠—the summer costume of his contemporaries. He did not reflect that the drab tints were becoming to him, for he rarely went to the expense of such thinking; but his own depth of coloring, which made the becomingness, got an added radiance in the eyes, a fleeting and returning glow in the skin, as he entered the house wondering what exactly he should find. He made his entrance as noiseless as possible.

It was the evening of that same afternoon on which Mirah had had the interview with her father. Mordecai, penetrated by her grief, and also the sad memories which the incident had awakened, had not resumed his task of sifting papers: some of them had fallen scattered on the floor in the first moments of anxiety, and neither he nor Mirah had thought of laying them in order again. They had sat perfectly still together, not knowing how long; while the clock ticked on the mantelpiece, and the light was fading, Mirah, unable to think of the food that she ought to have been taking, had not moved since she had thrown off her dust-cloak and sat down beside Mordecai with her hand in his, while he had laid his head backward, with closed eyes and difficult breathing, looking, Mirah thought, as he would look when the soul within him could no longer live in its straitened home. The thought that his death might be near was continually visiting her when she saw his face in this way, without its vivid animation; and now, to the rest of her grief, was added the regret that she had been unable to control the violent outburst which had shaken him. She sat watching him⁠—her oval cheeks pallid, her eyes with the sorrowful brilliancy left by young tears, her curls in as much disorder as a just-awakened child’s⁠—watching that emaciated face, where it might have been imagined that a veil had been drawn never to be lifted, as if it were her dead joy which had left her strong enough to live on in sorrow. And life at that moment stretched before Mirah with more than a repetition of former sadness. The shadow of the father was there, and more than that, a double bereavement⁠—of one living as well as one dead.

But now the door was opened, and while none entered, a well-known voice said: “Daniel Deronda⁠—may he come in?”

“Come! come!” said Mordecai, immediately rising with an irradiated face and opened eyes⁠—apparently as little surprised as if he had seen Deronda in the morning, and expected this evening visit; while Mirah started up blushing with confused, half-alarmed expectation.

Yet when Deronda entered, the sight of him was like the clearness after rain: no clouds to come could hinder the cherishing beam of that moment. As he held out his right hand to Mirah, who was close to her brother’s left, he laid his other hand on Mordecai’s right shoulder, and stood so a moment, holding them both at once, uttering no word, but reading their faces, till he said anxiously to Mirah, “Has anything happened?⁠—any trouble?”

“Talk not of trouble now,” said Mordecai, saving her from the need to answer. “There is joy in your face⁠—let the joy be ours.”

Mirah thought, “It is for something he cannot tell us.” But they all sat down, Deronda drawing a chair close in front of Mordecai.

“That is true,” he said, emphatically. “I have a joy which will remain to us even in the worst trouble. I did not tell you the reason of my journey abroad, Mordecai, because⁠—never mind⁠—I went to learn my parentage. And you were right. I am a Jew.”

The two men clasped hands with a movement that seemed part of the flash from Mordecai’s eyes, and passed through Mirah like an electric shock. But Deronda went on without pause, speaking from Mordecai’s mind as much as from his own,

“We have the same people. Our souls have the same vocation. We shall not be separated by life or by death.”

Mordecai’s answer was uttered in Hebrew, and in no more than a loud whisper. It was in the liturgical words which express the religious bond: “Our God and the God of our fathers.”

The weight of feeling pressed too strongly on that ready-winged speech which usually moved in quick adaptation to every stirring of his fervor.

Mirah fell on her knees by her brother’s side, and looked at his now illuminated face, which had just before been so deathly. The action was an inevitable outlet of the violent reversal from despondency to a gladness which came over her as solemnly as if she had been beholding a religious rite. For the moment she thought of the effect on her own life only through the effect on her brother.

“And it is not only that I am a Jew,” Deronda went on, enjoying one of those rare moments when our yearnings and our acts can be completely one, and the real we behold is our ideal good; “but I come of a strain that has ardently maintained the fellowship of our race⁠—a line of Spanish Jews that has borne many students and men of practical power. And I possess what will give us a sort of communion with them. My grandfather, Daniel Charisi, preserved manuscripts, family records stretching far back, in the hope that they would pass into the hands of his grandson. And now his hope is fulfilled, in spite of attempts to thwart it by hiding my parentage from me. I possess the chest containing them, with his own papers, and it is down below in this house. I mean to leave it with you, Mordecai, that you may help me to study the manuscripts. Some of them I can read easily enough⁠—those in Spanish and Italian. Others are in Hebrew, and, I think, Arabic; but there seem to be Latin translations. I was only able to look at them cursorily while I stayed at Mainz. We will study them together.”

Deronda ended with that bright smile which, beaming out from the habitual gravity of his face, seemed a revelation (the reverse of the continual smile that discredits all expression). But when this happy glance passed from Mordecai to rest on Mirah, it acted like a little too much sunshine, and made her change her attitude. She had knelt under an impulse with which any personal embarrassment was incongruous, and especially any thoughts about how Mrs. Grandcourt might stand to this new aspect of things⁠—thoughts which made her color under Deronda’s glance, and rise to take her seat again in her usual posture of crossed hands and feet, with the effort to look as quiet as possible. Deronda, equally sensitive, imagined that the feeling of which he was conscious, had entered too much into his eyes, and had been repugnant to her. He was ready enough to believe that any unexpected manifestation might spoil her feeling toward him⁠—and then his precious relation to brother and sister would be marred. If Mirah could have no love for him, any advances of love on his part would make her wretched in that continual contact with him which would remain inevitable.

While such feelings were pulsating quickly in Deronda and Mirah, Mordecai, seeing nothing in his friend’s presence and words but a blessed fulfillment, was already speaking with his old sense of enlargement in utterance,

“Daniel, from the first, I have said to you, we know not all the pathways. Has there not been a meeting among them, as of the operations in one soul, where an idea being born and breathing draws the elements toward it, and is fed and glows? For all things are bound together in that Omnipresence which is the place and habitation of the world, and events are of a glass wherethrough our eyes see some of the pathways. And if it seems that the erring and unloving wills of men have helped to prepare you, as Moses was prepared, to serve your people the better, that depends on another order than the law which must guide our footsteps. For the evil will of man makes not a people’s good except by stirring the righteous will of man; and beneath all the clouds with which our thought encompasses the Eternal, this is clear⁠—that a people can be blessed only by having counsellors and a multitude whose will moves in obedience to the laws of justice and love. For see, now, it was your loving will that made a chief pathway, and resisted the effect of evil; for, by performing the duties of brotherhood to my sister, and seeking out her brother in the flesh, your soul has been prepared to receive with gladness this message of the Eternal, ‘behold the multitude of your brethren.’ ”

“It is quite true that you and Mirah have been my teachers,” said Deronda. “If this revelation had been made to me before I knew you both, I think my mind would have rebelled against it. Perhaps I should have felt then⁠—‘If I could have chosen, I would not have been a Jew.’ What I feel now is⁠—that my whole being is a consent to the fact. But it has been the gradual accord between your mind and mine which has brought about that full consent.”

At the moment Deronda was speaking, that first evening in the bookshop was vividly in his remembrance, with all the struggling aloofness he had then felt from Mordecai’s prophetic confidence. It was his nature to delight in satisfying to the utmost the eagerly-expectant soul, which seemed to be looking out from the face before him, like the long-enduring watcher who at last sees the mountain signal-flame; and he went on with fuller fervor,

“It is through your inspiration that I have discerned what may be my life’s task. It is you who have given shape to what, I believe, was an inherited yearning⁠—the effect of brooding, passionate thoughts in many ancestors⁠—thoughts that seem to have been intensely present in my grandfather. Suppose the stolen offspring of some mountain tribe brought up in a city of the plain, or one with an inherited genius for painting, and born blind⁠—the ancestral life would lie within them as a dim longing for unknown objects and sensations, and the spellbound habit of their inherited frames would be like a cunningly-wrought musical instrument, never played on, but quivering throughout in uneasy mysterious meanings of its intricate structure that, under the right touch, gives music. Something like that, I think, has been my experience. Since I began to read and know, I have always longed for some ideal task, in which I might feel myself the heart and brain of a multitude⁠—some social captainship, which would come to me as a duty, and not be striven for as a personal prize. You have raised the image of such a task for me⁠—to bind our race together in spite of heresy. You have said to me⁠—‘Our religion united us before it divided us⁠—it made us a people before it made Rabbanites and Karaites.’ I mean to try what can be done with that union⁠—I mean to work in your spirit. Failure will not be ignoble, but it would be ignoble for me not to try.”

“Even as my brother that fed at the breasts of my mother,” said Mordecai, falling back in his chair with a look of exultant repose, as after some finished labor.

To estimate the effect of this ardent outpouring from Deronda we must remember his former reserve, his careful avoidance of premature assent or delusive encouragement, which gave to this decided pledge of himself a sacramental solemnity, both for his own mind and Mordecai’s. On Mirah the effect was equally strong, though with a difference: she felt a surprise which had no place in her brother’s mind, at Deronda’s suddenly revealed sense of nearness to them: there seemed to be a breaking of day around her which might show her other facts unlike her forebodings in the darkness. But after a moment’s silence Mordecai spoke again,

“It has begun already⁠—the marriage of our souls. It waits but the passing away of this body, and then they who are betrothed shall unite in a stricter bond, and what is mine shall be thine. Call nothing mine that I have written, Daniel; for though our masters delivered rightly that everything should be quoted in the name of him that said it⁠—and their rule is good⁠—yet it does not exclude the willing marriage which melts soul into soul, and makes thought fuller as the clear waters are made fuller, where the fullness is inseparable and the clearness is inseparable. For I have judged what I have written, and I desire the body that I gave my thought to pass away as this fleshly body will pass; but let the thought be born again from our fuller soul which shall be called yours.”

“You must not ask me to promise that,” said Deronda, smiling. “I must be convinced first of special reasons for it in the writings themselves. And I am too backward a pupil yet. That blent transmission must go on without any choice of ours; but what we can’t hinder must not make our rule for what we ought to choose. I think our duty is faithful tradition where we can attain it. And so you would insist for anyone but yourself. Don’t ask me to deny my spiritual parentage, when I am finding the clue of my life in the recognition of natural parentage.”

“I will ask for no promise till you see the reason,” said Mordecai. “You have said the truth: I would obey the Master’s rule for another. But for years my hope, nay, my confidence, has been, not that the imperfect image of my thought, which is an ill-shaped work of the youthful carver who has seen a heavenly pattern, and trembles in imitating the vision⁠—not that this should live, but that my vision and passion should enter into yours⁠—yea, into yours; for he whom I longed for afar, was he not you whom I discerned as mine when you came near? Nevertheless, you shall judge. For my soul is satisfied.” Mordecai paused, and then began in a changed tone, reverting to previous suggestions from Deronda’s disclosure: “What moved your parents⁠—?” but he immediately checked himself, and added, “Nay, I ask not that you should tell me aught concerning others, unless it is your pleasure.”

“Some time⁠—gradually⁠—you will know all,” said Deronda. “But now tell me more about yourselves, and how the time has passed since I went away. I am sure there has been some trouble. Mirah has been in distress about something.”

He looked at Mirah, but she immediately turned to her brother, appealing to him to give the difficult answer. She hoped he would not think it necessary to tell Deronda the facts about her father on such an evening as this. Just when Deronda had brought himself so near, and identified himself with her brother, it was cutting to her that he should hear of this disgrace clinging about them, which seemed to have become partly his. To relieve herself she rose to take up her hat and cloak, thinking she would go to her own room: perhaps they would speak more easily when she had left them. But meanwhile Mordecai said,

“Today there has been a grief. A duty which seemed to have gone far into the distance, has come back and turned its face upon us, and raised no gladness⁠—has raised a dread that we must submit to. But for the moment we are delivered from any visible yoke. Let us defer speaking of it as if this evening which is deepening about us were the beginning of the festival in which we must offer the first fruits of our joy, and mingle no mourning with them.”

Deronda divined the hinted grief, and left it in silence, rising as he saw Mirah rise, and saying to her, “Are you going? I must leave almost immediately⁠—when I and Mrs. Adam have mounted the precious chest, and I have delivered the key to Mordecai⁠—no, Ezra⁠—may I call him Ezra now? I have learned to think of him as Ezra since I have heard you call him so.”

“Please call him Ezra,” said Mirah, faintly, feeling a new timidity under Deronda’s glance and near presence. Was there really something different about him, or was the difference only in her feeling? The strangely various emotions of the last few hours had exhausted her; she was faint with fatigue and want of food. Deronda, observing her pallor and tremulousness, longed to show more feeling, but dared not. She put out her hand with an effort to smile, and then he opened the door for her. That was all.

A man of refined pride shrinks from making a lover’s approaches to a woman whose wealth or rank might make them appear presumptuous or low-motived; but Deronda was finding a more delicate difficulty in a position which, superficially taken, was the reverse of that⁠—though to an ardent reverential love, the loved woman has always a kind of wealth and rank which makes a man keenly susceptible about the aspect of his addresses. Deronda’s difficulty was what any generous man might have felt in some degree; but it affected him peculiarly through his imaginative sympathy with a mind in which gratitude was strong. Mirah, he knew, felt herself bound to him by deep obligations, which to her sensibilities might give every wish of his the aspect of a claim; and an inability to fulfill it would cause her a pain continually revived by their inevitable communion in care of Ezra. Here were fears not of pride only, but of extreme tenderness. Altogether, to have the character of a benefactor seemed to Deronda’s anxiety an insurmountable obstacle to confessing himself a lover, unless in some inconceivable way it could be revealed to him that Mirah’s heart had accepted him beforehand. And the agitation on his own account, too, was not small.

Even a man who has practised himself in lovemaking till his own glibness has rendered him sceptical, may at last be overtaken by the lover’s awe⁠—may tremble, stammer, and show other signs of recovered sensibility no more in the range of his acquired talents than pins and needles after numbness: how much more may that energetic timidity possess a man whose inward history has cherished his susceptibilities instead of dulling them, and has kept all the language of passion fresh and rooted as the lovely leafage about the hillside spring!

As for Mirah her dear head lay on its pillow that night with its former suspicions thrown out of shape but still present, like an ugly story which had been discredited but not therefore dissipated. All that she was certain of about Deronda seemed to prove that he had no such fetters upon him as she had been allowing herself to believe in. His whole manner as well as his words implied that there were no hidden bonds remaining to have any effect in determining his future. But notwithstanding this plainly reasonable inference, uneasiness still clung about Mirah’s heart. Deronda was not to blame, but he had an importance for Mrs. Grandcourt which must give her some hold on him. And the thought of any close confidence between them stirred the little biting snake that had long lain curled and harmless in Mirah’s gentle bosom.

But did she this evening feel as completely as before that her jealousy was no less remote from any possibility for herself personally than if her human soul had been lodged in the body of a fawn that Deronda had saved from the archers? Hardly. Something indefinable had happened and made a difference. The soft warm rain of blossoms which had fallen just where she was⁠—did it really come because she was there? What spirit was there among the boughs?

Chapter LXIV

Questa montagna è tale,
Che sempre al cominciar di sotto è grave.
E quanto uom più va su e men fa male.
Dante: Il Purgatorio

It was not many days after her mother’s arrival that Gwendolen would consent to remain at Genoa. Her desire to get away from that gem of the sea, helped to rally her strength and courage. For what place, though it were the flowery vale of Enna, may not the inward sense turn into a circle of punishment where the flowers are no better than a crop of flame-tongues burning the soles of our feet?

“I shall never like to see the Mediterranean again,” said Gwendolen, to her mother, who thought that she quite understood her child’s feeling⁠—even in her tacit prohibition of any express reference to her late husband.

Mrs. Davilow, indeed, though compelled formally to regard this time as one of severe calamity, was virtually enjoying her life more than she had ever done since her daughter’s marriage. It seemed that her darling was brought back to her not merely with all the old affection, but with a conscious cherishing of her mother’s nearness, such as we give to a possession that we have been on the brink of losing.

“Are you there, mamma?” cried Gwendolen, in the middle of the night (a bed had been made for her mother in the same room with hers), very much as she would have done in her early girlhood, if she had felt frightened in lying awake.

“Yes, dear; can I do anything for you?”

“No, thank you; only I like so to know you are there. Do you mind my waking you?” (This question would hardly have been Gwendolen’s in her early girlhood.)

“I was not asleep, darling.”

“It seemed not real that you were with me. I wanted to make it real. I can bear things if you are with me. But you must not lie awake, anxious about me. You must be happy now. You must let me make you happy now at last⁠—else what shall I do?”

“God bless you, dear; I have the best happiness I can have, when you make much of me.”

But the next night, hearing that she was sighing and restless Mrs. Davilow said, “Let me give you your sleeping-draught, Gwendolen.”

“No, mamma, thank you; I don’t want to sleep.”

“It would be so good for you to sleep more, my darling.”

“Don’t say what would be good for me, mamma,” Gwendolen answered, impetuously. “You don’t know what would be good for me. You and my uncle must not contradict me and tell me anything is good for me when I feel it is not good.”

Mrs. Davilow was silent, not wondering that the poor child was irritable. Presently Gwendolen said,

“I was always naughty to you, mamma.”

“No, dear, no.”

“Yes, I was,” said Gwendolen insistently. “It is because I was always wicked that I am miserable now.”

She burst into sobs and cries. The determination to be silent about all the facts of her married life and its close, reacted in these escapes of enigmatic excitement.

But dim lights of interpretation were breaking on the mother’s mind through the information that came from Sir Hugo to Mr. Gascoigne, and, with some omissions, from Mr. Gascoigne to herself. The good-natured baronet, while he was attending to all decent measures in relation to his nephew’s death, and the possible washing ashore of the body, thought it the kindest thing he could do to use his present friendly intercourse with the rector as an opportunity for communicating with him, in the mildest way, the purport of Grandcourt’s will, so as to save him the additional shock that would be in store for him if he carried his illusions all the way home. Perhaps Sir Hugo would have been communicable enough without that kind motive, but he really felt the motive. He broke the unpleasant news to the rector by degrees: at first he only implied his fear that the widow was not so splendidly provided for as Mr. Gascoigne, nay, as the baronet himself had expected; and only at last, after some previous vague reference to large claims on Grandcourt, he disclosed the prior relations which, in the unfortunate absence of a legitimate heir, had determined all the splendor in another direction.

The rector was deeply hurt, and remembered, more vividly than he had ever done before, how offensively proud and repelling the manners of the deceased had been toward him⁠—remembered also that he himself, in that interesting period just before the arrival of the new occupant at Diplow, had received hints of former entangling dissipations, and an undue addiction to pleasure, though he had not foreseen that the pleasure which had probably, so to speak, been swept into private rubbish-heaps, would ever present itself as an array of live caterpillars, disastrous to the green meat of respectable people. But he did not make these retrospective thoughts audible to Sir Hugo, or lower himself by expressing any indignation on merely personal grounds, but behaved like a man of the world who had become a conscientious clergyman. His first remark was,

“When a young man makes his will in health, he usually counts on living a long while. Probably Mr. Grandcourt did not believe that this will would ever have its present effect.” After a moment, he added, “The effect is painful in more ways than one. Female morality is likely to suffer from this marked advantage and prominence being given to illegitimate offspring.”

“Well, in point of fact,” said Sir Hugo, in his comfortable way, “since the boy is there, this was really the best alternative for the disposal of the estates. Grandcourt had nobody nearer than his cousin. And it’s a chilling thought that you go out of this life only for the benefit of a cousin. A man gets a little pleasure in making his will, if it’s for the good of his own curly heads; but it’s a nuisance when you’re giving the bequeathing to a used-up fellow like yourself, and one you don’t care two straws for. It’s the next worse thing to having only a life interest in your estates. No; I forgive Grandcourt for that part of his will. But, between ourselves, what I don’t forgive him for, is the shabby way he has provided for your niece⁠—our niece, I will say⁠—no better a position than if she had been a doctor’s widow. Nothing grates on me more than that posthumous grudgingness toward a wife. A man ought to have some pride and fondness for his widow. I should, I know. I take it as a test of a man, that he feels the easier about his death when he can think of his wife and daughters being comfortable after it. I like that story of the fellows in the Crimean war, who were ready to go to the bottom of the sea if their widows were provided for.”

“It has certainly taken me by surprise,” said Mr. Gascoigne, “all the more because, as the one who stood in the place of father to my niece, I had shown my reliance on Mr. Grandcourt’s apparent liberality in money matters by making no claims for her beforehand. That seemed to me due to him under the circumstances. Probably you think me blamable.”

“Not blamable exactly. I respect a man for trusting another. But take my advice. If you marry another niece, though it may be to the Archbishop of Canterbury, bind him down. Your niece can’t be married for the first time twice over. And if he’s a good fellow, he’ll wish to be bound. But as to Mrs. Grandcourt, I can only say that I feel my relation to her all the nearer because I think that she has not been well treated. And I hope you will urge her to rely on me as a friend.”

Thus spake the chivalrous Sir Hugo, in his disgust at the young and beautiful widow of a Mallinger Grandcourt being left with only two thousand a year and a house in a coal-mining district. To the rector that income naturally appeared less shabby and less accompanied with mortifying privations; but in this conversation he had devoured a much keener sense than the baronet’s of the humiliation cast over his niece, and also over her nearest friends, by the conspicuous publishing of her husband’s relation to Mrs. Glasher. And like all men who are good husbands and fathers, he felt the humiliation through the minds of the women who would be chiefly affected by it; so that the annoyance of first hearing the facts was far slighter than what he felt in communicating them to Mrs. Davilow, and in anticipating Gwendolen’s feeling whenever her mother saw fit to tell her of them. For the good rector had an innocent conviction that his niece was unaware of Mrs. Glasher’s existence, arguing with masculine soundness from what maidens and wives were likely to know, do, and suffer, and having had a most imperfect observation of the particular maiden and wife in question. Not so Gwendolen’s mother, who now thought that she saw an explanation of much that had been enigmatic in her child’s conduct and words before and after her engagement, concluding that in some inconceivable way Gwendolen had been informed of this left-handed marriage and the existence of the children. She trusted to opportunities that would arise in moments of affectionate confidence before and during their journey to England, when she might gradually learn how far the actual state of things was clear to Gwendolen, and prepare her for anything that might be a disappointment. But she was spared from devices on the subject.

“I hope you don’t expect that I am going to be rich and grand, mamma,” said Gwendolen, not long after the rector’s communication; “perhaps I shall have nothing at all.”

She was dressed, and had been sitting long in quiet meditation. Mrs. Davilow was startled, but said, after a moment’s reflection,

“Oh yes, dear, you will have something. Sir Hugo knows all about the will.”

“That will not decide,” said Gwendolen, abruptly.

“Surely, dear: Sir Hugo says you are to have two thousand a year and the house at Gadsmere.”

“What I have will depend on what I accept,” said Gwendolen. “You and my uncle must not attempt to cross me and persuade me about this. I will do everything I can do to make you happy, but in anything about my husband I must not be interfered with. Is eight hundred a year enough for you, mamma?”

“More than enough, dear. You must not think of giving me so much.” Mrs. Davilow paused a little, and then said, “Do you know who is to have the estates and the rest of the money?”

“Yes,” said Gwendolen, waving her hand in dismissal of the subject. “I know everything. It is all perfectly right, and I wish never to have it mentioned.”

The mother was silent, looked away, and rose to fetch a fan-screen, with a slight flush on her delicate cheeks. Wondering, imagining, she did not like to meet her daughter’s eyes, and sat down again under a sad constraint. What wretchedness her child had perhaps gone through, which yet must remain as it always had been, locked away from their mutual speech. But Gwendolen was watching her mother with that new divination which experience had given her; and in tender relenting at her own peremptoriness, said, “Come and sit nearer to me, mamma, and don’t be unhappy.”

Mrs. Davilow did as she was told, but bit her lips in the vain attempt to hinder smarting tears. Gwendolen leaned toward her caressingly and said, “I mean to be very wise; I do, really. And good⁠—oh, so good to you, dear, old, sweet mamma, you won’t know me. Only you must not cry.”

The resolve that Gwendolen had in her mind was that she would ask Deronda whether she ought to accept any of her husband’s money⁠—whether she might accept what would enable her to provide for her mother. The poor thing felt strong enough to do anything that would give her a higher place in Deronda’s mind.

An invitation that Sir Hugo pressed on her with kind urgency was that she and Mrs. Davilow should go straight with him to Park Lane, and make his house their abode as long as mourning and other details needed attending to in London. Town, he insisted, was just then the most retired of places; and he proposed to exert himself at once in getting all articles belonging to Gwendolen away from the house in Grosvenor Square. No proposal could have suited her better than this of staying a little while in Park Lane. It would be easy for her there to have an interview with Deronda, if she only knew how to get a letter into his hands, asking him to come to her. During the journey, Sir Hugo, having understood that she was acquainted with the purport of her husband’s will, ventured to talk before her and to her about her future arrangements, referring here and there to mildly agreeable prospects as matters of course, and otherwise shedding a decorous cheerfulness over her widowed position. It seemed to him really the more graceful course for a widow to recover her spirits on finding that her husband had not dealt as handsomely by her as he might have done; it was the testator’s fault if he compromised all her grief at his departure by giving a testamentary reason for it, so that she might be supposed to look sad, not because he had left her, but because he had left her poor. The baronet, having his kindliness doubly fanned by the favorable wind on his fortunes and by compassion for Gwendolen, had become quite fatherly in his behavior to her, called her “my dear,” and in mentioning Gadsmere to Mr. Gascoigne, with its various advantages and disadvantages, spoke of what “we” might do to make the best of that property. Gwendolen sat by in pale silence while Sir Hugo, with his face turned toward Mrs. Davilow or Mr. Gascoigne, conjectured that Mrs. Grandcourt might perhaps prefer letting Gadsmere to residing there during any part of the year, in which case he thought that it might be leased on capital terms to one of the fellows engaged with the coal: Sir Hugo had seen enough of the place to know that it was as comfortable and picturesque a box as any man need desire, providing his desires were circumscribed within a coal area.

I shouldn’t mind about the soot myself,” said the baronet, with that dispassionateness which belongs to the potential mood. “Nothing is more healthy. And if one’s business lay there, Gadsmere would be a paradise. It makes quite a feature in Scrogg’s history of the county, with the little tower and the fine piece of water⁠—the prettiest print in the book.”

“A more important place than Offendene, I suppose?” said Mr. Gascoigne.

“Much,” said the baronet, decisively. “I was there with my poor brother⁠—it is more than a quarter of a century ago, but I remember it very well. The rooms may not be larger, but the grounds are on a different scale.”

“Our poor dear Offendene is empty after all,” said Mrs. Davilow. “When it came to the point, Mr. Haynes declared off, and there has been no one to take it since. I might as well have accepted Lord Brackenshaw’s kind offer that I should remain in it another year rent-free: for I should have kept the place aired and warmed.”

“I hope you’ve something snug instead,” said Sir Hugo.

“A little too snug,” said Mr. Gascoigne, smiling at his sister-in-law. “You are rather thick upon the ground.”

Gwendolen had turned with a changed glance when her mother spoke of Offendene being empty. This conversation passed during one of the long unaccountable pauses often experienced in foreign trains at some country station. There was a dreamy, sunny stillness over the hedgeless fields stretching to the boundary of poplars; and to Gwendolen the talk within the carriage seemed only to make the dreamland larger with an indistinct region of coal-pits, and a purgatorial Gadsmere which she would never visit; till at her mother’s words, this mingled, dozing view seemed to dissolve and give way to a more wakeful vision of Offendene and Pennicote under their cooler lights. She saw the gray shoulders of the downs, the cattle-specked fields, the shadowy plantations with rutted lanes where the barked timber lay for a wayside seat, the neatly-clipped hedges on the road from the parsonage to Offendene, the avenue where she was gradually discerned from the window, the hall-door opening, and her mother or one of the troublesome sisters coming out to meet her. All that brief experience of a quiet home which had once seemed a dullness to be fled from, now came back to her as a restful escape, a station where she found the breath of morning and the unreproaching voice of birds after following a lure through a long Satanic masquerade, which she had entered on with an intoxicated belief in its disguises, and had seen the end of in shrieking fear lest she herself had become one of the evil spirits who were dropping their human mummery and hissing around her with serpent tongues.

In this way Gwendolen’s mind paused over Offendene and made it the scene of many thoughts; but she gave no further outward sign of interest in this conversation, any more than in Sir Hugo’s opinion on the telegraphic cable or her uncle’s views of the Church Rate Abolition Bill. What subjects will not our talk embrace in leisurely day-journeying from Genoa to London? Even strangers, after glancing from China to Peru and opening their mental stores with a liberality threatening a mutual impression of poverty on any future meeting, are liable to become excessively confidential. But the baronet and the rector were under a still stronger pressure toward cheerful communication: they were like acquaintances compelled to a long drive in a mourning-coach who having first remarked that the occasion is a melancholy one, naturally proceed to enliven it by the most miscellaneous discourse. “I don’t mind telling you,” said Sir Hugo to the rector, in mentioning some private details; while the rector, without saying so, did not mind telling the baronet about his sons, and the difficulty of placing them in the world. By the dint of discussing all persons and things within driving-reach of Diplow, Sir Hugo got himself wrought to a pitch of interest in that former home, and of conviction that it was his pleasant duty to regain and strengthen his personal influence in the neighborhood, that made him declare his intention of taking his family to the place for a month or two before the autumn was over; and Mr. Gascoigne cordially rejoiced in that prospect. Altogether, the journey was continued and ended with mutual liking between the male fellow-travellers.

Meanwhile Gwendolen sat by like one who had visited the spirit-world and was full to the lips of an unutterable experience that threw a strange unreality over all the talk she was hearing of her own and the world’s business; and Mrs. Davilow was chiefly occupied in imagining what her daughter was feeling, and in wondering what was signified by her hinted doubt whether she would accept her husband’s bequest. Gwendolen in fact had before her the unsealed wall of an immediate purpose shutting off every other resolution. How to scale the wall? She wanted again to see and consult Deronda, that she might secure herself against any act he would disapprove. Would her remorse have maintained its power within her, or would she have felt absolved by secrecy, if it had not been for that outer conscience which was made for her by Deronda? It is hard to say how much we could forgive ourselves if we were secure from judgment by another whose opinion is the breathing-medium of all our joy⁠—who brings to us with close pressure and immediate sequence that judgment of the Invisible and Universal which self-flattery and the world’s tolerance would easily melt and disperse. In this way our brother may be in the stead of God to us, and his opinion which has pierced even to the joints and marrow, may be our virtue in the making. That mission of Deronda to Gwendolen had begun with what she had felt to be his judgment of her at the gaming-table. He might easily have spoiled it:⁠—much of our lives is spent in marring our own influence and turning others’ belief in us into a widely concluding unbelief which they call knowledge of the world, while it is really disappointment in you or me. Deronda had not spoiled his mission.

But Gwendolen had forgotten to ask him for his address in case she wanted to write, and her only way of reaching him was through Sir Hugo. She was not in the least blind to the construction that all witnesses might put on her giving signs of dependence on Deronda, and her seeking him more than he sought her: Grandcourt’s rebukes had sufficiently enlightened her pride. But the force, the tenacity of her nature had thrown itself into that dependence, and she would no more let go her hold on Deronda’s help, or deny herself the interview her soul needed, because of witnesses, than if she had been in prison in danger of being condemned to death. When she was in Park Lane and knew that the baronet would be going down to the Abbey immediately (just to see his family for a couple of days and then return to transact needful business for Gwendolen), she said to him without any air of hesitation, while her mother was present,

“Sir Hugo, I wish to see Mr. Deronda again as soon as possible. I don’t know his address. Will you tell it me, or let him know that I want to see him?”

A quick thought passed across Sir Hugo’s face, but made no difference to the ease with which he said, “Upon my word, I don’t know whether he’s at his chambers or the Abbey at this moment. But I’ll make sure of him. I’ll send a note now to his chambers telling him to come, and if he’s at the Abbey I can give him your message and send him up at once. I am sure he will want to obey your wish,” the baronet ended, with grave kindness, as if nothing could seem to him more in the appropriate course of things than that she should send such a message.

But he was convinced that Gwendolen had a passionate attachment to Deronda, the seeds of which had been laid long ago, and his former suspicion now recurred to him with more strength than ever, that her feeling was likely to lead her into imprudences⁠—in which kindhearted Sir Hugo was determined to screen and defend her as far as lay in his power. To him it was as pretty a story as need be that this fine creature and his favorite Dan should have turned out to be formed for each other, and that the unsuitable husband should have made his exit in such excellent time. Sir Hugo liked that a charming woman should be made as happy as possible. In truth, what most vexed his mind in this matter at present was a doubt whether the too lofty and inscrutable Dan had not got some scheme or other in his head, which would prove to be dearer to him than the lovely Mrs. Grandcourt, and put that neatly-prepared marriage with her out of the question. It was among the usual paradoxes of feeling that Sir Hugo, who had given his fatherly cautions to Deronda against too much tenderness in his relations with the bride, should now feel rather irritated against him by the suspicion that he had not fallen in love as he ought to have done. Of course all this thinking on Sir Hugo’s part was eminently premature, only a fortnight or so after Grandcourt’s death. But it is the trick of thinking to be either premature or behindhand.

However, he sent the note to Deronda’s chambers, and it found him there.

Chapter LXV

O, welcome, pure-eyed Faith, white-handed Hope,
Thou hovering angel, girt with golden wings!

Deronda did not obey Gwendolen’s new summons without some agitation. Not his vanity, but his keen sympathy made him susceptible to the danger that another’s heart might feel larger demands on him than he would be able to fulfill; and it was no longer a matter of argument with him, but of penetrating consciousness, that Gwendolen’s soul clung to his with a passionate need. We do not argue the existence of the anger or the scorn that thrills through us in a voice; we simply feel it, and it admits of no disproof. Deronda felt this woman’s destiny hanging on his over a precipice of despair. Anyone who knows him cannot wonder at his inward confession, that if all this had happened little more than a year ago, he would hardly have asked himself whether he loved her; the impetuous determining impulse which would have moved him would have been to save her from sorrow, to shelter her life forevermore from the dangers of loneliness, and carry out to the last the rescue he had begun in that monitory redemption of the necklace. But now, love and duty had thrown other bonds around him, and that impulse could no longer determine his life; still, it was present in him as a compassionate yearning, a painful quivering at the very imagination of having again and again to meet the appeal of her eyes and words. The very strength of the bond, the certainty of the resolve, that kept him asunder from her, made him gaze at her lot apart with the more aching pity.

He awaited her coming in the back drawing-room⁠—part of that white and crimson space where they had sat together at the musical party, where Gwendolen had said for the first time that her lot depended on his not forsaking her, and her appeal had seemed to melt into the melodic cry⁠—Per pietà non dirmi addio. But the melody had come from Mirah’s dear voice.

Deronda walked about this room, which he had for years known by heart, with a strange sense of metamorphosis in his own life. The familiar objects around him, from Lady Mallinger’s gently smiling portrait to the also human and urbane faces of the lions on the pilasters of the chimneypiece, seemed almost to belong to a previous state of existence which he was revisiting in memory only, not in reality; so deep and transforming had been the impressions he had lately experienced, so new were the conditions under which he found himself in the house he had been accustomed to think of as a home⁠—standing with his hat in his hand awaiting the entrance of a young creature whose life had also been undergoing a transformation⁠—a tragic transformation toward a wavering result, in which he felt with apprehensiveness that his own action was still bound up.

But Gwendolen was come in, looking changed; not only by her mourning dress, but by a more satisfied quietude of expression than he had seen in her face at Genoa. Her satisfaction was that Deronda was there; but there was no smile between them as they met and clasped hands; each was full of remembrance⁠—full of anxious prevision. She said, “It was good of you to come. Let us sit down,” immediately seating herself in the nearest chair. He placed himself opposite to her.

“I asked you to come because I want you to tell me what I ought to do,” she began, at once. “Don’t be afraid of telling me what you think is right, because it seems hard. I have made up my mind to do it. I was afraid once of being poor; I could not bear to think of being under other people; and that was why I did something⁠—why I married. I have borne worse things now. I think I could bear to be poor, if you think I ought. Do you know about my husband’s will?”

“Yes, Sir Hugo told me,” said Deronda, already guessing the question she had to ask.

“Ought I to take anything he has left me? I will tell you what I have been thinking,” said Gwendolen, with a more nervous eagerness. “Perhaps you may not quite know that I really did think a good deal about my mother when I married. I was selfish, but I did love her, and feel about her poverty; and what comforted me most at first, when I was miserable, was her being better off because I had married. The thing that would be hardest to me now would be to see her in poverty again; and I have been thinking that if I took enough to provide for her, and no more⁠—nothing for myself⁠—it would not be wrong; for I was very precious to my mother⁠—and he took me from her⁠—and he meant⁠—and if she had known⁠—”

Gwendolen broke off. She had been preparing herself for this interview by thinking of hardly anything else than this question of right toward her mother; but the question had carried with it thoughts and reasons which it was impossible for her to utter, and these perilous remembrances swarmed between her words, making her speech more and more agitated and tremulous. She looked down helplessly at her hands, now unladen of all rings except her wedding-ring.

“Do not hurt yourself by speaking of that,” said Deronda, tenderly. “There is no need; the case is very simple. I think I can hardly judge wrongly about it. You consult me because I am the only person to whom you have confided the most painful part of your experience: and I can understand your scruples.” He did not go on immediately, waiting for her to recover herself. The silence seemed to Gwendolen full of the tenderness that she heard in his voice, and she had courage to lift up her eyes and look at him as he said, “You are conscious of something which you feel to be a crime toward one who is dead. You think that you have forfeited all claim as a wife. You shrink from taking what was his. You want to keep yourself from profiting by his death. Your feeling even urges you to some self-punishment⁠—some scourging of the self that disobeyed your better will⁠—the will that struggled against temptation. I have known something of that myself. Do I understand you?”

“Yes⁠—at least, I want to be good⁠—not like what I have been,” said Gwendolen. “I will try to bear what you think I ought to bear. I have tried to tell you the worst about myself. What ought I to do?”

“If no one but yourself were concerned in this question of income,” said Deronda, “I should hardly dare to urge you against any remorseful prompting; but I take as a guide now, your feeling about Mrs. Davilow, which seems to me quite just. I cannot think that your husband’s dues even to yourself are nullified by any act you have committed. He voluntarily entered into your life, and affected its course in what is always the most momentous way. But setting that aside, it was due from him in his position that he should provide for your mother, and he of course understood that if this will took effect she would share the provision he had made for you.”

“She has had eight hundred a year. What I thought of was to take that and leave the rest,” said Gwendolen. She had been so long inwardly arguing for this as a permission, that her mind could not at once take another attitude.

“I think it is not your duty to fix a limit in that way,” said Deronda. “You would be making a painful enigma for Mrs. Davilow; an income from which you shut yourself out must be embittered to her. And your own course would become too difficult. We agreed at Genoa that the burden on your conscience is one what no one ought to be admitted to the knowledge of. The future beneficence of your life will be best furthered by your saving all others from the pain of that knowledge. In my opinion you ought simply to abide by the provisions of your husband’s will, and let your remorse tell only on the use that you will make of your monetary independence.”

In uttering the last sentence Deronda automatically took up his hat which he had laid on the floor beside him. Gwendolen, sensitive to his slightest movement, felt her heart giving a great leap, as if it too had a consciousness of its own, and would hinder him from going: in the same moment she rose from her chair, unable to reflect that the movement was an acceptance of his apparent intention to leave her; and Deronda, of course, also rose, advancing a little.

“I will do what you tell me,” said Gwendolen, hurriedly; “but what else shall I do?” No other than these simple words were possible to her; and even these were too much for her in a state of emotion where her proud secrecy was disenthroned: as the childlike sentences fell from her lips they reacted on her like a picture of her own helplessness, and she could not check the sob which sent the large tears to her eyes. Deronda, too, felt a crushing pain; but imminent consequences were visible to him, and urged him to the utmost exertion of conscience. When she had pressed her tears away, he said, in a gently questioning tone,

“You will probably be soon going with Mrs. Davilow into the country.”

“Yes, in a week or ten days.” Gwendolen waited an instant, turning her eyes vaguely toward the window, as if looking at some imagined prospect. “I want to be kind to them all⁠—they can be happier than I can. Is that the best I can do?”

“I think so. It is a duty that cannot be doubtful,” said Deronda. He paused a little between his sentences, feeling a weight of anxiety on all his words. “Other duties will spring from it. Looking at your life as a debt may seem the dreariest view of things at a distance; but it cannot really be so. What makes life dreary is the want of motive: but once beginning to act with that penitential, loving purpose you have in your mind, there will be unexpected satisfactions⁠—there will be newly-opening needs⁠—continually coming to carry you on from day to day. You will find your life growing like a plant.”

Gwendolen turned her eyes on him with the look of one athirst toward the sound of unseen waters. Deronda felt the look as if she had been stretching her arms toward him from a forsaken shore. His voice took an affectionate imploringness when he said,

“This sorrow, which has cut down to the root, has come to you while you are so young⁠—try to think of it not as a spoiling of your life, but as a preparation for it. Let it be a preparation⁠—” Anyone overhearing his tones would have thought he was entreating for his own happiness. “See! you have been saved from the worst evils that might have come from your marriage, which you feel was wrong. You have had a vision of injurious, selfish action⁠—a vision of possible degradation; think that a severe angel, seeing you along the road of error, grasped you by the wrist and showed you the horror of the life you must avoid. And it has come to you in your springtime. Think of it as a preparation. You can, you will, be among the best of women, such as make others glad that they were born.”

The words were like the touch of a miraculous hand to Gwendolen. Mingled emotions streamed through her frame with a strength that seemed the beginning of a new existence, having some new power or other which stirred in her vaguely. So pregnant is the divine hope of moral recovery with the energy that fulfills it. So potent in us is the infused action of another soul, before which we bow in complete love. But the new existence seemed inseparable from Deronda: the hope seemed to make his presence permanent. It was not her thought, that he loved her, and would cling to her⁠—a thought would have tottered with improbability; it was her spiritual breath. For the first time since that terrible moment on the sea a flush rose and spread over her cheek, brow and neck, deepened an instant or two, and then gradually disappeared. She did not speak.

Deronda advanced and put out his hand, saying, “I must not weary you.”

She was startled by the sense that he was going, and put her hand in his, still without speaking.

“You look ill yet⁠—unlike yourself,” he added, while he held her hand.

“I can’t sleep much,” she answered, with some return of her dispirited manner. “Things repeat themselves in me so. They come back⁠—they will all come back,” she ended, shudderingly, a chill fear threatening her.

“By degrees they will be less insistent,” said Deronda. He could not drop her hand or move away from her abruptly.

“Sir Hugo says he shall come to stay at Diplow,” said Gwendolen, snatching at previously intended words which had slipped away from her. “You will come too.”

“Probably,” said Deronda, and then feeling that the word was cold, he added, correctively, “Yes, I shall come,” and then released her hand, with the final friendly pressure of one who has virtually said goodbye.

“And not again here, before I leave town?” said Gwendolen, with timid sadness, looking as pallid as ever.

What could Deronda say? “If I can be of any use⁠—if you wish me⁠—certainly I will.”

“I must wish it,” said Gwendolen, impetuously; “you know I must wish it. What strength have I? Who else is there?” Again a sob was rising.

Deronda felt a pang, which showed itself in his face. He looked miserable as he said, “I will certainly come.”

Gwendolen perceived the change in his face; but the intense relief of expecting him to come again could not give way to any other feeling, and there was a recovery of the inspired hope and courage in her.

“Don’t be unhappy about me,” she said, in a tone of affectionate assurance. “I shall remember your words⁠—every one of them. I shall remember what you believe about me; I shall try.”

She looked at him firmly, and put out her hand again as if she had forgotten what had passed since those words of his which she promised to remember. But there was no approach to a smile on her lips. She had never smiled since her husband’s death. When she stood still and in silence, she looked like a melancholy statue of the Gwendolen whose laughter had once been so ready when others were grave.

It is only by remembering the searching anguish which had changed the aspect of the world for her that we can understand her behavior to Deronda⁠—the unreflecting openness, nay, the importunate pleading, with which she expressed her dependence on him. Considerations such as would have filled the minds of indifferent spectators could not occur to her, any more than if flames had been mounting around her, and she had flung herself into his open arms and clung about his neck that he might carry her into safety. She identified him with the struggling regenerative process in her which had begun with his action. Is it any wonder that she saw her own necessity reflected in his feeling? She was in that state of unconscious reliance and expectation which is a common experience with us when we are preoccupied with our own trouble or our own purposes. We diffuse our feeling over others, and count on their acting from our motives. Her imagination had not been turned to a future union with Deronda by any other than the spiritual tie which had been continually strengthening; but also it had not been turned toward a future separation from him. Lovemaking and marriage⁠—how could they now be the imagery in which poor Gwendolen’s deepest attachment could spontaneously clothe itself? Mighty Love had laid his hand upon her; but what had he demanded of her? Acceptance of rebuke⁠—the hard task of self-change⁠—confession⁠—endurance. If she cried toward him, what then? She cried as the child cries whose little feet have fallen backward⁠—cried to be taken by the hand, lest she should lose herself.

The cry pierced Deronda. What position could have been more difficult for a man full of tenderness, yet with clear foresight? He was the only creature who knew the real nature of Gwendolen’s trouble: to withdraw himself from any appeal of hers would be to consign her to a dangerous loneliness. He could not reconcile himself to the cruelty of apparently rejecting her dependence on him; and yet in the nearer or farther distance he saw a coming wrench, which all present strengthening of their bond would make the harder.

He was obliged to risk that. He went once and again to Park Lane before Gwendolen left; but their interviews were in the presence of Mrs. Davilow, and were therefore less agitating. Gwendolen, since she had determined to accept her income, had conceived a project which she liked to speak of: it was to place her mother and sisters with herself in Offendene again, and, as she said, piece back her life unto that time when they first went there, and when everything was happiness about her, only she did not know it. The idea had been mentioned to Sir Hugo, who was going to exert himself about the letting of Gadsmere for a rent which would more than pay the rent of Offendene. All this was told to Deronda, who willingly dwelt on a subject that seemed to give some soothing occupation to Gwendolen. He said nothing and she asked nothing, of what chiefly occupied himself. Her mind was fixed on his coming to Diplow before the autumn was over; and she no more thought of the Lapidoths⁠—the little Jewess and her brother⁠—as likely to make a difference in her destiny, than of the fermenting political and social leaven which was making a difference in the history of the world. In fact poor Gwendolen’s memory had been stunned, and all outside the lava-lit track of her troubled conscience, and her effort to get deliverance from it, lay for her in dim forgetfulness.

Chapter LXVI

One day still fierce ’mid many a day struck calm.
Browning: The King and the Book

Meanwhile Ezra and Mirah, whom Gwendolen did not include in her thinking about Deronda, were having their relation to him drawn closer and brought into fuller light.

The father Lapidoth had quitted his daughter at the doorstep, ruled by that possibility of staking something in play or betting which presented itself with the handling of any sum beyond the price of staying actual hunger, and left no care for alternative prospects or resolutions. Until he had lost everything he never considered whether he would apply to Mirah again or whether he would brave his son’s presence. In the first moment he had shrunk from encountering Ezra as he would have shrunk from any other situation of disagreeable constraint; and the possession of Mirah’s purse was enough to banish the thought of future necessities. The gambling appetite is more absolutely dominant than bodily hunger, which can be neutralized by an emotional or intellectual excitation; but the passion for watching chances⁠—the habitual suspensive poise of the mind in actual or imaginary play⁠—nullifies the susceptibility of other excitation. In its final, imperious stage, it seems the unjoyous dissipation of demons, seeking diversion on the burning marl of perdition.

But every form of selfishness, however abstract and unhuman, requires the support of at least one meal a day; and though Lapidoth’s appetite for food and drink was extremely moderate, he had slipped into a shabby, unfriendly form of life in which the appetite could not be satisfied without some ready money. When, in a brief visit at a house which announced “Pyramids” on the window-blind, he had first doubled and trebled and finally lost Mirah’s thirty shillings, he went out with her empty purse in his pocket, already balancing in his mind whether he should get another immediate stake by pawning the purse, or whether he should go back to her giving himself a good countenance by restoring the purse, and declaring that he had used the money in paying a score that was standing against him. Besides, among the sensibilities still left strong in Lapidoth was the sensibility to his own claims, and he appeared to himself to have a claim on any property his children might possess, which was stronger than the justice of his son’s resentment. After all, to take up his lodging with his children was the best thing he could do; and the more he thought of meeting Ezra the less he winced from it, his imagination being more wrought on by the chances of his getting something into his pocket with safety and without exertion, than by the threat of a private humiliation. Luck had been against him lately; he expected it to turn⁠—and might not the turn begin with some opening of supplies which would present itself through his daughter’s affairs and the good friends she had spoken of? Lapidoth counted on the fascination of his cleverness⁠—an old habit of mind which early experience had sanctioned: and it is not only women who are unaware of their diminished charm, or imagine that they can feign not to be worn out.

The result of Lapidoth’s rapid balancing was that he went toward the little square in Brompton with the hope that, by walking about and watching, he might catch sight of Mirah going out or returning, in which case his entrance into the house would be made easier. But it was already evening⁠—the evening of the day next to that which he had first seen her; and after a little waiting, weariness made him reflect that he might ring, and if she were not at home he might ask the time at which she was expected. But on coming near the house he knew that she was at home: he heard her singing.

Mirah, seated at the piano, was pouring forth “Herz, mein Herz,” while Ezra was listening with his eyes shut, when Mrs. Adam opened the door, and said in some embarrassment,

“A gentleman below says he is your father, miss.”

“I will go down to him,” said Mirah, starting up immediately and looking at her brother.

“No, Mirah, not so,” said Ezra, with decision. “Let him come up, Mrs. Adam.”

Mirah stood with her hands pinching each other, and feeling sick with anxiety, while she continued looking at Ezra, who had also risen, and was evidently much shaken. But there was an expression in his face which she had never seen before; his brow was knit, his lips seemed hardened with the same severity that gleamed from his eye.

When Mrs. Adam opened the door to let in the father, she could not help casting a look at the group, and after glancing from the younger man to the elder, said to herself as she closed the door, “Father, sure enough.” The likeness was that of outline, which is always most striking at the first moment; the expression had been wrought into the strongest contrasts by such hidden or inconspicuous differences as can make the genius of a Cromwell within the outward type of a father who was no more than a respectable parishioner.

Lapidoth had put on a melancholy expression beforehand, but there was some real wincing in his frame as he said,

“Well, Ezra, my boy, you hardly know me after so many years.”

“I know you⁠—too well⁠—father,” said Ezra, with a slow biting solemnity which made the word father a reproach.

“Ah, you are not pleased with me. I don’t wonder at it. Appearances have been against me. When a man gets into straits he can’t do just as he would by himself or anybody else, I’ve suffered enough, I know,” said Lapidoth, quickly. In speaking he always recovered some glibness and hardihood; and now turning toward Mirah, he held out her purse, saying, “Here’s your little purse, my dear. I thought you’d be anxious about it because of that bit of writing. I’ve emptied it, you’ll see, for I had a score to pay for food and lodging. I knew you would like me to clear myself, and here I stand⁠—without a single farthing in my pocket⁠—at the mercy of my children. You can turn me out if you like, without getting a policeman. Say the word, Mirah; say, ‘Father, I’ve had enough of you; you made a pet of me, and spent your all on me, when I couldn’t have done without you; but I can do better without you now,’⁠—say that, and I’m gone out like a spark. I shan’t spoil your pleasure again.” The tears were in his voice as usual, before he had finished.

“You know I could never say it, father,” answered Mirah, with not the less anguish because she felt the falsity of everything in his speech except the implied wish to remain in the house.

“Mirah, my sister, leave us!” said Ezra, in a tone of authority.

She looked at her brother falteringly, beseechingly⁠—in awe of his decision, yet unable to go without making a plea for this father who was like something that had grown in her flesh with pain. She went close to her brother, and putting her hand in his, said, in a low voice, but not so low as to be unheard by Lapidoth, “Remember, Ezra⁠—you said my mother would not have shut him out.”

“Trust me, and go,” said Ezra.

She left the room, but after going a few steps up the stairs, sat down with a palpitating heart. If, because of anything her brother said to him, he went away⁠—

Lapidoth had some sense of what was being prepared for him in his son’s mind, but he was beginning to adjust himself to the situation and find a point of view that would give him a cool superiority to any attempt at humiliating him. This haggard son, speaking as from a sepulchre, had the incongruity which selfish levity learns to see in suffering, and until the unrelenting pincers of disease clutch its own flesh. Whatever preaching he might deliver must be taken for a matter of course, as a man finding shelter from hail in an open cathedral might take a little religious howling that happened to be going on there.

Lapidoth was not born with this sort of callousness: he had achieved it.

“This home that we have here,” Ezra began, “is maintained partly by the generosity of a beloved friend who supports me, and partly by the labors of my sister, who supports herself. While we have a home we will not shut you out from it. We will not cast you out to the mercy of your vices. For you are our father, and though you have broken your bond, we acknowledge ours. But I will never trust you. You absconded with money, leaving your debts unpaid; you forsook my mother; you robbed her of her little child and broke her heart; you have become a gambler, and where shame and conscience were there sits an insatiable desire; you were ready to sell my sister⁠—you had sold her, but the price was denied you. The man who has done these things must never expect to be trusted any more. We will share our food with you⁠—you shall have a bed, and clothing. We will do this duty to you, because you are our father. But you will never be trusted. You are an evil man: you made the misery of our mother. That such a man is our father is a brand on our flesh which will not cease smarting. But the Eternal has laid it upon us; and though human justice were to flog you for crimes, and your body fell helpless before the public scorn, we would still say, ‘This is our father; make way, that we may carry him out of your sight.’ ”

Lapidoth, in adjusting himself to what was coming, had not been able to foresee the exact intensity of the lightning or the exact course it would take⁠—that it would not fall outside his frame but through it. He could not foresee what was so new to him as this voice from the soul of his son. It touched that spring of hysterical excitability which Mirah used to witness in him when he sat at home and sobbed. As Ezra ended, Lapidoth threw himself into a chair and cried like a woman, burying his face against the table⁠—and yet, strangely, while this hysterical crying was an inevitable reaction in him under the stress of his son’s words, it was also a conscious resource in a difficulty; just as in early life, when he was a bright-faced curly young man, he had been used to avail himself of this subtly-poised physical susceptibility to turn the edge of resentment or disapprobation.

Ezra sat down again and said nothing⁠—exhausted by the shock of his own irrepressible utterance, the outburst of feelings which for years he had borne in solitude and silence. His thin hands trembled on the arms of the chair; he would hardly have found voice to answer a question; he felt as if he had taken a step toward beckoning Death. Meanwhile Mirah’s quick expectant ear detected a sound which her heart recognized: she could not stay out of the room any longer. But on opening the door her immediate alarm was for Ezra, and it was to his side that she went, taking his trembling hand in hers, which he pressed and found support in; but he did not speak or even look at her. The father with his face buried was conscious that Mirah had entered, and presently lifted up his head, pressed his handkerchief against his eyes, put out his hand toward her, and said with plaintive hoarseness, “Goodbye, Mirah; your father will not trouble you again. He deserves to die like a dog by the roadside, and he will. If your mother had lived, she would have forgiven me⁠—thirty-four years ago I put the ring on her finger under the Chuppa, and we were made one. She would have forgiven me, and we should have spent our old age together. But I haven’t deserved it. Goodbye.”

He rose from the chair as he said the last “goodbye.” Mirah had put her hand in his and held him. She was not tearful and grieving, but frightened and awestruck, as she cried out,

“No, father, no!” Then turning to her brother, “Ezra, you have not forbidden him?⁠—Stay, father, and leave off wrong things. Ezra, I cannot bear it. How can I say to my father, ‘Go and die!’ ”

“I have not said it,” Ezra answered, with great effort. “I have said, stay and be sheltered.”

“Then you will stay, father⁠—and be taken care of⁠—and come with me,” said Mirah, drawing him toward the door.

This was really what Lapidoth wanted. And for the moment he felt a sort of comfort in recovering his daughter’s dutiful attendance, that made a change of habits seem possible to him. She led him down to the parlor below, and said,

“This is my sitting-room when I am not with Ezra, and there is a bedroom behind which shall be yours. You will stay and be good, father. Think that you are come back to my mother, and that she has forgiven you⁠—she speaks to you through me.” Mirah’s tones were imploring, but she could not give one of her former caresses.

Lapidoth quickly recovered his composure, began to speak to Mirah of the improvement in her voice, and other easy subjects, and when Mrs. Adam came to lay out his supper, entered into converse with her in order to show her that he was not a common person, though his clothes were just now against him.

But in his usual wakefulness at night, he fell to wondering what money Mirah had by her, and went back over old Continental hours at Roulette, reproducing the method of his play, and the chances that had frustrated it. He had had his reasons for coming to England, but for most things it was a cursed country.

These were the stronger visions of the night with Lapidoth, and not the worn frame of his ireful son uttering a terrible judgment. Ezra did pass across the gaming-table, and his words were audible; but he passed like an insubstantial ghost, and his words had the heart eaten out of them by numbers and movements that seemed to make the very tissue of Lapidoth’s consciousness.

Chapter LXVII

The godhead in us wrings our noble deeds
From our reluctant selves.

It was an unpleasant surprise to Deronda when he returned from the Abbey to find the undesirable father installed in the lodgings at Brompton. Mirah had felt it necessary to speak of Deronda to her father, and even to make him as fully aware as she could of the way in which the friendship with Ezra had begun, and of the sympathy which had cemented it. She passed more lightly over what Deronda had done for her, omitting altogether the rescue from drowning, and speaking of the shelter she had found in Mrs. Meyrick’s family so as to leave her father to suppose that it was through these friends Deronda had become acquainted with her. She could not persuade herself to more completeness in her narrative: she could not let the breath of her father’s soul pass over her relation to Deronda. And Lapidoth, for reasons, was not eager in his questioning about the circumstances of her flight and arrival in England. But he was much interested in the fact of his children having a beneficent friend apparently high in the world.

It was the brother who told Deronda of this new condition added to their life. “I am become calm in beholding him now,” Ezra ended, “and I try to think it possible that my sister’s tenderness, and the daily tasting a life of peace, may win him to remain aloof from temptation. I have enjoined her, and she has promised, to trust him with no money. I have convinced her that he will buy with it his own destruction.”

Deronda first came on the third day from Ladipoth’s arrival. The new clothes for which he had been measured were not yet ready, and wishing to make a favorable impression, he did not choose to present himself in the old ones. He watched for Deronda’s departure, and, getting a view of him from the window, was rather surprised at his youthfulness, which Mirah had not mentioned, and which he had somehow thought out of the question in a personage who had taken up a grave friendship and hoary studies with the sepulchral Ezra. Lapidoth began to imagine that Deronda’s real or chief motive must be that he was in love with Mirah. And so much the better; for a tie to Mirah had more promise of indulgence for her father than a tie to Ezra: and Lapidoth was not without the hope of recommending himself to Deronda, and of softening any hard prepossessions. He was behaving with much amiability, and trying in all ways at his command to get himself into easy domestication with his children⁠—entering into Mirah’s music, showing himself docile about smoking, which Mrs. Adam could not tolerate in her parlor, and walking out in the square with his German pipe, and the tobacco with which Mirah supplied him. He was too acute to offer any present remonstrance against the refusal of money, which Mirah told him that she must persist in as a solemn duty promised to her brother. He was comfortable enough to wait.

The next time Deronda came, Lapidoth, equipped in his new clothes, and satisfied with his own appearance, was in the room with Ezra, who was teaching himself, as a part of his severe duty, to tolerate his father’s presence whenever it was imposed. Deronda was cold and distant, the first sight of this man, who had blighted the lives of his wife and children, creating in him a repulsion that was even a physical discomfort. But Lapidoth did not let himself be discouraged, asked leave to stay and hear the reading of papers from the old chest, and actually made himself useful in helping to decipher some difficult German manuscript. This led him to suggest that it might be desirable to make a transcription of the manuscript, and he offered his services for this purpose, and also to make copies of any papers in Roman characters. Though Ezra’s young eyes he observed were getting weak, his own were still strong. Deronda accepted the offer, thinking that Lapidoth showed a sign of grace in the willingness to be employed usefully; and he saw a gratified expression in Ezra’s face, who, however, presently said, “Let all the writing be done here; for I cannot trust the papers out of my sight, lest there be an accident by burning or otherwise.” Poor Ezra felt very much as if he had a convict on leave under his charge. Unless he saw his father working, it was not possible to believe that he would work in good faith. But by this arrangement he fastened on himself the burden of his father’s presence, which was made painful not only through his deepest, longest associations, but also through Lapidoth’s restlessness of temperament, which showed itself the more as he become familiarized with his situation, and lost any awe he had felt of his son. The fact was, he was putting a strong constraint on himself in confining his attention for the sake of winning Deronda’s favor; and like a man in an uncomfortable garment he gave himself relief at every opportunity, going out to smoke, or moving about and talking, or throwing himself back in his chair and remaining silent, but incessantly carrying on a dumb language of facial movement or gesticulation: and if Mirah were in the room, he would fall into his old habit of talk with her, gossiping about their former doings and companions, or repeating quirks and stories, and plots of the plays he used to adapt, in the belief that he could at will command the vivacity of his earlier time. All this was a mortal infliction to Ezra; and when Mirah was at home she tried to relieve him, by getting her father down into the parlor and keeping watch over him there. What duty is made of a single difficult resolve? The difficulty lies in the daily unflinching support of consequences that mar the blessed return of morning with the prospect of irritation to be suppressed or shame to be endured. And such consequences were being borne by these, as by many other heroic children of an unworthy father⁠—with the prospect, at least to Mirah, of their stretchi