"La meme fermete qui sert a resister a l'amour sert aussi a le rendre
violent et durable; et les personnes faibles qui sont toujours
agitees des passions n'en sont presque jamais veritablement remplies."
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 straight-laced 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 second-
hand 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 sugar-plums 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
"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,
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
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-
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 tender-hearted 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 every one 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 any one 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 any one 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--and 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 any one 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 hint 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 every one who comes near Pennicote, because it is so seldom there is any one 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 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 some one younger and more lively would have suited her better. But, perhaps, having a brother who seems to us better than any one 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 insistance 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.
"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 to-day. 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 any one 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."
"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--
"Good-bye, my son, good-bye. 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.