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Title: Daniel Deronda
Author: Eliot, George
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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DANIEL DERONDA

By George Eliot



  Let thy chief terror be of thine own soul:
  There, 'mid the throng of hurrying desires
  That trample on the dead to seize their spoil,
  Lurks vengeance, footless, irresistible
  As exhalations laden with slow death,
  And o'er the fairest troop of captured joys
  Breathes pallid pestilence.



CONTENTS.


 BOOK   I. THE SPOILED CHILD
  "    II. MEETING STREAMS
  "   III. MAIDENS CHOOSING
  "    IV. GWENDOLEN GETS HER CHOICE
  "     V. MORDECAI
  "    VI. REVELATIONS
  "   VII. THE MOTHER AND THE SON
  "  VIII. FRUIT AND SEED



DANIEL DERONDA.



BOOK I.--THE SPOILED CHILD.


CHAPTER I.

    Men can do nothing without the make-believe of a beginning. Even
    science, the strict measurer, is obliged to start with a make-believe
    unit, and must fix on a point in the stars' unceasing journey when his
    sidereal clock shall pretend that time is at Nought. His less accurate
    grandmother Poetry has always been understood to start in the middle;
    but on reflection it appears that her proceeding is not very different
    from his; since Science, too, reckons backward as well as forward,
    divides his unit into billions, and with his clock-finger at Nought
    really sets off _in medias res_. No retrospect will take us to
    the true beginning; and whether our prologue be in heaven or on earth,
    it is but a fraction of that all-presupposing fact with which our
    story sets out.


Was she beautiful or not beautiful? and what was the secret of form or
expression which gave the dynamic quality to her glance? Was the good
or the evil genius dominant in those beams? Probably the evil; else why
was the effect that of unrest rather than of undisturbed charm? Why was
the wish to look again felt as coercion and not as a longing in which
the whole being consents?

She who raised these questions in Daniel Deronda's mind was occupied in
gambling: not in the open air under a southern sky, tossing coppers on
a ruined wall, with rags about her limbs; but in one of those splendid
resorts which the enlightenment of ages has prepared for the same
species of pleasure at a heavy cost of gilt mouldings, dark-toned
color and chubby nudities, all correspondingly heavy--forming a
suitable condenser for human breath belonging, in great part, to the
highest fashion, and not easily procurable to be breathed in elsewhere
in the like proportion, at least by persons of little fashion.

It was near four o'clock on a September day, so that the atmosphere was
well-brewed to a visible haze. There was deep stillness, broken only by
a light rattle, a light chink, a small sweeping sound, and an
occasional monotone in French, such as might be expected to issue from
an ingeniously constructed automaton. Round two long tables were
gathered two serried crowds of human beings, all save one having their
faces and attention bent on the tables. The one exception was a
melancholy little boy, with his knees and calves simply in their
natural clothing of epidermis, but for the rest of his person in a
fancy dress. He alone had his face turned toward the doorway, and
fixing on it the blank gaze of a bedizened child stationed as a
masquerading advertisement on the platform of an itinerant show, stood
close behind a lady deeply engaged at the roulette-table.

About this table fifty or sixty persons were assembled, many in the
outer rows, where there was occasionally a deposit of new-comers, being
mere spectators, only that one of them, usually a woman, might now and
then be observed putting down a five-franc with a simpering air, just
to see what the passion of gambling really was. Those who were taking
their pleasure at a higher strength, and were absorbed in play, showed
very distant varieties of European type: Livonian and Spanish,
Graeco-Italian and miscellaneous German, English aristocratic and
English plebeian. Here certainly was a striking admission of human
equality. The white bejewelled fingers of an English countess were very
near touching a bony, yellow, crab-like hand stretching a bared wrist
to clutch a heap of coin--a hand easy to sort with the square, gaunt
face, deep-set eyes, grizzled eyebrows, and ill-combed scanty hair
which seemed a slight metamorphosis of the vulture. And where else
would her ladyship have graciously consented to sit by that dry-lipped
feminine figure prematurely old, withered after short bloom like her
artificial flowers, holding a shabby velvet reticule before her, and
occasionally putting in her mouth the point with which she pricked her
card? There too, very near the fair countess, was a respectable London
tradesman, blonde and soft-handed, his sleek hair scrupulously parted
behind and before, conscious of circulars addressed to the nobility and
gentry, whose distinguished patronage enabled him to take his holidays
fashionably, and to a certain extent in their distinguished company.
Not his the gambler's passion that nullifies appetite, but a well-fed
leisure, which, in the intervals of winning money in business and
spending it showily, sees no better resource than winning money in play
and spending it yet more showily--reflecting always that Providence had
never manifested any disapprobation of his amusement, and dispassionate
enough to leave off if the sweetness of winning much and seeing others
lose had turned to the sourness of losing much and seeing others win.
For the vice of gambling lay in losing money at it. In his bearing
there might be something of the tradesman, but in his pleasures he was
fit to rank with the owners of the oldest titles. Standing close to his
chair was a handsome Italian, calm, statuesque, reaching across him to
place the first pile of napoleons from a new bagful just brought him by
an envoy with a scrolled mustache. The pile was in half a minute pushed
over to an old bewigged woman with eye-glasses pinching her nose. There
was a slight gleam, a faint mumbling smile about the lips of the old
woman; but the statuesque Italian remained impassive, and--probably
secure in an infallible system which placed his foot on the neck of
chance--immediately prepared a new pile. So did a man with the air of
an emaciated beau or worn-out libertine, who looked at life through one
eye-glass, and held out his hand tremulously when he asked for change.
It could surely be no severity of system, but rather some dream of
white crows, or the induction that the eighth of the month was lucky,
which inspired the fierce yet tottering impulsiveness of his play.

But, while every single player differed markedly from every other,
there was a certain uniform negativeness of expression which had the
effect of a mask--as if they had all eaten of some root that for the
time compelled the brains of each to the same narrow monotony of action.

Deronda's first thought when his eyes fell on this scene of dull,
gas-poisoned absorption, was that the gambling of Spanish shepherd-boys
had seemed to him more enviable:--so far Rousseau might be justified in
maintaining that art and science had done a poor service to mankind.
But suddenly he felt the moment become dramatic. His attention was
arrested by a young lady who, standing at an angle not far from him,
was the last to whom his eyes traveled. She was bending and speaking
English to a middle-aged lady seated at play beside her: but the next
instant she returned to her play, and showed the full height of a
graceful figure, with a face which might possibly be looked at without
admiration, but could hardly be passed with indifference.

The inward debate which she raised in Deronda gave to his eyes a
growing expression of scrutiny, tending farther and farther away from
the glow of mingled undefined sensibilities forming admiration. At one
moment they followed the movements of the figure, of the arms and
hands, as this problematic sylph bent forward to deposit her stake with
an air of firm choice; and the next they returned to the face which, at
present unaffected by beholders, was directed steadily toward the game.
The sylph was a winner; and as her taper fingers, delicately gloved in
pale-gray, were adjusting the coins which had been pushed toward her in
order to pass them back again to the winning point, she looked round
her with a survey too markedly cold and neutral not to have in it a
little of that nature which we call art concealing an inward exultation.

But in the course of that survey her eyes met Deronda's, and instead of
averting them as she would have desired to do, she was unpleasantly
conscious that they were arrested--how long? The darting sense that he
was measuring her and looking down on her as an inferior, that he was of
different quality from the human dross around her, that he felt himself
in a region outside and above her, and was examining her as a specimen
of a lower order, roused a tingling resentment which stretched the
moment with conflict. It did not bring the blood to her cheeks, but it
sent it away from her lips. She controlled herself by the help of an
inward defiance, and without other sign of emotion than this
lip-paleness turned to her play. But Deronda's gaze seemed to have acted
as an evil eye. Her stake was gone. No matter; she had been winning ever
since she took to roulette with a few napoleons at command, and had a
considerable reserve. She had begun to believe in her luck, others had
begun to believe in it: she had visions of being followed by a _cortège_
who would worship her as a goddess of luck and watch her play as a
directing augury. Such things had been known of male gamblers; why
should not a woman have a like supremacy? Her friend and chaperon who
had not wished her to play at first was beginning to approve, only
administering the prudent advice to stop at the right moment and carry
money back to England--advice to which Gwendolen had replied that she
cared for the excitement of play, not the winnings. On that supposition
the present moment ought to have made the flood-tide in her eager
experience of gambling. Yet, when her next stake was swept away, she
felt the orbits of her eyes getting hot, and the certainty she had
(without looking) of that man still watching her was something like a
pressure which begins to be torturing. The more reason to her why she
should not flinch, but go on playing as if she were indifferent to loss
or gain. Her friend touched her elbow and proposed that they should quit
the table. For reply Gwendolen put ten louis on the same spot: she was
in that mood of defiance in which the mind loses sight of any end beyond
the satisfaction of enraged resistance; and with the puerile stupidity
of a dominant impulse includes luck among its objects of defiance. Since
she was not winning strikingly, the next best thing was to lose
strikingly. She controlled her muscles, and showed no tremor of mouth or
hands. Each time her stake was swept off she doubled it. Many were now
watching her, but the sole observation she was conscious of was
Deronda's, who, though she never looked toward him, she was sure had not
moved away. Such a drama takes no long while to play out: development
and catastrophe can often be measured by nothing clumsier than the
moment-hand. "Faites votre jeu, mesdames et messieurs," said the
automatic voice of destiny from between the mustache and imperial of the
croupier: and Gwendolen's arm was stretched to deposit her last poor
heap of napoleons. "Le jeu ne va plus," said destiny. And in five
seconds Gwendolen turned from the table, but turned resolutely with her
face toward Deronda and looked at him. There was a smile of irony in his
eyes as their glances met; but it was at least better that he should
have kept his attention fixed on her than that he disregarded her as one
of an insect swarm who had no individual physiognomy. Besides, in spite
of his superciliousness and irony, it was difficult to believe that he
did not admire her spirit as well as her person: he was young, handsome,
distinguished in appearance--not one of these ridiculous and dowdy
Philistines who thought it incumbent on them to blight the gaming-table
with a sour look of protest as they passed by it. The general conviction
that we are admirable does not easily give way before a single negative;
rather when any of Vanity's large family, male or female, find their
performance received coldly, they are apt to believe that a little more
of it will win over the unaccountable dissident. In Gwendolen's habits
of mind it had been taken for granted that she knew what was admirable
and that she herself was admired. This basis of her thinking had
received a disagreeable concussion, and reeled a little, but was not
easily to be overthrown.

In the evening the same room was more stiflingly heated, was brilliant
with gas and with the costumes of ladies who floated their trains along
it or were seated on the ottomans.

The Nereid in sea-green robes and silver ornaments, with a pale
sea-green feather fastened in silver falling backward over her green
hat and light brown hair, was Gwendolen Harleth. She was under the
wing, or rather soared by the shoulder, of the lady who had sat by her
at the roulette-table; and with them was a gentleman with a white
mustache and clipped hair: solid-browed, stiff and German. They were
walking about or standing to chat with acquaintances, and Gwendolen was
much observed by the seated groups.

"A striking girl--that Miss Harleth--unlike others."

"Yes, she has got herself up as a sort of serpent now--all green and
silver, and winds her neck about a little more than usual."

"Oh, she must always be doing something extraordinary. She is that kind
of girl, I fancy. Do you think her pretty, Mr. Vandernoodt?"

"Very. A man might risk hanging for her--I mean a fool might."

"You like a _nez retroussé_, then, and long narrow eyes?"

"When they go with such an _ensemble_."

"The _ensemble du serpent_?"

"If you will. Woman was tempted by a serpent; why not man?"

"She is certainly very graceful; but she wants a tinge of color in her
cheeks. It is a sort of Lamia beauty she has."

"On the contrary, I think her complexion one of her chief charms. It is
a warm paleness; it looks thoroughly healthy. And that delicate nose
with its gradual little upward curve is distracting. And then her
mouth--there never was a prettier mouth, the lips curled backward so
finely, eh, Mackworth?"

"Think so? I cannot endure that sort of mouth. It looks so
self-complacent, as if it knew its own beauty--the curves are too
immovable. I like a mouth that trembles more."

"For my part, I think her odious," said a dowager. "It is wonderful
what unpleasant girls get into vogue. Who are these Langens? Does
anybody know them?"

"They are quite _comme il faut_. I have dined with them several times
at the _Russie_. The baroness is English. Miss Harleth calls her
cousin. The girl herself is thoroughly well-bred, and as clever as
possible."

"Dear me! and the baron?".

"A very good furniture picture."

"Your baroness is always at the roulette-table," said Mackworth. "I
fancy she has taught the girl to gamble."

"Oh, the old woman plays a very sober game; drops a ten-franc piece
here and there. The girl is more headlong. But it is only a freak."

"I hear she has lost all her winnings to-day. Are they rich? Who knows?"

"Ah, who knows? Who knows that about anybody?" said Mr. Vandernoodt,
moving off to join the Langens.

The remark that Gwendolen wound her neck about more than usual this
evening was true. But it was not that she might carry out the serpent
idea more completely: it was that she watched for any chance of seeing
Deronda, so that she might inquire about this stranger, under whose
measuring gaze she was still wincing. At last her opportunity came.

"Mr. Vandernoodt, you know everybody," said Gwendolen, not too eagerly,
rather with a certain languor of utterance which she sometimes gave to
her clear soprano. "Who is that near the door?"

"There are half a dozen near the door. Do you mean that old Adonis in
the George the Fourth wig?"

"No, no; the dark-haired young man on the right with the dreadful
expression."

"Dreadful, do you call it? I think he is an uncommonly fine fellow."

"But who is he?"

"He is lately come to our hotel with Sir Hugo Mallinger."

"Sir Hugo Mallinger?"

"Yes. Do you know him?"

"No." (Gwendolen colored slightly.) "He has a place near us, but he
never comes to it. What did you say was the name of that gentleman near
the door?"

"Deronda--Mr. Deronda."

"What a delightful name! Is he an Englishman?"

"Yes. He is reported to be rather closely related to the baronet. You
are interested in him?"

"Yes. I think he is not like young men in general."

"And you don't admire young men in general?"

"Not in the least. I always know what they will say. I can't at all
guess what this Mr. Deronda would say. What _does_ he say?"

"Nothing, chiefly. I sat with his party for a good hour last night on
the terrace, and he never spoke--and was not smoking either. He looked
bored."

"Another reason why I should like to know him. I am always bored."

"I should think he would be charmed to have an introduction. Shall I
bring it about? Will you allow it, baroness?"

"Why not?--since he is related to Sir Hugo Mallinger. It is a new
_rôle_ of yours, Gwendolen, to be always bored," continued Madame von
Langen, when Mr. Vandernoodt had moved away. "Until now you have always
seemed eager about something from morning till night."

"That is just because I am bored to death. If I am to leave off play I
must break my arm or my collar-bone. I must make something happen;
unless you will go into Switzerland and take me up the Matterhorn."

"Perhaps this Mr. Deronda's acquaintance will do instead of the
Matterhorn."

"Perhaps."

But Gwendolen did not make Deronda's acquaintance on this occasion. Mr.
Vandernoodt did not succeed in bringing him up to her that evening, and
when she re-entered her own room she found a letter recalling her home.



CHAPTER II.

  This man contrives a secret 'twixt us two,
  That he may quell me with his meeting eyes
  Like one who quells a lioness at bay.


This was the letter Gwendolen found on her table:,

    DEAREST CHILD.--I have been expecting to hear from you for a week. In
    your last you said the Langens thought of leaving Leubronn and going
    to Baden. How could you be so thoughtless as to leave me in
    uncertainty about your address? I am in the greatest anxiety lest this
    should not reach you. In any case, you were to come home at the end of
    September, and I must now entreat you to return as quickly as
    possible, for if you spent all your money it would be out of my power
    to send you any more, and you must not borrow of the Langens, for I
    could not repay them. This is the sad truth, my child--I wish I could
    prepare you for it better--but a dreadful calamity has befallen us
    all. You know nothing about business and will not understand it; but
    Grapnell & Co. have failed for a million, and we are totally
    ruined--your aunt Gascoigne as well as I, only that your uncle has his
    benefice, so that by putting down their carriage and getting interest
    for the boys, the family can go on. All the property our poor father
    saved for us goes to pay the liabilities. There is nothing I can call
    my own. It is better you should know this at once, though it rends my
    heart to have to tell it you. Of course we cannot help thinking what a
    pity it was that you went away just when you did. But I shall never
    reproach you, my dear child; I would save you from all trouble if I
    could. On your way home you will have time to prepare yourself for the
    change you will find. We shall perhaps leave Offendene at once, for we
    hope that Mr. Haynes, who wanted it before, may be ready to take it
    off my hands. Of course we cannot go to the rectory--there is not a
    corner there to spare. We must get some hut or other to shelter us,
    and we must live on your uncle Gascoigne's charity, until I see what
    else can be done. I shall not be able to pay the debts to the
    tradesmen besides the servants' wages. Summon up your fortitude, my
    dear child; we must resign ourselves to God's will. But it is hard to
    resign one's self to Mr. Lassman's wicked recklessness, which they say
    was the cause of the failure. Your poor sisters can only cry with me
    and give me no help. If you were once here, there might be a break in
    the cloud--I always feel it impossible that you can have been meant
    for poverty. If the Langens wish to remain abroad, perhaps you can put
    yourself under some one else's care for the journey. But come as soon
    as you can to your afflicted and loving mamma,

    FANNY DAVILOW.

The first effect of this letter on Gwendolen was half-stupefying. The
implicit confidence that her destiny must be one of luxurious ease,
where any trouble that occurred would be well clad and provided for,
had been stronger in her own mind than in her mamma's, being fed there
by her youthful blood and that sense of superior claims which made a
large part of her consciousness. It was almost as difficult for her to
believe suddenly that her position had become one of poverty and of
humiliating dependence, as it would have been to get into the strong
current of her blooming life the chill sense that her death would
really come. She stood motionless for a few minutes, then tossed off
her hat and automatically looked in the glass. The coils of her smooth
light-brown hair were still in order perfect enough for a ball-room;
and as on other nights, Gwendolen might have looked lingeringly at
herself for pleasure (surely an allowable indulgence); but now she took
no conscious note of her reflected beauty, and simply stared right
before her as if she had been jarred by a hateful sound and was waiting
for any sign of its cause. By-and-by she threw herself in the corner of
the red velvet sofa, took up the letter again and read it twice
deliberately, letting it at last fall on the ground, while she rested
her clasped hands on her lap and sat perfectly still, shedding no
tears. Her impulse was to survey and resist the situation rather than
to wail over it. There was no inward exclamation of "Poor mamma!" Her
mamma had never seemed to get much enjoyment out of life, and if
Gwendolen had been at this moment disposed to feel pity she would have
bestowed it on herself--for was she not naturally and rightfully the
chief object of her mamma's anxiety too? But it was anger, it was
resistance that possessed her; it was bitter vexation that she had lost
her gains at roulette, whereas if her luck had continued through this
one day she would have had a handsome sum to carry home, or she might
have gone on playing and won enough to support them all. Even now was
it not possible? She had only four napoleons left in her purse, but she
possessed some ornaments which she could sell: a practice so common in
stylish society at German baths that there was no need to be ashamed of
it; and even if she had not received her mamma's letter, she would
probably have decided to get money for an Etruscan necklace which she
happened not to have been wearing since her arrival; nay, she might
have done so with an agreeable sense that she was living with some
intensity and escaping humdrum. With ten louis at her disposal and a
return of her former luck, which seemed probable, what could she do
better than go on playing for a few days? If her friends at home
disapproved of the way in which she got the money, as they certainly
would, still the money would be there. Gwendolen's imagination dwelt on
this course and created agreeable consequences, but not with unbroken
confidence and rising certainty as it would have done if she had been
touched with the gambler's mania. She had gone to the roulette-table
not because of passion, but in search of it: her mind was still sanely
capable of picturing balanced probabilities, and while the chance of
winning allured her, the chance of losing thrust itself on her with
alternate strength and made a vision from which her pride sank
sensitively. For she was resolved not to tell the Langens that any
misfortune had befallen her family, or to make herself in any way
indebted to their compassion; and if she were to part with her jewelry
to any observable extent, they would interfere by inquiries and
remonstrances. The course that held the least risk of intolerable
annoyance was to raise money on her necklace early in the morning, tell
the Langens that her mother desired her immediate return without giving
a reason, and take the train for Brussels that evening. She had no maid
with her, and the Langens might make difficulties about her returning
home, but her will was peremptory.

Instead of going to bed she made as brilliant a light as she could and
began to pack, working diligently, though all the while visited by the
scenes that might take place on the coming day--now by the tiresome
explanations and farewells, and the whirling journey toward a changed
home, now by the alternative of staying just another day and standing
again at the roulette-table. But always in this latter scene there was
the presence of that Deronda, watching her with exasperating irony,
and--the two keen experiences were inevitably revived
together--beholding her again forsaken by luck. This importunate image
certainly helped to sway her resolve on the side of immediate
departure, and to urge her packing to the point which would make a
change of mind inconvenient. It had struck twelve when she came into
her room, and by the time she was assuring herself that she had left
out only what was necessary, the faint dawn was stealing through the
white blinds and dulling her candles. What was the use of going to bed?
Her cold bath was refreshment enough, and she saw that a slight trace
of fatigue about the eyes only made her look the more interesting.
Before six o'clock she was completely equipped in her gray traveling
dress even to her felt hat, for she meant to walk out as soon as she
could count on seeing other ladies on their way to the springs. And
happening to be seated sideways before the long strip of mirror between
her two windows she turned to look at herself, leaning her elbow on the
back of the chair in an attitude that might have been chosen for her
portrait. It is possible to have a strong self-love without any
self-satisfaction, rather with a self-discontent which is the more
intense because one's own little core of egoistic sensibility is a
supreme care; but Gwendolen knew nothing of such inward strife. She had
a _naïve_ delight in her fortunate self, which any but the harshest
saintliness will have some indulgence for in a girl who had every day
seen a pleasant reflection of that self in her friends' flattery as
well as in the looking-glass. And even in this beginning of troubles,
while for lack of anything else to do she sat gazing at her image in
the growing light, her face gathered a complacency gradual as the
cheerfulness of the morning. Her beautiful lips curled into a more and
more decided smile, till at last she took off her hat, leaned forward
and kissed the cold glass which had looked so warm. How could she
believe in sorrow? If it attacked her, she felt the force to crush it,
to defy it, or run away from it, as she had done already. Anything
seemed more possible than that she could go on bearing miseries, great
or small.

Madame von Langen never went out before breakfast, so that Gwendolen
could safely end her early walk by taking her way homeward through the
Obere Strasse in which was the needed shop, sure to be open after
seven. At that hour any observers whom she minded would be either on
their walks in the region of the springs, or would be still in their
bedrooms; but certainly there was one grand hotel, the _Czarina_ from
which eyes might follow her up to Mr. Wiener's door. This was a chance
to be risked: might she not be going in to buy something which had
struck her fancy? This implicit falsehood passed through her mind as
she remembered that the _Czarina_ was Deronda's hotel; but she was then
already far up the Obere Strasse, and she walked on with her usual
floating movement, every line in her figure and drapery falling in
gentle curves attractive to all eyes except those which discerned in
them too close a resemblance to the serpent, and objected to the
revival of serpent-worship. She looked neither to the right hand nor to
the left, and transacted her business in the shop with a coolness which
gave little Mr. Wiener nothing to remark except her proud grace of
manner, and the superior size and quality of the three central
turquoises in the necklace she offered him. They had belonged to a
chain once her father's: but she had never known her father; and the
necklace was in all respects the ornament she could most conveniently
part with. Who supposes that it is an impossible contradiction to be
superstitious and rationalizing at the same time? Roulette encourages a
romantic superstition as to the chances of the game, and the most
prosaic rationalism as to human sentiments which stand in the way of
raising needful money. Gwendolen's dominant regret was that after all
she had only nine louis to add to the four in her purse: these Jew
dealers were so unscrupulous in taking advantage of Christians
unfortunate at play! But she was the Langens' guest in their hired
apartment, and had nothing to pay there: thirteen louis would do more
than take her home; even if she determined on risking three, the
remaining ten would more than suffice, since she meant to travel right
on, day and night. As she turned homeward, nay, entered and seated
herself in the _salon_ to await her friends and breakfast, she still
wavered as to her immediate departure, or rather she had concluded to
tell the Langens simply that she had had a letter from her mamma
desiring her return, and to leave it still undecided when she should
start. It was already the usual breakfast-time, and hearing some one
enter as she was leaning back rather tired and hungry with her eyes
shut, she rose expecting to see one or other of the Langens--the words
which might determine her lingering at least another day, ready-formed
to pass her lips. But it was the servant bringing in a small packet for
Miss Harleth, which had at that moment been left at the door. Gwendolen
took it in her hand and immediately hurried into her own room. She
looked paler and more agitated than when she had first read her mamma's
letter. Something--she never quite knew what--revealed to her before
she opened the packet that it contained the necklace she had just
parted with. Underneath the paper it was wrapped in a cambric
handkerchief, and within this was a scrap of torn-off note-paper, on
which was written with a pencil, in clear but rapid handwriting--"_A
stranger who has found Miss Harleth's necklace returns it to her with
the hope that she will not again risk the loss of it._"

Gwendolen reddened with the vexation of wounded pride. A large corner
of the handkerchief seemed to have been recklessly torn off to get rid
of a mark; but she at once believed in the first image of "the
stranger" that presented itself to her mind. It was Deronda; he must
have seen her go into the shop; he must have gone in immediately after
and repurchased the necklace. He had taken an unpardonable liberty, and
had dared to place her in a thoroughly hateful position. What could she
do?--Not, assuredly, act on her conviction that it was he who had sent
her the necklace and straightway send it back to him: that would be to
face the possibility that she had been mistaken; nay, even if the
"stranger" were he and no other, it would be something too gross for
her to let him know that she had divined this, and to meet him again
with that recognition in their minds. He knew very well that he was
entangling her in helpless humiliation: it was another way of smiling
at her ironically, and taking the air of a supercilious mentor.
Gwendolen felt the bitter tears of mortification rising and rolling
down her cheeks. No one had ever before dared to treat her with irony
and contempt. One thing was clear: she must carry out her resolution to
quit this place at once; it was impossible for her to reappear in the
public _salon_, still less stand at the gaming-table with the risk of
seeing Deronda. Now came an importunate knock at the door: breakfast
was ready. Gwendolen with a passionate movement thrust necklace,
cambric, scrap of paper, and all into her _nécessaire_, pressed her
handkerchief against her face, and after pausing a minute or two to
summon back her proud self-control, went to join her friends. Such
signs of tears and fatigue as were left seemed accordant enough with
the account she at once gave of her having sat up to do her packing,
instead of waiting for help from her friend's maid. There was much
protestation, as she had expected, against her traveling alone, but she
persisted in refusing any arrangements for companionship. She would be
put into the ladies' compartment and go right on. She could rest
exceedingly well in the train, and was afraid of nothing.

In this way it happened that Gwendolen never reappeared at the
roulette-table, but that Thursday evening left Leubronn for Brussels,
and on Saturday morning arrived at Offendene, the home to which she and
her family were soon to say a last good-bye.



CHAPTER III.

    "Let no flower of the spring pass by us; let us crown ourselves with
    rosebuds before they be withered."--BOOK OF WISDOM.


Pity that Offendene was not the home of Miss Harleth's childhood, or
endeared to her by family memories! A human life, I think, should be
well rooted in some spot of a native land, where it may get the love of
tender kinship for the face of earth, for the labors men go forth to,
for the sounds and accents that haunt it, for whatever will give that
early home a familiar unmistakable difference amid the future widening
of knowledge: a spot where the definiteness of early memories may be
inwrought with affection, and--kindly acquaintance with all neighbors,
even to the dogs and donkeys, may spread not by sentimental effort and
reflection, but as a sweet habit of the blood. At five years old,
mortals are not prepared to be citizens of the world, to be stimulated
by abstract nouns, to soar above preference into impartiality; and that
prejudice in favor of milk with which we blindly begin, is a type of
the way body and soul must get nourished at least for a time. The best
introduction to astronomy is to think of the nightly heavens as a
little lot of stars belonging to one's own homestead.

But this blessed persistence in which affection can take root had been
wanting in Gwendolen's life. It was only a year before her recall from
Leubronn that Offendene had been chosen as her mamma's home, simply for
its nearness to Pennicote Rectory, and that Mrs. Davilow, Gwendolen,
and her four half-sisters (the governess and the maid following in
another vehicle) had been driven along the avenue for the first time,
on a late October afternoon when the rooks were crawing loudly above
them, and the yellow elm-leaves were whirling.

The season suited the aspect of the old oblong red-brick house, rather
too anxiously ornamented with stone at every line, not excepting the
double row of narrow windows and the large square portico. The stone
encouraged a greenish lichen, the brick a powdery gray, so that though
the building was rigidly rectangular there was no harshness in the
physiognomy which it turned to the three avenues cut east, west and
south in the hundred yards' breadth of old plantation encircling the
immediate grounds. One would have liked the house to have been lifted
on a knoll, so as to look beyond its own little domain to the long
thatched roofs of the distant villages, the church towers, the
scattered homesteads, the gradual rise of surging woods, and the green
breadths of undulating park which made the beautiful face of the earth
in that part of Wessex. But though standing thus behind a screen amid
flat pastures, it had on one side a glimpse of the wider world in the
lofty curves of the chalk downs, grand steadfast forms played over by
the changing days.

The house was but just large enough to be called a mansion, and was
moderately rented, having no manor attached to it, and being rather
difficult to let with its sombre furniture and faded upholstery. But
inside and outside it was what no beholder could suppose to be
inhabited by retired trades-people: a certainty which was worth many
conveniences to tenants who not only had the taste that shrinks from
new finery, but also were in that border-territory of rank where
annexation is a burning topic: and to take up her abode in a house
which had once sufficed for dowager countesses gave a perceptible tinge
to Mrs. Davilow's satisfaction in having an establishment of her own.
This, rather mysteriously to Gwendolen, appeared suddenly possible on
the death of her step-father, Captain Davilow, who had for the last
nine years joined his family only in a brief and fitful manner, enough
to reconcile them to his long absences; but she cared much more for the
fact than for the explanation. All her prospects had become more
agreeable in consequence. She had disliked their former way of life,
roving from one foreign watering-place or Parisian apartment to
another, always feeling new antipathies to new suites of hired
furniture, and meeting new people under conditions which made her
appear of little importance; and the variation of having passed two
years at a showy school, where, on all occasions of display, she had
been put foremost, had only deepened her sense that so exceptional a
person as herself could hardly remain in ordinary circumstances or in a
social position less than advantageous. Any fear of this latter evil
was banished now that her mamma was to have an establishment; for on
the point of birth Gwendolen was quite easy. She had no notion how her
maternal grandfather got the fortune inherited by his two daughters;
but he had been a West Indian--which seemed to exclude further
question; and she knew that her father's family was so high as to take
no notice of her mamma, who nevertheless preserved with much pride the
miniature of a Lady Molly in that connection. She would probably have
known much more about her father but for a little incident which
happened when she was twelve years old. Mrs. Davilow had brought out,
as she did only at wide intervals, various memorials of her first
husband, and while showing his miniature to Gwendolen recalled with a
fervor which seemed to count on a peculiar filial sympathy, the fact
that dear papa had died when his little daughter was in long clothes.
Gwendolen, immediately thinking of the unlovable step-father whom she
had been acquainted with the greater part of her life while her frocks
were short, said,

"Why did you marry again, mamma? It would have been nicer if you had
not."

Mrs. Davilow colored deeply, a slight convulsive movement passed over
her face, and straightway shutting up the memorials she said, with a
violence quite unusual in her,

"You have no feeling, child!"

Gwendolen, who was fond of her mamma, felt hurt and ashamed, and had
never since dared to ask a question about her father.

This was not the only instance in which she had brought on herself the
pain of some filial compunction. It was always arranged, when possible,
that she should have a small bed in her mamma's room; for Mrs.
Davilow's motherly tenderness clung chiefly to her eldest girl, who had
been born in her happier time. One night under an attack of pain she
found that the specific regularly placed by her bedside had been
forgotten, and begged Gwendolen to get out of bed and reach it for her.
That healthy young lady, snug and warm as a rosy infant in her little
couch, objected to step out into the cold, and lying perfectly still,
grumbling a refusal. Mrs. Davilow went without the medicine and never
reproached her daughter; but the next day Gwendolen was keenly
conscious of what must be in her mamma's mind, and tried to make amends
by caresses which cost her no effort. Having always been the pet and
pride of the household, waited on by mother, sisters, governess and
maids, as if she had been a princess in exile, she naturally found it
difficult to think her own pleasure less important than others made it,
and when it was positively thwarted felt an astonished resentment apt,
in her cruder days, to vent itself in one of those passionate acts
which look like a contradiction of habitual tendencies. Though never
even as a child thoughtlessly cruel, nay delighting to rescue drowning
insects and watch their recovery, there was a disagreeable silent
remembrance of her having strangled her sister's canary-bird in a final
fit of exasperation at its shrill singing which had again and again
jarringly interrupted her own. She had taken pains to buy a white mouse
for her sister in retribution, and though inwardly excusing herself on
the ground of a peculiar sensitiveness which was a mark of her general
superiority, the thought of that infelonious murder had always made her
wince. Gwendolen's nature was not remorseless, but she liked to make
her penances easy, and now that she was twenty and more, some of her
native force had turned into a self-control by which she guarded
herself from penitential humiliation. There was more show of fire and
will in her than ever, but there was more calculation underneath it.

On this day of arrival at Offendene, which not even Mrs. Davilow had
seen before--the place having been taken for her by her brother-in-law,
Mr. Gascoigne--when all had got down from the carriage, and were
standing under the porch in front of the open door, so that they could
have a general view of the place and a glimpse of the stone hall and
staircase hung with sombre pictures, but enlivened by a bright wood
fire, no one spoke; mamma, the four sisters and the governess all
looked at Gwendolen, as if their feelings depended entirely on her
decision. Of the girls, from Alice in her sixteenth year to Isabel in
her tenth, hardly anything could be said on a first view, but that they
were girlish, and that their black dresses were getting shabby. Miss
Merry was elderly and altogether neutral in expression. Mrs. Davilow's
worn beauty seemed the more pathetic for the look of entire appeal
which she cast at Gwendolen, who was glancing round at the house, the
landscape and the entrance hall with an air of rapid judgment. Imagine
a young race-horse in the paddock among untrimmed ponies and patient
hacks.

"Well, dear, what do you think of the place," said Mrs. Davilow at
last, in a gentle, deprecatory tone.

"I think it is charming," said Gwendolen, quickly. "A romantic place;
anything delightful may happen in it; it would be a good background for
anything. No one need be ashamed of living here."

"There is certainly nothing common about it."

"Oh, it would do for fallen royalty or any sort of grand poverty. We
ought properly to have been living in splendor, and have come down to
this. It would have been as romantic as could be. But I thought my
uncle and aunt Gascoigne would be here to meet us, and my cousin Anna,"
added Gwendolen, her tone changed to sharp surprise.

"We are early," said Mrs. Davilow, and entering the hall, she said to
the housekeeper who came forward, "You expect Mr. and Mrs. Gascoigne?"

"Yes, madam; they were here yesterday to give particular orders about
the fires and the dinner. But as to fires, I've had 'em in all the
rooms for the last week, and everything is well aired. I could wish
some of the furniture paid better for all the cleaning it's had, but I
_think_ you'll see the brasses have been done justice to. I _think_
when Mr. and Mrs. Gascoigne come, they'll tell you nothing has been
neglected. They'll be here at five, for certain."

This satisfied Gwendolen, who was not prepared to have their arrival
treated with indifference; and after tripping a little way up the
matted stone staircase to take a survey there, she tripped down again,
and followed by all the girls looked into each of the rooms opening
from the hall--the dining-room all dark oak and worn red satin damask,
with a copy of snarling, worrying dogs from Snyders over the
side-board, and a Christ breaking bread over the mantel-piece; the
library with a general aspect and smell of old brown-leather; and
lastly, the drawing-room, which was entered through a small antechamber
crowded with venerable knick-knacks.

"Mamma, mamma, pray come here!" said Gwendolen, Mrs. Davilow having
followed slowly in talk with the housekeeper. "Here is an organ. I will
be Saint Cecilia: some one shall paint me as Saint Cecilia. Jocosa
(this was her name for Miss Merry), let down my hair. See, mamma?"

She had thrown off her hat and gloves, and seated herself before the
organ in an admirable pose, looking upward; while the submissive and
sad Jocosa took out the one comb which fastened the coil of hair, and
then shook out the mass till it fell in a smooth light-brown stream far
below its owner's slim waist.

Mrs. Davilow smiled and said, "A charming picture, my dear!" not
indifferent to the display of her pet, even in the presence of a
housekeeper. Gwendolen rose and laughed with delight. All this seemed
quite to the purpose on entering a new house which was so excellent a
background.

"What a queer, quaint, picturesque room!" she went on, looking about
her. "I like these old embroidered chairs, and the garlands on the
wainscot, and the pictures that may be anything. That one with the
ribs--nothing but ribs and darkness--I should think that is Spanish,
mamma."

"Oh, Gwendolen!" said the small Isabel, in a tone of astonishment,
while she held open a hinged panel of the wainscot at the other end of
the room.

Every one, Gwendolen first, went to look. The opened panel had
disclosed the picture of an upturned dead face, from which an obscure
figure seemed to be fleeing with outstretched arms. "How horrible!"
said Mrs. Davilow, with a look of mere disgust; but Gwendolen shuddered
silently, and Isabel, a plain and altogether inconvenient child with an
alarming memory, said,

"You will never stay in this room by yourself, Gwendolen."

"How dare you open things which were meant to be shut up, you perverse
little creature?" said Gwendolen, in her angriest tone. Then snatching
the panel out of the hand of the culprit, she closed it hastily,
saying, "There is a lock--where is the key? Let the key be found, or
else let one be made, and let nobody open it again; or rather, let the
key be brought to me."

At this command to everybody in general Gwendolen turned with a face
which was flushed in reaction from her chill shudder, and said, "Let us
go up to our own room, mamma."

The housekeeper on searching found the key in the drawer of the cabinet
close by the panel, and presently handed it to Bugle, the lady's-maid,
telling her significantly to give it to her Royal Highness.

"I don't know what you mean, Mrs. Startin," said Bugle, who had been
busy up-stairs during the scene in the drawing-room, and was rather
offended at this irony in a new servant.

"I mean the young lady that's to command us all--and well worthy for
looks and figure," replied Mrs. Startin in propitiation. "She'll know
what key it is."

"If you have laid out what we want, go and see to the others, Bugle,"
Gwendolen had said, when she and Mrs. Davilow entered their black and
yellow bedroom, where a pretty little white couch was prepared by the
side of the black and yellow catafalque known as the best bed. "I will
help mamma."

But her first movement was to go to the tall mirror between the
windows, which reflected herself and the room completely, while her
mamma sat down and also looked at the reflection.

"That is a becoming glass, Gwendolen; or is it the black and gold color
that sets you off?" said Mrs. Davilow, as Gwendolen stood obliquely
with her three-quarter face turned toward the mirror, and her left hand
brushing back the stream of hair.

"I should make a tolerable St. Cecilia with some white roses on my
head," said Gwendolen,--"only how about my nose, mamma? I think saint's
noses never in the least turn up. I wish you had given me your
perfectly straight nose; it would have done for any sort of
character--a nose of all work. Mine is only a happy nose; it would not
do so well for tragedy."

"Oh, my dear, any nose will do to be miserable with in this world,"
said Mrs. Davilow, with a deep, weary sigh, throwing her black bonnet
on the table, and resting her elbow near it.

"Now, mamma," said Gwendolen, in a strongly remonstrant tone, turning
away from the glass with an air of vexation, "don't begin to be dull
here. It spoils all my pleasure, and everything may be so happy now.
What have you to be gloomy about _now_?"

"Nothing, dear," said Mrs. Davilow, seeming to rouse herself, and
beginning to take off her dress. "It is always enough for me to see you
happy."

"But you should be happy yourself," said Gwendolen, still
discontentedly, though going to help her mamma with caressing touches.
"Can nobody be happy after they are quite young? You have made me feel
sometimes as if nothing were of any use. With the girls so troublesome,
and Jocosa so dreadfully wooden and ugly, and everything make-shift
about us, and you looking so dull--what was the use of my being
anything? But now you _might_ be happy."

"So I shall, dear," said Mrs. Davilow, patting the cheek that was
bending near her.

"Yes, but really. Not with a sort of make-believe," said Gwendolen,
with resolute perseverance. "See what a hand and arm!--much more
beautiful than mine. Any one can see you were altogether more
beautiful."

"No, no, dear; I was always heavier. Never half so charming as you are."

"Well, but what is the use of my being charming, if it is to end in my
being dull and not minding anything? Is that what marriage always comes
to?"

"No, child, certainly not. Marriage is the only happy state for a
woman, as I trust you will prove."

"I will not put up with it if it is not a happy state. I am determined
to be happy--at least not to go on muddling away my life as other
people do, being and doing nothing remarkable. I have made up my mind
not to let other people interfere with me as they have done. Here is
some warm water ready for you, mamma," Gwendolen ended, proceeding to
take off her own dress and then waiting to have her hair wound up by
her mamma.

There was silence for a minute or two, till Mrs. Davilow said, while
coiling the daughter's hair, "I am sure I have never crossed you,
Gwendolen."

"You often want me to do what I don't like."

"You mean, to give Alice lessons?"

"Yes. And I have done it because you asked me. But I don't see why I
should, else. It bores me to death, she is so slow. She has no ear for
music, or language, or anything else. It would be much better for her
to be ignorant, mamma: it is her _rôle_, she would do it well."

"That is a hard thing to say of your poor sister, Gwendolen, who is so
good to you, and waits on you hand and foot."

"I don't see why it is hard to call things by their right names, and
put them in their proper places. The hardship is for me to have to
waste my time on her. Now let me fasten up your hair, mamma."

"We must make haste; your uncle and aunt will be here soon. For
heaven's sake, don't be scornful to _them_, my dear child! or to your
cousin Anna, whom you will always be going out with. Do promise me,
Gwendolen. You know, you can't expect Anna to be equal to you."

"I don't want her to be equal," said Gwendolen, with a toss of her head
and a smile, and the discussion ended there.

When Mr. and Mrs. Gascoigne and their daughter came, Gwendolen, far
from being scornful, behaved as prettily as possible to them. She was
introducing herself anew to relatives who had not seen her since the
comparatively unfinished age of sixteen, and she was anxious--no, not
anxious, but resolved that they should admire her.

Mrs. Gascoigne bore a family likeness to her sister. But she was darker
and slighter, her face was unworn by grief, her movements were less
languid, her expression more alert and critical as that of a rector's
wife bound to exert a beneficent authority. Their closest resemblance
lay in a non-resistant disposition, inclined to imitation and
obedience; but this, owing to the difference in their circumstances,
had led them to very different issues. The younger sister had been
indiscreet, or at least unfortunate in her marriages; the elder
believed herself the most enviable of wives, and her pliancy had ended
in her sometimes taking shapes of surprising definiteness. Many of her
opinions, such as those on church government and the character of
Archbishop Laud, seemed too decided under every alteration to have been
arrived at otherwise than by a wifely receptiveness. And there was much
to encourage trust in her husband's authority. He had some agreeable
virtues, some striking advantages, and the failings that were imputed
to him all leaned toward the side of success.

One of his advantages was a fine person, which perhaps was even more
impressive at fifty-seven than it had been earlier in life. There were
no distinctively clerical lines in the face, no tricks of starchiness
or of affected ease: in his Inverness cape he could not have been
identified except as a gentleman with handsome dark features, a nose
which began with an intention to be aquiline but suddenly became
straight, and iron-gray hair. Perhaps he owed this freedom from the
sort of professional make-up which penetrates skin, tones and gestures
and defies all drapery, to the fact that he had once been Captain
Gaskin, having taken orders and a diphthong but shortly before his
engagement to Miss Armyn. If any one had objected that his preparation
for the clerical function was inadequate, his friends might have asked
who made a better figure in it, who preached better or had more
authority in his parish? He had a native gift for administration, being
tolerant both of opinions and conduct, because he felt himself able to
overrule them, and was free from the irritations of conscious
feebleness. He smiled pleasantly at the foible of a taste which he did
not share--at floriculture or antiquarianism for example, which were
much in vogue among his fellow-clergyman in the diocese: for himself,
he preferred following the history of a campaign, or divining from his
knowledge of Nesselrode's motives what would have been his conduct if
our cabinet had taken a different course. Mr. Gascoigne's tone of
thinking after some long-quieted fluctuations had become ecclesiastical
rather than theological; not the modern Anglican, but what he would
have called sound English, free from nonsense; such as became a man who
looked at a national religion by daylight, and saw it in its relation
to other things. No clerical magistrate had greater weight at sessions,
or less of mischievous impracticableness in relation to worldly
affairs. Indeed, the worst imputation thrown out against him was
worldliness: it could not be proved that he forsook the less fortunate,
but it was not to be denied that the friendships he cultivated were of
a kind likely to be useful to the father of six sons and two daughters;
and bitter observers--for in Wessex, say ten years ago, there were
persons whose bitterness may now seem incredible--remarked that the
color of his opinions had changed in consistency with this principle of
action. But cheerful, successful worldliness has a false air of being
more selfish than the acrid, unsuccessful kind, whose secret history is
summed up in the terrible words, "Sold, but not paid for."

Gwendolen wondered that she had not better remembered how very fine a
man her uncle was; but at the age of sixteen she was a less capable and
more indifferent judge. At present it was a matter of extreme interest
to her that she was to have the near countenance of a dignified male
relative, and that the family life would cease to be entirely,
insipidly feminine. She did not intend that her uncle should control
her, but she saw at once that it would be altogether agreeable to her
that he should be proud of introducing her as his niece. And there was
every sign of his being likely to feel that pride. He certainly looked
at her with admiration as he said,

"You have outgrown Anna, my dear," putting his arm tenderly round his
daughter, whose shy face was a tiny copy of his own, and drawing her
forward. "She is not so old as you by a year, but her growing days are
certainly over. I hope you will be excellent companions."

He did give a comparing glance at his daughter, but if he saw her
inferiority, he might also see that Anna's timid appearance and
miniature figure must appeal to a different taste from that which was
attracted by Gwendolen, and that the girls could hardly be rivals.
Gwendolen at least, was aware of this, and kissed her cousin with real
cordiality as well as grace, saying, "A companion is just what I want.
I am so glad we are come to live here. And mamma will be much happier
now she is near you, aunt."

The aunt trusted indeed that it would be so, and felt it a blessing
that a suitable home had been vacant in their uncle's parish. Then, of
course, notice had to be taken of the four other girls, whom Gwendolen
had always felt to be superfluous: all of a girlish average that made
four units utterly unimportant, and yet from her earliest days an
obtrusive influential fact in her life. She was conscious of having
been much kinder to them than could have been expected. And it was
evident to her that her uncle and aunt also felt it a pity there were
so many girls:--what rational person could feel otherwise, except poor
mamma, who never would see how Alice set up her shoulders and lifted
her eyebrows till she had no forehead left, how Bertha and Fanny
whispered and tittered together about everything, or how Isabel was
always listening and staring and forgetting where she was, and treading
on the toes of her suffering elders?

"You have brothers, Anna," said Gwendolen, while the sisters were being
noticed. "I think you are enviable there."

"Yes," said Anna, simply. "I am very fond of them; but of course their
education is a great anxiety to papa. He used to say they made me a
tomboy. I really was a great romp with Rex. I think you will like Rex.
He will come home before Christmas."

"I remember I used to think you rather wild and shy; but it is
difficult now to imagine you a romp," said Gwendolen, smiling.

"Of course, I am altered now; I am come out, and all that. But in
reality I like to go blackberrying with Edwy and Lotta as well as ever.
I am not very fond of going out; but I dare say I shall like it better
now you will be often with me. I am not at all clever, and I never know
what to say. It seems so useless to say what everybody knows, and I can
think of nothing else, except what papa says."

"I shall like going out with you very much," said Gwendolen, well
disposed toward this _naïve_ cousin. "Are you fond of riding?"

"Yes, but we have only one Shetland pony amongst us. Papa says he can't
afford more, besides the carriage-horses and his own nag; he has so
many expenses."

"I intend to have a horse and ride a great deal now," said Gwendolen,
in a tone of decision. "Is the society pleasant in this neighborhood?"

"Papa says it is, very. There are the clergymen all about, you know;
and the Quallons, and the Arrowpoints, and Lord Brackenshaw, and Sir
Hugo Mallinger's place, where there is nobody--that's very nice,
because we make picnics there--and two or three families at Wanchester:
oh, and old Mrs. Vulcany, at Nuttingwood, and--"

But Anna was relieved of this tax on her descriptive powers by the
announcement of dinner, and Gwendolen's question was soon indirectly
answered by her uncle, who dwelt much on the advantages he had secured
for them in getting a place like Offendene. Except the rent, it
involved no more expense than an ordinary house at Wanchester would
have done.

"And it is always worth while to make a little sacrifice for a good
style of house," said Mr. Gascoigne, in his easy, pleasantly confident
tone, which made the world in general seem a very manageable place of
residence: "especially where there is only a lady at the head. All the
best people will call upon you; and you need give no expensive dinners.
Of course, I have to spend a good deal in that way; it is a large item.
But then I get my house for nothing. If I had to pay three hundred a
year for my house I could not keep a table. My boys are too great a
drain on me. You are better off than we are, in proportion; there is no
great drain on you now, after your house and carriage."

"I assure you, Fanny, now that the children are growing up, I am
obliged to cut and contrive," said Mrs. Gascoigne. "I am not a good
manager by nature, but Henry has taught me. He is wonderful for making
the best of everything; he allows himself no extras, and gets his
curates for nothing. It is rather hard that he has not been made a
prebendary or something, as others have been, considering the friends
he has made and the need there is for men of moderate opinions in all
respects. If the Church is to keep its position, ability and character
ought to tell."

"Oh, my dear Nancy, you forget the old story--thank Heaven, there are
three hundred as good as I. And ultimately, we shall have no reason to
complain, I am pretty sure. There could hardly be a more thorough
friend than Lord Brackenshaw--your landlord, you know, Fanny. Lady
Brackenshaw will call upon you. And I have spoken for Gwendolen to be a
member of our Archery Club--the Brackenshaw Archery Club--the most
select thing anywhere. That is, if she has no objection," added Mr.
Gascoigne, looking at Gwendolen with pleasant irony.

"I should like it of all things," said Gwendolen. "There is nothing I
enjoy more than taking aim--and hitting," she ended, with a pretty nod
and smile.

"Our Anna, poor child, is too short-sighted for archery. But I consider
myself a first-rate shot, and you shall practice with me. I must make
you an accomplished archer before our great meeting in July. In fact,
as to neighborhood, you could hardly be better placed. There are the
Arrowpoints--they are some of our best people. Miss Arrowpoint is a
delightful girl--she has been presented at Court. They have a
magnificent place--Quetcham Hall--worth seeing in point of art; and
their parties, to which you are sure to be invited, are the best things
of the sort we have. The archdeacon is intimate there, and they have
always a good kind of people staying in the house. Mrs. Arrowpoint is
peculiar, certainly; something of a caricature, in fact; but
well-meaning. And Miss Arrowpoint is as nice as possible. It is not all
young ladies who have mothers as handsome and graceful as yours and
Anna's."

Mrs. Davilow smiled faintly at this little compliment, but the husband
and wife looked affectionately at each other, and Gwendolen thought,
"My uncle and aunt, at least, are happy: they are not dull and dismal."
Altogether, she felt satisfied with her prospects at Offendene, as a
great improvement on anything she had known. Even the cheap curates,
she incidentally learned, were almost always young men of family, and
Mr. Middleton, the actual curate, was said to be quite an acquisition:
it was only a pity he was so soon to leave.

But there was one point which she was so anxious to gain that she could
not allow the evening to pass without taking her measures toward
securing it. Her mamma, she knew, intended to submit entirely to her
uncle's judgment with regard to expenditure; and the submission was not
merely prudential, for Mrs. Davilow, conscious that she had always been
seen under a cloud as poor dear Fanny, who had made a sad blunder with
her second marriage, felt a hearty satisfaction in being frankly and
cordially identified with her sister's family, and in having her
affairs canvassed and managed with an authority which presupposed a
genuine interest. Thus the question of a suitable saddle-horse, which
had been sufficiently discussed with mamma, had to be referred to Mr.
Gascoigne; and after Gwendolen had played on the piano, which had been
provided from Wanchester, had sung to her hearers' admiration, and had
induced her uncle to join her in a duet--what more softening influence
than this on any uncle who would have sung finely if his time had not
been too much taken up by graver matters?--she seized the opportune
moment for saying, "Mamma, you have not spoken to my uncle about my
riding."

"Gwendolen desires above all things to have a horse to ride--a pretty,
light, lady's horse," said Mrs. Davilow, looking at Mr. Gascoigne. "Do
you think we can manage it?"

Mr. Gascoigne projected his lower lip and lifted his handsome eyebrows
sarcastically at Gwendolen, who had seated herself with much grace on
the elbow of her mamma's chair.

"We could lend her the pony sometimes," said Mrs. Gascoigne, watching
her husband's face, and feeling quite ready to disapprove if he did.

"That might be inconveniencing others, aunt, and would be no pleasure
to me. I cannot endure ponies," said Gwendolen. "I would rather give up
some other indulgence and have a horse." (Was there ever a young lady
or gentleman not ready to give up an unspecified indulgence for the
sake of the favorite one specified?)

"She rides so well. She has had lessons, and the riding-master said she
had so good a seat and hand she might be trusted with any mount," said
Mrs. Davilow, who, even if she had not wished her darling to have the
horse, would not have dared to be lukewarm in trying to get it for her.

"There is the price of the horse--a good sixty with the best chance,
and then his keep," said Mr. Gascoigne, in a tone which, though
demurring, betrayed the inward presence of something that favored the
demand. "There are the carriage-horses--already a heavy item. And
remember what you ladies cost in toilet now."

"I really wear nothing but two black dresses," said Mrs. Davilow,
hastily. "And the younger girls, of course, require no toilet at
present. Besides, Gwendolen will save me so much by giving her sisters
lessons." Here Mrs. Davilow's delicate cheek showed a rapid blush. "If
it were not for that, I must really have a more expensive governess,
and masters besides."

Gwendolen felt some anger with her mamma, but carefully concealed it.

"That is good--that is decidedly good," said Mr. Gascoigne, heartily,
looking at his wife. And Gwendolen, who, it must be owned, was a deep
young lady, suddenly moved away to the other end of the long
drawing-room, and busied herself with arranging pieces of music.

"The dear child has had no indulgences, no pleasures," said Mrs.
Davilow, in a pleading undertone. "I feel the expense is rather
imprudent in this first year of our settling. But she really needs the
exercise--she needs cheering. And if you were to see her on horseback,
it is something splendid."

"It is what we could not afford for Anna," said Mrs. Gascoigne. "But
she, dear child, would ride Lotta's donkey and think it good enough."
(Anna was absorbed in a game with Isabel, who had hunted out an old
back-gammon-board, and had begged to sit up an extra hour.)

"Certainly, a fine woman never looks better than on horseback," said
Mr. Gascoigne. "And Gwendolen has the figure for it. I don't say the
thing should not be considered."

"We might try it for a time, at all events. It can be given up, if
necessary," said Mrs. Davilow.

"Well, I will consult Lord Brackenshaw's head groom. He is my _fidus
Achates_ in the horsey way."

"Thanks," said Mrs. Davilow, much relieved. "You are very kind."

"That he always is," said Mrs. Gascoigne. And later that night, when
she and her husband were in private, she said,

"I thought you were almost too indulgent about the horse for Gwendolen.
She ought not to claim so much more than your own daughter would think
of. Especially before we see how Fanny manages on her income. And you
really have enough to do without taking all this trouble on yourself."

"My dear Nancy, one must look at things from every point of view. This
girl is really worth some expense: you don't often see her equal. She
ought to make a first-rate marriage, and I should not be doing my duty
if I spared my trouble in helping her forward. You know yourself she
has been under a disadvantage with such a father-in-law, and a second
family, keeping her always in the shade. I feel for the girl, And I
should like your sister and her family now to have the benefit of your
having married rather a better specimen of our kind than she did."

"Rather better! I should think so. However, it is for me to be grateful
that you will take so much on your shoulders for the sake of my sister
and her children. I am sure I would not grudge anything to poor Fanny.
But there is one thing I have been thinking of, though you have never
mentioned it."

"What is that?"

"The boys. I hope they will not be falling in love with Gwendolen."

"Don't presuppose anything of the kind, my dear, and there will be no
danger. Rex will never be at home for long together, and Warham is
going to India. It is the wiser plan to take it for granted that
cousins will not fall in love. If you begin with precautions, the
affair will come in spite of them. One must not undertake to act for
Providence in these matters, which can no more be held under the hand
than a brood of chickens. The boys will have nothing, and Gwendolen
will have nothing. They can't marry. At the worst there would only be a
little crying, and you can't save boys and girls from that."

Mrs. Gascoigne's mind was satisfied: if anything did happen, there was
the comfort of feeling that her husband would know what was to be done,
and would have the energy to do it.



CHAPTER IV.

    "_Gorgibus._-- * * * Je te dis que le mariage est une chose sainte
    et sacrée: et que c'est faire en honnêtes gens, que de débuter par là.

    "_Madelon._--Mon Dieu! que si tout le monde vous ressemblait, un
    roman serait bientôt fini! La belle chose que ce serait, si d'abord
    Cyrus épousait Mandane, et qu'Aronce de plain-pied fût marié à Clélie!
    * * * Laissez-nous faire à loisir le tissu de notre roman, et n'en
    pressez pas tant la conclusion."
                               MOLIÈRE. _Les Précieuses Ridicules._


It would be a little hard to blame the rector of Pennicote that in the
course of looking at things from every point of view, he looked at
Gwendolen as a girl likely to make a brilliant marriage. Why should he
be expected to differ from his contemporaries in this matter, and wish
his niece a worse end of her charming maidenhood than they would
approve as the best possible? It is rather to be set down to his credit
that his feelings on the subject were entirely good-natured. And in
considering the relation of means to ends, it would have been mere
folly to have been guided by the exceptional and idyllic--to have
recommended that Gwendolen should wear a gown as shabby as Griselda's
in order that a marquis might fall in love with her, or to have
insisted that since a fair maiden was to be sought, she should keep
herself out of the way. Mr. Gascoigne's calculations were of the kind
called rational, and he did not even think of getting a too frisky
horse in order that Gwendolen might be threatened with an accident and
be rescued by a man of property. He wished his niece well, and he meant
her to be seen to advantage in the best society of the neighborhood.

Her uncle's intention fell in perfectly with Gwendolen's own wishes.
But let no one suppose that she also contemplated a brilliant marriage
as the direct end of her witching the world with her grace on
horseback, or with any other accomplishment. That she was to be married
some time or other she would have felt obliged to admit; and that her
marriage would not be of a middling kind, such as most girls were
contented with, she felt quietly, unargumentatively sure. But her
thoughts never dwelt on marriage as the fulfillment of her ambition;
the dramas in which she imagined herself a heroine were not wrought up
to that close. To be very much sued or hopelessly sighed for as a bride
was indeed an indispensable and agreeable guarantee of womanly power;
but to become a wife and wear all the domestic fetters of that
condition, was on the whole a vexatious necessity. Her observation of
matrimony had inclined her to think it rather a dreary state in which a
woman could not do what she liked, had more children than were
desirable, was consequently dull, and became irrevocably immersed in
humdrum. Of course marriage was social promotion; she could not look
forward to a single life; but promotions have sometimes to be taken
with bitter herbs--a peerage will not quite do instead of leadership to
the man who meant to lead; and this delicate-limbed sylph of twenty
meant to lead. For such passions dwell in feminine breasts also. In
Gwendolen's, however, they dwelt among strictly feminine furniture, and
had no disturbing reference to the advancement of learning or the
balance of the constitution; her knowledge being such as with no sort
of standing-room or length of lever could have been expected to move
the world. She meant to do what was pleasant to herself in a striking
manner; or rather, whatever she could do so as to strike others with
admiration and get in that reflected way a more ardent sense of living,
seemed pleasant to her fancy.

"Gwendolen will not rest without having the world at her feet," said
Miss Merry, the meek governess: hyperbolical words which have long come
to carry the most moderate meanings; for who has not heard of private
persons having the world at their feet in the shape of some half-dozen
items of flattering regard generally known in a genteel suburb? And
words could hardly be too wide or vague to indicate the prospect that
made a hazy largeness about poor Gwendolen on the heights of her young
self-exultation. Other people allowed themselves to be made slaves of,
and to have their lives blown hither and thither like empty ships in
which no will was present. It was not to be so with her; she would no
longer be sacrificed to creatures worth less than herself, but would
make the very best of the chances that life offered her, and conquer
circumstances by her exceptional cleverness. Certainly, to be settled
at Offendene, with the notice of Lady Brackenshaw, the archery club,
and invitations to dine with the Arrowpoints, as the highest lights in
her scenery, was not a position that seemed to offer remarkable
chances; but Gwendolen's confidence lay chiefly in herself. She felt
well equipped for the mastery of life. With regard to much in her lot
hitherto, she held herself rather hardly dealt with, but as to her
"education," she would have admitted that it had left her under no
disadvantages. In the school-room her quick mind had taken readily that
strong starch of unexplained rules and disconnected facts which saves
ignorance from any painful sense of limpness; and what remained of all
things knowable, she was conscious of being sufficiently acquainted
with through novels, plays and poems. About her French and music, the
two justifying accomplishments of a young lady, she felt no ground for
uneasiness; and when to all these qualifications, negative and
positive, we add the spontaneous sense of capability some happy persons
are born with, so that any subject they turn their attention to
impresses them with their own power of forming a correct judgment on
it, who can wonder if Gwendolen felt ready to manage her own destiny?

There were many subjects in the world--perhaps the majority--in which
she felt no interest, because they were stupid; for subjects are apt to
appear stupid to the young as light seems dull to the old; but she
would not have felt at all helpless in relation to them if they had
turned up in conversation. It must be remembered that no one had
disputed her power or her general superiority. As on the arrival at
Offendene, so always, the first thought of those about her had been,
what will Gwendolen think?--if the footman trod heavily in creaking
boots, or if the laundress's work was unsatisfactory, the maid said,
"This will never do for Miss Harleth"; if the wood smoked in the
bedroom fireplace, Mrs. Davilow, whose own weak eyes suffered much from
this inconvenience, spoke apologetically of it to Gwendolen. If, when
they were under the stress of traveling, she did not appear at the
breakfast table till every one else had finished, the only question
was, how Gwendolen's coffee and toast should still be of the hottest
and crispest; and when she appeared with her freshly-brushed
light-brown hair streaming backward and awaiting her mamma's hand to
coil it up, her large brown eyes glancing bright as a wave-washed onyx
from under their long lashes, it was always she herself who had to be
tolerant--to beg that Alice who sat waiting on her would not stick up
her shoulders in that frightful manner, and that Isabel, instead of
pushing up to her and asking questions, would go away to Miss Merry.

Always she was the princess in exile, who in time of famine was to have
her breakfast-roll made of the finest-bolted flour from the seven thin
ears of wheat, and in a general decampment was to have her silver fork
kept out of the baggage. How was this to be accounted for? The answer
may seem to lie quite on the surface:--in her beauty, a certain
unusualness about her, a decision of will which made itself felt in her
graceful movements and clear unhesitating tones, so that if she came
into the room on a rainy day when everybody else was flaccid and the
use of things in general was not apparent to them, there seemed to be a
sudden, sufficient reason for keeping up the forms of life; and even
the waiters at hotels showed the more alacrity in doing away with
crumbs and creases and dregs with struggling flies in them. This potent
charm, added to the fact that she was the eldest daughter, toward whom
her mamma had always been in an apologetic state of mind for the evils
brought on her by a step-father, may seem so full a reason for
Gwendolen's domestic empire, that to look for any other would be to ask
the reason of daylight when the sun is shining. But beware of arriving
at conclusions without comparison. I remember having seen the same
assiduous, apologetic attention awarded to persons who were not at all
beautiful or unusual, whose firmness showed itself in no very graceful
or euphonious way, and who were not eldest daughters with a tender,
timid mother, compunctious at having subjected them to inconveniences.
Some of them were a very common sort of men. And the only point of
resemblance among them all was a strong determination to have what was
pleasant, with a total fearlessness in making themselves disagreeable
or dangerous when they did not get it. Who is so much cajoled and
served with trembling by the weak females of a household as the
unscrupulous male--capable, if he has not free way at home, of going
and doing worse elsewhere? Hence I am forced to doubt whether even
without her potent charm and peculiar filial position Gwendolen might
not still have played the queen in exile, if only she had kept her
inborn energy of egoistic desire, and her power of inspiring fear as to
what she might say or do. However, she had the charm, and those who
feared her were also fond of her; the fear and the fondness being
perhaps both heightened by what may be called the iridescence of her
character--the play of various, nay, contrary tendencies. For Macbeth's
rhetoric about the impossibility of being many opposite things in the
same moment, referred to the clumsy necessities of action and not to
the subtler possibilities of feeling. We cannot speak a loyal word and
be meanly silent; we cannot kill and not kill in the same moment; but a
moment is wide enough for the loyal and mean desire, for the outlash of
a murderous thought and the sharp backward stroke of repentance.



CHAPTER V.

                              "Her wit
  Values itself so highly, that to her
  All matter else seems weak."
           --_Much Ado About Nothing._


Gwendolen's reception in the neighborhood fulfilled her uncle's
expectations. From Brackenshaw Castle to the Firs at Wanchester, where
Mr. Quallon the banker kept a generous house, she was welcomed with
manifest admiration, and even those ladies who did not quite like her,
felt a comfort in having a new, striking girl to invite; for hostesses
who entertain much must make up their parties as ministers make up
their cabinets, on grounds other than personal liking. Then, in order
to have Gwendolen as a guest, it was not necessary to ask any one who
was disagreeable, for Mrs. Davilow always made a quiet, picturesque
figure as a chaperon, and Mr. Gascoigne was everywhere in request for
his own sake.

Among the houses where Gwendolen was not quite liked, and yet invited,
was Quetcham Hall. One of her first invitations was to a large
dinner-party there, which made a sort of general introduction for her
to the society of the neighborhood; for in a select party of thirty and
of well-composed proportions as to age, few visitable families could be
entirely left out. No youthful figure there was comparable to
Gwendolen's as she passed through the long suite of rooms adorned with
light and flowers, and, visible at first as a slim figure floating
along in white drapery, approached through one wide doorway after
another into fuller illumination and definiteness. She had never had
that sort of promenade before, and she felt exultingly that it befitted
her: any one looking at her for the first time might have supposed that
long galleries and lackeys had always been a matter of course in her
life; while her cousin Anna, who was really more familiar with these
things, felt almost as much embarrassed as a rabbit suddenly deposited
in that well-lit-space.

"Who is that with Gascoigne?" said the archdeacon, neglecting a
discussion of military manoeuvres on which, as a clergyman, he was
naturally appealed to. And his son, on the other side of the room--a
hopeful young scholar, who had already suggested some "not less elegant
than ingenious," emendations of Greek texts--said nearly at the same
time, "By George! who is that girl with the awfully well-set head and
jolly figure?"

But to a mind of general benevolence, wishing everybody to look well,
it was rather exasperating to see how Gwendolen eclipsed others: how
even the handsome Miss Lawe, explained to be the daughter of Lady Lawe,
looked suddenly broad, heavy and inanimate; and how Miss Arrowpoint,
unfortunately also dressed in white, immediately resembled a
_carte-de-visite_ in which one would fancy the skirt alone to have been
charged for. Since Miss Arrowpoint was generally liked for the amiable
unpretending way in which she wore her fortunes, and made a softening
screen for the oddities of her mother, there seemed to be some
unfitness in Gwendolen's looking so much more like a person of social
importance.

"She is not really so handsome if you come to examine her features,"
said Mrs. Arrowpoint, later in the evening, confidentially to Mrs.
Vulcany. "It is a certain style she has, which produces a great effect
at first, but afterward she is less agreeable."

In fact, Gwendolen, not intending it, but intending the contrary, had
offended her hostess, who, though not a splenetic or vindictive woman,
had her susceptibilities. Several conditions had met in the Lady of
Quetcham which to the reasoners in that neighborhood seemed to have an
essential connection with each other. It was occasionally recalled that
she had been the heiress of a fortune gained by some moist or dry
business in the city, in order fully to account for her having a squat
figure, a harsh parrot-like voice, and a systematically high
head-dress; and since these points made her externally rather
ridiculous, it appeared to many only natural that she should have what
are called literary tendencies. A little comparison would have shown
that all these points are to be found apart; daughters of aldermen
being often well-grown and well-featured, pretty women having sometimes
harsh or husky voices, and the production of feeble literature being
found compatible with the most diverse forms of _physique_, masculine
as well as feminine.

Gwendolen, who had a keen sense of absurdity in others, but was kindly
disposed toward any one who could make life agreeable to her, meant to
win Mrs. Arrowpoint by giving her an interest and attention beyond what
others were probably inclined to show. But self-confidence is apt to
address itself to an imaginary dullness in others; as people who are
well off speak in a cajoling tone to the poor, and those who are in the
prime of life raise their voice and talk artificially to seniors,
hastily conceiving them to be deaf and rather imbecile. Gwendolen, with
all her cleverness and purpose to be agreeable, could not escape that
form of stupidity: it followed in her mind, unreflectingly, that
because Mrs. Arrowpoint was ridiculous she was also likely to be
wanting in penetration, and she went through her little scenes without
suspicion that the various shades of her behavior were all noted.

"You are fond of books as well as of music, riding, and archery, I
hear," Mrs. Arrowpoint said, going to her for a _tete-à-tete_ in the
drawing-room after dinner. "Catherine will be very glad to have so
sympathetic a neighbor." This little speech might have seemed the most
graceful politeness, spoken in a low, melodious tone; but with a twang,
fatally loud, it gave Gwendolen a sense of exercising patronage when
she answered, gracefully:

"It is I who am fortunate. Miss Arrowpoint will teach me what good
music is. I shall be entirely a learner. I hear that she is a thorough
musician."

"Catherine has certainly had every advantage. We have a first-rate
musician in the house now--Herr Klesmer; perhaps you know all his
compositions. You must allow me to introduce him to you. You sing, I
believe. Catherine plays three instruments, but she does not sing. I
hope you will let us hear you. I understand you are an accomplished
singer."

"Oh, no!--'die Kraft ist schwach, allein die Lust ist gross,' as
Mephistopheles says."

"Ah, you are a student of Goethe. Young ladies are so advanced now. I
suppose you have read everything."

"No, really. I shall be so glad if you will tell me what to read. I
have been looking into all the books in the library at Offendene, but
there is nothing readable. The leaves all stick together and smell
musty. I wish I could write books to amuse myself, as you can! How
delightful it must be to write books after one's own taste instead of
reading other people's! Home-made books must be so nice."

For an instant Mrs. Arrowpoint's glance was a little sharper, but the
perilous resemblance to satire in the last sentence took the hue of
girlish simplicity when Gwendolen added,

"I would give anything to write a book!"

"And why should you not?" said Mrs. Arrowpoint, encouragingly. "You
have but to begin as I did. Pen, ink, and paper are at everybody's
command. But I will send you all I have written with pleasure."

"Thanks. I shall be so glad to read your writings. Being acquainted
with authors must give a peculiar understanding of their books: one
would be able to tell then which parts were funny and which serious. I
am sure I often laugh in the wrong place." Here Gwendolen herself
became aware of danger, and added quickly, "In Shakespeare, you know,
and other great writers that we can never see. But I always want to
know more than there is in the books."

"If you are interested in any of my subjects I can lend you many extra
sheets in manuscript," said Mrs. Arrowpoint--while Gwendolen felt
herself painfully in the position of the young lady who professed to
like potted sprats.

"These are things I dare say I shall publish eventually: several
friends have urged me to do so, and one doesn't like to be obstinate.
My Tasso, for example--I could have made it twice the size."

"I dote on Tasso," said Gwendolen.

"Well, you shall have all my papers, if you like. So many, you know,
have written about Tasso; but they are all wrong. As to the particular
nature of his madness, and his feelings for Leonora, and the real cause
of his imprisonment, and the character of Leonora, who, in my opinion,
was a cold-hearted woman, else she would have married him in spite of
her brother--they are all wrong. I differ from everybody."

"How very interesting!" said Gwendolen. "I like to differ from
everybody. I think it is so stupid to agree. That is the worst of
writing your opinions; you make people agree with you." This speech
renewed a slight suspicion in Mrs. Arrowpoint, and again her glance
became for a moment examining. But Gwendolen looked very innocent, and
continued with a docile air:

"I know nothing of Tasso except the _Gerusalemme Liberata_, which we
read and learned by heart at school."

"Ah, his life is more interesting than his poetry, I have constructed
the early part of his life as a sort of romance. When one thinks of his
father Bernardo, and so on, there is much that must be true."

"Imagination is often truer than fact," said Gwendolen, decisively,
though she could no more have explained these glib words than if they
had been Coptic or Etruscan. "I shall be so glad to learn all about
Tasso--and his madness especially. I suppose poets are always a little
mad."

"To be sure--'the poet's eye in a fine frenzy rolling'; and somebody
says of Marlowe,

  'For that fine madness still he did maintain,
  Which always should possess the poet's brain.'"

"But it was not always found out, was it?" said Gwendolen innocently.
"I suppose some of them rolled their eyes in private. Mad people are
often very cunning."

Again a shade flitted over Mrs. Arrowpoint's face; but the entrance of
the gentlemen prevented any immediate mischief between her and this too
quick young lady, who had over-acted her _naïveté_.

"Ah, here comes Herr Klesmer," said Mrs. Arrowpoint, rising; and
presently bringing him to Gwendolen, she left them to a dialogue which
was agreeable on both sides, Herr Klesmer being a felicitous
combination of the German, the Sclave and the Semite, with grand
features, brown hair floating in artistic fashion, and brown eyes in
spectacles. His English had little foreignness except its fluency; and
his alarming cleverness was made less formidable just then by a certain
softening air of silliness which will sometimes befall even Genius in
the desire of being agreeable to Beauty.

Music was soon begun. Miss Arrowpoint and Herr Klesmer played a
four-handed piece on two pianos, which convinced the company in general
that it was long, and Gwendolen in particular that the neutral,
placid-faced Miss Arrowpoint had a mastery of the instrument which put
her own execution out of question--though she was not discouraged as to
her often-praised touch and style. After this every one became anxious
to hear Gwendolen sing; especially Mr. Arrowpoint; as was natural in a
host and a perfect gentleman, of whom no one had anything to say but
that he married Miss Cuttler and imported the best cigars; and he led
her to the piano with easy politeness. Herr Klesmer closed the
instrument in readiness for her, and smiled with pleasure at her
approach; then placed himself at a distance of a few feet so that he
could see her as she sang.

Gwendolen was not nervous; what she undertook to do she did without
trembling, and singing was an enjoyment to her. Her voice was a
moderately powerful soprano (some one had told her it was like Jenny
Lind's), her ear good, and she was able to keep in tune, so that her
singing gave pleasure to ordinary hearers, and she had been used to
unmingled applause. She had the rare advantage of looking almost
prettier when she was singing than at other times, and that Herr
Klesmer was in front of her seemed not disagreeable. Her song,
determined on beforehand, was a favorite aria of Belini's, in which she
felt quite sure of herself.

"Charming!" said Mr. Arrowpoint, who had remained near, and the word
was echoed around without more insincerity than we recognize in a
brotherly way as human. But Herr Klesmer stood like a statue--if a
statue can be imagined in spectacles; at least, he was as mute as a
statue. Gwendolen was pressed to keep her seat and double the general
pleasure, and she did not wish to refuse; but before resolving to do
so, she moved a little toward Herr Klesmer, saying with a look of
smiling appeal, "It would be too cruel to a great musician. You cannot
like to hear poor amateur singing."

"No, truly; but that makes nothing," said Herr Klesmer, suddenly
speaking in an odious German fashion with staccato endings, quite
unobservable in him before, and apparently depending on a change of
mood, as Irishmen resume their strongest brogue when they are fervid or
quarrelsome. "That makes nothing. It is always acceptable to see you
sing."

Was there ever so unexpected an assertion of superiority--at least
before the late Teutonic conquest? Gwendolen colored deeply, but, with
her usual presence of mind, did not show an ungraceful resentment by
moving away immediately; and Miss Arrowpoint, who had been near enough
to overhear (and also to observe that Herr Klesmer's mode of looking at
Gwendolen was more conspicuously admiring than was quite consistent
with good taste), now with the utmost tact and kindness came close to
her and said,

"Imagine what I have to go through with this professor! He can hardly
tolerate anything we English do in music. We can only put up with his
severity, and make use of it to find out the worst that can be said of
us. It is a little comfort to know that; and one can bear it when every
one else is admiring."

"I should be very much obliged to him for telling me the worst," said
Gwendolen, recovering herself. "I dare say I have been extremely ill
taught, in addition to having no talent--only liking for music." This
was very well expressed considering that it had never entered her mind
before.

"Yes, it is true: you have not been well taught," said Herr Klesmer,
quietly. Woman was dear to him, but music was dearer. "Still, you are
not quite without gifts. You sing in tune, and you have a pretty fair
organ. But you produce your notes badly; and that music which you sing
is beneath you. It is a form of melody which expresses a puerile state
of culture--a dawdling, canting, see-saw kind of stuff--the passion and
thought of people without any breadth of horizon. There is a sort of
self-satisfied folly about every phrase of such melody; no cries of
deep, mysterious passion--no conflict--no sense of the universal. It
makes men small as they listen to it. Sing now something larger. And I
shall see."

"Oh, not now--by-and-by," said Gwendolen, with a sinking of heart at
the sudden width of horizon opened round her small musical performance.
For a lady desiring to lead, this first encounter in her campaign was
startling. But she was bent on not behaving foolishly, and Miss
Arrowpoint helped her by saying, "Yes, by-and-by. I always require half
an hour to get up my courage after being criticised by Herr Klesmer. We
will ask him to play to us now: he is bound to show us what is good
music."

To be quite safe on this point Herr Klesmer played a composition of his
own, a fantasia called _Freudvoll, Leidvoll, Gedankenvoll_--an
extensive commentary on some melodic ideas not too grossly evident; and
he certainly fetched as much variety and depth of passion out of the
piano as that moderately responsive instrument lends itself to, having
an imperious magic in his fingers that seem to send a nerve-thrill
through ivory key and wooden hammer, and compel the strings to make a
quivering lingering speech for him. Gwendolen, in spite of her wounded
egoism, had fullness of nature enough to feel the power of this
playing, and it gradually turned her inward sob of mortification into
an excitement which lifted her for the moment into a desperate
indifference about her own doings, or at least a determination to get a
superiority over them by laughing at them as if they belonged to
somebody else. Her eyes had become brighter, her cheeks slightly
flushed, and her tongue ready for any mischievous remarks.

"I wish you would sing to us again, Miss Harleth," said young Clintock,
the archdeacon's classical son, who had been so fortunate as to take
her to dinner, and came up to renew conversation as soon as Herr
Klesmer's performance was ended, "That is the style of music for me. I
never can make anything of this tip-top playing. It is like a jar of
leeches, where you can never tell either beginnings or endings. I could
listen to your singing all day."

"Yes, we should be glad of something popular now--another song from you
would be a relaxation," said Mrs. Arrowpoint, who had also come near
with polite intentions.

"That must be because you are in a puerile state of culture, and have
no breadth of horizon. I have just learned that. I have been taught how
bad my taste is, and am feeling growing pains. They are never
pleasant," said Gwendolen, not taking any notice of Mrs. Arrowpoint,
and looking up with a bright smile at young Clintock.

Mrs. Arrowpoint was not insensible to this rudeness, but merely said,
"Well, we will not press anything disagreeably," and as there was a
perceptible outburst of imprisoned conversation just then, and a
movement of guests seeking each other, she remained seated where she
was, and looked around her with the relief of a hostess at finding she
is not needed.

"I am glad you like this neighborhood," said young Clintock,
well-pleased with his station in front of Gwendolen.

"Exceedingly. There seems to be a little of everything and not much of
anything."

"That is rather equivocal praise."

"Not with me. I like a little of everything; a little absurdity, for
example, is very amusing. I am thankful for a few queer people; but
much of them is a bore."

(Mrs. Arrowpoint, who was hearing this dialogue, perceived quite a new
tone in Gwendolen's speech, and felt a revival of doubt as to her
interest in Tasso's madness.)

"I think there should be more croquet, for one thing," said young Clintock;
"I am usually away, but if I were more here I should go in for a
croquet club. You are one of the archers, I think. But depend upon it
croquet is the game of the future. It wants writing up, though. One of
our best men has written a poem on it, in four cantos;--as good as
Pope. I want him to publish it--You never read anything better."

"I shall study croquet to-morrow. I shall take to it instead of
singing."

"No, no, not that; but do take to croquet. I will send you Jenning's
poem if you like. I have a manuscript copy."

"Is he a great friend of yours?"

"Well, rather."

"Oh, if he is only rather, I think I will decline. Or, if you send it
to me, will you promise not to catechise me upon it and ask me which
part I like best? Because it is not so easy to know a poem without
reading it as to know a sermon without listening."

"Decidedly," Mrs. Arrowpoint thought, "this girl is double and
satirical. I shall be on my guard against her."

But Gwendolen, nevertheless, continued to receive polite attentions
from the family at Quetcham, not merely because invitations have larger
grounds than those of personal liking, but because the trying little
scene at the piano had awakened a kindly solicitude toward her in the
gentle mind of Miss Arrowpoint, who managed all the invitations and
visits, her mother being otherwise occupied.



CHAPTER VI.

    "Croyez-vous m'avoir humiliée pour m'avoir appris que la terre tourne
    autour du soleil? Je vous jure que je ne m'en estime pas moins."
                                --FONTENELLE: _Pluralité des Mondes_.


That lofty criticism had caused Gwendolen a new sort of pain. She would
not have chosen to confess how unfortunate she thought herself in not
having had Miss Arrowpoint's musical advantages, so as to be able to
question Herr Klesmer's taste with the confidence of thorough
knowledge; still less, to admit even to herself that Miss Arrowpoint
each time they met raised an unwonted feeling of jealousy in her: not
in the least because she was an heiress, but because it was really
provoking that a girl whose appearance you could not characterize
except by saying that her figure was slight and of middle stature, her
features small, her eyes tolerable, and her complexion sallow, had
nevertheless a certain mental superiority which could not be explained
away--an exasperating thoroughness in her musical accomplishment, a
fastidious discrimination in her general tastes, which made it
impossible to force her admiration and kept you in awe of her standard.
This insignificant-looking young lady of four-and-twenty, whom any
one's eyes would have passed over negligently if she had not been Miss
Arrowpoint, might be suspected of a secret opinion that Miss Harleth's
acquirements were rather of a common order, and such an opinion was not
made agreeable to think of by being always veiled under a perfect
kindness of manner.

But Gwendolen did not like to dwell on facts which threw an unfavorable
light on itself. The musical Magus who had so suddenly widened her
horizon was not always on the scene; and his being constantly backward
and forward between London and Quetcham soon began to be thought of as
offering opportunities for converting him to a more admiring state of
mind. Meanwhile, in the manifest pleasure her singing gave at
Brackenshaw Castle, the Firs, and elsewhere, she recovered her
equanimity, being disposed to think approval more trustworthy than
objection, and not being one of the exceptional persons who have a
parching thirst for a perfection undemanded by their neighbors. Perhaps
it would have been rash to say then that she was at all exceptional
inwardly, or that the unusual in her was more than her rare grace of
movement and bearing, and a certain daring which gave piquancy to a
very common egoistic ambition, such as exists under many clumsy
exteriors and is taken no notice of. For I suppose that the set of the
head does not really determine the hunger of the inner self for
supremacy: it only makes a difference sometimes as to the way in which
the supremacy is held attainable, and a little also to the degree in
which it can be attained; especially when the hungry one is a girl,
whose passion for doing what is remarkable has an ideal limit in
consistency with the highest breeding and perfect freedom from the
sordid need of income. Gwendolen was as inwardly rebellious against the
restraints of family conditions, and as ready to look through
obligations into her own fundamental want of feeling for them, as if
she had been sustained by the boldest speculations; but she really had
no such speculations, and would at once have marked herself off from
any sort of theoretical or practically reforming women by satirizing
them. She rejoiced to feel herself exceptional; but her horizon was
that of the genteel romance where the heroine's soul poured out in her
journal is full of vague power, originality, and general rebellion,
while her life moves strictly in the sphere of fashion; and if she
wanders into a swamp, the pathos lies partly, so to speak, in her
having on her satin shoes. Here is a restraint which nature and society
have provided on the pursuit of striking adventure; so that a soul
burning with a sense of what the universe is not, and ready to take all
existence as fuel, is nevertheless held captive by the ordinary
wirework of social forms and does nothing particular.

This commonplace result was what Gwendolen found herself threatened
with even in the novelty of the first winter at Offendene. What she was
clear upon was, that she did not wish to lead the same sort of life as
ordinary young ladies did; but what she was not clear upon was, how she
should set about leading any other, and what were the particular acts
which she would assert her freedom by doing. Offendene remained a good
background, if anything would happen there; but on the whole the
neighborhood was in fault.

Beyond the effect of her beauty on a first presentation, there was not
much excitement to be got out of her earliest invitations, and she came
home after little sallies of satire and knowingness, such as had
offended Mrs. Arrowpoint, to fill the intervening days with the most
girlish devices. The strongest assertion she was able to make of her
individual claims was to leave out Alice's lessons (on the principle
that Alice was more likely to excel in ignorance), and to employ her
with Miss Merry, and the maid who was understood to wait on all the
ladies, in helping to arrange various dramatic costumes which Gwendolen
pleased herself with having in readiness for some future occasions of
acting in charades or theatrical pieces, occasions which she meant to
bring about by force of will or contrivance. She had never acted--only
made a figure in _tableaux vivans_ at school; but she felt assured that
she could act well, and having been once or twice to the Théâtre
Français, and also heard her mamma speak of Rachel, her waking dreams
and cogitations as to how she would manage her destiny sometimes turned
on the question whether she would become an actress like Rachel, since
she was more beautiful than that thin Jewess. Meanwhile the wet days
before Christmas were passed pleasantly in the preparation of costumes,
Greek, Oriental, and Composite, in which Gwendolen attitudinized and
speechified before a domestic audience, including even the housekeeper,
who was once pressed into it that she might swell the notes of
applause; but having shown herself unworthy by observing that Miss
Harleth looked far more like a queen in her own dress than in that
baggy thing with her arms all bare, she was not invited a second time.

"Do I look as well as Rachel, mamma?" said Gwendolen, one day when she
had been showing herself in her Greek dress to Anna, and going through
scraps of scenes with much tragic intention.

"You have better arms than Rachel," said Mrs. Davilow, "your arms would
do for anything, Gwen. But your voice is not so tragic as hers; it is
not so deep."

"I can make it deeper, if I like," said Gwendolen, provisionally; then
she added, with decision, "I think a higher voice is more tragic: it is
more feminine; and the more feminine a woman is, the more tragic it
seems when she does desperate actions."

"There may be something in that," said Mrs. Davilow, languidly. "But I
don't know what good there is in making one's blood creep. And if there
is anything horrible to be done, I should like it to be left to the
men."

"Oh, mamma, you are so dreadfully prosaic! As if all the great poetic
criminals were not women! I think the men are poor cautious creatures."

"Well, dear, and you--who are afraid to be alone in the night--I don't
think you would be very bold in crime, thank God."

"I am not talking about reality, mamma," said Gwendolen, impatiently.
Then her mamma being called out of the room, she turned quickly to her
cousin, as if taking an opportunity, and said, "Anna, do ask my uncle
to let us get up some charades at the rectory. Mr. Middleton and Warham
could act with us--just for practice. Mamma says it will not do to have
Mr. Middleton consulting and rehearsing here. He is a stick, but we
could give him suitable parts. Do ask, or else I will."

"Oh, not till Rex comes. He is so clever, and such a dear old thing,
and he will act Napoleon looking over the sea. He looks just like
Napoleon. Rex can do anything."

"I don't in the least believe in your Rex, Anna," said Gwendolen,
laughing at her. "He will turn out to be like those wretched blue and
yellow water-colors of his which you hang up in your bedroom and
worship."

"Very well, you will see," said Anna. "It is not that I know what is
clever, but he has got a scholarship already, and papa says he will get
a fellowship, and nobody is better at games. He is cleverer than Mr.
Middleton, and everybody but you call Mr. Middleton clever."

"So he may be in a dark-lantern sort of way. But he _is_ a stick. If he
had to say, 'Perdition catch my soul, but I do love her,' he would say
it in just the same tone as, 'Here endeth the second lesson.'"

"Oh, Gwendolen!" said Anna, shocked at these promiscuous allusions.
"And it is very unkind of you to speak so of him, for he admires you
very much. I heard Warham say one day to mamma, 'Middleton is regularly
spooney upon Gwendolen.' She was very angry with him; but I know what
it means. It is what they say at college for being in love."

"How can I help it?" said Gwendolen, rather contemptuously. "Perdition
catch my soul if I love _him_."

"No, of course; papa, I think, would not wish it. And he is to go away
soon. But it makes me sorry when you ridicule him."

"What shall you do to me when I ridicule Rex?" said Gwendolen, wickedly.

"Now, Gwendolen, dear, you _will not_?" said Anna, her eyes filling
with tears. "I could not bear it. But there really is nothing in him to
ridicule. Only you may find out things. For no one ever thought of
laughing at Mr. Middleton before you. Every one said he was
nice-looking, and his manners perfect. I am sure I have always been
frightened at him because of his learning and his square-cut coat, and
his being a nephew of the bishop's, and all that. But you will not
ridicule Rex--promise me." Anna ended with a beseeching look which
touched Gwendolen.

"You are a dear little coz," she said, just touching the tip of Anna's
chin with her thumb and forefinger. "I don't ever want to do anything
that will vex you. Especially if Rex is to make everything come
off--charades and everything."

And when at last Rex was there, the animation he brought into the life
of Offendene and the rectory, and his ready partnership in Gwendolen's
plans, left her no inclination for any ridicule that was not of an open
and flattering kind, such as he himself enjoyed. He was a fine
open-hearted youth, with a handsome face strongly resembling his
father's and Anna's, but softer in expression than the one, and larger
in scale than the other: a bright, healthy, loving nature, enjoying
ordinary innocent things so much that vice had no temptation for him,
and what he knew of it lay too entirely in the outer courts and
little-visited chambers of his mind for him to think of it with great
repulsion. Vicious habits were with him "what some fellows
did"--"stupid stuff" which he liked to keep aloof from. He returned
Anna's affection as fully as could be expected of a brother whose
pleasures apart from her were more than the sum total of hers; and he
had never known a stronger love.

The cousins were continually together at the one house or the
other--chiefly at Offendene, where there was more freedom, or rather
where there was a more complete sway for Gwendolen; and whatever she
wished became a ruling purpose for Rex. The charades came off according
to her plans; and also some other little scenes not contemplated by her
in which her acting was more impromptu. It was at Offendene that the
charades and _tableaux_ were rehearsed and presented, Mrs. Davilow
seeing no objection even to Mr. Middleton's being invited to share in
them, now that Rex too was there--especially as his services were
indispensable: Warham, who was studying for India with a Wanchester
"coach," having no time to spare, and being generally dismal under a
cram of everything except the answers needed at the forthcoming
examination, which might disclose the welfare of our Indian Empire to
be somehow connected with a quotable knowledge of Browne's Pastorals.

Mr. Middleton was persuaded to play various grave parts, Gwendolen
having flattered him on his enviable immobility of countenance; and at
first a little pained and jealous at her comradeship with Rex, he
presently drew encouragement from the thought that this sort of
cousinly familiarity excluded any serious passion. Indeed, he
occasionally felt that her more formal treatment of himself was such a
sign of favor as to warrant his making advances before he left
Pennicote, though he had intended to keep his feelings in reserve until
his position should be more assured. Miss Gwendolen, quite aware that
she was adored by this unexceptionable young clergyman with pale
whiskers and square-cut collar, felt nothing more on the subject than
that she had no objection to being adored: she turned her eyes on him
with calm mercilessness and caused him many mildly agitating hopes by
seeming always to avoid dramatic contact with him--for all meanings, we
know, depend on the key of interpretation.

Some persons might have thought beforehand that a young man of Anglican
leanings, having a sense of sacredness much exercised on small things
as well as great, rarely laughing save from politeness, and in general
regarding the mention of spades by their naked names as rather coarse,
would not have seen a fitting bride for himself in a girl who was
daring in ridicule, and showed none of the special grace required in
the clergyman's wife; or, that a young man informed by theological
reading would have reflected that he was not likely to meet the taste
of a lively, restless young lady like Miss Harleth. But are we always
obliged to explain why the facts are not what some persons thought
beforehand? The apology lies on their side, who had that erroneous way
of thinking.

As for Rex, who would possibly have been sorry for poor Middleton if he
had been aware of the excellent curate's inward conflict, he was too
completely absorbed in a first passion to have observation for any
person or thing. He did not observe Gwendolen; he only felt what she
said or did, and the back of his head seemed to be a good organ of
information as to whether she was in the room or out. Before the end of
the first fortnight he was so deeply in love that it was impossible for
him to think of his life except as bound up with Gwendolen's. He could
see no obstacles, poor boy; his own love seemed a guarantee of hers,
since it was one with the unperturbed delight in her image, so that he
could no more dream of her giving him pain than an Egyptian could dream
of snow. She sang and played to him whenever he liked, was always glad
of his companionship in riding, though his borrowed steeds were often
comic, was ready to join in any fun of his, and showed a right
appreciation of Anna. No mark of sympathy seemed absent. That because
Gwendolen was the most perfect creature in the world she was to make a
grand match, had not occurred to him. He had no conceit--at least not
more than goes to make up the necessary gum and consistence of a
substantial personality: it was only that in the young bliss of loving
he took Gwendolen's perfection as part of that good which had seemed
one with life to him, being the outcome of a happy, well-embodied
nature.

One incident which happened in the course of their dramatic attempts
impressed Rex as a sign of her unusual sensibility. It showed an aspect
of her nature which could not have been preconceived by any one who,
like him, had only seen her habitual fearlessness in active exercises
and her high spirits in society.

After a good deal of rehearsing it was resolved that a select party
should be invited to Offendene to witness the performances which went
with so much satisfaction to the actors. Anna had caused a pleasant
surprise; nothing could be neater than the way in which she played her
little parts; one would even have suspected her of hiding much sly
observation under her simplicity. And Mr. Middleton answered very well
by not trying to be comic. The main source of doubt and retardation had
been Gwendolen's desire to appear in her Greek dress. No word for a
charade would occur to her either waking or dreaming that suited her
purpose of getting a statuesque pose in this favorite costume. To
choose a motive from Racine was of no use, since Rex and the others
could not declaim French verse, and improvised speeches would turn the
scene into burlesque. Besides, Mr. Gascoigne prohibited the acting of
scenes from plays: he usually protested against the notion that an
amusement which was fitting for every one else was unfitting for a
clergyman; but he would not in this matter overstep the line of decorum
as drawn in that part of Wessex, which did not exclude his sanction of
the young people's acting charades in his sister-in-law's house--a very
different affair from private theatricals in the full sense of the word.

Everybody of course was concerned to satisfy this wish of Gwendolen's,
and Rex proposed that they should wind up with a tableau in which the
effect of her majesty would not be marred by any one's speech. This
pleased her thoroughly, and the only question was the choice of the
tableau.

"Something pleasant, children, I beseech you," said Mrs. Davilow; "I
can't have any Greek wickedness."

"It is no worse than Christian wickedness, mamma," said Gwendolen,
whose mention of Rachelesque heroines had called forth that remark.

"And less scandalous," said Rex. "Besides, one thinks of it as all gone
by and done with. What do you say to Briseis being led away? I would be
Achilles, and you would be looking round at me--after the print we have
at the rectory."

"That would be a good attitude for me," said Gwendolen, in a tone of
acceptance. But afterward she said with decision, "No. It will not do.
There must be three men in proper costume, else it will be ridiculous."

"I have it," said Rex, after a little reflection. "Hermione as the
statue in Winter's Tale? I will be Leontes, and Miss Merry, Paulina,
one on each side. Our dress won't signify," he went on laughingly; "it
will be more Shakespearian and romantic if Leontes looks like Napoleon,
and Paulina like a modern spinster."

And Hermione was chosen; all agreeing that age was of no consequence,
but Gwendolen urged that instead of the mere tableau there should be
just enough acting of the scene to introduce the striking up of the
music as a signal for her to step down and advance; when Leontes,
instead of embracing her, was to kneel and kiss the hem of her garment,
and so the curtain was to fall. The antechamber with folding doors lent
itself admirably to the purpose of a stage, and the whole of the
establishment, with the addition of Jarrett the village carpenter, was
absorbed in the preparations for an entertainment, which, considering
that it was an imitation of acting, was likely to be successful, since
we know from ancient fable that an imitation may have more chance of
success than the original.

Gwendolen was not without a special exultation in the prospect of this
occasion, for she knew that Herr Klesmer was again at Quetcham, and she
had taken care to include him among the invited.

Klesmer came. He was in one of his placid, silent moods, and sat in
serene contemplation, replying to all appeals in benignant-sounding
syllables more or less articulate--as taking up his cross meekly in a
world overgrown with amateurs, or as careful how he moved his lion paws
lest he should crush a rampant and vociferous mouse.

Everything indeed went off smoothly and according to expectation--all
that was improvised and accidental being of a probable sort--until the
incident occurred which showed Gwendolen in an unforeseen phase of
emotion. How it came about was at first a mystery.

The tableau of Hermione was doubly striking from its dissimilarity with
what had gone before: it was answering perfectly, and a murmur of
applause had been gradually suppressed while Leontes gave his
permission that Paulina should exercise her utmost art and make the
statue move.

Hermione, her arm resting on a pillar, was elevated by about six
inches, which she counted on as a means of showing her pretty foot and
instep, when at the given signal she should advance and descend.

"Music, awake her, strike!" said Paulina (Mrs. Davilow, who, by special
entreaty, had consented to take the part in a white burnous and hood).

Herr Klesmer, who had been good-natured enough to seat himself at the
piano, struck a thunderous chord--but in the same instant, and before
Hermione had put forth her foot, the movable panel, which was on a line
with the piano, flew open on the right opposite the stage and disclosed
the picture of the dead face and the fleeing figure, brought out in
pale definiteness by the position of the wax-lights. Everyone was
startled, but all eyes in the act of turning toward the open panel were
recalled by a piercing cry from Gwendolen, who stood without change of
attitude, but with a change of expression that was terrifying in its
terror. She looked like a statue into which a soul of Fear had entered:
her pallid lips were parted; her eyes, usually narrowed under their
long lashes, were dilated and fixed. Her mother, less surprised than
alarmed, rushed toward her, and Rex, too, could not help going to her
side. But the touch of her mother's arm had the effect of an electric
charge; Gwendolen fell on her knees and put her hands before her face.
She was still trembling, but mute, and it seemed that she had
self-consciousness enough to aim at controlling her signs of terror,
for she presently allowed herself to be raised from her kneeling
posture and led away, while the company were relieving their minds by
explanation.

"A magnificent bit of _plastik_ that!" said Klesmer to Miss Arrowpoint.
And a quick fire of undertoned question and answer went round.

"Was it part of the play?"

"Oh, no, surely not. Miss Harleth was too much affected. A sensitive
creature!"

"Dear me! I was not aware that there was a painting behind that panel;
were you?"

"No; how should I? Some eccentricity in one of the Earl's family long
ago, I suppose."

"How very painful! Pray shut it up."

"Was the door locked? It is very mysterious. It must be the spirits."

"But there is no medium present."

"How do you know that? We must conclude that there is, when such things
happen."

"Oh, the door was not locked; it was probably the sudden vibration from
the piano that sent it open."

This conclusion came from Mr. Gascoigne, who begged Miss Merry if
possible to get the key. But this readiness to explain the mystery was
thought by Mrs. Vulcany unbecoming in a clergyman, and she observed in
an undertone that Mr. Gascoigne was always a little too worldly for her
taste. However, the key was produced, and the rector turned it in the
lock with an emphasis rather offensively rationalizing--as who should
say, "it will not start open again"--putting the key in his pocket as a
security.

However, Gwendolen soon reappeared, showing her usual spirits, and
evidently determined to ignore as far as she could the striking change
she had made in the part of Hermione.

But when Klesmer said to her, "We have to thank you for devising a
perfect climax: you could not have chosen a finer bit of _plastik_,"
there was a flush of pleasure in her face. She liked to accept as a
belief what was really no more than delicate feigning. He divined that
the betrayal into a passion of fear had been mortifying to her, and
wished her to understand that he took it for good acting. Gwendolen
cherished the idea that now he was struck with her talent as well as
her beauty, and her uneasiness about his opinion was half turned to
complacency.

But too many were in the secret of what had been included in the
rehearsals, and what had not, and no one besides Klesmer took the
trouble to soothe Gwendolen's imagined mortification. The general
sentiment was that the incident should be let drop.

There had really been a medium concerned in the starting open of the
panel: one who had quitted the room in haste and crept to bed in much
alarm of conscience. It was the small Isabel, whose intense curiosity,
unsatisfied by the brief glimpse she had had of the strange picture on
the day of arrival at Offendene, had kept her on the watch for an
opportunity of finding out where Gwendolen had put the key, of stealing
it from the discovered drawer when the rest of the family were out, and
getting on a stool to unlock the panel. While she was indulging her
thirst for knowledge in this way, a noise which she feared was an
approaching footstep alarmed her: she closed the door and attempted
hurriedly to lock it, but failing and not daring to linger, she
withdrew the key and trusted that the panel would stick, as it seemed
well inclined to do. In this confidence she had returned the key to its
former place, stilling any anxiety by the thought that if the door were
discovered to be unlocked nobody would know how the unlocking came
about. The inconvenient Isabel, like other offenders, did not foresee
her own impulse to confession, a fatality which came upon her the
morning after the party, when Gwendolen said at the breakfast-table, "I
know the door was locked before the housekeeper gave me the key, for I
tried it myself afterward. Some one must have been to my drawer and
taken the key."

It seemed to Isabel that Gwendolen's awful eyes had rested on her more
than on the other sisters, and without any time for resolve, she said,
with a trembling lip:

"Please forgive me, Gwendolen."

The forgiveness was sooner bestowed than it would have been if
Gwendolen had not desired to dismiss from her own and every one else's
memory any case in which she had shown her susceptibility to terror.
She wondered at herself in these occasional experiences, which seemed
like a brief remembered madness, an unexplained exception from her
normal life; and in this instance she felt a peculiar vexation that her
helpless fear had shown itself, not, as usual, in solitude, but in
well-lit company. Her ideal was to be daring in speech and reckless in
braving dangers, both moral and physical; and though her practice fell
far behind her ideal, this shortcoming seemed to be due to the
pettiness of circumstances, the narrow theatre which life offers to a
girl of twenty, who cannot conceive herself as anything else than a
lady, or as in any position which would lack the tribute of respect.
She had no permanent consciousness of other fetters, or of more
spiritual restraints, having always disliked whatever was presented to
her under the name of religion, in the same way that some people
dislike arithmetic and accounts: it had raised no other emotion in her,
no alarm, no longing; so that the question whether she believed it had
not occurred to her any more than it had occurred to her to inquire
into the conditions of colonial property and banking, on which, as she
had had many opportunities of knowing, the family fortune was
dependent. All these facts about herself she would have been ready to
admit, and even, more or less indirectly, to state. What she
unwillingly recognized, and would have been glad for others to be
unaware of, was that liability of hers to fits of spiritual dread,
though this fountain of awe within her had not found its way into
connection with the religion taught her or with any human relations.
She was ashamed and frightened, as at what might happen again, in
remembering her tremor on suddenly feeling herself alone, when, for
example, she was walking without companionship and there came some
rapid change in the light. Solitude in any wide scene impressed her
with an undefined feeling of immeasurable existence aloof from her, in
the midst of which she was helplessly incapable of asserting herself.
The little astronomy taught her at school used sometimes to set her
imagination at work in a way that made her tremble: but always when
some one joined her she recovered her indifference to the vastness in
which she seemed an exile; she found again her usual world in which her
will was of some avail, and the religious nomenclature belonging to
this world was no more identified for her with those uneasy impressions
of awe than her uncle's surplices seen out of use at the rectory. With
human ears and eyes about her, she had always hitherto recovered her
confidence, and felt the possibility of winning empire.

To her mamma and others her fits of timidity or terror were
sufficiently accounted for by her "sensitiveness" or the "excitability
of her nature"; but these explanatory phrases required conciliation
with much that seemed to be blank indifference or rare self-mastery.
Heat is a great agent and a useful word, but considered as a means of
explaining the universe it requires an extensive knowledge of
differences; and as a means of explaining character "sensitiveness" is
in much the same predicament. But who, loving a creature like
Gwendolen, would not be inclined to regard every peculiarity in her as
a mark of preeminence? That was what Rex did. After the Hermione scene
he was more persuaded than ever that she must be instinct with all
feeling, and not only readier to respond to a worshipful love, but able
to love better than other girls. Rex felt the summer on his young wings
and soared happily.



CHAPTER VII.

  "_Perigot_. As the bonny lasse passed by,
    _Willie_. Hey, ho, bonnilasse!
         _P_. She roode at me with glauncing eye,
         _W_. As clear as the crystal glasse.
         _P_. All as the sunny beame so bright,
         _W_. Hey, ho, the sunnebeame!
         _P_. Glaunceth from Phoebus' face forthright,
         _W_. So love into thy heart did streame."
                                    --SPENSER: _Shepard's Calendar_.

    "The kindliest symptom, yet the most alarming crisis in the ticklish
    state of youth; the nourisher and destroyer of hopeful wits; * * * the
    servitude above freedom; the gentle mind's religion; the liberal
    superstition."--CHARLES LAMB.


The first sign of the unimagined snow-storm was like the transparent
white cloud that seems to set off the blue. Anna was in the secret of
Rex's feeling; though for the first time in their lives he had said
nothing to her about what he most thought of, and he only took it for
granted that she knew it. For the first time, too, Anna could not say
to Rex what was continually in her mind. Perhaps it might have been a
pain which she would have had to conceal, that he should so soon care
for some one else more than for herself, if such a feeling had not been
thoroughly neutralized by doubt and anxiety on his behalf. Anna admired
her cousin--would have said with simple sincerity, "Gwendolen is always
very good to me," and held it in the order of things for herself to be
entirely subject to this cousin; but she looked at her with mingled
fear and distrust, with a puzzled contemplation as of some wondrous and
beautiful animal whose nature was a mystery, and who, for anything Anna
knew, might have an appetite for devouring all the small creatures that
were her own particular pets. And now Anna's heart was sinking under
the heavy conviction which she dared not utter, that Gwendolen would
never care for Rex. What she herself held in tenderness and reverence
had constantly seemed indifferent to Gwendolen, and it was easier to
imagine her scorning Rex than returning any tenderness of his. Besides,
she was always thinking of being something extraordinary. And poor Rex!
Papa would be angry with him if he knew. And of course he was too young
to be in love in that way; and she, Anna had thought that it would be
years and years before any thing of that sort came, and that she would
be Rex's housekeeper ever so long. But what a heart must that be which
did not return his love! Anna, in the prospect of his suffering, was
beginning to dislike her too fascinating cousin.

It seemed to her, as it did to Rex, that the weeks had been filled with
a tumultuous life evident to all observers: if he had been questioned
on the subject he would have said that he had no wish to conceal what
he hoped would be an engagement which he should immediately tell his
father of: and yet for the first time in his life he was reserved not
only about his feelings but--which was more remarkable to Anna--about
certain actions. She, on her side, was nervous each time her father or
mother began to speak to her in private lest they should say anything
about Rex and Gwendolen. But the elders were not in the least alive to
this agitating drama, which went forward chiefly in a sort of pantomime
extremely lucid in the minds thus expressing themselves, but easily
missed by spectators who were running their eyes over the _Guardian_ or
the _Clerical Gazette_, and regarded the trivialities of the young ones
with scarcely more interpretation than they gave to the action of
lively ants.

"Where are you going, Rex?" said Anna one gray morning when her father
had set off in his carriage to the sessions, Mrs. Gascoigne with him,
and she had observed that her brother had on his antigropelos, the
utmost approach he possessed to a hunting equipment.

"Going to see the hounds throw off at the Three Barns."

"Are you going to take Gwendolen?" said Anna, timidly.

"She told you, did she?"

"No, but I thought--Does papa know you are going?"

"Not that I am aware of. I don't suppose he would trouble himself about
the matter."

"You are going to use his horse?"

"He knows I do that whenever I can."

"Don't let Gwendolen ride after the hounds, Rex," said Anna, whose
fears gifted her with second-sight.

"Why not?" said Rex, smiling rather provokingly.

"Papa and mamma and aunt Davilow all wish her not to. They think it is
not right for her."

"Why should you suppose she is going to do what is not right?"

"Gwendolen minds nobody sometimes," said Anna getting bolder by dint of
a little anger.

"Then she would not mind me," said Rex, perversely making a joke of
poor Anna's anxiety.

"Oh Rex, I cannot bear it. You will make yourself very unhappy." Here
Anna burst into tears.

"Nannie, Nannie, what on earth is the matter with you?" said Rex, a
little impatient at being kept in this way, hat on and whip in hand.

"She will not care for you one bit--I know she never will!" said the
poor child in a sobbing whisper. She had lost all control of herself.

Rex reddened and hurried away from her out of the hall door, leaving
her to the miserable consciousness of having made herself disagreeable
in vain.

He did think of her words as he rode along; they had the unwelcomeness
which all unfavorable fortune-telling has, even when laughed at; but he
quickly explained them as springing from little Anna's tenderness, and
began to be sorry that he was obliged to come away without soothing
her. Every other feeling on the subject, however, was quickly merged in
a resistant belief to the contrary of hers, accompanied with a new
determination to prove that he was right. This sort of certainty had
just enough kinship to doubt and uneasiness to hurry on a confession
which an untouched security might have delayed.

Gwendolen was already mounted and riding up and down the avenue when
Rex appeared at the gate. She had provided herself against
disappointment in case he did not appear in time by having the groom
ready behind her, for she would not have waited beyond a reasonable
time. But now the groom was dismissed, and the two rode away in
delightful freedom. Gwendolen was in her highest spirits, and Rex
thought that she had never looked so lovely before; her figure, her
long white throat, and the curves of her cheek and chin were always set
off to perfection by the compact simplicity of her riding dress. He
could not conceive a more perfect girl; and to a youthful lover like
Rex it seems that the fundamental identity of the good, the true and
the beautiful, is already extant and manifest in the object of his
love. Most observers would have held it more than equally accountable
that a girl should have like impressions about Rex, for in his handsome
face there was nothing corresponding to the undefinable stinging
quality--as it were a trace of demon ancestry--which made some
beholders hesitate in their admiration of Gwendolen.

It was an exquisite January morning in which there was no threat of
rain, but a gray sky making the calmest background for the charms of a
mild winter scene--the grassy borders of the lanes, the hedgerows
sprinkled with red berries and haunted with low twitterings, the purple
bareness of the elms, the rich brown of the furrows. The horses' hoofs
made a musical chime, accompanying their young voices. She was laughing
at his equipment, for he was the reverse of a dandy, and he was
enjoying her laughter; the freshness of the morning mingled with the
freshness of their youth; and every sound that came from their clear
throats, every glance they gave each other, was the bubbling outflow
from a spring of joy. It was all morning to them, within and without.
And thinking of them in these moments one is tempted to that futile
sort of wishing--if only things could have been a little otherwise
then, so as to have been greatly otherwise after--if only these two
beautiful young creatures could have pledged themselves to each other
then and there, and never through life have swerved from that pledge!
For some of the goodness which Rex believed in was there. Goodness is a
large, often a prospective word; like harvest, which at one stage when
we talk of it lies all underground, with an indeterminate future; is
the germ prospering in the darkness? at another, it has put forth
delicate green blades, and by-and-by the trembling blossoms are ready
to be dashed off by an hour of rough wind or rain. Each stage has its
peculiar blight, and may have the healthy life choked out of it by a
particular action of the foul land which rears or neighbors it, or by
damage brought from foulness afar.

"Anna had got it into her head that you would want to ride after the
hounds this morning," said Rex, whose secret associations with Anna's
words made this speech seem quite perilously near the most momentous of
subjects.

"Did she?" said Gwendolen, laughingly. "What a little clairvoyant she
is!"

"Shall you?" said Rex, who had not believed in her intending to do it
if the elders objected, but confided in her having good reasons.

"I don't know. I can't tell what I shall do till I get there.
Clairvoyants are often wrong: they foresee what is likely. I am not
fond of what is likely: it is always dull. I do what is unlikely."

"Ah, there you tell me a secret. When once I knew what people in
general would be likely to do, I should know you would do the opposite.
So you would have come round to a likelihood of your own sort. I shall
be able to calculate on you. You couldn't surprise me."

"Yes, I could. I should turn round and do what was likely for people in
general," said Gwendolen, with a musical laugh.

"You see you can't escape some sort of likelihood. And
contradictoriness makes the strongest likelihood of all. You must give
up a plan."

"No, I shall not. My plan is to do what pleases me." (Here should any
young lady incline to imitate Gwendolen, let her consider the set of
her head and neck: if the angle there had been different, the chin
protrusive, and the cervical vertebrae a trifle more curved in their
position, ten to one Gwendolen's words would have had a jar in them for
the sweet-natured Rex. But everything odd in her speech was humor and
pretty banter, which he was only anxious to turn toward one point.)

"Can you manage to feel only what pleases you?" said he.

"Of course not; that comes from what other people do. But if the world
were pleasanter, one would only feel what was pleasant. Girls' lives
are so stupid: they never do what they like."

"I thought that was more the case of the men. They are forced to do
hard things, and are often dreadfully bored, and knocked to pieces too.
And then, if we love a girl very dearly we want to do as she likes, so
after all you have your own way."

"I don't believe it. I never saw a married woman who had her own way."

"What should you like to do?" said Rex, quite guilelessly, and in real
anxiety.

"Oh, I don't know!--go to the North Pole, or ride steeple-chases, or go
to be a queen in the East like Lady Hester Stanhope," said Gwendolen,
flightily. Her words were born on her lips, but she would have been at
a loss to give an answer of deeper origin.

"You don't mean you would never be married?"

"No; I didn't say that. Only when I married, I should not do as other
women do."

"You might do just as you liked if you married a man who loved you more
dearly than anything else in the world," said Rex, who, poor youth, was
moving in themes outside the curriculum in which he had promised to win
distinction. "I know one who does."

"Don't talk of Mr. Middleton, for heaven's sake," said Gwendolen,
hastily, a quick blush spreading over her face and neck; "that is
Anna's chant. I hear the hounds. Let us go on."

She put her chestnut to a canter, and Rex had no choice but to follow
her. Still he felt encouraged. Gwendolen was perfectly aware that her
cousin was in love with her; but she had no idea that the matter was of
any consequence, having never had the slightest visitation of painful
love herself. She wished the small romance of Rex's devotion to fill up
the time of his stay at Pennicote, and to avoid explanations which
would bring it to an untimely end. Besides, she objected, with a sort
of physical repulsion, to being directly made love to. With all her
imaginative delight in being adored, there was a certain fierceness of
maidenhood in her.

But all other thoughts were soon lost for her in the excitement of the
scene at the Three Barns. Several gentlemen of the hunt knew her, and
she exchanged pleasant greetings. Rex could not get another word with
her. The color, the stir of the field had taken possession of Gwendolen
with a strength which was not due to habitual associations, for she had
never yet ridden after the hounds--only said she should like to do it,
and so drawn forth a prohibition; her mamma dreading the danger, and
her uncle declaring that for his part he held that kind of violent
exercise unseemly in a woman, and that whatever might be done in other
parts of the country, no lady of good position followed the Wessex
hunt: no one but Mrs. Gadsby, the yeomanry captain's wife, who had been
a kitchenmaid and still spoke like one. This last argument had some
effect on Gwendolen, and had kept her halting between her desire to
assert her freedom and her horror of being classed with Mrs. Gadsby.

Some of the most unexceptionable women in the neighborhood occasionally
went to see the hounds throw off; but it happened that none of them
were present this morning to abstain from following, while Mrs. Gadsby,
with her doubtful antecedents, grammatical and otherwise, was not
visible to make following seem unbecoming. Thus Gwendolen felt no check
on the animal stimulus that came from the stir and tongue of the
hounds, the pawing of the horses, the varying voices of men, the
movement hither and thither of vivid color on the background of green
and gray stillness:--that utmost excitement of the coming chase which
consists in feeling something like a combination of dog and horse, with
the superadded thrill of social vanities and consciousness of
centaur-power which belongs to humankind.

Rex would have felt more of the same enjoyment if he could have kept
nearer to Gwendolen, and not seen her constantly occupied with
acquaintances, or looked at by would-be acquaintances, all on lively
horses which veered about and swept the surrounding space as
effectually as a revolving lever.

"Glad to see you here this fine morning, Miss Harleth," said Lord
Brackenshaw, a middle-aged peer of aristocratic seediness in stained
pink, with easy-going manners which would have made the threatened
deluge seem of no consequence. "We shall have a first-rate run. A pity
you didn't go with us. Have you ever tried your little chestnut at a
ditch? you wouldn't be afraid, eh?"

"Not the least in the world," said Gwendolen. And that was true: she
was never fearful in action and companionship. "I have often taken him
at some rails and a ditch too, near--"

"Ah, by Jove!" said his lordship, quietly, in notation that something
was happening which must break off the dialogue: and as he reined off
his horse, Rex was bringing his sober hackney up to Gwendolen's side
when--the hounds gave tongue, and the whole field was in motion as if
the whirl of the earth were carrying it; Gwendolen along with
everything else; no word of notice to Rex, who without a second thought
followed too. Could he let Gwendolen go alone? under other
circumstances he would have enjoyed the run, but he was just now
perturbed by the check which had been put on the impetus to utter his
love, and get utterance in return, an impetus which could not at once
resolve itself into a totally different sort of chase, at least with
the consciousness of being on his father's gray nag, a good horse
enough in his way, but of sober years and ecclesiastical habits.
Gwendolen on her spirited little chestnut was up with the best, and
felt as secure as an immortal goddess, having, if she had thought of
risk, a core of confidence that no ill luck would happen to her. But
she thought of no such thing, and certainly not of any risk there might
be for her cousin. If she had thought of him, it would have struck her
as a droll picture that he should be gradually falling behind, and
looking round in search of gates: a fine lithe youth, whose heart must
be panting with all the spirit of a beagle, stuck as if under a
wizard's spell on a stiff clerical hackney, would have made her laugh
with a sense of fun much too strong for her to reflect on his
mortification. But Gwendolen was apt to think rather of those who saw
her than of those whom she could not see; and Rex was soon so far
behind that if she had looked she would not have seen him. For I grieve
to say that in the search for a gate, along a lane lately mended,
Primrose fell, broke his knees, and undesignedly threw Rex over his
head.

Fortunately a blacksmith's son who also followed the hounds under
disadvantages, namely, on foot (a loose way of hunting which had struck
some even frivolous minds as immoral), was naturally also in the rear,
and happened to be within sight of Rex's misfortune. He ran to give
help which was greatly needed, for Rex was a great deal stunned, and
the complete recovery of sensation came in the form of pain. Joel Dagge
on this occasion showed himself that most useful of personages, whose
knowledge is of a kind suited to the immediate occasion: he not only
knew perfectly well what was the matter with the horse, how far they
were both from the nearest public-house and from Pennicote Rectory, and
could certify to Rex that his shoulder was only a bit out of joint, but
also offered experienced surgical aid.

"Lord, sir, let me shove it in again for you! I's seen Nash, the
bone-setter, do it, and done it myself for our little Sally twice over.
It's all one and the same, shoulders is. If you'll trusten to me and
tighten your mind up a bit, I'll do it for you in no time."

"Come then, old fellow," said Rex, who could tighten his mind better
than his seat in the saddle. And Joel managed the operation, though not
without considerable expense of pain to his patient, who turned so
pitiably pale while tightening his mind, that Joel remarked, "Ah, sir,
you aren't used to it, that's how it is. I's see lots and lots o'
joints out. I see a man with his eye pushed out once--that was a rum go
as ever I see. You can't have a bit o' fun wi'out such sort o' things.
But it went in again. I's swallowed three teeth mysen, as sure as I'm
alive. Now, sirrey" (this was addressed to Primrose), "come alonk--you
musn't make believe as you can't."

Joel being clearly a low character, it is, happily, not necessary to
say more of him to the refined reader, than that he helped Rex to get
home with as little delay as possible. There was no alternative but to
get home, though all the while he was in anxiety about Gwendolen, and
more miserable in the thought that she, too, might have had an
accident, than in the pain of his own bruises and the annoyance he was
about to cause his father. He comforted himself about her by reflecting
that every one would be anxious to take care of her, and that some
acquaintance would be sure to conduct her home.

Mr. Gascoigne was already at home, and was writing letters in his
study, when he was interrupted by seeing poor Rex come in with a face
which was not the less handsome and ingratiating for being pale and a
little distressed. He was secretly the favorite son, and a young
portrait of the father; who, however, never treated him with any
partiality--rather, with an extra rigor. Mr. Gascoigne having inquired
of Anna, knew that Rex had gone with Gwendolen to the meet at the Three
Barns.

"What is the matter?" he said hastily, not laying down his pen.

"I'm very sorry, sir; Primrose has fallen down and broken his knees."

"Where have you been with him?" said Mr. Gascoigne, with a touch of
severity. He rarely gave way to temper.

"To the Three Barns to see the hounds throw off."

"And you were fool enough to follow?"

"Yes, sir. I didn't go at any fences, but the horse got his leg into a
hole."

"And you got hurt yourself, I hope, eh!"

"I got my shoulder put out, but a young blacksmith put it in again for
me. I'm just a little battered, that's all."

"Well, sit down."

"I'm very sorry about the horse, sir; I knew it would be a vexation to
you."

"And what has become of Gwendolen?" said Mr. Gascoigne, abruptly. Rex,
who did not imagine that his father had made any inquiries about him,
answered at first with a blush, which was the more remarkable for his
previous paleness. Then he said, nervously,

"I am anxious to know--I should like to go or send at once to
Offendene--but she rides so well, and I think she would keep up--there
would most likely be many round her."

"I suppose it was she who led you on, eh?" said Mr. Gascoigne, laying
down his pen, leaning back in his chair, and looking at Rex with more
marked examination.

"It was natural for her to want to go: she didn't intend it
beforehand--she was led away by the spirit of the thing. And, of
course, I went when she went."

Mr. Gascoigne left a brief interval of silence, and then said, with
quiet irony,--"But now you observe, young gentleman, that you are not
furnished with a horse which will enable you to play the squire to your
cousin. You must give up that amusement. You have spoiled my nag for
me, and that is enough mischief for one vacation. I shall beg you to
get ready to start for Southampton to-morrow and join Stilfox, till you
go up to Oxford with him. That will be good for your bruises as well as
your studies."

Poor Rex felt his heart swelling and comporting itself as if it had
been no better than a girl's.

"I hope you will not insist on my going immediately, sir."

"Do you feel too ill?"

"No, not that--but--" here Rex bit his lips and felt the tears
starting, to his great vexation; then he rallied and tried to say more
firmly, "I want to go to Offendene, but I can go this evening."

"I am going there myself. I can bring word about Gwendolen, if that is
what you want."

Rex broke down. He thought he discerned an intention fatal to his
happiness, nay, his life. He was accustomed to believe in his father's
penetration, and to expect firmness. "Father, I can't go away without
telling her that I love her, and knowing that she loves me."

Mr. Gascoigne was inwardly going through some self-rebuke for not being
more wary, and was now really sorry for the lad; but every
consideration was subordinate to that of using the wisest tactics in
the case. He had quickly made up his mind and to answer the more
quietly,

"My dear boy, you are too young to be taking momentous, decisive steps
of that sort. This is a fancy which you have got into your head during
an idle week or two: you must set to work at something and dismiss it.
There is every reason against it. An engagement at your age would be
totally rash and unjustifiable; and moreover, alliances between first
cousins are undesirable. Make up your mind to a brief disappointment.
Life is full of them. We have all got to be broken in; and this is a
mild beginning for you."

"No, not mild. I can't bear it. I shall be good for nothing. I
shouldn't mind anything, if it were settled between us. I could do
anything then," said Rex, impetuously. "But it's of no use to pretend
that I will obey you. I can't do it. If I said I would, I should be
sure to break my word. I should see Gwendolen again."

"Well, wait till to-morrow morning, that we may talk of the matter
again--you will promise me that," said Mr. Gascoigne, quietly; and Rex
did not, could not refuse.

The rector did not even tell his wife that he had any other reason for
going to Offendene that evening than his desire to ascertain that
Gwendolen had got home safely. He found her more than safe--elated. Mr.
Quallon, who had won the brush, had delivered the trophy to her, and
she had brought it before her, fastened on the saddle; more than that,
Lord Brackenshaw had conducted her home, and had shown himself
delighted with her spirited riding. All this was told at once to her
uncle, that he might see how well justified she had been in acting
against his advice; and the prudential rector did feel himself in a
slight difficulty, for at that moment he was particularly sensible that
it was his niece's serious interest to be well regarded by the
Brackenshaws, and their opinion as to her following the hounds really
touched the essence of his objection. However, he was not obliged to
say anything immediately, for Mrs. Davilow followed up Gwendolen's
brief triumphant phrases with,

"Still, I do hope you will not do it again, Gwendolen. I should never
have a moment's quiet. Her father died by an accident, you know."

Here Mrs. Davilow had turned away from Gwendolen, and looked at Mr.
Gascoigne.

"Mamma, dear," said Gwendolen, kissing her merrily, and passing over
the question of the fears which Mrs. Davilow had meant to account for,
"children don't take after their parents in broken legs."

Not one word had yet been said about Rex. In fact there had been no
anxiety about him at Offendene. Gwendolen had observed to her mamma,
"Oh, he must have been left far behind, and gone home in despair," and
it could not be denied that this was fortunate so far as it made way
for Lord Brackenshaw's bringing her home. But now Mr. Gascoigne said,
with some emphasis, looking at Gwendolen,

"Well, the exploit has ended better for you than for Rex."

"Yes, I dare say he had to make a terrible round. You have not taught
Primrose to take the fences, uncle," said Gwendolen, without the
faintest shade of alarm in her looks and tone.

"Rex has had a fall," said Mr. Gascoigne, curtly, throwing himself into
an arm-chair resting his elbows and fitting his palms and fingers
together, while he closed his lips and looked at Gwendolen, who said,

"Oh, poor fellow! he is not hurt, I hope?" with a correct look of
anxiety such as elated mortals try to super-induce when their pulses
are all the while quick with triumph; and Mrs. Davilow, in the same
moment, uttered a low "Good heavens! There!"

Mr. Gascoigne went on: "He put his shoulder out, and got some bruises,
I believe." Here he made another little pause of observation; but
Gwendolen, instead of any such symptoms as pallor and silence, had only
deepened the compassionateness of her brow and eyes, and said again,
"Oh, poor fellow! it is nothing serious, then?" and Mr. Gascoigne held
his diagnosis complete. But he wished to make assurance doubly sure,
and went on still with a purpose.

"He got his arm set again rather oddly. Some blacksmith--not a
parishioner of mine--was on the field--a loose fish, I suppose, but
handy, and set the arm for him immediately. So after all, I believe, I
and Primrose come off worst. The horse's knees are cut to pieces. He
came down in a hole, it seems, and pitched Rex over his head."

Gwendolen's face had allowably become contented again, since Rex's arm
had been reset; and now, at the descriptive suggestions in the latter
part of her uncle's speech, her elated spirits made her features less
unmanageable than usual; the smiles broke forth, and finally a
descending scale of laughter.

"You are a pretty young lady--to laugh at other people's calamities,"
said Mr. Gascoigne, with a milder sense of disapprobation than if he
had not had counteracting reasons to be glad that Gwendolen showed no
deep feeling on the occasion.

"Pray forgive me, uncle. Now Rex is safe, it is so droll to fancy the
figure he and Primrose would cut--in a lane all by themselves--only a
blacksmith running up. It would make a capital caricature of 'Following
the Hounds.'"

Gwendolen rather valued herself on her superior freedom in laughing
where others might only see matter for seriousness. Indeed, the
laughter became her person so well that her opinion of its gracefulness
was often shared by others; and it even entered into her uncle's course
of thought at this moment, that it was no wonder a boy should be
fascinated by this young witch--who, however, was more mischievous than
could be desired.

"How can you laugh at broken bones, child?" said Mrs. Davilow, still
under her dominant anxiety. "I wish we had never allowed you to have
the horse. You will see that we were wrong," she added, looking with a
grave nod at Mr. Gascoigne--"at least I was, to encourage her in asking
for it."

"Yes, seriously, Gwendolen," said Mr. Gascoigne, in a judicious tone of
rational advice to a person understood to be altogether rational, "I
strongly recommend you--I shall ask you to oblige me so far--not to
repeat your adventure of to-day. Lord Brackenshaw is very kind, but I
feel sure that he would concur with me in what I say. To be spoken of
as 'the young lady who hunts' by way of exception, would give a tone to
the language about you which I am sure you would not like. Depend upon
it, his lordship would not choose that Lady Beatrice or Lady Maria
should hunt in this part of the country, if they were old enough to do
so. When you are married, it will be different: you may do whatever
your husband sanctions. But if you intend to hunt, you must marry a man
who can keep horses."

"I don't know why I should do anything so horrible as to marry without
_that_ prospect, at least," said Gwendolen, pettishly. Her uncle's
speech had given her annoyance, which she could not show more directly;
but she felt that she was committing herself, and after moving
carelessly to another part of the room, went out.

"She always speaks in that way about marriage," said Mrs. Davilow; "but
it will be different when she has seen the right person."

"Her heart has never been in the least touched, that you know of?" said
Mr. Gascoigne.

Mrs. Davilow shook her head silently. "It was only last night she said
to me, 'Mamma, I wonder how girls manage to fall in love. It is easy to
make them do it in books. But men are too ridiculous.'"

Mr. Gascoigne laughed a little, and made no further remark on the
subject. The next morning at breakfast he said,

"How are your bruises, Rex?"

"Oh, not very mellow yet, sir; only beginning to turn a little."

"You don't feel quite ready for a journey to Southampton?"

"Not quite," answered Rex, with his heart metaphorically in his mouth.

"Well, you can wait till to-morrow, and go to say goodbye to them at
Offendene."

Mrs. Gascoigne, who now knew the whole affair, looked steadily at her
coffee lest she also should begin to cry, as Anna was doing already.

Mr. Gascoigne felt that he was applying a sharp remedy to poor Rex's
acute attack, but he believed it to be in the end the kindest. To let
him know the hopelessness of his love from Gwendolen's own lips might
be curative in more ways than one.

"I can only be thankful that she doesn't care about him," said Mrs.
Gascoigne, when she joined her husband in his study. "There are things
in Gwendolen I cannot reconcile myself to. My Anna is worth two of her,
with all her beauty and talent. It looks very ill in her that she will
not help in the schools with Anna--not even in the Sunday-school. What
you or I advise is of no consequence to her: and poor Fannie is
completely under her thumb. But I know you think better of her," Mrs.
Gascoigne ended with a deferential hesitation.

"Oh, my dear, there is no harm in the girl. It is only that she has a
high spirit, and it will not do to hold the reins too tight. The point
is, to get her well married. She has a little too much fire in her for
her present life with her mother and sisters. It is natural and right
that she should be married soon--not to a poor man, but one who can
give her a fitting position."

Presently Rex, with his arm in a sling, was on his two miles' walk to
Offendene. He was rather puzzled by the unconditional permission to see
Gwendolen, but his father's real ground of action could not enter into
his conjectures. If it had, he would first have thought it horribly
cold-blooded, and then have disbelieved in his father's conclusions.

When he got to the house, everybody was there but Gwendolen. The four
girls, hearing him speak in the hall, rushed out of the library, which
was their school-room, and hung round him with compassionate inquiries
about his arm. Mrs. Davilow wanted to know exactly what had happened,
and where the blacksmith lived, that she might make him a present;
while Miss Merry, who took a subdued and melancholy part in all family
affairs, doubted whether it would not be giving too much encouragement
to that kind of character. Rex had never found the family troublesome
before, but just now he wished them all away and Gwendolen there, and
he was too uneasy for good-natured feigning. When at last he had said,
"Where is Gwendolen?" and Mrs. Davilow had told Alice to go and see if
her sister were come down, adding, "I sent up her breakfast this
morning. She needed a long rest." Rex took the shortest way out of his
endurance by saying, almost impatiently, "Aunt, I want to speak to
Gwendolen--I want to see her alone."

"Very well, dear; go into the drawing-room. I will send her there,"
said Mrs. Davilow, who had observed that he was fond of being with
Gwendolen, as was natural, but had not thought of this as having any
bearing on the realities of life: it seemed merely part of the
Christmas holidays which were spinning themselves out.

Rex for his part thought that the realities of life were all hanging on
this interview. He had to walk up and down the drawing-room in
expectation for nearly ten minutes--ample space for all imaginative
fluctuations; yet, strange to say, he was unvaryingly occupied in
thinking what and how much he could do, when Gwendolen had accepted
him, to satisfy his father that the engagement was the most prudent
thing in the world, since it inspired him with double energy for work.
He was to be a lawyer, and what reason was there why he should not rise
as high as Eldon did? He was forced to look at life in the light of his
father's mind.

But when the door opened and she whose presence he was longing for
entered, there came over him suddenly and mysteriously a state of
tremor and distrust which he had never felt before. Miss Gwendolen,
simple as she stood there, in her black silk, cut square about the
round white pillar of her throat, a black band fastening her hair which
streamed backward in smooth silky abundance, seemed more queenly than
usual. Perhaps it was that there was none of the latent fun and
tricksiness which had always pierced in her greeting of Rex. How much
of this was due to her presentiment from what he had said yesterday
that he was going to talk of love? How much from her desire to show
regret about his accident? Something of both. But the wisdom of ages
has hinted that there is a side of the bed which has a malign influence
if you happen to get out on it; and this accident befalls some charming
persons rather frequently. Perhaps it had befallen Gwendolen this
morning. The hastening of her toilet, the way in which Bugle used the
brush, the quality of the shilling serial mistakenly written for her
amusement, the probabilities of the coming day, and, in short, social
institutions generally, were all objectionable to her. It was not that
she was out of temper, but that the world was not equal to the demands
of her fine organism.

However it might be, Rex saw an awful majesty about her as she entered
and put out her hand to him, without the least approach to a smile in
eyes or mouth. The fun which had moved her in the evening had quite
evaporated from the image of his accident, and the whole affair seemed
stupid to her. But she said with perfect propriety, "I hope you are not
much hurt, Rex; I deserve that you should reproach me for your
accident."

"Not at all," said Rex, feeling the soul within him spreading itself
like an attack of illness. "There is hardly any thing the matter with
me. I am so glad you had the pleasure: I would willingly pay for it by
a tumble, only I was sorry to break the horse's knees."

Gwendolen walked to the hearth and stood looking at the fire in the
most inconvenient way for conversation, so that he could only get a
side view of her face.

"My father wants me to go to Southampton for the rest of the vacation,"
said Rex, his baritone trembling a little.

"Southampton! That's a stupid place to go to, isn't it?" said
Gwendolen, chilly.

"It would be to me, because you would not be there." Silence.

"Should you mind about me going away, Gwendolen?"

"Of course. Every one is of consequence in this dreary country," said
Gwendolen, curtly. The perception that poor Rex wanted to be tender
made her curl up and harden like a sea-anemone at the touch of a finger.

"Are you angry with me, Gwendolen? Why do you treat me in this way all
at once?" said Rex, flushing, and with more spirit in his voice, as if
he too were capable of being angry.

Gwendolen looked round at him and smiled. "Treat you? Nonsense! I am
only rather cross. Why did you come so very early? You must expect to
find tempers in dishabille."

"Be as cross with me as you like--only don't treat me with
indifference," said Rex, imploringly. "All the happiness of my life
depends on your loving me--if only a little--better than any one else."

He tried to take her hand, but she hastily eluded his grasp and moved
to the other end of the hearth, facing him.

"Pray don't make love to me! I hate it!" she looked at him fiercely.

Rex turned pale and was silent, but could not take his eyes off her,
and the impetus was not yet exhausted that made hers dart death at him.
Gwendolen herself could not have foreseen that she should feel in this
way. It was all a sudden, new experience to her. The day before she had
been quite aware that her cousin was in love with her; she did not mind
how much, so that he said nothing about it; and if any one had asked
her why she objected to love-making speeches, she would have said,
laughingly, "Oh I am tired of them all in the books." But now the life
of passion had begun negatively in her. She felt passionately averse to
this volunteered love.

To Rex at twenty the joy of life seemed at an end more absolutely than
it can do to a man at forty. But before they had ceased to look at each
other, he did speak again.

"Is that last word you have to say to me, Gwendolen? Will it always be
so?"

She could not help seeing his wretchedness and feeling a little regret
for the old Rex who had not offended her. Decisively, but yet with some
return of kindness, she said,

"About making love? Yes. But I don't dislike you for anything else."

There was just a perceptible pause before he said a low "good-bye." and
passed out of the room. Almost immediately after, she heard the heavy
hall door bang behind him.

Mrs. Davilow, too, had heard Rex's hasty departure, and presently came
into the drawing-room, where she found Gwendolen seated on the low
couch, her face buried, and her hair falling over her figure like a
garment. She was sobbing bitterly. "My child, my child, what is it?"
cried the mother, who had never before seen her darling struck down in
this way, and felt something of the alarmed anguish that women, feel at
the sight of overpowering sorrow in a strong man; for this child had
been her ruler. Sitting down by her with circling arms, she pressed her
cheek against Gwendolen's head, and then tried to draw it upward.
Gwendolen gave way, and letting her head rest against her mother, cried
out sobbingly, "Oh, mamma, what can become of my life? there is nothing
worth living for!"

"Why, dear?" said Mrs. Davilow. Usually she herself had been rebuked by
her daughter for involuntary signs of despair.

"I shall never love anybody. I can't love people. I hate them."

"The time will come, dear, the time will come."

Gwendolen was more and more convulsed with sobbing; but putting her
arms round her mother's neck with an almost painful clinging, she said
brokenly, "I can't bear any one to be very near me but you."

Then the mother began to sob, for this spoiled child had never shown
such dependence on her before: and so they clung to each other.



CHAPTER VIII.

  What name doth Joy most borrow
  When life is fair?
                    "To-morrow."
  What name doth best fit Sorrow
  In young despair?
                    "To-morrow."


There was a much more lasting trouble at the rectory. Rex arrived there
only to throw himself on his bed in a state of apparent apathy,
unbroken till the next day, when it began to be interrupted by more
positive signs of illness. Nothing could be said about his going to
Southampton: instead of that, the chief thought of his mother and Anna
was how to tend this patient who did not want to be well, and from
being the brightest, most grateful spirit in the household, was
metamorphosed into an irresponsive, dull-eyed creature who met all
affectionate attempts with a murmur of "Let me alone." His father
looked beyond the crisis, and believed it to be the shortest way out of
an unlucky affair; but he was sorry for the inevitable suffering, and
went now and then to sit by him in silence for a few minutes, parting
with a gentle pressure of his hand on Rex's blank brow, and a "God
bless you, my boy." Warham and the younger children used to peep round
the edge of the door to see this incredible thing of their lively
brother being laid low; but fingers were immediately shaken at them to
drive them back. The guardian who was always there was Anna, and her
little hand was allowed to rest within her brother's, though he never
gave it a welcoming pressure. Her soul was divided between anguish for
Rex and reproach of Gwendolen.

"Perhaps it is wicked of me, but I think I never _can_ love her again,"
came as the recurrent burden of poor little Anna's inward monody. And
even Mrs. Gascoigne had an angry feeling toward her niece which she
could not refrain from expressing (apologetically) to her husband.

"I know of course it is better, and we ought to be thankful that she is
not in love with the poor boy; but really. Henry, I think she is hard;
she has the heart of a coquette. I can not help thinking that she must
have made him believe something, or the disappointment would not have
taken hold of him in that way. And some blame attaches to poor Fanny;
she is quite blind about that girl."

Mr. Gascoigne answered imperatively: "The less said on that point the
better, Nancy. I ought to have been more awake myself. As to the boy,
be thankful if nothing worse ever happens to him. Let the thing die out
as quickly as possible; and especially with regard to Gwendolen--let it
be as if it had never been."

The rector's dominant feeling was that there had been a great escape.
Gwendolen in love with Rex in return would have made a much harder
problem, the solution of which might have been taken out of his hands.
But he had to go through some further difficulty.

One fine morning Rex asked for his bath, and made his toilet as usual.
Anna, full of excitement at this change, could do nothing but listen
for his coming down, and at last hearing his step, ran to the foot of
the stairs to meet him. For the first time he gave her a faint smile,
but it looked so melancholy on his pale face that she could hardly help
crying.

"Nannie!" he said gently, taking her hand and leading her slowly along
with him to the drawing-room. His mother was there, and when she came
to kiss him, he said: "What a plague I am!"

Then he sat still and looked out of the bow-window on the lawn and
shrubs covered with hoar-frost, across which the sun was sending faint
occasional gleams:--something like that sad smile on Rex's face, Anna
thought. He felt as if he had had a resurrection into a new world, and
did not know what to do with himself there, the old interests being
left behind. Anna sat near him, pretending to work, but really watching
him with yearning looks. Beyond the garden hedge there was a road where
wagons and carts sometimes went on field-work: a railed opening was
made in the hedge, because the upland with its bordering wood and clump
of ash-trees against the sky was a pretty sight. Presently there came
along a wagon laden with timber; the horses were straining their grand
muscles, and the driver having cracked his whip, ran along anxiously to
guide the leader's head, fearing a swerve. Rex seemed to be shaken into
attention, rose and looked till the last quivering trunk of the timber
had disappeared, and then walked once or twice along the room. Mrs.
Gascoigne was no longer there, and when he came to sit down again,
Anna, seeing a return of speech in her brother's eyes, could not resist
the impulse to bring a little stool and seat herself against his knee,
looking up at him with an expression which seemed to say, "Do speak to
me." And he spoke.

"I'll tell you what I'm thinking of, Nannie. I will go to Canada, or
somewhere of that sort." (Rex had not studied the character of our
colonial possessions.)

"Oh, Rex, not for always!"

"Yes, to get my bread there. I should like to build a hut, and work
hard at clearing, and have everything wild about me, and a great wide
quiet."

"And not take me with you?" said Anna, the big tears coming fast.

"How could I?"

"I should like it better than anything; and settlers go with their
families. I would sooner go there than stay here in England. I could
make the fires, and mend the clothes, and cook the food; and I could
learn how to make the bread before we went. It would be nicer than
anything--like playing at life over again, as we used to do when we
made our tent with the drugget, and had our little plates and dishes."

"Father and mother would not let you go."

"Yes, I think they would, when I explained everything. It would save
money; and papa would have more to bring up the boys with."

There was further talk of the same practical kind at intervals, and it
ended in Rex's being obliged to consent that Anna should go with him
when he spoke to his father on the subject.

Of course it was when the rector was alone in his study. Their mother
would become reconciled to whatever he decided on, but mentioned to her
first, the question would have distressed her.

"Well, my children!" said Mr. Gascoigne, cheerfully, as they entered.
It was a comfort to see Rex about again.

"May we sit down with you a little, papa?" said Anna. "Rex has
something to say."

"With all my heart."

It was a noticeable group that these three creatures made, each of them
with a face of the same structural type--the straight brow, the nose
suddenly straightened from an intention of being aquiline, the short
upper lip, the short but strong and well-hung chin: there was even the
same tone of complexion and set of the eye. The gray-haired father was
at once massive and keen-looking; there was a perpendicular line in his
brow which when he spoke with any force of interest deepened; and the
habit of ruling gave him an air of reserved authoritativeness. Rex
would have seemed a vision of his father's youth, if it had been
possible to imagine Mr. Gascoigne without distinct plans and without
command, smitten with a heart sorrow, and having no more notion of
concealment than a sick animal; and Anna was a tiny copy of Rex, with
hair drawn back and knotted, her face following his in its changes of
expression, as if they had one soul between them.

"You know all about what has upset me, father," Rex began, and Mr.
Gascoigne nodded.

"I am quite done up for life in this part of the world. I am sure it
will be no use my going back to Oxford. I couldn't do any reading. I
should fail, and cause you expense for nothing. I want to have your
consent to take another course, sir."

Mr. Gascoigne nodded more slowly, the perpendicular line on his brow
deepened, and Anna's trembling increased.

"If you would allow me a small outfit, I should like to go to the
colonies and work on the land there." Rex thought the vagueness of the
phrase prudential; "the colonies" necessarily embracing more
advantages, and being less capable of being rebutted on a single ground
than any particular settlement.

"Oh, and with me, papa," said Anna, not bearing to be left out from the
proposal even temporarily. "Rex would want some one to take care of
him, you know--some one to keep house. And we shall never, either of
us, be married. And I should cost nothing, and I should be so happy. I
know it would be hard to leave you and mamma; but there are all the
others to bring up, and we two should be no trouble to you any more."

Anna had risen from her seat, and used the feminine argument of going
closer to her papa as she spoke. He did not smile, but he drew her on
his knee and held her there, as if to put her gently out of the
question while he spoke to Rex.

"You will admit that my experience gives me some power of judging for
you, and that I can probably guide you in practical matters better than
you can guide yourself?"

Rex was obliged to say, "Yes, sir."

"And perhaps you will admit--though I don't wish to press that
point--that you are bound in duty to consider my judgment and wishes?"

"I have never yet placed myself in opposition to you, sir." Rex in his
secret soul could not feel that he was bound not to go to the colonies,
but to go to Oxford again--which was the point in question.

"But you will do so if you persist in setting your mind toward a rash
and foolish procedure, and deafening yourself to considerations which
my experience of life assures me of. You think, I suppose, that you
have had a shock which has changed all your inclinations, stupefied
your brains, unfitted you for anything but manual labor, and given you
a dislike to society? Is that what you believe?"

"Something like that. I shall never be up to the sort of work I must do
to live in this part of the world. I have not the spirit for it. I
shall never be the same again. And without any disrespect to you,
father, I think a young fellow should be allowed to choose his way of
life, if he does nobody any harm. There are plenty to stay at home, and
those who like might be allowed to go where there are empty places."

"But suppose I am convinced on good evidence--as I am--that this state
of mind of yours is transient, and that if you went off as you propose,
you would by-and-by repent, and feel that you had let yourself slip
back from the point you have been gaining by your education till now?
Have you not strength of mind enough to see that you had better act on
my assurance for a time, and test it? In my opinion, so far from
agreeing with you that you should be free to turn yourself into a
colonist and work in your shirt-sleeves with spade and hatchet--in my
opinion you have no right whatever to expatriate yourself until you
have honestly endeavored to turn to account the education you have
received here. I say nothing of the grief to your mother and me."

"I'm very sorry; but what can I do? I can't study--that's certain,"
said Rex.

"Not just now, perhaps. You will have to miss a term. I have made
arrangements for you--how you are to spend the next two months. But I
confess I am disappointed in you, Rex. I thought you had more sense
than to take up such ideas--to suppose that because you have fallen
into a very common trouble, such as most men have to go through, you
are loosened from all bonds of duty--just as if your brain had softened
and you were no longer a responsible being."

What could Rex say? Inwardly he was in a state of rebellion, but he had
no arguments to meet his father's; and while he was feeling, in spite
of any thing that might be said, that he should like to go off to "the
colonies" to-morrow, it lay in a deep fold of his consciousness that he
ought to feel--if he had been a better fellow he would have felt--more
about his old ties. This is the sort of faith we live by in our soul
sicknesses.

Rex got up from his seat, as if he held the conference to be at an end.
"You assent to my arrangement, then?" said Mr. Gascoigne, with that
distinct resolution of tone which seems to hold one in a vise.

There was a little pause before Rex answered, "I'll try what I can do,
sir. I can't promise." His thought was, that trying would be of no use.

Her father kept Anna, holding her fast, though she wanted to follow
Rex. "Oh, papa," she said, the tears coming with her words when the
door had closed; "it is very hard for him. Doesn't he look ill?"

"Yes, but he will soon be better; it will all blow over. And now, Anna,
be as quiet as a mouse about it all. Never let it be mentioned when he
is gone."

"No, papa. But I would not be like Gwendolen for any thing--to have
people fall in love with me so. It is very dreadful."

Anna dared not say that she was disappointed at not being allowed to go
to the colonies with Rex; but that was her secret feeling, and she
often afterward went inwardly over the whole affair, saying to herself,
"I should have done with going out, and gloves, and crinoline, and
having to talk when I am taken to dinner--and all that!"

I like to mark the time, and connect the course of individual lives
with the historic stream, for all classes of thinkers. This was the
period when the broadening of gauge in crinolines seemed to demand an
agitation for the general enlargement of churches, ball-rooms, and
vehicles. But Anna Gascoigne's figure would only allow the size of
skirt manufactured for young ladies of fourteen.



CHAPTER IX.

  I'll tell thee, Berthold, what men's hopes are like:
  A silly child that, quivering with joy,
  Would cast its little mimic fishing-line
  Baited with loadstone for a bowl of toys
  In the salt ocean.


Eight months after the arrival of the family at Offendene, that is to
say in the end of the following June, a rumor was spread in the
neighborhood which to many persons was matter of exciting interest. It
had no reference to the results of the American war, but it was one
which touched all classes within a certain circuit round Wanchester:
the corn-factors, the brewers, the horse-dealers, and saddlers, all
held it a laudable thing, and one which was to be rejoiced in on
abstract grounds, as showing the value of an aristocracy in a free
country like England; the blacksmith in the hamlet of Diplow felt that
a good time had come round; the wives of laboring men hoped their
nimble boys of ten or twelve would be taken into employ by the
gentlemen in livery; and the farmers about Diplow admitted, with a
tincture of bitterness and reserve, that a man might now again perhaps
have an easier market or exchange for a rick of old hay or a wagon-load
of straw. If such were the hopes of low persons not in society, it may
be easily inferred that their betters had better reasons for
satisfaction, probably connected with the pleasures of life rather than
its business. Marriage, however, must be considered as coming under
both heads; and just as when a visit of majesty is announced, the dream
of knighthood or a baronetcy is to be found under various municipal
nightcaps, so the news in question raised a floating indeterminate
vision of marriage in several well-bred imaginations.

The news was that Diplow Hall, Sir Hugo Mallinger's place, which had
for a couple of years turned its white window-shutters in a painfully
wall-eyed manner on its fine elms and beeches, its lilied pool and
grassy acres specked with deer, was being prepared for a tenant, and
was for the rest of the summer and through the hunting season to be
inhabited in a fitting style both as to house and stable. But not by
Sir Hugo himself: by his nephew, Mr. Mallinger Grandcourt, who was
presumptive heir to the baronetcy, his uncle's marriage having produced
nothing but girls. Nor was this the only contingency with which fortune
flattered young Grandcourt, as he was pleasantly called; for while the
chance of the baronetcy came through his father, his mother had given a
baronial streak to his blood, so that if certain intervening persons
slightly painted in the middle distance died, he would become a baron
and peer of this realm.

It is the uneven allotment of nature that the male bird alone has the
tuft, but we have not yet followed the advice of hasty philosophers who
would have us copy nature entirely in these matters; and if Mr.
Mallinger Grandcourt became a baronet or a peer, his wife would share
the title--which in addition to his actual fortune was certainly a
reason why that wife, being at present unchosen, should be thought of
by more than one person with a sympathetic interest as a woman sure to
be well provided for.

Some readers of this history will doubtless regard it as incredible
that people should construct matrimonial prospects on the mere report
that a bachelor of good fortune and possibilities was coming within
reach, and will reject the statement as a mere outflow of gall: they
will aver that neither they nor their first cousins have minds so
unbridled; and that in fact this is not human nature, which would know
that such speculations might turn out to be fallacious, and would
therefore not entertain them. But, let it be observed, nothing is here
narrated of human nature generally: the history in its present stage
concerns only a few people in a corner of Wessex--whose reputation,
however, was unimpeached, and who, I am in the proud position of being
able to state, were all on visiting terms with persons of rank.

There were the Arrowpoints, for example, in their beautiful place at
Quetcham: no one could attribute sordid views in relation to their
daughter's marriage to parents who could leave her at least half a
million; but having affectionate anxieties about their Catherine's
position (she having resolutely refused Lord Slogan, an unexceptionable
Irish peer, whose estate wanted nothing but drainage and population),
they wondered, perhaps from something more than a charitable impulse,
whether Mr. Grandcourt was good-looking, of sound constitution,
virtuous, or at least reformed, and if liberal-conservative, not too
liberal-conservative; and without wishing anybody to die, thought his
succession to the title an event to be desired.

If the Arrowpoints had such ruminations, it is the less surprising that
they were stimulated in Mr. Gascoigne, who for being a clergyman was
not the less subject to the anxieties of a parent and guardian; and we
have seen how both he and Mrs. Gascoigne might by this time have come
to feel that he was overcharged with the management of young creatures
who were hardly to be held in with bit or bridle, or any sort of
metaphor that would stand for judicious advice.

Naturally, people did not tell each other all they felt and thought
about young Grandcourt's advent: on no subject is this openness found
prudently practicable--not even on the generation of acids, or the
destination of the fixed stars: for either your contemporary with a
mind turned toward the same subjects may find your ideas ingenious and
forestall you in applying them, or he may have other views on acids and
fixed stars, and think ill of you in consequence. Mr. Gascoigne did not
ask Mr. Arrowpoint if he had any trustworthy source of information
about Grandcourt considered as a husband for a charming girl; nor did
Mrs. Arrowpoint observe to Mrs. Davilow that if the possible peer
sought a wife in the neighborhood of Diplow, the only reasonable
expectation was that he would offer his hand to Catherine, who,
however, would not accept him unless he were in all respects fitted to
secure her happiness. Indeed, even to his wife the rector was silent as
to the contemplation of any matrimonial result, from the probability
that Mr. Grandcourt would see Gwendolen at the next Archery Meeting;
though Mrs. Gascoigne's mind was very likely still more active in the
same direction. She had said interjectionally to her sister, "It would
be a mercy, Fanny, if that girl were well married!" to which Mrs.
Davilow discerning some criticism of her darling in the fervor of that
wish, had not chosen to make any audible reply, though she had said
inwardly, "You will not get her to marry for your pleasure"; the mild
mother becoming rather saucy when she identified herself with her
daughter.

To her husband Mrs. Gascoigne said, "I hear Mr. Grandcourt has got two
places of his own, but he comes to Diplow for the hunting. It is to be
hoped he will set a good example in the neighborhood. Have you heard
what sort of a young man he is, Henry?"

Mr. Gascoigne had not heard; at least, if his male acquaintances had
gossiped in his hearing, he was not disposed to repeat their gossip, or
to give it any emphasis in his own mind. He held it futile, even if it
had been becoming, to show any curiosity as to the past of a young man
whose birth, wealth, and consequent leisure made many habits venial
which under other circumstances would have been inexcusable. Whatever
Grandcourt had done, he had not ruined himself; and it is well-known
that in gambling, for example, whether of the business or holiday sort,
a man who has the strength of mind to leave off when he has only ruined
others, is a reformed character. This is an illustration merely: Mr.
Gascoigne had not heard that Grandcourt had been a gambler; and we can
hardly pronounce him singular in feeling that a landed proprietor with
a mixture of noble blood in his veins was not to be an object of
suspicious inquiry like a reformed character who offers himself as your
butler or footman. Reformation, where a man can afford to do without
it, can hardly be other than genuine. Moreover, it was not certain on
any other showing hitherto, that Mr. Grandcourt had needed reformation
more than other young men in the ripe youth of five-and-thirty; and, at
any rate, the significance of what he had been must be determined by
what he actually was.

Mrs. Davilow, too, although she would not respond to her sister's
pregnant remark, could not be inwardly indifferent to an advent that
might promise a brilliant lot for Gwendolen. A little speculation on
"what may be" comes naturally, without encouragement--comes inevitably
in the form of images, when unknown persons are mentioned; and Mr.
Grandcourt's name raised in Mrs. Davilow's mind first of all the
picture of a handsome, accomplished, excellent young man whom she would
be satisfied with as a husband for her daughter; but then came the
further speculation--would Gwendolen be satisfied with him? There was
no knowing what would meet that girl's taste or touch her
affections--it might be something else than excellence; and thus the
image of the perfect suitor gave way before a fluctuating combination
of qualities that might be imagined to win Gwendolen's heart. In the
difficulty of arriving at the particular combination which would insure
that result, the mother even said to herself, "It would not signify
about her being in love, if she would only accept the right person."
For whatever marriage had been for herself, how could she the less
desire it for her daughter? The difference her own misfortunes made
was, that she never dared to dwell much to Gwendolen on the
desirableness of marriage, dreading an answer something like that of
the future Madame Roland, when her gentle mother urging the acceptance
of a suitor, said, "Tu seras heureuse, ma chère." "Oui, maman, comme
toi."

In relation to the problematic Mr. Grandcourt least of all would Mrs.
Davilow have willingly let fall a hint of the aerial castle-building
which she had the good taste to be ashamed of; for such a hint was
likely enough to give an adverse poise to Gwendolen's own thought, and
make her detest the desirable husband beforehand. Since that scene
after poor Rex's farewell visit, the mother had felt a new sense of
peril in touching the mystery of her child's feeling, and in rashly
determining what was her welfare: only she could think of welfare in no
other shape than marriage.

The discussion of the dress that Gwendolen was to wear at the Archery
Meeting was a relevant topic, however; and when it had been decided
that as a touch of color on her white cashmere, nothing, for her
complexion, was comparable to pale green--a feather which she was
trying in her hat before the looking-glass having settled the
question--Mrs. Davilow felt her ears tingle when Gwendolen, suddenly
throwing herself into the attitude of drawing her bow, said with a look
of comic enjoyment,

"How I pity all the other girls at the Archery Meeting--all thinking of
Mr. Grandcourt! And they have not a shadow of a chance."

Mrs. Davilow had not the presence of mind to answer immediately, and
Gwendolen turned round quickly toward her, saying, wickedly,

"Now you know they have not, mamma. You and my uncle and aunt--you all
intend him to fall in love with me."

Mrs. Davilow, piqued into a little stratagem, said, "Oh, my, dear, that
is not so certain. Miss Arrowpoint has charms which you have not."

"I know, but they demand thought. My arrow will pierce him before he
has time for thought. He will declare himself my slave--I shall send
him round the world to bring me back the wedding ring of a happy
woman--in the meantime all the men who are between him and the title
will die of different diseases--he will come back Lord Grandcourt--but
without the ring--and fall at my feet. I shall laugh at him--he will
rise in resentment--I shall laugh more--he will call for his steed and
ride to Quetcham, where he will find Miss Arrowpoint just married to a
needy musician, Mrs. Arrowpoint tearing her cap off, and Mr. Arrowpoint
standing by. Exit Lord Grandcourt, who returns to Diplow, and, like M.
Jabot, _change de linge_."

Was ever any young witch like this? You thought of hiding things from
her--sat upon your secret and looked innocent, and all the while she
knew by the corner of your eye that it was exactly five pounds ten you
were sitting on! As well turn the key to keep out the damp! It was
probable that by dint of divination she already knew more than any one
else did of Mr. Grandcourt. That idea in Mrs. Davilow's mind prompted
the sort of question which often comes without any other apparent
reason than the faculty of speech and the not knowing what to do with
it.

"Why, what kind of a man do you imagine him to be, Gwendolen?"

"Let me see!" said the witch, putting her forefinger to her lips, with
a little frown, and then stretching out the finger with decision.
"Short--just above my shoulder--trying to make himself tall by turning
up his mustache and keeping his beard long--a glass in his right eye to
give him an air of distinction--a strong opinion about his waistcoat,
but uncertain and trimming about the weather, on which he will try to
draw me out. He will stare at me all the while, and the glass in his
eye will cause him to make horrible faces, especially when he smiles in
a flattering way. I shall cast down my eyes in consequence, and he will
perceive that I am not indifferent to his attentions. I shall dream
that night that I am looking at the extraordinary face of a magnified
insect--and the next morning he will make an offer of his hand; the
sequel as before."

"That is a portrait of some one you have seen already, Gwen. Mr.
Grandcourt may be a delightful young man for what you know."

"Oh, yes," said Gwendolen, with a high note of careless admission,
taking off her best hat and turning it round on her hand
contemplatively. "I wonder what sort of behavior a delightful young man
would have? I know he would have hunters and racers, and a London house
and two country-houses--one with battlements and another with a
veranda. And I feel sure that with a little murdering he might get a
title."

The irony of this speech was of the doubtful sort that has some genuine
belief mixed up with it. Poor Mrs. Davilow felt uncomfortable under it.
Her own meanings being usually literal and in intention innocent; and
she said with a distressed brow:

"Don't talk in that way, child, for heaven's sake! you do read such
books--they give you such ideas of everything. I declare when your aunt
and I were your age we knew nothing about wickedness. I think it was
better so."

"Why did you not bring me up in that way, mamma?" said Gwendolen. But
immediately perceiving in the crushed look and rising sob that she had
given a deep wound, she tossed down her hat and knelt at her mother's
feet crying,

"Mamma, mamma! I was only speaking in fun. I meant nothing."

"How could I, Gwendolen?" said poor Mrs. Davilow, unable to hear the
retraction, and sobbing violently while she made the effort to speak.
"Your will was always too strong for me--if everything else had been
different."

This disjoined logic was intelligible enough to the daughter. "Dear
mamma, I don't find fault with you--I love you," said Gwendolen, really
compunctious. "How can you help what I am? Besides, I am very charming.
Come, now." Here Gwendolen with her handkerchief gently rubbed away her
mother's tears. "Really--I am contented with myself. I like myself
better than I should have liked my aunt and you. How dreadfully dull
you must have been!"

Such tender cajolery served to quiet the mother, as it had often done
before after like collisions. Not that the collisions had often been
repeated at the same point; for in the memory of both they left an
association of dread with the particular topics which had occasioned
them: Gwendolen dreaded the unpleasant sense of compunction toward her
mother, which was the nearest approach to self-condemnation and
self-distrust that she had known; and Mrs. Davilow's timid maternal
conscience dreaded whatever had brought on the slightest hint of
reproach. Hence, after this little scene, the two concurred in
excluding Mr. Grandcourt from their conversation.

When Mr. Gascoigne once or twice referred to him, Mrs. Davilow feared
least Gwendolen should betray some of her alarming keen-sightedness
about what was probably in her uncle's mind; but the fear was not
justified. Gwendolen knew certain differences in the characters with
which she was concerned as birds know climate and weather; and for the
very reason that she was determined to evade her uncle's control, she
was determined not to clash with him. The good understanding between
them was much fostered by their enjoyment of archery together: Mr.
Gascoigne, as one of the best bowmen in Wessex, was gratified to find
the elements of like skill in his niece; and Gwendolen was the more
careful not to lose the shelter of his fatherly indulgence, because
since the trouble with Rex both Mrs. Gascoigne and Anna had been unable
to hide what she felt to be a very unreasonable alienation from her.
Toward Anna she took some pains to behave with a regretful
affectionateness; but neither of them dared to mention Rex's name, and
Anna, to whom the thought of him was part of the air she breathed, was
ill at ease with the lively cousin who had ruined his happiness. She
tried dutifully to repress any sign of her changed feeling; but who in
pain can imitate the glance and hand-touch of pleasure.

This unfair resentment had rather a hardening effect on Gwendolen, and
threw her into a more defiant temper. Her uncle too might be offended
if she refused the next person who fell in love with her; and one day
when that idea was in her mind she said,

"Mamma, I see now why girls are glad to be married--to escape being
expected to please everybody but themselves."

Happily, Mr. Middleton was gone without having made any avowal; and
notwithstanding the admiration for the handsome Miss Harleth, extending
perhaps over thirty square miles in a part of Wessex well studded with
families whose numbers included several disengaged young men, each glad
to seat himself by the lively girl with whom it was so easy to get on
in conversation,--notwithstanding these grounds for arguing that
Gwendolen was likely to have other suitors more explicit than the
cautious curate, the fact was not so.

Care has been taken not only that the trees should not sweep the stars
down, but also that every man who admires a fair girl should not be
enamored of her, and even that every man who is enamored should not
necessarily declare himself. There are various refined shapes in which
the price of corn, known to be potent cause in their relation, might,
if inquired into, show why a young lady, perfect in person,
accomplishments, and costume, has not the trouble of rejecting many
offers; and nature's order is certainly benignant in not obliging us
one and all to be desperately in love with the most admirable mortal we
have ever seen. Gwendolen, we know, was far from holding that supremacy
in the minds of all observers. Besides, it was but a poor eight months
since she had come to Offendene, and some inclinations become manifest
slowly, like the sunward creeping of plants.

In face of this fact that not one of the eligible young men already in
the neighborhood had made Gwendolen an offer, why should Mr. Grandcourt
be thought of as likely to do what they had left undone?

Perhaps because he was thought of as still more eligible; since a great
deal of what passes for likelihood in the world is simply the reflex of
a wish. Mr. and Mrs. Arrowpoint, for example, having no anxiety that
Miss Harleth should make a brilliant marriage, had quite a different
likelihood in their minds.



CHAPTER X.

  _1st Gent._ What woman should be? Sir, consult the taste
                   Of marriageable men. This planet's store
                   In iron, cotton, wool, or chemicals--
                   All matter rendered to our plastic skill,
                   Is wrought in shapes responsive to demand;
                   The market's pulse makes index high or low,
                   By rule sublime. Our daughters must be wives,
                   And to the wives must be what men will choose;
                   Men's taste is woman's test. You mark the phrase?
                   'Tis good, I think?--the sense well-winged and poised
                   With t's and s's.
  _2nd Gent._                      Nay, but turn it round;
                   Give us the test of taste. A fine _menu_--
                   Is it to-day what Roman epicures
                   Insisted that a gentleman must eat
                   To earn the dignity of dining well?


Brackenshaw Park, where the archery meeting was held, looked out from
its gentle heights far over the neighboring valley to the outlying
eastern downs and the broad, slow rise of cultivated country, hanging
like a vast curtain toward the west. The castle which stood on the
highest platform of the clustered hills, was built of rough-hewn
limestone, full of lights and shadows made by the dark dust of lichens
and the washings of the rain. Masses of beech and fir sheltered it on
the north, and spread down here and there along the green slopes like
flocks seeking the water which gleamed below. The archery-ground was a
carefully-kept enclosure on a bit of table-land at the farthest end of
the park, protected toward the southwest by tall elms and a thick
screen of hollies, which kept the gravel walk and the bit of newly-mown
turf where the targets were placed in agreeable afternoon shade. The
Archery Hall with an arcade in front showed like a white temple against
the greenery on the north side.

What could make a better background for the flower-groups of ladies,
moving and bowing and turning their necks as it would become the
leisurely lilies to do if they took to locomotion. The sounds too were
very pleasant to hear, even when the military band from Wanchester
ceased to play: musical laughs in all the registers and a harmony of
happy, friendly speeches, now rising toward mild excitement, now
sinking to an agreeable murmur.

No open-air amusement could be much freer from those noisy, crowding
conditions which spoil most modern pleasures; no Archery Meeting could
be more select, the number of friends accompanying the members being
restricted by an award of tickets, so as to keep the maximum within the
limits of convenience for the dinner and ball to be held in the castle.
Within the enclosure no plebeian spectators were admitted except Lord
Brackenshaw's tenants and their families, and of these it was chiefly
the feminine members who used the privilege, bringing their little boys
and girls or younger brothers and sisters. The males among them
relieved the insipidity of the entertainment by imaginative betting, in
which the stake was "anything you like," on their favorite archers; but
the young maidens, having a different principle of discrimination, were
considering which of those sweetly-dressed ladies they would choose to
be, if the choice were allowed them. Probably the form these rural
souls would most have striven for as a tabernacle, was some other than
Gwendolen's--one with more pink in her cheeks and hair of the most
fashionable yellow; but among the male judges in the ranks immediately
surrounding her there was unusual unanimity in pronouncing her the
finest girl present.

No wonder she enjoyed her existence on that July day. Pre-eminence is
sweet to those who love it, even under mediocre circumstances. Perhaps
it was not quite mythical that a slave has been proud to be bought
first; and probably a barn-door fowl on sale, though he may not have
understood himself to be called the best of a bad lot, may have a
self-informed consciousness of his relative importance, and strut
consoled. But for complete enjoyment the outward and the inward must
concur. And that concurrence was happening to Gwendolen.

Who can deny that bows and arrows are among the prettiest weapons in
the world for feminine forms to play with? They prompt attitudes full
of grace and power, where that fine concentration of energy seen in all
markmanship, is freed from associations of bloodshed. The time-honored
British resource of "killing something" is no longer carried on with
bow and quiver; bands defending their passes against an invading nation
fight under another sort of shade than a cloud of arrows; and poisoned
darts are harmless survivals either in rhetoric or in regions
comfortably remote. Archery has no ugly smell of brimstone; breaks
nobody's shins, breeds no athletic monsters; its only danger is that of
failing, which for generous blood is enough to mould skilful action.
And among the Brackenshaw archers the prizes were all of the nobler
symbolic kind; not properly to be carried off in a parcel, degrading
honor into gain; but the gold arrow and the silver, the gold star and
the silver, to be worn for a long time in sign of achievement and then
transferred to the next who did excellently. These signs of
pre-eminence had the virtue of wreaths without their inconveniences,
which might have produced a melancholy effect in the heat of the
ball-room. Altogether the Brackenshaw Archery Club was an institution
framed with good taste, so as not to have by necessity any ridiculous
incidents.

And to-day all incalculable elements were in its favor. There was mild
warmth, and no wind to disturb either hair or drapery or the course of
the arrow; all skillful preparation had fair play, and when there was a
general march to extract the arrows, the promenade of joyous young
creatures in light speech and laughter, the graceful movement in common
toward a common object, was a show worth looking at. Here Gwendolen
seemed a Calypso among her nymphs. It was in her attitudes and
movements that every one was obliged to admit her surpassing charm.

"That girl is like a high-mettled racer," said Lord Brackenshaw to
young Clintock, one of the invited spectators.

"First chop! tremendously pretty too," said the elegant Grecian, who
had been paying her assiduous attention; "I never saw her look better."

Perhaps she had never looked so well. Her face was beaming with young
pleasure in which there was no malign rays of discontent; for being
satisfied with her own chances, she felt kindly toward everybody and
was satisfied with the universe. Not to have the highest distinction in
rank, not to be marked out as an heiress, like Miss Arrowpoint, gave an
added triumph in eclipsing those advantages. For personal
recommendation she would not have cared to change the family group
accompanying her for any other: her mamma's appearance would have
suited an amiable duchess; her uncle and aunt Gascoigne with Anna made
equally gratifying figures in their way; and Gwendolen was too full of
joyous belief in herself to feel in the least jealous though Miss
Arrowpoint was one of the best archeresses.

Even the reappearance of the formidable Herr Klesmer, which caused some
surprise in the rest of the company, seemed only to fall in with
Gwendolen's inclination to be amused. Short of Apollo himself, what
great musical _maestro_ could make a good figure at an archery meeting?
There was a very satirical light in Gwendolen's eyes as she looked
toward the Arrowpoint party on their first entrance, when the contrast
between Klesmer and the average group of English country people seemed
at its utmost intensity in the close neighborhood of his hosts--or
patrons, as Mrs. Arrowpoint would have liked to hear them called, that
she might deny the possibility of any longer patronizing genius, its
royalty being universally acknowledged. The contrast might have amused
a graver personage than Gwendolen. We English are a miscellaneous
people, and any chance fifty of us will present many varieties of
animal architecture or facial ornament; but it must be admitted that
our prevailing expression is not that of a lively, impassioned race,
preoccupied with the ideal and carrying the real as a mere make-weight.
The strong point of the English gentleman pure is the easy style of his
figure and clothing; he objects to marked ins and outs in his costume,
and he also objects to looking inspired.

Fancy an assemblage where the men had all that ordinary stamp of the
well-bred Englishman, watching the entrance of Herr Klesmer--his mane
of hair floating backward in massive inconsistency with the chimney-pot
hat, which had the look of having been put on for a joke above his
pronounced but well-modeled features and powerful clear-shaven mouth
and chin; his tall, thin figure clad in a way which, not being strictly
English, was all the worse for its apparent emphasis of intention.
Draped in a loose garment with a Florentine _berretta_ on his head, he
would have been fit to stand by the side of Leonardo de Vinci; but how
when he presented himself in trousers which were not what English
feeling demanded about the knees?--and when the fire that showed itself
in his glances and the movements of his head, as he looked round him
with curiosity, was turned into comedy by a hat which ruled that
mankind should have well-cropped hair and a staid demeanor, such, for
example, as Mr. Arrowsmith's, whose nullity of face and perfect
tailoring might pass everywhere without ridicule? One feels why it is
often better for greatness to be dead, and to have got rid of the
outward man.

Many present knew Klesmer, or knew of him; but they had only seen him
on candle-light occasions when he appeared simply as a musician, and he
had not yet that supreme, world-wide celebrity which makes an artist
great to the most ordinary people by their knowledge of his great
expensiveness. It was literally a new light for them to see him
in--presented unexpectedly on this July afternoon in an exclusive
society: some were inclined to laugh, others felt a little disgust at
the want of judgment shown by the Arrowpoints in this use of an
introductory card.

"What extreme guys those artistic fellows usually are!" said young
Clintock to Gwendolen. "Do look at the figure he cuts, bowing with his
hand on his heart to Lady Brackenshaw--and Mrs. Arrowpoint's feather
just reaching his shoulder."

"You are one of the profane," said Gwendolen. "You are blind to the
majesty of genius. Herr Klesmer smites me with awe; I feel crushed in
his presence; my courage all oozes from me."

"Ah, you understand all about his music."

"No, indeed," said Gwendolen, with a light laugh; "it is he who
understands all about mine and thinks it pitiable." Klesmer's verdict
on her singing had been an easier joke to her since he had been struck
by her _plastik_.

"It is not addressed to the ears of the future, I suppose. I'm glad of
that: it suits mine."

"Oh, you are very kind. But how remarkably well Miss Arrowpoint looks
to-day! She would make quite a fine picture in that gold-colored dress."

"Too splendid, don't you think?"

"Well, perhaps a little too symbolical--too much like the figure of
Wealth in an allegory."

This speech of Gwendolen's had rather a malicious sound, but it was not
really more than a bubble of fun. She did not wish Miss Arrowpoint or
any one else to be out of the way, believing in her own good fortune
even more than in her skill. The belief in both naturally grew stronger
as the shooting went on, for she promised to achieve one of the best
scores--a success which astonished every one in a new member; and to
Gwendolen's temperament one success determined another. She trod on
air, and all things pleasant seemed possible. The hour was enough for
her, and she was not obliged to think what she should do next to keep
her life at the due pitch.

"How does the scoring stand, I wonder?" said Lady Brackenshaw, a
gracious personage who, adorned with two little girls and a boy of
stout make, sat as lady paramount. Her lord had come up to her in one
of the intervals of shooting. "It seems to me that Miss Harleth is
likely to win the gold arrow."

"Gad, I think she will, if she carries it on! she is running Juliet
Fenn hard. It is wonderful for one in her first year. Catherine is not
up to her usual mark," continued his lordship, turning to the heiress's
mother who sat near. "But she got the gold arrow last time. And there's
a luck even in these games of skill. That's better. It gives the hinder
ones a chance."

"Catherine will be very glad for others to win," said Mrs. Arrowpoint,
"she is so magnanimous. It was entirely her considerateness that made
us bring Herr Klesmer instead of Canon Stopley, who had expressed a
wish to come. For her own pleasure, I am sure she would rather have
brought the Canon; but she is always thinking of others. I told her it
was not quite _en règle_ to bring one so far out of our own set; but
she said, 'Genius itself is not _en règle_; it comes into the world to
make new rules.' And one must admit that."

"Ay, to be sure," said Lord Brackenshaw, in a tone of careless
dismissal, adding quickly, "For my part, I am not magnanimous; I should
like to win. But, confound it! I never have the chance now. I'm getting
old and idle. The young ones beat me. As old Nestor says--the gods
don't give us everything at one time: I was a young fellow once, and
now I am getting an old and wise one. Old, at any rate; which is a gift
that comes to everybody if they live long enough, so it raises no
jealousy." The Earl smiled comfortably at his wife.

"Oh, my lord, people who have been neighbors twenty years must not talk
to each other about age," said Mrs. Arrowpoint. "Years, as the Tuscans
say, are made for the letting of houses. But where is our new neighbor?
I thought Mr. Grandcourt was to be here to-day."

"Ah, by the way, so he was. The time's getting on too," said his
lordship, looking at his watch. "But he only got to Diplow the other
day. He came to us on Tuesday and said he had been a little bothered.
He may have been pulled in another direction. Why, Gascoigne!"--the
rector was just then crossing at a little distance with Gwendolen on
his arm, and turned in compliance with the call--"this is a little too
bad; you not only beat us yourself, but you bring up your niece to beat
all the archeresses."

"It _is_ rather scandalous in her to get the better of elder members,"
said Mr. Gascoigne, with much inward satisfaction curling his short
upper lip. "But it is not my doing, my lord. I only meant her to make a
tolerable figure, without surpassing any one."

"It is not my fault, either," said Gwendolen, with pretty archness. "If
I am to aim, I can't help hitting."

"Ay, ay, that may be a fatal business for some people," said Lord
Brackenshaw, good-humoredly; then taking out his watch and looking at
Mrs. Arrowpoint again--"The time's getting on, as you say. But
Grandcourt is always late. I notice in town he's always late, and he's
no bowman--understands nothing about it. But I told him he must come;
he would see the flower of the neighborhood here. He asked about
you--had seen Arrowpoint's card. I think you had not made his
acquaintance in town. He has been a good deal abroad. People don't know
him much."

"No; we are strangers," said Mrs. Arrowpoint. "But that is not what
might have been expected. For his uncle Sir Hugo Mallinger and I are
great friends when we meet."

"I don't know; uncles and nephews are not so likely to be seen together
as uncles and nieces," said his lordship, smiling toward the rector.
"But just come with me one instant, Gascoigne, will you? I want to
speak a word about the clout-shooting."

Gwendolen chose to go too and be deposited in the same group with her
mamma and aunt until she had to shoot again. That Mr. Grandcourt might
after all not appear on the archery-ground, had begun to enter into
Gwendolen's thought as a possible deduction from the completeness of
her pleasure. Under all her saucy satire, provoked chiefly by her
divination that her friends thought of him as a desirable match for
her, she felt something very far from indifference as to the impression
she would make on him. True, he was not to have the slightest power
over her (for Gwendolen had not considered that the desire to conquer
is itself a sort of subjection); she had made up her mind that he was
to be one of those complimentary and assiduously admiring men of whom
even her narrow experience had shown her several with various-colored
beards and various styles of bearing; and the sense that her friends
would want her to think him delightful, gave her a resistant
inclination to presuppose him ridiculous. But that was no reason why
she could spare his presence: and even a passing prevision of trouble
in case she despised and refused him, raised not the shadow of a wish
that he should save her that trouble by showing no disposition to make
her an offer. Mr. Grandcourt taking hardly any notice of her, and
becoming shortly engaged to Miss Arrowpoint, was not a picture which
flattered her imagination.

Hence Gwendolen had been all ear to Lord Brackenshaw's mode of
accounting for Grandcourt's non-appearance; and when he did arrive, no
consciousness--not even Mrs. Arrowpoint's or Mr. Gascoigne's--was more
awake to the fact than hers, although she steadily avoided looking
toward any point where he was likely to be. There should be no
slightest shifting of angles to betray that it was of any consequence
to her whether the much-talked-of Mr. Mallinger Grandcourt presented
himself or not. She became again absorbed in the shooting, and so
resolutely abstained from looking round observantly that, even
supposing him to have taken a conspicuous place among the spectators,
it might be clear she was not aware of him. And all the while the
certainty that he was there made a distinct thread in her
consciousness. Perhaps her shooting was the better for it: at any rate,
it gained in precision, and she at last raised a delightful storm of
clapping and applause by three hits running in the gold--a feat which
among the Brackenshaw archers had not the vulgar reward of a shilling
poll-tax, but that of a special gold star to be worn on the breast.
That moment was not only a happy one to herself--it was just what her
mamma and her uncle would have chosen for her. There was a general
falling into ranks to give her space that she might advance
conspicuously to receive the gold star from the hands of Lady
Brackenshaw; and the perfect movement of her fine form was certainly a
pleasant thing to behold in the clear afternoon light when the shadows
were long and still. She was the central object of that pretty picture,
and every one present must gaze at her. That was enough: she herself
was determined to see nobody in particular, or to turn her eyes any way
except toward Lady Brackenshaw, but her thoughts undeniably turned in
other ways. It entered a little into her pleasure that Herr Klesmer
must be observing her at a moment when music was out of the question,
and his superiority very far in the back-ground; for vanity is as ill
at ease under indifference as tenderness is under a love which it
cannot return; and the unconquered Klesmer threw a trace of his malign
power even across her pleasant consciousness that Mr. Grandcourt was
seeing her to the utmost advantage, and was probably giving her an
admiration unmixed with criticism. She did not expect to admire _him_,
but that was not necessary to her peace of mind.

Gwendolen met Lady Brackenshaw's gracious smile without blushing (which
only came to her when she was taken by surprise), but with a charming
gladness of expression, and then bent with easy grace to have the star
fixed near her shoulder. That little ceremony had been over long enough
for her to have exchanged playful speeches and received congratulations
as she moved among the groups who were now interesting themselves in
the results of the scoring; but it happened that she stood outside
examining the point of an arrow with rather an absent air when Lord
Brackenshaw came up to her and said,

"Miss Harleth, here is a gentleman who is not willing to wait any
longer for an introduction. He has been getting Mrs. Davilow to send me
with him. Will you allow me to introduce Mr. Mallinger Grandcourt?"



BOOK II.--MEETING STREAMS.


CHAPTER XI.

    The beginning of an acquaintance whether with persons or things is to
    get a definite outline for our ignorance.


Mr. Grandcourt's wish to be introduced had no suddenness for Gwendolen;
but when Lord Brackenshaw moved aside a little for the prefigured
stranger to come forward and she felt herself face to face with the
real man, there was a little shock which flushed her cheeks and
vexatiously deepened with her consciousness of it. The shock came from
the reversal of her expectations: Grandcourt could hardly have been
more unlike all her imaginary portraits of him. He was slightly taller
than herself, and their eyes seemed to be on a level; there was not the
faintest smile on his face as he looked at her, not a trace of
self-consciousness or anxiety in his bearing: when he raised his hat he
showed an extensive baldness surrounded with a mere fringe of
reddish-blonde hair, but he also showed a perfect hand; the line of
feature from brow to chin undisguised by beard was decidedly handsome,
with only moderate departures from the perpendicular, and the slight
whisker too was perpendicular. It was not possible for a human aspect
to be freer from grimace or solicitous wrigglings: also it was perhaps
not possible for a breathing man wide awake to look less animated. The
correct Englishman, drawing himself up from his bow into rigidity,
assenting severely, and seemed to be in a state of internal drill,
suggests a suppressed vivacity, and may be suspected of letting go with
some violence when he is released from parade; but Grandcourt's bearing
had no rigidity, it inclined rather to the flaccid. His complexion had
a faded fairness resembling that of an actress when bare of the
artificial white and red; his long narrow gray eyes expressed nothing
but indifference. Attempts at description are stupid: who can all at
once describe a human being? Even when he is presented to us we only
begin that knowledge of his appearance which must be completed by
innumerable impressions under differing circumstances. We recognize the
alphabet; we are not sure of the language. I am only mentioning the
point that Gwendolen saw by the light of a prepared contrast in the
first minutes of her meeting with Grandcourt: they were summed up in
the words, "He is not ridiculous." But forthwith Lord Brackenshaw was
gone, and what is called conversation had begun, the first and constant
element in it being that Grandcourt looked at Gwendolen persistently
with a slightly exploring gaze, but without change of expression, while
she only occasionally looked at him with a flash of observation a
little softened by coquetry. Also, after her answers there was a longer
or shorter pause before he spoke again.

"I used to think archery was a great bore," Grandcourt began. He spoke
with a fine accent, but with a certain broken drawl, as of a
distinguished personage with a distinguished cold on his chest.

"Are you converted to-day?" said Gwendolen.

(Pause, during which she imagined various degrees and modes of opinion
about herself that might be entertained by Grandcourt.)

"Yes, since I saw you shooting. In things of this sort one generally
sees people missing and simpering."

"I suppose you are a first-rate shot with a rifle."

(Pause, during which Gwendolen, having taken a rapid observation of
Grandcourt, made a brief graphic description of him to an indefinite
hearer.)

"I have left off shooting."

"Oh, then, you are a formidable person. People who have done things once
and left them off make one feel very contemptible, as if one were using
cast-off fashions. I hope you have not left off all follies, because I
practice a great many."

(Pause, during which Gwendolen made several interpretations of her own
speech.)

"What do you call follies?"

"Well, in general, I think, whatever is agreeable is called a folly. But
you have not left off hunting, I hear."

(Pause, wherein Gwendolen recalled what she had heard about
Grandcourt's position, and decided that he was the most
aristocratic-looking man she had ever seen.)

"One must do something."

"And do you care about the turf?--or is that among the things you have
left off?"

(Pause, during which Gwendolen thought that a man of extremely calm,
cold manners might be less disagreeable as a husband than other men,
and not likely to interfere with his wife's preferences.)

"I run a horse now and then; but I don't go in for the thing as some
men do. Are you fond of horses?"

"Yes, indeed; I never like my life so well as when I am on horseback,
having a great gallop. I think of nothing. I only feel myself strong
and happy."

(Pause, wherein Gwendolen wondered whether Grandcourt would like what
she said, but assured herself that she was not going to disguise her
tastes.)

"Do you like danger?"

"I don't know. When I am on horseback I never think of danger. It seems
to me that if I broke my bones I should not feel it. I should go at
anything that came in my way."

(Pause during which Gwendolen had run through a whole hunting season
with two chosen hunters to ride at will.)

"You would perhaps like tiger-hunting or pig-sticking. I saw some of
that for a season or two in the East. Everything here is poor stuff
after that."

"_You_ are fond of danger, then?"

(Pause, wherein Gwendolen speculated on the probability that the men of
coldest manners were the most adventurous, and felt the strength of her
own insight, supposing the question had to be decided.)

"One must have something or other. But one gets used to it."

"I begin to think I am very fortunate, because everything is new to me:
it is only that I can't get enough of it. I am not used to anything
except being dull, which I should like to leave off as you have left
off shooting."

(Pause, during which it occurred to Gwendolen that a man of cold and
distinguished manners might possibly be a dull companion; but on the
other hand she thought that most persons were dull, that she had not
observed husbands to be companions--and that after all she was not
going to accept Grandcourt.)

"Why are you dull?"

"This is a dreadful neighborhood. There is nothing to be done in it.
That is why I practiced my archery."

(Pause, during which Gwendolen reflected that the life of an unmarried
woman who could not go about and had no command of anything must
necessarily be dull through all degrees of comparison as time went on.)

"You have made yourself queen of it. I imagine you will carry the first
prize."

"I don't know that. I have great rivals. Did you not observe how well
Miss Arrowpoint shot?"

(Pause, wherein Gwendolen was thinking that men had been known to
choose some one else than the woman they most admired, and recalled
several experiences of that kind in novels.)

"Miss Arrowpoint. No--that is, yes."

"Shall we go now and hear what the scoring says? Every one is going to
the other end now--shall we join them? I think my uncle is looking
toward me. He perhaps wants me."

Gwendolen found a relief for herself by thus changing the situation:
not that the _tete-à-tete_ was quite disagreeable to her; but while it
lasted she apparently could not get rid of the unwonted flush in her
cheeks and the sense of surprise which made her feel less mistress of
herself than usual. And this Mr. Grandcourt, who seemed to feel his own
importance more than he did hers--a sort of unreasonableness few of us
can tolerate--must not take for granted that he was of great moment to
her, or that because others speculated on him as a desirable match she
held herself altogether at his beck. How Grandcourt had filled up the
pauses will be more evident hereafter.

"You have just missed the gold arrow, Gwendolen," said Mr. Gascoigne.
"Miss Juliet Fenn scores eight above you."

"I am very glad to hear it. I should have felt that I was making myself
too disagreeable--taking the best of everything," said Gwendolen, quite
easily.

It was impossible to be jealous of Juliet Fenn, a girl as middling as
mid-day market in everything but her archery and plainness, in which
last she was noticeable like her father: underhung and with receding
brow resembling that of the more intelligent fishes. (Surely,
considering the importance which is given to such an accident in female
offspring, marriageable men, or what the new English calls "intending
bridegrooms," should look at themselves dispassionately in the glass,
since their natural selection of a mate prettier than themselves is not
certain to bar the effect of their own ugliness.)

There was now a lively movement in the mingling groups, which carried
the talk along with it. Every one spoke to every one else by turns, and
Gwendolen, who chose to see what was going on around her now, observed
that Grandcourt was having Klesmer presented to him by some one unknown
to her--a middle-aged man, with dark, full face and fat hands, who
seemed to be on the easiest terms with both, and presently led the way
in joining the Arrowpoints, whose acquaintance had already been made by
both him and Grandcourt. Who this stranger was she did not care much to
know; but she wished to observe what was Grandcourt's manner toward
others than herself. Precisely the same: except that he did not look
much at Miss Arrowpoint, but rather at Klesmer, who was speaking with
animation--now stretching out his long fingers horizontally, now
pointing downward with his fore-finger, now folding his arms and
tossing his mane, while he addressed himself first to one and then to
the other, including Grandcourt, who listened with an impassive face
and narrow eyes, his left fore-finger in his waistcoat-pocket, and his
right slightly touching his thin whisker.

"I wonder which style Miss Arrowpoint admires most," was a thought that
glanced through Gwendolen's mind, while her eyes and lips gathered
rather a mocking expression. But she would not indulge her sense of
amusement by watching, as if she were curious, and she gave all her
animation to those immediately around her, determined not to care
whether Mr. Grandcourt came near her again or not.

He did come, however, and at a moment when he could propose to
conduct Mrs. Davilow to her carriage, "Shall we meet again in the
ball-room?" she said as he raised his hat at parting. The "yes" in
reply had the usual slight drawl and perfect gravity.

"You were wrong for once, Gwendolen," said Mrs. Davilow, during their
few minutes' drive to the castle.

"In what, mamma?"

"About Mr. Grandcourt's appearance and manners. You can't find anything
ridiculous in him."

"I suppose I could if I tried, but I don't want to do it," said
Gwendolen, rather pettishly; and her mother was afraid to say more.

It was the rule on these occasions for the ladies and gentlemen to dine
apart, so that the dinner might make a time of comparative ease and
rest for both. Indeed, the gentlemen had a set of archery stories about
the epicurism of the ladies, who had somehow been reported to show a
revolting masculine judgment in venison, even asking for the fat--a
proof of the frightful rate at which corruption might go on in women,
but for severe social restraint, and every year the amiable Lord
Brackenshaw, who was something of a _gourmet_, mentioned Byron's
opinion that a woman should never be seen eating,--introducing it with
a confidential--"The fact is" as if he were for the first time
admitting his concurrence in that sentiment of the refined poet.

In the ladies' dining-room it was evident that Gwendolen was not a
general favorite with her own sex: there were no beginnings of intimacy
between her and other girls, and in conversation they rather noticed
what she said than spoke to her in free exchange. Perhaps it was that
she was not much interested in them, and when left alone in their
company had a sense of empty benches. Mrs. Vulcany once remarked that
Miss Harleth was too fond of the gentlemen; but we know that she was
not in the least fond of them--she was only fond of their homage--and
women did not give her homage. The exception to this willing aloofness
from her was Miss Arrowpoint, who often managed unostentatiously to be
by her side, and talked to her with quiet friendliness.

"She knows, as I do, that our friends are ready to quarrel over a
husband for us," thought Gwendolen, "and she is determined not to enter
into the quarrel."

"I think Miss Arrowpoint has the best manners I ever saw," said Mrs.
Davilow, when she and Gwendolen were in a dressing-room with Mrs.
Gascoigne and Anna, but at a distance where they could have their talk
apart.

"I wish I were like her," said Gwendolen.

"Why? Are you getting discontented with yourself, Gwen?"

"No; but I am discontented with things. She seems contented."

"I am sure you ought to be satisfied to-day. You must have enjoyed the
shooting. I saw you did."

"Oh, that is over now, and I don't know what will come next," said
Gwendolen, stretching herself with a sort of moan and throwing up her
arms. They were bare now; it was the fashion to dance in the archery
dress, throwing off the jacket; and the simplicity of her white
cashmere with its border of pale green set off her form to the utmost.
A thin line of gold round her neck, and the gold star on her breast,
were her only ornaments. Her smooth soft hair piled up into a grand
crown made a clear line about her brow. Sir Joshua would have been glad
to take her portrait; and he would have had an easier task than the
historian at least in this, that he would not have had to represent the
truth of change--only to give stability to one beautiful moment.

"The dancing will come next," said Mrs. Davilow "You are sure to enjoy
that."

"I shall only dance in the quadrille. I told Mr. Clintock so. I shall
not waltz or polk with any one."

"Why in the world do you say that all on a sudden?"

"I can't bear having ugly people so near me."

"Whom do you mean by ugly people?"

"Oh, plenty."

"Mr. Clintock, for example, is not ugly." Mrs. Davilow dared not
mention Grandcourt.

"Well, I hate woolen cloth touching me."

"Fancy!" said Mrs. Davilow to her sister who now came up from the other
end of the room. "Gwendolen says she will not waltz or polk."

"She is rather given to whims, I think," said Mrs. Gascoigne, gravely.
"It would be more becoming in her to behave as other young ladies do on
such an occasion as this; especially when she has had the advantage of
first-rate dancing lessons."

"Why should I dance if I don't like it, aunt? It is not in the
catechism."

"My _dear_!" said Mrs. Gascoigne, in a tone of severe check, and Anna
looked frightened at Gwendolen's daring. But they all passed on without
saying any more.

Apparently something had changed Gwendolen's mood since the hour of
exulting enjoyment in the archery-ground. But she did not look the
worse under the chandeliers in the ball-room, where the soft splendor
of the scene and the pleasant odors from the conservatory could not but
be soothing to the temper, when accompanied with the consciousness of
being preeminently sought for. Hardly a dancing man but was anxious to
have her for a partner, and each whom she accepted was in a state of
melancholy remonstrance that she would not waltz or polk.

"Are you under a vow, Miss Harleth?"--"Why are you so cruel to us
all?"--"You waltzed with me in February."--"And you who waltz so
perfectly!" were exclamations not without piquancy for her. The ladies
who waltzed naturally thought that Miss Harleth only wanted to make
herself particular; but her uncle when he overheard her refusal,
supported her by saying,

"Gwendolen has usually good reasons." He thought she was certainly more
distinguished in not waltzing, and he wished her to be distinguished.
The archery ball was intended to be kept at the subdued pitch that
suited all dignities clerical and secular; it was not an escapement for
youthful high spirits, and he himself was of opinion that the
fashionable dances were too much of a romp.

Among the remonstrant dancing men, however, Mr. Grandcourt was not
numbered. After standing up for a quadrille with Miss Arrowpoint, it
seemed that he meant to ask for no other partner. Gwendolen observed
him frequently with the Arrowpoints, but he never took an opportunity
of approaching her. Mr. Gascoigne was sometimes speaking to him; but
Mr. Gascoigne was everywhere. It was in her mind now that she would
probably after all not have the least trouble about him: perhaps he had
looked at her without any particular admiration, and was too much used
to everything in the world to think of her as more than one of the
girls who were invited in that part of the country. Of course! It was
ridiculous of elders to entertain notions about what a man would do,
without having seen him even through a telescope. Probably he meant to
marry Miss Arrowpoint. Whatever might come, she, Gwendolen, was not
going to be disappointed: the affair was a joke whichever way it
turned, for she had never committed herself even by a silent confidence
in anything Mr. Grandcourt would do. Still, she noticed that he did
sometimes quietly and gradually change his position according to hers,
so that he could see her whenever she was dancing, and if he did not
admire her--so much the worse for him.

This movement for the sake of being in sight of her was more direct
than usual rather late in the evening, when Gwendolen had accepted
Klesmer as a partner; and that wide-glancing personage, who saw
everything and nothing by turns, said to her when they were walking,
"Mr. Grandcourt is a man of taste. He likes to see you dancing."

"Perhaps he likes to look at what is against his taste," said
Gwendolen, with a light laugh; she was quite courageous with Klesmer
now. "He may be so tired of admiring that he likes disgust for variety."

"Those words are not suitable to your lips," said Klesmer, quickly,
with one of his grand frowns, while he shook his hand as if to banish
the discordant sounds.

"Are you as critical of words as of music?"

"Certainly I am. I should require your words to be what your face and
form are--always among the meanings of a noble music."

"That is a compliment as well as a correction. I am obliged for both.
But do you know I am bold enough to wish to correct _you_, and require
you to understand a joke?"

"One may understand jokes without liking them," said the terrible
Klesmer. "I have had opera books sent me full of jokes; it was just
because I understood them that I did not like them. The comic people
are ready to challenge a man because he looks grave. 'You don't see the
witticism, sir?' 'No, sir, but I see what you meant.' Then I am what we
call ticketed as a fellow without _esprit_. But, in fact," said
Klesmer, suddenly dropping from his quick narrative to a reflective
tone, with an impressive frown, "I am very sensible to wit and humor."

"I am glad you tell me that," said Gwendolen, not without some
wickedness of intention. But Klesmer's thoughts had flown off on the
wings of his own statement, as their habit was, and she had the
wickedness all to herself. "Pray, who is that standing near the
card-room door?" she went on, seeing there the same stranger with whom
Klesmer had been in animated talk on the archery ground. "He is a
friend of yours, I think."

"No, no; an amateur I have seen in town; Lush, a Mr. Lush--too fond of
Meyerbeer and Scribe--too fond of the mechanical-dramatic."

"Thanks. I wanted to know whether you thought his face and form
required that his words should be among the meanings of noble music?"
Klesmer was conquered, and flashed at her a delightful smile which made
them quite friendly until she begged to be deposited by the side of her
mamma.

Three minutes afterward her preparations for Grandcourt's indifference
were all canceled. Turning her head after some remark to her mother,
she found that he had made his way up to her.

"May I ask if you are tired of dancing, Miss Harleth?" he began,
looking down with his former unperturbed expression.

"Not in the least."

"Will you do me the honor--the next--or another quadrille?"

"I should have been very happy," said Gwendolen looking at her card,
"but I am engaged for the next to Mr. Clintock--and indeed I perceive
that I am doomed for every quadrille; I have not one to dispose of."
She was not sorry to punish Mr. Grandcourt's tardiness, yet at the same
time she would have liked to dance with him. She gave him a charming
smile as she looked up to deliver her answer, and he stood still
looking down at her with no smile at all.

"I am unfortunate in being too late," he said, after a moment's pause.

"It seemed to me that you did not care for dancing," said Gwendolen. "I
thought it might be one of the things you had left off."

"Yes, but I have not begun to dance with you," said Grandcourt. Always
there was the same pause before he took up his cue. "You make dancing a
new thing, as you make archery."

"Is novelty always agreeable?"

"No, no--not always."

"Then I don't know whether to feel flattered or not. When you had once
danced with me there would be no more novelty in it."

"On the contrary, there would probably be much more."

"That is deep. I don't understand."

"It is difficult to make Miss Harleth understand her power?" Here
Grandcourt had turned to Mrs. Davilow, who, smiling gently at her
daughter, said,

"I think she does not generally strike people as slow to understand."

"Mamma," said Gwendolen, in a deprecating tone, "I am adorably stupid,
and want everything explained to me--when the meaning is pleasant."

"If you are stupid, I admit that stupidity is adorable," returned
Grandcourt, after the usual pause, and without change of tone. But
clearly he knew what to say.

"I begin to think that my cavalier has forgotten me," Gwendolen
observed after a little while. "I see the quadrille is being formed."

"He deserves to be renounced," said Grandcourt.

"I think he is very pardonable," said Gwendolen.

"There must have been some misunderstanding," said Mrs. Davilow. "Mr.
Clintock was too anxious about the engagement to have forgotten it."

But now Lady Brackenshaw came up and said, "Miss Harleth, Mr. Clintock
has charged me to express to you his deep regret that he was obliged to
leave without having the pleasure of dancing with you again. An express
came from his father, the archdeacon; something important; he was to
go. He was _au désespoir_."

"Oh, he was very good to remember the engagement under the
circumstances," said Gwendolen. "I am sorry he was called away." It was
easy to be politely sorrowful on so felicitous an occasion.

"Then I can profit by Mr. Clintock's misfortune?" said Grandcourt. "May
I hope that you will let me take his place?"

"I shall be very happy to dance the next quadrille with you."

The appropriateness of the event seemed an augury, and as Gwendolen
stood up for the quadrille with Grandcourt, there was a revival in her
of the exultation--the sense of carrying everything before her, which
she had felt earlier in the day. No man could have walked through the
quadrille with more irreproachable ease than Grandcourt; and the
absence of all eagerness in his attention to her suited his partner's
taste. She was now convinced that he meant to distinguish her, to mark
his admiration of her in a noticeable way; and it began to appear
probable that she would have it in her power to reject him, whence
there was a pleasure in reckoning up the advantages which would make
her rejection splendid, and in giving Mr. Grandcourt his utmost value.
It was also agreeable to divine that this exclusive selection of her to
dance with, from among all the unmarried ladies present, would attract
observation; though she studiously avoided seeing this, and at the end
of the quadrille walked away on Grandcourt's arm as if she had been one
of the shortest sighted instead of the longest and widest sighted of
mortals. They encountered Miss Arrowpoint, who was standing with Lady
Brackenshaw and a group of gentlemen. The heiress looked at Gwendolen
invitingly and said, "I hope you will vote with us, Miss Harleth, and
Mr. Grandcourt too, though he is not an archer." Gwendolen and
Grandcourt paused to join the group, and found that the voting turned
on the project of a picnic archery meeting to be held in Cardell Chase,
where the evening entertainment would be more poetic than a ball under
chandeliers--a feast of sunset lights along the glades and through the
branches and over the solemn tree-tops.

Gwendolen thought the scheme delightful--equal to playing Robin Hood
and Maid Marian: and Mr. Grandcourt, when appealed to a second time,
said it was a thing to be done; whereupon Mr. Lush, who stood behind
Lady Brackenshaw's elbow, drew Gwendolen's notice by saying with a
familiar look and tone to Grandcourt, "Diplow would be a good place for
the meeting, and more convenient: there's a fine bit between the oaks
toward the north gate."

Impossible to look more unconscious of being addressed than Grandcourt;
but Gwendolen took a new survey of the speaker, deciding, first, that
he must be on terms of intimacy with the tenant of Diplow, and,
secondly, that she would never, if she could help it, let him come
within a yard of her. She was subject to physical antipathies, and Mr.
Lush's prominent eyes, fat though not clumsy figure, and strong black
gray-besprinkled hair of frizzy thickness, which, with the rest of his
prosperous person, was enviable to many, created one of the strongest
of her antipathies. To be safe from his looking at her, she murmured to
Grandcourt, "I should like to continue walking."

He obeyed immediately; but when they were thus away from any audience,
he spoke no word for several minutes, and she, out of a half-amused,
half-serious inclination for experiment, would not speak first. They
turned into the large conservatory, beautifully lit up with Chinese
lamps. The other couples there were at a distance which would not have
interfered with any dialogue, but still they walked in silence until
they had reached the farther end where there was a flush of pink light,
and the second wide opening into the ball-room. Grandcourt, when they
had half turned round, paused and said languidly,

"Do you like this kind of thing?"

If the situation had been described to Gwendolen half an hour before,
she would have laughed heartily at it, and could only have imagined
herself returning a playful, satirical answer. But for some mysterious
reason--it was a mystery of which she had a faint wondering
consciousness--she dared not be satirical: she had begun to feel a wand
over her that made her afraid of offending Grandcourt.

"Yes," she said, quietly, without considering what "kind of thing" was
meant--whether the flowers, the scents, the ball in general, or this
episode of walking with Mr. Grandcourt in particular. And they returned
along the conservatory without farther interpretation. She then
proposed to go and sit down in her old place, and they walked among
scattered couples preparing for the waltz to the spot where Mrs.
Davilow had been seated all the evening. As they approached it her seat
was vacant, but she was coming toward it again, and, to Gwendolen's
shuddering annoyance, with Mr. Lush at her elbow. There was no avoiding
the confrontation: her mamma came close to her before they had reached
the seats, and, after a quiet greeting smile, said innocently,
"Gwendolen, dear, let me present Mr. Lush to you." Having just made the
acquaintance of this personage, as an intimate and constant companion
of Mr. Grandcourt's, Mrs. Davilow imagined it altogether desirable that
her daughter also should make the acquaintance.

It was hardly a bow that Gwendolen gave--rather, it was the slightest
forward sweep of the head away from the physiognomy that inclined
itself toward her, and she immediately moved toward her seat, saying,
"I want to put on my burnous." No sooner had she reached it, than Mr.
Lush was there, and had the burnous in his hand: to annoy this
supercilious young lady, he would incur the offense of forestalling
Grandcourt; and, holding up the garment close to Gwendolen, he said,
"Pray, permit me?" But she, wheeling away from him as if he had been a
muddy hound, glided on to the ottoman, saying, "No, thank you."

A man who forgave this would have much Christian feeling, supposing he
had intended to be agreeable to the young lady; but before he seized
the burnous Mr. Lush had ceased to have that intention. Grandcourt
quietly took the drapery from him, and Mr. Lush, with a slight bow,
moved away. "You had perhaps better put it on," said Mr. Grandcourt,
looking down on her without change of expression.

"Thanks; perhaps it would be wise," said Gwendolen, rising, and
submitting very gracefully to take the burnous on her shoulders.

After that, Mr. Grandcourt exchanged a few polite speeches with Mrs.
Davilow, and, in taking leave, asked permission to call at Offendene
the next day. He was evidently not offended by the insult directed
toward his friend. Certainly Gwendolen's refusal of the burnous from
Mr. Lush was open to the interpretation that she wished to receive it
from Mr. Grandcourt. But she, poor child, had no design in this action,
and was simply following her antipathy and inclination, confiding in
them as she did in the more reflective judgments into which they
entered as sap into leafage. Gwendolen had no sense that these men were
dark enigmas to her, or that she needed any help in drawing conclusions
about them--Mr. Grandcourt at least. The chief question was, how far
his character and ways might answer her wishes; and unless she were
satisfied about that, she had said to herself that she would not accept
his offer.

Could there be a slenderer, more insignificant thread in human history
than this consciousness of a girl, busy with her small inferences of
the way in which she could make her life pleasant?--in a time, too,
when ideas were with fresh vigor making armies of themselves, and the
universal kinship was declaring itself fiercely; when women on the
other side of the world would not mourn for the husbands and sons who
died bravely in a common cause, and men stinted of bread on our side of
the world heard of that willing loss and were patient: a time when the
soul of man was walking to pulses which had for centuries been beating
in him unfelt, until their full sum made a new life of terror or of joy.

What in the midst of that mighty drama are girls and their blind
visions? They are the Yea or Nay of that good for which men are
enduring and fighting. In these delicate vessels is borne onward
through the ages the treasure of human affections.



CHAPTER XII.

  "O gentlemen, the time of life is short;
  To spend that shortness basely were too long,
  If life did ride upon a dial's point,
  Still ending at the arrival of an hour."
                --SHAKESPEARE: _Henry IV_.


On the second day after the archery meeting, Mr. Henleigh Mallinger
Grandcourt was at his breakfast-table with Mr. Lush. Everything around
them was agreeable: the summer air through the open windows, at which
the dogs could walk in from the old green turf on the lawn; the soft,
purplish coloring of the park beyond, stretching toward a mass of
bordering wood; the still life in the room, which seemed the stiller
for its sober antiquated elegance, as if it kept a conscious, well-bred
silence, unlike the restlessness of vulgar furniture.

Whether the gentlemen were agreeable to each other was less evident.
Mr. Grandcourt had drawn his chair aside so as to face the lawn, and
with his left leg over another chair, and his right elbow on the table,
was smoking a large cigar, while his companion was still eating. The
dogs--half-a-dozen of various kinds were moving lazily in and out,
taking attitudes of brief attention--gave a vacillating preference
first to one gentleman, then to the other; being dogs in such good
circumstances that they could play at hunger, and liked to be served
with delicacies which they declined to put in their mouths; all except
Fetch, the beautiful liver-colored water-spaniel, which sat with its
forepaws firmly planted and its expressive brown face turned upward,
watching Grandcourt with unshaken constancy. He held in his lap a tiny
Maltese dog with a tiny silver collar and bell, and when he had a hand
unused by cigar or coffee-cup, it rested on this small parcel of animal
warmth. I fear that Fetch was jealous, and wounded that her master gave
her no word or look; at last it seemed that she could bear this neglect
no longer, and she gently put her large silky paw on her master's leg.
Grandcourt looked at her with unchanged face for half a minute, and
then took the trouble to lay down his cigar while he lifted the
unimpassioned Fluff close to his chin and gave it caressing pats, all
the while gravely watching Fetch, who, poor thing, whimpered
interruptedly, as if trying to repress that sign of discontent, and at
last rested her head beside the appealing paw, looking up with piteous
beseeching. So, at least, a lover of dogs must have interpreted Fetch,
and Grandcourt kept so many dogs that he was reputed to love them; at
any rate, his impulse to act just in that way started from such an
interpretation. But when the amusing anguish burst forth in a howling
bark, Grandcourt pushed Fetch down without speaking, and, depositing
Fluff carelessly on the table (where his black nose predominated over a
salt-cellar), began to look to his cigar, and found, with some
annoyance against Fetch as the cause, that the brute of a cigar
required relighting. Fetch, having begun to wail, found, like others of
her sex, that it was not easy to leave off; indeed, the second howl was
a louder one, and the third was like unto it.

"Turn out that brute, will you?" said Grandcourt to Lush, without
raising his voice or looking at him--as if he counted on attention to
the smallest sign.

And Lush immediately rose, lifted Fetch, though she was rather heavy,
and he was not fond of stooping, and carried her out, disposing of her
in some way that took him a couple of minutes before he returned. He
then lit a cigar, placed himself at an angle where he could see
Grandcourt's face without turning, and presently said,

"Shall you ride or drive to Quetcham to-day?"

"I am not going to Quetcham."

"You did not go yesterday."

Grandcourt smoked in silence for half a minute, and then said,

"I suppose you sent my card and inquiries."

"I went myself at four, and said you were sure to be there shortly.
They would suppose some accident prevented you from fulfilling the
intention. Especially if you go to-day."

Silence for a couple of minutes. Then Grandcourt said, "What men are
invited here with their wives?"

Lush drew out a note-book. "The Captain and Mrs. Torrington come next
week. Then there are Mr. Hollis and Lady Flora, and the Cushats and the
Gogoffs."

"Rather a ragged lot," remarked Grandcourt, after a while. "Why did you
ask the Gogoffs? When you write invitations in my name, be good enough
to give me a list, instead of bringing down a giantess on me without my
knowledge. She spoils the look of the room."

"You invited the Gogoffs yourself when you met them in Paris."

"What has my meeting them in Paris to do with it? I told you to give me
a list."

Grandcourt, like many others, had two remarkably different voices.
Hitherto we have heard him speaking in a superficial interrupted drawl
suggestive chiefly of languor and _ennui_. But this last brief speech
was uttered in subdued inward, yet distinct, tones, which Lush had long
been used to recognize as the expression of a peremptory will.

"Are there any other couples you would like to invite?"

"Yes; think of some decent people, with a daughter or two. And one of
your damned musicians. But not a comic fellow."

"I wonder if Klesmer would consent to come to us when he leaves
Quetcham. Nothing but first-class music will go down with Miss
Arrowpoint."

Lush spoke carelessly, but he was really seizing an opportunity and
fixing an observant look on Grandcourt, who now for the first time,
turned his eyes toward his companion, but slowly and without speaking
until he had given two long luxuriant puffs, when he said, perhaps in a
lower tone than ever, but with a perceptible edge of contempt,

"What in the name of nonsense have I to do with Miss Arrowpoint and her
music?"

"Well, something," said Lush, jocosely. "You need not give yourself
much trouble, perhaps. But some forms must be gone through before a man
can marry a million."

"Very likely. But I am not going to marry a million."

"That's a pity--to fling away an opportunity of this sort, and knock
down your own plans."

"_Your_ plans, I suppose you mean."

"You have some debts, you know, and things may turn out inconveniently,
after all. The heirship is not _absolutely_ certain."

Grandcourt did not answer, and Lush went on.

"It really is a fine opportunity. The father and mother ask for nothing
better, I can see, and the daughter's looks and manners require no
allowances, any more than if she hadn't a sixpence. She is not
beautiful; but equal to carrying any rank. And she is not likely to
refuse such prospects as you can offer her."

"Perhaps not."

"The father and mother would let you do anything you like with them."

"But I should not like to do anything with them."

Here it was Lush who made a little pause before speaking again, and
then he said in a deep voice of remonstrance, "Good God, Grandcourt!
after your experience, will you let a whim interfere with your
comfortable settlement in life?"

"Spare your oratory. I know what I am going to do."

"What?" Lush put down his cigar and thrust his hands into his side
pockets, as if he had to face something exasperating, but meant to keep
his temper.

"I am going to marry the other girl."

"Have you fallen in love?" This question carried a strong sneer.

"I am going to marry her."

"You have made her an offer already, then?"

"No."

"She is a young lady with a will of her own, I fancy. Extremely well
fitted to make a rumpus. She would know what she liked."

"She doesn't like you," said Grandcourt, with the ghost of a smile.

"Perfectly true," said Lush, adding again in a markedly sneering tone.
"However, if you and she are devoted to each other, that will be
enough."

Grandcourt took no notice of this speech, but sipped his coffee, rose,
and strolled out on the lawn, all the dogs following him.

Lush glanced after him a moment, then resumed his cigar and lit it, but
smoked slowly, consulting his beard with inspecting eyes and fingers,
till he finally stroked it with an air of having arrived at some
conclusion, and said in a subdued voice,

"Check, old boy!"

Lush, being a man of some ability, had not known Grandcourt for fifteen
years without learning what sort of measures were useless with him,
though what sort might be useful remained often dubious. In the
beginning of his career he held a fellowship, and was near taking
orders for the sake of a college living, but, not being fond of that
prospect, accepted instead the office of traveling companion to a
marquess, and afterward to young Grandcourt, who had lost his father
early, and who found Lush so convenient that he had allowed him to
become prime minister in all his more personal affairs. The habit of
fifteen years had made Grandcourt more and more in need of Lush's
handiness, and Lush more and more in need of the lazy luxury to which
his transactions on behalf of Grandcourt made no interruption worth
reckoning. I cannot say that the same lengthened habit had intensified
Grandcourt's want of respect for his companion since that want had been
absolute from the beginning, but it had confirmed his sense that he
might kick Lush if he chose--only he never did choose to kick any
animal, because the act of kicking is a compromising attitude, and a
gentleman's dogs should be kicked for him. He only said things which
might have exposed himself to be kicked if his confidant had been a man
of independent spirit. But what son of a vicar who has stinted his wife
and daughters of calico in order to send his male offspring to Oxford,
can keep an independent spirit when he is bent on dining with high
discrimination, riding good horses, living generally in the most
luxuriant honey-blossomed clover--and all without working? Mr. Lush had
passed for a scholar once, and had still a sense of scholarship when he
was not trying to remember much of it; but the bachelor's and other
arts which soften manners are a time-honored preparation for sinecures;
and Lush's present comfortable provision was as good a sinecure in not
requiring more than the odor of departed learning. He was not
unconscious of being held kickable, but he preferred counting that
estimate among the peculiarities of Grandcourt's character, which made
one of his incalculable moods or judgments as good as another. Since in
his own opinion he had never done a bad action, it did not seem
necessary to consider whether he should be likely to commit one if his
love of ease required it. Lush's love of ease was well-satisfied at
present, and if his puddings were rolled toward him in the dust, he
took the inside bits and found them relishing.

This morning, for example, though he had encountered more annoyance
than usual, he went to his private sitting-room and played a good hour
on the violoncello.



CHAPTER XIII.

  "Philistia, be thou glad of me!"


Grandcourt having made up his mind to marry Miss Harleth, showed a
power of adapting means to ends. During the next fortnight there was
hardly a day on which by some arrangement or other he did not see her,
or prove by emphatic attentions that she occupied his thoughts. His
cousin, Mrs. Torrington, was now doing the honors of his house, so that
Mrs. Davilow and Gwendolen could be invited to a large party at Diplow
in which there were many witnesses how the host distinguished the
dowerless beauty, and showed no solicitude about the heiress. The
world--I mean Mr. Gascoigne and all the families worth speaking of
within visiting distance of Pennicote--felt an assurance on the subject
which in the rector's mind converted itself into a resolution to do his
duty by his niece and see that the settlements were adequate. Indeed
the wonder to him and Mrs. Davilow was that the offer for which so many
suitable occasions presented themselves had not been already made; and
in this wonder Grandcourt himself was not without a share. When he had
told his resolution to Lush he had thought that the affair would be
concluded more quickly, and to his own surprise he had repeatedly
promised himself in a morning that he would to-day give Gwendolen the
opportunity of accepting him, and had found in the evening that the
necessary formality was still unaccomplished. This remarkable fact
served to heighten his determination on another day. He had never
admitted to himself that Gwendolen might refuse him, but--heaven help
us all!--we are often unable to act on our certainties; our objection
to a contrary issue (were it possible) is so strong that it rises like
a spectral illusion between us and our certainty; we are rationally
sure that the blind worm can not bite us mortally, but it would be so
intolerable to be bitten, and the creature has a biting look--we
decline to handle it.

He had asked leave to have a beautiful horse of his brought for
Gwendolen to ride. Mrs. Davilow was to accompany her in the carriage,
and they were to go to Diplow to lunch, Grandcourt conducting them. It
was a fine mid-harvest time, not too warm for a noonday ride of five
miles to be delightful; the poppies glowed on the borders of the
fields, there was enough breeze to move gently like a social spirit
among the ears of uncut corn, and to wing the shadow of a cloud across
the soft gray downs; here the sheaves were standing, there the horses
were straining their muscles under the last load from a wide space of
stubble, but everywhere the green pasture made a broader setting for
the corn-fields, and the cattle took their rest under wide branches.
The road lay through a bit of country where the dairy-farms looked much
as they did in the days of our forefathers--where peace and permanence
seemed to find a home away from the busy change that sent the railway
train flying in the distance.

But the spirit of peace and permanence did not penetrate poor Mrs.
Davilow's mind so as to overcome her habit of uneasy foreboding.
Gwendolen and Grandcourt cantering in front of her, and then slackening
their pace to a conversational walk till the carriage came up with them
again, made a gratifying sight; but it served chiefly to keep up the
conflict of hopes and fears about her daughter's lot. Here was an
irresistible opportunity for a lover to speak and put an end to all
uncertainties, and Mrs. Davilow could only hope with trembling that
Gwendolen's decision would be favorable. Certainly if Rex's love had
been repugnant to her, Mr. Grandcourt had the advantage of being in
complete contrast with Rex; and that he had produced some quite novel
impression on her seemed evident in her marked abstinence from
satirical observations, nay, her total silence about his
characteristics, a silence which Mrs. Davilow did not dare to break.
"Is he a man she would be happy with?"--was a question that inevitably
arose in the mother's mind. "Well, perhaps as happy as she would be
with any one else--or as most other women are"--was the answer with
which she tried to quiet herself; for she could not imagine Gwendolen
under the influence of any feeling which would make her satisfied in
what we traditionally call "mean circumstances."

Grandcourt's own thought was looking in the same direction: he wanted
to have done with the uncertainty that belonged to his not having
spoken. As to any further uncertainty--well, it was something without
any reasonable basis, some quality in the air which acted as an
irritant to his wishes.

Gwendolen enjoyed the riding, but her pleasure did not break forth in
girlish unpremeditated chat and laughter as it did on that morning with
Rex. She spoke a little, and even laughed, but with a lightness as of a
far-off echo: for her too there was some peculiar quality in the
air--not, she was sure, any subjugation of her will by Mr. Grandcourt,
and the splendid prospects he meant to offer her; for Gwendolen desired
every one, that dignified gentleman himself included, to understand
that she was going to do just as she liked, and that they had better
not calculate on her pleasing them. If she chose to take this husband,
she would have him know that she was not going to renounce her freedom,
or according to her favorite formula, "not going to do as other women
did."

Grandcourt's speeches this morning were, as usual, all of that brief
sort which never fails to make a conversational figure when the speaker
is held important in his circle. Stopping so soon, they give signs of a
suppressed and formidable ability so say more, and have also the
meritorious quality of allowing lengthiness to others.

"How do you like Criterion's paces?" he said, after they had entered
the park and were slacking from a canter to a walk.

"He is delightful to ride. I should like to have a leap with him, if it
would not frighten mamma. There was a good wide channel we passed five
minutes ago. I should like to have a gallop back and take it."

"Pray do. We can take it together."

"No, thanks. Mamma is so timid--if she saw me it might make her ill."

"Let me go and explain. Criterion would take it without fail."

"No--indeed--you are very kind--but it would alarm her too much. I dare
take any leap when she is not by; but I do it and don't tell her about
it."

"We can let the carriage pass and then set off."

"No, no, pray don't think of it any more: I spoke quite randomly," said
Gwendolen; she began to feel a new objection to carrying out her own
proposition.

"But Mrs. Davilow knows I shall take care of you."

"Yes, but she would think of you as having to take care of my broken
neck."

There was a considerable pause before Grandcourt said, looking toward
her, "I should like to have the right always to take care of you."

Gwendolen did not turn her eyes on him; it seemed to her a long while
that she was first blushing, and then turning pale, but to Grandcourt's
rate of judgment she answered soon enough, with the lightest flute-tone
and a careless movement of the head, "Oh, I am not sure that I want to
be taken care of: if I chose to risk breaking my neck, I should like to
be at liberty to do it."

She checked her horse as she spoke, and turned in her saddle, looking
toward the advancing carriage. Her eyes swept across Grandcourt as she
made this movement, but there was no language in them to correct the
carelessness of her reply. At that very moment she was aware that she
was risking something--not her neck, but the possibility of finally
checking Grandcourt's advances, and she did not feel contented with the
possibility.

"Damn her!" thought Grandcourt, as he too checked his horse. He was not
a wordy thinker, and this explosive phrase stood for mixed impressions
which eloquent interpreters might have expanded into some sentences
full of an irritated sense that he was being mystified, and a
determination that this girl should not make a fool of him. Did she
want him to throw himself at her feet and declare that he was dying for
her? It was not by that gate that she could enter on the privileges he
could give her. Or did she expect him to write his proposals? Equally a
delusion. He would not make his offer in any way that could place him
definitely in the position of being rejected. But as to her accepting
him, she had done it already in accepting his marked attentions: and
anything which happened to break them off would be understood to her
disadvantage. She was merely coquetting, then?

However, the carriage came up, and no further _tete-à-tete_ could well
occur before their arrival at the house, where there was abundant
company, to whom Gwendolen, clad in riding-dress, with her hat laid
aside, clad also in the repute of being chosen by Mr. Grandcourt, was
naturally a centre of observation; and since the objectionable Mr. Lush
was not there to look at her, this stimulus of admiring attention
heightened her spirits, and dispersed, for the time, the uneasy
consciousness of divided impulses which threatened her with repentance
of her own acts. Whether Grandcourt had been offended or not there was
no judging: his manners were unchanged, but Gwendolen's acuteness had
not gone deeper than to discern that his manners were no clue for her,
and because these were unchanged she was not the less afraid of him.

She had not been at Diplow before except to dine; and since certain
points of view from the windows and the garden were worth showing, Lady
Flora Hollis proposed after luncheon, when some of the guests had
dispersed, and the sun was sloping toward four o'clock, that the
remaining party should make a little exploration. Here came frequent
opportunities when Grandcourt might have retained Gwendolen apart, and
have spoken to her unheard. But no! He indeed spoke to no one else, but
what he said was nothing more eager or intimate than it had been in
their first interview. He looked at her not less than usual; and some
of her defiant spirit having come back, she looked full at him in
return, not caring--rather preferring--that his eyes had no expression
in them.

But at last it seemed as if he entertained some contrivance. After they
had nearly made the tour of the grounds, the whole party stopped by the
pool to be amused with Fetch's accomplishment of bringing a water lily
to the bank like Cowper's spaniel Beau, and having been disappointed in
his first attempt insisted on his trying again.

Here Grandcourt, who stood with Gwendolen outside the group, turned
deliberately, and fixing his eyes on a knoll planted with American
shrubs, and having a winding path up it, said languidly,

"This is a bore. Shall we go up there?"

"Oh, certainly--since we are exploring," said Gwendolen. She was rather
pleased, and yet afraid.

The path was too narrow for him to offer his arm, and they walked up in
silence. When they were on the bit of platform at the summit,
Grandcourt said,

"There is nothing to be seen here: the thing was not worth climbing."

How was it that Gwendolen did not laugh? She was perfectly silent,
holding up the folds of her robe like a statue, and giving a harder
grasp to the handle of her whip, which she had snatched up
automatically with her hat when they had first set off.

"What sort of a place do you prefer?" said Grandcourt.

"Different places are agreeable in their way. On the whole, I think, I
prefer places that are open and cheerful. I am not fond of anything
sombre."

"Your place of Offendene is too sombre....".

"It is, rather."

"You will not remain there long, I hope."

"Oh, yes, I think so. Mamma likes to be near her sister."

Silence for a short space.

"It is not to be supposed that _you_ will always live there, though
Mrs. Davilow may."

"I don't know. We women can't go in search of adventures--to find out
the North-West Passage or the source of the Nile, or to hunt tigers in
the East. We must stay where we grow, or where the gardeners like to
transplant us. We are brought up like the flowers, to look as pretty as
we can, and be dull without complaining. That is my notion about the
plants; they are often bored, and that is the reason why some of them
have got poisonous. What do you think?" Gwendolen had run on rather
nervously, lightly whipping the rhododendron bush in front of her.

"I quite agree. Most things are bores," said Grandcourt, his mind
having been pushed into an easy current, away from its intended track.
But, after a moment's pause, he continued in his broken, refined drawl,

"But a woman can be married."

"Some women can."

"You, certainly, unless you are obstinately cruel."

"I am not sure that I am not both cruel and obstinate." Here Gwendolen
suddenly turned her head and looked full at Grandcourt, whose eyes she
had felt to be upon her throughout their conversation. She was
wondering what the effect of looking at him would be on herself rather
than on him.

He stood perfectly still, half a yard or more away from her; and it
flashed through her mind what a sort of lotus-eater's stupor had begun
in him and was taking possession of her. Then he said,

"Are you as uncertain about yourself as you make others about you?"

"I am quite uncertain about myself; I don't know how uncertain others
may be."

"And you wish them to understand that you don't care?" said Grandcourt,
with a touch of new hardness in his tone.

"I did not say that," Gwendolen replied, hesitatingly, and turning her
eyes away whipped the rhododendron bush again. She wished she were on
horseback that she might set off on a canter. It was impossible to set
off running down the knoll.

"You do care, then," said Grandcourt, not more quickly, but with a
softened drawl.

"Ha! my whip!" said Gwendolen, in a little scream of distress. She had
let it go--what could be more natural in a slight agitation?--and--but
this seemed less natural in a gold-handled whip which had been left
altogether to itself--it had gone with some force over the immediate
shrubs, and had lodged itself in the branches of an azalea half-way
down the knoll. She could run down now, laughing prettily, and
Grandcourt was obliged to follow; but she was beforehand with him in
rescuing the whip, and continued on her way to the level ground, when
she paused and looked at Grandcourt with an exasperating brightness in
her glance and a heightened color, as if she had carried a triumph, and
these indications were still noticeable to Mrs. Davilow when Gwendolen
and Grandcourt joined the rest of the party.

"It is all coquetting," thought Grandcourt; "the next time I beckon she
will come down."

It seemed to him likely that this final beckoning might happen the very
next day, when there was to be a picnic archery meeting in Cardell
Chase, according to the plan projected on the evening of the ball.

Even in Gwendolen's mind that result was one of two likelihoods that
presented themselves alternately, one of two decisions toward which she
was being precipitated, as if they were two sides of a boundary-line,
and she did not know on which she should fall. This subjection to a
possible self, a self not to be absolutely predicted about, caused her
some astonishment and terror; her favorite key of life--doing as she
liked--seemed to fail her, and she could not foresee what at a given
moment she might like to do. The prospect of marrying Grandcourt really
seemed more attractive to her than she had believed beforehand that any
marriage could be: the dignities, the luxuries, the power of doing a
great deal of what she liked to do, which had now come close to her,
and within her choice to secure or to lose, took hold of her nature as
if it had been the strong odor of what she had only imagined and longed
for before. And Grandcourt himself? He seemed as little of a flaw in
his fortunes as a lover and husband could possibly be. Gwendolen wished
to mount the chariot and drive the plunging horses herself, with a
spouse by her side who would fold his arms and give her his countenance
without looking ridiculous. Certainly, with all her perspicacity, and
all the reading which seemed to her mamma dangerously instructive, her
judgment was consciously a little at fault before Grandcourt. He was
adorably quiet and free from absurdities--he would be a husband to suit
with the best appearance a woman could make. But what else was he? He
had been everywhere, and seen everything. _That_ was desirable, and
especially gratifying as a preamble to his supreme preference for
Gwendolen Harleth. He did not appear to enjoy anything much. That was
not necessary: and the less he had of particular tastes, or desires,
the more freedom his wife was likely to have in following hers.
Gwendolen conceived that after marriage she would most probably be able
to manage him thoroughly.

How was it that he caused her unusual constraint now?--that she was
less daring and playful in her talk with him than with any other
admirer she had known? That absence of demonstrativeness which she was
glad of, acted as a charm in more senses than one, and was slightly
benumbing. Grandcourt after all was formidable--a handsome lizard of a
hitherto unknown species, not of the lively, darting kind. But
Gwendolen knew hardly anything about lizards, and ignorance gives one a
large range of probabilities. This splendid specimen was probably
gentle, suitable as a boudoir pet: what may not a lizard be, if you
know nothing to the contrary? Her acquaintance with Grandcourt was such
that no accomplishment suddenly revealed in him would have surprised
her. And he was so little suggestive of drama, that it hardly occurred
to her to think with any detail how his life of thirty-six years had
been passed: in general, she imagined him always cold and dignified,
not likely ever to have committed himself. He had hunted the tiger--had
he ever been in love or made love? The one experience and the other
seemed alike remote in Gwendolen's fancy from the Mr. Grandcourt who
had come to Diplow in order apparently to make a chief epoch in her
destiny--perhaps by introducing her to that state of marriage which she
had resolved to make a state of greater freedom than her girlhood. And
on the whole she wished to marry him; he suited her purpose; her
prevailing, deliberate intention was, to accept him.

But was she going to fulfill her deliberate intention? She began to be
afraid of herself, and to find out a certain difficulty in doing as she
liked. Already her assertion of independence in evading his advances
had been carried farther than was necessary, and she was thinking with
some anxiety what she might do on the next occasion.

Seated according to her habit with her back to the horses on their
drive homeward, she was completely under the observation of her mamma,
who took the excitement and changefulness in the expression of her
eyes, her unwonted absence of mind and total silence, as unmistakable
signs that something unprecedented had occurred between her and
Grandcourt. Mrs. Davilow's uneasiness determined her to risk some
speech on the subject: the Gascoignes were to dine at Offendene, and in
what had occurred this morning there might be some reason for
consulting the rector; not that she expected him anymore than herself
to influence Gwendolen, but that her anxious mind wanted to be
disburdened.

"Something has happened, dear?" she began, in a tender tone of question.

Gwendolen looked round, and seeming to be roused to the consciousness
of her physical self, took off her gloves and then her hat, that the
soft breeze might blow on her head. They were in a retired bit of the
road, where the long afternoon shadows from the bordering trees fell
across it and no observers were within sight. Her eyes continued to
meet her mother's, but she did not speak.

"Mr. Grandcourt has been saying something?--Tell me, dear." The last
words were uttered beseechingly.

"What am I to tell you, mamma?" was the perverse answer.

"I am sure something has agitated you. You ought to confide in me,
Gwen. You ought not to leave me in doubt and anxiety." Mrs. Davilow's
eyes filled with tears.

"Mamma, dear, please don't be miserable," said Gwendolen, with pettish
remonstrance. "It only makes me more so. I am in doubt myself."

"About Mr. Grandcourt's intentions?" said Mrs. Davilow, gathering
determination from her alarms.

"No; not at all," said Gwendolen, with some curtness, and a pretty
little toss of the head as she put on her hat again.

"About whether you will accept him, then?"

"Precisely."

"Have you given him a doubtful answer?"

"I have given him no answer at all."

"He _has_ spoken so that you could not misunderstand him?"

"As far as I would let him speak."

"You expect him to persevere?" Mrs. Davilow put this question rather
anxiously, and receiving no answer, asked another: "You don't consider
that you have discouraged him?"

"I dare say not."

"I thought you liked him, dear," said Mrs. Davilow, timidly.

"So I do, mamma, as liking goes. There is less to dislike about him
than about most men. He is quiet and _distingué_." Gwendolen so far
spoke with a pouting sort of gravity; but suddenly she recovered some
of her mischievousness, and her face broke into a smile as she
added--"Indeed he has all the qualities that would make a husband
tolerable--battlement, veranda, stable, etc., no grins and no glass in
his eye."

"Do be serious with me for a moment, dear. Am I to understand that you
mean to accept him?"

"Oh, pray, mamma, leave me to myself," said Gwendolen, with a pettish
distress in her voice.

And Mrs. Davilow said no more.

When they got home Gwendolen declared that she would not dine. She was
tired, and would come down in the evening after she had taken some
rest. The probability that her uncle would hear what had passed did not
trouble her. She was convinced that whatever he might say would be on
the side of her accepting Grandcourt, and she wished to accept him if
she could. At this moment she would willingly have had weights hung on
her own caprice.

Mr. Gascoigne did hear--not Gwendolen's answers repeated verbatim, but
a softened generalized account of them. The mother conveyed as vaguely
as the keen rector's questions would let her the impression that
Gwendolen was in some uncertainty about her own mind, but inclined on
the whole to acceptance. The result was that the uncle felt himself
called on to interfere; he did not conceive that he should do his duty
in witholding direction from his niece in a momentous crisis of this
kind. Mrs. Davilow ventured a hesitating opinion that perhaps it would
be safer to say nothing--Gwendolen was so sensitive (she did not like
to say willful). But the rector's was a firm mind, grasping its first
judgments tenaciously and acting on them promptly, whence
counter-judgments were no more for him than shadows fleeting across the
solid ground to which he adjusted himself.

This match with Grandcourt presented itself to him as a sort of public
affair; perhaps there were ways in which it might even strengthen the
establishment. To the rector, whose father (nobody would have suspected
it, and nobody was told) had risen to be a provincial corn-dealer,
aristocratic heirship resembled regal heirship in excepting its
possessor from the ordinary standard of moral judgments, Grandcourt,
the almost certain baronet, the probable peer, was to be ranged with
public personages, and was a match to be accepted on broad general
grounds national and ecclesiastical. Such public personages, it is
true, are often in the nature of giants which an ancient community may
have felt pride and safety in possessing, though, regarded privately,
these born eminences must often have been inconvenient and even
noisome. But of the future husband personally Mr. Gascoigne was
disposed to think the best. Gossip is a sort of smoke that comes from
the dirty tobacco-pipes of those who diffuse it: it proves nothing
but the bad taste of the smoker. But if Grandcourt had really made any
deeper or more unfortunate experiments in folly than were common in
young men of high prospects, he was of an age to have finished them.
All accounts can be suitably wound up when a man has not ruined
himself, and the expense may be taken as an insurance against future
error. This was the view of practical wisdom; with reference to higher
views, repentance had a supreme moral and religious value. There was
every reason to believe that a woman of well-regulated mind would be
happy with Grandcourt.

It was no surprise to Gwendolen on coming down to tea to be told that
her uncle wished to see her in the dining-room. He threw aside the
paper as she entered and greeted her with his usual kindness. As his
wife had remarked, he always "made much" of Gwendolen, and her
importance had risen of late. "My dear," he said, in a fatherly way,
moving a chair for her as he held her hand, "I want to speak to you on
a subject which is more momentous than any other with regard to your
welfare. You will guess what I mean. But I shall speak to you with
perfect directness: in such matters I consider myself bound to act as
your father. You have no objection, I hope?"

"Oh dear, no, uncle. You have always been very kind to me," said
Gwendolen, frankly. This evening she was willing, if it were possible,
to be a little fortified against her troublesome self, and her
resistant temper was in abeyance. The rector's mode of speech always
conveyed a thrill of authority, as of a word of command: it seemed to
take for granted that there could be no wavering in the audience, and
that every one was going to be rationally obedient.

"It is naturally a satisfaction to me that the prospect of a marriage
for you--advantageous in the highest degree--has presented itself so
early. I do not know exactly what has passed between you and Mr.
Grandcourt, but I presume there can be little doubt, from the way in
which he has distinguished you, that he desires to make you his wife."

Gwendolen did not speak immediately, and her uncle said with more
emphasis,

"Have you any doubt of that yourself, my dear?"

"I suppose that is what he has been thinking of. But he may have
changed his mind to-morrow," said Gwendolen.

"Why to-morrow? Has he made advances which you have discouraged?"

"I think he meant--he began to make advances--but I did not encourage
them. I turned the conversation."

"Will you confide in me so far as to tell me your reasons?"

"I am not sure that I had any reasons, uncle." Gwendolen laughed rather
artificially.

"You are quite capable of reflecting, Gwendolen. You are aware that
this is not a trivial occasion, and it concerns your establishment for
life under circumstances which may not occur again. You have a duty
here both to yourself and your family. I wish to understand whether you
have any ground for hesitating as to your acceptance of Mr. Grandcourt."

"I suppose I hesitate without grounds." Gwendolen spoke rather
poutingly, and her uncle grew suspicious.

"Is he disagreeable to you personally?"

"No."

"Have you heard anything of him which has affected you disagreeably?"
The rector thought it impossible that Gwendolen could have heard the
gossip he had heard, but in any case he must endeavor to put all things
in the right light for her.

"I have heard nothing about him except that he is a great match," said
Gwendolen, with some sauciness; "and that affects me very agreeably."

"Then, my dear Gwendolen, I have nothing further to say than this: you
hold your fortune in your own hands--a fortune such as rarely happens
to a girl in your circumstances--a fortune in fact which almost takes
the question out of the range of mere personal feeling, and makes your
acceptance of it a duty. If Providence offers you power and
position--especially when unclogged by any conditions that are
repugnant to you--your course is one of responsibility, into which
caprice must not enter. A man does not like to have his attachment
trifled with: he may not be at once repelled--these things are matters
of individual disposition. But the trifling may be carried too far. And
I must point out to you that in case Mr. Grandcourt were repelled
without your having refused him--without your having intended
ultimately to refuse him, your situation would be a humiliating and
painful one. I, for my part, should regard you with severe
disapprobation, as the victim of nothing else than your own coquetry
and folly."

Gwendolen became pallid as she listened to this admonitory speech. The
ideas it raised had the force of sensations. Her resistant courage
would not help her here, because her uncle was not urging her against
her own resolve; he was pressing upon her the motives of dread which
she already felt; he was making her more conscious of the risks that
lay within herself. She was silent, and the rector observed that he had
produced some strong effect.

"I mean this in kindness, my dear." His tone had softened.

"I am aware of that, uncle," said Gwendolen, rising and shaking her
head back, as if to rouse herself out of painful passivity. "I am not
foolish. I know that I must be married some time--before it is too
late. And I don't see how I could do better than marry Mr. Grandcourt.
I mean to accept him, if possible." She felt as if she were reinforcing
herself by speaking with this decisiveness to her uncle.

But the rector was a little startled by so bare a version of his own
meaning from those young lips. He wished that in her mind his advice
should be taken in an infusion of sentiments proper to a girl, and such
as are presupposed in the advice of a clergyman, although he may not
consider them always appropriate to be put forward. He wished his niece
parks, carriages, a title--everything that would make this world a
pleasant abode; but he wished her not to be cynical--to be, on the
contrary, religiously dutiful, and have warm domestic affections.

"My dear Gwendolen," he said, rising also, and speaking with benignant
gravity, "I trust that you will find in marriage a new fountain of duty
and affection. Marriage is the only true and satisfactory sphere of a
woman, and if your marriage with Mr. Grandcourt should be happily
decided upon, you will have, probably, an increasing power, both of
rank and wealth, which may be used for the benefit of others. These
considerations are something higher than romance! You are fitted by
natural gifts for a position which, considering your birth and early
prospects, could hardly be looked forward to as in the ordinary course
of things; and I trust that you will grace it, not only by those
personal gifts, but by a good and consistent life."

"I hope mamma will be the happier," said Gwendolen, in a more cheerful
way, lifting her hands backward to her neck and moving toward the door.
She wanted to waive those higher considerations.

Mr. Gascoigne felt that he had come to a satisfactory understanding
with his niece, and had furthered her happy settlement in life by
furthering her engagement to Grandcourt. Meanwhile there was another
person to whom the contemplation of that issue had been a motive for
some activity, and who believed that he, too, on this particular day
had done something toward bringing about a favorable decision in _his_
sense--which happened to be the reverse of the rector's.

Mr. Lush's absence from Diplow during Gwendolen's visit had been due,
not to any fear on his part of meeting that supercilious young lady, or
of being abashed by her frank dislike, but to an engagement from which
he expected important consequences. He was gone, in fact, to the
Wanchester station to meet a lady, accompanied by a maid and two
children, whom he put into a fly, and afterward followed to the hotel
of the Golden Keys, in that town. An impressive woman, whom many would
turn to look at again in passing; her figure was slim and sufficiently
tall, her face rather emaciated, so that its sculpturesque beauty was
the more pronounced, her crisp hair perfectly black, and her large,
anxious eyes what we call black. Her dress was soberly correct, her
age, perhaps, physically more advanced than the number of years would
imply, but hardly less than seven-and-thirty. An uneasy-looking woman:
her glance seemed to presuppose that the people and things were going
to be unfavorable to her, while she was, nevertheless, ready to meet
them with resolution. The children were lovely--a dark-haired girl of
six or more, a fairer boy of five. When Lush incautiously expressed
some surprise at her having brought the children, she said, with a
sharp-toned intonation,

"Did you suppose I should come wandering about here by myself? Why
should I not bring all four if I liked?"

"Oh, certainly," said Lush, with his usual fluent _nonchalance_.

He stayed an hour or so in conference with her, and rode back to Diplow
in a state of mind that was at once hopeful and busily anxious as to
the execution of the little plan on which his hopefulness was based.
Grandcourt's marriage to Gwendolen Harleth would not, he believed, be
much of a good to either of them, and it would plainly be fraught with
disagreeables to himself. But now he felt confident enough to say
inwardly, "I will take, nay, I will lay odds that the marriage will
never happen."



CHAPTER XIV.

  I will not clothe myself in wreck--wear gems
  Sawed from cramped finger-bones of women drowned;
  Feel chilly vaporous hands of ireful ghosts
  Clutching my necklace: trick my maiden breast
  With orphans' heritage. Let your dead love
  Marry its dead.


Gwendolen looked lovely and vigorous as a tall, newly-opened lily the
next morning: there was a reaction of young energy in her, and
yesterday's self-distrust seemed no more than the transient shiver on
the surface of a full stream. The roving archery match in Cardell Chase
was a delightful prospect for the sport's sake: she felt herself
beforehand moving about like a wood-nymph under the beeches (in
appreciative company), and the imagined scene lent a charm to further
advances on the part of Grandcourt--not an impassioned lyrical Daphnis
for the wood-nymph, certainly: but so much the better. To-day Gwendolen
foresaw him making slow conversational approaches to a declaration, and
foresaw herself awaiting and encouraging it according to the rational
conclusion which she had expressed to her uncle.

When she came down to breakfast (after every one had left the table
except Mrs. Davilow) there were letters on her plate. One of them she
read with a gathering smile, and then handed it to her mamma, who, on
returning it, smiled also, finding new cheerfulness in the good spirits
her daughter had shown ever since waking, and said,

"You don't feel inclined to go a thousand miles away?"

"Not exactly so far."

"It was a sad omission not to have written again before this. Can't you
write now--before we set out this morning?"

"It is not so pressing. To-morrow will do. You see they leave town
to-day. I must write to Dover. They will be there till Monday."

"Shall I write for you, dear--if it teases you?"

Gwendolen did not speak immediately, but after sipping her coffee,
answered brusquely, "Oh no, let it be; I will write to-morrow." Then,
feeling a touch of compunction, she looked up and said with playful
tenderness, "Dear, old, beautiful mamma!"

"Old, child, truly."

"Please don't, mamma! I meant old for darling. You are hardly
twenty-five years older than I am. When you talk in that way my life
shrivels up before me."

"One can have a great deal of happiness in twenty-five years, my dear."

"I must lose no time in beginning," said Gwendolen, merrily. "The
sooner I get my palaces and coaches the better."

"And a good husband who adores you, Gwen," said Mrs. Davilow,
encouragingly.

Gwendolen put out her lips saucily and said nothing.

It was a slight drawback on her pleasure in starting that the rector
was detained by magistrate's business, and would probably not be able
to get to Cardell Chase at all that day. She cared little that Mrs.
Gascoigne and Anna chose not to go without him, but her uncle's
presence would have seemed to make it a matter of course that the
decision taken would be acted on. For decision in itself began to be
formidable. Having come close to accepting Grandcourt, Gwendolen felt
this lot of unhoped-for fullness rounding itself too definitely. When
we take to wishing a great deal for ourselves, whatever we get soon
turns into mere limitation and exclusion. Still there was the
reassuring thought that marriage would be the gate into a larger
freedom.

The place of meeting was a grassy spot called Green Arbor, where a bit
of hanging wood made a sheltering amphitheatre. It was here that the
coachful of servants with provisions had to prepare the picnic meal;
and the warden of the Chase was to guide the roving archers so as to
keep them within the due distance from this centre, and hinder them
from wandering beyond the limit which had been fixed on--a curve that
might be drawn through certain well-known points, such as the double
Oak, the Whispering Stones, and the High Cross. The plan was to take
only a preliminary stroll before luncheon, keeping the main roving
expedition for the more exquisite lights of the afternoon. The muster
was rapid enough to save every one from dull moments of waiting, and
when the groups began to scatter themselves through the light and
shadow made here by closely neighboring beeches and there by rarer
oaks, one may suppose that a painter would have been glad to look on.
This roving archery was far prettier than the stationary game, but
success in shooting at variable marks were less favored by practice,
and the hits were distributed among the volunteer archers otherwise
than they would have been in target-shooting. From this cause, perhaps,
as well as from the twofold distraction of being preoccupied and
wishing not to betray her preoccupation, Gwendolen did not greatly
distinguish herself in these first experiments, unless it were by the
lively grace with which she took her comparative failure. She was in
white and green as on the day of the former meeting, when it made an
epoch for her that she was introduced to Grandcourt; he was continually
by her side now, yet it would have been hard to tell from mere looks
and manners that their relation to each other had at all changed since
their first conversation. Still there were other grounds that made most
persons conclude them to be, if not engaged already, on the eve of
being so. And she believed this herself. As they were all returning
toward Green Arbor in divergent groups, not thinking at all of taking
aim but merely chattering, words passed which seemed really the
beginning of that end--the beginning of her acceptance. Grandcourt
said, "Do you know how long it is since I first saw you in this dress?"

"The archery meeting was on the 25th, and this is the 13th," said
Gwendolen, laughingly. "I am not good at calculating, but I will
venture to say that it must be nearly three weeks."

A little pause, and then he said, "That is a great loss of time."

"That your knowing me has caused you? Pray don't be uncomplimentary; I
don't like it."

Pause again. "It is because of the gain that I feel the loss."

Here Gwendolen herself left a pause. She was thinking, "He is really
very ingenious. He never speaks stupidly." Her silence was so unusual
that it seemed the strongest of favorable answers, and he continued:

"The gain of knowing you makes me feel the time I lose in uncertainty.
Do _you_ like uncertainty?"

"I think I do, rather," said Gwendolen, suddenly beaming on him with a
playful smile. "There is more in it."

Grandcourt met her laughing eyes with a slow, steady look right into
them, which seemed like vision in the abstract, and then said, "Do you
mean more torment for me?"

There was something so strange to Gwendolen in this moment that she was
quite shaken out of her usual self-consciousness. Blushing and turning
away her eyes, she said, "No, that would make me sorry."

Grandcourt would have followed up this answer, which the change in her
manner made apparently decisive of her favorable intention; but he was
not in any way overcome so as to be unaware that they were now, within
sight of everybody, descending the space into Green Arbor, and
descending it at an ill-chosen point where it began to be
inconveniently steep. This was a reason for offering his hand in the
literal sense to help her; she took it, and they came down in silence,
much observed by those already on the level--among others by Mrs.
Arrowpoint, who happened to be standing with Mrs. Davilow. That lady
had now made up her mind that Grandcourt's merits were not such as
would have induced Catherine to accept him, Catherine having so high a
standard as to have refused Lord Slogan. Hence she looked at the tenant
of Diplow with dispassionate eyes.

"Mr. Grandcourt is not equal as a man to his uncle, Sir Hugo
Mallinger--too languid. To be sure, Mr. Grandcourt is a much younger
man, but I shouldn't wonder if Sir Hugo were to outlive him,
notwithstanding the difference of years. It is ill calculating on
successions," concluded Mrs. Arrowpoint, rather too loudly.

"It is indeed," said Mrs. Davilow, able to assent with quiet
cheerfulness, for she was so well satisfied with the actual situation
of affairs that her habitual melancholy in their general
unsatisfactoriness was altogether in abeyance.

I am not concerned to tell of the food that was eaten in that green
refectory, or even to dwell on the stories of the forest scenery that
spread themselves out beyond the level front of the hollow; being just
now bound to tell a story of life at a stage when the blissful beauty
of earth and sky entered only by narrow and oblique inlets into the
consciousness, which was busy with a small social drama almost as
little penetrated by a feeling of wider relations as if it had been a
puppet-show. It will be understood that the food and champagne were of
the best--the talk and laughter too, in the sense of belonging to the
best society, where no one makes an invidious display of anything in
particular, and the advantages of the world are taken with that
high-bred depreciation which follows from being accustomed to them.
Some of the gentlemen strolled a little and indulged in a cigar, there
being a sufficient interval before, four o'clock--the time for
beginning to rove again. Among these, strange to say, was Grandcourt;
but not Mr. Lush, who seemed to be taking his pleasure quite generously
to-day by making himself particularly serviceable, ordering everything
for everybody, and by this activity becoming more than ever a blot on
the scene to Gwendolen, though he kept himself amiably aloof from her,
and never even looked at her obviously. When there was a general move
to prepare for starting, it appeared that the bows had all been put
under the charge of Lord Brackenshaw's valet, and Mr. Lush was
concerned to save ladies the trouble of fetching theirs from the
carriage where they were propped. He did not intend to bring
Gwendolen's, but she, fearful lest he should do so, hurried to fetch it
herself. The valet, seeing her approach, met her with it, and in giving
it into her hand gave also a letter addressed to her. She asked no
question about it, perceived at a glance that the address was in a
lady's handwriting (of the delicate kind which used to be esteemed
feminine before the present uncial period), and moving away with her
bow in her hand, saw Mr. Lush coming to fetch other bows. To avoid
meeting him she turned aside and walked with her back toward the stand
of carriages, opening the letter. It contained these words,

    If Miss Harleth is in doubt whether she should accept Mr. Grandcourt,
    let her break from her party after they have passed the Whispering
    Stones and return to that spot. She will then hear something to decide
    her; but she can only hear it by keeping this letter a strict secret
    from every one. If she does not act according to this letter, she will
    repent, as the woman who writes it has repented. The secrecy Miss
    Harleth will feel herself bound in honor to guard.

Gwendolen felt an inward shock, but her immediate thought was, "It is
come in time." It lay in her youthfulness that she was absorbed by the
idea of the revelation to be made, and had not even a momentary
suspicion of contrivance that could justify her in showing the letter.
Her mind gathered itself up at once into the resolution, that she would
manage to go unobserved to the Whispering Stones; and thrusting the
letter into her pocket she turned back to rejoin the company, with that
sense of having something to conceal which to her nature had a bracing
quality and helped her to be mistress of herself.

It was a surprise to every one that Grandcourt was not, like the other
smokers, on the spot in time to set out roving with the rest. "We shall
alight on him by-and-by," said Lord Brackenshaw; "he can't be gone
far." At any rate, no man could be waited for. This apparent
forgetfulness might be taken for the distraction of a lover so absorbed
in thinking of the beloved object as to forget an appointment which
would bring him into her actual presence. And the good-natured Earl
gave Gwendolen a distant jocose hint to that effect, which she took
with suitable quietude. But the thought in her mind was "Can he too be
starting away from a decision?" It was not exactly a pleasant thought
to her; but it was near the truth. "Starting away," however, was not
the right expression for the languor of intention that came over
Grandcourt, like a fit of diseased numbness, when an end seemed within
easy reach: to desist then, when all expectation was to the contrary,
became another gratification of mere will, sublimely independent of
definite motive. At that moment he had begun a second large cigar in a
vague, hazy obstinacy which, if Lush or any other mortal who might be
insulted with impunity had interrupted by overtaking him with a request
for his return, would have expressed itself by a slow removal of his
cigar, to say in an undertone, "You'll be kind enough to go to the
devil, will you?"

But he was not interrupted, and the rovers set off without any visible
depression of spirits, leaving behind only a few of the less vigorous
ladies, including Mrs. Davilow, who preferred a quiet stroll free from
obligation to keep up with others. The enjoyment of the day was soon at
its highest pitch, the archery getting more spirited and the changing
scenes of the forest from roofed grove to open glade growing lovelier
with the lengthening shadows, and the deeply-felt but undefinable
gradations of the mellowing afternoon. It was agreed that they were
playing an extemporized _As you like it_; and when a pretty compliment
had been turned to Gwendolen about her having the part of Rosalind, she
felt the more compelled to be surpassing in loveliness. This was not
very difficult to her, for the effect of what had happened to-day was
an excitement which needed a vent--a sense of adventure rather than
alarm, and a straining toward the management of her retreat, so as not
to be impeded.

The roving had been lasting nearly an hour before the arrival at the
Whispering Stones, two tall conical blocks that leaned toward each
other like gigantic gray-mantled figures. They were soon surveyed and
passed by with the remark that they would be good ghosts on a starlit
night. But a soft sunlight was on them now, and Gwendolen felt daring.
The stones were near a fine grove of beeches, where the archers found
plenty of marks.

"How far are we from Green Arbor now?" said Gwendolen, having got in
front by the side of the warden.

"Oh, not more than half a mile, taking along the avenue we're going to
cross up there: but I shall take round a couple of miles, by the High
Cross."

She was falling back among the rest, when suddenly they seemed all to
be hurrying obliquely forward under the guidance of Mr. Lush, and
lingering a little where she was, she perceived her opportunity of
slipping away. Soon she was out of sight, and without running she
seemed to herself to fly along the ground and count the moments nothing
till she found herself back again at the Whispering Stones. They turned
their blank gray sides to her: what was there on the other side? If
there were nothing after all? That was her only dread now--to have to
turn back again in mystification; and walking round the right-hand
stone without pause, she found herself in front of some one whose large
dark eyes met hers at a foot's distance. In spite of expectation, she
was startled and shrank bank, but in doing so she could take in the
whole figure of this stranger and perceive that she was unmistakably a
lady, and one who must have been exceedingly handsome. She perceived,
also, that a few yards from her were two children seated on the grass.

"Miss Harleth?" said the lady.

"Yes." All Gwendolen's consciousness was wonder.

"Have you accepted Mr. Grandcourt?"

"No."

"I have promised to tell you something. And you will promise to keep my
secret. However you may decide you will not tell Mr. Grandcourt, or any
one else, that you have seen me?"

"I promise."

"My name is Lydia Glasher. Mr. Grandcourt ought not to marry any one
but me. I left my husband and child for him nine years ago. Those two
children are his, and we have two others--girls--who are older. My
husband is dead now, and Mr. Grandcourt ought to marry me. He ought to
make that boy his heir."

She looked at the boy as she spoke, and Gwendolen's eyes followed hers.
The handsome little fellow was puffing out his cheeks in trying to blow
a tiny trumpet which remained dumb. His hat hung backward by a string,
and his brown curls caught the sun-rays. He was a cherub.

The two women's eyes met again, and Gwendolen said proudly, "I will not
interfere with your wishes." She looked as if she were shivering, and
her lips were pale.

"You are very attractive, Miss Harleth. But when he first knew me, I
too was young. Since then my life has been broken up and embittered. It
is not fair that he should be happy and I miserable, and my boy thrust
out of sight for another."

These words were uttered with a biting accent, but with a determined
abstinence from anything violent in tone or manner. Gwendolen, watching
Mrs. Glasher's face while she spoke, felt a sort of terror: it was as
if some ghastly vision had come to her in a dream and said, "I am a
woman's life."

"Have you anything more to say to me?" she asked in a low tone, but
still proud and coldly. The revulsion within her was not tending to
soften her. Everyone seemed hateful.

"Nothing. You know what I wished you to know. You can inquire about me
if you like. My husband was Colonel Glasher."

"Then I will go," said Gwendolen, moving away with a ceremonious
inclination, which was returned with equal grace.

In a few minutes Gwendolen was in the beech grove again but her party
had gone out of sight and apparently had not sent in search of her, for
all was solitude till she had reached the avenue pointed out by the
warden. She determined to take this way back to Green Arbor, which she
reached quickly; rapid movements seeming to her just now a means of
suspending the thoughts which might prevent her from behaving with due
calm. She had already made up her mind what step she would take.

Mrs. Davilow was of course astonished to see Gwendolen returning alone,
and was not without some uneasiness which the presence of other ladies
hindered her from showing. In answer to her words of surprise Gwendolen
said,

"Oh, I have been rather silly. I lingered behind to look at the
Whispering Stones, and the rest hurried on after something, so I lost
sight of them. I thought it best to come home by the short way--the
avenue that the warden had told me of. I'm not sorry after all. I had
had enough walking."

"Your party did not meet Mr. Grandcourt, I presume," said Mrs.
Arrowpoint, not without intention.

"No," said Gwendolen, with a little flash of defiance, and a light
laugh. "And we didn't see any carvings on the trees, either. Where can
he be? I should think he has fallen into the pool or had an apoplectic
fit."

With all Gwendolen's resolve not to betray any agitation, she could not
help it that her tone was unusually high and hard, and her mother felt
sure that something unpropitious had happened.

Mrs. Arrowpoint thought that the self-confident young lady was much
piqued, and that Mr. Grandcourt was probably seeing reason to change
his mind.

"If you have no objection, mamma, I will order the carriage," said
Gwendolen. "I am tired. And every one will be going soon."

Mrs. Davilow assented; but by the time the carriage was announced as
ready--the horses having to be fetched from the stables on the warden's
premises--the roving party reappeared, and with them Mr. Grandcourt.

"Ah, there you are!" said Lord Brackenshaw, going up to Gwendolen, who
was arranging her mamma's shawl for the drive. "We thought at first you
had alighted on Grandcourt and he had taken you home. Lush said so. But
after that we met Grandcourt. However, we didn't suppose you could be
in any danger. The warden said he had told you a near way back."

"You are going?" said Grandcourt, coming up with his usual air, as if
he did not conceive that there had been any omission on his part. Lord
Brackenshaw gave place to him and moved away.

"Yes, we are going," said Gwendolen, looking busily at her scarf, which
she was arranging across her shoulders Scotch fashion.

"May I call at Offendene to-morrow?"

"Oh yes, if you like," said Gwendolen, sweeping him from a distance
with her eyelashes. Her voice was light and sharp as the first touch of
frost.

Mrs. Davilow accepted his arm to lead her to the carriage; but while
that was happening, Gwendolen with incredible swiftness had got in
advance of them, and had sprung into the carriage.

"I got in, mamma, because I wished to be on this side," she said,
apologetically. But she had avoided Grandcourt's touch: he only lifted
his hat and walked away--with the not unsatisfactory impression that
she meant to show herself offended by his neglect.

The mother and daughter drove for five minutes in silence. Then
Gwendolen said, "I intend to join the Langens at Dover, mamma. I shall
pack up immediately on getting home, and set off by the early train. I
shall be at Dover almost as soon as they are; we can let them know by
telegraph."

"Good heavens, child! what can be your reason for saying so?"

"My reason for saying it, mamma, is that I mean to do it."

"But why do you mean to do it?"

"I wish to go away."

"Is it because you are offended with Mr. Grandcourt's odd behavior in
walking off to-day?"

"It is useless to enter into such questions. I am not going in any case
to marry Mr. Grandcourt. Don't interest yourself further about it."

"What can I say to your uncle, Gwendolen? Consider the position you
place me in. You led him to believe only last night that you had made
up your mind in favor of Mr. Grandcourt."

"I am very sorry to cause you annoyance, mamma, dear, but I can't help
it," said Gwendolen, with still harder resistance in her tone.
"Whatever you or my uncle may think or do, I shall not alter my
resolve, and I shall not tell my reason. I don't care what comes of it.
I don't care if I never marry any one. There is nothing worth caring
for. I believe all men are bad, and I hate them."

"But need you set off in this way, Gwendolen?" said Mrs. Davilow,
miserable and helpless.

"Now mamma, don't interfere with me. If you have ever had any trouble
in your own life, remember it and don't interfere with me. If I am to
be miserable, let it be by my own choice."

The mother was reduced to trembling silence. She began to see that the
difficulty would be lessened if Gwendolen went away.

And she did go. The packing was all carefully done that evening, and
not long after dawn the next day Mrs. Davilow accompanied her daughter
to the railway station. The sweet dews of morning, the cows and horses
looking over the hedges without any particular reason, the early
travelers on foot with their bundles, seemed all very melancholy and
purposeless to them both. The dingy torpor of the railway station,
before the ticket could be taken, was still worse. Gwendolen had
certainly hardened in the last twenty-four hours: her mother's trouble
evidently counted for little in her present state of mind, which did
not essentially differ from the mood that makes men take to worse
conduct when their belief in persons or things is upset. Gwendolen's
uncontrolled reading, though consisting chiefly in what are called
pictures of life, had somehow not prepared her for this encounter with
reality. Is that surprising? It is to be believed that attendance at
the _opéra bouffe_ in the present day would not leave men's minds
entirely without shock, if the manners observed there with some
applause were suddenly to start up in their own families. Perspective,
as its inventor remarked, is a beautiful thing. What horrors of damp
huts, where human beings languish, may not become picturesque through
aerial distance! What hymning of cancerous vices may we not languish
over as sublimest art in the safe remoteness of a strange language and
artificial phrase! Yet we keep a repugnance to rheumatism and other
painful effects when presented in our personal experience.

Mrs. Davilow felt Gwendolen's new phase of indifference keenly, and as
she drove back alone, the brightening morning was sadder to her than
before.

Mr. Grandcourt called that day at Offendene, but nobody was at home.



CHAPTER XV.

    "_Festina lente_--celerity should be contempered with
    cunctation."--SIR THOMAS BROWNE.


Gwendolen, we have seen, passed her time abroad in the new excitement
of gambling, and in imagining herself an empress of luck, having
brought from her late experience a vague impression that in this
confused world it signified nothing what any one did, so that they
amused themselves. We have seen, too, that certain persons,
mysteriously symbolized as Grapnell & Co., having also thought of
reigning in the realm of luck, and being also bent on amusing
themselves, no matter how, had brought about a painful change in her
family circumstances; whence she had returned home--carrying with her,
against her inclination, a necklace which she had pawned and some one
else had redeemed.

While she was going back to England, Grandcourt was coming to find her;
coming, that is, after his own manner--not in haste by express straight
from Diplow to Leubronn, where she was understood to be; but so
entirely without hurry that he was induced by the presence of some
Russian acquaintances to linger at Baden-Baden and make various
appointments with them, which, however, his desire to be at Leubronn
ultimately caused him to break. Grandcourt's passions were of the
intermittent, flickering kind: never flaming out strongly. But a great
deal of life goes on without strong passion: myriads of cravats are
carefully tied, dinners attended, even speeches made proposing the
health of august personages without the zest arising from a strong
desire. And a man may make a good appearance in high social
positions--may be supposed to know the classics, to have his reserves
on science, a strong though repressed opinion on politics, and all the
sentiments of the English gentleman, at a small expense of vital
energy. Also, he may be obstinate or persistent at the same low rate,
and may even show sudden impulses which have a false air of daemonic
strength because they seem inexplicable, though perhaps their secret
lies merely in the want of regulated channels for the soul to move
in--good and sufficient ducts of habit without which our nature easily
turns to mere ooze and mud, and at any pressure yields nothing but a
spurt or a puddle.

Grandcourt had not been altogether displeased by Gwendolen's running
away from the splendid chance he was holding out to her. The act had
some piquancy for him. He liked to think that it was due to resentment
of his careless behavior in Cardell Chase, which, when he came to
consider it, did appear rather cool. To have brought her so near a
tender admission, and then to have walked headlong away from further
opportunities of winning the consent which he had made her understand
him to be asking for, was enough to provoke a girl of spirit; and to be
worth his mastering it was proper that she should have some spirit.
Doubtless she meant him to follow her, and it was what he meant too.
But for a whole week he took no measures toward starting, and did not
even inquire where Miss Harleth was gone. Mr. Lush felt a triumph that
was mingled with much distrust; for Grandcourt had said no word to him
about her, and looked as neutral as an alligator; there was no telling
what might turn up in the slowly-churning chances of his mind. Still,
to have put off a decision was to have made room for the waste of
Grandcourt's energy.

The guests at Diplow felt more curiosity than their host. How was it
that nothing more was heard of Miss Harleth? Was it credible that she
had refused Mr. Grandcourt? Lady Flora Hollis, a lively middle-aged
woman, well endowed with curiosity, felt a sudden interest in making a
round of calls with Mrs. Torrington, including the rectory, Offendene,
and Quetcham, and thus not only got twice over, but also discussed with
the Arrowpoints, the information that Miss Harleth was gone to
Leubronn, with some old friends, the Baron and Baroness von Langen; for
the immediate agitation and disappointment of Mrs. Davilow and the
Gascoignes had resolved itself into a wish that Gwendolen's
disappearance should not be interpreted as anything eccentric or
needful to be kept secret. The rector's mind, indeed, entertained the
possibility that the marriage was only a little deferred, for Mrs.
Davilow had not dared to tell him of the bitter determination with
which Gwendolen had spoken. And in spite of his practical ability, some
of his experience had petrified into maxims and quotations. Amaryllis
fleeing desired that her hiding-place should be known; and that love
will find out the way "over the mountain and over the wave" may be said
without hyperbole in this age of steam. Gwendolen, he conceived, was an
Amaryllis of excellent sense but coquettish daring; the question was
whether she had dared too much.

Lady Flora, coming back charged with news about Miss Harleth, saw no
good reason why she should not try whether she could electrify Mr.
Grandcourt by mentioning it to him at the table; and in doing so shot a
few hints of a notion having got abroad that he was a disappointed
adorer. Grandcourt heard with quietude, but with attention; and the
next day he ordered Lush to bring about a decent reason for breaking up
the party at Diplow by the end of another week, as he meant to go
yachting to the Baltic or somewhere--it being impossible to stay at
Diplow as if he were a prisoner on parole, with a set of people whom he
had never wanted. Lush needed no clearer announcement that Grandcourt
was going to Leubronn; but he might go after the manner of a creeping
billiard-ball and stick on the way. What Mr. Lush intended was to make
himself indispensable so that he might go too, and he succeeded;
Gwendolen's repulsion for him being a fact that only amused his patron,
and made him none the less willing to have Lush always at hand.

This was how it happened that Grandcourt arrived at the _Czarina_ on
the fifth day after Gwendolen had left Leubronn, and found there his
uncle, Sir Hugo Mallinger, with his family, including Deronda. It is
not necessarily a pleasure either to the reigning power or the heir
presumptive when their separate affairs--a--touch of gout, say, in the
one, and a touch of willfulness in the other--happen to bring them to
the same spot. Sir Hugo was an easy-tempered man, tolerant both of
differences and defects; but a point of view different from his own
concerning the settlement of the family estates fretted him rather more
than if it had concerned Church discipline or the ballot, and faults
were the less venial for belonging to a person whose existence was
inconvenient to him. In no case could Grandcourt have been a nephew
after his own heart; but as the presumptive heir to the Mallinger
estates he was the sign and embodiment of a chief grievance in the
baronet's life--the want of a son to inherit the lands, in no portion
of which had he himself more than a life-interest. For in the
ill-advised settlement which his father, Sir Francis, had chosen to
make by will, even Diplow with its modicum of land had been left under
the same conditions as the ancient and wide inheritance of the two
Toppings--Diplow, where Sir Hugo had lived and hunted through many a
season in his younger years, and where his wife and daughters ought to
have been able to retire after his death.

This grievance had naturally gathered emphasis as the years advanced,
and Lady Mallinger, after having had three daughters in quick
succession, had remained for eight years till now that she was over
forty without producing so much as another girl; while Sir Hugo, almost
twenty years older, was at a time of life when, notwithstanding the
fashionable retardation of most things from dinners to marriages, a
man's hopefulness is apt to show signs of wear, until restored by
second childhood.

In fact, he had begun to despair of a son, and this confirmation of
Grandcourt's interest in the estates certainly tended to make his image
and presence the more unwelcome; but, on the other hand, it carried
circumstances which disposed Sir Hugo to take care that the relation
between them should be kept as friendly as possible. It led him to
dwell on a plan which had grown up side by side with his disappointment
of an heir; namely, to try and secure Diplow as a future residence for
Lady Mallinger and her daughters, and keep this pretty bit of the
family inheritance for his own offspring in spite of that
disappointment. Such knowledge as he had of his nephew's disposition
and affairs encouraged the belief that Grandcourt might consent to a
transaction by which he would get a good sum of ready money, as an
equivalent for his prospective interest in the domain of Diplow and the
moderate amount of land attached to it. If, after all, the unhoped-for
son should be born, the money would have been thrown away, and
Grandcourt would have been paid for giving up interests that had turned
out good for nothing; but Sir Hugo set down this risk as _nil_, and of
late years he had husbanded his fortune so well by the working of mines
and the sale of leases that he was prepared for an outlay.

Here was an object that made him careful to avoid any quarrel with
Grandcourt. Some years before, when he was making improvements at the
Abbey, and needed Grandcourt's concurrence in his felling an
obstructive mass of timber on the demesne, he had congratulated himself
on finding that there was no active spite against him in his nephew's
peculiar mind; and nothing had since occurred to make them hate each
other more than was compatible with perfect politeness, or with any
accommodation that could be strictly mutual.

Grandcourt, on his side, thought his uncle a superfluity and a bore,
and felt that the list of things in general would be improved whenever
Sir Hugo came to be expunged. But he had been made aware through Lush,
always a useful medium, of the baronet's inclinations concerning
Diplow, and he was gratified to have the alternative of the money in
his mind: even if he had not thought it in the least likely that he
would choose to accept it, his sense of power would have been flattered
by his being able to refuse what Sir Hugo desired. The hinted
transaction had told for something among the motives which had made him
ask for a year's tenancy of Diplow, which it had rather annoyed Sir
Hugo to grant, because the excellent hunting in the neighborhood might
decide Grandcourt not to part with his chance of future possession;--a
man who has two places, in one of which the hunting is less good,
naturally desiring a third where it is better. Also, Lush had thrown
out to Sir Hugo the probability that Grandcourt would woo and win Miss
Arrowpoint, and in that case ready money might be less of a temptation
to him. Hence, on this unexpected meeting at Leubronn, the baronet felt
much curiosity to know how things had been going on at Diplow, was bent
on being as civil as possible to his nephew, and looked forward to some
private chat with Lush.

Between Deronda and Grandcourt there was a more faintly-marked but
peculiar relation, depending on circumstances which have yet to be made
known. But on no side was there any sign of suppressed chagrin on the
first meeting at the _table d'hôte_, an hour after Grandcourt's
arrival; and when the quartette of gentlemen afterward met on the
terrace, without Lady Mallinger, they moved off together to saunter
through the rooms, Sir Hugo saying as they entered the large _saal_,

"Did you play much at Baden, Grandcourt?"

"No; I looked on and betted a little with some Russians there."

"Had you luck?"

"What did I win, Lush?"

"You brought away about two hundred," said Lush.

"You are not here for the sake of the play, then?" said Sir Hugo.

"No; I don't care about play now. It's a confounded strain," said
Grandcourt, whose diamond ring and demeanor, as he moved along playing
slightly with his whisker, were being a good deal stared at by rouged
foreigners interested in a new milord.

"The fact is, somebody should invent a mill to do amusements for you,
my dear fellow," said Sir Hugo, "as the Tartars get their praying done.
But I agree with you; I never cared for play. It's monotonous--knits
the brain up into meshes. And it knocks me up to watch it now. I
suppose one gets poisoned with the bad air. I never stay here more than
ten minutes. But where's your gambling beauty, Deronda? Have you seen
her lately?"

"She's gone," said Deronda, curtly.

"An uncommonly fine girl, a perfect Diana," said Sir Hugo, turning to
Grandcourt again. "Really worth a little straining to look at her. I
saw her winning, and she took it as coolly as if she had known it all
beforehand. The same day Deronda happened to see her losing like
wildfire, and she bore it with immense pluck. I suppose she was cleaned
out, or was wise enough to stop in time. How do you know she's gone?"

"Oh, by the Visitor-list,..." said Deronda, with a scarcely perceptible
shrug. "Vandernoodt told me her name was Harleth, and she was with the
Baron and Baroness von Langen. I saw by the list that Miss Harleth was
no longer there."

This held no further information for Lush than that Gwendolen had been
gambling. He had already looked at the list, and ascertained that
Gwendolen had gone, but he had no intention of thrusting this knowledge
on Grandcourt before he asked for it; and he had not asked, finding it
enough to believe that the object of search would turn up somewhere or
other.

But now Grandcourt had heard what was rather piquant, and not a word
about Miss Harleth had been missed by him. After a moment's pause he
said to Deronda,

"Do you know those people--the Langens?"

"I have talked with them a little since Miss Harleth went away. I knew
nothing of them before."

"Where is she gone--do you know?"

"She is gone home," said Deronda, coldly, as if he wished to say no
more. But then, from a fresh impulse, he turned to look markedly at
Grandcourt, and added, "But it is possible you know her. Her home is
not far from Diplow: Offendene, near Winchester."

Deronda, turning to look straight at Grandcourt, who was on his left
hand, might have been a subject for those old painters who liked
contrasts of temperament. There was a calm intensity of life and
richness of tint in his face that on a sudden gaze from him was rather
startling, and often made him seem to have spoken, so that servants and
officials asked him automatically, "What did you say, sir?" when he had
been quite silent. Grandcourt himself felt an irritation, which he did
not show except by a slight movement of the eyelids, at Deronda's
turning round on him when he was not asked to do more than speak. But
he answered, with his usual drawl, "Yes, I know her," and paused with
his shoulder toward Deronda, to look at the gambling.

"What of her, eh?" asked Sir Hugo of Lush, as the three moved on a
little way. "She must be a new-comer at Offendene. Old Blenny lived
there after the dowager died."

"A little too much of her," said Lush, in a low, significant tone; not
sorry to let Sir Hugo know the state of affairs.

"Why? how?" said the baronet. They all moved out of the _salon_ into an
airy promenade.

"He has been on the brink of marrying her," Lush went on. "But I hope
it's off now. She's a niece of the clergyman--Gascoigne--at Pennicote.
Her mother is a widow with a brood of daughters. This girl will have
nothing, and is as dangerous as gunpowder. It would be a foolish
marriage. But she has taken a freak against him, for she ran off here
without notice, when he had agreed to call the next day. The fact is,
he's here after her; but he was in no great hurry, and between his
caprice and hers they are likely enough not to get together again. But
of course he has lost his chance with the heiress."

Grandcourt joining them said, "What a beastly den this is!--a worse
hole than Baden. I shall go back to the hotel."

When Sir Hugo and Deronda were alone, the baronet began,

"Rather a pretty story. That girl has something in her. She must be
worth running after--has _de l'imprévu_. I think her appearance on the
scene has bettered my chance of getting Diplow, whether the marriage
comes off or not."

"I should hope a marriage like that would not come off," said Deronda,
in a tone of disgust.

"What! are you a little touched with the sublime lash?" said Sir Hugo,
putting up his glasses to help his short sight in looking at his
companion. "Are you inclined to run after her?"

"On the contrary," said Deronda, "I should rather be inclined to run
away from her."

"Why, you would easily cut out Grandcourt. A girl with her spirit would
think you the finer match of the two," said Sir Hugo, who often tried
Deronda's patience by finding a joke in impossible advice. (A
difference of taste in jokes is a great strain on the affections.)

"I suppose pedigree and land belong to a fine match," said Deronda,
coldly.

"The best horse will win in spite of pedigree, my boy. You remember
Napoleon's _mot--Je suis un ancêtre_" said Sir Hugo, who habitually
undervalued birth, as men after dining well often agree that the good
of life is distributed with wonderful equality.

"I am not sure that I want to be an ancestor," said Deronda. "It
doesn't seem to me the rarest sort of origination."

"You won't run after the pretty gambler, then?" said Sir Hugo, putting
down his glasses.

"Decidedly not."

This answer was perfectly truthful; nevertheless it had passed through
Deronda's mind that under other circumstances he should have given way
to the interest this girl had raised in him, and tried to know more of
her. But his history had given him a stronger bias in another
direction. He felt himself in no sense free.



CHAPTER XVI.

    Men, like planets, have both a visible and an invisible history. The
    astronomer threads the darkness with strict deduction, accounting so
    for every visible arc in the wanderer's orbit; and the narrator of
    human actions, if he did his work with the same completeness, would
    have to thread the hidden pathways of feeling and thought which lead
    up to every moment of action, and to those moments of intense
    suffering which take the quality of action--like the cry of
    Prometheus, whose chained anguish seems a greater energy than the sea
    and sky he invokes and the deity he defies.


Deronda's circumstances, indeed, had been exceptional. One moment had
been burned into his life as its chief epoch--a moment full of July
sunshine and large pink roses shedding their last petals on a grassy
court enclosed on three sides by a gothic cloister. Imagine him in such
a scene: a boy of thirteen, stretched prone on the grass where it was
in shadow, his curly head propped on his arms over a book, while his
tutor, also reading, sat on a camp-stool under shelter. Deronda's book
was Sismondi's _History of the Italian Republics_; the lad had a
passion for history, eager to know how time had been filled up since
the flood, and how things were carried on in the dull periods. Suddenly
he let down his left arm and looked at his tutor, saying in purest
boyish tones,

"Mr. Fraser, how was it that the popes and cardinals always had so many
nephews?"

The tutor, an able young Scotchman, who acted as Sir Hugo Mallinger's
secretary, roused rather unwillingly from his political economy,
answered with the clear-cut emphatic chant which makes a truth doubly
telling in Scotch utterance,

"Their own children were called nephews."

"Why?" said Deronda.

"It was just for the propriety of the thing; because, as you know very
well, priests don't marry, and the children were illegitimate."

Mr. Fraser, thrusting out his lower lip and making his chant of the
last word the more emphatic for a little impatience at being
interrupted, had already turned his eyes on his book again, while
Deronda, as if something had stung him, started up in a sitting
attitude with his back to the tutor.

He had always called Sir Hugo Mallinger his uncle, and when it once
occurred to him to ask about his father and mother, the baronet had
answered, "You lost your father and mother when you were quite a little
one; that is why I take care of you." Daniel then straining to discern
something in that early twilight, had a dim sense of having been kissed
very much, and surrounded by thin, cloudy, scented drapery, till his
fingers caught in something hard, which hurt him, and he began to cry.
Every other memory he had was of the little world in which he still
lived. And at that time he did not mind about learning more, for he was
too fond of Sir Hugo to be sorry for the loss of unknown parents. Life
was very delightful to the lad, with an uncle who was always indulgent
and cheerful--a fine man in the bright noon of life, whom Daniel
thought absolutely perfect, and whose place was one of the finest in
England, at once historical, romantic, and home-like: a picturesque
architectural outgrowth from an abbey, which had still remnants of the
old monastic trunk. Diplow lay in another county, and was a
comparatively landless place which had come into the family from a rich
lawyer on the female side who wore the perruque of the restoration;
whereas the Mallingers had the grant of Monk's Topping under Henry the
Eighth, and ages before had held the neighboring lands of King's
Topping, tracing indeed their origin to a certain Hugues le Malingre,
who came in with the Conqueror--and also apparently with a sickly
complexion which had been happily corrected in his descendants. Two
rows of these descendants, direct and collateral, females of the male
line, and males of the female, looked down in the gallery over the
cloisters on the nephew Daniel as he walked there: men in armor with
pointed beards and arched eyebrows, pinched ladies in hoops and ruffs
with no face to speak of; grave-looking men in black velvet and stuffed
hips, and fair, frightened women holding little boys by the hand;
smiling politicians in magnificent perruques, and ladies of the
prize-animal kind, with rosebud mouths and full eyelids, according to
Lely; then a generation whose faces were revised and embellished in the
taste of Kneller; and so on through refined editions of the family
types in the time of Reynolds and Romney, till the line ended with Sir
Hugo and his younger brother Henleigh. This last had married Miss
Grandcourt, and taken her name along with her estates, thus making a
junction between two equally old families, impaling the three Saracens'
heads proper and three bezants of the one with the tower and falcons
_argent_ of the other, and, as it happened, uniting their highest
advantages in the prospects of that Henleigh Mallinger Grandcourt who
is at present more of an acquaintance to us than either Sir Hugo or his
nephew Daniel Deronda.

In Sir Hugo's youthful portrait with rolled collar and high cravat, Sir
Thomas Lawrence had done justice to the agreeable alacrity of
expression and sanguine temperament still to be seen in the original,
but had done something more than justice in slightly lengthening the
nose, which was in reality shorter than might have been expected in a
Mallinger. Happily the appropriate nose of the family reappeared in his
younger brother, and was to be seen in all its refined regularity in
his nephew Mallinger Grandcourt. But in the nephew Daniel Deronda the
family faces of various types, seen on the walls of the gallery, found
no reflex. Still he was handsomer than any of them, and when he was
thirteen might have served as model for any painter who wanted to image
the most memorable of boys: you could hardly have seen his face
thoroughly meeting yours without believing that human creatures had
done nobly in times past, and might do more nobly in time to come. The
finest childlike faces have this consecrating power, and make us
shudder anew at all the grossness and basely-wrought griefs of the
world, lest they should enter here and defile.

But at this moment on the grass among the rose-petals, Daniel Deronda
was making a first acquaintance with those griefs. A new idea had
entered his mind, and was beginning to change the aspect of his
habitual feelings as happy careless voyagers are changed with the sky
suddenly threatened and the thought of danger arises. He sat perfectly
still with his back to the tutor, while his face expressed rapid inward
transition. The deep blush, which had come when he first started up,
gradually subsided; but his features kept that indescribable look of
subdued activity which often accompanies a new mental survey of
familiar facts. He had not lived with other boys, and his mind showed
the same blending of child's ignorance with surprising knowledge which
is oftener seen in bright girls. Having read Shakespeare as well as a
great deal of history, he could have talked with the wisdom of a
bookish child about men who were born out of wedlock and were held
unfortunate in consequence, being under disadvantages which required
them to be a sort of heroes if they were to work themselves up to an
equal standing with their legally born brothers. But he had never
brought such knowledge into any association with his own lot, which had
been too easy for him ever to think about it--until this moment when
there had darted into his mind with the magic of quick comparison, the
possibility that here was the secret of his own birth, and that the man
whom he called uncle was really his father. Some children, even younger
than Daniel, have known the first arrival of care, like an ominous
irremovable guest in their tender lives, on the discovery that their
parents, whom they had imagined able to buy everything, were poor and
in hard money troubles. Daniel felt the presence of a new guest who
seemed to come with an enigmatic veiled face, and to carry
dimly-conjectured, dreaded revelations. The ardor which he had given to
the imaginary world in his books suddenly rushed toward his own history
and spent its pictorial energy there, explaining what he knew,
representing the unknown. The uncle whom he loved very dearly took the
aspect of a father who held secrets about him--who had done him a
wrong--yes, a wrong: and what had become of his mother, for whom he
must have been taken away?--Secrets about which he, Daniel, could never
inquire; for to speak or to be spoken to about these new thoughts
seemed like falling flakes of fire to his imagination. Those who have
known an impassioned childhood will understand this dread of utterance
about any shame connected with their parents. The impetuous advent of
new images took possession of him with the force of fact for the first
time told, and left him no immediate power for the reflection that he
might be trembling at a fiction of his own. The terrible sense of
collision between a strong rush of feeling and the dread of its
betrayal, found relief at length in big slow tears, which fell without
restraint until the voice of Mr. Fraser was heard saying:

"Daniel, do you see that you are sitting on the bent pages of your
book?"

Daniel immediately moved the book without turning round, and after
holding it before him for an instant, rose with it and walked away into
the open grounds, where he could dry his tears unobserved. The first
shock of suggestion past, he could remember that he had no certainty
how things really had been, and that he had been making conjectures
about his own history, as he had often made stories about Pericles or
Columbus, just to fill up the blanks before they became famous. Only
there came back certain facts which had an obstinate reality, almost
like the fragments of a bridge, telling you unmistakably how the arches
lay. And again there came a mood in which his conjectures seemed like a
doubt of religion, to be banished as an offense, and a mean prying
after what he was not meant to know; for there was hardly a delicacy of
feeling this lad was not capable of. But the summing-up of all his
fluctuating experience at this epoch was, that a secret impression had
come to him which had given him something like a new sense in relation
to all the elements of his life. And the idea that others probably knew
things concerning which they did not choose to mention, set up in him a
premature reserve which helped to intensify his inward experience. His
ears open now to words which before that July day would have passed by
him unnoted; and round every trivial incident which imagination could
connect with his suspicions, a newly-roused set of feelings were ready
to cluster themselves.

One such incident a month later wrought itself deeply into his life.
Daniel had not only one of those thrilling boy voices which seem to
bring an idyllic heaven and earth before our eyes, but a fine musical
instinct, and had early made out accompaniments for himself on the
piano, while he sang from memory. Since then he had had some teaching,
and Sir Hugo, who delighted in the boy, used to ask for his music in
the presence of guests. One morning after he had been singing "Sweet
Echo" before a small party of gentlemen whom the rain had kept in the
house, the baronet, passing from a smiling remark to his next neighbor
said:

"Come here, Dan!"

The boy came forward with unusual reluctance. He wore an embroidered
holland blouse which set off the rich coloring of his head and throat,
and the resistant gravity about his mouth and eyes as he was being
smiled upon, made their beauty the more impressive. Every one was
admiring him.

"What do you say to being a great singer? Should you like to be adored
by the world and take the house by storm, like Mario and Tamberlik?"

Daniel reddened instantaneously, but there was a just perceptible
interval before he answered with angry decision,

"No; I should hate it!"

"Well, well, well!" said Sir Hugo, with surprised kindliness intended
to be soothing. But Daniel turned away quickly, left the room, and
going to his own chamber threw himself on the broad window-sill, which
was a favorite retreat of his when he had nothing particular to do.
Here he could see the rain gradually subsiding with gleams through the
parting clouds which lit up a great reach of the park, where the old
oaks stood apart from each other, and the bordering wood was pierced
with a green glade which met the eastern sky. This was a scene which
had always been part of his home--part of the dignified ease which had
been a matter of course in his life. And his ardent clinging nature had
appropriated it all with affection. He knew a great deal of what it was
to be a gentleman by inheritance, and without thinking much about
himself--for he was a boy of active perceptions and easily forgot his
own existence in that of Robert Bruce--he had never supposed that he
could be shut out from such a lot, or have a very different part in the
world from that of the uncle who petted him. It is possible (though not
greatly believed in at present) to be fond of poverty and take it for a
bride, to prefer scoured deal, red quarries and whitewash for one's
private surroundings, to delight in no splendor but what has open doors
for the whole nation, and to glory in having no privileges except such
as nature insists on; and noblemen have been known to run away from
elaborate ease and the option of idleness, that they might bind
themselves for small pay to hard-handed labor. But Daniel's tastes were
altogether in keeping with his nurture: his disposition was one in
which everyday scenes and habits beget not _ennui_ or rebellion, but
delight, affection, aptitudes; and now the lad had been stung to the
quick by the idea that his uncle--perhaps his father--thought of a
career for him which was totally unlike his own, and which he knew very
well was not thought of among possible destinations for the sons of
English gentlemen. He had often stayed in London with Sir Hugo, who to
indulge the boy's ear had carried him to the opera to hear the great
tenors, so that the image of a singer taking the house by storm was
very vivid to him; but now, spite of his musical gift, he set himself
bitterly against the notion of being dressed up to sing before all
those fine people, who would not care about him except as a wonderful
toy. That Sir Hugo should have thought of him in that position for a
moment, seemed to Daniel an unmistakable proof that there was something
about his birth which threw him out from the class of gentlemen to
which the baronet belonged. Would it ever be mentioned to him? Would
the time come when his uncle would tell him everything? He shrank from
the prospect: in his imagination he preferred ignorance. If his father
had been wicked--Daniel inwardly used strong words, for he was feeling
the injury done him as a maimed boy feels the crushed limb which for
others is merely reckoned in an average of accidents--if his father had
done any wrong, he wished it might never be spoken of to him: it was
already a cutting thought that such knowledge might be in other minds.
Was it in Mr. Fraser's? probably not, else he would not have spoken in
that way about the pope's nephews. Daniel fancied, as older people do,
that every one else's consciousness was as active as his own on a
matter which was vital to him. Did Turvey the valet know?--and old Mrs.
French the housekeeper?--and Banks the bailiff, with whom he had ridden
about the farms on his pony?--And now there came back the recollection
of a day some years before when he was drinking Mrs. Banks's whey, and
Banks said to his wife with a wink and a cunning laugh, "He features
the mother, eh?" At that time little Daniel had merely thought that
Banks made a silly face, as the common farming men often did, laughing
at what was not laughable; and he rather resented being winked at and
talked of as if he did not understand everything. But now that small
incident became information: it was to be reasoned on. How could he be
like his mother and not like his father? His mother must have been a
Mallinger, if Sir Hugo were his uncle. But no! His father might have
been Sir Hugo's brother and have changed his name, as Mr. Henleigh
Mallinger did when he married Miss Grandcourt. But then, why had he
never heard Sir Hugo speak of his brother Deronda, as he spoke of his
brother Grandcourt? Daniel had never before cared about the family
tree--only about that ancestor who had killed three Saracens in one
encounter. But now his mind turned to a cabinet of estate-maps in the
library, where he had once seen an illuminated parchment hanging out,
that Sir Hugo said was the family tree. The phrase was new and odd to
him--he was a little fellow then--hardly more than half his present
age--and he gave it no precise meaning. He knew more now and wished
that he could examine that parchment. He imagined that the cabinet was
always locked, and longed to try it. But here he checked himself. He
might be seen: and he would never bring himself near even a silent
admission of the sore that had opened in him.

It is in such experiences of a boy or girlhood, while elders are
debating whether most education lies in science or literature, that the
main lines of character are often laid down. If Daniel had been of a
less ardently affectionate nature, the reserve about himself and the
supposition that others had something to his disadvantage in their
minds, might have turned into a hard, proud antagonism. But inborn
lovingness was strong enough to keep itself level with resentment.
There was hardly any creature in his habitual world that he was not
fond of; teasing them occasionally, of course--all except his uncle, or
"Nunc," as Sir Hugo had taught him to say; for the baronet was the
reverse of a strait-laced man, and left his dignity to take care of
itself. Him Daniel loved in that deep-rooted filial way which makes
children always the happier for being in the same room with father or
mother, though their occupations may be quite apart. Sir Hugo's
watch-chain and seals, his handwriting, his mode of smoking and of
talking to his dogs and horses, had all a rightness and charm about
them to the boy which went along with the happiness of morning and
breakfast time. That Sir Hugo had always been a Whig, made Tories and
Radicals equally opponents of the truest and best; and the books he had
written were all seen under the same consecration of loving belief
which differenced what was his from what was not his, in spite of
general resemblance. Those writings were various, from volumes of
travel in the brilliant style, to articles on things in general, and
pamphlets on political crises; but to Daniel they were alike in having
an unquestionable rightness by which other people's information could
be tested.

Who cannot imagine the bitterness of a first suspicion that something
in this object of complete love was _not_ quite right? Children demand
that their heroes should be fleckless, and easily believe them so:
perhaps a first discovery to the contrary is hardly a less
revolutionary shock to a passionate child than the threatened downfall
of habitual beliefs which makes the world seem to totter for us in
maturer life.

But some time after this renewal of Daniel's agitation it appeared that
Sir Hugo must have been making a merely playful experiment in his
question about the singing. He sent for Daniel into the library, and
looking up from his writing as the boy entered threw himself sideways
in his armchair. "Ah, Dan!" he said kindly, drawing one of the old
embroidered stools close to him. "Come and sit down here."

Daniel obeyed, and Sir Hugo put a gentle hand on his shoulder, looking
at him affectionately.

"What is it, my boy? Have you heard anything that has put you out of
spirits lately?"

Daniel was determined not to let the tears come, but he could not speak.

"All changes are painful when people have been happy, you know," said
Sir Hugo, lifting his hand from the boy's shoulder to his dark curls
and rubbing them gently. "You can't be educated exactly as I wish you
to be without our parting. And I think you will find a great deal to
like at school."

This was not what Daniel expected, and was so far a relief, which gave
him spirit to answer,

"Am I to go to school?"

"Yes, I mean you to go to Eton. I wish you to have the education of an
English gentleman; and for that it is necessary that you should go to a
public school in preparation for the university: Cambridge I mean you
to go to; it was my own university."

Daniel's color came and went.

"What do you say, Sirrah?" said Sir Hugo, smiling.

"I should like to be a gentleman," said Daniel, with firm distinctness,
"and go to school, if that is what a gentleman's son must do."

Sir Hugo watched him silently for a few moments, thinking he understood
now why the lad had seemed angry at the notion of becoming a singer.
Then he said tenderly,

"And so you won't mind about leaving your old Nunc?"

"Yes, I shall," said Daniel, clasping Sir Hugo's caressing arm with
both his hands. "But sha'n't I come home and be with you in the
holidays?"

"Oh yes, generally," said Sir Hugo. "But now I mean you to go at once
to a new tutor, to break the change for you before you go to Eton."

After this interview Daniel's spirit rose again. He was meant to be a
gentleman, and in some unaccountable way it might be that his
conjectures were all wrong. The very keenness of the lad taught him to
find comfort in his ignorance. While he was busying his mind in the
construction of possibilities, it became plain to him that there must
be possibilities of which he knew nothing. He left off brooding, young
joy and the spirit of adventure not being easily quenched within him,
and in the interval before his going away he sang about the house,
danced among the old servants, making them parting gifts, and insisted
many times to the groom on the care that was to be taken of the black
pony.

"Do you think I shall know much less than the other boys, Mr. Fraser?"
said Daniel. It was his bent to think that every stranger would be
surprised at his ignorance.

"There are dunces to be found everywhere," said the judicious Fraser.
"You'll not be the biggest; but you've not the makings of a Porson in
you, or a Leibnitz either."

"I don't want to be a Porson or a Leibnitz," said Daniel. "I would
rather be a greater leader, like Pericles or Washington."

"Ay, ay; you've a notion they did with little parsing, and less
algebra," said Fraser. But in reality he thought his pupil a remarkable
lad, to whom one thing was as easy as another, if he had only a mind to
it.

Things went on very well with Daniel in his new world, except that a
boy with whom he was at once inclined to strike up a close friendship
talked to him a great deal about his home and parents, and seemed to
expect a like expansiveness in return. Daniel immediately shrank into
reserve, and this experience remained a check on his naturally strong
bent toward the formation of intimate friendship. Every one, his tutor
included, set him down as a reserved boy, though he was so good-humored
and unassuming, as well as quick, both at study and sport, that nobody
called his reserve disagreeable. Certainly his face had a great deal to
do with that favorable interpretation; but in this instance the beauty
of the closed lips told no falsehood.

A surprise that came to him before his first vacation strengthened the
silent consciousness of a grief within, which might be compared in some
ways with Byron's susceptibility about his deformed foot. Sir Hugo
wrote word that he was married to Miss Raymond, a sweet lady, whom
Daniel must remember having seen. The event would make no difference
about his spending the vacation at the Abbey; he would find Lady
Mallinger a new friend whom he would be sure to love--and much more to
the usual effect when a man, having done something agreeable to
himself, is disposed to congratulate others on his own good fortune,
and the deducible satisfactoriness of events in general.

Let Sir Hugo be partly excused until the grounds of his action can be
more fully known. The mistakes in his behavior to Deronda were due to
that dullness toward what may be going on in other minds, especially
the minds of children, which is among the commonest deficiencies, even
in good-natured men like him, when life has been generally easy to
themselves, and their energies have been quietly spent in feeling
gratified. No one was better aware than he that Daniel was generally
suspected to be his own son. But he was pleased with that suspicion;
and his imagination had never once been troubled with the way in which
the boy himself might be affected, either then or in the future, by the
enigmatic aspect of his circumstances. He was as fond of him as could
be, and meant the best by him. And, considering the lightness with
which the preparation of young lives seem to lie on respectable
consciences, Sir Hugo Mallinger can hardly be held open to exceptional
reproach. He had been a bachelor till he was five-and-forty, had always
been regarded as a fascinating man of elegant tastes; what could be
more natural, even according to the index of language, than that he
should have a beautiful boy like the little Deronda to take care of?
The mother might even, perhaps, be in the great world--met with in Sir
Hugo's residence abroad. The only person to feel any objection was the
boy himself, who could not have been consulted. And the boy's
objections had never been dreamed of by anybody but himself.

By the time Deronda was ready to go to Cambridge, Lady Mallinger had
already three daughters--charming babies, all three, but whose sex was
announced as a melancholy alternative, the offspring desired being a
son; if Sir Hugo had no son the succession must go to his nephew,
Mallinger Grandcourt. Daniel no longer held a wavering opinion about
his own birth. His fuller knowledge had tended to convince him that Sir
Hugo was his father, and he conceived that the baronet, since he never
approached a communication on the subject, wished him to have a tacit
understanding of the fact, and to accept in silence what would be
generally considered more than the due love and nurture. Sir Hugo's
marriage might certainly have been felt as a new ground of resentment
by some youths in Deronda's position, and the timid Lady Mallinger with
her fast-coming little ones might have been images to scowl at, as
likely to divert much that was disposable in the feelings and
possessions of the baronet from one who felt his own claim to be prior.
But hatred of innocent human obstacles was a form of moral stupidity
not in Deronda's grain; even the indignation which had long mingled
itself with his affection for Sir Hugo took the quality of pain rather
than of temper; and as his mind ripened to the idea of tolerance toward
error, he habitually liked the idea with his own silent grievances.

The sense of an entailed disadvantage--the deformed foot doubtfully
hidden by the shoe, makes a restlessly active spiritual yeast, and
easily turns a self-centered, unloving nature into an Ishmaelite. But
in the rarer sort, who presently see their own frustrated claim as one
among a myriad, the inexorable sorrow takes the form of fellowship and
makes the imagination tender. Deronda's early-weakened susceptibility,
charged at first with ready indignation and resistant pride, had raised
in him a premature reflection on certain questions of life; it had
given a bias to his conscience, a sympathy with certain ills, and a
tension of resolve in certain directions, who marked him off from other
youths much more than any talents he possessed.

One day near the end of the long vacation, when he had been making a
tour in the Rhineland with his Eton tutor, and was come for a farewell
stay at the Abbey before going to Cambridge, he said to Sir Hugo,

"What do you intend me to be, sir?" They were in the library, and it
was the fresh morning. Sir Hugo had called him in to read a letter from
a Cambridge Don who was to be interested in him; and since the baronet
wore an air at once business-like and leisurely, the moment seemed
propitious for entering on a grave subject which had never yet been
thoroughly discussed.

"Whatever your inclination leads you to, my boy. I thought it right to
give you the option of the army, but you shut the door on that, and I
was glad. I don't expect you to choose just yet--by-and-by, when you
have looked about you a little more and tried your mettle among older
men. The university has a good wide opening into the forum. There are
prizes to be won, and a bit of good fortune often gives the turn to a
man's taste. From what I see and hear, I should think you can take up
anything you like. You are in the deeper water with your classics than
I ever got into, and if you are rather sick of that swimming, Cambridge
is the place where you can go into mathematics with a will, and disport
yourself on the dry sand as much as you like. I floundered along like a
carp."

"I suppose money will make some difference, sir," said Daniel blushing.
"I shall have to keep myself by-and-by."

"Not exactly. I recommend you not to be extravagant--yes, yes, I
know--you are not inclined to that--but you need not take up anything
against the grain. You will have a bachelor's income--enough for you to
look about with. Perhaps I had better tell you that you may consider
yourself secure of seven hundred a year. You might make yourself a
barrister--be a writer--take up politics. I confess that is what would
please me best. I should like to have you at my elbow and pulling with
me."

Deronda looked embarrassed. He felt that he ought to make some sign of
gratitude, but other feelings clogged his tongue. A moment was passing
by in which a question about his birth was throbbing within him, and
yet it seemed more impossible than ever that the question should find
vent--more impossible than ever that he could hear certain things from
Sir Hugo's lips. The liberal way in which he was dealt with was the
more striking because the baronet had of late cared particularly for
money, and for making the utmost of his life-interest in the estate by
way of providing for his daughters; and as all this flashed through
Daniel's mind it was momentarily within his imagination that the
provision for him might come in some way from his mother. But such
vaporous conjecture passed away as quickly as it came.

Sir Hugo appeared not to notice anything peculiar in Daniel's manner,
and presently went on with his usual chatty liveliness.

"I am glad you have done some good reading outside your classics, and
have got a grip of French and German. The truth is, unless a man can
get the prestige and income of a Don and write donnish books, it's
hardly worth while for him to make a Greek and Latin machine of himself
and be able to spin you out pages of the Greek dramatists at any verse
you'll give him as a cue. That's all very fine, but in practical life
nobody does give you the cue for pages of Greek. In fact, it's a nicety
of conversation which I would have you attend to--much quotation of any
sort, even in English is bad. It tends to choke ordinary remark. One
couldn't carry on life comfortably without a little blindness to the
fact that everything had been said better than we can put it ourselves.
But talking of Dons, I have seen Dons make a capital figure in society;
and occasionally he can shoot you down a cart-load of learning in the
right place, which will tell in politics. Such men are wanted; and if
you have any turn for being a Don, I say nothing against it."

"I think there's not much chance of that. Quicksett and Puller are both
stronger than I am. I hope you will not be much disappointed if I don't
come out with high honors."

"No, no. I should like you to do yourself credit, but for God's sake
don't come out as a superior expensive kind of idiot, like young
Brecon, who got a Double First, and has been learning to knit braces
ever since. What I wish you to get is a passport in life. I don't go
against our university system: we want a little disinterested culture
to make head against cotton and capital, especially in the House. My
Greek has all evaporated; if I had to construe a verse on a sudden, I
should get an apoplectic fit. But it formed my taste. I dare say my
English is the better for it."

On this point Daniel kept a respectful silence. The enthusiastic belief
in Sir Hugo's writings as a standard, and in the Whigs as the chosen
race among politicians, had gradually vanished along with the seraphic
boy's face. He had not been the hardest of workers at Eton. Though some
kinds of study and reading came as easily as boating to him, he was not
of the material that usually makes the first-rate Eton scholar. There
had sprung up in him a meditative yearning after wide knowledge which
is likely always to abate ardor in the fight for prize acquirement in
narrow tracks. Happily he was modest, and took any second-rateness in
himself simply as a fact, not as a marvel necessarily to be accounted
for by a superiority. Still, Mr. Fraser's high opinion of the lad had
not been altogether belied by the youth: Daniel had the stamp of rarity
in a subdued fervor of sympathy, an activity of imagination on behalf
of others which did not show itself effusively, but was continually
seen in acts of considerateness that struck his companions as moral
eccentricity. "Deronda would have been first-rate if he had had more
ambition," was a frequent remark about him. But how could a fellow push
his way properly when he objected to swop for his own advantage,
knocked under by choice when he was within an inch of victory, and,
unlike the great Clive, would rather be the calf than the butcher? It
was a mistake, however, to suppose that Deronda had not his share of
ambition. We know he had suffered keenly from the belief that there was
a tinge of dishonor in his lot; but there are some cases, and his was
one of them, in which the sense of injury breeds--not the will to
inflict injuries and climb over them as a ladder, but, a hatred of all
injury. He had his flashes of fierceness and could hit out upon
occasion, but the occasions were not always what might have been
expected. For in what related to himself his resentful impulses had
been early checked by a mastering affectionateness. Love has a habit of
saying "Never mind" to angry self, who, sitting down for the nonce in
the lower place, by-and-by gets used to it. So it was that as Deronda
approached manhood his feeling for Sir Hugo, while it was getting more
and more mixed with criticism, was gaining in that sort of allowance
which reconciles criticism with tenderness. The dear old beautiful home
and everything within it, Lady Mallinger and her little ones included,
were consecrated for the youth as they had been for the boy--only with
a certain difference of light on the objects. The altarpiece was no
longer miraculously perfect, painted under infallible guidance, but the
human hand discerned in the work was appealing to a reverent tenderness
safer from the gusts of discovery. Certainly Deronda's ambition, even
in his spring-time, lay exceptionally aloof from conspicuous, vulgar
triumph, and from other ugly forms of boyish energy; perhaps because he
was early impassioned by ideas, and burned his fire on those heights.
One may spend a good deal of energy in disliking and resisting what
others pursue, and a boy who is fond of somebody else's pencil-case may
not be more energetic than another who is fond of giving his own
pencil-case away. Still it was not Deronda's disposition to escape from
ugly scenes; he was more inclined to sit through them and take care of
the fellow least able to take care of himself. It had helped to make
him popular that he was sometimes a little compromised by this apparent
comradeship. For a meditative interest in learning how human miseries
are wrought--as precocious in him as another sort of genius in the poet
who writes a Queen Mab at nineteen--was so infused with kindliness that
it easily passed for comradeship. Enough. In many of our neighbors'
lives there is much not only of error and lapse, but of a certain
exquisite goodness which can never be written or even spoken--only
divined by each of us, according to the inward instruction of our own
privacy.

The impression he made at Cambridge corresponded to his position at
Eton. Every one interested in him agreed that he might have taken a
high place if his motives had been of a more pushing sort, and if he
had not, instead of regarding studies as instruments of success,
hampered himself with the notion that they were to feed motive and
opinion--a notion which set him criticising methods and arguing against
his freight and harness when he should have been using all his might to
pull. In the beginning his work at the university had a new zest for
him: indifferent to the continuation of Eton classical drill, he
applied himself vigorously to mathematics, for which he had shown an
early aptitude under Mr. Fraser, and he had the delight of feeling his
strength in a comparatively fresh exercise of thought. That delight,
and the favorable opinion of his tutor, determined him to try for a
mathematical scholarship in the Easter of his second year: he wished to
gratify Sir Hugo by some achievement, and the study of the higher
mathematics, having the growing fascination inherent in all thinking
which demands intensity, was making him a more exclusive worker than he
had been before.

But here came the old check which had been growing with his growth. He
found the inward bent toward comprehension and thoroughness diverging
more and more from the track marked out by the standards of
examination: he felt a heightening discontent with the wearing futility
and enfeebling strain of a demand for excessive retention and dexterity
without any insight into the principles which form the vital
connections of knowledge. (Deronda's undergraduateship occurred fifteen
years ago, when the perfection of our university methods was not yet
indisputable.) In hours when his dissatisfaction was strong upon him he
reproached himself for having been attracted by the conventional
advantage of belonging to an English university, and was tempted toward
the project of asking Sir Hugo to let him quit Cambridge and pursue a
more independent line of study abroad. The germs of this inclination
had been already stirring in his boyish love of universal history,
which made him want to be at home in foreign countries, and follow in
imagination the traveling students of the middle ages. He longed now to
have the sort of apprenticeship to life which would not shape him too
definitely, and rob him of the choice that might come from a free
growth. One sees that Deronda's demerits were likely to be on the side
of reflective hesitation, and this tendency was encouraged by his
position; there was no need for him to get an immediate income, or to
fit himself in haste for a profession; and his sensibility to the
half-known facts of his parentage made him an excuse for lingering
longer than others in a state of social neutrality. Other men, he
inwardly said, had a more definite place and duties. But the project
which flattered his inclination might not have gone beyond the stage of
ineffective brooding, if certain circumstances had not quickened it
into action.

The circumstances arose out of an enthusiastic friendship which
extended into his after-life. Of the same year with himself, and
occupying small rooms close to his, was a youth who had come as an
exhibitioner from Christ's Hospital, and had eccentricities enough for
a Charles Lamb. Only to look at his pinched features and blonde hair
hanging over his collar reminded one of pale quaint heads by early
German painters; and when this faint coloring was lit up by a joke,
there came sudden creases about the mouth and eyes which might have
been moulded by the soul of an aged humorist. His father, an engraver
of some distinction, had been dead eleven years, and his mother had
three girls to educate and maintain on a meagre annuity. Hans
Meyrick--he had been daringly christened after Holbein--felt himself
the pillar, or rather the knotted and twisted trunk, round which these
feeble climbing plants must cling. There was no want of ability or of
honest well-meaning affection to make the prop trustworthy: the ease
and quickness with which he studied might serve him to win prizes at
Cambridge, as he had done among the Blue Coats, in spite of
irregularities. The only danger was, that the incalculable tendencies
in him might be fatally timed, and that his good intentions might be
frustrated by some act which was not due to habit but to capricious,
scattered impulses. He could not be said to have any one bad habit; yet
at longer or shorter intervals he had fits of impish recklessness, and
did things that would have made the worst habits.

Hans in his right mind, however, was a lovable creature, and in Deronda
he had happened to find a friend who was likely to stand by him with
the more constancy, from compassion for these brief aberrations that
might bring a long repentance. Hans, indeed, shared Deronda's rooms
nearly as much as he used his own: to Deronda he poured himself out on
his studies, his affairs, his hopes; the poverty of his home, and his
love for the creatures there; the itching of his fingers to draw, and
his determination to fight it away for the sake of getting some sort of
a plum that he might divide with his mother and the girls. He wanted no
confidence in return, but seemed to take Deronda as an Olympian who
needed nothing--an egotism in friendship which is common enough with
mercurial, expansive natures. Deronda was content, and gave Meyrick all
the interest he claimed, getting at last a brotherly anxiety about him,
looking after him in his erratic moments, and contriving by adroitly
delicate devices not only to make up for his friend's lack of pence,
but to save him from threatening chances. Such friendship easily
becomes tender: the one spreads strong sheltering wings that delight in
spreading, the other gets the warm protection which is also a delight.
Meyrick was going in for a classical scholarship, and his success, in
various ways momentous, was the more probable from the steadying
influence of Deronda's friendship.

But an imprudence of Meyrick's, committed at the beginning of the
autumn term, threatened to disappoint his hopes. With his usual
alternation between unnecessary expense and self-privation, he had
given too much money for an old engraving which fascinated him, and to
make up for it, had come from London in a third-class carriage with his
eyes exposed to a bitter wind and any irritating particles the wind
might drive before it. The consequence was a severe inflammation of the
eyes, which for some time hung over him the threat of a lasting injury.
This crushing trouble called out all Deronda's readiness to devote
himself, and he made every other occupation secondary to that of being
companion and eyes to Hans, working with him and for him at his
classics, that if possible his chance of the classical scholarship
might be saved. Hans, to keep the knowledge of his suffering from his
mother and sisters, alleged his work as a reason for passing the
Christmas at Cambridge, and his friend stayed up with him.

Meanwhile Deronda relaxed his hold on his mathematics, and Hans,
reflecting on this, at length said: "Old fellow, while you are hoisting
me you are risking yourself. With your mathematical cram one may be
like Moses or Mohammed or somebody of that sort who had to cram, and
forgot in one day what it had taken him forty to learn."

Deronda would not admit that he cared about the risk, and he had really
been beguiled into a little indifference by double sympathy: he was
very anxious that Hans should not miss the much-needed scholarship, and
he felt a revival of interest in the old studies. Still, when Hans,
rather late in the day, got able to use his own eyes, Deronda had
tenacity enough to try hard and recover his lost ground. He failed,
however; but he had the satisfaction of seeing Meyrick win.

Success, as a sort of beginning that urged completion, might have
reconciled Deronda to his university course; but the emptiness of all
things, from politics to pastimes, is never so striking to us as when
we fail in them. The loss of the personal triumph had no severity for
him, but the sense of having spent his time ineffectively in a mode of
working which had been against the grain, gave him a distaste for any
renewal of the process, which turned his imagined project of quitting
Cambridge into a serious intention. In speaking of his intention to
Meyrick he made it appear that he was glad of the turn events had
taken--glad to have the balance dip decidedly, and feel freed from his
hesitations; but he observed that he must of course submit to any
strong objection on the part of Sir Hugo.

Meyrick's joy and gratitude were disturbed by much uneasiness. He
believed in Deronda's alleged preference, but he felt keenly that in
serving him Daniel had placed himself at a disadvantage in Sir Hugo's
opinion, and he said mournfully, "If you had got the scholarship, Sir
Hugo would have thought that you asked to leave us with a better grace.
You have spoiled your luck for my sake, and I can do nothing to amend
it."

"Yes, you can; you are to be a first-rate fellow. I call that a
first-rate investment of my luck."

"Oh, confound it! You save an ugly mongrel from drowning, and expect
him to cut a fine figure. The poets have made tragedies enough about
signing one's self over to wickedness for the sake of getting something
plummy; I shall write a tragedy of a fellow who signed himself over to
be good, and was uncomfortable ever after."

But Hans lost no time in secretly writing the history of the affair to
Sir Hugo, making it plain that but for Deronda's generous devotion he
could hardly have failed to win the prize he had been working for.

The two friends went up to town together: Meyrick to rejoice with his
mother and the girls in their little home at Chelsea; Deronda to carry
out the less easy task of opening his mind to Sir Hugo. He relied a
little on the baronet's general tolerance of eccentricities, but he
expected more opposition than he met with. He was received with even
warmer kindness than usual, the failure was passed over lightly, and
when he detailed his reasons for wishing to quit the university and go
to study abroad, Sir Hugo sat for some time in a silence which was
rather meditative than surprised. At last he said, looking at Daniel
with examination, "So you don't want to be an Englishman to the
backbone after all?"

"I want to be an Englishman, but I want to understand other points of
view. And I want to get rid of a merely English attitude in studies."

"I see; you don't want to be turned out in the same mould as every
other youngster. And I have nothing to say against your doffing some of
our national prejudices. I feel the better myself for having spent a
good deal of my time abroad. But, for God's sake, keep an English cut,
and don't become indifferent to bad tobacco! And, my dear boy, it is
good to be unselfish and generous; but don't carry that too far. It
will not do to give yourself to be melted down for the benefit of the
tallow-trade; you must know where to find yourself. However, I shall
put no veto on your going. Wait until I can get off Committee, and I'll
run over with you."

So Deronda went according to his will. But not before he had spent some
hours with Hans Meyrick, and been introduced to the mother and sisters
in the Chelsea home. The shy girls watched and registered every look of
their brother's friend, declared by Hans to have been the salvation of
him, a fellow like nobody else, and, in fine, a brick. They so
thoroughly accepted Deronda as an ideal, that when he was gone the
youngest set to work, under the criticism of the two elder girls, to
paint him as Prince Camaralzaman.



CHAPTER XVII.

        "This is truth the poet sings,
  That a sorrow's crown of sorrow is remembering happier things."
                                --TENNYSON: _Locksley Hall_.


On a fine evening near the end of July, Deronda was rowing himself on
the Thames. It was already a year or more since he had come back to
England, with the understanding that his education was finished, and
that he was somehow to take his place in English society; but though,
in deference to Sir Hugo's wish, and to fence off idleness, he had
begun to read law, this apparent decision had been without other result
than to deepen the roots of indecision. His old love of boating had
revived with the more force now that he was in town with the
Mallingers, because he could nowhere else get the same still seclusion
which the river gave him. He had a boat of his own at Putney, and
whenever Sir Hugo did not want him, it was his chief holiday to row
till past sunset and come in again with the stars. Not that he was in a
sentimental stage; but he was in another sort of contemplative mood
perhaps more common in the young men of our day--that of questioning
whether it were worth while to take part in the battle of the world: I
mean, of course, the young men in whom the unproductive labor of
questioning is sustained by three or five per cent, on capital which
somebody else has battled for. It puzzled Sir Hugo that one who made a
splendid contrast with all that was sickly and puling should be
hampered with ideas which, since they left an accomplished Whig like
himself unobstructed, could be no better than spectral illusions;
especially as Deronda set himself against authorship--a vocation which
is understood to turn foolish thinking into funds.

Rowing in his dark-blue shirt and skull-cap, his curls closely clipped,
his mouth beset with abundant soft waves of beard, he bore only
disguised traces of the seraphic boy "trailing clouds of glory." Still,
even one who had never seen him since his boyhood might have looked at
him with slow recognition, due perhaps to the peculiarity of the gaze
which Gwendolen chose to call "dreadful," though it had really a very
mild sort of scrutiny. The voice, sometimes audible in subdued snatches
of song, had turned out merely a high baritone; indeed, only to look at
his lithe, powerful frame and the firm gravity of his face would have
been enough for an experienced guess that he had no rare and ravishing
tenor such as nature reluctantly makes at some sacrifice. Look at his
hands: they are not small and dimpled, with tapering fingers that seem
to have only a deprecating touch: they are long, flexible,
firmly-grasping hands, such as Titian has painted in a picture where he
wanted to show the combination of refinement with force. And there is
something of a likeness, too, between the faces belonging to the
hands--in both the uniform pale-brown skin, the perpendicular brow, the
calmly penetrating eyes. Not seraphic any longer: thoroughly
terrestrial and manly; but still of a kind to raise belief in a human
dignity which can afford to recognize poor relations.

Such types meet us here and there among average conditions; in a
workman, for example, whistling over a bit of measurement and lifting
his eyes to answer our question about the road. And often the grand
meanings of faces as well as of written words may lie chiefly in the
impressions that happen just now to be of importance in relation to
Deronda, rowing on the Thames in a very ordinary equipment for a young
Englishman at leisure, and passing under Kew Bridge with no thought of
an adventure in which his appearance was likely to play any part. In
fact, he objected very strongly to the notion, which others had not
allowed him to escape, that his appearance was of a kind to draw
attention; and hints of this, intended to be complimentary, found an
angry resonance in him, coming from mingled experiences, to which a
clue has already been given. His own face in the glass had during many
years associated for him with thoughts of some one whom he must be
like--one about whose character and lot he continually wondered, and
never dared to ask.

In the neighborhood of Kew Bridge, between six and seven o'clock, the
river was no solitude. Several persons were sauntering on the
towing-path, and here and there a boat was plying. Deronda had been
rowing fast to get over this spot, when, becoming aware of a great
barge advancing toward him, he guided his boat aside, and rested on his
oar within a couple of yards of the river-brink. He was all the while
unconsciously continuing the low-toned chant which had haunted his
throat all the way up the river--the gondolier's song in the _Otello_,
where Rossini has worthily set to music the immortal words of Dante,

          "Nessun maggior dolore
  Che ricordarsi del tempo felice
  Nella miseria":

[Footnote: Dante's words are best rendered by our own poet in the lines
at the head of the chapter.]

and, as he rested on his oar, the pianissimo fall of the melodic wail
"nella miseria" was distinctly audible on the brink of the water. Three
or four persons had paused at various spots to watch the barge passing
the bridge, and doubtless included in their notice the young gentleman
in the boat; but probably it was only to one ear that the low vocal
sounds came with more significance than if they had been an
insect-murmur amidst the sum of current noises. Deronda, awaiting the
barge, now turning his head to the river-side, and saw at a few yards'
distant from him a figure which might have been an impersonation of the
misery he was unconsciously giving voice to: a girl hardly more than
eighteen, of low slim figure, with most delicate little face, her dark
curls pushed behind her ears under a large black hat, a long woolen
cloak over her shoulders. Her hands were hanging down clasped before
her, and her eyes were fixed on the river with a look of immovable,
statue-like despair. This strong arrest of his attention made him cease
singing: apparently his voice had entered her inner world without her
taking any note of whence it came, for when it suddenly ceased she
changed her attitude slightly, and, looking round with a frightened
glance, met Deronda's face. It was but a couple of moments, but that
seemed a long while for two people to look straight at each other. Her
look was something like that of a fawn or other gentle animal before it
turns to run away: no blush, no special alarm, but only some timidity
which yet could not hinder her from a long look before she turned. In
fact, it seemed to Deronda that she was only half conscious of her
surroundings: was she hungry, or was there some other cause of
bewilderment? He felt an outleap of interest and compassion toward her;
but the next instant she had turned and walked away to a neighboring
bench under a tree. He had no right to linger and watch her:
poorly-dressed, melancholy women are common sights; it was only the
delicate beauty, picturesque lines and color of the image that was
exceptional, and these conditions made it more markedly impossible that
he should obtrude his interest upon her. He began to row away and was
soon far up the river; but no other thoughts were busy enough quite to
expel that pale image of unhappy girlhood. He fell again and again to
speculating on the probable romance that lay behind that loneliness and
look of desolation; then to smile at his own share in the prejudice
that interesting faces must have interesting adventures; then to
justify himself for feeling that sorrow was the more tragic when it
befell delicate, childlike beauty.

"I should not have forgotten the look of misery if she had been ugly
and vulgar," he said to himself. But there was no denying that the
attractiveness of the image made it likelier to last. It was clear to
him as an onyx cameo; the brown-black drapery, the white face with
small, small features and dark, long-lashed eyes. His mind glanced over
the girl-tragedies that are going on in the world, hidden, unheeded, as
if they were but tragedies of the copse or hedgerow, where the helpless
drag wounded wings forsakenly, and streak the shadowed moss with the
red moment-hand of their own death. Deronda of late, in his solitary
excursions, had been occupied chiefly with uncertainties about his own
course; but those uncertainties, being much at their leisure, were wont
to have such wide-sweeping connections with all life and history that
the new image of helpless sorrow easily blent itself with what seemed
to him the strong array of reasons why he should shrink from getting
into that routine of the world which makes men apologize for all its
wrong-doing, and take opinions as mere professional equipment--why he
should not draw strongly at any thread in the hopelessly-entangled
scheme of things.

He used his oars little, satisfied to go with the tide and be taken
back by it. It was his habit to indulge himself in that solemn
passivity which easily comes with the lengthening shadows and mellow
light, when thinking and desiring melt together imperceptibly, and what
in other hours may have seemed argument takes the quality of passionate
vision. By the time he had come back again with the tide past Richmond
Bridge the sun was near setting: and the approach of his favorite
hour--with its deepening stillness and darkening masses of tree and
building between the double glow of the sky and the river--disposed him
to linger as if they had been an unfinished strain of music. He looked
out for a perfectly solitary spot where he could lodge his boat against
the bank, and, throwing himself on his back with his head propped on
the cushions, could watch out the light of sunset and the opening of
that bead-roll which some oriental poet describes as God's call to the
little stars, who each answer, "Here am I." He chose a spot in the bend
of the river just opposite Kew Gardens, where he had a great breadth of
water before him reflecting the glory of the sky, while he himself was
in shadow. He lay with his hands behind his head, propped on a level
with the boat's edge, so that he could see all round him, but could not
be seen by any one at a few yards' distance; and for a long while he
never turned his eyes from the view right in front of him. He was
forgetting everything else in a half-speculative, half-involuntary
identification of himself with the objects he was looking at, thinking
how far it might be possible habitually to shift his centre till his
own personality would be no less outside him than the landscape--when
the sense of something moving on the bank opposite him where it was
bordered by a line of willow bushes, made him turn his glance
thitherward. In the first moment he had a darting presentiment about
the moving figure; and now he could see the small face with the strange
dying sunlight upon it. He feared to frighten her by a sudden movement,
and watched her with motionless attention. She looked round, but seemed
only to gather security from the apparent solitude, hid her hat among
the willows, and immediately took off her woolen cloak. Presently she
seated herself and deliberately dipped the cloak in the water, holding
it there a little while, then taking it out with effort, rising from
her seat as she did so. By this time Deronda felt sure that she meant
to wrap the wet cloak round her as a drowning shroud; there was no
longer time to hesitate about frightening her. He rose and seized his
oar to ply across; happily her position lay a little below him. The
poor thing, overcome with terror at this sign of discovery from the
opposite bank, sank down on the brink again, holding her cloak half out
of the water. She crouched and covered her face as if she kept a faint
hope that she had not been seen, and that the boatman was accidentally
coming toward her. But soon he was within brief space of her, steadying
his boat against the bank, and speaking, but very gently,

"Don't be afraid. You are unhappy. Pray, trust me. Tell me what I can
do to help you."

She raised her head and looked up at him. His face now was toward the
light, and she knew it again. But she did not speak for a few moments
which were a renewal of their former gaze at each other. At last she
said in a low sweet voice, with an accent so distinct that it suggested
foreignness and yet was not foreign, "I saw you before," and then added
dreamily, after a like pause, "nella miseria."

Deronda, not understanding the connection of her thoughts, supposed
that her mind was weakened by distress and hunger.

"It was you, singing?" she went on, hesitatingly--"Nessun maggior
dolore." The mere words themselves uttered in her sweet undertones
seemed to give the melody to Deronda's ear.

"Ah, yes," he said, understanding now, "I am often singing them. But I
fear you will injure yourself staying here. Pray let me take you in my
boat to some place of safety. And that wet cloak--let me take it."

He would not attempt to take it without her leave, dreading lest he
should scare her. Even at his words, he fancied that she shrank and
clutched the cloak more tenaciously. But her eyes were fixed on him
with a question in them as she said, "You look good. Perhaps it is
God's command."

"Do trust me. Let me help you. I will die before I will let any harm
come to you."

She rose from her sitting posture, first dragging the saturated cloak
and then letting it fall on the ground--it was too heavy for her tired
arms. Her little woman's figure as she laid her delicate chilled hands
together one over the other against her waist, and went a step backward
while she leaned her head forward as if not to lose sight of his face,
was unspeakably touching.

"Great God!" the words escaped Deronda in a tone so low and solemn that
they seemed like a prayer become unconsciously vocal. The agitating
impression this forsaken girl was making on him stirred a fibre that
lay close to his deepest interest in the fates of women--"perhaps my
mother was like this one." The old thought had come now with a new
impetus of mingled feeling, and urged that exclamation in which both
East and West have for ages concentrated their awe in the presence of
inexorable calamity.

The low-toned words seemed to have some reassurance in them for the
hearer: she stepped forward close to the boat's side, and Deronda put
out his hand, hoping now that she would let him help her in. She had
already put her tiny hand into his which closed around it, when some
new thought struck her, and drawing back she said,

"I have nowhere to go--nobody belonging to me in all this land."

"I will take you to a lady who has daughters," said Deronda,
immediately. He felt a sort of relief in gathering that the wretched
home and cruel friends he imagined her to be fleeing from were not in
the near background. Still she hesitated, and said more timidly than
ever,

"Do you belong to the theatre?"

"No; I have nothing to do with the theatre," said Deronda, in a decided
tone. Then beseechingly, "I will put you in perfect safety at once;
with a lady, a good woman; I am sure she will be kind. Let us lose no
time: you will make yourself ill. Life may still become sweet to you.
There are good people--there are good women who will take care of you."

She drew backward no more, but stepped in easily, as if she were used
to such action, and sat down on the cushions.

"You had a covering for your head," said Deronda.

"My hat?" (She lifted up her hands to her head.) "It is quite hidden in
the bush."

"I will find it," said Deronda, putting out his hand deprecatingly as
she attempted to rise. "The boat is fixed."

He jumped out, found the hat, and lifted up the saturated cloak,
wringing it and throwing it into the bottom of the boat.

"We must carry the cloak away, to prevent any one who may have noticed
you from thinking you have been drowned," he said, cheerfully, as he
got in again and presented the old hat to her. "I wish I had any other
garment than my coat to offer you. But shall you mind throwing it over
your shoulders while we are on the water? It is quite an ordinary thing
to do, when people return late and are not enough provided with wraps."
He held out the coat toward her with a smile, and there came a faint
melancholy smile in answer, as she took it and put it on very cleverly.

"I have some biscuits--should you like them?" said Deronda.

"No; I cannot eat. I had still some money left to buy bread."

He began to ply his oar without further remark, and they went along
swiftly for many minutes without speaking. She did not look at him, but
was watching the oar, leaning forward in an attitude of repose, as if
she were beginning to feel the comfort of returning warmth and the
prospect of life instead of death. The twilight was deepening; the red
flush was all gone and the little stars were giving their answer one
after another. The moon was rising, but was still entangled among the
trees and buildings. The light was not such that he could distinctly
discern the expression of her features or her glance, but they were
distinctly before him nevertheless--features and a glance which seemed
to have given a fuller meaning for him to the human face. Among his
anxieties one was dominant: his first impression about her, that her
mind might be disordered, had not been quite dissipated: the project of
suicide was unmistakable, and given a deeper color to every other
suspicious sign. He longed to begin a conversation, but abstained,
wishing to encourage the confidence that might induce her to speak
first. At last she did speak.

"I like to listen to the oar."

"So do I."

"If you had not come, I should have been dead now."

"I cannot bear you to speak of that. I hope you will never be sorry
that I came."

"I cannot see how I shall be glad to live. The _maggior dolore_ and the
_miseria_ have lasted longer than the _tempo felice_." She paused and
then went on dreamily,--"_Dolore--miseria_--I think those words are
alive."

Deronda was mute: to question her seemed an unwarrantable freedom; he
shrank from appearing to claim the authority of a benefactor, or to
treat her with the less reverence because she was in distress. She went
on musingly,

"I thought it was not wicked. Death and life are one before the
Eternal. I know our fathers slew their children and then slew
themselves, to keep their souls pure. I meant it so. But now I am
commanded to live. I cannot see how I shall live."

"You will find friends. I will find them for you."

She shook her head and said mournfully, "Not my mother and brother. I
cannot find them."

"You are English? You must be--speaking English so perfectly."

She did not answer immediately, but looked at Deronda again, straining
to see him in the double light. Until now she had been watching the
oar. It seemed as if she were half roused, and wondered which part of
her impression was dreaming and which waking. Sorrowful isolation had
benumbed her sense of reality, and the power of distinguishing outward
and inward was continually slipping away from her. Her look was full of
wondering timidity such as the forsaken one in the desert might have
lifted to the angelic vision before she knew whether his message was in
anger or in pity.

"You want to know if I am English?" she said at last, while Deronda was
reddening nervously under a gaze which he felt more fully than he saw.

"I want to know nothing except what you like to tell me," he said,
still uneasy in the fear that her mind was wandering. "Perhaps it is
not good for you to talk."

"Yes, I will tell you. I am English-born. But I am a Jewess."

Deronda was silent, inwardly wondering that he had not said this to
himself before, though any one who had seen delicate-faced Spanish
girls might simply have guessed her to be Spanish.

"Do you despise me for it?" she said presently in low tones, which had
a sadness that pierced like a cry from a small dumb creature in fear.

"Why should I?" said Deronda. "I am not so foolish."

"I know many Jews are bad."

"So are many Christians. But I should not think it fair for you to
despise me because of that."

"My mother and brother were good. But I shall never find them. I am
come a long way--from abroad. I ran away; but I cannot tell you--I
cannot speak of it. I thought I might find my mother again--God would
guide me. But then I despaired. This morning when the light came, I
felt as if one word kept sounding within me--Never! never! But now--I
begin--to think--" her words were broken by rising sobs--"I am
commanded to live--perhaps we are going to her."

With an outburst of weeping she buried her head on her knees. He hoped
that this passionate weeping might relieve her excitement. Meanwhile he
was inwardly picturing in much embarrassment how he should present
himself with her in Park Lane--the course which he had at first
unreflectingly determined on. No one kinder and more gentle than Lady
Mallinger; but it was hardly probable that she would be at home; and he
had a shuddering sense of a lackey staring at this delicate, sorrowful
image of womanhood--of glaring lights and fine staircases, and perhaps
chilling suspicious manners from lady's maid and housekeeper, that
might scare the mind already in a state of dangerous susceptibility.
But to take her to any other shelter than a home already known to him
was not to be contemplated: he was full of fears about the issue of the
adventure which had brought on him a responsibility all the heavier for
the strong and agitating impression this childlike creature had made on
him. But another resource came to mind: he could venture to take her to
Mrs. Meyrick's--to the small house at Chelsea--where he had been often
enough since his return from abroad to feel sure that he could appeal
there to generous hearts, which had a romantic readiness to believe in
innocent need and to help it. Hans Meyrick was safe away in Italy, and
Deronda felt the comfort of presenting himself with his charge at a
house where he would be met by a motherly figure of quakerish neatness,
and three girls who hardly knew of any evil closer to them than what
lay in history-books, and dramas, and would at once associate a lovely
Jewess with Rebecca in _Ivanhoe_, besides thinking that everything they
did at Deronda's request would be done for their idol, Hans. The vision
of the Chelsea home once raised, Deronda no longer hesitated.

The rumbling thither in the cab after the stillness of the water seemed
long. Happily his charge had been quiet since her fit of weeping, and
submitted like a tired child. When they were in the cab, she laid down
her hat and tried to rest her head, but the jolting movement would not
let it rest. Still she dozed, and her sweet head hung helpless, first
on one side, then on the other.

"They are too good to have any fear about taking her in," thought
Deronda. Her person, her voice, her exquisite utterance, were one
strong appeal to belief and tenderness. Yet what had been the history
which had brought her to this desolation? He was going on a strange
errand--to ask shelter for this waif. Then there occurred to him the
beautiful story Plutarch somewhere tells of the Delphic women: how when
the Maenads, outworn with their torch-lit wanderings, lay down to sleep
in the market-place, the matrons came and stood silently round them to
keep guard over their slumbers; then, when they waked, ministered to
them tenderly and saw them safely to their own borders. He could trust
the women he was going to for having hearts as good.

Deronda felt himself growing older this evening and entering on a new
phase in finding a life to which his own had come--perhaps as a rescue;
but how to make sure that snatching from death was rescue? The moment
of finding a fellow-creature is often as full of mingled doubt and
exultation as the moment of finding an idea.



CHAPTER XVIII.

  Life is a various mother: now she dons
  Her plumes and brilliants, climbs the marble stairs
  With head aloft, nor ever turns her eyes
  On lackeys who attend her; now she dwells
  Grim-clad, up darksome alleys, breathes hot gin,
  And screams in pauper riot.

                             But to these
  She came a frugal matron, neat and deft,
  With cheerful morning thoughts and quick device
  To find the much in little.


Mrs. Meyrick's house was not noisy: the front parlor looked on the
river, and the back on gardens, so that though she was reading aloud to
her daughters, the window could be left open to freshen the air of the
small double room where a lamp and two candles were burning. The
candles were on a table apart for Kate, who was drawing illustrations
for a publisher; the lamp was not only for the reader but for Amy and
Mab, who were embroidering satin cushions for "the great world."

Outside, the house looked very narrow and shabby, the bright light
through the holland blind showing the heavy old-fashioned window-frame;
but it is pleasant to know that many such grim-walled slices of space
in our foggy London have been and still are the homes of a culture the
more spotlessly free from vulgarity, because poverty has rendered
everything like display an impersonal question, and all the grand shows
of the world simply a spectacle which rouses petty rivalry or vain
effort after possession.

The Meyricks' was a home of that kind: and they all clung to this
particular house in a row because its interior was filled with objects
always in the same places, which, for the mother held memories of her
marriage time, and for the young ones seemed as necessary and
uncriticised a part of their world as the stars of the Great Bear seen
from the back windows. Mrs. Meyrick had borne much stint of other
matters that she might be able to keep some engravings specially
cherished by her husband; and the narrow spaces of wall held a world
history in scenes and heads which the children had early learned by
heart. The chairs and tables were also old friends preferred to new.
But in these two little parlors with no furniture that a broker would
have cared to cheapen except the prints and piano, there was space and
apparatus for a wide-glancing, nicely-select life, opened to the
highest things in music, painting and poetry. I am not sure that in the
times of greatest scarcity, before Kate could get paid-work, these
ladies had always had a servant to light their fires and sweep their
rooms; yet they were fastidious in some points, and could not believe
that the manners of ladies in the fashionable world were so full of
coarse selfishness, petty quarreling, and slang as they are represented
to be in what are called literary photographs. The Meyricks had their
little oddities, streaks of eccentricity from the mother's blood as
well as the father's, their minds being like mediæval houses with
unexpected recesses and openings from this into that, flights of steps
and sudden outlooks.

But mother and daughters were all united by a triple bond--family love;
admiration for the finest work, the best action; and habitual industry.
Hans' desire to spend some of his money in making their lives more
luxurious had been resisted by all of them, and both they and he had
been thus saved from regrets at the threatened triumphs of his yearning
for art over the attractions of secured income--a triumph that would
by-and-by oblige him to give up his fellowship. They could all afford
to laugh at his Gavarni-caricatures and to hold him blameless in
following a natural bent which their unselfishness and independence had
left without obstacle. It was enough for them to go on in their old
way, only having a grand treat of opera-going (to the gallery) when
Hans came home on a visit.

Seeing the group they made this evening, one could hardly wish them to
change their way of life. They were all alike small, and so in due
proportion to their miniature rooms. Mrs. Meyrick was reading aloud
from a French book; she was a lively little woman, half French, half
Scotch, with a pretty articulateness of speech that seemed to make
daylight in her hearer's understanding. Though she was not yet fifty,
her rippling hair, covered by a quakerish net cap, was chiefly gray,
but her eyebrows were brown as the bright eyes below them; her black
dress, almost like a priest's cassock with its rows of buttons, suited
a neat figure hardly five feet high. The daughters were to match the
mother, except that Mab had Hans' light hair and complexion, with a
bossy, irregular brow, and other quaintnesses that reminded one of him.
Everything about them was compact, from the firm coils of their hair,
fastened back _à la Chinoise_, to their gray skirts in Puritan
nonconformity with the fashion, which at that time would have demanded
that four feminine circumferences should fill all the free space in the
front parlor. All four, if they had been wax-work, might have been
packed easily in a fashionable lady's traveling trunk. Their faces
seemed full of speech, as if their minds had been shelled, after the
manner of horse-chestnuts, and become brightly visible. The only large
thing of its kind in the room was Hafiz, the Persian cat, comfortably
poised on the brown leather back of a chair, and opening his large eyes
now and then to see that the lower animals were not in any mischief.

The book Mrs. Meyrick had before her was Erckmann-Chatrian's _Historie
d'un Conscrit_. She had just finished reading it aloud, and Mab, who
had let her work fall on the ground while she stretched her head
forward and fixed her eyes on the reader, exclaimed,

"I think that is the finest story in the world."

"Of course, Mab!" said Amy, "it is the last you have heard. Everything
that pleases you is the best in its turn."

"It is hardly to be called a story," said Kate. "It is a bit of history
brought near us with a strong telescope. We can see the soldiers'
faces: no, it is more than that--we can hear everything--we can almost
hear their hearts beat."

"I don't care what you call it," said Mab, flirting away her thimble.
"Call it a chapter in Revelations. It makes me want to do something
good, something grand. It makes me so sorry for everybody. It makes me
like Schiller--I want to take the world in my arms and kiss it. I must
kiss you instead, little mother!" She threw her arms round her mother's
neck.

"Whenever you are in that mood, Mab, down goes your work," said Amy.
"It would be doing something good to finish your cushion without
soiling it."

"Oh--oh--oh!" groaned Mab, as she stooped to pick up her work and
thimble. "I wish I had three wounded conscripts to take care of."

"You would spill their beef tea while you were talking," said Amy.

"Poor Mab! don't be hard on her," said the mother. "Give me the
embroidery now, child. You go on with your enthusiasm, and I will go on
with the pink and white poppy."

"Well, ma, I think you are more caustic than Amy," said Kate, while she
drew her head back to look at her drawing.

"Oh--oh--oh!" cried Mab again, rising and stretching her arms. "I wish
something wonderful would happen. I feel like the deluge. The waters of
the great deep are broken up, and the windows of heaven are opened. I
must sit down and play the scales."

Mab was opening the piano while the others were laughing at this
climax, when a cab stopped before the house, and there forthwith came a
quick rap of the knocker.

"Dear me!" said Mrs. Meyrick, starting up, "it is after ten, and Phoebe
is gone to bed." She hastened out, leaving the parlor door open.

"Mr. Deronda!" The girls could hear this exclamation from their mamma.
Mab clasped her hands, saying in a loud whisper, "There now! something
_is_ going to happen." Kate and Amy gave up their work in amazement.
But Deronda's tone in reply was so low that they could not hear his
words, and Mrs. Meyrick immediately closed the parlor door.

"I know I am trusting to your goodness in a most extraordinary way,"
Deronda went on, after giving his brief narrative; "but you can imagine
how helpless I feel with a young creature like this on my hands. I
could not go with her among strangers, and in her nervous state I
should dread taking her into a house full of servants. I have trusted
to your mercy. I hope you will not think my act unwarrantable."

"On the contrary. You have honored me by trusting me. I see your
difficulty. Pray bring her in. I will go and prepare the girls."

While Deronda went back to the cab, Mrs. Meyrick turned into the parlor
again and said: "Here is somebody to take care of instead of your
wounded conscripts, Mab: a poor girl who was going to drown herself in
despair. Mr. Deronda found her only just in time to save her. He
brought her along in his boat, and did not know what else it would be
safe to do with her, so he has trusted us and brought her here. It
seems she is a Jewess, but quite refined, he says--knowing Italian and
music."

The three girls, wondering and expectant, came forward and stood near
each other in mute confidence that they were all feeling alike under
this appeal to their compassion. Mab looked rather awe-stricken, as if
this answer to her wish were something preternatural.

Meanwhile Deronda going to the door of the cab where the pale face was
now gazing out with roused observation, said, "I have brought you to
some of the kindest people in the world: there are daughters like you.
It is a happy home. Will you let me take you to them?"

She stepped out obediently, putting her hand in his and forgetting her
hat; and when Deronda led her into the full light of the parlor where
the four little women stood awaiting her, she made a picture that would
have stirred much duller sensibilities than theirs. At first she was a
little dazed by the sudden light, and before she had concentrated her
glance he had put her hand into the mother's. He was inwardly rejoicing
that the Meyricks were so small: the dark-curled head was the highest
among them. The poor wanderer could not be afraid of these gentle faces
so near hers: and now she was looking at each of them in turn while the
mother said, "You must be weary, poor child."

"We will take care of you--we will comfort you--we will love you,"
cried Mab, no longer able to restrain herself, and taking the small
right hand caressingly between both her own. This gentle welcoming
warmth was penetrating the bewildered one: she hung back just enough to
see better the four faces in front of her, whose good will was being
reflected in hers, not in any smile, but in that undefinable change
which tells us that anxiety is passing in contentment. For an instant
she looked up at Deronda, as if she were referring all this mercy to
him, and then again turning to Mrs. Meyrick, said with more
collectedness in her sweet tones than he had heard before,

"I am a stranger. I am a Jewess. You might have thought I was wicked."

"No, we are sure you are good," burst out Mab.

"We think no evil of you, poor child. You shall be safe with us," said
Mrs. Meyrick. "Come now and sit down. You must have some food, and then
you must go to rest."

The stranger looked up again at Deronda, who said,

"You will have no more fears with these friends? You will rest
to-night?"

"Oh, I should not fear. I should rest. I think these are the
ministering angels."

Mrs. Meyrick wanted to lead her to seat, but again hanging back gently,
the poor weary thing spoke as if with a scruple at being received
without a further account of herself.

"My name is Mirah Lapidoth. I am come a long way, all the way from
Prague by myself. I made my escape. I ran away from dreadful things. I
came to find my mother and brother in London. I had been taken from my
mother when I was little, but I thought I could find her again. I had
trouble--the houses were all gone--I could not find her. It has been a
long while, and I had not much money. That is why I am in distress."

"Our mother will be good to you," cried Mab. "See what a nice little
mother she is!"

"Do sit down now," said Kate, moving a chair forward, while Amy ran to
get some tea.

Mirah resisted no longer, but seated herself with perfect grace,
crossing her little feet, laying her hands one over the other on her
lap, and looking at her friends with placid reverence; whereupon Hafiz,
who had been watching the scene restlessly came forward with tail erect
and rubbed himself against her ankles. Deronda felt it time to go.

"Will you allow me to come again and inquire--perhaps at five
to-morrow?" he said to Mrs. Meyrick.

"Yes, pray; we shall have had time to make acquaintance then."

"Good-bye," said Deronda, looking down at Mirah, and putting out his
hand. She rose as she took it, and the moment brought back to them both
strongly the other moment when she had first taken that outstretched
hand. She lifted her eyes to his and said with reverential fervor, "The
God of our fathers bless you and deliver you from all evil as you have
delivered me. I did not believe there was any man so good. None before
have thought me worthy of the best. You found me poor and miserable,
yet you have given me the best."

Deronda could not speak, but with silent adieux to the Meyricks,
hurried away.



BOOK III.--MAIDENS CHOOSING.


CHAPTER XIX.

    "I pity the man who can travel from Dan to Beersheba, and say, 'Tis
    all barren': and so it is: and so is all the world to him who will not
    cultivate the fruits it offers."--STERNE: _Sentimental Journey_.


To say that Deronda was romantic would be to misrepresent him; but
under his calm and somewhat self-repressed exterior there was a fervor
which made him easily find poetry and romance among the events of
every-day life. And perhaps poetry and romance are as plentiful as ever
in the world except for those phlegmatic natures who I suspect would in
any age have regarded them as a dull form of erroneous thinking. They
exist very easily in the same room with the microscope and even in
railway carriages: what banishes them in the vacuum in gentlemen and
lady passengers. How should all the apparatus of heaven and earth, from
the farthest firmament to the tender bosom of the mother who nourished
us, make poetry for a mind that had no movements of awe and tenderness,
no sense of fellowship which thrills from the near to the distant, and
back again from the distant to the near?

To Deronda this event of finding Mirah was as heart-stirring as
anything that befell Orestes or Rinaldo. He sat up half the night,
living again through the moments since he had first discerned Mirah on
the river-brink, with the fresh and fresh vividness which belongs to
emotive memory. When he took up a book to try and dull this urgency of
inward vision, the printed words were no more than a network through
which he saw and heard everything as clearly as before--saw not only
the actual events of two hours, but possibilities of what had been and
what might be which those events were enough to feed with the warm
blood of passionate hope and fear. Something in his own experience
caused Mirah's search after her mother to lay hold with peculiar force
on his imagination. The first prompting of sympathy was to aid her in
her search: if given persons were extant in London there were ways of
finding them, as subtle as scientific experiment, the right machinery
being set at work. But here the mixed feelings which belonged to
Deronda's kindred experience naturally transfused themselves into his
anxiety on behalf of Mirah.

The desire to know his own mother, or to know about her, was constantly
haunted with dread; and in imagining what might befall Mirah it quickly
occurred to him that finding the mother and brother from whom she had
been parted when she was a little one might turn out to be a calamity.
When she was in the boat she said that her mother and brother were
good; but the goodness might have been chiefly in her own ignorant
innocence and yearning memory, and the ten or twelve years since the
parting had been time enough for much worsening. Spite of his strong
tendency to side with the objects of prejudice, and in general with
those who got the worst of it, his interest had never been practically
drawn toward existing Jews, and the facts he knew about them, whether
they walked conspicuous in fine apparel or lurked in by-streets, were
chiefly of a sort most repugnant to him. Of learned and accomplished
Jews he took it for granted that they had dropped their religion, and
wished to be merged in the people of their native lands. Scorn flung at
a Jew as such would have roused all his sympathy in griefs of
inheritance; but the indiscriminate scorn of a race will often strike a
specimen who has well earned it on his own account, and might fairly be
gibbeted as a rascally son of Adam. It appears that the Caribs, who
know little of theology, regard thieving as a practice peculiarly
connected with Christian tenets, and probably they could allege
experimental grounds for this opinion. Deronda could not escape (who
can?) knowing ugly stories of Jewish characteristics and occupations;
and though one of his favorite protests was against the severance of
past and present history, he was like others who shared his protest, in
never having cared to reach any more special conclusions about actual
Jews than that they retained the virtues and vices of a long-oppressed
race. But now that Mirah's longing roused his mind to a closer survey
of details, very disagreeable images urged themselves of what it might
be to find out this middle-aged Jewess and her son. To be sure, there
was the exquisite refinement and charm of the creature herself to make
a presumption in favor of her immediate kindred, but--he must wait to
know more: perhaps through Mrs. Meyrick he might gather some guiding
hints from Mirah's own lips. Her voice, her accent, her looks--all the
sweet purity that clothed her as with a consecrating garment made him
shrink the more from giving her, either ideally or practically, an
association with what was hateful or contaminating. But these fine
words with which we fumigate and becloud unpleasant facts are not the
language in which we think. Deronda's thinking went on in rapid images
of what might be: he saw himself guided by some official scout into a
dingy street; he entered through a dim doorway, and saw a hawk-eyed
woman, rough-headed, and unwashed, cheapening a hungry girl's last bit
of finery; or in some quarter only the more hideous for being smarter,
he found himself under the breath of a young Jew talkative and
familiar, willing to show his acquaintance with gentlemen's tastes, and
not fastidious in any transactions with which they would favor him--and
so on through the brief chapter of his experience in this kind. Excuse
him: his mind was not apt to run spontaneously into insulting ideas, or
to practice a form of wit which identifies Moses with the advertisement
sheet; but he was just now governed by dread, and if Mirah's parents
had been Christian, the chief difference would have been that his
forebodings would have been fed with wider knowledge. It was the habit
of his mind to connect dread with unknown parentage, and in this case
as well as his own there was enough to make the connection reasonable.

But what was to be done with Mirah? She needed shelter and protection
in the fullest sense, and all his chivalrous sentiment roused itself to
insist that the sooner and the more fully he could engage for her the
interest of others besides himself, the better he should fulfill her
claims on him. He had no right to provide for her entirely, though he
might be able to do so; the very depth of the impression she had
produced made him desire that she should understand herself to be
entirely independent of him; and vague visions of the future which he
tried to dispel as fantastic left their influence in an anxiety
stronger than any motive he could give for it, that those who saw his
actions closely should be acquainted from the first with the history of
his relation to Mirah. He had learned to hate secrecy about the grand
ties and obligations of his life--to hate it the more because a strong
spell of interwoven sensibilities hindered him from breaking such
secrecy. Deronda had made a vow to himself that--since the truths which
disgrace mortals are not all of their own making--the truth should
never be made a disgrace to another by his act. He was not without
terror lest he should break this vow, and fall into the apologetic
philosophy which explains the world into containing nothing better than
one's own conduct.

At one moment he resolved to tell the whole of his adventure to Sir
Hugo and Lady Mallinger the next morning at breakfast, but the
possibility that something quite new might reveal itself on his next
visit to Mrs. Meyrick's checked this impulse, and he finally went to
sleep on the conclusion that he would wait until that visit had been
made.



CHAPTER XX.

    "It will hardly be denied that even in this frail and corrupted world,
    we sometimes meet persons who, in their very mien and aspect, as well
    as in the whole habit of life, manifest such a signature and stamp of
    virtue, as to make our judgment of them a matter of intuition rather
    than the result of continued  examination."--ALEXANDER KNOX: quoted in
    Southey's Life of Wesley.


Mirah said that she had slept well that night; and when she came down
in Mab's black dress, her dark hair curling in fresh fibrils as it
gradually dried from its plenteous bath, she looked like one who was
beginning to take comfort after the long sorrow and watching which had
paled her cheek and made blue semicircles under her eyes. It was Mab
who carried her breakfast and ushered her down--with some pride in the
effect produced by a pair of tiny felt slippers which she had rushed
out to buy because there were no shoes in the house small enough for
Mirah, whose borrowed dress ceased about her ankles and displayed the
cheap clothing that, moulding itself on her feet, seemed an adornment
as choice as the sheaths of buds. The farthing buckles were bijoux.

"Oh, if you please, mamma?" cried Mab, clasping her hands and stooping
toward Mirah's feet, as she entered the parlor; "look at the slippers,
how beautiful they fit! I declare she is like the Queen Budoor--' two
delicate feet, the work of the protecting and all-recompensing Creator,
support her; and I wonder how they can sustain what is above them.'"

Mirah looked down at her own feet in a childlike way and then smiled at
Mrs. Meyrick, who was saying inwardly, "One could hardly imagine this
creature having an evil thought. But wise people would tell me to be
cautious." She returned Mirah's smile and said, "I fear the feet have
had to sustain their burden a little too often lately. But to-day she
will rest and be my companion."

"And she will tell you so many things and I shall not hear them,"
grumbled Mab, who felt herself in the first volume of a delightful
romance and obliged to miss some chapters because she had to go to
pupils.

Kate was already gone to make sketches along the river, and Amy was
away on business errands. It was what the mother wished, to be alone
with this stranger, whose story must be a sorrowful one, yet was
needful to be told.

The small front parlor was as good as a temple that morning. The
sunlight was on the river and soft air came in through the open window;
the walls showed a glorious silent cloud of witnesses--the Virgin
soaring amid her cherubic escort; grand Melancholia with her solemn
universe; the Prophets and Sibyls; the School of Athens; the Last
Supper; mystic groups where far-off ages made one moment; grave Holbein
and Rembrandt heads; the Tragic Muse; last-century children at their
musings or their play; Italian poets--all were there through the medium
of a little black and white. The neat mother who had weathered her
troubles, and come out of them with a face still cheerful, was sorting
colored wools for her embroidery. Hafiz purred on the window-ledge, the
clock on the mantle-piece ticked without hurry, and the occasional
sound of wheels seemed to lie outside the more massive central quiet.
Mrs. Meyrick thought that this quiet might be the best invitation to
speech on the part of her companion, and chose not to disturb it by
remark. Mirah sat opposite in her former attitude, her hands clasped on
her lap, her ankles crossed, her eyes at first traveling slowly over
the objects around her, but finally resting with a sort of placid
reverence on Mrs. Meyrick. At length she began to speak softly.

"I remember my mother's face better than anything; yet I was not seven
when I was taken away, and I am nineteen now."

"I can understand that," said Mrs. Meyrick. "There are some earliest
things that last the longest."

"Oh, yes, it was the earliest. I think my life began with waking up and
loving my mother's face: it was so near to me, and her arms were round
me, and she sang to me. One hymn she sang so often, so often: and then
she taught me to sing it with her: it was the first I ever sang. They
were always Hebrew hymns she sang; and because I never knew the meaning
of the words they seemed full of nothing but our love and happiness.
When I lay in my little bed and it was all white above me, she used to
bend over me, between me and the white, and sing in a sweet, low voice.
I can dream myself back into that time when I am awake, and it often
comes back to me in my sleep--my hand is very little, I put it up to
her face and she kisses it. Sometimes in my dreams I begin to tremble
and think that we are both dead; but then I wake up and my hand lies
like this, and for a moment I hardly know myself. But if I could see my
mother again I should know her."

"You must expect some change after twelve years," said Mrs. Meyrick,
gently. "See my grey hair: ten years ago it was bright brown. The days
and months pace over us like restless little birds, and leave the marks
of their feet backward and forward; especially when they are like birds
with heavy hearts--then they tread heavily."

"Ah, I am sure her heart has been heavy for want of me. But to feel her
joy if we could meet again, and I could make her know I love her and
give her deep comfort after all her mourning! If that could be, I
should mind nothing; I should be glad that I have lived through my
trouble. I did despair. The world seemed miserable and wicked; none
helped me so that I could bear their looks and words; I felt that my
mother was dead, and death was the only way to her. But then in the
last moment--yesterday, when I longed for the water to close over
me--and I thought that death was the best image of mercy--then goodness
came to me living, and I felt trust in the living. And--it is
strange--but I began to hope that she was living too. And now I with
you--here--this morning, peace and hope have come into me like a flood.
I want nothing; I can wait; because I hope and believe and am
grateful--oh, so grateful! You have not thought evil of me--you have
not despised me."

Mirah spoke with low-toned fervor, and sat as still as a picture all
the while.

"Many others would have felt as we do, my dear," said Mrs. Meyrick,
feeling a mist come over her eyes as she looked at her work.

"But I did not meet them--they did not come to me."

"How was it that you were taken from your mother?"

"Ah, I am a long while coming to that. It is dreadful to speak of, yet
I must tell you--I must tell you everything. My father--it was he that
took me away. I thought we were only going on a little journey; and I
was pleased. There was a box with all my little things in. But we went
on board a ship, and got farther and farther away from the land. Then I
was ill; and I thought it would never end--it was the first misery, and
it seemed endless. But at last we landed. I knew nothing then, and
believed what my father said. He comforted me, and told me I should go
back to my mother. But it was America we had reached, and it was long
years before we came back to Europe. At first I often asked my father
when we were going back; and I tried to learn writing fast, because I
wanted to write to my mother; but one day when he found me trying to
write a letter, he took me on his knee and told me that my mother and
brother were dead; that was why we did not go back. I remember my
brother a little; he carried me once; but he was not always at home. I
believed my father when he said that they were dead. I saw them under
the earth when he said they were there, with their eyes forever closed.
I never thought of its not being true; and I used to cry every night in
my bed for a long while. Then when she came so often to me, in my
sleep, I thought she must be living about me though I could not always
see her, and that comforted me. I was never afraid in the dark, because
of that; and very often in the day I used to shut my eyes and bury my
face and try to see her and to hear her singing. I came to do that at
last without shutting my eyes."

Mirah paused with a sweet content in her face, as if she were having
her happy vision, while she looked out toward the river.

"Still your father was not unkind to you, I hope," said Mrs. Meyrick,
after a minute, anxious to recall her.

"No; he petted me, and took pains to teach me. He was an actor; and I
found out, after, that the 'Coburg' I used to hear of his going to at
home was a theatre. But he had more to do with the theatre than acting.
He had not always been an actor; he had been a teacher, and knew many
languages. His acting was not very good; I think, but he managed the
stage, and wrote and translated plays. An Italian lady, a singer, lived
with us a long time. They both taught me, and I had a master besides,
who made me learn by heart and recite. I worked quite hard, though I
was so little; and I was not nine when I first went on the stage. I
could easily learn things, and I was not afraid. But then and ever
since I hated our way of life. My father had money, and we had finery
about us in a disorderly way; always there were men and women coming
and going; there was loud laughing and disputing, strutting, snapping
of fingers, jeering, faces I did not like to look at--though many
petted and caressed me. But then I remembered my mother. Even at first
when I understood nothing, I shrank away from all those things outside
me into companionship with thoughts that were not like them; and I
gathered thoughts very fast, because I read many things--plays and
poetry, Shakespeare and Schiller, and learned evil and good. My father
began to believe that I might be a great singer: my voice was
considered wonderful for a child; and he had the best teaching for me.
But it was painful that he boasted of me, and set me to sing for show
at any minute, as if I had been a musical box. Once when I was nine
years old, I played the part of a little girl who had been forsaken and
did not know it, and sat singing to herself while she played with
flowers. I did it without any trouble; but the clapping and all the
sounds of the theatre were hateful to me; and I never liked the praise
I had, because it all seemed very hard and unloving: I missed the love
and trust I had been born into. I made a life in my own thoughts quite
different from everything about me: I chose what seemed to me beautiful
out of the plays and everything, and made my world out of it; and it
was like a sharp knife always grazing me that we had two sorts of life
which jarred so with each other--women looking good and gentle on the
stage, and saying good things as if they felt them, and directly after
I saw them with coarse, ugly manners. My father sometimes noticed my
shrinking ways; and Signora said one day, when I had been rehearsing,
'She will never be an artist: she has no notion of being anybody but
herself. That does very well now, but by-and-by you will see--she will
have no more face and action than a singing-bird.' My father was angry,
and they quarreled. I sat alone and cried, because what she had said
was like a long unhappy future unrolled before me. I did not want to be
an artist; but this was what my father expected of me. After a while
Signora left us, and a governess used to come and give me lessons in
different things, because my father began to be afraid of my singing
too much; but I still acted from time to time. Rebellious feelings grew
stronger in me, and I wished to get away from this life; but I could
not tell where to go, and I dreaded the world. Besides, I felt it would
be wrong to leave my father: I dreaded doing wrong, for I thought I
might get wicked and hateful to myself, in the same way that many
others seemed hateful to me. For so long, so long I had never felt my
outside world happy; and if I got wicked I should lose my world of
happy thoughts where my mother lived with me. That was my childish
notion all through those years. Oh how long they were!"

Mirah fell to musing again.

"Had you no teaching about what was your duty?" said Mrs. Meyrick. She
did not like to say "religion"--finding herself on inspection rather
dim as to what the Hebrew religion might have turned into at this date.

"No--only that I ought to do what my father wished. He did not follow
our religion at New York, and I think he wanted me not to know much
about it. But because my mother used to take me to the synagogue, and I
remembered sitting on her knee and looking through the railing and
hearing the chanting and singing, I longed to go. One day when I was
quite small I slipped out and tried to find the synagogue, but I lost
myself a long while till a peddler questioned me and took me home. My
father, missing me, had been much in fear, and was very angry. I too
had been so frightened at losing myself that it was long before I
thought of venturing out again. But after Signora left us we went to
rooms where our landlady was a Jewess and observed her religion. I
asked her to take me with her to the synagogue; and I read in her
prayer-books and Bible, and when I had money enough I asked her to buy
me books of my own, for these books seemed a closer companionship with
my mother: I knew that she must have looked at the very words and said
them. In that way I have come to know a little of our religion, and the
history of our people, besides piecing together what I read in plays
and other books about Jews and Jewesses; because I was sure my mother
obeyed her religion. I had left off asking my father about her. It is
very dreadful to say it, but I began to disbelieve him. I had found
that he did not always tell the truth, and made promises without
meaning to keep them; and that raised my suspicion that my mother and
brother were still alive though he had told me they were dead. For in
going over the past again as I got older and knew more, I felt sure
that my mother had been deceived, and had expected to see us back again
after a very little while; and my father taking me on his knee and
telling me that my mother and brother were both dead seemed to me now
but a bit of acting, to set my mind at rest. The cruelty of that
falsehood sank into me, and I hated all untruth because of it. I wrote
to my mother secretly: I knew the street, Colman Street, where we
lived, and that it was not Blackfriars Bridge and the Coburg, and that
our name was Cohen then, though my father called us Lapidoth, because,
he said, it was a name of his forefathers in Poland. I sent my letter
secretly; but no answer came, and I thought there was no hope for me.
Our life in America did not last much longer. My father suddenly told
me we were to pack up and go to Hamburg, and I was rather glad. I hoped
we might get among a different sort of people, and I knew German quite
well--some German plays almost all by heart. My father spoke it better
than he spoke English. I was thirteen then, and I seemed to myself
quite old--I knew so much, and yet so little. I think other children
cannot feel as I did. I had often wished that I had been drowned when I
was going away from my mother. But I set myself to obey and suffer:
what else could I do? One day when we were on our voyage, a new thought
came into my mind. I was not very ill that time, and I kept on deck a
good deal. My father acted and sang and joked to amuse people on board,
and I used often to hear remarks about him. One day, when I was looking
at the sea and nobody took notice of me, I overheard a gentleman say,
'Oh, he is one of those clever Jews--a rascal, I shouldn't wonder.
There's no race like them for cunning in the men and beauty in the
women. I wonder what market he means that daughter for.' When I heard
this it darted into my mind that the unhappiness in my life came from
my being a Jewess, and that always to the end the world would think
slightly of me and that I must bear it, for I should be judged by that
name; and it comforted me to believe that my suffering was part of the
affliction of my people, my part in the long song of mourning that has
been going on through ages and ages. For if many of our race were
wicked and made merry in their wickedness--what was that but part of
the affliction borne by the just among them, who were despised for the
sins of their brethren?--But you have not rejected me."

Mirah had changed her tone in this last sentence, having suddenly
reflected that at this moment she had reason not for complaint but for
gratitude.

"And we will try to save you from being judged unjustly by others, my
poor child," said Mrs. Meyrick, who had now given up all attempt at
going on with her work, and sat listening with folded hands and a face
hardly less eager than Mab's would have been. "Go on, go on: tell me
all."

"After that we lived in different towns--Hamburg and Vienna, the
longest. I began to study singing again: and my father always got money
about the theatres. I think he brought a good deal of money from
America, I never knew why we left. For some time he was in great
spirits about my singing, and he made me rehearse parts and act
continually. He looked forward to my coming out in the opera. But
by-and-by it seemed that my voice would never be strong enough--it did
not fulfill its promise. My master at Vienna said, 'Don't strain it
further: it will never do for the public:--it is gold, but a thread of
gold dust.' My father was bitterly disappointed: we were not so well
off at that time. I think I have not quite told you what I felt about
my father. I knew he was fond of me and meant to indulge me, and that
made me afraid of hurting him; but he always mistook what would please
me and give me happiness. It was his nature to take everything lightly;
and I soon left off asking him any questions about things that I cared
for much, because he always turned them off with a joke. He would even
ridicule our own people; and once when he had been imitating their
movements and their tones in praying, only to make others laugh, I
could not restrain myself--for I always had an anger in my heart about
my mother--and when we were alone, I said, 'Father, you ought not to
mimic our own people before Christians who mock them: would it not be
bad if I mimicked you, that they might mock you?' But he only shrugged
his shoulders and laughed and pinched my chin, and said, 'You couldn't
do it, my dear." It was this way of turning off everything, that made a
great wall between me and my father, and whatever I felt most I took
the most care to hide from him. For there were some things--when they
were laughed at I could not bear it: the world seemed like a hell to
me. Is this world and all the life upon it only like a farce or a
vaudeville, where you find no great meanings? Why then are there
tragedies and grand operas, where men do difficult things and choose to
suffer? I think it is silly to speak of all things as a joke. And I saw
that his wishing me to sing the greatest music, and parts in grand
operas, was only wishing for what would fetch the greatest price. That
hemmed in my gratitude for his affectionateness, and the tenderest
feeling I had toward him was pity. Yes, I did sometimes pity him. He
had aged and changed. Now he was no longer so lively. I thought he
seemed worse--less good to others than to me. Every now and then in the
latter years his gaiety went away suddenly, and he would sit at home
silent and gloomy; or he would come in and fling himself down and sob,
just as I have done myself when I have been in trouble. If I put my
hand on his knee and say, 'What is the matter, father?' he would make
no answer, but would draw my arm round his neck and put his arm round
me and go on crying. There never came any confidence between us; but
oh, I was sorry for him. At those moments I knew he must feel his life
bitter, and I pressed my cheek against his head and prayed. Those
moments were what most bound me to him; and I used to think how much my
mother once loved him, else she would not have married him.

"But soon there came the dreadful time. We had been at Pesth and we
came back to Vienna. In spite of what my master Leo had said, my father
got me an engagement, not at the opera, but to take singing parts at a
suburb theatre in Vienna. He had nothing to do with the theatre then; I
did not understand what he did, but I think he was continually at a
gambling house, though he was careful always about taking me to the
theatre. I was very miserable. The plays I acted in were detestable to
me. Men came about us and wanted to talk to me: women and men seemed to
look at me with a sneering smile; it was no better than a fiery
furnace. Perhaps I make it worse than it was--you don't know that life:
but the glare and the faces, and my having to go on and act and sing
what I hated, and then see people who came to stare at me behind the
scenes--it was all so much worse than when I was a little girl. I went
through with it; I did it; I had set my mind to obey my father and
work, for I saw nothing better that I could do. But I felt that my
voice was getting weaker, and I knew that my acting was not good except
when it was not really acting, but the part was one that I could be
myself in, and some feeling within me carried me along. That was seldom.

"Then, in the midst of all this, the news came to me one morning that
my father had been taken to prison, and he had sent for me. He did not
tell me the reason why he was there, but he ordered me to go to an
address he gave me, to see a Count who would be able to get him
released. The address was to some public rooms where I was to ask for
the Count, and beg him to come to my father. I found him, and
recognized him as a gentleman whom I had seen the other night for the
first time behind the scenes. That agitated me, for I remembered his
way of looking at me and kissing my hand--I thought it was in mockery.
But I delivered my errand, and he promised to go immediately to my
father, who came home again that very evening, bringing the Count with
him. I now began to feel a horrible dread of this man, for he worried
me with his attentions, his eyes were always on me: I felt sure that
whatever else there might be in his mind toward me, below it all there
was scorn for the Jewess and the actress. And when he came to me the
next day in the theatre and would put my shawl around me, a terror took
hold of me; I saw that my father wanted me to look pleased. The Count
was neither very young nor very old; his hair and eyes were pale; he
was tall and walked heavily, and his face was heavy and grave except
when he looked at me. He smiled at me, and his smile went through me
with horror: I could not tell why he was so much worse to me than other
men. Some feelings are like our hearing: they come as sounds do, before
we know their reason. My father talked to me about him when we were
alone, and praised him--said what a good friend he had been. I said
nothing, because I supposed he had got my father out of prison. When
the Count came again, my father left the room. He asked me if I liked
being on the stage. I said No, I only acted in obedience to my father.
He always spoke French, and called me _petite ange_ and such things,
which I felt insulting. I knew he meant to make love to me, and I had
it firmly in my mind that a nobleman and one who was not a Jew could
have no love for me that was not half contempt. But then he told me
that I need not act any longer; he wished me to visit him at his
beautiful place, where I might be queen of everything. It was difficult
to me to speak, I felt so shaken with anger: I could only say, 'I would
rather stay on the stage forever,' and I left him there. Hurrying out
of the room I saw my father sauntering in the passage. My heart was
crushed. I went past him and locked myself up. It had sunk into me that
my father was in a conspiracy with that man against me. But the next
day he persuaded me to come out: he said that I had mistaken
everything, and he would explain: if I did not come out and act and
fulfill my engagement, we should be ruined and he must starve. So I
went on acting, and for a week or more the Count never came near me. My
father changed our lodgings, and kept at home except when he went to
the theatre with me. He began one day to speak discouragingly of my
acting, and say, I could never go on singing in public--I should lose
my voice--I ought to think of my future, and not put my nonsensical
feelings between me and my fortune. He said, 'What will you do? You
will be brought down to sing and beg at people's doors. You have had a
splendid offer and ought to accept it.' I could not speak: a horror
took possession of me when I thought of my mother and of him. I felt
for the first time that I should not do wrong to leave him. But the
next day he told me that he had put an end to my engagement at the
theatre, and that we were to go to Prague. I was getting suspicious of
everything, and my will was hardening to act against him. It took us
two days to pack and get ready; and I had it in my mind that I might be
obliged to run away from my father, and then I would come to London and
try if it were possible to find my mother. I had a little money, and I
sold some things to get more. I packed a few clothes in a little bag
that I could carry with me, and I kept my mind on the watch. My
father's silence--his letting drop that subject of the Count's
offer--made me feel sure that there was a plan against me. I felt as if
it had been a plan to take me to a madhouse. I once saw a picture of a
madhouse, that I could never forget; it seemed to me very much like
some of the life I had seen--the people strutting, quarreling,
leering--the faces with cunning and malice in them. It was my will to
keep myself from wickedness; and I prayed for help. I had seen what
despised women were: and my heart turned against my father, for I saw
always behind him that man who made me shudder. You will think I had
not enough reason for my suspicions, and perhaps I had not, outside my
own feeling; but it seemed to me that my mind had been lit up, and all
that might be stood out clear and sharp. If I slept, it was only to see
the same sort of things, and I could hardly sleep at all. Through our
journey I was everywhere on the watch. I don't know why, but it came
before me like a real event, that my father would suddenly leave me and
I should find myself with the Count where I could not get away from
him. I thought God was warning me: my mother's voice was in my soul. It
was dark when we reached Prague, and though the strange bunches of
lamps were lit it was difficult to distinguish faces as we drove along
the street. My father chose to sit outside--he was always smoking
now--and I watched everything in spite of the darkness. I do believe I
could see better then than I ever did before: the strange clearness
within seemed to have got outside me. It was not my habit to notice
faces and figures much in the street; but this night I saw every one;
and when we passed before a great hotel I caught sight only of a back
that was passing in--the light of the great bunch of lamps a good way
off fell on it. I knew it--before the face was turned, as it fell into
shadow, I knew who it was. Help came to me. I feel sure help came. I
did not sleep that night. I put on my plainest things--the cloak and
hat I have worn ever since; and I sat watching for the light and the
sound of the doors being unbarred. Some one rose early--at four
o'clock, to go to the railway. That gave me courage. I slipped out,
with my little bag under my cloak, and none noticed me. I had been a
long while attending to the railway guide that I might learn the way to
England; and before the sun had risen I was in the train for Dresden.
Then I cried for joy. I did not know whether my money would last out,
but I trusted. I could sell the things in my bag, and the little rings
in my ears, and I could live on bread only. My only terror was lest my
father should follow me. But I never paused. I came on, and on, and on,
only eating bread now and then. When I got to Brussels I saw that I
should not have enough money, and I sold all that I could sell; but
here a strange thing happened. Putting my hand into the pocket of my
cloak, I found a half-napoleon. Wondering and wondering how it came
there, I remembered that on the way from Cologne there was a young
workman sitting against me. I was frightened at every one, and did not
like to be spoken to. At first he tried to talk, but when he saw that I
did not like it, he left off. It was a long journey; I ate nothing but
a bit of bread, and he once offered me some of the food he brought in,
but I refused it. I do believe it was he who put that bit of gold in my
pocket. Without it I could hardly have got to Dover, and I did walk a
good deal of the way from Dover to London. I knew I should look like a
miserable beggar-girl. I wanted not to look very miserable, because if
I found my mother it would grieve her to see me so. But oh, how vain my
hope was that she would be there to see me come! As soon as I set foot
in London, I began to ask for Lambeth and Blackfriars Bridge, but they
were a long way off, and I went wrong. At last I got to Blackfriars
Bridge and asked for Colman Street. People shook their heads. None knew
it. I saw it in my mind--our doorsteps, and the white tiles hung in the
windows, and the large brick building opposite with wide doors. But
there was nothing like it. At last when I asked a tradesman where the
Coburg Theatre and Colman Street were, he said, 'Oh, my little woman,
that's all done away with. The old streets have been pulled down;
everything is new.' I turned away and felt as if death had laid a hand
on me. He said: 'Stop, stop! young woman; what is it you're wanting
with Colman Street, eh?' meaning well, perhaps. But his tone was what I
could not bear; and how could I tell him what I wanted? I felt blinded
and bewildered with a sudden shock. I suddenly felt that I was very
weak and weary, and yet where could I go? for I looked so poor and
dusty, and had nothing with me--I looked like a street-beggar. And I
was afraid of all places where I could enter. I lost my trust. I
thought I was forsaken. It seemed that I had been in a fever of
hope--delirious--all the way from Prague: I thought that I was helped,
and I did nothing but strain my mind forward and think of finding my
mother; and now--there I stood in a strange world. All who saw me would
think ill of me, and I must herd with beggars. I stood on the bridge
and looked along the river. People were going on to a steamboat. Many
of them seemed poor, and I felt as if it would be a refuge to get away
from the streets; perhaps the boat would take me where I could soon get
into a solitude. I had still some pence left, and I bought a loaf when
I went on the boat. I wanted to have a little time and strength to
think of life and death. How could I live? And now again it seemed that
if ever I were to find my mother again, death was the way to her. I
ate, that I might have strength to think. The boat set me down at a
place along the river--I don't know where--and it was late in the
evening. I found some large trees apart from the road, and I sat down
under them that I might rest through the night. Sleep must have soon
come to me, and when I awoke it was morning. The birds were singing,
and the dew was white about me, I felt chill and oh, so lonely! I got
up and walked and followed the river a long way and then turned back
again. There was no reason why I should go anywhere. The world about me
seemed like a vision that was hurrying by while I stood still with my
pain. My thoughts were stronger than I was; they rushed in and forced
me to see all my life from the beginning; ever since I was carried away
from my mother I had felt myself a lost child taken up and used by
strangers, who did not care what my life was to me, but only what I
could do for them. It seemed all a weary wandering and
heart-loneliness--as if I had been forced to go to merrymakings without
the expectation of joy. And now it was worse. I was lost again, and I
dreaded lest any stranger should notice me and speak to me. I had a
terror of the world. None knew me; all would mistake me. I had seen so
many in my life who made themselves glad with scorning, and laughed at
another's shame. What could I do? This life seemed to be closing in
upon me with a wall of fire--everywhere there was scorching that made
me shrink. The high sunlight made me shrink. And I began to think that
my despair was the voice of God telling me to die. But it would take me
long to die of hunger. Then I thought of my people, how they had been
driven from land to land and been afflicted, and multitudes had died of
misery in their wandering--was I the first? And in the wars and
troubles when Christians were cruelest, our fathers had sometimes slain
their children and afterward themselves: it was to save them from being
false apostates. That seemed to make it right for me to put an end to
my life; for calamity had closed me in too, and I saw no pathway but to
evil. But my mind got into war with itself, for there were contrary
things in it. I knew that some had held it wrong to hasten their own
death, though they were in the midst of flames; and while I had some
strength left it was a longing to bear if I ought to bear--else where
was the good of all my life? It had not been happy since the first
years: when the light came every morning I used to think, 'I will bear
it.' But always before I had some hope; now it was gone. With these
thoughts I wandered and wandered, inwardly crying to the Most High,
from whom I should not flee in death more than in life--though I had no
strong faith that He cared for me. The strength seemed departing from
my soul; deep below all my cries was the feeling that I was alone and
forsaken. The more I thought the wearier I got, till it seemed I was
not thinking at all, but only the sky and the river and the Eternal God
were in my soul. And what was it whether I died or lived? If I lay down
to die in the river, was it more than lying down to sleep?--for there
too I committed my soul--I gave myself up. I could not bear memories
any more; I could only feel what was present in me--it was all one
longing to cease from my weary life, which seemed only a pain outside
the great peace that I might enter into. That was how it was. When the
evening came and the sun was gone, it seemed as if that was all I had
to wait for. And a new strength came into me to will what I would do.
You know what I did. I was going to die. You know what happened--did he
not tell you? Faith came to me again; I was not forsaken. He told you
how he found me?"

Mrs. Meyrick gave no audible answer, but pressed her lips against
Mirah's forehead.

       *       *       *       *       *

"She's just a pearl; the mud has only washed her," was the fervid
little woman's closing commentary when, _tete-à-tete_ with Deronda in
the back parlor that evening, she had conveyed Mirah's story to him
with much vividness.

"What is your feeling about a search for this mother?" said Deronda.
"Have you no fears? I have, I confess."

"Oh, I believe the mother's good," said Mrs. Meyrick, with rapid
decisiveness; "or _was_ good. She may be dead--that's my fear. A good
woman, you may depend: you may know it by the scoundrel the father is.
Where did the child get her goodness from? Wheaten flour has to be
accounted for."

Deronda was rather disappointed at this answer; he had wanted a
confirmation of his own judgment, and he began to put in demurrers. The
argument about the mother would not apply to the brother; and Mrs.
Meyrick admitted that the brother might be an ugly likeness of the
father. Then, as to advertising, if the name was Cohen, you might as
well advertise for two undescribed terriers; and here Mrs. Meyrick
helped him, for the idea of an advertisement, already mentioned to
Mirah, had roused the poor child's terror; she was convinced that her
father would see it--he saw everything in the papers. Certainly there
were safer means than advertising; men might be set to work whose
business it was to find missing persons; but Deronda wished Mrs.
Meyrick to feel with him that it would be wiser to wait, before seeking
a dubious--perhaps a deplorable result; especially as he was engaged to
go abroad the next week for a couple of months. If a search were made,
he would like to be at hand, so that Mrs. Meyrick might not be unaided
in meeting any consequences--supposing that she would generously
continue to watch over Mirah.

"We should be very jealous of any one who took the task from us," said
Mrs. Meyrick. "She will stay under my roof; there is Hans's old room
for her."

"Will she be content to wait?" said Deronda, anxiously.

"No trouble there. It is not her nature to run into planning and
devising: only to submit. See how she submitted to that father! It was
a wonder to herself how she found the will and contrivance to run away
from him. About finding her mother, her only notion now is to trust;
since you were sent to save her and we are good to her, she trusts that
her mother will be found in the same unsought way. And when she is
talking I catch her feeling like a child."

Mrs. Meyrick hoped that the sum Deronda put into her hands as a
provision for Mirah's wants was more than would be needed; after a
little while Mirah would perhaps like to occupy herself as the other
girls did, and make herself independent. Deronda pleaded that she must
need a long rest. "Oh, yes; we will hurry nothing," said Mrs. Meyrick.

"Rely upon it, she shall be taken tender care of. If you like to give
me your address abroad, I will write to let you know how we get on. It
is not fair that we should have all the pleasure of her salvation to
ourselves. And besides, I want to make believe that I am doing
something for you as well as for Mirah."

"That is no make-believe. What should I have done without you last
night? Everything would have gone wrong. I shall tell Hans that the
best of having him for a friend is, knowing his mother."

After that they joined the girls in the other room, where Mirah was
seated placidly, while the others were telling her what they knew about
Mr. Deronda--his goodness to Hans, and all the virtues that Hans had
reported of him.

"Kate burns a pastille before his portrait every day," said Mab. "And I
carry his signature in a little black-silk bag round my neck to keep
off the cramp. And Amy says the multiplication-table in his name. We
must all do something extra in honor of him, now he has brought you to
us."

"I suppose he is too great a person to want anything," said Mirah,
smiling at Mab, and appealing to the graver Amy. "He is perhaps very
high in the world?"

"He is very much above us in rank," said Amy. "He is related to grand
people. I dare say he leans on some of the satin cushions we prick our
fingers over."

"I am glad he is of high rank," said Mirah, with her usual quietness.

"Now, why are you glad of that?" said Amy, rather suspicious of this
sentiment, and on the watch for Jewish peculiarities which had not
appeared.

"Because I have always disliked men of high rank before."

"Oh, Mr. Deronda is not so very high," said Kate, "He need not hinder
us from thinking ill of the whole peerage and baronetage if we like."

When he entered, Mirah rose with the same look of grateful reverence
that she had lifted to him the evening before: impossible to see a
creature freer at once from embarrassment and boldness. Her theatrical
training had left no recognizable trace; probably her manners had not
much changed since she played the forsaken child at nine years of age;
and she had grown up in her simplicity and truthfulness like a little
flower-seed that absorbs the chance confusion of its surrounding into
its own definite mould of beauty. Deronda felt that he was making
acquaintance with something quite new to him in the form of womanhood.
For Mirah was not childlike from ignorance: her experience of evil and
trouble was deeper and stranger than his own. He felt inclined to watch
her and listen to her as if she had come from a far off shore inhabited
by a race different from our own.

But for that very reason he made his visit brief with his usual
activity of imagination as to how his conduct might affect others, he
shrank from what might seem like curiosity or the assumption of a right
to know as much as he pleased of one to whom he had done a service. For
example, he would have liked to hear her sing, but he would have felt
the expression of such a wish to be rudeness in him--since she could
not refuse, and he would all the while have a sense that she was being
treated like one whose accomplishments were to be ready on demand. And
whatever reverence could be shown to woman, he was bent on showing to
this girl. Why? He gave himself several good reasons; but whatever one
does with a strong unhesitating outflow of will has a store of motive
that it would be hard to put into words. Some deeds seem little more
than interjections which give vent to the long passion of a life.

So Deronda soon took his farewell for the two months during which he
expected to be absent from London, and in a few days he was on his way
with Sir Hugo and Lady Mallinger to Leubronn.

He had fulfilled his intention of telling them about Mirah. The baronet
was decidedly of opinion that the search for the mother and brother had
better be let alone. Lady Mallinger was much interested in the poor
girl, observing that there was a society for the conversion of the
Jews, and that it was to be hoped Mirah would embrace Christianity; but
perceiving that Sir Hugo looked at her with amusement, she concluded
that she had said something foolish. Lady Mallinger felt apologetically
about herself as a woman who had produced nothing but daughters in a
case where sons were required, and hence regarded the apparent
contradictions of the world as probably due to the weakness of her own
understanding. But when she was much puzzled, it was her habit to say
to herself, "I will ask Daniel." Deronda was altogether a convenience
in the family; and Sir Hugo too, after intending to do the best for
him, had begun to feel that the pleasantest result would be to have
this substitute for a son always ready at his elbow.

This was the history of Deronda, so far as he knew it, up to the time
of that visit to Leubronn in which he saw Gwendolen Harleth at the
gaming-table.



CHAPTER XXI.

    It is a common sentence that Knowledge is power; but who hath duly
    considered or set forth the power of Ignorance? Knowledge slowly
    builds up what Ignorance in an hour pulls down. Knowledge, through
    patient and frugal centuries, enlarges discovery and makes record of
    it; Ignorance, wanting its day's dinner, lights a fire with the
    record, and gives a flavor to its one roast with the burned souls of
    many generations. Knowledge, instructing the sense, refining and
    multiplying needs, transforms itself into skill and makes life various
    with a new six days' work; comes Ignorance drunk on the seventh, with
    a firkin of oil and a match and an easy "Let there not be," and the
    many-colored creation is shriveled up in blackness. Of a truth,
    Knowledge is power, but it is a power reined by scruple, having a
    conscience of what must be and what may be; whereas Ignorance is a
    blind giant who, let him but wax unbound, would make it a sport to
    seize the pillars that hold up the long-wrought fabric of human good,
    and turn all the places of joy dark as a buried Babylon. And looking
    at life parcel-wise, in the growth of a single lot, who having a
    practiced vision may not see that ignorance of the true bond between
    events, and false conceit of means whereby sequences may be
    compelled--like that falsity of eyesight which overlooks the gradations of
    distance, seeing that which is afar off as if it were within a step or
    a grasp--precipitates the mistaken soul on destruction?


It was half-past ten in the morning when Gwendolen Harleth, after her
gloomy journey from Leubronn, arrived at the station from which she
must drive to Offendene. No carriage or friend was awaiting her, for in
the telegram she had sent from Dover she had mentioned a later train,
and in her impatience of lingering at a London station she had set off
without picturing what it would be to arrive unannounced at half an
hour's drive from home--at one of those stations which have been fixed
on not as near anywhere, but as equidistant from everywhere. Deposited
as a _femme sole_ with her large trunks, and having to wait while a
vehicle was being got from the large-sized lantern called the Railway
Inn, Gwendolen felt that the dirty paint in the waiting-room, the dusty
decanter of flat water, and the texts in large letters calling on her
to repent and be converted, were part of the dreary prospect opened by
her family troubles; and she hurried away to the outer door looking
toward the lane and fields. But here the very gleams of sunshine seemed
melancholy, for the autumnal leaves and grass were shivering, and the
wind was turning up the feathers of a cock and two croaking hens which
had doubtless parted with their grown-up offspring and did not know
what to do with themselves. The railway official also seemed without
resources, and his innocent demeanor in observing Gwendolen and her
trunks was rendered intolerable by the cast in his eye; especially
since, being a new man, he did not know her, and must conclude that she
was not very high in the world. The vehicle--a dirty old barouche--was
within sight, and was being slowly prepared by an elderly laborer.
Contemptible details these, to make part of a history; yet the turn of
most lives is hardly to be accounted for without them. They are
continually entering with cumulative force into a mood until it gets
the mass and momentum of a theory or a motive. Even philosophy is not
quite free from such determining influences; and to be dropped solitary
at an ugly, irrelevant-looking spot, with a sense of no income on the
mind, might well prompt a man to discouraging speculation on the origin
of things and the reason of a world where a subtle thinker found
himself so badly off. How much more might such trifles tell on a young
lady equipped for society with a fastidious taste, an Indian shawl over
her arm, some twenty cubic feet of trunks by her side, and a mortal
dislike to the new consciousness of poverty which was stimulating her
imagination of disagreeables? At any rate they told heavily on poor
Gwendolen, and helped to quell her resistant spirit. What was the good
of living in the midst of hardships, ugliness, and humiliation? This
was the beginning of being at home again, and it was a sample of what
she had to expect.

Here was the theme on which her discontent rung its sad changes during
her slow drive in the uneasy barouche, with one great trunk squeezing
the meek driver, and the other fastened with a rope on the seat in
front of her. Her ruling vision all the way from Leubronn had been that
the family would go abroad again; for of course there must be some
little income left--her mamma did not mean that they would have
literally nothing. To go to a dull place abroad and live poorly, was
the dismal future that threatened her: she had seen plenty of poor
English people abroad and imagined herself plunged in the despised
dullness of their ill-plenished lives, with Alice, Bertha, Fanny and
Isabel all growing up in tediousness around her, while she advanced
toward thirty and her mamma got more and more melancholy. But she did
not mean to submit, and let misfortune do what it would with her: she
had not yet quite believed in the misfortune; but weariness and disgust
with this wretched arrival had begun to affect her like an
uncomfortable waking, worse than the uneasy dreams which had gone
before. The self-delight with which she had kissed her image in the
glass had faded before the sense of futility in being anything
whatever--charming, clever, resolute--what was the good of it all?
Events might turn out anyhow, and men were hateful. Yes, men were
hateful. But in these last hours, a certain change had come over their
meaning. It is one thing to hate stolen goods, and another thing to
hate them the more because their being stolen hinders us from making
use of them. Gwendolen had begun to be angry with Grandcourt for being
what had hindered her from marrying him, angry with him as the cause of
her present dreary lot.

But the slow drive was nearly at an end, and the lumbering vehicle
coming up the avenue was within sight of the windows. A figure
appearing under the portico brought a rush of new and less selfish
feeling in Gwendolen, and when springing from the carriage she saw the
dear beautiful face with fresh lines of sadness in it, she threw her
arms round her mother's neck, and for the moment felt all sorrows only
in relation to her mother's feeling about them.

Behind, of course, were the sad faces of the four superfluous girls,
each, poor thing--like those other many thousand sisters of us
all--having her peculiar world which was of no importance to any one
else, but all of them feeling Gwendolen's presence to be somehow a
relenting of misfortune: where Gwendolen was, something interesting
would happen; even her hurried submission to their kisses, and "Now go
away, girls," carried the sort of comfort which all weakness finds in
decision and authoritativeness. Good Miss Merry, whose air of meek
depression, hitherto held unaccountable in a governess affectionately
attached to the family, was now at the general level of circumstances,
did not expect any greeting, but busied herself with the trunks and the
coachman's pay; while Mrs. Davilow and Gwendolen hastened up-stairs and
shut themselves in the black and yellow bedroom.

"Never mind, mamma dear," said Gwendolen, tenderly pressing her
handkerchief against the tears that were rolling down Mrs. Davilow's
cheeks. "Never mind. I don't mind. I will do something. I will be
something. Things will come right. It seemed worse because I was away.
Come now! you must be glad because I am here."

Gwendolen felt every word of that speech. A rush of compassionate
tenderness stirred all her capability of generous resolution; and the
self-confident projects which had vaguely glanced before her during her
journey sprang instantaneously into new definiteness. Suddenly she
seemed to perceive how she could be "something." It was one of her best
moments, and the fond mother, forgetting everything below that tide
mark, looked at her with a sort of adoration. She said,

"Bless you, my good, good darling! I can be happy, if you can!"

But later in the day there was an ebb; the old slippery rocks, the old
weedy places reappeared. Naturally, there was a shrinking of courage as
misfortune ceased to be a mere announcement, and began to disclose
itself as a grievous tyrannical inmate. At first--that ugly drive at an
end--it was still Offendene that Gwendolen had come home to, and all
surroundings of immediate consequence to her were still there to secure
her personal ease; the roomy stillness of the large solid house while
she rested; all the luxuries of her toilet cared for without trouble to
her; and a little tray with her favorite food brought to her in
private. For she had said, "Keep them all away from us to-day, mamma.
Let you and me be alone together."

When Gwendolen came down into the drawing-room, fresh as a newly-dipped
swan, and sat leaning against the cushions of the settee beside her
mamma, their misfortune had not yet turned its face and breath upon
her. She felt prepared to hear everything, and began in a tone of
deliberate intention,

"What have you thought of doing, exactly, mamma?"

"Oh, my dear, the next thing to be done is to move away from this
house. Mr. Haynes most fortunately is as glad to have it now as he
would have been when we took it. Lord Brackenshaw's agent is to arrange
everything with him to the best advantage for us: Bazley, you know; not
at all an ill-natured man."

"I cannot help thinking that Lord Brackenshaw would let you stay here
rent-free, mamma," said Gwendolen, whose talents had not been applied
to business so much as to discernment of the admiration excited by her
charms.

"My dear child, Lord Brackenshaw is in Scotland, and knows nothing
about us. Neither your uncle nor I would choose to apply to him.
Besides, what could we do in this house without servants, and without
money to warm it? The sooner we are out the better. We have nothing to
carry but our clothes, you know?"

"I suppose you mean to go abroad, then?" said Gwendolen. After all,
this is what she had familiarized her mind with.

"Oh, no, dear, no. How could we travel? You never did learn anything
about income and expenses," said Mrs. Davilow, trying to smile, and
putting her hand on Gwendolen's as she added, mournfully, "that makes
it so much harder for you, my pet."

"But where are we to go?" said Gwendolen, with a trace of sharpness in
her tone. She felt a new current of fear passing through her.

"It is all decided. A little furniture is to be got in from the
rectory--all that can be spared." Mrs. Davilow hesitated. She dreaded
the reality for herself less than the shock she must give to Gwendolen,
who looked at her with tense expectancy, but was silent.

"It is Sawyer's Cottage we are to go to."

At first, Gwendolen remained silent, paling with anger--justifiable
anger, in her opinion. Then she said with haughtiness,

"That is impossible. Something else than that ought to have been
thought of. My uncle ought not to allow that. I will not submit to it."

"My sweet child, what else could have been thought of? Your uncle, I am
sure, is as kind as he can be: but he is suffering himself; he has his
family to bring up. And do you quite understand? You must remember--we
have nothing. We shall have absolutely nothing except what he and my
sister give us. They have been as wise and active as possible, and we
must try to earn something. I and the girls are going to work a
table-cloth border for the Ladies' Charity at Winchester, and a
communion cloth that the parishioners are to present to Pennicote
Church."

Mrs. Davilow went into these details timidly: but how else was she to
bring the fact of their position home to this poor child who, alas!
must submit at present, whatever might be in the background for her?
and she herself had a superstition that there must be something better
in the background.

"But surely somewhere else than Sawyer's Cottage might have been
found," Gwendolen persisted--taken hold of (as if in a nightmare) by
the image of this house where an exciseman had lived.

"No, indeed, dear. You know houses are scarce, and we may be thankful
to get anything so private. It is not so very bad. There are two little
parlors and four bedrooms. You shall sit alone whenever you like."

The ebb of sympathetic care for her mamma had gone so low just now,
that Gwendolen took no notice of these deprecatory words.

"I cannot conceive that all your property is gone at once, mamma. How
can you be sure in so short a time? It is not a week since you wrote to
me."

"The first news came much earlier, dear. But I would not spoil your
pleasure till it was quite necessary."

"Oh, how vexatious!" said Gwendolen, coloring with fresh anger. "If I
had known, I could have brought home the money I had won: and for want
of knowing, I stayed and lost it. I had nearly two hundred pounds, and
it would have done for us to live on a little while, till I could carry
out some plan." She paused an instant and then added more impetuously,
"Everything has gone against me. People have come near me only to
blight me."

Among the "people" she was including Deronda. If he had not interfered
in her life she would have gone to the gaming-table again with a few
napoleons, and might have won back her losses.

"We must resign ourselves to the will of Providence, my child," said
poor Mrs. Davilow, startled by this revelation of the gambling, but not
daring to say more. She felt sure that "people" meant Grandcourt, about
whom her lips were sealed. And Gwendolen answered immediately,

"But I don't resign myself. I shall do what I can against it. What is
the good of calling the people's wickedness Providence? You said in
your letter it was Mr. Lassman's fault we had lost our money. Has he
run away with it all?"

"No, dear, you don't understand. There were great speculations: he
meant to gain. It was all about mines and things of that sort. He
risked too much."

"I don't call that Providence: it was his improvidence with our money,
and he ought to be punished. Can't we go to law and recover our
fortune? My uncle ought to take measures, and not sit down by such
wrongs. We ought to go to law."

"My dear child, law can never bring back money lost in that way. Your
uncle says it is milk spilled upon the ground. Besides, one must have a
fortune to get any law: there is no law for people who are ruined. And
our money has only gone along with other people's. We are not the
only sufferers: others have to resign themselves besides us."

"But I don't resign myself to live at Sawyer's Cottage and see you
working for sixpences and shillings because of that. I shall not do it.
I shall do what is more befitting our rank and education."

"I am sure your uncle and all of us will approve of that, dear, and
admire you the more for it," said Mrs. Davilow, glad of an unexpected
opening for speaking on a difficult subject. "I didn't mean that you
should resign yourself to worse when anything better offered itself.
Both your uncle and aunt have felt that your abilities and education
were a fortune for you, and they have already heard of something within
your reach."

"What is that, mamma?" some of Gwendolen's anger gave way to interest,
and she was not without romantic conjectures.

"There are two situations that offer themselves. One is in a bishop's
family, where there are three daughters, and the other is in quite a
high class of school; and in both, your French, and music, and
dancing--and then your manners and habits as a lady, are exactly what
is wanted. Each is a hundred a year--and--just for the present,"--Mrs.
Davilow had become frightened and hesitating,--"to save you from the
petty, common way of living that we must go to--you would perhaps
accept one of the two."

"What! be like Miss Graves at Madame Meunier's? No."

"I think, myself, that Dr. Monpert's would be more suitable. There
could be no hardship in a bishop's family."

"Excuse me, mamma. There are hardships everywhere for a governess. And
I don't see that it would be pleasanter to be looked down on in a
bishop's family than in any other. Besides, you know very well I hate
teaching. Fancy me shut up with three awkward girls something like
Alice! I would rather emigrate than be a governess."

What it precisely was to emigrate, Gwendolen was not called on to
explain. Mrs. Davilow was mute, seeing no outlet, and thinking with
dread of the collision that might happen when Gwendolen had to meet her
uncle and aunt. There was an air of reticence in Gwendolen's haughty,
resistant speeches which implied that she had a definite plan in
reserve; and her practical ignorance continually exhibited, could not
nullify the mother's belief in the effectiveness of that forcible will
and daring which had held mastery over herself.

"I have some ornaments, mamma, and I could sell them," said Gwendolen.
"They would make a sum: I want a little sum--just to go on with. I dare
say Marshall, at Wanchester, would take them: I know he showed me some
bracelets once that he said he had bought from a lady. Jocosa might go
and ask him. Jocosa is going to leave us, of course. But she might do
that first."

"She would do anything she could, poor, dear soul. I have not told you
yet--she wanted me to take all her savings--her three hundred pounds. I
tell her to set up a little school. It will be hard for her to go into
a new family now she has been so long with us."

"Oh, recommend her for the bishop's daughters," said Gwendolen, with a
sudden gleam of laughter in her face. "I am sure she will do better
than I should."

"Do take care not to say such things to your uncle," said Mrs. Davilow.
"He will be hurt at your despising what he has exerted himself about.
But I dare say you have something else in your mind that he might not
disapprove, if you consulted him."

"There is some one else I want to consult first. Are the Arrowpoints
at Quetcham still, and is Herr Klesmer there? But I daresay you know
nothing about it, poor, dear mamma. Can Jeffries go on horseback with a
note?"

"Oh, my dear, Jeffries is not here, and the dealer has taken the
horses. But some one could go for us from Leek's farm. The Arrowpoints
are at Quetcham, I know. Miss Arrowpoint left her card the other day: I
could not see her. But I don't know about Herr Klesmer. Do you want to
send before to-morrow?"

"Yes, as soon as possible. I will write a note," said Gwendolen, rising.

"What can you be thinking of, Gwen?" said Mrs. Davilow, relieved in the
midst of her wonderment by signs of alacrity and better humor.

"Don't mind what, there's a dear, good mamma," said Gwendolen,
reseating herself a moment to give atoning caresses. "I mean to do
something. Never mind what until it is all settled. And then you shall
be comforted. The dear face!--it is ten years older in these three
weeks. Now, now, now! don't cry"--Gwendolen, holding her mamma's head
with both hands, kissed the trembling eyelids. "But mind you don't
contradict me or put hindrances in my way. I must decide for myself. I
cannot be dictated to by my uncle or any one else. My life is my own
affair. And I think"--here her tone took an edge of scorn--"I think I
can do better for you than let you live in Sawyer's Cottage."

In uttering this last sentence Gwendolen again rose, and went to a desk
where she wrote the following note to Klesmer:,

    Miss Harleth presents her compliments to Herr Klesmer, and ventures
    to request of him the very great favor that he will call upon her, if
    possible, to-morrow. Her reason for presuming so far on his kindness
    is of a very serious nature. Unfortunate family circumstances have
    obliged her to take a course in which she can only turn for advice to
    the great knowledge and judgment of Herr Klesmer.

"Pray get this sent to Quetcham at once, mamma," said Gwendolen, as she
addressed the letter. "The man must be told to wait for an answer. Let
no time be lost."

For the moment, the absorbing purpose was to get the letter dispatched;
but when she had been assured on this point, another anxiety arose and
kept her in a state of uneasy excitement. If Klesmer happened not to be
at Quetcham, what could she do next? Gwendolen's belief in her star, so
to speak, had had some bruises. Things had gone against her. A splendid
marriage which presented itself within reach had shown a hideous flaw.
The chances of roulette had not adjusted themselves to her claims; and
a man of whom she knew nothing had thrust himself between her and her
intentions. The conduct of those uninteresting people who managed the
business of the world had been culpable just in the points most
injurious to her in particular. Gwendolen Harleth, with all her beauty
and conscious force, felt the close threats of humiliation: for the
first time the conditions of this world seemed to her like a hurrying
roaring crowd in which she had got astray, no more cared for and
protected than a myriad of other girls, in spite of its being a
peculiar hardship to her. If Klesmer were not at Quetcham--that would
be all of a piece with the rest: the unwelcome negative urged itself as
a probability, and set her brain working at desperate alternatives
which might deliver her from Sawyer's Cottage or the ultimate necessity
of "taking a situation," a phrase that summed up for her the
disagreeables most wounding to her pride, most irksome to her tastes;
at least so far as her experience enabled her to imagine disagreeables.

Still Klesmer might be there, and Gwendolen thought of the result in
that case with a hopefulness which even cast a satisfactory light over
her peculiar troubles, as what might well enter into the biography of
celebrities and remarkable persons. And if she had heard her immediate
acquaintances cross-examined as to whether they thought her remarkable,
the first who said "No" would have surprised her.



CHAPTER XXII.

  We please our fancy with ideal webs
  Of innovation, but our life meanwhile
  Is in the loom, where busy passion plies
  The shuttle to and fro, and gives our deeds
  The accustomed pattern.


Gwendolen's note, coming "pat betwixt too early and too late," was put
into Klesmer's hands just when he was leaving Quetcham, and in order to
meet her appeal to his kindness he, with some inconvenience to himself
spent the night at Wanchester. There were reasons why he would not
remain at Quetcham.

That magnificent mansion, fitted with regard to the greatest expense,
had in fact became too hot for him, its owners having, like some great
politicians, been astonished at an insurrection against the established
order of things, which we plain people after the event can perceive to
have been prepared under their very noses.

There were as usual many guests in the house, and among them one in
whom Miss Arrowpoint foresaw a new pretender to her hand: a political
man of good family who confidently expected a peerage, and felt on
public grounds that he required a larger fortune to support the title
properly. Heiresses vary, and persons interested in one of them
beforehand are prepared to find that she is too yellow or too red, tall
and toppling or short and square, violent and capricious or moony and
insipid; but in every case it is taken for granted that she will
consider herself an appendage to her fortune, and marry where others
think her fortunes ought to go. Nature, however, not only accommodates
herself ill to our favorite practices by making "only children"
daughters, but also now and then endows the misplaced daughter with a
clear head and a strong will. The Arrowpoints had already felt some
anxiety owing to these endowments of their Catherine. She would not
accept the view of her social duty which required her to marry a needy
nobleman or a commoner on the ladder toward nobility; and they were not
without uneasiness concerning her persistence in declining suitable
offers. As to the possibility of her being in love with Klesmer they
were not at all uneasy--a very common sort of blindness. For in general
mortals have a great power of being astonished at the presence of an
effect toward which they have done everything, and at the absence of an
effect toward which they had done nothing but desire it. Parents are
astonished at the ignorance of their sons, though they have used the
most time-honored and expensive means of securing it; husbands and
wives are mutually astonished at the loss of affection which they have
taken no pains to keep; and all of us in our turn are apt to be
astonished that our neighbors do not admire us. In this way it happens
that the truth seems highly improbable. The truth is something
different from the habitual lazy combinations begotten by our wishes.
The Arrowpoints' hour of astonishment was come.

When there is a passion between an heiress and a proud
independent-spirited man, it is difficult for them to come to an
understanding; but the difficulties are likely to be overcome unless
the proud man secures himself by a constant _alibi_. Brief meetings
after studied absence are potent in disclosure: but more potent still
is frequent companionship, with full sympathy in taste and admirable
qualities on both sides; especially where the one is in the position of
teacher and the other is delightedly conscious of receptive ability
which also gives the teacher delight. The situation is famous in
history, and has no less charm now than it had in the days of Abelard.

But this kind of comparison had not occurred to the Arrowpoints when
they first engaged Klesmer to come down to Quetcham. To have a
first-rate musician in your house is a privilege of wealth; Catherine's
musical talent demanded every advantage; and she particularly desired
to use her quieter time in the country for more thorough study. Klesmer
was not yet a Liszt, understood to be adored by ladies of all European
countries with the exception of Lapland: and even with that
understanding it did not follow that he would make proposals to an
heiress. No musician of honor would do so. Still less was it
conceivable that Catherine would give him the slightest pretext for
such daring. The large check that Mr. Arrowpoint was to draw in
Klesmer's name seemed to make him as safe an inmate as a footman. Where
marriage is inconceivable, a girl's sentiments are safe.

Klesmer was eminently a man of honor, but marriages rarely begin with
formal proposals, and moreover, Catherine's limit of the conceivable
did not exactly correspond with her mother's.

Outsiders might have been more apt to think that Klesmer's position was
dangerous for himself if Miss Arrowpoint had been an acknowledged
beauty; not taking into account that the most powerful of all beauty is
that which reveals itself after sympathy and not before it. There is a
charm of eye and lip which comes with every little phrase that
certifies delicate perception or fine judgment, with every
unostentatious word or smile that shows a heart awake to others; and no
sweep of garment or turn of figure is more satisfying than that which
enters as a restoration of confidence that one person is present on
whom no intention will be lost. What dignity of meaning goes on
gathering in frowns and laughs which are never observed in the wrong
place; what suffused adorableness in a human frame where there is a
mind that can flash out comprehension and hands that can execute
finely! The more obvious beauty, also adorable sometimes--one may say
it without blasphemy--begins by being an apology for folly, and ends
like other apologies in becoming tiresome by iteration; and that
Klesmer, though very susceptible to it, should have a passionate
attachment to Miss Arrowpoint, was no more a paradox than any other
triumph of a manifold sympathy over a monotonous attraction. We object
less to be taxed with the enslaving excess of our passions than with
our deficiency in wider passion; but if the truth were known, our
reputed intensity is often the dullness of not knowing what else to do
with ourselves. Tannhäuser, one suspects, was a knight of ill-furnished
imagination, hardly of larger discourse than a heavy Guardsman; Merlin
had certainly seen his best days, and was merely repeating himself,
when he fell into that hopeless captivity; and we know that Ulysses
felt so manifest an _ennui_ under similar circumstances that Calypso
herself furthered his departure. There is indeed a report that he
afterward left Penelope; but since she was habitually absorbed in
worsted work, and it was probably from her that Telemachus got his
mean, pettifogging disposition, always anxious about the property and
the daily consumption of meat, no inference can be drawn from this
already dubious scandal as to the relation between companionship and
constancy.

Klesmer was as versatile and fascinating as a young Ulysses on a
sufficient acquaintance--one whom nature seemed to have first made
generously and then to have added music as a dominant power using all
the abundant rest, and, as in Mendelssohn, finding expression for
itself not only in the highest finish of execution, but in that fervor
of creative work and theoretic belief which pierces the whole future of
a life with the delight of congruous devoted purpose. His foibles of
arrogance and vanity did not exceed such as may be found in the best
English families; and Catherine Arrowpoint had no corresponding
restlessness to clash with his: notwithstanding her native kindliness
she was perhaps too coolly firm and self-sustained. But she was one of
those satisfactory creatures whose intercourse has the charm of
discovery; whose integrity of faculty and expression begets a wish to
know what they will say on all subjects or how they will perform
whatever they undertake; so that they end by raising not only a
continual expectation but a continual sense of fulfillment--the systole
and diastole of blissful companionship. In such cases the outward
presentment easily becomes what the image is to the worshipper. It was
not long before the two became aware that each was interesting to the
other; but the "how far" remained a matter of doubt. Klesmer did not
conceive that Miss Arrowpoint was likely to think of him as a possible
lover, and she was not accustomed to think of herself as likely to stir
more than a friendly regard, or to fear the expression of more from any
man who was not enamored of her fortune. Each was content to suffer some
unshared sense of denial for the sake of loving the other's society a
little too well; and under these conditions no need had been felt to
restrict Klesmer's visits for the last year either in country or in
town. He knew very well that if Miss Arrowpoint had been poor he would
have made ardent love to her instead of sending a storm through the
piano, or folding his arms and pouring out a hyperbolical tirade about
something as impersonal as the north pole; and she was not less aware
that if it had been possible for Klesmer to wish for her hand she would
have found overmastering reasons for giving it to him. Here was the
safety of full cups, which are as secure from overflow as the half-empty,
always supposing no disturbance. Naturally, silent feeling had
not remained at the same point any more than the stealthly dial-hand,
and in the present visit to Quetcham, Klesmer had begun to think that he
would not come again; while Catherine was more sensitive to his frequent
_brusquerie_, which she rather resented as a needless effort to assert
his footing of superior in every sense except the conventional.

Meanwhile enters the expectant peer, Mr. Bult, an esteemed party man
who, rather neutral in private life, had strong opinions concerning the
districts of the Niger, was much at home also in Brazils, spoke with
decision of affairs in the South Seas, was studious of his
Parliamentary and itinerant speeches, and had the general solidity and
suffusive pinkness of a healthy Briton on the central table-land of
life. Catherine, aware of a tacit understanding that he was an
undeniable husband for an heiress, had nothing to say against him but
that he was thoroughly tiresome to her. Mr. Bult was amiably confident,
and had no idea that his insensibility to counterpoint could ever be
reckoned against him. Klesmer he hardly regarded in the light of a
serious human being who ought to have a vote; and he did not mind Miss
Arrowpoint's addiction to music any more than her probable expenses in
antique lace. He was consequently a little amazed at an after-dinner
outburst of Klesmer's on the lack of idealism in English politics,
which left all mutuality between distant races to be determined simply
by the need of a market; the crusades, to his mind, had at least this
excuse, that they had a banner of sentiment round which generous
feelings could rally: of course, the scoundrels rallied too, but what
then? they rally in equal force round your advertisement van of "Buy
cheap, sell dear." On this theme Klesmer's eloquence, gesticulatory and
other, went on for a little while like stray fireworks accidentally
ignited, and then sank into immovable silence. Mr. Bult was not
surprised that Klesmer's opinions should be flighty, but was astonished
at his command of English idiom and his ability to put a point in a way
that would have told at a constituents' dinner--to be accounted for
probably by his being a Pole, or a Czech, or something of that
fermenting sort, in a state of political refugeeism which had obliged
him to make a profession of his music; and that evening in the
drawing-room he for the first time went up to Klesmer at the piano,
Miss Arrowpoint being near, and said,

"I had no idea before that you were a political man."

Klesmer's only answer was to fold his arms, put out his nether lip, and
stare at Mr. Bult.

"You must have been used to public speaking. You speak uncommonly well,
though I don't agree with you. From what you said about sentiment, I
fancy you are a Panslavist."

"No; my name is Elijah. I am the Wandering Jew," said Klesmer, flashing
a smile at Miss Arrowpoint, and suddenly making a mysterious, wind-like
rush backward and forward on the piano. Mr. Bult felt this buffoonery
rather offensive and Polish, but--Miss Arrowpoint being there--did not
like to move away.

"Herr Klesmer has cosmopolitan ideas," said Miss Arrowpoint, trying to
make the best of the situation. "He looks forward to a fusion of races."

"With all my heart," said Mr. Bult, willing to be gracious. "I was sure
he had too much talent to be a mere musician."

"Ah, sir, you are under some mistake there," said Klesmer, firing up.
"No man has too much talent to be a musician. Most men have too little.
A creative artist is no more a mere musician than a great statesman is
a mere politician. We are not ingenious puppets, sir, who live in a box
and look out on the world only when it is gaping for amusement. We help
to rule the nations and make the age as much as any other public men.
We count ourselves on level benches with legislators. And a man who
speaks effectively through music is compelled to something more
difficult than parliamentary eloquence."

With the last word Klesmer wheeled from the piano and walked away.

Miss Arrowpoint colored, and Mr. Bult observed, with his usual
phlegmatic stolidity, "Your pianist does not think small beer of
himself."

"Herr Klesmer is something more than a pianist," said Miss Arrowpoint,
apologetically. "He is a great musician in the fullest sense of the
word. He will rank with Schubert and Mendelssohn."

"Ah, you ladies understand these things," said Mr. Bult, none the less
convinced that these things were frivolous because Klesmer had shown
himself a coxcomb.

Catherine, always sorry when Klesmer gave himself airs, found an
opportunity the next day in the music-room to say, "Why were you so
heated last night with Mr. Bult? He meant no harm."

"You wish me to be complaisant to him?" said Klesmer, rather fiercely.

"I think it is hardly worth your while to be other than civil."

"You find no difficulty in tolerating him, then?--you have a respect
for a political platitudinarian as insensible as an ox to everything he
can't turn into political capital. You think his monumental obtuseness
suited to the dignity of the English gentleman."

"I did not say that."

"You mean that I acted without dignity, and you are offended with me."

"Now you are slightly nearer the truth," said Catherine, smiling.

"Then I had better put my burial-clothes in my portmanteau and set off
at once."

"I don't see that. If I have to bear your criticism of my operetta, you
should not mind my criticism of your impatience."

"But I do mind it. You would have wished me to take his ignorant
impertinence about a 'mere musician' without letting him know his
place. I am to hear my gods blasphemed as well as myself insulted. But
I beg pardon. It is impossible you should see the matter as I do. Even
you can't understand the wrath of the artist: he is of another caste
for you."

"That is true," said Catherine, with some betrayal of feeling. "He is
of a caste to which I look up--a caste above mine."

Klesmer, who had been seated at a table looking over scores, started up
and walked to a little distance, from which he said,

"That is finely felt--I am grateful. But I had better go, all the same.
I have made up my mind to go, for good and all. You can get on
exceedingly well without me: your operetta is on wheels--it will go of
itself. And your Mr. Bull's company fits me 'wie die Faust ins Auge.' I
am neglecting my engagements. I must go off to St. Petersburg."

There was no answer.

"You agree with me that I had better go?" said Klesmer, with some
irritation.

"Certainly; if that is what your business and feeling prompt. I have
only to wonder that you have consented to give us so much of your time
in the last year. There must be treble the interest to you anywhere
else. I have never thought of you consenting to come here as anything
else than a sacrifice."

"Why should I make the sacrifice?" said Klesmer, going to seat himself
at the piano, and touching the keys so as to give with the delicacy of
an echo in the far distance a melody which he had set to Heine's "Ich
hab' dich geliebet und liebe dich noch."

"That is the mystery," said Catherine, not wanting to affect anything,
but from mere agitation. From the same cause she was tearing a piece of
paper into minute morsels, as if at a task of utmost multiplication
imposed by a cruel fairy.

"You can conceive no motive?" said Klesmer, folding his arms.

"None that seems in the least probable."

"Then I shall tell you. It is because you are to me the chief woman in
the world--the throned lady whose colors I carry between my heart and
my armor."

Catherine's hands trembled so much that she could no longer tear the
paper: still less could her lips utter a word. Klesmer went on,

"This would be the last impertinence in me, if I meant to found
anything upon it. That is out of the question. I meant no such thing.
But you once said it was your doom to suspect every man who courted you
of being an adventurer, and what made you angriest was men's imputing
to you the folly of believing that they courted you for your own sake.
Did you not say so?"

"Very likely," was the answer, in a low murmur.

"It was a bitter word. Well, at least one man who has seen women as
plenty as flowers in May has lingered about you for your own sake. And
since he is one whom you can never marry, you will believe him. There
is an argument in favor of some other man. But don't give yourself for
a meal to a minotaur like Bult. I shall go now and pack. I shall make
my excuses to Mrs. Arrowpoint." Klesmer rose as he ended, and walked
quickly toward the door.

"You must take this heap of manuscript," then said Catherine, suddenly
making a desperate effort. She had risen to fetch the heap from another
table. Klesmer came back, and they had the length of the folio sheets
between them.

"Why should I not marry the man who loves me, if I love him?" said
Catherine. To her the effort was something like the leap of a woman
from the deck into the lifeboat.

"It would be too hard--impossible--you could not carry it through. I am
not worth what you would have to encounter. I will not accept the
sacrifice. It would be thought a _mésalliance_ for you and I should be
liable to the worst accusations."

"Is it the accusations you are afraid of? I am afraid of nothing but
that we should miss the passing of our lives together."

The decisive word had been spoken: there was no doubt concerning the
end willed by each: there only remained the way of arriving at it, and
Catherine determined to take the straightest possible. She went to her
father and mother in the library, and told them that she had promised
to marry Klesmer.

Mrs. Arrowpoint's state of mind was pitiable. Imagine Jean Jacques,
after his essay on the corrupting influence of the arts, waking up among
children of nature who had no idea of grilling the raw bone they offered
him for breakfast with the primitive couvert of a flint knife; or Saint
Just, after fervidly denouncing all recognition of pre-eminence,
receiving a vote of thanks for the unbroken mediocrity of his speech,
which warranted the dullest patriots in delivering themselves at equal
length. Something of the same sort befell the authoress of "Tasso," when
what she had safely demanded of the dead Leonora was enacted by her own
Catherine. It is hard for us to live up to our own eloquence, and keep
pace with our winged words, while we are treading the solid earth and
are liable to heavy dining. Besides, it has long been understood that
the proprieties of literature are not those of practical life. Mrs.
Arrowpoint naturally wished for the best of everything. She not only
liked to feel herself at a higher level of literary sentiment than the
ladies with whom she associated; she wished not to be behind them in any
point of social consideration. While Klesmer was seen in the light of a
patronized musician, his peculiarities were picturesque and acceptable:
but to see him by a sudden flash in the light of her son-in-law gave her
a burning sense of what the world would say. And the poor lady had been
used to represent her Catherine as a model of excellence.

Under the first shock she forgot everything but her anger, and snatched
at any phrase that would serve as a weapon.

"If Klesmer has presumed to offer himself to you, your father shall
horsewhip him off the premises. Pray, speak, Mr. Arrowpoint."

The father took his cigar from his mouth, and rose to the occasion by
saying, "This will never do, Cath."

"Do!" cried Mrs. Arrowpoint; "who in their senses ever thought it would
do? You might as well say poisoning and strangling will not do. It is a
comedy you have got up, Catherine. Else you are mad."

"I am quite sane and serious, mamma, and Herr Klesmer is not to blame.
He never thought of my marrying him. I found out that he loved me, and
loving him, I told him I would marry him."

"Leave that unsaid, Catherine," said Mrs. Arrowpoint, bitterly. "Every
one else will say that for you. You will be a public fable. Every one
will say that you must have made an offer to a man who has been paid to
come to the house--who is nobody knows what--a gypsy, a Jew, a mere
bubble of the earth."

"Never mind, mamma," said Catherine, indignant in her turn. "We all
know he is a genius--as Tasso was."

"Those times were not these, nor is Klesmer Tasso," said Mrs.
Arrowpoint, getting more heated. "There is no sting in _that_ sarcasm,
except the sting of undutifulness."

"I am sorry to hurt you, mamma. But I will not give up the happiness of
my life to ideas that I don't believe in and customs I have no respect
for."

"You have lost all sense of duty, then? You have forgotten that you are
our only child--that it lies with you to place a great property in the
right hands?"

"What are the right hands? My grandfather gained the property in trade."

"Mr. Arrowpoint, _will_ you sit by and hear this without speaking?"

"I am a gentleman, Cath. We expect you to marry a gentleman," said the
father, exerting himself.

"And a man connected with the institutions of this country," said the
mother. "A woman in your position has serious duties. Where duty and
inclination clash, she must follow duty."

"I don't deny that," said Catherine, getting colder in proportion to
her mother's heat. "But one may say very true things and apply them
falsely. People can easily take the sacred word duty as a name for what
they desire any one else to do."

"Your parent's desire makes no duty for you, then?"

"Yes, within reason. But before I give up the happiness of my life--"

"Catherine, Catherine, it will not be your happiness," said Mrs.
Arrowpoint, in her most raven-like tones.

"Well, what seems to me my happiness--before I give it up, I must see
some better reason than the wish that I should marry a nobleman, or a
man who votes with a party that he may be turned into a nobleman. I
feel at liberty to marry the man I love and think worthy, unless some
higher duty forbids."

"And so it does, Catherine, though you are blinded and cannot see it.
It is a woman's duty not to lower herself. You are lowering yourself.
Mr. Arrowpoint, will you tell your daughter what is her duty?"

"You must see, Catherine, that Klesmer is not the man for you," said
Mr. Arrowpoint. "He won't do at the head of estates. He has a deuced
foreign look--is an unpractical man."

"I really can't see what that has to do with it, papa. The land of
England has often passed into the hands of foreigners--Dutch soldiers,
sons of foreign women of bad character:--if our land were sold
to-morrow it would very likely pass into the hands of some foreign
merchant on 'Change. It is in everybody's mouth that successful
swindlers may buy up half the land in the country. How can I stem that
tide?"

"It will never do to argue about marriage, Cath," said Mr. Arrowpoint.
"It's no use getting up the subject like a parliamentary question. We
must do as other people do. We must think of the nation and the public
good."

"I can't see any public good concerned here, papa," said Catherine.
"Why is it to be expected of any heiress that she should carry the
property gained in trade into the hands of a certain class? That seems
to be a ridiculous mishmash of superannuated customs and false
ambition. I should call it a public evil. People had better make a new
sort of public good by changing their ambitions."

"That is mere sophistry, Catherine," said Mrs. Arrowpoint. "Because you
don't wish to marry a nobleman, you are not obliged to marry a
mountebank or a charlatan."

"I cannot understand the application of such words, mamma."

"No, I dare say not," rejoined Mrs. Arrowpoint, with significant scorn.
"You have got to a pitch at which we are not likely to understand each
other."

"It can't be done, Cath," said Mr. Arrowpoint, wishing to substitute a
better-humored reasoning for his wife's impetuosity. "A man like
Klesmer can't marry such a property as yours. It can't be done."

"It certainly will not be done," said Mrs. Arrowpoint, imperiously.
"Where is the man? Let him be fetched."

"I cannot fetch him to be insulted," said Catherine. "Nothing will be
achieved by that."

"I suppose you would wish him to know that in marrying you he will not
marry your fortune," said Mrs. Arrowpoint.

"Certainly; if it were so, I should wish him to know it."

"Then you had better fetch him."

Catherine only went into the music-room and said, "Come." She felt no
need to prepare Klesmer.

"Herr Klesmer," said Mrs. Arrowpoint, with a rather contemptuous
stateliness, "it is unnecessary to repeat what has passed between us
and our daughter. Mr. Arrowpoint will tell you our resolution."

"Your marrying is out of the question," said Mr. Arrowpoint, rather too
heavily weighted with his task, and standing in an embarrassment
unrelieved by a cigar. "It is a wild scheme altogether. A man has been
called out for less."

"You have taken a base advantage of our confidence," burst in Mrs.
Arrowpoint, unable to carry out her purpose and leave the burden of
speech to her husband.

Klesmer made a low bow in silent irony.

"The pretension is ridiculous. You had better give it up and leave the
house at once," continued Mr. Arrowpoint. He wished to do without
mentioning the money.

"I can give up nothing without reference to your daughter's wish," said
Klesmer. "My engagement is to her."

"It is useless to discuss the question," said Mrs. Arrowpoint. "We
shall never consent to the marriage. If Catherine disobeys us we shall
disinherit her. You will not marry her fortune. It is right you should
know that."

"Madam, her fortune has been the only thing I have had to regret about
her. But I must ask her if she will not think the sacrifice greater
than I am worthy of."

"It is no sacrifice to me," said Catherine, "except that I am sorry to
hurt my father and mother. I have always felt my fortune to be a
wretched fatality of my life."

"You mean to defy us, then?" said Mrs. Arrowpoint.

"I mean to marry Herr Klesmer," said Catherine, firmly.

"He had better not count on our relenting," said Mrs. Arrowpoint, whose
manners suffered from that impunity in insult which has been reckoned
among the privileges of women.

"Madam," said Klesmer, "certain reasons forbid me to retort. But
understand that I consider it out of the power of either of you, or of
your fortune, to confer on me anything that I value. My rank as an
artist is of my own winning, and I would not exchange it for any other.
I am able to maintain your daughter, and I ask for no change in my life
but her companionship."

"You will leave the house, however," said Mrs. Arrowpoint.

"I go at once," said Klesmer, bowing and quitting the room.

"Let there be no misunderstanding, mamma," said Catherine; "I consider
myself engaged to Herr Klesmer, and I intend to marry him."

The mother turned her head away and waved her hand in sign of dismissal.

"It's all very fine," said Mr. Arrowpoint, when Catherine was gone;
"but what the deuce are we to do with the property?"

"There is Harry Brendall. He can take the name."

"Harry Brendall will get through it all in no time," said Mr.
Arrowpoint, relighting his cigar.

And thus, with nothing settled but the determination of the lovers,
Klesmer had left Quetcham.



CHAPTER XXIII.

    Among the heirs of Art, as is the division of the promised land, each
    has to win his portion by hard fighting: the bestowal is after the
    manner of prophecy, and is a title without possession. To carry the
    map of an ungotten estate in your pocket is a poor sort of copyhold.
    And in fancy to cast his shoe over Eden is little warrant that a man
    shall ever set the sole of his foot on an acre of his own there.

    The most obstinate beliefs that mortals entertain about themselves are
    such as they have no evidence for beyond a constant, spontaneous
    pulsing of their self-satisfaction--as it were a hidden seed of
    madness, a confidence that they can move the world without precise
    notion of standing-place or lever.


"Pray go to church, mamma," said Gwendolen the next morning. "I prefer
seeing Herr Klesmer alone." (He had written in reply to her note that
he would be with her at eleven.)

"That is hardly correct, I think," said Mrs. Davilow, anxiously.

"Our affairs are too serious for us to think of such nonsensical
rules," said Gwendolen, contemptuously. "They are insulting as well as
ridiculous."

"You would not mind Isabel sitting with you? She would be reading in a
corner."

"No; she could not: she would bite her nails and stare. It would be too
irritating. Trust my judgment, mamma, I must be alone. Take them all to
church."

Gwendolen had her way, of course; only that Miss Merry and two of the
girls stayed at home, to give the house a look of habitation by sitting
at the dining-room windows.

It was a delicious Sunday morning. The melancholy waning sunshine of
autumn rested on the half-strown grass and came mildly through the
windows in slanting bands of brightness over the old furniture, and the
glass panel that reflected the furniture; over the tapestried chairs
with their faded flower-wreaths, the dark enigmatic pictures, the
superannuated organ at which Gwendolen had pleased herself with acting
Saint Cecelia on her first joyous arrival, the crowd of pallid, dusty
knickknacks seen through the open doors of the antechamber where she had
achieved the wearing of her Greek dress as Hermione. This last memory
was just now very busy in her; for had not Klesmer then been struck
with admiration of her pose and expression? Whatever he had said,
whatever she imagined him to have thought, was at this moment pointed
with keenest interest for her: perhaps she had never before in her life
felt so inwardly dependent, so consciously in need of another person's
opinion. There was a new fluttering of spirit within her, a new element
of deliberation in her self-estimate which had hitherto been a blissful
gift of intuition. Still it was the recurrent burden of her inward
soliloquy that Klesmer had seen but little of her, and any unfavorable
conclusion of his must have too narrow a foundation. She really felt
clever enough for anything.

To fill up the time she collected her volumes and pieces of music, and
laying them on the top of the piano, set herself to classify them. Then
catching the reflection of her movements in the glass panel, she was
diverted to the contemplation of the image there and walked toward it.
Dressed in black, without a single ornament, and with the warm
whiteness of her skin set off between her light-brown coronet of hair
and her square-cut bodice, she might have tempted an artist to try
again the Roman trick of a statue in black, white, and tawny marble.
Seeing her image slowly advancing, she thought "I _am_ beautiful"--not
exultingly, but with grave decision. Being beautiful was after all the
condition on which she most needed external testimony. If any one
objected to the turn of her nose or the form of her neck and chin, she
had not the sense that she could presently show her power of attainment
in these branches of feminine perfection.

There was not much time to fill up in this way before the sound of
wheels, the loud ring, and the opening doors assured her that she was
not by any accident to be disappointed. This slightly increased her
inward flutter. In spite of her self-confidence, she dreaded Klesmer as
part of that unmanageable world which was independent of her
wishes--something vitriolic that would not cease to burn because you
smiled or frowned at it. Poor thing! she was at a higher crisis of her
woman's fate than in her last experience with Grandcourt. The
questioning then, was whether she should take a particular man as a
husband. The inmost fold of her questioning now was whether she need
take a husband at all--whether she could not achieve substantially for
herself and know gratified ambition without bondage.

Klesmer made his most deferential bow in the wide doorway of the
antechamber--showing also the deference of the finest gray kerseymere
trousers and perfect gloves (the 'masters of those who know' are
happily altogether human). Gwendolen met him with unusual gravity, and
holding out her hand said, "It is most kind of you to come, Herr
Klesmer. I hope you have not thought me presumptuous."

"I took your wish as a command that did me honor," said Klesmer, with
answering gravity. He was really putting by his own affairs in order to
give his utmost attention to what Gwendolen might have to say; but his
temperament was still in a state of excitation from the events of
yesterday, likely enough to give his expressions a more than usually
biting edge.

Gwendolen for once was under too great a strain of feeling to remember
formalities. She continued standing near the piano, and Klesmer took
his stand near the other end of it with his back to the light and his
terribly omniscient eyes upon her. No affectation was of use, and she
began without delay.

"I wish to consult you, Herr Klesmer. We have lost all our fortune; we
have nothing. I must get my own bread, and I desire to provide for my
mamma, so as to save her from any hardship. The only way I can think
of--and I should like it better than anything--is to be an actress--to
go on the stage. But, of course, I should like to take a high position,
and I thought--if you thought I could"--here Gwendolen became a little
more nervous--"it would be better for me to be a singer--to study
singing also."

Klesmer put down his hat upon the piano, and folded his arms as if to
concentrate himself.

"I know," Gwendolen resumed, turning from pale to pink and back
again--"I know that my method of singing is very defective; but I have
been ill taught. I could be better taught; I could study. And you will
understand my wish:--to sing and act too, like Grisi, is a much higher
position. Naturally, I should wish to take as high rank as I can. And I
can rely on your judgment. I am sure you will tell me the truth."

Gwendolen somehow had the conviction that now she made this serious
appeal the truth would be favorable.

Still Klesmer did not speak. He drew off his gloves quickly, tossed
them into his hat, rested his hands on his hips, and walked to the
other end of the room. He was filled with compassion for this girl: he
wanted to put a guard on his speech. When he turned again, he looked at
her with a mild frown of inquiry, and said with gentle though quick
utterance, "You have never seen anything, I think, of artists and their
lives?--I mean of musicians, actors, artists of that kind?"

"Oh, no," said Gwendolen, not perturbed by a reference to this obvious
fact in the history of a young lady hitherto well provided for.

"You are--pardon me," said Klesmer, again pausing near the piano--"in
coming to a conclusion on such a matter as this, everything must be
taken into consideration--you are perhaps twenty?"

"I am twenty-one," said Gwendolen, a slight fear rising in her. "Do you
think I am too old?"

Klesmer pouted his under lip and shook his long fingers upward in a
manner totally enigmatic.

"Many persons begin later than others," said Gwendolen, betrayed by her
habitual consciousness of having valuable information to bestow.

Klesmer took no notice, but said with more studied gentleness than
ever, "You have probably not thought of an artistic career until now:
you did not entertain the notion, the longing--what shall I say?--you
did not wish yourself an actress, or anything of that sort, till the
present trouble?"

"Not exactly: but I was fond of acting. I have acted; you saw me, if
you remember--you saw me here in charades, and as Hermione," said
Gwendolen, really fearing that Klesmer had forgotten.

"Yes, yes," he answered quickly, "I remember--I remember perfectly,"
and again walked to the other end of the room. It was difficult for him
to refrain from this kind of movement when he was in any argument
either audible or silent.

Gwendolen felt that she was being weighed. The delay was unpleasant.
But she did not yet conceive that the scale could dip on the wrong
side, and it seemed to her only graceful to say, "I shall be very much
obliged to you for taking the trouble to give me your advice, whatever
it maybe."

"Miss Harleth," said Klesmer, turning toward her and speaking with a
slight increase of accent, "I will veil nothing from you in this
matter. I should reckon myself guilty if I put a false visage on
things--made them too black or too white. The gods have a curse for him
who willingly tells another the wrong road. And if I misled one who is
so young, so beautiful--who, I trust, will find her happiness along the
right road, I should regard myself as a--_Bösewicht_." In the last word
Klesmer's voice had dropped to a loud whisper.

Gwendolen felt a sinking of heart under this unexpected solemnity, and
kept a sort of fascinated gaze on Klesmer's face, as he went on.

"You are a beautiful young lady--you have been brought up in ease--you
have done what you would--you have not said to yourself, 'I must know
this exactly,' 'I must understand this exactly,' 'I must do this
exactly,'"--in uttering these three terrible _musts_, Klesmer lifted up
three long fingers in succession. "In sum, you have not been called
upon to be anything but a charming young lady, whom it is an
impoliteness to find fault with."

He paused an instant; then resting his fingers on his hips again, and
thrusting out his powerful chin, he said,

"Well, then, with that preparation, you wish to try the life of an
artist; you wish to try a life of arduous, unceasing work,
and--uncertain praise. Your praise would have to be earned, like your
bread; and both would come slowly, scantily--what do I say?--they may
hardly come at all."

This tone of discouragement, which Klesmer had hoped might suffice
without anything more unpleasant, roused some resistance in Gwendolen.
With a slight turn of her head away from him, and an air of pique, she
said,

"I thought that you, being an artist, would consider the life one of
the most honorable and delightful. And if I can do nothing better?--I
suppose I can put up with the same risks as other people do."

"Do nothing better?" said Klesmer, a little fired. "No, my dear Miss
Harleth, you could do nothing better--neither man nor woman could do
anything better--if you could do what was best or good of its kind. I
am not decrying the life of the true artist. I am exalting it. I say,
it is out of the reach of any but choice organizations--natures framed
to love perfection and to labor for it; ready, like all true lovers, to
endure, to wait, to say, I am not yet worthy, but she--Art, my
mistress--is worthy, and I will live to merit her. An honorable life?
Yes. But the honor comes from the inward vocation and the hard-won
achievement: there is no honor in donning the life as a livery."

Some excitement of yesterday had revived in Klesmer and hurried him
into speech a little aloof from his immediate friendly purpose. He had
wished as delicately as possible to rouse in Gwendolen a sense of her
unfitness for a perilous, difficult course; but it was his wont to be
angry with the pretensions of incompetence, and he was in danger of
getting chafed. Conscious of this, he paused suddenly. But Gwendolen's
chief impression was that he had not yet denied her the power of doing
what would be good of its kind. Klesmer's fervor seemed to be a sort of
glamor such as he was prone to throw over things in general; and what
she desired to assure him of was that she was not afraid of some
preliminary hardships. The belief that to present herself in public on
the stage must produce an effect such as she had been used to feel
certain of in private life, was like a bit of her flesh--it was not to
be peeled off readily, but must come with blood and pain. She said, in
a tone of some insistence;

"I am quite prepared to bear hardships at first. Of course no one can
become celebrated all at once. And it is not necessary that every one
should be first-rate--either actresses or singers. If you would be so
kind as to tell me what steps I should take, I shall have the courage
to take them. I don't mind going up hill. It will be easier than the
dead level of being a governess. I will take any steps you recommend."

Klesmer was convinced now that he must speak plainly.

"I will tell you the steps, not that I recommend, but that will be
forced upon you. It is all one, so far, what your goal will
be--excellence, celebrity, second, third rateness--it is all one. You
must go to town under the protection of your mother. You must put
yourself under training--musical, dramatic, theatrical:--whatever you
desire to do you have to learn"--here Gwendolen looked as if she were
going to speak, but Klesmer lifted up his hand and said, decisively, "I
know. You have exercised your talents--you recite--you sing--from the
drawing-room _Standpunkt_. My dear Fräulein, you must unlearn all that.
You have not yet conceived what excellence is: you must unlearn your
mistaken admirations. You must know what you have to strive for, and
then you must subdue your mind and body to unbroken discipline. Your
mind, I say. For you must not be thinking of celebrity: put that candle
out of your eyes, and look only at excellence. You would of course earn
nothing--you could get no engagement for a long while. You would need
money for yourself and your family. But that," here Klesmer frowned and
shook his fingers as if to dismiss a triviality, "that could perhaps be
found."

Gwendolen turned pink and pale during this speech. Her pride had felt a
terrible knife-edge, and the last sentence only made the smart keener.
She was conscious of appearing moved, and tried to escape from her
weakness by suddenly walking to a seat and pointing out a chair to
Klesmer. He did not take it, but turned a little in order to face her
and leaned against the piano. At that moment she wished that she had
not sent for him: this first experience of being taken on some other
ground than that of her social rank and her beauty was becoming bitter
to her. Klesmer, preoccupied with a serious purpose, went on without
change of tone.

"Now, what sort of issue might be fairly expected from all this
self-denial? You would ask that. It is right that your eyes should be
open to it. I will tell you truthfully. This issue would be uncertain,
and, most probably, would not be worth much."

At these relentless words Klesmer put out his lip and looked through
his spectacles with the air of a monster impenetrable by beauty.

Gwendolen's eyes began to burn, but the dread of showing weakness urged
her to added self-control. She compelled herself to say, in a hard
tone,

"You think I want talent, or am too old to begin."

Klesmer made a sort of hum, and then descended on an emphatic "Yes! The
desire and the training should have begun seven years ago--or a good
deal earlier. A mountebank's child who helps her father to earn
shillings when she is six years old--a child that inherits a singing
throat from a long line of choristers and learns to sing as it learns
to talk, has a likelier beginning. Any great achievement in acting or
in music grows with the growth. Whenever an artist has been able to
say, 'I came, I saw, I conquered,' it has been at the end of patient
practice. Genius at first is little more than a great capacity for
receiving discipline. Singing and acting, like the fine dexterity of
the juggler with his cups and balls, require a shaping of the organs
toward a finer and finer certainty of effect. Your muscles--your whole
frame--must go like a watch, true, true to a hair. That is the work of
spring-time, before habits have been determined."

"I did not pretend to genius," said Gwendolen, still feeling that she
might somehow do what Klesmer wanted to represent as impossible. "I
only suppose that I might have a little talent--enough to improve."

"I don't deny that," said Klesmer. "If you had been put in the right
track some years ago and had worked well you might now have made a
public singer, though I don't think your voice would have counted for
much in public. For the stage your personal charms and intelligence
might then have told without the present drawback of inexperience--lack
of discipline--lack of instruction."

Certainly Klesmer seemed cruel, but his feeling was the reverse of
cruel. Our speech, even when we are most single-minded, can never take
its line absolutely from one impulse; but Klesmer's was, as far as
possible, directed by compassion for poor Gwendolen's ignorant
eagerness to enter on a course of which he saw all the miserable
details with a definiteness which he could not if he would have
conveyed to her mind.

Gwendolen, however, was not convinced. Her self-opinion rallied, and
since the counselor whom she had called in gave a decision of such
severe peremptoriness, she was tempted to think that his judgment was
not only fallible but biased. It occurred to her that a simpler and
wiser step for her to have taken would have been to send a letter
through the post to the manager of a London theatre, asking him to make
an appointment. She would make no further reference to her singing;
Klesmer, she saw, had set himself against her singing. But she felt
equal to arguing with him about her going on the stage, and she
answered in a resistant tone,

"I understood, of course, that no one can be a finished actress at
once. It may be impossible to tell beforehand whether I should succeed;
but that seems to me a reason why I should try. I should have thought
that I might have taken an engagement at a theatre meanwhile, so as to
earn money and study at the same time."

"Can't be done, my dear Miss Harleth--I speak plainly--it can't be
done. I must clear your mind of these notions which have no more
resemblance to reality than a pantomime. Ladies and gentlemen think
that when they have made their toilet and drawn on their gloves they
are as presentable on the stage as in a drawing-room. No manager thinks
that. With all your grace and charm, if you were to present yourself as
an aspirant to the stage, a manager would either require you to pay as
an amateur for being allowed to perform or he would tell you to go and
be taught--trained to bear yourself on the stage, as a horse, however
beautiful, must be trained for the circus; to say nothing of that study
which would enable you to personate a character consistently, and
animate it with the natural language of face, gesture, and tone. For
you to get an engagement fit for you straight away is out of the
question."

"I really cannot understand that," said Gwendolen, rather
haughtily--then, checking herself, she added in another tone--"I shall
be obliged to you if you will explain how it is that such poor
actresses get engaged. I have been to the theatre several times, and I
am sure there were actresses who seemed to me to act not at all well
and who were quite plain."

"Ah, my dear Miss Harleth, that is the easy criticism of the buyer. We
who buy slippers toss away this pair and the other as clumsy; but there
went an apprenticeship to the making of them. Excuse me; you could not
at present teach one of those actresses; but there is certainly much
that she could teach you. For example, she can pitch her voice so as to
be heard: ten to one you could not do it till after many trials. Merely
to stand and move on the stage is an art--requires practice. It is
understood that we are not now talking of a _comparse_ in a petty
theatre who earns the wages of a needle-woman. That is out of the
question for you."

"Of course I must earn more than that," said Gwendolen, with a sense of
wincing rather than of being refuted, "but I think I could soon learn
to do tolerably well all those little things you have mentioned. I am
not so very stupid. And even in Paris, I am sure, I saw two actresses
playing important ladies' parts who were not at all ladies and quite
ugly. I suppose I have no particular talent, but I _must_ think it is
an advantage, even on the stage, to be a lady and not a perfect fright."

"Ah, let us understand each other," said Klesmer, with a flash of new
meaning. "I was speaking of what you would have to go through if you
aimed at becoming a real artist--if you took music and the drama as a
higher vocation in which you would strive after excellence. On that
head, what I have said stands fast. You would find--after your
education in doing things slackly for one-and-twenty years--great
difficulties in study; you would find mortifications in the treatment
you would get when you presented yourself on the footing of skill. You
would be subjected to tests; people would no longer feign not to see
your blunders. You would at first only be accepted on trial. You would
have to bear what I may call a glaring insignificance: any success must
be won by the utmost patience. You would have to keep your place in a
crowd, and after all it is likely you would lose it and get out of
sight. If you determine to face these hardships and still try, you will
have the dignity of a high purpose, even though you may have chosen
unfortunately. You will have some merit, though you may win no prize.
You have asked my judgment on your chances of winning. I don't pretend
to speak absolutely; but measuring probabilities, my judgment is:--you
will hardly achieve more than mediocrity."

Klesmer had delivered himself with emphatic rapidity, and now paused a
moment. Gwendolen was motionless, looking at her hands, which lay over
each other on her lap, till the deep-toned, long-drawn "_But_," with
which he resumed, had a startling effect, and made her look at him
again.

"But--there are certainly other ideas, other dispositions with which a
young lady may take up an art that will bring her before the public.
She may rely on the unquestioned power of her beauty as a passport. She
may desire to exhibit herself to an admiration which dispenses with
skill. This goes a certain way on the stage: not in music: but on the
stage, beauty is taken when there is nothing more commanding to be had.
Not without some drilling, however: as I have said before,
technicalities have in any case to be mastered. But these excepted, we
have here nothing to do with art. The woman who takes up this career is
not an artist: she is usually one who thinks of entering on a luxurious
life by a short and easy road--perhaps by marriage--that is her most
brilliant chance, and the rarest. Still, her career will not be
luxurious to begin with: she can hardly earn her own poor bread
independently at once, and the indignities she will be liable to are
such as I will not speak of."

"I desire to be independent," said Gwendolen, deeply stung and
confusedly apprehending some scorn for herself in Klesmer's words.
"That was my reason for asking whether I could not get an immediate
engagement. Of course I cannot know how things go on about theatres.
But I thought that I could have made myself independent. I have no
money, and I will not accept help from any one."

Her wounded pride could not rest without making this disclaimer. It was
intolerable to her that Klesmer should imagine her to have expected
other help from him than advice.

"That is a hard saying for your friends," said Klesmer, recovering the
gentleness of tone with which he had begun the conversation. "I have
given you pain. That was inevitable. I was bound to put the truth, the
unvarnished truth, before you. I have not said--I will not say--you
will do wrong to choose the hard, climbing path of an endeavoring
artist. You have to compare its difficulties with those of any less
hazardous--any more private course which opens itself to you. If you
take that more courageous resolve I will ask leave to shake hands with
you on the strength of our freemasonry, where we are all vowed to the
service of art, and to serve her by helping every fellow-servant."

Gwendolen was silent, again looking at her hands. She felt herself very
far away from taking the resolve that would enforce acceptance; and
after waiting an instant or two, Klesmer went on with deepened
seriousness.

"Where there is the duty of service there must be the duty of accepting
it. The question is not one of personal obligation. And in relation to
practical matters immediately affecting your future--excuse my
permitting myself to mention in confidence an affair of my own. I am
expecting an event which would make it easy for me to exert myself on
your behalf in furthering your opportunities of instruction and
residence in London--under the care, that is, of your family--without
need for anxiety on your part. If you resolve to take art as a
bread-study, you need only undertake the study at first; the bread will
be found without trouble. The event I mean is my marriage--in fact--you
will receive this as a matter of confidence--my marriage with Miss
Arrowpoint, which will more than double such right as I have to be
trusted by you as a friend. Your friendship will have greatly risen in
value for _her_ by your having adopted that generous labor."

Gwendolen's face had begun to burn. That Klesmer was about to marry
Miss Arrowpoint caused her no surprise, and at another moment she would
have amused herself in quickly imagining the scenes that must have
occurred at Quetcham. But what engrossed her feeling, what filled her
imagination now, was the panorama of her own immediate future that
Klesmer's words seemed to have unfolded. The suggestion of Miss
Arrowpoint as a patroness was only another detail added to its
repulsiveness: Klesmer's proposal to help her seemed an additional
irritation after the humiliating judgment he had passed on her
capabilities. His words had really bitten into her self-confidence and
turned it into the pain of a bleeding wound; and the idea of presenting
herself before other judges was now poisoned with the dread that they
also might be harsh; they also would not recognize the talent she was
conscious of. But she controlled herself, and rose from her seat before
she made any answer. It seemed natural that she should pause. She went
to the piano and looked absently at leaves of music, pinching up the
corners. At last she turned toward Klesmer and said, with almost her
usual air of proud equality, which in this interview had not been
hitherto perceptible.

"I congratulate you sincerely, Herr Klesmer. I think I never saw any
one so admirable as Miss Arrowpoint. And I have to thank you for every
sort of kindness this morning. But I can't decide now. If I make the
resolve you have spoken of, I will use your permission--I will let you
know. But I fear the obstacles are too great. In any case, I am deeply
obliged to you. It was very bold of me to ask you to take this trouble."

Klesmer's inward remark was, "She will never let me know." But with the
most thorough respect in his manner, he said, "Command me at any time.
There is an address on this card which will always find me with little
delay."

When he had taken up his hat and was going to make his bow, Gwendolen's
better self, conscious of an ingratitude which the clear-seeing Klesmer
must have penetrated, made a desperate effort to find its way above the
stifling layers of egoistic disappointment and irritation. Looking at
him with a glance of the old gayety, she put out her hand, and said
with a smile, "If I take the wrong road, it will not be because of your
flattery."

"God forbid that you should take any road but one where you will find
and give happiness!" said Klesmer, fervently. Then, in foreign fashion,
he touched her fingers lightly with his lips, and in another minute she
heard the sound of his departing wheels getting more distant on the
gravel.

Gwendolen had never in her life felt so miserable. No sob came, no
passion of tears, to relieve her. Her eyes were burning; and the
noonday only brought into more dreary clearness the absence of interest
from her life. All memories, all objects, the pieces of music
displayed, the open piano--the very reflection of herself in the
glass--seemed no better than the packed-up shows of a departing fair.
For the first time since her consciousness began, she was having a
vision of herself on the common level, and had lost the innate sense
that there were reasons why she should not be slighted, elbowed,
jostled--treated like a passenger with a third-class ticket, in spite
of private objections on her own part. She did not move about; the
prospects begotten by disappointment were too oppressively
preoccupying; she threw herself into the shadiest corner of a settee,
and pressed her fingers over her burning eyelids. Every word that
Klesmer had said seemed to have been branded into her memory, as most
words are which bring with them a new set of impressions and make an
epoch for us. Only a few hours before, the dawning smile of
self-contentment rested on her lips as she vaguely imagined a future
suited to her wishes: it seemed but the affair of a year or so for her
to become the most approved Juliet of the time: or, if Klesmer
encouraged her idea of being a singer, to proceed by more gradual steps
to her place in the opera, while she won money and applause by
occasional performances. Why not? At home, at school, among
acquaintances, she had been used to have her conscious superiority
admitted; and she had moved in a society where everything, from low
arithmetic to high art, is of the amateur kind, politely supposed to
fall short of perfection only because gentlemen and ladies are not
obliged to do more than they like--otherwise they would probably give
forth abler writings, and show themselves more commanding artists than
any the world is at present obliged to put up with. The self-confident
visions that had beguiled her were not of a highly exceptional kind;
and she had at least shown some rationality in consulting the person
who knew the most and had flattered her the least. In asking Klesmer's
advice, however, she had rather been borne up by a belief in his latent
admiration than bent on knowing anything more unfavorable that might
have lain behind his slight objections to her singing; and the truth
she had asked for, with an expectation that it would be agreeable, had
come like a lacerating thong.

"Too old--should have begun seven years ago--you will not, at best,
achieve more than mediocrity--hard, incessant work, uncertain
praise--bread coming slowly, scantily, perhaps not at
all--mortifications, people no longer feigning not to see your
blunders--glaring insignificance"--all these phrases rankled in her;
and even more galling was the hint that she could only be accepted on
the stage as a beauty who hoped to get a husband. The "indignities"
that she might be visited with had no very definite form for her, but
the mere association of anything called "indignity" with herself,
roused a resentful alarm. And along with the vaguer images which were
raised by those biting words, came the precise conception of
disagreeables which her experience enabled her to imagine. How could
she take her mamma and the four sisters to London? if it were not
possible for her to earn money at once? And as for submitting to be a
_protégé_, and asking her mamma to submit with her to the humiliation
of being supported by Miss Arrowpoint--that was as bad as being a
governess; nay, worse; for suppose the end of all her study to be as
worthless as Klesmer clearly expected it to be, the sense of favors
received and never repaid, would embitter the miseries of
disappointment. Klesmer doubtless had magnificent ideas about helping
artists; but how could he know the feelings of ladies in such matters?
It was all over: she had entertained a mistaken hope; and there was an
end of it.

"An end of it!" said Gwendolen, aloud, starting from her seat as she
heard the steps and voices of her mamma and sisters coming in from
church. She hurried to the piano and began gathering together her
pieces of music with assumed diligence, while the expression on her
pale face and in her burning eyes was what would have suited a woman
enduring a wrong which she might not resent, but would probably revenge.

"Well, my darling," said gentle Mrs. Davilow, entering, "I see by the
wheel-marks that Klesmer has been here. Have you been satisfied with
the interview?" She had some guesses as to its object, but felt timid
about implying them.

"Satisfied, mamma? oh, yes," said Gwendolen, in a high, hard tone, for
which she must be excused, because she dreaded a scene of emotion. If
she did not set herself resolutely to feign proud indifference, she
felt that she must fall into a passionate outburst of despair, which
would cut her mamma more deeply than all the rest of their calamities.

"Your uncle and aunt were disappointed at not seeing you," said Mrs.
Davilow, coming near the piano, and watching Gwendolen's movements. "I
only said that you wanted rest."

"Quite right, mamma," said Gwendolen, in the same tone, turning to put
away some music.

"Am I not to know anything now, Gwendolen? Am I always to be in the
dark?" said Mrs. Davilow, too keenly sensitive to her daughter's manner
and expression not to fear that something painful had occurred.

"There is really nothing to tell now, mamma," said Gwendolen, in a
still higher voice. "I had a mistaken idea about something I could do.
Herr Klesmer has undeceived me. That is all."

"Don't look and speak in that way, my dear child: I cannot bear it,"
said Mrs. Davilow, breaking down. She felt an undefinable terror.

Gwendolen looked at her a moment in silence, biting her inner lip; then
she went up to her, and putting her hands on her mamma's shoulders,
said, with a drop in her voice to the lowest undertone, "Mamma, don't
speak to me now. It is useless to cry and waste our strength over what
can't be altered. You will live at Sawyer's Cottage, and I am going to
the bishop's daughters. There is no more to be said. Things cannot be
altered, and who cares? It makes no difference to any one else what we
do. We must try not to care ourselves. We must not give way. I dread
giving way. Help me to be quiet."

Mrs. Davilow was like a frightened child under her daughter's face and
voice; her tears were arrested and she went away in silence.



CHAPTER XXIV.

  "I question things but do not find
  One that will answer to my mind:
  And all the world appears unkind."
                            --WORDSWORTH.


Gwendolen was glad that she had got through her interview with Klesmer
before meeting her uncle and aunt. She had made up her mind now that
there were only disagreeables before her, and she felt able to maintain
a dogged calm in the face of any humiliation that might be proposed.

The meeting did not happen until the Monday, when Gwendolen went to the
rectory with her mamma. They had called at Sawyer's Cottage by the way,
and had seen every cranny of the narrow rooms in a mid-day light,
unsoftened by blinds and curtains; for the furnishing to be done by
gleanings from the rectory had not yet begun.

"How _shall_ you endure it, mamma?" said Gwendolen, as they walked
away. She had not opened her lips while they were looking round at the
bare walls and floors, and the little garden with the cabbage-stalks,
and the yew arbor all dust and cobwebs within. "You and the four girls
all in that closet of a room, with the green and yellow paper pressing
on your eyes? And without me?"

"It will be some comfort that you have not to bear it too, dear."

"If it were not that I must get some money, I would rather be there
than go to be a governess."

"Don't set yourself against it beforehand, Gwendolen. If you go to the
palace you will have every luxury about you. And you know how much you
have always cared for that. You will not find it so hard as going up
and down those steep narrow stairs, and hearing the crockery rattle
through the house, and the dear girls talking."

"It is like a bad dream," said Gwendolen, impetuously. "I cannot
believe that my uncle will let you go to such a place. He ought to have
taken some other steps."

"Don't be unreasonable, dear child. What could he have done?"

"That was for him to find out. It seems to me a very extraordinary
world if people in our position must sink in this way all at once,"
said Gwendolen, the other worlds with which she was conversant being
constructed with a sense of fitness that arranged her own future
agreeably.

It was her temper that framed her sentences under this entirely new
pressure of evils: she could have spoken more suitably on the
vicissitudes in other people's lives, though it was never her
aspiration to express herself virtuously so much as cleverly--a point
to be remembered in extenuation of her words, which were usually worse
than she was.

And, notwithstanding the keen sense of her own bruises, she was capable
of some compunction when her uncle and aunt received her with a more
affectionate kindness than they had ever shown before. She could not
but be struck by the dignified cheerfulness with which they talked of
the necessary economies in their way of living, and in the education of
the boys. Mr. Gascoigne's worth of character, a little obscured by
worldly opportunities--as the poetic beauty of women is obscured by the
demands of fashionable dressing--showed itself to great advantage under
this sudden reduction of fortune. Prompt and methodical, he had set
himself not only to put down his carriage, but to reconsider his worn
suits of clothes, to leave off meat for breakfast, to do without
periodicals, to get Edwy from school and arrange hours of study for all
the boys under himself, and to order the whole establishment on the
sparest footing possible. For all healthy people economy has its
pleasures; and the rector's spirit had spread through the household.
Mrs. Gascoigne and Anna, who always made papa their model, really did
not miss anything they cared about for themselves, and in all sincerity
felt that the saddest part of the family losses was the change for Mrs.
Davilow and her children.

Anna for the first time could merge her resentment on behalf of Rex in
her sympathy with Gwendolen; and Mrs. Gascoigne was disposed to hope
that trouble would have a salutary effect on her niece, without
thinking it her duty to add any bitters by way of increasing the
salutariness. They had both been busy devising how to get blinds and
curtains for the cottage out of the household stores; but with delicate
feeling they left these matters in the back-ground, and talked at first
of Gwendolen's journey, and the comfort it was to her mamma to have her
at home again.

In fact there was nothing for Gwendolen to take as a justification for
extending her discontent with events to the persons immediately around
her, and she felt shaken into a more alert attention, as if by a call
to drill that everybody else was obeying, when her uncle began in a
voice of firm kindness to talk to her of the efforts he had been making
to get her a situation which would offer her as many advantages as
possible. Mr. Gascoigne had not forgotten Grandcourt, but the
possibility of further advances from that quarter was something too
vague for a man of his good sense to be determined by it: uncertainties
of that kind must not now slacken his action in doing the best he could
for his niece under actual conditions.

"I felt that there was no time to be lost, Gwendolen; for a position in
a good family where you will have some consideration is not to be had
at a moment's notice. And however long we waited we could hardly find
one where you would be better off than at Bishop Mompert's. I am known
to both him and Mrs. Mompert, and that of course is an advantage to
you. Our correspondence has gone on favorably; but I cannot be
surprised that Mrs. Mompert wishes to see you before making an absolute
engagement. She thinks of arranging for you to meet her at Wanchester
when she is on her way to town. I dare say you will feel the interview
rather trying for you, my dear; but you will have a little time to
prepare your mind."

"Do you know _why_ she wants to see me, uncle?" said Gwendolen, whose
mind had quickly gone over various reasons that an imaginary Mrs.
Mompert with three daughters might be supposed to entertain, reasons
all of a disagreeable kind to the person presenting herself for
inspection.

The rector smiled. "Don't be alarmed, my dear. She would like to have a
more precise idea of you than my report can give. And a mother is
naturally scrupulous about a companion for her daughters. I have told
her you are very young. But she herself exercises a close supervision
over her daughters' education, and that makes her less anxious as to
age. She is a woman of taste and also of strict principle, and objects
to having a French person in the house. I feel sure that she will think
your manners and accomplishments as good as she is likely to find; and
over the religious and moral tone of the education she, and indeed the
bishop himself, will preside."

Gwendolen dared not answer, but the repression of her decided dislike
to the whole prospect sent an unusually deep flush over her face and
neck, subsiding as quickly as it came. Anna, full of tender fears, put
her little hand into her cousin's, and Mr. Gascoigne was too kind a man
not to conceive something of the trial which this sudden change must be
for a girl like Gwendolen. Bent on giving a cheerful view of things, he
went on, in an easy tone of remark, not as if answering supposed
objections,

"I think so highly of the position, that I should have been tempted to
try and get it for Anna, if she had been at all likely to meet Mrs.
Mompert's wants. It is really a home, with a continuance of education
in the highest sense: 'governess' is a misnomer. The bishop's views are
of a more decidedly Low Church color than my own--he is a close friend
of Lord Grampian's; but, though privately strict, he is not by any
means narrow in public matters. Indeed, he has created as little
dislike in his diocese as any bishop on the bench. He has always
remained friendly to me, though before his promotion, when he was an
incumbent of this diocese, we had a little controversy about the Bible
Society."

The rector's words were too pregnant with satisfactory meaning to
himself for him to imagine the effect they produced in the mind of his
niece. "Continuance of education"--"bishop's views"--"privately
strict"--"Bible Society,"--it was as if he had introduced a few snakes
at large for the instruction of ladies who regarded them as all alike
furnished with poison-bags, and, biting or stinging, according to
convenience. To Gwendolen, already shrinking from the prospect open to
her, such phrases came like the growing heat of a burning glass--not at
all as the links of persuasive reflection which they formed for the
good uncle. She began, desperately, to seek an alternative.

"There was another situation, I think, mamma spoke of?" she said, with
determined self-mastery.

'"Yes," said the rector, in rather a depreciatory tone; "but that is in
a school. I should not have the same satisfaction in your taking that.
It would be much harder work, you are aware, and not so good in any
other respect. Besides, you have not an equal chance of getting it."

"Oh dear no," said Mrs. Gascoigne, "it would be much harder for you, my
dear--it would be much less appropriate. You might not have a bedroom to
yourself." And Gwendolen's memories of school suggested other
particulars which forced her to admit to herself that this alternative
would be no relief. She turned to her uncle again and said, apparently
in acceptance of his ideas,

"When is Mrs. Mompert likely to send for me?"

"That is rather uncertain, but she has promised not to entertain any
other proposal till she has seen you. She has entered with much feeling
into your position. It will be within the next fortnight, probably. But
I must be off now. I am going to let part of my glebe uncommonly well."

The rector ended very cheerfully, leaving the room with the
satisfactory conviction that Gwendolen was going to adapt herself to
circumstances like a girl of good sense. Having spoken appropriately,
he naturally supposed that the effects would be appropriate; being
accustomed, as a household and parish authority, to be asked to "speak
to" refractory persons, with the understanding that the measure was
morally coercive.

"What a stay Henry is to us all!" said Mrs. Gascoigne, when her husband
had left the room.

"He is indeed," said Mrs. Davilow, cordially. "I think cheerfulness is
a fortune in itself. I wish I had it."

"And Rex is just like him," said Mrs. Gascoigne. "I must tell you the
comfort we have had in a letter from him. I must read you a little
bit," she added, taking the letter from her pocket, while Anna looked
rather frightened--she did not know why, except that it had been a rule
with her not to mention Rex before Gwendolen.

The proud mother ran her eyes over the letter, seeking for sentences to
read aloud. But apparently she had found it sown with what might seem
to be closer allusions than she desired to the recent past, for she
looked up, folding the letter, and saying,

"However, he tells us that our trouble has made a man of him; he sees a
reason for any amount of work: he means to get a fellowship, to take
pupils, to set one of his brothers going, to be everything that is most
remarkable. The letter is full of fun--just like him. He says, 'Tell
mother she has put out an advertisement for a jolly good hard-working
son, in time to hinder me from taking ship; and I offer myself for the
place.' The letter came on Friday. I never saw my husband so much moved
by anything since Rex was born. It seemed a gain to balance our loss."

This letter, in fact, was what had helped both Mrs. Gascoigne and Anna
to show Gwendolen an unmixed kindliness; and she herself felt very
amiably about it, smiling at Anna, and pinching her chin, as much as to
say, "Nothing is wrong with you now, is it?" She had no gratuitously
ill-natured feeling, or egoistic pleasure in making men miserable. She
only had an intense objection to their making her miserable.

But when the talk turned on furniture for the cottage Gwendolen was not
roused to show even a languid interest. She thought that she had done
as much as could be expected of her this morning, and indeed felt at an
heroic pitch in keeping to herself the struggle that was going on
within her. The recoil of her mind from the only definite prospect
allowed her, was stronger than even she had imagined beforehand. The
idea of presenting herself before Mrs. Mompert in the first instance,
to be approved or disapproved, came as pressure on an already painful
bruise; even as a governess, it appeared she was to be tested and was
liable to rejection. After she had done herself the violence to accept
the bishop and his wife, they were still to consider whether they would
accept her; it was at her peril that she was to look, speak, or be
silent. And even when she had entered on her dismal task of
self-constraint in the society of three girls whom she was bound
incessantly to edify, the same process of inspection was to go on:
there was always to be Mrs. Mompert's supervision; always something or
other would be expected of her to which she had not the slightest
inclination; and perhaps the bishop would examine her on serious
topics. Gwendolen, lately used to the social successes of a handsome
girl, whose lively venturesomeness of talk has the effect of wit, and
who six weeks before would have pitied the dullness of the bishop
rather than have been embarrassed by him, saw the life before her as an
entrance into a penitentiary. Wild thoughts of running away to be an
actress, in spite of Klesmer, came to her with the lure of freedom; but
his words still hung heavily on her soul; they had alarmed her pride
and even her maidenly dignity: dimly she conceived herself getting
amongst vulgar people who would treat her with rude familiarity--odious
men, whose grins and smirks would not be seen through the strong
grating of polite society. Gwendolen's daring was not in the least that
of the adventuress; the demand to be held a lady was in her very
marrow; and when she had dreamed that she might be the heroine of the
gaming-table, it was with the understanding that no one should treat
her with the less consideration, or presume to look at her with irony
as Deronda had done. To be protected and petted, and to have her
susceptibilities consulted in every detail, had gone along with her
food and clothing as matters of course in her life: even without any
such warning as Klesmer's she could not have thought it an attractive
freedom to be thrown in solitary dependence on the doubtful civility of
strangers. The endurance of the episcopal penitentiary was less
repulsive than that; though here too she would certainly never be
petted or have her susceptibilities consulted. Her rebellion against
this hard necessity which had come just to her of all people in the
world--to her whom all circumstances had concurred in preparing for
something quite different--was exaggerated instead of diminished as one
hour followed another, with the imagination of what she might have
expected in her lot and what it was actually to be. The family
troubles, she thought, were easier for every one than for her--even for
poor dear mamma, because she had always used herself to not enjoying.
As to hoping that if she went to the Momperts' and was patient a little
while, things might get better--it would be stupid to entertain hopes
for herself after all that had happened: her talents, it appeared,
would never be recognized as anything remarkable, and there was not a
single direction in which probability seemed to flatter her wishes.
Some beautiful girls who, like her, had read romances where even plain
governesses are centres of attraction and are sought in marriage, might
have solaced themselves a little by transporting such pictures into
their own future; but even if Gwendolen's experience had led her to
dwell on love-making and marriage as her elysium, her heart was too
much oppressed by what was near to her, in both the past and the
future, for her to project her anticipations very far off. She had a
world-nausea upon her, and saw no reason all through her life why she
should wish to live. No religious view of trouble helped her: her
troubles had in her opinion all been caused by other people's
disagreeable or wicked conduct; and there was really nothing pleasant
to be counted on in the world: that was her feeling; everything else
she had heard said about trouble was mere phrase-making not attractive
enough for her to have caught it up and repeated it. As to the
sweetness of labor and fulfilled claims; the interest of inward and
outward activity; the impersonal delights of life as a perpetual
discovery; the dues of courage, fortitude, industry, which it is mere
baseness not to pay toward the common burden; the supreme worth of the
teacher's vocation;--these, even if they had been eloquently preached
to her, could have been no more than faintly apprehended doctrines: the
fact which wrought upon her was her invariable observation that for a
lady to become a governess--to "take a situation"--was to descend in
life and to be treated at best with a compassionate patronage. And poor
Gwendolen had never dissociated happiness from personal pre-eminence
and _éclat_. That where these threatened to forsake her, she should
take life to be hardly worth the having, cannot make her so unlike the
rest of us, men or women, that we should cast her out of our
compassion; our moments of temptation to a mean opinion of things in
general being usually dependent on some susceptibility about ourselves
and some dullness to subjects which every one else would consider more
important. Surely a young creature is pitiable who has the labyrinth of
life before her and no clue--to whom distrust in herself and her good
fortune has come as a sudden shock, like a rent across the path that
she was treading carelessly.

In spite of her healthy frame, her irreconcilable repugnance affected
her even physically; she felt a sort of numbness and could set about
nothing; the least urgency, even that she should take her meals, was an
irritation to her; the speech of others on any subject seemed
unreasonable, because it did not include her feeling and was an
ignorant claim on her. It was not in her nature to busy herself with
the fancies of suicide to which disappointed young people are prone:
what occupied and exasperated her was the sense that there was nothing
for her but to live in a way she hated. She avoided going to the
rectory again: it was too intolerable to have to look and talk as if
she were compliant; and she could not exert herself to show interest
about the furniture of that horrible cottage. Miss Merry was staying on
purpose to help, and such people as Jocosa liked that sort of thing.
Her mother had to make excuses for her not appearing, even when Anna
came to see her. For that calm which Gwendolen had promised herself to
maintain had changed into sick motivelessness: she thought, "I suppose
I shall begin to pretend by-and-by, but why should I do it now?"

Her mother watched her with silent distress; and, lapsing into the
habit of indulgent tenderness, she began to think what she imagined
that Gwendolen was thinking, and to wish that everything should give
way to the possibility of making her darling less miserable.

One day when she was in the black and yellow bedroom and her mother was
lingering there under the pretext of considering and arranging
Gwendolen's articles of dress, she suddenly roused herself to fetch the
casket which contained the ornaments.

"Mamma," she began, glancing over the upper layer, "I had forgotten
these things. Why didn't you remind me of them? Do see about getting
them sold. You will not mind about parting with them. You gave them all
to me long ago."

She lifted the upper tray and looked below.

"If we can do without them, darling, I would rather keep them for you,"
said Mrs. Davilow, seating herself beside Gwendolen with a feeling of
relief that she was beginning to talk about something. The usual
relation between them had become reversed. It was now the mother who
tried to cheer the daughter. "Why, how came you to put that pocket
handkerchief in here?"

It was the handkerchief with the corner torn off which Gwendolen had
thrust in with the turquoise necklace.

"It happened to be with the necklace--I was in a hurry," said
Gwendolen, taking the handkerchief away and putting it in her pocket.
"Don't sell the necklace, mamma," she added, a new feeling having come
over her about that rescue of it which had formerly been so offensive.

"No, dear, no; it was made out of your dear father's chain. And I
should prefer not selling the other things. None of them are of any
great value. All my best ornaments were taken from me long ago."

Mrs. Davilow colored. She usually avoided any reference to such facts
about Gwendolen's step-father as that he had carried off his wife's
jewelry and disposed of it. After a moment's pause she went on,

"And these things have not been reckoned on for any expenses. Carry
them with you."

"That would be quite useless, mamma," said Gwendolen, coldly.
"Governesses don't wear ornaments. You had better get me a gray frieze
livery and a straw poke, such as my aunt's charity children wear."

"No, dear, no; don't take that view of it. I feel sure the Momperts
will like you the better for being graceful and elegant."

"I am not at all sure what the Momperts will like me to be. It is
enough that I am expected to be what they like," said Gwendolen
bitterly.

"If there is anything you would object to less--anything that could be
done--instead of your going to the bishop's, do say so, Gwendolen. Tell
me what is in your heart. I will try for anything you wish," said the
mother, beseechingly. "Don't keep things away from me. Let us bear them
together."

"Oh, mamma, there is nothing to tell. I can't do anything better. I
must think myself fortunate if they will have me. I shall get some
money for you. That is the only thing I have to think of. I shall not
spend any money this year: you will have all the eighty pounds. I don't
know how far that will go in housekeeping; but you need not stitch your
poor fingers to the bone, and stare away all the sight that the tears
have left in your dear eyes."

Gwendolen did not give any caresses with her words as she had been used
to do. She did not even look at her mother, but was looking at the
turquoise necklace as she turned it over her fingers.

"Bless you for your tenderness, my good darling!" said Mrs. Davilow,
with tears in her eyes. "Don't despair because there are clouds now.
You are so young. There may be great happiness in store for you yet."

"I don't see any reason for expecting it, mamma," said Gwendolen, in a
hard tone; and Mrs. Davilow was silent, thinking as she had often
thought before--"What did happen between her and Mr. Grandcourt?"

"I _will_ keep this necklace, mamma," said Gwendolen, laying it apart
and then closing the casket. "But do get the other things sold, even if
they will not bring much. Ask my uncle what to do with them. I shall
certainly not use them again. I am going to take the veil. I wonder if
all the poor wretches who have ever taken it felt as I do."

"Don't exaggerate evils, dear."

"How can any one know that I exaggerate, when I am speaking of my own
feeling? I did not say what any one else felt."

She took out the torn handkerchief from her pocket again, and wrapped
it deliberately round the necklace. Mrs. Davilow observed the action
with some surprise, but the tone of her last words discouraged her from
asking any question.

The "feeling" Gwendolen spoke of with an air of tragedy was not to be
explained by the mere fact that she was going to be a governess: she
was possessed by a spirit of general disappointment. It was not simply
that she had a distaste for what she was called on to do: the distaste
spread itself over the world outside her penitentiary, since she saw
nothing very pleasant in it that seemed attainable by her even if she
were free. Naturally her grievances did not seem to her smaller than
some of her male contemporaries held theirs to be when they felt a
profession too narrow for their powers, and had an _à priori_
conviction that it was not worth while to put forth their latent
abilities. Because her education had been less expensive than theirs,
it did not follow that she should have wider emotions or a keener
intellectual vision. Her griefs were feminine; but to her as a woman
they were not the less hard to bear, and she felt an equal right to the
Promethean tone.

But the movement of mind which led her to keep the necklace, to fold it
up in the handkerchief, and rise to put it in her _nécessaire_, where
she had first placed it when it had been returned to her, was more
peculiar, and what would be called less reasonable. It came from that
streak of superstition in her which attached itself both to her
confidence and her terror--a superstition which lingers in an intense
personality even in spite of theory and science; any dread or hope for
self being stronger than all reasons for or against it. Why she should
suddenly determine not to part with the necklace was not much clearer
to her than why she should sometimes have been frightened to find
herself in the fields alone: she had a confused state of emotion about
Deronda--was it wounded pride and resentment, or a certain awe and
exceptional trust? It was something vague and yet mastering, which
impelled her to this action about the necklace. There is a great deal
of unmapped country within us which would have to be taken into account
in an explanation of our gusts and storms.



CHAPTER XXV.

    How trace the why and wherefore in a mind reduced to the barrenness of
    a fastidious egoism, in which all direct desires are dulled, and have
    dwindled from motives into a vacillating expectation of motives: a
    mind made up of moods, where a fitful impulse springs here and there
    conspicuously rank amid the general weediness? 'Tis a condition apt to
    befall a life too much at large, unmoulded by the pressure of
    obligation. _Nam deteriores omnes sumus licentiae_, or, as a more
    familiar tongue might deliver it, _"As you like" is a bad finger-post._


Potentates make known their intentions and affect the funds at a small
expense of words. So when Grandcourt, after learning that Gwendolen had
left Leubronn, incidentally pronounced that resort of fashion a beastly
hole, worse than Baden, the remark was conclusive to Mr. Lush that his
patron intended straightway to return to Diplow. The execution was sure
to be slower than the intention, and, in fact, Grandcourt did loiter
through the next day without giving any distinct orders about
departure--perhaps because he discerned that Lush was expecting them:
he lingered over his toilet, and certainly came down with a faded
aspect of perfect distinction which made fresh complexions and hands
with the blood in them, seem signs of raw vulgarity; he lingered on the
terrace, in the gambling-rooms, in the reading-room, occupying himself
in being indifferent to everybody and everything around him. When he
met Lady Mallinger, however, he took some trouble--raised his hat,
paused, and proved that he listened to her recommendation of the waters
by replying, "Yes; I heard somebody say how providential it was that
there always happened to be springs at gambling places."

"Oh, that was a joke," said innocent Lady Mallinger, misled by
Grandcourt's languid seriousness, "in imitation of the old one about
the towns and the rivers, you know."

"Ah, perhaps," said Grandcourt, without change of expression. Lady
Mallinger thought this worth telling to Sir Hugo, who said, "Oh, my
dear, he is not a fool. You must not suppose that he can't see a joke.
He can play his cards as well as most of us."

"He has never seemed to me a very sensible man," said Lady Mallinger,
in excuse of herself. She had a secret objection to meeting Grandcourt,
who was little else to her than a large living sign of what she felt to
be her failure as a wife--the not having presented Sir Hugo with a son.
Her constant reflection was that her husband might fairly regret his
choice, and if he had not been very good might have treated her with
some roughness in consequence, gentlemen naturally disliking to be
disappointed.

Deronda, too, had a recognition from Grandcourt, for which he was not
grateful, though he took care to return it with perfect civility. No
reasoning as to the foundations of custom could do away with the
early-rooted feeling that his birth had been attended with injury for
which his father was to blame; and seeing that but for this injury
Grandcourt's prospects might have been his, he was proudly resolute not
to behave in any way that might be interpreted into irritation on that
score. He saw a very easy descent into mean unreasoning rancor and
triumph in others' frustration; and being determined not to go down
that ugly pit, he turned his back on it, clinging to the kindlier
affections within him as a possession. Pride certainly helped him
well--the pride of not recognizing a disadvantage for one's self which
vulgar minds are disposed to exaggerate, such as the shabby equipage of
poverty: he would not have a man like Grandcourt suppose himself envied
by him. But there is no guarding against interpretation. Grandcourt did
believe that Deronda, poor devil, who he had no doubt was his cousin by
the father's side, inwardly winced under their mutual position;
wherefore the presence of that less lucky person was more agreeable to
him than it would otherwise have been. An imaginary envy, the idea that
others feel their comparative deficiency, is the ordinary _cortège_ of
egoism; and his pet dogs were not the only beings that Grandcourt liked
to feel his power over in making them jealous. Hence he was civil
enough to exchange several words with Deronda on the terrace about the
hunting round Diplow, and even said, "You had better come over for a
run or two when the season begins."

Lush, not displeased with delay, amused himself very well, partly in
gossiping with Sir Hugo and in answering his questions about
Grandcourt's affairs so far as they might affect his willingness to
part with his interest in Diplow. Also about Grandcourt's personal
entanglements, the baronet knew enough already for Lush to feel
released from silence on a sunny autumn day, when there was nothing
more agreeable to do in lounging promenades than to speak freely of a
tyrannous patron behind his back. Sir Hugo willingly inclined his ear
to a little good-humored scandal, which he was fond of calling _traits
de moeurs_; but he was strict in keeping such communications from
hearers who might take them too seriously. Whatever knowledge he had of
his nephew's secrets, he had never spoken of it to Deronda, who
considered Grandcourt a pale-blooded mortal, but was far from wishing
to hear how the red corpuscles had been washed out of him. It was
Lush's policy and inclination to gratify everybody when he had no
reason to the contrary; and the baronet always treated him well, as one
of those easy-handled personages who, frequenting the society of
gentlemen, without being exactly gentlemen themselves, can be the more
serviceable, like the second-best articles of our wardrobe, which we
use with a comfortable freedom from anxiety.

"Well, you will let me know the turn of events," said Sir Hugo, "if
this marriage seems likely to come off after all, or if anything else
happens to make the want of money pressing. My plan would be much
better for him than burdening Ryelands."

"That's true," said Lush, "only it must not be urged on him--just
placed in his way that the scent may tickle him. Grandcourt is not a
man to be always led by what makes for his own interest; especially if
you let him see that it makes for your interest too. I'm attached to
him, of course. I've given up everything else for the sake of keeping
by him, and it has lasted a good fifteen years now. He would not easily
get any one else to fill my place. He's a peculiar character, is
Henleigh Grandcourt, and it has been growing on him of late years.
However, I'm of a constant disposition, and I've been a sort of
guardian to him since he was twenty; an uncommonly fascinating fellow
he was then, to be sure--and could be now, if he liked. I'm attached to
him; and it would be a good deal worse for him if he missed me at his
elbow."

Sir Hugo did not think it needful to express his sympathy or even
assent, and perhaps Lush himself did not expect this sketch of his
motives to be taken as exact. But how can a man avoid himself as a
subject in conversation? And he must make some sort of decent toilet in
words, as in cloth and linen. Lush's listener was not severe: a member
of Parliament could allow for the necessities of verbal toilet; and the
dialogue went on without any change of mutual estimate.

However, Lush's easy prospect of indefinite procrastination was cut off
the next morning by Grandcourt's saluting him with the question,

"Are you making all the arrangements for our starting by the Paris
train?"

"I didn't know you meant to start," said Lush, not exactly taken by
surprise.

"You might have known," said Grandcourt, looking at the burned length
of his cigar, and speaking in that lowered tone which was usual with
him when he meant to express disgust and be peremptory. "Just see to
everything, will you? and mind no brute gets into the same carriage
with us. And leave my P. P. C. at the Mallingers'."

In consequence they were at Paris the next day; but here Lush was
gratified by the proposal or command that he should go straight on to
Diplow and see that everything was right, while Grandcourt and the
valet remained behind; and it was not until several days later that
Lush received the telegram ordering the carriage to the Wanchester
station.

He had used the interim actively, not only in carrying out Grandcourt's
orders about the stud and household, but in learning all he could of
Gwendolen, and how things were going on at Offendene. What was the
probable effect that the news of the family misfortunes would have on
Grandcourt's fitful obstinacy he felt to be quite incalculable. So far
as the girl's poverty might be an argument that she would accept an
offer from him now in spite of any previous coyness, it might remove
that bitter objection to risk a repulse which Lush divined to be one of
Grandcourt's deterring motives; on the other hand, the certainty of
acceptance was just "the sort of thing" to make him lapse hither and
thither with no more apparent will than a moth. Lush had had his patron
under close observation for many years, and knew him perhaps better
than he knew any other subject; but to know Grandcourt was to doubt
what he would do in any particular case. It might happen that he would
behave with an apparent magnanimity, like the hero of a modern French
drama, whose sudden start into moral splendor after much lying and
meanness, leaves you little confidence as to any part of his career
that may follow the fall of the curtain. Indeed, what attitude would
have been more honorable for a final scene than that of declining to
seek an heiress for her money, and determining to marry the attractive
girl who had none? But Lush had some general certainties about
Grandcourt, and one was that of all inward movements those of
generosity were least likely to occur in him. Of what use, however, is
a general certainty that an insect will not walk with his head
hindmost, when what you need to know is the play of inward stimulus
that sends him hither and thither in a network of possible paths? Thus
Lush was much at fault as to the probable issue between Grandcourt and
Gwendolen, when what he desired was a perfect confidence that they
would never be married. He would have consented willingly that
Grandcourt should marry an heiress, or that he should marry Mrs.
Glasher: in the one match there would have been the immediate abundance
that prospective heirship could not supply, in the other there would
have been the security of the wife's gratitude, for Lush had always
been Mrs. Glasher's friend; and that the future Mrs. Grandcourt should
not be socially received could not affect his private comfort. He would
not have minded, either, that there should be no marriage in question
at all; but he felt himself justified in doing his utmost to hinder a
marriage with a girl who was likely to bring nothing but trouble to her
husband--not to speak of annoyance if not ultimate injury to her
husband's old companion, whose future Mr. Lush earnestly wished to make
as easy as possible, considering that he had well deserved such
compensation for leading a dog's life, though that of a dog who enjoyed
many tastes undisturbed, and who profited by a large establishment. He
wished for himself what he felt to be good, and was not conscious of
wishing harm to any one else; unless perhaps it were just now a little
harm to the inconvenient and impertinent Gwendolen. But the
easiest-humored of luxury and music, the toad-eater the least liable to
nausea, must be expected to have his susceptibilities. And Mr. Lush was
accustomed to be treated by the world in general as an apt, agreeable
fellow: he had not made up his mind to be insulted by more than one
person.

With this imperfect preparation of a war policy, Lush was awaiting
Grandcourt's arrival, doing little more than wondering how the campaign
would begin. The first day Grandcourt was much occupied with the
stables, and amongst other things he ordered a groom to put a
side-saddle on Criterion and let him review the horse's paces. This
marked indication of purpose set Lush on considering over again whether
he should incur the ticklish consequences of speaking first, while he
was still sure that no compromising step had been taken; and he rose
the next morning almost resolved that if Grandcourt seemed in as good a
humor as yesterday and entered at all into talk, he would let drop the
interesting facts about Gwendolen and her family, just to see how they
would work, and to get some guidance. But Grandcourt did not enter into
talk, and in answer to a question even about his own convenience, no
fish could have maintained a more unwinking silence. After he had read
his letters he gave various orders to be executed or transmitted by
Lush, and then thrust his shoulder toward that useful person, who
accordingly rose to leave the room. But before he was out of the door
Grandcourt turned his head slightly and gave a broken, languid "Oh."

"What is it?" said Lush, who, it must have been observed, did not take
his dusty puddings with a respectful air.

"Shut the door, will you? I can't speak into the corridor."

Lush closed the door, came forward, and chose to sit down.

After a little pause Grandcourt said, "Is Miss Harleth at Offendene?"
He was quite certain that Lush had made it his business to inquire
about her, and he had some pleasure in thinking that Lush did not want
_him_ to inquire.

"Well, I hardly know," said Lush, carelessly. "The family's utterly
done up. They and the Gascoignes too have lost all their money. It's
owing to some rascally banking business. The poor mother hasn't a
_sou_, it seems. She and the girls have to huddle themselves into a
little cottage like a laborer's."

"Don't lie to me, if you please," said Grandcourt, in his lowest
audible tone. "It's not amusing, and it answers no other purpose."

"What do you mean?" said Lush, more nettled than was common with
him--the prospect before him being more than commonly disturbing.

"Just tell me the truth, will you?"

"It's no invention of mine. I have heard the story from
several--Bazley, Brackenshaw's man, for one. He is getting a new tenant
for Offendene."

"I don't mean that. Is Miss Harleth there, or is she not?" said
Grandcourt, in his former tone.

"Upon my soul, I can't tell," said Lush, rather sulkily. "She may have
left yesterday. I heard she had taken a situation as governess; she may
be gone to it for what I know. But if you wanted to see her no doubt
the mother would send for her back." This sneer slipped off his tongue
without strict intention.

"Send Hutchins to inquire whether she will be there tomorrow." Lush did
not move. Like many persons who have thought over beforehand what they
shall say in given cases, he was impelled by an unexpected irritation
to say some of those prearranged things before the cases were given.
Grandcourt, in fact, was likely to get into a scrape so tremendous that
it was impossible to let him take the first step toward it without
remonstrance. Lush retained enough caution to use a tone of rational
friendliness, still he felt his own value to his patron, and was
prepared to be daring.

"It would be as well for you to remember, Grandcourt, that you are
coming under closer fire now. There can be none of the ordinary
flirting done, which may mean everything or nothing. You must make up
your mind whether you wish to be accepted; and more than that, how you
would like being refused. Either one or the other. You can't be
philandering after her again for six weeks."

Grandcourt said nothing, but pressed the newspaper down on his knees
and began to light another cigar. Lush took this as a sign that he was
willing to listen, and was the more bent on using the opportunity; he
wanted, if possible, to find out which would be the more potent cause
of hesitation--probable acceptance or probable refusal.

"Everything has a more serious look now than it had before. There is
her family to be provided for. You could not let your wife's mother
live in beggary. It will be a confoundedly hampering affair. Marriage
will pin you down in a way you haven't been used to; and in point of
money you have not too much elbow-room. And after all, what will you
get by it? You are master over your estates, present or future, as far
as choosing your heir goes; it's a pity to go on encumbering them for a
mere whim, which you may repent of in a twelvemonth. I should be sorry
to see you making a mess of your life in that way. If there were
anything solid to be gained by the marriage, that would be a different
affair."

Lush's tone had gradually become more and more unctuous in its
friendliness of remonstrance, and he was almost in danger of forgetting
that he was merely gambling in argument. When he left off, Grandcourt
took his cigar out of his mouth, and looking steadily at the moist end
while he adjusted the leaf with his delicate finger-tips, said,

"I knew before that you had an objection to my marrying Miss Harleth."
Here he made a little pause before he continued. "But I never
considered that a reason against it."

"I never supposed you did," answered Lush, not unctuously but dryly.
"It was not _that_ I urged as a reason. I should have thought it might
have been a reason against it, after all your experience, that you
would be acting like the hero of a ballad, and making yourself
absurd--and all for what? You know you couldn't make up your mind
before. It's impossible you can care much about her. And as for the
tricks she is likely to play, you may judge of that from what you heard
at Leubronn. However, what I wished to point out to you was, that there
can be no shilly-shally now."

"Perfectly," said Grandcourt, looking round at Lush and fixing him with
narrow eyes; "I don't intend that there should be. I dare say it's
disagreeable to you. But if you suppose I care a damn for that you are
most stupendously mistaken."

"Oh, well," said Lush, rising with his hands in his pockets, and
feeling some latent venom still within him, "if you have made up your
mind!--only there's another aspect of the affair. I have been speaking
on the supposition that it was absolutely certain she would accept you,
and that destitution would have no choice. But I am not so sure that
the young lady is to be counted on. She is kittle cattle to shoe, I
think. And she had her reasons for running away before." Lush had moved
a step or two till he stood nearly in front of Grandcourt, though at
some distance from him. He did not feel himself much restrained by
consequences, being aware that the only strong hold he had on his
present position was his serviceableness; and even after a quarrel the
want of him was likely sooner or later to recur. He foresaw that
Gwendolen would cause him to be ousted for a time, and his temper at
this moment urged him to risk a quarrel.

"She had her reasons," he repeated more significantly.

"I had come to that conclusion before," said Grandcourt, with
contemptuous irony.

"Yes, but I hardly think you know what her reasons were."

"You do, apparently," said Grandcourt, not betraying by so much as an
eyelash that he cared for the reasons.

"Yes, and you had better know too, that you may judge of the influence
you have over her if she swallows her reasons and accepts you. For my
own part I would take odds against it. She saw Lydia in Cardell Chase
and heard the whole story."

Grandcourt made no immediate answer, and only went on smoking. He was
so long before he spoke that Lush moved about and looked out of the
windows, unwilling to go away without seeing some effect of his daring
move. He had expected that Grandcourt would tax him with having
contrived the affair, since Mrs. Glasher was then living at Gadsmere, a
hundred miles off, and he was prepared to admit the fact: what he cared
about was that Grandcourt should be staggered by the sense that his
intended advances must be made to a girl who had that knowledge in her
mind and had been scared by it. At length Grandcourt, seeing Lush turn
toward him, looked at him again and said, contemptuously, "What
follows?"

Here certainly was a "mate" in answer to Lush's "check"; and though his
exasperation with Grandcourt was perhaps stronger than it had ever been
before, it would have been idiocy to act as if any further move could
be useful. He gave a slight shrug with one shoulder, and was going to
walk away, when Grandcourt, turning on his seat toward the table, said,
as quietly as if nothing had occurred, "Oblige me by pushing that pen
and paper here, will you?"

No thunderous, bullying superior could have exercised the imperious
spell that Grandcourt did. Why, instead of being obeyed, he had never
been told to go to a warmer place, was perhaps a mystery to those who
found themselves obeying him. The pen and paper were pushed to him, and
as he took them he said, "Just wait for this letter."

He scrawled with ease, and the brief note was quickly addressed. "Let
Hutchins go with it at once, will you?" said Grandcourt, pushing the
letter away from him.

As Lush had expected, it was addressed to Miss Harleth, Offendene. When
his irritation had cooled down he was glad there had been no explosive
quarrel; but he felt sure that there was a notch made against him, and
that somehow or other he was intended to pay. It was also clear to him
that the immediate effect of his revelation had been to harden
Grandcourt's previous determination. But as to the particular movements
that made this process in his baffling mind, Lush could only toss up
his chin in despair of a theory.



CHAPTER XXVI.

  He brings white asses laden with the freight
  Of Tyrian vessels, purple, gold and balm,
  To bribe my will: I'll bid them chase him forth,
  Nor let him breathe the taint of his surmise
  On my secure resolve.
                         Ay, 'tis secure:
  And therefore let him come to spread his freight.
  For firmness hath its appetite and craves
  The stronger lure, more strongly to resist;
  Would know the touch of gold to fling it off;
  Scent wine to feel its lip the soberer;
  Behold soft byssus, ivory, and plumes
  To say, "They're fair, but I will none of them,"
  And flout Enticement in the very face.


Mr. Gascoigne one day came to Offendene with what he felt to be the
satisfactory news that Mrs. Mompert had fixed Tuesday in the following
week for her interview with Gwendolen at Wanchester. He said nothing of
his having incidentally heard that Mr. Grandcourt had returned to
Diplow; knowing no more than she did that Leubronn had been the goal of
her admirer's journeying, and feeling that it would be unkind uselessly
to revive the memory of a brilliant prospect under the present
reverses. In his secret soul he thought of his niece's unintelligible
caprice with regret, but he vindicated her to himself by considering
that Grandcourt had been the first to behave oddly, in suddenly walking
away when there had the best opportunity for crowning his marked
attentions. The rector's practical judgment told him that his chief
duty to his niece now was to encourage her resolutely to face the
change in her lot, since there was no manifest promise of any event
that would avert it.

"You will find an interest in varied experience, my dear, and I have no
doubt you will be a more valuable woman for having sustained such a
part as you are called to."

"I cannot pretend to believe that I shall like it," said Gwendolen, for
the first time showing her uncle some petulance. "But I am quite aware
that I am obliged to bear it."

She remembered having submitted to his admonition on a different
occasion when she was expected to like a very different prospect.

"And your good sense will teach you to behave suitably under it," said
Mr. Gascoigne, with a shade more gravity. "I feel sure that Mrs.
Mompert will be pleased with you. You will know how to conduct yourself
to a woman who holds in all senses the relation of a superior to you.
This trouble has come on you young, but that makes it in some respects
easier, and there is a benefit in all chastisement if we adjust our
minds to it."

This was precisely what Gwendolen was unable to do; and after her uncle
was gone, the bitter tears, which had rarely come during the late
trouble, rose and fell slowly as she sat alone. Her heart denied that
the trouble was easier because she was young. When was she to have any
happiness, if it did not come while she was young? Not that her visions
of possible happiness for herself were as unmixed with necessary evil
as they used to be--not that she could still imagine herself plucking
the fruits of life without suspicion of their core. But this general
disenchantment with the world--nay, with herself, since it appeared
that she was not made for easy pre-eminence--only intensified her sense
of forlornness; it was a visibly sterile distance enclosing the dreary
path at her feet, in which she had no courage to tread. She was in that
first crisis of passionate youthful rebellion against what is not fitly
called pain, but rather the absence of joy--that first rage of
disappointment in life's morning, which we whom the years have subdued
are apt to remember but dimly as part of our own experience, and so to
be intolerant of its self-enclosed unreasonableness and impiety. What
passion seems more absurd, when we have got outside it and looked at
calamity as a collective risk, than this amazed anguish that I and not
Thou, He or She, should be just the smitten one? Yet perhaps some who
have afterward made themselves a willing fence before the breast of
another, and have carried their own heart-wound in heroic silence--some
who have made their deeds great, nevertheless began with this angry
amazement at their own smart, and on the mere denial of their fantastic
desires raged as if under the sting of wasps which reduced the universe
for them to an unjust infliction of pain. This was nearly poor
Gwendolen's condition. What though such a reverse as hers had often
happened to other girls? The one point she had been all her life
learning to care for was that it had happened to _her_: it was what
_she_ felt under Klesmer's demonstration that she was not remarkable
enough to command fortune by force of will and merit; it was what _she_
would feel under the rigors of Mrs. Mompert's constant expectation,
under the dull demand that she should be cheerful with three Miss
Momperts, under the necessity of showing herself entirely submissive,
and keeping her thoughts to herself. To be a queen disthroned is not so
hard as some other down-stepping: imagine one who had been made to
believe in his own divinity finding all homage withdrawn, and himself
unable to perform a miracle that would recall the homage and restore
his own confidence. Something akin to this illusion and this
helplessness had befallen the poor spoiled child, with the lovely lips
and eyes and the majestic figure--which seemed now to have no magic in
them.

She rose from the low ottoman where she had been sitting purposeless,
and walked up and down the drawing-room, resting her elbow on one palm
while she leaned down her cheek on the other, and a slow tear fell. She
thought, "I have always, ever since I was little, felt that mamma was
not a happy woman; and now I dare say I shall be more unhappy than she
has been."

Her mind dwelt for a few moments on the picture of herself losing her
youth and ceasing to enjoy--not minding whether she did this or that:
but such picturing inevitably brought back the image of her mother.

"Poor mamma! it will be still worse for her now. I can get a little
money for her--that is all I shall care about now." And then with an
entirely new movement of her imagination, she saw her mother getting
quite old and white, and herself no longer young but faded, and their
two faces meeting still with memory and love, and she knowing what was
in her mother's mind--"Poor Gwen too is sad and faded now"--and then,
for the first time, she sobbed, not in anger, but with a sort of tender
misery.

Her face was toward the door, and she saw her mother enter. She barely
saw that; for her eyes were large with tears, and she pressed her
handkerchief against them hurriedly. Before she took it away she felt
her mother's arms round her, and this sensation, which seemed a
prolongation of her inward vision, overcame her will to be reticent;
she sobbed anew in spite of herself, as they pressed their cheeks
together.

Mrs. Davilow had brought something in her hand which had already caused
her an agitating anxiety, and she dared not speak until her darling had
become calmer. But Gwendolen, with whom weeping had always been a
painful manifestation to be resisted, if possible, again pressed her
handkerchief against her eyes, and, with a deep breath, drew her head
backward and looked at her mother, who was pale and tremulous.

"It was nothing, mamma," said Gwendolen, thinking that her mother had
been moved in this way simply by finding her in distress. "It is all
over now."

But Mrs. Davilow had withdrawn her arms, and Gwendolen perceived a
letter in her hand.

"What is that letter?--worse news still?" she asked, with a touch of
bitterness.

"I don't know what you will think it, dear," said Mrs. Davilow, keeping
the letter in her hand. "You will hardly guess where it comes from."

"Don't ask me to guess anything," said Gwendolen, rather impatiently,
as if a bruise were being pressed.

"It is addressed to you, dear."

Gwendolen gave the slightest perceptible toss of the head.

"It comes from Diplow," said Mrs. Davilow, giving her the letter.

She knew Grandcourt's indistinct handwriting, and her mother was not
surprised to see her blush deeply; but watching her as she read, and
wondering much what was the purport of the letter, she saw the color
die out. Gwendolen's lips even were pale as she turned the open note
toward her mother. The words were few and formal:

Mr. Grandcourt presents his compliments to Miss Harleth, and begs to
know whether he may be permitted to call at Offendene tomorrow after
two and to see her alone. Mr. Grandcourt has just returned from
Leubronn, where he had hoped to find Miss Harleth.

Mrs. Davilow read, and then looked at her daughter inquiringly, leaving
the note in her hand. Gwendolen let it fall to the floor, and turned
away.

"It must be answered, darling," said Mrs. Davilow, timidly. "The man
waits."

Gwendolen sank on the settee, clasped her hands, and looked straight
before her, not at her mother. She had the expression of one who had
been startled by a sound and was listening to know what would come of
it. The sudden change of the situation was bewildering. A few minutes
before she was looking along an inescapable path of repulsive monotony,
with hopeless inward rebellion against the imperious lot which left her
no choice: and lo, now, a moment of choice was come. Yet--was it
triumph she felt most or terror? Impossible for Gwendolen not to feel
some triumph in a tribute to her power at a time when she was first
tasting the bitterness of insignificance: again she seemed to be
getting a sort of empire over her own life. But how to use it? Here
came the terror. Quick, quick, like pictures in a book beaten open with
a sense of hurry, came back vividly, yet in fragments, all that she had
gone through in relation to Grandcourt--the allurements, the
vacillations, the resolve to accede, the final repulsion; the incisive
face of that dark-eyed lady with the lovely boy: her own pledge (was it
a pledge not to marry him?)--the new disbelief in the worth of men and
things for which that scene of disclosure had become a symbol. That
unalterable experience made a vision at which in the first agitated
moment, before tempering reflections could suggest themselves, her
native terror shrank.

Where was the good of choice coming again? What did she wish? Anything
different? No! And yet in the dark seed-growths of consciousness a new
wish was forming itself--"I wish I had never known it!" Something,
anything she wished for that would have saved her from the dread to let
Grandcourt come.

It was no long while--yet it seemed long to Mrs. Davilow, before she
thought it well to say, gently,

"It will be necessary for you to write, dear. Or shall I write an
answer for you--which you will dictate?"

"No, mamma," said Gwendolen, drawing a deep breath. "But please lay me
out the pen and paper."

That was gaining time. Was she to decline Grandcourt's visit--close the
shutters--not even look out on what would happen?--though with the
assurance that she should remain just where she was? The young activity
within her made a warm current through her terror and stirred toward
something that would be an event--toward an opportunity in which she
could look and speak with the former effectiveness. The interest of the
morrow was no longer at a deadlock.

"There is really no reason on earth why you should be so alarmed at the
man's waiting a few minutes, mamma," said Gwendolen, remonstrantly, as
Mrs. Davilow, having prepared the writing materials, looked toward her
expectantly. "Servants expect nothing else than to wait. It is not to
be supposed that I must write on the instant."

"No, dear," said Mrs. Davilow, in the tone of one corrected, turning to
sit down and take up a bit of work that lay at hand; "he can wait
another quarter of an hour, if you like."

It was very simple speech and action on her part, but it was what might
have been subtly calculated. Gwendolen felt a contradictory desire to
be hastened: hurry would save her from deliberate choice.

"I did not mean him to wait long enough for that needlework to be
finished," she said, lifting her hands to stroke the backward curves of
her hair, while she rose from her seat and stood still.

"But if you don't feel able to decide?" said Mrs. Davilow,
sympathizingly.

"I _must_ decide," said Gwendolen, walking to the writing-table and
seating herself. All the while there was a busy undercurrent in her,
like the thought of a man who keeps up a dialogue while he is
considering how he can slip away. Why should she not let him come? It
bound her to nothing. He had been to Leubronn after her: of course he
meant a direct unmistakable renewal of the suit which before had been
only implied. What then? She could reject him. Why was she to deny
herself the freedom of doing this--which she would like to do?

"If Mr. Grandcourt has only just returned from Leubronn," said Mrs.
Davilow, observing that Gwendolen leaned back in her chair after taking
the pen in her hand--"I wonder whether he has heard of our misfortunes?"

"That could make no difference to a man in his position," said
Gwendolen, rather contemptuously,

"It would to some men," said Mrs. Davilow. "They would not like to take
a wife from a family in a state of beggary almost, as we are. Here we
are at Offendene with a great shell over us, as usual. But just imagine
his finding us at Sawyer's Cottage. Most men are afraid of being bored
or taxed by a wife's family. If Mr. Grandcourt did know, I think it a
strong proof of his attachment to you."

Mrs. Davilow spoke with unusual emphasis: it was the first time she had
ventured to say anything about Grandcourt which would necessarily seem
intended as an argument in favor of him, her habitual impression being
that such arguments would certainly be useless and might be worse. The
effect of her words now was stronger than she could imagine: they
raised a new set of possibilities in Gwendolen's mind--a vision of what
Grandcourt might do for her mother if she, Gwendolen, did--what she was
not going to do. She was so moved by a new rush of ideas that, like one
conscious of being urgently called away, she felt that the immediate
task must be hastened: the letter must be written, else it might be
endlessly deferred. After all, she acted in a hurry, as she had wished
to do. To act in a hurry was to have a reason for keeping away from an
absolute decision, and to leave open as many issues as possible.

She wrote: "Miss Harleth presents her compliments to Mr. Grandcourt.
She will be at home after two o'clock to-morrow."

Before addressing the note she said, "Pray ring the bell, mamma, if
there is any one to answer it." She really did not know who did the
work of the house.

It was not till after the letter had been taken away and Gwendolen had
risen again, stretching out one arm and then resting it on her head,
with a low moan which had a sound of relief in it, that Mrs. Davilow
ventured to ask,

"What did you say, Gwen?"

"I said that I should be at home," answered Gwendolen, rather loftily.
Then after a pause, "You must not expect, because Mr. Grandcourt is
coming, that anything is going to happen, mamma."

"I don't allow myself to expect anything, dear. I desire you to follow
your own feeling. You have never told me what that was."

"What is the use of telling?" said Gwendolen, hearing a reproach in
that true statement. "When I have anything pleasant to tell, you may be
sure I will tell you."

"But Mr. Grandcourt will consider that you have already accepted him,
in allowing him to come. His note tells you plainly enough that he is
coming to make you an offer."

"Very well; and I wish to have the pleasure of refusing him."

Mrs. Davilow looked up in wonderment, but Gwendolen implied her wish
not to be questioned further by saying,

"Put down that detestable needle-work, and let us walk in the avenue. I
am stifled."



CHAPTER XXVII.

  Desire has trimmed the sails, and Circumstance
  Brings but the breeze to fill them.


While Grandcourt on his beautiful black Yarico, the groom behind him on
Criterion, was taking the pleasant ride from Diplow to Offendene,
Gwendolen was seated before the mirror while her mother gathered up the
lengthy mass of light-brown hair which she had been carefully brushing.

"Only gather it up easily and make a coil, mamma," said Gwendolen.

"Let me bring you some ear-rings, Gwen," said Mrs. Davilow, when the
hair was adjusted, and they were both looking at the reflection in the
glass. It was impossible for them not to notice that the eyes looked
brighter than they had done of late, that there seemed to be a shadow
lifted from the face, leaving all the lines once more in their placid
youthfulness. The mother drew some inference that made her voice rather
cheerful. "You do want your earrings?"

"No, mamma; I shall not wear any ornaments, and I shall put on my black
silk. Black is the only wear when one is going to refuse an offer,"
said Gwendolen, with one of her old smiles at her mother, while she
rose to throw off her dressing-gown.

"Suppose the offer is not made after all," said Mrs. Davilow, not
without a sly intention.

"Then that will be because I refuse it beforehand," said Gwendolen. "It
comes to the same thing."

There was a proud little toss of the head as she said this; and when
she walked down-stairs in her long black robes, there was just that
firm poise of head and elasticity of form which had lately been
missing, as in a parched plant. Her mother thought, "She is quite
herself again. It must be pleasure in his coming. Can her mind be
really made up against him?"

Gwendolen would have been rather angry if that thought had been
uttered; perhaps all the more because through the last twenty hours,
with a brief interruption of sleep, she had been so occupied with
perpetually alternating images and arguments for and against the
possibility of her marrying Grandcourt, that the conclusion which she
had determined on beforehand ceased to have any hold on her
consciousness: the alternate dip of counterbalancing thoughts begotten
of counterbalancing desires had brought her into a state in which no
conclusion could look fixed to her. She would have expressed her
resolve as before; but it was a form out of which the blood had been
sucked--no more a part of quivering life than the "God's will be done"
of one who is eagerly watching chances. She did not mean to accept
Grandcourt; from the first moment of receiving his letter she had meant
to refuse him; still, that could not but prompt her to look the
unwelcome reasons full in the face until she had a little less awe of
them, could not hinder her imagination from filling out her knowledge
in various ways, some of which seemed to change the aspect of what she
knew. By dint of looking at a dubious object with a constructive
imagination, one can give it twenty different shapes. Her indistinct
grounds of hesitation before the interview at the Whispering Stones, at
present counted for nothing; they were all merged in the final
repulsion. If it had not been for that day in Cardell Chase, she said
to herself now, there would have been no obstacle to her marrying
Grandcourt. On that day and after it, she had not reasoned and
balanced; she had acted with a force of impulse against which all
questioning was no more than a voice against a torrent. The impulse had
come--not only from her maidenly pride and jealousy, not only from the
shock of another woman's calamity thrust close on her vision, but--from
her dread of wrong-doing, which was vague, it was true, and aloof from
the daily details of her life, but not the less strong. Whatever was
accepted as consistent with being a lady she had no scruple about; but
from the dim region of what was called disgraceful, wrong, guilty, she
shrunk with mingled pride and terror; and even apart from shame, her
feeling would have made her place any deliberate injury of another in
the region of guilt.

But now--did she know exactly what was the state of the case with
regard to Mrs. Glasher and her children? She had given a sort of
promise--had said, "I will not interfere with your wishes." But would
another woman who married Grandcourt be in fact the decisive obstacle
to her wishes, or be doing her and her boy any real injury? Might it
not be just as well, nay better, that Grandcourt should marry? For what
could not a woman do when she was married, if she knew how to assert
herself? Here all was constructive imagination. Gwendolen had about as
accurate a conception of marriage--that is to say, of the mutual
influences, demands, duties of man and woman in the state of
matrimony--as she had of magnetic currents and the law of storms.

"Mamma managed badly," was her way of summing up what she had seen of
her mother's experience: she herself would manage quite differently.
And the trials of matrimony were the last theme into which Mrs. Davilow
could choose to enter fully with this daughter.

"I wonder what mamma and my uncle would say if they knew about Mrs.
Glasher!" thought Gwendolen in her inward debating; not that she could
imagine herself telling them, even if she had not felt bound to
silence. "I wonder what anybody would say; or what they would say to
Mr. Grandcourt's marrying some one else and having other children!" To
consider what "anybody" would say, was to be released from the
difficulty of judging where everything was obscure to her when feeling
had ceased to be decisive. She had only to collect her memories, which
proved to her that "anybody" regarded the illegitimate children as more
rightfully to be looked shy on and deprived of social advantages than
illegitimate fathers. The verdict of "anybody" seemed to be that she
had no reason to concern herself greatly on behalf of Mrs. Glasher and
her children.

But there was another way in which they had caused her concern. What
others might think could not do away with a feeling which in the first
instance would hardly be too strongly described as indignation and
loathing that she should have been expected to unite herself with an
outworn life, full of backward secrets which must have been more keenly
felt than any association with _her_. True, the question of love on her
own part had occupied her scarcely at all in relation to Grandcourt.
The desirability of marriage for her had always seemed due to other
feeling than love; and to be enamored was the part of the man, on whom
the advances depended. Gwendolen had found no objection to Grandcourt's
way of being enamored before she had had that glimpse of his past,
which she resented as if it had been a deliberate offense against her.
His advances to _her_ were deliberate, and she felt a retrospective
disgust for them. Perhaps other men's lives were of the same kind--full
of secrets which made the ignorant suppositions of the women they
wanted to marry a farce at which they were laughing in their sleeves.

These feelings of disgust and indignation had sunk deep; and though
other troublous experience in the last weeks had dulled them from
passion into remembrance, it was chiefly their reverberating activity
which kept her firm to the understanding with herself, that she was not
going to accept Grandcourt. She had never meant to form a new
determination; she had only been considering what might be thought or
said. If anything could have induced her to change, it would have been
the prospect of making all things easy for "poor mamma:" that, she
admitted, was a temptation. But no! she was going to refuse him.
Meanwhile, the thought that he was coming to be refused was
inspiriting: she had the white reins in her hands again; there was a
new current in her frame, reviving her from the beaten-down
consciousness in which she had been left by the interview with Klesmer.
She was not now going to crave an opinion of her capabilities; she was
going to exercise her power.

Was this what made her heart palpitate annoyingly when she heard the
horse's footsteps on the gravel?--when Miss Merry, who opened the door
to Grandcourt, came to tell her that he was in the drawing-room? The
hours of preparation and the triumph of the situation were apparently
of no use: she might as well have seen Grandcourt coming suddenly on
her in the midst of her despondency. While walking into the
drawing-room, she had to concentrate all her energy in that
self-control, which made her appear gravely gracious--as she gave her
hand to him, and answered his hope that she was quite well in a voice
as low and languid as his own. A moment afterward, when they were both
of them seated on two of the wreath-painted chairs--Gwendolen upright
with downcast eyelids, Grandcourt about two yards distant, leaning one
arm over the back of his chair and looking at her, while he held his
hat in his left hand--any one seeing them as a picture would have
concluded that they were in some stage of love-making suspense. And
certainly the love-making had begun: she already felt herself being
wooed by this silent man seated at an agreeable distance, with the
subtlest atmosphere of attar of roses and an attention bent wholly on
her. And he also considered himself to be wooing: he was not a man to
suppose that his presence carried no consequences; and he was exactly
the man to feel the utmost piquancy in a girl whom he had not found
quite calculable.

"I was disappointed not to find you at Leubronn," he began, his usual
broken drawl having just a shade of amorous languor in it. "The place
was intolerable without you. A mere kennel of a place. Don't you think
so?"

"I can't judge what it would be without myself," said Gwendolen,
turning her eyes on him, with some recovered sense of mischief. "_With_
myself I like it well enough to have stayed longer, if I could. But I
was obliged to come home on account of family troubles."

"It was very cruel of you to go to Leubronn," said Grandcourt, taking
no notice of the troubles, on which Gwendolen--she hardly knew
why--wished that there should be a clear understanding at once. "You
must have known that it would spoil everything: you knew you were the
heart and soul of everything that went on. Are you quite reckless about
me?"

It would be impossible to say "yes" in a tone that would be taken
seriously; equally impossible to say "no;" but what else could she say?
In her difficulty, she turned down her eyelids again and blushed over
face and neck. Grandcourt saw her in a new phase, and believed that she
was showing her inclination. But he was determined that she should show
it more decidedly.

"Perhaps there is some deeper interest? Some attraction--some
engagement--which it would have been only fair to make me aware of? Is
there any man who stands between us?"

Inwardly the answer framed itself. "No; but there is a woman." Yet how
could she utter this? Even if she had not promised that woman to be
silent, it would have been impossible for her to enter on the subject
with Grandcourt. But how could she arrest his wooing by beginning to
make a formal speech--"I perceive your intention--it is most
flattering, etc."? A fish honestly invited to come and be eaten has a
clear course in declining, but how if it finds itself swimming against
a net? And apart from the network, would she have dared at once to say
anything decisive? Gwendolen had not time to be clear on that point. As
it was, she felt compelled to silence, and after a pause, Grandcourt
said,

"Am I to understand that some one else is preferred?"

Gwendolen, now impatient of her own embarrassment, determined to rush
at the difficulty and free herself. She raised her eyes again and said
with something of her former clearness and defiance, "No"--wishing him
to understand, "What then? I may not be ready to take _you_." There was
nothing that Grandcourt could not understand which he perceived likely
to affect his _amour propre_.

"The last thing I would do, is to importune you. I should not hope to
win you by making myself a bore. If there were no hope for me, I would
ask you to tell me so at once, that I might just ride away to--no
matter where."

Almost to her own astonishment, Gwendolen felt a sudden alarm at the
image of Grandcourt finally riding away. What would be left her then?
Nothing but the former dreariness. She liked him to be there. She
snatched at the subject that would defer any decisive answer.

"I fear you are not aware of what has happened to us. I have lately had
to think so much of my mamma's troubles, that other subjects have been
quite thrown into the background. She has lost all her fortune, and we
are going to leave this place. I must ask you to excuse my seeming
preoccupied."

In eluding a direct appeal Gwendolen recovered some of her
self-possession. She spoke with dignity and looked straight at
Grandcourt, whose long, narrow, impenetrable eyes met hers, and
mysteriously arrested them: mysteriously; for the subtly-varied drama
between man and woman is often such as can hardly be rendered in words
put together like dominoes, according to obvious fixed marks. The word
of all work, Love, will no more express the myriad modes of mutual
attraction, than the word Thought can inform you what is passing
through your neighbor's mind. It would be hard to tell on which
side--Gwendolen's or Grandcourt's--the influence was more mixed. At
that moment his strongest wish was to be completely master of this
creature--this piquant combination of maidenliness and mischief: that
she knew things which had made her start away from him, spurred him to
triumph over that repugnance; and he was believing that he should
triumph. And she--ah, piteous equality in the need to dominate!--she
was overcome like the thirsty one who is drawn toward the seeming water
in the desert, overcome by the suffused sense that here in this man's
homage to her lay the rescue from helpless subjection to an oppressive
lot.

All the while they were looking at each other; and Grandcourt said,
slowly and languidly, as if it were of no importance, other things
having been settled,

"You will tell me now, I hope, that Mrs. Davilow's loss of fortune will
not trouble you further. You will trust me to prevent it from weighing
upon her. You will give me the claim to provide against that."

The little pauses and refined drawlings with which this speech was
uttered, gave time for Gwendolen to go through the dream of a life. As
the words penetrated her, they had the effect of a draught of wine,
which suddenly makes all things easier, desirable things not so wrong,
and people in general less disagreeable. She had a momentary phantasmal
love for this man who chose his words so well, and who was a mere
incarnation of delicate homage. Repugnance, dread, scruples--these were
dim as remembered pains, while she was already tasting relief under the
immediate pain of hopelessness. She imagined herself already springing
to her mother, and being playful again. Yet when Grandcourt had ceased
to speak, there was an instant in which she was conscious of being at
the turning of the ways.

"You are very generous," she said, not moving her eyes, and speaking
with a gentle intonation.

"You accept what will make such things a matter of course?" said
Grandcourt, without any new eagerness. "You consent to become my wife?"

This time Gwendolen remained quite pale. Something made her rise from
her seat in spite of herself and walk to a little distance. Then she
turned and with her hands folded before her stood in silence.

Grandcourt immediately rose too, resting his hat on the chair, but
still keeping hold of it. The evident hesitation of this destitute girl
to take his splendid offer stung him into a keenness of interest such
as he had not known for years. None the less because he attributed her
hesitation entirely to her knowledge about Mrs. Glasher. In that
attitude of preparation, he said,

"Do you command me to go?" No familiar spirit could have suggested to
him more effective words.

"No," said Gwendolen. She could not let him go: that negative was a
clutch. She seemed to herself to be, after all, only drifted toward the
tremendous decision--but drifting depends on something besides the
currents when the sails have been set beforehand.

"You accept my devotion?" said Grandcourt, holding his hat by his side
and looking straight into her eyes, without other movement. Their eyes
meeting in that way seemed to allow any length of pause: but wait as
long as she would, how could she contradict herself? What had she
detained him for? He had shut out any explanation.

"Yes," came as gravely from Gwendolen's lips as if she had been
answering to her name in a court of justice. He received it gravely,
and they still looked at each other in the same attitude. Was there
ever such a way before of accepting the bliss-giving "Yes"? Grandcourt
liked better to be at that distance from her, and to feel under a
ceremony imposed by an indefinable prohibition that breathed from
Gwendolen's bearing.

But he did at length lay down his hat and advance to take her hand,
just pressing his lips upon it and letting it go again. She thought his
behavior perfect, and gained a sense of freedom which made her almost
ready to be mischievous. Her "Yes" entailed so little at this moment
that there was nothing to screen the reversal of her gloomy prospects;
her vision was filled by her own release from the Momperts, and her
mother's release from Sawyer's Cottage. With a happy curl of the lips,
she said,

"Will you not see mamma? I will fetch her."

"Let us wait a little," said Grandcourt, in his favorite attitude,
having his left forefinger and thumb in his waist-coat pocket, and with
his right hand caressing his whisker, while he stood near Gwendolen and
looked at her--not unlike a gentleman who has a felicitous introduction
at an evening party.

"Have you anything else to say to me?" said Gwendolen, playfully.

"Yes--I know having things said to you is a great bore," said
Grandcourt, rather sympathetically.

"Not when they are things I like to hear."

"Will it bother you to be asked how soon we can be married?"

"I think it will, to-day," said Gwendolen, putting up her chin saucily.

"Not to-day, then, but to-morrow. Think of it before I come to-morrow.
In a fortnight--or three weeks--as soon as possible."

"Ah, you think you will be tired of my company," said Gwendolen. "I
notice when people are married the husband is not so much with his wife
as when they are engaged. But perhaps I shall like that better, too."

She laughed charmingly.

"You shall have whatever you like," said Grandcourt.

"And nothing that I don't like?--please say that; because I think I
dislike what I don't like more than I like what I like," said
Gwendolen, finding herself in the woman's paradise, where all her
nonsense is adorable.

Grandcourt paused; these were subtilties in which he had much
experience of his own. "I don't know--this is such a brute of a world,
things are always turning up that one doesn't like. I can't always
hinder your being bored. If you like to ride Criterion, I can't hinder
his coming down by some chance or other."

"Ah, my friend Criterion, how is he?"

"He is outside: I made the groom ride him, that you might see him. He
had the side-saddle on for an hour or two yesterday. Come to the window
and look at him."

They could see the two horses being taken slowly round the sweep, and
the beautiful creatures, in their fine grooming, sent a thrill of
exultation through Gwendolen. They were the symbols of command and
luxury, in delightful contrast with the ugliness of poverty and
humiliation at which she had lately been looking close.

"Will you ride Criterion to-morrow?" said Grandcourt. "If you will,
everything shall be arranged."

"I should like it of all things," said Gwendolen. "I want to lose
myself in a gallop again. But now I must go and fetch mamma."

"Take my arm to the door, then," said Grandcourt, and she accepted.
Their faces were very near each other, being almost on a level, and he
was looking at her. She thought his manners as a lover more agreeable
than any she had seen described. She had no alarm lest he meant to kiss
her, and was so much at her ease, that she suddenly paused in the
middle of the room and said half archly, half earnestly,

"Oh, while I think of it--there is something I dislike that you can
save me from. I do _not_ like Mr. Lush's company."

"You shall not have it. I'll get rid of him."

"You are not fond of him yourself?"

"Not in the least. I let him hang on me because he has always been a
poor devil," said Grandcourt, in an _adagio_ of utter indifference.
"They got him to travel with me when I was a lad. He was always that
coarse-haired kind of brute--sort of cross between a hog and a
_dilettante_."

Gwendolen laughed. All that seemed kind and natural enough:
Grandcourt's fastidiousness enhanced the kindness. And when they
reached the door, his way of opening it for her was the perfection of
easy homage. Really, she thought, he was likely to be the least
disagreeable of husbands.

Mrs. Davilow was waiting anxiously in her bed-room when Gwendolen
entered, stepped toward her quickly, and kissing her on both cheeks
said in a low tone, "Come down, mamma, and see Mr. Grandcourt. I am
engaged to him."

"My darling child," said Mrs. Davilow, with a surprise that was rather
solemn than glad.

"Yes," said Gwendolen, in the same tone, and with a quickness which
implied that it was needless to ask questions. "Everything is settled.
You are not going to Sawyer's Cottage, I am not going to be inspected
by Mrs. Mompert, and everything is to be as I like. So come down with
me immediately."



BOOK IV.--GWENDOLEN GETS HER CHOICE.


CHAPTER XXVIII.

    "Il est plus aisé de connoître l'homme en général que de connoître un
     homme en particulier."--LA ROCHEFOUCAULD.


An hour after Grandcourt had left, the important news of Gwendolen's
engagement was known at the rectory, and Mr. and Mrs. Gascoigne, with
Anna, spent the evening at Offendene.

"My dear, let me congratulate you on having created a strong
attachment," said the rector. "You look serious, and I don't wonder at
it: a lifelong union is a solemn thing. But from the way Mr. Grandcourt
has acted and spoken I think we may already see some good arising out
of our adversity. It has given you an opportunity of observing your
future husband's delicate liberality."

Mr. Gascoigne referred to Grandcourt's mode of implying that he would
provide for Mrs. Davilow--a part of the love-making which Gwendolen had
remembered to cite to her mother with perfect accuracy.

"But I have no doubt that Mr. Grandcourt would have behaved quite as
handsomely if you had not gone away to Germany, Gwendolen, and had been
engaged to him, as you no doubt might have been, more than a month
ago," said Mrs. Gascoigne, feeling that she had to discharge a duty on
this occasion. "But now there is no more room for caprice; indeed, I
trust you have no inclination to any. A woman has a great debt of
gratitude to a man who perseveres in making her such an offer. But no
doubt you feel properly."

"I am not at all sure that I do, aunt," said Gwendolen, with saucy
gravity. "I don't know everything it is proper to feel on being
engaged."

The rector patted her shoulder and smiled as at a bit of innocent
naughtiness, and his wife took his behavior as an indication that she
was not to be displeased. As for Anna, she kissed Gwendolen and said,
"I do hope you will be happy," but then sank into the background and
tried to keep the tears back too. In the late days she had been
imagining a little romance about Rex--how if he still longed for
Gwendolen her heart might be softened by trouble into love, so that
they could by-and-by be married. And the romance had turned to a prayer
that she, Anna, might be able to rejoice like a good sister, and only
think of being useful in working for Gwendolen, as long as Rex was not
rich. But now she wanted grace to rejoice in something else. Miss Merry
and the four girls, Alice with the high shoulders, Bertha and Fanny the
whisperers, and Isabel the listener, were all present on this family
occasion, when everything seemed appropriately turning to the honor and
glory of Gwendolen, and real life was as interesting as "Sir Charles
Grandison." The evening passed chiefly in decisive remarks from the
rector, in answer to conjectures from the two elder ladies. According
to him, the case was not one in which he could think it his duty to
mention settlements: everything must, and doubtless would safely be
left to Mr. Grandcourt.

"I should like to know exactly what sort of places Ryelands and
Gadsmere are," said Mrs. Davilow.

"Gadsmere, I believe, is a secondary place," said Mr. Gascoigne; "But
Ryelands I know to be one of our finest seats. The park is extensive
and the woods of a very valuable order. The house was built by Inigo
Jones, and the ceilings are painted in the Italian style. The estate is
said to be worth twelve thousand a year, and there are two livings, one
a rectory, in the gift of the Grandcourts. There may be some burdens on
the land. Still, Mr. Grandcourt was an only child."

"It would be most remarkable," said Mrs. Gascoigne, "if he were to
become Lord Stannery in addition to everything else. Only think: there
is the Grandcourt estate, the Mallinger estate, _and_ the baronetcy,
_and_ the peerage,"--she was marking off the items on her fingers, and
paused on the fourth while she added, "but they say there will be no
land coming to him with the peerage." It seemed a pity there was
nothing for the fifth finger.

"The peerage," said the rector, judiciously, "must be regarded as a
remote chance. There are two cousins between the present peer and Mr.
Grandcourt. It is certainly a serious reflection how death and other
causes do sometimes concentrate inheritances on one man. But an excess
of that kind is to be deprecated. To be Sir Mallinger Grandcourt
Mallinger--I suppose that will be his style--with corresponding
properties, is a valuable talent enough for any man to have committed
to him. Let us hope it will be well used."

"And what a position for the wife, Gwendolen!" said Mrs. Gascoigne; "a
great responsibility indeed. But you must lose no time in writing to
Mrs. Mompert, Henry. It is a good thing that you have an engagement of
marriage to offer as an excuse, else she might feel offended. She is
rather a high woman."

"I am rid of that horror," thought Gwendolen, to whom the name of
Mompert had become a sort of Mumbo-jumbo. She was very silent through
the evening, and that night could hardly sleep at all in her little
white bed. It was a rarity in her strong youth to be wakeful: and
perhaps a still greater rarity for her to be careful that her mother
should not know of her restlessness. But her state of mind was
altogether new: she who had been used to feel sure of herself, and
ready to manage others, had just taken a decisive step which she had
beforehand thought that she would not take--nay, perhaps, was bound not
to take. She could not go backward now; she liked a great deal of what
lay before her; and there was nothing for her to like if she went back.
But her resolution was dogged by the shadow of that previous resolve
which had at first come as the undoubting movement of her whole being.
While she lay on her pillow with wide-open eyes, "looking on darkness
which the blind do see," she was appalled by the idea that she was
going to do what she had once started away from with repugnance. It was
new to her that a question of right or wrong in her conduct should
rouse her terror; she had known no compunction that atoning caresses
and presents could not lay to rest. But here had come a moment when
something like a new consciousness was awaked. She seemed on the edge
of adopting deliberately, as a notion for all the rest of her life,
what she had rashly said in her bitterness, when her discovery had
driven her away to Leubronn:--that it did not signify what she did; she
had only to amuse herself as best she could. That lawlessness, that
casting away of all care for justification, suddenly frightened her: it
came to her with the shadowy array of possible calamity behind
it--calamity which had ceased to be a mere name for her; and all the
infiltrated influences of disregarded religious teaching, as well as
the deeper impressions of something awful and inexorable enveloping
her, seemed to concentrate themselves in the vague conception of
avenging power. The brilliant position she had longed for, the imagined
freedom she would create for herself in marriage, the deliverance from
the dull insignificance of her girlhood--all immediately before her;
and yet they had come to her hunger like food with the taint of
sacrilege upon it, which she must snatch with terror. In the darkness
and loneliness of her little bed, her more resistant self could not act
against the first onslaught of dread after her irrevocable decision.
That unhappy-faced woman and her children--Grandcourt and his relations
with her--kept repeating themselves in her imagination like the
clinging memory of a disgrace, and gradually obliterated all other
thought, leaving only the consciousness that she had taken those scenes
into her life. Her long wakefulness seemed a delirium; a faint, faint
light penetrated beside the window-curtain; the chillness increased.
She could bear it no longer, and cried "Mamma!"

"Yes, dear," said Mrs. Davilow, immediately, in a wakeful voice.

"Let me come to you."

She soon went to sleep on her mother's shoulder, and slept on till
late, when, dreaming of a lit-up ball-room, she opened her eyes on her
mother standing by the bedside with a small packet in her hand.

"I am sorry to wake you, darling, but I thought it better to give you
this at once. The groom has brought Criterion; he has come on another
horse, and says he is to stay here."

Gwendolen sat up in bed and opened the packet. It was a delicate
enameled casket, and inside was a splendid diamond ring with a letter
which contained a folded bit of colored paper and these words:

    Pray wear this ring when I come at twelve in sign of our betrothal. I
    enclose a check drawn in the name of Mr. Gascoigne, for immediate
    expenses. Of course Mrs. Davilow will remain at Offendene, at least
    for some time. I hope, when I come, you will have granted me an early
    day, when you may begin to command me at a shorter distance.

    Yours devotedly,

    H. M. GRANDCOURT.

The check was for five hundred pounds, and Gwendolen turned it toward
her mother, with the letter.

"How very kind and delicate!" said Mrs. Davilow, with much feeling.
"But I really should like better not to be dependent on a son-in-law. I
and the girls could get along very well."

"Mamma, if you say that again, I will not marry him," said Gwendolen,
angrily.

"My dear child, I trust you are not going to marry only for my sake,"
said Mrs. Davilow, deprecatingly.

Gwendolen tossed her head on the pillow away from her mother, and let
the ring lie. She was irritated at this attempt to take away a motive.
Perhaps the deeper cause of her irritation was the consciousness that
she was not going to marry solely for her mamma's sake--that she was
drawn toward the marriage in ways against which stronger reasons than
her mother's renunciation were yet not strong enough to hinder her. She
had waked up to the signs that she was irrevocably engaged, and all the
ugly visions, the alarms, the arguments of the night, must be met by
daylight, in which probably they would show themselves weak. "What I
long for is your happiness, dear," continued Mrs. Davilow, pleadingly.
"I will not say anything to vex you. Will you not put on the ring?"

For a few moments Gwendolen did not answer, but her thoughts were
active. At last she raised herself with a determination to do as she
would do if she had started on horseback, and go on with spirit,
whatever ideas might be running in her head.

"I thought the lover always put on the betrothal ring himself," she
said laughingly, slipping the ring on her finger, and looking at it
with a charming movement of her head. "I know why he has sent it," she
added, nodding at her mamma.

"Why?"

"He would rather make me put it on than ask me to let him do it. Aha!
he is very proud. But so am I. We shall match each other. I should hate
a man who went down on his knees, and came fawning on me. He really is
not disgusting."

"That is very moderate praise, Gwen."

"No, it is not, for a man," said Gwendolen gaily. "But now I must get
up and dress. Will you come and do my hair, mamma, dear," she went on,
drawing down her mamma's face to caress it with her own cheeks, "and
not be so naughty any more as to talk of living in poverty? You must
bear to be made comfortable, even if you don't like it. And Mr.
Grandcourt behaves perfectly, now, does he not?"

"Certainly he does," said Mrs. Davilow, encouraged, and persuaded that
after all Gwendolen was fond of her betrothed. She herself thought him
a man whose attentions were likely to tell on a girl's feeling. Suitors
must often be judged as words are, by the standing and the figure they
make in polite society: it is difficult to know much else of them. And
all the mother's anxiety turned not on Grandcourt's character, but on
Gwendolen's mood in accepting him.

The mood was necessarily passing through a new phase this morning. Even
in the hour of making her toilet, she had drawn on all the knowledge
she had for grounds to justify her marriage. And what she most dwelt on
was the determination, that when she was Grandcourt's wife, she would
urge him to the most liberal conduct toward Mrs. Glasher's children.

"Of what use would it be to her that I should not marry him? He could
have married her if he liked; but he did _not_ like. Perhaps she is to
blame for that. There must be a great deal about her that I know
nothing of. And he must have been good to her in many ways, else she
would not have wanted to marry him."

But that last argument at once began to appear doubtful. Mrs. Glasher
naturally wished to exclude other children who would stand between
Grandcourt and her own: and Gwendolen's comprehension of this feeling
prompted another way of reconciling claims.

"Perhaps we shall have no children. I hope we shall not. And he might
leave the estate to the pretty little boy. My uncle said that Mr.
Grandcourt could do as he liked with the estates. Only when Sir Hugo
Mallinger dies there will be enough for two."

This made Mrs. Glasher appear quite unreasonable in demanding that her
boy should be sole heir; and the double property was a security that
Grandcourt's marriage would do her no wrong, when the wife was
Gwendolen Harleth with all her proud resolution not to be fairly
accused. This maiden had been accustomed to think herself blameless;
other persons only were faulty.

It was striking, that in the hold which this argument of her doing no
wrong to Mrs. Glasher had taken on her mind, her repugnance to the idea
of Grandcourt's past had sunk into a subordinate feeling. The terror
she had felt in the night-watches at overstepping the border of
wickedness by doing what she had at first felt to be wrong, had dulled
any emotions about his conduct. She was thinking of him, whatever he
might be, as a man over whom she was going to have indefinite power;
and her loving him having never been a question with her, any
agreeableness he had was so much gain. Poor Gwendolen had no awe of
unmanageable forces in the state of matrimony, but regarded it as
altogether a matter of management, in which she would know how to act.
In relation to Grandcourt's past she encouraged new doubts whether he
were likely to have differed much from other men; and she devised
little schemes for learning what was expected of men in general.

But whatever else might be true in the world, her hair was dressed
suitably for riding, and she went down in her riding-habit, to avoid
delay before getting on horseback. She wanted to have her blood stirred
once more with the intoxication of youth, and to recover the daring
with which she had been used to think of her course in life. Already a
load was lifted off her; for in daylight and activity it was less
oppressive to have doubts about her choice, than to feel that she had
no choice but to endure insignificance and servitude.

"Go back and make yourself look like a duchess, mamma," she said,
turning suddenly as she was going down-stairs. "Put your point-lace
over your head. I must have you look like a duchess. You must not take
things humbly."

When Grandcourt raised her left hand gently and looked at the ring, she
said gravely, "It was very good of you to think of everything and send
me that packet."

"You will tell me if there is anything I forget?" he said, keeping the
hand softly within his own. "I will do anything you wish."

"But I am very unreasonable in my wishes," said Gwendolen, smiling.

"Yes, I expect that. Women always are."

"Then I will not be unreasonable," said Gwendolen, taking away her hand
and tossing her head saucily. "I will not be told that I am what women
always are."

"I did not say that," said Grandcourt, looking at her with his usual
gravity. "You are what no other woman is."

"And what is that, pray?" said Gwendolen, moving to a distance with a
little air of menace.

Grandcourt made his pause before he answered. "You are the woman I
love."

"Oh, what nice speeches!" said Gwendolen, laughing. The sense of that
love which he must once have given to another woman under strange
circumstances was getting familiar.

"Give me a nice speech in return. Say when we are to be married."

"Not yet. Not till we have had a gallop over the downs. I am so thirsty
for that, I can think of nothing else. I wish the hunting had begun.
Sunday the twentieth, twenty-seventh, Monday, Tuesday." Gwendolen was
counting on her fingers with the prettiest nod while she looked at
Grandcourt, and at last swept one palm over the other while she said
triumphantly, "It will begin in ten days!"

"Let us be married in ten days, then," said Grandcourt, "and we shall
not be bored about the stables."

"What do women always say in answer to that?" said Gwendolen,
mischievously.

"They agree to it," said the lover, rather off his guard.

"Then I will not!" said Gwendolen, taking up her gauntlets and putting
them on, while she kept her eyes on him with gathering fun in them.

The scene was pleasant on both sides. A cruder lover would have lost
the view of her pretty ways and attitudes, and spoiled all by stupid
attempts at caresses, utterly destructive of drama. Grandcourt
preferred the drama; and Gwendolen, left at ease, found her spirits
rising continually as she played at reigning. Perhaps if Klesmer had
seen more of her in this unconscious kind of acting, instead of when
she was trying to be theatrical, he might have rated her chance higher.

When they had had a glorious gallop, however, she was in a state of
exhilaration that disposed her to think well of hastening the marriage
which would make her life all of apiece with this splendid kind of
enjoyment. She would not debate any more about an act to which she had
committed herself; and she consented to fix the wedding on that day
three weeks, notwithstanding the difficulty of fulfilling the customary
laws of the _trousseau_.

Lush, of course, was made aware of the engagement by abundant signs,
without being formally told. But he expected some communication as a
consequence of it, and after a few days he became rather impatient
under Grandcourt's silence, feeling sure that the change would affect
his personal prospects, and wishing to know exactly how. His tactics no
longer included any opposition--which he did not love for its own sake.
He might easily cause Grandcourt a great deal of annoyance, but it
would be to his own injury, and to create annoyance was not a motive
with him. Miss Gwendolen he would certainly not have been sorry to
frustrate a little, but--after all there was no knowing what would
come. It was nothing new that Grandcourt should show a perverse
wilfulness; yet in his freak about this girl he struck Lush rather
newly as something like a man who was _fey_--led on by an ominous
fatality; and that one born to his fortune should make a worse business
of his life than was necessary, seemed really pitiable. Having
protested against the marriage, Lush had a second-sight for its evil
consequences. Grandcourt had been taking the pains to write letters and
give orders himself instead of employing Lush, and appeared to be
ignoring his usefulness, even choosing, against the habit of years, to
breakfast alone in his dressing-room. But a _tete-à-tete_ was not to be
avoided in a house empty of guests; and Lush hastened to use an
opportunity of saying--it was one day after dinner, for there were
difficulties in Grandcourt's dining at Offendene,

"And when is the marriage to take place?"

Grandcourt, who drank little wine, had left the table and was lounging,
while he smoked, in an easy chair near the hearth, where a fire of oak
boughs was gaping to its glowing depths, and edging them with a
delicate tint of ashes delightful to behold. The chair of red-brown
velvet brocade was a becoming back-ground for his pale-tinted, well-cut
features and exquisite long hands. Omitting the cigar, you might have
imagined him a portrait by Moroni, who would have rendered wonderfully
the impenetrable gaze and air of distinction; and a portrait by that
great master would have been quite as lively a companion as Grandcourt
was disposed to be. But he answered without unusual delay.

"On the tenth."

"I suppose you intend to remain here."

"We shall go to Ryelands for a little while; but we shall return here
for the sake of the hunting."

After this word there was the languid inarticulate sound frequent with
Grandcourt when he meant to continue speaking, and Lush waited for
something more. Nothing came, and he was going to put another question,
when the inarticulate sound began again and introduced the mildly
uttered suggestion,

"You had better make some new arrangement for yourself."

"What! I am to cut and run?" said Lush, prepared to be good-tempered on
the occasion.

"Something of that kind."

"The bride objects to me. I hope she will make up to you for the want
of my services."

"I can't help your being so damnably disagreeable to women," said
Grandcourt, in soothing apology.

"To one woman, if you please."

"It makes no difference since she is the one in question."

"I suppose I am not to be turned adrift after fifteen years without
some provision."

"You must have saved something out of me."

"Deuced little. I have often saved something for you."

"You can have three hundred a year. But you must live in town and be
ready to look after things when I want you. I shall be rather hard up."

"If you are not going to be at Ryelands this winter, I might run down
there and let you know how Swinton goes on."

"If you like. I don't care a toss where you are, so that you keep out
of sight."

"Much obliged," said Lush, able to take the affair more easily than he
had expected. He was supported by the secret belief that he should
by-and-by be wanted as much as ever.

"Perhaps you will not object to packing up as soon as possible," said
Grandcourt. "The Torringtons are coming, and Miss Harleth will be
riding over here."

"With all my heart. Can't I be of use in going to Gadsmere?"

"No. I am going myself."

"About your being rather hard up. Have you thought of that plan--"

"Just leave me alone, will you?" said Grandcourt, in his lowest audible
tone, tossing his cigar into the fire, and rising to walk away.

He spent the evening in the solitude of the smaller drawing-room,
where, with various new publications on the table of the kind a
gentleman may like to have on hand without touching, he employed
himself (as a philosopher might have done) in sitting meditatively on
the sofa and abstaining from literature--political, comic, cynical, or
romantic. In this way hours may pass surprisingly soon, without the
arduous invisible chase of philosophy; not from love of thought, but
from hatred of effort--from a state of the inward world, something like
premature age, where the need for action lapses into a mere image of
what has been, is, and may or might be; where impulse is born and dies
in a phantasmal world, pausing in rejection of even a shadowy
fulfillment. That is a condition which often comes with whitening hair;
and sometimes, too, an intense obstinacy and tenacity of rule, like the
main trunk of an exorbitant egoism, conspicuous in proportion as the
varied susceptibilities of younger years are stripped away.

But Grandcourt's hair, though he had not much of it, was of a fine,
sunny blonde, and his moods were not entirely to be explained as ebbing
energy. We mortals have a strange spiritual chemistry going on within
us, so that a lazy stagnation or even a cottony milkiness may be
preparing one knows not what biting or explosive material. The navvy
waking from sleep and without malice heaving a stone to crush the life
out of his still sleeping comrade, is understood to lack the trained
motive which makes a character fairly calculable in its actions; but by
a roundabout course even a gentleman may make of himself a chancy
personage, raising an uncertainty as to what he may do next, that sadly
spoils companionship.

Grandcourt's thoughts this evening were like the circlets one sees in a
dark pool, continually dying out and continually started again by some
impulse from below the surface. The deeper central impulse came from
the image of Gwendolen; but the thoughts it stirred would be
imperfectly illustrated by a reference to the amatory poets of all
ages. It was characteristic that he got none of his satisfaction from
the belief that Gwendolen was in love with him; and that love had
overcome the jealous resentment which had made her run away from him.
On the contrary, he believed that this girl was rather exceptional in
the fact that, in spite of his assiduous attention to her, she was not
in love with him; and it seemed to him very likely that if it had not
been for the sudden poverty which had come over her family, she would
not have accepted him. From the very first there had been an
exasperating fascination in the tricksiness with which she had--not met
his advances, but--wheeled away from them. She had been brought to
accept him in spite of everything--brought to kneel down like a horse
under training for the arena, though she might have an objection to it
all the while. On the whole, Grandcourt got more pleasure out of this
notion than he could have done out of winning a girl of whom he was
sure that she had a strong inclination for him personally. And yet this
pleasure in mastering reluctance flourished along with the habitual
persuasion that no woman whom he favored could be quite indifferent to
his personal influence; and it seemed to him not unlikely that
by-and-by Gwendolen might be more enamored of him than he of her. In
any case, she would have to submit; and he enjoyed thinking of her as
his future wife, whose pride and spirit were suited to command every
one but himself. He had no taste for a woman who was all tenderness to
him, full of petitioning solicitude and willing obedience. He meant to
be master of a woman who would have liked to master him, and who
perhaps would have been capable of mastering another man.

Lush, having failed in his attempted reminder to Grandcourt, thought it
well to communicate with Sir Hugo, in whom, as a man having perhaps
interest enough to command the bestowal of some place where the work
was light, gentlemanly, and not ill-paid, he was anxious to cultivate a
sense of friendly obligation, not feeling at all secure against the
future need of such a place. He wrote the following letter, and
addressed it to Park Lane, whither he knew the family had returned from
Leubronn:

    MY DEAR SIR HUGO--Since we came home the marriage has been absolutely
    decided on, and is to take place in less than three weeks. It is so
    far the worse for him that her mother has lately lost all her fortune,
    and he will have to find supplies. Grandcourt, I know, is feeling the
    want of cash; and unless some other plan is resorted to, he will be
    raising money in a foolish way. I am going to leave Diplow
    immediately, and I shall not be able to start the topic. What I should
    advise is, that Mr. Deronda, who I know has your confidence, should
    propose to come and pay a short visit here, according to invitation
    (there are going to be other people in the house), and that you should
    put him fully in possession of your wishes and the possible extent of
    your offer. Then, that he should introduce the subject to Grandcourt
    so as not to imply that you suspect any particular want of money on
    his part, but only that there is a strong wish on yours. What I have
    formerly said to him has been in the way of a conjecture that you
    might be willing to give a good sum for his chance of Diplow; but if
    Mr. Deronda came armed with a definite offer, that would take another
    sort of hold. Ten to one he will not close for some time to come; but
    the proposal will have got a stronger lodgment in his mind; and though
    at present he has a great notion of the hunting here, I see a
    likelihood, under the circumstances, that he will get a distaste for
    the neighborhood, and there will be the notion of the money sticking
    by him without being urged. I would bet on your ultimate success. As I
    am not to be exiled to Siberia, but am to be within call, it is
    possible that, by and by, I may be of more service to you. But at
    present I can think of no medium so good as Mr. Deronda. Nothing puts
    Grandcourt in worse humor than having the lawyers thrust their paper
    under his nose uninvited.

    Trusting that your visit to Leubronn has put you in excellent
    condition  for the winter, I remain, my dear Sir Hugo,

    Yours very faithfully,

    THOMAS CRANMER LUSH.

Sir Hugo, having received this letter at breakfast, handed it to
Deronda, who, though he had chambers in town, was somehow hardly ever
in them, Sir Hugo not being contented without him. The chatty baronet
would have liked a young companion even if there had been no peculiar
reasons for attachment between them: one with a fine harmonious
unspoiled face fitted to keep up a cheerful view of posterity and
inheritance generally, notwithstanding particular disappointments; and
his affection for Deronda was not diminished by the deep-lying though
not obtrusive difference in their notions and tastes. Perhaps it was
all the stronger; acting as the same sort of difference does between a
man and a woman in giving a piquancy to the attachment which subsists
in spite of it. Sir Hugo did not think unapprovingly of himself; but he
looked at men and society from a liberal-menagerie point of view, and
he had a certain pride in Deronda's differing from him, which, if it
had found voice, might have said--"You see this fine young fellow--not
such as you see every day, is he?--he belongs to me in a sort of way. I
brought him up from a child; but you would not ticket him off easily,
he has notions of his own, and he's as far as the poles asunder from
what I was at his age." This state of feeling was kept up by the mental
balance in Deronda, who was moved by an affectionateness such as we are
apt to call feminine, disposing him to yield in ordinary details, while
he had a certain inflexibility of judgment, and independence of
opinion, held to be rightfully masculine.

When he had read the letter, he returned it without speaking, inwardly
wincing under Lush's mode of attributing a neutral usefulness to him in
the family affairs.

"What do you say, Dan? It would be pleasant enough for you. You have
not seen the place for a good many years now, and you might have a
famous run with the harriers if you went down next week," said Sir Hugo.

"I should not go on that account," said Deronda, buttering his bread
attentively. He had an objection to this transparent kind of
persuasiveness, which all intelligent animals are seen to treat with
indifference. If he went to Diplow he should be doing something
disagreeable to oblige Sir Hugo.

"I think Lush's notion is a good one. And it would be a pity to lose
the occasion."

"That is a different matter--if you think my going of importance to
your object," said Deronda, still with that aloofness of manner which
implied some suppression. He knew that the baronet had set his heart on
the affair.

"Why, you will see the fair gambler, the Leubronn Diana, I shouldn't
wonder," said Sir Hugo, gaily. "We shall have to invite her to the
Abbey, when they are married," he added, turning to Lady Mallinger, as
if she too had read the letter.

"I cannot conceive whom you mean," said Lady Mallinger, who in fact had
not been listening, her mind having been taken up with her first sips
of coffee, the objectionable cuff of her sleeve, and the necessity of
carrying Theresa to the dentist--innocent and partly laudable
preoccupations, as the gentle lady's usually were. Should her
appearance be inquired after, let it be said that she had reddish
blonde hair (the hair of the period), a small Roman nose, rather
prominent blue eyes and delicate eyelids, with a figure which her
thinner friends called fat, her hands showing curves and dimples like a
magnified baby's.

"I mean that Grandcourt is going to marry the girl you saw at
Leubronn--don't you remember her--the Miss Harleth who used to play at
roulette."

"Dear me! Is that a good match for him?"

"That depends on the sort of goodness he wants," said Sir Hugo,
smiling. "However, she and her friends have nothing, and she will bring
him expenses. It's a good match for my purposes, because if I am
willing to fork out a sum of money, he may be willing to give up his
chance of Diplow, so that we shall have it out and out, and when I die
you will have the consolation of going to the place you would like to
go to--wherever I may go."

"I wish you would not talk of dying in that light way, dear."

"It's rather a heavy way, Lou, for I shall have to pay a heavy
sum--forty thousand, at least."

"But why are we to invite them to the Abbey?" said Lady Mallinger. "I
do _not_ like women who gamble, like Lady Cragstone."

"Oh, you will not mind her for a week. Besides, she is not like Lady
Cragstone because she gambled a little, any more than I am like a
broker because I'm a Whig. I want to keep Grandcourt in good humor, and
to let him see plenty of this place, that he may think the less of
Diplow. I don't know yet whether I shall get him to meet me in this
matter. And if Dan were to go over on a visit there, he might hold out
the bait to him. It would be doing me a great service." This was meant
for Deronda.

"Daniel is not fond of Mr. Grandcourt, I think, is he?" said Lady
Mallinger, looking at Deronda inquiringly.

"There is no avoiding everybody one doesn't happen to be fond of," said
Deronda. "I will go to Diplow--I don't know that I have anything better
to do--since Sir Hugo wishes it."

"That's a trump!" said Sir Hugo, well pleased. "And if you don't find
it very pleasant, it's so much experience. Nothing used to come amiss
to me when I was young. You must see men and manners."

"Yes; but I have seen that man, and something of his manners too," said
Deronda.

"Not nice manners, I think," said Lady Mallinger.

"Well, you see they succeed with your sex," said Sir Hugo, provokingly.
"And he was an uncommonly good-looking fellow when he was two or three
and twenty--like his father. He doesn't take after his father in
marrying the heiress, though. If he had got Miss Arrowpoint and my land
too, confound him, he would have had a fine principality."

Deronda, in anticipating the projected visit, felt less disinclination
than when consenting to it. The story of that girl's marriage did
interest him: what he had heard through Lush of her having run away
from the suit of the man she was now going to take as a husband, had
thrown a new sort of light on her gambling; and it was probably the
transition from that fevered worldliness into poverty which had urged
her acceptance where she must in some way have felt repulsion. All this
implied a nature liable to difficulty and struggle--elements of life
which had a predominant attraction for his sympathy, due perhaps to his
early pain in dwelling on the conjectured story of his own existence.
Persons attracted him, as Hans Meyrick had done, in proportion to the
possibility of his defending them, rescuing them, telling upon their
lives with some sort of redeeming influence; and he had to resist an
inclination, easily accounted for, to withdraw coldly from the
fortunate. But in the movement which had led him to repurchase
Gwendolen's necklace for her, and which was at work in him still, there
was something beyond his habitual compassionate fervor--something due
to the fascination of her womanhood. He was very open to that sort of
charm, and mingled it with the consciously Utopian pictures of his own
future; yet any one able to trace the folds of his character might have
conceived that he would be more likely than many less passionate men to
love a woman without telling her of it. Sprinkle food before a
delicate-eared bird: there is nothing he would more willingly take, yet
he keeps aloof, because of his sensibility to checks which to you are
imperceptible. And one man differs from another, as we all differ from
the Bosjesman, in a sensibility to checks, that come from variety of
needs, spiritual or other. It seemed to foreshadow that capability of
reticence in Deronda that his imagination was much occupied with two
women, to neither of whom would he have held it possible that he should
ever make love. Hans Meyrick had laughed at him for having something of
the knight-errant in his disposition; and he would have found his proof
if he had known what was just now going on in Deronda's mind about
Mirah and Gwendolen.

Deronda wrote without delay to announce his visit to Diplow, and
received in reply a polite assurance that his coming would give great
pleasure. That was not altogether untrue. Grandcourt thought it
probable that the visit was prompted by Sir Hugo's desire to court him
for a purpose which he did not make up his mind to resist; and it was
not a disagreeable idea to him that this fine fellow, whom he believed
to be his cousin under the rose, would witness, perhaps with some
jealousy, Henleigh Mallinger Grandcourt play the commanding part of
betrothed lover to a splendid girl whom the cousin had already looked
at with admiration.

Grandcourt himself was not jealous of anything unless it threatened his
mastery--which he did not think himself likely to lose.



CHAPTER XXIX.

  "Surely whoever speaks to me in the right voice,
     him or her I shall follow.
  As the water follows the moon, silently,
     with fluid steps anywhere around the globe."
                                    --WALT WHITMAN.


"Now my cousins are at Diplow," said Grandcourt, "will you go
there?--to-morrow? The carriage shall come for Mrs. Davilow. You can
tell me what you would like done in the rooms. Things must be put in
decent order while we are away at Ryelands. And to-morrow is the only
day."

He was sitting sideways on a sofa in the drawing-room at Offendene, one
hand and elbow resting on the back, and the other hand thrust between
his crossed knees--in the attitude of a man who is much interested in
watching the person next to him. Gwendolen, who had always disliked
needlework, had taken to it with apparent zeal since her engagement,
and now held a piece of white embroidery which, on examination, would
have shown many false stitches. During the last eight or nine days
their hours had been chiefly spent on horseback, but some margin had
always been left for this more difficult sort of companionship, which,
however, Gwendolen had not found disagreeable. She was very well
satisfied with Grandcourt. His answers to her lively questions about
what he had seen and done in his life, bore drawling very well. From
the first she had noticed that he knew what to say; and she was
constantly feeling not only that he had nothing of the fool in his
composition, but that by some subtle means he communicated to her the
impression that all the folly lay with other people, who did what he
did not care to do. A man who seems to have been able to command the
best, has a sovereign power of depreciation. Then Grandcourt's behavior
as a lover had hardly at all passed the limit of an amorous homage
which was inobtrusive as a wafted odor of roses, and spent all its
effects in a gratified vanity. One day, indeed, he had kissed not her
cheek but her neck a little below her ear; and Gwendolen, taken by
surprise, had started up with a marked agitation which made him rise
too and say, "I beg your pardon--did I annoy you?" "Oh, it was
nothing," said Gwendolen, rather afraid of herself, "only I cannot
bear--to be kissed under my ear." She sat down again with a little
playful laugh, but all the while she felt her heart beating with a
vague fear: she was no longer at liberty to flout him as she had
flouted poor Rex. Her agitation seemed not uncomplimentary, and he had
been contented not to transgress again.

To-day a slight rain hindered riding; but to compensate, a package had
come from London, and Mrs. Davilow had just left the room after
bringing in for admiration the beautiful things (of Grandcourt's
ordering) which lay scattered about on the tables. Gwendolen was just
then enjoying the scenery of her life. She let her hands fall on her
lap, and said with a pretty air of perversity,

"Why is to-morrow the only day?"

"Because the next day is the first with the hounds," said Grandcourt.

"And after that?"

"After that I must go away for a couple of days--it's a bore--but I
shall go one day and come back the next." Grandcourt noticed a change
in her face, and releasing his hand from under his knees, he laid it on
hers, and said, "You object to my going away?"

"It's no use objecting," said Gwendolen, coldly. She was resisting to
the utmost her temptation to tell him that she suspected to whom he was
going--the temptation to make a clean breast, speaking without
restraint.

"Yes it is," said Grandcourt, enfolding her hand. "I will put off
going. And I will travel at night, so as only to be away one day." He
thought that he knew the reason of what he inwardly called this bit of
temper, and she was particularly fascinating to him at this moment.

"Then don't put off going, but travel at night," said Gwendolen,
feeling that she could command him, and finding in this peremptoriness
a small outlet for her irritation.

"Then you will go to Diplow to-morrow?"

"Oh, yes, if you wish it," said Gwendolen, in a high tone of careless
assent. Her concentration in other feelings had really hindered her
from taking notice that her hand was being held.

"How you treat us poor devils of men!" said Grandcourt, lowering his
tone. "We are always getting the worst of it."

"_Are_ you?" said Gwendolen, in a tone of inquiry, looking at him more
naïvely than usual. She longed to believe this commonplace _badinage_
as the serious truth about her lover: in that case, she too was
justified. If she knew everything, Mrs. Glasher would appear more
blamable than Grandcourt. "_Are_ you always getting the worst?"

"Yes. Are you as kind to me as I am to you?" said Grandcourt, looking
into her eyes with his narrow gaze.

Gwendolen felt herself stricken. She was conscious of having received
so much, that her sense of command was checked, and sank away in the
perception that, look around her as she might, she could not turn back:
it was as if she had consented to mount a chariot where another held
the reins; and it was not in her nature to leap out in the eyes of the
world. She had not consented in ignorance, and all she could say now
would be a confession that she had not been ignorant. Her right to
explanation was gone. All she had to do now was to adjust herself, so
that the spikes of that unwilling penance which conscience imposed
should not gall her. With a sort of mental shiver, she resolutely
changed her mental attitude. There had been a little pause, during
which she had not turned away her eyes; and with a sudden break into a
smile, she said,

"If I were as kind to you as you are to me, that would spoil your
generosity: it would no longer be as great as it could be--and it is
that now."

"Then I am not to ask for one kiss," said Grandcourt, contented to pay
a large price for this new kind of love-making, which introduced
marriage by the finest contrast.

"Not one?" said Gwendolen, getting saucy, and nodding at him defiantly.

He lifted her little left hand to his lips, and then released it
respectfully. Clearly it was faint praise to say of him that he was not
disgusting: he was almost charming; and she felt at this moment that it
was not likely she could ever have loved another man better than this
one. His reticence gave her some inexplicable, delightful consciousness.

"Apropos," she said, taking up her work again, "is there any one
besides Captain and Mrs. Torrington at Diplow?--or do you leave them
_tete-à-tete_? I suppose he converses in cigars, and she answers with
her chignon."

"She has a sister with her," said Grandcourt, with his shadow of a
smile, "and there are two men besides--one of them you know, I believe."

"Ah, then, I have a poor opinion of him," said Gwendolen, shaking her
head.

"You saw him at Leubronn--young Deronda--a young fellow with the
Mallingers."

Gwendolen felt as if her heart were making a sudden gambol, and her
fingers, which tried to keep a firm hold on her work, got cold.

"I never spoke to him," she said, dreading any discernible change in
herself. "Is he not disagreeable?"

"No, not particularly," said Grandcourt, in his most languid way. "He
thinks a little too much of himself. I thought he had been introduced
to you."

"No. Some one told me his name the evening before I came away. That was
all. What is he?"

"A sort of ward of Sir Hugo Mallinger's. Nothing of any consequence."

"Oh, poor creature! How very unpleasant for him!" said Gwendolen,
speaking from the lip, and not meaning any sarcasm. "I wonder if it has
left off raining!" she added, rising and going to look out of the
window.

Happily it did not rain the next day, and Gwendolen rode to Diplow on
Criterion as she had done on that former day when she returned with her
mother in the carriage. She always felt the more daring for being in
her riding-dress; besides having the agreeable belief that she looked
as well as possible in it--a sustaining consciousness in any meeting
which seems formidable. Her anger toward Deronda had changed into a
superstitious dread--due, perhaps, to the coercion he had exercised
over her thought--lest the first interference of his in her life might
foreshadow some future influence. It is of such stuff that
superstitions are commonly made: an intense feeling about ourselves
which makes the evening star shine at us with a threat, and the
blessing of a beggar encourage us. And superstitions carry consequences
which often verify their hope or their foreboding.

The time before luncheon was taken up for Gwendolen by going over the
rooms with Mrs. Torrington and Mrs. Davilow; and she thought it likely
that if she saw Deronda, there would hardly be need for more than a bow
between them. She meant to notice him as little as possible.

And after all she found herself under an inward compulsion too strong
for her pride. From the first moment of their being in the room
together, she seemed to herself to be doing nothing but notice him;
everything else was automatic performance of an habitual part.

When he took his place at lunch, Grandcourt had said, "Deronda, Miss
Harleth tells me you were not introduced to her at Leubronn?"

"Miss Harleth hardly remembers me, I imagine," said Deronda, looking at
her quite simply, as they bowed. "She was intensely occupied when I saw
her."

Now, did he suppose that she had not suspected him of being the person
who redeemed her necklace?

"On the contrary. I remember you very well," said Gwendolen, feeling
rather nervous, but governing herself and looking at him in return with
new examination. "You did not approve of my playing at roulette."

"How did you come to that conclusion?" said Deronda, gravely.

"Oh, you cast an evil eye on my play," said Gwendolen, with a turn of
her head and a smile. "I began to lose as soon as you came to look on.
I had always been winning till then."

"Roulette in such a kennel as Leubronn is a horrid bore," said
Grandcourt.

"_I_ found it a bore when I began to lose," said Gwendolen. Her face
was turned toward Grandcourt as she smiled and spoke, but she gave a
sidelong glance at Deronda, and saw his eyes fixed on her with a look
so gravely penetrating that it had a keener edge for her than his
ironical smile at her losses--a keener edge than Klesmer's judgment.
She wheeled her neck round as if she wanted to listen to what was being
said by the rest, while she was only thinking of Deronda. His face had
that disturbing kind of form and expression which threatens to affect
opinion--as if one's standard was somehow wrong. (Who has not seen men
with faces of this corrective power till they frustrated it by speech
or action?) His voice, heard now for the first time, was to
Grandcourt's toneless drawl, which had been in her ears every day, as
the deep notes of a violoncello to the broken discourse of poultry and
other lazy gentry in the afternoon sunshine. Grandcourt, she inwardly
conjectured, was perhaps right in saying that Deronda thought too much
of himself:--a favorite way of explaining a superiority that
humiliates. However the talk turned on the rinderpest and Jamaica, and
no more was said about roulette. Grandcourt held that the Jamaica negro
was a beastly sort of baptist Caliban; Deronda said he had always felt
a little with Caliban, who naturally had his own point of view and
could sing a good song; Mrs. Davilow observed that her father had an
estate in Barbadoes, but that she herself had never been in the West
Indies; Mrs. Torrington was sure she should never sleep in her bed if
she lived among blacks; her husband corrected her by saying that the
blacks would be manageable enough if it were not for the half-breeds;
and Deronda remarked that the whites had to thank themselves for the
half-breeds.

While this polite pea-shooting was going on, Gwendolen trifled with her
jelly, and looked at every speaker in turn that she might feel at ease
in looking at Deronda.

"I wonder what he thinks of me, really? He must have felt interested in
me, else he would not have sent me my necklace. I wonder what he thinks
of my marriage? What notions has he to make him so grave about things?
Why is he come to Diplow?"

These questions ran in her mind as the voice of an uneasy longing to be
judged by Deronda with unmixed admiration--a longing which had had its
seed in her first resentment at his critical glance. Why did she care
so much about the opinion of this man who was "nothing of any
consequence"? She had no time to find the reason--she was too much
engaged in caring. In the drawing-room, when something had called
Grandcourt away, she went quite unpremeditatedly up to Deronda, who was
standing at a table apart, turning over some prints, and said to him,

"Shall you hunt to-morrow, Mr. Deronda?"

"Yes, I believe so."

"You don't object to hunting, then?"

"I find excuses for it. It is a sin I am inclined to--when I can't get
boating or cricketing."

"Do you object to my hunting?" said Gwendolen, with a saucy movement of
the chin.

"I have no right to object to anything you choose to do."

"You thought you had a right to object to my gambling," persisted
Gwendolen.

"I was sorry for it. I am not aware that I told you of my objection,"
said Deronda, with his usual directness of gaze--a large-eyed gravity,
innocent of any intention. His eyes had a peculiarity which has drawn
many men into trouble; they were of a dark yet mild intensity which
seemed to express a special interest in every one on whom he fixed
them, and might easily help to bring on him those claims which ardently
sympathetic people are often creating in the minds of those who need
help. In mendicant fashion we make the goodness of others a reason for
exorbitant demands on them. That sort of effect was penetrating
Gwendolen.

"You hindered me from gambling again," she answered. But she had no
sooner spoken than she blushed over face and neck; and Deronda blushed,
too, conscious that in the little affair of the necklace he had taken a
questionable freedom.

It was impossible to speak further; and she turned away to a window,
feeling that she had stupidly said what she had not meant to say, and
yet being rather happy that she had plunged into this mutual
understanding. Deronda also did not dislike it. Gwendolen seemed more
decidedly attractive than before; and certainly there had been changes
going on within her since that time at Leubronn: the struggle of mind
attending a conscious error had wakened something like a new soul,
which had better, but also worse, possibilities than her former poise
of crude self-confidence: among the forces she had come to dread was
something within her that troubled satisfaction.

That evening Mrs. Davilow said, "Was it really so, or only a joke of
yours, about Mr. Deronda's spoiling your play, Gwen?"

Her curiosity had been excited, and she could venture to ask a question
that did not concern Mr. Grandcourt.

"Oh, it merely happened that he was looking on when I began to lose,"
said Gwendolen, carelessly. "I noticed him."

"I don't wonder at that: he is a striking young man. He puts me in mind
of Italian paintings. One would guess, without being told, that there
was foreign blood in his veins."

"Is there?" said Gwendolen.

"Mrs. Torrington says so. I asked particularly who he was, and she told
me that his mother was some foreigner of high rank."

"His mother?" said Gwendolen, rather sharply. "Then who was his father?"

"Well--every one says he is the son of Sir Hugo Mallinger, who brought
him up; though he passes for a ward. She says, if Sir Hugo Mallinger
could have done as he liked with his estates, he would have left them
to this Mr. Deronda, since he has no legitimate son."

Gwendolen was silent; but her mother observed so marked an effect in
her face that she was angry with herself for having repeated Mrs.
Torrington's gossip. It seemed, on reflection, unsuited to the ear of
her daughter, for whom Mrs. Davilow disliked what is called knowledge
of the world; and indeed she wished that she herself had not had any of
it thrust upon her.

An image which had immediately arisen in Gwendolen's mind was that of
the unknown mother--no doubt a dark-eyed woman--probably sad. Hardly
any face could be less like Deronda's than that represented as Sir
Hugo's in a crayon portrait at Diplow. A dark-eyed woman, no longer
young, had become "stuff o' the conscience" to Gwendolen.

That night when she had got into her little bed, and only a dim light
was burning, she said,

"Mamma, have men generally children before they are married?"

"No, dear, no," said Mrs. Davilow. "Why do you ask such a question?"
(But she began to think that she saw the why.)

"If it were so, I ought to know," said Gwendolen, with some indignation.

"You are thinking of what I said about Mr. Deronda and Sir Hugo
Mallinger. That is a very unusual case, dear."

"Does Lady Mallinger know?"

"She knows enough to satisfy her. That is quite clear, because Mr.
Deronda has lived with them."

"And people think no worse of him?"

"Well, of course he is under some disadvantage: it is not as if he were
Lady Mallinger's son. He does not inherit the property, and he is not
of any consequence in the world. But people are not obliged to know
anything about his birth; you see, he is very well received."

"I wonder whether he knows about it; and whether he is angry with his
father?"

"My dear child, why should you think of that?"

"Why?" said Gwendolen, impetuously, sitting up in her bed. "Haven't
children reason to be angry with their parents? How can they help their
parents marrying or not marrying?"

But a consciousness rushed upon her, which made her fall back again on
her pillow. It was not only what she would have felt months
before--that she might seem to be reproaching her mother for that
second marriage of hers; what she chiefly felt now was that she had
been led on to a condemnation which seemed to make her own marriage a
forbidden thing.

There was no further talk, and till sleep came over her Gwendolen lay
struggling with the reasons against that marriage--reasons which
pressed upon her newly now that they were unexpectedly mirrored in the
story of a man whose slight relations with her had, by some hidden
affinity, bitten themselves into the most permanent layers of feeling.
It was characteristic that, with all her debating, she was never
troubled by the question whether the indefensibleness of her marriage
did not include the fact that she had accepted Grandcourt solely as a
man whom it was convenient for her to marry, not in the least as one to
whom she would be binding herself in duty. Gwendolen's ideas were
pitiably crude; but many grand difficulties of life are apt to force
themselves on us in our crudity. And to judge wisely, I suppose we must
know how things appear to the unwise; that kind of appearance making
the larger part of the world's history.

In the morning there was a double excitement for her. She was going to
hunt, from which scruples about propriety had threatened to hinder her,
until it was found that Mrs. Torrington was horsewoman enough to
accompany her--going to hunt for the first time since her escapade with
Rex; and she was going again to see Deronda, in whom, since last night,
her interest had so gathered that she expected, as people do about
revealed celebrities, to see something in his appearance which she had
missed before.

What was he going to be? What sort of life had he before him--he being
nothing of any consequence? And with only a little difference in events
he might have been as important as Grandcourt, nay--her imagination
inevitably went into that direction--might have held the very estates
which Grandcourt was to have. But now, Deronda would probably some day
see her mistress of the Abbey at Topping, see her bearing the title
which would have been his own wife's. These obvious, futile thoughts of
what might have been, made a new epoch for Gwendolen. She, whose
unquestionable habit it had been to take the best that came to her for
less than her own claim, had now to see the position which tempted her
in a new light, as a hard, unfair exclusion of others. What she had now
heard about Deronda seemed to her imagination to throw him into one
group with Mrs. Glasher and her children; before whom she felt herself
in an attitude of apology--she who had hitherto been surrounded by a
group that in her opinion had need be apologetic to her. Perhaps
Deronda himself was thinking of these things. Could he know of Mrs.
Glasher? If he knew that she knew, he would despise her; but he could
have no such knowledge. Would he, without that, despise her for
marrying Grandcourt? His possible judgment of her actions was telling
on her as importunately as Klesmer's judgment of her powers; but she
found larger room for resistance to a disapproval of her marriage,
because it is easier to make our conduct seem justifiable to ourselves
than to make our ability strike others. "How can I help it?" is not our
favorite apology for incompetency. But Gwendolen felt some strength in
saying,

"How can I help what other people have done? Things would not come
right if I were to turn round now and declare that I would not marry
Mr. Grandcourt." And such turning round was out of the question. The
horses in the chariot she had mounted were going at full speed.

This mood of youthful, elated desperation had a tidal recurrence. She
could dare anything that lay before her sooner than she could choose to
go backward, into humiliation; and it was even soothing to think that
there would now be as much ill-doing in the one as in the other. But
the immediate delightful fact was the hunt, where she would see
Deronda, and where he would see her; for always lurking ready to
obtrude before other thoughts about him was the impression that he was
very much interested in her. But to-day she was resolved not to repeat
her folly of yesterday, as if she were anxious to say anything to him.
Indeed, the hunt would be too absorbing.

And so it was for a long while. Deronda was there, and within her sight
very often; but this only added to the stimulus of a pleasure which
Gwendolen had only once before tasted, and which seemed likely always
to give a delight independent of any crosses, except such as took away
the chance of riding. No accident happened to throw them together; the
run took them within convenient reach of home, and the agreeable
sombreness of the gray November afternoon, with a long stratum of
yellow light in the west, Gwendolen was returning with the company from
Diplow, who were attending her on the way to Offendene. Now the sense
of glorious excitement was over and gone, she was getting irritably
disappointed that she had had no opportunity of speaking to Deronda,
whom she would not see again, since he was to go away in a couple of
days. What was she going to say? That was not quite certain. She wanted
to speak to him. Grandcourt was by her side; Mrs. Torrington, her
husband, and another gentleman in advance; and Deronda's horse she
could hear behind. The wish to speak to him and have him speaking to
her was becoming imperious; and there was no chance of it unless she
simply asserted her will and defied everything. Where the order of
things could give way to Miss Gwendolen, it must be made to do so. They
had lately emerged from a wood of pines and beeches, where the twilight
stillness had a repressing effect, which increased her impatience. The
horse-hoofs again heard behind at some little distance were a growing
irritation. She reined in her horse and looked behind her; Grandcourt
after a few paces, also paused; but she, waving her whip and nodding
sideways with playful imperiousness, said, "Go on! I want to speak to
Mr. Deronda."

Grandcourt hesitated; but that he would have done after any
proposition. It was an awkward situation for him. No gentleman, before
marriage, could give the emphasis of refusal to a command delivered in
this playful way. He rode on slowly, and she waited till Deronda came
up. He looked at her with tacit inquiry, and she said at once, letting
her horse go alongside of his,

"Mr. Deronda, you must enlighten my ignorance. I want to know why you
thought it wrong for me to gamble. Is it because I am a woman?"

"Not altogether; but I regretted it the more because you were a woman,"
said Deronda, with an irrepressible smile. Apparently it must be
understood between them now that it was he who sent the necklace. "I
think it would be better for men not to gamble. It is a besotting kind
of taste, likely to turn into a disease. And, besides, there is
something revolting to me in raking a heap of money together, and
internally chuckling over it, when others are feeling the loss of it. I
should even call it base, if it were more than an exceptional lapse.
There are enough inevitable turns of fortune which force us to see that
our gain is another's loss:--that is one of the ugly aspects of life.
One would like to reduce it as much as one could, not get amusement out
of exaggerating it." Deronda's voice had gathered some indignation
while he was speaking.

"But you do admit that we can't help things," said Gwendolen, with a
drop in her tone. The answer had not been anything like what she had
expected. "I mean that things are so in spite of us; we can't always
help it that our gain is another's loss."

"Clearly. Because of that, we should help it where we can."

Gwendolen, biting her lip inside, paused a moment, and then forcing
herself to speak with an air of playfulness again, said,

"But why should you regret it more because I am a woman?"

"Perhaps because we need that you should be better than we are."

"But suppose _we_ need that men should be better than we are," said
Gwendolen with a little air of "check!"

"That is rather a difficulty," said Deronda, smiling. "I suppose I
should have said, we each of us think it would be better for the other
to be good."

"You see, I needed you to be better than I was--and you thought so,"
said Gwendolen, nodding and laughing, while she put her horse forward
and joined Grandcourt, who made no observation.

"Don't you want to know what I had to say to Mr. Deronda?" said
Gwendolen, whose own pride required her to account for her conduct.

"A--no," said Grandcourt, coldly.

"Now that is the first impolite word you have spoken--that you don't
wish to hear what I had to say," said Gwendolen, playing at a pout.

"I wish to hear what you say to me--not to other men," said Grandcourt.

"Then you wish to hear this. I wanted to make him tell me why he
objected to my gambling, and he gave me a little sermon."

"Yes--but excuse me the sermon." If Gwendolen imagined that Grandcourt
cared about her speaking to Deronda, he wished her to understand that
she was mistaken. But he was not fond of being told to ride on. She saw
he was piqued, but did not mind. She had accomplished her object of
speaking again to Deronda before he raised his hat and turned with the
rest toward Diplow, while her lover attended her to Offendene, where he
was to bid farewell before a whole day's absence on the unspecified
journey. Grandcourt had spoken truth in calling the journey a bore: he
was going by train to Gadsmere.



CHAPTER XXX.

  No penitence and no confessional,
  No priest ordains it, yet they're forced to sit
  Amid deep ashes of their vanished years.


Imagine a rambling, patchy house, the best part built of gray stone,
and red-tiled, a round tower jutting at one of the corners, the mellow
darkness of its conical roof surmounted by a weather-cock making an
agreeable object either amidst the gleams and greenth of summer or the
low-hanging clouds and snowy branches of winter: the ground shady with
spreading trees: a great tree flourishing on one side, backward some
Scotch firs on a broken bank where the roots hung naked, and beyond, a
rookery: on the other side a pool overhung with bushes, where the
water-fowl fluttered and screamed: all around, a vast meadow which
might be called a park, bordered by an old plantation and guarded by
stone lodges which looked like little prisons. Outside the gate the
country, once entirely rural and lovely, now black with coal mines, was
chiefly peopled by men and brethren with candles stuck in their hats,
and with a diabolic complexion which laid them peculiarly open to
suspicion in the eyes of the children at Gadsmere--Mrs. Glasher's four
beautiful children, who had dwelt there for about three years. Now, in
November, when the flower-beds were empty, the trees leafless, and the
pool blackly shivering, one might have said that the place was sombrely
in keeping with the black roads and black mounds which seemed to put
the district in mourning;--except when the children were playing on the
gravel with the dogs for their companions. But Mrs. Glasher, under her
present circumstances, liked Gadsmere as well as she would have liked
any other abode. The complete seclusion of the place, which the
unattractiveness of the country secured, was exactly to her taste. When
she drove her two ponies with a waggonet full of children, there were
no gentry in carriages to be met, only men of business in gigs; at
church there were no eyes she cared to avoid, for the curate's wife and
the curate himself were either ignorant of anything to her
disadvantage, or ignored it: to them she was simply a widow lady, the
tenant of Gadsmere; and the name of Grandcourt was of little interest
in that district compared with the names of Fletcher and Gawcome, the
lessees of the collieries.

It was full ten years since the elopement of an Irish officer's
beautiful wife with young Grandcourt, and a consequent duel where the
bullets wounded the air only, had made some little noise. Most of those
who remembered the affair now wondered what had become of that Mrs.
Glasher, whose beauty and brilliancy had made her rather conspicuous to
them in foreign places, where she was known to be living with young
Grandcourt.

That he should have disentangled himself from that connection seemed
only natural and desirable. As to her, it was thought that a woman who
was understood to have forsaken her child along with her husband had
probably sunk lower. Grandcourt had of course got weary of her. He was
much given to the pursuit of women: but a man in his position would by
this time desire to make a suitable marriage with the fair young
daughter of a noble house. No one talked of Mrs. Glasher now, any more
than they talked of the victim in a trial for manslaughter ten years
before: she was a lost vessel after whom nobody would send out an
expedition of search; but Grandcourt was seen in harbor with his colors
flying, registered as seaworthy as ever.

Yet, in fact, Grandcourt had never disentangled himself from Mrs.
Glasher. His passion for her had been the strongest and most lasting he
had ever known; and though it was now as dead as the music of a cracked
flute, it had left a certain dull disposedness, which, on the death of
her husband three years before, had prompted in him a vacillating
notion of marrying her, in accordance with the understanding often
expressed between them during the days of his first ardor. At that
early time Grandcourt would willingly have paid for the freedom to be
won by a divorce; but the husband would not oblige him, not wanting to
be married again himself, and not wishing to have his domestic habits
printed in evidence.

The altered poise which the years had brought in Mrs. Glasher was just
the reverse. At first she was comparatively careless about the
possibility of marriage. It was enough that she had escaped from a
disagreeable husband and found a sort of bliss with a lover who had
completely fascinated her--young, handsome, amorous, and living in the
best style, with equipage and conversation of the kind to be expected
in young men of fortune who have seen everything. She was an
impassioned, vivacious woman, fond of adoration, exasperated by five
years of marital rudeness; and the sense of release was so strong upon
her that it stilled anxiety for more than she actually enjoyed. An
equivocal position was of no importance to her then; she had no envy
for the honors of a dull, disregarded wife: the one spot which spoiled
her vision of her new pleasant world, was the sense that she left her
three-year-old boy, who died two years afterward, and whose first tones
saying "mamma" retained a difference from those of the children that
came after. But now the years had brought many changes besides those in
the contour of her cheek and throat; and that Grandcourt should marry
her had become her dominant desire. The equivocal position which she
had not minded about for herself was now telling upon her through her
children, whom she loved with a devotion charged with the added passion
of atonement. She had no repentance except in this direction. If
Grandcourt married her, the children would be none the worse off for
what had passed: they would see their mother in a dignified position,
and they would be at no disadvantage with the world: her son could be
made his father's heir. It was the yearning for this result which gave
the supreme importance to Grandcourt's feeling for her; her love for
him had long resolved itself into anxiety that he should give her the
unique, permanent claim of a wife, and she expected no other happiness
in marriage than the satisfaction of her maternal love and
pride--including her pride for herself in the presence of her children.
For the sake of that result she was prepared even with a tragic
firmness to endure anything quietly in marriage; and she had acuteness
enough to cherish Grandcourt's flickering purpose negatively, by not
molesting him with passionate appeals and with scene-making. In her, as
in every one else who wanted anything of him, his incalculable turns,
and his tendency to harden under beseeching, had created a reasonable
dread:--a slow discovery, of which no presentiment had been given in
the bearing of a youthful lover with a fine line of face and the
softest manners. But reticence had necessarily cost something to this
impassioned woman, and she was the bitterer for it. There is no
quailing--even that forced on the helpless and injured--which has not
an ugly obverse: the withheld sting was gathering venom. She was
absolutely dependent on Grandcourt; for though he had been always
liberal in expenses for her, he had kept everything voluntary on his
part; and with the goal of marriage before her, she would ask for
nothing less. He had said that he would never settle anything except by
will; and when she was thinking of alternatives for the future it often
occurred to her that, even if she did not become Grandcourt's wife, he
might never have a son who would have a legitimate claim on him, and
the end might be that her son would be made heir to the best part of
his estates. No son at that early age could promise to have more of his
father's physique. But her becoming Grandcourt's wife was so far from
being an extravagant notion of possibility, that even Lush had
entertained it, and had said that he would as soon bet on it as on any
other likelihood with regard to his familiar companion. Lush, indeed,
on inferring that Grandcourt had a preconception of using his residence
at Diplow in order to win Miss Arrowpoint, had thought it well to fan
that project, taking it as a tacit renunciation of the marriage with
Mrs. Glasher, which had long been a mark for the hovering and wheeling
of Grandcourt's caprice. But both prospects had been negatived by
Gwendolen's appearance on the scene; and it was natural enough for Mrs.
Glasher to enter with eagerness into Lush's plan of hindering that new
danger by setting up a barrier in the mind of the girl who was being
sought as a bride. She entered into it with an eagerness which had
passion in it as well as purpose, some of the stored-up venom
delivering itself in that way.

After that, she had heard from Lush of Gwendolen's departure, and the
probability that all danger from her was got rid of; but there had been
no letter to tell her that the danger had returned and had become a
certainty. She had since then written to Grandcourt, as she did
habitually, and he had been longer than usual in answering. She was
inferring that he might intend coming to Gadsmere at the time when he
was actually on the way; and she was not without hope--what
construction of another's mind is not strong wishing equal to?--that a
certain sickening from that frustrated courtship might dispose him to
slip the more easily into the old track of intention.

Grandcourt had two grave purposes in coming to Gadsmere: to convey the
news of his approaching marriage in person, in order to make this first
difficulty final; and to get from Lydia his mother's diamonds, which
long ago he had confided to her and wished her to wear. Her person
suited diamonds, and made them look as if they were worth some of the
money given for them. These particular diamonds were not mountains of
light--they were mere peas and haricots for the ears, neck and hair;
but they were worth some thousands, and Grandcourt necessarily wished
to have them for his wife. Formerly when he had asked Lydia to put them
into his keeping again, simply on the ground that they would be safer
and ought to be deposited at the bank, she had quietly but absolutely
refused, declaring that they were quite safe; and at last had said, "If
you ever marry another woman I will give them up to her: are you going
to marry another woman?" At that time Grandcourt had no motive which
urged him to persist, and he had this grace in him, that the
disposition to exercise power either by cowing or disappointing others
or exciting in them a rage which they dared not express--a disposition
which was active in him as other propensities became languid--had
always been in abeyance before Lydia. A severe interpreter might say
that the mere facts of their relation to each other, the melancholy
position of this woman who depended on his will, made a standing
banquet for his delight in dominating. But there was something else
than this in his forbearance toward her: there was the surviving though
metamorphosed effect of the power she had had over him; and it was this
effect, the fitful dull lapse toward solicitations that once had the
zest now missing from life, which had again and again inclined him to
espouse a familiar past rather than rouse himself to the expectation of
novelty. But now novelty had taken hold of him and urged him to make
the most of it.

Mrs. Glasher was seated in the pleasant room where she habitually
passed her mornings with her children round her. It had a square
projecting window and looked on broad gravel and grass, sloping toward
a little brook that entered the pool. The top of a low, black cabinet,
the old oak table, the chairs in tawny leather, were littered with the
children's toys, books and garden garments, at which a maternal lady in
pastel looked down from the walls with smiling indulgence. The children
were all there. The three girls, seated round their mother near the
widow, were miniature portraits of her--dark-eyed, delicate-featured
brunettes with a rich bloom on their cheeks, their little nostrils and
eyebrows singularly finished as if they were tiny women, the eldest
being barely nine. The boy was seated on the carpet at some distance,
bending his blonde head over the animals from a Noah's ark, admonishing
them separately in a voice of threatening command, and occasionally
licking the spotted ones to see if the colors would hold. Josephine,
the eldest, was having her French lesson; and the others, with their
dolls on their laps, sat demurely enough for images of the Madonna.
Mrs. Glasher's toilet had been made very carefully--each day now she
said to herself that Grandcourt might come in. Her head, which, spite
of emaciation, had an ineffaceable beauty in the fine profile, crisp
curves of hair, and clearly-marked eyebrows, rose impressively above
her bronze-colored silk and velvet, and the gold necklace which
Grandcourt had first clasped round her neck years ago. Not that she had
any pleasure in her toilet; her chief thought of herself seen in the
glass was, "How changed!"--but such good in life as remained to her she
would keep. If her chief wish were fulfilled, she could imagine herself
getting the comeliness of a matron fit for the highest rank. The little
faces beside her, almost exact reductions of her own, seemed to tell of
the blooming curves which had once been where now was sunken pallor.
But the children kissed the pale cheeks and never found them deficient.
That love was now the one end of her life.

Suddenly Mrs. Glasher turned away her head from Josephine's book and
listened. "Hush, dear! I think some one is coming."

Henleigh the boy jumped up and said, "Mamma, is it the miller with my
donkey?"

He got no answer, and going up to his mamma's knee repeated his
question in an insistent tone. But the door opened, and the servant
announced Mr. Grandcourt. Mrs. Glasher rose in some agitation. Henleigh
frowned at him in disgust at his not being the miller, and the three
little girls lifted up their dark eyes to him timidly. They had none of
them any particular liking for this friend of mamma's--in fact, when he
had taken Mrs. Glasher's hand and then turned to put his other hand on
Henleigh's head, that energetic scion began to beat the friend's arm
away with his fists. The little girls submitted bashfully to be patted
under the chin and kissed, but on the whole it seemed better to send
them into the garden, where they were presently dancing and chatting
with the dogs on the gravel.

"How far are you come?" said Mrs. Glasher, as Grandcourt put away his
hat and overcoat.

"From Diplow," he answered slowly, seating himself opposite her and
looking at her with an unnoting gaze which she noted.

"You are tired, then."

"No, I rested at the Junction--a hideous hole. These railway journeys
are always a confounded bore. But I had coffee and smoked."

Grandcourt drew out his handkerchief, rubbed his face, and in returning
the handkerchief to his pocket looked at his crossed knee and blameless
boot, as if any stranger were opposite to him, instead of a woman
quivering with a suspense which every word and look of his was to
incline toward hope or dread. But he was really occupied with their
interview and what it was likely to include. Imagine the difference in
rate of emotion between this woman whom the years had worn to a more
conscious dependence and sharper eagerness, and this man whom they were
dulling into a more neutral obstinacy.

"I expected to see you--it was so long since I had heard from you. I
suppose the weeks seem longer at Gadsmere than they do at Diplow," said
Mrs. Glasher. She had a quick, incisive way of speaking that seemed to
go with her features, as the tone and _timbre_ of a violin go with its
form.

"Yes," drawled Grandcourt. "But you found the money paid into the bank."

"Oh, yes," said Mrs. Glasher, curtly, tingling with impatience. Always
before--at least she fancied so--Grandcourt had taken more notice of
her and the children than he did to-day.

"Yes," he resumed, playing with his whisker, and at first not looking
at her, "the time has gone on at rather a rattling pace with me;
generally it is slow enough. But there has been a good deal happening,
as you know"--here he turned his eyes upon her.

"What do I know?" said she, sharply.

He left a pause before he said, without change of manner, "That I was
thinking of marrying. You saw Miss Harleth?"

"_She_ told you that?"

The pale cheeks looked even paler, perhaps from the fierce brightness
in the eyes above them.

"No. Lush told me," was the slow answer. It was as if the thumb-screw
and the iron boot were being placed by creeping hands within sight of
the expectant victim.

"Good God! say at once that you are going to marry her," she burst out,
passionately, her knees shaking and her hands tightly clasped.

"Of course, this kind of thing must happen some time or other, Lydia,"
said he; really, now the thumb-screw was on, not wishing to make the
pain worse.

"You didn't always see the necessity."

"Perhaps not. I see it now."

In those few under-toned words of Grandcourt's she felt as absolute a
resistance as if her thin fingers had been pushing at a fast shut iron
door. She knew her helplessness, and shrank from testing it by any
appeal--shrank from crying in a dead ear and clinging to dead knees,
only to see the immovable face and feel the rigid limbs. She did not
weep nor speak; she was too hard pressed by the sudden certainty which
had as much of chill sickness in it as of thought and emotion. The
defeated clutch of struggling hope gave her in these first moments a
horrible sensation. At last she rose, with a spasmodic effort, and,
unconscious of every thing but her wretchedness, pressed her forehead
against the hard, cold glass of the window. The children, playing on
the gravel, took this as a sign that she wanted them, and, running
forward, stood in front of her with their sweet faces upturned
expectantly. This roused her: she shook her head at them, waved them
off, and overcome with this painful exertion, sank back in the nearest
chair.

Grandcourt had risen too. He was doubly annoyed--at the scene itself,
and at the sense that no imperiousness of his could save him from it;
but the task had to be gone through, and there was the administrative
necessity of arranging things so that there should be as little
annoyance as possible in the future. He was leaning against the corner
of the fire-place. She looked up at him and said, bitterly,

"All this is of no consequence to you. I and the children are
importunate creatures. You wish to get away again and be with Miss
Harleth."

"Don't make the affair more disagreeable than it need be. Lydia. It is
of no use to harp on things that can't be altered. Of course, its
deucedly disagreeable to me to see you making yourself miserable. I've
taken this journey to tell you what you must make up your mind to--you
and the children will be provided for as usual--and there's an end of
it."

Silence. She dared not answer. This woman with the intense, eager look
had had the iron of the mother's anguish in her soul, and it had made
her sometimes capable of a repression harder than shrieking and
struggle. But underneath the silence there was an outlash of hatred and
vindictiveness: she wished that the marriage might make two others
wretched, besides herself. Presently he went on,

"It will be better for you. You may go on living here. But I think of
by-and-by settling a good sum on you and the children, and you can live
where you like. There will be nothing for you to complain of then.
Whatever happens, you will feel secure. Nothing could be done
beforehand. Every thing has gone on in a hurry."

Grandcourt ceased his slow delivery of sentences. He did not expect her
to thank him, but he considered that she might reasonably be contented;
if it were possible for Lydia to be contented. She showed no change,
and after a minute he said,

"You have never had any reason to fear that I should be illiberal. I
don't care a curse about the money."

"If you did care about it, I suppose you would not give it us," said
Lydia. The sarcasm was irrepressible.

"That's a devilishly unfair thing to say," Grandcourt replied, in a
lower tone; "and I advise you not to say that sort of thing again."

"Should you punish me by leaving the children in beggary?" In spite of
herself, the one outlet of venom had brought the other.

"There is no question about leaving the children in beggary," said
Grandcourt, still in his low voice. "I advise you not to say things
that you will repent of."

"I am used to repenting," said she, bitterly. "Perhaps you will repent.
You have already repented of loving me."

"All this will only make it uncommonly difficult for us to meet again.
What friend have you besides me?"

"Quite true."

The words came like a low moan. At the same moment there flashed
through her the wish that after promising himself a better happiness
than that he had had with her, he might feel a misery and loneliness
which would drive him back to her to find some memory of a time when he
was young, glad, and hopeful. But no! he would go scathless; it was she
that had to suffer.

With this the scorching words were ended. Grandcourt had meant to stay
till evening; he wished to curtail his visit, but there was no suitable
train earlier than the one he had arranged to go by, and he had still
to speak to Lydia on the second object of his visit, which like a
second surgical operation seemed to require an interval. The hours had
to go by; there was eating to be done; the children came in--all this
mechanism of life had to be gone through with the dreary sense of
constraint which is often felt in domestic quarrels of a commoner kind.
To Lydia it was some slight relief for her stifled fury to have the
children present: she felt a savage glory in their loveliness, as if it
would taunt Grandcourt with his indifference to her and them--a secret
darting of venom which was strongly imaginative. He acquitted himself
with all the advantage of a man whose grace of bearing has long been
moulded on an experience of boredom--nursed the little Antonia, who sat
with her hands crossed and eyes upturned to his bald head, which struck
her as worthy of observation--and propitiated Henleigh by promising him
a beautiful saddle and bridle. It was only the two eldest girls who had
known him as a continual presence; and the intervening years had
overlaid their infantine memories with a bashfulness which Grandcourt's
bearing was not likely to dissipate. He and Lydia occasionally, in the
presence of the servants, made a conventional remark; otherwise they
never spoke; and the stagnant thought in Grandcourt's mind all the
while was of his own infatuation in having given her those diamonds,
which obliged him to incur the nuisance of speaking about them. He had
an ingrained care for what he held to belong to his caste, and about
property he liked to be lordly; also he had a consciousness of
indignity to himself in having to ask for anything in the world. But
however he might assert his independence of Mrs. Glasher's past, he had
made a past for himself which was a stronger yoke than any he could
impose. He must ask for the diamonds which he had promised to Gwendolen.

At last they were alone again, with the candles above them, face to
face with each other. Grandcourt looked at his watch, and then said, in
an apparently indifferent drawl, "There is one thing I had to mention,
Lydia. My diamonds--you have them."

"Yes, I have them," she answered promptly, rising and standing with her
arms thrust down and her fingers threaded, while Grandcourt sat still.
She had expected the topic, and made her resolve about it. But she
meant to carry out her resolve, if possible, without exasperating him.
During the hours of silence she had longed to recall the words which
had only widened the breach between them.

"They are in this house, I suppose?"

"No; not in this house."

"I thought you said you kept them by you."

"When I said so it was true. They are in the bank at Dudley."

"Get them away, will you? I must make an arrangement for your
delivering them to some one."

"Make no arrangement. They shall be delivered to the person you
intended them for. _I_ will make the arrangement."

"What do you mean?"

"What I say. I have always told you that I would give them up to your
wife. I shall keep my word. She is not your wife yet."

"This is foolery," said Grandcourt, with undertoned disgust. It was too
irritating that this indulgence of Lydia had given her a sort of
mastery over him in spite of dependent condition.

She did not speak. He also rose now, but stood leaning against the
mantle-piece with his side-face toward her.

"The diamonds must be delivered to me before my marriage," he began
again.

"What is your wedding-day?"

"The tenth. There is no time to be lost."

"And where do you go after the marriage?"

He did not reply except by looking more sullen. Presently he said, "You
must appoint a day before then, to get them from the bank and meet
me--or somebody else I will commission;--it's a great nuisance. Mention
a day."

"No; I shall not do that. They shall be delivered to her safely. I
shall keep my word."

"Do you mean to say," said Grandcourt, just audibly, turning to face
her, "that you will not do as I tell you?"

"Yes, I mean that," was the answer that leaped out, while her eyes
flashed close to him. The poor creature was immediately conscious that
if her words had any effect on her own lot, the effect must be
mischievous, and might nullify all the remaining advantage of her long
patience. But the word had been spoken.

He was in a position the most irritating to him. He could not shake her
nor touch her hostilely; and if he could, the process would not bring
his mother's diamonds. He shrank from the only sort of threat that
would frighten her--if she believed it. And in general, there was
nothing he hated more than to be forced into anything like violence
even in words: his will must impose itself without trouble. After
looking at her for a moment, he turned his side-face toward her again,
leaning as before, and said,

"Infernal idiots that women are!"

"Why will you not tell me where you are going after the marriage? I
could be at the wedding if I liked, and learn in that way," said Lydia,
not shrinking from the one suicidal form of threat within her power.

"Of course, if you like, you can play the mad woman," said Grandcourt,
with _sotto voce_ scorn. "It is not to be supposed that you will wait
to think what good will come of it--or what you owe to me."

He was in a state of disgust and embitterment quite new in the history
of their relation to each other. It was undeniable that this woman,
whose life he had allowed to send such deep suckers into his, had a
terrible power of annoyance in her; and the rash hurry of his
proceedings had left her opportunities open. His pride saw very ugly
possibilities threatening it, and he stood for several minutes in
silence reviewing the situation--considering how he could act upon her.
Unlike himself she was of a direct nature, with certain simple
strongly-colored tendencies, and there was one often-experienced effect
which he thought he could count upon now. As Sir Hugo had said of him,
Grandcourt knew how to play his cards upon occasion.

He did not speak again, but looked at his watch, rang the bell, and
ordered the vehicle to be brought round immediately. Then he removed
farther from her, walked as if in expectation of a summons, and
remained silent without turning his eyes upon her.

She was suffering the horrible conflict of self-reproach and tenacity.
She saw beforehand Grandcourt leaving her without even looking at her
again--herself left behind in lonely uncertainty--hearing nothing from
him--not knowing whether she had done her children harm--feeling that
she had perhaps made him hate her;--all the wretchedness of a creature
who had defeated her own motives. And yet she could not bear to give up
a purpose which was a sweet morsel to her vindictiveness. If she had
not been a mother she would willingly have sacrificed herself to her
revenge--to what she felt to be the justice of hindering another from
getting happiness by willingly giving her over to misery. The two
dominant passions were at struggle. She must satisfy them both.

"Don't let us part in anger, Henleigh," she began, without changing her
voice or attitude: "it is a very little thing I ask. If I were refusing
to give anything up that you call yours it would be different: that
would be a reason for treating me as if you hated me. But I ask such a
little thing. If you will tell me where you are going on the
wedding-day I will take care that the diamonds shall be delivered to
her without scandal. Without scandal," she repeated entreatingly.

"Such preposterous whims make a woman odious," said Grandcourt, not
giving way in look or movement. "What is the use of talking to mad
people?"

"Yes, I am foolish--loneliness has made me foolish--indulge me." Sobs
rose as she spoke. "If you will indulge me in this one folly I will be
very meek--I will never trouble you." She burst into hysterical crying,
and said again almost with a scream--"I will be very meek after that."

There was a strange mixture of acting and reality in this passion. She
kept hold of her purpose as a child might tighten its hand over a small
stolen thing, crying and denying all the while. Even Grandcourt was
wrought upon by surprise: this capricious wish, this childish violence,
was as unlike Lydia's bearing as it was incongruous with her person.
Both had always had a stamp of dignity on them. Yet she seemed more
manageable in this state than in her former attitude of defiance. He
came close up to her again, and said, in his low imperious tone, "Be
quiet, and hear what I tell you, I will never forgive you if you
present yourself again and make a scene."

She pressed her handkerchief against her face, and when she could speak
firmly said, in the muffled voice that follows sobbing, "I will not--if
you will let me have my way--I promise you not to thrust myself forward
again. I have never broken my word to you--how many have you broken to
me? When you gave me the diamonds to wear you were not thinking of
having another wife. And I now give them up--I don't reproach you--I
only ask you to let me give them up in my own way. Have I not borne it
well? Everything is to be taken away from me, and when I ask for a
straw, a chip--you deny it me." She had spoken rapidly, but after a
little pause she said more slowly, her voice freed from its muffled
tone: "I will not bear to have it denied me."

Grandcourt had a baffling sense that he had to deal with something like
madness; he could only govern by giving way. The servant came to say
the fly was ready. When the door was shut again Grandcourt said
sullenly, "We are going to Ryelands then."

"They shall be delivered to her there," said Lydia, with decision.

"Very well, I am going." He felt no inclination even to take her hand:
she had annoyed him too sorely. But now that she had gained her point,
she was prepared to humble herself that she might propitiate him.

"Forgive me; I will never vex you again," she said, with beseeching
looks. Her inward voice said distinctly--"It is only I who have to
forgive." Yet she was obliged to ask forgiveness.

"You had better keep that promise. You have made me feel uncommonly ill
with your folly," said Grandcourt, apparently choosing this statement
as the strongest possible use of language.

"Poor thing!" cried Lydia, with a faint smile;--was he aware of the
minor fact that he made her feel ill this morning?

But with the quick transition natural to her, she was now ready to coax
him if he would let her, that they might part in some degree
reconciled. She ventured to lay her hand on his shoulder, and he did
not move away from her: she had so far succeeded in alarming him, that
he was not sorry for these proofs of returned subjection.

"Light a cigar," she said, soothingly, taking the case from his
breast-pocket and opening it.

Amidst such caressing signs of mutual fear they parted. The effect that
clung and gnawed within Grandcourt was a sense of imperfect mastery.



CHAPTER XXXI.

        "A wild dedication of yourselves
  To unpath'd waters, undreamed shores."
                            --SHAKESPEARE.


On the day when Gwendolen Harleth was married and became Mrs.
Grandcourt, the morning was clear and bright, and while the sun was low
a slight frost crisped the leaves. The bridal party was worth seeing,
and half Pennicote turned out to see it, lining the pathway up to the
church. An old friend of the rector's performed the marriage ceremony,
the rector himself acting as father, to the great advantage of the
procession. Only two faces, it was remarked, showed signs of
sadness--Mrs. Davilow's and Anna's. The mother's delicate eyelids were
pink, as if she had been crying half the night; and no one was
surprised that, splendid as the match was, she should feel the parting
from a daughter who was the flower of her children and of her own life.
It was less understood why Anna should be troubled when she was being
so well set off by the bridesmaid's dress. Every one else seemed to
reflect the brilliancy of the occasion--the bride most of all. Of her
it was agreed that as to figure and carriage she was worthy to be a
"lady o' title": as to face, perhaps it might be thought that a title
required something more rosy; but the bridegroom himself not being
fresh-colored--being indeed, as the miller's wife observed, very much
of her own husband's complexion--the match was the more complete.
Anyhow he must be very fond of her; and it was to be hoped that he
would never cast it up to her that she had been going out to service as
a governess, and her mother to live at Sawyer's Cottage--vicissitudes
which had been much spoken of in the village. The miller's daughter of
fourteen could not believe that high gentry behaved badly to their
wives, but her mother instructed her--"Oh, child, men's men: gentle or
simple, they're much of a muchness. I've heard my mother say Squire
Pelton used to take his dogs and a long whip into his wife's room, and
flog 'em there to frighten her; and my mother was lady's-maid there at
the very time."

"That's unlucky talk for a wedding, Mrs. Girdle," said the tailor. "A
quarrel may end wi' the whip, but it begins wi' the tongue, and it's
the women have got the most o' that."

"The Lord gave it 'em to use, I suppose," said Mrs. Girdle. "_He_ never
meant you to have it all your own way."

"By what I can make out from the gentleman as attends to the grooming
at Offendene," said the tailor, "this Mr. Grandcourt has wonderful
little tongue. Everything must be done dummy-like without his ordering."

"Then he's the more whip, I doubt," said Mrs. Girdle. "_She's_ got
tongue enough, I warrant her. See, there they come out together!"

"What wonderful long corners she's got to her eyes!" said the tailor.
"She makes you feel comical when she looks at you."

Gwendolen, in fact, never showed more elasticity in her bearing, more
lustre in her long brown glance: she had the brilliancy of strong
excitement, which will sometimes come even from pain. It was not pain,
however, that she was feeling: she had wrought herself up to much the
same condition as that in which she stood at the gambling-table when
Deronda was looking at her, and she began to lose. There was an
enjoyment in it: whatever uneasiness a growing conscience had created
was disregarded as an ailment might have been, amidst the gratification
of that ambitious vanity and desire for luxury within her which it
would take a great deal of slow poisoning to kill. This morning she
could not have said truly that she repented her acceptance of
Grandcourt, or that any fears in hazy perspective could hinder the
glowing effect of the immediate scene in which she was the central
object. That she was doing something wrong--that a punishment might be
hanging over her--that the woman to whom she had given a promise and
broken it, was thinking of her in bitterness and misery with a just
reproach--that Deronda with his way of looking into things very likely
despised her for marrying Grandcourt, as he had despised her for
gambling--above all, that the cord which united her with this lover and
which she had heretofore held by the hand, was now being flung over her
neck,--all this yeasty mingling of dimly understood facts with vague
but deep impressions, and with images half real, half fantastic, had
been disturbing her during the weeks of her engagement. Was that
agitating experience nullified this morning? No: it was surmounted and
thrust down with a sort of exulting defiance as she felt herself
standing at the game of life with many eyes upon her, daring everything
to win much--or if to lose, still with _éclat_ and a sense of
importance. But this morning a losing destiny for herself did not press
upon her as a fear: she thought that she was entering on a fuller power
of managing circumstances--with all the official strength of marriage,
which some women made so poor a use of. That intoxication of youthful
egoism out of which she had been shaken by trouble, humiliation, and a
new sense of culpability, had returned upon her under a newly-fed
strength of the old fumes. She did not in the least present the ideal
of the tearful, tremulous bride. Poor Gwendolen, whom some had judged
much too forward and instructed in the world's ways!--with her erect
head and elastic footstep she was walking among illusions; and yet,
too, there was an under-consciousness of her that she was a little
intoxicated.

"Thank God you bear it so well, my darling!" said Mrs. Davilow, when
she had helped Gwendolen to doff her bridal white and put on her
traveling dress. All the trembling had been done by the poor mother,
and her agitation urged Gwendolen doubly to take the morning as if it
were a triumph.

"Why, you might have said that, if I had been going to Mrs. Mompert's,
you dear, sad, incorrigible mamma!" said Gwendolen just putting her
hands to her mother's cheeks with laughing tenderness--then retreating
a little and spreading out her arms as if to exhibit herself: "Here am
I--Mrs. Grandcourt! what else would you have me, but what I am sure to
be? You know you were ready to die with vexation when you thought that
I would not be Mrs. Grandcourt."

"Hush, hush, my child, for heaven's sake!" said Mrs. Davilow, almost in
a whisper. "How can I help feeling it when I am parting from you. But I
can bear anything gladly if you are happy."

"Not gladly, mamma, no!" said Gwendolen, shaking her head, with a
bright smile. "Willingly you would bear it, but always sorrowfully.
Sorrowing is your sauce; you can take nothing without it." Then,
clasping her mother's shoulders and raining kisses first on one cheek
and then on the other between her words, she said, gaily, "And you
shall sorrow over my having everything at my beck---and enjoying
everything glorious--splendid houses--and horses--and diamonds, I shall
have diamonds--and going to court--and being Lady Certainly--and Lady
Perhaps--and grand here--and tantivy there--and always loving you
better than anybody else in the world."

"My sweet child!--But I shall not be jealous if you love your husband
better; and he will expect to be first."

Gwendolen thrust out her lips and chin with a pretty grimace, saying,
"Rather a ridiculous expectation. However, I don't mean to treat him
ill, unless he deserves it."

Then the two fell into a clinging embrace, and Gwendolen could not
hinder a rising sob when she said, "I wish you were going with me,
mamma."

But the slight dew on her long eyelashes only made her the more
charming when she gave her hand to Grandcourt to be led to the carriage.

The rector looked in on her to give a final "Good-bye; God bless you;
we shall see you again before long," and then returned to Mrs. Davilow,
saying half cheerfully, half solemnly,

"Let us be thankful, Fanny. She is in a position well suited to her,
and beyond what I should have dared to hope for. And few women can have
been chosen more entirely for their own sake. You should feel yourself
a happy mother."

       *       *       *       *       *

There was a railway journey of some fifty miles before the new husband
and wife reached the station near Ryelands. The sky had veiled itself
since the morning, and it was hardly more than twilight when they
entered the park-gates, but still Gwendolen, looking out of the
carriage-window as they drove rapidly along, could see the grand
outlines and the nearer beauties of the scene--the long winding drive
bordered with evergreens backed by huge gray stems: then the opening of
wide grassy spaces and undulations studded with dark clumps; till at
last came a wide level where the white house could be seen, with a
hanging wood for a back-ground, and the rising and sinking balustrade
of a terrace in front.

Gwendolen had been at her liveliest during the journey, chatting
incessantly, ignoring any change in their mutual position since
yesterday; and Grandcourt had been rather ecstatically quiescent, while
she turned his gentle seizure of her hand into a grasp of his hand by
both hers, with an increased vivacity as of a kitten that will not sit
quiet to be petted. She was really getting somewhat febrile in her
excitement; and now in this drive through the park her usual
susceptibility to changes of light and scenery helped to make her heart
palpitate newly. Was it at the novelty simply, or the almost incredible
fulfilment about to be given to her girlish dreams of being
"somebody"--walking through her own furlong of corridor and under her
own ceilings of an out-of-sight loftiness, where her own painted Spring
was shedding painted flowers, and her own fore-shortened Zephyrs were
blowing their trumpets over her; while her own servants, lackeys in
clothing but men in bulk and shape, were as nought in her presence, and
revered the propriety of her insolence to them:--being in short the
heroine of an admired play without the pains of art? Was it alone the
closeness of this fulfilment which made her heart flutter? or was it
some dim forecast, the insistent penetration of suppressed experience,
mixing the expectation of a triumph with the dread of a crisis? Hers
was one of the natures in which exultation inevitably carries an
infusion of dread ready to curdle and declare itself.

She fell silent in spite of herself as they approached the gates, and
when her husband said, "Here we are at home!" and for the first time
kissed her on the lips, she hardly knew of it: it was no more than the
passive acceptance of a greeting in the midst of an absorbing show. Was
not all her hurrying life of the last three months a show, in which her
consciousness was a wondering spectator? After the half-willful
excitement of the day, a numbness had come over her personality.

But there was a brilliant light in the hall--warmth, matting, carpets,
full-length portraits, Olympian statues, assiduous servants. Not many
servants, however: only a few from Diplow in addition to those
constantly in charge of the house; and Gwendolen's new maid, who had
come with her, was taken under guidance by the housekeeper. Gwendolen
felt herself being led by Grandcourt along a subtly-scented corridor,
into an ante-room where she saw an open doorway sending out a rich glow
of light and color.

"These are our dens," said Grandcourt. "You will like to be quiet here
till dinner. We shall dine early."

He pressed her hand to his lips and moved away, more in love than he
had ever expected to be.

Gwendolen, yielded up her hat and mantle, threw herself into a chair by
the glowing hearth, and saw herself repeated in glass panels with all
her faint-green satin surroundings. The housekeeper had passed into
this boudoir from the adjoining dressing-room and seemed disposed to
linger, Gwendolen thought, in order to look at the new mistress of
Ryelands, who, however, being impatient for solitude said to her, "Will
you tell Hudson when she has put out my dress to leave everything? I
shall not want her again, unless I ring."

The housekeeper, coming forward, said, "Here is a packet, madam, which
I was ordered to give into nobody's hands but yours, when you were
alone. The person who brought it said it was a present particularly
ordered by Mr. Grandcourt; but he was not to know of its arrival till
he saw you wear it. Excuse me, madam; I felt it right to obey orders."

Gwendolen took the packet and let it lie on her lap till she heard the
doors close. It came into her mind that the packet might contain the
diamonds which Grandcourt had spoken of as being deposited somewhere
and to be given to her on her marriage. In this moment of confused
feeling and creeping luxurious languor she was glad of this
diversion--glad of such an event as having her own diamonds to try on.

Within all the sealed paper coverings was a box, but within the box
there _was_ a jewel-case; and now she felt no doubt that she had the
diamonds. But on opening the case, in the same instant that she saw
them gleam she saw a letter lying above them. She knew the handwriting
of the address. It was as if an adder had lain on them. Her heart gave
a leap which seemed to have spent all her strength; and as she opened
the bit of thin paper, it shook with the trembling of her hands. But it
was legible as print, and thrust its words upon her.

    These diamonds, which were once given with ardent love to Lydia
    Glasher, she passes on to you. You have broken your word to her, that
    you might possess what was hers. Perhaps you think of being happy, as
    she once was, and of having beautiful children such as hers, who will
    thrust hers aside. God is too just for that. The man you have married
    has a withered heart. His best young love was mine: you could not take
    that from me when you took the rest. It is dead: but I am the grave
    in which your chance of happiness is buried as well as mine. You had
    your warning. You have chosen to injure me and my children. He had
    meant to marry me. He would have married me at last, if you had not
    broken your word. You will have your punishment. I desire it with all
    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.

It seemed at first as if Gwendolen's eyes were spell-bound in reading
the horrible words of the letter over and over again as a doom of
penance; but suddenly a new spasm of terror made her lean forward and
stretch out the paper toward the fire, lest accusation and proof at
once should meet all eyes. It flew like a feather from her trembling
fingers and was caught up in a great draught of flame. In her movement
the casket fell on the floor and the diamonds rolled out. She took no
notice, but fell back in her chair again helpless. She could not see
the reflections of herself then; they were like so many women petrified
white; but coming near herself you might have seen the tremor in her
lips and hands. She sat so for a long while, knowing little more than
that she was feeling ill, and that those written words kept repeating
themselves to her.

Truly here were poisoned gems, and the poison had entered into this
poor young creature.

After that long while, there was a tap at the door and Grandcourt
entered, dressed for dinner. The sight of him brought a new nervous
shock, and Gwendolen screamed again and again with hysterical violence.
He had expected to see her dressed and smiling, ready to be led down.
He saw her pallid, shrieking as it seemed with terror, the jewels
scattered around her on the floor. Was it a fit of madness?

In some form or other the furies had crossed his threshold.



CHAPTER XXXII.

    In all ages it hath been a favorite text that a potent love hath the
    nature of an isolated fatality, whereto the mind's opinions and wonted
    resolves are altogether alien; as, for example, Daphnis his frenzy,
    wherein it had little availed him to have been convinced of Heraclitus
    his doctrine; or the philtre-bred passion of Tristan, who, though he
    had been as deep as Duns Scotus, would have had his reasoning marred
    by that cup too much; or Romeo in his sudden taking for Juliet,
    wherein any objections he might have held against Ptolemy had made
    little difference to his discourse under the balcony. Yet all love is
    not such, even though potent; nay, this passion hath as large scope as
    any for allying itself with every operation of the soul: so that it
    shall acknowledge an effect from the imagined light of unproven
    firmaments, and have its scale set to the grander orbits of what hath
    been and shall be.


Deronda, on his return to town, could assure Sir Hugo of his having
lodged in Grandcourt's mind a distinct understanding that he could get
fifty thousand pounds by giving up a prospect which was probably
distant, and not absolutely certain; but he had no further sign of
Grandcourt's disposition in the matter than that he was evidently
inclined to keep up friendly communications.

"And what did you think of the future bride on a nearer survey?" said
Sir Hugo.

"I thought better of her than I did in Leubronn. Roulette was not a
good setting for her; it brought out something of the demon. At Diplow
she seemed much more womanly and attractive--less hard and
self-possessed. I thought her mouth and eyes had quite a different
expression."

"Don't flirt with her too much, Dan," said Sir Hugo, meaning to be
agreeably playful. "If you make Grandcourt savage when they come to the
Abbey at Christmas, it will interfere with my affairs."

"I can stay in town, sir."

"No, no. Lady Mallinger and the children can't do without you at
Christmas. Only don't make mischief--unless you can get up a duel, and
manage to shoot Grandcourt, which might be worth a little
inconvenience."

"I don't think you ever saw me flirt," said Deronda, not amused.

"Oh, haven't I, though?" said Sir Hugo, provokingly. "You are always
looking tenderly at the women, and talking to them in a Jesuitical way.
You are a dangerous young fellow--a kind of Lovelace who will make the
Clarissas run after you instead of you running after them."

What was the use of being exasperated at a tasteless joke?--only the
exasperation comes before the reflection on utility. Few friendly
remarks are more annoying than the information that we are always
seeming to do what we never mean to do. Sir Hugo's notion of flirting,
it was to be hoped, was rather peculiar; for his own part, Deronda was
sure that he had never flirted. But he was glad that the baronet had no
knowledge about the repurchase of Gwendolen's necklace to feed his
taste for this kind of rallying.

He would be on his guard in future; for example, in his behavior at
Mrs. Meyrick's, where he was about to pay his first visit since his
arrival from Leubronn. For Mirah was certainly a creature in whom it
was difficult not to show a tender kind of interest both by looks and
speech.

Mrs. Meyrick had not failed to send Deronda a report of Mirah's
well-being in her family. "We are getting fonder of her every day," she
had written. "At breakfast-time we all look toward the door with
expectation to see her come in; and we watch her and listen to her as
if she were a native from a new country. I have not heard a word from
her lips that gives me a doubt about her. She is quite contented and
full of gratitude. My daughters are learning from her, and they hope to
get her other pupils; for she is anxious not to eat the bread of
idleness, but to work, like my girls. Mab says our life has become like
a fairy tale, and all she is afraid of is that Mirah will turn into a
nightingale again and fly away from us. Her voice is just perfect: not
loud and strong, but searching and melting, like the thoughts of what
has been. That is the way old people like me feel a beautiful voice."

But Mrs. Meyrick did not enter into particulars which would have
required her to say that Amy and Mab, who had accompanied Mirah to the
synagogue, found the Jewish faith less reconcilable with their wishes
in her case than in that of Scott's Rebecca. They kept silence out of
delicacy to Mirah, with whom her religion was too tender a subject to
be touched lightly; but after a while Amy, who was much of a practical
reformer, could not restrain a question.

"Excuse me, Mirah, but _does_ it seem quite right to you that the women
should sit behind rails in a gallery apart?"

"Yes, I never thought of anything else," said Mirah, with mild surprise.

"And you like better to see the men with their hats on?" said Mab,
cautiously proposing the smallest item of difference.

"Oh, yes. I like what I have always seen there, because it brings back
to me the same feelings--the feelings I would not part with for
anything else in the world."

After this, any criticism, whether of doctrine or practice, would have
seemed to these generous little people an inhospitable cruelty. Mirah's
religion was of one fibre with her affections, and had never presented
itself to her as a set of propositions.

"She says herself she is a very bad Jewess, and does not half know her
people's religion," said Amy, when Mirah was gone to bed. "Perhaps it
would gradually melt away from her, and she would pass into
Christianity like the rest of the world, if she got to love us very
much, and never found her mother. It is so strange to be of the Jews'
religion now."

"Oh, oh, oh!" cried Mab. "I wish I were not such a hideous Christian.
How can an ugly Christian, who is always dropping her work, convert a
beautiful Jewess, who has not a fault?"

"It may be wicked of me," said shrewd Kate, "but I cannot help wishing
that her mother may not be found. There might be something unpleasant."

"I don't think it, my dear," said Mrs. Meyrick. "I believe Mirah is cut
out after the pattern of her mother. And what a joy it would be to her
to have such a daughter brought back again! But a mother's feelings are
not worth reckoning, I suppose" (she shot a mischievous glance at her
own daughters), "and a dead mother is worth more than a living one?"

"Well, and so she may be, little mother," said Kate; "but we would
rather hold you cheaper, and have you alive."

Not only the Meyricks, whose various knowledge had been acquired by the
irregular foraging to which clever girls have usually been reduced, but
Deronda himself, with all his masculine instruction, had been roused by
this apparition of Mirah to the consciousness of knowing hardly
anything about modern Judaism or the inner Jewish history. The Chosen
People have been commonly treated as a people chosen for the sake of
somebody else; and their thinking as something (no matter exactly what)
that ought to have been entirely otherwise; and Deronda, like his
neighbors, had regarded Judaism as a sort of eccentric fossilized form
which an accomplished man might dispense with studying, and leave to
specialists. But Mirah, with her terrified flight from one parent, and
her yearning after the other, had flashed on him the hitherto neglected
reality that Judaism was something still throbbing in human lives,
still making for them the only conceivable vesture of the world; and in
the idling excursion on which he immediately afterward set out with Sir
Hugo he began to look for the outsides of synagogues, and the title of
books about the Jews. This awakening of a new interest--this passing
from the supposition that we hold the right opinions on a subject we
are careless about, to a sudden care for it, and a sense that our
opinions were ignorance--is an effectual remedy for _ennui_, which,
unhappily, cannot be secured on a physician's prescription; but Deronda
had carried it with him, and endured his weeks of lounging all the
better. It was on this journey that he first entered a Jewish
synagogue--at Frankfort--where his party rested on a Friday. In
exploring the Juden-gasse, which he had seen long before, he remembered
well enough its picturesque old houses; what his eyes chiefly dwelt on
now were the human types there; and his thought, busily connecting them
with the past phases of their race, stirred that fibre of historic
sympathy which had helped to determine in him certain traits worth
mentioning for those who are interested in his future. True, when a
young man has a fine person, no eccentricity of manners, the education
of a gentleman, and a present income, it is not customary to feel a
prying curiosity about his way of thinking, or his peculiar tastes. He
may very well be settled in life as an agreeable clever young fellow
without passing a special examination on those heads. Later, when he is
getting rather slovenly and portly, his peculiarities are more
distinctly discerned, and it is taken as a mercy if they are not highly
objectionable. But any one wishing to understand the effect of
after-events on Deronda should know a little more of what he was at
five-and-twenty than was evident in ordinary intercourse.

It happened that the very vividness of his impressions had often made
him the more enigmatic to his friends, and had contributed to an
apparent indefiniteness in his sentiments. His early-wakened
sensibility and reflectiveness had developed into a many-sided
sympathy, which threatened to hinder any persistent course of action:
as soon as he took up any antagonism, though only in thought, he seemed
to himself like the Sabine warriors in the memorable story--with
nothing to meet his spear but flesh of his flesh, and objects that he
loved. His imagination had so wrought itself to the habit of seeing
things as they probably appeared to others, that a strong partisanship,
unless it were against an immediate oppression, had become an
insincerity for him. His plenteous, flexible sympathy had ended by
falling into one current with that reflective analysis which tends to
neutralize sympathy. Few men were able to keep themselves clearer of
vices than he; yet he hated vices mildly, being used to think of them
less in the abstract than as a part of mixed human natures having an
individual history, which it was the bent of his mind to trace with
understanding and pity. With the same innate balance he was fervidly
democratic in his feeling for the multitude, and yet, through his
affections and imagination, intensely conservative; voracious of
speculations on government and religion, yet loth to part with
long-sanctioned forms which, for him, were quick with memories and
sentiments that no argument could lay dead. We fall on the leaning
side; and Deronda suspected himself of loving too well the losing
causes of the world. Martyrdom changes sides, and he was in danger of
changing with it, having a strong repugnance to taking up that clue of
success which the order of the world often forces upon us and makes it
treason against the common weal to reject. And yet his fear of falling
into an unreasoning narrow hatred made a check for him: he apologized
for the heirs of privilege; he shrank with dislike from the loser's
bitterness and the denunciatory tone of the unaccepted innovator. A too
reflective and diffusive sympathy was in danger of paralyzing in him
that indignation against wrong and that selectness of fellowship which
are the conditions of moral force; and in the last few years of
confirmed manhood he had become so keenly aware of this that what he
most longed for was either some external event, or some inward light,
that would urge him into a definite line of action, and compress his
wandering energy. He was ceasing to care for knowledge--he had no
ambition for practice--unless they could both be gathered up into one
current with his emotions; and he dreaded, as if it were a
dwelling-place of lost souls, that dead anatomy of culture which turns
the universe into a mere ceaseless answer to queries, and knows, not
everything, but everything else about everything--as if one should be
ignorant of nothing concerning the scent of violets except the scent
itself for which one had no nostril. But how and whence was the needed
event to come?--the influence that would justify partiality, and make
him what he longed to be, yet was unable to make himself--an organic
part of social life, instead of roaming in it like a yearning
disembodied spirit, stirred with a vague social passion, but without
fixed local habitation to render fellowship real? To make a little
difference for the better was what he was not contented to live
without; but how to make it? It is one thing to see your road, another
to cut it. He found some of the fault in his birth and the way he had
been brought up, which had laid no special demands on him and had given
him no fixed relationship except one of a doubtful kind; but he did not
attempt to hide from himself that he had fallen into a meditative
numbness, and was gliding farther and farther from that life of
practically energetic sentiment which he would have proclaimed (if he
had been inclined to proclaim anything) to be the best of all life, and
for himself the only way worth living. He wanted some way of keeping
emotion and its progeny of sentiments--which make the savors of
life--substantial and strong in the face of a reflectiveness that
threatened to nullify all differences. To pound the objects of
sentiment into small dust, yet keep sentiment alive and active, was
something like the famous recipe for making cannon--to first take a
round hole and then enclose it with iron; whatever you do keeping fast
hold of your round hole. Yet how distinguish what our will may wisely
save in its completeness, from the heaping of cat-mummies and the
expensive cult of enshrined putrefactions?

Something like this was the common under-current in Deronda's mind
while he was reading law or imperfectly attending to polite
conversation. Meanwhile he had not set about one function in particular
with zeal and steadiness. Not an admirable experience, to be proposed
as an ideal; but a form of struggle before break of day which some
young men since the patriarch have had to pass through, with more or
less of bruising if not laming.

I have said that under his calm exterior he had a fervor which made him
easily feel the presence of poetry in everyday events; and the forms of
the Juden-gasse, rousing the sense of union with what is remote, set
him musing on two elements of our historic life which that sense raises
into the same region of poetry;--the faint beginnings of faiths and
institutions, and their obscure lingering decay; the dust and withered
remnants with which they are apt to be covered, only enhancing for the
awakened perception the impressiveness either of a sublimely
penetrating life, as in the twin green leaves that will become the
sheltering tree, or of a pathetic inheritance in which all the grandeur
and the glory have become a sorrowing memory.

This imaginative stirring, as he turned out of the Juden-gasse, and
continued to saunter in the warm evening air, meaning to find his way
to the synagogue, neutralized the repellent effect of certain ugly
little incidents on his way. Turning into an old book-shop to ask the
exact time of service at the synagogue, he was affectionately directed
by a precocious Jewish youth, who entered cordially into his wanting,
not the fine new building of the Reformed but the old Rabbinical school
of the orthodox; and then cheated him like a pure Teuton, only with
more amenity, in his charge for a book quite out of request as one
"nicht so leicht zu bekommen." Meanwhile at the opposite counter a deaf
and grisly tradesman was casting a flinty look at certain cards,
apparently combining advantages of business with religion, and
shoutingly proposed to him in Jew-dialect by a dingy man in a tall coat
hanging from neck to heel, a bag in hand, and a broad low hat
surmounting his chosen nose--who had no sooner disappeared than another
dingy man of the same pattern issued from the background glooms of the
shop and also shouted in the same dialect. In fact, Deronda saw various
queer-looking Israelites not altogether without guile, and just
distinguishable from queer-looking Christians of the same mixed
_morale_. In his anxiety about Mirah's relatives, he had lately been
thinking of vulgar Jews with a sort of personal alarm. But a little
comparison will often diminish our surprise and disgust at the
aberrations of Jews and other dissidents whose lives do not offer a
consistent or lovely pattern of their creed; and this evening Deronda,
becoming more conscious that he was falling into unfairness and
ridiculous exaggeration, began to use that corrective comparison: he
paid his thaler too much, without prejudice to his interests in the
Hebrew destiny, or his wish to find the _Rabbinische Schule_, which he
arrived at by sunset, and entered with a good congregation of men.

He happened to take his seat in a line with an elderly man from whom he
was distant enough to glance at him more than once as rather a
noticeable figure--his ample white beard and felt hat framing a profile
of that fine contour which may as easily be Italian as Hebrew. He
returned Deronda's notice till at last their eyes met; an undesirable
chance with unknown persons, and a reason to Deronda for not looking
again; but he immediately found an open prayer-book pushed toward him
and had to bow his thanks. However, the congregation had mustered, the
reader had mounted to the _almemor_ or platform, and the service began.
Deronda, having looked enough at the German translation of the Hebrew
in the book before him to know that he was chiefly hearing Psalms and
Old Testament passages or phrases, gave himself up to that strongest
effect of chanted liturgies which is independent of detailed verbal
meaning--like the effect of an Allegri's _Miserere_ or a Palestrina's
_Magnificat_. The most powerful movement of feeling with a liturgy is
the prayer which seeks for nothing special, but is a yearning to escape
from the limitations of our own weakness and an invocation of all Good
to enter and abide with us; or else a self-oblivious lifting up of
Gladness, a _Gloria in excelsis_ that such Good exists; both the
yearning and the exaltation gathering their utmost force from the sense
of communion in a form which has expressed them both, for long
generations of struggling fellow-men. The Hebrew liturgy, like others,
has its transitions of litany, lyric, proclamation, dry statement and
blessing; but this evening, all were one for Deronda: the chant of the
_Chazaris_ or Reader's grand wide-ranging voice with its passage from
monotony to sudden cries, the outburst of sweet boys' voices from the
little choir, the devotional swaying of men's bodies backward and
forward, the very commonness of the building and shabbiness of the
scene where a national faith, which had penetrated the thinking of half
the world, and moulded the splendid forms of that world's religion, was
finding a remote, obscure echo--all were blent for him as one
expression of a binding history, tragic and yet glorious. He wondered
at the strength of his own feeling; it seemed beyond the occasion--what
one might imagine to be a divine influx in the darkness, before there
was any vision to interpret. The whole scene was a coherent strain, its
burden a passionate regret, which, if he had known the liturgy for the
Day of Reconciliation, he might have clad in its autithetic burden;
"Happy the eye which saw all these things; but verily to hear only of
them afflicts our soul. Happy the eye that saw our temple and the joy
of our congregation; but verily to hear only of them afflicts our soul.
Happy the eye that saw the fingers when tuning every kind of song; but
verily to hear only of them afflicts our soul."

But with the cessation of the devotional sounds and the movement of
many indifferent faces and vulgar figures before him there darted into
his mind the frigid idea that he had probably been alone in his
feeling, and perhaps the only person in the congregation for whom the
service was more than a dull routine. There was just time for this
chilling thought before he had bowed to his civil neighbor and was
moving away with the rest--when he felt a hand on his arm, and turning
with the rather unpleasant sensation which this abrupt sort of claim is
apt to bring, he saw close to him the white-bearded face of that
neighbor, who said to him in German, "Excuse me, young gentleman--allow
me--what is your parentage--your mother's family--her maiden name?"

Deronda had a strongly resistant feeling: he was inclined to shake off
hastily the touch on his arm; but he managed to slip it away and said
coldly, "I am an Englishman."

The questioner looked at him dubiously still for an instant, then just
lifted his hat and turned away; whether under a sense of having made a
mistake or of having been repulsed, Deronda was uncertain. In his walk
back to the hotel he tried to still any uneasiness on the subject by
reflecting that he could not have acted differently. How could he say
that he did not know the name of his mother's family to that total
stranger?--who indeed had taken an unwarrantable liberty in the
abruptness of his question, dictated probably by some fancy of likeness
such as often occurs without real significance. The incident, he said
to himself, was trivial; but whatever import it might have, his inward
shrinking on the occasion was too strong for him to be sorry that he
had cut it short. It was a reason, however, for his not mentioning the
synagogue to the Mallingers--in addition to his usual inclination to
reticence on anything that the baronet would have been likely to call
Quixotic enthusiasm. Hardly any man could be more good-natured than Sir
Hugo; indeed in his kindliness especially to women, he did actions
which others would have called romantic; but he never took a romantic
view of them, and in general smiled at the introduction of motives on a
grand scale, or of reasons that lay very far off. This was the point of
strongest difference between him and Deronda, who rarely ate at
breakfast without some silent discursive flight after grounds for
filling up his day according to the practice of his contemporaries.

This halt at Frankfort was taken on their way home, and its impressions
were kept the more actively vibrating in him by the duty of caring for
Mirah's welfare. That question about his parentage, which if he had not
both inwardly and outwardly shaken it off as trivial, would have seemed
a threat rather than a promise of revelation, and reinforced his
anxiety as to the effect of finding Mirah's relatives and his resolve
to proceed with caution. If he made any unpleasant discovery, was he
bound to a disclosure that might cast a new net of trouble around her?
He had written to Mrs. Meyrick to announce his visit at four o'clock,
and he found Mirah seated at work with only Mrs. Meyrick and Mab, the
open piano, and all the glorious company of engravings. The dainty
neatness of her hair and dress, the glow of tranquil happiness in a
face where a painter need have changed nothing if he had wanted to put
it in front of the host singing "peace on earth and good will to men,"
made a contrast to his first vision of her that was delightful to
Deronda's eyes. Mirah herself was thinking of it, and immediately on
their greeting said,

"See how different I am from the miserable creature by the river! all
because you found me and brought me to the very best."

"It was my good chance to find you," said Deronda. "Any other man would
have been glad to do what I did."

"That is not the right way to be thinking about it," said Mirah,
shaking her head with decisive gravity, "I think of what really was. It
was you, and not another, who found me and were good to me."

"I agree with Mirah," said Mrs. Meyrick. "Saint Anybody is a bad saint
to pray to."

"Besides, Anybody could not have brought me to you," said Mirah,
smiling at Mrs. Meyrick. "And I would rather be with you than with any
one else in the world except my mother. I wonder if ever a poor little
bird, that was lost and could not fly, was taken and put into a warm
nest where was a mother and sisters who took to it so that everything
came naturally, as if it had been always there. I hardly thought before
that the world could ever be as happy and without fear as it is to me
now." She looked meditative a moment, and then said, "sometimes I am a
_little_ afraid."

"What is it you are afraid of?" said Deronda with anxiety.

"That when I am turning at the corner of a street I may meet my father.
It seems dreadful that I should be afraid of meeting him. That is my
only sorrow," said Mirah, plaintively.

"It is surely not very probable," said Deronda, wishing that it were
less so; then, not to let the opportunity escape--"Would it be a great
grief to you now if you were never to meet your mother?"

She did not answer immediately, but meditated again, with her eyes
fixed on the opposite wall. Then she turned them on Deronda and said
firmly, as if she had arrived at the exact truth, "I want her to know
that I have always loved her, and if she is alive I want to comfort
her. She may be dead. If she were I should long to know where she was
buried; and to know whether my brother lives, to say Kaddish in memory
of her. But I will try not to grieve. I have thought much for so
many years of her being dead. And I shall have her with me in my mind,
as I have always had. We can never be really parted. I think I have
never sinned against her. I have always tried not to do what would hurt
her. Only, she might be sorry that I was not a good Jewess."

"In what way are you not a good Jewess?" said Deronda.

"I am ignorant, and we never observed the laws, but lived among
Christians just as they did. But I have heard my father laugh at the
strictness of the Jews about their food and all customs, and their not
liking Christians. I think my mother was strict; but she could never
want me not to like those who are better to me than any of my own
people I have ever known. I think I could obey in other things that she
wished but not in that. It is so much easier to me to share in love
than in hatred. I remember a play I read in German--since I have been
here it has come into my mind--where the heroine says something like
that."

"_Antigone_," said Deronda.

"Ah, you know it. But I do not believe that my mother would wish me not
to love my best friends. She would be grateful to them." Here Mirah had
turned to Mrs. Meyrick, and with a sudden lighting up of her whole
countenance, she said, "Oh, if we ever do meet and know each other as
we are now, so that I could tell what would comfort her--I should be so
full of blessedness my soul would know no want but to love her!"

"God bless you, child!" said Mrs. Meyrick, the words escaping
involuntarily from her motherly heart. But to relieve the strain of
feeling she looked at Deronda and said, "It is curious that Mirah, who
remembers her mother so well it is as if she saw her, cannot recall her
brother the least bit--except the feeling of having been carried by him
when she was tired, and of his being near her when she was in her
mother's lap. It must be that he was rarely at home. He was already
grown up. It is a pity her brother should be quite a stranger to her."

"He is good; I feel sure Ezra is good," said Mirah, eagerly. "He loved
my mother--he would take care of her. I remember more of him than that.
I remember my mother's voice once calling, 'Ezra!' and then his
answering from a distance 'Mother!'"--Mirah had changed her voice a
little in each of these words and had given them a loving
intonation--"and then he came close to us. I feel sure he is good. I
have always taken comfort from that."

It was impossible to answer this either with agreement or doubt. Mrs.
Meyrick and Deronda exchanged a quick glance: about this brother she
felt as painfully dubious as he did. But Mirah went on, absorbed in her
memories,

"Is it not wonderful how I remember the voices better than anything
else? I think they must go deeper into us than other things. I have
often fancied heaven might be made of voices."

"Like your singing--yes," said Mab, who had hitherto kept a modest
silence, and now spoke bashfully, as was her wont in the presence of
Prince Camaralzaman--"Ma, do ask Mirah to sing. Mr. Deronda has not
heard her."

"Would it be disagreeable to you to sing now?" said Deronda, with a
more deferential gentleness than he had ever been conscious of before.

"Oh, I shall like it," said Mirah. "My voice has come back a little
with rest."

Perhaps her ease of manner was due to something more than the
simplicity of her nature. The circumstances of her life made her think
of everything she did as work demanded from her, in which affectation
had nothing to do; and she had begun her work before self-consciousness
was born.

She immediately rose and went to the piano--a somewhat worn instrument
that seemed to get the better of its infirmities under the firm touch
of her small fingers as she preluded. Deronda placed himself where he
could see her while she sang; and she took everything as quietly as if
she had been a child going to breakfast.

Imagine her--it is always good to imagine a human creature in whom
bodily loveliness seems as properly one with the entire being as the
bodily loveliness of those wondrous transparent orbs of life that we
find in the sea--imagine her with her dark hair brushed from her
temples, but yet showing certain tiny rings there which had cunningly
found their own way back, the mass of it hanging behind just to the
nape of the little neck in curly fibres, such as renew themselves at
their own will after being bathed into straightness like that of
water-grasses. Then see the perfect cameo her profile makes, cut in a
duskish shell, where by some happy fortune there pierced a gem-like
darkness for the eye and eyebrow; the delicate nostrils defined enough
to be ready for sensitive movements, the finished ear, the firm curves
of the chin and neck, entering into the expression of a refinement
which was not feebleness.

She sang Beethoven's "Per pietà non dirmi addio" with a subdued but
searching pathos which had that essential of perfect singing, the
making one oblivious of art or manner, and only possessing one with the
song. It was the sort of voice that gives the impression of being meant
like a bird's wooing for an audience near and beloved. Deronda began by
looking at her, but felt himself presently covering his eyes with his
hand, wanting to seclude the melody in darkness; then he refrained from
what might seem oddity, and was ready to meet the look of mute appeal
which she turned toward him at the end.

"I think I never enjoyed a song more than that," he said, gratefully.

"You like my singing? I am so glad," she said, with a smile of delight.
"It has been a great pain to me, because it failed in what it was
wanted for. But now we think I can use it to get my bread. I have
really been taught well. And now I have two pupils, that Miss Meyrick
found for me. They pay me nearly two crowns for their two lessons."

"I think I know some ladies who would find you many pupils after
Christmas," said Deronda. "You would not mind singing before any one
who wished to hear you?"

"Oh no, I want to do something to get money. I could teach reading and
speaking, Mrs. Meyrick thinks. But if no one would learn of me, that is
difficult." Mirah smiled with a touch of merriment he had not seen in
her before. "I dare say I should find her poor--I mean my mother. I
should want to get money for her. And I can not always live on charity;
though"--here she turned so as to take all three of her companions in
one glance--"it is the sweetest charity in all the world."

"I should think you can get rich," said Deronda, smiling. "Great ladies
will perhaps like you to teach their daughters. We shall see. But now
do sing again to us."

She went on willingly, singing with ready memory various things by
Gordigiani and Schubert; then, when she had left the piano, Mab said,
entreatingly, "Oh, Mirah, if you would not mind singing the little
hymn."

"It is too childish," said Mirah. "It is like lisping."

"What is the hymn?" said Deronda.

"It is the Hebrew hymn she remembers her mother singing over her when
she lay in her cot," said Mrs. Meyrick.

"I should like very much to hear it," said Deronda, "if you think I am
worthy to hear what is so sacred."

"I will sing it if you like," said Mirah, "but I don't sing real
words--only here and there a syllable like hers--the rest is lisping.
Do you know Hebrew? because if you do, my singing will seem childish
nonsense."

Deronda shook his head. "It will be quite good Hebrew to me."

Mirah crossed her little feet and hands in her easiest attitude, and
then lifted up her head at an angle which seemed to be directed to some
invisible face bent over her, while she sang a little hymn of quaint
melancholy intervals, with syllables that really seemed childish
lisping to her audience; the voice in which she gave it forth had
gathered even a sweeter, more cooing tenderness than was heard in her
other songs.

"If I were ever to know the real words, I should still go on in my old
way with them," said Mirah, when she had repeated the hymn several
times.

"Why not?" said Deronda. "The lisped syllables are very full of
meaning."

"Yes, indeed," said Mrs. Meyrick. "A mother hears something of a lisp
in her children's talk to the very last. Their words are not just what
everybody else says, though they may be spelled the same. If I were to
live till my Hans got old, I should still see the boy in him. A
mother's love, I often say, is like a tree that has got all the wood in
it, from the very first it made."

"Is not that the way with friendship, too?" said Deronda, smiling. "We
must not let the mothers be too arrogant."

The little woman shook her head over her darning.

"It is easier to find an old mother than an old friend. Friendships
begin with liking or gratitude--roots that can be pulled up. Mother's
love begins deeper down."

"Like what you were saying about the influence of voices," said
Deronda, looking at Mirah. "I don't think your hymn would have had more
expression for me if I had known the words. I went to the synagogue at
Frankfort before I came home, and the service impressed me just as much
as if I had followed the words--perhaps more."

"Oh, was it great to you? Did it go to your heart?" said Mirah,
eagerly. "I thought none but our people would feel that. I thought it
was all shut away like a river in a deep valley, where only heaven
saw--I mean---" she hesitated, feeling that she could not disentangle
her thought from its imagery.

"I understand," said Deronda. "But there is not really such a
separation--deeper down, as Mrs. Meyrick says. Our religion is chiefly
a Hebrew religion; and since Jews are men, their religious feelings
must have much in common with those of other men--just as their poetry,
though in one sense peculiar, has a great deal in common with the
poetry of other nations. Still it is to be expected that a Jew would
feel the forms of his people's religion more than one of another
race--and yet"--here Deronda hesitated in his turn--"that is perhaps
not always so."

"Ah no," said Mirah, sadly. "I have seen that. I have seen them mock.
Is it not like mocking your parents?--like rejoicing in your parents'
shame?"

"Some minds naturally rebel against whatever they were brought up in,
and like the opposite; they see the faults in what is nearest to them,"
said Deronda apologetically.

"But you are not like that," said Mirah, looking at him with
unconscious fixedness.

"No, I think not," said Deronda; "but you know I was not brought up as
a Jew."

"Ah, I am always forgetting," said Mirah, with a look of disappointed
recollection, and slightly blushing.

Deronda also felt rather embarrassed, and there was an awkward pause,
which he put an end to by saying playfully,

"Whichever way we take it, we have to tolerate each other; for if we
all went in opposition to our teaching, we must end in difference, just
the same."

"To be sure. We should go on forever in zig-zags," said Mrs. Meyrick.
"I think it is very weak-minded to make your creed up by the rule of
the contrary. Still one may honor one's parents, without following
their notions exactly, any more than the exact cut of their clothing.
My father was a Scotch Calvinist and my mother was a French Calvinist;
I am neither quite Scotch, nor quite French, nor two Calvinists rolled
into one, yet I honor my parents' memory."

"But I could not make myself not a Jewess," said Mirah, insistently,
"even if I changed my belief."

"No, my dear. But if Jews and Jewesses went on changing their religion,
and making no difference between themselves and Christians, there would
come a time when there would be no Jews to be seen," said Mrs. Meyrick,
taking that consummation very cheerfully.

"Oh, please not to say that," said Mirah, the tears gathering. "It is
the first unkind thing you ever said. I will not begin that. I will
never separate myself from my mother's people. I was forced to fly from
my father; but if he came back in age and weakness and want, and needed
me, should I say, 'This is not my father'? If he had shame, I must
share it. It was he who was given to me for my father, and not another.
And so it is with my people. I will always be a Jewess. I will love
Christians when they are good, like you. But I will always cling to my
people. I will always worship with them."

As Mirah had gone on speaking she had become possessed with a sorrowful
passion--fervent, not violent. Holding her little hands tightly clasped
and looking at Mrs. Meyrick with beseeching, she seemed to Deronda a
personification of that spirit which impelled men after a long
inheritance of professed Catholicism to leave wealth and high place and
risk their lives in flight, that they might join their own people and
say, "I am a Jew."

"Mirah, Mirah, my dear child, you mistake me!" said Mrs. Meyrick,
alarmed. "God forbid I should want you to do anything against your
conscience. I was only saying what might be if the world went on. But I
had better have left the world alone, and not wanted to be over-wise.
Forgive me, come! we will not try to take you from anybody you feel has
more right to you."

"I would do anything else for you. I owe you my life," said Mirah, not
yet quite calm.

"Hush, hush, now," said Mrs. Meyrick. "I have been punished enough for
wagging my tongue foolishly--making an almanac for the Millennium, as
my husband used to say."

"But everything in the world must come to an end some time. We must
bear to think of that," said Mab, unable to hold her peace on this
point. She had already suffered from a bondage of tongue which
threatened to become severe if Mirah were to be too much indulged in
this inconvenient susceptibility to innocent remarks.

Deronda smiled at the irregular, blonde face, brought into strange
contrast by the side of Mirah's--smiled, Mab thought, rather
sarcastically as he said, "That prospect of everything coming to an
end will not guide us far in practice. Mirah's feelings, she tells us,
are concerned with what is."

Mab was confused and wished she had not spoken, since Mr. Deronda
seemed to think that she had found fault with Mirah; but to have spoken
once is a tyrannous reason for speaking again, and she said,

"I only meant that we must have courage to hear things, else there is
hardly anything we can talk about." Mab felt herself unanswerable here,
inclining to the opinion of Socrates: "What motive has a man to live,
if not for the pleasure of discourse?"

Deronda took his leave soon after, and when Mrs. Meyrick went outside
with him to exchange a few words about Mirah, he said, "Hans is to
share my chambers when he comes at Christmas."

"You have written to Rome about that?" said Mrs. Meyrick, her face
lighting up. "How very good and thoughtful of you! You mentioned Mirah,
then?"

"Yes, I referred to her. I concluded he knew everything from you."

"I must confess my folly. I have not yet written a word about her. I
have always been meaning to do it, and yet have ended my letter without
saying a word. And I told the girls to leave it to me. However!--Thank
you a thousand times."

Deronda divined something of what was in the mother's mind, and his
divination reinforced a certain anxiety already present in him. His
inward colloquy was not soothing. He said to himself that no man could
see this exquisite creature without feeling it possible to fall in love
with her; but all the fervor of his nature was engaged on the side of
precaution. There are personages who feel themselves tragic because
they march into a palpable morass, dragging another with them, and then
cry out against all the gods. Deronda's mind was strongly set against
imitating them.

"I have my hands on the reins now," he thought, "and I will not drop
them. I shall go there as little as possible."

He saw the reasons acting themselves out before him. How could he be
Mirah's guardian and claim to unite with Mrs. Meyrick, to whose charge
he had committed her, if he showed himself as a lover--whom she did not
love--whom she would not marry? And if he encouraged any germ of
lover's feeling in himself it would lead up to that issue. Mirah's was
not a nature that would bear dividing against itself; and even if love
won her consent to marry a man who was not of her race and religion,
she would never be happy in acting against that strong native bias
which would still reign in her conscience as remorse.

Deronda saw these consequences as we see any danger of marring our own
work well begun. It was a delight to have rescued this child acquainted
with sorrow, and to think of having placed her little feet in protected
paths. The creature we help to save, though only a half-reared linnet,
bruised and lost by the wayside--how we watch and fence it, and dote on
its signs of recovery! Our pride becomes loving, our self is a not-self
for whose sake we become virtuous, when we set to some hidden work of
reclaiming a life from misery and look for our triumph in the secret
joy--"This one is the better for me."

"I would as soon hold out my finger to be bitten off as set about
spoiling her peace," said Deronda. "It was one of the rarest bits of
fortune that I should have had friends like the Meyricks to place her
with--generous, delicate friends without any loftiness in their ways,
so that her dependence on them is not only safety but happiness. There
could be no refuge to replace that, if it were broken up. But what is
the use of my taking the vows and settling everything as it should be,
if that marplot Hans comes and upsets it all?"

Few things were more likely. Hans was made for mishaps: his very limbs
seemed more breakable than other people's--his eyes more of a resort
for uninvited flies and other irritating guests. But it was impossible
to forbid Hans's coming to London. He was intending to get a studio
there and make it his chief home; and to propose that he should defer
coming on some ostensible ground, concealing the real motive of winning
time for Mirah's position to become more confirmed and independent, was
impracticable. Having no other resource Deronda tried to believe that
both he and Mrs. Meyrick were foolishly troubling themselves about one
of those endless things called probabilities, which never occur; but he
did not quite succeed in his trying; on the contrary, he found himself
going inwardly through a scene where on the first discovery of Hans's
inclination he gave him a very energetic warning--suddenly checked,
however, by the suspicion of personal feeling that his warmth might be
creating in Hans. He could come to no result, but that the position was
peculiar, and that he could make no further provision against dangers
until they came nearer. To save an unhappy Jewess from drowning
herself, would not have seemed a startling variation among police
reports; but to discover in her so rare a creature as Mirah, was an
exceptional event which might well bring exceptional consequences.
Deronda would not let himself for a moment dwell on any supposition
that the consequences might enter deeply into his own life. The image
of Mirah had never yet had that penetrating radiation which would have
been given to it by the idea of her loving him. When this sort of
effluence is absent from the fancy (whether from the fact or not) a man
may go far in devotedness without perturbation.

As to the search for Mirah's mother and brother, Deronda took what she
had said to-day as a warrant for deferring any immediate measures. His
conscience was not quite easy in this desire for delay, any more than
it was quite easy in his not attempting to learn the truth about his
own mother: in both cases he felt that there might be an unfulfilled
duty to a parent, but in both cases there was an overpowering
repugnance to the possible truth, which threw a turning weight into the
scale of argument.

"At least, I will look about," was his final determination. "I may find
some special Jewish machinery. I will wait till after Christmas."

What should we all do without the calendar, when we want to put off a
disagreeable duty? The admirable arrangements of the solar system, by
which our time is measured, always supply us with a term before which
it is hardly worth while to set about anything we are disinclined to.



CHAPTER XXXIII.

    "No man," says a Rabbi, by way of indisputable instance, "may turn the
    bones of his father and mother into spoons"--sure that his hearers
    felt the checks against that form of economy. The market for spoons
    has never expanded enough for any one to say, "Why not?" and to argue
    that human progress lies in such an application of material. The only
    check to be alleged is a sentiment, which will coerce none who do not
    hold that sentiments are the better part of the world's wealth.


Deronda meanwhile took to a less fashionable form of exercise than
riding in Rotten Row. He went often rambling in those parts of London
which are most inhabited by common Jews. He walked to the synagogues at
times of service, he looked into shops, he observed faces:--a process
not very promising of particular discovery. Why did he not address
himself to an influential Rabbi or other member of a Jewish community,
to consult on the chances of finding a mother named Cohen, with a son
named Ezra, and a lost daughter named Mirah? He thought of doing
so--after Christmas. The fact was, notwithstanding all his sense of
poetry in common things, Deronda, where a keen personal interest was
aroused, could not, more than the rest of us, continuously escape
suffering from the pressure of that hard unaccommodating Actual, which
has never consulted our taste and is entirely unselect. Enthusiasm, we
know, dwells at ease among ideas, tolerates garlic breathed in the
middle ages, and sees no shabbiness in the official trappings of
classic processions: it gets squeamish when ideals press upon it as
something warmly incarnate, and can hardly face them without fainting.
Lying dreamily in a boat, imagining one's self in quest of a beautiful
maiden's relatives in Cordova elbowed by Jews in the time of
Ibn-Gebirol, all the physical incidents can be borne without shock. Or
if the scenery of St. Mary Axe and Whitechapel were imaginatively
transported to the borders of the Rhine at the end of the eleventh
century, when in the ears listening for the signals of the Messiah, the
Hep! Hep! Hep! of the Crusaders came like the bay of blood-hounds; and
in the presence of those devilish missionaries with sword and firebrand
the crouching figure of the reviled Jew turned round erect, heroic,
flashing with sublime constancy in the face of torture and death--what
would the dingy shops and unbeautiful faces signify to the thrill of
contemplative emotion? But the fervor of sympathy with which we
contemplate a grandiose martyrdom is feeble compared with the
enthusiasm that keeps unslacked where there is no danger, no
challenge--nothing but impartial midday falling on commonplace, perhaps
half-repulsive, objects which are really the beloved ideas made flesh.
Here undoubtedly lies the chief poetic energy: in the force of
imagination that pierces or exalts the solid fact, instead of floating
among cloud-pictures. To glory in a prophetic vision of knowledge
covering the earth, is an easier exercise of believing imagination than
to see its beginning in newspaper placards, staring at you from the
bridge beyond the corn-fields; and it might well happen to most of us
dainty people that we were in the thick of the battle of Armageddon
without being aware of anything more than the annoyance of a little
explosive smoke and struggling on the ground immediately about us.

It lay in Deronda's nature usually to contemn the feeble, fastidious
sympathy which shrinks from the broad life of mankind; but now, with
Mirah before him as a living reality, whose experience he had to care
for, he saw every common Jew and Jewess in the light of a comparison
with her, and had a presentiment of the collision between her idea of
the unknown mother and brother and the discovered fact--a presentiment
all the keener in him because of a suppressed consciousness that a not
unlike possibility of collision might lie hidden in his own lot. Not
that he would have looked with more complacency of expectation at
wealthy Jews, outdoing the lords of the Philistines in their sports;
but since there was no likelihood of Mirah's friends being found among
that class, their habits did not immediately affect him. In this mood
he rambled, without expectation of a more pregnant result than a little
preparation of his own mind, perhaps for future theorizing as well as
practice--very much as if, Mirah being related to Welsh miners, he had
gone to look more closely at the ways of those people, not without
wishing at the same time to get a little light of detail on the history
of Strikes.

He really did not long to find anybody in particular; and when, as his
habit was, he looked at the name over a shop door, he was well content
that it was not Ezra Cohen. I confess, he particularly desired that
Ezra Cohen should not keep a shop. Wishes are held to be ominous;
according to which belief the order of the world is so arranged that if
you have an impious objection to a squint, your offspring is the more
likely to be born with one; also, that if you happened to desire a
squint you would not get it. This desponding view of probability the
hopeful entirely reject, taking their wishes as good and sufficient
security for all kinds of fulfilment. Who is absolutely neutral?
Deronda happening one morning to turn into a little side street out of
the noise and obstructions of Holborn, felt the scale dip on the
desponding side.

He was rather tired of the streets and had paused to hail a hansom cab
which he saw coming, when his attention was caught by some fine old
clasps in chased silver displayed in the window at his right hand. His
first thought was that Lady Mallinger, who had a strictly Protestant
taste for such Catholic spoils, might like to have these missal-clasps
turned into a bracelet: then his eyes traveled over the other contents
of the window, and he saw that the shop was that kind of pawnbroker's
where the lead is given to jewelry, lace and all equivocal objects
introduced as _bric-à-brac_. A placard in one corner
announced--_Watches and Jewelry exchanged and repaired_. But his survey
had been noticed from within, and a figure appeared at the door,
looking round at him and saying in a tone of cordial encouragement,
"Good day, sir." The instant was enough for Deronda to see the face,
unmistakably Jewish, belonged to a young man about thirty, and wincing
from the shopkeeper's persuasiveness that would probably follow, he had
no sooner returned the "good day," than he passed to the other side of
the street and beckoned to the cabman to draw up there. From that
station he saw the name over the shop window--_Ezra Cohen_.

There might be a hundred Ezra Cohens lettered above shop windows, but
Deronda had not seen them. Probably the young man interested in a
possible customer was Ezra himself; and he was about the age to be
expected in Mirah's brother, who was grown up while she was still a
little child. But Deronda's first endeavor as he drove homeward was to
convince himself that there was not the slightest warrantable
presumption of this Ezra being Mirah's brother; and next, that even if,
in spite of good reasoning, he turned out to be that brother, while on
inquiry the mother was found to be dead, it was not
his--Deronda's--duty to make known the discovery to Mirah. In
inconvenient disturbance of this conclusion there came his
lately-acquired knowledge that Mirah would have a religious desire to
know of her mother's death, and also to learn whether her brother were
living. How far was he justified in determining another life by his own
notions? Was it not his secret complaint against the way in which
others had ordered his own life, that he had not open daylight on all
its relations, so that he had not, like other men, the full guidance of
primary duties?

The immediate relief from this inward debate was the reflection that he
had not yet made any real discovery, and that by looking into the facts
more closely he should be certified that there was no demand on him for
any decision whatever. He intended to return to that shop as soon as he
could conveniently, and buy the clasps for Lady Mallinger. But he was
hindered for several days by Sir Hugo, who, about to make an
after-dinner speech on a burning topic, wanted Deronda to forage for
him on the legal part of the question, besides wasting time every day
on argument which always ended in a drawn battle. As on many other
questions, they held different sides, but Sir Hugo did not mind this,
and when Deronda put his point well, said, with a mixture of
satisfaction and regret,

"Confound it, Dan! why don't you make an opportunity of saying these
things in public? You're wrong, you know. You won't succeed. You've got
the massive sentiment--the heavy artillery of the country against you.
But it's all the better ground for a young man to display himself on.
When I was your age, I should have taken it. And it would be quite as
well for you to be in opposition to me here and there. It would throw
you more into relief. If you would seize an occasion of this sort to
make an impression, you might be in Parliament in no time. And you know
that would gratify me."

"I am sorry not to do what would gratify you, sir," said Deronda. "But
I cannot persuade myself to look at politics as a profession."

"Why not? if a man is not born into public life by his position in the
country, there's no way for him but to embrace it by his own efforts.
The business of the country must be done--her Majesty's Government
carried on, as the old Duke said. And it never could be, my boy, if
everybody looked at politics as if they were prophecy, and demanded an
inspired vocation. If you are to get into Parliament, it won't do to
sit still and wait for a call either from heaven or constituents."

"I don't want to make a living out of opinions," said Deronda;
"especially out of borrowed opinions. Not that I mean to blame other
men. I dare say many better fellows than I don't mind getting on to a
platform to praise themselves, and giving their word of honor for a
party."

"I'll tell you what, Dan," said Sir Hugo, "a man who sets his face
against every sort of humbug is simply a three-cornered, impracticable
fellow. There's a bad style of humbug, but there is also a good
style--one that oils the wheels and makes progress possible. If you are
to rule men, you must rule them through their own ideas; and I agree
with the Archbishop at Naples who had a St. Januarius procession
against the plague. It's no use having an Order in Council against
popular shallowness. There is no action possible without a little
acting."

"One may be obliged to give way to an occasional necessity," said
Deronda. "But it is one thing to say, 'In this particular case I am
forced to put on this foolscap and grin,' and another to buy a pocket
foolscap and practice myself in grinning. I can't see any real public
expediency that does not keep an ideal before it which makes a limit of
deviation from the direct path. But if I were to set up for a public
man I might mistake my success for public expediency."

It was after this dialogue, which was rather jarring to him, that
Deronda set out on his meditated second visit to Ezra Cohen's. He
entered the street at the end opposite to the Holborn entrance, and an
inward reluctance slackened his pace while his thoughts were
transferring what he had just been saying about public expediency to
the entirely private difficulty which brought him back again into this
unattractive thoroughfare. It might soon become an immediate practical
question with him how far he could call it a wise expediency to conceal
the fact of close kindred. Such questions turning up constantly in life
are often decided in a rough-and-ready way; and to many it will appear
an over-refinement in Deronda that he should make any great point of a
matter confined to his own knowledge. But we have seen the reasons why
he had come to regard concealment as a bane of life, and the necessity
of concealment as a mark by which lines of action were to be avoided.
The prospect of being urged against the confirmed habit of his mind was
naturally grating. He even paused here and there before the most
plausible shop-windows for a gentleman to look into, half inclined to
decide that he would not increase his knowledge about that modern Ezra,
who was certainly not a leader among his people--a hesitation which
proved how, in a man much given to reasoning, a bare possibility may
weigh more than the best-clad likelihood; for Deronda's reasoning had
decided that all likelihood was against this man's being Mirah's
brother.

One of the shop-windows he paused before was that of a second-hand
book-shop, where, on a narrow table outside, the literature of the ages
was represented in judicious mixture, from the immortal verse of Homer
to the mortal prose of the railway novel. That the mixture was
judicious was apparent from Deronda's finding in it something that he
wanted--namely, that wonderful bit of autobiography, the life of the
Polish Jew, Salomon Maimon; which, as he could easily slip it into his
pocket, he took from its place, and entered the shop to pay for,
expecting to see behind the counter a grimy personage showing that
_nonchalance_ about sales which seems to belong universally to the
second-hand book-business. In most other trades you find generous men
who are anxious to sell you their wares for your own welfare; but even
a Jew will not urge Simson's Euclid on you with an affectionate
assurance that you will have pleasure in reading it, and that he wishes
he had twenty more of the article, so much is it in request. One is led
to fear that a secondhand bookseller may belong to that unhappy class
of men who have no belief in the good of what they get their living by,
yet keep conscience enough to be morose rather than unctuous in their
vocation.

But instead of the ordinary tradesman, he saw, on the dark background
of books in the long narrow shop, a figure that was somewhat startling
in its unusualness. A man in threadbare clothing, whose age was
difficult to guess--from the dead yellowish flatness of the flesh,
something like an old ivory carving--was seated on a stool against some
bookshelves that projected beyond the short counter, doing nothing more
remarkable than reading yesterday's _Times_; but when he let the paper
rest on his lap and looked at the incoming customer, the thought
glanced through Deronda that precisely such a physiognomy as that might
possibly have been seen in a prophet of the Exile, or in some New
Hebrew poet of the mediæval time. It was a fine typical Jewish face,
wrought into intensity of expression apparently by a strenuous eager
experience in which all the satisfaction had been indirect and far off,
and perhaps by some bodily suffering also, which involved that absence
of ease in the present. The features were clear-cut, not large; the
brow not high but broad, and fully defined by the crisp black hair. It
might never have been a particularly handsome face, but it must always
have been forcible; and now with its dark, far-off gaze, and yellow
pallor in relief on the gloom of the backward shop, one might have
imagined one's self coming upon it in some past prison of the
Inquisition, which a mob had suddenly burst upon; while the look fixed
on an incidental customer seemed eager and questioning enough to have
been turned on one who might have been a messenger either of delivery
or of death. The figure was probably familiar and unexciting enough to
the inhabitants of this street; but to Deronda's mind it brought so
strange a blending of the unwonted with the common, that there was a
perceptible interval of mutual observation before he asked his
question; "What is the price of this book?"

After taking the book and examining the fly-leaves without rising, the
supposed bookseller said, "There is no mark, and Mr. Ram is not in now.
I am keeping the shop while he is gone to dinner. What are you disposed
to give for it?" He held the book close on his lap with his hand on it
and looked examiningly at Deronda, over whom there came the
disagreeable idea, that possibly this striking personage wanted to see
how much could be got out of a customer's ignorance of prices. But
without further reflection he said, "Don't you know how much it is
worth?"

"Not its market-price. May I ask have you read it?"

"No. I have read an account of it, which makes me want to buy it."

"You are a man of learning--you are interested in Jewish history?" This
was said in a deepened tone of eager inquiry.

"I am certainly interested in Jewish history," said Deronda, quietly,
curiosity overcoming his dislike to the sort of inspection as well as
questioning he was under.

But immediately the strange Jew rose from his sitting posture, and
Deronda felt a thin hand pressing his arm tightly, while a hoarse,
excited voice, not much above a loud whisper, said,

"You are perhaps of our race?"

Deronda colored deeply, not liking the grasp, and then answered with a
slight shake of the head, "No." The grasp was relaxed, the hand
withdrawn, the eagerness of the face collapsed into uninterested
melancholy, as if some possessing spirit which had leaped into the eyes
and gestures had sunk back again to the inmost recesses of the frame;
and moving further off as he held out the little book, the stranger
said in a tone of distant civility, "I believe Mr. Ram will be
satisfied with half-a-crown, sir."

The effect of this change on Deronda--he afterward smiled when he
recalled it--was oddly embarrassing and humiliating, as if some high
dignitary had found him deficient and given him his _congé_. There was
nothing further to be said, however: he paid his half-crown and carried
off his _Salomon Maimon's Lebensgeschichte_ with a mere "good-morning."

He felt some vexation at the sudden arrest of the interview, and the
apparent prohibition that he should know more of this man, who was
certainly something out of the common way--as different probably as a
Jew could well be from Ezra Cohen, through whose door Deronda was
presently entering, and whose flourishing face glistening on the way to
fatness was hanging over the counter in negotiation with some one on
the other side of the partition, concerning two plated stoppers and
three teaspoons, which lay spread before him. Seeing Deronda enter, he
called out "Mother! Mother!" and then with a familiar nod and smile,
said, "Coming, sir--coming directly."

Deronda could not help looking toward the door from the back with some
anxiety, which was not soothed when he saw a vigorous woman beyond
fifty enter and approach to serve him. Not that there was anything very
repulsive about her: the worst that could be said was that she had that
look of having made her toilet with little water, and by twilight,
which is common to unyouthful people of her class, and of having
presumably slept in her large earrings, if not in her rings and
necklace. In fact, what caused a sinking of heart in Deronda was her
not being so coarse and ugly as to exclude the idea of her being
Mirah's mother. Any one who has looked at a face to try and discern
signs of known kinship in it will understand his process of
conjecture--how he tried to think away the fat which had gradually
disguised the outlines of youth, and to discern what one may call the
elementary expressions of the face. He was sorry to see no absolute
negative to his fears. Just as it was conceivable that this Ezra,
brought up to trade, might resemble the scapegrace father in everything
but his knowledge and talent, so it was not impossible that this mother
might have had a lovely refined daughter whose type of feature and
expression was like Mirah's. The eyebrows had a vexatious similarity of
line; and who shall decide how far a face may be masked when the
uncherishing years have thrust it far onward in the ever-new procession
of youth and age? The good-humor of the glance remained and shone out
in a motherly way at Deronda, as she said, in a mild guttural tone,

"How can I serve you, sir?"

"I should like to look at the silver clasps in the window," said
Deronda; "the larger ones, please, in the corner there."

They were not quite easy to get at from the mother's station, and the
son seeing this called out, "I'll reach 'em, mother; I'll reach 'em,"
running forward with alacrity, and then handing the clasps to Deronda
with the smiling remark,

"Mother's too proud: she wants to do everything herself. That's why I
called her to wait on you, sir. When there's a particular gentleman
customer, sir, I daren't do any other than call her. But I can't let
her do herself mischief with stretching."

Here Mr. Cohen made way again for his parent, who gave a little
guttural, amiable laugh while she looked at Deronda, as much as to say,
"This boy will be at his jokes, but you see he's the best son in the
world," and evidently the son enjoyed pleasing her, though he also
wished to convey an apology to his distinguished customer for not
giving him the advantage of his own exclusive attention.

Deronda began to examine the clasps as if he had many points to observe
before he could come to a decision.

"They are only three guineas, sir," said the mother, encouragingly.

"First-rate workmanship, sir--worth twice the money; only I get 'em a
bargain from Cologne," said the son, parenthetically, from a distance.

Meanwhile two new customers entered, and the repeated call, "Addy!"
brought from the back of the shop a group that Deronda turned frankly
to stare at, feeling sure that the stare would be held complimentary.
The group consisted of a black-eyed young woman who carried a
black-eyed little one, its head already covered with black curls, and
deposited it on the counter, from which station it looked round with
even more than the usual intelligence of babies: also a robust boy of
six and a younger girl, both with black eyes and black-ringed
hair--looking more Semitic than their parents, as the puppy lions show
the spots of far-off progenitors. The young woman answering to
"Addy"--a sort of paroquet in a bright blue dress, with coral necklace
and earrings, her hair set up in a huge bush--looked as complacently
lively and unrefined as her husband; and by a certain difference from
the mother deepened in Deronda the unwelcome impression that the latter
was not so utterly common a Jewess as to exclude her being the mother
of Mirah. While that thought was glancing through his mind, the boy had
run forward into the shop with an energetic stamp, and setting himself
about four feet from Deronda, with his hands in the pockets of his
miniature knickerbockers, looked at him with a precocious air of
survey. Perhaps it was chiefly with a diplomatic design to linger and
ingratiate himself that Deronda patted the boy's head, saying,

"What is your name, sirrah?"

"Jacob Alexander Cohen," said the small man, with much ease and
distinctness.

"You are not named after your father, then?"

"No, after my grandfather; he sells knives and razors and scissors--my
grandfather does," said Jacob, wishing to impress the stranger with
that high connection. "He gave me this knife." Here a pocket-knife was
drawn forth, and the small fingers, both naturally and artificially
dark, opened two blades and a cork-screw with much quickness.

"Is not that a dangerous plaything?" said Deronda, turning to the
grandmother.

"_He_'ll never hurt himself, bless you!" said she, contemplating her
grandson with placid rapture.

"Have _you_ got a knife?" says Jacob, coming closer. His small voice
was hoarse in its glibness, as if it belonged to an aged commercial
soul, fatigued with bargaining through many generations.

"Yes. Do you want to see it?" said Deronda, taking a small penknife
from his waistcoat-pocket.

Jacob seized it immediately and retreated a little, holding the two
knives in his palms and bending over them in meditative comparison. By
this time the other clients were gone, and the whole family had
gathered to the spot, centering their attention on the marvelous Jacob:
the father, mother, and grandmother behind the counter, with baby held
staggering thereon, and the little girl in front leaning at her
brother's elbow to assist him in looking at the knives.

"Mine's the best," said Jacob, at last, returning Deronda's knife as if
he had been entertaining the idea of exchange and had rejected it.

Father and mother laughed aloud with delight. "You won't find Jacob
choosing the worst," said Mr. Cohen, winking, with much confidence in
the customer's admiration. Deronda, looking at the grandmother, who had
only an inward silent laugh, said,

"Are these the only grandchildren you have?"

"All. This is my only son," she answered in a communicative tone,
Deronda's glance and manner as usual conveying the impression of
sympathetic interest--which on this occasion answered his purpose well.
It seemed to come naturally enough that he should say,

"And you have no daughter?"

There was an instantaneous change in the mother's face. Her lips closed
more firmly, she looked down, swept her hands outward on the counter,
and finally turned her back on Deronda to examine some Indian
handkerchiefs that hung in pawn behind her. Her son gave a significant
glance, set up his shoulders an instant and just put his fingers to his
lips,--then said quickly, "I think you're a first-rate gentleman in the
city, sir, if I may be allowed to guess."

"No," said Deronda, with a preoccupied air, "I have nothing to do with
the city."

"That's a bad job. I thought you might be the young principal of a
first-rate firm," said Mr. Cohen, wishing to make amends for the check
on his customer's natural desire to know more of him and his. "But you
understand silver-work, I see."

"A little," said Deronda, taking up the clasps a moment and laying them
down again. That unwelcome bit of circumstantial evidence had made his
mind busy with a plan which was certainly more like acting than
anything he had been aware of in his own conduct before. But the bare
possibility that more knowledge might nullify the evidence now
overpowered the inclination to rest in uncertainty.

"To tell you the truth," he went on, "my errand is not so much to buy
as to borrow. I dare say you go into rather heavy transactions
occasionally."

"Well, sir, I've accommodated gentlemen of distinction--I'm proud to
say it. I wouldn't exchange my business with any in the world. There's
none more honorable, nor more charitable, nor more necessary for all
classes, from the good lady who wants a little of the ready for the
baker, to a gentleman like yourself, sir, who may want it for
amusement. I like my business, I like my street, and I like my shop. I
wouldn't have it a door further down. And I wouldn't be without a
pawn-shop, sir, to be the Lord Mayor. It puts you in connection with
the world at large. I say it's like the government revenue--it embraces
the brass as well as the gold of the country. And a man who doesn't get
money, sir, can't accommodate. Now, what can I do for _you_, sir?"

If an amiable self-satisfaction is the mark of earthly bliss, Solomon
in all his glory was a pitiable mortal compared with Mr. Cohen--clearly
one of those persons, who, being in excellent spirits about themselves,
are willing to cheer strangers by letting them know it. While he was
delivering himself with lively rapidity, he took the baby from his wife
and holding it on his arm presented his features to be explored by its
small fists. Deronda, not in a cheerful mood, was rashly pronouncing
this Ezra Cohen to be the most unpoetic Jew he had ever met with in
books or life: his phraseology was as little as possible like that of
the Old Testament: and no shadow of a suffering race distinguished his
vulgarity of soul from that of a prosperous, pink-and-white huckster of
the purest English lineage. It is naturally a Christian feeling that a
Jew ought not to be conceited. However, this was no reason for not
persevering in his project, and he answered at once in adventurous
ignorance of technicalities,

"I have a fine diamond ring to offer as security--not with me at this
moment, unfortunately, for I am not in the habit of wearing it. But I
will come again this evening and bring it with me. Fifty pounds at once
would be a convenience to me."

"Well, you know, this evening is the Sabbath, young gentleman," said
Cohen, "and I go to the _Shool_. The shop will be closed. But
accommodation is a work of charity; if you can't get here before, and
are any ways pressed--why, I'll look at your diamond. You're perhaps
from the West End--a longish drive?"

"Yes; and your Sabbath begins early at this season. I could be here by
five--will that do?" Deronda had not been without hope that by asking
to come on a Friday evening he might get a better opportunity of
observing points in the family character, and might even be able to put
some decisive question.

Cohen assented; but here the marvelous Jacob, whose _physique_
supported a precocity that would have shattered a Gentile of his years,
showed that he had been listening with much comprehension by saying,
"You are coming again. Have you got any more knives at home?"

"I think I have one," said Deronda, smiling down at him.

"Has it two blades and a hook--and a white handle like that?" said
Jacob, pointing to the waistcoat-pocket.

"I dare say it has."

"Do you like a cork-screw?" said Jacob, exhibiting that article in his
own knife again, and looking up with serious inquiry.

"Yes," said Deronda, experimentally.

"Bring your knife, then, and we'll shwop," said Jacob, returning the
knife to his pocket, and stamping about with the sense that he had
concluded a good transaction.

The grandmother had now recovered her usual manners, and the whole
family watched Deronda radiantly when he caressingly lifted the little
girl, to whom he had not hitherto given attention, and seating her on
the counter, asked for her name also. She looked at him in silence, and
put her fingers to her gold earrings, which he did not seem to have
noticed.

"Adelaide Rebekah is her name," said her mother, proudly. "Speak to the
gentleman, lovey."

"Shlav'm Shabbes fyock on," said Adelaide Rebekah.

"Her Sabbath frock, she means," said the father, in explanation.
"She'll have her Sabbath frock on this evening."

"And will you let me see you in it, Adelaide?" said Deronda, with that
gentle intonation which came very easily to him.

"Say yes, lovey--yes, if you please, sir," said her mother, enchanted
with this handsome young gentleman, who appreciated remarkable children.

"And will you give me a kiss this evening?" said Deronda with a hand on
each of her little brown shoulders.

Adelaide Rebekah (her miniature crinoline and monumental features
corresponded with the combination of her names) immediately put up her
lips to pay the kiss in advance; whereupon her father rising in still
more glowing satisfaction with the general meritoriousness of his
circumstances, and with the stranger who was an admiring witness, said
cordially,

"You see there's somebody will be disappointed if you don't come this
evening, sir. You won't mind sitting down in our family place and
waiting a bit for me, if I'm not in when you come, sir? I'll stretch a
point to accommodate a gent of your sort. Bring the diamond, and I'll
see what I can do for you."

Deronda thus left the most favorable impression behind him, as a
preparation for more easy intercourse. But for his own part those
amenities had been carried on under the heaviest spirits. If these were
really Mirah's relatives, he could not imagine that even her fervid
filial piety could give the reunion with them any sweetness beyond such
as could be found in the strict fulfillment of a painful duty. What did
this vaunting brother need? And with the most favorable supposition
about the hypothetic mother, Deronda shrank from the image of a first
meeting between her and Mirah, and still more from the idea of Mirah's
domestication with this family. He took refuge in disbelief. To find an
Ezra Cohen when the name was running in your head was no more
extraordinary than to find a Josiah Smith under like circumstances; and
as to the coincidence about the daughter, it would probably turn out to
be a difference. If, however, further knowledge confirmed the more
undesirable conclusion, what would be wise expediency?--to try and
determine the best consequences by concealment, or to brave other
consequences for the sake of that openness which is the sweet fresh air
of our moral life.



CHAPTER XXXIV.

        "Er ist geheissen
  Israel. Ihn hat verwandelt
  Hexenspruch in einen Hund.
       *       *       *       *       *
  Aber jeden Freitag Abend,
  In der Dämm'rungstunde, plötzlich
  Weicht der Zauber, und der Hund
  Wird aufs Neu' ein menschlich Wesen."
                    --HEINE: _Prinzessin Sabbath_.


When Deronda arrived at five o'clock, the shop was closed and the door
was opened for him by the Christian servant. When she showed him into
the room behind the shop he was surprised at the prettiness of the
scene. The house was old, and rather extensive at the back: probably
the large room he now entered was gloomy by daylight, but now it was
agreeably lit by a fine old brass lamp with seven oil-lights hanging
above the snow-white cloth spread on the central table. The ceiling and
walls were smoky, and all the surroundings were dark enough to throw
into relief the human figures, which had a Venetian glow of coloring.
The grandmother was arrayed in yellowish brown with a large gold chain
in lieu of the necklace, and by this light her yellow face with its
darkly-marked eyebrows and framing roll of gray hair looked as handsome
as was necessary for picturesque effect. Young Mrs. Cohen was clad in
red and black, with a string of large artificial pearls wound round and
round her neck: the baby lay asleep in the cradle under a scarlet
counterpane; Adelaide Rebekah was in braided amber, and Jacob Alexander
was in black velveteen with scarlet stockings. As the four pairs of
black eyes all glistened a welcome at Deronda, he was almost ashamed of
the supercilious dislike these happy-looking creatures had raised in
him by daylight. Nothing could be more cordial than the greeting he
received, and both mother and grandmother seemed to gather more dignity
from being seen on the private hearth, showing hospitality. He looked
round with some wonder at the old furniture: the oaken bureau and high
side-table must surely be mere matters of chance and economy, and not
due to the family taste. A large dish of blue and yellow ware was set
up on the side-table, and flanking it were two old silver vessels; in
front of them a large volume in darkened vellum with a deep-ribbed
back. In the corner at the farther end was an open door into an inner
room, where there was also a light.

Deronda took in these details by parenthetic glances while he met
Jacob's pressing solicitude about the knife. He had taken the pains to
buy one with the requisites of the hook and white handle, and produced
it on demand, saying,

"Is that the sort of thing you want, Jacob?"

It was subjected to a severe scrutiny, the hook and blades were opened,
and the article of barter with the cork-screw was drawn forth for
comparison.

"Why do you like a hook better than a cork-screw?" said Deronda.

"'Caush I can get hold of things with a hook. A corkscrew won't go into
anything but corks. But it's better for you, you can draw corks."

"You agree to change, then?" said Deronda, observing that the
grandmother was listening with delight.

"What else have you got in your pockets?" said Jacob, with deliberative
seriousness.

"Hush, hush, Jacob, love," said the grandmother. And Deronda, mindful
of discipline, answered,

"I think I must not tell you that. Our business was with the knives."

Jacob looked up into his face scanningly for a moment or two, and
apparently arriving at his conclusions, said gravely,

"I'll shwop," handing the cork-screw knife to Deronda, who pocketed it
with corresponding gravity.

Immediately the small son of Shem ran off into the next room, whence
his voice was heard in rapid chat; and then ran back again--when,
seeing his father enter, he seized a little velveteen hat which lay on
a chair and put it on to approach him. Cohen kept on his own hat, and
took no notice of the visitor, but stood still while the two children
went up to him and clasped his knees: then he laid his hands on each in
turn and uttered his Hebrew benediction; whereupon the wife, who had
lately taken baby from the cradle, brought it up to her husband and
held it under his outstretched hands, to be blessed in its sleep. For
the moment, Deronda thought that this pawnbroker, proud of his
vocation, was not utterly prosaic.

"Well, sir, you found your welcome in my family, I think," said Cohen,
putting down his hat and becoming his former self. "And you've been
punctual. Nothing like a little stress here," he added, tapping his
side pocket as he sat down. "It's good for us all in our turn. I've
felt it when I've had to make up payments. I began to fit every sort of
box. It's bracing to the mind. Now then! let us see, let us see."

"That is the ring I spoke of," said Deronda, taking it from his finger.
"I believe it cost a hundred pounds. It will be a sufficient pledge to
you for fifty, I think. I shall probably redeem it in a month or so."

Cohen's glistening eyes seemed to get a little nearer together as he
met the ingenuous look of this crude young gentleman, who apparently
supposed that redemption was a satisfaction to pawnbrokers. He took the
ring, examined and returned it, saying with indifference, "Good, good.
We'll talk of it after our meal. Perhaps you'll join us, if you've no
objection. Me and my wife'll feel honored, and so will mother; won't
you, mother?"

The invitation was doubly echoed, and Deronda gladly accepted it. All
now turned and stood round the table. No dish was at present seen
except one covered with a napkin; and Mrs. Cohen had placed a china
bowl near her husband that he might wash his hands in it. But after
putting on his hat again, he paused, and called in a loud voice,
"Mordecai!"

Can this be part of the religious ceremony? thought Deronda, not
knowing what might be expected of the ancient hero. But he heard a
"Yes" from the next room, which made him look toward the open door; and
there, to his astonishment, he saw the figure of the enigmatic Jew whom
he had this morning met with in the book-shop. Their eyes met, and
Mordecai looked as much surprised as Deronda--neither in his surprise
making any sign of recognition. But when Mordecai was seating himself
at the end of the table, he just bent his head to the guest in a cold
and distant manner, as if the disappointment of the morning remained a
disagreeable association with this new acquaintance.

Cohen now washed his hands, pronouncing Hebrew words the while:
afterward, he took off the napkin covering the dish and disclosed the
two long flat loaves besprinkled with seed--the memorial of the manna
that fed the wandering forefathers--and breaking off small pieces gave
one to each of the family, including Adelaide Rebekah, who stood on the
chair with her whole length exhibited in her amber-colored garment, her
little Jewish nose lengthened by compression of the lip in the effort
to make a suitable appearance. Cohen then uttered another Hebrew
blessing, and after that, the male heads were uncovered, all seated
themselves, and the meal went on without any peculiarity that
interested Deronda. He was not very conscious of what dishes he ate
from; being preoccupied with a desire to turn the conversation in a way
that would enable him to ask some leading question; and also thinking
of Mordecai, between whom and himself there was an exchange of
fascinated, half-furtive glances. Mordecai had no handsome Sabbath
garment, but instead of the threadbare rusty black coat of the morning
he wore one of light drab, which looked as if it had once been a
handsome loose paletot now shrunk with washing; and this change of
clothing gave a still stronger accentuation to his dark-haired, eager
face which might have belonged to the prophet Ezekiel--also probably
not modish in the eyes of contemporaries. It was noticeable that the
thin tails of the fried fish were given to Mordecai; and in general the
sort of share assigned to a poor relation--no doubt a "survival" of
prehistoric practice, not yet generally admitted to be superstitious.

Mr. Cohen kept up the conversation with much liveliness, introducing as
subjects always in taste (the Jew is proud of his loyalty) the Queen
and the Royal Family, the Emperor and Empress of the French--into which
both grandmother and wife entered with zest. Mrs. Cohen the younger
showed an accurate memory of distinguished birthdays; and the elder
assisted her son in informing the guest of what occurred when the
Emperor and Empress were in England and visited the city ten years
before.

"I dare say you know all about it better than we do, sir," said Cohen,
repeatedly, by way of preface to full information; and the interesting
statements were kept up in a trio.

"Our baby is named _Eu_genie Esther," said young Mrs. Cohen,
vivaciously.

"It's wonderful how the Emperor's like a cousin of mine in the face,"
said the grandmother; "it struck me like lightning when I caught sight
of him. I couldn't have thought it."

"Mother and me went to see the Emperor and Empress at the Crystal
Palace," said Mr. Cohen. "I had a fine piece of work to take care of,
mother; she might have been squeezed flat--though she was pretty near
as lusty then as she is now. I said if I had a hundred mothers I'd
never take one of 'em to see the Emperor and Empress at the Crystal
Palace again; and you may think a man can't afford it when he's got but
one mother--not if he'd ever so big an insurance on her." He stroked
his mother's shoulder affectionately, and chuckled a little at his own
humor.

"Your mother has been a widow a long while, perhaps," said Deronda,
seizing his opportunity. "That has made your care for her the more
needful."

"Ay, ay, it's a good many _yore-zeit_ since I had to manage for her and
myself," said Cohen quickly. "I went early to it. It's that makes you a
sharp knife."

"What does--what makes a sharp knife, father?" said Jacob, his cheek
very much swollen with sweet-cake.

The father winked at his guest and said, "Having your nose put on the
grindstone."

Jacob slipped from his chair with the piece of sweet-cake in his hand,
and going close up to Mordecai, who had been totally silent hitherto,
said, "What does that mean--putting my nose to the grindstone?"

"It means that you are to bear being hurt without making a noise," said
Mordecai, turning his eyes benignantly on the small face close to his.
Jacob put the corner of the cake into Mordecai's mouth as an invitation
to bite, saying meanwhile, "I shan't though," and keeping his eyes on
the cake to observe how much of it went in this act of generosity.
Mordecai took a bite and smiled, evidently meaning to please the lad,
and the little incident made them both look more lovable. Deronda,
however, felt with some vexation that he had taken little by his
question.

"I fancy that is the right quarter for learning," said he, carrying on
the subject that he might have an excuse for addressing Mordecai, to
whom he turned and said, "You have been a great student, I imagine?"

"I have studied," was the quiet answer. "And you?--You know German by
the book you were buying."

"Yes, I have studied in Germany. Are you generally engaged in
bookselling?" said Deronda.

"No; I only go to Mr. Ram's shop every day to keep it while he goes to
meals," said Mordecai, who was now looking at Deronda with what seemed
a revival of his original interest: it seemed as if the face had some
attractive indication for him which now neutralized the former
disappointment. After a slight pause, he said, "Perhaps you know
Hebrew?"

"I am sorry to say, not at all."

Mordecai's countenance fell: he cast down his eyelids, looking at his
hands, which lay crossed before him, and said no more. Deronda had now
noticed more decisively than in their former interview a difficulty in
breathing, which he thought must be a sign of consumption.

"I've had something else to do than to get book-learning." said Mr.
Cohen,--"I've had to make myself knowing about useful things. I know
stones well,"--here he pointed to Deronda's ring. "I'm not afraid of
taking that ring of yours at my own valuation. But now," he added, with
a certain drop in his voice to a lower, more familiar nasal, "what do
you want for it?"

"Fifty or sixty pounds," Deronda answered, rather too carelessly.

Cohen paused a little, thrust his hands into his pockets, fixed on
Deronda a pair of glistening eyes that suggested a miraculous
guinea-pig, and said, "Couldn't do you that. Happy to oblige, but
couldn't go that lengths. Forty pound--say forty--I'll let you have
forty on it."

Deronda was aware that Mordecai had looked up again at the words
implying a monetary affair, and was now examining him again, while he
said, "Very well, I shall redeem it in a month or so."

"Good. I'll make you out the ticket by-and-by," said Cohen,
indifferently. Then he held up his finger as a sign that conversation
must be deferred. He, Mordecai and Jacob put on their hats, and Cohen
opened a thanksgiving, which was carried on by responses, till Mordecai
delivered himself alone at some length, in a solemn chanting tone, with
his chin slightly uplifted and his thin hands clasped easily before
him. Not only in his accent and tone, but in his freedom from the
self-consciousness which has reference to others' approbation, there
could hardly have been a stronger contrast to the Jew at the other end
of the table. It was an unaccountable conjunction--the presence among
these common, prosperous, shopkeeping types, of a man who, in an
emaciated threadbare condition, imposed a certain awe on Deronda, and
an embarrassment at not meeting his expectations.

No sooner had Mordecai finished his devotional strain, than rising,
with a slight bend of his head to the stranger, he walked back into his
room, and shut the door behind him.

"That seems to be rather a remarkable man," said Deronda, turning to
Cohen, who immediately set up his shoulders, put out his tongue
slightly, and tapped his own brow. It was clearly to be understood that
Mordecai did not come up to the standard of sanity which was set by Mr.
Cohen's view of men and things.

"Does he belong to your family?" said Deronda.

This idea appeared to be rather ludicrous to the ladies as well as to
Cohen, and the family interchanged looks of amusement.

"No, no," said Cohen. "Charity! charity! he worked for me, and when he
got weaker and weaker I took him in. He's an incumbrance; but he brings
a blessing down, and he teaches the boy. Besides, he does the repairing
at the watches and jewelry."

Deronda hardly abstained from smiling at this mixture of kindliness and
the desire to justify it in the light of a calculation; but his
willingness to speak further of Mordecai, whose character was made the
more enigmatically striking by these new details, was baffled. Mr.
Cohen immediately dismissed the subject by reverting to the
"accommodation," which was also an act of charity, and proceeded to
make out the ticket, get the forty pounds, and present them both in
exchange for the diamond ring. Deronda, feeling that it would be hardly
delicate to protract his visit beyond the settlement of the business
which was its pretext, had to take his leave, with no more decided
result than the advance of forty pounds and the pawn-ticket in his
breast-pocket, to make a reason for returning when he came up to town
after Christmas. He was resolved that he would then endeavor to gain a
little more insight into the character and history of Mordecai; from
whom also he might gather something decisive about the Cohens--for
example, the reason why it was forbidden to ask Mrs. Cohen the elder
whether she had a daughter.



BOOK V.--MORDECAI.


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
    cut-purse 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 snow-balling 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 some one 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 every one, 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 any one
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
any one 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
_tete-à-tete_ 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 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 some one 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 to-day, 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 _naïveté_. "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 every thing 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
altar-pieces, 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 blood-hounds.

"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 blood-hounds,
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 _tete-à-tete_ 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 under-side 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 every one 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 some one 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 some one 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 ear-ring. "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 man-servant 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 pre-eminence 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 pese 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 confident 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 any one here wanted singing lessons."

"All ladies know some one 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 any one 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 every thing 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 ball-room.

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: hot-house 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 censors
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 wrong-doing.
But if you submitted to that as men submit to maiming or life-long
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 any one, 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 any one'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 every one
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.

  _Aspern._    Pardon, my lord--I speak for Sigismund.
  _Fronsberg._ 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?
  _Aspern._    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.
  _Fronsberg._                         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 æsthetic
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 Marts_ 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. Every one 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 kind-hearted--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.



CHAPTER XXXVIII.

    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 over-whelming 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 good-will 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 finger-tips 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 see-saw 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