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Daniel Deronda

George Eliot's Zionist Novel - 1876

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Daniel Deronda - George Eliot's Zionist Novel - 1876

Daniel_Deronda MAIN

"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."

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