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Daniel Deronda

George Eliot's Zionist Novel - 1876

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Daniel Deronda - George Eliot's Zionist Novel - 1876

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"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.

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