George Eliot's Zionist Novel - 1876
Daniel Deronda - George Eliot's Zionist Novel - 1876
"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."
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