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