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