George Eliot's Zionist Novel - 1876
Daniel Deronda - George Eliot's Zionist Novel - 1876
"There comes Hans," said Mrs. Meyrick. "Stand still, and let us hear what he says about the dress. Artists are the best people to consult about such things."
"You don't consult me, ma," said Kate, lifting up her eyebrow with a playful complainingness. "I notice mothers are like the people I deal with--the girls' doings are always priced low."
"My dear child, the boys are such a trouble--we could never put up with them, if we didn't make believe they were worth more," said Mrs. Meyrick, just as her boy entered. "Hans, we want your opinion about Mirah's dress. A great event has happened. Klesmer has been here, and she is going to sing at his house on Wednesday among grand people. She thinks this dress will do."
"Let me see," said Hans. Mirah in her childlike way turned toward him to be looked at; and he, going to a little further distance, knelt with one knee on a hassock to survey her.
"This would be thought a very good stage-dress for me," she said, pleadingly, "in a part where I was to come on as a poor Jewess and sing to fashionable Christians."
"It would be effective," said Hans, with a considering air; "it would stand out well among the fashionable chiffons."
"But you ought not to claim all the poverty on your side, Mirah," said Amy. "There are plenty of poor Christians and dreadfully rich Jews and fashionable Jewesses."
"I didn't mean any harm," said Mirah. "Only I have been used to thinking about my dress for parts in plays. And I almost always had a part with a plain dress."
"That makes me think it questionable," said Hans, who had suddenly become as fastidious and conventional on this occasion as he had thought Deronda was, apropos of the Berenice-pictures. "It looks a little too theatrical. We must not make you a role of the poor Jewess--or of being a Jewess at all." Hans had a secret desire to neutralize the Jewess in private life, which he was in danger of not keeping secret.
"But it is what I am really. I am not pretending anything. I shall never be anything else," said Mirah. "I always feel myself a Jewess."
"But we can't feel that about you," said Hans, with a devout look. "What does it signify whether a perfect woman is a Jewess or not?"
"That is your kind way of praising me; I never was praised so before," said Mirah, with a smile, which was rather maddening to Hans and made him feel still more of a cosmopolitan.
"People don't think of me as a British Christian," he said, his face creasing merrily. "They think of me as an imperfectly handsome young man and an unpromising painter."
"But you are wandering from the dress," said Amy. "If that will not do, how are we to get another before Wednesday? and to-morrow Sunday?"
"Indeed this will do," said Mirah, entreatingly. "It is all real, you know," here she looked at Hans--"even if it seemed theatrical. Poor Berenice sitting on the ruins--any one might say that was theatrical, but I know that this is just what she would do."
"I am a scoundrel," said Hans, overcome by this misplaced trust. "That is my invention. Nobody knows that she did that. Shall you forgive me for not saying so before?"
"Oh, yes," said Mirah, after a momentary pause of surprise. "You knew it was what she would be sure to do--a Jewess who had not been faithful--who had done what she did and was penitent. She could have no joy but to afflict herself; and where else would she go? I think it is very beautiful that you should enter so into what a Jewess would feel."
"The Jewesses of that time sat on ruins," said Hans, starting up with a sense of being checkmated. "That makes them convenient for pictures."
"But the dress--the dress," said Amy; "is it settled?"
"Yes; is it not?" said Mirah, looking doubtfully at Mrs. Meyrick, who in her turn looked up at her son, and said, "What do you think, Hans?"
"That dress will not do," said Hans, decisively. "She is not going to sit on ruins. You must jump into a cab with her, little mother, and go to Regent Street. It's plenty of time to get anything you like--a black silk dress such as ladies wear. She must not be taken for an object of charity. She has talents to make people indebted to her."
"I think it is what Mr. Deronda would like--for her to have a handsome dress," said Mrs. Meyrick, deliberating.
"Of course it is," said Hans, with some sharpness. "You may take my word for what a gentleman would feel."
"I wish to do what Mr. Deronda would like me to do," said Mirah, gravely, seeing that Mrs. Meyrick looked toward her; and Hans, turning on his heel, went to Kate's table and took up one of her drawings as if his interest needed a new direction.
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