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Daniel Deronda

George Eliot's Zionist Novel - 1876

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Daniel Deronda - George Eliot's Zionist Novel - 1876

Daniel_Deronda MAIN

CHAPTER XLII.

"Wenn es eine Stutenleiter von Leiden giebt, so hat Israel die hoechste Staffel erstiegen; wen die Dauer der Schmerzen und die Geduld, mit welcher sie ertragen werden, adeln, so nehmen es die Juden mit den Hochgeborenen aller Laender auf; wenn eine Literatur reich genannt wird, die wenige klassische Trauerspiele besitzt, welcher Platz gebuehrt dann einer Tragodie die anderthalb Jahrtausende wahrt, gedichtet und dargestellt von den Helden selber?"--ZUNZ: Die Synagogale Poesie des Mittelalters. "If there are ranks in suffering, Israel takes precedence of all the nations--if the duration of sorrows and the patience with which they are borne ennoble, the Jews are among the aristocracy of every land--if a literature is called rich in the possession of a few classic tragedies, what shall we say to a National Tragedy lasting for fifteen hundred years, in which the poets and the actors were also the heroes?"

Deronda had lately been reading that passage of Zunz, and it occurred to him by way of contrast when he was going to the Cohens, who certainly bore no obvious stamp of distinction in sorrow or in any other form of aristocracy. Ezra Cohen was not clad in the sublime pathos of the martyr, and his taste for money-getting seemed to be favored with that success which has been the most exasperating difference in the greed of Jews during all the ages of their dispersion. This Jeshurun of a pawnbroker was not a symbol of the great Jewish tragedy; and yet was there not something typical in the fact that a life like Mordecai's--a frail incorporation of the national consciousness, breathing with difficult breath--was nested in the self-gratulating ignorant prosperity of the Cohens?

Glistening was the gladness in their faces when Deronda reappeared among them. Cohen himself took occasion to intimate that although the diamond ring, let alone a little longer, would have bred more money, he did not mind that--not a sixpence--when compared with the pleasure of the women and children in seeing a young gentleman whose first visit had been so agreeable that they had "done nothing but talk of it ever since." Young Mrs. Cohen was very sorry that baby was asleep, and then very glad that Adelaide was not yet gone to bed, entreating Deronda not to stay in the shop, but to go forthwith into the parlor to see "mother and the children." He willingly accepted the invitation, having provided himself with portable presents; a set of paper figures for Adelaide, and an ivory cup and ball for Jacob.

The grandmother had a pack of cards before her and was making "plates" with the children. A plate had just been thrown down and kept itself whole.

"Stop!" said Jacob, running to Deronda as he entered. "Don't tread on my plate. Stop and see me throw it up again."

Deronda complied, exchanging a smile of understanding with the grandmother, and the plate bore several tossings before it came to pieces; then the visitor was allowed to come forward and seat himself. He observed that the door from which Mordecai had issued on the former visit was now closed, but he wished to show his interest in the Cohens before disclosing a yet stronger interest in their singular inmate.

It was not until he had Adelaide on his knee, and was setting up the paper figures in their dance on the table, while Jacob was already practicing with the cup and ball, that Deronda said--

"Is Mordecai in just now?"

"Where is he, Addy?" said Cohen, who had seized an interval of business to come and look on.

"In the workroom there," said his wife, nodding toward the closed door.

"The fact is, sir," said Cohen, "we don't know what's come to him this last day or two. He's always what I may call a little touched, you know"-- here Cohen pointed to his own forehead--"not quite so rational in all things, like you and me; but he's mostly wonderful regular and industrious so far as a poor creature can be, and takes as much delight in the boy as anybody could. But this last day or two he's been moving about like a sleep-walker, or else sitting as still as a wax figure."

"It's the disease, poor dear creature," said the grandmother, tenderly. "I doubt whether he can stand long against it."

"No; I think its only something he's got in his head." said Mrs. Cohen the younger. "He's been turning over writing continually, and when I speak to him it takes him ever so long to hear and answer."

"You may think us a little weak ourselves," said Cohen, apologetically. "But my wife and mother wouldn't part with him if he was a still worse encumbrance. It isn't that we don't know the long and short of matters, but it's our principle. There's fools do business at a loss and don't know it. I'm not one of 'em."

"Oh, Mordecai carries a blessing inside him," said the grandmother.

"He's got something the matter inside him," said Jacob, coming up to correct this erratum of his grandmother's. "He said he couldn't talk to me, and he wouldn't have a bit o' bun."

"So far from wondering at your feeling for him," said Deronda, "I already feel something of the same sort myself. I have lately talked to him at Ram's book-shop--in fact, I promised to call for him here, that we might go out together."

"That's it, then!" said Cohen, slapping his knee. "He's been expecting you, and it's taken hold of him. I suppose he talks about his learning to you. It's uncommonly kind of you, sir; for I don't suppose there's much to be got out of it, else it wouldn't have left him where he is. But there's the shop." Cohen hurried out, and Jacob, who had been listening inconveniently near to Deronda's elbow, said to him with obliging familiarity, "I'll call Mordecai for you, if you like."

"No, Jacob," said his mother; "open the door for the gentleman, and let him go in himself Hush! don't make a noise."

Skillful Jacob seemed to enter into the play, and turned the handle of the door as noiselessly as possible, while Deronda went behind him and stood on the threshold. The small room was lit only by a dying fire and one candle with a shade over it. On the board fixed under the window, various objects of jewelry were scattered: some books were heaped in the corner beyond them. Mordecai was seated on a high chair at the board with his back to the door, his hands resting on each other and on the board, a watch propped on a stand before him. He was in a state of expectation as sickening as that of a prisoner listening for the delayed deliverance-- when he heard Deronda's voice saying, "I am come for you. Are you ready?"

Immediately he turned without speaking, seized his furred cap which lay near, and moved to join Deronda. It was but a moment before they were both in the sitting-room, and Jacob, noticing the change in his friend's air and expression, seized him by the arm and said, "See my cup and ball!" sending the ball up close to Mordecai's face, as something likely to cheer a convalescent. It was a sign of the relieved tension in Mordecai's mind that he could smile and say, "Fine, fine!"

"You have forgotten your greatcoat and comforter," said young Mrs. Cohen, and he went back into the work-room and got them.

"He's come to life again, do you see?" said Cohen, who had re-entered-- speaking in an undertone. "I told you so: I'm mostly right." Then in his usual voice, "Well, sir, we mustn't detain you now, I suppose; but I hope this isn't the last time we shall see you."

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