George Eliot's Zionist Novel - 1876
Daniel Deronda - George Eliot's Zionist Novel - 1876
"Men who judge of others by themselves," said Gwendolen, turning white after her redness, and immediately smitten with a dread of her own words.
"Of course. And a woman should take their judgment--else she is likely to run her head into the wrong place," said Grandcourt, conscious of using pinchers on that white creature. "I suppose you take Deronda for a saint."
"Oh dear no?" said Gwendolen, summoning desperately her almost miraculous power of self-control, and speaking in a high hard tone. "Only a little less of a monster."
She rose, pushed her chair away without hurry, and walked out of the room with something like the care of a man who is afraid of showing that he has taken more wine than usual. She turned the keys inside her dressing-room doors, and sat down for some time looking pale and quiet as when she was leaving the breakfast-room. Even in the moments after reading the poisonous letter she had hardly had more cruel sensations than now; for emotion was at the acute point, where it is not distinguishable from sensation. Deronda unlike what she had believed him to be, was an image which affected her as a hideous apparition would have done, quite apart from the way in which it was produced. It had taken hold of her as pain before she could consider whether it were fiction or truth; and further to hinder her power of resistance came the sudden perception, how very slight were the grounds of her faith in Deronda--how little she knew of his life --how childish she had been in her confidence. His rebukes and his severity to her began to seem odious, along with all the poetry and lofty doctrine in the world, whatever it might be; and the grave beauty of his face seemed the most unpleasant mask that the common habits of men could put on.
All this went on in her with the rapidity of a sick dream; and her start into resistance was very much like a waking. Suddenly from out the gray sombre morning there came a stream of sunshine, wrapping her in warmth and light where she sat in stony stillness. She moved gently and looked round her--there was a world outside this bad dream, and the dream proved nothing; she rose, stretching her arms upward and clasping her hands with her habitual attitude when she was seeking relief from oppressive feeling, and walked about the room in this flood of sunbeams.
"It is not true! What does it matter whether he believes it or not?" This is what she repeated to herself--but this was not her faith come back again; it was only the desperate cry of faith, finding suffocation intolerable. And how could she go on through the day in this state? With one of her impetuous alternations, her imagination flew to wild actions by which she would convince herself of what she wished: she would go to Lady Mallinger and question her about Mirah; she would write to Deronda and upbraid him with making the world all false and wicked and hopeless to her--to him she dared pour out all the bitter indignation of her heart. No; she would go to Mirah. This last form taken by her need was more definitely practicable, and quickly became imperious. No matter what came of it. She had the pretext of asking Mirah to sing at her party on the fourth. What was she going to say beside? How satisfy? She did not foresee--she could not wait to foresee. If that idea which was maddening her had been a living thing, she would have wanted to throttle it without waiting to foresee what would come of the act. She rang her bell and asked if Mr. Grandcourt were gone out: finding that he was, she ordered the carriage, and began to dress for the drive; then she went down, and walked about the large drawing-room like an imprisoned dumb creature, not recognizing herself in the glass panels, not noting any object around her in the painted gilded prison. Her husband would probably find out where she had been, and punish her in some way or other--no matter--she could neither desire nor fear anything just now but the assurance that she had not been deluding herself in her trust.
She was provided with Mirah's address. Soon she was on the way with all the fine equipage necessary to carry about her poor uneasy heart, depending in its palpitations on some answer or other to questioning which she did not know how she should put. She was as heedless of what happened before she found that Miss Lapidoth was at home, as one is of lobbies and passages on the way to a court of justice--heedless of everything till she was in a room where there were folding-doors, and she heard Deronda's voice behind it. Doubtless the identification was helped by forecast, but she was as certain of it as if she had seen him. She was frightened at her own agitation, and began to unbutton her gloves that she might button them again, and bite her lips over the pretended difficulty, while the door opened, and Mirah presented herself with perfect quietude and a sweet smile of recognition. There was relief in the sight of her face, and Gwendolen was able to smile in return, while she put out her hand in silence; and as she seated herself, all the while hearing the voice, she felt some reflux of energy in the confused sense that the truth could not be anything that she dreaded. Mirah drew her chair very near, as if she felt that the sound of the conversation should be subdued, and looked at her visitor with placid expectation, while Gwendolen began in a low tone, with something that seemed like bashfulness--
"Perhaps you wonder to see me--perhaps I ought to have written--but I wished to make a particular request."
"I am glad to see you instead of having a letter," said Mirah, wondering at the changed expression and manner of the "Vandyke duchess," as Hans had taught her to call Gwendolen. The rich color and the calmness of her own face were in strong contrast with the pale agitated beauty under the plumed hat.
"I thought," Gwendolen went on--"at least I hoped, you would not object to sing at our house on the 4th--in the evening--at a party like Lady Brackenshaw's. I should be so much obliged."
"I shall be very happy to sing for you. At ten?" said Mirah, while Gwendolen seemed to get more instead of less embarrassed.
"At ten, please," she answered; then paused, and felt that she had nothing more to say. She could not go. It was impossible to rise and say good-bye. Deronda's voice was in her ears. She must say it--she could contrive no other sentence--
"Mr. Deronda is in the next room."
"Yes," said Mirah, in her former tone. "He is reading Hebrew with my brother."
"You have a brother?" said Gwendolen, who had heard this from Lady Mallinger, but had not minded it then.
"Yes, a dear brother who is ill-consumptive, and Mr. Deronda is the best of friends to him, as he has been to me," said Mirah, with the impulse that will not let us pass the mention of a precious person indifferently.
"Tell me," said Gwendolen, putting her hand on Mirah's, and speaking hardly above a whisper--"tell me--tell me the truth. You are sure he is quite good. You know no evil of him. Any evil that people say of him is false."
Could the proud-spirited woman have behaved more like a child? But the strange words penetrated Mirah with nothing but a sense of solemnity and indignation. With a sudden light in her eyes and a tremor in her voice, she said--
"Who are the people that say evil of him? I would not believe any evil of him, if an angel came to tell it me. He found me when I was so miserable-- I was going to drown myself; I looked so poor and forsaken; you would have thought I was a beggar by the wayside. And he treated me as if I had been a king's daughter. He took me to the best of women. He found my brother for me. And he honors my brother--though he too was poor--oh, almost as poor as he could be. And my brother honors him. That is no light thing to say"--here Mirah's tone changed to one of profound emphasis, and she shook her head backward: "for my brother is very learned and great-minded. And Mr. Deronda says there are few men equal to him." Some Jewish defiance had flamed into her indignant gratitude and her anger could not help including Gwendolen since she seemed to have doubted Deronda's goodness.
But Gwendolen was like one parched with thirst, drinking the fresh water that spreads through the frame as a sufficient bliss. She did not notice that Mirah was angry with her; she was not distinctly conscious of anything but of the penetrating sense that Deronda and his life were no more like her husband's conception than the morning in the horizon was like the morning mixed with street gas. Even Mirah's words sank into the indefiniteness of her relief. She could hardly have repeated them, or said how her whole state of feeling was changed. She pressed Mirah's hand, and said, "Thank you, thank you," in a hurried whisper, then rose, and added, with only a hazy consciousness, "I must go, I shall see you--on the fourth--I am so much obliged"--bowing herself out automatically, while Mirah, opening the door for her, wondered at what seemed a sudden retreat into chill loftiness.
Gwendolen, indeed, had no feeling to spare in any effusiveness toward the creature who had brought her relief. The passionate need of contradiction to Grandcourt's estimate of Deronda, a need which had blunted her sensibility to everything else, was no sooner satisfied than she wanted to be gone. She began to be aware that she was out of place, and to dread Deronda's seeing her. And once in the carriage again, she had the vision of what awaited her at home. When she drew up before the door in Grosvenor Square, her husband was arriving with a cigar between his fingers. He threw it away and handed her out, accompanying her up-stairs. She turned into the drawing-room, lest he should follow her farther and give her no place to retreat to; then she sat down with a weary air, taking off her gloves, rubbing her hand over her forehead, and making his presence as much of a cipher as possible. But he sat, too, and not far from her--just in front, where to avoid looking at him must have the emphasis of effort.
"May I ask where you have been at this extraordinary hour?" said Grandcourt.
"Oh, yes; I have been to Miss Lapidoth's, to ask her to come and sing for us," said Gwendolen, laying her gloves on the little table beside her, and looking down at them.
"And to ask her about her relations with Deronda?" said Grandcourt, with the coldest possible sneer in his low voice which in poor Gwendolen's ear was diabolical.
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