George Eliot's Zionist Novel - 1876
Daniel Deronda - George Eliot's Zionist Novel - 1876
She did not seem inclined to repulse him now, but looked down at him and let him take both her hands to fold between his. Gradually tears gathered, but she pressed her handkerchief against her eyes and then leaned her cheek against his brow, as if she wished that they should not look at each other.
"Is it not possible that I could be near you often and comfort you?" said Deronda. He was under that stress of pity that propels us on sacrifices.
"No, not possible," she answered, lifting up her head again and withdrawing her hand as if she wished him to move away. "I have a husband and five children. None of them know of your existence."
Deronda felt painfully silenced. He rose and stood at a little distance.
"You wonder why I married," she went on presently, under the influence of a newly-recurring thought. "I meant never to marry again. I meant to be free and to live for my art. I had parted with you. I had no bonds. For nine years I was a queen. I enjoyed the life I had longed for. But something befell me. It was like a fit of forgetfulness. I began to sing out of tune. They told me of it. Another woman was thrusting herself in my place. I could not endure the prospect of failure and decline. It was horrible to me." She started up again, with a shudder, and lifted screening hands like one who dreads missiles. "It drove me to marry. I made believe that I preferred being the wife of a Russian noble to being the greatest lyric actress of Europe; I made believe--I acted that part. It was because I felt my greatness sinking away from me, as I feel my life sinking now. I would not wait till men said, 'She had better go.'"
She sank into her seat again, and looked at the evening sky as she went on: "I repented. It was a resolve taken in desperation. That singing out of tune was only like a fit of illness; it went away. I repented; but it was too late. I could not go back. All things hindered, me--all things."
A new haggardness had come in her face, but her son refrained from again urging her to leave further speech till the morrow: there was evidently some mental relief for her in an outpouring such as she could never have allowed herself before. He stood still while she maintained silence longer than she knew, and the light was perceptibly fading. At last she turned to him and said--
"I can bear no more now." She put out her hand, but then quickly withdrew it saying, "Stay. How do I know that I can see you again? I cannot bear to be seen when I am in pain."
She drew forth a pocket-book, and taking out a letter said, "This is addressed to the banking-house in Mainz, where you are to go for your grandfather's chest. It is a letter written by Joseph Kalonymos: if he is not there himself, this order of his will be obeyed."
When Deronda had taken the letter, she said, with effort but more gently than before, "Kneel again, and let me kiss you."
He obeyed, and holding his head between her hands, she kissed him solemnly on the brow. "You see, I had no life left to love you with," she said, in a low murmur. "But there is more fortune for you. Sir Hugo was to keep it in reserve. I gave you all your father's fortune. They can never accuse me of robbery there."
"If you had needed anything I would have worked for you," said Deronda, conscious of disappointed yearning--a shutting out forever from long early vistas of affectionate imagination.
"I need nothing that the skill of man can give me," said his mother, still holding his head, and perusing his features. "But perhaps now I have satisfied my father's will, your face will come instead of his--your young, loving face."
"But you will see me again?" said Deronda, anxiously.
"Yes--perhaps. Wait, wait. Leave me now."
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