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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

"Seek not to know such things from Mr. Hans," said Mordecai, gravely, laying his hand on her curls, as he was wont. "What Daniel Deronda wishes us to know about himself is for him to tell us."

And Mirah felt herself rebuked, as Deronda had done. But to be rebuked in this way by Mordecai made her rather proud.

"I see no one so great as my brother," she said to Mrs. Meyrick one day that she called at the Chelsea house on her way home, and, according to her hope, found the little mother alone. "It is difficult to think that he belongs to the same world as those people I used to live amongst. I told you once that they made life seem like a madhouse; but when I am with Ezra he makes me feel that his life is a great good, though he has suffered so much; not like me, who wanted to die because I had suffered a little, and only for a little while. His soul is so full, it is impossible for him to wish for death as I did. I get the same sort of feeling from him that I got yesterday, when I was tired, and came home through the park after the sweet rain had fallen and the sunshine lay on the grass and flowers. Everything in the sky and under the sky looked so pure and beautiful that the weariness and trouble and folly seemed only a small part of what is, and I became more patient and hopeful."

A dove-like note of melancholy in this speech caused Mrs. Meyrick to look at Mirah with new examination. After laying down her hat and pushing her curls flat, with an air of fatigue, she placed herself on a chair opposite her friend in her habitual attitude, her feet and hands just crossed; and at a distance she might have seemed a colored statue of serenity. But Mrs. Meyrick discerned a new look of suppressed suffering in her face, which corresponded to the hint that to be patient and hopeful required some extra influence.

"Is there any fresh trouble on your mind, my dear?" said Mrs. Meyrick, giving up her needlework as a sign of concentrated attention.

Mirah hesitated before she said, "I am too ready to speak of troubles, I think. It seems unkind to put anything painful into other people's minds, unless one were sure it would hinder something worse. And perhaps I am too hasty and fearful."

"Oh, my dear, mothers are made to like pain and trouble for the sake of their children. Is it because the singing lessons are so few, and are likely to fall off when the season comes to an end? Success in these things can't come all at once." Mrs. Meyrick did not believe that she was touching the real grief; but a guess that could be corrected would make an easier channel for confidence.

"No, not that," said Mirah, shaking her head gently. "I have been a little disappointed because so many ladies said they wanted me to give them or their daughters lessons, and then I never heard of them again, But perhaps after the holidays I shall teach in some schools. Besides, you know, I am as rich as a princess now. I have not touched the hundred pounds that Mrs. Klesmer gave me; and I should never be afraid that Ezra would be in want of anything, because there is Mr. Deronda," and he said, "It is the chief honor of my life that your brother will share anything with me. Oh, no! Ezra and I can have no fears for each other about such things as food and clothing."

"But there is some other fear on your mind," said Mrs. Meyrick not without divination--"a fear of something that may disturb your peace; Don't be forecasting evil, dear child, unless it is what you can guard against. Anxiety is good for nothing if we can't turn it into a defense. But there's no defense against all the things that might be. Have you any more reason for being anxious now than you had a month ago?"

"Yes, I have," said Mirah. "I have kept it from Ezra. I have not dared to tell him. Pray forgive me that I can't do without telling you. I have more reason for being anxious. It is five days ago now. I am quite sure I saw my father."

Mrs. Meyrick shrank into a smaller space, packing her arms across her chest and leaning forward--to hinder herself from pelting that father with her worst epithets.

"The year has changed him," Mirah went on. "He had already been much altered and worn in the time before I left him. You remember I said how he used sometimes to cry. He was always excited one way or the other. I have told Ezra everything that I told you, and he says that my father had taken to gambling, which makes people easily distressed, and then again exalted. And now--it was only a moment that I saw him--his face was more haggard, and his clothes were shabby. He was with a much worse-looking man, who carried something, and they were hurrying along after an omnibus."

"Well, child, he did not see you, I hope?"

"No. I had just come from Mrs. Raymond's, and I was waiting to cross near the Marble Arch. Soon he was on the omnibus and gone out of sight. It was a dreadful moment. My old life seemed to have come back again, and it was worse than it had ever been before. And I could not help feeling it a new deliverance that he was gone out of sight without knowing that I was there. And yet it hurt me that I was feeling so--it seemed hateful in me-- almost like words I once had to speak in a play, that 'I had warmed my hands in the blood of my kindred.' For where might my father be going? What may become of him? And his having a daughter who would own him in spite of all, might have hindered the worst. Is there any pain like seeing what ought to be the best things in life turned into the worst? All those opposite feelings were meeting and pressing against each other, and took up all my strength. No one could act that. Acting is slow and poor to what we go through within. I don't know how I called a cab. I only remember that I was in it when I began to think, 'I cannot tell Ezra; he must not know.'"

"You are afraid of grieving him?" Mrs. Meyrick asked, when Mirah had paused a little.

"Yes--and there is something more," said Mirah, hesitatingly, as if she were examining her feeling before she would venture to speak of it. "I want to tell you; I cannot tell any one else. I could not have told my own mother: I should have closed it up before her. I feel shame for my father, and it is perhaps strange--but the shame is greater before Ezra than before any one else in the world. He desired me to tell him all about my life, and I obeyed him. But it is always like a smart to me to know that those things about my father are in Ezra's mind. And--can you believe it? when the thought haunts me how it would be if my father were to come and show himself before us both, what seems as if it would scorch me most is seeing my father shrinking before Ezra. That is the truth. I don't know whether it is a right feeling. But I can't help thinking that I would rather try to maintain my father in secret, and bear a great deal in that way, if I could hinder him from meeting my brother."

"You must not encourage that feeling, Mirah," said Mrs. Meyrick, hastily. "It would be very dangerous; it would be wrong. You must not have concealment of that sort."

"But ought I now to tell Ezra that I have seen my father?" said Mirah, with deprecation in her tone.

"No," Mrs. Meyrick answered, dubitatively. "I don't know that it is necessary to do that. Your father may go away with the birds. It is not clear that he came after you; you may never see him again. And then your brother will have been spared a useless anxiety. But promise me that if your father sees you--gets hold of you in any way again--and you will let us all know. Promise me that solemnly, Mirah. I have a right to ask it."

Mirah reflected a little, then leaned forward to put her hands in Mrs. Meyrick's, and said, "Since you ask it, I do promise. I will bear this feeling of shame. I have been so long used to think that I must bear that sort of inward pain. But the shame for my father burns me more when I think of his meeting Ezra." She was silent a moment or two, and then said, in a new tone of yearning compassion, "And we are his children--and he was once young like us--and my mother loved him. Oh! I cannot help seeing it all close, and it hurts me like a cruelty."

Mirah shed no tears: the discipline of her whole life had been against indulgence in such manifestation, which soon falls under the control of strong motives; but it seemed that the more intense expression of sorrow had entered into her voice. Mrs. Meyrick, with all her quickness and loving insight, did not quite understand that filial feeling in Mirah which had active roots deep below her indignation for the worst offenses. She could conceive that a mother would have a clinging pity and shame for a reprobate son, but she was out of patience with what she held an exaggerated susceptibility on behalf of this father, whose reappearance inclined her to wish him under the care of a turnkey. Mirah's promise, however, was some security against her weakness.

That incident was the only reason that Mirah herself could have stated for the hidden sadness which Hans had divined. Of one element in her changed mood she could have given no definite account: it was something as dim as the sense of approaching weather-change, and had extremely slight external promptings, such as we are often ashamed to find all we can allege in support of the busy constructions that go on within us, not only without effort, but even against it, under the influence of any blind emotional stirring. Perhaps the first leaven of uneasiness was laid by Gwendolen's behavior on that visit which was entirely superfluous as a means of engaging Mirah to sing, and could have no other motive than the excited and strange questioning about Deronda. Mirah had instinctively kept the visit a secret, but the active remembrance of it had raised a new susceptibility in her, and made her alive as she had never been before to the relations Deronda must have with that society which she herself was getting frequent glimpses of without belonging to it. Her peculiar life and education had produced in her an extraordinary mixture of unworldliness, with knowledge of the world's evil, and even this knowledge was a strange blending of direct observation with the effects of reading and theatrical study. Her memory was furnished with abundant passionate situation and intrigue, which she never made emotionally her own, but felt a repelled aloofness from, as she had done from the actual life around her. Some of that imaginative knowledge began now to weave itself around Mrs. Grandcourt; and though Mirah would admit no position likely to affect her reverence for Deronda, she could not avoid a new painfully vivid association of his general life with a world away from her own, where there might be some involvement of his feeling and action with a woman like Gwendolen, who was increasingly repugnant to her--increasingly, even after she had ceased to see her; for liking and disliking can grow in meditation as fast as in the more immediate kind of presence. Any disquietude consciously due to the idea that Deronda's deepest care might be for something remote not only from herself but even from his friendship for her brother, she would have checked with rebuking questions:--What was she but one who had shared his generous kindness with many others? and his attachment to her brother, was it not begun late to be soon ended? Other ties had come before, and others would remain after this had been cut by swift-coming death. But her uneasiness had not reached that point of self- recognition in which she would have been ashamed of it as an indirect, presumptuous claim on Deronda's feeling. That she or any one else should think of him as her possible lover was a conception which had never entered her mind; indeed it was equally out of the question with Mrs. Meyrick and the girls, who with Mirah herself regarded his intervention in her life as something exceptional, and were so impressed by his mission as her deliverer and guardian that they would have held it an offense to hint at his holding any other relation toward her: a point of view which Hans also had readily adopted. It is a little hard upon some men that they appear to sink for us in becoming lovers. But precisely to this innocence of the Meyricks was owing the disturbance of Mirah's unconsciousness. The first occasion could hardly have been more trivial, but it prepared her emotive nature for a deeper effect from what happened afterward.

It was when Anna Gascoigne, visiting the Meyricks; was led to speak of her cousinship with Gwendolen. The visit had been arranged that Anna might see Mirah; the three girls were at home with their mother, and there was naturally a flux of talk among six feminine creatures, free from the presence of a distorting male standard. Anna Gascoigne felt herself much at home with the Meyrick girls, who knew what it was to have a brother, and to be generally regarded as of minor importance in the world; and she had told Rex that she thought the University very nice, because brothers made friends there whose families were not rich and grand, and yet (like the University) were very nice. The Meyricks seemed to her almost alarmingly clever, and she consulted them much on the best mode of teaching Lotta, confiding to them that she herself was the least clever of her family. Mirah had lately come in, and there was a complete bouquet of young faces around the tea-table--Hafiz, seated a little aloft with large eyes on the alert, regarding the whole scene as an apparatus for supplying his allowance of milk.

"Think of our surprise, Mirah," said Kate. "We were speaking of Mr. Deronda and the Mallingers, and it turns out that Miss Gascoigne knows them."

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