George Eliot's Zionist Novel - 1876
Daniel Deronda - George Eliot's Zionist Novel - 1876
"No, I think not."
"Not one who must have a path of her own?"
"I think her nature is not given to make great claims."
"She is not like that?" said the Princess, taking from her wallet a miniature with jewels around it, and holding it before her son. It was her own in all the fire of youth, and as Deronda looked at it with admiring sadness, she said, "Had I not a rightful claim to be something more than a mere daughter and mother? The voice and the genius matched the face. Whatever else was wrong, acknowledge that I had a right to be an artist, though my father's will was against it. My nature gave me a charter."
"I do acknowledge that," said Deronda, looking from the miniature to her face, which even in its worn pallor had an expression of living force beyond anything that the pencil could show.
"Will you take the portrait?" said the Princess, more gently. "If she is a kind woman, teach her to think of me kindly."
"I shall be grateful for the portrait," said Deronda, "but--I ought to say, I have no assurance that she whom I love will have any love for me. I have kept silence."
"Who and what is she?" said the mother. The question seemed a command.
"She was brought up as a singer for the stage," said Deronda, with inward reluctance. "Her father took her away early from her mother, and her life has been unhappy. She is very young--only twenty. Her father wished to bring her up in disregard--even in dislike of her Jewish origin, but she has clung with all her affection to the memory of her mother and the fellowship of her people."
"Ah, like you. She is attached to the Judaism she knows nothing of," said the Princess, peremptorily. "That is poetry--fit to last through an opera night. Is she fond of her artist's life--is her singing worth anything?"
"Her singing is exquisite. But her voice is not suited to the stage. I think that the artist's life has been made repugnant to her."
"Why, she is made for you then. Sir Hugo said you were bitterly against being a singer, and I can see that you would never have let yourself be merged in a wife, as your father was."
"I repeat," said Deronda, emphatically--"I repeat that I have no assurance of her love for me, of the possibility that we can ever be united. Other things--painful issues may lie before me. I have always felt that I should prepare myself to renounce, not cherish that prospect. But I suppose I might feel so of happiness in general. Whether it may come or not, one should try and prepare one's self to do without it."
"Do you feel in that way?" said his mother, laying her hands on his shoulders, and perusing his face, while she spoke in a low meditative tone, pausing between her sentences. "Poor boy!----I wonder how it would have been if I had kept you with me----whether you would have turned your heart to the old things against mine----and we should have quarreled---- your grandfather would have been in you----and you would have hampered my life with your young growth from the old root."
"I think my affection might have lasted through all our quarreling," said Deronda, saddened more and more, "and that would not have hampered--surely it would have enriched your life."
"Not then, not then----I did not want it then----I might have been glad of it now," said the mother, with a bitter melancholy, "if I could have been glad of anything."
"But you love your other children, and they love you?" said Deronda, anxiously.
"Oh, yes," she answered, as to a question about a matter of course, while she folded her arms again. "But,"----she added in a deeper tone,----"I am not a loving woman. That is the truth. It is a talent to love--I lack it. Others have loved me--and I have acted their love. I know very well what love makes of men and women--it is subjection. It takes another for a larger self, enclosing this one,"--she pointed to her own bosom. "I was never willingly subject to any man. Men have been subject to me."
"Perhaps the man who was subject was the happier of the two," said Deronda--not with a smile, but with a grave, sad sense of his mother's privation.
"Perhaps--but I was happy--for a few years I was happy. If I had not been afraid of defeat and failure, I might have gone on. I miscalculated. What then? It is all over. Another life! Men talk of 'another life,' as if it only began on the other side of the grave. I have long entered on another life." With the last words she raised her arms till they were bare to the elbow, her brow was contracted in one deep fold, her eyes were closed, her voice was smothered: in her dusky flame-colored garment, she looked like a dreamed visitant from some region of departed mortals.
Deronda's feeling was wrought to a pitch of acuteness in which he was no longer quite master of himself. He gave an audible sob. His mother, opened her eyes, and letting her hands again rest on his shoulders, said--
"Good-bye, my son, good-bye. We shall hear no more of each other. Kiss me."
He clasped his arms round her neck, and they kissed each other.
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