George Eliot's Zionist Novel - 1876
Daniel Deronda - George Eliot's Zionist Novel - 1876
"And you were fool enough to follow?"
"Yes, sir. I didn't go at any fences, but the horse got his leg into a hole."
"And you got hurt yourself, I hope, eh!"
"I got my shoulder put out, but a young blacksmith put it in again for me. I'm just a little battered, that's all."
"Well, sit down."
"I'm very sorry about the horse, sir; I knew it would be a vexation to you."
"And what has become of Gwendolen?" said Mr. Gascoigne, abruptly. Rex, who did not imagine that his father had made any inquiries about him, answered at first with a blush, which was the more remarkable for his previous paleness. Then he said, nervously--
"I am anxious to know--I should like to go or send at once to Offendene-- but she rides so well, and I think she would keep up--there would most likely be many round her."
"I suppose it was she who led you on, eh?" said Mr. Gascoigne, laying down his pen, leaning back in his chair, and looking at Rex with more marked examination.
"It was natural for her to want to go: she didn't intend it beforehand-- she was led away by the spirit of the thing. And, of course, I went when she went."
Mr. Gascoigne left a brief interval of silence, and then said, with quiet irony,--"But now you observe, young gentleman, that you are not furnished with a horse which will enable you to play the squire to your cousin. You must give up that amusement. You have spoiled my nag for me, and that is enough mischief for one vacation. I shall beg you to get ready to start for Southampton to-morrow and join Stilfox, till you go up to Oxford with him. That will be good for your bruises as well as your studies."
Poor Rex felt his heart swelling and comporting itself as if it had been no better than a girl's.
"I hope you will not insist on my going immediately, sir."
"Do you feel too ill?"
"No, not that--but--" here Rex bit his lips and felt the tears starting, to his great vexation; then he rallied and tried to say more firmly, "I want to go to Offendene, but I can go this evening."
"I am going there myself. I can bring word about Gwendolen, if that is what you want."
Rex broke down. He thought he discerned an intention fatal to his happiness, nay, his life. He was accustomed to believe in his father's penetration, and to expect firmness. "Father, I can't go away without telling her that I love her, and knowing that she loves me."
Mr. Gascoigne was inwardly going through some self-rebuke for not being more wary, and was now really sorry for the lad; but every consideration was subordinate to that of using the wisest tactics in the case. He had quickly made up his mind and to answer the more quietly--
"My dear boy, you are too young to be taking momentous, decisive steps of that sort. This is a fancy which you have got into your head during an idle week or two: you must set to work at something and dismiss it. There is every reason against it. An engagement at your age would be totally rash and unjustifiable; and moreover, alliances between first cousins are undesirable. Make up your mind to a brief disappointment. Life is full of them. We have all got to be broken in; and this is a mild beginning for you."
"No, not mild. I can't bear it. I shall be good for nothing. I shouldn't mind anything, if it were settled between us. I could do anything then," said Rex, impetuously. "But it's of no use to pretend that I will obey you. I can't do it. If I said I would, I should be sure to break my word. I should see Gwendolen again."
"Well, wait till to-morrow morning, that we may talk of the matter again-- you will promise me that," said Mr. Gascoigne, quietly; and Rex did not, could not refuse.
The rector did not even tell his wife that he had any other reason for going to Offendene that evening than his desire to ascertain that Gwendolen had got home safely. He found her more than safe--elated. Mr. Quallon, who had won the brush, had delivered the trophy to her, and she had brought it before her, fastened on the saddle; more than that, Lord Brackenshaw had conducted her home, and had shown himself delighted with her spirited riding. All this was told at once to her uncle, that he might see how well justified she had been in acting against his advice; and the prudential rector did feel himself in a slight difficulty, for at that moment he was particularly sensible that it was his niece's serious interest to be well regarded by the Brackenshaws, and their opinion as to her following the hounds really touched the essence of his objection. However, he was not obliged to say anything immediately, for Mrs. Davilow followed up Gwendolen's brief triumphant phrases with--
"Still, I do hope you will not do it again, Gwendolen. I should never have a moment's quiet. Her father died by an accident, you know."
Here Mrs. Davilow had turned away from Gwendolen, and looked at Mr. Gascoigne.
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