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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

CHAPTER LXIV.

"Questa montagna e tale, Che sempre al cominciar di sotto a grave. E quanto uom piu va su e men fa male." --DANTE: Il Purgatorio.

It was not many days after her mother's arrival that Gwendolen would consent to remain at Genoa. Her desire to get away from that gem of the sea, helped to rally her strength and courage. For what place, though it were the flowery vale of Enna, may not the inward sense turn into a circle of punishment where the flowers are no better than a crop of flame-tongues burning the soles of our feet?

"I shall never like to see the Mediterranean again," said Gwendolen, to her mother, who thought that she quite understood her child's feeling --even in her tacit prohibition of any express reference to her late husband.

Mrs. Davilow, indeed, though compelled formally to regard this time as one of severe calamity, was virtually enjoying her life more than she had ever done since her daughter's marriage. It seemed that her darling was brought back to her not merely with all the old affection, but with a conscious cherishing of her mother's nearness, such as we give to a possession that we have been on the brink of losing.

"Are you there, mamma?" cried Gwendolen, in the middle of the night (a bed had been made for her mother in the same room with hers), very much as she would have done in her early girlhood, if she had felt frightened in lying awake.

"Yes, dear; can I do anything for you?"

"No, thank you; only I like so to know you are there. Do you mind my waking you?" (This question would hardly have been Gwendolen's in her early girlhood.)

"I was not asleep, darling."

"It seemed not real that you were with me. I wanted to make it real. I can bear things if you are with me. But you must not lie awake, anxious about me. You must be happy now. You must let me make you happy now at last-- else what shall I do?"

"God bless you, dear; I have the best happiness I can have, when you make much of me."

But the next night, hearing that she was sighing and restless Mrs. Davilow said, "Let me give you your sleeping-draught, Gwendolen."

"No, mamma, thank you; I don't want to sleep."

"It would be so good for you to sleep more, my darling."

"Don't say what would be good for me, mamma," Gwendolen answered, impetuously. "You don't know what would be good for me. You and my uncle must not contradict me and tell me anything is good for me when I feel it is not good."

Mrs. Davilow was silent, not wondering that the poor child was irritable. Presently Gwendolen said--

"I was always naughty to you, mamma."

"No, dear, no."

"Yes, I was," said Gwendolen insistently. "It is because I was always wicked that I am miserable now."

She burst into sobs and cries. The determination to be silent about all the facts of her married life and its close, reacted in these escapes of enigmatic excitement.

But dim lights of interpretation were breaking on the mother's mind through the information that came from Sir Hugo to Mr. Gascoigne, and, with some omissions, from Mr. Gascoigne to herself. The good-natured baronet, while he was attending to all decent measures in relation to his nephew's death, and the possible washing ashore of the body, thought it the kindest thing he could do to use his present friendly intercourse with the rector as an opportunity for communicating with him, in the mildest way, the purport of Grandcourt's will, so as to save him the additional shock that would be in store for him if he carried his illusions all the way home. Perhaps Sir Hugo would have been communicable enough without that kind motive, but he really felt the motive. He broke the unpleasant news to the rector by degrees: at first he only implied his fear that the widow was not so splendidly provided for as Mr. Gascoigne, nay, as the baronet himself had expected; and only at last, after some previous vague reference to large claims on Grandcourt, he disclosed the prior relations which, in the unfortunate absence of a legitimate heir, had determined all the splendor in another direction.

The rector was deeply hurt, and remembered, more vividly than he had ever done before, how offensively proud and repelling the manners of the deceased had been toward him--remembered also that he himself, in that interesting period just before the arrival of the new occupant at Diplow, had received hints of former entangling dissipations, and an undue addiction to pleasure, though he had not foreseen that the pleasure which had probably, so to speak, been swept into private rubbish-heaps, would ever present itself as an array of live caterpillars, disastrous to the green meat of respectable people. But he did not make these retrospective thoughts audible to Sir Hugo, or lower himself by expressing any indignation on merely personal grounds, but behaved like a man of the world who had become a conscientious clergyman. His first remark was--

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