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Daniel Deronda

George Eliot's Zionist Novel - 1876

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Daniel Deronda - George Eliot's Zionist Novel - 1876

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"My mother told me. She went to the house the morning after you had been there--brother and sister both told her. You may imagine we can't rejoice as they do. But whatever you are glad of, I shall come to be glad of in the end--when exactly the end may be I can't predict," said Hans, speaking in a low tone, which was as usual with him as it was to be out of humor with his lot, and yet bent on making no fuss about it.

"I quite understand that you can't share my feeling," said Deronda; "but I could not let silence lie between us on what casts quite a new light over my future. I have taken up some of Mordecai's ideas, and I mean to try and carry them out, so far as one man's efforts can go. I dare say I shall by and by travel to the East and be away for some years."

Hans said nothing, but rose, seized his palette and began to work his brush on it, standing before his picture with his back to Deronda, who also felt himself at a break in his path embarrassed by Hans's embarrassment.

Presently Hans said, again speaking low, and without turning, "Excuse the question, but does Mrs. Grandcourt know of all this?"

"No; and I must beg of you, Hans," said Deronda, rather angrily, "to cease joking on that subject. Any notions you have are wide of the truth--are the very reverse of the truth."

"I am no more inclined to joke than I shall be at my own funeral," said Hans. "But I am not at all sure that you are aware what are my notions on that subject."

"Perhaps not," said Deronda. "But let me say, once for all, that in relation to Mrs. Grandcourt, I never have had, and never shall have the position of a lover. If you have ever seriously put that interpretation on anything you have observed, you are supremely mistaken."

There was silence a little while, and to each the silence was like an irritating air, exaggerating discomfort.

"Perhaps I have been mistaken in another interpretation, also," said Hans, presently.

"What is that?"

"That you had no wish to hold the position of a lover toward another woman, who is neither wife nor widow."

"I can't pretend not to understand you, Meyrick. It is painful that our wishes should clash. I hope you will tell me if you have any ground for supposing that you would succeed."

"That seems rather a superfluous inquiry on your part, Deronda," said Hans, with some irritation.

"Why superfluous?"

"Because you are perfectly convinced on the subject--and probably have had the very best evidence to convince you."

"I will be more frank with you than you are with me," said Deronda, still heated by Hans' show of temper, and yet sorry for him. "I have never had the slightest evidence that I should succeed myself. In fact, I have very little hope."

Hans looked round hastily at his friend, but immediately turned to his picture again.

"And in our present situation," said Deronda, hurt by the idea that Hans suspected him of insincerity, and giving an offended emphasis to his words, "I don't see how I can deliberately make known my feeling to her. If she could not return it, I should have embittered her best comfort; for neither she nor I can be parted from her brother, and we should have to meet continually. If I were to cause her that sort of pain by an unwilling betrayal of my feeling, I should be no better than a mischievous animal."

"I don't know that I have ever betrayed my feeling to her," said Hans, as if he were vindicating himself.

"You mean that we are on a level, then; you have no reason to envy me."

"Oh, not the slightest," said Hans, with bitter irony. "You have measured my conceit and know that it out-tops all your advantages."

"I am a nuisance to you, Meyrick. I am sorry, but I can't help it," said Deronda, rising. "After what passed between us before, I wished to have this explanation; and I don't see that any pretensions of mine have made a real difference to you. They are not likely to make any pleasant difference to myself under present circumstances. Now the father is there --did you know that the father is there?"

"Yes. If he were not a Jew I would permit myself to damn him--with faint praise, I mean," said Hans, but with no smile.

"She and I meet under greater constraint than ever. Things might go on in this way for two years without my getting any insight into her feeling toward me. That is the whole state of affairs, Hans. Neither you nor I have injured the other, that I can see. We must put up with this sort of rivalry in a hope that is likely enough to come to nothing. Our friendship can bear that strain, surely."

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