George Eliot's Zionist Novel - 1876
Daniel Deronda - George Eliot's Zionist Novel - 1876
"I have promised to tell you something. And you will promise to keep my secret. However you may decide you will not tell Mr. Grandcourt, or any one else, that you have seen me?"
"My name is Lydia Glasher. Mr. Grandcourt ought not to marry any one but me. I left my husband and child for him nine years ago. Those two children are his, and we have two others--girls--who are older. My husband is dead now, and Mr. Grandcourt ought to marry me. He ought to make that boy his heir."
She looked at the boy as she spoke, and Gwendolen's eyes followed hers. The handsome little fellow was puffing out his cheeks in trying to blow a tiny trumpet which remained dumb. His hat hung backward by a string, and his brown purls caught the sun-rays. He was a cherub.
The two women's eyes met again, and Gwendolen said proudly, "I will not interfere with your wishes." She looked as if she were shivering, and her lips were pale.
"You are very attractive, Miss Harleth. But when he first knew me, I too was young. Since then my life has been broken up and embittered. It is not fair that he should be happy and I miserable, and my boy thrust out of sight for another."
These words were uttered with a biting accent, but with a determined abstinence from anything violent in tone or manner. Gwendolen, watching Mrs. Glasher's face while she spoke, felt a sort of terror: it was as if some ghastly vision had come to her in a dream and said, "I am a woman's life."
"Have you anything more to say to me?" she asked in a low tone, but still proud and coldly. The revulsion within her was not tending to soften her. Everyone seemed hateful.
"Nothing. You know what I wished you to know. You can inquire about me if you like. My husband was Colonel Glasher."
"Then I will go," said Gwendolen, moving away with a ceremonious inclination, which was returned with equal grace.
In a few minutes Gwendolen was in the beech grove again but her party had gone out of sight and apparently had not sent in search of her, for all was solitude till she had reached the avenue pointed out by the warden. She determined to take this way back to Green Arbor, which she reached quickly; rapid movements seeming to her just now a means of suspending the thoughts which might prevent her from behaving with due calm. She had already made up her mind what step she would take.
Mrs. Davilow was of course astonished to see Gwendolen returning alone, and was not without some uneasiness which the presence of other ladies hindered her from showing. In answer to her words of surprise Gwendolen said--
"Oh, I have been rather silly. I lingered behind to look at the Whispering Stones, and the rest hurried on after something, so I lost sight of them. I thought it best to come home by the short way--the avenue that the warden had old me of. I'm not sorry after all. I had had enough walking."
"Your party did not meet Mr. Grandcourt, I presume," said Mrs. Arrowpoint, not without intention.
"No," said Gwendolen, with a little flash of defiance, and a light laugh. "And we didn't see any carvings on the trees, either. Where can he be? I should think he has fallen into the pool or had an apoplectic fit."
With all Gwendolen's resolve not to betray any agitation, she could not help it that her tone was unusually high and hard, and her mother felt sure that something unpropitious had happened.
Mrs. Arrowpoint thought that the self-confident young lady was much piqued, and that Mr. Grandcourt was probably seeing reason to change his mind.
"If you have no objection, mamma, I will order the carriage," said Gwendolen. "I am tired. And every one will be going soon."
Mrs. Davilow assented; but by the time the carriage was announced as, ready--the horses having to be fetched from the stables on the warden's premises--the roving party reappeared, and with them Mr. Grandcourt.
"Ah, there you are!" said Lord Brackenshaw, going up to Gwendolen, who was arranging her mamma's shawl for the drive. "We thought at first you had alighted on Grandcourt and he had taken you home. Lush said so. But after that we met Grandcourt. However, we didn't suppose you could be in any danger. The warden said he had told you a near way back."
"You are going?" said Grandcourt, coming up with his usual air, as if he did not conceive that there had been any omission on his part. Lord Brackenshaw gave place to him and moved away.
"Yes, we are going," said Gwendolen, looking busily at her scarf, which she was arranging across her shoulders Scotch fashion.
"May I call at Offendene to-morrow?"
"Oh yes, if you like," said Gwendolen, sweeping him from a distance with her eyelashes. Her voice was light and sharp as the first touch of frost.
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