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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 sweet child, what else could have been thought of? Your uncle, I am sure, is as kind as he can be: but he is suffering himself; he has his family to bring up. And do you quite understand? You must remember--we have nothing. We shall have absolutely nothing except what he and my sister give us. They have been as wise and active a possible, and we must try to earn something. I and the girls are going to work a table-cloth border for the Ladies' Charity at Winchester, and a communion cloth that the parishioners are to present to Pennicote Church."

Mrs. Davilow went into these details timidly: but how else was she to bring the fact of their position home to this poor child who, alas! must submit at present, whatever might be in the background for her? and she herself had a superstition that there must be something better in the background.

"But surely somewhere else than Sawyer's Cottage might have been found," Gwendolen persisted--taken hold of (as if in a nightmare) by the image of this house where an exciseman had lived.

"No, indeed, dear. You know houses are scarce, and we may be thankful to get anything so private. It is not so very bad. There are two little parlors and four bedrooms. You shall sit alone whenever you like."

The ebb of sympathetic care for her mamma had gone so low just now, that Gwendolen took no notice of these deprecatory words.

"I cannot conceive that all your property is gone at once, mamma. How can you be sure in so short a time? It is not a week since you wrote to me."

"The first news came much earlier, dear. But I would not spoil your pleasure till it was quite necessary."

"Oh, how vexatious!" said Gwendolen, coloring with fresh anger. "If I had known, I could have brought home the money I had won: and for want of knowing, I stayed and lost it. I had nearly two hundred pounds, and it would have done for us to live on a little while, till I could carry out some plan." She paused an instant and then added more impetuously, "Everything has gone against me. People have come near me only to blight me."

Among the "people" she was including Deronda. If he had not interfered in her life she would have gone to the gaming-table again with a few napoleons, and might have won back her losses.

"We must resign ourselves to the will of Providence, my child," said poor Mrs. Davilow, startled by this revelation of the gambling, but not daring to say more. She felt sure that "people" meant Grandcourt, about whom her lips were sealed. And Gwendolen answered immediately--

"But I don't resign myself. I shall do what I can against it. What is the good of calling the people's wickedness Providence? You said in your letter it was Mr. Lassman's fault we had lost our money. Has he run away with it all?"

"No, dear, you don't understand. There were great speculations: he meant to gain. It was all about mines and things of that sort. He risked too much."

"I don't call that Providence: it was his improvidence with our money, and he ought to be punished. Can't we go to law and recover our fortune? My uncle ought to take measures, and not sit down by such wrongs. We ought to go to law."

"My dear child, law can never bring back money lost in that way. Your uncle says it is milk spilled upon the ground. Besides, one must have a fortune to get any law: there is no law for people who are ruined. And our money has only gone along with other's people's. We are not the only sufferers: others have to resign themselves besides us."

"But I don't resign myself to live at Sawyer's Cottage and see you working for sixpences and shillings because of that. I shall not do it. I shall do what is more befitting our rank and education."

"I am sure your uncle and all of us will approve of that, dear, and admire you the more for it," said Mrs. Davilow, glad of an unexpected opening for speaking on a difficult subject. "I didn't mean that you should resign yourself to worse when anything better offered itself. Both your uncle and aunt have felt that your abilities and education were a fortune for you, and they have already heard of something within your reach."

"What is that, mamma?" some of Gwendolen's anger gave way to interest, and she was not without romantic conjectures.

"There are two situations that offer themselves. One is in a bishop's family, where there are three daughters, and the other is in quite a high class of school; and in both, your French, and music, and dancing--and then your manners and habits as a lady, are exactly what is wanted. Each is a hundred a year--and--just for the present,"--Mrs. Davilow had become frightened and hesitating,--"to save you from the petty, common way of living that we must go to--you would perhaps accept one of the two."

"What! be like Miss Graves at Madame Meunier's? No.""I think, myself, that Dr. Monpert's would be more suitable. There could be no hardship in a bishop's family."

"Excuse me, mamma. There are hardships everywhere for a governess. And I don't see that it would be pleasanter to be looked down on in a bishop's family than in any other. Besides, you know very well I hate teaching. Fancy me shut up with three awkward girls something like Alice! I would rather emigrate than be a governess."

What it precisely was to emigrate, Gwendolen was not called on to explain. Mrs. Davilow was mute, seeing no outlet, and thinking with dread of the collision that might happen when Gwendolen had to meet her uncle and aunt. There was an air of reticence in Gwendolen's haughty, resistant speeches which implied that she had a definite plan in reserve; and her practical ignorance continually exhibited, could not nullify the mother's belief in the effectiveness of that forcible will and daring which had held mastery over herself.

"I have some ornaments, mamma, and I could sell them," said Gwendolen. "They would make a sum: I want a little sum--just to go on with. I dare say Marshall, at Wanchester, would take them: I know he showed me some bracelets once that he said he had bought from a lady. Jocosa might go and ask him. Jocosa is going to leave us, of course. But she might do that first."

"She would do anything she could, poor, dear soul. I have not told you yet--she wanted me to take all her savings--her three hundred pounds. I tell her to set up a little school. It will be hard for her to go into a new family now she has been so long with us."

"Oh, recommend her for the bishop's daughter's," said Gwendolen, with a sudden gleam of laughter in her face. "I am sure she will do better than I should."

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