Daniel Deronda HTML version

Chapter 18
Life is a various mother: now she dons
Her plumes and brilliants, climbs the marble stairs
With head aloft, nor ever turns her eyes
On lackeys who attend her; now she dwells
Grim-clad, up darksome allyes, breathes hot gin,
And screams in pauper riot.
But to these
She came a frugal matron, neat and deft,
With cheerful morning thoughts and quick device
To find the much in little.
Mrs. Meyrick's house was not noisy: the front parlor looked on the river, and the
back on gardens, so that though she was reading aloud to her daughters, the
window could be left open to freshen the air of the small double room where a
lamp and two candles were burning. The candles were on a table apart for Kate,
who was drawing illustrations for a publisher; the lamp was not only for the
reader but for Amy and Mab, who were embroidering satin cushions for "the
great world."
Outside, the house looked very narrow and shabby, the bright light through the
holland blind showing the heavy old-fashioned window-frame; but it is pleasant to
know that many such grim-walled slices of space in our foggy London have been
and still are the homes of a culture the more spotlessly free from vulgarity,
because poverty has rendered everything like display an impersonal question,
and all the grand shows of the world simply a spectacle which rouses petty rivalry
or vain effort after possession.
The Meyricks' was a home of that kind: and they all clung to this particular house
in a row because its interior was filled with objects always in the same places,
which, for the mother held memories of her marriage time, and for the young
ones seemed as necessary and uncriticised a part of their world as the stars of
the Great Bear seen from the back windows. Mrs. Meyrick had borne much stint
of other matters that she might be able to keep some engravings specially
cherished by her husband; and the narrow spaces of wall held a world history in
scenes and heads which the children had early learned by heart. The chairs and
tables were also old friends preferred to new. But in these two little parlors with
no furniture that a broker would have cared to cheapen except the prints and
piano, there was space and apparatus for a wide-glancing, nicely-select life,
opened to the highest things in music, painting and poetry. I am not sure that in
the times of greatest scarcity, before Kate could get paid- work, these ladies had
always had a servant to light their fires and sweep their rooms; yet they were