Daniel Deronda HTML version

Chapter 20
"It will hardly be denied that even in this frail and corrupted world, we sometimes
meet persons who, in their very mien and aspect, as well as in the whole habit of
life, manifest such a signature and stamp of virtue, as to make our judgment of
them a matter of intuition rather than the result of continued examination."--
ALEXANDER KNOX: quoted in Southey's Life of Wesley.
Mirah said that she had slept well that night; and when she came down in Mab's
black dress, her dark hair curling in fresh fibrils as it gradually dried from its
plenteous bath, she looked like one who was beginning to take comfort after the
long sorrow and watching which had paled her cheek and made blue semicircles
under her eyes. It was Mab who carried her breakfast and ushered her down--
with some pride in the effect produced by a pair of tiny felt slippers which she had
rushed out to buy because there were no shoes in the house small enough for
Mirah, whose borrowed dress ceased about her ankles and displayed the cheap
clothing that, moulding itself on her feet, seemed an adornment as choice as the
sheaths of buds. The farthing buckles were bijoux.
"Oh, if you please, mamma?" cried Mab, clasping her hands and stooping toward
Mirah's feet, as she entered the parlor; "look at the slippers, how beautiful they
fit! I declare she is like the Queen Budoor--' two delicate feet, the work of the
protecting and all-recompensing Creator, support her; and I wonder how they can
sustain what is above them.'"
Mirah looked down at her own feet in a childlike way and then smiled at Mrs.
Meyrick, who was saying inwardly, "One could hardly imagine this creature
having an evil thought. But wise people would tell me to be cautious." She
returned Mirah's smile and said, "I fear the feet have had to sustain their burden
a little too often lately. But to-day she will rest and be my companion."
"And she will tell you so many things and I shall not hear them," grumbled Mab,
who felt herself in the first volume of a delightful romance and obliged to miss
some chapters because she had to go to pupils.
Kate was already gone to make sketches along the river, and Amy was away on
business errands. It was what the mother wished, to be alone with this stranger,
whose story must be a sorrowful one, yet was needful to be told.
The small front parlor was as good as a temple that morning. The sunlight was
on the river and soft air came in through the open window; the walls showed a
glorious silent cloud of witnesses--the Virgin soaring amid her cherubic escort;
grand Melancholia with her solemn universe; the Prophets and Sibyls; the School
of Athens; the Last Supper; mystic groups where far-off ages made one moment;