Daniel Deronda HTML version

Chapter 35
Were uneasiness of conscience measured by extent of crime, human history had
been different, and one should look to see the contrivers of greedy wars and the
mighty marauders of the money-market in one troop of self-lacerating penitents
with the meaner robber and cut- purse and the murderer that doth his butchery in
small with his own hand. No doubt wickedness hath its rewards to distribute; but
who so wins in this devil's game must needs be baser, more cruel, more brutal
than the order of this planet will allow for the multitude born of woman, the most
of these carrying a form of conscience--a fear which is the shadow of justice, a
pity which is the shadow of love--that hindereth from the prize of serene
wickedness, itself difficult of maintenance in our composite flesh.
On the twenty-ninth of December Deronda knew that the Grandcourts had
arrived at the Abbey, but he had had no glimpse of them before he went to dress
for dinner. There had been a splendid fall of snow, allowing the party of children
the rare pleasures of snow-balling and snow-building, and in the Christmas
holidays the Mallinger girls were content with no amusement unless it were
joined in and managed by "cousin," as they had always called Deronda. After
that outdoor exertion he had been playing billiards, and thus the hours had
passed without his dwelling at all on the prospect of meeting Gwendolen at
dinner. Nevertheless that prospect was interesting to him; and when, a little tired
and heated with working at amusement, he went to his room before the half-hour
bell had rung, he began to think of it with some speculation on the sort of
influence her marriage with Grandcourt would have on her, and on the probability
that there would be some discernible shades of change in her manner since he
saw her at Diplow, just as there had been since his first vision of her at Leubronn.
"I fancy there are some natures one could see growing or degenerating every
day, if one watched them," was his thought. "I suppose some of us go on faster
than others: and I am sure she is a creature who keeps strong traces of anything
that has once impressed her. That little affair of the necklace, and the idea that
somebody thought her gambling wrong, had evidently bitten into her. But such
impressibility leads both ways: it may drive one to desperation as soon as to
anything better. And whatever fascinations Grandcourt may have for capricious
tastes--good heavens! who can believe that he would call out the tender
affections in daily companionship? One might be tempted to horsewhip him for
the sake of getting some show of passion into his face and speech. I'm afraid she
married him out of ambition--to escape poverty. But why did she run out of his
way at first? The poverty came after, though. Poor thing! she may have been
urged into it. How can one feel anything else than pity for a young creature like
that--full of unused life--ignorantly rash--hanging all her blind expectations on that
remnant of a human being."