George Eliot, Daniel Deronda: Vol. 5, Ch. 3

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Chapter XXXVII.

  Aspern. Pardon, my lord—I speak for Sigismund.
  Fronsberg. For him? Oh, ay—for him I always hold
               A pardon safe in bank, sure he will draw
               Sooner or later on me. What his need?
               Mad project broken? fine mechanic wings
               That would not fly? durance, assault on watch,
               Bill for Epernay, not a crust to eat?
  Aspern. Oh, none of these, my lord; he has escaped
               From Circe's herd, and seeks to win the love
               Of your fair ward Cecilia: but would win
               First your consent. You frown.
  Fronsberg. Distinguish words.
               I said I held a pardon, not consent.

In spite of Deronda's reasons for wishing to be in town again—reasons in which his anxiety for Mirah was blent with curiosity to know more of the enigmatic Mordecai—he did not manage to go up before Sir Hugo, who preceded his family that he might be ready for the opening of Parliament on the sixth of February. Deronda took up his quarters in Park Lane, aware that his chambers were sufficiently tenanted by Hans Meyrick. This was what he expected; but he found other things not altogether according to his expectations.

Most of us remember Retzsch's drawing of destiny in the shape of Mephistopheles playing at chess with man for his soul, a game in which we may imagine the clever adversary making a feint of unintended moves so as to set the beguiled mortal on carrying his defensive pieces away from the true point of attack. The fiend makes preparation his favorite object of mockery, that he may fatally persuade us against our taking out waterproofs when he is well aware the sky is going to clear, foreseeing that the imbecile will turn this delusion into a prejudice against waterproofs instead of giving a closer study to the weather-signs. It is a peculiar test of a man's metal when, after he has painfully adjusted himself to what seems a wise provision, he finds all his mental precaution a little beside the mark, and his excellent intentions no better than miscalculated dovetails, accurately cut from a wrong starting-point. His magnanimity has got itself ready to meet misbehavior, and finds quite a different call upon it. Something of this kind happened to Deronda.

His first impression was one of pure pleasure and amusement at finding his sitting-room transformed into an atelier strewed with miscellaneous drawings and with the contents of two chests from Rome, the lower half of the windows darkened with baize, and the blonde Hans in his weird youth as the presiding genius of the littered place—his hair longer than of old, his face more whimsically creased, and his high voice as usual getting higher under the excitement of rapid talk. The friendship of the two had been kept up warmly since the memorable Cambridge time, not only by correspondence but by little episodes of companionship abroad and in England, and the original relation of confidence on one side and indulgence on the other had been developed in practice, as is wont to be the case where such spiritual borrowing and lending has been well begun.

"I knew you would like to see my casts and antiquities," said Hans, after the first hearty greetings and inquiries, "so I didn't scruple to unlade my chests here. But I've found two rooms at Chelsea not many hundred yards from my mother and sisters, and I shall soon be ready to hang out there—when they've scraped the walls and put in some new lights. That's all I'm waiting for. But you see I don't wait to begin work: you can't conceive what a great fellow I'm going to be. The seed of immortality has sprouted within me."

"Only a fungoid growth, I dare say—a growing disease in the lungs," said Deronda, accustomed to treat Hans in brotherly fashion. He was walking toward some drawings propped on the ledge of his bookcases; five rapidly-sketched heads—different aspects of the same face. He stood at a convenient distance from them, without making any remark. Hans, too, was silent for a minute, took up his palette and began touching the picture on his easel.

"What do you think of them?" he said at last.