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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 478 pages of information about Uncle Silas.

  Aimer c’est craindre, et craindre c’est souffrir.

And suffering prompts to desperate remedies.  We must not be too hard on a rough but romantic young fool, who talks according to his folly and his pain.’

CHAPTER XLIX

AN APPARITION

‘But, after all,’ he suddenly resumed, as if a new thought had struck him, ’is it quite such folly, after all?  It really strikes me, dear Maud, that the subject may be worth a second thought.  No, no, you won’t refuse to hear me,’ he said, observing me on the point of protesting.  ’I am, of course, assuming that you are fancy free.  I am assuming, too, that you don’t care twopence about Dudley, and even that you fancy you dislike him.  You know in that pleasant play, poor Sheridan—­delightful fellow!—­all our fine spirits are dead—­he makes Mrs. Malaprop say there is nothing like beginning with a little aversion.  Now, though in matrimony, of course, that is only a joke, yet in love, believe me, it is no such thing.  His own marriage with Miss Ogle, I know, was a case in point.  She expressed a positive horror of him at their first acquaintance; and yet, I believe, she would, a few months later, have died rather than not have married him.’

I was again about to speak, but with a smile he beckoned me into silence.

’There are two or three points you must bear in mind.  One of the happiest privileges of your fortune is that you may, without imprudence, marry simply for love.  There are few men in England who could offer you an estate comparable with that you already possess; or, in fact, appreciably increase the splendour of your fortune.  If, therefore, he were in all other respects eligible, I can’t see that his poverty would be an objection to weigh for one moment.  He is quite a rough diamond.  He has been, like many young men of the highest rank, too much given up to athletic sports—­to that society which constitutes the aristocracy of the ring and the turf, and all that kind of thing.  You see, I am putting all the worst points first.  But I have known so many young men in my day, after a madcap career of a few years among prizefighters, wrestlers, and jockeys—­learning their slang and affecting their manners—­take up and cultivate the graces and the decencies.  There was poor dear Newgate, many degrees lower in that kind of frolic, who, when he grew tired of it, became one of the most elegant and accomplished men in the House of Peers.  Poor Newgate, he’s gone, too!  I could reckon up fifty of my early friends who all began like Dudley, and all turned out, more or less, like Newgate.’

At this moment came a knock at the door, and Dudley put in his head most inopportunely for the vision of his future graces and accomplishments.

‘My good fellow,’ said his father, with a sharp sort of playfulness, ’I happen to be talking about my son, and should rather not be overheard; you will, therefore, choose another time for your visit.’

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