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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 555 pages of information about The Egoist.

De Craye allowed her to catch Crossjay by herself.  They entered a narrow lane, mysterious with possible birds’ eggs in the May-green hedges.  As there was not room for three abreast, the colonel made up the rear-guard, and was consoled by having Miss Middleton’s figure to contemplate; but the readiness of her joining in Crossjay’s pastime of the nest-hunt was not so pleasing to a man that she had wound to a pitch of excitement.  Her scornful accent on “Marriage” rang through him.  Apparently she was beginning to do with him just as she liked, herself entirely unconcerned.

She kept Crossjay beside her till she dismounted, and the colonel was left to the procession of elephantine ideas in his head, whose ponderousness he took for natural weight.  We do not with impunity abandon the initiative.  Men who have yielded it are like cavalry put on the defensive; a very small force with an ictus will scatter them.

Anxiety to recover lost ground reduced the dimensions of his ideas to a practical standard.

Two ideas were opposed like duellists bent on the slaughter of one another.  Either she amazed him by confirming the suspicions he had gathered of her sentiments for Willoughby in the moments of his introduction to her; or she amazed him as a model for coquettes—­the married and the widow might apply to her for lessons.

These combatants exchanged shots, but remained standing; the encounter was undecided.  Whatever the result, no person so seductive as Clara Middleton had he ever met.  Her cry of loathing, “Marriage!” coming from a girl, rang faintly clear of an ancient virginal aspiration of the sex to escape from their coil, and bespoke a pure, cold, savage pride that transplanted his thirst for her to higher fields.

CHAPTER XXIII

TREATS OF THE UNION OF TEMPER AND POLICY

Sir Willoughby meanwhile was on a line of conduct suiting his appreciation of his duty to himself.  He had deluded himself with the simple notion that good fruit would come of the union of temper and policy.

No delusion is older, none apparently so promising, both parties being eager for the alliance.  Yet, the theorist upon human nature will say, they are obviously of adverse disposition.  And this is true, inasmuch as neither of them win submit to the yoke of an established union; as soon as they have done their mischief, they set to work tugging for a divorce.  But they have attractions, the one for the other, which precipitate them to embrace whenever they meet in a breast; each is earnest with the owner of it to get him to officiate forthwith as wedding-priest.  And here is the reason:  temper, to warrant its appearance, desires to be thought as deliberative as policy, and policy, the sooner to prove its shrewdness, is impatient for the quick blood of temper.

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