The Egoist eBook

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

“You are my friend.  Only you speak in irony so much.  That was irony, about my clear conscience.  I spoke to you and to Miss Dale:  and then I rested and drifted.  Can you not feel for me, that to mention it is like a scorching furnace?  Willoughby has entangled papa.  He schemes incessantly to keep me entangled.  I fly from his cunning as much as from anything.  I dread it.  I have told you that I am more to blame than he, but I must accuse him.  And wedding-presents! and congratulations!  And to be his guest!”

“All that makes up a plea in mitigation,” said Vernon.

“Is it not sufficient for you?” she asked him timidly.

“You have a masculine good sense that tells you you won’t be respected if you run.  Three more days there might cover a retreat with your father.”

“He will not listen to me.  He confuses me; Willoughby has bewitched him.”

“Commission me:  I will see that he listens.”

“And go back?  Oh, no!  To London!  Besides, there is the dining with Mrs. Mountstuart this evening; and I like her very well, but I must avoid her.  She has a kind of idolatry . . .  And what answers can I give?  I supplicate her with looks.  She observes them, my efforts to divert them from being painful produce a comic expression to her, and I am a charming ‘rogue’, and I am entertained on the topic she assumes to be principally interesting me.  I must avoid her.  The thought of her leaves me no choice.  She is clever.  She could tattoo me with epigrams.”

“Stay . . . there you can hold your own.”

“She has told me you give me credit for a spice of wit.  I have not discovered my possession.  We have spoken of it; we call it your delusion.  She grants me some beauty; that must be hers.”

“There’s no delusion in one case or the other, Miss Middleton.  You have beauty and wit; public opinion will say, wildness:  indifference to your reputation will be charged on you, and your friends will have to admit it.  But you will be out of this difficulty.”

“Ah—­to weave a second?”

“Impossible to judge until we see how you escape the first.  And I have no more to say.  I love your father.  His humour of sententiousness and doctorial stilts is a mask he delights in, but you ought to know him and not be frightened by it.  If you sat with him an hour at a Latin task, and if you took his hand and told him you could not leave him, and no tears!—­he would answer you at once.  It would involve a day or two further; disagreeable to you, no doubt:  preferable to the present mode of escape, as I think.  But I have no power whatever to persuade.  I have not the ‘lady’s tongue’.  My appeal is always to reason.”

“It is a compliment.  I loathe the ’lady’s tongue’.”

“It’s a distinctly good gift, and I wish I had it.  I might have succeeded instead of failing, and appearing to pay a compliment.”

“Surely the express train is very late, Mr. Whitford?”

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The Egoist from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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