The Egoist eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 555 pages of information about The Egoist.
that men likewise, and parents pre-eminently, have their preference for the larger offer, the deeper pocket, the broader lands, the respectfuller consideration.  Men, after their fashion, as well as women, distinguish the bettermost, and aid him to succeed, as Dr. Middleton certainly did in the crisis of the memorable question proposed to his daughter within a month of Willoughby’s reception at Upton Park.  The young lady was astonished at his whirlwind wooing of her, and bent to it like a sapling.  She begged for time; Willoughby could barely wait.  She unhesitatingly owned that she liked no one better, and he consented.  A calm examination of his position told him that it was unfair so long as he stood engaged, and she did not.  She pleaded a desire to see a little of the world before she plighted herself.  She alarmed him; he assumed the amazing god of love under the subtlest guise of the divinity.  Willingly would he obey her behests, resignedly languish, were it not for his mother’s desire to see the future lady of Patterne established there before she died.  Love shone cunningly through the mask of filial duty, but the plea of urgency was reasonable.  Dr. Middleton thought it reasonable, supposing his daughter to have an inclination.  She had no disinclination, though she had a maidenly desire to see a little of the world—­grace for one year, she said.  Willoughby reduced the year to six months, and granted that term, for which, in gratitude, she submitted to stand engaged; and that was no light whispering of a word.  She was implored to enter the state of captivity by the pronunciation of vows—­a private but a binding ceremonial.  She had health and beauty, and money to gild these gifts; not that he stipulated for money with his bride, but it adds a lustre to dazzle the world; and, moreover, the pack of rival pursuers hung close behind, yelping and raising their dolorous throats to the moon.  Captive she must be.

He made her engagement no light whispering matter.  It was a solemn plighting of a troth.  Why not?  Having said, I am yours, she could say, I am wholly yours, I am yours forever, I swear it, I will never swerve from it, I am your wife in heart, yours utterly; our engagement is written above.  To this she considerately appended, “as far as I am concerned”; a piece of somewhat chilling generosity, and he forced her to pass him through love’s catechism in turn, and came out with fervent answers that bound him to her too indissolubly to let her doubt of her being loved.  And I am loved! she exclaimed to her heart’s echoes, in simple faith and wonderment.  Hardly had she begun to think of love ere the apparition arose in her path.  She had not thought of love with any warmth, and here it was.  She had only dreamed of love as one of the distant blessings of the mighty world, lying somewhere in the world’s forests, across wild seas, veiled, encompassed with beautiful perils, a throbbing secrecy, but too remote to quicken her bosom’s throbs.  Her chief idea of it was, the enrichment of the world by love.

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The Egoist from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.