The Egoist eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 707 pages of information about The Egoist.
the air, universal, and fell upon the proposed arrangement.  He would listen to none of Mrs. Mountstuart’s woman-of-the-world instances of the folly of pressing it upon a girl who had shown herself a girl of spirit.  She foretold the failure.  He would not be advised; he said:  “It is my scheme”; and perhaps the look of mad benevolence about it induced the lady to try whether there was a chance that it would hit the madness in our nature, and somehow succeed or lead to a pacification.  Sir Willoughby condescended to arrange things thus for Clara’s good; he would then proceed to realize his own.  Such was the face he put upon it.  We can wear what appearance we please before the world until we are found out, nor is the world’s praise knocking upon hollowness always hollow music; but Mrs Mountstuart’s laudation of his kindness and simplicity disturbed him; for though he had recovered from his rebuff enough to imagine that Laetitia could not refuse him under reiterated pressure, he had let it be supposed that she was a submissive handmaiden throbbing for her elevation; and Mrs Mountstuart’s belief in it afflicted his recent bitter experience; his footing was not perfectly secure.  Besides, assuming it to be so, he considered the sort of prize he had won; and a spasm of downright hatred of a world for which we make mighty sacrifices to be repaid in a worn, thin, comparatively valueless coin, troubled his counting of his gains.  Laetitia, it was true, had not passed through other hands in coming to him, as Vernon would know it to be Clara’s case:  time only had worn her:  but the comfort of the reflection was annoyed by the physical contrast of the two.  Hence an unusual melancholy in his tone that Mrs. Mountstuart thought touching.  It had the scenic effect on her which greatly contributes to delude the wits.  She talked of him to Clara as being a man who had revealed an unsuspected depth.

Vernon took the communication curiously.  He seemed readier to be in love with his benevolent relative than with the lady.  He was confused, undisguisedly moved, said the plan was impossible, out of the question, but thanked Willoughby for the best of intentions, thanked him warmly.  After saying that the plan was impossible, the comical fellow allowed himself to be pushed forth on the lawn to see how Miss Middleton might have come out of her interview with Mrs. Mountstuart.  Willoughby observed Mrs. Mountstuart meet him, usher him to the place she had quitted among the shrubs, and return to the open turf-spaces.  He sprang to her.

“She will listen.”  Mrs. Mountstuart said:  “She likes him, respects him, thinks he is a very sincere friend, clever, a scholar, and a good mountaineer; and thinks you mean very kindly.  So much I have impressed on her, but I have not done much for Mr. Whitford.”

“She consents to listen,” said Willoughby, snatching at that as the death-blow to his friend Horace.

“She consents to listen, because you have arranged it so that if she declined she would be rather a savage.”

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The Egoist from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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