The Egoist eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 555 pages of information about The Egoist.
all the new heirs in succession, diligently taking confirmatory notes, to join hands and chime their chorus in one of their merry rings round the tottering pillar of the House, when his turn arrives; as if they had (possibly they had) smelt of old date a doomed colossus of Egoism in that unborn, unconceived inheritor of the stuff of the family.  They dare not be chuckling while Egoism is valiant, while sober, while socially valuable, nationally serviceable.  They wait.

Aforetime a grand old Egoism built the House.  It would appear that ever finer essences of it are demanded to sustain the structure; but especially would it appear that a reversion to the gross original, beneath a mask and in a vein of fineness, is an earthquake at the foundations of the House.  Better that it should not have consented to motion, and have held stubbornly to all ancestral ways, than have bred that anachronic spectre.  The sight, however, is one to make our squatting imps in circle grow restless on their haunches, as they bend eyes instantly, ears at full cock, for the commencement of the comic drama of the suicide.  If this line of verse be not yet in our literature,

          Through very love of self himself he slew,

let it be admitted for his epitaph.

CHAPTER I

A MINOR INCIDENT SHOWING AN HEREDITARY APTITUDE IN THE USE OF THE KNIFE

There was an ominously anxious watch of eyes visible and invisible over the infancy of Willoughby, fifth in descent from Simon Patterne, of Patterne Hall, premier of this family, a lawyer, a man of solid acquirements and stout ambition, who well understood the foundation-work of a House, and was endowed with the power of saying No to those first agents of destruction, besieging relatives.  He said it with the resonant emphasis of death to younger sons.  For if the oak is to become a stately tree, we must provide against the crowding of timber.  Also the tree beset with parasites prospers not.  A great House in its beginning lives, we may truly say, by the knife.  Soil is easily got, and so are bricks, and a wife, and children come of wishing for them, but the vigorous use of the knife is a natural gift and points to growth.  Pauper Patternes were numerous when the fifth head of the race was the hope of his county.  A Patterne was in the Marines.

The country and the chief of this family were simultaneously informed of the existence of one Lieutenant Crossjay Patterne, of the corps of the famous hard fighters, through an act of heroism of the unpretending cool sort which kindles British blood, on the part of the modest young officer, in the storming of some eastern riverain stronghold, somewhere about the coast of China.  The officer’s youth was assumed on the strength of his rank, perhaps likewise from the tale of his modesty:  “he had only done his duty”.  Our Willoughby was then at College, emulous of the generous enthusiasm of his years, and

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The Egoist from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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