The Egoist eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 555 pages of information about The Egoist.
horrible the world was, or could be made to look.  She loved the boy from expecting nothing of him.  Others, Vernon Whitford, for instance, could help, and moved no hand.  He read her case.  A scrutiny so penetrating under its air of abstract thoughtfulness, though his eyes did but rest on her a second or two, signified that he read her line by line, and to the end—­excepting what she thought of him for probing her with that sharp steel of insight without a purpose.

She knew her mind’s injustice.  It was her case, her lamentable case—­the impatient panic-stricken nerves of a captured wild creature which cried for help.  She exaggerated her sufferings to get strength to throw them off, and lost it in the recognition that they were exaggerated:  and out of the conflict issued recklessness, with a cry as wild as any coming of madness; for she did not blush in saying to herself.  “If some one loved me!” Before hearing of Constantia, she had mused upon liberty as a virgin Goddess—­men were out of her thoughts; even the figure of a rescuer, if one dawned in her mind, was more angel than hero.  That fair childish maidenliness had ceased.  With her body straining in her dragon’s grasp, with the savour of loathing, unable to contend, unable to speak aloud, she began to speak to herself, and all the health of her nature made her outcry womanly:  “If I were loved!”—­not for the sake of love, but for free breathing; and her utterance of it was to insure life and enduringness to the wish, as the yearning of a mother on a drowning ship is to get her infant to shore.  “If some noble gentleman could see me as I am and not disdain to aid me!  Oh! to be caught up out of this prison of thorns and brambles.  I cannot tear my own way out.  I am a coward.  My cry for help confesses that.  A beckoning of a finger would change me, I believe.  I could fly bleeding and through hootings to a comrade.  Oh! a comrade!  I do not want a lover.  I should find another Egoist, not so bad, but enough to make me take a breath like death.  I could follow a soldier, like poor Sally or Molly.  He stakes his life for his country, and a woman may be proud of the worst of men who do that.  Constantia met a soldier.  Perhaps she prayed and her prayer was answered.  She did ill.  But, oh, how I love her for it!  His name was Harry Oxford.  Papa would call him her Perseus.  She must have felt that there was no explaining what she suffered.  She had only to act, to plunge.  First she fixed her mind on Harry Oxford.  To be able to speak his name and see him awaiting her, must have been relief, a reprieve.  She did not waver, she cut the links, she signed herself over.  Oh, brave girl! what do you think of me?  But I have no Harry Whitford, I am alone.  Let anything be said against women; we must be very bad to have such bad things written of us:  only, say this, that to ask them to sign themselves over by oath and ceremony, because of an ignorant promise, to the man they have been mistaken in, is . . . it is—­” the sudden consciousness that she had put another name for Oxford, struck her a buffet, drowning her in crimson.

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The Egoist from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.