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The Egoist eBook

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

“If she were living now!”

“We should be happy in the blessing of the most estimable of women, my Clara.”

“She would have listened to me.  She would have realized what I mean.”

“Indeed, Clara—­poor soul!” he murmured to himself, aloud; “indeed you are absolutely in error.  If I have seemed—­but I repeat, you are deceived.  The idea of ‘fitness’ is a total hallucination.  Supposing you—­I do it even in play painfully—­entirely out of the way, unthought of. . .”

“Extinct,” Clara said low.

“Non-existent for me,” he selected a preferable term.  “Suppose it; I should still, in spite of an admiration I have never thought it incumbent on me to conceal, still be—­I speak emphatically—­utterly incapable of the offer of my hand to Miss Dale.  It may be that she is embedded in my mind as a friend, and nothing but a friend.  I received the stamp in early youth.  People have noticed it—­we do, it seems, bring one another out, reflecting, counter-reflecting.”

She glanced up at him with a shrewd satisfaction to see that her wicked shaft had stuck.

“You do; it is a common remark,” she said.  “The instantaneous difference when she comes near, any one might notice.”

“My love,” he opened the iron gate into the garden, “you encourage the naughty little suspicion.”

“But it is a beautiful sight, Willoughby.  I like to see you together.  I like it as I like to see colours match.”

“Very well.  There is no harm then.  We shall often be together.  I like my fair friend.  But the instant!—­you have only to express a sentiment of disapprobation.”

“And you dismiss her.”

“I dismiss her.  That is, as to the word, I constitute myself your echo, to clear any vestige of suspicion.  She goes.”

“That is a case of a person doomed to extinction without offending.”

“Not without:  for whoever offends my bride, my wife, my sovereign lady, offends me:  very deeply offends me.”

“Then the caprices of your wife . . .”  Clara stamped her foot imperceptibly on the lawn-sward, which was irresponsively soft to her fretfulness.  She broke from the inconsequent meaningless mild tone of irony, and said:  “Willoughby, women have their honour to swear by equally with men:—­girls have:  they have to swear an oath at the altar; may I to you now?  Take it for uttered when I tell you that nothing would make me happier than your union with Miss Dale.  I have spoken as much as I can.  Tell me you release me.”

With the well-known screw-smile of duty upholding weariness worn to inanition, he rejoined:  “Allow me once more to reiterate, that it is repulsive, inconceivable, that I should ever, under any mortal conditions, bring myself to the point of taking Miss Dale for my wife.  You reduce me to this perfectly childish protestation—­pitiably childish!  But, my love, have I to remind you that you and I are plighted, and that I am an honourable man?”

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