George Meredith, The Egoist: Ch. 30

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"The disaster is rather famous 'at first sight'. He came in a fortunate hour . . . for him. A pigmy's a giant if he can manage to arrive in season. Did you not notice that there was danger, at their second or third glance? You counselled me to hang on here, where the amount of good I do in proportion to what I have to endure is microscopic."

"It was against your wishes, I know," said Laetitia, and when the words were out she feared that they were tentative. Her delicacy shrank from even seeming to sound him in relation to a situation so delicate as Miss Middleton's.

The same sentiment guarded him from betraying himself, and he said: "Partly against. We both foresaw the possible—because, like most prophets, we knew a little more of circumstances enabling us to see the fatal. A pigmy would have served, but De Craye is a handsome, intelligent, pleasant fellow."

"Sir Willoughby's friend!"

"Well, in these affairs! A great deal must be charged on the goddess."

"That is really Pagan fatalism!"

"Our modern word for it is Nature. Science condescends to speak of natural selection. Look at these! They are both graceful and winning and witty, bright to mind and eye, made for one another, as country people say. I can't blame him. Besides, we don't know that he's guilty. We're quite in the dark, except that we're certain how it must end. If the chance should occur to you of giving Willoughby a word of counsel—it may—you might, without irritating him as my knowledge of his plight does, hint at your eyes being open. His insane dread of a detective world makes him artificially blind. As soon as he fancies himself seen, he sets to work spinning a web, and he discerns nothing else. It's generally a clever kind of web; but if it's a tangle to others it's the same to him, and a veil as well. He is preparing the catastrophe, he forces the issue. Tell him of her extreme desire to depart. Treat her as mad, to soothe him. Otherwise one morning he will wake a second time . . . ! It is perfectly certain. And the second time it will be entirely his own fault. Inspire him with some philosophy."

"I have none."

"I if I thought so, I would say you have better. There are two kinds of philosophy, mine and yours. Mine comes of coldness, yours of devotion."

"He is unlikely to choose me for his confidante."

Vernon meditated. "One can never quite guess what he will do, from never knowing the heat of the centre in him which precipitates his actions: he has a great art of concealment. As to me, as you perceive, my views are too philosophical to let me be of use to any of them. I blame only the one who holds to the bond. The sooner I am gone!—in fact, I cannot stay on. So Dr. Middleton and the Professor did not strike fire together?"

"Doctor Middleton was ready, and pursued him, but Professor Crooklyn insisted on shivering. His line of blank verse, 'A Railway platform and a Railway inn!' became pathetic in repetition. He must have suffered."

"Somebody has to!"

"Why the innocent?"

"He arrives a propos. But remember that Fridolin sometimes contrives to escape and have the guilty scorched. The Professor would not have suffered if he had missed his train, as he appears to be in the habit of doing. Thus his unaccustomed good-fortune was the cause of his bad."

"You saw him on the platform?"

"I am unacquainted with the professor. I had to get Mrs Mountstuart out of the way."

"She says she described him to you. 'Complexion of a sweetbread, consistency of a quenelle, grey, and like a Saint without his dish behind the head.'"