George Meredith, The Egoist: Ch. 12

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They went up to some of the lesser heights of Switzerland and Styria, and settled in South Tyrol, the young lady preferring this district for the strenuous exercise of her climbing powers because she loved Italian colour; and it seemed an exceedingly good reason to the genial imagination she had awakened in Mr. Whitford. "Though," said he, abruptly, "you are not so much Italian as French."

She hoped she was English, she remarked.

"Of course you are English; . . . yes." He moderated his ascent with the halting affirmative.

She inquired wonderingly why he spoke in apparent hesitation.

"Well, you have French feet, for example: French wits, French impatience," he lowered his voice, "and charm"

"And love of compliments."

"Possibly. I was not conscious of paying them"

"And a disposition to rebel?"

"To challenge authority, at least."

"That is a dreadful character."

"At all events, it is a character."

"Fit for an Alpine comrade?"

"For the best of comrades anywhere."

"It is not a piece of drawing-room sculpture: that is the most one can say for it!" she dropped a dramatic sigh.

Had he been willing she would have continued the theme, for the pleasure a poor creature long gnawing her sensations finds in seeing herself from the outside. It fell away. After a silence, she could not renew it; and he was evidently indifferent, having to his own satisfaction dissected and stamped her a foreigner. With it passed her holiday. She had forgotten Sir Willoughby: she remembered him and said. "You knew Miss Durham, Mr. Whitford?"

He answered briefly, "I did."

"Was she? . . ." some hot-faced inquiry peered forth and withdrew.

"Very handsome," said Vernon.


"Yes; the dashing style of English."

"Very courageous."

"I dare say she had a kind of courage."

"She did very wrong."

"I won't say no. She discovered a man more of a match with herself; luckily not too late. We're at the mercy . . ."

"Was she not unpardonable?"

"I should be sorry to think that of any one."

"But you agree that she did wrong."

"I suppose I do. She made a mistake and she corrected it. If she had not, she would have made a greater mistake."