Samuel Butler, The Way of All Flesh: Ch. 48

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She was supposed to be very clever.  All young ladies are either very pretty or very clever or very sweet; they may take their choice as to which category they will go in for, but go in for one of the three they must.  It was hopeless to try and pass Charlotte off as either pretty or sweet.  So she became clever as the only remaining alternative.  Ernest never knew what particular branch of study it was in which she showed her talent, for she could neither play nor sing nor draw, but so astute are women that his mother and Charlotte really did persuade him into thinking that she, Charlotte, had something more akin to true genius than any other member of the family.  Not one, however, of all the friends whom Ernest had been inveigled into trying to inveigle had shown the least sign of being so far struck with Charlotte’s commanding powers, as to wish to make them his own, and this may have had something to do with the rapidity and completeness with which Christina had dismissed them one after another and had wanted a new one.

And now she wanted Towneley.  Ernest had seen this coming and had tried to avoid it, for he knew how impossible it was for him to ask Towneley, even if he had wished to do so.

Towneley belonged to one of the most exclusive sets in Cambridge, and was perhaps the most popular man among the whole number of undergraduates.  He was big and very handsome—as it seemed to Ernest the handsomest man whom he ever had seen or ever could see, for it was impossible to imagine a more lively and agreeable countenance.  He was good at cricket and boating, very good-natured, singularly free from conceit, not clever but very sensible, and, lastly, his father and mother had been drowned by the overturning of a boat when he was only two years old and had left him as their only child and heir to one of the finest estates in the South of England.  Fortune every now and then does things handsomely by a man all round; Towneley was one of those to whom she had taken a fancy, and the universal verdict in this case was that she had chosen wisely.

Ernest had seen Towneley as every one else in the University (except, of course, dons) had seen him, for he was a man of mark, and being very susceptible he had liked Towneley even more than most people did, but at the same time it never so much as entered his head that he should come to know him.  He liked looking at him if he got a chance, and was very much ashamed of himself for doing so, but there the matter ended.

By a strange accident, however, during Ernest’s last year, when the names of the crews for the scratch fours were drawn he had found himself coxswain of a crew, among whom was none other than his especial hero Towneley; the three others were ordinary mortals, but they could row fairly well, and the crew on the whole was rather a good one.

Ernest was frightened out of his wits.  When, however, the two met, he found Towneley no less remarkable for his entire want of anything like “side,” and for his power of setting those whom he came across at their ease, than he was for outward accomplishments; the only difference he found between Towneley and other people was that he was so very much easier to get on with.  Of course Ernest worshipped him more and more.

The scratch fours being ended the connection between the two came to an end, but Towneley never passed Ernest thenceforward without a nod and a few good-natured words.  In an evil moment he had mentioned Towneley’s name at Battersby, and now what was the result?  Here was his mother plaguing him to ask Towneley to come down to Battersby and marry Charlotte.  Why, if he had thought there was the remotest chance of Towneley’s marrying Charlotte he would have gone down on his knees to him and told him what an odious young woman she was, and implored him to save himself while there was yet time.

But Ernest had not prayed to be made “truly honest and conscientious” for as many years as Christina had.  He tried to conceal what he felt and thought as well as he could, and led the conversation back to the difficulties which a clergyman might feel to stand in the way of his being ordained—not because he had any misgivings, but as a diversion.  His mother, however, thought she had settled all that, and he got no more out of her.  Soon afterwards he found the means of escaping, and was not slow to avail himself of them.