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like the society of children and old women (low be it spoken!). No,
young lady, I am not a general philanthropist; but I bear a
conscience’; and he pointed to the prominences which are said to
indicate that faculty, and which, fortunately for him, were
sufficiently conspicuous; giving, indeed, a marked breadth to the
upper part of his head: ‘and, besides, I once had a kind of rude
tenderness of heart. When I was as old as you, I was a feeling
fellow enough; partial to the unfledged, unfostered, and unlucky;
but Fortune has knocked me about since: she has even kneaded me
with her knuckles, and now I flatter myself I am hard and tough as
an India-rubber ball; pervious, though, through a chink or two still,
and with one sentient point in the middle of the lump.

Yes: does that leave hope for me?’ ‘Hope of what, sir?’
‘Of my final re-transformation from India-rubber back to flesh?’
‘Decidedly he has had too much wine,’ I thought; and I did not
know what answer to make to his queer question: how could I tell
whether he was capable of being re-transformed? ‘You looked very
much puzzled, Miss Eyre; and though you are not pretty any more
than I am handsome, yet a puzzled air becomes you; besides, it is
convenient, for it keeps those searching eyes of yours away from
my physiognomy, and busies them with the worsted flowers of the
rug; so puzzle on. Young lady, I am disposed to be gregarious and
communicative tonight.’ With this announcement he rose from his
chair, and stood, leaning his arm on the marble mantelpiece: in that
attitude his shape was seen plainly as well as his face; his unusual
breadth of chest, disproportionate almost to his length of limb. I am
sure most people would have thought him an ugly man; yet there
was so much unconscious pride in his port; so much ease in his
demeanour; such a look of complete indifference to his own
external appearance; so haughty a reliance on the power of other
qualities, intrinsic or adventitious, to atone for the lack of mere
personal attractiveness, that, in looking at him, one inevitably
shared the indifference, and, even in a blind, imperfect sense, put
faith in the confidence.

‘I am disposed to be gregarious and communicative tonight,’ he
repeated, ‘and that is why I sent for you: the fire and the chandelier
were not sufficient company for me; nor would Pilot have been, for
none of these can talk. Adele is a degree better, but still far below
the mark; Mrs. Fairfax ditto; you, I am persuaded, can suit me if
you will: you puzzled me the first evening I invited you down

I have almost forgotten you since: other ideas have driven yours
from my head; but to-night I am resolved to be at ease; to dismiss
what importunes, and recall what pleases. It would please me now
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