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to draw you out-to learn more of youtherefore speak.’ Instead of
speaking, I smiled; and not a very complacent or submissive smile

‘Speak,’ he urged.
‘What about, sir?’ ‘Whatever you like. I leave both the choice of
subject and the manner of treating it entirely to yourself.’
Accordingly I sat and said nothing: ‘If he expects me to talk for the
mere sake of talking and showing off, he will find he has
addressed himself to the wrong person,’ I thought.

‘You are dumb, Miss Eyre.’ I was dumb still. He bent his head a
little towards me, and with a single hasty glance seemed to dive
into my eyes.

‘Stubborn?’ he said, ‘and annoyed. Ah! it is consistent. I put my
request in an absurd, almost insolent form. Miss Eyre, I beg your
pardon. The fact is, once for all, I don’t wish to treat you like an
inferior: that is’ (correcting himself), ‘I claim only such superiority
as must result from twenty years’ difference in age and a century’s
advance in experience. This is legitimate, et j’y tiens, as Adele
would say; and it is by virtue of this superiority, and this alone,
that I desire you to have the goodness to talk to me a little now,
and divert my thoughts, which are galled with dwelling on one
point-cankering as a rusty nail.’ He had deigned an explanation,
almost an apology, and I did not feel insensible to his
condescension, and would not seem so.

‘I am willing to amuse you, if I can, sir-quite willing; but I cannot
introduce a topic, because how do I know what will interest you?
Ask me questions, and I will do my best to answer them.’ ‘Then, in
the first place, do you agree with me that I have a right to be a little
masterful, abrupt, perhaps exacting, sometimes, on the grounds I
stated, namely, that I am old enough to be your father, and that I
have battled through a varied experience with many men of many
nations, and roamed over half the globe, while you have lived
quietly with one set of people in one house?’ ‘Do as you please, sir.’
‘That is no answer; or rather it is a very irritating, because a very
evasive one.

Reply clearly.’ ‘I don’t think, sir, you have a right to command me,
merely because you are older than I, or because you have seen
more of the world than I have; your claim to superiority depends
on the use you have made of your time and experience.’

‘Humph! Promptly spoken. But I won’t allow that, seeing that it
would never suit my case, as I have made an indifferent, not to say
a bad, use of both advantages. Leaving superiority out of the
question, then, you must still agree to receive my orders now and
then, without being piqued or hurt by the tone of command. Will
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