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I am influenced-conquered; and the influence is sweeter than I can
express; and the conquest I undergo has a witchery beyond any
triumph I can win. Why do you smile, Jane? What does that
inexplicable, that uncanny turn of countenance mean?’ ‘I was
thinking, sir (you will excuse the idea; it was involuntary), I was
thinking of Hercules and Samson with their charmers-’ ‘You were,
you little elfish-’ ‘Hush, sir! You don’t talk very wisely just now;
any more than those gentlemen acted very wisely. However, had
they been married, they would no doubt by their severity as
husbands have made up for their softness as suitors; and so will
you, I fear. I wonder how you will answer me a year hence, should
I ask a favour it does not suit your convenience or pleasure to
grant.’ ‘Ask me something now, Janet-the least thing: I desire to be
entreated-’ ‘Indeed I will sir; I have my petition all ready.’ ‘Speak!
But if you look up and smile with that countenance, I shall swear
concession before I know to what, and that will make a fool of me.’
‘Not at all, sir; I ask only this: don’t send for the jewels, and don’t
crown me with roses: you might as well put a border of gold lace
round that plain pockethandkerchief you have there.’

‘I might as well “gild refined gold.” I know it: your request is
granted thenfor the time. I will remand the order I despatched to
my banker. But you have not yet asked for anything; you have
prayed a gift to be withdrawn: try again.’ ‘Well, then, sir, have the
goodness to gratify my curiosity, which is much piqued on one
point.’ He looked disturbed. ‘What? what?’ he said hastily.
‘Curiosity is a dangerous petition: it is well I have not taken a vow
to accord every request-’ ‘But there can be no danger in complying
with this, sir.’ ‘Utter it, Jane: but I wish that instead of a mere
inquiry into, perhaps, a secret, it was a wish for half my estate.’
‘Now, King Ahasuerus! What do I want with half your estate? Do
you think I am a Jew-usurer, seeking good investment in land? I
would much rather have all your confidence. You will not exclude
me from your confidence if you admit me to your heart?’ ‘You are
welcome to all my confidence that is worth having, Jane; but for
God’s sake, don’t desire a useless burden! Don’t long for poison-
don’t turn out a downright Eve on my hands!’ ‘Why not, sir? You
have just been telling me how much you liked to be conquered,
and how pleasant over-persuasion is to you. Don’t you think I had
better take advantage of the confession, and begin and coax and
entreat-even cry and be sulky if necessary-for the sake of a mere
essay of my power?’ ‘I dare you to any such experiment. Encroach,
presume, and the game is up.’ ‘Is it, sir? You soon give in. How
stern you look now! Your eyebrows have become as thick as my
finger, and your forehead resembles what, in some very
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