Wlliam Gilmore Simms
Joscelyn: A Tale of the Revolution >> Chapter XV: Major Alison—The Orchard Scene >> Page 146

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Novel (Romance) | The Reprint Company | 1975, 1976
Transcription 146JOSCELYN
repugnance, which, without violating any social courtesy or propriety,
bade him, at least, to remain at a distance. And, after a few slight
attempts at conciliation, which were civilly ignored, he did not repeat
his efforts. They met, bowed, exchanged these civilities which were
essentials of good breeding while they were in the same household,
but had no intercourse beyond.
The ladies of the house, with that nice instinct which informs all
well-bred women, beheld, at a glance, the true character of the rela-
tions between the two �a discovery, by the way, which led to that
greater degree of solicitude, which they both displayed, to minister
to their guest with that delicate grace which is the chief charm of
hospitality. And this solicitude it was which, in some degree, per-
suaded Alison that Annie Dunbar by no means shared in the preju-
dices of her cold, repulsive brother. Nay, he beheld in them a higher
significance of meaning, which greatly gratified his self-esteem. The
fact that she listened to him submissively, was assumed to signify
pleasurable listening. That she replied briefly, only argued a timid-
ity, the result of her consciousness of inferiority. Satisfied that he
could talk well, he, like too many others having this "gift of the gab,"
persuaded himself that he talked irresistibly; and, at the very time
when Annie Dunbar showed herself most reserved and most lan-
guidly indifferent, he grew more and more earnest, and, in his secret
heart, felt most confident.
This curious self-complacency, which works so much self-deception
in the case of vain persons, possesses a wonderful ingenuity in argu-
ing, from all things, to favorable self-conclusions. A remarkable in-
stance of this occurs in this very connection, and may be given in the
very words of Alison himself:
"She fears me! " said he to himself, one night, after he had reached
his room, and while preparing his toilet for the night.
"She fears me! that is certain! She is already conscious of my
power over her. She is awed. Humility grows with love. It pre-
faces the way for love. At first, there is a sense of oppression. The
heart trembles, as if under a weight, in the first moment of conscious-
ness, when the assailant approaches �a delicious thrill, that feels like
a terror, it is so strange and new, penetrates it to the core. The very
tones, soft and low, which are yet so delicious in her case, are yet
calculated to affright. Nay, the first burden of the growing feeling