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27. CHAPTER XXVII: A LOVE SCENE (continued)
'False? Of course it is false, false as the father of falsehood--if indeed falsehoods need a sire and are not self-begotten since the world began. You are ready to sacrifice the world for love? Come let us see what you will sacrifice. I care nothing for nuptial vows. The wretch, I think you were kind enough to call him so, whom I swore to love and obey, is so base that he can only be thought of with repulsive disgust. In the council chamber of my heart I have divorced him. To me that is as good as though aged lords had gloated for months over the details of his licentious life. I care nothing for what the world can say. Will you be as frank? Will you take me to your home as your wife? Will you call me Mrs Slope before bishop, dean, and prebendaries?' The poor tortured wretch stood silent, not knowing what to say. 'What! You won't do that. Tell me then, what part of the world is it that you will sacrifice for my charms?'
'Were you free to marry, I would take you to my house to-morrow and wish no higher privilege.'
'I am free;' said she, almost starting up in her energy. For though there was no truth in her pretended regard for her clerical admirer, there was a mixture of real feeling in the scorn and satire with which she spoke of love and marriage generally. 'I am free; free as the winds. Come, will you take me as I am? Have your wish; sacrifice the world, and prove yourself a true man.'
Mr Slope should have taken her at her word. She would have drawn back, and he would have had the full advantage of the offer. But he did not. Instead of doing so, he stood wrapt in astonishment, passing his fingers through his lank red hair, and thinking as he stared upon her animated countenance that her wondrous beauty grew more and more wonderful as he gazed on it. 'Ha! Ha! Ha!,' she laughed out loud. 'Come, Mr Slope, don't talk of sacrificing the world again. People beyond one-and-twenty should never dream of such a thing. You and I, if we have the dregs of any love left in us, if we have the remnants of a passion remaining in our hearts, should husband our resources better. We are not in our premiere jeunesse. The world is a very nice place. Your world, at any rate, is so. You have all manner of fat rectories to get, and possible bishoprics to enjoy. Come, confess; on second thoughts you would not sacrifice such things for the smiles of a lame lady?'
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