Page:Eliot - Middlemarch, vol. IV, 1872.djvu/83

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73
BOOK VII.—TWO TEMPTATIONS.

in her love as well as respect which you had let slip. I can easily conceive such a result," repeated Mr Farebrother, emphatically. "There is a companionship of ready sympathy, which might get the advantage even over the longest associations."

It seemed to Fred that if Mr Farebrother had had a beak and talons instead of his very capable tongue, his mode of attack could hardly be more cruel. He had a horrible conviction that behind all this hypothetic statement there was a knowledge of some actual change in Mary's feeling.

"Of course I know it might easily be all up with me," he said, in a troubled voice. "If she is beginning to compare——" He broke off, not liking to betray all he felt, and then said, by the help of a little bitterness, "But I thought you were friendly to me."

"So I am; that is why we are here. But I have had a strong disposition to be otherwise. I have said to myself, 'If there is a likelihood of that youngster doing himself harm, why should you interfere? Aren't you worth as much as he is, and don't your sixteen years over and above his, in which you have gone rather hungry, give you more right to satisfaction than he has? If there's a chance of his going to the dogs, let him