simplest and the most profound? Will you let me alter the light in your room?"
"Certainly—if you will be so very kind as not to let any of it in on me."
He walked to the window. Such a contrast to dear Marian! so extremely considerate in all his movements!
"Light," he said, in that delightfully confidential tone which is so soothing to an invalid, "is the first essential. Light stimulates, nourishes, preserves. You can no more do without it, Mr. Fairlie, than if you were a flower. Observe. Here, where you sit, I close the shutters, to compose you. There, where you do not sit, I draw up the blind and let in the invigorating sun. Admit the light into your room, if you cannot bear it on yourself. Light, sir, is the grand decree of Providence. You accept Providence with your own restrictions. Accept light—on the same terms."
I thought this very convincing and attentive. He had taken me in—up to that point about the light, he had certainly taken me in.
"You see me confused," he said, returning to his place—"on my word of honour, Mr. Fairlie, you see me confused in your presence."
"Shocked to hear it, I am sure. May I inquire why?"
"Sir, can I enter this room (where you sit a sufferer), and see you surrounded by these admirable objects of Art, without discovering that you are a man whose feelings are acutely impressionable, whose sympathies are perpetually alive? Tell me can I do this?"
If I had been strong enough to sit up in my chair, I should of course have bowed. Not being strong enough, I smiled my acknowledgments instead. It did just as well, we both understood one another.
"Pray follow my train of thought," continued the Count. "I sit here, a man of refined sympathies myself, in the presence of another man of refined sympathies also. I am conscious of a terrible necessity for lacerating those sympathies by referring to domestic events of a very melancholy kind. What is the inevitable consequence? I have done myself the honour of pointing it out to you, already. I sit confused."
Was it at this point that I began to suspect he was going to bore me? I rather think it was.
"Is it absolutely necessary to refer to these unpleasant matters?" I inquired. "In our homely English phrase, Count Fosco, won't they keep?"