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Arthur’s Dark Thoughts

From chapter 66 of Thackeray’s Pendennis, our hero is thinking gloomy thoughts as he rides along with his future wife:

He is thinking what a mockery life was, and how men refuse happiness when they may have it; or, having it, kick it down; or barter it, with their eyes open, for a little worthless money or beggarly honor. And then the thought came, what does it matter for the little space? The lives of the best and purest of us are consumed in a vain desire, and end in disappointment: as the dear soul’s [his mother] who sleeps in her grave yonder. She had her selfish ambition, as much as Caesar had; and died, balked of her life’s longing. The stone covers over our hopes and our memories. Our place knows us not. ‘Other people’s chidren are playing on the grass,’ he broke out, in a hard voice, ‘where you and I used to play, Laura. And you see how the magnolia we planted has grown up since our time. I have been round to one or two of the cottages where my mother used to visit. It is scarcely more than a year since she is gone, and the people whom she used to benefit care no more for her death than for Queen Anne’s. We are all selfish: the world is selfish: there are but few exceptions like you, my dear, to shine like good deeds in a naughty world, and make the blackness more dismal.’

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