impressive and disconcerting

And this, in fact, without concealment, without pretence, without evasion, was just how Brill DID feel about it. He wanted everything that was his and, in addition, he wanted as much as he could get. And this rapacity, this brutal and unadorned gluttony, so far from making men wary of him, attracted them to him, inspired them with unshakable confidence in his integrity, his business honesty. Perhaps the reason for this was that concealment did not abide in the man: he published his intentions to the world with an oath and a roar of laughter — and the world, having seen and judged, went away with the confidence of this Italian — that Brill was “one fine-a man!”

Even Bascom, who had so often turned upon his colleague the weapons of scorn, contempt, and mockery, had a curious respect for him, an acrid sunken affection: often, when the old man and his nephew were alone, he would recall something Brill had said and his powerful and fluent features would suddenly be contorted in that familiar grimace, as he laughed his curious laugh which was forced out, with a deliberate and painful effort, through his powerful nose and his lips, barred with a few large teeth. “Phuh! phuh! phuh! phuh! phuh! . . . Of course!” he said, with a nasal rumination, as he stared over the apex of his great bony hands, clasped in meditation —“of course, he is just a poor ignorant fellow!

I don’t suppose — no, sir, I really do not suppose that Brill ever went to school over six months in his life! — Say!” Bascom paused suddenly, turned abruptly with his strange fixed grin, and fastened his sharp old eyes keenly on the boy: in this sudden and abrupt change, this transference of his vision from his own secret and personal world, in which his thought and feeling were sunken, and which seemed to be so far away from the actual world about him, there was something . His eyes were grey, sharp, and old, and one eyelid had a heavy droop or ptosis which, although it did not obscure his vision, gave his expression at times a sinister glint, a malevolent humour. “— Say!” here his voice sank to a deliberate and confiding whisper, “(Phuh! phuh! phuh! phuh! phuh!)

Say — a man who would — he told me — Oh, vile! vile! vile! my boy!” his uncle whispered, shutting his eyes in a kind of shuddering ecstasy as if at the memory of things too gloriously obscene to be repeated. “Can you IMAGINE, can you even DREAM of such a state of affairs if he had possessed an atom, a SCINTILLA of delicacy and good breeding! Yes, sir!” he said with decision. “I suppose there’s no doubt about it! His beginnings were very lowly, very poor and humble indeed! . . . Not that that is in any sense to his discredit!” Uncle Bascom said hastily, as if it had occurred to him that his words might bear some taint of snobbishness. “Oh, by no means, by no means, by no means!” he sang out, with a sweeping upward gesture of his long arm, as if he were clearing the air of wisps of smoke.

“Some of our finest men — some of the nation’s LEADERS, have come from just such surroundings as those. Beyond a doubt! Beyond a doubt! There’s no question about it whatever! Say!”— here he turned suddenly upon the boy again with the ptotic and sinister intelligence of his eye. “Was LINCOLN an aristocrat? Was he the issue of wealthy parents? Was he brought up with a silver spoon in his mouth? Was our OWN former governor, the Vice-President of the United States today, reared in the lap of luxury! Not on your life!” howled Uncle Bascom. “He came from frugal and thrifty Vermont farming stock, he has never deviated a JOT from his early training, he remains today what he has always been — one of the simplest of men! Finest people on earth, no question about it whatever!”

Again, he meditated gravely with lost stare across the apex of his great joined hands, and the boy noticed again, as he had noticed so often, the great dignity of his head in thought — a head that was high-browed, lean and lonely, a head that not only in its cast of thought but even in its physical contour, and in its profound and lonely earnestness, bore an astonishing resemblance to that of Emerson — it was, at times like these, as grand a head as the young man had ever seen, and on it was legible the history of man’s loneliness, his dignity, his grandeur and despair.

“Yes, sir!” said Bascom, in a moment. “He is, of course, a vulgar fellow and some of the things he says at times are Oh, vile! vile! vile!” cried Bascom, closing his eyes and laughing, “Oh, vile! MOST vile! . . . but (phuh! phuh! phuh!) you can’t help laughing at the fellow at times because he is so. . . . Oh, I could tell you things, my boy! . . . Oh, VILE! VILE!” he cried, shaking his head downwards. “What coarseness! . . . What inVECT-ive!” he whispered, in a kind of ecstasy.
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