His somber gaze went past her and in his eyes was the same look she had seen in the light of the flames the night Atlanta fell, when he told her he was going off with the retreating army—the surprise of a man who knows himself utterly, yet discovers in himself unexpected loyalties and emotions and feels a faint self-ridicule at the discovery.
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It’s easier to ridicule her ideas than to seriously refute her findings.
In his day, he was ridiculed for saying the earth is round.