Page:Tales of John Oliver Hobbes.djvu/142

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126
The Sinner's Comedy.


had he been born a woman, had a soul above the management of a country estate. Although all his passions were extremely well-bred and gentlemanly, and had never given him one moment's anxiety from the hour of his birth, there was one—no less gentlemanly, however, than the others—which ruled him with something approaching despotism. This was Ambition. He longed to make a mark, or, to express it more vulgarly, cut a figure. Now, fortunately or unfortunately, the number of figures which can be cut in the world is practically unlimited; the only difficulty is to cut precisely the kind of figure one would wish. But that merely illustrates the playfulness of the gods. The kind of figure Lord Middlehurst liked to imagine himself cutting was dignified, important, and frock-coated. That is to say, he was to be the man on all occasions to wear the Frock-coat and represent in one gracious person the literal and symbolic in Frock-coats throughout cultivated Europe.

He scraped together all his available capital, raised his rents, and started a Daily Paper.

The Honourable Robert Haviland, who was the second son, was noted for his serenity. When his brother was oppressed with gloom to think how few people he knew who were sufficiently moral to dine with, Robert reminded him that the most interesting sinners usually preferred a supper. His cheerfulness was indiminishable. He shaved regularly for the week following Lord Middlehurst's death, gave his lounging-coat to an under-groom, and began reading religious novels—in bed—as a first step towards reform. At the end of the tenth day he hinted to the coachman that a rat-hunt might be amusing.