Page:Tales of John Oliver Hobbes.djvu/144

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The Sinner's Comedy.

porcelain, pink and transparent. Her eyes were blue; they had the fire and brilliancy without the coldness of steel. Her nose and mouth were delicately formed; she had a little square chin, with a cleft which looked like a dimple. All her features suggested decision and force: that the decision would be shown at the right moment, that the force would be well-directed, was less certain. "A fine devil spoilt in a saint," said one man of her. His wife was her dearest friend—so he had a right to his opinion.

But in the county it was whispered that Mrs. Prentice was a flirt; no harm in her, of course (the "Of Course" always), yet still—a flirt. A certain estate, some eight miles away from Hurst Place (where the lady lived for three months of the year with her mother), belonged to a certain baronet, Sir Richard Kilcoursie by name: said Baronet, a bachelor. Would it be human to suppose that the fair Emily's eyes had not rolled Kilcoursie-wards; that, remembering their colour and man's weakness, they had rolled vainly? The county—with marriageable daughters—hoped for the best in the case of the Honourable Mrs. Prentice.

Sir Richard Kilcoursie, of St. Simon's Close, in the county of Mertfordshire, started in life as the younger son of a younger son. Before he was out of his short-clothes, his family decided that he should enter the Civil Service. "Then," said they, "if he only lives to be sixty-three he will have a pension!" When Richard arrived at years of discretion, he saw no reason for quarrelling with their plan. Every day of his life brought him nearer the pension, and every day he had the pleasure of spending it in advance.