Page:Tales of John Oliver Hobbes.djvu/145

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The Sinner's Comedy.

When Fate made him a baronet, and dropped the hoard of two respectable bachelors into his pocket, he had something like ruin staring him in the face. He never forgot the vision. It sobered his philosophy. He began to take an interest in the workings of Providence. For the rest, he was a man who found no fault with the facts of life so long as they were expressed in picturesque metaphor. The agreeable system of ethics condensed in the axiom that all vices are but exaggerated virtues, seemed to him to breathe a more benevolent spirit than the "Imitatio Christi." He believed that Man was the measure of all things; that Man was Sir Richard Kilcoursie. His views on woman were, perhaps, more remarkable for their chivalry than their reverence; that she lost her youth was a blot on creation: that she could lose her virtue made life worth living. As his nature was sensuous rather than sensual, however, the refinement of his taste did for him what the fear of God has hardly done for few. He waited for his Eve: she was to be Guinevere, not Molly Seagrim. He met her when he was twenty-three and she nineteen. Her name was Anna Christian: she was studying Art in Jasper Street, Bloomsbury. At seventeen she had married an actor—a gentleman with strong feelings and a limp backbone. He was an unspeakable man; and, having endured all things, she left him. It was a bad beginning, but two years' companionship with the Impossible had taught her to bear the Necessary with patience. She was a woman who perchance could not have learnt that lesson in any other school. "I believe," she told her confessor (she was a Catholic), " I really believe I am almost meek."