Page:Tales of John Oliver Hobbes.djvu/166

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The Sinner's Comedy.

As a rule, he fell a too ready victim to circumstances: he helped to build the altar for his own sacrifice. To-day, however, he felt rebellious; he was getting tired; Eleanor had disappointed him. When a man gets an idea into his head about a woman, either to her glory or her damnation, whatever she may say or do only gives him one more reason for sticking to it. It is only when he gets an equally strong idea about some other subject, or some other woman, that he becomes nicely critical. Eleanor's virtues had always seemed to him unique; her faults, numerous certainly, were only those of the Universal (preferably, the Homeric) Woman. That afternoon her judgment had been very shallow; she had shown an incapacity to look higher than millinery. It was vexatious.

He remembered his first meeting with Mrs. Prentice. It was the day after his arrival at the Vallences'; she had called in the afternoon on her dear Carlotta: he had told himself he was interested, choosing that word because he knew no other, for no man knows his language till he has lived it. The possibility of feeling more than an interest in any woman had never entered his head. He had always kept Passion well within covers on his bookshelf. Emily had talked, with a pretty affectation of learning (feeling, no doubt, that a Dean would look for something of the sort), of Heine, and a new poet, and Palestrina; he had noticed the length of her eyelashes, and her beautiful unmusicianly hands; hummed, when she had gone, My love is like a melody, and reflected, having dined indifferently, that some women were like melodies. The indefinite "some women" is an inspiration which comes to every man in his hour