Page:Tales of John Oliver Hobbes.djvu/231

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A Study in Temptations.

long. Call Satan but under your breath and he comes. But God—you may wear out your knees and your voice before He will answer, and then He will give you not peace but a sword, not ease but a thorn in the flesh, not love but chastisements! The greater the saint, the thicker the scourge! Where's the fool who would pray day and night for such blessings? Have I not grief enough and despair enough but I must entreat for more?"

Wrath groaned. "Human nature is so discontented!" he said: "I have been starving for a month, and I must own that this constant gnawing at one's vitals becomes tedious: I would prefer a newer pain."

"Let us both pray for another sort of anguish," said Jenyns, "the good old monks were artistic: they believed that variety was beauty, so they occasionally skinned a heretic before they boiled him!"

Wrath accepted this as a sign of returning cheerfulness. "The story runs so well," he said, "I will not be pedantic and press for your authority. But it sounds like an evangelical tract." He rose from his seat and began to pace the floor. Life to him was a pilgrimage, and the fortunes and misfortunes of the journey troubled him but a little; he could not understand despair." Perhaps you are best alone," he said; "my mother used to say that to be alone with grief was to live in company with angels. I think she knew; she had a great deal to endure. If I sell my picture we can run over to Venice together; I mean, of course, if you would care to go with me. . . .I do not wonder this room is gloomy; it has stolen the odour of a dozen honest dinners. Let us go down in the kitchen and see the baby. I sketched her this