Page:Tales of John Oliver Hobbes.djvu/242

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226
A Study in Temptations.
 

impiety. She soothed her father's unreasonable prejudices, which were not in disfavour of learning as learning, but of the time wasted in its acquisition. If, as she pointed out, De Boys worked at his books when the rest of the family were sleeping, and if the curate had no better equivalent than Latin and Greek to offer in exchange for food, and if he was too proud to accept it as a gift—— Her opening statement alone occupied forty-five minutes. Battle, who had set his face against De Boys "poking out his eyes wi' night work," and could find no words to express his mean opinion of the dead languages as weighed against fresh butter, relented at the first harrowing picture conjured up to his imagination, by Miss Caroline's ingenious hints of the curate's half-fed family. Her last mournful prophecy that the unhappy man's two girls would die of consumption before the year was out, and the baby have "rickets," was so soul-piercing, that the worthy farmer not only gave his consent to the bargain in debate, but even admitted, that the curate might not be a prophet in sheep's clothing of the type we are so expressly warned against in the Sermon on the Mount.

De Boys, whose burrs of knowledge picked up in the Town Library, and in the local "Academy for Young Gentlemen," had only served to tease alike his intellect and his spirit, saw a special Providence in the tutor, who was thus dropped, as it were, from heaven for his guidance. He hardly knew whither his thoughts and plans were leading him: the something ahead was so vague in outline, and so far away, that though he daily approached it nearer, it only seemed part of the general distance, the bit of high