Page:Tales of John Oliver Hobbes.djvu/258

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242
A Study in Temptations.
 

pies, and scolded incessantly; all girls spent too much time titivating, were feeble in argument, yet pleasing enough in their way. These opinions he expressed with much confidence, and, boy-like, was so proud of his power of criticism, that he forgot he was directing it against the beings he loved best in the world. Boy-like, too, he was not only very shy of showing his affection, but he did not even know that he had it. Healthy-minded lads do not sit brooding over their instincts till they are hatched into Christian virtues and deadly sins: their conscience warns them which to follow and which to shun, but the why, the wherefore, and the psychological meaning of it all does not trouble them in the least. Thus, while De Boys would have defended his uncle with the last drop of blood in his body, he would not have been able to say just why. From this it will be seen, how far the farmer and the aspiring scholar were from a mutual understanding.

Battle's strongest impulse, after the scene at the dinner-table, was to order an immediate bonfire of all the Pagan authors in the house, and if it had been in his power to include the curate among them, it is not hard to guess how he would have dealt with that amiable gentleman. To think that De Boys should prefer the example of a weak-kneed parson (who could hardly keep his own body and soul together), before that of his lawful guardian, whose flourishing circumstances were the best possible proof of his fitness to advise! Yet De Boys was a clever lad, apt and well-spoken—if he liked books better than the fields, he had inherited the taste from his pitiable father. For a moment Battle wavered. If