Page:Tales of John Oliver Hobbes.djvu/260

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A Study in Temptations.

half-imploring expression. She had come to make intercession for young Mauden.

"I want to say something about the boy," she began. If the circumstances were ordinary, her heart, at all events, was heroic, and it is the heart which makes the situation.

"There is nothing to be said," said her father, sternly; "leave him to me. There has been enough of women's meddling as it is."

"I have a notion," she faltered.

"A notion! The whole house is swarming wi' notions. A man cannot sleep nor eat for them: they sour the milk and turn his bread to ashes; they confront him on his threshold and break in upon his converse with the Lord"—here he fixed his iron-grey eye on Miss Caroline—"they make his own flesh and blood a heaviness and his children's children as vipers!"

"The Lord forbid that a notion o' mine should work such mischief!" said Miss Caroline, drawing down her lip.

"I have no fault to find wi' you, Caroline," said Battle, in a milder tone, " but I do say that you ha' pampered that boy till he's fit for nought, but to sip tea wi' curates, and lose his liver seeking after lost Niobes!"

He had once overheard a brief conversation between O'Nelligan and Mauden, in the course of which they had referred to the lost Niobe of Aeschylus. This mystery, Battle had no doubt, was a heathen god whom the world was all the richer for losing. "The difference," he went on, "so far as I can see between a man wi' notions and a man without 'em is this—the man without 'em pays the bill!"