Page:Tales of John Oliver Hobbes.djvu/270

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254
A Study in Temptations.
 

a heart: no woman with a heart could have married Sir Benjamin."

"Did you know him?" said Sophia.

"No," said De Boys; "but every one says he was the most disagreeable man in the world; so forbidding and curt and unapproachable."

"I thought so once," said Sophia, "till one day, when I was a child, I heard him talking to Lady Hyde-Bassett. I suppose they thought I was too little to understand them. They were walking in the garden and he asked her whether she would rather be a pussy cat or a catty puss, and she pinched his arm, and said he was a good little thing, and it was a pity that some of the old fossils he knew could not hear him. And he said, very solemnly, 'God forbid!' and she kissed his hand and said he was an angel, but she wished he would buy a new hat, although he could only look lovely if he wore pyjamas and a billy-cock! And he said, 'For God's sake, don't talk so loud!' and she said, 'Let us both say Damn with all our might, and then I will be quiet.' And they said Damn, and she was quiet, and then they began to talk about Aristotle. That," she wound up, "is a real celebrity really At Home. So you see all scholars do not talk like Casaubon in 'Middle-march'; they have their flippant moments, and get horribly tired of being great!"

No written account of Miss Sophia Jenyns's artless prattle could convey her melodious voice, grace of gesture, dramatic force, and facial expression. De Boys watched her, entranced; it was his first direct encounter with spontaneous genius. And then her fatal, too delicious resemblance to Jane! he could