Page:Tales of John Oliver Hobbes.djvu/271

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A Study in Temptations.
255
 

adore her for that alone. She led the way and he followed: a Will o' the Wisp would have been a safer guide.


Lady Hyde-Bassett was an American by birth, and had received her education in France. After much travelling and many flirtations she had married, at the age of two-and-twenty, the distinguished invalid and philologist, Sir Benjamin Bassett.

The Hyde was an inspiration attached to a small property which he had inherited towards the close of his last illness. The marriage had been eminently happy, but before the Society of Antiquaries had ceased to wonder at the devotion of so young and modish a woman to the apparently grim, the certainly middle-aged, and, by inference, dull hieroglyphic, he died. His widow's grief was of the desperate order, but, possessing ample means, she was able to wreak it by building a marble tomb over his bones, and founding a Hyde-Bassett Scholarship for Greek Verse. To perpetuate the deceased gentleman's tolerant and unprejudiced temper she also endowed, with equal generosity, a Roman Catholic School, a Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, and a Mission for the Suppression of Secret Societies. When pressed to give her reason for subscribing to the latter, she said that Sir Benjamin, to his sorrow, had belonged to one. "But," she added, "the rest is silence." With accomplishments which only wanted an occasion to reorganize Europe—or destroy it—she preferred to live in retirement and make matches, comparable only to Diocletian, who found (if we may believe him) greater happiness in planting cabbages than in ruling the Empire of Rome.