Page:Tales of John Oliver Hobbes.djvu/280

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A Study in Temptations.

absence of personal vanity in an eminently self-conscious age, when every hero sings his own epic, had the curious effect of making many people accept him at his own estimate: they argued, from their own experience, that a person who was not his own greatest admirer could not possess admirable characteristics.

"But seriously," he said, secretly enjoying his wife's brilliant, ever-varying countenance—from the artistic point of view she was a constant joy—"quite seriously. You must be guided by my knowledge of the world. I must announce the marriage, and so put an end to this revolting gossip!"

"Revolting gossip does not matter: only facts are fatal—simply disastrous. Do not expose me to the humiliation of being publicly branded as an honest woman!"

His mouth twitched: there was always too much sadness in Sophia's jesting to make it downright laughable.

"While people can talk about us," she went on, "we give them an opportunity to show their charitable view of human nature, and so they encourage us; but if they once knew the truth, no one would care to see me act, and your pictures would be called dull, I know!"

"Where," he said, "do you learn this cynicism? It afflicts me beyond words: it is utterly false, utterly corrupt, utterly disgusting. You certainly do not hear it from Lady Hyde-Bassett."

She glanced at him swiftly, and as swiftly glanced away. He had coloured a little—no doubt from annoyance.

"Lady Hyde-Bassett has not lived my life," she