Page:Tales of John Oliver Hobbes.djvu/287

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A Study in Temptations.
271
 

from a tiresome schoolgirl into a maddening but all-compelling woman——but why dwell on might-have-beens? Wrath, however, had very nearly loved her once, and as he was not a man who cast his affection on what was unlovely, where he bestowed it, there it remained. He was quite conscious that he had a kind regard for Margaret, but the difference between that kind regard and his overmastering, limitless devotion to his wife was so immeasurable that it never even occurred to him to compare them. One woman occupied his life, and the other an occasional thought, and even that thought would be, as it were, a ripple on a whole ocean of Sophia.

"It is wicked to interrupt you," said her ladyship, as she entered, "but I must steal a moment just to tell you about my new genius——young Mauden."

"A new genius?" he said, lifting his eyebrows.

"I am not overrating him, I assure you. Once you had more confidence in my judgment!"

"Naturally," said Wrath. "That was when I was your new genius."

"Ah, why refer to my past follies?" said Margaret, which was certainly an adroit way of suggesting them. She was a coquette before she was a widow.

"I own," he said, "it is not pleasant to be reminded of one's mistakes."

"I never mistook you" she murmured: "I was only mistaken in myself."

"I can remember," he began—"I can remember——"

"Do not remind me," said Margaret. She was wondering how she could ever have allowed herself to even vaguely contemplate the impossible possibility