Page:Tales of John Oliver Hobbes.djvu/318

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"A Study in Temptations".

"Make fun of you! As if I could make fun of you!"

"I often laugh at myself," she said. "I am always ridiculous; even when I am unhappy I am perfectly absurd. All my tragedy is in my acting; my real life is a burlesque."

"But when are you unhappy?" he said, in a voice of unfeigned concern, and with a fierce glance at the imaginary offender. "When are you unhappy?"

"Often," said Sophia; "in fact, always. I am so tired of being treated like a buffoon! Even Wrath himself—even Wrath, my first and dearest friend——" she paused.

"Of course," said De Boys, swallowing envy, hatred, malice, and all uncharitableness at one gulp, "he must be your dearest friend."

"All my life," she faltered—"all my life—my friend; but even he tells me that I act well only because I must. And is not that in itself sufficient to prove that he regards me as an irresponsible being—a marionette with a faculty of speech? I know my words are often very silly, but my thoughts are terribly serious. Oh, if he knew how serious!"

De Boys himself was surprised at her change of manner—although it had never occurred to him that she was absolutely flippant. He had explained away her whimsicalities and nonsense as the vagaries of genius. What would have looked like affectation in a woman of commonplace attainments, seemed, at least, pardonable in one who had so many atoning qualities; she was not, however, attractive because of her foolishness, but in spite of it. Young and inexperienced as Mauden was, he felt all this no less