Page:Tales of John Oliver Hobbes.djvu/319

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A Study in Temptations.

than the middle-aged Wrath, who had loved Sophia too long, and loved her too deeply, not to love also with wisdom. The difference between these two men—the one who loved her and the one who thought he loved her—was shown in the fact that, while Wrath helped her, as delicately as he could, to overcome her faults, Mauden encouraged them. Yet such is the contrariety between effects and intentions, that neither Wrath nor Mauden, nor, be it said, any human creature, could give Sophia the one thing needful—peace of heart. She chafed alike under praise or blame: no one understood her, no one knew what she really meant or really wanted; even her nearest, best, and dearest misconstrued her ten times a day.

"If he only knew," she repeated, "how serious I am!"

"You must remember," said Mauden, "there are a great many years between you; Wrath probably regards you still as a small child. It was and is exactly the same in my own home: my uncle—the kindest and most generous man in the world—never can understand that my days for leading-strings are past."

Sophia caught her breath: De Boys had plucked up the very root of the matter. She was no companion for Wrath: he thought her too young—perhaps she wearied him, just as children occasionally tire even the fondest of their relatives. It was only natural that he should find Margaret Hyde-Bassett's society so pleasant: they were nearer in years, they had both lost their sensitiveness to mere impressions, and were now rather re-colouring their old experiences than gaining fresh ones.