Page:Tales of John Oliver Hobbes.djvu/328

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"A Study in Temptations".

been so anxious about you. I hardly dared hope that you were even on the sofa!"

"I am almost myself, dear," said his grandmother. "I began to improve from the instant I received your telegram. Sir Claretie says he considers my recovery a miracle. But you are not looking well."

He was thinner and paler than he had been a fortnight since, and had, in some way, a new expression, an even greater seriousiness of manner.

"You have something on your mind," said her ladyship, suddenly; "you are going to tell me that you are engaged!"

Warbeck smiled, but shook his head. "Cherchez la femme is such stale doctrine," he said.

"There is no newer doctrine for the old Adam!" said the Dowager; "but if there is no woman in your news, then it has something to do with religion. Do not say that you have been reading Hooker, and Laud, and the rest of them, and have become High Church!"

"I read Hooker and Laud long ago," he said, "but I am not a High Churchman."

"Then," she said, "you are a Higher Pantheist. Oh dear!"

"To save you further suspense," he said, "I am still—nothing. But I have joined a Celibate Brotherhood."

The Countess did not look shocked, but her aspect was certainly grave.

"It means, of course, the end of everything—from an ambitious point of view," she said, slowly.

"I think," said Warbeck, "it means the beginning of everything—from the only point of view worth considering."