Page:Tales of John Oliver Hobbes.djvu/329

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A Study in Temptations.

"Quite so," said her ladyship—"quite so. But there is neither wisdom nor virtue in renouncing marriage unless you fully realize what marriage is and what it has to offer. In my opinion it is far more difficult to be a married saint than a saint in the cloisters; Bishop Taylor has pointed this out with much eloquence. Do you think you will never wish to marry?"

Warbeck laughed with the buoyancy of a mortal who has never loved. Before he could reply, the Countess checked him.

"I see," she said, "you know nothing about it. I should feel better satisfied if I knew that you had had some romantic experience. Because if it does not come early—it will come late. And then what trouble! I have seen such unhappiness come of people assuming that because they never have cared for any one, they never will."

"You see," said Warbeck, serenely, "if a man knows that he is under a vow of celibacy the question of sex becomes a dead letter. A woman is merely an individual! The effect of a vow is almost miraculous."

The Countess groaned. "The great thing," she said, "is to be saved from oneself, and oneself so easily passes for a great conviction! See how many young people gabble off the marriage vows: and their effect is by no means miraculous."

"Well," said Warbeck, naïvely, "when you consider what a large proportion of humanity take them, you must admit that, on the whole, they observe them very faithfully. Society is so small and the world is so large, one must look at the marriages of the world."