Page:Tales of John Oliver Hobbes.djvu/335

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A Study in Temptations.

language became ambiguous as his sentiments grew unmistakable. She gathered fresh hope.

"I wonder you think her plain!" This was a stroke of genius. It surprised him into candour.

"On the contrary, I think her lovely."

"H'm! But she is not silly with it — she is most intellectual."

"I am sure of it."

The Dowager looked at the ceiling. At some moments one can claim sympathy even from the inanimate.

"She will no doubt marry very well."

The young man frowned. "She is so young yet," he said. "Do not let her make any rash engagement, if you can possibly keep her free. It is so easy to bind oneself, and — and so impossible to escape the consequences. I mean, a promise may be made in all sincerity and after the most serious consideration, yet without fully realizing———" He paused. "I am only saying this," he said, at last, "because a girl takes so much risk — even in the most favourable circumstances — when she marries. Her very innocence is, in a measure, against her."

"It seems to me," said the Countess, drily, "that innocence is against a great many people."

"Not a great many, my dear grandmother," he replied, with equal dryness. He got up from his chair and walked to the window. Jane at that very moment came out of the house and stepped into the carriage. He watched her drive away.

"Yes," he said. "I can work much better at Veronne."

The Countess began to wonder whether a celibate