Page:Tales of John Oliver Hobbes.djvu/336

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320
A Study in Temptations.


vow might not be a more calamitous invention than she had at first suspected.

"Warbeck," she said, "you will surely think better of — of this arrangement you have made with Dawes?"

"Think better of it!" he repeated. "The time for thinking about it is past. It is now an accomplished fact. My word has been given."

"But I am certain you will regret———"

"It is not a step I would ever allow myself to regret, nor would I place myself in a situation where I might be even tempted to regret it. I made it with the full knowledge that it might possibly involve some slight self-sacrifice. Dawes has been through the mill: he was most careful not to conceal any probable difficulty." He spoke firmly and fixed his eyes on hers with an expression which she recognized as the family stubbornness.

"Ah," said the Countess, quickly, "you think it would be safer to avoid your cousin Jane. That is why you are going back to Veronne! "

"What an absurd idea," said her grandson. "You must think me very susceptible."

"The Shannons are all alike," said her ladyship; "they are icebergs to all women till they meet the right one. And then they melt at a glance. Look at Jane's father — poor Edmund. He saw this Battle's daughter hanging clothes on a line, and fell in love with her on the spot. Nothing would make him reconsider it ; his obstinacy was simply criminal. But in your case matters are very different. Jane is desirable from every point of view ; there is no reason——— "