Page:Tales of John Oliver Hobbes.djvu/337

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A Study in Temptations.

"There is every reason," said the young man, "why we must change the subject. You must forgive me, but I cannot discuss it further."

"I will speak my mind," said the Dowager. "You are ruining your whole life for a whim—a fad—a piece of arrant coxcombery. It is not even religious—you have admitted as much. What can I call it, then, but affectation? In a year's time—less—you will be ashamed to remember it. But in the meanwhile "

"In the meanwhile," said Warbeck, "I can at least be honourable. And now I think we have talked enough, my dear grandmother. You will be very tired."

"Tired? I am perfectly ill. You have given me my death-blow !" She sank back in her chair, and was evidently far from well. Warbeck knelt down by her side and took her hand.

"You would not have me behave dishonourably," he said; "you don't seem to understand. It —it is not always so easy to do one's duty; is it fair to make it harder ? But it must be done in any case."

"Duty!" she said, peevishly. "It will soon be heroic to wear no collar! Foppery! twaddle! That a man in your position, with your responsibilities, with an unblemished title to support, should stoop to such indecent, mawkish, hysterical balderdash! It is scandalous!" She sank back again, but summoned her remaining strength for one last blow. "I have lived too long!"

"You are very cruel."

"I have lived too long!" she repeated.

"In a calmer moment, you will see how you have wronged me!"