Page:Tales of John Oliver Hobbes.djvu/350

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334
A Study in Temptations.


"Oh, no!" she said, "I hate taking people's arms!"

The young man coloured, and, in an aggrieved tone, murmured an apology.

"I do not wish to take a gloomy view of things," she said, with a certain severity, "nor do I want to be disagreeable, but I hope we are acting wisely. I hope we are not doing wrong!"

"I hope not," he said, with appalling seriousness.

She shivered, although it was a warm morning.

"Of course," he went on, "I obeyed your instructions, because a woman's tact is generally acknowledged to be the best in such matters. But I will not conceal from you that I could wish it might have been arranged a little more openly: I mean, without giving it this clandestine air which — which is not altogether pleasant. It looks too much like running away — and running away is low! Your note was most characteristic: it reminded me of our first meeting. Do you remember it? when you told me that you only saw the honeysuckle!"

He glanced at her sideways and thought she was not looking so much like Jane as usual. But she was still lovely — he could forgive her a great deal. Such is the magnanimity of the wise gander in his judgment of the endearing, if inconsequential, goose.

"Do not think," he said, " that I fail to appreciate your courage. You are only too dauntless! You do not see the dangers which would appal a — a more ordinary mortal. Oddly enough, after you had left the drawing-room last night Wrath said he had hoped to paint you as Alcestis — the ideal, courageous woman, you know, who died in her husband's stead."