Page:Tales of John Oliver Hobbes.djvu/359

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A Study in Temptations.

Lady Hyde-Bassett. "Margaret," he said, "do you think I have been blind this last fortnight? Do you think I have seen nothing?"

"Seen — nothing?" she repeated; "how? — what? "

"Do not act," he said; "be a woman — be honest. You have seen all that I have seen — perhaps more."

"No! no! not more . . . it was all very innocent . . . a childish flirtation. . . . I thought it best to ignore it. . . . I would not allow myself to give it consideration."

"Ah! that is what I thought. . . . The question is — Was I wrong? Should I have spoken?"

"No, no. You were right to trust her. The dreadful things we are both fearing are an insult — an injustice. Mauden is the soul of honour. Sophia is light-hearted, but — trust her. Only trust her!"

"I do . . . but . . . where is she now?"

"Do not ask me ! Do not ask yourself!"

"Is she with Mauden?"

"No! no! no! how can you say it?"

"Why not ask me how I can say it — and live?"

She took his hand. "Tom," she said, "I would swear that she was innocent even if she told me with her own lips———"

"Innocent!" he said, angrily. "Am I so vile already? I want no man or woman to assure me of my wife's innocence. You know," he went on, after a painful pause, "I am naturally jealous. I — I try to conquer this. . . . I am so many years older than she is, and she is so . . . there is every reason why I must love her, and there are none why she should care for me . . . it would be absurd to expect her to sit gazing at me all day — me, bald, dull, plodding.