Page:Tales of John Oliver Hobbes.djvu/414

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A Bundle of Life

wanted to sit idle in the market-place. And so I married, and danced, and dressed, and chattered: I gave up thinking—it made me too miserable." Teresa had an extraordinary power of winning confidences: perhaps because she rarely talked.

"A woman's mission is to play the fool, "continued Lady Mallinger, "and that is why she can only lead a man so long as she does not love him. On the instant she loves, she must be honest or die: she loses all discretion: she quarrels when she should cajole, smiles when she should frown, utters ugly truths when she should tell pretty lies: she cannot flatter, she cannot pretend—in fact, she can do nothing but love—and that beyond sense." Commanding was not the word for Lady Mallinger's manner: yet there was that in her air which insisted, which brooked no denial, which said plainly enough: "What I think must be, because I not born to be disappointed!"

"I do not agree with you," Said Teresa, "because if I loved a man I would have no desire to lead him. I could only pray that I might not prove his stumbling-block, and that we might help each other to do right rightly. Life is so hard to live alone."

"Oh, if I only dared to be natural," exclaimed Lady Mallinger; "if I only dared to tell all I think, and feel, and know. If I could only drop this tedious gossiping and grinning! I am not tired of living, but I am tired of my body—of this mummy-case. When I was a child, I felt old; now I am a woman, I feel young. I want to go back to the youth of the world: I want the time when love was the only happiness, and folly the highest wisdom!"