Page:Tales of John Oliver Hobbes.djvu/423

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A Bundle of Life.

"I am afraid you do not like Saville," said Felicia, suddenly.

"My dear little girl," said Lilian, with great dignity, "it is only because I am Saville's friend that I understand your point of view!"

"Then why are you so angry with me for loving him ? I am sure you would not care for any one who was not noble and generous—you would not be his friend if he did not have fine qualities!"

Conversation between a disillusioned devotee and an enthusiastic novice is always difficult: the disillusioned fears to be candid, and the enthusiast fears nothing; one has not learnt enough, the other has all to learn. This, then, was the situation of Lady Mallinger and Felicia. To one, Saville seemed a traitor; to the other, he was a being with neither body, soul, nor passions—a portable ideal who, at his sublimest, murmured, "I love you!" Rookes was, as a matter of fact, a mortal whose good intentions and generous admiration for the admirable were not steady enough to carry the load of a fashionable education, nor robust enough to endure the nipping cruelty of society small talk. He feared his better instincts as the pious do their besetting sins, and when he was surprised into one of his natural virtues, his first precaution was to make it appear a polite vice.

"I will not say one word against Saville," said Lady Mallinger, at last. "I would rather not discuss him. In any case I can only implore you to obey your relatives: after all they must know best."

"Then," said Felicia, "it would be useless to ask you to help me."

"What can I do?" asked Lady Mallinger; what is there that I could do?"