Page:Tales of John Oliver Hobbes.djvu/427

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IV.

Sir Ventry had been trying since noon to exchange a few words of immense importance with his sister. At last, in the drawing-room after luncheon, he found the moment. Teresa was playing the piano: Van Huyster and Felicia were within sight on the lawn. Lady Mallinger was cooing to some love-birds in a gilt cage which hung near the window. Lady Twacorbie sat at a little distance from the others, embroidering an altar-cloth. She was a being about five-

and-thirty, dressed with elegance, but with no attempt at individuality. No doubt eleven out of every dozen women in her own station were wearing gowns of the same hue, make, and texture. Her hair was flaxen and arranged in the artificial, half-grotesque style commanded by Court hairdressers: at a first glance she looked like a wax doll—the unchanging expression, the neat, set features, the unseeing eyes, had not the divine impress. Yet she lived and was a woman: without her false curls, her whale-bones, and her stare, she was even beautiful: in unguarded moments, she was witty. She was not accomplished, however, and had no force of will; the winds of opinion blew her feather-like round the four corners of her boudoir. But in her way she was perfectly happy: she sighed for no new experiences and wept over no old ones: life presented no enigmas, and, feeling neither sorrow nor wonder, she had no need of philosophy. She read

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