Page:Tales of John Oliver Hobbes.djvu/432

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V.

Lady Mallinger re-entered the room a few moments later, in all her bravery of blue muslin, ribbons, and lace. She was cooing to the love-birds when Wiche came in. His acquaintance with Lady Mallinger had extended over some four years: from her point of view it might have been called a dinner-party friendship—that is to say, they could discuss people and subjects of the hour with a freedom which passes well enough for intimacy in the vagueness, bustle, and gigantic pettiness of a London season. But to Wiche their occasional meetings and interchange of ideas had meant much more; the man of letters is not a man of letters if he accepts life and the circumstances of life as they appear at first sight—it is the prime instinct of his nature to reject what seems and to clutch—or die in failing to clutch—things not as they are, but as his imagination would have them. To be brief, our friend had fallen in love with the idea of loving Lady Mallinger.

"Do I disturb you?" he said, and took a seat near her. She smiled at him and made a charming grimace at her pets.

"There is a bazaar at the Bishop's this afternoon," he continued, "and I believe I was expected to go, but as Van Huyster enjoys these things and I do not, I have asked Lady Twacorbie to take him in my

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