Page:Tales of John Oliver Hobbes.djvu/433

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A Bundle of Life.

stead. I hope she will not be offended, but I really wanted to get a quiet hour with you.

Her heart jumped and she studied him with a new interest. There is one glory of the friend, and another glory of the possible lover. For the first time she discovered that he had a certain intensity, a masterful air, a look of determination—all of which she admired.

"We have so few opportunities to speak to each other," he said.

"You have changed since I first knew you," cried Lady Mallinger: "we were such good friends once, and now—when we meet—I hardly know how to describe it—there is a coldness, a restraint. I have feared that you did not like me. But I am saying too much."

"If I told you that there was indeed a reason for my restraint, would you care?"

She put her lips to the cage and piped, apparently to the birds—"Tell me the reason!"

"Have you never guessed it? was I so hard to understand?"

"I could never understand any man, but then a man never seems able to explain himself, does he?

"It may be that he dare not try," said Wiche.

" What could he fear?" she asked; "can it be that men know how unstable they are? I always thought they could not, because they never try to be firmer. And I love firmness! Now we women know only too well that we are very weak, very foolish, very shallow, and we wonder what men can see in us! We must be so tiresome! such burdens! such unnecessary evils! such tedious, provoking creatures! Some of us may have some beauty; yet that