Page:Tales of John Oliver Hobbes.djvu/436

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420
A Bundle of Life.
 

Woman, did I say? No, a mere bundle of fire and frivolity!"

"How much more promising than mere flesh-and-blood," exclaimed Wiche.

"She made a bargain," said Teresa, "a kind of wager—that she would force you into a flirtation. And she thinks she is succeeding: she-even began her machinations at luncheon. I saw it all: her looks, laughs, sighs. Oh, it was insupportable!"

"Are you speaking of poor little Felicia?' said Wiche.

"Felicia?" said Teresa. "Felicia? When I speak of a creature with neither heart, morals, mind, nor beauty—a heap of lies, vanity, and affectation—I mean Lady Mallinger."

Wiche grew so pale that Teresa—half with jealousy and half with fright—grew even paler. She held out both her trembling hands, and stumbled blindly towards him.

"My heart has been with you," she stammered. "I feel it all, see it all, know it all."

What she meant she hardly knew. He neither looked nor uttered a reply; but, brushing past her with a gesture hard to translate, walked to the window. A stillness almost like some grim and living presence filled the room. Teresa remained in her rigid attitude, staring, with despairing tenderness, not at the man, but at the place where he had stood.

"A wager! a bargain!" said Wiche, at last. "I do not understand."

"Nor did I when I first heard it," said Teresa. "I could scarcely believe anything so odious, even of her. And I have heard a good many stories, too!