Page:Tales of John Oliver Hobbes.djvu/437

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A Bundle of Life.
421
 

But Charlotte explained the matter only too clearly. Lilian was to distract you. That was the expression: her own words." She paused a moment. Wiche never stirred, but kept one unchanging expression, which betrayed nothing save its unchangeableness. "Have I been wrong to tell you?" she went on; "have I been wrong? But friendship, my sense of justice, and you—the noblest man I know, the one above all others I—I respect."

"I do not understand you—or her," said Wiche, at last.

"My dear friend, men only understand the kind of woman who is more masculine than a man!...But, Sidney, are you vexed with me ? Have I been too zealous ? You know, you surely believe I meant no malice? Yet I cannot say that I feel any kindness for Lady Mallinger; that would be impossible. I despise her!"

"Is that necessary?" said Wiche.

"Can I forgive her conduct towards yourself? Not that she has succeeded in fooling you. But the attempt—I cannot forgive the attempt. What impudence! what presumption!"

"Ah, there you are unjust! The feat was well within her power: I was only too willing to be fooled."

"Willing!" cried Teresa. "Where is your spirit? How weak a man is, after all! What a mercy that she cannot hear you: it would make her even vainer than she is by nature."

"I fear we are growing too old and prosaic," said Wiche, bitterly; "no wonder these young people try to rouse us."