Page:Tales of John Oliver Hobbes.djvu/439

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Lady Mallinger came forward half-crying, half-defiant.

"I cannot, I will not believe one word Teresa has said!" exclaimed Wiche. "She is the most honest soul in the world, but she makes mistakes."

"You would be wiser," said Lilian, slowly, "if you believed her."

"So you admit it," he said. "Do you think that Love is a plaything? a mood for a dull afternoon? a frame of mind to jump in and out of just for amusement ? Is it nothing to stake your life on another's, to be faithful when they are faithless, strong when they are weak? Is it so little to love like this? Do you think it is so easy? Do you think it brings much happiness?"

Until that hour, the devotion he had felt for Lady Mallinger was of that unreal kind which is only dangerous so long as its object remains an idea. It was to a great extent theoretic, and based on the dogmas of erotic poetry: in her image he loved a dozen heroines—not one woman. Now that he had kissed her, however, and she had shown herself sufficiently human to rouse his anger, the whole relation changed. He no longer saw her through the mist of sentimental fancy; she was simply a pretty woman who attracted him. He felt vaguely that she might tempt him to say and do much