Page:Tales of John Oliver Hobbes.djvu/44

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Some Emotions and a Moral.

disordered imagination by a rigid course of vegetable diet—that is to say when he returned to his lodgings on Monday! By this time he was not only inside the house but had his foot on the threshold of the drawing-room—he heard the hum of several voices—he was conscious of some half-dozen figures—he saw but one. She wore a gown of less artless design than her white muslin of the night before: her hair was more fashionably arranged, there was a franker suggestion of the world, the flesh, and the devil about her whole person: her eyes gleamed with mischief, with confidence in her own beauty and again more mischief. She had been anxiously watching the door for his arrival; she knew quite well that he was the stranger of the night before—strangers were rare in Little Speenham—yet now he was present she wondered why she had wished for the meeting. She was afraid he would look too pleased to see her! The thought crossed her mind that he must be weak—and she hated weakness. A man of strong will would have struggled longer against her fascination. The mischief in her eyes died away—she felt dissatisfied with human nature. But as she approached Provence she saw that his expression was cold, even stern; she found no trace of enthusiasm in his bearing. He eyed her beauty with calm; her toilette with indifference: his bow and smile were courteous—frigidly courteous—nothing more. At first she was relieved—then piqued—finally humiliated, but he rose mountains high in her respect. The reason for Provence's manner was briefly this: He had suddenly grown self-conscious; he had practised restraint too long to give way gracefully to the sway of impulse. To conceal his