Page:Tales of John Oliver Hobbes.djvu/440

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A Bundle of Life.

which he would surely repent of. He repeated again, "Do you think such love brings much happiness?"

"Ah! if you only knew me as I know myself," murmured Lady Mallinger. "All that Teresa said of me was true—and yet, not true enough. Everything about me was falsehood and pretence, until—until you seemed to believe in me. Do you understand? Can you not see? Are you so unforgiving, or—are you only blind? Why are you so silent?"

She held out her hand, which he took half-eagerly and half in dread: her lightest touch seemed so much more satisfying than all the wisdom of the ancients.

"If I could only remain silent," said Wiche, passionately; "if I could only keep you—only feel that you were mine—mine—mine at all risks! Yet no—you act too well. I could never know how much I was mistaken."'

"Why should we refuse the happiness this hour gives us, because some other hour might take it away? In the meantime, there can be no better thing than this. No one before has ever cared whether I was in jest or earnest," she faltered; "every other man takes it for granted that I am heartless, brainless, and soulless in any case. When I am serious, they say I am in low spirits; when I am sincere, they praise my hypocrisy. So I take refuge in deceit, and I succeed so well that now I have deceived myself, and I no longer know what I mean, what I want, what I think, or what I am! To judge me fairly, you should have lived my life. My father was not kind; at eighteen I married. The world liked my husband: he ate too much, drank too much, and made too