Page:Tales of John Oliver Hobbes.djvu/442

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A Bundle of Life.

of self-surrender. Wiche's life had been so hard, so serious, and, in a sense, so wise until this too-enchanting present, that he seized its madness rather as a reward from the gods than a curse. He put all thought of the future from his mind—not because he feared it, but because it possessed no attraction for him. Lady Mallinger was an inexhaustible delight: egoism, which in any other woman seemed intolerable, was, in her case, the most charming thing in the world: selfishness, he argued, where the self was so perfectly bewitching even amounted to a duty: dull, tedious, and unpleasant beings did well to lose sight of themselves, but for Lilian to forget herself would be like a flower forgetting to bloom.

When Wiche had gone Lilian paced the floor and mistook this bodily exercise for deep thought. She was brought to a standstill by finding herself face to face with Teresa, who, not being able to quiet her soul, had returned in the hope of seeing Wiche once more.

"You look depressed," she said to Lady Mallinger: "at luncheon you were all vivacity, epigram, and paradox. If you had not told me I should never have suspected that you considered it your vocation to play the fool!"

"Ah, I am much wiser since our conversation this morning," said Lady Mallinger, " I am sure that the supreme happiness of a woman's life is to devote herself to the man who loves her: to be his friend, his ideal, his good angel!"

Teresa smiled bitterly. "And the supreme difficulty of a woman's life," she said, "is to find the man who desires such devotion, who has an ideal, who