Page:Tales of John Oliver Hobbes.djvu/443

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A Bundle of Life.

wants a good angel! The best of men only ask us to be for ever young and for ever pretty: let your conscience go to the dogs but keep your freshness. Virtue never yet atoned for wrinkles!"

"There I cannot agree with you," said Lady Mallinger. "I am sure that there is nothing so fascinating as sincerity! It is so uncommon. I am going to be the most sincere woman in the world, and I must begin by telling you that I was present just now during your conversation with Mr. Wiche."

"What conversation?" said Teresa.

"Let us both be sincere, dear Miss Warcop! I was sitting in that green chair when you mentioned my name. My first impulse was to rush forward: curiosity, however, intervened and I remained in my corner. Perhaps this was wrong, but my position was difficult: to begin with, I agreed perfectly with every word you said: you were only too charitable. I assured Mr. Wiche of this afterwards, but he would not believe me. When I told him that I had indeed neither mind, morals, heart, nor beauty, he looked so incredulous, and was so deaf to all argument that I despair of convincing him! Men are so prejudiced. What would you advise me to do?"

"This sarcasm does not cut!"

"Sarcasm!" cried Lilian, "I was never more candid, more natural, more absolutely transparent in my life. Why should I dissemble when I have found that you know me even better than I know myself?"

"This innocent air may deceive some infatuated man—for a time," said Teresa, "but I understand it too well. How can you dare to look so amiable when you know that you hate me. . . . You must hate me."