Page:Tales of John Oliver Hobbes.djvu/444

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A Bundle of Life.

"Not at all: I think you are indiscreet and perhaps too impulsive, but, on the whole, I admire your character: it has a stability, a doggedness, a courage which mine lacks. I would never have the audacity, for instance, to discuss your faults with Sir Ventry. He would, I hope, be quite as blind with regard to you as my future husband is where I am concerned."

"Your future husband?" said Teresa.

"Yes," said Lady Mallinger. "Sidney was foolish enough to ask me to be his wife—at least, in so many words—and I was wise enough to accept him! If he will only trust me and believe in me always—if he will only see me—not as I am, but as I should be—I am sure we shall be happy!"

"It is not hard to be good when you have love and sympathy and encouragement," said Teresa, warmly, "but to be good when not one soul cares whether you live or die, when your kindest thoughts, your least selfish acts, your dearest sacrifices are treated alike with insult, cruelty, and contempt—to be good then, that is the great achievement. Stand alone, be indifferent to smiles and frowns, keep our eyes steadily fixed on one unattainable ideal and condemn in yourself all that falls short of it, do that and I will call you happy! Defy slander, defy the malice of evil tongues and false hearts, defy even one rule of etiquette!"

"No woman has anything to fear except the truth," said Lady Mallinger, "so long as the truth will bear telling, she can laugh at lies. They may for a time work mischief, but only for a time."

"I, too, could have such a faith in the triumph of virtue if I had such a lover as Sidney!" said Teresa,