Page:Tales of John Oliver Hobbes.djvu/460

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A Bundle of Life.

mortals and children of Adam. It is the day after, the days after, the weeks, months, years after when we can only remember that once we were happy for half-an-hour!" She seemed to have forgotten Wiche's presence, and he felt that she was thinking of something in her own experience in which he bore no part. It was certain that she could have no knowledge of his love-adventure with Lady Mallinger, and he could not make up his mind to tell the news just then.

"I wonder," he said, abruptly, "I have often wondered why you are the only one in the world I can talk to without the dread of saying either more or less than I mean."

"I will tell you why," she answered: "I could never misunderstand you, Sidney, because I love you." Although she was a woman in whom the coquette was, at all events, slumbering, her primmest, least emotional manner had the mysterious charm of those things which we note unmoved and remember with passionate interest. She made her declaration of love so quietly that Wiche saw neither its oddness, nor, indeed, its full meaning: he coloured a little, however, at the sense her words might have conveyed.

"Do not think I am choosing phrases at random," she went on, "I meant what I said. There is only one thing in my life which I can be grateful for—that is my love for yourself. Many people would think it very unwomanly on my part to tell you this: I am only proud to know that I am capable of loving any one. All affection seems to have been laughed out of the world: when it is not ridiculous, it is thought hysterical. To me it remains and always