Page:Tales of John Oliver Hobbes.djvu/65

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Some Emotions and a Moral.
49
 

and although her more generous instincts often perished, like weak chickens from sheer inability to break through their shell, they did occasionally struggle into evidence. She liked Provence, and where she liked she could—at a pinch—be loyal. "Cynthia shall not make a fool of him, if I can help it," she said to herself, with a vicious snap of her teeth. "She is altogether too self-confident. She would be much improved by an occasional failure. She is too used to success." If the jealousy, the natural jealousy of a woman who had outlived her own days of desperate flirtation, added a zest to her purpose, the purpose itself was none the less a kind one so far as her intentions went and Provence was concerned. As a rule, there can be no better adviser for a man than a woman who has a passionless affection for him: she can under these circumstances almost succeed in being impartial; she can even see where he may be in fault; she can bring herself to face his shortcomings—nay, more, she can deal with them. If Lady Theodosia had been asked just why she liked Provence, she would not have been able to say. She could not possibly tell people that he reminded her of her first lover—about the legs.

The morning after her conversation with Cynthia she walked to the cottage where he lodged, for the ostensible reason of inquiring after his landlady's baby, who was cutting teeth. It was a significant fact that she put on her most becoming bonnet and mantle. That a ministering angel should of necessity be dowdy was no part of her creed. When she had finished with the landlady she strolled into the garden, where she saw Provence reading. He was surprised, but