“Poor old Charley!” said Eugene again. “Ayre, he shall have his shot.”
“Meanwhile, the girl’s wondering if you mean to throw her over. She’s expected to hear from you this last month. I tell you what: I expect Rick’ll kick you when you do turn up.”
“Well, I shall go down and try to see her: when I get there I must be guided by circumstances.”
“Very good. I expect the circumstances will turn out to be such that you’ll make love to Claudia and forget all about Stafford. If you don’t——”
“You’re an infernally cold-blooded conscientious young ruffian, and I never took you for that before!”
And Ayre, more perturbed about other people’s affairs than a man of his creed had any business to be, returned to the Times as Eugene went to pursue his errand.
Waiting Lady Claudia’s Pleasure
Stafford had probably painted his state of mind in colors somewhat more startling than the reality warranted. When a man is going to act against his conscience, there is a sort of comfort in making out that the crime has features of more striking depravity than an unbiased observer would detect; the inclination in this direction is increased when it is a question of impressing others. Sin seems commonplace if we give it no pomp and circumstance. No man was more free than Stafford from any conscious hypocrisy or posing, or from the inverted pride in immorality that is often an affectation, but also, more often than we are willing to allow, a real disease of the mind. But in his interview with Morewood he had yielded to the temptation of giving a more dramatic setting and stronger contrasts to his conviction and his action than the actual inmost movement of his mind justified. It was true that he was determined to set action and conviction in sharp antagonism, and to follow an overpowering passion rather than a belief that he depicted as no less dominant. Had his fierce words to Morewood reproduced exactly what he felt, it may be doubted whether the resultant of two forces so opposite and so equal could have been the ultimately unwavering intention that now possessed him. In truth, the aggressive strength of his belief had been sapped from within. His efforts after doubt, described by himself as entirely unsuccessful, had not in reality been without result. They had not issued in any radical or wholesale alteration of his views. He was right in supposing that he would still have given as full intellectual assent to all the dogmas of his creed as formerly; the balance of probability was still in his view overwhelmingly in their favor. But it had come to be a balance of probability—not, of course, in the way in which a man balances one account of an ordinary transaction against another, and decides out of his own experience of how things happen—Stafford had not lost his mental discrimination so completely—but