A Simpleton by Charles Reade
Rosa cried "Oh!" and put up her hands to her face in lovely confusion, coloring like a peony.
"I beg your pardon," said Christopher, stiffly, but in a voice that trembled.
"No," said Rosa, "it was I ran against you. I walk so fast now. Hope I did not hurt you."
"Well, then, frighten you?"
"Oh, please don't quarrel with me in the street," said Rosa, cunningly implying that he was the quarrelsome one. "I am going on the beach. Good-by!" This adieu she uttered softly, and in a hesitating tone that belied it. She started off, however, but much more slowly than she was going before; and, as she went, she turned her head with infinite grace, and kept looking askant down at the pavement two yards behind her: moreover she went close to the wall, and left room at her side for another to walk.
Christopher hesitated a moment; but the mute invitation, so arch yet timid, so pretty, tender, sly, and womanly, was too much for him, as it has generally proved for males, and the philosopher's foot was soon in the very place to which the Simpleton with the mere tail of her eye directed it.
They walked along, side by side, in silence, Staines agitated, gloomy, confused, Rosa radiant and glowing, yet not knowing what to say for herself, and wanting Christopher to begin. So they walked along without a word.
Falcon followed them at some distance to see whether it was an admirer or only an acquaintance. A lover he never dreamed of; she had shown such evident pleasure in his company, and had received his visits alone so constantly.
However, when the pair had got to the beach, and were walking slower and slower, he felt a pang of rage and jealousy, turned on his heel with an audible curse, and found Phoebe Dale a few yards behind him with a white face and a peculiar look. He knew what the look meant; he had brought it to that faithful face before to-day.
"You are better, Miss Lusignan."
"Better, Dr. Staines? I am health itself thanks to--hem!"
"Our estrangement has agreed with you?" This very bitterly.
"You know very well it is not that. Oh, please don't make me cry in the streets."
This humble petition, or rather meek threat, led to another long silence. It was continued till they had nearly reached the shore. But, meantime, Rosa's furtive eyes scanned Christopher's face, and her conscience smote her at the signs of suffering. She felt a desire to beg his pardon with deep humility; but she suppressed that weakness. She hung her head with a pretty, sheepish air, and asked him if he could not think of something agreeable to say to one after deserting one so long.
"I am afraid not," said Christopher, bluntly. "I have an awkward habit of speaking the truth; and some people can't bear that, not even when it is spoken for their good."
"That depends on temper, and nerves, and things," said Rosa, deprecatingly; then softly, "I could bear anything from you now."
"Indeed!" said Christopher, grimly. "Well, then, I hear you had no sooner got rid of your old lover, for loving you too well and telling you the truth, than you took up another,--some flimsy man of fashion, who will tell you any lie you like."
"It is a story, a wicked story," cried Rosa, thoroughly alarmed. "Me, a lover! He dances like an angel; I can't help that."
"Are his visits at your house like angels'--few and far between?" And the true lover's brow lowered black upon her for the first time.
Rosa changed color, and her eyes fell a moment. "Ask papa," she said. "His father was an old friend of papa's."
"Rosa, you are prevaricating. Young men do not call on old gentlemen when there is an attractive young lady in the house."
The argument was getting too close; so Rosa operated a diversion. "So," said she, with a sudden air of lofty disdain, swiftly and adroitly assumed, "you have had me watched?"
"Not I; I only hear what people say."
"Listen to gossip and not have me watched! That shows how little you really cared for me. Well, if you had, you would have made a little discovery, that is all."
"Should I?" said Christopher, puzzled. "What?"
"I shall not tell you. Think what you please. Yes, sir, you would have found out that I take long walks every day, all alone; and what is more, that I walk through Gravesend, hoping--like a goose-- that somebody really loved me, and would meet me, and beg my pardon; and if he had, I should have told him it was only my tongue, and my nerves, and things; my heart was his, and my gratitude. And after all, what do words signify, when I am a good, obedient girl at bottom? So that is what you have lost by not condescending to look after me. Fine love!--Christopher, beg my pardon."
"May I inquire for what?"
"Why, for not understanding me; for not knowing that I should be sorry the moment you were gone. I took them off the very next day, to please you."
"Took off whom?--Oh, I understand. You did? Then you are a good girl."
"Didn't I tell you I was? A good, obedient girl, and anything but a flirt."
"I don't say that."
"But I do. Don't interrupt. It is to your good advice I owe my health; and to love anybody but you, when I owe you my love and my life, I must be a heartless, ungrateful, worthless-- Oh, Christopher, forgive me! No, no; I mean, beg my pardon."
"I'll do both," said Christopher, taking her in his arms. "I beg your pardon, and I forgive you."
Rosa leaned her head tenderly on his shoulder, and began to sigh. "Oh, dear, dear! I am a wicked, foolish girl, not fit to walk alone."
On this admission, Christopher spoke out, and urged her to put an end to all these unhappy misunderstandings, and to his new torment, jealousy, by marrying him.
"And so I would this very minute, if papa would consent. But," said she, slyly, "you never can be so foolish to wish it. What! a wise man like you marry a simpleton!"
"Did I ever call you that?" asked Christopher, reproachfully.
"No, dear; but you are the only one who has not; and perhaps I should lose even the one, if you were to marry me. Oh, husbands are not so polite as lovers! I have observed that, simpleton or not."
Christopher assured her that he took quite a different view of her character; he believed her to be too profound for shallow people to read all in a moment: he even intimated that he himself had experienced no little difficulty in understanding her at odd times. "And so," said he, "they turn round upon you, and instead of saying, 'We are too shallow to fathom you,' they pretend you are a simpleton."
This solution of the mystery had never occurred to Rosa, nor indeed was it likely to occur to any creature less ingenious than a lover: it pleased her hugely; her fine eyes sparkled, and she nestled closer still to the strong arm that was to parry every ill, from mortal disease to galling epithets.
She listened with a willing ear to all his reasons, his hopes, his fears, and, when they reached her father's door, it was settled that he should dine there that day, and urge his suit to her father after dinner. She would implore the old gentleman to listen to it favorably.
The lovers parted, and Christopher went home like one who has awakened from a hideous dream to daylight and happiness.
He had not gone far before he met a dashing dogcart, driven by an exquisite. He turned to look after it, and saw it drive up to Kent Villa.
In a moment he divined his rival, and a sickness of heart came over him. But he recovered himself directly, and said, "If that is the fellow, she will not receive him now."
She did receive him though: at all events, the dogcart stood at the door, and its master remained inside.
Christopher stood, and counted the minutes: five, ten, fifteen, twenty minutes, and still the dogcart stood there.
It was more than he could bear. He turned savagely, and strode back to Gravesend, resolving that all this torture should end that night, one way or other.
Phoebe Dale was the daughter of a farmer in Essex, and one of the happiest young women in England till she knew Reginald Falcon, Esq.
She was reared on wholesome food, in wholesome air, and used to churn butter, make bread, cook a bit now and then, cut out and sew all her own dresses, get up her own linen, make hay, ride anything on four legs; and, for all that, was a great reader, and taught in the Sunday school to oblige the vicar; wrote a neat hand, and was a good arithmetician, kept all the house accounts and farm accounts. She was a musician, too,--not profound, but very correct. She would take her turn at the harmonium in church, and, when she was there, you never heard a wrong note in the bass, nor an inappropriate flourish, nor bad time. She could sing, too, but never would, except her part in a psalm. Her voice was a deep contralto, and she chose to be ashamed of this heavenly organ, because a pack of envious girls had giggled, and said it was like a man's.
In short, her natural ability and the range and variety of her useful accomplishments were considerable; not that she was a prodigy; but she belonged to a small class of women in this island who are not too high to use their arms, nor too low to cultivate their minds; and, having a faculty and a habit deplorably rare amongst her sex, viz., Attention, she had profited by her miscellaneous advantages.
Her figure and face both told her breed at once: here was an old English pastoral beauty; not the round-backed, narrow-chested cottager, but the well-fed, erect rustic, with broad, full bust and massive shoulder, and arm as hard as a rock with health and constant use; a hand finely cut, though neither small nor very white, and just a little hard inside, compared with Luxury's soft palm; a face honest, fair, and rather large than small; not beautiful, but exceedingly comely; a complexion not pink and white, but that delicately blended brickdusty color, which tints the whole cheek in fine gradation, outlasts other complexions twenty years, and beautifies the true Northern, even in old age. Gray, limpid, honest, point-blank, searching eyes; hair true nut-brown, without a shade of red or black; and a high, smooth forehead, full of sense. Across it ran one deep wrinkle that did not belong to her youth. That wrinkle was the brand of trouble, the line of agony. It had come of loving above her, yet below her, and of loving an egotist.
Three years before our tale commenced, a gentleman's horse ran away with him, and threw him on a heap of stones by the roadside, not very far from Farmer Dale's gate. The farmer had him taken in. The doctor said he must not be moved. He was insensible; his cheek like delicate wax; his fair hair like silk stained with blood. He became Phoebe's patient, and, in due course, her convalescent: his pale, handsome face and fascinating manners gained one charm more from weakness; his vices were in abeyance.
The womanly nurse's heart yearned over her child; for he was feeble as a child; and, when he got well enough to amuse his weary hours by making love to her, and telling her a pack of arrant lies, she was a ready dupe. He was to marry her as soon as ever his old uncle died, and left him the means, etc., etc. At last he got well enough to leave her, and went away, her open admirer and secret lover. He borrowed twenty pounds of her the day he left.
He used to write her charming letters, and feed the flame; but one day her father sent her up to London, on his own business, all of a sudden, and she called on Mr. Falcon at his real address. She found he did not live there--only received letters. However, half- a-crown soon bought his real address, and thither Phoebe proceeded with a troubled heart, for she suspected that her true lover was in debt or trouble, and obliged to hide. Well, he must be got out of it, and hide at the farm meantime.
So the loving girl knocked at the door, asked for Mr. Falcon, and was shown in to a lady rather showily dressed, who asked her business.
Phoebe Dale stared at her, and then turned pale as ashes. She was paralyzed, and could not find her tongue.
"Why, what is the matter now?" said the other, sharply.
"Are you married to Reginald Falcon?"
"Of course I am. Look at my wedding-ring."
"Then I am not wanted here," faltered Phoebe, ready to sink on the floor.
"Certainly not, if you are one of the bygones," said the woman, coarsely; and Phoebe Dale waited to hear no more, but found her way, Heaven knows how, into the street, and there leaned, half- fainting, on a rail, till a policeman came, and told her she had been drinking, and suggested a cool cell as the best cure.
"Not drink; only a breaking heart," said she, in her low, mellow voice that few could resist.
He got her a glass of water, drove away the boys that congregated directly, and she left the street. But she soon came back again, and waited about for Reginald Falcon.
It was night when he appeared. She seized him by the breast, and taxed him with his villany.
What with her iron grasp, pale face, and flashing eyes, he lost his cool impudence, and blurted out excuses. It was an old and unfortunate connection; he would give the world to dissolve it, if he could do it like a gentleman.
Phoebe told him to please himself: he must part with one or the other.
"Don't talk nonsense," said this man of brass; "I'll un-Falcon her on the spot."
"Very well," said Phoebe. "I am going home; and, if you are not there by to-morrow at noon"--She said no more, but looked a great deal. Then she departed, and refused him her hand at parting. "We will see about that by and by," said she.
At noon my lord came down to the farm, and, unfortunately for Phoebe, played the penitent so skilfully for about a month, that she forgave him, and loved him all the more for having so nearly parted with him.
Her peace was not to endure long. He was detected in an intrigue in the very village.
The insult struck so home that Phoebe herself, to her parents' satisfaction, ordered him out of the house at once.
But, when he was gone, she had fits of weeping, and could settle to nothing for a long time.
Months had elapsed, and she was getting a sort of dull tranquillity, when, one evening, taking a walk she had often with him, and mourning her solitude and wasted affection, he waylaid her, and clung to her knees, and shed crocodile tears on her hands, and, after a long resistance, violent at first, but fainter and fainter, got her in his power again, and that so completely that she met him several times by night, being ashamed to be seen with him in those parts by day.
This ended in fresh promises of marriage, and in a constant correspondence by letter. This pest knew exactly how to talk to a woman, and how to write to one. His letters fed the unhappy flame; and, mind you, he sometimes deceived himself, and thought he loved her; but it was only himself he loved. She was an invaluable lover; a faithful, disinterested friend; hers was a vile bargain; his, an excellent one, and he clung to it.
And so they went on. She detected him in another infidelity, and reproached him bitterly; but she had no longer the strength to break with him. Nevertheless, this time she had the sense to make a struggle. She implored him, on her very knees, to show her a little mercy in return for all her love. "For pity's sake, leave me!" she cried. "You are strong, and I am weak. You can end it forever, and pray do. You don't want me; you don't value me: then, leave me, once and for all, and end this hell you keep me in."
No; he could not, or he would not, leave her alone. Look at a bird's wings!--how like an angel's! Yet so vile a thing as a bit of birdlime subdues them utterly; and such was the fascinating power of this mean man over this worthy woman. She was a reader, a thinker, a model of respectability, industry, and sense; a businesswoman, keen and practical; could encounter sharp hands in sharp trades; could buy or sell hogs, calves, or beasts with any farmer or butcher in the country, yet no match for a cunning fool. She had enshrined an idol in her heart, and that heart adored it, and clung to it, though the superior head saw through it, dreaded it, despised it.
No wonder three years of this had drawn a tell-tale wrinkle across the polished brow.
Phoebe Dale had not received a letter for some days; that roused her suspicion and stung her jealousy; she came up to London by fast train, and down to Gravesend directly.
She had a thick veil that concealed her features; and with a little inquiring and bribing, she soon found out that Mr. Falcon was there with a showy dogcart. "Ah!" thought Phoebe, "he has won a little money at play or pigeon-shooting; so now he has no need of me."
She took the lodgings opposite him, but observed nothing till this very morning, when she saw him throw off his dressing-gown all in a hurry and fling on his coat. She tied on her bonnet as rapidly, and followed him, until she discovered the object of his pursuit. It was a surprise to her, and a puzzle, to see another man step in, as if to take her part. But as Reginald still followed the loitering pair, she followed Reginald, till he turned and found her at his heels, white and lowering.
She confronted him in threatening silence for some time, during which he prepared his defence.
"So it is a lady this time," said she, in her low, rich voice, sternly.
"Yes, and I should say she is bespoke--that tall, fine-built gentleman. But I suppose you care no more for his feelings than you do for mine."
"Phoebe," said the egotist, "I will not try to deceive you. You have often said you are my true friend."
"And I think I have proved it."
"That you have. Well, then, be my true friend now. I am in love-- really in love--this time. You and I only torment each other; let us part friends. There are plenty of farmers in Essex that would jump at you. As for me, I'll tell you the truth; I have run through every farthing; my estate mortgaged beyond its value--two or three writs out against me--that is why I slipped down here. My only chance is to marry Money. Her father knows I have land, and he knows nothing about the mortgages; she is his only daughter. Don't stand in my way, that is a good girl; be my friend, as you always were. Hang it all, Phoebe, can't you say a word to a fellow that is driven into a corner, instead of glaring at me like that? There! I know it is ungrateful; but what can a fellow do? I must live like a gentleman or else take a dose of prussic acid; you don't want to drive me to that. Why, you proposed to part, last time, yourself."
She gave him one majestic, indescribable look, that made even his callous heart quiver, and turned away.
Then the scamp admired her for despising him, and could not bear to lose her. He followed her, and put forth all those powers of persuading and soothing, which had so often proved irresistible. But this time it was in vain. The insult was too savage, and his egotism too brutal, for honeyed phrases to blind her.
After enduring it a long time with a silent shudder, she turned and shook him fiercely off her like some poisonous reptile.
"Do you want me to kill you? I'd liever kill myself for loving such a thing as thou. Go thy ways, man, and let me go mine." In her passion she dropped her cultivation for once, and went back to the thou and thee of her grandam.
He colored up and looked spiteful enough; but he soon recovered his cynical egotism, and went off whistling an operatic passage.
She crept to her lodgings, and buried her face in her pillow, and rocked herself to and fro for hours in the bitterest agony the heart can feel, groaning over her great affection wasted, flung into the dirt.
While she was thus, she heard a little commotion. She came to the window and saw Falcon, exquisitely dressed, drive off in his dogcart, attended by the acclamations of eight boys. She saw at a glance he was gone courting; her knees gave way under her, and, such is the power of the mind, this stalwart girl lay weak as water on the sofa, and had not the power to go home, though just then she had but one wish, one hope--to see her idol's face no more, nor hear his wheedling tongue, that had ruined her peace.
The exquisite Mr. Falcon was received by Rosa Lusignan with a certain tremor that flattered his hopes. He told her, in charming language, how he had admired her at first sight, then esteemed her, then loved her.
She blushed and panted, and showed more than once a desire to interrupt him, but was too polite. She heard him out with rising dismay, and he offered her his hand and heart.
But by this time she had made up her mind what to say. "O Mr. Falcon!" she cried, "how can you speak to me in this way? Why, I am engaged. Didn't you know?"
"No; I am sure you are not, or you would never have given me the encouragement you have."
"Oh, all engaged young ladies flirt--a little; and everybody here knows I am engaged to Dr. Staines."
"Why, I never saw him here."
Rosa's tact was a quality that came and went; so she blushed, and faltered out, "We had a little tiff, as lovers will."
"And you did me the honor to select me as cat's-paw to bring him on again. Was not that rather heartless?"
Rosa's fitful tact returned to her.
"Oh, sir, do not think so ill of me. I am not heartless, I am only unwise; and you are so superior to the people about you; I could not help appreciating you, and I thought you knew I was engaged, and so I was less on my guard. I hope I shall not lose your esteem, though I have no right to anything more. Ah! I see by your face I have behaved very ill: pray forgive me."
And with this she turned on the waters of the Nile, better known to you, perhaps, as "crocodile tears."
Falcon was a gentleman on the surface, and knew he should only make matters worse by quarrelling with her. So he ground his teeth, and said, "May your own heart never feel the pangs you have inflicted. I shall love you and remember you till my dying day."
He bowed ceremoniously and left her.
"Ay," said he to himself, "I will remember you, you heartless jilt, and the man you have jilted me for. Staines is his d--d name, is it?"
He drove back crestfallen, bitter, and, for once in his life, heart-sick, and drew up at his lodgings. Here he found attendants waiting to receive him.
A sheriff's officer took his dogcart and horse under a judgment; the disturbance this caused collected a tiny crowd, gaping and grinning, and brought Phoebe's white face and eyes swollen with weeping to the window.
Falcon saw her and brazened it out. "Take them," said he, with an oath. "I'll have a better turn-out by to-morrow, breakfast-time."
The crowd cheered him for his spirit.
He got down, lit a cigar, chaffed the officer and the crowd, and was, on the whole, admired.
Then another officer, who had been hunting him in couples with the other, stepped forward and took him, for the balance of a judgment debt.
Then the swell's cigar fell out of his mouth, and he was seriously alarmed. "Why, Cartwright," said he, "this is too bad. You promised not to see me this month. You passed me full in the Strand."
"You are mistaken, sir," said Cartwright, with sullen irony. "I've got a twin-brother; a many takes him for me, till they finds the difference." Then, lowering his voice, "What call had you to boast in your club you had made it right with Bill Cartwright, and he'd never see you? That got about, and so I was bound to see you or lose my bread. There's one or two I don't see, but then they are real gentlemen, and thinks of me as well as theirselves, and doesn't blab."
"I must have been drunk," said Falcon apologetically. "More likely blowing a cloud. When you young gents gets a-smoking together, you'd tell on your own mothers. Come along, colonel, off we go to Merrimashee."
"Why, it is only twenty-six pounds. I have paid the rest."
"More than that; there's the costs."
"Come in, and I'll settle it."
"All right, sir. Jem, watch the back."
"Oh, I shall not try that game with a sharp hand like you, Cartwright."
"You had better not, sir," said Cartwright; but he was softened a little by the compliment.
When they were alone, Falcon began by saying it was a bad job for him.
"Why, I thought you was a-going to pay it all in a moment."
"I can't; but I have got a friend over the way that could, if she chose. She has always got money, somehow."
"Oh, if it is a she, it is all right."
"I don't know. She has quarrelled with me; but give me a little time. Here! have a glass of sherry and a biscuit, while I try it on."
Having thus muffled Cartwright, this man of the world opened his window and looked out. The crowd had followed the captured dogcart, so he had the street to himself. He beckoned to Phoebe, and after considerable hesitation she opened her window.
"Phoebe," said he, in tones of tender regret, admirably natural and sweet, "I shall never offend you again; so forgive me this once. I have given that girl up."
"Not you," said Phoebe, sullenly.
"Indeed I have. After our quarrel, I started to propose to her; but I had not the heart; I came back and left her."
"Time will show. If it is not her, it will be some other, you false, heartless villain."
"Come, I say, don't be so hard on me in trouble. I am going to prison."
"So I suppose."
"Ah! but it is worse than you think. I am only taken for a paltry thirty pounds or so."
"Thirty-three, fifteen, five," suggested Cartwright, in a muffled whisper, his mouth being full of biscuit.
"But once they get me to a sponging-house, detainers will pour in, and my cruel creditors will confine me for life."
"It is the best place for you. It will put a stop to your wickedness, and I shall be at peace. That's what I have never known, night or day, this three years."
"But you will not be happy if you see me go to prison before your eyes. Were you ever inside a prison? Just think what it must be to be cooped up in those cold grim cells all alone; for they use a debtor like a criminal now."
Phoebe shuddered; but she said, bravely, "Well, tell them you have been a-courting. There was a time I'd have died sooner than see a hair of your head hurt; but it is all over now; you have worn me out."
Then she began to cry.
Falcon heaved a deep sigh. "It is no more than I deserve," said he. "I'll pack up my things, and go with the officer. Give me one kind word at parting, and I'll think of it in my prison, night and day."
He withdrew from the window with another deep sigh, told Cartwright, cheerfully, it was all right, and proceeded to pack up his traps.
Meantime Phoebe sat at her window and cried bitterly. Her words had been braver than her heart.
Falcon managed to pay the trifle he owed for the lodgings, and presently he came out with Cartwright, and the attendant called a cab. His things were thrown in, and Cartwright invited him to follow. Then he looked up, and cast a genuine look of terror and misery at Phoebe. He thought she would have relented before this.
Her heart gave way; I am afraid it would, even without that piteous and mute appeal. She opened the window, and asked Mr. Cartwright if he would be good enough to come and speak to her.
Cartwright committed his prisoner to the subordinate, and knocked at the door of Phoebe's lodgings. She came down herself and let him in. She led the way upstairs, motioned him to a seat, sat down by him, and began to cry again. She was thoroughly unstrung.
Cartwright was human, and muttered some words of regret that a poor fellow must do his duty.
"Oh, it is not that," sobbed Phoebe. "I can find the money. I have found more for him than that, many's the time." Then, drying her eyes, "But you must know the world, and I dare say you can see how 'tis with me."
"I can," said Cartwright, gravely. "I overheard you and him; and, my girl, if you take my advice, why, let him go. He is a gentleman skin deep, and dresses well, and can palaver a girl, no doubt; but bless your heart, I can see at a glance he is not worth your little finger, an honest, decent young woman like you. Why, it is like butter fighting with stone. Let him go; or I will tell you what it is, you will hang for him some day, or else make away with yourself."
"Ay, sir," said Phoebe, "that's likelier; and if I was to let him go to prison, I should sit me down and think of his parting look, and I should fling myself into the water for him before I was a day older."
"Ye mustn't do that anyway. While there's life there's hope."
Upon this Phoebe put him a question, and found him ready to do anything for her, in reason--provided he was paid for it. And the end of it all was, the prisoner was conveyed to London; Phoebe got the requisite sum; Falcon was deposited in a third-class carriage bound for Essex. Phoebe paid his debt, and gave Cartwright a present, and away rattled the train conveying the handsome egotist into temporary retirement, to wit, at a village five miles from the Dales' farm. She was too ashamed of her young gentleman and herself to be seen with him in her native village. On the road down he was full of little practical attentions; she received them coldly; his mellifluous mouth was often at her car, pouring thanks and praises into it; she never vouchsafed a word of reply. All she did was to shudder now and then, and cry at intervals. Yet, whenever he left her side, her whole body became restless; and when he came back to her, a furtive thrill announced the insane complacency his bare contact gave her. Surely, of all the forms in which love torments the heart, this was the most terrible and pitiable.
Mr. Lusignan found his daughter in tears.
"Why, what is the matter now?" said he, a little peevishly. "We have had nothing of this sort of thing lately."
"Papa, it is because I have misconducted myself. I am a foolish, imprudent girl. I have been flirting with Mr. Falcon, and he has taken a cruel advantage of it--proposed to me--this very afternoon-- actually!"
"Has he? Well, he is a fine fellow, and has a landed estate in Norfolk. There's nothing like land. They may well call it real property--there is something to show; you can walk on it, and ride on it, and look out of window at it: that is property."
"Oh, papa! what are you saying? Would you have me marry one man when I belong to another?"
"But you don't belong to any one except to me."
"Oh, yes; I do. I belong to my dear Christopher."
"Why, you dismissed him before my very eyes; and very ill you behaved, begging your pardon. The man was your able physician and your best friend, and said nothing that was not for your good; and you treated him like a dog."
"Yes, but he has apologized."
"What for? being treated like a dog?"
"Oh, don't say so, papa! At all events, he has apologized, as a gentleman should whenever--whenever"--
"Whenever a lady is in the wrong."
"Don't, papa; and I have asked him to dinner."
"With all my heart. I shall be downright glad to see him again. You used him abominably."
"But you need not keep saying so," whined Rosa. "And that is not all, dear papa; the worst of it is, Mr. Falcon proposing to me has opened my eyes. I am not fit to be trusted alone. I am too fond of dancing, and flirting will follow somehow. Oh, think how ill I was a few months ago, and how unhappy you were about me! They were killing me. He came and saved me. Yes, papa, I owe all this health and strength to Christopher. I did take them off, the very next day, and see the effect of it and my long walks. I owe him my life, and what I value far more, my good looks. La! I wish I had not told you that. And after all this, don't I belong to my Christopher? How could I be happy or respect myself if I married any one else? And oh, papa! he looks wan and worn. He has been fretting for his Simpleton. Oh, dear! I mustn't think of that--it makes me cry; and you don't like scenes, do you?"
"Well, then," said Rosa, coaxingly, "I'll tell you how to end them. Marry your Simpleton to the only man who is fit to take care of her. Oh, papa! think of his deep, deep affection for me, and pray don't snub him if--by any chance--after dinner--he should happen to ask you--something."
"Oh, then it is possible that, by the merest chance, the gentleman you have accidentally asked to dinner, may, by some strange fortuity, be surprised into asking me a second time for something very much resembling my daughter's hand--eh?"
Rosa colored high. "He might, you know. How can I tell what gentlemen will say when the ladies have retired and they are left alone with--with"--
"With the bottle. Ay, that's true; when the wine is in, the wit is out."
Said Rosa, "Well, if he should happen to be so foolish, pray think of me; of all we owe him, and how much I love him, and ought to love him." She then bestowed a propitiatory kiss, and ran off to dress for dinner; it was a much longer operation to-day than usual.
Dr. Staines was punctual. Mr. Lusignan commented favorably on that.
"He always is," said Rosa, eagerly.
They dined together. Mr. Lusignan chatted freely, but Staines and Rosa were under a feeling of restraint, Staines in particular; he could not help feeling that before long his fate must be settled. He would either obtain Rosa's hand, or have to resign her to some man of fortune who would step in; for beauty such as hers could not long lack brilliant offers. Longing, though dreading, to know his fate, he was glad when dinner ended.
Rosa sat with them a little while after dinner, then rose, bestowed another propitiatory kiss on her father's head, and retired with a modest blush, and a look at Christopher that was almost divine.
It inspired him with the courage of lions, and he commenced the attack at once.