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After the first start of rueful astonishment, the indignation of the just fired Lucy's eyes.
She scolded him well. "Was this his return for all her late kindness?"
She hinted broadly at the viper of Aesop, and indicated more faintly an animal that, when one bestows the choicest favors on it, turns and rends one. Then, becoming suddenly just to the brute creation, she said: "No, it is only your abominable sex that would behave so perversely, so ungratefully."
"Don't understand," drawled Kenealy, "I thought you would laike it."
"Well, you see, I don't laike it."
"You seemed to be getting rather spooney on me."
"Spooney! what is that? one of your mess-room terms, I suppose."
"Yaas; so I thought you waunted me to pawp."
"Captain Kenealy, this subterfuge is unworthy of you. You know perfectly well why I distinguished you. Others pestered me with their attachments and nonsense, and you spared me that annoyance. In return, I did all in my power to show you the grateful friendship I thought you worthy of. But you have broken faith; you have violated the clear, though tacit understanding that subsisted between us, and I am very angry with you. I have some little influence left with my aunt, sir, and, unless I am much mistaken, you will shortly rejoin the army, sir."
"What a boa! what a dem'd boa!"
"And don't swear; that is another foolish custom you gentlemen have; it is almost as foolish as the other. Yes, I'll tell my aunt of you, and then you will see."
"What a boa! How horrid spaiteful you are."
"Well, I am rather vindictive. But my aunt is ten times worse, as her deserter shall find, unless--"
"Unless you beg my pardon directly." And at this part of the conversation Lucy was fain to turn her head away, for she found it getting difficult to maintain that severe countenance which she thought necessary to clothe her words with terror, and subjugate the gallant captain.
"Well, then, I apolojaize," said Kenealy.
"And I accept your apology; and don't do it again."
"I won't, 'pon honaa. Look heah; I swear I didn't mean to affront yah; I don't waunt yah to mayrry me; I only proposed out of civility."
"Come, then, it was not so black as it appeared. Courtesy is a good thing; and if you thought that, after staying a month in a house, you were bound by etiquette to propose to the marriageable part of it, it is pardonable, only don't do it again, please."
"I'll take caa--I'll take caa. I say your tempaa is not--quite--what those other fools think it is--no, by Jove;" and the captain glared.
"Nonsense: I am only a little fiendish on this one point. Well, then, steer clear of it, and you will find me a good crechaa on every other."
Kenealy vowed he would profit by the advice.
"Then there is my hand: we are friends again."
"You won't tell your aunt, nor the other fellaas?"
"Captain Kenealy, I am not one of your garrison ladies; I am a young person who has been educated; your extra civility will never be known to a soul: and you shall not join the army but as a volunteer."
"Then, dem me, Miss Fountain, if I wouldn't be cut in pieces to oblaige you. Just you tray me, and you'll faind, if I am not very braight, I am a man of honah. If those ether begaas annoy you, jaast tell me, and I'll parade 'em at twelve paces, dem me."
"I must try and find some less insane vent for your friendly feelings; and what can I do for you?"
"Yah couldn't go on pretending to be spooney on me, could yah?"
"Oh, no, no. What for?"
"I laike it; makes the other begaas misable."
"What worthy sentiments! it is a sin to balk them. I am sure there is no reason why I should not appear to adore you in public, so long as you let me keep my distance in private; but persons of my sex cannot do just what they would like. We have feelings that pull us this way and that, and, after all this, I am afraid I shall never have the courage to play those pranks with you again; and that is a pity, since it amused you, and teased those that tease me."
In short, the house now contained two "holy alliances" instead of one. Unfortunately for Lucy, the hostile one was by far the stronger of the two; and even now it was preparing a terrible coup.
This evening the storm that was preparing blew good to one of a depressed class, which cannot fail to gratify the just.
Mrs. Bazalgette. "Jane, come to my room a minute; I have something for you. Here is a cashmere gown and cloak; the cloak I want; I can wear it with anything; but you may have the gown."
"Oh, thank you, mum; it is beautiful, and a'most as good as new. I am sure, mum, I am very much obliged to you for your kindness."
"No, no, you are a good girl, and a sensible girl. By the by, you might give me your opinion upon something. Does Miss Lucy prefer any one of our guests? You understand me."
"Well, mum, it is hard to say. Miss Lucy is as reserved as ever."
"Oh, I thought she might--ahem!"
"No, mum, I do assure you, not a word."
"Well, but you are a shrewd girl; tell me what you think: now, for instance, suppose she was compelled to choose between, say Mr. Hardie and Mr. Talboys, which would it be?"
"Well, mum, if you ask my opinion, I don't think Miss Lucy is the one to marry a fool; and by all accounts, there's a deal more in Mr. Hardies's head than what there isn't in Mr. Talboysese's."
"You are a clever girl. You shall have the cloak as well, and, if my niece marries, you shall remain in her service all the same."
"Thank you kindly, mum. I don't desire no better mistress, married or single; and Mr. Hardies is much respected in the town, and heaps o' money; so miss and me we couldn't do no better, neither of us. Your servant, mum, and thanks you for your bounty"; and Jane courtesied twice and went off with the spoils.
In the corridor she met old Fountain. "Stop, Jane," said he, "I want to speak to you."
"At your service, sir."
"In the first place, I want to give you something to buy a new gown"; and he took out a couple of sovereigns. "Where am I to put them? in your breast-pocket?"
"Put them under the cloak, sir," murmured Jane, tenderly. She loved sovereigns.
He put his hand under the heap of cashmere, and a quick little claw hit the coins and closed on them by almighty instinct.
"Now I want to ask your opinion. Is my niece in love with anyone?"
"Well, Mr. Fountains, if she is she don't show it."
"But doesn't she like one man better than another?"
"You may take your oath of that, if we could but get to her mind."
"Which does she like best, this Hardie or Mr. Talboys? Come, tell me, now."
"Well, sir, you know Mr. Talboys is an old acquaintance, and like brother and sister at Font Abbey. I do suppose she have been a scare of times alone with him for one, with Mr. Hardie's. That she should take up with a stranger and jilt an old acquaintance, now is it feasible?"
"Why, of course not. It was a foolish question; you are a young woman of sense. Here's a 5 pound note for you. You must not tell I spoke to you."
"Now is it likely, sir? My character would be broken forever."
"And you shall be with my niece when she is Mrs. Talboys."
"I might do worse, sir, and so might she. He is respected far and wide, and a grand house, and a carriage and four, and everything to make a lady comfortable. Your servant, sir, and wishes you many thanks."
"And such as Jane was, all true servants are."
The ancients used to bribe the Oracle of Delphi. Curious.
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