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A Simpleton by Charles Reade

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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.

"Is it?"

"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?"

"Hate 'em!"

"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.

CHAPTER V.

"Mr. Lusignan," said he, "the last time I was here you gave me some
hopes that you might be prevailed on to trust that angel's health
and happiness to my care."

"Well, Dr. Staines, I will not beat about the bush with you. My
judgment is still against this marriage; you need not look so
alarmed; it does not follow I shall forbid it. I feel I have
hardly a right to, for my Rosa might be in her grave now but for
you; and, another thing, when I interfered between you two I had no
proof you were a man of ability; I had only your sweetheart's word
for that; and I never knew a case before where a young lady's swan
did not turn out a goose. Your rare ability gives you another
chance in the professional battle that is before you; indeed, it
puts a different face on the whole matter. I still think it
premature. Come now, would it not be much wiser to wait, and
secure a good practice before you marry a mere child? There!
there! I only advise; I don't dictate; you shall settle it
together, you two wiseacres. Only I must make one positive
condition. I have nothing to give my child during my lifetime; but
one thing I have done for her; years ago I insured my life for six
thousand pounds; and you must do the same. I will not have her
thrown on the world a widow, with a child or two, perhaps, to
support, and not a farthing; you know the insecurity of mortal
life."

"I do! I do! Why, of course I will insure my life, and pay the
annual premium out of my little capital, until income flows in."

"Will you hand me over a sum sufficient to pay that premium for
five years?"

"With pleasure."

"Then I fear," said the old gentleman, with a sigh, "my opposition
to the match must cease here. I still recommend you to wait; but--
there! I might just as well advise fire and tow to live neighbors
and keep cool."

To show the injustice of this simile, Christopher Staines started
up with his eyes all aglow, and cried out, rapturously, "Oh, sir,
may I tell her?"

"Yes, you may tell her," said Lusignan, with a smile. "Stop--what
are you going to tell her?"

"That you consent, sir. God bless you! God bless you! Oh!"

"Yes, but that I advise you to wait."

"I'll tell her all," said Staines, and rushed out even as he spoke,
and upset a heavy chair with a loud thud.

"Ah! ah!" cried the old gentleman in dismay, and put his fingers in
his ears--too late. "I see," said he, "there will be no peace and
quiet now till they are out of the house." He lighted a soothing
cigar to counteract the fracas.

"Poor little Rosa! a child but yesterday, and now to encounter the
cares of a wife, and perhaps a mother. Ah! she is but young, but
young."

The old gentleman prophesied truly; from that moment he had no
peace till he withdrew all semblance of dissent, and even of
procrastination.

Christopher insured his life for six thousand pounds, and assigned
the policy to his wife. Four hundred pounds was handed to Mr.
Lusignan to pay the premiums until the genius of Dr. Staines should
have secured him that large professional income, which does not
come all at once, even to the rare physician, who is Capax,
Efficax, Sagax.

The wedding-day was named. The bridesmaids were selected, the
guests invited. None refused but Uncle Philip. He declined, in
his fine bold hand, to countenance in person an act of folly he
disapproved. Christopher put his letter away with a momentary
sigh, and would not show it Rosa. All other letters they read
together, charming pastime of that happy period. Presents poured
in. Silver teapots, coffeepots, sugar-basins, cream-jugs, fruit-
dishes, silver-gilt inkstands, albums, photograph-books, little
candlesticks, choice little services of china, shell salt-cellars
in a case lined with maroon velvet; a Bible, superb in binding and
clasps, and everything but the text--that was illegible; a silk
scarf from Benares; a gold chain from Delhi, six feet long or
nearly; a Maltese necklace, a ditto in exquisite filagree from
Genoa; English brooches, a trifle too big and brainless; apostle
spoons; a treble-lined parasol with ivory stick and handle; an
ivory card-case, richly carved; workbox of sandal-wood and ivory,
etc. Mr. Lusignan's City friends, as usual with these gentlemen,
sent the most valuable things. Every day one or two packages were
delivered, and, in opening them, Rosa invariably uttered a peculiar
scream of delight, and her father put his fingers in his ears; yet
there was music in this very scream, if he would only have listened
to it candidly, instead of fixing his mind on his vague theory of
screams--so formed was she to please the ear as well as the eye.

At last came a parcel she opened and stared at, smiling and
coloring like a rose, but did not scream, being too dumfounded and
perplexed; for lo! a teapot of some base material, but simple and
elegant in form, being an exact reproduction of a melon; and inside
this teapot a canvas bag containing ten guineas in silver, and a
wash-leather bag containing twenty guineas in gold, and a slip of
paper, which Rosa, being now half recovered from her stupefaction,
read out to her father and Dr. Staines:

"People that buy presents blindfold give duplicates and
triplicates; and men seldom choose to a woman's taste; so be
pleased to accept the enclosed tea-leaves, and buy for yourself.
The teapot you can put on the hob, for it is nickel."

Rosa looked sore puzzled again. "Papa," said she, timidly, "have
we any friend that is--a little--deranged?"

"A lot."

"Oh, then, that accounts."

"Why no, love," said Christopher. "I have heard of much learning
making a man mad, but never of much good sense."

"What! Do you call this sensible?"

"Don't you?"

"I'll read it again," said Rosa. "Well--yes--I declare--it is not
so mad as I thought; but it is very eccentric."

Lusignan suggested there was nothing so eccentric as common sense,
especially in time of wedding. "This," said he, "comes from the
City. It is a friend of mine, some old fox; he is throwing dust in
your eyes with his reasons; his real reason was that his time is
money; it would have cost the old rogue a hundred pounds' worth of
time--you know the City, Christopher--to go out and choose the girl
a present; so he has sent his clerk out with a check to buy a
pewter teapot, and fill it with specie."

"Pewter!" cried Rosa. "No such thing! It's nickel. What is
nickel, I wonder?"

The handwriting afforded no clew, so there the discussion ended:
but it was a nice little mystery, and very convenient; made
conversation. Rosa had many an animated discussion about it with
her female friends.

The wedding-day came at last. The sun shone--ACTUALLY, as Rosa
observed. The carriages drove up. The bridesmaids, principally
old schoolfellows and impassioned correspondents of Rosa, were
pretty, and dressed alike and delightfully; but the bride was
peerless; her Southern beauty literally shone in that white satin
dress and veil, and her head was regal with the Crown of orange-
blossoms. Another crown she had--true virgin modesty. A low
murmur burst from the men the moment they saw her; the old women
forgave her beauty on the spot, and the young women almost pardoned
it; she was so sweet and womanly, and so sisterly to her own sex.

When they started for the church she began to tremble, she scarce
knew why; and when the solemn words were said, and the ring was put
on her finger, she cried a little, and looked half imploringly at
her bridesmaids once, as if seared at leaving them for an untried
and mysterious life with no woman near.

They were married. Then came the breakfast, that hour of
uneasiness and blushing to such a bride as this; but at last she
was released. She sped up-stairs, thanking goodness it was over.
Down came her last box. The bride followed in a plain travelling
dress, which her glorious eyes and brows and her rich glowing
cheeks seemed to illumine: she was handed into the carriage, the
bridegroom followed. All the young guests clustered about the
door, armed with white shoes--slippers are gone by.

They started; the ladies flung their white shoes right and left
with religious impartiality, except that not one of their missiles
went at the object. The men, more skilful, sent a shower on to the
roof of the carriage, which is the lucky spot. The bride kissed
her hand, and managed to put off crying, though it cost her a
struggle. The party hurrahed; enthusiastic youths gathered fallen
shoes, and ran and hurled them again with cheerful yells, and away
went the happy pair, the bride leaning sweetly and confidingly with
both her white hands on the bridegroom's shoulder, while he dried
the tears that would run now at leaving home and parent forever,
and kissed her often, and encircled her with his strong arm, and
murmured comfort, and love, and pride, and joy, and sweet vows of
lifelong tenderness into her ears, that soon stole nearer his lips
to hear, and the fair cheek grew softly to his shoulder.

CHAPTER VI.

Dr. Staines and Mrs. Staines visited France, Switzerland, and the
Rhine, and passed a month of Elysium before they came to London to
face their real destiny and fight the battle of life.

And here, methinks, a reader of novels may perhaps cry out and say,
"What manner of man is this, who marries his hero and heroine, and
then, instead of leaving them happy for life, and at rest from his
uneasy pen and all their other troubles, flows coolly on with their
adventures?"

To this I can only reply that the old English novel is no rule to
me, and life is; and I respectfully propose an experiment. Catch
eight old married people, four of each sex, and say unto them,
"Sir," or "Madam, did the more remarkable events of your life come
to you before marriage or after?" Most of them will say "after,"
and let that be my excuse for treating the marriage of Christopher
Staines and Rosa Lusignan as merely one incident in their lives; an
incident which, so far from ending their story, led by degrees to
more striking events than any that occurred to them before they
were man and wife.

They returned, then, from their honey tour, and Staines, who was
methodical and kept a diary, made the following entry therein:--

"We have now a life of endurance, and self-denial, and economy,
before us; we have to rent a house, and furnish it, and live in it,
until professional income shall flow in and make all things easy:
and we have two thousand five hundred pounds left to do it with."

They came to a family hotel, and Dr. Staines went out directly
after breakfast to look for a house. Acting on a friend's advice,
he visited the streets and places north of Oxford Street, looking
for a good commodious house adapted to his business. He found
three or four at fair rents, neither cheap nor dear, the district
being respectable and rather wealthy, but no longer fashionable.
He came home with his notes, and found Rosa beaming in a crisp
peignoir, and her lovely head its natural size and shape, high-bred
and elegant. He sat down, and with her hand in his proceeded to
describe the houses to her, when a waiter threw open the door--
"Mrs. John Cole."

"Florence!" cried Rosa, starting up.

In flowed Florence: they both uttered a little squawk of delight,
and went at each other like two little tigresses, and kissed in
swift alternation with a singular ardor, drawing their crests back
like snakes, and then darting them forward and inflicting what, to
the male philosopher looking on, seemed hard kisses, violent
kisses, rather than the tender ones to be expected from two tender
creatures embracing each other.

"Darling," said Rosa, "I knew you would be the first. Didn't I
tell you so, Christopher?--My husband--my darling Florry! Sit
down, love, and tell me everything; he has just been looking out
for a house. Ah! you have got all that over long ago: she has been
married six months. Florry, you are handsomer than ever; and what
a beautiful dress! Ah! London is the place. Real Brussels, I
declare," and she took hold of her friend's lace and gloated on it.

Christopher smiled good-naturedly, and said, "I dare say you ladies
have a good deal to say to each other."

"Oceans," said Rosa.

"I will go and hunt houses again."

"There's a good husband," said Mrs. Cole, as soon as the door
closed on him, "and such a fine man! Why, he must be six feet.
Mine is rather short. But he is very good; refuses me nothing. My
will is law."

"That is all right--you are so sensible; but I want governing a
little, and I like it--actually. Did the dressmaker find it,
dear?"

"Oh, no! I had it by me. I bought it at Brussels on our wedding
tour: it is dearer there than in London."

She said this as if "dearer" and "better" were synonymous.

"But about your house, Rosie dear?"

"Yes, darling, I'll tell you all about it. I never saw a moire
this shade before. I don't care for them in general; but this is
so distingue."

Florence rewarded her with a kiss.

"The house," said Rosa. "Oh, he has seen one in Portman Street,
and one in Gloucester Place."

"Oh, that will never do," cried Mrs. Cole. "It is no use being a
physician in those out-of-the-way places. He must be in Mayfair."

"Must he?"

"Of course. Besides, then my Johnnie can call him in when they are
just going to die. Johnnie is a general prac., and makes two
thousand a year; and he shall call your one in; but he must live in
Mayfair. Why, Rosie, you would not be such a goose as to live in
those places--they are quite gone by."

"I shall do whatever you advise me, dear. Oh, what a comfort to
have a dear friend: and six months married, and knows things. How
richly it is trimmed! Why, it is nearly all trimmings."

"That is the fashion."

"Oh!"

And after that big word there was no more to be said.

These two ladies in their conversation gravitated towards dress,
and fell flat on it every half-minute. That great and elevating
topic held them by a silken cord, but it allowed them to flutter
upwards into other topics; and in those intervals, numerous though
brief, the lady who had been married six months found time to
instruct the matrimonial novice with great authority, and even a
shade of pomposity. "My dear, the way ladies and gentlemen get a
house--in the first place, you don't go about yourself like that,
and you never go to the people themselves, or you are sure to be
taken in, but to a respectable house-agent."

"Yes, dear, that must be the best way, one would think."

"Of course it is; and you ask for a house in Mayfair, and he shows
you several, and recommends you the best, and sees you are not
cheated."

"Thank you, love," said Rosa; "now I know what to do; I'll not
forget a word. And the train so beautifully shaped! Ah! it is
only in London or Paris they can make a dress flow behind like
that," etc., etc.

Dr. Staines came back to dinner in good spirits; he had found a
house in Harewood Square; good entrance hall, where his gratuitous
patients might sit on benches; good dining-room where his superior
patients might wait; and good library, to be used as a consulting-
room. Rent only eighty-five pounds per annum.

But Rosa told him that would never do; a physician must be in the
fashionable part of the town.

"Eventually," said Christopher; "but surely at first starting--and
you know they say little boats should not go too far from shore."

Then Rosa repeated all her friend's arguments, and seemed so
unhappy at the idea of not living near her, that Staines, who had
not yet said the hard word "no" to her, gave in; consoling his
prudence with the reflection that, after all, Mr. Cole could put
many a guinea in his way, for Mr. Cole was middle-aged,--though his
wife was young,--and had really a very large practice.

So next day, the newly-wedded pair called on a house-agent in
Mayfair, and his son and partner went with them to several places.
The rents of houses equal to that in Harewood Square were three
hundred pounds a year at least, and a premium to boot.

Christopher told him these were quite beyond the mark. "Very
well," said the agent. "Then I'll show you a Bijou."

Rosa clapped her hands. "That is the thing for us. We don't want
a large house, only a beautiful one, and in Mayfair."

"Then the Bijou will be sure to suit you."

He took them to the Bijou.

The Bijou had a small dining-room with one very large window in two
sheets of plate glass, and a projecting balcony full of flowers; a
still smaller library, which opened on a square yard enclosed.
Here were a great many pots, with flowers dead or dying from
neglect. On the first floor a fair-sized drawing-room, and a tiny
one at the back: on the second floor, one good bedroom, and a
dressing-room, or little bedroom: three garrets above.

Rosa was in ecstasies. "It is a nest," said she.

"It is a bank-note," said the agent, stimulating equal enthusiasm,
after his fashion. "You can always sell the lease again for more
money."

Christopher kept cool. "I don't want a house to sell, but to live
in, and do my business; I am a physician: now the drawing-room is
built over the entrance to a mews; the back rooms all look into a
mews: we shall have the eternal noise and smell of a mews. My
wife's rest will be broken by the carriages rolling in and out.
The hall is fearfully small and stuffy. The rent is abominably
high; and what is the premium for, I wonder?"

"Always a premium in Mayfair, sir. A lease is property here: the
gentleman is not acquainted with this part, madam."

"Oh, yes, he is," said Rosa, as boldly as a six years' wife: "he
knows everything."

"Then he knows that a house of this kind at a hundred and thirty
pounds a year in Mayfair is a bank-note."

Staines turned to Rosa. "The poor patients, where am I to receive
them?"

"In the stable," suggested the house agent.

"Oh!" said Rosa, shocked.

"Well, then, the coach-house. Why, there's plenty of room for a
brougham, and one horse, and fifty poor patients at a time: beggars
musn't be choosers; if you give them physic gratis, that is enough:
you ain't bound to find 'em a palace to sit down in, and hot coffee
and rump steaks all round, doctor."

This tickled Rosa so that she burst out laughing, and thenceforward
giggled at intervals, wit of this refined nature having all the
charm of novelty for her.

They inspected the stables, which were indeed the one redeeming
feature in the horrid little Bijou; and then the agent would show
them the kitchen, and the new stove. He expatiated on this to Mrs.
Staines. "Cook a dinner for thirty people, madam."

"And there's room for them to eat it--in the road," said Staines.

The agent reminded him there were larger places to be had, by a
very simple process, viz., paying for them.

Staines thought of the large, comfortable house in Harewood Square.
"One hundred and thirty pounds a year for this poky little hole?"
he groaned.

"Why, it is nothing at all for a Bijou."

"But it is too much for a bandbox."

Rosa laid her hand on his arm, with an imploring glance.

"Well," said he, "I'll submit to the rent, but I really cannot give
the premium, it is too ridiculous. He ought to bribe me to rent
it, not I him."

"Can't be done without, sir."

"Well, I'll give a hundred pounds and no more."

"Impossible, sir."

"Then good morning. Now, dearest, just come and see the house at
Harewood Square,--eighty-five pounds and no premium."

"Will you oblige me with your address, doctor?" said the agent.

"Dr. Staines, Morley's Hotel."

And so they left Mayfair.

Rosa sighed and said, "Oh, the nice little place; and we have lost
it for two hundred pounds."

"Two hundred pounds is a great deal for us to throw away."

"Being near the Coles would soon have made that up to you: and such
a cosey little nest."

"Well the house will not run away."

"But somebody is sure to snap it up. It is a Bijou." She was
disappointed, and half inclined to pout. But she vented her
feelings in a letter to her beloved Florry, and appeared at dinner
as sweet as usual.

During dinner a note came from the agent, accepting Dr. Staine's
offer. He glozed the matter thus: he had persuaded the owner it
was better to take a good tenant at a moderate loss, than to let
the Bijou be uninhabited during the present rainy season. An
assignment of the lease--which contained the usual covenants--would
be prepared immediately, and Dr. Staines could have possession in
forty-eight hours, by paying the premium.

Rosa was delighted, and as soon as dinner was over, and the waiters
gone, she came and kissed Christopher.

He smiled, and said, "Well, you are pleased; that is the principal
thing. I have saved two hundred pounds, and that is something. It
will go towards furnishing."

"La! yes," said Rosa, "I forgot. We shall have to get furniture
now. How nice!" It was a pleasure the man of forecast could have
willingly dispensed with; but he smiled at her, and they discussed
furniture, and Christopher, whose retentive memory had picked up a
little of everything, said there were wholesale upholsterers in the
City who sold cheaper than the West-end houses, and he thought the
best way was to measure the rooms in the Bijou, and go to the city
with a clear idea of what they wanted; ask the prices of various
necessary articles, and then make a list, and demand a discount of
fifteen per cent on the whole order, being so considerable, and
paid for in cash.

Rosa acquiesced, and told Christopher he was the cleverest man in
England.

About nine o'clock Mrs. Cole came in to condole with her friend,
and heard the good news. When Rosa told her how they thought of
furnishing, she said, "Oh no, you must not do that; you will pay
double for everything. That is the mistake Johnnie and I made; and
after that a friend of mine took me to the auction-rooms, and I saw
everything sold--oh, such bargains; half, and less than half, their
value. She has furnished her house almost entirely from sales, and
she has the loveliest things in the world--such ducks of tables,
and jardinieres, and things; and beautiful rare china--her house
swarms with it--for an old song. A sale is the place. And then so
amusing."

"Yes, but," said Christopher, "I should not like my wife to
encounter a public room."

"Not alone, of course; but with me. La! Dr. Staines, they are too
full of buying and selling to trouble their heads about us."

"Oh, Christopher, do let me go with her. Am I always to be a
child?"

Thus appealed to before a stranger, Staines replied warmly, "No,
dearest, no; you cannot please me better than by beginning life in
earnest. If you two ladies together can face an auction-room, go
by all means; only I must ask you not to buy china or ormulu, or
anything that will break or spoil, but only solid, good furniture."

"Won't you come with us?"

"No; or you might feel yourself in leading-strings. Remember the
Bijou is a small house; choose your furniture to fit it, and then
we shall save something by its being so small."

This was Wednesday. There was a weekly sale in Oxford Street on
Fridays; and the ladies made the appointment accordingly.

Next day, after breakfast, Christopher was silent and thoughtful
awhile, and at last said to Rosa, "I'll show you I don't look on
you as a child; I'll consult you in a delicate matter."

Rosa's eyes sparkled.

"It is about my Uncle Philip. He has been very cruel; he has
wounded me deeply; he has wounded me through my wife. I never
thought he would refuse to come to our marriage."

"And did he? You never showed me his letter."

"You were not my wife then. I kept an affront from you; but now,
you see, I keep nothing."

"Dear Christie!"

"I am so happy, I have got over that sting--almost; and the memory
of many kind acts comes back to me; and I don't know what to do.
It seems ungrateful not to visit him--it seems almost mean to
call."

"I'll tell you; take me to see him directly. He won't hate us
forever, if he sees us often. We may as well begin at once.
Nobody hates me long."

Christopher was proud of his wife's courage and wisdom. He kissed
her, begged her to put on the plainest dress she could, and they
went together to call on Uncle Philip.

When they got to his house in Gloucester Place, Portman Square,
Rosa's heart began to quake, and she was right glad when the
servant said "Not at home."

They left their cards and address; and she persuaded Christopher to
take her to the sale-room to see the things.

A lot of brokers were there, like vultures; and one after another
stepped forward and pestered them to employ him in the morning.
Dr. Staines declined their services civilly but firmly, and he and
Rosa looked over a quantity of furniture, and settled what sort of
things to buy.

Another broker came up, and whenever the couple stopped before an
article, proceeded to praise it as something most extraordinary.
Staines listened in cold, satirical silence, and told his wife, in
French, to do the same. Notwithstanding their marked disgust, the
impudent, intrusive fellow stuck to them, and forced his venal
criticism on them, and made them uncomfortable, and shortened their
tour of observation.

"I think I shall come with you to-morrow," said Christopher, "or I
shall have these blackguards pestering you."

"Oh, Florry will send them to the right-about. She is as brave as
a lion."

Next day Dr. Staines was sent for into the City at twelve to pay
the money and receive the lease of the Bijou, and this and the
taking possession occupied him till four o'clock, when he came to
his hotel.

Meantime, his wife and Mrs. Cole had gone to the auction-room.

It was a large room, with a good sprinkling of people, but not
crowded except about the table. At the head of this table--full
twenty feet long--was the auctioneer's pulpit, and the lots were
brought in turn to the other end of the table for sight and sale.

"We must try and get a seat," said the enterprising Mrs. Cole, and
pushed boldly in; the timid Rosa followed strictly in her wake, and
so evaded the human waves her leader clove. They were importuned
at every step by brokers thrusting catalogues on them, with offers
of their services, yet they soon got to the table. A gentleman
resigned one chair, a broker another, and they were seated.

Mrs. Staines let down half her veil, but Mrs. Cole surveyed the
company point-blank.

The broker who had given up his seat, and now stood behind Rosa,
offered her his catalogue. "No, thank you," said Rosa; "I have
one;" and she produced it, and studied it, yet managed to look
furtively at the company.

There were not above a dozen private persons visible from where
Rosa sat; perhaps as many more in the whole room. They were easily
distinguishable by their cleanly appearance: the dealers, male or
female, were more or less rusty, greasy, dirty, aquiline. Not even
the amateurs were brightly dressed; that fundamental error was
confined to Mesdames Cole and Staines. The experienced, however
wealthy, do not hunt bargains in silk and satin.

The auctioneer called "Lot 7. Four saucepans, two trays, a kettle,
a bootjack, and a towel-horse."

These were put up at two shillings, and speedily knocked down for
five to a fat old woman in a greasy velvet jacket; blind industry
had sewed bugles on it, not artfully, but agriculturally.

"The lady on the left!" said the auctioneer to his clerk. That
meant "Get the money."

The old lady plunged a huge paw into a huge pocket, and pulled out
a huge handful of coin--copper, silver, and gold--and paid for the
lot; and Rosa surveyed her dirty hands and nails with innocent
dismay. "Oh, what a dreadful creature!" she whispered; "and what
can she want with those old rubbishy things? I saw a hole in one
from here." The broker overheard, and said, "She is a dealer,
ma'am, and the things were given away. She'll sell them for a
guinea, easy."

"Didn't I tell you?" said Mrs. Cole.

Soon after this the superior lots came on, and six very neat
bedroom chairs were sold to all appearance for fifteen shillings.

The next lot was identical, and Rosa hazarded a bid,--"Sixteen
shillings."

Instantly some dealer, one of the hook-nosed that gathered round
each lot as it came to the foot of the table, cried "Eighteen
shillings."

"Nineteen," said Rosa.

"A guinea," said the dealer.

"Don't let it go," said the broker behind her. "Don't let it go,
ma'am."

She colored at the intrusion, and left off bidding directly, and
addressed herself to Mrs. Cole. "Why should I give so much, when
the last were sold for fifteen shillings?"

The real reason was that the first lot was not bid for at all,
except by the proprietor. However, the broker gave her a very
different solution; he said, "The trade always run up a lady or a
gentleman. Let me bid for you; they won't run me up; they know
better."

Rosa did not reply, but looked at Mrs. Cole.

"Yes, dear," said that lady; "you had much better let him bid for
you."

"Very well," said Rosa; "you can bid for this chest of drawers--lot
25."

When lot 25 came on, the broker bid in the silliest possible way,
if his object had been to get a bargain. He began to bid early and
ostentatiously; the article was protected by somebody or other
there present, who now of course saw his way clear; he ran it up
audaciously, and it was purchased for Rosa at about the price it
could have been bought for at a shop.

The next thing she wanted was a set of oak chairs.

They went up to twenty-eight pounds; then she said, "I shall give
no more, sir."

"Better not lose them," said the agent; "they are a great bargain;"
and bid another pound for her on his own responsibility.

They were still run up, and Rosa peremptorily refused to give any
more. She lost them, accordingly, by good luck. Her faithful
broker looked blank; so did the proprietor.

But, as the sale proceeded, she being young, the competition,
though most of it sham, being artful and exciting, and the traitor
she employed constantly puffing every article, she was drawn in to
wishing for things, and bidding by her feelings.

Then her traitor played a game that has been played a hundred
times, and the perpetrators never once lynched, as they ought to
be, on the spot. He signalled a confederate with a hooked nose;
the Jew rascal bid against the Christian scoundrel, and so they ran
up the more enticing things to twice their value under the hammer.

Rosa got flushed, and her eye gleamed like a gambler's, and she
bought away like wildfire. In which sport she caught sight of an
old gentleman, with little black eyes that kept twinkling at her.

She complained of these eyes to Mrs. Cole. "Why does he twinkle
so? I can see it is at me. I am doing something foolish--I know I
am."

Mrs. Cole turned, and fixed a haughty stare on the old gentleman.
Would you believe it? instead of sinking through the floor, he sat
his ground, and retorted with a cold, clear grin.

But now, whenever Rosa's agent bid for her, and the other man of
straw against him, the black eyes twinkled, and Rosa's courage
began to ooze away. At last she said, "That is enough for one day.
I shall go. Who could bear those eyes?"

The broker took her address; so did the auctioneer's clerk. The
auctioneer asked her for no deposit; her beautiful, innocent, and
high-bred face was enough for a man who was always reading faces,
and interpreting them.

And so they retired.

But this charming sex is like that same auctioneer's hammer, it
cannot go abruptly. It is always going--going--going--a long time
before it is gone. I think it would perhaps loiter at the door of
a jail, with the order of release in its hand, after six years'
confinement. Getting up to go quenches in it the desire to go. So
these ladies having got up to go, turned and lingered, and hung
fire so long, that at last another set of oak chairs came up. "Oh!
I must see what these go for," said Rosa, at the door.

The bidding was mighty languid now Rosa's broker was not
stimulating it; and the auctioneer was just knocking down twelve
chairs--oak and leather--and two arm-chairs, for twenty pounds,
when, casting his eyes around, he caught sight of Rosa looking at
him rather excited. He looked inquiringly at her. She nodded
slightly; he knocked them down to her at twenty guineas, and they
were really a great bargain.

"Twenty-two," cried the dealer.

"Too late," said the auctioneer.

"I spoke with the hammer, sir."

"After the hammer, Isaacs."

"Shelp me God, we was together."

One or two more of his tribe confirmed this pious falsehood, and
clamored to have them put up again.

"Call the next lot," said the auctioneer, peremptorily. "Make up
your mind a little quicker next time, Mr. Isaacs; you have been
long enough at it to know the value of oak and moroccar."

Mrs. Staines and her friend now started for Morley's Hotel, but
went round by Regent Street, whereby they got glued at Peter
Robinson's window, and nine other windows; and it was nearly five
o'clock when they reached Morley's. As they came near the door of
their sitting-room, Mrs. Staines heard somebody laughing and
talking to her husband. The laugh, to her subtle ears, did not
sound musical and genial, but keen, satirical, unpleasant; so it
was with some timidity she opened the door, and there sat the old
chap with the twinkling eyes. Both parties stared at each other a
moment.

"Why, it is them," cried the old gentleman. "Ha! ha! ha! ha! ha!"

Rosa colored all over, and felt guilty somehow, and looked
miserable.

"Rosa dear," said Dr. Staines, "this is our Uncle Philip."

"Oh!" said Rosa, and turned red and pale by turns; for she had a
great desire to propitiate Uncle Philip.

"You were in the auction-room, sir?" said Mrs. Cole, severely.

"I was, madam. He! he!"

"Furnishing a house?"

"No, ma'am. I go to a dozen sales a week; but it is not to buy--I
enjoy the humors. Did you ever hear of Robert Burton, ma'am?"

"No. Yes; a great traveller, isn't he? Discovered the Nile--or
the Niger--or SOMETHING?"

This majestic vagueness staggered old Crusty at first, but he
recovered his equilibrium, and said, "Why, yes, now I think of it,
you are right; he has travelled farther than most of us, for about
two centuries ago he visited that bourn whence no traveller
returns. Well, when he was alive--he was a student of
Christchurch--he used to go down to a certain bridge over the Isis
and enjoy the chaff of the bargemen. Now there are no bargemen
left to speak of; the mantle of Bobby Burton's bargees has fallen
on the Jews and demi-semi-Christians that buy and sell furniture at
the weekly auctions; thither I repair to hear what little coarse
wit is left us. Used to go to the House of Commons; but they are
getting too civil by half for my money. Besides, characters come
out in an auction. For instance, only this very day I saw two
ladies enter, in gorgeous attire, like heifers decked for
sacrifice, and reduce their spoliation to a certainty by employing
a broker to bid. Now, what is a broker? A fellow who is to be
paid a shilling in the pound for all articles purchased. What is
his interest, then? To buy cheap? Clearly not. He is paid in
proportion to the dearness of the article."

Rosa's face began to work piteously.

"Accordingly, what did the broker in question do? He winked to
another broker, and these two bid against one another, over their
victim's head, and ran everything she wanted up at least a hundred
per cent above the value. So open and transparent a swindle I have
seldom seen, even in an auction-room. Ha! ha! ha! ha! ha!"

His mirth was interrupted by Rosa going to her husband, hiding her
head on his shoulder, and meekly crying.

Christopher comforted her like a man. "Don't you cry, darling,"
said he; "how should a pure creature like you know the badness of
the world all in a moment? If it is my wife you are laughing at,
Uncle Philip, let me tell you this is the wrong place. I'd rather
a thousand times have her as she is, than armed with the cunning
and suspicions of a hardened old worldling like you."

"With all my heart," said Uncle Philip, who, to do him justice,
could take blows as well as give them; "but why employ a broker?
Why pay a scoundrel five per cent to make you pay a hundred per
cent? Why pay a noisy fool a farthing to open his mouth for you
when you have taken the trouble to be there yourself, and have got
a mouth of your own to bid discreetly with? Was ever such an
absurdity?" He began to get angry.

"Do you want to quarrel with me, Uncle Philip?" said Christopher,
firing up; "because sneering at my Rosa is the way, and the only
way, and the sure way."

"Oh, no," said Rosa, interposing. "Uncle Philip was right. I am
very foolish and inexperienced, but I am not so vain as to turn
from good advice. I will never employ a broker again, sir."

Uncle Philip smiled and looked pleased.

Mrs. Cole caused a diversion by taking leave, and Rosa followed her
down-stairs. On her return she found Christopher telling his uncle
all about the Bijou, and how he had taken it for a hundred and
thirty pounds a year and a hundred pounds premium, and Uncle Philip
staring fearfully.

At last he found his tongue. "The Bijou!" said he. "Why, that is
a name they gave to a little den in Dear Street, Mayfair. You
haven't ever been and taken THAT! Built over a mews."

Christopher groaned. "That is the place, I fear."

"Why the owner is a friend of mine; an old patient. Stables stunk
him out. Let it to a man; I forget his name. Stables stunk HIM
out. He said, 'I shall go.' 'You can't,' said my friend; 'you
have taken a lease.' 'Lease be d--d,' said the other; 'I never
took YOUR house; here's quite a large stench not specified in your
description of the property--IT CAN'T BE THE SAME PLACE;' flung the
lease at his head, and cut like the wind to foreign parts less
odoriferous. I'd have got you the hole for ninety; but you are
like your wife--you must go to an agent. What! don't you know that
an agent is a man acting for you with an interest opposed to yours?
Employing an agent! it is like a Trojan seeking the aid of a Greek.
You needn't cry, Mrs. Staines; your husband has been let in deeper
than you have. Now, you are young people beginning life; I'll give
you a piece of advice. Employ others to do what you can't do, and
it must be done; but never to do anything you can do better for
yourselves! Agent! The word is derived from a Latin word 'agere,'
to do; and agents act up to their etymology, for they invariably DO
the nincompoop that employs them, or deals with them, in any mortal
way. I'd have got you that beastly little Bijou for ninety pounds
a year."

Uncle Philip went away crusty, leaving the young couple finely
mortified and discouraged.

That did not last very long. Christopher noted the experience and
Uncle Phil's wisdom in his diary, and then took his wife on his
knee, and comforted her, and said, "Never mind; experience is worth
money, and it always has to be bought. Those who cheat us will die
poorer than we shall, if we are honest and economical. I have
observed that people are seldom ruined by the vices of others;
these may hurt them, of course; but it is only their own faults and
follies that can destroy them."

"Ah! Christie," said Rosa, "you are a man! Oh, the comfort of
being married to A MAN. A man sees the best side. I do adore men.
Dearest, I will waste no more of your money. I will go to no more
sales."

Christopher saw she was deeply mortified, and he said, quietly, "On
the contrary, you will go to the very next. Only take Uncle
Philip's advice, employ no broker; and watch the prices things
fetch when you are not bidding; and keep cool."

She caressed his ears with both her white hands, and thanked him
for giving her another trial. So that trouble melted in the
sunshine of conjugal love.

Notwithstanding the agent's solemn assurance, the Bijou was out of
repair. Dr. Staines detected internal odors, as well as those that
flowed in from the mews. He was not the man to let his wife perish
by miasma; so he had the drains all up, and actually found brick
drains, and a cesspool. He stopped that up, and laid down new pipe
drains, with a good fall, and properly trapped. The old drains
were hidden, after the manner of builders. He had the whole course
of his new drains marked upon all the floors they passed under, and
had several stones and boards hinged to facilitate examination at
any period.

But all this, with the necessary cleaning, whitewashing, painting,
and papering, ran away with money. Then came Rosa's purchases,
which, to her amazement, amounted to one hundred and ninety pounds,
and not a carpet, curtain, or bed amongst the lot. Then there was
the carriage home from the auction-room, an expense one avoids by
buying at a shop, and the broker claimed his shilling in the pound.
This, however, Staines refused. The man came and blustered. Rosa,
who was there, trembled. Then, for the first time, she saw her
husband's brow lower; he seemed transfigured, and looked terrible.
"You scoundrel," said he, "you set another villain like yourself to
bid against you, and you betrayed the innocent lady that employed
you. I could indict you and your confederate for a conspiracy. I
take the goods out of respect for my wife's credit, but you shall
gain nothing by swindling her. Be off, you heartless miscreant, or
I'll"--

"I'll take the law, if you do."

"Take it, then! I'll give you something to howl for;" and he
seized him with a grasp so tremendous that the fellow cried out in
dismay, "Oh! don't hit me, sir; pray don't."

On this abject appeal, Staines tore the door open with his left
hand, and spun the broker out into the passage with his right. Two
movements of this angry Hercules, and the man was literally whirled
out of sight with a rapidity and swiftness almost ludicrous; it was
like a trick in a pantomime. A clatter on the stairs betrayed that
he had gone down the first few steps in a wholesale and irregular
manner, though he had just managed to keep his feet.

As for Staines, he stood there still lowering like thunder, and his
eyes like hot coals; but his wife threw her tender arms around him,
and begged him consolingly not to mind.

She was trembling like an aspen.

"Dear me," said Christopher, with a ludicrous change to marked
politeness and respect, "I forgot YOU, in my righteous
indignation." Next he became uxorious. "Did they frighten her, a
duck? Sit on my knee, darling, and pull my hair, for not being
more considerate--there! there!"

This was followed by the whole absurd soothing process, as
practised by manly husbands upon quivering and somewhat hysterical
wives, and ended with a formal apology. "You must not think that I
am passionate; on the contrary, I am always practising self-
government. My maxim is, Animum rege qui nisi paret imperat, and
that means, Make your temper your servant, or else it will be your
master. But to ill-use my dear little wife--it is unnatural, it is
monstrous, it makes my blood boil."

"Oh, dear! don't go into another. It is all over. I can't bear to
see you in a passion; you are so terrible, so beautiful. Ah! they
are fine things, courage and strength. There's nothing I admire so
much."

"Why, they are as common as dirt. What I admire is modesty,
timidity, sweetness; the sensitive cheek that pales or blushes at a
word, the bosom that quivers, and clings to a fellow whenever
anything goes wrong."

"Oh, that is what you admire, is it?" said Rosa dryly.

"Admire it?" said Christopher, not seeing the trap; "I adore it."

"Then, Christie, dear, you are a Simpleton, that is all. And we
are made for one another."

The house was to be furnished and occupied as soon as possible; so
Mrs. Staines and Mrs. Cole went to another sale-room. Mrs. Staines
remembered all Uncle Philip had said, and went plainly dressed; but
her friend declined to sacrifice her showy dress to her friend's
interests. Rosa thought that a little unkind, but said nothing.

In this auction-room they easily got a place at the table, but did
not find it heaven; for a number of secondhand carpets were in the
sale, and these, brimful of dust, were all shown on the table, and
the dirt choked, and poisoned our fair friends. Brokers pestered
them, until at last Rosa, smarting under her late exposure,
addressed the auctioneer quietly, in her silvery tones: "Sir, these
gentlemen are annoying me by forcing their services on me. I do
not intend to buy at all unless I can be allowed to bid for
myself."

When Rosa, blushing and amazed at her own boldness, uttered these
words, she little foresaw their effect. She had touched a popular
sore.

"You are quite right, madam," said a respectable tradesman opposite
her. "What business have these dirty fellows, without a shilling
in their pockets, to go and force themselves on a lady against her
will?"

"It has been complained of in the papers again and again," said
another.

"What! mayn't we live as well as you?" retorted a broker.

"Yes, but not to force yourself on a lady. Why, she'd give you in
charge of the police if you tried it on outside."

Then there was a downright clamor of discussion and chaff.

Presently up rises very slowly a countryman so colossal, that it
seemed as if he would never have done getting up, and gives his
experiences. He informed the company, in a broad Yorkshire
dialect, that he did a bit in furniture, and at first starting
these brokers buzzed about him like flies, and pestered him. "Aah
damned 'em pretty hard," said he, "but they didn't heed any. So
then ah spoke 'em civil, and ah said, 'Well, lads, I dinna come fra
Yorkshire to sit like a dummy and let you buy wi' my brass; the
first that pesters me again ah'll just fell him on t' plaace, like
a caulf, and ah'm not very sure he'll get up again in a hurry.' So
they dropped me like a hot potato; never pestered me again. But if
they won't give over pestering you, mistress, ah'll come round and
just stand behind your chair, and bring nieve with me," showing a
fist like a leg of mutton.

"No, no," said the auctioneer, "that will not do. I will have no
disturbance here. Call the policeman."

While the clerk went to the door for the bobby, a gentleman
reminded the auctioneer that the journals had repeatedly drawn
attention to the nuisance.

"Fault of the public, not mine, sir. Policeman, stand behind that
lady's chair, and if anybody annoys her put him quietly into the
street."

"This auction-room will be to let soon," said a voice at the end of
the table.

"This auction-room," said the auctioneer, master of the gay or
grave at a moment's notice, "is supported by the public and the
trade; it is not supported by paupers."

A Jew upholsterer put in his word. "I do my own business; but I
like to let a poor man live."

"Jonathan," said the auctioneer to one of his servants, "after this
sale you may put up the shutters; we have gone and offended Mr.
Jacobs. He keeps a shop in Blind Alley, Whitechapel. Now then,
lot 69."

Rosa bid timidly for one or two lots, and bought them cheap.

The auctioneer kept looking her way, and she had only to nod.

The obnoxious broker got opposite her, and ran her up a little out
of spite; but as he had only got half a crown about him, and no
means of doubling it, he dared not go far.

On the other side of the table was a figure to which Rosa's eyes
often turned with interest--a fair young boy about twelve years
old; he had golden hair, and was in deep mourning. His appearance
interested Rosa, and she wondered how he came there, and why; he
looked like a lamb wedged in among wolves, a flower among weeds.
As the lots proceeded, the boy seemed to get uneasy; and at last,
when lot '73 was put up, anybody could see in his poor little face
that he was there to bid for it.

"Lot '73, an armchair covered in morocco. An excellent and useful
article. Should not be at all surprised if it was made by Gillow."

"Gillow would though," said Jacobs, who owed him a turn.

Chorus of dealers.--"Haw! haw!"

The auctioneer.--"I like to hear some people run a lot down; shows
they are going to bid for it in earnest. Well, name your own
price. Five pounds to begin?"

Now if nobody had spoken the auctioneer would have gone on, "Well,
four pounds then--three, two, whatever you like," and at last
obtained a bona fide offer of thirty shillings; but the moment he
said "Five pounds to begin," the boy in black lifted up his
childish treble and bid thus, "Five pound ten"--"six pounds"--"six
pound ten"--"seven pounds"--"seven pound ten"--"eight pounds"--
"eight pound ten"--"nine pounds"--"nine pound ten"--"ten pounds!"
without interruption, and indeed almost in a breath.

There was a momentary pause of amazement, and then an outburst of
chaff.

"Nice little boy!"

"Didn't he say his lesson well?"

"Favor us with your card, sir. You are a gent as knows how to
buy."

"What did he stop for? If it's worth ten, it is worth a hundred."

"Bless the child!" said a female dealer, kindly, "what made you go
on like that? Why, there was no one bid against you! you'd have
got it for two pounds--a rickety old thing."

Young master began to whimper. "Why, the gentleman said, 'Five
pounds to BEGIN.' It was the chair poor grandpapa always sat in,
and all the things are sold, and mamma said it would break her
heart to lose it. She was too ill to come, so she sent me. She
told me I was not to let it be sold away from us for less than ten
pounds, or she sh--should be m--m--miserable," and the poor little
fellow began to cry. Rosa followed suit promptly but unobtrusively.

"Sentiment always costs money," said Mr. Jacobs, gravely.

"How do you know?" asked Mr. Cohen. "Have YOU got any on hand? I
never seen none at your shop."

Some tempting things now came up, and Mrs. Staines bid freely; but
all of a sudden she looked down the table, and there was Uncle
Philip, twinkling as before. "Oh, dear! what am I doing now!"
thought she. "I have got no broker."

She bid on, but in fear and trembling, because of those twinkling
eyes. At last she mustered courage, wrote on a leaf of her pocket-
book, and passed it down to him: "It would be only kind to warn me.
What am I doing wrong?"

He sent her back a line directly: "Auctioneer running you up
himself. Follow his eye when he bids; you will see there is no
bona fide bidder at your prices."

Rosa did so, and found that it was true.

She nodded to Uncle Philip; and, with her expressive face, asked
him what she should do.

The old boy must have his joke. So he wrote back: "Tell him, as
you see he has a fancy for certain articles, you would not be so
discourteous as to bid against him."

The next article but one was a drawing-room suite Rosa wanted; but
the auctioneer bid against her; so at eighteen pounds she stopped.

"It is against you, madam," said the auctioneer.

"Yes, sir," said Rosa; "but as you are the only bidder, and you
have been so kind to me, I would not think of opposing you."

The words were scarcely out of her mouth, when they were greeted
with a roar of Homeric laughter that literally shook the room, and
this time not at the expense of the innocent speaker.

"That's into your mutton, governor."

"Sharp's the word this time."

"I say, governor, don't you want a broker to bid for ye?"

"Wink at me next time, sir; I'll do the office for you."

"No greenhorns left now."

"That lady won't give a ten-pund note for her grandfather's
armchair."

"Oh, yes, she will, if it's stuffed with banknotes."

"Put the next lot up with the owner's name and the reserve price.
Open business."

"And sing a psalm at starting."

"A little less noise in Judaea, if you please," said the
auctioneer, who had now recovered from the blow. "Lot 97."

This was a very pretty marqueterie cabinet; it stood against the
wall, and Rosa had set her heart upon it. Nobody would bid. She
had muzzled the auctioneer effectually.

"Your own price."

"Two pounds," said Rosa.

A dealer offered guineas; and it advanced slowly to four pounds and
half a crown, at which it was about to be knocked down to Rosa,
when suddenly a new bidder arose in the broker Rosa had rejected.
They bid slowly and sturdily against each other, until a line was
given to Rosa from Uncle Philip.

"This time it is your own friend, the snipe-nosed woman. She
telegraphed a broker."

Rosa read, and crushed the note. "Six guineas," said she.

"Six-ten."

"Seven."

"Seven-ten."

"Eight."

"Eight-ten."

"Ten guineas," said Rosa; and then, with feminine cunning, stealing
a sudden glance, caught her friend leaning back and signalling the
broker not to give in.

"Eleven pounds."

"Twelve."

"Thirteen."

"Fourteen."

"Sixteen."

"Eighteen."

"Twenty."

"Twenty guineas."

"It is yours, my faithful friend," said Rosa, turning suddenly
round to Mrs. Cole, with a magnificent glance no one would have
thought her capable of.

Then she rose and stalked away.

Dumfounded for the moment, Mrs. Cole followed her, and stopped her
at the door.

"Why, Rosie dear, it is the only thing I have bid for. There I've
sat by your side like a mouse."

Rosa turned gravely towards her. "You know it is not that. You
had only to tell me you wanted it. I would never have been so mean
as to bid against you."

"Mean, indeed!" said. Florence, tossing her head.

"Yes, mean; to draw back and hide behind the friend you were with,
and employ the very rogue she had turned off. But it is my own
fault. Cecilia warned me against you. She always said you were a
treacherous girl."

"And I say you are an impudent little minx. Only just married, and
going about like two vagabonds, and talk to me like that!"

"We are not going about like two vagabonds. We have taken a house
in Mayfair."

"Say a stable."

"It was by your advice, you false-hearted creature."

"You are a fool."

"You are worse; you are a traitress."

"Then don't you have anything to do with me."

"Heaven forbid I should, you treacherous thing!"

"You insolent--insolent--I hate you."

"And I despise you."

"I always hated you at bottom."

"That's why you pretended to love me, you wretch."

"Well, I pretend no more. I am your enemy for life."

"Thank you. You have told the truth for once in your life."

"I have. And he shall never call in your husband; so you may leave
Mayfair as soon as you like."

"Not to please you, madam. We can get on without traitors."

And so they parted, with eyes that gleamed like tigers.

Rosa drove home in great agitation, and tried to tell Christopher;
but choked, and became hysterical. The husband-physician coaxed
and scolded her out of that; and presently in came Uncle Philip,
full of the humors of the auction-room. He told about the little
boy with a delight that disgusted Mrs. Staines, and then was
particularly merry on female friendships. "Fancy a man going to a
sale with his friend, and bidding against him on the sly."

"She is no friend of mine. We are enemies for life."

"And you were to be friends till death," said Staines, with a sigh.

Philip inquired who she was.

"Mrs. John Cole."

"Not of Curzon Street?"

"Yes."

"And you have quarrelled with her?"

"Yes."

"Well, but her husband is a general practitioner."

"She is a traitress."

"But her husband could put a good deal of money in Christopher's

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