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Mr. Watkins Tottle thought that if the lady knew all, she might possibly alter her opinion on this last point. He raised the tip of her middle finger ceremoniously to his lips, and got off his knees, as gracefully as he could. 'My information was correct?' he tremulously inquired, when he was once more on his feet.
'It was.' Watkins elevated his hands, and looked up to the ornament in the centre of the ceiling, which had been made for a lamp, by way of expressing his rapture.
'Our situation, Mr. Tottle,' resumed the lady, glancing at him through one of the eyelet-holes, 'is a most peculiar and delicate one.'
'It is,' said Mr. Tottle.
'Our acquaintance has been of SO short duration,' said Miss Lillerton.
'Only a week,' assented Watkins Tottle.
'Oh! more than that,' exclaimed the lady, in a tone of surprise.
'Indeed!' said Tottle.
'More than a month - more than two months!' said Miss Lillerton.
'Rather odd, this,' thought Watkins.
'Oh!' he said, recollecting Parsons's assurance that she had known him from report, 'I understand. But, my dear madam, pray, consider. The longer this acquaintance has existed, the less reason is there for delay now. Why not at once fix a period for gratifying the hopes of your devoted admirer?'
'It has been represented to me again and again that this is the course I ought to pursue,' replied Miss Lillerton, 'but pardon my feelings of delicacy, Mr. Tottle - pray excuse this embarrassment - I have peculiar ideas on such subjects, and I am quite sure that I never could summon up fortitude enough to name the day to my future husband.'
'Then allow ME to name it,' said Tottle eagerly.
'I should like to fix it myself,' replied Miss Lillerton, bashfully, 'but I cannot do so without at once resorting to a third party.'
'A third party!' thought Watkins Tottle; 'who the deuce is that to be, I wonder!'
'Mr. Tottle,' continued Miss Lillerton, 'you have made me a most disinterested and kind offer - that offer I accept. Will you at once be the bearer of a note from me to - to Mr. Timson?'
'Mr. Timson!' said Watkins.
'After what has passed between us,' responded Miss Lillerton, still averting her head, 'you must understand whom I mean; Mr. Timson, the - the - clergyman.'
'Mr. Timson, the clergyman!' ejaculated Watkins Tottle, in a state of inexpressible beatitude, and positive wonder at his own success. 'Angel! Certainly - this moment!'
'I'll prepare it immediately,' said Miss Lillerton, making for the door; 'the events of this day have flurried me so much, Mr. Tottle, that I shall not leave my room again this evening; I will send you the note by the servant.'
'Stay, - stay,' cried Watkins Tottle, still keeping a most respectful distance from the lady; 'when shall we meet again?'
'Oh! Mr. Tottle,' replied Miss Lillerton, coquettishly, 'when WE are married, I can never see you too often, nor thank you too much;' and she left the room.
Mr. Watkins Tottle flung himself into an arm-chair, and indulged in the most delicious reveries of future bliss, in which the idea of 'Five hundred pounds per annum, with an uncontrolled power of disposing of it by her last will and testament,' was somehow or other the foremost. He had gone through the interview so well, and it had terminated so admirably, that he almost began to wish he had expressly stipulated for the settlement of the annual five hundred on himself.
'May I come in?' said Mr. Gabriel Parsons, peeping in at the door.
'You may,' replied Watkins.
'Well, have you done it?' anxiously inquired Gabriel.
'Have I done it!' said Watkins Tottle. 'Hush - I'm going to the clergyman.'
'No!' said Parsons. 'How well you have managed it!'
'Where does Timson live?' inquired Watkins.
'At his uncle's,' replied Gabriel, 'just round the lane. He's waiting for a living, and has been assisting his uncle here for the last two or three months. But how well you have done it - I didn't think you could have carried it off so!'
Mr. Watkins Tottle was proceeding to demonstrate that the Richardsonian principle was the best on which love could possibly be made, when he was interrupted by the entrance of Martha, with a little pink note folded like a fancy cocked-hat.
'Miss Lillerton's compliments,' said Martha, as she delivered it into Tottle's hands, and vanished.
'Do you observe the delicacy?' said Tottle, appealing to Mr. Gabriel Parsons. 'COMPLIMENTS, not LOVE, by the servant, eh?'
Mr. Gabriel Parsons didn't exactly know what reply to make, so he poked the forefinger of his right hand between the third and fourth ribs of Mr. Watkins Tottle.
'Come,' said Watkins, when the explosion of mirth, consequent on this practical jest, had subsided, 'we'll be off at once - let's lose no time.'
'Capital!' echoed Gabriel Parsons; and in five minutes they were at the garden-gate of the villa tenanted by the uncle of Mr. Timson.
'Is Mr. Charles Timson at home?' inquired Mr. Watkins Tottle of Mr. Charles Timson's uncle's man.
'Mr. Charles IS at home,' replied the man, stammering; 'but he desired me to say he couldn't be interrupted, sir, by any of the parishioners.'
'I am not a parishioner,' replied Watkins.
'Is Mr. Charles writing a sermon, Tom?' inquired Parsons, thrusting himself forward.
'No, Mr. Parsons, sir; he's not exactly writing a sermon, but he is practising the violoncello in his own bedroom, and gave strict orders not to be disturbed.'
'Say I'm here,' replied Gabriel, leading the way across the garden; 'Mr. Parsons and Mr. Tottle, on private and particular business.'
They were shown into the parlour, and the servant departed to deliver his message. The distant groaning of the violoncello ceased; footsteps were heard on the stairs; and Mr. Timson presented himself, and shook hands with Parsons with the utmost cordiality.
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Sketches by Boz -- by Charles Dickens