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The cloth was removed; the ladies soon afterwards retired, and Miss Lillerton played the piano in the drawing-room overhead, very loudly, for the edification of the visitor. Mr. Watkins Tottle and Mr. Gabriel Parsons sat chatting comfortably enough, until the conclusion of the second bottle, when the latter, in proposing an adjournment to the drawing-room, informed Watkins that he had concerted a plan with his wife, for leaving him and Miss Lillerton alone, soon after tea.
'I say,' said Tottle, as they went up-stairs, 'don't you think it would be better if we put it off till-till-to-morrow?'
'Don't YOU think it would have been much better if I had left you in that wretched hole I found you in this morning?' retorted Parsons bluntly.
'Well - well - I only made a suggestion,' said poor Watkins Tottle, with a deep sigh.
Tea was soon concluded, and Miss Lillerton, drawing a small work- table on one side of the fire, and placing a little wooden frame upon it, something like a miniature clay-mill without the horse, was soon busily engaged in making a watch-guard with brown silk.
'God bless me!' exclaimed Parsons, starting up with well-feigned surprise, 'I've forgotten those confounded letters. Tottle, I know you'll excuse me.'
If Tottle had been a free agent, he would have allowed no one to leave the room on any pretence, except himself. As it was, however, he was obliged to look cheerful when Parsons quitted the apartment.
He had scarcely left, when Martha put her head into the room, with - 'Please, ma'am, you're wanted.'
Mrs. Parsons left the room, shut the door carefully after her, and Mr. Watkins Tottle was left alone with Miss Lillerton.
For the first five minutes there was a dead silence. - Mr. Watkins Tottle was thinking how he should begin, and Miss Lillerton appeared to be thinking of nothing. The fire was burning low; Mr. Watkins Tottle stirred it, and put some coals on.
'Hem!' coughed Miss Lillerton; Mr. Watkins Tottle thought the fair creature had spoken. 'I beg your pardon,' said he.
'I thought you spoke.'
'There are some books on the sofa, Mr. Tottle, if you would like to look at them,' said Miss Lillerton, after the lapse of another five minutes.
'No, thank you,' returned Watkins; and then he added, with a courage which was perfectly astonishing, even to himself, 'Madam, that is Miss Lillerton, I wish to speak to you.'
'To me!' said Miss Lillerton, letting the silk drop from her hands, and sliding her chair back a few paces. - 'Speak - to me!'
'To you, madam - and on the subject of the state of your affections.' The lady hastily rose and would have left the room; but Mr. Watkins Tottle gently detained her by the hand, and holding it as far from him as the joint length of their arms would permit, he thus proceeded: 'Pray do not misunderstand me, or suppose that I am led to address you, after so short an acquaintance, by any feeling of my own merits - for merits I have none which could give me a claim to your hand. I hope you will acquit me of any presumption when I explain that I have been acquainted through Mrs. Parsons, with the state - that is, that Mrs. Parsons has told me - at least, not Mrs. Parsons, but - ' here Watkins began to wander, but Miss Lillerton relieved him.
'Am I to understand, Mr. Tottle, that Mrs. Parsons has acquainted you with my feeling - my affection - I mean my respect, for an individual of the opposite sex?'
'Then, what?' inquired Miss Lillerton, averting her face, with a girlish air, 'what could induce YOU to seek such an interview as this? What can your object be? How can I promote your happiness, Mr. Tottle?'
Here was the time for a flourish - 'By allowing me,' replied Watkins, falling bump on his knees, and breaking two brace-buttons and a waistcoat-string, in the act - 'By allowing me to be your slave, your servant - in short, by unreservedly making me the confidant of your heart's feelings - may I say for the promotion of your own happiness - may I say, in order that you may become the wife of a kind and affectionate husband?'
'Disinterested creature!' exclaimed Miss Lillerton, hiding her face in a white pocket-handkerchief with an eyelet-hole border.
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 I 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.
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Sketches by Boz -- by Charles Dickens