I hoped you would come back that night. I made quite sure you would. I prayed for it on my knees. Through all these long, long years, I have never once forgotten you, or left off hoping that this happy time might come.'
The eloquence of Joe's arm surpassed the most impassioned language; and so did that of his lips--yet he said nothing, either.
'And now, at last,' cried Dolly, trembling with the fervour of her speech, 'if you were sick, and shattered in your every limb; if you were ailing, weak, and sorrowful; if, instead of being what you are, you were in everybody's eyes but mine the wreck and ruin of a man; I would be your wife, dear love, with greater pride and joy, than if you were the stateliest lord in England!'
'What have I done,' cried Joe, 'what have I done to meet with this reward?'
'You have taught me,' said Dolly, raising her pretty face to his, 'to know myself, and your worth; to be something better than I was; to be more deserving of your true and manly nature. In years to come, dear Joe, you shall find that you have done so; for I will be, not only now, when we are young and full of hope, but when we have grown old and weary, your patient, gentle, never-tiring wife. I will never know a wish or care beyond our home and you, and I will always study how to please you with my best affection and my most devoted love. I will: indeed I will!'
Joe could only repeat his former eloquence--but it was very much to the purpose.
'They know of this, at home,' said Dolly. 'For your sake, I would leave even them; but they know it, and are glad of it, and are as proud of you as I am, and as full of gratitude.--You'll not come and see me as a poor friend who knew me when I was a girl, will you, dear Joe?'
Well, well! It don't matter what Joe said in answer, but he said a great deal; and Dolly said a great deal too: and he folded Dolly in his one arm pretty tight, considering that it was but one; and Dolly made no resistance: and if ever two people were happy in this world--which is not an utterly miserable one, with all its faults-- we may, with some appearance of certainty, conclude that they were.
To say that during these proceedings Mr Willet the elder underwent the greatest emotions of astonishment of which our common nature is susceptible--to say that he was in a perfect paralysis of surprise, and that he wandered into the most stupendous and theretofore unattainable heights of complicated amazement--would be to shadow forth his state of mind in the feeblest and lamest terms. If a roc, an eagle, a griffin, a flying elephant, a winged sea-horse, had suddenly appeared, and, taking him on its back, carried him bodily into the heart of the 'Salwanners,' it would have been to him as an everyday occurrence, in comparison with what he now beheld. To be sitting quietly by, seeing and hearing these things; to be completely overlooked, unnoticed, and disregarded, while his son and a young lady were talking to each other in the most impassioned manner, kissing each other, and making themselves in all respects perfectly at home; was a position so tremendous, so inexplicable, so utterly beyond the widest range of his capacity of comprehension, that he fell into a lethargy of wonder, and could no more rouse himself than an enchanted sleeper in the first year of his fairy lease, a century long.
'Father,' said Joe, presenting Dolly. 'You know who this is?'
Mr Willet looked first at her, then at his son, then back again at Dolly, and then made an ineffectual effort to extract a whiff from his pipe, which had gone out long ago.
'Say a word, father, if it's only "how d'ye do,"' urged Joe.
'Certainly, Joseph,' answered Mr Willet. 'Oh yes! Why not?'
'To be sure,' said Joe. 'Why not?'
'Ah!' replied his father. 'Why not?' and with this remark, which he uttered in a low voice as though he were discussing some grave question with himself, he used the little finger--if any of his fingers can be said to have come under that denomination--of his right hand as a tobacco-stopper, and was silent again.