My mother, though highly exasperating to the feelings, is actuated by maternal dictates."
I could hardly have believed that anybody could in a moment have turned so red or changed so much as Mr. Guppy did when I now put up my veil.
"I asked the favour of seeing you for a few moments here," said I, "in preference to calling at Mr. Kenge's because, remembering what you said on an occasion when you spoke to me in confidence, I feared I might otherwise cause you some embarrassment, Mr. Guppy."
I caused him embarrassment enough as it was, I am sure. I never saw such faltering, such confusion, such amazement and apprehension.
"Miss Summerson," stammered Mr. Guppy, "I--I--beg your pardon, but in our profession--we--we--find it necessary to be explicit. You have referred to an occasion, miss, when I--when I did myself the honour of making a declaration which--"
Something seemed to rise in his throat that he could not possibly swallow. He put his hand there, coughed, made faces, tried again to swallow it, coughed again, made faces again, looked all round the room, and fluttered his papers.
"A kind of giddy sensation has come upon me, miss," he explained, "which rather knocks me over. I--er--a little subject to this sort of thing--er--by George!"
I gave him a little time to recover. He consumed it in putting his hand to his forehead and taking it away again, and in backing his chair into the corner behind him.
"My intention was to remark, miss," said Mr. Guppy, "dear me-- something bronchial, I think--hem!--to remark that you was so good on that occasion as to repel and repudiate that declaration. You-- you wouldn't perhaps object to admit that? Though no witnesses are present, it might be a satisfaction to--to your mind--if you was to put in that admission."
"There can be no doubt," said I, "that I declined your proposal without any reservation or qualification whatever, Mr. Guppy."
"Thank you, miss," he returned, measuring the table with his troubled hands. "So far that's satisfactory, and it does you credit. Er--this is certainly bronchial!--must be in the tubes-- er--you wouldn't perhaps be offended if I was to mention--not that it's necessary, for your own good sense or any person's sense must show 'em that--if I was to mention that such declaration on my part was final, and there terminated?"
"I quite understand that," said I.
"Perhaps--er--it may not be worth the form, but it might be a satisfaction to your mind--perhaps you wouldn't object to admit that, miss?" said Mr. Guppy.
"I admit it most fully and freely," said I.
"Thank you," returned Mr. Guppy. "Very honourable, I am sure. I regret that my arrangements in life, combined with circumstances over which I have no control, will put it out of my power ever to fall back upon that offer or to renew it in any shape or form whatever, but it will ever be a retrospect entwined--er--with friendship's bowers." Mr. Guppy's bronchitis came to his relief and stopped his measurement of the table.
"I may now perhaps mention what I wished to say to you?" I began.
"I shall be honoured, I am sure," said Mr. Guppy. "I am so persuaded that your own good sense and right feeling, miss, will-- will keep you as square as possible--that I can have nothing but pleasure, I am sure, in hearing any observations you may wish to offer."
"You were so good as to imply, on that occasion--"
"Excuse me, miss," said Mr. Guppy, "but we had better not travel out of the record into implication. I cannot admit that I implied anything."
"You said on that occasion," I recommenced, "that you might possibly have the means of advancing my interests and promoting my fortunes by making discoveries of which I should be the subject. I presume that you founded that belief upon your general knowledge of my being an orphan girl, indebted for everything to the benevolence of Mr. Jarndyce. Now, the beginning and the end of what I have come to beg of you is, Mr. Guppy, that you will have the kindness to relinquish all idea of so serving me.