Not yet awhile, I hope.'
'You hope?' said the old man.
It was very gravely said, but she took it for banter, and giggled excessively.
'Come!' said the old man, with unusual kindness, 'you are young, good-looking, and I think good-natured! Frivolous you are, and love to be, undoubtedly; but you must have some heart.'
'I have not given it all away, I can tell you,' said Merry, nodding her head shrewdly, and plucking up the grass.
'Have you parted with any of it?'
She threw the grass about, and looked another way, but said nothing.
Martin repeated his question.
'Lor, my dear Mr Chuzzlewit! really you must excuse me! How very odd you are.'
'If it be odd in me to desire to know whether you love the young man whom I understand you are to marry, I AM very odd,' said Martin. 'For that is certainly my wish.'
'He's such a monster, you know,' said Merry, pouting.
'Then you don't love him?' returned the old man. 'Is that your meaning?'
'Why, my dear Mr Chuzzlewit, I'm sure I tell him a hundred times a day that I hate him. You must have heard me tell him that.'
'Often,' said Martin.
'And so I do,' cried Merry. 'I do positively.'
'Being at the same time engaged to marry him,' observed the old man.
'Oh yes,' said Merry. 'But I told the wretch--my dear Mr Chuzzlewit, I told him when he asked me--that if I ever did marry him, it should only be that I might hate and tease him all my life.'
She had a suspicion that the old man regarded Jonas with anything but favour, and intended these remarks to be extremely captivating. He did not appear, however, to regard them in that light by any means; for when he spoke again, it was in a tone of severity.
'Look about you,' he said, pointing to the graves; 'and remember that from your bridal hour to the day which sees you brought as low as these, and laid in such a bed, there will be no appeal against him. Think, and speak, and act, for once, like an accountable creature. Is any control put upon your inclinations? Are you forced into this match? Are you insidiously advised or tempted to contract it, by any one? I will not ask by whom; by any one?'
'No,' said Merry, shrugging her shoulders. 'I don't know that I am.'
'Don't know that you are! Are you?'
'No,' replied Merry. 'Nobody ever said anything to me about it. If any one had tried to make me have him, I wouldn't have had him at all.'
'I am told that he was at first supposed to be your sister's admirer,' said Martin.
'Oh, good gracious! My dear Mr Chuzzlewit, it would be very hard to make him, though he IS a monster, accountable for other people's vanity,' said Merry. 'And poor dear Cherry is the vainest darling!'
'It was her mistake, then?'
'I hope it was,' cried Merry; 'but, all along, the dear child has been so dreadfully jealous, and SO cross, that, upon my word and honour, it's impossible to please her, and it's of no use trying.'
'Not forced, persuaded, or controlled,' said Martin, thoughtfully. 'And that's true, I see. There is one chance yet. You may have lapsed into this engagement in very giddiness. It may have been the wanton act of a light head. Is that so?'
'My dear Mr Chuzzlewit,' simpered Merry, 'as to light-headedness, there never was such a feather of a head as mine. It's perfect balloon, I declare! You never DID, you know!'
He waited quietly till she had finished, and then said, steadily and slowly, and in a softened voice, as if he would still invite her confidence:
'Have you any wish--or is there anything within your breast that whispers you may form the wish, if you have time to think--to be released from this engagement?'
Again Miss Merry pouted, and looked down, and plucked the grass, and shrugged her shoulders. No. She didn't know that she had. She was pretty sure she hadn't. Quite sure, she might say. She 'didn't mind it.'
'Has it ever occurred to you,' said Martin, 'that your married life may perhaps be miserable, full of bitterness, and most unhappy?'
Merry looked down again; and now she tore the grass up by the roots.