This may have been partially attributable to the gallantry of the youngest gentleman, but it was certainly referable to the state of his feelings also; for his eyes being frequently dimmed by tears, he thought that aces were tens, and knaves queens, which at times occasioned some confusion in his play.
On the seventh night of cribbage, when Mrs Todgers, sitting by, proposed that instead of gambling they should play for 'love,' Mr Moddle was seen to change colour. On the fourteenth night, he kissed Miss Pecksniff's snuffers, in the passage, when she went upstairs to bed; meaning to have kissed her hand, but missing it.
In short, Mr Moddle began to be impressed with the idea that Miss Pecksniff's mission was to comfort him; and Miss Pecksniff began to speculate on the probability of its being her mission to become ultimately Mrs Moddle. He was a young gentleman (Miss Pecksniff was not a very young lady) with rising prospects, and 'almost' enough to live on. Really it looked very well.
Besides--besides--he had been regarded as devoted to Merry. Merry had joked about him, and had once spoken of it to her sister as a conquest. He was better looking, better shaped, better spoken, better tempered, better mannered than Jonas. He was easy to manage, could be made to consult the humours of his Betrothed, and could be shown off like a lamb when Jonas was a bear. There was the rub!
In the meantime the cribbage went on, and Mrs Todgers went off; for the youngest gentleman, dropping her society, began to take Miss Pecksniff to the play. He also began, as Mrs Todgers said, to slip home 'in his dinner-times,' and to get away from 'the office' at unholy seasons; and twice, as he informed Mrs Todgers himself, he received anonymous letters, enclosing cards from Furniture Warehouses--clearly the act of that ungentlemanly ruffian Jinkins; only he hadn't evidence enough to call him out upon. All of which, so Mrs Todgers told Miss Pecksniff, spoke as plain English as the shining sun.
'My dear Miss Pecksniff, you may depend upon it,' said Mrs Todgers, 'that he is burning to propose.'
'My goodness me, why don't he then?' cried Cherry.
'Men are so much more timid than we think 'em, my dear,' returned Mrs Todgers. 'They baulk themselves continually. I saw the words on Todgers's lips for months and months and months, before he said 'em.'
Miss Pecksniff submitted that Todgers might not have been a fair specimen.
'Oh yes, he was. Oh bless you, yes, my dear. I was very particular in those days, I assure you,' said Mrs Todgers, bridling. 'No, no. You give Mr Moddle a little encouragement, Miss Pecksniff, if you wish him to speak; and he'll speak fast enough, depend upon it.'
'I am sure I don't know what encouragement he would have, Mrs Todgers,' returned Charity. 'He walks with me, and plays cards with me, and he comes and sits alone with me.'
'Quite right,' said Mrs Todgers. 'That's indispensable, my dear.'
'And he sits very close to me.'
'Also quite correct,' said Mrs Todgers.
'And he looks at me.'
'To be sure he does,' said Mrs Todgers.
'And he has his arm upon the back of the chair or sofa, or whatever it is--behind me, you know.'
'I should think so,' said Mrs Todgers.
'And then he begins to cry!'
Mrs Todgers admitted that he might do better than that; and might undoubtedly profit by the recollection of the great Lord Nelson's signal at the battle of Trafalgar. Still, she said, he would come round, or, not to mince the matter, would be brought round, if Miss Pecksniff took up a decided position, and plainly showed him that it must be done.
Determining to regulate her conduct by this opinion, the young lady received Mr Moddle, on the earliest subsequent occasion, with an air of constraint; and gradually leading him to inquire, in a dejected manner, why she was so changed, confessed to him that she felt it necessary for their mutual peace and happiness to take a decided step. They had been much together lately, she observed, much together, and had tasted the sweets of a genuine reciprocity of sentiment.