'So we are,' said the beadle.
Nothing was said on either side, for a minute or two afterwards. By the expiration of that time, Mr. Bumble had illustrated the position by removing his left arm from the back of Mrs. Corney's chair, where it had previously rested, to Mrs. Corney's aprong-string, round which is gradually became entwined.
'We are all weak creeturs,' said Mr. Bumble.
Mrs. Corney sighed.
'Don't sigh, Mrs. Corney,' said Mr. Bumble.
'I can't help it,' said Mrs. Corney. And she sighed again.
'This is a very comfortable room, ma'am,' said Mr. Bumble looking round. 'Another room, and this, ma'am, would be a complete thing.'
'It would be too much for one,' murmured the lady.
'But not for two, ma'am,' rejoined Mr. Bumble, in soft accents. 'Eh, Mrs. Corney?'
Mrs. Corney drooped her head, when the beadle said this; the beadle drooped his, to get a view of Mrs. Corney's face. Mrs. Corney, with great propriety, turned her head away, and released her hand to get at her pocket-handkerchief; but insensibly replaced it in that of Mr. Bumble.
'The board allows you coals, don't they, Mrs. Corney?' inquired the beadle, affectionately pressing her hand.
'And candles,' replied Mrs. Corney, slightly returning the pressure.
'Coals, candles, and house-rent free,' said Mr. Bumble. 'Oh, Mrs. Corney, what an Angel you are!'
The lady was not proof against this burst of feeling. She sank into Mr. Bumble's arms; and that gentleman in his agitation, imprinted a passionate kiss upon her chaste nose.
'Such porochial perfection!' exclaimed Mr. Bumble, rapturously. 'You know that Mr. Slout is worse to-night, my fascinator?'
'Yes,' replied Mrs. Corney, bashfully.
'He can't live a week, the doctor says,' pursued Mr. Bumble. 'He is the master of this establishment; his death will cause a wacancy; that wacancy must be filled up. Oh, Mrs. Corney, what a prospect this opens! What a opportunity for a jining of hearts and housekeepings!'
Mrs. Corney sobbed.
'The little word?' said Mr. Bumble, bending over the bashful beauty. 'The one little, little, little word, my blessed Corney?'
'Ye--ye--yes!' sighed out the matron.
'One more,' pursued the beadle; 'compose your darling feelings for only one more. When is it to come off?'
Mrs. Corney twice essayed to speak: and twice failed. At length summoning up courage, she threw her arms around Mr. Bumble's neck, and said, it might be as soon as ever he pleased, and that he was 'a irresistible duck.'
Matters being thus amicably and satisfactorily arranged, the contract was solemnly ratified in another teacupful of the peppermint mixture; which was rendered the more necessary, by the flutter and agitation of the lady's spirits. While it was being disposed of, she acquainted Mr. Bumble with the old woman's decease.
'Very good,' said that gentleman, sipping his peppermint; 'I'll call at Sowerberry's as I go home, and tell him to send to-morrow morning. Was it that as frightened you, love?'
'It wasn't anything particular, dear,' said the lady evasively.
'It must have been something, love,' urged Mr. Bumble. 'Won't you tell your own B.?'
'Not now,' rejoined the lady; 'one of these days. After we're married, dear.'
'After we're married!' exclaimed Mr. Bumble. 'It wasn't any impudence from any of them male paupers as--'
'No, no, love!' interposed the lady, hastily.
'If I thought it was,' continued Mr. Bumble; 'if I thought as any one of 'em had dared to lift his wulgar eyes to that lovely countenance--'
'They wouldn't have dared to do it, love,' responded the lady.
'They had better not!' said Mr. Bumble, clenching his fist. 'Let me see any man, porochial or extra-porochial, as would presume to do it; and I can tell him that he wouldn't do it a second time!'
Unembellished by any violence of gesticulation, this might have seemed no very high compliment to the lady's charms; but, as Mr. Bumble accompanied the threat with many warlike gestures, she was much touched with this proof of his devotion, and protested, with great admiration, that he was indeed a dove.