Parsons has acquainted you with my feeling--my affection--I mean my respect, for an individual of the opposite sex?'
'Then, what?' inquired Miss Lillerton, averting her face, with a girlish air, 'what could induce YOU to seek such an interview as this? What can your object be? How can I promote your happiness, Mr. Tottle?'
Here was the time for a flourish--'By allowing me,' replied Watkins, falling bump on his knees, and breaking two brace-buttons and a waistcoat-string, in the act--'By allowing me to be your slave, your servant--in short, by unreservedly making me the confidant of your heart's feelings--may I say for the promotion of your own happiness--may I say, in order that you may become the wife of a kind and affectionate husband?'
'Disinterested creature!' exclaimed Miss Lillerton, hiding her face in a white pocket-handkerchief with an eyelet-hole border.
Mr. Watkins Tottle thought that if the lady knew all, she might possibly alter her opinion on this last point. He raised the tip of her middle finger ceremoniously to his lips, and got off his knees, as gracefully as he could. 'My information was correct?' he tremulously inquired, when he was once more on his feet.
'It was.' Watkins elevated his hands, and looked up to the ornament in the centre of the ceiling, which had been made for a lamp, by way of expressing his rapture.
'Our situation, Mr. Tottle,' resumed the lady, glancing at him through one of the eyelet-holes, 'is a most peculiar and delicate one.'
'It is,' said Mr. Tottle.
'Our acquaintance has been of SO short duration,' said Miss Lillerton.
'Only a week,' assented Watkins Tottle.
'Oh! more than that,' exclaimed the lady, in a tone of surprise.
'Indeed!' said Tottle.
'More than a month--more than two months!' said Miss Lillerton.
'Rather odd, this,' thought Watkins.
'Oh!' he said, recollecting Parsons's assurance that she had known him from report, 'I understand. But, my dear madam, pray, consider. The longer this acquaintance has existed, the less reason is there for delay now. Why not at once fix a period for gratifying the hopes of your devoted admirer?'
'It has been represented to me again and again that this is the course I ought to pursue,' replied Miss Lillerton, 'but pardon my feelings of delicacy, Mr. Tottle--pray excuse this embarrassment--I have peculiar ideas on such subjects, and I am quite sure that I never could summon up fortitude enough to name the day to my future husband.'
'Then allow ME to name it,' said Tottle eagerly.
'I should like to fix it myself,' replied Miss Lillerton, bashfully, 'but I cannot do so without at once resorting to a third party.'
'A third party!' thought Watkins Tottle; 'who the deuce is that to be, I wonder!'
'Mr. Tottle,' continued Miss Lillerton, 'you have made me a most disinterested and kind offer--that offer I accept. Will you at once be the bearer of a note from me to--to Mr. Timson?'
'Mr. Timson!' said Watkins.
'After what has passed between us,' responded Miss Lillerton, still averting her head, 'you must understand whom I mean; Mr. Timson, the--the--clergyman.'
'Mr. Timson, the clergyman!' ejaculated Watkins Tottle, in a state of inexpressible beatitude, and positive wonder at his own success. 'Angel! Certainly--this moment!'
'I'll prepare it immediately,' said Miss Lillerton, making for the door; 'the events of this day have flurried me so much, Mr. Tottle, that I shall not leave my room again this evening; I will send you the note by the servant.'
'Stay,--stay,' cried Watkins Tottle, still keeping a most respectful distance from the lady; 'when shall we meet again?'
'Oh! Mr. Tottle,' replied Miss Lillerton, coquettishly, 'when WE are married, I can never see you too often, nor thank you too much;' and she left the room.
Mr. Watkins Tottle flung himself into an arm-chair, and indulged in the most delicious reveries of future bliss, in which the idea of 'Five hundred pounds per annum, with an uncontrolled power of disposing of it by her last will and testament,' was somehow or other the foremost.