'Now,' said Mr. Gabriel Parsons, as they drove to Norwood together- -'you shall have an opportunity to make the disclosure to-night, and mind you speak out, Tottle.'
'I will--I will!' replied Watkins, valorously.
'How I should like to see you together,' ejaculated Mr. Gabriel Parsons.--'What fun!' and he laughed so long and so loudly, that he disconcerted Mr. Watkins Tottle, and frightened the horse.
'There's Fanny and your intended walking about on the lawn,' said Gabriel, as they approached the house. 'Mind your eye, Tottle.'
'Never fear,' replied Watkins, resolutely, as he made his way to the spot where the ladies were walking.
'Here's Mr. Tottle, my dear,' said Mrs. Parsons, addressing Miss Lillerton. The lady turned quickly round, and acknowledged his courteous salute with the same sort of confusion that Watkins had noticed on their first interview, but with something like a slight expression of disappointment or carelessness.
'Did you see how glad she was to see you?' whispered Parsons to his friend.
'Why, I really thought she looked as if she would rather have seen somebody else,' replied Tottle.
'Pooh, nonsense!' whispered Parsons again--'it's always the way with the women, young or old. They never show how delighted they are to see those whose presence makes their hearts beat. It's the way with the whole sex, and no man should have lived to your time of life without knowing it. Fanny confessed it to me, when we were first married, over and over again--see what it is to have a wife.'
'Certainly,' whispered Tottle, whose courage was vanishing fast.
'Well, now, you'd better begin to pave the way,' said Parsons, who, having invested some money in the speculation, assumed the office of director.
'Yes, yes, I will--presently,' replied Tottle, greatly flurried.
'Say something to her, man,' urged Parsons again. 'Confound it! pay her a compliment, can't you?'
'No! not till after dinner,' replied the bashful Tottle, anxious to postpone the evil moment.
'Well, gentlemen,' said Mrs. Parsons, 'you are really very polite; you stay away the whole morning, after promising to take us out, and when you do come home, you stand whispering together and take no notice of us.'
'We were talking of the BUSINESS, my dear, which detained us this morning,' replied Parsons, looking significantly at Tottle.
'Dear me! how very quickly the morning has gone,' said Miss Lillerton, referring to the gold watch, which was wound up on state occasions, whether it required it or not.
'I think it has passed very slowly,' mildly suggested Tottle.
('That's right--bravo!') whispered Parsons.
'Indeed!' said Miss Lillerton, with an air of majestic surprise.
'I can only impute it to my unavoidable absence from your society, madam,' said Watkins, 'and that of Mrs. Parsons.'
During this short dialogue, the ladies had been leading the way to the house.
'What the deuce did you stick Fanny into that last compliment for?' inquired Parsons, as they followed together; 'it quite spoilt the effect.'
'Oh! it really would have been too broad without,' replied Watkins Tottle, 'much too broad!'
'He's mad!' Parsons whispered his wife, as they entered the drawing-room, 'mad from modesty.'
'Dear me!' ejaculated the lady, 'I never heard of such a thing.'
'You'll find we have quite a family dinner, Mr. Tottle,' said Mrs. Parsons, when they sat down to table: 'Miss Lillerton is one of us, and, of course, we make no stranger of you.'
Mr. Watkins Tottle expressed a hope that the Parsons family never would make a stranger of him; and wished internally that his bashfulness would allow him to feel a little less like a stranger himself.
'Take off the covers, Martha,' said Mrs. Parsons, directing the shifting of the scenery with great anxiety. The order was obeyed, and a pair of boiled fowls, with tongue and et ceteras, were displayed at the top, and a fillet of veal at the bottom. On one side of the table two green sauce-tureens, with ladles of the same, were setting to each other in a green dish; and on the other was a curried rabbit, in a brown suit, turned up with lemon.