THE CAVALIER: (Shaking his head and smirking,—or seeming to)!!!
BELLEW: Well, I’m willing to bet you anything you like that if you were to step down out of your frame, change your velvets and laces for trousers and coat, leave off your great peruke, and wear a derby hat instead of that picturesque, floppy affair, and try your fortune with some Twentieth Century damsel, your high-sounding gallantries, and flattering phrases, would fall singularly flat, and you would be promptly—turned down, sir.
THE CAVALIER: (Tossing his love-locks,—or seeming to)!!!
BELLEW: The “strong hand,” you say? Hum! History tells us that William the Conqueror wooed his lady with a club, or a battle-axe, or something of the sort, and she consequently liked him the better for it; which was all very natural, and proper of course, in her case, seeing that hers was the day of battle-axes, and things. But then, as I said before, sir,—the times are sadly changed,—women may still admire strength of body, and even—occasionally—of mind, but the theory of “Dog, woman, and walnut tree” is quite obsolete.
THE CAVALIER: (Frowning and shaking his head,—or seeming to)!!!
BELLEW: Ha!—you don’t believe me? Well, that is because you are obsolete, too;—yes sir, as obsolete as your hat, or your boots, or your long rapier. Now, for instance, suppose I were to ask your advice in my own case? You know precisely how the matter stands at present, between Miss Anthea and myself. You also know Miss Anthea personally, since you have seen her much and often, and have watched her grow from childhood into—er—glorious womanhood,—I repeat sir glorious womanhood. Thus, you ought to know, and understand her far better than I,—for I do confess she is a constant source of bewilderment to me. Now, since you do know her so well,—what course should you adopt, were you in my place?
THE CAVALIER: (Smirking more knowingly than ever,—or seeming to)!!!
BELLEW: Preposterous! Quite absurd!—and just what I might have expected. Carry her off, indeed! No no, we are not living in your bad, old, glorious days when a maid’s “No” was generally taken to mean “Yes”—or when a lover might swing his reluctant mistress up to his saddle-bow, and ride off with her, leaving the world far behind. To-day it is all changed,—sadly changed. Your age was a wild age, a violent age, but in some respects, perhaps, a rather glorious age. Your advice is singularly characteristic, and, of course, quite impossible, alas!—Carry her off, indeed!
Hereupon, Bellew sighed, and turning away, lighted his pipe, which had gone out, and buried himself in the newspaper.
Of shoes, and ships, and sealing wax, and the third finger of the left hand
So Bellew took up the paper. The house was very quiet, for Small Porges was deep in the vexatious rules of the Multiplication Table, and something he called “Jogafrey,” Anthea was out, as usual, and Miss Priscilla was busied with her numerous household duties. Thus the brooding silence was unbroken save for the occasional murmur of a voice, the jingle of the housekeeping keys, and the quick, light tap, tap, of Miss Priscilla’s stick.