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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 371 pages of information about Nancy.

“How should I feel,” he continues (he has put a hand on each of my shoulders, and is looking-at me with a serious yet tender fixity), “if, by-and-by, in the years ahead of us, you came and told me that by my selfishness, taking advantage of your youth, I had destroyed your life?”

“And do you think,” say I, with a flash of indignation, “that even if you had done it, I should come and tell you?”

“Are you quite sure that among all the men of your acquaintance, men nearer you in age, more akin in tastes, men not gray-haired, not weather-beaten, not past their best years—­there is not one with whom you would more willingly spend your life than with me?  If it is so, I beseech you to tell me, as you would tell your mother!”

“If there were,” reply I, smiling broadly, a smile which greatly widens my mouth, and would show my dimples if I had any, “I should indeed be susceptible!  The two curates that you saw the other night—­the one who tore his gloves into strips, you know, and the other who ate so much—­ Toothless Jack—­these are the sort of men among whom my lines have lain.  Do you think I am likely to be very much in love with any of them?”

My speech does not seem so altogether reassuring as I had expected.

“I am very suspicious,” he says, half apologetically, “but you have seen so little of the world, you have led such a nun’s life! how can you answer for it that hereafter out in the world you may not meet some one more to your liking?  You are a dear little, kindly, tender-hearted sort, and you do not tell me so, but you do not like me much Nancy!  Indeed, dear, I could far better do without you now, than see you by-and-by wishing me away and yet be unable to rid you of me.”

“People can help falling in love,” say I, with matter-of-fact common-sense.  “If I belonged to you, of course I should never think of any one else in that way.”

“Are you sure—?”

“I wish that you would not ask me any more questions,” say I, interrupting him with a pout.  “I am quite sure of everything you can possibly think of.”

“I will only ask one more—­are you quite sure that it is not for your brothers’ and sisters’ sakes—­not your own—­that you are doing this?  Do you remember” (with a smile half playful, half sad) “what you told me about your views of marriage on that first day when I found you in the kitchen-garden?”

“I hope to Heaven that you did not think I was hinting,” say I, growing crimson; “it certainly sounded very like it, but I really and truly was not.  I was thinking of a young man!  I assure you” (speaking with great earnestness) “that I had as much idea of marrying you as of marrying father!

Looking back with mature reflection at this speech, I think that it may be safely reckoned among my unlucky things.

“No,” he says, wincing a little, a very little.  “I know you had not; but—­you have not answered my question.”

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