For a moment I look down irresolute, then, through some fixed belief in him, I look up and tell him the plain, bare truth.
“I did think that it would be a nice thing for the boys,” I say, “and so it will, there is no doubt; you will be as good as a fa—, as a brother to them; but—I like you myself besides, you may believe it or not as you please, but it is quite, quite, QUITE true.”
As I speak, the tears steal into my eyes.
“And I like you!” he answers very simply, and so saying, stoops, and with a sort of diffidence, kisses me.
“Well, how did it go off?” cries Bobby, curiously, when I next rejoin my compeers. “Did you laugh?”
“Laugh!” I echo, with lofty anger, “I do not know what you mean! I never felt in the least inclined.” Then seeing my brethren look rather aghast at this sudden change in the wind, I add gayly: “Bobby, you must never again breathe a word about Sir Roger’s having been at school with father; let it be supposed that he did without education.”
This is my wooing: thus I am disposed of. Without a shadow of previous flirtation with any man born of woman—without any of the ups and downs, the ins and outs of an ordinary love-affair, I place my fate in Sir Roger’s hands. Henceforth I must have done with all girlish speculations, as to the manner of man who is to drop from the clouds to be my wooer. Well, I have not many daydreams to relinquish. When I have built Spanish castles—in a large family, one has not time for many—a lover for myself has been less the theme of my aspirations than a benefactor for the family. One, who will exercise a wholesomely repressive influence over father, has been more than any thing the theme of my longings; on the unlikely hypothesis of my marrying at all. For, O friends, it has seemed to me most unlikely; I dare say that I might not have been over-difficult—might have thankfully and heartily loved some one not quite a Bayard, but one cannot love any thing—any odd and end—and, say what you will, the choice of a country girl, with a little dowry and a plain face, is but small. For—do not dislike me for it if you can help—I am plain. I know it by the joint and honest testimony of all my brethren. I have had no trouble in gathering the truth from them. A hundred times they have volunteered it, with that healthy disregard of any sickly sensitiveness which arms one against blows to one’s vanity through all after-life. Yes: I am plain; not offensively so, not largely, fatly, staringly plain, but in a small, blond, harmless way. However, Sir Roger thinks me pretty. Did not he say so, in unmistakable English? I have tried darkly to hint this to the boys, but have been so decisively pooh-poohed that I resolve not to allude to the subject again. Not only am I plain now, but I shall remain plain to my life’s end. Unlike the generality of ugly heroines, you will not see me develop and effloresce into beauty toward the end of my story.