“Like me!” he repeats a little dreamily, looking with a strong and bitter yearning into my eyes; then, seeing that I am going to asseverate, “for God’s sake, child,” he says, hastily, “do not tell me that you love me, for I know it is not true! you can no more help it than I can help caring for you in the idiotic, mad way, that I do! Perhaps, on some blessed, far-off day, you may be able to say so, and I to believe it, but not now!—not now!”
With feet as heavy and slowly-dragging as those of some unwieldy old person, with drooped figure, and stained and swollen face, I enter the school-room an hour later to tell my ill-news.
“Enter a young mourner!” says Algy, facetiously, in unkind allusion to the gloom of my appearance, which is perhaps heightened by the black-silk gown I wear.
“What is up?” cries Bobby, advancing toward me with an overpowering curiosity, not unmixed with admiration, legible on his burnt face; “what has summoned those glorious sunset tints into your eyes and nose?”
“Which of Turner’s pictures,” says Algy, putting up his hand in the shape of a spy-glass to one eye, and critically regarding me through it, “is she so like in coloring? the ‘Founding of Carthage,’ or ’The Fighting Temeraire?’”
“Shame! shame!” cries Bobby, in a mock hortatory tone, trying to swell himself out to the shape and bulk of our fat rector, and to speak in his wheezy tone, “that a young woman so richly dowered with the good things of this life; a young woman with a husband and a deer-park in possession, and a house-warming in prospect—”
“But I have not,” interrupt I, speaking for the first time, and with a snuffliness of tone engendered by much crying.
“Have not? have not what?”
“Have not a house-warming in prospect,” reply I, with distinct malignity. A moment’s silence. My bomb-shell has worked quite as much havoc as I expected.
“But where has it gone to since this morning?” asks Algy, looking rather blank.
“What do you mean?” cries Tou Tou, shrilly; “it was only last night that you were asking me for the Brat’s address that you might invite him.”
“And tell him to bring a judiciously-selected assortment of undergraduate friends with him,” supplements Bobby, loudly.
“Yes,” say I, sighing, “I know I did; but last night was last night.”
“That throws a great deal of light on the matter, does it not?” says Algy, ironically.
“Nancy!” cries Bobby, seizing both my hands, and looking me in the face with an air of irritated determination, “if you do not this moment stop sighing like a wind-mill and tell us what is up, I will go to Sir Roger, hanged if I will not, and ask him what he means by making you cry yourself to a jelly!”
At this bold metaphor applied to my own appearance, the tears begin again to start to my eyes.