‘There’s a good lass, ye would na deny me,’ said the odious creature, with one knee on the seat of the chair behind which I was standing, and attempting to place his arm lovingly round my neck.
This effectually roused me, and starting back, I stamped upon the ground with actual fury.
’What has there ever been, sir, in my conduct, words, or looks, to warrant this unparalleled audacity? But that you are as stupid as you are impertinent, brutal, and ugly, you must, long ago, sir, have seen how I dislike you. How dare you, sir? Don’t presume to obstruct me; I’m going to my uncle.’
I had never spoken so violently to mortal before.
He in turn looked a little confounded; and I passed his extended but motionless arm with a quick and angry step.
He followed me a pace or two, however, before I reached the door, looking horridly angry, but stopped, and only swore after me some of those ’wry words’ which I was never to have heard. I was myself, however, too much incensed, and moving at too rapid a pace, to catch their import; and I had knocked at my uncle’s door before I began to collect my thoughts.
‘Come in,’ replied my uncle’s voice, clear, thin, and peevish.
I entered and confronted him.
‘Your son, sir, has insulted me.’
He looked at me with a cold curiosity steadly for a few seconds, as I stood panting before him with flaming cheeks.
‘Insulted you?’ repeated he. ‘Egad, you surprise me!’
The ejaculation savoured of ‘the old man,’ to borrow his scriptural phrase, more than anything I had heard from him before.
‘How?’ he continued; ’how has Dudley insulted you, my dear child? Come, you’re excited; sit down; take time, and tell me all about it. I did not know that Dudley was here.’
’I—he—it is an insult. He knew very well—he must know I dislike him; and he presumed to make a proposal of marriage to me.’
‘O—o—oh!’ exclaimed my uncle, with a prolonged intonation which plainly said, Is that the mighty matter?
He looked at me as he leaned back with the same steady curiosity, this time smiling, which somehow frightened me, and his countenance looked to me wicked, like the face of a witch, with a guilt I could not understand.
’And that is the amount of your complaint. He made you a formal proposal of marriage!’
‘Yes; he proposed for me.’
As I cooled, I began to feel just a very little disconcerted, and a suspicion was troubling me that possibly an indifferent person might think that, having no more to complain of, my language was perhaps a little exaggerated, and my demeanour a little too tempestuous.
My uncle, I dare say, saw some symptoms of this misgiving, for, smiling still, he said—
’My dear Maud, however just, you appear to me a little cruel; you don’t seem to remember how much you are yourself to blame; you have one faithful friend at least, whom I advise your consulting—I mean your looking-glass. The foolish fellow is young, quite ignorant in the world’s ways. He is in love—desperately enamoured.