“Fussing over things won’t make you no better,” echoed Mrs. Doss. “Lor’, bless me, didn’t I have a sister what killed herself fussing! Fussed herself into the grave, she did! And might have been here, leastways in Camberwell—alive and hearty at this minute.”
“The question is—am I too ill to fulfil my engagement? and I say ‘no,’” cried Bella, angrily.
“And me, the missis and me—we says, certainly you are, and so heverybody says. You want a thorough rest, and then you will pick up again.”
“That may be your opinion; it is not mine! you may talk till doomsday; you won’t convince me. I may surely be allowed to be the best judge of my own state of health. I shall not wait a day—not an hour. I’m going at once down to Robertson to have the matter out with him.”
The distressed pair exchanged glances, and then Mrs. Doss said in a coaxing way, “If you must go, you will let me come with you, my dear.”
“If you’re on my side and mean to stick up for me, all right; but if you’re going to hum and haw and look grave, and take the part of the management, you had best stay away.”
Mrs. Doss tucked Bella’s arm within her own and trotted upstairs to the bedroom, where Bella arrayed herself in total silence, and her friend, beyond a vigorous sigh or two, was mute also.
Mr. Robertson was disengaged, and the ladies were at once ushered into his presence.
“Now then,” began Bella, dashing into her subject, “I have come to know what all this means. You cannot dismiss me at a moment’s notice, and you know it just as well as I do. Ain’t you satisfied with me?”
“Perfectly. It is no question of that sort—but in your present state of health you are not up to your work, and there was no other alternative.”
“Oh!” said Bella disagreeably, “does anybody else say I am not up to work except you?”
“My dear Miss Blackall, I regret that this has been necessary. I am exceedingly sorry that we brought you over from America and then are compelled to terminate your engagement so soon, but in your present condition—”
Mr. Robertson flung out his hands with an eloquent gesture.
“Well, look here; I’ll give up my dance—that does shake me a bit, I’ll grant; but you must let me sing the new song—you really must; I’m a nailer at it and I’ll wrap up! My cough will soon go: give me another chance!”
Her cheeks were flushed with excitement and her eyes were sparkling—she really did not look so very ill this morning; perhaps after all, things had been exaggerated. Mr. Robertson wavered. Bella was quick to see her advantage and to press it.
“Withdraw your notice,” she said, “and let me come on for one song only for a week or two.”
“It would really be better, I think, if you were to have an entire rest for a month or so.”
“Yes, for someone else to step into my shoes! Thank you for nothing.”