“Miss Judd will come directly, sir,” said a tall, meagre, puritanical-looking maid, shutting the door upon me. In a few minutes, during which my pulse beat quick (for I could not but expect some disclosure; whether it was to be one of love or murder, I hardly knew which), Miss Aramathea Judd, for such was her christian name, made her appearance, and sitting down on the sofa, requested me to take a seat by her.
“Mr Newland,” said she, “I wish to—and I think I can entrust you with a secret most important to me. Why I am obliged to do it, you will perfectly comprehend when you have heard my story. Tell me, are you attached to me?”
This was a home question to a forward lad of sixteen. I took her by the hand, and when I looked down on it, I felt as if I was. I looked up into her face, and felt that I was not. And, as I now was close to her, I perceived that she must have some aromatic drug in her mouth, as it smelt strongly—this gave me the supposition that the breath which drew such melodious tones, was not equally sweet, and I felt a certain increased degree of disgust.
“I am very grateful, Miss Judd,” replied I; “I hope I shall prove that I am attached when you confide in me.”
“Swear then, by all that’s sacred, you will not reveal what I do confide.”
“By all that’s sacred I will not,” replied I, kissing her hand with more fervour than I expected from myself.
“Do me then the favour to excuse me one minute.”
She left the room, and in a very short time, there returned, in the same dress, and, in every other point the same person, but with a young and lively face of not more, apparently, than twenty-two or twenty-three years old. I started as if I had seen an apparation. “Yes,” said she, smiling, “you now see Aramathea Judd without disguise; and you are the first who has seen that face for more than two years. Before I proceed further, again I say, may I trust you—swear!”
“I do swear,” replied I, and took her hand for the book, which this time I kissed with pleasure, over and over again. Like a young jackass as I was, I still retained her hand, throwing as much persuasion as I possibly could in my eyes. In fact, I did enough to have softened the hearts of three bonnet-makers. I began to feel most dreadfully in love, and thought of marriage, and making my fortune, and I don’t know what; but all this was put an end to by one simple short sentence, delivered in a very decided but soft voice, “Japhet, don’t be silly.”
I was crushed, and all my hopes crushed with me. I dropped her hand, and sat like a fool.