“If in my power—certainly. But, what is it! What did you promise?”
“To offer you my heart, my hand, my life,” replied Kneebone, falling at her feet.
“Sir!” exclaimed Winifred, rising.
“Inequality of rank can be no bar to our union,” continued Kneebone. “Heaven be praised, I am not the son of a nobleman.”
In spite of her displeasure, Winifred could not help smiling at the absurdity of this address. Taking this for encouragement, her suitor proceeded still more extravagantly. Seizing her hand he covered it with kisses.
“Adorable girl!” he cried, in the most impassioned tone, and with the most impassioned look he could command. “Adorable girl, I have long loved you to desperation. Your lamented mother, whose loss I shall ever deplore, perceived my passion and encouraged it. Would she were alive to back my suit!”
“This is beyond all endurance,” said Winifred, striving to withdraw her hand. “Leave me, Sir; I insist.”
“Never!” rejoined Kneebone, with increased ardour,—“never, till I receive from your own lips the answer which is to make me the happiest or the most miserable of mankind. Hear me, adorable girl! You know not the extent of my devotion. No mercenary consideration influences me. Love—admiration for your matchless beauty alone sways me. Let your father—if he chooses, leave all his wealth to his adopted son. I care not. Possessed of you, I shall have a treasure such as kings could not boast.”
“Pray cease this nonsense,” said Winifred, “and quit the room, or I will call for assistance.”
At this juncture, the door opened, and Thames entered the room. As the woollen-draper’s back was towards him, he did not perceive him, but continued his passionate addresses.
“Call as you please, beloved girl,” he cried, “I will not stir till I am answered. You say that you only love Captain Darrell as a brother—”
“That you would not accept him were he to offer—”
“Be silent, Sir.”
“He then,” continued the woollen-draper, “is no longer considered—”
“How, Sir?” cried Thames, advancing, “what is the meaning of your reference to my name? Have you dared to insult this lady? If so—”
“Insult her!” replied Kneebone, rising, and endeavouring to hide his embarrassment under a look of defiance. “Far from, it, Sir. I have made her an honourable proposal of marriage, in compliance with the request of her lamented parent, whose memory—”
“Dare to utter that falsehood in my hearing again, scoundrel,” interrupted Thames fiercely, “and I will put it out of your power to repeat the offence. Leave the room! leave the house, Sir! and enter it again at your peril.”
“I shall do neither, Sir,” replied Kneebone, “unless I am requested by this lady to withdraw,—in which case I shall comply with her request. And you have to thank her presence, hot-headed boy, that I do not chastise your insolence as it deserves.”