“Ah! And these men, do they make love to you?” The instinct of the lover rises instantly superior to the instinct of legal prudence within him. “That is hard for me to bear.”
“Now, Herbert, don’t be a fool!” cries Beatrice, jumping up and making a grimace at herself in the dusty glass over his mantelpiece. “Do I look like a girl whom men would make love to? Am I not too positively hideous? Oh, you needn’t shake your head and look indignant. Of course I am ugly, everybody but you thinks so. Of course it’s not me, myself, but because papa is rich, and they think I shall have money. Oh, what a curse this money is!”
“I think the want of it a far greater one,” says Herbert, ruefully.
“At any rate,” continues Beatrice, “I am determined to put an end to this state of things; we must take the law into our own hands.”
“Am I to wait for you in a carriage and pair at the corner of Eaton Square in the middle of the night?” inquires Herbert, grimly.
“No; don’t be foolish; people don’t do things now-a-days in the way our grandmothers did. I shall go to morning service one day at some out of-the-way church, where you will meet me with a licence in your pocket; it will be the simplest thing in the world.”
“Afterwards I shall go home to lunch.”
“And what am I to do?”
“Oh! you will come back here, I suppose.”
“I don’t think that will be very amusing,” objects the bridegroom elect, dubiously.
“No; but then we shall be really married, and when we know that no one can part us, we shan’t mind waiting; and then, some day, after about six months or so, I shall confess to papa, and there will be a terrible scene, ending in tears on my part, and in forgiveness on the part of my parents. Once the deed is done, you see, they will be forced to make the best of it; and, of course, they will not allow us to starve. I think it is a very ingenious plan. What do you think of it, Herbert? You don’t look very much delighted at the idea.”
“I don’t think that I should play a very noble part in such a scheme as that. Dearly as I love you, Beatrice, I do not think I could consent to steal you away in such a pitiful and cowardly manner.”
“Pooh! you would have nothing to do with it; it is all my doing, of course. Hush! is not that somebody coming up the stairs?”
They were silent for half a minute, listening to the sound of advancing steps upon the wooden staircase.
“It is nothing—only somebody to see the man above me. By Jove, though, it is for me!” as somebody suddenly stopped outside and knocked at the door. “Wait one minute, sir! Good heavens, Beatrice, what am I to do with you?”
Herbert looked frightened out of his life. Beatrice, on the contrary, could hardly smother her laughter.
“I must hide!” she said, in a choked whisper. “Oh, Herbert, it is like a scene out of a naughty French play! I shall die of laughter!”