What will become of her, Vera Nevill, if Mrs. Hazeldine comes in presently and finds these treasures lying in a thousand pieces upon the floor? And yet this is what she is looking forward to, as only too probable a catastrophe.
Vera feels much as must have felt the owner of the proverbial bull in the crockery shop—terror mingled with an overpowering sense of responsibility. All personal considerations are well-nigh merged in the realization of the danger which menaces her hostess’ property.
“Monsieur D’Arblet, I must implore you to calm yourself,” she says, desperately.
“And how, mademoiselle, I ask you, am I to be calm when you speak of shattering the hopes of my life?” cries the vicomte, who is dancing about frantically backwards and forwards, in a clear space of three square yards, between the different pieces of furniture by which he is surrounded, all equally fragile, and equally loaded with destructible objects.
“Pray be careful, Monsieur D’Arblet, your sleeve nearly caught then in the handle of that Chelsea basket,” cries Vera, in anguish.
“And what to me are Chelsea baskets, or china, or trash of that kind, when you, cruel one, are determined to scorn me?”
“Oh, if you would only come outside and have it out on the staircase,” murmurs Vera, piteously.
“No, I will never leave this room, never, mademoiselle, until you give me hope; never will I cease to importune you until your heart relents towards the miserable who adores you!”
Here Monsieur D’Arblet made an attempt to get at his charmer by coming round the end of the velvet table.
Vera felt distracted. To allow him to execute his maneuver was to run the chance of being clasped in his arms; to struggle to get free was the almost certainty of upsetting the table.
She cast a despairing glance across the room at the bell-handle, which was utterly beyond her reach. There was no hope in that direction. Apparently, moral persuasion was her only chance.
“Monsieur D’Arblet, I forbid you to advance a step nearer to me!”
He fell back with a profound sigh.
“Mademoiselle, I love you to distraction. I am unable to disobey your commands.”
“Very well, then, listen to me. I cannot understand this violent outburst of emotion. You have done me the honour to propose to marry me, and I have, with many thanks for your most flattering distinction, declined your offer. Surely, between a lady and a gentleman, there can be nothing further to say; it is not incumbent upon you to persecute me in this fashion.”
“Miss Nevill, you have treated me with a terrible cruelty. You have encouraged my ardent passion for you until you did lift me up to Heaven.” Here Monsieur D’Arblet stretched up both his arms with a suddenness which endangered the branches of the tall Dresden candelabra on the high mantelpiece behind him. “After which you do reject me and cast me down to hell!” and down came both hands heavily upon the velvet table between them. The blue crackle jar, the two “Long Eliza” vases, and all the Lowestoft cups and saucers, literally jumped upon their foundations.