Charlotte was not absolutely as attentive as she might have been to such interesting curiosities. She had one eye towards the window all the time; she wanted to be certified how deeply she had wounded the hero of the barricade, and she had absolutely not seen him since his return! The little damsel missed homage!
‘You are not heeding me!’ exclaimed Jane at last.
‘Yes; I beg your pardon, ma’am—’
‘Charlotte, take care. Mind me, one thing at a time,’ said Jane, oracularly. ‘Not one eye here, the other there!’
‘I’m sure I don’t know what you mean, Mrs. Beckett.’
’Come, don’t colour up, and say you don’t know nothing! Why did you water your lemon plant three times over, but that you wanted to be looking out of window? Why did you never top nor tail the gooseberries for the pudding, but sent them up fit to choke my poor missus? If Master Jem hadn’t—Bless me! what was I going to say?- but we should soon have heard of it! No, no, Charlotte; I’ve been a mother to you ever since you came here, a little starveling thing, and I’ll speak plain for your good. If you fancy that genteel butler in there, say so downright; but first sit down, and write away a letter to give up the other young man!’
Charlotte’s cheeks were in a flame, and something vehement at the end of her tongue, when, with a gentle knock, and ’By your favour, ladies,’ in walked Mr. Delaford.
Jane was very civil, but very stiff at first, till he thawed her by great praise of Lord Fitzjocelyn, the mere prelude to his own magnificent exploits.
Charlotte listened like a very Desdemona. He was very pathetic, and all that was not self-exaltation was aimed at her. Nothing could have been more welcome than the bullets to penetrate his heart, and he turned up his eyes in a feeling manner.
Charlotte’s heart was exceedingly touched, and she had tears in her eyes when she moved forward in the attitude of the porcelain shepherdess in the parlour, to return a little volume of selections of tender poetry, bound in crimson silk, that he had lent to her some time since. ‘Would she not honour him by accepting a trifling gift?’
She blushed, she accepted; and with needle-like pen, in characters fine as hair, upon a scroll garlanded with forget-me-nots, and borne in mid air by two portly doves, was Charlotte Arnold’s name inscribed by the hero of the barricades.
Oh, vanity! vanity! how many garbs dost thou wear!
Delaford went away, satisfied that he had produced an impression such as he could improve if they should ever be thrown together again.
The Lady of Eschalott remained anything but satisfied. She was touchy and fretful, found everything a grievance, left cobwebs in the corners, and finally went into hysterics because the cat jumped at the canary-bird’s cage.