It was midnight. Mr. Pole had appeased his imagination with a chop, and was trying to revive the memory of his old after-theatre night carouses by listening to a song which Emilia sang to him, while he sipped at a smoking mixture, and beat time on the table, rejoiced that he was warm from head to foot at last.
“That’s a pretty song, my dear,” he said. “A very pretty song. It does for an old fellow; and so did my supper: light and wholesome. I’m an old fellow; I ought to know I’ve got a grown-up son and grown-up daughters. I shall be a grandpa, soon, I dare say. It’s not the thing for me to go about hearing glees. I had an idea of it. I’m better here. All I want is to see my children happy, married and settled, and comfortable!”
Emilia stole up to him, and dropped on one knee: “You love them?”
“I do. I love my girls and my boy. And my brandy-and-water, do you mean to say, you rogue?”
“And me?” Emilia looked up at him beseechingly.
“Yes, and you. I do. I haven’t known you long, my dear, but I shall be glad to do what I can for you. You shall make my house your home as long as you live; and if I say, make haste and get married, it’s only just this: girls ought to marry young, and not be in an uncertain position.”
“Am I worth having?”
“To be sure you are! I should think so. You haven’t got a penny; but, then, you’re not for spending one. And”—Mr. Pole nodded to right and left like a man who silenced a host of invisible logicians, urging this and that—“you’re a pleasant companion, thrifty, pretty, musical: by Jingo! what more do they want? They’ll have their song and chop at home.”
“Yes; but suppose it depends upon their fathers?”
“Well, if their fathers will be fools, my dear, I can’t help ’em. We needn’t take ’em in a lump: how about the doctor? I’ll see him to-morrow morning, and hear what he has to say. Shall I?”
Mr. Pole winked shrewdly.
“You will not make my heart break?” Emilia’s voice sounded one low chord as she neared the thing she had to say.
“Bless her soul!” the old merchant patted her; “I’m not the sort of man for that.”
“His?” Mr. Pole’s nerves became uneasy in a minute, at the scent of a mystification. He dashed his handkerchief over his forehead, repeating: “His? Break a man’s heart! I? What’s the meaning of that? For God’s sake, don’t bother me!”
Emilia was still kneeling before him, eyeing him with a shadowed steadfast air.
“I say his, because his heart is in mine. He has any pain that hurts me.”
“He may be tremendously in love,” observed Mr. Pole; “but he seems a deuced soft sort of a doctor! What’s his name?”
“I love Wilfrid.”
The merchant appeared to be giving ear to her, long after the words had been uttered, while there was silence in the room.