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    Book 6 - Chapter 1

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    Chapter 40
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    A Duet in Paradise

    The well-furnished drawing-room, with the open grand piano, and the
    pleasant outlook down a sloping garden to a boat-house by the side of
    the Floss, is Mr. Deane's. The neat little lady in mourning, whose
    light-brown ringlets are falling over the colored embroidery with
    which her fingers are busy, is of course Lucy Deane; and the fine
    young man who is leaning down from his chair to snap the scissors in
    the extremely abbreviated face of the "King Charles" lying on the
    young lady's feet is no other than Mr. Stephen Guest, whose diamond
    ring, attar of roses, and air of _nonchalant_ leisure, at twelve
    o'clock in the day, are the graceful and odoriferous result of the
    largest oil-mill and the most extensive wharf in St. Ogg's. There is
    an apparent triviality in the action with the scissors, but your
    discernment perceives at once that there is a design in it which makes
    it eminently worthy of a large-headed, long-limbed young man; for you
    see that Lucy wants the scissors, and is compelled, reluctant as she
    may be, to shake her ringlets back, raise her soft hazel eyes, smile
    playfully down on the face that is so very nearly on a level with her
    knee, and holding out her little shell-pink palm, to say,--

    "My scissors, please, if you can renounce the great pleasure of
    persecuting my poor Minny."

    The foolish scissors have slipped too far over the knuckles, it seems,
    and Hercules holds out his entrapped fingers hopelessly.

    "Confound the scissors! The oval lies the wrong way. Please draw them
    off for me."

    "Draw them off with your other hand," says Miss Lucy, roguishly.

    "Oh, but that's my left hand; I'm not left-handed."

    Lucy laughs, and the scissors are drawn off with gentle touches from
    tiny tips, which naturally dispose Mr. Stephen for a repetition _da
    capo_. Accordingly, he watches for the release of the scissors, that
    he may get them into his possession again.

    "No, no," said Lucy, sticking them in her band, "you shall not have my
    scissors again,--you have strained them already. Now don't set Minny
    growling again. Sit up and behave properly, and then I will tell you
    some news."

    "What is that?" said Stephen, throwing himself back and hanging his
    right arm over the corner of his chair. He might have been sitting for
    his portrait, which would have represented a rather striking young man
    of five-and-twenty, with a square forehead, short dark-brown hair,
    standing erect, with a slight wave at the end, like a thick crop of
    corn, and a half-ardent, half-sarcastic glance from under his
    well-marked horizontal eyebrows. "Is it very important news?"

    "Yes, very. Guess."

    "You are going to change Minny's diet, and give him three ratafias
    soaked in a dessert-spoonful of cream daily?"

    "Quite wrong."

    "Well, then, Dr. Kenn has been preaching against buckram, and you
    ladies have all been sending him a roundrobin, saying, 'This is a hard
    doctrine; who can bear it?'"

    "For shame!" said Lucy, adjusting her little mouth gravely. "It is
    rather dull of you not to guess my news, because it is about something
    I mentioned to you not very long ago."

    "But you have mentioned many things to me not long ago. Does your
    feminine tyranny require that when you say the thing you mean is one
    of several things, I should know it immediately by that mark?"

    "Yes, I know you think I am silly."

    "I think you are perfectly charming."

    "And my silliness is part of my charm?"

    "I didn't say _that_."

    "But I know you like women to be rather insipid. Philip Wakem betrayed
    you; he said so one day when you were not here."

    "Oh, I know Phil is fierce on that point; he makes it quite a personal
    matter. I think he must be love-sick for some unknown lady,--some
    exalted Beatrice whom he met abroad."

    "By the by," said Lucy, pausing in her work, "it has just occurred to
    me that I never found out whether my cousin Maggie will object to see
    Philip, as her brother does. Tom will not enter a room where Philip
    is, if he knows it; perhaps Maggie may be the same, and then we
    sha'n't be able to sing our glees, shall we?"

    "What! is your cousin coming to stay with you?" said Stephen, with a
    look of slight annoyance.

    "Yes; that was my news, which you have forgotten. She's going to leave
    her situation, where she has been nearly two years, poor thing,--ever
    since her father's death; and she will stay with me a month or
    two,--many months, I hope."

    "And am I bound to be pleased at that news?"

    "Oh no, not at all," said Lucy, with a little air of pique. "_I_ am
    pleased, but that, of course, is no reason why _you_ should be
    pleased. There is no girl in the world I love so well as my cousin
    Maggie."

    "And you will be inseparable I suppose, when she comes. There will be
    no possibility of a _tête-à -tête_ with you any more, unless you can
    find an admirer for her, who will pair off with her occasionally. What
    is the ground of dislike to Philip? He might have been a resource."

    "It is a family quarrel with Philip's father. There were very painful
    circumstances, I believe. I never quite understood them, or knew them
    all. My uncle Tulliver was unfortunate and lost all his property, and
    I think he considered Mr. Wakem was somehow the cause of it. Mr. Wakem
    bought Dorlcote Mill, my uncle's old place, where he always lived. You
    must remember my uncle Tulliver, don't you?"

    "No," said Stephen, with rather supercilious indifference. "I've
    always known the name, and I dare say I knew the man by sight, apart
    from his name. I know half the names and faces in the neighborhood in
    that detached, disjointed way."

    "He was a very hot-tempered man. I remember, when I was a little girl
    and used to go to see my cousins, he often frightened me by talking as
    if he were angry. Papa told me there was a dreadful quarrel, the very
    day before my uncle's death, between him and Mr. Wakem, but it was
    hushed up. That was when you were in London. Papa says my uncle was
    quite mistaken in many ways; his mind had become embittered. But Tom
    and Maggie must naturally feel it very painful to be reminded of these
    things. They have had so much, so very much trouble. Maggie was at
    school with me six years ago, when she was fetched away because of her
    father's misfortunes, and she has hardly had any pleasure since, I
    think. She has been in a dreary situation in a school since uncle's
    death, because she is determined to be independent, and not live with
    aunt Pullet; and I could hardly wish her to come to me then, because
    dear mamma was ill, and everything was so sad. That is why I want her
    to come to me now, and have a long, long holiday."

    "Very sweet and angelic of you," said Stephen, looking at her with an
    admiring smile; "and all the more so if she has the conversational
    qualities of her mother."

    "Poor aunty! You are cruel to ridicule her. She is very valuable to
    _me_, I know. She manages the house beautifully,--much better than any
    stranger would,--and she was a great comfort to me in mamma's
    illness."

    "Yes, but in point of companionship one would prefer that she should
    be represented by her brandy-cherries and cream-cakes. I think with a
    shudder that her daughter will always be present in person, and have
    no agreeable proxies of that kind,--a fat, blond girl, with round blue
    eyes, who will stare at us silently."

    "Oh yes!" exclaimed Lucy, laughing wickedly, and clapping her hands,
    "that is just my cousin Maggie. You must have seen her!"

    "No, indeed; I'm only guessing what Mrs. Tulliver's daughter must be;
    and then if she is to banish Philip, our only apology for a tenor,
    that will be an additional bore."

    "But I hope that may not be. I think I will ask you to call on Philip
    and tell him Maggie is coming to-morrow. He is quite aware of Tom's
    feeling, and always keeps out of his way; so he will understand, if
    you tell him, that I asked you to warn him not to come until I write
    to ask him."

    "I think you had better write a pretty note for me to take; Phil is so
    sensitive, you know, the least thing might frighten him off coming at
    all, and we had hard work to get him. I can never induce him to come
    to the park; he doesn't like my sisters, I think. It is only your
    faëry touch that can lay his ruffled feathers."

    Stephen mastered the little hand that was straying toward the table,
    and touched it lightly with his lips. Little Lucy felt very proud and
    happy. She and Stephen were in that stage of courtship which makes the
    most exquisite moment of youth, the freshest blossom-time of
    passion,--when each is sure of the other's love, but no formal
    declaration has been made, and all is mutual divination, exalting the
    most trivial word, the lightest gesture, into thrills delicate and
    delicious as wafted jasmine scent. The explicitness of an engagement
    wears off this finest edge of susceptibility; it is jasmine gathered
    and presented in a large bouquet.

    "But it is really odd that you should have hit so exactly on Maggie's
    appearance and manners," said the cunning Lucy, moving to reach her
    desk, "because she might have been like her brother, you know; and Tom
    has not round eyes; and he is as far as possible from staring at
    people."

    "Oh, I suppose he is like the father; he seems to be as proud as
    Lucifer. Not a brilliant companion, though, I should think."

    "I like Tom. He gave me my Minny when I lost Lolo; and papa is very
    fond of him: he says Tom has excellent principles. It was through him
    that his father was able to pay all his debts before he died."

    "Oh, ah; I've heard about that. I heard your father and mine talking
    about it a little while ago, after dinner, in one of their
    interminable discussions about business. They think of doing something
    for young Tulliver; he saved them from a considerable loss by riding
    home in some marvellous way, like Turpin, to bring them news about the
    stoppage of a bank, or something of that sort. But I was rather drowsy
    at the time."

    Stephen rose from his seat, and sauntered to the piano, humming in
    falsetto, "Graceful Consort," as he turned over the volume of "The
    Creation," which stood open on the desk.

    "Come and sing this," he said, when he saw Lucy rising.

    "What, 'Graceful Consort'? I don't think it suits your voice."

    "Never mind; it exactly suits my feeling, which, Philip will have it,
    is the grand element of good singing. I notice men with indifferent
    voices are usually of that opinion."

    "Philip burst into one of his invectives against 'The Creation' the
    other day," said Lucy, seating herself at the piano. "He says it has a
    sort of sugared complacency and flattering make-believe in it, as if
    it were written for the birthday _fête_ of a German Grand-Duke."

    "Oh, pooh! He is the fallen Adam with a soured temper. We are Adam and
    Eve unfallen, in Paradise. Now, then,--the recitative, for the sake of
    the moral. You will sing the whole duty of woman,--'And from obedience
    grows my pride and happiness.'"

    "Oh no, I shall not respect an Adam who drags the _tempo_, as you
    will," said Lucy, beginning to play the duet.

    Surely the only courtship unshaken by doubts and fears must be that in
    which the lovers can sing together. The sense of mutual fitness that
    springs from the two deep notes fulfilling expectation just at the
    right moment between the notes of the silvery soprano, from the
    perfect accord of descending thirds and fifths, from the preconcerted
    loving chase of a fugue, is likely enough to supersede any immediate
    demand for less impassioned forms of agreement. The contralto will not
    care to catechise the bass; the tenor will foresee no embarrassing
    dearth of remark in evenings spent with the lovely soprano. In the
    provinces, too, where music was so scarce in that remote time, how
    could the musical people avoid falling in love with each other? Even
    political principle must have been in danger of relaxation under such
    circumstances; and the violin, faithful to rotten boroughs, must have
    been tempted to fraternize in a demoralizing way with a reforming
    violoncello. In that case, the linnet-throated soprano and the
    full-toned bass singing,--

    "With thee delight is ever new,
    With thee is life incessant bliss,"

    believed what they sang all the more _because_ they sang it.

    "Now for Raphael's great song," said Lucy, when they had finished the
    duet. "You do the 'heavy beasts' to perfection."

    "That sounds complimentary," said Stephen, looking at his watch. "By
    Jove, it's nearly half-past one! Well, I can just sing this."

    Stephen delivered with admirable ease the deep notes representing the
    tread of the heavy beasts; but when a singer has an audience of two,
    there is room for divided sentiments. Minny's mistress was charmed;
    but Minny, who had intrenched himself, trembling, in his basket as
    soon as the music began, found this thunder so little to his taste
    that he leaped out and scampered under the remotest _chiffonnier_, as
    the most eligible place in which a small dog could await the crack of
    doom.

    "Adieu, 'graceful consort,'" said Stephen, buttoning his coat across
    when he had done singing, and smiling down from his tall height, with
    the air of rather a patronizing lover, at the little lady on the
    music-stool. "My bliss is not incessant, for I must gallop home. I
    promised to be there at lunch."

    "You will not be able to call on Philip, then? It is of no
    consequence; I have said everything in my note."

    "You will be engaged with your cousin to-morrow, I suppose?"

    "Yes, we are going to have a little family-party. My cousin Tom will
    dine with us; and poor aunty will have her two children together for
    the first time. It will be very pretty; I think a great deal about
    it."

    "But I may come the next day?"

    "Oh yes! Come and be introduced to my cousin Maggie; though you can
    hardly be said not to have seen her, you have described her so well."

    "Good-bye, then." And there was that slight pressure of the hands, and
    momentary meeting of the eyes, which will often leave a little lady
    with a slight flush and smile on her face that do not subside
    immediately when the door is closed, and with an inclination to walk
    up and down the room rather than to seat herself quietly at her
    embroidery, or other rational and improving occupation. At least this
    was the effect on Lucy; and you will not, I hope, consider it an
    indication of vanity predominating over more tender impulses, that she
    just glanced in the chimney-glass as her walk brought her near it. The
    desire to know that one has not looked an absolute fright during a few
    hours of conversation may be construed as lying within the bounds of a
    laudable benevolent consideration for others. And Lucy had so much of
    this benevolence in her nature that I am inclined to think her small
    egoisms were impregnated with it, just as there are people not
    altogether unknown to you whose small benevolences have a predominant
    and somewhat rank odor of egoism. Even now, that she is walking up and
    down with a little triumphant flutter of her girlish heart at the
    sense that she is loved by the person of chief consequence in her
    small world, you may see in her hazel eyes an ever-present sunny
    benignity, in which the momentary harmless flashes of personal vanity
    are quite lost; and if she is happy in thinking of her lover, it is
    because the thought of him mingles readily with all the gentle
    affections and good-natured offices with which she fills her peaceful
    days. Even now, her mind, with that instantaneous alternation which
    makes two currents of feeling or imagination seem simultaneous, is
    glancing continually from Stephen to the preparations she has only
    half finished in Maggie's room. Cousin Maggie should be treated as
    well as the grandest lady-visitor,--nay, better, for she should have
    Lucy's best prints and drawings in her bedroom, and the very finest
    bouquet of spring flowers on her table. Maggie would enjoy all that,
    she was so found of pretty things! And there was poor aunt Tulliver,
    that no one made any account of, she was to be surprised with the
    present of a cap of superlative quality, and to have her health drunk
    in a gratifying manner, for which Lucy was going to lay a plot with
    her father this evening. Clearly, she had not time to indulge in long
    reveries about her own happy love-affairs. With this thought she
    walked toward the door, but paused there.

    "What's the matter, then, Minny?" she said, stooping in answer to some
    whimpering of that small quadruped, and lifting his glossy head
    against her pink cheek. "Did you think I was going without you? Come,
    then, let us go and see Sinbad."

    Sinbad was Lucy's chestnut horse, that she always fed with her own
    hand when he was turned out in the paddock. She was fond of feeding
    dependent creatures, and knew the private tastes of all the animals
    about the house, delighting in the little rippling sounds of her
    canaries when their beaks were busy with fresh seed, and in the small
    nibbling pleasures of certain animals which, lest she should appear
    too trivial, I will here call "the more familiar rodents."

    Was not Stephen Guest right in his decided opinion that this slim
    maiden of eighteen was quite the sort of wife a man would not be
    likely to repent of marrying,--a woman who was loving and thoughtful
    for other women, not giving them Judas-kisses with eyes askance on
    their welcome defects, but with real care and vision for their
    half-hidden pains and mortifications, with long ruminating enjoyment
    of little pleasures prepared for them? Perhaps the emphasis of his
    admiration did not fall precisely on this rarest quality in her;
    perhaps he approved his own choice of her chiefly because she did not
    strike him as a remarkable rarity. A man likes his wife to be pretty;
    well, Lucy was pretty, but not to a maddening extent. A man likes his
    wife to be accomplished, gentle, affectionate, and not stupid; and
    Lucy had all these qualifications. Stephen was not surprised to find
    himself in love with her, and was conscious of excellent judgment in
    preferring her to Miss Leyburn, the daughter of the county member,
    although Lucy was only the daughter of his father's subordinate
    partner; besides, he had had to defy and overcome a slight
    unwillingness and disappointment in his father and sisters,--a
    circumstance which gives a young man an agreeable consciousness of his
    own dignity. Stephen was aware that he had sense and independence
    enough to choose the wife who was likely to make him happy, unbiassed
    by any indirect considerations. He meant to choose Lucy; she was a
    little darling, and exactly the sort of woman he had always admired.
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