Anthony Trollope, Can You Forgive Her?: Vol. 2, Ch. 38

[+] | [-] | reset

"I do, I do. It is the only way in which there can be any friendship between us, and not for worlds would I lose that advantage for my husband,—let alone what I may feel for myself."

"Why didn't you take me yourself, Mrs Greenow?"

"If you can't understand, it is not for me to say anything more, Mr Cheesacre. If you value the warm affection of a virgin heart—"

"Why, Mrs Greenow, all yesterday she wouldn't say a word to me."

"Not say a word to you? Is that all you know about it? Are you so ignorant that you cannot see when a girl's heart is breaking beneath her stays?" This almost improper allusion had quite an effect on Mr Cheesacre's sensitive bosom. "Did you say a word to her yesterday? And if not, why have you said so many words before?"

"Oh, Mrs Greenow; come!"

"It is, oh, Mrs Greenow. But it is time that we should go back to them." They had been sitting all this time on a bank, under a hedge. "We will have our tea, and you shall have your pipe and brandy-and-water, and Charlie shall bring it to you. Shall she, Mr Cheesacre?"

"If she likes she shall, of course."

"Do you ask her, and she'll like it it quick enough. But remember, Mr Cheesacre, I'm quite serious in what I say about your having a mistress for your house. Only think what an age you'll be when your children grow up, if you don't marry soon now."

They returned to the field in which they had dined, and found Charlie under the trees, with her muslin looking very fresh. "What, all a-mort?" said Mrs Greenow. Charlie did not quite understand this, but replied that she preferred being alone. "I have told him that you should fill his pipe for him," said Mrs Greenow. "He doesn't care for ladies to fill his pipe for him," said Charlie. "Do you try," said the widow, "while I go indoors and order the tea."

It had been necessary to put the bait very close before Cheesacre's eyes, or there would have been no hope that he might take it. The bait had been put so very close that we must feel sure that he saw the hook. But there are fish so silly that they will take the bait although they know the hook is there. Cheesacre understood it all. Many things he could not see, but he could see that Mrs Greenow was trying to catch him as a husband for Charlie Fairstairs; and he knew also that he had always despised Charlie, and that no worldly advantage whatever would accrue to him by a marriage with such a girl. But there she was, and he didn't quite know how to avoid it. She did look rather nice in her clear-starched muslin frock, and he felt that he should like to kiss her. He needn't marry her because he kissed her. The champagne which had created the desire also gave him the audacity. He gave one glance around him to see that he was not observed, and then he did kiss Charlie Fairstairs under the trees. "Oh, Mr Cheesacre," said Charlie. "Oh, Mr Cheesacre," echoed a laughing voice; and poor Cheesacre, looking round, saw that Mrs Greenow, who ought to have been inside the house looking after the boiling water, was moving about for some unknown reason within sight of the spot which he had chosen for his dalliance.

"Mr Cheesacre," said Charlie sobbing, "how dare you do that?—and where all the world could see you?"

"It was only Mrs Greenow," said Cheesacre.

"And what will she think of me?"

"Lord bless you—she won't think anything about it."