The lady turned aside her head. "Men are such deceivers," she softly whispered.
"They are, they are," ejaculated Mr. Tupman; "but not all men. There lives at least one being who can never change--one being who would be content to devote his whole existence to your happiness--who lives but in your eyes--who breathes but in your smiles--who bears the heavy burden of life itself only for you."
"Could such an individual be found," said the lady--
"But he can be found," said the ardent Mr. Tupman, interposing. "He is found. He is here, Miss Wardle." And ere the lady was aware of his intention, Mr. Tupman had sunk upon his knees at her feet.
"Mr. Tupman, rise," said Rachael.
"Never!" was the valorous reply. "Oh, Rachael!"--He seized her passive hand, and the watering-pot fell to the ground as he pressed it to his lips--"Oh, Rachael! say you love me."
"Mr. Tupman," said the spinster aunt, with averted head--"I can hardly speak the words; but--but--you are not wholly indifferent to me."
Mr. Tupman no sooner heard this avowal, than he proceeded to do what his enthusiastic emotions prompted, and what, for aught we know (for we are but little acquainted with such matters), people so circumstanced always do. He jumped up, and, throwing his arm round the neck of the spinster aunt, imprinted upon her lips numerous kisses, which after a due show of struggling and resistance, she received so passively, that there is no telling how many more Mr. Tupman might have bestowed, if the lady had not given a very unaffected start and exclaimed in an affrighted tone--
"Mr. Tupman, we are observed!--we are discovered!"
Mr. Tupman looked round. There was the fat boy, perfectly motionless, with his large circular eyes staring into the arbour, but without the slightest expression on his face that the most expert physiognomist could have referred to astonishment, curiosity, or any other known passion that agitates the human breast. Mr. Tupman gazed on the fat boy, and the fat boy stared at him; and the longer Mr. Tupman observed the utter vacancy of the fat boy's countenance, the more convinced he became that he either did not know, or did not understand, anything that had been going forward. Under this impression, he said with great firmness--
"What do you want here, sir?"
"Supper's ready, sir," was the prompt reply.
"Have you just come here, sir?" inquired Mr. Tupman, with a piercing look.
"Just," replied the fat boy.
Mr. Tupman looked at him very hard again; but there was not a wink in his eye, or a curve in his face.
Mr. Tupman took the arm of the spinster aunt, and walked towards the house; the fat boy followed behind.
"He knows nothing of what has happened," he whispered.
"Nothing," said the spinster aunt.
There was a sound behind them, as of an imperfectly suppressed chuckle. Mr. Tupman turned sharply round. No; it could not have been the fat boy; there was not a gleam of mirth, or anything but feeding in his whole visage.
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