“Oh! Alfred, then. I am glad it’s no worse. I was afraid I had said something shocking. I am always saying something wrong to ma.”

“To me, Georgiana dearest?”

“No, not to you; you are not ma. I wish you were.”

Mrs. Lammle bestowed a sweet and loving smile upon her friend, which Miss Podsnap returned as she best could. They sat at lunch in Mrs. Lammle’s own boudoir.

“And so, dearest Georgiana, Alfred is like your notion of a lover?”

“I don’t say that, Sophronia,” Georgiana replied, beginning to conceal her elbows. “I haven’t any notion of a lover. The dreadful wretches that ma brings up at places to torment me, are not lovers. I only mean that Mr. — ”

“Again, dearest Georgiana?”

“That Alfred — ”

“Sounds much better, darling.”

“ — Loves you so. He always treats you with such delicate gallantry and attention. Now, don’t he?”

“Truly, my dear,” said Mrs. Lammle, with a rather singular expression crossing her face. “I believe that he loves me, fully as much as I love him.”

“Oh, what happiness!” exclaimed Miss Podsnap.

“But do you know, my Georgiana,” Mrs. Lammle resumed presently, “that there is something suspicious in your enthusiastic sympathy with Alfred’s tenderness?”

“Good gracious no, I hope not!”

“Doesn’t it rather suggest,” said Mrs. Lammle archly, “that my Georgiana’s little heart is — ”

“Oh don’t!” Miss Podsnap blushingly besought her. “Please don’t! I assure you, Sophronia, that I only praise Alfred, because he is your husband and so fond of you.”

Sophronia’s glance was as if a rather new light broke in upon her. It shaded off into a cool smile, as she said, with her eyes upon her lunch, and her eyebrows raised:

“You are quite wrong, my love, in your guess at my meaning. What I insinuated was, that my Georgiana’s little heart was growing conscious of a vacancy.”

“No, no, no,” said Georgiana. “I wouldn’t have anybody say anything to me in that way for I don’t know how many thousand pounds.”

“In what way, my Georgiana?” inquired Mrs. Lammle, still smiling coolly with her eyes upon her lunch, and her eyebrows raised.

You know,” returned poor little Miss Podsnap. “I think I should go out of my mind, Sophronia, with vexation and shyness and detestation, if anybody did. It’s enough for me to see how loving you and your husband are. That’s a different thing. I couldn’t bear to have anything of that sort going on with myself. I should beg and pray to — to have the person taken away and trampled upon.”

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