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 coloured embroidery with which here 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.

`O 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 dessertspoonful of cream daily.'

`Quite wrong.'

`Well, then, Dr Kenn has been preaching against buckram, and you ladies have all been sending him a round robin, 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?'

  By PanEris using Melati.

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