"Is that all? Is that what you were whimpering on your knees about?" says the old lady, growing angry. "You might have kept the news till tomorrow?"
"Yes -- another has superseded me," goes on Pen; "but why call him villain? He is brave, he is constant, he is young, he is wealthy, he is beautiful."
"What stuff are you talking, sir?" cried the old lady. "What has happened?"
"Miss Amory has jilted me, and accepted Henry Foker, Esquire. I found her warbling ditties to him as he lay at her feet; presents had been accepted, vows exchanged, these ten days. Harry was old Mrs. Planter's rheumatism, which kept dearest Laura out of the house. He is the most constant and generous of men. He has promised the living of Logwood to Lady Ann's husband, and given her a splendid present on her marriage; and he rushed to fling himself at Blanche's feet the instant he found he was free."
"And so, as you can't get Blanche, you put up with Laura: is that it, sir?" asked the old lady.
"He acted nobly," Laura said.
"I acted as she bade me," said Pen. "Never mind how, Lady Rockminster: but to the best of my knowledge and power. And if you mean that I am not worthy of Laura, I know it, and pray Heaven to better me; and if the love and company of the best and purest creature in the world can do so, at least I shall have these to help me."
"Hm, hm," replied the old lady to this, looking with rather an appeased air at the young people. "It is all very well; but I should have preferred Bluebeard." And now Pen, to divert the conversation from a theme which was growing painful to some parties present, bethought him of his interview with Huxter in the morning, and of Fanny Bolton's affairs, which he had forgotten under the immediate pressure and excitement of his own. And he told the ladies how Huxter had elevated Fanny to the rank of wife, and what terrors he was in respecting the arrival of his father. He described the scene with considerable humour, taking care to dwell especially upon that part of it which concerned Fanny's coquetry and irrepressible desire of captivating mankind; his meaning being, "You see, Laura, I was not so guilty in that little affair; it was the girl who made love to me, and I who resisted. As I am no longer present, the little siren practises her arts and fascinations upon others. Let that transaction be forgotten in your mind, if you please; or visit me with a very gentle punishment for my error." Laura understood his meaning under the eagerness of his explanations. "If you did any wrong, you repented, dear Pen," she said, "and you know," she added, with meaning eyes and blushes, "that I have no right to reproach you."
"Hm!" grumbled the old lady; "I should have preferred Bluebeard."
"The past is broken away. The morrow is before us. I will do my best to make your morrow happy, dear Laura," Pen said. His heart was humbled by the prospect of his happiness: it stood awe-stricken in the contemplation of her sweet goodness and purity. He liked his wife better that she had owned to that passing feeling for Warrington, and laid bare her generous heart to him. And she -- very likely she was thinking, "How strange it is that I ever should have cared for another; I am vexed almost to think I care for him so little, am so little sorry that he is gone away. Oh, in these past two months how I have learned to love Arthur! I care about nothing but Arthur; my waking and sleeping thoughts are about him; he is never absent from me. And to think that he is to be mine, mine! and that I am to marry him, and not to be his servant, as I expected to be only this morning; for I would have gone down on my knees to Blanche to beg her to let me live with him. And now -- Oh, it is too much. O mother! mother, that you were here!" Indeed, she felt as if Helen were there -- by her actually, though invisibly. A halo of happiness beamed from her. She moved with a different step, and bloomed