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The ceiling corresponded in style, for it was covered with ornament
All made out of the carver's brain.
And the room was strangely furnished. The high oak-settle of a farm-house stood back against the wall not far from the fire, and a few feet from it a tall, old-fashioned piano, which bore the name of Broadwood under the cover. At the side of the room farthest from the fire, stood an equally old-fashioned chest of drawers, on which the sloping lid at the top left just room for a glassdoored book-case to stand, rivalling the piano in height. Then there was a sofa, covered with chintz plentifully besprinkled with rose-buds; and in the middle of the room a square mahogany table, called by upholsterers a pembroke, I think, the colour of which was all but black with age and manipulation, only it could not be seen now because it was covered with a check of red and blue.
A few mahogany chairs, seated with horsehair, a fire-screen in faded red silk, a wooden foot-stool, and a tall-backed easy-chair, covered
with striped stuff, almost completed the furniture of the nondescript spartment.
Thomas Worboise carried a chair to the fire, and put his feet on the broad-barred bright kitchen-fender in front of it.
“Are your feet wet, Thomas ? asked Lucy, with some gentle anxiety, and a tremor upon his name, as if she had not yet got quite used to saying it without a Mr. before it.
“ Oh no, thank you. I don't mind a little wet. Hark how the wind blows in the old chimney up there! It'll awkward night on the west coast, this. I wonder what it feels like to be driving right on the rocks at the Land's End, or some such place.”
“ Don't talk of such things in that cool way, Mr. Thomas. You make my blood run cold," said Mrs. Boxall.
“ He doesn't mean it, you know, grannie,” said Lucy, mediating.
« But I do mean it. I should like to know how it feels,” persisted Thomas—" with the very
shrouds, as taut as steel bars, blowing out in the hiss of the nor'-wester.”
“ Yes, I daresay !" returned the old lady, with some indignation. “You would like to know how it felt so long as your muddy boots was on my clean fender !”
Thomas did not know that the old lady had lost one son at sea, and had another the captain of a sailing-vessel, or he would not have spoken as he did.
But he was always wanting to know how things felt. Had not his education rendered it impossible for him to see into the state of his own mind, he might, questioned as to what he considered the ideal of life, have replied, “A continuous succession of delicate and poetic sensations.” Hence he had made many a frantic effort after religious sensations. But the necessity of these was now somewhat superseded by his growing attachment to Lucy, and the sensations consequent upon that.
Up to this moment, in his carriage and speech, he had been remarkably, different from himself as already shown in my history. For he was, or thought himself, somebody here; and there was a freedom and ease about his manner, amounting in fact, to a slight though not disagreeable swagger, which presented him with far more advantage than he had in the presence of his father and mother, or even of Mr. Boxall and Mr. Stopper. But he never could bear any one to be displeased with him except he were angry himself. So when Mrs. Boxall spoke as she did, his countenance fell. He instantly removed his feet from the fender, glanced up at ber face, saw that she was really indignant, and, missing the real reason of course, supposed that it was because he had been indiscreet in being disrespectful to a cherished article of housewifery. It was quite characteristic of Tom that he instantly pulled his handkerchief from his pocket, and began therewith to restore the brightness of the desecrated iron. This went at once to the old lady's heart. She snatched the handkerchief out of his hand.
“Come, come, Mr. Thomas ! Don't ye mind an old woman like that. To think of using your handkerchief that way! And cambric, too !”
Thomas looked up in surprise, and straightway recovered his behaviour. “I didn't think of your fender,” he said.
Oh, drat the fender !” exclaimed Mrs. Boxall, with more energy than refinement.
And so the matter dropped, and all sat silent for a few moments, Mrs. Boxall with her knitting, and Tom and Lucy beside each other with their thoughts. Lucy presently returned to their talk on the staircase.
“So you were out at dinner on Wednesday, Thomas ?”
“Yes. It was a great bore, but I had to go. Boxall's, you know. I beg your pardon, Mrs. Boxall; but that's how fellows like me talk, you know. I should have said Mr. Boxall. And I didn't mean that he was a bore. That he is not, though he is a little particular—of course. I only meant it was a bore to go there when I wanted to come here."
“Is my cousin Mary very pretty ?” asked Lucy, with a meaning in her tone which Thomas easily enough understood.