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- A SIMPLETON - 20/84 -


She bid on, but in fear and trembling, because of those twinkling eyes. At last she mustered courage, wrote on a leaf of her pocket- book, and passed it down to him: "It would be only kind to warn me. What am I doing wrong?"

He sent her back a line directly: "Auctioneer running you up himself. Follow his eye when he bids; you will see there is no bona fide bidder at your prices."

Rosa did so, and found that it was true.

She nodded to Uncle Philip; and, with her expressive face, asked him what she should do.

The old boy must have his joke. So he wrote back: "Tell him, as you see he has a fancy for certain articles, you would not be so discourteous as to bid against him."

The next article but one was a drawing-room suite Rosa wanted; but the auctioneer bid against her; so at eighteen pounds she stopped.

"It is against you, madam," said the auctioneer.

"Yes, sir," said Rosa; "but as you are the only bidder, and you have been so kind to me, I would not think of opposing you."

The words were scarcely out of her mouth, when they were greeted with a roar of Homeric laughter that literally shook the room, and this time not at the expense of the innocent speaker.

"That's into your mutton, governor."

"Sharp's the word this time."

"I say, governor, don't you want a broker to bid for ye?"

"Wink at me next time, sir; I'll do the office for you."

"No greenhorns left now."

"That lady won't give a ten-pund note for her grandfather's armchair."

"Oh, yes, she will, if it's stuffed with banknotes."

"Put the next lot up with the owner's name and the reserve price. Open business."

"And sing a psalm at starting."

"A little less noise in Judaea, if you please," said the auctioneer, who had now recovered from the blow. "Lot 97."

This was a very pretty marqueterie cabinet; it stood against the wall, and Rosa had set her heart upon it. Nobody would bid. She had muzzled the auctioneer effectually.

"Your own price."

"Two pounds," said Rosa.

A dealer offered guineas; and it advanced slowly to four pounds and half a crown, at which it was about to be knocked down to Rosa, when suddenly a new bidder arose in the broker Rosa had rejected. They bid slowly and sturdily against each other, until a line was given to Rosa from Uncle Philip.

"This time it is your own friend, the snipe-nosed woman. She telegraphed a broker."

Rosa read, and crushed the note. "Six guineas," said she.

"Six-ten."

"Seven."

"Seven-ten."

"Eight."

"Eight-ten."

"Ten guineas," said Rosa; and then, with feminine cunning, stealing a sudden glance, caught her friend leaning back and signalling the broker not to give in.

"Eleven pounds."

"Twelve."

"Thirteen."

"Fourteen."

"Sixteen."

"Eighteen."

"Twenty."

"Twenty guineas."

"It is yours, my faithful friend," said Rosa, turning suddenly round to Mrs. Cole, with a magnificent glance no one would have thought her capable of.

Then she rose and stalked away.

Dumfounded for the moment, Mrs. Cole followed her, and stopped her at the door.

"Why, Rosie dear, it is the only thing I have bid for. There I've sat by your side like a mouse."

Rosa turned gravely towards her. "You know it is not that. You had only to tell me you wanted it. I would never have been so mean as to bid against you."

"Mean, indeed!" said. Florence, tossing her head.

"Yes, mean; to draw back and hide behind the friend you were with, and employ the very rogue she had turned off. But it is my own fault. Cecilia warned me against you. She always said you were a treacherous girl."

"And I say you are an impudent little minx. Only just married, and going about like two vagabonds, and talk to me like that!"

"We are not going about like two vagabonds. We have taken a house in Mayfair."

"Say a stable."

"It was by your advice, you false-hearted creature."

"You are a fool."

"You are worse; you are a traitress."

"Then don't you have anything to do with me."

"Heaven forbid I should, you treacherous thing!"

"You insolent--insolent--I hate you."

"And I despise you."

"I always hated you at bottom."

"That's why you pretended to love me, you wretch."

"Well, I pretend no more. I am your enemy for life."

"Thank you. You have told the truth for once in your life."

"I have. And he shall never call in your husband; so you may leave Mayfair as soon as you like."

"Not to please you, madam. We can get on without traitors."

And so they parted, with eyes that gleamed like tigers.

Rosa drove home in great agitation, and tried to tell Christopher; but choked, and became hysterical. The husband-physician coaxed and scolded her out of that; and presently in came Uncle Philip, full of the humors of the auction-room. He told about the little boy with a delight that disgusted Mrs. Staines, and then was particularly merry on female friendships. "Fancy a man going to a sale with his friend, and bidding against him on the sly."

"She is no friend of mine. We are enemies for life."

"And you were to be friends till death," said Staines, with a sigh.

Philip inquired who she was.

"Mrs. John Cole."

"Not of Curzon Street?"

"Yes."

"And you have quarrelled with her?"

"Yes."

"Well, but her husband is a general practitioner."

"She is a traitress."

"But her husband could put a good deal of money in Christopher's way."

"I can't help it. She is a traitress."

"And you have quarrelled with her about an old wardrobe."

"No, for her disloyalty, and her base good-for-nothingness. Oh! oh! oh!"


A SIMPLETON - 20/84

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