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- A SIMPLETON - 3/84 -
"And I'll show you what love can suffer," said Rosa, folding her beautiful arms superbly.
It was not in her to have shot such a bolt, except in imitation; yet how promptly the mimic thunder came, and how grand the beauty looked, with her dark brows, and flashing eyes, and folded arms! much grander and more inspired than poor Staines, who had only furnished the idea.
But between these two figures swelling with emotion, the representative of common sense, Lusignan pere, stood cool and impassive; he shrugged his shoulders, and looked on both lovers as a couple of ranting novices he was saving from each other and almshouses.
For all that, when the lover had torn himself away, papa's composure was suddenly disturbed by a misgiving. He stepped hastily to the stairhead, and gave it vent. "Dr. Staines," said he, in a loud whisper (Staines was half way down the stairs: he stopped). "I trust to you as a gentleman, not to mention this; it will never transpire here. Whatever we do--no noise!"
Rosa Lusignan set herself pining as she had promised; and she did it discreetly for so young a person. She was never peevish, but always sad and listless. By this means she did not anger her parent, but only made him feel she was unhappy, and the house she had hitherto brightened exceeding dismal.
By degrees this noiseless melancholy undermined the old gentleman, and he well-nigh tottered.
But one day, calling suddenly on a neighbor with six daughters, he heard peals of laughter, and found Rosa taking her full share of the senseless mirth. She pulled up short at sight of him, and colored high; but it was too late, for he launched a knowing look at her on the spot, and muttered something about seven foolish virgins.
He took the first opportunity, when they were alone, and told her he was glad to find she was only dismal at home.
But Rosa had prepared for him. "One can be loud without being gay at heart," said she, with a lofty, languid air. "I have not forgotten your last words to HIM. We were to hide our broken hearts from the world. I try to obey you, dear papa; but, if I had my way, I would never go into the world at all. I have but one desire now--to end my days in a convent."
"Please begin them first. A convent! Why, you'd turn it out of window. You are no more fit to be a nun than--a pauper."
Not having foreseen this facer, Rosa had nothing ready; so she received it with a sad, submissive, helpless sigh, as who would say, "Hit me, papa: I have no friend now." So then he was sorry he had been so clever; and, indeed, there is one provoking thing about "a woman's weakness"--it is invincible.
The next minute, what should come but a long letter from Dr. Staines, detailing his endeavors to purchase a practice in London, and his ill-success. The letter spoke the language of love and hope; but the facts were discouraging; and, indeed, a touching sadness pierced through the veil of the brave words.
Rosa read it again and again, and cried over it before her father, to encourage him in his heartless behavior.
About ten days after this, something occurred that altered her mood.
She became grave and thoughtful, but no longer lugubrious. She seemed desirous to atone to her father for having disturbed his cheerfulness. She smiled affectionately on him, and often sat on a stool at his knee, and glided her hand into his.
He was not a little pleased, and said to himself, "She is coming round to common-sense."
Now, on the contrary, she was farther from it than ever.
At last he got the clew. One afternoon he met Mr. Wyman coming out of the villa. Mr. Wyman was the consulting surgeon of that part.
"What! anybody ill?" said Mr. Lusignan. "One of the servants?"
"No; it is Miss Lusignan."
"Why, what is the matter with her?"
Wyman hesitated. "Oh, nothing very alarming. Would you mind asking her?"
"The fact is, she requested me not to tell you: made me promise."
"And I insist upon your telling me."
"And I think you are quite right, sir, as her father. Well, she is troubled with a little spitting of blood."
Mr. Lusignan turned pale. "My child! spitting of blood! God forbid!"
"Oh, do not alarm yourself. It is nothing serious."
"Don't tell me!" said the father. "It is always serious. And she kept this from me!"
Masking his agitation for the time, he inquired how often it had occurred, this grave symptom.
"Three or four times this last month. But I may as well tell you at once: I have examined her carefully, and I do not think it is from the lungs."
"From the throat, then?"
"No; from the liver. Everything points to that organ as the seat of derangement: not that there is any lesion; only a tendency to congestion. I am treating her accordingly, and have no doubt of the result."
"Who is the ablest physician hereabouts?" asked Lusignan, abruptly.
"Dr. Snell, I think."
"Give me his address."
"I'll write to him, if you like, and appoint a consultation." He added, with vast but rather sudden alacrity, "It will be a great satisfaction to my own mind."
"Then send to him, if you please, and let him be here to-morrow morning; if not, I shall take her to London for advice at once."
On this understanding they parted, and Lusignan went at once to his daughter. "O my child!" said he, deeply distressed, "how could you hide this from me?"
"Hide what, papa?" said the girl, looking the picture of unconsciousness.
"That you have been spitting blood."
"Who told you that?" said she, sharply.
"Wyman. He is attending you."
Rosa colored with anger. "Chatterbox! He promised me faithfully not to."
"But why, in Heaven's name? What! would you trust this terrible thing to a stranger, and hide it from your poor father?"
"Yes," replied Rosa, quietly.
The old man would not scold her now; he only said, sadly, "I see how it is: because I will not let you marry poverty, you think I do not love you." And he sighed.
"O papa! the idea!" said Rosa. "Of course, I know you love me. It was not that, you dear, darling, foolish papa. There! if you must know, it was because I did not want you to be distressed. I thought I might get better with a little physic; and, if not, why, then I thought, 'Papa is an old man; la! I dare say I shall last his time;' and so, why should I poison your latter days with worrying about ME?"
Mr. Lusignan stared at her, and his lip quivered; but he thought the trait hardly consistent with her superficial character. He could not help saying, half sadly, half bitterly, "Well, but of course you have told Dr. Staines."
Rosa opened her beautiful eyes, like two suns. "Of course I have done nothing of the sort. He has enough to trouble him, without that. Poor fellow! there he is, worrying and striving to make his fortune, and gain your esteem--'they go together,' you know; you told him so." (Young cats will scratch when least expected.) "And for me to go and tell him I am in danger! Why, he would go wild. He would think of nothing but me and my health. He would never make his fortune: and so then, even when I am gone, he will never get a wife, because he has only got genius and goodness and three thousand pounds. No, papa, I have not told poor Christopher. I may tease those I love. I have been teasing YOU this ever so long; but frighten them, and make them miserable? No!"
And here, thinking of the anguish that was perhaps in store for those she loved, she wanted to cry; it almost choked her not to. But she fought it bravely down: she reserved her tears for lighter occasions and less noble sentiments.
Her father held out his arms to her. She ran her footstool to him, and sat nestling to his heart.
"Please forgive me my misconduct. I have not been a dutiful daughter ever since you--but now I will. Kiss me, my own papa!
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