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The Money Moon(Chapter20)

2006-08-28 23:17

  Chapter XX. Which relates a most extraordinary conversation

  In the days which now ensued, while Anthea was busied out of doors and Miss Priscilla was busied indoors, and Small Porges was diligently occupied with his lessons,——at such times, Bellew would take his pipe and go to sit and smoke in company with the Cavalier in the great picture above the carved chimney-piece.

  A right jovial companion, at all times, was this Cavalier, an optimist he, from the curling feather in his broad-brimmed beaver hat, to the spurs at his heels. Handsome, gay, and debonair was he, with lips up-curving to a smile beneath his moustachio, and a quizzical light in his grey eyes, very like that in Bellew's own. Moreover he wore the knowing, waggish air of one well versed in all the ways of the world, and mankind in general, and, (what is infinitely more),——of the Sex Feminine, in particular. Experienced was he, beyond all doubt, in their pretty tricks, and foibles, since he had ever been a diligent student of Feminine Capriciousness when the "Merry Monarch" ruled the land.

  Hence, it became customary for Bellew to sit with him, and smoke, and take counsel of this "preux chevalier" upon the unfortunate turn of affairs. Whereof ensued many remarkable conversations of which the following, was one:

  BELLEW: No sir,——emphatically I do not agree with you. To be sure, you may have had more experience than I, in such affairs,——but then, it was such a very long time ago.

  THE CAVALIER: (Interrupting, or seeming to)!!!

  BELLEW: Again, I beg to differ from you, women are not the same to-day as they ever were. Judging by what I have read of the ladies of your day, and King Charles's court at Whitehall,——I should say——not. At least, if they are, they act differently, and consequently must be——er——wooed differently. The methods employed in your day would be wholly inadequate and quite out of place, in this.

  THE CAVALIER: (Shaking his head and smirking,——or seeming to)!!!

  BELLEW: Well, I'm willing to bet you anything you like that if you were to step down out of your frame, change your velvets and laces for trousers and coat, leave off your great peruke, and wear a derby hat instead of that picturesque, floppy affair, and try your fortune with some Twentieth Century damsel, your high-sounding gallantries, and flattering phrases, would fall singularly flat, and you would be promptly——turned down, sir.

  THE CAVALIER: (Tossing his love-locks,——or seeming to)!!!

  BELLEW: The "strong hand," you say? Hum! History tells us that William the Conqueror wooed his lady with a club, or a battle-axe, or something of the sort, and she consequently liked him the better for it; which was all very natural, and proper of course, in her case, seeing that hers was the day of battle-axes, and things. But then, as I said before, sir,——the times are sadly changed,——women may still admire strength of body, and even——occasionally——of mind, but the theory of "Dog, woman, and walnut tree" is quite obsolete.

  THE CAVALIER: (Frowning and shaking his head,——or seeming to)!!!

  BELLEW: Ha!——you don't believe me? Well, that is because you are obsolete, too;——yes sir, as obsolete as your hat, or your boots, or your long rapier. Now, for instance, suppose I were to ask your advice in my own case? You know precisely how the matter stands at present, between Miss Anthea and myself. You also know Miss Anthea personally, since you have seen her much and often, and have watched her grow from childhood into——er——glorious womanhood,——I repeat sir glorious womanhood. Thus, you ought to know, and understand her far better than I,——for I do confess she is a constant source of bewilderment to me. Now, since you do know her so well,——what course should you adopt, were you in my place?

  THE CAVALIER: (Smirking more knowingly than ever,——or seeming to)!!!

  BELLEW: Preposterous! Quite absurd!——and just what I might have expected. Carry her off, indeed! No no, we are not living in your bad, old, glorious days when a maid's "No" was generally taken to mean "Yes"——or when a lover might swing his reluctant mistress up to his saddle-bow, and ride off with her, leaving the world far behind. To-day it is all changed,——sadly changed. Your age was a wild age, a violent age, but in some respects, perhaps, a rather glorious age. Your advice is singularly characteristic, and, of course, quite impossible, alas!——Carry her off, indeed!

  Hereupon, Bellew sighed, and turning away, lighted his pipe, which had gone out, and buried himself in the newspaper.

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