"Portia, dear, would you mind going with me that day, when I confront those old gentlemen?"
She shrank a little, but said:
"N-o; if my being with you would help hearten you. But - would it be quite proper, do you think?"
"No, I don't know that it would - in fact, I'm afraid it wouldn't; but, you see, there's so much dependent upon it that--"
"Then I'll go anyway, proper or improper," she said, with a beautiful and generous enthusiasm. "Oh, I shall be so happy to think I'm helping!"
"Helping, dear? Why, you'll be doing it all. You're so beautiful and so lovely and so winning, that with you there I can pile our salary up till I break those good old fellows, and they'll never have the heart to struggle."
Sho! you should have seen the rich blood mount, and her happy eyes shine!
"You wicked flatterer! There isn't a word of truth in what you say, but still I'll go with you. Maybe it will teach you not to expect other people to look with your eyes."
Were my doubts dissipated? Was my confidence restored? You may judge by this fact: privately I raised my salary to twelve hundred the first year on the spot. But I didn't tell her; I saved it for a surprise.
All the way home I was in the clouds, Hastings talking, I not hearing a word. When he and I entered my parlor, he brought me to myself with his fervent appreciations of my manifold comforts and luxuries.
"Let me just stand here a little and look my fill. Dear me! it's a palace - it's just a palace! And in it everything a body could desire, including cosy coal fire and supper standing ready. Henry, it doesn't merely make me realize how rich you are; it makes me realize, to the bone, to the marrow, how poor I am - how poor I am, and how miserable, how defeated, routed, annihilated!"
Plague take it! this language gave me the cold shudders. It scared me broad awake, and made me comprehend that I was standing on a halfinch crust, with a crater underneath. I didn't know I had been dreaming - that is, I hadn't been allowing myself to know it for a while back; but now - oh, dear! Deep in debt, not a cent in the world, a lovely girl's happiness or woe in my hands, and nothing in front of me but a salary which might never - oh, would never - materialize! Oh, oh, oh! I am ruined past hope! nothing can save me!