“What a naughty boy to swear!” exclaimed the widow at last. “Now I must give you a lecture since I have the chance.”
“Bless her mischievous eyes!” cried the major, with delight in every feature of his face. “You shall give me as many lectures as you plase.”
“You must be good, then, Toby, if you are to be my husband. You must not play billiards for money any more.”
“No billiards! Why, pool is worth three or four pound a wake to me.”
“It doesn’t matter. No billiards and no cards, and no racing and no betting. Toby must be very good and behave as a distinguished soldier should do.”
“What are you afther at all?” the major cried. “Sure if I am to give up me pool and whist, how is a distinguished soldier, and, above all, a distinguished soldier’s wife, going to live?”
“We’ll manage, dear,” she said, looking roguishly up into his face.
“I told you that my money was all in the Agra Bank that broke.”
“You did, worse luck!”
“But I didn’t tell you that I had drawn it all out before it broke, Toby dear. It was too bad to put you to such a trial, wasn’t it? but really I couldn’t resist the temptation. Toby shall have money enough without betting, and he shall settle down and tell his stories, and do what he likes without anything to bother him.”
“Bless her heart!” cried the major fervently; and the battered old Bohemian, as he stooped over and kissed her, felt a tear spring to his eyes as he knew that he had come into harbour after life’s stormy tossings.
“No billiards or cards for three months, then,” said the little woman firmly, with her hands round his arm. “None at all mind! I am going into Hampshire on a visit to my cousins in the country, and you shall not see me for that time, though you may write. If you can give me your word of honour when I come back that you’ve given up your naughty ways, why then—”
“Wait till then and you’ll see,” she said, with a merry laugh. “No, really, I won’t stay another moment. Whatever will the guests say? I must, Toby; I really must—” Away she tripped, while the major remained standing where she had left him, feeling a better man than he had done since he was a young ensign and kissed his mother for the last time at the Portsmouth jetty before the great transport carried him off to India.
Everything in the world must have an end, and Mrs. Scully’s dance was no exception to the rule. The day was breaking, however, before the last guests had muffled themselves up and the last hansom dashed away from the door. The major lingered behind to bid farewell, and then rejoined his German friend, who had been compelled to wait at the door for the latchkey.
“Look here, major,” the latter said, when they came into their room, “is it well to tell a Brussian gentleman to go to the devil? You have much offended me. Truly I was surprised that you should have so spoken!”
“Me dear friend,” the old soldier answered, shaking his hand, “I would not hurt your feelings for the world. Bedad, if I come into the room while you are proposing to a lady, you are welcome to use the strongest German verb to me that you can lay your tongue to.”
“You have probosed, then?” cried the good-natured German, forgetting all about his grievance in an instant.
“And been took—received by her?”
“Dat Is gloriful!” Von Baumser cried, clapping his hands. “Three hochs for Frau Scully, and another one for Frau Clutterbuck. We must drink a drink on it; we truly must.”
“So we shall, me boy, but it’s time we turned in now. She’s a good woman, and she plays a good hand at whist. Ged! she cleared the trumps and made her long suit to-night as well as ever I saw it done in me life!” With which characteristic piece of eulogy the major bade his comrade good night and retired to his room.