'You have been recently married, ma'am?'
'I have,' replied Arabella, in a scarcely audible tone, laying aside her work, and becoming greatly agitated as a thought, that had occurred to her before, struck more forcibly upon her mind.
'Without having represented to your husband the propriety of first consulting his father, on whom he is dependent, I think?' said the stranger.
Arabella applied her handkerchief to her eyes.
'Without an endeavour, even, to ascertain, by some indirect appeal, what were the old man's sentiments on a point in which he would naturally feel much interested?' said the stranger.
'I cannot deny it, Sir,' said Arabella.
'And without having sufficient property of your own to afford your husband any permanent assistance in exchange for the worldly advantages which you knew he would have gained if he had married agreeably to his father's wishes?' said the old gentleman. 'This is what boys and girls call disinterested affection, till they have boys and girls of their own, and then they see it in a rougher and very different light!'
Arabella's tears flowed fast, as she pleaded in extenuation that she was young and inexperienced; that her attachment had alone induced her to take the step to which she had resorted; and that she had been deprived of the counsel and guidance of her parents almost from infancy.
'It was wrong,' said the old gentleman in a milder tone, 'very wrong. It was romantic, unbusinesslike, foolish.'
'It was my fault; all my fault, Sir,' replied poor Arabella, weeping.
'Nonsense,' said the old gentleman; 'it was not your fault that he fell in love with you, I suppose? Yes it was, though,' said the old gentleman, looking rather slily at Arabella. 'It was your fault. He couldn't help it.'
This little compliment, or the little gentleman's odd way of paying it, or his altered manner--so much kinder than it was, at first--or all three together, forced a smile from Arabella in the midst of her tears.
'Where's your husband?' inquired the old gentleman, abruptly; stopping a smile which was just coming over his own face.
'I expect him every instant, sir,' said Arabella. 'I persuaded him to take a walk this morning. He is very low and wretched at not having heard from his father.'
'Low, is he?' said the old gentlemen. 'Serve him right!'
'He feels it on my account, I am afraid,' said Arabella; 'and indeed, Sir, I feel it deeply on his. I have been the sole means of bringing him to his present condition.'
'Don't mind it on his account, my dear,' said the old gentleman. 'It serves him right. I am glad of it--actually glad of it, as far as he is concerned.'
The words were scarcely out of the old gentleman's lips, when footsteps were heard ascending the stairs, which he and Arabella seemed both to recognise at the same moment. The little gentleman turned pale; and, making a strong effort to appear composed, stood up, as Mr. Winkle entered the room.
'Father!' cried Mr. Winkle, recoiling in amazement.
'Yes, sir,' replied the little old gentleman. 'Well, Sir, what have you got to say to me?'
Mr. Winkle remained silent.
'You are ashamed of yourself, I hope, Sir?' said the old gentleman.
Still Mr. Winkle said nothing.
'Are you ashamed of yourself, Sir, or are you not?' inquired the old gentleman.
'No, Sir,' replied Mr. Winkle, drawing Arabella's arm through his.