Page:Pieces People Ask For.djvu/230

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Stella. My maid said Festus was in this room. Ah! there he is, deep in a book: that's so like these literary gentry! No sooner are their roving eyes fastened on a book than it is seized with the avidity with which a starving man grasps a loaf of bread. He seems happy: I will not disturb him. (Sits on tête-à-tête.) What a strange idea! Here am I to pass the evening listening to the voice of one whom I never saw before. This is one of my uncle's whims: he fears I am working too hard to entertain him with readings from his favorite authors, and so determines to employ a reader to relieve me. Dear uncle, with all his pain and suffering he has a sharp eye: he notices my want of spirit, and thinks it is caused by weariness. He little knows that the true cause is that stupid lover of mine, who sat here evening after evening as dumb as an oyster, until, out of spite, I started him off. What could have ailed the man? Nothing could he say but "Yes, ma'am," "No, ma'am," "Fine evening," "Good-night." I never was so plagued in all my life, for I should have liked the fellow if he had only tried to make himself agreeable; but he was as silent and stupid as—Festus here. (Festus rises, gesticulating with his hand, his eyes fastened on the book.) What can the man be about?

Festus. (Reading.) "Is this a dagger which I see before me? the handle towards my hand? Come, let me clutch thee! I have thee not, and yet I see"—(Turns and sees Stella. Drops book, and runs behind chair very confused.)

Stella. Good gracious! you here again?

Festus. I beg your pardon. You are—I am—

Stella. I thought, sir, I was to have no more of your agreeable society.

Festus. I beg your pardon, madam: you seem to be in error. I am Festus,—Festus.

Stella. You Festus?

Festus. Oh, yes: I'm Festus! I came here by appointment.

Stella. What do you mean, sir? I expected a gentleman here to read.

Festus. Exactly! Pray, are you the invalid?

Stella. Sir, you are insulting! You will be kind enough to leave this room at once. I thought the last time you were here—

Festus. Excuse me for interrupting; but you evidently mistake me for some other person. I never was in this house before.