Page:Pieces People Ask For.djvu/237

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119
THE READING-CLUB.

object of his adoration. I have yet a short time before the expiration of my hour of trial, and the character of "Sir Thomas Clifford" from which to borrow courage. (Enter Stella, c.)

Stella. Well, mysterious "Festus," what new fancy is agitating your fertile brain?

Festus. Madam, to tell you the truth, I was—thinking—of you.

Stella. Of me, or of your future salary?

Festus. Both.

Stella. What of me?

Festus. (Very awkward and confused.) That I think—I think—that you—you—are—are—

Stella. Well, what am I?

Festus. (Abruptly.) A very fine reader.

Stella. Oh! is that all?

Festus. All worth mentioning.

Stella. Sir!

Festus. That is all I am at liberty to mention.

Stella. What if I should grant you liberty to say more?

Festus. Oh! then—then I should say—I should say—

Stella. Well, what would you say?

Festus. It's your turn to read.

Stella. (Aside.) Stupid! (Aloud.) Well, sir, what shall I read?

Festus. Oh! oblige me by making your own selection.

Stella. There's "The Bells," by Poe. Do you like that?

Festus. Oh, exceedingly!

Stella. But I don't know how to read it: it's very difficult.

Festus. Perhaps I can assist you. (Aside.) I'll provoke her a bit; see if she has a temper.

Stella. Well, you are very kind. (Aside.) I'll see if I can make him talk.

Festus. Well, then, you take the book, and read. (Hands her copy of Poe.) When I think you need correcting, I will speak.

Stella. Very well. (They sit, c. Stella reads in a very tragic tone, emphasizing the words in Italics.)

"Hear the sledges with the bells,
Silver bells!"

Festus. Oh, stop, stop, stop! Dear me! that's not the way to read. There's no silver in your bells. Listen:—