"The ideal union," began De Boys—"the union we have already discussed——"
"The Before-the-Fall ideal," she said, quickly. "I know."
"Why could not we—would you be willing—I should say—would you mind very much—being called my wife?"
"My dear De Boys!" she murmured, with maternal pity and affection—"My dear De Boys"—and she looked at him, smiling helplessly—"My dear De Boys!"
Anything more chilling to lover-like aspirations is not to be imagined. Long years afterwards the echo of that motherly "My dear De Boys!" could bring an east wind on the warmest day.
"It is my turn," he said, hotly, "to be treated like a buffoon when I am serious!"
"Don't say that," said Sophia; "but—but the idea startled me!"
"Is that all?" he said, eagerly; "because, in that case, you might become accustomed to it."
"First," she murmured, at last, "let us clearly understand what the idea is."
"We should remain, just as we are—friends," said the young man, "only truer friends than the world understands by the term; but,as a concession to propriety, we would go through the ceremony of marriage. It—it is rather difficult to explain in detail: the ideal never does lend itself to definition!"
"There would be no love-making—nothing silly," said Sophia, "nothing commonplace, and ridiculous, and domestic!"