‘Maria, my dear,’ said Lady Lucas, after the three of them had sat a while. ‘I do not believe Mr. Thripp has seen the napkins you embroidered so prettily last week. Perhaps you might fetch them to show him.’
Maria obeyed without question, but when she returned to the drawing-room, she found only Mr. Thripp there.
‘Where is Mamma?’ she said.
‘She was wanted,’ he replied. ‘I dare say she will be back shortly.’
There followed a short silence, for Mr. Thripp, while not usually uncertain of himself, was unaccustomed to courtship, and was reflecting on how best to proceed so as to be sure of attaining his object. He soon remembered that he was supposed to be admiring Maria’s needle-work.
‘And so these are the very napkins to which your mother alluded as having been wrought by your own fair hand,’ he cried, taking up one of the aforesaid articles and striking an attitude of delight. ‘They are quite charming. I congratulate you, Miss Lucas, on the industry and accomplishment which produced so harmonious an object—for this little scrap of fabric I hold here in my hand combines both beauty and utility, and is in every respect a thing to be preserved and cherished.’
Here he paused to congratulate himself inwardly on having begun so well, for he recalled having heard that to pay compliments was the surest way to win a woman’s heart.
‘Thank you, sir,’ said Maria, in some surprise, for she knew not why her modest handiwork should inspire such a display of ecstasy. ‘It was at Mamma’s suggestion that I did them.’
‘Ah! Your dear mother,’ said Mr. Thripp. ‘Happy thought indeed! And happy the table that is so fortunate to find itself adorned with such precious works of art!’
Maria wished to reply, but knew not how, for his raptures seemed to her to be so out of proportion to what was required, that she wondered whether he was making fun of her. He seemed serious enough, however. Might he, then, be in drink? He had certainly partaken of the wine at dinner with great eagerness. Maria glanced at the door involuntarily and hoped her mother might return soon.