'Then come, Louisa,' says the gentleman, waking up as suddenly as he fell asleep, 'stop at home this evening, and so will I.' 'I should be sorry to suppose, Charles, that you took a pleasure in aggravating me,' replies the lady; 'but you know as well as I do that I am particularly engaged to Mrs. Mortimer, and that it would be an act of the grossest rudeness and ill-breeding, after accepting a seat in her box and preventing her from inviting anybody else, not to go.' 'Ah! there it is!' says the gentleman, shrugging his shoulders, 'I knew that perfectly well. I knew you couldn't devote an evening to your own home. Now all I have to say, Louisa, is this--recollect that _I_ was quite willing to stay at home, and that it's no fault of MINE we are not oftener together.'
With that the gentleman goes away to keep an old appointment at his club, and the lady hurries off to dress for Mrs. Mortimer's; and neither thinks of the other until by some odd chance they find themselves alone again.
But it must not be supposed that the cool couple are habitually a quarrelsome one. Quite the contrary. These differences are only occasions for a little self-excuse,--nothing more. In general they are as easy and careless, and dispute as seldom, as any common acquaintances may; for it is neither worth their while to put each other out of the way, nor to ruffle themselves.
When they meet in society, the cool couple are the best-bred people in existence. The lady is seated in a corner among a little knot of lady friends, one of whom exclaims, 'Why, I vow and declare there is your husband, my dear!' 'Whose?--mine?' she says, carelessly. 'Ay, yours, and coming this way too.' 'How very odd!' says the lady, in a languid tone, 'I thought he had been at Dover.' The gentleman coming up, and speaking to all the other ladies and nodding slightly to his wife, it turns out that he has been at Dover, and has just now returned. 'What a strange creature you are!' cries his wife; 'and what on earth brought you here, I wonder?' 'I came to look after you, OF COURSE,' rejoins her husband. This is so pleasant a jest that the lady is mightily amused, as are all the other ladies similarly situated who are within hearing; and while they are enjoying it to the full, the gentleman nods again, turns upon his heel, and saunters away.
There are times, however, when his company is not so agreeable, though equally unexpected; such as when the lady has invited one or two particular friends to tea and scandal, and he happens to come home in the very midst of their diversion. It is a hundred chances to one that he remains in the house half an hour, but the lady is rather disturbed by the intrusion, notwithstanding, and reasons within herself,--'I am sure I never interfere with him, and why should he interfere with me? It can scarcely be accidental; it never happens that I have a particular reason for not wishing him to come home, but he always comes. It's very provoking and tiresome; and I am sure when he leaves me so much alone for his own pleasure, the least he could do would be to do as much for mine.' Observing what passes in her mind, the gentleman, who has come home for his own accommodation, makes a merit of it with himself; arrives at the conclusion that it is the very last place in which he can hope to be comfortable; and determines, as he takes up his hat and cane, never to be so virtuous again.
Thus a great many cool couples go on until they are cold couples, and the grave has closed over their folly and indifference. Loss of name, station, character, life itself, has ensued from causes as slight as these, before now; and when gossips tell such tales, and aggravate their deformities, they elevate their hands and eyebrows, and call each other to witness what a cool couple Mr. and Mrs. So- and-so always were, even in the best of times.
THE PLAUSIBLE COUPLE
The plausible couple have many titles. They are 'a delightful couple,' an 'affectionate couple,' 'a most agreeable couple, 'a good-hearted couple,' and 'the best-natured couple in existence.' The truth is, that the plausible couple are people of the world; and either the way of pleasing the world has grown much easier than it was in the days of the old man and his ass, or the old man was but a bad hand at it, and knew very little of the trade.