She's going to put out five thousand new circulars, and she knows you'll be interested to hear that. I have brought one of them with me. Ma's compliments." With which she presented it sulkily enough.
"Thank you," said my guardian. "I am much obliged to Mrs. Jellyby. Oh, dear me! This is a very trying wind!"
We were busy with Peepy, taking off his clerical hat, asking him if he remembered us, and so on. Peepy retired behind his elbow at first, but relented at the sight of sponge-cake and allowed me to take him on my lap, where he sat munching quietly. Mr. Jarndyce then withdrawing into the temporary growlery, Miss Jellyby opened a conversation with her usual abruptness.
"We are going on just as bad as ever in Thavies Inn," said she. "I have no peace of my life. Talk of Africa! I couldn't be worse off if I was a what's-his-name--man and a brother!"
I tried to say something soothing.
"Oh, it's of no use, Miss Summerson," exclaimed Miss Jellyby, "though I thank you for the kind intention all the same. I know how I am used, and I am not to be talked over. YOU wouldn't be talked over if you were used so. Peepy, go and play at Wild Beasts under the piano!"
"I shan't!" said Peepy.
"Very well, you ungrateful, naughty, hard-hearted boy!" returned Miss Jellyby with tears in her eyes. "I'll never take pains to dress you any more."
"Yes, I will go, Caddy!" cried Peepy, who was really a good child and who was so moved by his sister's vexation that he went at once.
"It seems a little thing to cry about," said poor Miss Jellyby apologetically, "but I am quite worn out. I was directing the new circulars till two this morning. I detest the whole thing so that that alone makes my head ache till I can't see out of my eyes. And look at that poor unfortunate child! Was there ever such a fright as he is!"
Peepy, happily unconscious of the defects in his appearance, sat on the carpet behind one of the legs of the piano, looking calmly out of his den at us while he ate his cake.
"I have sent him to the other end of the room," observed Miss Jellyby, drawing her chair nearer ours, "because I don't want him to hear the conversation. Those little things are so sharp! I was going to say, we really are going on worse than ever. Pa will be a bankrupt before long, and then I hope Ma will be satisfied. There'll he nobody but Ma to thank for it."
We said we hoped Mr. Jellyby's affairs were not in so bad a state as that.
"It's of no use hoping, though it's very kind of you," returned Miss Jellyby, shaking her head. "Pa told me only yesterday morning (and dreadfully unhappy he is) that he couldn't weather the storm. I should be surprised if he could. When all our tradesmen send into our house any stuff they like, and the servants do what they like with it, and I have no time to improve things if I knew how, and Ma don't care about anything, I should like to make out how Pa is to weather the storm. I declare if I was Pa, I'd run away."
"My dear!" said I, smiling. "Your papa, no doubt, considers his family."
"Oh, yes, his family is all very fine, Miss Summerson," replied Miss Jellyby; "but what comfort is his family to him? His family is nothing but bills, dirt, waste, noise, tumbles downstairs, confusion, and wretchedness. His scrambling home, from week's end to week's end, is like one great washing-day--only nothing's washed!"
Miss Jellyby tapped her foot upon the floor and wiped her eyes.
"I am sure I pity Pa to that degree," she said, "and am so angry with Ma that I can't find words to express myself! However, I am not going to bear it, I am determined. I won't be a slave all my life, and I won't submit to be proposed to by Mr. Quale. A pretty thing, indeed, to marry a philanthropist. As if I hadn't had enough of THAT!" said poor Miss Jellyby.
I must confess that I could not help feeling rather angry with Mrs. Jellyby myself, seeing and hearing this neglected girl and knowing how much of bitterly satirical truth there was in what she said.