'It's matter of fact; not opinion. But what's the matter?' said Tom, looking at her more intently, 'how flushed you are! and you have been crying.'
'No, I have not, Tom.'
'Nonsense,' said her brother stoutly. 'That's a story. Don't tell me! I know better. What is it, dear? I'm not with Mr Pecksniff now. I am going to try and settle myself in London; and if you are not happy here (as I very much fear you are not, for I begin to think you have been deceiving me with the kindest and most affectionate intention) you shall not remain here.'
Oh! Tom's blood was rising; mind that! Perhaps the Boar's Head had something to do with it, but certainly the footman had. So had the sight of his pretty sister--a great deal to do with it. Tom could bear a good deal himself, but he was proud of her, and pride is a sensitive thing. He began to think, 'there are more Pecksniffs than one, perhaps,' and by all the pins and needles that run up and down in angry veins, Tom was in a most unusual tingle all at once!
'We will talk about it, Tom,' said Ruth, giving him another kiss to pacify him. 'I am afraid I cannot stay here.'
'Cannot!' replied Tom. 'Why then, you shall not, my love. Heyday! You are not an object of charity! Upon my word!'
Tom was stopped in these exclamations by the footman, who brought a message from his master, importing that he wished to speak with him before he went, and with Miss Pinch also.
'Show the way,' said Tom. 'I'll wait upon him at once.'
Accordingly they entered the adjoining room from which the noise of altercation had proceeded; and there they found a middle-aged gentleman, with a pompous voice and manner, and a middle-aged lady, with what may be termed an excisable face, or one in which starch and vinegar were decidedly employed. There was likewise present that eldest pupil of Miss Pinch, whom Mrs Todgers, on a previous occasion, had called a syrup, and who was now weeping and sobbing spitefully.
'My brother, sir,' said Ruth Pinch, timidly presenting Tom.
'Oh!' cried the gentleman, surveying Tom attentively. 'You really are Miss Pinch's brother, I presume? You will excuse my asking. I don't observe any resemblance.'
'Miss Pinch has a brother, I know,' observed the lady.
'Miss Pinch is always talking about her brother, when she ought to be engaged upon my education,' sobbed the pupil.
'Sophia! Hold your tongue!' observed the gentleman. 'Sit down, if you please,' addressing Tom.
Tom sat down, looking from one face to another, in mute surprise.
'Remain here, if you please, Miss Pinch,' pursued the gentleman, looking slightly over his shoulder.
Tom interrupted him here, by rising to place a chair for his sister. Having done which he sat down again.
'I am glad you chance to have called to see your sister to-day, sir,' resumed the brass-and-copper founder. 'For although I do not approve, as a principle, of any young person engaged in my family in the capacity of a governess, receiving visitors, it happens in this case to be well timed. I am sorry to inform you that we are not at all satisfied with your sister.'
'We are very much DISsatisfied with her,' observed the lady.
'I'd never say another lesson to Miss Pinch if I was to be beat to death for it!' sobbed the pupil.
'Sophia!' cried her father. 'Hold your tongue!'
'Will you allow me to inquire what your ground of dissatisfaction is?' asked Tom.
'Yes,' said the gentleman, 'I will. I don't recognize it as a right; but I will. Your sister has not the slightest innate power of commanding respect. It has been a constant source of difference between us. Although she has been in this family for some time, and although the young lady who is now present has almost, as it were, grown up under her tuition, that young lady has no respect for her. Miss Pinch has been perfectly unable to command my daughter's respect, or to win my daughter's confidence. Now,' said the gentleman, allowing the palm of his hand to fall gravely down upon the table: 'I maintain that there is something radically wrong in that! You, as her brother, may be disposed to deny it--'
'I beg your pardon, sir,' said Tom.