'I am not at all disposed to deny it. I am sure that there is something radically wrong; radically monstrous, in that.'
'Good Heavens!' cried the gentleman, looking round the room with dignity, 'what do I find to be the case! what results obtrude themselves upon me as flowing from this weakness of character on the part of Miss Pinch! What are my feelings as a father, when, after my desire (repeatedly expressed to Miss Pinch, as I think she will not venture to deny) that my daughter should be choice in her expressions, genteel in her deportment, as becomes her station in life, and politely distant to her inferiors in society, I find her, only this very morning, addressing Miss Pinch herself as a beggar!'
'A beggarly thing,' observed the lady, in correction.
'Which is worse,' said the gentleman, triumphantly; 'which is worse. A beggarly thing. A low, coarse, despicable expression!'
'Most despicable,' cried Tom. 'I am glad to find that there is a just appreciation of it here.'
'So just, sir,' said the gentleman, lowering his voice to be the more impressive. 'So just, that, but for my knowing Miss Pinch to be an unprotected young person, an orphan, and without friends, I would, as I assured Miss Pinch, upon my veracity and personal character, a few minutes ago, I would have severed the connection between us at that moment and from that time.'
'Bless my soul, sir!' cried Tom, rising from his seat; for he was now unable to contain himself any longer; 'don't allow such considerations as those to influence you, pray. They don't exist, sir. She is not unprotected. She is ready to depart this instant. Ruth, my dear, get your bonnet on!'
'Oh, a pretty family!' cried the lady. 'Oh, he's her brother! There's no doubt about that!'
'As little doubt, madam,' said Tom, 'as that the young lady yonder is the child of your teaching, and not my sister's. Ruth, my dear, get your bonnet on!'
'When you say, young man,' interposed the brass-and-copper founder, haughtily, 'with that impertinence which is natural to you, and which I therefore do not condescend to notice further, that the young lady, my eldest daughter, has been educated by any one but Miss Pinch, you--I needn't proceed. You comprehend me fully. I have no doubt you are used to it.'
'Sir!' cried Tom, after regarding him in silence for some little time. 'If you do not understand what I mean, I will tell you. If you do understand what I mean, I beg you not to repeat that mode of expressing yourself in answer to it. My meaning is, that no man can expect his children to respect what he degrades.'
'Ha, ha, ha!' laughed the gentleman. 'Cant! cant! The common cant!'
'The common story, sir!' said Tom; 'the story of a common mind. Your governess cannot win the confidence and respect of your children, forsooth! Let her begin by winning yours, and see what happens then.'
'Miss Pinch is getting her bonnet on, I trust, my dear?' said the gentleman.
'I trust she is,' said Tom, forestalling the reply. 'I have no doubt she is. In the meantime I address myself to you, sir. You made your statement to me, sir; you required to see me for that purpose; and I have a right to answer it. I am not loud or turbulent,' said Tom, which was quite true, 'though I can scarcely say as much for you, in your manner of addressing yourself to me. And I wish, on my sister's behalf, to state the simple truth.'
'You may state anything you like, young man,' returned the gentleman, affecting to yawn. 'My dear, Miss Pinch's money.'
'When you tell me,' resumed Tom, who was not the less indignant for keeping himself quiet, 'that my sister has no innate power of commanding the respect of your children, I must tell you it is not so; and that she has. She is as well bred, as well taught, as well qualified by nature to command respect, as any hirer of a governess you know. But when you place her at a disadvantage in reference to every servant in your house, how can you suppose, if you have the gift of common sense, that she is not in a tenfold worse position in reference to your daughters?'
'Pretty well! Upon my word,' exclaimed the gentleman, 'this is pretty well!'
'It is very ill, sir,' said Tom.