'It is very bad and mean, and wrong and cruel. Respect! I believe young people are quick enough to observe and imitate; and why or how should they respect whom no one else respects, and everybody slights? And very partial they must grow--oh, very partial!--to their studies, when they see to what a pass proficiency in those same tasks has brought their governess! Respect! Put anything the most deserving of respect before your daughters in the light in which you place her, and you will bring it down as low, no matter what it is!'
'You speak with extreme impertinence, young man,' observed the gentleman.
'I speak without passion, but with extreme indignation and contempt for such a course of treatment, and for all who practice it,' said Tom. 'Why, how can you, as an honest gentleman, profess displeasure or surprise at your daughter telling my sister she is something beggarly and humble, when you are for ever telling her the same thing yourself in fifty plain, outspeaking ways, though not in words; and when your very porter and footman make the same delicate announcement to all comers? As to your suspicion and distrust of her; even of her word; if she is not above their reach, you have no right to employ her.'
'No right!' cried the brass-and-copper founder.
'Distinctly not,' Tom answered. 'If you imagine that the payment of an annual sum of money gives it to you, you immensely exaggerate its power and value. Your money is the least part of your bargain in such a case. You may be punctual in that to half a second on the clock, and yet be Bankrupt. I have nothing more to say,' said Tom, much flushed and flustered, now that it was over, 'except to crave permission to stand in your garden until my sister is ready.'
Not waiting to obtain it, Tom walked out.
Before he had well begun to cool, his sister joined him. She was crying; and Tom could not bear that any one about the house should see her doing that.
'They will think you are sorry to go,' said Tom. 'You are not sorry to go?'
'No, Tom, no. I have been anxious to go for a very long time.'
'Very well, then! Don't cry!' said Tom.
'I am so sorry for YOU, dear,' sobbed Tom's sister.
'But you ought to be glad on my account,' said Tom. 'I shall be twice as happy with you for a companion. Hold up your head. There! Now we go out as we ought. Not blustering, you know, but firm and confident in ourselves.'
The idea of Tom and his sister blustering, under any circumstances, was a splendid absurdity. But Tom was very far from feeling it to be so, in his excitement; and passed out at the gate with such severe determination written in his face that the porter hardly knew him again.
It was not until they had walked some short distance, and Tom found himself getting cooler and more collected, that he was quite restored to himself by an inquiry from his sister, who said in her pleasant little voice:
'Where are we going, Tom?'
'Dear me!' said Tom, stopping, 'I don't know.'
'Don't you--don't you live anywhere, dear?' asked Tom's sister looking wistfully in his face.
'No,' said Tom. 'Not at present. Not exactly. I only arrived this morning. We must have some lodgings.'
He didn't tell her that he had been going to stay with his friend John, and could on no account think of billeting two inmates upon him, of whom one was a young lady; for he knew that would make her uncomfortable, and would cause her to regard herself as being an inconvenience to him. Neither did he like to leave her anywhere while he called on John, and told him of this change in his arrangements; for he was delicate of seeming to encroach upon the generous and hospitable nature of his friend. Therefore he said again, 'We must have some lodgings, of course;' and said it as stoutly as if he had been a perfect Directory and Guide-Book to all the lodgings in London.
'Where shall we go and look for 'em?' said Tom. 'What do you think?'
Tom's sister was not much wiser on such a topic than he was. So she squeezed her little purse into his coat-pocket, and folding the little hand with which she did so on the other little hand with which she clasped his arm, said nothing.