It was the triumph of mind over matter; quite.
Perhaps the greenest cabbage-leaf ever grown in a garden was wrapped about this steak, before it was delivered over to Tom. But the butcher had a sentiment for his business, and knew how to refine upon it. When he saw Tom putting the cabbage-leaf into his pocket awkwardly, he begged to be allowed to do it for him; 'for meat,' he said with some emotion, 'must be humoured, not drove.'
Back they went to the lodgings again, after they had bought some eggs, and flour, and such small matters; and Tom sat gravely down to write at one end of the parlour table, while Ruth prepared to make the pudding at the other end; for there was nobody in the house but an old woman (the landlord being a mysterious sort of man, who went out early in the morning, and was scarcely ever seen); and saving in mere household drudgery, they waited on themselves.
'What are you writing, Tom?' inquired his sister, laying her hand upon his shoulder.
'Why, you see, my dear,' said Tom, leaning back in his chair, and looking up in her face, 'I am very anxious, of course, to obtain some suitable employment; and before Mr Westlock comes this afternoon, I think I may as well prepare a little description of myself and my qualifications; such as he could show to any friend of his.'
'You had better do the same for me, Tom, also,' said his sister, casting down her eyes. 'I should dearly like to keep house for you and take care of you always, Tom; but we are not rich enough for that.'
'We are not rich,' returned Tom, 'certainly; and we may be much poorer. But we will not part if we can help it. No, no; we will make up our minds Ruth, that unless we are so very unfortunate as to render me quite sure that you would be better off away from me than with me, we will battle it out together. I am certain we shall be happier if we can battle it out together. Don't you think we shall?'
'Oh, tut, tut!' interposed Tom, tenderly. 'You mustn't cry.'
'No, no; I won't, Tom. But you can't afford it, dear. You can't, indeed.'
'We don't know that,' said Tom. 'How are we to know that, yet awhile, and without trying? Lord bless my soul!'--Tom's energy became quite grand--'there is no knowing what may happen, if we try hard. And I am sure we can live contentedly upon a very little--if we can only get it.'
'Yes; that I am sure we can, Tom.'
'Why, then,' said Tom, 'we must try for it. My friend, John Westlock, is a capital fellow, and very shrewd and intelligent. I'll take his advice. We'll talk it over with him--both of us together. You'll like John very much, when you come to know him, I am certain. Don't cry, don't cry. YOU make a beef-steak pudding, indeed!' said Tom, giving her a gentle push. 'Why, you haven't boldness enough for a dumpling!'
'You WILL call it a pudding, Tom. Mind! I told you not!'
'I may as well call it that, till it proves to be something else,' said Tom. 'Oh, you are going to work in earnest, are you?'
Aye, aye! That she was. And in such pleasant earnest, moreover, that Tom's attention wandered from his writing every moment. First, she tripped downstairs into the kitchen for the flour, then for the pie-board, then for the eggs, then for the butter, then for a jug of water, then for the rolling-pin, then for a pudding-basin, then for the pepper, then for the salt; making a separate journey for everything, and laughing every time she started off afresh. When all the materials were collected she was horrified to find she had no apron on, and so ran UPstairs by way of variety, to fetch it. She didn't put it on upstairs, but came dancing down with it in her hand; and being one of those little women to whom an apron is a most becoming little vanity, it took an immense time to arrange; having to be carefully smoothed down beneath--Oh, heaven, what a wicked little stomacher!--and to be gathered up into little plaits by the strings before it could be tied, and to be tapped, rebuked, and wheedled, at the pockets, before it would set right, which at last it did, and when it did--but never mind; this is a sober chronicle. And then, there were her cuffs to be tucked up, for fear of flour; and she had a little ring to pull off her finger, which wouldn't come off (foolish little ring!); and during the whole of these preparations she looked demurely every now and then at Tom, from under her dark eyelashes, as if they were all a part of the pudding, and indispensable to its composition.