‘Mr. Dick,’ said my aunt, ‘what shall I do with this child?’
Mr. Dick considered, hesitated, brightened, and rejoined, ‘Have him measured for a suit of clothes directly.’
‘Mr. Dick,’ said my aunt triumphantly, ‘give me your hand, for your common sense is invaluable.’ Having shaken it with great cordiality, she pulled me towards her and said to Mr. Murdstone:
‘You can go when you like; I’ll take my chance with the boy. If he’s all you say he is, at least I can do as much for him then, as you have done. But I don’t believe a word of it.’
‘Miss Trotwood,’ rejoined Mr. Murdstone, shrugging his shoulders, as he rose, ‘if you were a gentleman—’
‘Bah! Stuff and nonsense!’ said my aunt. ‘Don’t talk to me!’
‘How exquisitely polite!’ exclaimed Miss Murdstone, rising. ‘Overpowering, really!’
‘Do you think I don’t know,’ said my aunt, turning a deaf ear to the sister, and continuing to address the brother, and to shake her head at him with infinite expression, ‘what kind of life you must have led that poor, unhappy, misdirected baby? Do you think I don’t know what a woeful day it was for the soft little creature when you first came in her way—smirking and making great eyes at her, I’ll be bound, as if you couldn’t say boh! to a goose!’
‘I never heard anything so elegant!’ said Miss Murdstone.
‘Do you think I can’t understand you as well as if I had seen you,’ pursued my aunt, ‘now that I DO see and hear you—which, I tell you candidly, is anything but a pleasure to me? Oh yes, bless us! who so smooth and silky as Mr. Murdstone at first! The poor, benighted innocent had never seen such a man. He was made of sweetness. He worshipped her. He doted on her boy—tenderly doted on him! He was to be another father to him, and they were all to live together in a garden of roses, weren’t they? Ugh! Get along with you, do!’ said my aunt.
‘I never heard anything like this person in my life!’ exclaimed Miss Murdstone.
‘And when you had made sure of the poor little fool,’ said my aunt—‘God forgive me that I should call her so, and she gone where YOU won’t go in a hurry—because you had not done wrong enough to her and hers, you must begin to train her, must you? begin to break her, like a poor caged bird, and wear her deluded life away, in teaching her to sing YOUR notes?’
‘This is either insanity or intoxication,’ said Miss Murdstone, in a perfect agony at not being able to turn the current of my aunt’s address towards herself; ‘and my suspicion is that it’s intoxication.’
Miss Betsey, without taking the least notice of the interruption, continued to address herself to Mr. Murdstone as if there had been no such thing.
‘Mr. Murdstone,’ she said, shaking her finger at him, ‘you were a tyrant to the simple baby, and you broke her heart. She was a loving baby—I know that; I knew it, years before you ever saw her—and through the best part of her weakness you gave her the wounds she died of. There is the truth for your comfort, however you like it. And you and your instruments may make the most of it.’
‘Allow me to inquire, Miss Trotwood,’ interposed Miss Murdstone, ‘whom you are pleased to call, in a choice of words in which I am not experienced, my brother’s instruments?’
‘It was clear enough, as I have told you, years before YOU ever saw her—and why, in the mysterious dispensations of Providence, you ever did see her, is more than humanity can comprehend—it was clear enough that the poor soft little thing would marry somebody, at some time or other; but I did hope it wouldn’t have been as bad as it has turned out. That was the time, Mr. Murdstone, when she gave birth to her boy here,’ said my aunt; ‘to the poor child you sometimes tormented her through afterwards, which is a disagreeable remembrance and makes the sight of him odious now. Aye, aye! you needn’t wince!’ said my aunt. ‘I know it’s true without that.’