“Strong?” said Mr. Green.
Mr. Widden nodded. “Tuesday evening he showed her how he upset a man once and stood him on his head,” he said, irritably. “I was what he showed her with.”
“Stick to it!” counselled Mr. Green again. “A brother and sister are bound to get tired of each other before long; it’s nature.”
Mr. Widden sighed and obeyed. But brother and sister showed no signs of tiring of each other’s company, while they displayed unmistakable signs of weariness with his. And three weeks later Mr. Letts, in a few well-chosen words, kindly but firmly dismissed him.
“I should never give my consent,” he said, gravely, “so it’s only wasting your time. You run off and play.”
Mr. Widden ran off to Mr. Green, but before he could get a word out discovered that something unusual had happened. Mrs. Green, a picture of distress, sat at one end of the room with a handkerchief to her eyes; Mr. Green, in a condition compounded of joy and rage, was striding violently up and down the room.
“He’s a fraud!” he shouted. “A fraud! I’ve had my suspicions for some time, and this evening I got it out of her.”
Mr. Widden stared in amazement.
“I got it out of her,” repeated Mr. Green, pointing at the trembling woman. “He’s no more her son than what you are.”
“What?” said the amazed listener.
“She’s been deceiving me,” said Mr. Green, with a scowl, “but I don’t think she’ll do it again in a hurry. You stay here,” he shouted, as his wife rose to leave the room. “I want you to be here when he comes in.”
Mrs. Green stayed, and the other two, heedless of her presence, discussed the situation until the front door was heard to open, and Mr. Letts and Betty came into the room. With a little cry the girl ran to her mother.
“What’s the matter?” she cried.
“She’s lost another son,” said Mr. Green, with a ferocious sneer—“a flash, bullying, ugly chap of the name o’ Letts.”
“Halloa!” said Mr. Letts, starting.
“A chap she picked up out of the street, and tried to pass off on me as her son,” continued Mr. Green, raising his voice. “She ain’t heard the end of it yet, I can tell you.”
Mr. Letts fidgeted. “You leave her alone,” he said, mildly. “It’s true I’m not her son, but it don’t matter, because I’ve been to see a lawyer about her, and he told me that this house and half the furniture belongs by law to Betty. It’s got nothing to do with you.”
“Indeed!” said Mr. Green. “Now you take yourself off before I put the police on to you. Take your face off these premises.”
Mr. Letts, scratching his head, looked vaguely round the room.
“Go on!” vociferated Mr. Green. “Or will you have the police to put you out?”
Mr. Letts cleared his throat and moved towards the door. “You stick up for your rights, my girl,” he said, turning to Betty. “If he don’t treat your mother well, give him back his kitchen chair and his three stair-rods and pack him off.”