“You can evidently know little about them then, and you’d be a much finer man if you had,” flashed out the son.
“Your sitting in judgment on your father is certainly very pretty, I must say,”—answered the father,—“very pretty; and I can only hope that you will not have cause to regret it some future day. But I cannot allow you to disturb me,” for, with something of a pang, Henry noticed signs of agitation amid the severity of his parent, though the matter was too momentous for him to allow the indulgence of pity.
“You have been a source of much anxiety to your mother and me, a child of many prayers;” the father continued. “Whether it is the books you read, or the friends you associate with, that are responsible for your strange and, to my thinking, impious opinions, I do not know; but this I know, that your influence on your sister has not of late been for good, and for her sake, and the sake of your young sisters, it may perhaps be well that your influence in the home be removed—”
“Oh, James,” exclaimed the wife.
“Mary, my dear, you must let me finish. If Henry will go, go he shall; but if he still stays, he must learn that I am master in this house, and that while I remain so, not he, but I shall dictate how it is to be carried on.”
It was at this point that Esther ventured to lift the girlish tremor of her voice.
“But, father, if you’ll forgive my saying so, I think it would be best for another reason for us to go. There are too many of us. We haven’t room to grow. We get in each other’s way. And then it would ease you; it would be less expense—”
“When I complain of having to support my children, it will be time to speak of that—”
“But you have complained,” hotly interrupted the son; “you have reproached us many a time for what we cost you for clothes and food—”
“Yes, when you have shown yourselves ungrateful for them, as you do to-night—”
“Ungrateful! For what should we be grateful? That you do your bare duty of feeding and clothing us, and even for that, expect, in my case at all events, that I shall prove so much business capital invested for the future. Was it we who asked to come into the world? Did you consult us, or did you beget us for anything but your own selfish pleasure, without a thought—”
Henry got no further. His father had grown white, and, with terrible anger pointed to the door.
“Leave the room, sir,” he said, “and to-morrow leave my house for ever.”
The son was not cowed. He stood with an unflinching defiance before the father, in whom he forgot the father and saw only the tyrant. For a moment it seemed as if some unnatural blow would be struck; but so much of pain was spared the future memory of the scene, and saying only, “It is true for all that,” he turned and left the room. The sister followed him in silence, and the door closed.
Mother and father looked at each other. They had brought up children, they had suffered and toiled for them,—that they should talk to them like this! Mrs. Mesurier came over to her husband, and put her arm tenderly on his shoulder.