“Cease instantly, sir.”
Through the cracks Mrs M’Swat could be seen approaching. Seeing her, Jimmy hollered anew. I expected her to attack me. She stood five feet nine inches, and weighed about sixteen stones; I measured five feet one inch, and turned the scale at eight stones—scarcely a fair match; but my spirit was aroused, and instead of feeling afraid, I rejoiced at the encounter which was imminent, and had difficulty to refrain from shouting “Come on! I’m ready, physically and mentally, for you and a dozen others such.”
My curious ideas regarding human equality gave me confidence. My theory is that the cripple is equal to the giant, and the idiot to the genius. As, if on account of his want of strength the cripple is subservient to the giant, the latter, on account of that strength, is compelled to give in to the cripple. So with the dolt and the man of brain, so with Mrs M’Swat and me.
The fact of not only my own but my family’s dependence on M’Swat—sank into oblivion. I merely recognized that she was one human being and I another. Should I have been deferential to her by reason of her age and maternity, then from the vantage which this gave her, she should have been lenient to me on account of my chit-ship and inexperience. Thus we were equal.
Jimmy hollered with renewed energy to attract his mother, and I continued to rain blows across his shoulders. Mrs M’Swat approached to within a foot of the door, and then, as though changing her mind, retraced her steps and entered the hot low-roofed kitchen. I knew I had won, and felt disappointed that the conquest had been so easy. Jimmy, seeing he was worsted, ceased his uproar, cleaned his copy-book on his sleeve, and sheepishly went on with his writing.
Whether Mrs M’Swat saw she had been in fault the day before I know not; certain it is that the children ever after that obeyed me, and I heard no more of the matter; neither, as far as I could ascertain, did the “ruction” reach the ears of M’Swat.
“How long, how long!” was my cry, as I walked out ankle-deep in the dust to see the sun, like a ball of blood, sink behind the hills on that February evening.
Where Ignorance is Bliss, ’Tis Folly to be Wise
When by myself, I fretted so constantly that the traces it left upon me became evident even to the dull comprehension of Mrs M’Swat.
“I don’t hold with too much pleasure and disherpation, but you ain’t had overmuch of it lately. You’ve stuck at home pretty constant, and ye and Lizer can have a little fly round. It’ll do yous good,” she said.
The dissipation, pleasure, and flying round allotted to “Lizer” and me were to visit some of the neighbours. Those, like the M’Swats, were sheep-farming selectors. They were very friendly and kind to me, and I found them superior to my employers, in that their houses were beautifully clean; but they lived the same slow life, and their soul’s existence fed on the same small ideas. I was keenly disappointed that none of them had a piano, as my hunger for music could be understood only by one with a passion for that art.