The other parties present could not help laughing at this explosion from Cophagus, neither could I. Mr Masterton then asked the general if he required any more proofs.
“No,” replied the general discourteously; and speaking in Hindostanee to his attendants, they walked to the door and opened it. The hint was taken, Mr Masterton saying to the others in an ironical tone, “After so long a separation, gentlemen, it must be natural that the general should wish to be left alone, that he may give vent to his paternal feelings.”
Father and I grow warm
in our argument—Obliged to give him a
little schooling to show my affection—Takes it at last very
kindly, and very dutifully owns himself a fool.
In the meantime, I was left standing in the middle of the room; the gentlemen departed, and the two native servants resumed their stations on each side of the sofa. I felt humiliated and indignant, but waited in silence; at last, my honoured parent, who had eyed me for some time, commenced.
“If you think, young man, to win my favour by your good looks, you are very much mistaken: you are too like your mother, whose memory is anything but agreeable.”
The blood mounted to my forehead at this cruel observation; I folded my arms and looked my father steadfastly in the face, but made no reply. The choler of the gentleman was raised.
“It appears that I have found a most dutiful son.”
I was about to make an angry answer, when I recollected myself, and I courteously replied, “My dear general, depend upon it that your son will always be ready to pay duty to whom duty is due; but excuse me, in the agitation of this meeting you have forgotten those little attentions which courtesy demands; with your permission I will take a chair, and then we may converse more at our ease. I hope your leg is better.”
I said this with the blandest voice and the most studied politeness, and drawing a chair towards the table, I took my seat; as I expected, it put my honoured father in a tremendous rage.
“If this is a specimen, sir, of your duty and respect, sir, I hope to see no more of them. To whom your duty is due, sir!—and pray to whom is it due, sir, if not to the author of your existence?” cried the general, striking the table before him with his enormous fist, so as to make the ink fly out of the stand some inches high and bespatter the papers near it.
“My dear father, you are perfectly correct: duty, as you say, is due to the author of our existence. If I recollect right, the commandment says, ‘Honour your father and your mother;’ but at the same time, if I may venture to offer an observation, are there not such things as reciprocal duties—some which are even more paramount in a father than the mere begetting of a son?”
“What do you mean, sir, by these insolent remarks?” interrupted my father.