“Indeed, my love, you’re entirely mistaken,” returned the carpenter, endeavouring to deprecate his wife’s rising resentment by the softest looks, and the meekest deportment.
So far, however, was this submission from producing the desired effect, that it seemed only to lend additional fuel to her displeasure. Forgetting her occupation in her anger, she left off bathing Darrell’s wrist; and, squeezing his arm so tightly that the boy winced with pain, she clapped her right hand upon her hip, and turned, with flashing eyes and an inflamed countenance, towards her crest-fallen spouse.
“What!” she exclaimed, almost choked with passion,—“I advised you to burthen yourself with that idle and good-for-nothing pauper, who’m you ought rather to send to the workhouse than maintain at your own expense, did I! I advised you to take him as an apprentice; and, so far from getting the regular fee with him, to give him a salary? I advised you to feed him, and clothe him, and treat him like his betters; to put up with his insolence, and wink at his faults? I counselled all this, I suppose. You’ll tell me next, I dare say, that I recommended you to go and visit his mother so frequently under the plea of charity; to give her wine, and provisions, and money; to remove her from the only fit quarters for such people—the Mint; and to place her in a cottage at Willesden, of which you must needs pay the rent? Marry, come up! charity should begin at home. A discreet husband would leave the dispensation of his bounty, where women are concerned, to his wife. And for my part, if I were inclined to exercise my benevolence at all, it should be in favour of some more deserving object than that whining, hypocritical Magdalene.”
“It was the knowledge of this feeling on your part, my love, that made me act without your express sanction. I did all for the best, I’m sure. Mrs. Sheppard is—”
“I know what Mrs. Sheppard is, without your information, Sir. I haven’t forgotten her previous history. You’ve your own reasons, no doubt, for bringing up her son—perhaps, I ought rather to say your son, Mr. Wood.”
“Really, my love, these accusations are most groundless—this violence is most unnecessary.”
“I can’t endure the odious baggage. I hope I may never come near her.”
“I hope you never may, my love,” humbly acquiesced the carpenter.
“Is my house to be made a receptacle for all your natural children, Sir? Answer me that.”
“Winny,” said Thames, whose glowing cheek attested the effect produced upon him by the insinuation; “Winny,” said he, addressing a pretty little damsel of some twelve years of age, who stood by his side holding the bottle of embrocation, “help me on with my coat, please. This is no place for me.”
“Sit down, my dear, sit down,” interposed Mrs. Wood, softening her asperity. “What I said about natural children doesn’t apply to you. Don’t suppose,” she added, with a scornful glance at her helpmate, “that I would pay him the compliment of thinking he could possibly be the father of such a boy as you.”