“Mother,” she said, one morning at breakfast, “I’m going to earn my own living.” The baby lines of her mouth set tight, and her chin puckered.
Mrs. Bishop laid down her piece of toast. “I wish you wouldn’t talk nonsense, Sally,” she said.
The young man down from Oxford ejaculated—
“It’s not rot—it’s not nonsense!”
Her voice was petulant; there were tears in it. It was not a decision of strength. Here the press-gang was at work driving the unwilling conscript. She was going; there was no doubt about her going; but it was a hard struggle to feel resigned.
“But it is nonsense,” said Mrs. Bishop.
“How do you think you could earn your living?” said the young man. He knew something about the matter; he was trying to find employment himself—he, a ’Varsity man—and as yet nothing had offered itself. “If I can’t get anything to do,” he added sententiously, “how on earth do you think you’re going to?”
“She doesn’t mean it,” said Sally’s eldest sister. “She only thinks it sounds self-sacrificing.”
“Is that the kindest thing you can think of?” asked Sally. “I do mean it. I’ve written to London and I’ve got the prospectus here of one of the schools for teaching shorthand and typewriting. For eight pounds they guarantee to make any one proficient in both—suitable to take a secretaryship. Doesn’t matter how long you’ll stay; they agree for that sum to make you proficient, and they also half promise to get you a situation.”
“And where are you going to get the eight pounds from?” said her little sister.
“And where are you going to get the cost of your living up in Town?” asked the wise young man, who knew how London could dissolve the money in one’s pocket.
“Oh, she’s all right there,” said the eldest sister bitterly. “I know what she’s thinking about. She’s going to draw that money that grandmama left her—that fifty pounds. I guessed she’d spend that on herself one of these days.”
“And who else was it left to?” asked Sally.
“Yes, my dear child,” said her mother; “we know it was left to you, of course; but since we came away from Cailsham”—her mouth pursed; she admirably conveyed the effort of controlling her emotions—the lump in the throat, the hasty swallowing and the blinking eyes—“since we left Cailsham, I’d sometimes hoped—”
“Of course you had, mater,” said the young man sympathetically.
“But I’m going to relieve you of all responsibility,” said Sally. “I’m no longer going to be an expense to you, and I’m going to do it with my own money—the money I was given and the money I make. I can’t see what right you have to think me selfish—all of you—as I know you do. I’m no more selfish than you who expect me to spend the money on you; in fact, I’m less selfish. It’s my money.”