Clementina merely looked interested. “Did I say that? I meant to say Yes, ma’am and No, ma’am; but I keep forgetting.”
“You oughtn’t to say anything!” Gregory answered savagely, “Just say Yes, and No, and let your voice do the rest.”
“Oh!” said the girl, with the gentlest abeyance, as if charmed with the novelty of the idea. “I should be afraid it wasn’t polite.”
Gregory took an even brutal tone. It seemed to him as if he were forced to hurt her feelings. But his words, in spite of his tone, were not brutal; they might have even been thought flattering. “The politeness is in the manner, and you don’t need anything but your manner.”
“Do you think so, truly?” asked the girl joyously. “I should like to try it once!”
He frowned again. “I’ve no business to criticise your way of speaking.”
“Oh yes’m—yes, ma’am; sir, I mean; I mean, Oh, yes, indeed! The’a! It does sound just as well, don’t it?” Clementina laughed in triumph at the outcome of her efforts, so that a reluctant visional smile came upon Gregory’s face, too. I’m very mach obliged to you, Mr. Gregory—I shall always want to do it, if it’s the right way.”
“It’s the right way,” said Gregory coldly.
“And don’t they,” she urged, “don’t they really say Sir and Ma’am, whe’e—whe’e you came from?”
He said gloomily, “Not ladies and gentlemen. Servants do. Waiters—like me.” He inflicted this stab to his pride with savage fortitude and he bore with self-scorn the pursuit of her innocent curiosity.
“But I thought—I thought you was a college student.”
“Were,” Gregory corrected her, involuntarily, and she said, “Were, I mean.”
“I’m a student at college, and here I’m a servant! It’s all right!” he said with a suppressed gritting of the teeth; and he added, “My Master was the servant of the meanest, and I must—I beg your pardon for meddling with your manner of speaking—”
“Oh, I’m very much obliged to you; indeed I am. And I shall not care if you tell me of anything that’s out of the way in my talking,” said Clementina, generously.
“Thank you; I think I won’t wait any longer for Mr. Fane.”
“Why, I’m su’a he’ll be back very soon, now. I’ll try not to disturb you any moa.”
Gregory turned from taking some steps towards the door, and said, “I wish you would tell Mr. Fane something.”
“For you? Why, suttainly!”
“No. For you. Tell him that it’s all right about his calling you Boss.”
The indignant color came into Clementina’s face. “He had no business to call me that.”
“No; and he doesn’t think he had, now. He’s truly sorry for it.”
“I’ll see,” said Clementina.
She had not seen by the time Fane got back. She received his apologies for being gone so long coldly, and went away to Mrs. Atwell, whom she told what had passed between Gregory and herself.