‘Not all, sir,’ I was able to say.
‘Yes, I think so.’
‘It may be.’
‘And liabilities besides?’
‘There are some.’
‘You’re not a liar. That’ll do for you.’
He turned to my aunt: her eyes had shut.
‘Dorothy, you’ve sold out twenty-five thousand pounds’ worth of stock. You’re a truthful woman, as I said, and so I won’t treat you like a witness in a box. You gave it to Harry to help him out of his scrape. Why, short of staring lunacy, did you pass it through the hands of this man? He sweated his thousands out of it at the start. Why did you make a secret of it to make the man think his nonsense?—Ma’am, behave like a lady and my daughter,’ he cried, fronting her, for the sudden and blunt attack had slackened her nerves; she moved as though to escape, and was bewildered. I stood overwhelmed. No wonder she had attempted to break up the scene.
’Tell me your object, Dorothy Beltham, in passing the money through the hands of this man? Were you for helping him to be a man of his word? Help the boy—that I understand. However, you were mistress of your money! I’ve no right to complain, if you will go spending a fortune to whitewash the blackamoor! Well, it’s your own, you’ll say. So it is: so ‘s your character!’
The egregious mildness of these interjections could not long be preserved.
’You deceived me, ma’am. You wouldn’t build school-houses, you couldn’t subscribe to Charities, you acted parsimony, to pamper a scamp and his young scholar! You went to London—you did it in cool blood; you went to your stockbroker, and from the stockbroker to the Bank, and you sold out stock to fling away this big sum. I went to the Bank on business, and the books were turned over for my name, and there at “Beltham” I saw quite by chance the cross of the pen, and I saw your folly, ma’am; I saw it all in a shot. I went to the Bank on my own business, mind that. Ha! you know me by this time; I loathe spying; the thing jumped out of the book; I couldn’t help seeing. Now I don’t reckon how many positive fools go to make one superlative humbug; you’re one of the lot, and I’ve learnt it.’
My father airily begged leave to say: ’As to positive and superlative, Mr. Beltham, the three degrees of comparison are no longer of service except to the trader. I do not consider them to exist for ladies. Your positive is always particularly open to dispute, and I venture to assert I cap you your superlative ten times over.’
He talked the stuff for a diversion, presenting in the midst of us an incongruous image of smiles that filled me with I knew not what feelings of angry alienation, until I was somewhat appeased by the idea that he had not apprehended the nature of the words just spoken.
It seemed incredible, yet it was true; it was proved to be so to me by his pricking his ears and his attentive look at the mention of the word prepossessing him in relation to the money: Government.