« ForrigeFortsett »
T HOMAS descended to breakfast, feeling
| fresh and hopeful. The weather had changed during the night, and it was a clear frosty morning, cold blue cloudless sky and cold gray leafless earth reflecting each other's winter attributes. The sun was there, watching from afar how they could get on without him; but, as if they knew he had not forsaken them, they were both merry. Thomas stood up with his back to the blazing fire, and through the window saw his father walking bare-headed in the garden. He had not returned home till late the night before, and Thomas had gone to bed without seeing him. Still he had been up the first in the house, and had been at work for a couple of hours upon the papers he had brought home in
his blue bag. Thomas walked to the window to show himself, as a hint to his father that breakfast was ready. Mr. Worboise saw him, and came in. Father and son did not shake hands or wish each other a good morning, but they nodded and smiled, and took their seats at the table. As Mr. Worboise sat down, he smoothed, first with one hand, then with the other, two long side-tresses of thin hair, trained like creepers over the top of his head, which was perfectly bald. Their arrangement added to the resemblance his forehead naturally possessed to the bottom of a flat iron, set up on the base of its triangle. His eyebrows were very dark, straight, and bushy; his eyes a keen hazel; his nose straight on the ridge, but forming an obtuse angle at the point; his mouth curved upwards, and drawn upwards by the corners when he smiled, which gave him the appearance of laughing down at everything; his chin nowise remarkable. And there, reader, I hope you have him. I ought to have mentioned that no one ever saw his teeth, though to judge from his performances at the table they were in serviceable condition. He was considerably above the middle height, shapeless rather than stout, and wore black clothes.
“You are going to dine at the Boxalls' tonight, I believe, Tom. Mr. Boxall asked me, but I can't go. I am so busy with the case of Spender and Spoon.”
“No, father. I don't mean to go,” said Tom.
“Why not?” asked Mr. Worboise, with some surprise, and more than a hint of dissatisfaction. “ Your mother hasn't been objecting, has she ?"
“I am not aware that my mother knows of the invitation," answered Tom, trying to hide his discomfort in formality of speech.
“Well, I said nothing about it, I believe. But I accepted for you at the same time that I declined for myself. You saw the letter—I left it for you.”
“Yes, sir, I did.”
“Well, in the name of Heaven, what do you mean? You answer as if you were in the witness-box. I am not going to take any ad
vantage of you. Speak out, man. Why wont you go to Boxall's ?”
“Well, sir, to tell the truth, I didn't think he behaved quite well to me yesterday. I happened to be a few minutes late, and "
“And Boxall blew you up; and that's the way you take to show your dignified resentment. Bah!”
“He ought to behave to me like a gentleman.”
“But how is he, if he isn't a gentleman ? He hasn't had the bringing up you've had. But he's a good, honest fellow, and says what he means.”
“ That is just what I did, sir. And you have always told me that honesty is the best policy."
“Yes, I confess. But that is not exactly the kind of honesty I mean," returned Mr. Worboise, with a fishy smile, for his mouth was exactly of the fish-type. “The law scarcely refers to the conduct of a gentleman as a gentleman.”
This was obscure to his son, as it may be to the reader.
" Then you don't want me to behave like a gentleman ?" said Tom.
"Keep your diploma in your pocket till it's asked for," answered his father. “ If you are constantly obtruding it on other people, they will way you bought it and paid for it. A gentleman can afford to put an affront in beside it, when he knows it's there. But the idea of good old Boxall insulting a son of mine is too absurd, Tom. You must remember you are his servant."
“So he told me," said Tom, with reviving indignation.
“ And that, I suppose, is what you call an insult, eh ?”
“Well, to say the least, it is not a pleasant word to use."
“ Especially as it expresses a disagreeable fact. Come, come, my boy. Better men than you will ever be, have had to sweep out their master's office before now. But no reference is made to the fact when they call the office their own. You go