You′re much too pretty and thoughtless′ - my mother blushed but laughed, and seemed not to dislike this character - ′to have any duties imposed upon you that can be undertaken by me. If you′ll be so good as give me your keys, my dear, I′ll attend to all this sort of thing in future.′
From that time, Miss Murdstone kept the keys in her own little jail all day, and under her pillow all night, and my mother had no more to do with them than I had.
My mother did not suffer her authority to pass from her without a shadow of protest. One night when Miss Murdstone had been developing certain household plans to her brother, of which he signified his approbation, my mother suddenly began to cry, and said she thought she might have been consulted.
′Clara!′ said Mr. Murdstone sternly. ′Clara! I wonder at you.′
′Oh, it′s very well to say you wonder, Edward!′ cried my mother, ′and it′s very well for you to talk about firmness, but you wouldn′t like it yourself.′
Firmness, I may observe, was the grand quality on which both Mr. and Miss Murdstone took their stand. However I might have expressed my comprehension of it at that time, if I had been called upon, I nevertheless did clearly comprehend in my own way, that it was another name for tyranny; and for a certain gloomy, arrogant, devil′s humour, that was in them both. The creed, as I should state it now, was this. Mr. Murdstone was firm; nobody in his world was to be so firm as Mr. Murdstone; nobody else in his world was to be firm at all, for everybody was to be bent to his firmness. Miss Murdstone was an exception. She might be firm, but only by relationship, and in an inferior and tributary degree. My mother was another exception. She might be firm, and must be; but only in bearing their firmness, and firmly believing there was no other firmness upon earth.
′It′s very hard,′ said my mother, ′that in my own house -′
′My own house?′ repeated Mr. Murdstone. ′Clara!′
′OUR own house, I mean,′ faltered my mother, evidently frightened - ′I hope you must know what I mean, Edward - it′s very hard that in YOUR own house I may not have a word to say about domestic matters. I am sure I managed very well before we were married. There′s evidence,′ said my mother, sobbing; ′ask Peggotty if I didn′t do very well when I wasn′t interfered with!′
′Edward,′ said Miss Murdstone, ′let there be an end of this. I go tomorrow.′
′Jane Murdstone,′ said her brother, ′be silent! How dare you to insinuate that you don′t know my character better than your words imply?′
′I am sure,′ my poor mother went on, at a grievous disadvantage, and with many tears, ′I don′t want anybody to go. I should be very miserable and unhappy if anybody was to go. I don′t ask much. I am not unreasonable. I only want to be consulted sometimes. I am very much obliged to anybody who assists me, and I only want to be consulted as a mere form, sometimes. I thought you were pleased, once, with my being a little inexperienced and girlish, Edward - I am sure you said so - but you seem to hate me for it now, you are so severe.′
′Edward,′ said Miss Murdstone, again, ′let there be an end of this. I go tomorrow.′
′Jane Murdstone,′ thundered Mr. Murdstone. ′Will you be silent? How dare you?′
Miss Murdstone made a jail-delivery of her pocket-handkerchief, and held it before her eyes.
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