′Clara,′ he continued, looking at my mother, ′you surprise me! You astound me! Yes, I had a satisfaction in the thought of marrying an inexperienced and artless person, and forming her character, and infusing into it some amount of that firmness and decision of which it stood in need. But when Jane Murdstone is kind enough to come to my assistance in this endeavour, and to assume, for my sake, a condition something like a housekeeper′s, and when she meets with a base return -′
′Oh, pray, pray, Edward,′ cried my mother, ′don′t accuse me of being ungrateful. I am sure I am not ungrateful. No one ever said I was before. I have many faults, but not that. Oh, don′t, my dear!′
′When Jane Murdstone meets, I say,′ he went on, after waiting until my mother was silent, ′with a base return, that feeling of mine is chilled and altered.′
′Don′t, my love, say that!′ implored my mother very piteously. ′Oh, don′t, Edward! I can′t bear to hear it. Whatever I am, I am affectionate. I know I am affectionate. I wouldn′t say it, if I wasn′t sure that I am. Ask Peggotty. I am sure she′ll tell you I′m affectionate.′
′There is no extent of mere weakness, Clara,′ said Mr. Murdstone in reply, ′that can have the least weight with me. You lose breath.′
′Pray let us be friends,′ said my mother, ′I couldn′t live under coldness or unkindness. I am so sorry. I have a great many defects, I know, and it′s very good of you, Edward, with your strength of mind, to endeavour to correct them for me. Jane, I don′t object to anything. I should be quite broken-hearted if you thought of leaving -′ My mother was too much overcome to go on.
′Jane Murdstone,′ said Mr. Murdstone to his sister, ′any harsh words between us are, I hope, uncommon. It is not my fault that so unusual an occurrence has taken place tonight. I was betrayed into it by another. Nor is it your fault. You were betrayed into it by another. Let us both try to forget it. And as this,′ he added, after these magnanimous words, ′is not a fit scene for the boy - David, go to bed!′
I could hardly find the door, through the tears that stood in my eyes. I was so sorry for my mother′s distress; but I groped my way out, and groped my way up to my room in the dark, without even having the heart to say good night to Peggotty, or to get a candle from her. When her coming up to look for me, an hour or so afterwards, awoke me, she said that my mother had gone to bed poorly, and that Mr. and Miss Murdstone were sitting alone.
Going down next morning rather earlier than usual, I paused outside the parlour door, on hearing my mother′s voice. She was very earnestly and humbly entreating Miss Murdstone′s pardon, which that lady granted, and a perfect reconciliation took place. I never knew my mother afterwards to give an opinion on any matter, without first appealing to Miss Murdstone, or without having first ascertained by some sure means, what Miss Murdstone′s opinion was; and I never saw Miss Murdstone, when out of temper (she was infirm that way), move her hand towards her bag as if she were going to take out the keys and offer to resign them to my mother, without seeing that my mother was in a terrible fright.
The gloomy taint that was in the Murdstone blood, darkened the Murdstone religion, which was austere and wrathful. I have thought, since, that its assuming that character was a necessary consequence of Mr.
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