August 27, 2006


Whenever Godfrey Preston had any difficulty with his father, he always went to his mother, and from her, right or wrong, he was sure to obtain sympathy. So in the present instance, failing to receive from his father that moral support to which he deemed himself entitled, on entering the house he sought out his mother. Mrs. Preston, who was rather a spare lady, with thin lips and a sharp, hatchet-like face, was in her own room. She looked up as Godfrey entered. "Well, Godfrey, what's the matter?" she asked, seeing on her son's face an unmistakable expression of discontent. "Matter enough, mother. Father's always against me." "I know it. He appears to forget that you are his son. What is it now?" "He came up just as I was thrashing a boy down in the yard." "What boy?" "Nobody you know, mother. It was only an Irish boy." "What was your reason for punishing him?" asked Mrs. Preston, adopting Godfrey's version of the affair. "He was impudent to me. He was leaning against the fence, and I ordered him away. He was a ragged boy, with a bundle on a stick. Of course, when he wouldn't move, I went out and thrashed him." "Was your father there?" "He came up in the midst of it, and, instead of taking my part, he took the part of the Irish boy." "I don't see how Mr. Preston can be so unfair," said his wife. "It is his duty to stand by his family." "I felt ashamed to have him scold me before the impudent boy. Of course, he enjoyed it, and I suppose he will think he can be impudent to me again." "No doubt. I will speak to your father about it. He really shouldn't be so inconsiderate. But what is that stain on your coat, Godfrey? I should think you had been down on your back on the ground." "Oh," said Godfrey, rather embarrassed, "I happened to slip as I was wrestling with the fellow, and fell on my back. However, I was up again directly and gave it to him, I can tell you. If father hadn't stopped me I'd have laid him out," he continued, in a swaggering tone. It will be seen that Godfrey did not always confine himself to the truth. Indeed, he found it rather hard at all times to admit either that he had been in the wrong or had been worsted. Even if his mother sometimes suspected that his accounts were a trifle distorted, she forbore to question their accuracy. Mother and son had a sort of tacit compact by which they stood by each other, and made common cause against Colonel Preston. "Don't you know the boy? Doesn't he live in the neighborhood?" asked Mrs. Preston, after a pause. "He's just come into the town, but I'll tell you who he is. He's the son of that woman that comes to work for you once a week." "Mrs. Burke?" "Yes; he told me that his name was Andy Burke." "He ought to know his place too well to be impudent to one in your position." "So I think." "I shall speak to Mrs. Burke about her son's bad behavior." "I wish you'd discharge her. That's a good way to punish the boy." "I shouldn't object to doing that, Godfrey, but Mrs. Burke is a capital hand at ironing shirts. Yours and your father's never looked so nice as they have since she has been here." Godfrey looked a little discontented. Being essentially mean, he thought it would be an excellent plan to strike the son through the mother. "You might threaten her, mother, a little. Tell her to make her boy behave himself, or you'll discharge her." "I will certainly speak to her on the subject, Godfrey." At the table Mrs. Preston introduced the subject of Godfrey's wrongs. "I am surprised, Mr. Preston, that you took part against Godfrey when he was rudely assaulted this morning." "I thought Godfrey in the wrong, my dear. That was my reason." "You generally appear to think your own son in the wrong. You are ready to take part with any stranger against him," said Mrs. Preston, in a complaining manner. "I don't think you are quite right just there," said her husband, good-humoredly. "I must say, however, that Godfrey generally is in the wrong." "You are very unjust to him." "I don't mean to be. I would be glad to praise him, but he is so overbearing to those whom he considers his inferiors, that I am frequently ashamed of his manner of treating others." "The boy has some reason to feel proud. He must maintain his position." "What is his position?" "I don't think you need to ask. As our son he is entitled to a degree of consideration.""He will receive consideration enough if he deserves it, but this is a republic, and all are supposed to be on an equality." Mrs. Preston tossed her head. "That's well enough to say, but don't you consider yourself above a man that goes round sawing wood for a living?" "At any rate I would treat him with courtesy. Because I am richer, and have a better education, it is no reason why I should treat him with contempt." "Then I don't share your sentiments," said Mrs. Preston. "I am thankful that I know my position better. I mean to uphold the dignity of the family, and I hope my son will do the same." Colonel Preston shrugged his shoulders as his wife swept from the room. He knew of old her sentiments on this subject, and he was aware that she was not likely to become a convert to his more democratic ideas. "I am afraid she will spoil Godfrey," he thought. "The boy is getting intolerable. I am glad this Irish boy gave him a lesson. He seems a fine-spirited lad. I will help him if I can." "Ellen," said Mrs. Preston the next morning, "when Mrs. Burke comes let me know." "Yes, ma'am." "She's come," announced Ellen, half an hour later. Mrs. Preston rose from her seat and went into the laundry. "Good-morning, Mrs. Preston," said Mrs. Burke. "Good-morning," returned the other, stiffly. "Mrs. Burke, I hear that your son behaved very badly to my Godfrey yesterday." "It isn't like Andy, ma'am," said the mother, quietly. "He's a good, well-behaved lad." "Godfrey tells me that he made a brutal assault upon him, quite forgetting his superior position." "Are you sure Master Godfrey didn't strike him first?" asked the mother. "Even if he had, your son shouldn't have struck back." "Why not?" asked Mrs. Burke, her eyes flashing with spirit, meek as she generally was. "Because it was improper," said Mrs. Preston, decisively. "I don't see that, ma'am. Andy isn't the boy to stand still and be struck." "Do I understand," said Mrs. Preston, in a freezing tone, "that you uphold your son in his atrocious conduct?" "Yes, ma'am. I stand up for Andy, for he's a good boy, and if he struck Master Godfrey it was because he was struck first." "That is enough," said Mrs. Preston, angrily. "I shall not require your services after to-day, Mrs. Burke." "Just as you like, ma'am," said Mrs. Burke, with quiet pride, but she thought, with a sinking heart, of the gap which this would make in her scanty income.

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