Support the Monkey! Tell All your Friends and Teachers
without damaging the roots: I knew he would soon strike, and
while dreading the blow, I mused on the disgusting and ugly
appearance of him who would presently deal it. I wonder if he
read that notion in my face; for, all at once, without speaking, he
struck suddenly and strongly. I tottered, and on regaining my
equilibrium retired back a step or two from his chair.
‘That is for your impudence in answering mama awhile since,’ said
he, ‘and for your sneaking way of getting behind curtains, and for
the look you had in your eyes two minutes since, you rat!’
Accustomed to John Reed’s abuse, I never had an idea of replying
to it; my care was how to endure the blow which would certainly
follow the insult.
‘What were you doing behind the curtain?’ he asked.
‘I was reading.’ ‘Show the book.’
I returned to the window and fetched it thence.
‘You have no business to take our books; you are a dependant,
mama says; you have no money; your father left you none; you
ought to beg, and not to live here with gentlemen’s children like
us, and eat the same meals we do, and wear clothes at our mama’s
expense. Now, I’ll teach you to rummage my bookshelves: for they
are mine; all the house belongs to me, or will do in a few years. Go
and stand by the door, out of the way of the mirror and the
windows.’ I did so, not at first aware what was his intention; but
when I saw him lift and poise the book and stand in act to hurl it, I
instinctively started aside with a cry of alarm: not soon enough,
however; the volume was flung, it hit me, and I fell, striking my
head against the door and cutting it. The cut bled, the pain was
sharp: my terror had passed its climax; other feelings succeeded.
‘Wicked and cruel boy!’ I said. ‘You are like a murderer-you are
like a slavedriver-you are like the Roman emperors!’ I had read
Goldsmith’s History of Rome, and had formed my opinion of
Nero, Caligula, etc. Also I had drawn parallels in silence, which I
never thought thus to have declared aloud.
‘What! what!’ he cried. ‘Did she say that to me? Did you hear her,
Eliza and Georgiana? Won’t I tell mama? but first-’ He ran
headlong at me: I felt him grasp my hair and my shoulder: he had
closed with a desperate thing. I really saw in him a tyrant, a
murderer. I felt a drop or two of blood from my head trickle down
my neck, and was sensible of somewhat pungent suffering: these
sensations for the time predominated over fear, and I received him
in frantic sort. I don’t very well know what I did with my hands,
but he called me ‘Rat! Rat!’ and bellowed out aloud. Aid was near
him: Eliza and Georgiana had run for Mrs. Reed, who was gone
upstairs: she now came upon the scene, followed by Bessie and her