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fellow"; and if it were to cost him all the blood he had, I should
do it. What is that upon your face?'

'Dirt,' I said.

He knew it was the mark of tears as well as I. But if he had asked
the question twenty times, each time with twenty blows, I believe
my baby heart would have burst before I would have told him so.

'You have a good deal of intelligence for a little fellow,' he
said, with a grave smile that belonged to him, 'and you understood
me very well, I see. Wash that face, sir, and come down with me.'

He pointed to the washing-stand, which I had made out to be like
Mrs. Gummidge, and motioned me with his head to obey him directly.
I had little doubt then, and I have less doubt now, that he would
have knocked me down without the least compunction, if I had

'Clara, my dear,' he said, when I had done his bidding, and he
walked me into the parlour, with his hand still on my arm; 'you
will not be made uncomfortable any more, I hope. We shall soon
improve our youthful humours.'

God help me, I might have been improved for my whole life, I might
have been made another creature perhaps, for life, by a kind word
at that season. A word of encouragement and explanation, of pity
for my childish ignorance, of welcome home, of reassurance to me
that it was home, might have made me dutiful to him in my heart
henceforth, instead of in my hypocritical outside, and might have
made me respect instead of hate him. I thought my mother was sorry
to see me standing in the room so scared and strange, and that,
presently, when I stole to a chair, she followed me with her eyes
more sorrowfully still - missing, perhaps, some freedom in my
childish tread - but the word was not spoken, and the time for it
was gone.

We dined alone, we three together. He seemed to be very fond of my
mother - I am afraid I liked him none the better for that - and she
was very fond of him. I gathered from what they said, that an
elder sister of his was coming to stay with them, and that she was
expected that evening. I am not certain whether I found out then,
or afterwards, that, without being actively concerned in any
business, he had some share in, or some annual charge upon the
profits of, a wine-merchant's house in London, with which his
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