Men and Masters
WELL, STEPHEN, said Bounderby, in his windy manner, whats this I hear? What have these pests of the earth been doing to you? Come in, and speak up.
It was into the drawing-room that he was thus bidden. A tea-table was set out; and Mr Bounderbys young wife, and her brother, and a great gentleman from London, were present. To whom Stephen made his obeisance, closing the door and standing near it, with his hat in his hand.
This is the man I was telling you about, Harthouse, said Mr Bounderby. The gentleman he addressed, who was talking to Mrs Bounderby on the sofa, got up, saying in an indolent way, Oh really? and dawdled to the hearth-rug where Mr Bounderby stood.
Now, said Bounderby, speak up!
After the four days he had passed, this address fell rudely and discordantly on Stephens ear. Besides being a rough handling of his wounded mind, it seemed to assume that he really was the self- interested deserter he had been called.
What were it, sir, said Stephen, as yo were pleased to want wi me?
Why, I have told you, returned Bounderby. Speak up like a man, since you are a man, and tell us about yourself and this Combination.
Wi yor pardon, sir, said Stephen Blackpool, I ha nowt to sen about it.
Mr Bounderby, who was always more or less like a Wind, finding something in his way here, began to blow at it directly.
Now, look here, Harthouse, said he, heres a specimen of em. When this man was here once before, I warned this man against the mischievous strangers who are always about and who ought to be hanged wherever they are found and I told this man that he was going in the wrong direction. Now, would you believe it, that although they have put this mark upon him, he is such a slave to them still, that hes afraid to open his lips about them?
I sed as I had nowt to sen, sir; not as I was fearfo o openin my lips.
You said! Ah! I know what you said; more than that, I know what you mean, you see. Not always the same thing, by the Lord Harry! Quite different things. You had better tell us at once, that that fellow Slackbridge is not in the town, stirring up the people to mutiny; and that he is not a regular qualified leader of the people: that is, a most confounded scoundrel. You had better tell us so at once; you cant deceive me. You want to tell us so. Why dont you?
Im as sooary as yo, sir, when the peoples leaders is bad, said Stephen, shaking his head. They taks such as offers. Haply tis na the smaest o their misfortuns when they can get no better.
The wind began to get boisterous.
Now, youll think this pretty well, Harthouse, said Mr Bounderby. Youll think this tolerably strong. Youll say, upon my soul this is a tidy specimen of what my friends have to deal with; but this is nothing, sir! You shall hear me ask this man a question. Pray, Mr Blackpool wind springing up very fast may I take the liberty of asking you how it happens that you refused to be in this Combination?
Ah! said Mr Bounderby, with his thumbs in the arms of his coat, and jerking his head and shutting his eyes in confidence with the opposite wall: how it happens.
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