Samuel Butler: The Way of All Flesh

42. CHAPTER XLII (continued)

How had he come to get into debt? Did the other boys do so? Ernest reluctantly admitted that they did.

With what shops did they get into debt?

This was asking too much, Ernest said he didn't know!

"Oh, Ernest, Ernest," exclaimed his mother, who was in the room, "do not so soon a second time presume upon the forbearance of the tenderest-hearted father in the world. Give time for one stab to heal before you wound him with another."

This was all very fine, but what was Ernest to do? How could he get the school shopkeepers into trouble by owning that they let some of the boys go on tick with them? There was Mrs Cross, a good old soul, who used to sell hot rolls and butter for breakfast, or eggs and toast, or it might be the quarter of a fowl with bread sauce and mashed potatoes for which she would charge 6d. If she made a farthing out of the sixpence it was as much as she did. When the boys would come trooping into her shop after "the hounds" how often had not Ernest heard her say to her servant girls, "Now then, you wanches, git some cheers." All the boys were fond of her, and was he, Ernest, to tell tales about her? It was horrible.

"Now look here, Ernest," said his father with his blackest scowl, "I am going to put a stop to this nonsense once for all. Either take me fully into your confidence, as a son should take a father, and trust me to deal with this matter as a clergyman and a man of the world--or understand distinctly that I shall take the whole story to Dr Skinner, who, I imagine, will take much sterner measures than I should."

"Oh, Ernest, Ernest," sobbed Christina, "be wise in time, and trust those who have already shown you that they know but too well how to be forbearing."

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