Lo, Michael (Chapter 7, page 2 of 8)

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Chapter 7

Michael had stood immovable while the cruel woman uttered her harangue, his eyes growing wide with wonder and dark with a kind of manly shame for her as she went on. When she paused for a moment she saw his face was white and still like a statue, but there was something in the depth of his eyes that held her in check.

With the utmost calm, and deference, although his voice rang with honest indignation, Michael spoke: "I beg your pardon, Mrs. Endicott," he said, his tone clear and attention-demanding, "I have never felt that there was the slightest obligation resting upon any of this family for the trifling matter that occurred when, as you say, I was a child. I feel that the obligation is entirely the other way, of course, but I cannot understand what you mean. How is my coming here at Mr. Endicott's invitation an impertinence?"

The woman looked at him contemptuously as though it were scarcely worth the trouble to answer him, yet there was something about him that demanded an answer.

"I suppose you are ignorant then," she answered cuttingly, "as you seem to be honest. I will explain. You are not fit company for my daughter. It is strange that you do not see that for yourself! A child of the slums, with nothing but shame and disgrace for an inheritance, and brought up a pauper! How could you expect to associate on a level with a gentleman's daughter? If you have any respect for her whatever you should understand that it is not for such as you to presume to call upon her and take her out riding. It is commendable in you of course to have improved what opportunities have been given you, but it is the height of ingratitude in a dependent to presume upon kindness and take on the airs of an equal, and you might as well understand first as last that you cannot do it. I simply will not have you here. Do you understand?"

Michael stood as if rooted to the floor, horror and dismay growing in his eyes; and stupor trickling through his veins. For a minute he stood after she had ceased speaking, as though the full meaning of her words had been slow to reach his consciousness. Yet outwardly his face was calm, and only his eyes had seemed to change and widen and suffer as she spoke. Finally his voice came to him: "Madam, I did not know," he said in a stricken voice. "As you say, I am ignorant." Then lifting his head with that fine motion of challenge to the world that was characteristic of him whenever he had to face a hard situation, his voice rang clear and undaunted: "Madam, I beg your pardon. I shall not offend this way again. It was because I did not understand. I would not hurt your daughter in any way, for she has been the only beautiful thing that ever came into my life. But I will never trouble her again."

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