(Our Mutual Friend, Bk.II, Ch.2 "Still Educational")
'How's my Jenny?' said the man, timidly. 'How's my Jenny Wren, best of children, object dearest affections broken-hearted invalid?'
To which the person of the house, stretching out her arm in an attitude of command, replied with irresponsive asperity: 'Go along with you! Go along into your corner! Get into your corner directly!'
The wretched spectacle made as if he would have offered some remonstrance; but not venturing to resist the person of the house, thought better of it, and went and sat down on a particular chair of disgrace.
'Oh-h-h!' cried the person of the house, pointing her little finger, 'You bad old boy! Oh-h-h you naughty, wicked creature! What do you mean by it?'
The shaking figure, unnerved and disjointed from head to foot, put out its two hands a little way, as making overtures of peace and reconciliation. Abject tears stood in its eyes, and stained the blotched red of its cheeks. The swollen lead-coloured under lip trembled with a shameful whine. The whole indecorous threadbare ruin, from the broken shoes to the prematurely-grey scanty hair, grovelled. Not with any sense worthy to be called a sense, of this dire reversal of the places of parent and child, but in a pitiful expostulation to be let off from a scolding.
'I know your tricks and your manners,' cried Miss Wren. 'I know where you've been to!' (which indeed it did not require discernment to discover). 'Oh, you disgraceful old chap!'
The very breathing of the figure was contemptible, as it laboured and rattled in that operation, like a blundering clock.
'Slave, slave, slave, from morning to night,' pursued the person of the house, 'and all for this! What do you mean by it?'
There was something in that emphasized 'What,' which absurdly frightened the figure. As often as the person of the house worked her way round to it - even as soon as he saw that it was coming - he collapsed in an extra degree.
'I wish you had been taken up, and locked up,' said the person of the house. 'I wish you had been poked into cells and black holes, and run over by rats and spiders and beetles. I know their tricks and their manners, and they'd have tickled you nicely. Ain't you ashamed of yourself?'
'Yes, my dear,' stammered the father.
'Then,' said the person of the house, terrifying him by a grand muster of her spirits and forces before recurring to the emphatic word, 'What do you mean by it?'
'Circumstances over which had no control,' was the miserable creature's plea in extenuation.
'I'll circumstance you and control you too,' retorted the person of the house, speaking with vehement sharpness, 'if you talk in that way. I'll give you in charge to the police, and have you fined five shillings when you can't pay, and then I won't pay the money for you, and you'll be transported for life. How should you like to be transported for life?
'Shouldn't like it. Poor shattered invalid. Trouble nobody long,' cried the wretched figure.
'Come, come!' said the person of the house, tapping the table near her in a business-like manner, and shaking her head and her chin; 'you know what you've got to do. Put down your money this instant.'
The obedient figure began to rummage in its pockets.
'Spent a fortune out of your wages, I'll be bound!' said the person of the house. 'Put it here! All you've got left! Every farthing!'
Such a business as he made of collecting it from his dogs'-eared pockets; of expecting it in this pocket, and not finding it; of not expecting it in that pocket, and passing it over; of finding no pocket where that other pocket ought to be!
'Is this all?' demanded the person of the house, when a confused heap of pence and shillings lay on the table.
'Got no more,' was the rueful answer, with an accordant shake of the head.
'Let me make sure. You know what you've got to do. Turn all your pockets inside out, and leave 'em so!' cried the person of the house.
He obeyed. And if anything could have made him look more abject or more dismally ridiculous than before, it would have been his so displaying himself.
'Here's but seven and eightpence halfpenny!' exclaimed Miss Wren, after reducing the heap to order. 'Oh, you prodigal old son! Now you shall be starved.'
'No, don't starve me,' he urged, whimpering.
'If you were treated as you ought to be,' said Miss Wren, 'you'd be fed upon the skewers of cats' meat; - only the skewers, after the cats had had the meat. As it is, go to bed.'
When he stumbled out of the corner to comply, he again put out both his hands, and pleaded: 'Circumstances over which no control ----'
'Get along with you to bed!' cried Miss Wren, snapping him up. 'Don't speak to me. I'm not going to forgive you. Go to bed this moment!'
Seeing another emphatic 'What' upon its way, he evaded it by complying and was heard to shuffle heavily up stairs, and shut his door, and throw himself on his bed.