"Of course," she continued, "it was my wish to be as blind to the whole affair as possible, though you can't imagine how Mrs. Mason has blazoned it abroad; all Fordham rings with it but of course it could not be pleasant, or, indeed, I may say correct, for me to be aware that a person of such improper character was under the same--I beg your pardon, dear Henry, what do you say?"
"Ruth is no improper character, mother; you do her injustice!"
"My dear boy, you don't mean to uphold her as a paragon of virtue!"
"No, mother, but I led her wrong; I----"
"We will let all discussions into the cause or duration of her present character drop, if you please," said Mrs. Bellingham, with the sort of dignified authority which retained a certain power over her son--a power which originated in childhood, and which he only defied when he was roused into passion. He was too weak in body to oppose himself to her, and fight the ground inch by inch. "As I have implied, I do not wish to ascertain your share of blame; from what I saw of her one morning, I am convinced of her forward, intrusive manners, utterly without shame, or even common modesty."
"What are you referring to?" asked Mr. Bellingham sharply.
"Why, when you were at the worst, and I had been watching you all night, and had just gone out in the morning for a breath of fresh air, this girl pushed herself before me, and insisted upon speaking to me. I really had to send Mrs. Morgan to her before I could return to your room. A more impudent, hardened manner, I never saw."
"Ruth was neither impudent nor hardened; she was ignorant enough, and might offend from knowing no better."