Afterwards, lying in her arms, he'd made some offhand remark about having to get back to school, about having to sneak in, feeling, for one moment, brave and daring for having stolen away to spend time with her. Feeling, too, though he'd never have said so, that she should appreciate that he was risking so much for her--punishment, though probably not expulsion, not for this; this they would, he knew, approve of, though they'd pretend not to; the callous jokes would betray their approval of his being a bit of a lad. Still,there'd be punishment, and jokes at his expense, and he was sensitive enough to the scorn of his classmates not to wish to heap more of it on his head. They had more than enough to be amused about, where Judd was concerned; damned if he'd willingly hand them this to snicker at as well.
He didn't say much, but she was bright. Brighter, it pained him to admit even to himself, than he'd expected her to be. She knew all that he was leaving unsaid, all his pride at heroically risking reputation to spend the evening with her, and it didn't impress her. She half laughed, a sad little sound, and without being so unkind as to rebuke him she reminded him, gently, that for her to lose her job and the income it provided would be much more serious than anything that could happen to him, even expulsion. And what, she'd said, if there were a child? He could walk away; she'd be ruined.
She was a tenderhearted girl, his usherette: she didn't mean to imply he would walk away. She was only, he thought miserably on his way back to the school, pointing out a truth they both knew. He had the full weight of the class system to protect him, however much he loathed it. She had no such protection.
He should have been her protection. He despised himself for having taken her, and for having put his own desire ahead of her needs. He was as bad as any of the budding capitalists he scorned. He was worse: he knew better. He should have lived up to his own standards.
Explaining it to Bennett was easier than he'd expected. Bennett just lay languidly, barely seeming to listen, but his drawled response struck Judd to the core. "You'll have to do something terribly noble, I suppose, to live up to her. Expunge your guilt for having feasted on the blood of the working class--"
"I haven't feasted on her blood," Judd snapped, irritated.
"Well, whatever you have feasted on, then. You'll end by erasing it with some heroic gesture. Get yourself killed defending the working poor, I imagine." He watched Judd through half-closed eyelids; Judd, flushed with guilt, felt him watching, but didn't meet his eyes. "You know, Tommy, if you'd find some more suitable outlet for your passions, you wouldn't have this problem. Stick to your own class." He held up one slim hand to stop Judd's angry response. "No, not because I think she's not as good as us. Give me that much credit. But you've said it yourself: you're putting her at risk, and her position means she has much more to lose than you ever will. At least I know that, whatever happens, Harcourt won't ever starve because of me. Mind you, that last caviar we had was somewhat below my standards..."
Judd wondered, briefly, if Bennett had any particular reason to wish he'd turn his attention away from the girl and towards his peers. But it would only be placing their friendship at risk, he told himself, to ask directly.