'Worse than his wife, because I was once dupe enough, and false enough to myself, almost to love him. You have seen me, sir, only on common-place occasions, when I dare say you have thought me a common-place woman, a little more self- willed than the generality. You don't know what I mean by hating, if you know me no better than that; you can't know, without knowing with what care I have studied myself and people about me. For this reason I have for some time inclined to tell you what my life has been--not to propitiate your opinion, for I set no value on it; but that you may comprehend, when you think of your dear friend and his dear wife, what I mean by hating. Shall I give you something I have written and put by for your perusal, or shall I hold my hand?'
Arthur begged her to give it to him. She went to the bureau, unlocked it, and took from an inner drawer a few folded sheets of paper. Without any conciliation of him, scarcely addressing him, rather speaking as if she were speaking to her own looking-glass for the justification of her own stubbornness, she said, as she gave them to him:
'Now you may know what I mean by hating! No more of that. Sir, whether you find me temporarily and cheaply lodging in an empty London house, or in a Calais apartment, you find Harriet with me. You may like to see her before you leave. Harriet, come in!' She called Harriet again. The second call produced Harriet, once Tattycoram.
'Here is Mr Clennam,' said Miss Wade; 'not come for you; he has given you up,--I suppose you have, by this time?'
'Having no authority, or influence--yes,' assented Clennam.
'Not come in search of you, you see; but still seeking some one. He wants that Blandois man.'
'With whom I saw you in the Strand in London,' hinted Arthur. 'If you know anything of him, Harriet, except that he came from Venice--which we all know--tell it to Mr Clennam freely.' 'I know nothing more about him,' said the girl.
'Are you satisfied?' Miss Wade inquired of Arthur.
He had no reason to disbelieve them; the girl's manner being so natural as to be almost convincing, if he had had any previous doubts. He replied, 'I must seek for intelligence elsewhere.'
He was not going in the same breath; but he had risen before the girl entered, and she evidently thought he was. She looked quickly at him, and said:
'Are they well, sir?'
She stopped herself in saying what would have been 'all of them;' glanced at Miss Wade; and said 'Mr and Mrs Meagles.'
'They were, when I last heard of them. They are not at home. By the way, let me ask you. Is it true that you were seen there?'
'Where? Where does any one say I was seen?' returned the girl, sullenly casting down her eyes.
'Looking in at the garden gate of the cottage.'
'No,' said Miss Wade. 'She has never been near it.'
'You are wrong, then,' said the girl. 'I went down there the last time we were in London. I went one afternoon when you left me alone. And I did look in.'
'You poor-spirited girl,' returned Miss Wade with infinite contempt; 'does all our companionship, do all our conversations, do all your old complainings, tell for so little as that?'
'There was no harm in looking in at the gate for an instant,' said the girl. 'I saw by the windows that the family were not there.'
'Why should you go near the place?'
'Because I wanted to see it. Because I felt that I should like to look at it again.'
As each of the two handsome faces looked at the other, Clennam felt how each of the two natures must be constantly tearing the other to pieces.
'Oh!' said Miss Wade, coldly subduing and removing her glance; 'if you had any desire to see the place where you led the life from which I rescued you because you had found out what it was, that is another thing. But is that your truth to me? Is that your fidelity to me? Is that the common cause I make with you? You are not worth the confidence I have placed in you. You are not worth the favour I have shown you. You are no higher than a spaniel, and had better go back to the people who did worse than whip you.'
'If you speak so of them with any one else by to hear, you'll provoke me to take their part,' said the girl.