Accident and spies intermix themselves against my playfulness, and spoil the fruit, perhaps-- who knows? only you and Flintwinch--when it is just ripe. Thus, madame, I am here for the last time. Listen! Definitely the last.'
As he struck his straggling boot-heels against the flap of the table, meeting her frown with an insolent gaze, he began to change his tone for a fierce one.
'Bah! Stop an instant! Let us advance by steps. Here is my Hotel-note to be paid, according to contract. Five minutes hence we may be at daggers' points. I'll not leave it till then, or you'll cheat me. Pay it! Count me the money!'
'Take it from his hand and pay it, Flintwinch,' said Mrs Clennam.
He spirted it into Mr Flintwinch's face when the old man advanced to take it, and held forth his hand, repeating noisily, 'Pay it! Count it out! Good money!' Jeremiah picked the bill up, looked at the total with a bloodshot eye, took a small canvas bag from his pocket, and told the amount into his hand.
Rigaud chinked the money, weighed it in his hand, threw it up a little way and caught it, chinked it again.
'The sound of it, to the bold Rigaud Blandois, is like the taste of fresh meat to the tiger. Say, then, madame. How much?'
He turned upon her suddenly with a menacing gesture of the weighted hand that clenched the money, as if he were going to strike her with it.
'I tell you again, as I told you before, that we are not rich here, as you suppose us to be, and that your demand is excessive. I have not the present means of complying with such a demand, if I had ever so great an inclination.'
'If!' cried Rigaud. 'Hear this lady with her If! Will you say that you have not the inclination?'
'I will say what presents itself to me, and not what presents itself to you.'
'Say it then. As to the inclination. Quick! Come to the inclination, and I know what to do.'
She was no quicker, and no slower, in her reply. 'It would seem that you have obtained possession of a paper--or of papers--which I assuredly have the inclination to recover.'
Rigaud, with a loud laugh, drummed his heels against the table, and chinked his money. 'I think so! I believe you there!'
'The paper might be worth, to me, a sum of money. I cannot say how much, or how little.'
'What the Devil!' he asked savagely.'Not after a week's grace to consider?'
'No! I will not out of my scanty means--for I tell you again, we are poor here, and not rich--I will not offer any price for a power that I do not know the worst and the fullest extent of. This is the third time of your hinting and threatening. You must speak explicitly, or you may go where you will, and do what you will. It is better to be torn to pieces at a spring, than to be a mouse at the caprice of such a cat.'
He looked at her so hard with those eyes too near together that the sinister sight of each, crossing that of the other, seemed to make the bridge of his hooked nose crooked. After a long survey, he said, with the further setting off of his internal smile:
'You are a bold woman!'
'I am a resolved woman.'
'You always were. What? She always was; is it not so, my little Flintwinch?'
'Flintwinch, say nothing to him. It is for him to say, here and now, all he can; or to go hence, and do all he can. You know this to be our determination. Leave him to his action on it.'
She did not shrink under his evil leer, or avoid it. He turned it upon her again, but she remained steady at the point to which she had fixed herself. He got off the table, placed a chair near the sofa, sat down in it, and leaned an arm upon the sofa close to her own, which he touched with his hand. Her face was ever frowning, attentive, and settled.
'It is your pleasure then, madame, that I shall relate a morsel of family history in this little family society,' said Rigaud, with a warning play of his lithe fingers on her arm. 'I am something of a doctor. Let me touch your pulse.'
She suffered him to take her wrist in his hand.