Do as you will!" Monsieur, the uncle, does as he will. It is what he always does. The auspicious nuptials take place; the newly married come home to this charming mansion; the lady is received, let us suppose, by Flintwinch. Hey, old intriguer?'
Jeremiah, with his eyes upon his mistress, made no reply. Rigaud looked from one to the other, struck his ugly nose, and made a clucking with his tongue.
'Soon the lady makes a singular and exciting discovery. Thereupon, full of anger, full of jealousy, full of vengeance, she forms--see you, madame!--a scheme of retribution, the weight of which she ingeniously forces her crushed husband to bear himself, as well as execute upon her enemy. What superior intelligence!'
'Keep off, Jeremiah!' cried the palpitating Affery, taking her apron from her mouth again. 'But it was one of my dreams, that you told her, when you quarrelled with her one winter evening at dusk-- there she sits and you looking at her--that she oughtn't to have let Arthur when he come home, suspect his father only; that she had always had the strength and the power; and that she ought to have stood up more to Arthur, for his father. It was in the same dream where you said to her that she was not--not something, but I don't know what, for she burst out tremendous and stopped you. You know the dream as well as I do. When you come down-stairs into the kitchen with the candle in your hand, and hitched my apron off my head. When you told me I had been dreaming. When you wouldn't believe the noises.' After this explosion Affery put her apron into her mouth again; always keeping her hand on the window-sill and her knee on the window-seat, ready to cry out or jump out if her lord and master approached.
Rigaud had not lost a word of this.
'Haha!' he cried, lifting his eyebrows, folding his arms, and leaning back in his chair. 'Assuredly, Madame Flintwinch is an oracle! How shall we interpret the oracle, you and I and the old intriguer? He said that you were not--? And you burst out and stopped him! What was it you were not? What is it you are not? Say then, madame!'
Under this ferocious banter, she sat breathing harder, and her mouth was disturbed. Her lips quivered and opened, in spite of her utmost efforts to keep them still.
'Come then, madame! Speak, then! Our old intriguer said that you were not-- and you stopped him. He was going to say that you were not--what? I know already, but I want a little confidence from you. How, then? You are not what?'
She tried again to repress herself, but broke out vehemently, 'Not Arthur's mother!'
'Good,' said Rigaud. 'You are amenable.'
With the set expression of her face all torn away by the explosion of her passion, and with a bursting, from every rent feature, of the smouldering fire so long pent up, she cried out: 'I will tell it myself! I will not hear it from your lips, and with the taint of your wickedness upon it. Since it must be seen, I will have it seen by the light I stood in. Not another word. Hear me!'
'Unless you are a more obstinate and more persisting woman than even I know you to be,' Mr Flintwinch interposed, 'you had better leave Mr Rigaud, Mr Blandois, Mr Beelzebub, to tell it in his own way. What does it signify when he knows all about it?'
'He does not know all about it.'
'He knows all he cares about it,' Mr Flintwinch testily urged. 'He does not know me.'
'What do you suppose he cares for you, you conceited woman?' said Mr Flintwinch.
'I tell you, Flintwinch, I will speak. I tell you when it has come to this, I will tell it with my own lips, and will express myself throughout it. What! Have I suffered nothing in this room, no deprivation, no imprisonment, that I should condescend at last to contemplate myself in such a glass as that. Can you see him? Can you hear him? If your wife were a hundred times the ingrate that she is, and if I were a thousand times more hopeless than I am of inducing her to be silent if this man is silenced, I would tell it myself, before I would bear the torment of the hearing it from him.'
Rigaud pushed his chair a little back; pushed his legs out straight before him; and sat with his arms folded over against her.