'You were often enough between us when he would have had me produce it and I would not, to have contradicted me if I had said, with his consent. I say, when I suppressed that paper, I made no effort to destroy it, but kept it by me, here in this house, many years. The rest of the Gilbert property being left to Arthur's father, I could at any time, without unsettling more than the two sums, have made a pretence of finding it. But, besides that I must have supported such pretence by a direct falsehood (a great responsibility), I have seen no new reason, in all the time I have been tried here, to bring it to light. It was a rewarding of sin; the wrong result of a delusion. I did what I was appointed to do, and I have undergone, within these four walls, what I was appointed to undergo. When the paper was at last destroyed--as I thought--in my presence, she had long been dead, and her patron, Frederick Dorrit, had long been deservedly ruined and imbecile. He had no daughter. I had found the niece before then; and what I did for her, was better for her far than the money of which she would have had no good.' She added, after a moment, as though she addressed the watch: 'She herself was innocent, and I might not have forgotten to relinquish it to her at my death:' and sat looking at it.
'Shall I recall something to you, worthy madame?' said Rigaud. 'The little paper was in this house on the night when our friend the prisoner--jail-comrade of my soul--came home from foreign countries. Shall I recall yet something more to you? The little singing-bird that never was fledged, was long kept in a cage by a guardian of your appointing, well enough known to our old intriguer here. Shall we coax our old intriguer to tell us when he saw him last?'
'I'll tell you!' cried Affery, unstopping her mouth. 'I dreamed it, first of all my dreams. Jeremiah, if you come a-nigh me now, I'll scream to be heard at St Paul's! The person as this man has spoken of, was jeremiah's own twin brother; and he was here in the dead of the night, on the night when Arthur come home, and Jeremiah with his own hands give him this paper, along with I don't know what more, and he took it away in an iron box--Help! Murder! Save me from Jere-mi-ah!'
Mr Flintwinch had made a run at her, but Rigaud had caught him in his arms midway. After a moment's wrestle with him, Flintwinch gave up, and put his hands in his pockets.
'What!' cried Rigaud, rallying him as he poked and jerked him back with his elbows, 'assault a lady with such a genius for dreaming! Ha, ha, ha! Why, she'll be a fortune to you as an exhibition. All that she dreams comes true. Ha, ha, ha! You're so like him, Little Flintwinch. So like him, as I knew him (when I first spoke English for him to the host) in the Cabaret of the Three Billiard Tables, in the little street of the high roofs, by the wharf at Antwerp! Ah, but he was a brave boy to drink. Ah, but he was a brave boy to smoke! Ah, but he lived in a sweet bachelor- apartment--furnished, on the fifth floor, above the wood and charcoal merchant's, and the dress-maker's, and the chair-maker's, and the maker of tubs--where I knew him too, and wherewith his cognac and tobacco, he had twelve sleeps a day and one fit, until he had a fit too much, and ascended to the skies. Ha, ha, ha! What does it matter how I took possession of the papers in his iron box? Perhaps he confided it to my hands for you, perhaps it was locked and my curiosity was piqued, perhaps I suppressed it. Ha, ha, ha! What does it matter, so that I have it safe? We are not particular here; hey, Flintwinch? We are not particular here; is it not so, madame?'
Retiring before him with vicious counter-jerks of his own elbows, Mr Flintwinch had got back into his corner, where he now stood with his hands in his pockets, taking breath, and returning Mrs Clennam's stare. 'Ha, ha, ha! But what's this?' cried Rigaud. 'It appears as if you don't know, one the other. Permit me, Madame Clennam who suppresses, to present Monsieur Flintwinch who intrigues.'
Mr Flintwinch, unpocketing one of his hands to scrape his jaw, advanced a step or so in that attitude, still returning Mrs Clennam's look, and thus addressed her:
'Now, I know what you mean by opening your eyes so wide at me, but you needn't take the trouble, because I don't care for it.