'It make you nervous, Bill,--reminds you of being nabbed, does it?' said Fagin, determined not to be offended.
'Reminds me of being nabbed by the devil,' returned Sikes. 'There never was another man with such a face as yours, unless it was your father, and I suppose HE is singeing his grizzled red beard by this time, unless you came straight from the old 'un without any father at all betwixt you; which I shouldn't wonder at, a bit.'
Fagin offered no reply to this compliment: but, pulling Sikes by the sleeve, pointed his finger towards Nancy, who had taken advantage of the foregoing conversation to put on her bonnet, and was now leaving the room.
'Hallo!' cried Sikes. 'Nance. Where's the gal going to at this time of night?'
'What answer's that?' retorted Sikes. 'Do you hear me?'
'I don't know where,' replied the girl.
'Then I do,' said Sikes, more in the spirit of obstinacy than because he had any real objection to the girl going where she listed. 'Nowhere. Sit down.'
'I'm not well. I told you that before,' rejoined the girl. 'I want a breath of air.'
'Put your head out of the winder,' replied Sikes.
'There's not enough there,' said the girl. 'I want it in the street.'
'Then you won't have it,' replied Sikes. With which assurance he rose, locked the door, took the key out, and pulling her bonnet from her head, flung it up to the top of an old press. 'There,' said the robber. 'Now stop quietly where you are, will you?'
'It's not such a matter as a bonnet would keep me,' said the girl turning very pale. 'What do you mean, Bill? Do you know what you're doing?'
'Know what I'm--Oh!' cried Sikes, turning to Fagin, 'she's out of her senses, you know, or she daren't talk to me in that way.'
'You'll drive me on the something desperate,' muttered the girl placing both hands upon her breast, as though to keep down by force some violent outbreak. 'Let me go, will you,--this minute--this instant.'
'No!' said Sikes.
'Tell him to let me go, Fagin. He had better. It'll be better for him. Do you hear me?' cried Nancy stamping her foot upon the ground.
'Hear you!' repeated Sikes turning round in his chair to confront her. 'Aye! And if I hear you for half a minute longer, the dog shall have such a grip on your throat as'll tear some of that screaming voice out. Wot has come over you, you jade! Wot is it?'
'Let me go,' said the girl with great earnestness; then sitting herself down on the floor, before the door, she said, 'Bill, let me go; you don't know what you are doing. You don't, indeed. For only one hour--do--do!'
'Cut my limbs off one by one!' cried Sikes, seizing her roughly by the arm, 'If I don't think the gal's stark raving mad. Get up.'
'Not till you let me go--not till you let me go--Never--never!' screamed the girl. Sikes looked on, for a minute, watching his opportunity, and suddenly pinioning her hands dragged her, struggling and wrestling with him by the way, into a small room adjoining, where he sat himself on a bench, and thrusting her into a chair, held her down by force. She struggled and implored by turns until twelve o'clock had struck, and then, wearied and exhausted, ceased to contest the point any further. With a caution, backed by many oaths, to make no more efforts to go out that night, Sikes left her to recover at leisure and rejoined Fagin.
'Whew!' said the housebreaker wiping the perspiration from his face. 'Wot a precious strange gal that is!'
'You may say that, Bill,' replied Fagin thoughtfully. 'You may say that.'
'Wot did she take it into her head to go out to-night for, do you think?' asked Sikes. 'Come; you should know her better than me. Wot does is mean?'
'Obstinacy; woman's obstinacy, I suppose, my dear.'
'Well, I suppose it is,' growled Sikes. 'I thought I had tamed her, but she's as bad as ever.'
'Worse,' said Fagin thoughtfully. 'I never knew her like this, for such a little cause.'
'Nor I,' said Sikes. 'I think she's got a touch of that fever in her blood yet, and it won't come out--eh?'
'I'll let her a little blood, without troubling the doctor, if she's took that way again,' said Sikes.