`I have kept your infamy a secret,' she answered. `And I have suffered the consequences of concealing it. Have I no claim to be spared the insult of your asking me what you have done? Is all sense of gratitude dead in you? You were once a gentleman. You were once dear to my mother, and dearer still to me--'
Her voice failed her. She dropped into a chair, and turned her back on me, and covered her face with her hands.
I waited a little before I trusted myself to say any more. In that moment of silence, I hardly know which I felt most keenly--the sting which her contempt had planted in me, or the proud resolution which shut me out from all community with her distress.
`If you will not speak first,' I said, `I must. I have come here with something serious to say to you. Will you do me the common justice of listening while I say it?'
She neither moved, nor answered. I made no second appeal to her; I never advanced an inch nearer to her chair. With a pride which was as obstinate as her pride, I told her of my discovery at the Shivering Sand, and of all that had led to it. The narrative, of necessity, occupied some little time. From beginning to end, she never looked round at me, and she never uttered a word.
I kept my temper. My whole future depended, in all probability, on my not losing possession of myself at that moment. The time had come to put Mr. Bruff's theory to the test. In the breathless interest of trying that experiment, I moved round so as to place myself in front of her.
`I have a question to ask you,' I said. `It obliges me to refer again to a painful subject. Did Rosanna Spearman show you the nightgown? Yes, or No?'
She started to her feet; and walked close up to me of her own accord. Her eyes looked me searchingly in the face as if to read something there which they had never read yet.
`Are you mad?' she asked.
I still restrained myself. I said quietly, `Rachel, will you answer my question?'
She went on, without heeding me.
`Have you some object to gain which I don't understand? Some mean fear about the future, in which I am concerned? They say your father's death has made you a rich man. Have you come here to compensate me for the loss of my Diamond? And have you heart enough left to feel ashamed of your errand? Is that the secret of your pretence of innocence, and your story about Rosanna Spearman? Is there a motive of shame at the bottom of all the falsehood, this time?'
I stopped her there. I could control myself no longer.
`You have done me an infamous wrong!' I broke out hotly. `You suspect me of stealing your Diamond. I have a right to know, and I will know, the reason why!'
`Suspect you!' she exclaimed, her anger rising with mine. `You villain, I saw you take the Diamond with my own eyes!'
The revelation which burst upon me in those words, the overthrow which they instantly accomplished of the whole view of the case on which Mr. Bruff had relied, struck me helpless. Innocent as I was, I stood before her in silence. To her eyes, to any eyes, I must have looked like a man overwhelmed by the discovery of his own guilt.
She drew back from the spectacle of my humiliation and of her triumph. The sudden silence that had fallen upon me seemed to frighten her. `I spared you, at the time,' she said. `I would have spared you
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