“And yet she has run away!”

I saw her thin lips working while she looked at me, as if they were eager to load her with reproaches.

“Run away?” I repeated.

“Yes! From him,” she said, with a laugh. “If she is not found, perhaps she never will be found. She may be dead!”

The vaunting cruelty with which she met my glance, I never saw expressed in any other face that ever I have seen.

“To wish her dead,” said I, “may be the kindest wish that one of her own sex could bestow upon her. I am glad that time has softened you so much, Miss Dartle.”

She condescended to make no reply, but, turning to me with another scornful laugh, said—

“The friends of this excellent and much-injured young lady are friends of yours. You are their champion, and assert their rights. Do you wish to know what is known of her?”

“Yes,” said I.

She rose with an ill-favoured smile, and, taking a few steps towards a wall of holly that was near at hand, dividing the lawn from a kitchen-garden, said, in a louder voice, “Come here!”—as if she were calling to some unclean beast.

“You will restrain any demonstrative championship or vengeance in this place, of course, Mr. Copperfield?” said she, looking over her shoulder at me with the same expression.

I inclined my head, without knowing what she meant; and she said, “Come here!” again; and returned, followed by the respectable Mr. Littimer, who, with undiminished respectability, made me a bow, and took up his position behind her. The air of wicked grace: of triumph, in which, strange to say, there was yet something feminine and alluring: with which she reclined upon the seat between us, and looked at me, was worthy of a cruel Princess in a Legend.

“Now,” said she, imperiously, without glancing at him, and touching the old wound as it throbbed: perhaps, in this instance, with pleasure rather than pain. “Tell Mr. Copperfield about the flight.”

“Mr. James and myself, Ma’am—”

“Don’t address yourself to me!” she interrupted, with a frown.

“Mr. James and myself, Sir—”

“Nor to me, if you please,” said I.

Mr. Littimer, without being at all discomposed, signified by a slight obeisance that anything that was most agreeable to us was most agreeable to him; and began again—

“Mr. James and myself have been abroad with the young woman, ever since she left Yarmouth under Mr. James’s protection. We have been in a variety of places, and seen a deal of foreign country. We have been in France, Switzerland, Italy—in fact, almost all parts.”

He looked at the back of the seat, as if he were addressing himself to that; and softly played upon it with his hands, as if he were striking chords upon a dumb piano.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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