Mr. Twemlow’s little rooms are modestly furnished, in an old-fashioned manner (rather like the housekeeper’s room at Snigsworthy Park), and would be bare of mere ornament, were it not for a full-length engraving of the sublime Snigsworth over the chimneypiece, snorting at a Corinthian column, with an enormous roll of paper at his feet, and a heavy curtain going to tumble down on his head; those accessories being understood to represent the noble lord as somehow in the act of saving his country.

“Pray take a seat, Mrs. Lammle.” Mrs. Lammle takes a seat and opens the conversation.

“I have no doubt, Mr. Twemlow, that you have heard of a reverse of fortune having befallen us. Of course you have heard of it, for no kind of news travels so fast — among one’s friends especially.”

Mindful of the wondering dinner, Twemlow, with a little twinge, admits the imputation.

“Probably it will not,” says Mrs. Lammle, with a certain hardened manner upon her, that makes Twemlow shrink, “have surprised you so much as some others, after what passed between us at the house which is now turned out at windows. I have taken the liberty of calling upon you, Mr. Twemlow, to add a sort of postscript to what I said that day.”

Mr. Twemlow’s dry and hollow cheeks become more dry and hollow at the prospect of some new complication.

“Really,” says the uneasy little gentleman, “really, Mrs. Lammle, I should take it as a favour if you could excuse me from any further confidence. It has ever been one of the objects of my life — which, unfortunately, has not had many objects — to be inoffensive, and to keep out of cabals and interferences.”

Mrs. Lammle, by far the more observant of the two, scarcely finds it necessary to look at Twemlow while he speaks, so easily does she read him.

“My postscript — to retain the term I have used” — says Mrs. Lammle, fixing her eyes on his face, to enforce what she says herself — “coincides exactly with what you say, Mr. Twemlow. So far from troubling you with any new confidence, I merely wish to remind you what the old one was. So far from asking you for interference, I merely wish to claim your strict neutrality.”

Twemlow going on to reply, she rests her eyes again, knowing her ears to be quite enough for the contents of so weak a vessel.

“I can, I suppose,” says Twemlow, nervously, “offer no reasonable objection to hearing anything that you do me the honor to wish to say to me under those heads. But if I may, with all possible delicacy and politeness, entreat you not to range beyond them, I — I beg to do so.”

“Sir,” says Mrs. Lammle, raising her eyes to his face again, and quite daunting him with her hardened manner, “I imparted to you a certain piece of knowledge, to be imparted again, as you thought best, to a certain person.”

“Which I did,” says Twemlow.

“And for doing which, I thank you; though, indeed, I scarcely know why I turned traitress to my husband in the matter, for the girl is a poor little fool. I was a poor little fool once myself; I can find no better reason.” Seeing the effect she produces on him by her indifferent laugh and cold look, she keeps her eyes upon him as she proceeds. “Mr. Twemlow, if you should chance to see my husband, or to see me, or to see both of us, in the favour or confidence of any one else — whether of our common acquaintance or not, is of no consequence — you have no right to use against us the knowledge I intrusted you with, for one special purpose which has been accomplished. This is what I came to say. It is not a stipulation; to a gentleman it is simply a reminder.”

Twemlow sits murmuring to himself with his hand to his forehead.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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