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His exclamation was followed by the scraping
of the garden chairs on the tiled pavement under
the verandah- the welcome sound which told
me they were going to sit close at the window as
usual. So far, the chance was mine. The clock
in the turret struck the quarter to twelve as
they settled themselves in their chairs. I heard
Madame Fosco through the open window,
yawning; and saw her shadow pass once more
across the white field of the blind.

Meanwhile, Sir Percival and the Count began
talking together below; now and then dropping
their voices a little lower than usual, but never
sinking them to a whisper. The strangeness
and peril of my situation, the dread, which
I could not master, of Madame Fosco's lighted
window, made it difficult, almost impossible
for me, at first, to keep my presence
of mind, and to fix my attention solely on the
conversation beneath. For some minutes, I
could only succeed in gathering the general
substance of it. I understood the Count to say
that the one window alight was his wife's; that
the ground floor of the house was quite clear;
and that they might now speak to each other,
without fear of accidents. Sir Percival merely
answered by upbraiding his friend with having
unjustifiably sbghted his wishes and neglected
his interests, all through the day. The Count,
thereupon, defended himself by declaring that be
had been beset by certain troubles and anxieties
which had absoroed all his attention, and that
the only safe time to come to an explanation,
was a time when they could feel certain of being
neither interrupted nor overheard. " We are
at a serious crisis in our affairs, Percival," he
said; " and if we are to decide on the future at
all, we must decide secretly to-night."

That sentence of the Count's was the first
which my attention was ready enough to master,
exactly as it was spoken. From this point, with
certain breaks and interruptions, my whole
interest fixed breathlessly on the conversation;
and I followed it word for word.

"Crisis?" repeated Sir Percival. "It's a
worse crisis than you think for, I can tell you!"

"So I should suppose, from your behaviour
for the last day or two," returned the other,
coolly. " But, wait a little. Before we advance
to what I do not know, let us be quite certain
of what I do know. Let us first see if I am
right about the time that is past, before I make
any proposal to you for the time that is to come."

"Stop till I get the brandy and water. Have
some yourself."

"Thank you, Percival. The cold water with
pleasure, a spoon, and the basin of sugar. Eau
sucrée, my friend- nothing more."

"Sugar and water, for a man of your age!—-
There! mix your sickly mess. You foreigners
are all alike."

"Now, listen, Percival. I will put our position
plainly before yon, as I understand it; and
you shall say if I am right or wrong. You and
I both came back to this house from the
Continent, with our affairs very seriously

"Cut it short! I wanted some thousands,
and you some hundreds- and, without the
money, we were both in a fair way to go to the
dogs together. There's the situation. Make
what you can of it. Go on."

"Well, Percival, in your own solid English
words, you wanted some thousands and I wanted
some hundreds; and the only way of getting
I hem was for you to raise the money for your
own necessity (with a small margin, beyond, for
my poor little hundreds), by the help of your
wife. What did I tell you about your wife on
our way to England? and what did I tell you
again, when we had come here, and when I had
seen for myself the sort of woman Miss
Halcombe was?"

"How should I know? You talked nineteen
to the dozen, I suppose, just as usual."

"I said this: Human ingenuity, my friend,
has hitherto only discovered two ways in which
a man can manage a woman. One way is to
knock her down- a method largely adopted by
the brutal lower orders of the people, but utterly
abhorrent to the refined and educated classes
above them. The other way (much longer,
much more difficult, but, in the end, not less
certain) is never to accept a provocation at a
woman's hands. It holds with animals, it holds
with children, and it holds with women, who are
nothing but children grown up. Quiet resolution
is the one quality the animals, the children,
and the women all fail in. If they can once
shake this superior quality in their master, they
get the better of hirn. If they can never succeed
in disturbing it, he gets the better of them. I
said to you, Remember that plain truth, when
you want your wife to help you to the money.
I said, Remember it doubly and trebly, in the
presence of your wife's sister, Miss Halcombe.
Have you remembered it? Not once, in all the
complications that have twisted themselves
about us in this house. Every provocation that
your wife, and her sister, could offer to you, you
instantly accepted from them. Your mad temper
lost the signature to the deed; lost the ready
money, set Miss Halcombe writing to the
lawyer, for the first time-"

"First time? what do you mean?"

"This. Miss Halcombe has written to the
lawyer for the second time, to-day."

A chair fell on the pavement of the verandah
- fell with a crash, as if it had been struck, or
kicked down. It was well for me that the
Count's revelation roused Sir Percival's anger,
as it did. On hearing that I had been again
discovered, my self-control failed me at the
critical moment; and I started so that the railing,
against which I leaned, craekcd again. How,
in the name of Heaven, had he found me out?
The letters had never left my own possession,
till I placed them in Fanny's hands at the inn.

"Thank your lucky star," I heard the Count
say next, " that you have me in the house, to
undo the harm, as fast as you do it. Thank
your lucky star that I said, No, when you were
mad enough to talk of turning the key to-day on
Miss Halcombe, as you turned it, in your