'You have made an allusion to Mr. Tupman--explain it.'
'Never!' exclaimed Jingle, with a professional (i.e., theatrical) air. 'Never!' and, by way of showing that he had no desire to be questioned further, he drew a chair close to that of the spinster aunt and sat down.
'Mr. Jingle,' said the aunt, 'I entreat--I implore you, if there is any dreadful mystery connected with Mr. Tupman, reveal it.'
'Can I,' said Mr. Jingle, fixing his eyes on the aunt's face-- 'can I see--lovely creature--sacrificed at the shrine-- heartless avarice!' He appeared to be struggling with various conflicting emotions for a few seconds, and then said in a low voice--
'Tupman only wants your money.'
'The wretch!' exclaimed the spinster, with energetic indignation. (Mr. Jingle's doubts were resolved. She HAD money.)
'More than that,' said Jingle--'loves another.'
'Another!' ejaculated the spinster. 'Who?' 'Short girl--black eyes--niece Emily.'
There was a pause.
Now, if there was one individual in the whole world, of whom the spinster aunt entertained a mortal and deep-rooted jealousy, it was this identical niece. The colour rushed over her face and neck, and she tossed her head in silence with an air of ineffable contempt. At last, biting her thin lips, and bridling up, she said--
'It can't be. I won't believe it.'
'Watch 'em,' said Jingle.
'I will,' said the aunt.
'Watch his looks.'
'He'll sit next her at table.'
'He'll flatter her.'
'He'll pay her every possible attention.'
'And he'll cut you.'
'Cut ME!' screamed the spinster aunt. 'HE cut ME; will he!' and she trembled with rage and disappointment.
'You will convince yourself?' said Jingle.
'You'll show your spirit?'
'I will.' 'You'll not have him afterwards?'
'You'll take somebody else?' 'Yes.'
Mr. Jingle fell on his knees, remained thereupon for five minutes thereafter; and rose the accepted lover of the spinster aunt--conditionally upon Mr. Tupman's perjury being made clear and manifest.
The burden of proof lay with Mr. Alfred Jingle; and he produced his evidence that very day at dinner. The spinster aunt could hardly believe her eyes. Mr. Tracy Tupman was established at Emily's side, ogling, whispering, and smiling, in opposition to Mr. Snodgrass. Not a word, not a look, not a glance, did he bestow upon his heart's pride of the evening before.
'Damn that boy!' thought old Mr. Wardle to himself.--He had heard the story from his mother. 'Damn that boy! He must have been asleep. It's all imagination.'
'Traitor!' thought the spinster aunt. 'Dear Mr. Jingle was not deceiving me. Ugh! how I hate the wretch!'
The following conversation may serve to explain to our readers this apparently unaccountable alteration of deportment on the part of Mr. Tracy Tupman.
The time was evening; the scene the garden. There were two figures walking in a side path; one was rather short and stout; the other tall and slim. They were Mr. Tupman and Mr. Jingle. The stout figure commenced the dialogue.
'How did I do it?' he inquired.
'Splendid--capital--couldn't act better myself--you must repeat the part to-morrow--every evening till further notice.'
'Does Rachael still wish it?'
'Of course--she don't like it--but must be done--avert suspicion--afraid of her brother--says there's no help for it-- only a few days more--when old folks blinded--crown your happiness.'
'Love--best love--kindest regards--unalterable affection. Can I say anything for you?'
'My dear fellow,' replied the unsuspicious Mr. Tupman, fervently grasping his 'friend's' hand--'carry my best love--say how hard I find it to dissemble--say anything that's kind: but add how sensible I am of the necessity of the suggestion she made to me, through you, this morning. Say I applaud her wisdom and admire her discretion.' 'I will. Anything more?'
'Nothing, only add how ardently I long for the time when I may call her mine, and all dissimulation may be unnecessary.'