NOW, what can this one be after again?"
Just as the old man had gone, Madeleine saw her brother coming.
His face was very red and his eyes glittered. He trudged in and sank into a chair.
"H'lo, there, Madelon!"
She answered coldly:
"Hello yourself! What is it you want?"
"As if you didn't know!"
He winked and made a gesture as of counting money on the table.
"Money! More money! You've come at the wrong time: I'm not handing out any more money."
"I'm not begging for a gift, I'm asking for a loan. And you needn't be afraid—you know me: I'm your brother!"
Madeleine shrugged her shoulders.
"Give you money so you can go to the wineshop and get drunk again, as you are right now? Or so you can take it again to that hussy? Is that what you want it for? Well, no and no and no! I'm through!"
Trooper got up, instantly roused to anger.
"What I've got to say is that you're talking rot, Madeleine, and that you've deeply offended me. I'll never forget your words; they'll stand between us for life. You talk like a person without heart or brain, who's never loved anybody."
That made her turn on him in a flash.
"Shut up! Get out! You're driving me mad, all of you! Be still!—You say I don't love anybody? Well, look out there, in the garden!—Do you see those children? You've got two of them right there before your eyes, whom I love! And I think they're as worth while as anybody, as worth while as the hussy who's making you crazy and wicked and cowardly!—You make me laugh with your airs, the lot of you! Sitting around and chanting: 'We love Peter or Paul or Mary or Jane—poor Madeleine, she doesn't understand—— Is that so! I don't understand, don't I!—Without looking any farther, take those children: I'd go through hellfire for them! Does that count for anything with you fools?—Just look at them, you great big idiot, you!"
With both her hands flat on his chest, she pushed her brother to the door.
"Look at them! I want you to look at them! I should think they're as lovely to look at as your Violette, any day; and they won't betray me as she has betrayed you! And now they're going to be snatched away from me, and who'd be doing that fine piece of work but your Violette!"
"That's not true!"
"Not true? Have you lost your wits altogether?—The wedding is going to take place in three weeks."
Trooper fell back aghast and words of utter misery came droning from his big chest.
"Madeleine, the curse of God is on my life!"
"Is there any blessing on mine? But who cares? Not you, at all events! All you care about is Violette!—Get out of my sight!—You'd give her my money, would you? And she'd be mean enough to take it, too! Anyhow, it isn't my money—it belongs to those children out there. As it is, your jade has stolen quite enough from them!—I hate her! You don't know how I hate her! You don't know anything! There was that little girl, the prettiest in the county, the prettiest in the world, and the cleverest—Lalie! And all through your Violette I almost saw her killed—burned alive! And now, as if that wasn't enough, she's going to take her from me! She's going to take Lalie, she's going to take Jo, she's going to take everything!—Everything I've taught them she'll say was a lie! She'll change their religion, she'll change their hearts, she'll wipe even my name from their memory! Damnation! how I hate her! And you who dare talk to me about her—get out! Get out!"
Retreating before her, Trooper had reached the threshold, but he heard not a word she said. In his drunken eyes the flame of madness burned.
He threw up his one arm and his powerful hand opened and clutched, opened and clutched like an iron claw, again and again, as he cried:
"The curse of God is on my life! If I meet that man—God pity him! I'll swing for him!"