years and years about it— and I HAVE claimed it back. I have matched the respectable people fairly and openly on their own ground. If they say anything against me now they must say it in secret—they can't say it, they daren't say it, openly. I stand high enough in this town to be out of your reach. THE CLERGYMAN BOWS TO ME. Aha! you didn't bargain for that when you came here. Go to the church and inquire about me—you will find Mrs. Catherick has her sitting like the rest of them, and pays the rent on the day it's due. Go to the town-hall. There's a petition lying there—a petition of the respectable inhabitants against allowing a circus to come and perform here and corrupt our morals—yes! OUR morals. I signed that petition this morning. Go to the bookseller's shop. The clergyman's Wednesday evening Lectures on Justification by Faith are publishing there by subscription—I'm down on the list. The doctor's wife only put a shilling in the plate at our last charity sermon—I put half-a-crown. Mr. Churchwarden Soward held the plate, and bowed to me. Ten years ago he told Pigrum the chemist I ought to be whipped out of the town at the cart's tail. Is your mother alive? Has she got a better Bible on her table than I have got on mine? Does she stand better with her trades-people than I do with mine? Has she always lived within her income? I have always lived within mine. Ah! there IS the clergyman coming along the square. Look, Mr. What's-your-name—look, if you please!"
She started up with the activity of a young woman, went to the window, waited till the clergyman passed, and bowed to him solemnly. The clergyman ceremoniously raised his hat, and walked on. Mrs. Catherick returned to her chair, and looked at me with a grimmer sarcasm than ever.
"There!" she said. "What do you think of that for a woman with a lost character? How does your speculation look now?"
The singular manner in which she had chosen to assert herself, the extraordinary practical vindication of her position in the town which she had just offered, had so perplexed me that I listened to her in silent surprise. I was not the less resolved, however, to make another effort to throw her off her guard. If the woman's fierce temper once got beyond her control, and once flamed out on me, she might yet say the words which would put the clue in my hands.
"How does your speculation look now?" she repeated.
"Exactly as it looked when I first came in," I answered. "I don't doubt the position you have gained in th