once, folded his arms over his breast, and listened to me with a smile of satirical attention.
"You are well enough aware," I went on, "of the course which my inquiries have taken for many months past, to know that any attempted denial of plain facts will be quite useless in my presence. You are guilty of an infamous conspiracy! And the gain of a fortune of ten thousand pounds was your motive for it."
He said nothing. But his face became overclouded suddenly by a lowering anxiety.
"Keep your gain," I said. (His face lightened again immediately, and his eyes opened on me in wider and wider astonishment.) "I am not here to disgrace myself by bargaining for money which has passed through your hands, and which has been the price of a vile crime.
"Gently, Mr. Hartright. Your moral clap-traps have an excellent effect in England—keep them for yourself and your own countrymen, if you please. The ten thousand pounds was a legacy left to my excellent wife by the late Mr. Fairlie. Place the affair on those grounds, and I will discuss it if you like. To a man of my sentiments, however, the subject is deplorably sordid. I prefer to pass it over. I invite you to resume the discussion of your terms. What do you demand?"
"In the first place, I demand a full confession of the conspiracy, written and signed in my presence by yourself."
He raised his finger again. "One!" he said, checking me off with the steady attention of a practical man.
"In the second place, I demand a plain proof, which does not depend on your personal asseveration, of the date at which my wife left Blackwater Park and travelled to London."
"So! so! you can lay your finger, I see, on the weak place," he remarked composedly. "Any more?"
"At present, no more."
"Good! you have mentioned your terms, now listen to mine. The responsibility to myself of admitting what you are pleased to call the 'conspiracy' is less, perhaps, upon the whole, than the responsibility of laying you dead on that hearthrug. Let us say that I meet your proposal—on my own conditions. The statement you demand of me shall be written, and the plain proof shall be produced. You call a letter from my late lamented friend informing me of the day and hour of his wife's arrival in London, written, signed, and dated by himself, a proof, I suppose? I can give you this. I can also send you to the man of whom I hired the carr