There was a fragrance of alcohol about the flushed face and gaudy muffler of this odious cousin, which heightened the effect of his horribly dismal features. He was speaking, besides, a little thickly; but his manner was dejected, and he was treating me with an elaborate and discomfited respect which reassured me.
‘I’m a bit up a tree, Miss,’ he said shuffling his feet on the oak floor. ‘I behaved a d—— fool; but I baint one o’ they sort. I’m a fellah as ’ill fight his man, an’ stan’ up to ‘m fair, don’t ye see? An’ baint one o’ they sort—no, dang it, I baint.’
Dudley delivered his puzzling harangue with a good deal of undertoned vehemence, and was strangely agitated. He, too, had got an unpleasant way of avoiding my eye, and glancing along the floor from corner to corner as he spoke, which gave him a very hang-dog air.
He was twisting his fingers in his great sandy whisker, and pulling it roughly enough to drag his cheek about by that savage purchase; and with his other hand he was crushing and rubbing his hat against his knee.
’The old boy above there be half crazed, I think; he don’t mean half as he says thof, not he. But I’m in a bad fix anyhow—a regular sell it’s been, and I can’t get a tizzy out of him. So, ye see, I’m up a tree, Miss; and he sich a one, he’ll make it a wuss mull if I let him. He’s as sharp wi’ me as one o’ them lawyer chaps, dang ’em, and he’s a lot of I O’s and rubbitch o’ mine; and Bryerly writes to me he can’t gi’e me my legacy, ’cause he’s got a notice from Archer and Sleigh a warnin’ him not to gi’e me as much as a bob; for I signed it away to governor, he says—which I believe’s a lie. I may a’ signed some writing—’appen I did—when I was a bit cut one night. But that’s no way to catch a gentleman, and ’twon’t stand. There’s justice to be had, and ’twon’t stand, I say; and I’m not in ’is hands that way. Thof I may be a bit up the spout, too, I don’t deny; only I baint agoin’ the whole hog all at once. I’m none o’ they sort. He’ll find I baint.’
Here Mary Quince coughed demurely from the foot of the stair, to remind me that the conversation was protracted.
‘I don’t very well understand,’ I said gravely; ’and I am now going upstairs.’
‘Don’t jest a minute, Miss; it’s only a word, ye see. We’ll be goin’ t’ Australia, Sary Mangles, an’ me, aboard the Seamew, on the 5th. I’m for Liverpool to-night, and she’ll meet me there, an’—an’, please God Almighty, ye’ll never see me more; an I’d rather gi’e ye a lift, Maud, before I go: an’ I tell ye what, if ye’ll just gi’e me your written promise ye’ll gi’e me that twenty thousand ye were offering to gi’e the Governor, I’ll take ye cleverly out o’ Bartram, and put ye wi’ your cousin Knollys, or anywhere ye like best.’
’Take me from Bartram—for twenty thousand pounds! Take me away from my guardian! You seem to forget, sir,’ my indignation rising as I spoke, ’that I can visit my cousin, Lady Knollys, whenever I please.’