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Little Dorrit

Little Dorrit

Little Dorrit/24

CHAPTER 23. Machinery in Motion

Mr Meagles bestirred himself with such prompt activity in the matter ofthe negotiation with Daniel Doyce which Clennam had entrusted to him,that he soon brought it into business train, and called on Clennam atnine o'clock one morning to make his report.

'Doyce is highly gratified by your good opinion,' he opened the businessby saying, 'and desires nothing so much as that you should examine theaffairs of the Works for yourself, and entirely understand them. He hashanded me the keys of all his books and papers--here they are jinglingin this pocket--and the only charge he has given me is ”Let Mr Clennamhave the means of putting himself on a perfect equality with me as toknowing whatever I know. If it should come to nothing after all, hewill respect my confidence. Unless I was sure of that to begin with, Ishould have nothing to do with him.” And there, you see,' said MrMeagles, 'you have Daniel Doyce all over.'

'A very honourable character.'

'Oh, yes, to be sure. Not a doubt of it. Odd, but very honourable. Veryodd though. Now, would you believe, Clennam,' said Mr Meagles, witha hearty enjoyment of his friend's eccentricity, 'that I had a wholemorning in What's-his-name Yard--'

'Bleeding Heart?'

'A whole morning in Bleeding Heart Yard, before I could induce him topursue the subject at all?'

'How was that?'

'How was that, my friend? I no sooner mentioned your name in connectionwith it than he declared off.'

'Declared off on my account?'

'I no sooner mentioned your name, Clennam, than he said, ”That willnever do!” What did he mean by that? I asked him. No matter, Meagles;that would never do. Why would it never do? You'll hardly believe it,Clennam,' said Mr Meagles, laughing within himself, 'but it came outthat it would never do, because you and he, walking down to Twickenhamtogether, had glided into a friendly conversation in the course of whichhe had referred to his intention of taking a partner, supposing at thetime that you were as firmly and finally settled as St Paul's Cathedral.”Whereas,” says he, ”Mr Clennam might now believe, if I entertained hisproposition, that I had a sinister and designing motive in what was openfree speech. Which I can't bear,” says he, ”which I really am too proudto bear.”'

'I should as soon suspect--'

'Of course you would,' interrupted Mr Meagles, 'and so I told him. Butit took a morning to scale that wall; and I doubt if any other manthan myself (he likes me of old) could have got his leg over it. Well,Clennam. This business-like obstacle surmounted, he then stipulated thatbefore resuming with you I should look over the books and form my ownopinion. I looked over the books, and formed my own opinion. ”Is it, onthe whole, for, or against?” says he. ”For,” says I. ”Then,” says he,”you may now, my good friend, give Mr Clennam the means of forminghis opinion. To enable him to do which, without bias and with perfectfreedom, I shall go out of town for a week.” And he's gone,' said MrMeagles; 'that's the rich conclusion of the thing.'

'Leaving me,' said Clennam, 'with a high sense, I must say, of hiscandour and his--'

'Oddity,' Mr Meagles struck in. 'I should think so!'

It was not exactly the word on Clennam's lips, but he forbore tointerrupt his good-humoured friend.

'And now,' added Mr Meagles, 'you can begin to look into matters as soonas you think proper. I have undertaken to explain where you may wantexplanation, but to be strictly impartial, and to do nothing more.'

They began their perquisitions in Bleeding Heart Yard that sameforenoon. Little peculiarities were easily to be detected by experiencedeyes in Mr Doyce's way of managing his affairs, but they almost alwaysinvolved some ingenious simplification of a difficulty, and some plainroad to the desired end. That his papers were in arrear, and that hestood in need of assistance to develop the capacity of his business, wasclear enough; but all the results of his undertakings during many yearswere distinctly set forth, and were ascertainable with ease. Nothing hadbeen done for the purposes of the pending investigation; everything wasin its genuine working dress, and in a certain honest rugged order. Thecalculations and entries, in his own hand, of which there were many,were bluntly written, and with no very neat precision; but were alwaysplain and directed straight to the purpose. It occurred to Arthur thata far more elaborate and taking show of business--such as the records ofthe Circumlocution Office made perhaps--might be far less serviceable,as being meant to be far less intelligible.

Three or four days of steady application tendered him master of all thefacts it was essential to become acquainted with. Mr Meagles was at handthe whole time, always ready to illuminate any dim place with the brightlittle safety-lamp belonging to the scales and scoop. Between them theyagreed upon the sum it would be fair to offer for the purchase of ahalf-share in the business, and then Mr Meagles unsealed a paper inwhich Daniel Doyce had noted the amount at which he valued it; which waseven something less. Thus, when Daniel came back, he found the affair asgood as concluded.

'And I may now avow, Mr Clennam,' said he, with a cordial shake of thehand, 'that if I had looked high and low for a partner, I believe Icould not have found one more to my mind.'

'I say the same,' said Clennam.

'And I say of both of you,' added Mr Meagles, 'that you are wellmatched. You keep him in check, Clennam, with your common sense, and youstick to the Works, Dan, with your--'

'Uncommon sense?' suggested Daniel, with his quiet smile.

'You may call it so, if you like--and each of you will be a right handto the other. Here's my own right hand upon it, as a practical man, toboth of you.'

The purchase was completed within a month. It left Arthur in possessionof private personal means not exceeding a few hundred pounds; but itopened to him an active and promising career. The three friends dinedtogether on the auspicious occasion; the factory and the factory wivesand children made holiday and dined too; even Bleeding Heart Yarddined and was full of meat. Two months had barely gone by in all, whenBleeding Heart Yard had become so familiar with short-commons again,that the treat was forgotten there; when nothing seemed new in thepartnership but the paint of the inscription on the door-posts, DOYCEAND CLENNAM; when it appeared even to Clennam himself, that he had hadthe affairs of the firm in his mind for years.

The little counting-house reserved for his own occupation, was a room ofwood and glass at the end of a long low workshop, filled with benches,and vices, and tools, and straps, and wheels; which, when they werein gear with the steam-engine, went tearing round as though they had asuicidal mission to grind the business to dust and tear the factory topieces. A communication of great trap-doors in the floor and roof withthe workshop above and the workshop below, made a shaft of light inthis perspective, which brought to Clennam's mind the child's oldpicture-book, where similar rays were the witnesses of Abel'smurder. The noises were sufficiently removed and shut out from thecounting-house to blend into a busy hum, interspersed with periodicalclinks and thumps. The patient figures at work were swarthy with thefilings of iron and steel that danced on every bench and bubbled upthrough every chink in the planking. The workshop was arrived at by astep-ladder from the outer yard below, where it served as a shelter forthe large grindstone where tools were sharpened. The whole had at oncea fanciful and practical air in Clennam's eyes, which was a welcomechange; and, as often as he raised them from his first work of gettingthe array of business documents into perfect order, he glanced at thesethings with a feeling of pleasure in his pursuit that was new to him.

Raising his eyes thus one day, he was surprised to see a bonnetlabouring up the step-ladder. The unusual apparition was followed byanother bonnet. He then perceived that the first bonnet was on the headof Mr F.'s Aunt, and that the second bonnet was on the head of Flora,who seemed to have propelled her legacy up the steep ascent withconsiderable difficulty.

Though not altogether enraptured at the sight of these visitors, Clennamlost no time in opening the counting-house door, and extricating themfrom the workshop; a rescue which was rendered the more necessary by MrF.'s Aunt already stumbling over some impediment, and menacing steampower as an Institution with a stony reticule she carried.

'Good gracious, Arthur,--I should say Mr Clennam, far more proper--theclimb we have had to get up here and how ever to get down again withouta fire-escape and Mr F.'s Aunt slipping through the steps and bruisedall over and you in the machinery and foundry way too only think, andnever told us!'

Thus, Flora, out of breath. Meanwhile, Mr F.'s Aunt rubbed her esteemedinsteps with her umbrella, and vindictively glared.

'Most unkind never to have come back to see us since that day, thoughnaturally it was not to be expected that there should be any attractionat _our_ house and you were much more pleasantly engaged, that's prettycertain, and is she fair or dark blue eyes or black I wonder, not thatI expect that she should be anything but a perfect contrast to me in allparticulars for I am a disappointment as I very well know and you arequite right to be devoted no doubt though what I am saying Arthur nevermind I hardly know myself Good gracious!'

By this time he had placed chairs for them in the counting-house. AsFlora dropped into hers, she bestowed the old look upon him.

'And to think of Doyce and Clennam, and who Doyce can be,' said Flora;'delightful man no doubt and married perhaps or perhaps a daughter, nowhas he really? then one understands the partnership and sees it all,don't tell me anything about it for I know I have no claim to ask thequestion the golden chain that once was forged being snapped and veryproper.'

Flora put her hand tenderly on his, and gave him another of the youthfulglances.

'Dear Arthur--force of habit, Mr Clennam every way more delicate andadapted to existing circumstances--I must beg to be excused for takingthe liberty of this intrusion but I thought I might so far presume uponold times for ever faded never more to bloom as to call with Mr F.'sAunt to congratulate and offer best wishes, A great deal superior toChina not to be denied and much nearer though higher up!'

'I am very happy to see you,' said Clennam, 'and I thank you, Flora,very much for your kind remembrance.'

'More than I can say myself at any rate,' returned Flora, 'for I mighthave been dead and buried twenty distinct times over and no doubtwhatever should have been before you had genuinely remembered Me oranything like it in spite of which one last remark I wish to make, onelast explanation I wish to offer--'

'My dear Mrs Finching,' Arthur remonstrated in alarm.

'Oh not that disagreeable name, say Flora!'

'Flora, is it worth troubling yourself afresh to enter intoexplanations? I assure you none are needed. I am satisfied--I amperfectly satisfied.'

A diversion was occasioned here, by Mr F.'s Aunt making the followinginexorable and awful statement:

'There's mile-stones on the Dover road!'

With such mortal hostility towards the human race did she discharge thismissile, that Clennam was quite at a loss how to defend himself; therather as he had been already perplexed in his mind by the honour of avisit from this venerable lady, when it was plain she held him in theutmost abhorrence. He could not but look at her with disconcertment, asshe sat breathing bitterness and scorn, and staring leagues away. Flora,however, received the remark as if it had been of a most apposite andagreeable nature; approvingly observing aloud that Mr F.'s Aunt had agreat deal of spirit. Stimulated either by this compliment, or by herburning indignation, that illustrious woman then added, 'Let him meetit if he can!' And, with a rigid movement of her stony reticule (anappendage of great size and of a fossil appearance), indicated thatClennam was the unfortunate person at whom the challenge was hurled.

'One last remark,' resumed Flora, 'I was going to say I wish to make onelast explanation I wish to offer, Mr F.'s Aunt and myself would not haveintruded on business hours Mr F. having been in business and though thewine trade still business is equally business call it what you will andbusiness habits are just the same as witness Mr F. himself who had hisslippers always on the mat at ten minutes before six in the afternoonand his boots inside the fender at ten minutes before eight in themorning to the moment in all weathers light or dark--would not thereforehave intruded without a motive which being kindly meant it may be hopedwill be kindly taken Arthur, Mr Clennam far more proper, even Doyce andClennam probably more business-like.'

'Pray say nothing in the way of apology,' Arthur entreated. 'You arealways welcome.'

'Very polite of you to say so Arthur--cannot remember Mr Clennam untilthe word is out, such is the habit of times for ever fled, and so trueit is that oft in the stilly night ere slumber's chain has bound people,fond memory brings the light of other days around people--very politebut more polite than true I am afraid, for to go into the machinerybusiness without so much as sending a line or a card to papa--I don'tsay me though there was a time but that is past and stern reality hasnow my gracious never mind--does not look like it you must confess.'

Even Flora's commas seemed to have fled on this occasion; she was somuch more disjointed and voluble than in the preceding interview.

'Though indeed,' she hurried on, 'nothing else is to be expected and whyshould it be expected and if it's not to be expected why should it be,and I am far from blaming you or any one, When your mama and my papaworried us to death and severed the golden bowl--I mean bond but I daresay you know what I mean and if you don't you don't lose much and carejust as little I will venture to add--when they severed the golden bondthat bound us and threw us into fits of crying on the sofa nearly chokedat least myself everything was changed and in giving my hand to Mr F. Iknow I did so with my eyes open but he was so very unsettled and in suchlow spirits that he had distractedly alluded to the river if not oil ofsomething from the chemist's and I did it for the best.'

'My good Flora, we settled that before. It was all quite right.'

'It's perfectly clear you think so,' returned Flora, 'for you take itvery coolly, if I hadn't known it to be China I should have guessedmyself the Polar regions, dear Mr Clennam you are right however and Icannot blame you but as to Doyce and Clennam papa's property being abouthere we heard it from Pancks and but for him we never should have heardone word about it I am satisfied.'

'No, no, don't say that.'

'What nonsense not to say it Arthur--Doyce and Clennam--easier and lesstrying to me than Mr Clennam--when I know it and you know it too andcan't deny it.'

'But I do deny it, Flora. I should soon have made you a friendly visit.'

'Ah!' said Flora, tossing her head. 'I dare say!' and she gave himanother of the old looks. 'However when Pancks told us I made up my mindthat Mr F.'s Aunt and I would come and call because when papa--which wasbefore that--happened to mention her name to me and to say that you wereinterested in her I said at the moment Good gracious why not have herhere then when there's anything to do instead of putting it out.'

'When you say Her,' observed Clennam, by this time pretty wellbewildered, 'do you mean Mr F.'s--'

'My goodness, Arthur--Doyce and Clennam really easier to me with oldremembrances--who ever heard of Mr F.'s Aunt doing needlework and goingout by the day?'

'Going out by the day! Do you speak of Little Dorrit?'

'Why yes of course,' returned Flora; 'and of all the strangest names Iever heard the strangest, like a place down in the country with aturnpike, or a favourite pony or a puppy or a bird or something from aseed-shop to be put in a garden or a flower-pot and come up speckled.'

'Then, Flora,' said Arthur, with a sudden interest in the conversation,'Mr Casby was so kind as to mention Little Dorrit to you, was he? Whatdid he say?'

'Oh you know what papa is,' rejoined Flora, 'and how aggravatingly hesits looking beautiful and turning his thumbs over and over one anothertill he makes one giddy if one keeps one's eyes upon him, he said whenwe were talking of you--I don't know who began the subject Arthur (Doyceand Clennam) but I am sure it wasn't me, at least I hope not but youreally must excuse my confessing more on that point.'

'Certainly,' said Arthur. 'By all means.'

'You are very ready,' pouted Flora, coming to a sudden stop in acaptivating bashfulness, 'that I must admit, Papa said you had spoken ofher in an earnest way and I said what I have told you and that's all.'

'That's all?' said Arthur, a little disappointed.

'Except that when Pancks told us of your having embarked in thisbusiness and with difficulty persuaded us that it was really you I saidto Mr F.'s Aunt then we would come and ask you if it would be agreeableto all parties that she should be engaged at our house when requiredfor I know she often goes to your mama's and I know that your mama hasa very touchy temper Arthur--Doyce and Clennam--or I never might havemarried Mr F. and might have been at this hour but I am running intononsense.'

'It was very kind of you, Flora, to think of this.'

Poor Flora rejoined with a plain sincerity which became her better thanher youngest glances, that she was glad he thought so. She said it withso much heart that Clennam would have given a great deal to buy hisold character of her on the spot, and throw it and the mermaid away forever.

'I think, Flora,' he said, 'that the employment you can give LittleDorrit, and the kindness you can show her--'

'Yes and I will,' said Flora, quickly.

'I am sure of it--will be a great assistance and support to her. I donot feel that I have the right to tell you what I know of her, for Iacquired the knowledge confidentially, and under circumstances thatbind me to silence. But I have an interest in the little creature, anda respect for her that I cannot express to you. Her life has been oneof such trial and devotion, and such quiet goodness, as you can scarcelyimagine. I can hardly think of her, far less speak of her, withoutfeeling moved. Let that feeling represent what I could tell you, andcommit her to your friendliness with my thanks.'

Once more he put out his hand frankly to poor Flora; once more poorFlora couldn't accept it frankly, found it worth nothing openly, mustmake the old intrigue and mystery of it. As much to her own enjoyment asto his dismay, she covered it with a corner of her shawl as she took it.Then, looking towards the glass front of the counting-house, and seeingtwo figures approaching, she cried with infinite relish, 'Papa! Hush,Arthur, for Mercy's sake!' and tottered back to her chair with anamazing imitation of being in danger of swooning, in the dread surpriseand maidenly flutter of her spirits.

The Patriarch, meanwhile, came inanely beaming towards thecounting-house in the wake of Pancks. Pancks opened the door for him,towed him in, and retired to his own moorings in a corner.

'I heard from Flora,' said the Patriarch with his benevolent smile,'that she was coming to call, coming to call. And being out, I thoughtI'd come also, thought I'd come also.'

The benign wisdom he infused into this declaration (not of itselfprofound), by means of his blue eyes, his shining head, and his longwhite hair, was most impressive. It seemed worth putting down among thenoblest sentiments enunciated by the best of men. Also, when he said toClennam, seating himself in the proffered chair, 'And you are in a newbusiness, Mr Clennam? I wish you well, sir, I wish you well!' he seemedto have done benevolent wonders.

'Mrs Finching has been telling me, sir,' said Arthur, after making hisacknowledgments; the relict of the late Mr F. meanwhile protesting, witha gesture, against his use of that respectable name; 'that she hopesoccasionally to employ the young needlewoman you recommended to mymother. For which I have been thanking her.'

The Patriarch turning his head in a lumbering way towards Pancks, thatassistant put up the note-book in which he had been absorbed, and tookhim in tow.

'You didn't recommend her, you know,' said Pancks; 'how could you? Youknew nothing about her, you didn't. The name was mentioned to you, andyou passed it on. That's what _you_ did.'

'Well!' said Clennam. 'As she justifies any recommendation, it is muchthe same thing.'

'You are glad she turns out well,' said Pancks, 'but it wouldn't havebeen your fault if she had turned out ill. The credit's not yours as itis, and the blame wouldn't have been yours as it might have been. Yougave no guarantee. You knew nothing about her.'

'You are not acquainted, then,' said Arthur, hazarding a random question,'with any of her family?'

'Acquainted with any of her family?' returned Pancks. 'How should you beacquainted with any of her family? You never heard of 'em. You can'tbe acquainted with people you never heard of, can you? You should thinknot!'

All this time the Patriarch sat serenely smiling; nodding or shaking hishead benevolently, as the case required.

'As to being a reference,' said Pancks, 'you know, in a general way,what being a reference means. It's all your eye, that is! Look at yourtenants down the Yard here. They'd all be references for one another,if you'd let 'em. What would be the good of letting 'em? It's nosatisfaction to be done by two men instead of one. One's enough. Aperson who can't pay, gets another person who can't pay, to guaranteethat he can pay. Like a person with two wooden legs getting anotherperson with two wooden legs, to guarantee that he has got two naturallegs. It don't make either of them able to do a walking match. And fourwooden legs are more troublesome to you than two, when you don't wantany.' Mr Pancks concluded by blowing off that steam of his.

A momentary silence that ensued was broken by Mr F.'s Aunt, who had beensitting upright in a cataleptic state since her last public remark. Shenow underwent a violent twitch, calculated to produce a startling effecton the nerves of the uninitiated, and with the deadliest animosityobserved:

'You can't make a head and brains out of a brass knob with nothing init. You couldn't do it when your Uncle George was living; much less whenhe's dead.'

Mr Pancks was not slow to reply, with his usual calmness, 'Indeed,ma'am! Bless my soul! I'm surprised to hear it.' Despite his presence ofmind, however, the speech of Mr F.'s Aunt produced a depressing effecton the little assembly; firstly, because it was impossible to disguisethat Clennam's unoffending head was the particular temple of reasondepreciated; and secondly, because nobody ever knew on these occasionswhose Uncle George was referred to, or what spectral presence might beinvoked under that appellation.

Therefore Flora said, though still not without a certain boastfulnessand triumph in her legacy, that Mr F.'s Aunt was 'very lively to-day,and she thought they had better go.' But Mr F.'s Aunt proved so livelyas to take the suggestion in unexpected dudgeon and declare that shewould not go; adding, with several injurious expressions, that if'He'--too evidently meaning Clennam--wanted to get rid of her, 'lethim chuck her out of winder;' and urgently expressing her desire to see'Him' perform that ceremony.

In this dilemma, Mr Pancks, whose resources appeared equal to anyemergency in the Patriarchal waters, slipped on his hat, slipped out atthe counting-house door, and slipped in again a moment afterwards withan artificial freshness upon him, as if he had been in the country forsome weeks. 'Why, bless my heart, ma'am!' said Mr Pancks, rubbing up hishair in great astonishment, 'is that you? How do you _do_, ma'am? Youare looking charming to-day! I am delighted to see you. Favour me withyour arm, ma'am; we'll have a little walk together, you and me, ifyou'll honour me with your company.' And so escorted Mr F.'s Aunt downthe private staircase of the counting-house with great gallantry andsuccess. The patriarchal Mr Casby then rose with the air of having doneit himself, and blandly followed: leaving his daughter, as she followedin her turn, to remark to her former lover in a distracted whisper(which she very much enjoyed), that they had drained the cup of life tothe dregs; and further to hint mysteriously that the late Mr F. was atthe bottom of it.

Alone again, Clennam became a prey to his old doubts in reference to hismother and Little Dorrit, and revolved the old thoughts and suspicions.They were all in his mind, blending themselves with the duties he wasmechanically discharging, when a shadow on his papers caused him to lookup for the cause. The cause was Mr Pancks. With his hat thrown back uponhis ears as if his wiry prongs of hair had darted up like springs andcast it off, with his jet-black beads of eyes inquisitively sharp, withthe fingers of his right hand in his mouth that he might bite the nails,and with the fingers of his left hand in reserve in his pocket foranother course, Mr Pancks cast his shadow through the glass upon thebooks and papers.

Mr Pancks asked, with a little inquiring twist of his head, if hemight come in again? Clennam replied with a nod of his head in theaffirmative. Mr Pancks worked his way in, came alongside the desk, madehimself fast by leaning his arms upon it, and started conversation witha puff and a snort.

'Mr F.'s Aunt is appeased, I hope?' said Clennam.

'All right, sir,' said Pancks.

'I am so unfortunate as to have awakened a strong animosity in thebreast of that lady,' said Clennam. 'Do you know why?'

'Does _she_ know why?' said Pancks.

'I suppose not.'

'_I_ suppose not,' said Pancks.

He took out his note-book, opened it, shut it, dropped it into his hat,which was beside him on the desk, and looked in at it as it lay at thebottom of the hat: all with a great appearance of consideration.

'Mr Clennam,' he then began, 'I am in want of information, sir.'

'Connected with this firm?' asked Clennam.

'No,' said Pancks.

'With what then, Mr Pancks? That is to say, assuming that you want it ofme.'

'Yes, sir; yes, I want it of you,' said Pancks, 'if I can persuade youto furnish it. A, B, C, D. DA, DE, DI, DO. Dictionary order. Dorrit.That's the name, sir?'

Mr Pancks blew off his peculiar noise again, and fell to at hisright-hand nails. Arthur looked searchingly at him; he returned thelook.

'I don't understand you, Mr Pancks.'

'That's the name that I want to know about.'

'And what do you want to know?'

'Whatever you can and will tell me.' This comprehensive summary of hisdesires was not discharged without some heavy labouring on the part ofMr Pancks's machinery.

'This is a singular visit, Mr Pancks. It strikes me as ratherextraordinary that you should come, with such an object, to me.'

'It may be all extraordinary together,' returned Pancks. 'It may be outof the ordinary course, and yet be business. In short, it is business. Iam a man of business. What business have I in this present world, exceptto stick to business? No business.'

With his former doubt whether this dry hard personage were quite inearnest, Clennam again turned his eyes attentively upon his face. Itwas as scrubby and dingy as ever, and as eager and quick as ever, and hecould see nothing lurking in it that was at all expressive of a latentmockery that had seemed to strike upon his ear in the voice.

'Now,' said Pancks, 'to put this business on its own footing, it's notmy proprietor's.'

'Do you refer to Mr Casby as your proprietor?'

Pancks nodded. 'My proprietor. Put a case. Say, at my proprietor's Ihear name--name of young person Mr Clennam wants to serve. Say, namefirst mentioned to my proprietor by Plornish in the Yard. Say, I go toPlornish. Say, I ask Plornish as a matter of business for information.Say, Plornish, though six weeks in arrear to my proprietor, declines.Say, Mrs Plornish declines. Say, both refer to Mr Clennam. Put thecase.'

'Well?'

'Well, sir,' returned Pancks, 'say, I come to him. Say, here I am.'

With those prongs of hair sticking up all over his head, and his breathcoming and going very hard and short, the busy Pancks fell back a step(in Tug metaphor, took half a turn astern) as if to show his dingy hullcomplete, then forged a-head again, and directed his quick glance byturns into his hat where his note-book was, and into Clennam's face.

'Mr Pancks, not to trespass on your grounds of mystery, I will be asplain with you as I can. Let me ask two questions. First--'

'All right!' said Pancks, holding up his dirty forefinger with hisbroken nail. 'I see! ”What's your motive?”'

'Exactly.'

'Motive,' said Pancks, 'good. Nothing to do with my proprietor; notstateable at present, ridiculous to state at present; but good.Desiring to serve young person, name of Dorrit,' said Pancks, with hisforefinger still up as a caution. 'Better admit motive to be good.'

'Secondly, and lastly, what do you want to know?'

Mr Pancks fished up his note-book before the question was put, andbuttoning it with care in an inner breast-pocket, and looking straightat Clennam all the time, replied with a pause and a puff, 'I wantsupplementary information of any sort.'

Clennam could not withhold a smile, as the panting little steam-tug, souseful to that unwieldy ship, the Casby, waited on and watched him as ifit were seeking an opportunity of running in and rifling him of all hewanted before he could resist its manoeuvres; though there was that inMr Pancks's eagerness, too, which awakened many wondering speculationsin his mind. After a little consideration, he resolved to supply MrPancks with such leading information as it was in his power to imparthim; well knowing that Mr Pancks, if he failed in his present research,was pretty sure to find other means of getting it.

He, therefore, first requesting Mr Pancks to remember his voluntarydeclaration that his proprietor had no part in the disclosure, and thathis own intentions were good (two declarations which that coaly littlegentleman with the greatest ardour repeated), openly told him that as tothe Dorrit lineage or former place of habitation, he had no informationto communicate, and that his knowledge of the family did not extendbeyond the fact that it appeared to be now reduced to five members;namely, to two brothers, of whom one was single, and one a widower withthree children. The ages of the whole family he made known to Mr Pancks,as nearly as he could guess at them; and finally he described to himthe position of the Father of the Marshalsea, and the course of time andevents through which he had become invested with that character. Toall this, Mr Pancks, snorting and blowing in a more and more portentousmanner as he became more interested, listened with great attention;appearing to derive the most agreeable sensations from the painfullestparts of the narrative, and particularly to be quite charmed by theaccount of William Dorrit's long imprisonment.

'In conclusion, Mr Pancks,' said Arthur, 'I have but to say this. I havereasons beyond a personal regard for speaking as little as I can of theDorrit family, particularly at my mother's house' (Mr Pancks nodded),'and for knowing as much as I can. So devoted a man of business as youare--eh?'

For Mr Pancks had suddenly made that blowing effort with unusual force.

'It's nothing,' said Pancks.

'So devoted a man of business as yourself has a perfect understanding ofa fair bargain. I wish to make a fair bargain with you, that you shallenlighten me concerning the Dorrit family when you have it in yourpower, as I have enlightened you. It may not give you a very flatteringidea of my business habits, that I failed to make my terms beforehand,'continued Clennam; 'but I prefer to make them a point of honour. I haveseen so much business done on sharp principles that, to tell you thetruth, Mr Pancks, I am tired of them.'

Mr Pancks laughed. 'It's a bargain, sir,' said he. 'You shall find mestick to it.'

After that, he stood a little while looking at Clennam, and biting histen nails all round; evidently while he fixed in his mind what he hadbeen told, and went over it carefully, before the means of supplying agap in his memory should be no longer at hand. 'It's all right,' he saidat last, 'and now I'll wish you good day, as it's collecting day in theYard. By-the-bye, though. A lame foreigner with a stick.'

'Ay, ay. You do take a reference sometimes, I see?' said Clennam.

'When he can pay, sir,' replied Pancks. 'Take all you can get, andkeep back all you can't be forced to give up. That's business. The lameforeigner with the stick wants a top room down the Yard. Is he good forit?'

'I am,' said Clennam, 'and I will answer for him.'

'That's enough. What I must have of Bleeding Heart Yard,' said Pancks,making a note of the case in his book, 'is my bond. I want my bond, yousee. Pay up, or produce your property! That's the watchword down theYard. The lame foreigner with the stick represented that you sent him;but he could represent (as far as that goes) that the Great Mogul senthim. He has been in the hospital, I believe?'

'Yes. Through having met with an accident. He is only just nowdischarged.'

'It's pauperising a man, sir, I have been shown, to let him into ahospital?' said Pancks. And again blew off that remarkable sound.

'I have been shown so too,' said Clennam, coldly.

Mr Pancks, being by that time quite ready for a start, got under steamin a moment, and, without any other signal or ceremony, was snortingdown the step-ladder and working into Bleeding Heart Yard, before heseemed to be well out of the counting-house.

Throughout the remainder of the day, Bleeding Heart Yard was inconsternation, as the grim Pancks cruised in it; haranguing theinhabitants on their backslidings in respect of payment, demanding hisbond, breathing notices to quit and executions, running down defaulters,sending a swell of terror on before him, and leaving it in his wake.Knots of people, impelled by a fatal attraction, lurked outside anyhouse in which he was known to be, listening for fragments of hisdiscourses to the inmates; and, when he was rumoured to be coming downthe stairs, often could not disperse so quickly but that he would beprematurely in among them, demanding their own arrears, and rooting themto the spot. Throughout the remainder of the day, Mr Pancks's What werethey up to? and What did they mean by it? sounded all over the Yard. MrPancks wouldn't hear of excuses, wouldn't hear of complaints, wouldn'thear of repairs, wouldn't hear of anything but unconditional money down.Perspiring and puffing and darting about in eccentric directions, andbecoming hotter and dingier every moment, he lashed the tide of the yardinto a most agitated and turbid state. It had not settled down into calmwater again full two hours after he had been seen fuming away on thehorizon at the top of the steps.

There were several small assemblages of the Bleeding Hearts at thepopular points of meeting in the Yard that night, among whom it wasuniversally agreed that Mr Pancks was a hard man to have to do with; andthat it was much to be regretted, so it was, that a gentleman like MrCasby should put his rents in his hands, and never know him in his truelight. For (said the Bleeding Hearts), if a gentleman with that head ofhair and them eyes took his rents into his own hands, ma'am, therewould be none of this worriting and wearing, and things would be verydifferent.

At which identical evening hour and minute, the Patriarch--who hadfloated serenely through the Yard in the forenoon before the harryingbegan, with the express design of getting up this trustfulness in hisshining bumps and silken locks--at which identical hour and minute,that first-rate humbug of a thousand guns was heavily floundering in thelittle Dock of his exhausted Tug at home, and was saying, as he turnedhis thumbs:

'A very bad day's work, Pancks, very bad day's work. It seems to me,sir, and I must insist on making this observation forcibly in justice tomyself, that you ought to have got much more money, much more money.'