Settings
Little Dorrit

Little Dorrit

Little Dorrit/70

CHAPTER 32. Going

Arthur continuing to lie very ill in the Marshalsea, and Mr Ruggdescrying no break in the legal sky affording a hope of his enlargement,Mr Pancks suffered desperately from self-reproaches. If it had not beenfor those infallible figures which proved that Arthur, instead of piningin imprisonment, ought to be promenading in a carriage and pair, andthat Mr Pancks, instead of being restricted to his clerkly wages, oughtto have from three to five thousand pounds of his own at his immediatedisposal, that unhappy arithmetician would probably have taken to hisbed, and there have made one of the many obscure persons who turnedtheir faces to the wall and died, as a last sacrifice to the late MrMerdle's greatness. Solely supported by his unimpugnable calculations,Mr Pancks led an unhappy and restless life; constantly carrying hisfigures about with him in his hat, and not only going over them himselfon every possible occasion, but entreating every human being he couldlay hold of to go over them with him, and observe what a clear case itwas. Down in Bleeding Heart Yard there was scarcely an inhabitant ofnote to whom Mr Pancks had not imparted his demonstration, and, asfigures are catching, a kind of cyphering measles broke out in thatlocality, under the influence of which the whole Yard was light-headed.

The more restless Mr Pancks grew in his mind, the more impatient hebecame of the Patriarch. In their later conferences his snorting assumedan irritable sound which boded the Patriarch no good; likewise, MrPancks had on several occasions looked harder at the Patriarchal bumpsthan was quite reconcilable with the fact of his not being a painter, ora peruke-maker in search of the living model.

However, he steamed in and out of his little back Dock according as hewas wanted or not wanted in the Patriarchal presence, and business hadgone on in its customary course. Bleeding Heart Yard had been harrowedby Mr Pancks, and cropped by Mr Casby, at the regular seasons; Mr Panckshad taken all the drudgery and all the dirt of the business as _his_share; Mr Casby had taken all the profits, all the ethereal vapour, andall the moonshine, as his share; and, in the form of words which thatbenevolent beamer generally employed on Saturday evenings, when hetwirled his fat thumbs after striking the week's balance, 'everythinghad been satisfactory to all parties--all parties--satisfactory, sir, toall parties.'

The Dock of the Steam-Tug, Pancks, had a leaden roof, which, frying inthe very hot sunshine, may have heated the vessel. Be that as itmay, one glowing Saturday evening, on being hailed by the lumberingbottle-green ship, the Tug instantly came working out of the Dock in ahighly heated condition.

'Mr Pancks,' was the Patriarchal remark, 'you have been remiss, you havebeen remiss, sir.'

'What do you mean by that?' was the short rejoinder.

The Patriarchal state, always a state of calmness and composure, wasso particularly serene that evening as to be provoking. Everybody elsewithin the bills of mortality was hot; but the Patriarch was perfectlycool. Everybody was thirsty, and the Patriarch was drinking. There wasa fragrance of limes or lemons about him; and he made a drink of goldensherry, which shone in a large tumbler as if he were drinking theevening sunshine. This was bad, but not the worst. The worst was, thatwith his big blue eyes, and his polished head, and his long white hair,and his bottle-green legs stretched out before him, terminating in hiseasy shoes easily crossed at the instep, he had a radiant appearanceof having in his extensive benevolence made the drink for the humanspecies, while he himself wanted nothing but his own milk of humankindness.

Wherefore, Mr Pancks said, 'What do you mean by that?' and put his hairup with both hands, in a highly portentous manner.

'I mean, Mr Pancks, that you must be sharper with the people, sharperwith the people, much sharper with the people, sir. You don't squeezethem. You don't squeeze them. Your receipts are not up to the mark. Youmust squeeze them, sir, or our connection will not continue to be assatisfactory as I could wish it to be to all parties. All parties.'

'_Don't_ I squeeze 'em?' retorted Mr Pancks. 'What else am I made for?'

'You are made for nothing else, Mr Pancks. You are made to do yourduty, but you don't do your duty. You are paid to squeeze, and youmust squeeze to pay.' The Patriarch so much surprised himself by thisbrilliant turn, after Dr Johnson, which he had not in the leastexpected or intended, that he laughed aloud; and repeated with greatsatisfaction, as he twirled his thumbs and nodded at his youthfulportrait, 'Paid to squeeze, sir, and must squeeze to pay.'

'Oh,' said Pancks. 'Anything more?'

'Yes, sir, yes, sir. Something more. You will please, Mr Pancks, tosqueeze the Yard again, the first thing on Monday morning.'

'Oh!' said Pancks. 'Ain't that too soon? I squeezed it dry to-day.'

'Nonsense, sir. Not near the mark, not near the mark.'

'Oh!' said Pancks, watching him as he benevolently gulped down a gooddraught of his mixture. 'Anything more?'

'Yes, sir, yes, sir, something more. I am not at all pleased, Mr Pancks,with my daughter; not at all pleased. Besides calling much too oftento inquire for Mrs Clennam, Mrs Clennam, who is not just now incircumstances that are by any means calculated to--to be satisfactory toall parties, she goes, Mr Pancks, unless I am much deceived, to inquirefor Mr Clennam in jail. In jail.'

'He's laid up, you know,' said Pancks. 'Perhaps it's kind.'

'Pooh, pooh, Mr Pancks. She has nothing to do with that, nothing to dowith that. I can't allow it. Let him pay his debts and come out, comeout; pay his debts, and come out.'

Although Mr Pancks's hair was standing up like strong wire, he gave itanother double-handed impulse in the perpendicular direction, and smiledat his proprietor in a most hideous manner.

'You will please to mention to my daughter, Mr Pancks, that I can'tallow it, can't allow it,' said the Patriarch blandly.

'Oh!' said Pancks. 'You couldn't mention it yourself?'

'No, sir, no; you are paid to mention it,' the blundering old boobycould not resist the temptation of trying it again, 'and you mustmention it to pay, mention it to pay.'

'Oh!' said Pancks. 'Anything more?'

'Yes, sir. It appears to me, Mr Pancks, that you yourself are too oftenand too much in that direction, that direction. I recommend you, MrPancks, to dismiss from your attention both your own losses and otherpeople's losses, and to mind your business, mind your business.'

Mr Pancks acknowledged this recommendation with such an extraordinarilyabrupt, short, and loud utterance of the monosyllable 'Oh!' that eventhe unwieldy Patriarch moved his blue eyes in something of a hurry, tolook at him. Mr Pancks, with a sniff of corresponding intensity, thenadded, 'Anything more?'

'Not at present, sir, not at present. I am going,' said the Patriarch,finishing his mixture, and rising with an amiable air, 'to take a littlestroll, a little stroll. Perhaps I shall find you here when I come back.If not, sir, duty, duty; squeeze, squeeze, squeeze, on Monday; squeezeon Monday!'

Mr Pancks, after another stiffening of his hair, looked on at thePatriarchal assumption of the broad-brimmed hat, with a momentaryappearance of indecision contending with a sense of injury. He was alsohotter than at first, and breathed harder. But he suffered Mr Casby togo out, without offering any further remark, and then took a peep athim over the little green window-blinds. 'I thought so,' he observed. 'Iknew where you were bound to. Good!' He then steamed back to his Dock,put it carefully in order, took down his hat, looked round the Dock,said 'Good-bye!' and puffed away on his own account. He steered straightfor Mrs Plornish's end of Bleeding Heart Yard, and arrived there, at thetop of the steps, hotter than ever.

At the top of the steps, resisting Mrs Plornish's invitations to comeand sit along with father in Happy Cottage--which to his relief were notso numerous as they would have been on any other night than Saturday,when the connection who so gallantly supported the business witheverything but money gave their orders freely--at the top of the stepsMr Pancks remained until he beheld the Patriarch, who always enteredthe Yard at the other end, slowly advancing, beaming, and surroundedby suitors. Then Mr Pancks descended and bore down upon him, with hisutmost pressure of steam on.

The Patriarch, approaching with his usual benignity, was surprised tosee Mr Pancks, but supposed him to have been stimulated to an immediatesqueeze instead of postponing that operation until Monday. Thepopulation of the Yard were astonished at the meeting, for the twopowers had never been seen there together, within the memory of theoldest Bleeding Heart. But they were overcome by unutterable amazementwhen Mr Pancks, going close up to the most venerable of men and haltingin front of the bottle-green waistcoat, made a trigger of his rightthumb and forefinger, applied the same to the brim of the broad-brimmedhat, and, with singular smartness and precision, shot it off thepolished head as if it had been a large marble.

Having taken this little liberty with the Patriarchal person, Mr Pancksfurther astounded and attracted the Bleeding Hearts by saying in anaudible voice, 'Now, you sugary swindler, I mean to have it out withyou!'

Mr Pancks and the Patriarch were instantly the centre of a press, alleyes and ears; windows were thrown open, and door-steps were thronged.

'What do you pretend to be?' said Mr Pancks. 'What's your moral game?What do you go in for? Benevolence, an't it? You benevolent!' Here MrPancks, apparently without the intention of hitting him, but merely torelieve his mind and expend his superfluous power in wholesome exercise,aimed a blow at the bumpy head, which the bumpy head ducked toavoid. This singular performance was repeated, to the ever-increasingadmiration of the spectators, at the end of every succeeding article ofMr Pancks's oration.

'I have discharged myself from your service,' said Pancks, 'that I maytell you what you are. You're one of a lot of impostors that are theworst lot of all the lots to be met with. Speaking as a sufferer byboth, I don't know that I wouldn't as soon have the Merdle lot as yourlot. You're a driver in disguise, a screwer by deputy, a wringer, andsqueezer, and shaver by substitute. You're a philanthropic sneak. You'rea shabby deceiver!'

(The repetition of the performance at this point was received with aburst of laughter.)

'Ask these good people who's the hard man here. They'll tell you Pancks,I believe.'

This was confirmed with cries of 'Certainly,' and 'Hear!'

'But I tell you, good people--Casby! This mound of meekness, this lumpof love, this bottle-green smiler, this is your driver!' said Pancks.'If you want to see the man who would flay you alive--here he is! Don'tlook for him in me, at thirty shillings a week, but look for him inCasby, at I don't know how much a year!'

'Good!' cried several voices. 'Hear Mr Pancks!'

'Hear Mr Pancks?' cried that gentleman (after repeating the popularperformance). 'Yes, I should think so! It's almost time to hear MrPancks. Mr Pancks has come down into the Yard to-night on purpose thatyou should hear him. Pancks is only the Works; but here's the Winder!'

The audience would have gone over to Mr Pancks, as one man, woman, andchild, but for the long, grey, silken locks, and the broad-brimmed hat.

'Here's the Stop,' said Pancks, 'that sets the tune to be ground. Andthere is but one tune, and its name is Grind, Grind, Grind! Here's theProprietor, and here's his Grubber. Why, good people, when he comessmoothly spinning through the Yard to-night, like a slow-goingbenevolent Humming-Top, and when you come about him with your complaintsof the Grubber, you don't know what a cheat the Proprietor is! What doyou think of his showing himself to-night, that I may have all the blameon Monday? What do you think of his having had me over the coals thisvery evening, because I don't squeeze you enough? What do you think ofmy being, at the present moment, under special orders to squeeze you dryon Monday?'

The reply was given in a murmur of 'Shame!' and 'Shabby!'

'Shabby?' snorted Pancks. 'Yes, I should think so! The lot that yourCasby belongs to, is the shabbiest of all the lots. Setting theirGrubbers on, at a wretched pittance, to do what they're ashamed andafraid to do and pretend not to do, but what they will have done, orgive a man no rest! Imposing on you to give their Grubbers nothing butblame, and to give them nothing but credit! Why, the worst-lookingcheat in all this town who gets the value of eighteenpence under falsepretences, an't half such a cheat as this sign-post of The Casby's Headhere!'

Cries of 'That's true!' and 'No more he an't!'

'And see what you get of these fellows, besides,' said Pancks. 'See whatmore you get of these precious Humming-Tops, revolving among you withsuch smoothness that you've no idea of the pattern painted on 'em, orthe little window in 'em. I wish to call your attention to myself for amoment. I an't an agreeable style of chap, I know that very well.'

The auditory were divided on this point; its more uncompromising memberscrying, 'No, you are not,' and its politer materials, 'Yes, you are.'

'I am, in general,' said Mr Pancks, 'a dry, uncomfortable, drearyPlodder and Grubber. That's your humble servant. There's his full-lengthportrait, painted by himself and presented to you, warranted a likeness!But what's a man to be, with such a man as this for his Proprietor?What can be expected of him? Did anybody ever find boiled mutton andcaper-sauce growing in a cocoa-nut?'

None of the Bleeding Hearts ever had, it was clear from the alacrity oftheir response.

'Well,' said Mr Pancks, 'and neither will you find in Grubbers likemyself, under Proprietors like this, pleasant qualities. I've been aGrubber from a boy. What has my life been? Fag and grind, fag and grind,turn the wheel, turn the wheel! I haven't been agreeable to myself,and I haven't been likely to be agreeable to anybody else. If I was ashilling a week less useful in ten years' time, this impostor would giveme a shilling a week less; if as useful a man could be got at sixpencecheaper, he would be taken in my place at sixpence cheaper. Bargain andsale, bless you! Fixed principles! It's a mighty fine sign-post, is TheCasby's Head,' said Mr Pancks, surveying it with anything rather thanadmiration; 'but the real name of the House is the Sham's Arms. Itsmotto is, Keep the Grubber always at it. Is any gentleman present,' saidMr Pancks, breaking off and looking round, 'acquainted with the EnglishGrammar?'

Bleeding Heart Yard was shy of claiming that acquaintance.

'It's no matter,' said Mr Pancks, 'I merely wish to remark that the taskthis Proprietor has set me, has been never to leave off conjugating theImperative Mood Present Tense of the verb To keep always at it. Keepthou always at it. Let him keep always at it. Keep we or do we keepalways at it. Keep ye or do ye or you keep always at it. Let them keepalways at it. Here is your benevolent Patriarch of a Casby, and there ishis golden rule. He is uncommonly improving to look at, and I am notat all so. He is as sweet as honey, and I am as dull as ditch-water. Heprovides the pitch, and I handle it, and it sticks to me. Now,' saidMr Pancks, closing upon his late Proprietor again, from whom he hadwithdrawn a little for the better display of him to the Yard; 'as I amnot accustomed to speak in public, and as I have made a rather lengthyspeech, all circumstances considered, I shall bring my observations to aclose by requesting you to get out of this.'

The Last of the Patriarchs had been so seized by assault, and requiredso much room to catch an idea in, an so much more room to turn it in,that he had not a word to offer in reply. He appeared to be meditatingsome Patriarchal way out of his delicate position, when Mr Pancks, oncemore suddenly applying the trigger to his hat, shot it off again withhis former dexterity. On the preceding occasion, one or two of theBleeding Heart Yarders had obsequiously picked it up and handed it toits owner; but Mr Pancks had now so far impressed his audience, that thePatriarch had to turn and stoop for it himself.

Quick as lightning, Mr Pancks, who, for some moments, had had his righthand in his coat pocket, whipped out a pair of shears, swooped upon thePatriarch behind, and snipped off short the sacred locks that flowedupon his shoulders. In a paroxysm of animosity and rapidity, Mr Pancksthen caught the broad-brimmed hat out of the astounded Patriarch's hand,cut it down into a mere stewpan, and fixed it on the Patriarch's head.

Before the frightful results of this desperate action, Mr Pancks himselfrecoiled in consternation. A bare-polled, goggle-eyed, big-headedlumbering personage stood staring at him, not in the least impressive,not in the least venerable, who seemed to have started out of theearth to ask what was become of Casby. After staring at this phantom inreturn, in silent awe, Mr Pancks threw down his shears, and fled for aplace of hiding, where he might lie sheltered from the consequences ofhis crime. Mr Pancks deemed it prudent to use all possible despatch inmaking off, though he was pursued by nothing but the sound of laughterin Bleeding Heart Yard, rippling through the air and making it ringagain.