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Charles Dickens > Little Dorrit > Chapter 30

Little Dorrit

Chapter 30

The Word of a Gentleman

When Mr and Mrs Flintwinch panted up to the door of the old house
in the twilight, Jeremiah within a second of Affery, the stranger
started back. 'Death of my soul!' he exclaimed. 'Why, how did you
get here?'

Mr Flintwinch, to whom these words were spoken, repaid the
stranger's wonder in full. He gazed at him with blank
astonishment; he looked over his own shoulder, as expecting to see
some one he had not been aware of standing behind him; he gazed at
the stranger again, speechlessly, at a loss to know what he meant;
he looked to his wife for explanation; receiving none, he pounced
upon her, and shook her with such heartiness that he shook her cap
off her head, saying between his teeth, with grim raillery, as he
did it, 'Affery, my woman, you must have a dose, my woman! This is
some of your tricks! You have been dreaming again, mistress.
What's it about? Who is it? What does it mean! Speak out or be
choked! It's the only choice I'll give you.'

Supposing Mistress Affery to have any power of election at the
moment, her choice was decidedly to be choked; for she answered not
a syllable to this adjuration, but, with her bare head wagging
violently backwards and forwards, resigned herself to her
punishment. The stranger, however, picking up her cap with an air
of gallantry, interposed.

'Permit me,' said he, laying his hand on the shoulder of Jeremiah,
who stopped and released his victim. 'Thank you. Excuse me.
Husband and wife I know, from this playfulness. Haha! Always
agreeable to see that relation playfully maintained. Listen! May
I suggest that somebody up-stairs, in the dark, is becoming
energetically curious to know what is going on here?'

This reference to Mrs Clennam's voice reminded Mr Flintwinch to
step into the hall and call up the staircase. 'It's all right, I
am here, Affery is coming with your light.' Then he said to the
latter flustered woman, who was putting her cap on, 'Get out with
you, and get up-stairs!' and then turned to the stranger and said
to him, 'Now, sir, what might you please to want?'

'I am afraid,' said the stranger, 'I must be so troublesome as to
propose a candle.'

'True,' assented Jeremiah. 'I was going to do so. Please to stand
where you are while I get one.'

The visitor was standing in the doorway, but turned a little into
the gloom of the house as Mr Flintwinch turned, and pursued him
with his eyes into the little room, where he groped about for a
phosphorus box. When he found it, it was damp, or otherwise out of
order; and match after match that he struck into it lighted
sufficiently to throw a dull glare about his groping face, and to
sprinkle his hands with pale little spots of fire, but not
sufficiently to light the candle. The stranger, taking advantage
of this fitful illumination of his visage, looked intently and
wonderingly at him. Jeremiah, when he at last lighted the candle,
knew he had been doing this, by seeing the last shade of a lowering
watchfulness clear away from his face, as it broke into the
doubtful smile that was a large ingredient in its expression.

'Be so good,' said Jeremiah, closing the house door, and taking a
pretty sharp survey of the smiling visitor in his turn, 'as to step
into my counting-house.-- It's all right, I tell you!' petulantly
breaking off to answer the voice up-stairs, still unsatisfied,
though Affery was there, speaking in persuasive tones. 'Don't I
tell you it's all right? Preserve the woman, has she no reason at
all in her!'

'Timorous,' remarked the stranger.

'Timorous?' said Mr Flintwinch, turning his head to retort, as he
went before with the candle. 'More courageous than ninety men in
a hundred, sir, let me tell you.'

'Though an invalid?'

'Many years an invalid. Mrs Clennam. The only one of that name
left in the House now. My partner.'
Saying something apologetically as he crossed the hall, to the
effect that at that time of night they were not in the habit of
receiving any one, and were always shut up, Mr Flintwinch led the
way into his own office, which presented a sufficiently business-
like appearance. Here he put the light on his desk, and said to
the stranger, with his wryest twist upon him, 'Your commands.'

'MY name is Blandois.'

'Blandois. I don't know it,' said Jeremiah.

'I thought it possible,' resumed the other, 'that you might have
been advised from Paris--'

'We have had no advice from Paris respecting anybody of the name of
Blandois,' said Jeremiah.



Jeremiah stood in his favourite attitude. The smiling Mr Blandois,
opening his cloak to get his hand to a breast-pocket, paused to
say, with a laugh in his glittering eyes, which it occurred to Mr
Flintwinch were too near together:

'You are so like a friend of mine! Not so identically the same as
I supposed when I really did for the moment take you to be the same
in the dusk--for which I ought to apologise; permit me to do so; a
readiness to confess my errors is, I hope, a part of the frankness
of my character--still, however, uncommonly like.'

'Indeed?' said Jeremiah, perversely. 'But I have not received any
letter of advice from anywhere respecting anybody of the name of

'Just so,' said the stranger.

'JUST so,' said Jeremiah.

Mr Blandois, not at all put out by this omission on the part of the
correspondents of the house of Clennam and Co., took his pocket-
book from his breast-pocket, selected a letter from that
receptacle, and handed it to Mr Flintwinch. 'No doubt you are well
acquainted with the writing. Perhaps the letter speaks for itself,
and requires no advice. You are a far more competent judge of such
affairs than I am. It is my misfortune to be, not so much a man of
business, as what the world calls (arbitrarily) a gentleman.'

Mr Flintwinch took the letter, and read, under date of Paris, 'We
have to present to you, on behalf of a highly esteemed
correspondent of our Firm, M. Blandois, of this city,' &c. &c.
'Such facilities as he may require and such attentions as may lie
in your power,' &c. &c. 'Also have to add that if you will honour
M. Blandois' drafts at sight to the extent of, say Fifty Pounds
sterling (l50),' &c. &c.

'Very good, sir,' said Mr Flintwinch. 'Take a chair. To the
extent of anything that our House can do--we are in a retired, old-
fashioned, steady way of business, sir--we shall be happy to render
you our best assistance. I observe, from the date of this, that we
could not yet be advised of it. Probably you came over with the
delayed mail that brings the advice.'

'That I came over with the delayed mail, sir,' returned Mr
Blandois, passing his white hand down his high-hooked nose, 'I know
to the cost of my head and stomach: the detestable and intolerable
weather having racked them both. You see me in the plight in which
I came out of the packet within this half-hour. I ought to have
been here hours ago, and then I should not have to apologise--
permit me to apologise--for presenting myself so unreasonably, and
frightening--no, by-the-bye, you said not frightening; permit me to
apologise again--the esteemed lady, Mrs Clennam, in her invalid
chamber above stairs.'

Swagger and an air of authorised condescension do so much, that Mr
Flintwinch had already begun to think this a highly gentlemanly
personage. Not the less unyielding with him on that account, he
scraped his chin and said, what could he have the honour of doing
for Mr Blandois to-night, out of business hours?

'Faith!' returned that gentleman, shrugging his cloaked shoulders,
'I must change, and eat and drink, and be lodged somewhere. Have
the kindness to advise me, a total stranger, where, and money is a
matter of perfect indifference until to-morrow. The nearer the
place, the better. Next door, if that's all.'

Mr Flintwinch was slowly beginning, 'For a gentleman of your
habits, there is not in this immediate neighbourhood any hotel--'
when Mr Blandois took him up.

'So much for my habits! my dear sir,' snapping his fingers. 'A
citizen of the world has no habits. That I am, in my poor way, a
gentleman, by Heaven! I will not deny, but I have no
unaccommodating prejudiced habits. A clean room, a hot dish for
dinner, and a bottle of not absolutely poisonous wine, are all I
want tonight. But I want that much without the trouble of going
one unnecessary inch to get it.'

'There is,' said Mr Flintwinch, with more than his usual
deliberation, as he met, for a moment, Mr Blandois' shining eyes,
which were restless; 'there is a coffee-house and tavern close
here, which, so far, I can recommend; but there's no style about

'I dispense with style!' said Mr Blandois, waving his hand. 'Do me
the honour to show me the house, and introduce me there (if I am
not too troublesome), and I shall be infinitely obliged.'
Mr Flintwinch, upon this, looked up his hat, and lighted Mr
Blandois across the hall again. As he put the candle on a bracket,
where the dark old panelling almost served as an extinguisher for
it, he bethought himself of going up to tell the invalid that he
would not be absent five minutes.
'Oblige me,' said the visitor, on his saying so, 'by presenting my
card of visit. Do me the favour to add that I shall be happy to
wait on Mrs Clennam, to offer my personal compliments, and to
apologise for having occasioned any agitation in this tranquil
corner, if it should suit her convenience to endure the presence of
a stranger for a few minutes, after he shall have changed his wet
clothes and fortified himself with something to eat and drink.'

Jeremiah made all despatch, and said, on his return, 'She'll be
glad to see you, sir; but, being conscious that her sick room has
no attractions, wishes me to say that she won't hold you to your
offer, in case you should think better of it.'

'To think better of it,' returned the gallant Blandois, 'would be
to slight a lady; to slight a lady would be to be deficient in
chivalry towards the sex; and chivalry towards the sex is a part of
my character!' Thus expressing himself, he threw the draggled
skirt of his cloak over his shoulder, and accompanied Mr Flintwinch
to the tavern; taking up on the road a porter who was waiting with
his portmanteau on the outer side of the gateway.

The house was kept in a homely manner, and the condescension of Mr
Blandois was infinite. It seemed to fill to inconvenience the
little bar in which the widow landlady and her two daughters
received him; it was much too big for the narrow wainscoted room
with a bagatelle-board in it, that was first proposed for his
reception; it perfectly swamped the little private holiday sitting-
room of the family, which was finally given up to him. Here, in
dry clothes and scented linen, with sleeked hair, a great ring on
each forefinger and a massive show of watch-chain, Mr Blandois
waiting for his dinner, lolling on a window-seat with his knees
drawn up, looked (for all the difference in the setting of the
jewel) fearfully and wonderfully like a certain Monsieur Rigaud who
had once so waited for his breakfast, lying on the stone ledge of
the iron grating of a cell in a villainous dungeon at Marseilles.

His greed at dinner, too, was closely in keeping with the greed of
Monsieur Rigaud at breakfast. His avaricious manner of collecting
all the eatables about him, and devouring some with his eyes while
devouring others with his jaws, was the same manner. His utter
disregard of other people, as shown in his way of tossing the
little womanly toys of furniture about, flinging favourite cushions
under his boots for a softer rest, and crushing delicate coverings
with his big body and his great black head, had the same brute
selfishness at the bottom of it. The softly moving hands that were
so busy among the dishes had the old wicked facility of the hands
that had clung to the bars. And when he could eat no more, and sat
sucking his delicate fingers one by one and wiping them on a cloth,
there wanted nothing but the substitution of vine-leaves to finish
the picture.

On this man, with his moustache going up and his nose coming down
in that most evil of smiles, and with his surface eyes looking as
if they belonged to his dyed hair, and had had their natural power
of reflecting light stopped by some similar process, Nature, always
true, and never working in vain, had set the mark, Beware! It was
not her fault, if the warning were fruitless. She is never to
blame in any such instance.

Mr Blandois, having finished his repast and cleaned his fingers,
took a cigar from his pocket, and, lying on the window-seat again,
smoked it out at his leisure, occasionally apostrophising the smoke
as it parted from his thin lips in a thin stream:

'Blandois, you shall turn the tables on society, my little child.
Haha! Holy blue, you have begun well, Blandois! At a pinch, an
excellent master in English or French; a man for the bosom of
families! You have a quick perception, you have humour, you have
ease, you have insinuating manners, you have a good appearance; in
effect, you are a gentleman! A gentleman you shall live, my small
boy, and a gentleman you shall die. You shall win, however the
game goes. They shall all confess your merit, Blandois. You shall
subdue the society which has grievously wronged you, to your own
high spirit. Death of my soul! You are high spirited by right and
by nature, my Blandois!'

To such soothing murmurs did this gentleman smoke out his cigar and
drink out his bottle of wine. Both being finished, he shook
himself into a sitting attitude; and with the concluding serious
apostrophe, 'Hold, then! Blandois, you ingenious one, have all
your wits about you!' arose and went back to the house of Clennam
and Co.

He was received at the door by Mistress Affery, who, under
instructions from her lord, had lighted up two candles in the hall
and a third on the staircase, and who conducted him to Mrs
Clennam's room. Tea was prepared there, and such little company
arrangements had been made as usually attended the reception of
expected visitors. They were slight on the greatest occasion,
never extending beyond the production of the China tea-service, and
the covering of the bed with a sober and sad drapery. For the
rest, there was the bier-like sofa with the block upon it, and the
figure in the widow's dress, as if attired for execution; the fire
topped by the mound of damped ashes; the grate with its second
little mound of ashes; the kettle and the smell of black dye; all
as they had been for fifteen years.

Mr Flintwinch presented the gentleman commended to the
consideration of Clennam and Co. Mrs Clennam, who had the letter
lying before her, bent her head and requested him to sit. They
looked very closely at one another. That was but natural
'I thank you, sir, for thinking of a disabled woman like me. Few
who come here on business have any remembrance to bestow on one so
removed from observation. It would be idle to expect that they
should have. Out of sight, out of mind. While I am grateful for
the exception, I don't complain of the rule. '

Mr Blandois, in his most gentlemanly manner, was afraid he had
disturbed her by unhappily presenting himself at such an
unconscionable time. For which he had already offered his best
apologies to Mr--he begged pardon--but by name had not the
distinguished honour--

'Mr Flintwinch has been connected with the House many years.'

Mr Blandois was Mr Flintwinch's most obedient humble servant. He
entreated Mr Flintwinch to receive the assurance of his profoundest

'My husband being dead,' said Mrs Clennam, 'and my son preferring
another pursuit, our old House has no other representative in these
days than Mr Flintwinch. '

'What do you call yourself?' was the surly demand of that
gentleman. 'You have the head of two men.'

'My sex disqualifies me,' she proceeded with merely a slight turn
of her eyes in jeremiah's direction, 'from taking a responsible
part in the business, even if I had the ability; and therefore Mr
Flintwinch combines my interest with his own, and conducts it. It
is not what it used to be; but some of our old friends (principally
the writers of this letter) have the kindness not to forget us, and
we retain the power of doing what they entrust to us as efficiently
as we ever did. This however is not interesting to you. You are
English, sir?'

'Faith, madam, no; I am neither born nor bred in England. In
effect, I am of no country,' said Mr Blandois, stretching out his
leg and smiting it: 'I descend from half-a-dozen countries.'

'You have been much about the world?'

'It is true. By Heaven, madam, I have been here and there and

'You have no ties, probably. Are not married?'

'Madam,' said Mr Blandois, with an ugly fall of his eyebrows, 'I
adore your sex, but I am not married--never was.'

Mistress Affery, who stood at the table near him, pouring out the
tea, happened in her dreamy state to look at him as he said these
words, and to fancy that she caught an expression in his eyes which
attracted her own eyes so that she could not get them away. The
effect of this fancy was to keep her staring at him with the tea-
pot in her hand, not only to her own great uneasiness, but
manifestly to his, too; and, through them both, to Mrs Clennam's
and Mr Flintwinch's. Thus a few ghostly moments supervened, when
they were all confusedly staring without knowing why.

'Affery,' her mistress was the first to say, 'what is the matter
with you?'

'I don't know,' said Mistress Affery, with her disengaged left hand
extended towards the visitor. 'It ain't me. It's him!'

'What does this good woman mean?' cried Mr Blandois, turning white,
hot, and slowly rising with a look of such deadly wrath that it
contrasted surprisingly with the slight force of his words. 'How
is it possible to understand this good creature?'

'It's NOT possible,' said Mr Flintwinch, screwing himself rapidly
in that direction. 'She don't know what she means. She's an
idiot, a wanderer in her mind. She shall have a dose, she shall
have such a dose! Get along with you, my woman,' he added in her
ear, 'get along with you, while you know you're Affery, and before
you're shaken to yeast.'

Mistress Affery, sensible of the danger in which her identity
stood, relinquished the tea-pot as her husband seized it, put her
apron over her head, and in a twinkling vanished. The visitor
gradually broke into a smile, and sat down again.

'You'll excuse her, Mr Blandois,' said Jeremiah, pouring out the
tea himself, 'she's failing and breaking up; that's what she's
about. Do you take sugar, sir? '

'Thank you, no tea for me.--Pardon my observing it, but that's a
very remarkable watch!'

The tea-table was drawn up near the sofa, with a small interval
between it and Mrs Clennam's own particular table. Mr Blandois in
his gallantry had risen to hand that lady her tea (her dish of
toast was already there), and it was in placing the cup
conveniently within her reach that the watch, lying before her as
it always did, attracted his attention. Mrs Clennam looked
suddenly up at him.

'May I be permitted? Thank you. A fine old-fashioned watch,' he
said, taking it in his hand. 'Heavy for use, but massive and
genuine. I have a partiality for everything genuine. Such as I
am, I am genuine myself. Hah! A gentleman's watch with two cases
in the old fashion. May I remove it from the outer case? Thank
you. Aye? An old silk watch-lining, worked with beads! I have
often seen these among old Dutch people and Belgians. Quaint

'They are old-fashioned, too,' said Mrs Clennam.
'Very. But this is not so old as the watch, I think?'

'I think not.'

'Extraordinary how they used to complicate these cyphers!' remarked
Mr Blandois, glancing up with his own smile again. 'Now is this D.
N. F.? It might be almost anything.'

'Those are the letters.'

Mr Flintwinch, who had been observantly pausing all this time with
a cup of tea in his hand, and his mouth open ready to swallow the
contents, began to do so: always entirely filling his mouth before
he emptied it at a gulp; and always deliberating again before he
refilled it.

'D. N. F. was some tender, lovely, fascinating fair-creature, I
make no doubt,' observed Mr Blandois, as he snapped on the case
again. 'I adore her memory on the assumption. Unfortunately for
my peace of mind, I adore but too readily. It may be a vice, it
may be a virtue, but adoration of female beauty and merit
constitutes three parts of my character, madam.'

Mr Flintwinch had by this time poured himself out another cup of
tea, which he was swallowing in gulps as before, with his eyes
directed to the invalid.

'You may be heart-free here, sir,' she returned to Mr Blandois.
'Those letters are not intended, I believe, for the initials of any

'Of a motto, perhaps,' said Mr Blandois, casually.

'Of a sentence. They have always stood, I believe, for Do Not

'And naturally,' said Mr Blandois, replacing the watch and stepping
backward to his former chair, 'you do not forget.'

Mr Flintwinch, finishing his tea, not only took a longer gulp than
he had taken yet, but made his succeeding pause under new
circumstances: that is to say, with his head thrown back and his
cup held still at his lips, while his eyes were still directed at
the invalid. She had that force of face, and that concentrated air
of collecting her firmness or obstinacy, which represented in her
case what would have been gesture and action in another, as she
replied with her deliberate strength of speech:
'No, sir, I do not forget. To lead a life as monotonous as mine
has been during many years, is not the way to forget. To lead a
life of self-correction is not the way to forget. To be sensible
of having (as we all have, every one of us, all the children of
Adam!) offences to expiate and peace to make, does not justify the
desire to forget. Therefore I have long dismissed it, and I
neither forget nor wish to forget.'

Mr Flintwinch, who had latterly been shaking the sediment at the
bottom of his tea-cup, round and round, here gulped it down, and
putting the cup in the tea-tray, as done with, turned his eyes upon
Mr Blandois as if to ask him what he thought of that?

'All expressed, madam,' said Mr Blandois, with his smoothest bow
and his white hand on his breast, 'by the word "naturally," which
I am proud to have had sufficient apprehension and appreciation
(but without appreciation I could not be Blandois) to employ.'

'Pardon me, sir,' she returned, 'if I doubt the likelihood of a
gentleman of pleasure, and change, and politeness, accustomed to
court and to be courted--'

'Oh madam! By Heaven!'

'--If I doubt the likelihood of such a character quite
comprehending what belongs to mine in my circumstances. Not to
obtrude doctrine upon you,' she looked at the rigid pile of hard
pale books before her, '(for you go your own way, and the
consequences are on your own head), I will say this much: that I
shape my course by pilots, strictly by proved and tried pilots,
under whom I cannot be shipwrecked--can not be--and that if I were
unmindful of the admonition conveyed in those three letters, I
should not be half as chastened as I am.'

It was curious how she seized the occasion to argue with some
invisible opponent. Perhaps with her own better sense, always
turning upon herself and her own deception.

'If I forgot my ignorances in my life of health and freedom, I
might complain of the life to which I am now condemned. I never
do; I never have done. If I forgot that this scene, the Earth, is
expressly meant to be a scene of gloom, and hardship, and dark
trial, for the creatures who are made out of its dust, I might have
some tenderness for its vanities. But I have no such tenderness.
If I did not know that we are, every one, the subject (most justly
the subject) of a wrath that must be satisfied, and against which
mere actions are nothing, I might repine at the difference between
me, imprisoned here, and the people who pass that gateway yonder.
But I take it as a grace and favour to be elected to make the
satisfaction I am making here, to know what I know for certain
here, and to work out what I have worked out here. My affliction
might otherwise have had no meaning to me. Hence I would forget,
and I do forget, nothing. Hence I am contented, and say it is
better with me than with millions.'
As she spoke these words, she put her hand upon the watch, and
restored it to the precise spot on her little table which it always
occupied. With her touch lingering upon it, she sat for some
moments afterwards, looking at it steadily and half-defiantly.

Mr Blandois, during this exposition, had been strictly attentive,
keeping his eyes fastened on the lady, and thoughtfully stroking
his moustache with his two hands. Mr Flintwinch had been a little
fidgety, and now struck in.

'There, there, there!' said he. 'That is quite understood, Mrs
Clennam, and you have spoken piously and well. Mr Blandois, I
suspect, is not of a pious cast.'
'On the contrary, sir!' that gentleman protested, snapping his
fingers. 'Your pardon! It's a part of my character. I am
sensitive, ardent, conscientious, and imaginative. A sensitive,
ardent, conscientious, and imaginative man, Mr Flintwinch, must be
that, or nothing!'

There was an inkling of suspicion in Mr Flintwinch's face that he
might be nothing, as he swaggered out of his chair (it was
characteristic of this man, as it is of all men similarly marked,
that whatever he did, he overdid, though it were sometimes by only
a hairsbreadth), and approached to take his leave of Mrs Clennam.

'With what will appear to you the egotism of a sick old woman,
sir,' she then said, 'though really through your accidental
allusion, I have been led away into the subject of myself and my
infirmities. Being so considerate as to visit me, I hope you will
be likewise so considerate as to overlook that. Don't compliment
me, if you please.' For he was evidently going to do it. 'Mr
Flintwinch will be happy to render you any service, and I hope your
stay in this city may prove agreeable.'

Mr Blandois thanked her, and kissed his hand several times. 'This
is an old room,' he remarked, with a sudden sprightliness of
manner, looking round when he got near the door, 'I have been so
interested that I have not observed it. But it's a genuine old

'It is a genuine old house,' said Mrs Clennam, with her frozen
smile. 'A place of no pretensions, but a piece of antiquity.'

'Faith!' cried the visitor. 'If Mr Flintwinch would do me the
favour to take me through the rooms on my way out, he could hardly
oblige me more. An old house is a weakness with me. I have many
weaknesses, but none greater. I love and study the picturesque in
all its varieties. I have been called picturesque myself. It is
no merit to be picturesque--I have greater merits, perhaps--but I
may be, by an accident. Sympathy, sympathy!'

'I tell you beforehand, Mr Blandois, that you'll find it very dingy
and very bare,' said Jeremiah, taking up the candle. 'It's not
worth your looking at.'But Mr Blandois, smiting him in a friendly
manner on the back, only laughed; so the said Blandois kissed his
hand again to Mrs Clennam, and they went out of the room together.

'You don't care to go up-stairs?' said Jeremiah, on the landing.
'On the contrary, Mr Flintwinch; if not tiresome to you, I shall be

Mr Flintwinch, therefore, wormed himself up the staircase, and Mr
Blandois followed close. They ascended to the great garret bed-
room which Arthur had occupied on the night of his return. 'There,
Mr Blandois!' said Jeremiah, showing it, 'I hope you may think that
worth coming so high to see. I confess I don't.'

Mr Blandois being enraptured, they walked through other garrets and
passages, and came down the staircase again. By this time Mr
Flintwinch had remarked that he never found the visitor looking at
any room, after throwing one quick glance around, but always found
the visitor looking at him, Mr Flintwinch. With this discovery in
his thoughts, he turned about on the staircase for another
experiment. He met his eyes directly; and on the instant of their
fixing one another, the visitor, with that ugly play of nose and
moustache, laughed (as he had done at every similar moment since
they left Mrs Clennam's chamber) a diabolically silent laugh.

As a much shorter man than the visitor, Mr Flintwinch was at the
physical disadvantage of being thus disagreeably leered at from a
height; and as he went first down the staircase, and was usually a
step or two lower than the other, this disadvantage was at the time
increased. He postponed looking at Mr Blandois again until this
accidental inequality was removed by their having entered the late
Mr Clennam's room. But, then twisting himself suddenly round upon
him, he found his look unchanged.

'A most admirable old house,' smiled Mr Blandois. 'So mysterious.
Do you never hear any haunted noises here?'

'Noises,' returned Mr Flintwinch. 'No.'

'Nor see any devils?'

'Not,' said Mr Flintwinch, grimly screwing himself at his
questioner, 'not any that introduce themselves under that name and
in that capacity.'

'Haha! A portrait here, I see.'

(Still looking at Mr Flintwinch, as if he were the portrait.)

'It's a portrait, sir, as you observe.'

'May I ask the subject, Mr Flintwinch?'

'Mr Clennam, deceased. Her husband.'
'Former owner of the remarkable watch, perhaps?' said the visitor.

Mr Flintwinch, who had cast his eyes towards the portrait, twisted
himself about again, and again found himself the subject of the
same look and smile. 'Yes, Mr Blandois,' he replied tartly. 'It
was his, and his uncle's before him, and Lord knows who before him;
and that's all I can tell you of its pedigree.'

'That's a strongly marked character, Mr Flintwinch, our friend up-

'Yes, sir,' said Jeremiah, twisting himself at the visitor again,
as he did during the whole of this dialogue, like some screw-
machine that fell short of its grip; for the other never changed,
and he always felt obliged to retreat a little. 'She is a
remarkable woman. Great fortitude--great strength of mind.'

'They must have been very happy,' said Blandois.

'Who?' demanded Mr Flintwinch, with another screw at him.

Mr Blandois shook his right forefinger towards the sick room, and
his left forefinger towards the portrait, and then, putting his
arms akimbo and striding his legs wide apart, stood smiling down at
Mr Flintwinch with the advancing nose and the retreating moustache.

'As happy as most other married people, I suppose,' returned Mr
Flintwinch. 'I can't say. I don't know. There are secrets in all

'Secrets!' cried Mr Blandois, quickly. 'Say it again, my son.'

'I say,' replied Mr Flintwinch, upon whom he had swelled himself so
suddenly that Mr Flintwinch found his face almost brushed by the
dilated chest. 'I say there are secrets in all families.'

'So there are,' cried the other, clapping him on both shoulders,
and rolling him backwards and forwards. 'Haha! you are right. So
there are! Secrets! Holy Blue! There are the devil's own secrets
in some families, Mr Flintwinch!' With that, after clapping Mr
Flintwinch on both shoulders several times, as if in a friendly and
humorous way he were rallying him on a joke he had made, he threw
up his arms, threw back his head, hooked his hands together behind
it, and burst into a roar of laughter. It was in vain for Mr
Flintwinch to try another screw at him. He had his laugh out.

'But, favour me with the candle a moment,' he said, when he had
done. 'Let us have a look at the husband of the remarkable lady.
Hah!' holding up the light at arm's length. 'A decided expression
of face here too, though not of the same character. Looks as if he
were saying, what is it--Do Not Forget--does he not, Mr Flintwinch?

By Heaven, sir, he does!'

As he returned the candle, he looked at him once more; and then,
leisurely strolling out with him into the hall, declared it to be
a charming old house indeed, and one which had so greatly pleased
him that he would not have missed inspecting it for a hundred
Throughout these singular freedoms on the part of Mr Blandois,
which involved a general alteration in his demeanour, making it
much coarser and rougher, much more violent and audacious than
before, Mr Flintwinch, whose leathern face was not liable to many
changes, preserved its immobility intact. Beyond now appearing
perhaps, to have been left hanging a trifle too long before that
friendly operation of cutting down, he outwardly maintained an
equable composure. They had brought their survey to a close in the
little room at the side of the hall, and he stood there, eyeing Mr

'I am glad you are so well satisfied, sir,' was his calm remark.
'I didn't expect it. You seem to be quite in good spirits.'

'In admirable spirits,' returned Blandois. 'Word of honour! never
more refreshed in spirits. Do you ever have presentiments, Mr

'I am not sure that I know what you mean by the term, sir,' replied
that gentleman.

'Say, in this case, Mr Flintwinch, undefined anticipations of
pleasure to come.'

'I can't say I'm sensible of such a sensation at present,' returned
Mr Flintwinch with the utmost gravity. 'If I should find it coming
on, I'll mention it.'

'Now I,' said Blandois, 'I, my son, have a presentiment to-night
that we shall be well acquainted. Do you find it coming on?'

'N-no,' returned Mr Flintwinch, deliberately inquiring of himself.
'I can't say I do.'

'I have a strong presentiment that we shall become intimately
acquainted.--You have no feeling of that sort yet?'

'Not yet,' said Mr Flintwinch.

Mr Blandois, taking him by both shoulders again, rolled him about
a little in his former merry way, then drew his arm through his
own, and invited him to come off and drink a bottle of wine like a
dear deep old dog as he was.

Without a moment's indecision, Mr Flintwinch accepted the
invitation, and they went out to the quarters where the traveller
was lodged, through a heavy rain which had rattled on the windows,
roofs, and pavements, ever since nightfall. The thunder and
lightning had long ago passed over, but the rain was furious. On
their arrival at Mr Blandois' room, a bottle of port wine was
ordered by that gallant gentleman; who (crushing every pretty thing
he could collect, in the soft disposition of his dainty figure)
coiled himself upon the window-seat, while Mr Flintwinch took a
chair opposite to him, with the table between them. Mr Blandois
proposed having the largest glasses in the house, to which Mr
Flintwinch assented. The bumpers filled, Mr Blandois, with a
roystering gaiety, clinked the top of his glass against the bottom
of Mr Flintwinch's, and the bottom of his glass against the top of
Mr Flintwinch's, and drank to the intimate acquaintance he foresaw.

Mr Flintwinch gravely pledged him, and drank all the wine he could
get, and said nothing. As often as Mr Blandois clinked glasses
(which was at every replenishment), Mr Flintwinch stolidly did his
part of the clinking, and would have stolidly done his companion's
part of the wine as well as his own: being, except in the article
of palate, a mere cask.

In short, Mr Blandois found that to pour port wine into the
reticent Flintwinch was, not to open him but to shut him up.
Moreover, he had the appearance of a perfect ability to go on all
night; or, if occasion were, all next day and all next night;
whereas Mr Blandois soon grew indistinctly conscious of swaggering
too fiercely and boastfully. He therefore terminated the
entertainment at the end of the third bottle.

'You will draw upon us to-morrow, sir,' said Mr Flintwinch, with a
business-like face at parting.

'My Cabbage,' returned the other, taking him by the collar with
both hands, 'I'll draw upon you; have no fear. Adieu, my
Flintwinch. Receive at parting;' here he gave him a southern
embrace, and kissed him soundly on both cheeks; 'the word of a
gentleman! By a thousand Thunders, you shall see me again!'

He did not present himself next day, though the letter of advice
came duly to hand. Inquiring after him at night, Mr Flintwinch
found, with surprise, that he had paid his bill and gone back to
the Continent by way of Calais. Nevertheless, Jeremiah scraped out
of his cogitating face a lively conviction that Mr Blandois would
keep his word on this occasion, and would be seen again.

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