Meet us on:
Welcome to Read Print! Sign in with
or
to get started!
 
Entire Site
    Try our fun game

    Dueling book covers…may the best design win!

    Random Quote
    "The soul is the captain and ruler of the life of morals."
     

    Subscribe to Our Newsletter

    Follow us on Twitter

    Never miss a good book again! Follow Read Print on Twitter

    Chapter 20

    • Rate it:
    • Average Rating: 4.5 out of 5 based on 2 ratings
    • 7 Favorites on Read Print
    Launch Reading Mode Next Chapter
    Chapter 55
    Previous Chapter
    CHAPTER 20

    Introduces the next

    The passengers were landing from the packet on the pier at Calais.
    A low-lying place and a low-spirited place Calais was, with the
    tide ebbing out towards low water-mark. There had been no more
    water on the bar than had sufficed to float the packet in; and now
    the bar itself, with a shallow break of sea over it, looked like a
    lazy marine monster just risen to the surface, whose form was
    indistinctly shown as it lay asleep. The meagre lighthouse all in
    white, haunting the seaboard as if it were the ghost of an edifice
    that had once had colour and rotundity, dropped melancholy tears
    after its late buffeting by the waves. The long rows of gaunt
    black piles, slimy and wet and weather-worn, with funeral garlands
    of seaweed twisted about them by the late tide, might have
    represented an unsightly marine cemetery. Every wave-dashed,
    storm-beaten object, was so low and so little, under the broad grey
    sky, in the noise of the wind and sea, and before the curling lines
    of surf, making at it ferociously, that the wonder was there was
    any Calais left, and that its low gates and low wall and low roofs
    and low ditches and low sand-hills and low ramparts and flat
    streets, had not yielded long ago to the undermining and besieging
    sea, like the fortifications children make on the sea-shore.

    After slipping among oozy piles and planks, stumbling up wet steps
    and encountering many salt difficulties, the passengers entered on
    their comfortless peregrination along the pier; where all the
    French vagabonds and English outlaws in the town (half the
    population) attended to prevent their recovery from bewilderment.
    After being minutely inspected by all the English, and claimed and
    reclaimed and counter-claimed as prizes by all the French in a
    hand-to-hand scuffle three quarters of a mile long, they were at
    last free to enter the streets, and to make off in their various
    directions, hotly pursued.

    Clennam, harassed by more anxieties than one, was among this
    devoted band. Having rescued the most defenceless of his
    compatriots from situations of great extremity, he now went his way
    alone, or as nearly alone as he could be, with a native gentleman
    in a suit of grease and a cap of the same material, giving chase at
    a distance of some fifty yards, and continually calling after him,
    'Hi! Ice-say! You! Seer! Ice-say! Nice Oatel!'

    Even this hospitable person, however, was left behind at last, and
    Clennam pursued his way, unmolested. There was a tranquil air in
    the town after the turbulence of the Channel and the beach, and its
    dulness in that comparison was agreeable. He met new groups of his
    countrymen, who had all a straggling air of having at one time
    overblown themselves, like certain uncomfortable kinds of flowers,
    and of being now mere weeds. They had all an air, too, of lounging
    out a limited round, day after day, which strongly reminded him of
    the Marshalsea. But, taking no further note of them than was
    sufficient to give birth to the reflection, he sought out a certain
    street and number which he kept in his mind.

    'So Pancks said,' he murmured to himself, as he stopped before a
    dull house answering to the address. 'I suppose his information to
    be correct and his discovery, among Mr Casby's loose papers,
    indisputable; but, without it, I should hardly have supposed this
    to be a likely place.'

    A dead sort of house, with a dead wall over the way and a dead
    gateway at the side, where a pendant bell-handle produced two dead
    tinkles, and a knocker produced a dead, flat, surface-tapping, that
    seemed not to have depth enough in it to penetrate even the cracked
    door. However, the door jarred open on a dead sort of spring; and
    he closed it behind him as he entered a dull yard, soon brought to
    a close by another dead wall, where an attempt had been made to
    train some creeping shrubs, which were dead; and to make a little
    fountain in a grotto, which was dry; and to decorate that with a
    little statue, which was gone.

    The entry to the house was on the left, and it was garnished as the
    outer gateway was, with two printed bills in French and English,
    announcing Furnished Apartments to let, with immediate possession.
    A strong cheerful peasant woman, all stocking, petticoat, white
    cap, and ear-ring, stood here in a dark doorway, and said with a
    pleasant show of teeth, 'Ice-say! Seer! Who?'

    Clennam, replying in French, said the English lady; he wished to
    see the English lady. 'Enter then and ascend, if you please,'
    returned the peasant woman, in French likewise. He did both, and
    followed her up a dark bare staircase to a back room on the first-
    floor. Hence, there was a gloomy view of the yard that was dull,
    and of the shrubs that were dead, and of the fountain that was dry,
    and of the pedestal of the statue that was gone.

    'Monsieur Blandois,' said Clennam.

    'With pleasure, Monsieur.'

    Thereupon the woman withdrew and left him to look at the room. It
    was the pattern of room always to be found in such a house. Cool,
    dull, and dark. Waxed floor very slippery. A room not large
    enough to skate in; nor adapted to the easy pursuit of any other
    occupation. Red and white curtained windows, little straw mat,
    little round table with a tumultuous assemblage of legs underneath,
    clumsy rush-bottomed chairs, two great red velvet arm-chairs
    affording plenty of space to be uncomfortable in, bureau, chimney-
    glass in several pieces pretending to be in one piece, pair of
    gaudy vases of very artificial flowers; between them a Greek
    warrior with his helmet off, sacrificing a clock to the Genius of
    France.

    After some pause, a door of communication with another room was
    opened, and a lady entered. She manifested great surprise on
    seeing Clennam, and her glance went round the room in search of
    some one else.

    'Pardon me, Miss Wade. I am alone.'

    'It was not your name that was brought to me.'

    'No; I know that. Excuse me. I have already had experience that
    my name does not predispose you to an interview; and I ventured to
    mention the name of one I am in search of.'

    'Pray,' she returned, motioning him to a chair so coldly that he
    remained standing, 'what name was it that you gave?'

    'I mentioned the name of Blandois.'

    'Blandois?'

    'A name you are acquainted with.'

    'It is strange,' she said, frowning, 'that you should still press
    an undesired interest in me and my acquaintances, in me and my
    affairs, Mr Clennam. I don't know what you mean.'

    'Pardon me. You know the name?'

    'What can you have to do with the name? What can I have to do with
    the name? What can you have to do with my knowing or not knowing
    any name? I know many names and I have forgotten many more. This
    may be in the one class, or it may be in the other, or I may never
    have heard it. I am acquainted with no reason for examining
    myself, or for being examined, about it.'

    'If you will allow me,' said Clennam, 'I will tell you my reason
    for pressing the subject. I admit that I do press it, and I must
    beg you to forgive me if I do so, very earnestly. The reason is
    all mine, I do not insinuate that it is in any way yours.'

    'Well, sir,' she returned, repeating a little less haughtily than
    before her former invitation to him to be seated: to which he now
    deferred, as she seated herself. 'I am at least glad to know that
    this is not another bondswoman of some friend of yours, who is
    bereft of free choice, and whom I have spirited away. I will hear
    your reason, if you please.'

    'First, to identify the person of whom we speak,' said Clennam,
    'let me observe that it is the person you met in London some time
    back. You will remember meeting him near the river--in the
    Adelphi!'

    'You mix yourself most unaccountably with my business,' she
    replied, looking full at him with stern displeasure. 'How do you
    know that?'

    'I entreat you not to take it ill. By mere accident.'
    'What accident?'

    'Solely the accident of coming upon you in the street and seeing
    the meeting.'

    'Do you speak of yourself, or of some one else?'

    'Of myself. I saw it.'

    'To be sure it was in the open street,' she observed, after a few
    moments of less and less angry reflection. 'Fifty people might
    have seen it. It would have signified nothing if they had.'

    'Nor do I make my having seen it of any moment, nor (otherwise than
    as an explanation of my coming here) do I connect my visit with it
    or the favour that I have to ask.'

    'Oh! You have to ask a favour! It occurred to me,' and the
    handsome face looked bitterly at him, 'that your manner was
    softened, Mr Clennam.'

    He was content to protest against this by a slight action without
    contesting it in words. He then referred to Blandois'
    disappearance, of which it was probable she had heard? However
    probable it was to him, she had heard of no such thing. Let him
    look round him (she said) and judge for himself what general
    intelligence was likely to reach the ears of a woman who had been
    shut up there while it was rife, devouring her own heart. When she
    had uttered this denial, which he believed to be true, she asked
    him what he meant by disappearance? That led to his narrating the
    circumstances in detail, and expressing something of his anxiety to
    discover what had really become of the man, and to repel the dark
    suspicions that clouded about his mother's house. She heard him
    with evident surprise, and with more marks of suppressed interest
    than he had seen in her; still they did not overcome her distant,
    proud, and self-secluded manner. When he had finished, she said
    nothing but these words:

    'You have not yet told me, sir, what I have to do with it, or what
    the favour is? Will you be so good as come to that?'

    'I assume,' said Arthur, persevering, in his endeavour to soften
    her scornful demeanour, 'that being in communication--may I say,
    confidential communication?--with this person--'

    'You may say, of course, whatever you like,' she remarked; 'but I
    do not subscribe to your assumptions, Mr Clennam, or to any one's.'

    '--that being, at least in personal communication with him,' said
    Clennam, changing the form of his position in the hope of making it
    unobjectionable, 'you can tell me something of his antecedents,
    pursuits, habits, usual place of residence. Can give me some
    little clue by which to seek him out in the likeliest manner, and
    either produce him, or establish what has become of him. This is
    the favour I ask, and I ask it in a distress of mind for which I
    hope you will feel some consideration. If you should have any
    reason for imposing conditions upon me, I will respect it without
    asking what it is.'

    'You chanced to see me in the street with the man,' she observed,
    after being, to his mortification, evidently more occupied with her
    own reflections on the matter than with his appeal. 'Then you knew
    the man before?'

    'Not before; afterwards. I never saw him before, but I saw him
    again on this very night of his disappearance. In my mother's
    room, in fact. I left him there. You will read in this paper all
    that is known of him.'

    He handed her one of the printed bills, which she read with a
    steady and attentive face.

    'This is more than I knew of him,' she said, giving it back.

    Clennam's looks expressed his heavy disappointment, perhaps his
    incredulity; for she added in the same unsympathetic tone: 'You
    don't believe it. Still, it is so. As to personal communication:
    it seems that there was personal communication between him and your
    mother. And yet you say you believe her declaration that she knows
    no more of him!'

    A sufficiently expressive hint of suspicion was conveyed in these
    words, and in the smile by which they were accompanied, to bring
    the blood into Clennam's cheeks.

    'Come, sir,' she said, with a cruel pleasure in repeating the stab,
    'I will be as open with you as you can desire. I will confess that
    if I cared for my credit (which I do not), or had a good name to
    preserve (which I have not, for I am utterly indifferent to its
    being considered good or bad), I should regard myself as heavily
    compromised by having had anything to do with this fellow. Yet he
    never passed in at MY door--never sat in colloquy with ME until
    midnight.'

    She took her revenge for her old grudge in thus turning his subject
    against him. Hers was not the nature to spare him, and she had no
    compunction.

    'That he is a low, mercenary wretch; that I first saw him prowling
    about Italy (where I was, not long ago), and that I hired him
    there, as the suitable instrument of a purpose I happened to have;
    I have no objection to tell you. In short, it was worth my while,
    for my own pleasure--the gratification of a strong feeling--to pay
    a spy who would fetch and carry for money. I paid this creature.
    And I dare say that if I had wanted to make such a bargain, and if
    I could have paid him enough, and if he could have done it in the
    dark, free from all risk, he would have taken any life with as
    little scruple as he took my money. That, at least, is my opinion
    of him; and I see it is not very far removed from yours. Your
    mother's opinion of him, I am to assume (following your example of
    assuming this and that), was vastly different.'

    'My mother, let me remind you,' said Clennam, 'was first brought
    into communication with him in the unlucky course of business.'

    'It appears to have been an unlucky course of business that last
    brought her into communication with him,' returned Miss Wade; 'and
    business hours on that occasion were late.'

    'You imply,' said Arthur, smarting under these cool-handed thrusts,
    of which he had deeply felt the force already, 'that there was
    something--'

    'Mr Clennam,' she composedly interrupted, 'recollect that I do not
    speak by implication about the man. He is, I say again without
    disguise, a low mercenary wretch. I suppose such a creature goes
    where there is occasion for him. If I had not had occasion for
    him, you would not have seen him and me together.'

    Wrung by her persistence in keeping that dark side of the case
    before him, of which there was a half-hidden shadow in his own
    breast, Clennam was silent.

    'I have spoken of him as still living,' she added, 'but he may have
    been put out of the way for anything I know. For anything I care,
    also. I have no further occasion for him.'

    With a heavy sigh and a despondent air, Arthur Clennam slowly rose.

    She did not rise also, but said, having looked at him in the
    meanwhile with a fixed look of suspicion, and lips angrily
    compressed:

    'He was the chosen associate of your dear friend, Mr Gowan, was he
    not? Why don't you ask your dear friend to help you?'

    The denial that he was a dear friend rose to Arthur's lips; but he
    repressed it, remembering his old struggles and resolutions, and
    said:

    'Further than that he has never seen Blandois since Blandois set
    out for England, Mr Gowan knows nothing additional about him. He
    was a chance acquaintance, made abroad.'

    'A chance acquaintance made abroad!' she repeated. 'Yes. Your
    dear friend has need to divert himself with all the acquaintances
    he can make, seeing what a wife he has. I hate his wife, sir.'

    The anger with which she said it, the more remarkable for being so
    much under her restraint, fixed Clennam's attention, and kept him
    on the spot. It flashed out of her dark eyes as they regarded him,
    quivered in her nostrils, and fired the very breath she exhaled;
    but her face was otherwise composed into a disdainful serenity; and
    her attitude was as calmly and haughtily graceful as if she had
    been in a mood of complete indifference.

    'All I will say is, Miss Wade,' he remarked, 'that you can have
    received no provocation to a feeling in which I believe you have no
    sharer.'

    'You may ask your dear friend, if you choose,' she returned, 'for
    his opinion upon that subject.'

    'I am scarcely on those intimate terms with my dear friend,' said
    Arthur, in spite of his resolutions, 'that would render my
    approaching the subject very probable, Miss Wade.'

    'I hate him,' she returned. 'Worse than his wife, because I was
    once dupe enough, and false enough to myself, almost to love him.
    You have seen me, sir, only on common-place occasions, when I dare
    say you have thought me a common-place woman, a little more self-
    willed than the generality. You don't know what I mean by hating,
    if you know me no better than that; you can't know, without knowing
    with what care I have studied myself and people about me. For this
    reason I have for some time inclined to tell you what my life has
    been--not to propitiate your opinion, for I set no value on it; but
    that you may comprehend, when you think of your dear friend and his
    dear wife, what I mean by hating. Shall I give you something I
    have written and put by for your perusal, or shall I hold my hand?'

    Arthur begged her to give it to him. She went to the bureau,
    unlocked it, and took from an inner drawer a few folded sheets of
    paper. Without any conciliation of him, scarcely addressing him,
    rather speaking as if she were speaking to her own looking-glass
    for the justification of her own stubbornness, she said, as she
    gave them to him:

    'Now you may know what I mean by hating! No more of that. Sir,
    whether you find me temporarily and cheaply lodging in an empty
    London house, or in a Calais apartment, you find Harriet with me.
    You may like to see her before you leave. Harriet, come in!' She
    called Harriet again. The second call produced Harriet, once
    Tattycoram.

    'Here is Mr Clennam,' said Miss Wade; 'not come for you; he has
    given you up,--I suppose you have, by this time?'

    'Having no authority, or influence--yes,' assented Clennam.

    'Not come in search of you, you see; but still seeking some one.
    He wants that Blandois man.'

    'With whom I saw you in the Strand in London,' hinted Arthur.
    'If you know anything of him, Harriet, except that he came from
    Venice--which we all know--tell it to Mr Clennam freely.'
    'I know nothing more about him,' said the girl.

    'Are you satisfied?' Miss Wade inquired of Arthur.

    He had no reason to disbelieve them; the girl's manner being so
    natural as to be almost convincing, if he had had any previous
    doubts. He replied, 'I must seek for intelligence elsewhere.'

    He was not going in the same breath; but he had risen before the
    girl entered, and she evidently thought he was. She looked quickly
    at him, and said:

    'Are they well, sir?'

    'Who?'

    She stopped herself in saying what would have been 'all of them;'
    glanced at Miss Wade; and said 'Mr and Mrs Meagles.'

    'They were, when I last heard of them. They are not at home. By
    the way, let me ask you. Is it true that you were seen there?'

    'Where? Where does any one say I was seen?' returned the girl,
    sullenly casting down her eyes.

    'Looking in at the garden gate of the cottage.'

    'No,' said Miss Wade. 'She has never been near it.'

    'You are wrong, then,' said the girl. 'I went down there the last
    time we were in London. I went one afternoon when you left me
    alone. And I did look in.'

    'You poor-spirited girl,' returned Miss Wade with infinite
    contempt; 'does all our companionship, do all our conversations, do
    all your old complainings, tell for so little as that?'

    'There was no harm in looking in at the gate for an instant,' said
    the girl. 'I saw by the windows that the family were not there.'

    'Why should you go near the place?'

    'Because I wanted to see it. Because I felt that I should like to
    look at it again.'

    As each of the two handsome faces looked at the other, Clennam felt
    how each of the two natures must be constantly tearing the other to
    pieces.

    'Oh!' said Miss Wade, coldly subduing and removing her glance; 'if
    you had any desire to see the place where you led the life from
    which I rescued you because you had found out what it was, that is
    another thing. But is that your truth to me? Is that your
    fidelity to me? Is that the common cause I make with you? You are
    not worth the confidence I have placed in you. You are not worth
    the favour I have shown you. You are no higher than a spaniel, and
    had better go back to the people who did worse than whip you.'

    'If you speak so of them with any one else by to hear, you'll
    provoke me to take their part,' said the girl.

    'Go back to them,' Miss Wade retorted. 'Go back to them.'

    'You know very well,' retorted Harriet in her turn, 'that I won't
    go back to them. You know very well that I have thrown them off,
    and never can, never shall, never will, go back to them. Let them
    alone, then, Miss Wade.'

    'You prefer their plenty to your less fat living here,' she
    rejoined. 'You exalt them, and slight me. What else should I have
    expected? I ought to have known it.'

    'It's not so,' said the girl, flushing high, 'and you don't say
    what you mean. I know what you mean. You are reproaching me,
    underhanded, with having nobody but you to look to. And because I
    have nobody but you to look to, you think you are to make me do, or
    not do, everything you please, and are to put any affront upon me.
    You are as bad as they were, every bit. But I will not be quite
    tamed, and made submissive. I will say again that I went to look
    at the house, because I had often thought that I should like to see
    it once more. I will ask again how they are, because I once liked
    them and at times thought they were kind to me.'

    Hereupon Clennam said that he was sure they would still receive her
    kindly, if she should ever desire to return.

    'Never!' said the girl passionately. 'I shall never do that.
    Nobody knows that better than Miss Wade, though she taunts me
    because she has made me her dependent. And I know I am so; and I
    know she is overjoyed when she can bring it to my mind.'

    'A good pretence!' said Miss Wade, with no less anger, haughtiness,
    and bitterness; 'but too threadbare to cover what I plainly see in
    this. My poverty will not bear competition with their money.
    Better go back at once, better go back at once, and have done with
    it!'

    Arthur Clennam looked at them, standing a little distance asunder
    in the dull confined room, each proudly cherishing her own anger;
    each, with a fixed determination, torturing her own breast, and
    torturing the other's. He said a word or two of leave-taking; but
    Miss Wade barely inclined her head, and Harriet, with the assumed
    humiliation of an abject dependent and serf (but not without
    defiance for all that), made as if she were too low to notice or to
    be noticed.

    He came down the dark winding stairs into the yard with an
    increased sense upon him of the gloom of the wall that was dead,
    and of the shrubs that were dead, and of the fountain that was dry,
    and of the statue that was gone. Pondering much on what he had
    seen and heard in that house, as well as on the failure of all his
    efforts to trace the suspicious character who was lost, he returned
    to London and to England by the packet that had taken him over. On
    the way he unfolded the sheets of paper, and read in them what is
    reproduced in the next chapter.
    Next Chapter
    Chapter 55
    Previous Chapter
    If you're writing a Charles Dickens essay and need some advice, post your Charles Dickens essay question on our Facebook page where fellow bookworms are always glad to help!

    Top 5 Authors

    Top 5 Books

    Book Status
    Finished
    Want to read
    Abandoned

    Are you sure you want to leave this group?