Meet us on:
Entire Site
    Try our fun game

    Dueling book covers…may the best design win!

    Random Quote
    "Love is an act of endless forgiveness, a tender look which becomes a habit."

    Subscribe to Our Newsletter

    Follow us on Twitter

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

    Chapter 22

    • Rate it:
    • Average Rating: 4.5 out of 5 based on 2 ratings
    • 7 Favorites on Read Print
    Launch Reading Mode Next Chapter
    Chapter 57
    Previous Chapter
    CHAPTER 22

    Who passes by this Road so late?

    Arthur Clennam had made his unavailing expedition to Calais in the
    midst of a great pressure of business. A certain barbaric Power
    with valuable possessions on the map of the world, had occasion for
    the services of one or two engineers, quick in invention and
    determined in execution: practical men, who could make the men and
    means their ingenuity perceived to be wanted out of the best
    materials they could find at hand; and who were as bold and fertile
    in the adaptation of such materials to their purpose, as in the
    conception of their purpose itself. This Power, being a barbaric
    one, had no idea of stowing away a great national object in a
    Circumlocution Office, as strong wine is hidden from the light in
    a cellar until its fire and youth are gone, and the labourers who
    worked in the vineyard and pressed the grapes are dust. With
    characteristic ignorance, it acted on the most decided and
    energetic notions of How to do it; and never showed the least
    respect for, or gave any quarter to, the great political science,
    How not to do it. Indeed it had a barbarous way of striking the
    latter art and mystery dead, in the person of any enlightened
    subject who practised it.

    Accordingly, the men who were wanted were sought out and found;
    which was in itself a most uncivilised and irregular way of
    proceeding. Being found, they were treated with great confidence
    and honour (which again showed dense political ignorance), and were
    invited to come at once and do what they had to do. In short, they
    were regarded as men who meant to do it, engaging with other men
    who meant it to be done.

    Daniel Doyce was one of the chosen. There was no foreseeing at
    that time whether he would be absent months or years. The
    preparations for his departure, and the conscientious arrangement
    for him of all the details and results of their joint business, had
    necessitated labour within a short compass of time, which had
    occupied Clennam day and night. He had slipped across the water in
    his first leisure, and had slipped as quickly back again for his
    farewell interview with Doyce.

    Him Arthur now showed, with pains and care, the state of their
    gains and losses, responsibilities and prospects. Daniel went
    through it all in his patient manner, and admired it all
    exceedingly. He audited the accounts, as if they were a far more
    ingenious piece of mechanism than he had ever constructed, and
    afterwards stood looking at them, weighing his hat over his head by
    the brims, as if he were absorbed in the contemplation of some
    wonderful engine.

    'It's all beautiful, Clennam, in its regularity and order. Nothing
    can be plainer. Nothing can be better.'

    'I am glad you approve, Doyce. Now, as to the management of your
    capital while you are away, and as to the conversion of so much of
    it as the business may need from time to time--' His partner
    stopped him.

    'As to that, and as to everything else of that kind, all rests with
    you. You will continue in all such matters to act for both of us,
    as you have done hitherto, and to lighten my mind of a load it is
    much relieved from.'

    'Though, as I often tell you,' returned Clennam, 'you unreasonably
    depreciate your business qualities.'

    'Perhaps so,' said Doyce, smiling. 'And perhaps not. Anyhow, I
    have a calling that I have studied more than such matters, and that
    I am better fitted for. I have perfect confidence in my partner,
    and I am satisfied that he will do what is best. If I have a
    prejudice connected with money and money figures,' continued Doyce,
    laying that plastic workman's thumb of his on the lapel of his
    partner's coat, 'it is against speculating. I don't think I have
    any other. I dare say I entertain that prejudice, only because I
    have never given my mind fully to the subject.'

    'But you shouldn't call it a prejudice,' said Clennam. 'My dear
    Doyce, it is the soundest sense.'

    'I am glad you think so,' returned Doyce, with his grey eye looking
    kind and bright.

    'It so happens,' said Clennam, 'that just now, not half an hour
    before you came down, I was saying the same thing to Pancks, who
    looked in here. We both agreed that to travel out of safe
    investments is one of the most dangerous, as it is one of the most
    common, of those follies which often deserve the name of vices.'

    'Pancks?' said Doyce, tilting up his hat at the back, and nodding
    with an air of confidence. 'Aye, aye, aye! That's a cautious

    'He is a very cautious fellow indeed,' returned Arthur. 'Quite a
    specimen of caution.'

    They both appeared to derive a larger amount of satisfaction from
    the cautious character of Mr Pancks, than was quite intelligible,
    judged by the surface of their conversation.

    'And now,' said Daniel, looking at his watch, 'as time and tide
    wait for no man, my trusty partner, and as I am ready for starting,
    bag and baggage, at the gate below, let me say a last word. I want
    you to grant a request of mine.'

    'Any request you can make--Except,' Clennam was quick with his
    exception, for his partner's face was quick in suggesting it,
    'except that I will abandon your invention.'

    'That's the request, and you know it is,' said Doyce.

    'I say, No, then. I say positively, No. Now that I have begun, I
    will have some definite reason, some responsible statement,
    something in the nature of a real answer, from those people.'

    'You will not,' returned Doyce, shaking his head. 'Take my word
    for it, you never will.'

    'At least, I'll try,' said Clennam. 'It will do me no harm to

    'I am not certain of that,' rejoined Doyce, laying his hand
    persuasively on his shoulder. 'It has done me harm, my friend. It
    has aged me, tired me, vexed me, disappointed me. It does no man
    any good to have his patience worn out, and to think himself ill-
    used. I fancy, even already, that unavailing attendance on delays
    and evasions has made you something less elastic than you used to

    'Private anxieties may have done that for the moment,' said
    Clennam, 'but not official harrying. Not yet. I am not hurt yet.'

    'Then you won't grant my request?'

    'Decidedly, No,' said Clennam. 'I should be ashamed if I submitted
    to be so soon driven out of the field, where a much older and a
    much more sensitively interested man contended with fortitude so

    As there was no moving him, Daniel Doyce returned the grasp of his
    hand, and, casting a farewell look round the counting-house, went
    down-stairs with him. Doyce was to go to Southampton to join the
    small staff of his fellow-travellers; and a coach was at the gate,
    well furnished and packed, and ready to take him there. The
    workmen were at the gate to see him off, and were mightily proud of
    him. 'Good luck to you, Mr Doyce!' said one of the number.
    'Wherever you go, they'll find as they've got a man among 'em) a
    man as knows his tools and as his tools knows, a man as is willing
    and a man as is able, and if that's not a man, where is a man!'
    This oration from a gruff volunteer in the back-ground, not
    previously suspected of any powers in that way, was received with
    three loud cheers; and the speaker became a distinguished character
    for ever afterwards. In the midst of the three loud cheers, Daniel
    gave them all a hearty 'Good Bye, Men!' and the coach disappeared
    from sight, as if the concussion of the air had blown it out of
    Bleeding Heart Yard.

    Mr Baptist, as a grateful little fellow in a position of trust, was
    among the workmen, and had done as much towards the cheering as a
    mere foreigner could. In truth, no men on earth can cheer like
    Englishmen, who do so rally one another's blood and spirit when
    they cheer in earnest, that the stir is like the rush of their
    whole history, with all its standards waving at once, from Saxon
    Alfred's downwards. Mr Baptist had been in a manner whirled away
    before the onset, and was taking his breath in quite a scared
    condition when Clennam beckoned him to follow up-stairs, and return
    the books and papers to their places.

    In the lull consequent on the departure--in that first vacuity
    which ensues on every separation, foreshadowing the great
    separation that is always overhanging all mankind--Arthur stood at
    his desk, looking dreamily out at a gleam of sun. But his
    liberated attention soon reverted to the theme that was foremost in
    his thoughts, and began, for the hundredth time, to dwell upon
    every circumstance that had impressed itself upon his mind on the
    mysterious night when he had seen the man at his mother's. Again
    the man jostled him in the crooked street, again he followed the
    man and lost him, again he came upon the man in the court-yard
    looking at the house, again he followed the man and stood beside
    him on the door-steps.

    'Who passes by this road so late?
    Compagnon de la Majolaine;
    Who passes by this road so late?
    Always gay!'

    It was not the first time, by many, that he had recalled the song
    of the child's game, of which the fellow had hummed @ verse while
    they stood side by side; but he was so unconscious of having
    repeated it audibly, that he started to hear the next verse.

    'Of all the king's knights 'tis the flower,
    Compagnon de la Majolaine;
    Of all the king's knights 'tis the flower,
    Always gay!'

    Cavalletto had deferentially suggested the words and tune,
    supposing him to have stopped short for want of more.

    'Ah! You know the song, Cavalletto?'

    'By Bacchus, yes, sir! They all know it in France. I have heard
    it many times, sung by the little children. The last time when it
    I have heard,' said Mr Baptist, formerly Cavalletto, who usually
    went back to his native construction of sentences when his memory
    went near home, 'is from a sweet little voice. A little voice,
    very pretty, very innocent. Altro!'

    'The last time I heard it,' returned Arthur, 'was in a voice quite
    the reverse of pretty, and quite the reverse of innocent.' He said
    it more to himself than to his companion, and added to himself,
    repeating the man's next words. 'Death of my life, sir, it's my
    character to be impatient!'

    'EH!' cried Cavalletto, astounded, and with all his colour gone in
    a moment.

    'What is the matter?'

    'Sir! You know where I have heard that song the last time?'

    With his rapid native action, his hands made the outline of a high
    hook nose, pushed his eyes near together, dishevelled his hair,
    puffed out his upper lip to represent a thick moustache, and threw
    the heavy end of an ideal cloak over his shoulder. While doing
    this, with a swiftness incredible to one who has not watched an
    Italian peasant, he indicated a very remarkable and sinister smile.

    The whole change passed over him like a flash of light, and he
    stood in the same instant, pale and astonished, before his patron.

    'In the name of Fate and wonder,' said Clennam, 'what do you mean?
    Do you know a man of the name of Blandois?'

    'No!' said Mr Baptist, shaking his head.

    'You have just now described a man who was by when you heard that
    song; have you not?'

    'Yes!' said Mr Baptist, nodding fifty times.

    'And was he not called Blandois?'

    'No!' said Mr Baptist. 'Altro, Altro, Altro, Altro!' He could not
    reject the name sufficiently, with his head and his right
    forefinger going at once.

    'Stay!' cried Clennam, spreading out the handbill on his desk.
    'Was this the man? You can understand what I read aloud?'

    'Altogether. Perfectly.'

    'But look at it, too. Come here and look over me, while I read.'

    Mr Baptist approached, followed every word with his quick eyes, saw
    and heard it all out with the greatest impatience, then clapped his
    two hands flat upon the bill as if he had fiercely caught some
    noxious creature, and cried, looking eagerly at Clennam, 'It is the
    man! Behold him!'

    'This is of far greater moment to me' said Clennam, in great
    agitation, 'than you can imagine. Tell me where you knew the man.'

    Mr Baptist, releasing the paper very slowly and with much
    discomfiture, and drawing himself back two or three paces, and
    making as though he dusted his hands, returned, very much against
    his will:

    'At Marsiglia--Marseilles.'

    'What was he?'

    'A prisoner, and--Altro! I believe yes!--an,' Mr Baptist crept
    closer again to whisper it, 'Assassin!'

    Clennam fell back as if the word had struck him a blow: so terrible
    did it make his mother's communication with the man appear.
    Cavalletto dropped on one knee, and implored him, with a redundancy
    of gesticulation, to hear what had brought himself into such foul

    He told with perfect truth how it had come of a little contraband
    trading, and how he had in time been released from prison, and how
    he had gone away from those antecedents. How, at the house of
    entertainment called the Break of Day at Chalons on the Saone, he
    had been awakened in his bed at night by the same assassin, then
    assuming the name of Lagnier, though his name had formerly been
    Rigaud; how the assassin had proposed that they should join their
    fortunes together; how he held the assassin in such dread and
    aversion that he had fled from him at daylight, and how he had ever
    since been haunted by the fear of seeing the assassin again and
    being claimed by him as an acquaintance. When he had related this,
    with an emphasis and poise on the word, 'assassin,' peculiarly
    belonging to his own language, and which did not serve to render it
    less terrible to Clennam, he suddenly sprang to his feet, pounced
    upon the bill again, and with a vehemence that would have been
    absolute madness in any man of Northern origin, cried 'Behold the
    same assassin! Here he is!'

    In his passionate raptures, he at first forgot the fact that he had
    lately seen the assassin in London. On his remembering it, it
    suggested hope to Clennam that the recognition might be of later
    date than the night of the visit at his mother's; but Cavalletto
    was too exact and clear about time and place, to leave any opening
    for doubt that it had preceded that occasion.

    'Listen,' said Arthur, very seriously. 'This man, as we have read
    here, has wholly disappeared.'

    'Of it I am well content!' said Cavalletto, raising his eyes
    piously. 'A thousand thanks to Heaven! Accursed assassin!'

    'Not so,' returned Clennam; 'for until something more is heard of
    him, I can never know an hour's peace.'

    'Enough, Benefactor; that is quite another thing. A million of

    'Now, Cavalletto,' said Clennam, gently turning him by the arm, so
    that they looked into each other's eyes. 'I am certain that for
    the little I have been able to do for you, you are the most
    sincerely grateful of men.'

    'I swear it!' cried the other.

    'I know it. If you could find this man, or discover what has
    become of him, or gain any later intelligence whatever of him, you
    would render me a service above any other service I could receive
    in the world, and would make me (with far greater reason) as
    grateful to you as you are to me.'
    'I know not where to look,' cried the little man, kissing Arthur's
    hand in a transport. 'I know not where to begin. I know not where
    to go. But, courage! Enough! It matters not! I go, in this
    instant of time!'

    'Not a word to any one but me, Cavalletto.'

    'Al-tro!' cried Cavalletto. And was gone with great speed.
    Next Chapter
    Chapter 57
    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
    Want to read

    Are you sure you want to leave this group?