'In conclusion, Mr Pancks,' said Arthur, 'I have but to say this. I have reasons beyond a personal regard for speaking as little as I can of the Dorrit family, particularly at my mother's house' (Mr Pancks nodded), 'and for knowing as much as I can. So devoted a man of business as you are--eh?'
For Mr Pancks had suddenly made that blowing effort with unusual force.
'It's nothing,' said Pancks.
'So devoted a man of business as yourself has a perfect understanding of a fair bargain. I wish to make a fair bargain with you, that you shall enlighten me concerning the Dorrit family when you have it in your power, as I have enlightened you. It may not give you a very flattering idea of my business habits, that I failed to make my terms beforehand,' continued Clennam; 'but I prefer to make them a point of honour. I have seen so much business done on sharp principles that, to tell you the truth, Mr Pancks, I am tired of them.'
Mr Pancks laughed. 'It's a bargain, sir,' said he. 'You shall find me stick to it.'
After that, he stood a little while looking at Clennam, and biting his ten nails all round; evidently while he fixed in his mind what he had been told, and went over it carefully, before the means of supplying a gap in his memory should be no longer at hand. 'It's all right,' he said at last, 'and now I'll wish you good day, as it's collecting day in the Yard. By-the-bye, though. A lame foreigner with a stick.'
'Ay, ay. You do take a reference sometimes, I see?' said Clennam.
'When he can pay, sir,' replied Pancks. 'Take all you can get, and keep back all you can't be forced to give up. That's business. The lame foreigner with the stick wants a top room down the Yard. Is he good for it?'
'I am,' said Clennam, 'and I will answer for him.'
'That's enough. What I must have of Bleeding Heart Yard,' said Pancks, making a note of the case in his book, 'is my bond. I want my bond, you see. Pay up, or produce your property! That's the watchword down the Yard. The lame foreigner with the stick represented that you sent him; but he could represent (as far as that goes) that the Great Mogul sent him. He has been in the hospital, I believe?'
'Yes. Through having met with an accident. He is only just now discharged.'
'It's pauperising a man, sir, I have been shown, to let him into a hospital?' said Pancks. And again blew off that remarkable sound.
'I have been shown so too,' said Clennam, coldly.
Mr Pancks, being by that time quite ready for a start, got under steam in a moment, and, without any other signal or ceremony, was snorting down the step-ladder and working into Bleeding Heart Yard, before he seemed to be well out of the counting-house.
Throughout the remainder of the day, Bleeding Heart Yard was in consternation, as the grim Pancks cruised in it; haranguing the inhabitants on their backslidings in respect of payment, demanding his bond, breathing notices to quit and executions, running down defaulters, sending a swell of terror on before him, and leaving it in his wake. Knots of people, impelled by a fatal attraction, lurked outside any house in which he was known to be, listening for fragments of his discourses to the inmates; and, when he was rumoured to be coming down the stairs, often could not disperse so quickly but that he would be prematurely in among them, demanding their own arrears, and rooting them to the spot. Throughout the remainder of the day, Mr Pancks's What were they up to? and What did they mean by it? sounded all over the Yard. Mr Pancks wouldn't hear of excuses, wouldn't hear of complaints, wouldn't hear of repairs, wouldn't hear of anything but unconditional money down. Perspiring and puffing and darting about in eccentric directions, and becoming hotter and dingier every moment, he lashed the tide of the yard into a most agitated and turbid state. It had not settled down into calm water again full two hours after he had been seen fuming away on the horizon at the top of the steps.
There were several small assemblages of the Bleeding Hearts at the popular points of meeting in the Yard that night, among whom it was universally agreed that Mr Pancks was a hard man to have to do with; and that it was much to be regretted, so it was, that a gentleman like Mr Casby should put his rents in his hands, and never know him in his true light.