'What's this with bars? It's a College! And what's this with a grey gown and a black velvet cap? it's a father! And what's this with a clarionet? It's an uncle! And what's this in dancing-shoes? It's a sister! And what's this straggling about in an idle sort of a way? It's a brother! And what's this thinking for 'em all? Why, this is you, Miss Dorrit!' Her eyes met his as she looked up wonderingly into his face, and she thought that although his were sharp eyes, he was a brighter and gentler-looking man than she had supposed at dinner. His eyes were on her hand again directly, and her opportunity of confirming or correcting the impression was gone.
'Now, the deuce is in it,' muttered Pancks, tracing out a line in her hand with his clumsy finger, 'if this isn't me in the corner here! What do I want here? What's behind me?'
He carried his finger slowly down to the wrist, and round the wrist, and affected to look at the back of the hand for what was behind him.
'Is it any harm?' asked Little Dorrit, smiling.
'Deuce a bit!' said Pancks. 'What do you think it's worth?'
'I ought to ask you that. I am not the fortune-teller.'
'True,' said Pancks. 'What's it worth? You shall live to see, Miss Dorrit.'
Releasing the hand by slow degrees, he drew all his fingers through his prongs of hair, so that they stood up in their most portentous manner; and repeated slowly, 'Remember what I say, Miss Dorrit. You shall live to see.'
She could not help showing that she was much surprised, if it were only by his knowing so much about her.
'Ah! That's it!' said Pancks, pointing at her. 'Miss Dorrit, not that, ever!'
More surprised than before, and a little more frightened, she looked to him for an explanation of his last words.
'Not that,' said Pancks, making, with great seriousness, an imitation of a surprised look and manner that appeared to be unintentionally grotesque. 'Don't do that. Never on seeing me, no matter when, no matter where. I am nobody. Don't take on to mind me. Don't mention me. Take no notice. Will you agree, Miss Dorrit?'
'I hardly know what to say,' returned Little Dorrit, quite astounded. 'Why?'
'Because I am a fortune-teller. Pancks the gipsy. I haven't told you so much of your fortune yet, Miss Dorrit, as to tell you what's behind me on that little hand. I have told you you shall live to see. Is it agreed, Miss Dorrit?'
'Agreed that I--am--to--'
'To take no notice of me away from here, unless I take on first. Not to mind me when I come and go. It's very easy. I am no loss, I am not handsome, I am not good company, I am only my proprietors grubber. You need do no more than think, "Ah! Pancks the gipsy at his fortune-telling--he'll tell the rest of my fortune one day--I shall live to know it." Is it agreed, Miss Dorrit?'
'Ye-es,' faltered Little Dorrit, whom he greatly confused, 'I suppose so, while you do no harm.'
'Good!' Mr Pancks glanced at the wall of the adjoining room, and stooped forward. 'Honest creature, woman of capital points, but heedless and a loose talker, Miss Dorrit.' With that he rubbed his hands as if the interview had been very satisfactory to him, panted away to the door, and urbanely nodded himself out again.
If Little Dorrit were beyond measure perplexed by this curious conduct on the part of her new acquaintance, and by finding herself involved in this singular treaty, her perplexity was not diminished by ensuing circumstances. Besides that Mr Pancks took every opportunity afforded him in Mr Casby's house of significantly glancing at her and snorting at her--which was not much, after what he had done already--he began to pervade her daily life. She saw him in the street, constantly. When she went to Mr Casby's, he was always there. When she went to Mrs Clennam's, he came there on any pretence, as if to keep her in his sight. A week had not gone by, when she found him to her astonishment in the Lodge one night, conversing with the turnkey on duty, and to all appearance one of his familiar companions.