'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 Blandois.'
'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.