I have been called picturesque myself. It is no merit to be picturesque--I have greater merits, perhaps--but I may be, by an accident. Sympathy, sympathy!'
'I tell you beforehand, Mr Blandois, that you'll find it very dingy and very bare,' said Jeremiah, taking up the candle. 'It's not worth your looking at.'But Mr Blandois, smiting him in a friendly manner on the back, only laughed; so the said Blandois kissed his hand again to Mrs Clennam, and they went out of the room together.
'You don't care to go up-stairs?' said Jeremiah, on the landing. 'On the contrary, Mr Flintwinch; if not tiresome to you, I shall be ravished!'
Mr Flintwinch, therefore, wormed himself up the staircase, and Mr Blandois followed close. They ascended to the great garret bed- room which Arthur had occupied on the night of his return. 'There, Mr Blandois!' said Jeremiah, showing it, 'I hope you may think that worth coming so high to see. I confess I don't.'
Mr Blandois being enraptured, they walked through other garrets and passages, and came down the staircase again. By this time Mr Flintwinch had remarked that he never found the visitor looking at any room, after throwing one quick glance around, but always found the visitor looking at him, Mr Flintwinch. With this discovery in his thoughts, he turned about on the staircase for another experiment. He met his eyes directly; and on the instant of their fixing one another, the visitor, with that ugly play of nose and moustache, laughed (as he had done at every similar moment since they left Mrs Clennam's chamber) a diabolically silent laugh.
As a much shorter man than the visitor, Mr Flintwinch was at the physical disadvantage of being thus disagreeably leered at from a height; and as he went first down the staircase, and was usually a step or two lower than the other, this disadvantage was at the time increased. He postponed looking at Mr Blandois again until this accidental inequality was removed by their having entered the late Mr Clennam's room. But, then twisting himself suddenly round upon him, he found his look unchanged.
'A most admirable old house,' smiled Mr Blandois. 'So mysterious. Do you never hear any haunted noises here?'
'Noises,' returned Mr Flintwinch. 'No.'
'Nor see any devils?'
'Not,' said Mr Flintwinch, grimly screwing himself at his questioner, 'not any that introduce themselves under that name and in that capacity.'
'Haha! A portrait here, I see.'
(Still looking at Mr Flintwinch, as if he were the portrait.)
'It's a portrait, sir, as you observe.'
'May I ask the subject, Mr Flintwinch?'
'Mr Clennam, deceased. Her husband.' 'Former owner of the remarkable watch, perhaps?' said the visitor.
Mr Flintwinch, who had cast his eyes towards the portrait, twisted himself about again, and again found himself the subject of the same look and smile. 'Yes, Mr Blandois,' he replied tartly. 'It was his, and his uncle's before him, and Lord knows who before him; and that's all I can tell you of its pedigree.'
'That's a strongly marked character, Mr Flintwinch, our friend up- stairs.'
'Yes, sir,' said Jeremiah, twisting himself at the visitor again, as he did during the whole of this dialogue, like some screw- machine that fell short of its grip; for the other never changed, and he always felt obliged to retreat a little. 'She is a remarkable woman. Great fortitude--great strength of mind.'
'They must have been very happy,' said Blandois.
'Who?' demanded Mr Flintwinch, with another screw at him.
Mr Blandois shook his right forefinger towards the sick room, and his left forefinger towards the portrait, and then, putting his arms akimbo and striding his legs wide apart, stood smiling down at Mr Flintwinch with the advancing nose and the retreating moustache.
'As happy as most other married people, I suppose,' returned Mr Flintwinch. 'I can't say. I don't know. There are secrets in all families.'
'Secrets!' cried Mr Blandois, quickly. 'Say it again, my son.'
'I say,' replied Mr Flintwinch, upon whom he had swelled himself so suddenly that Mr Flintwinch found his face almost brushed by the dilated chest.