Mr Baptist, sole lodger of Mr and Mrs Plornish was reputed in whispers to lay by the savings which were the result of his simple and moderate life, for investment in one of Mr Merdle's certain enterprises. The female Bleeding Hearts, when they came for ounces of tea, and hundredweights of talk, gave Mrs Plornish to understand, That how, ma'am, they had heard from their cousin Mary Anne, which worked in the line, that his lady's dresses would fill three waggons. That how she was as handsome a lady, ma'am, as lived, no matter wheres, and a busk like marble itself. That how, according to what they was told, ma'am, it was her son by a former husband as was took into the Government; and a General he had been, and armies he had marched again and victory crowned, if all you heard was to be believed. That how it was reported that Mr Merdle's words had been, that if they could have made it worth his while to take the whole Government he would have took it without a profit, but that take it he could not and stand a loss. That how it was not to be expected, ma'am, that he should lose by it, his ways being, as you might say and utter no falsehood, paved with gold; but that how it was much to be regretted that something handsome hadn't been got up to make it worth his while; for it was such and only such that knowed the heighth to which the bread and butchers' meat had rose, and it was such and only such that both could and would bring that heighth down.
So rife and potent was the fever in Bleeding Heart Yard, that Mr Pancks's rent-days caused no interval in the patients. The disease took the singular form, on those occasions, of causing the infected to find an unfathomable excuse and consolation in allusions to the magic name.
'Now, then!' Mr Pancks would say, to a defaulting lodger. 'Pay up!
'I haven't got it, Mr Pancks,' Defaulter would reply. 'I tell you the truth, sir, when I say I haven't got so much as a single sixpence of it to bless myself with.'
'This won't do, you know,' Mr Pancks would retort. 'You don't expect it will do; do you?' Defaulter would admit, with a low-spirited 'No, sir,' having no such expectation.
'My proprietor isn't going to stand this, you know,' Mr Pancks would proceed. 'He don't send me here for this. Pay up! Come!'
The Defaulter would make answer, 'Ah, Mr Pancks. If I was the rich gentleman whose name is in everybody's mouth--if my name was Merdle, sir--I'd soon pay up, and be glad to do it.'
Dialogues on the rent-question usually took place at the house- doors or in the entries, and in the presence of several deeply interested Bleeding Hearts. They always received a reference of this kind with a low murmur of response, as if it were convincing; and the Defaulter, however black and discomfited before, always cheered up a little in making it.
'If I was Mr Merdle, sir, you wouldn't have cause to complain of me then. No, believe me!' the Defaulter would proceed with a shake of the head. 'I'd pay up so quick then, Mr Pancks, that you shouldn't have to ask me.'
The response would be heard again here, implying that it was impossible to say anything fairer, and that this was the next thing to paying the money down.
Mr Pancks would be now reduced to saying as he booked the case, 'Well! You'll have the broker in, and be turned out; that's what'll happen to you. It's no use talking to me about Mr Merdle. You are not Mr Merdle, any more than I am.'
'No, sir,' the Defaulter would reply. 'I only wish you were him, sir.'
The response would take this up quickly; replying with great feeling, 'Only wish you were him, sir.'
'You'd be easier with us if you were Mr Merdle, sir,' the Defaulter would go on with rising spirits, 'and it would be better for all parties. Better for our sakes, and better for yours, too. You wouldn't have to worry no one, then, sir. You wouldn't have to worry us, and you wouldn't have to worry yourself. You'd be easier in your own mind, sir, and you'd leave others easier, too, you would, if you were Mr Merdle.'
Mr Pancks, in whom these impersonal compliments produced an irresistible sheepishness, never rallied after such a charge.