'I have found him in every way so diligent, so grateful (for little enough), and so trustworthy, that it might look like suspecting him. And that would be very unjust.'
'True,' said Pancks. 'But, I say! You oughtn't to be anybody's proprietor, Mr Clennam. You're much too delicate.' 'For the matter of that,' returned Clennam laughing, 'I have not a large proprietary share in Cavalletto. His carving is his livelihood. He keeps the keys of the Factory, watches it every alternate night, and acts as a sort of housekeeper to it generally; but we have little work in the way of his ingenuity, though we give him what we have. No! I am rather his adviser than his proprietor. To call me his standing counsel and his banker would be nearer the fact. Speaking of being his banker, is it not curious, Pancks, that the ventures which run just now in so many people's heads, should run even in little Cavalletto's?'
'Ventures?' retorted Pancks, with a snort. 'What ventures?'
'These Merdle enterprises.'
'Oh! Investments,' said Pancks. 'Ay, ay! I didn't know you were speaking of investments.' His quick way of replying caused Clennam to look at him, with a doubt whether he meant more than he said. As it was accompanied, however, with a quickening of his pace and a corresponding increase in the labouring of his machinery, Arthur did not pursue the matter, and they soon arrived at his house.
A dinner of soup and a pigeon-pie, served on a little round table before the fire, and flavoured with a bottle of good wine, oiled Mr Pancks's works in a highly effective manner; so that when Clennam produced his Eastern pipe, and handed Mr Pancks another Eastern pipe, the latter gentleman was perfectly comfortable.
They puffed for a while in silence, Mr Pancks like a steam-vessel with wind, tide, calm water, and all other sea-going conditions in her favour. He was the first to speak, and he spoke thus:
'Yes. Investments is the word.'
Clennam, with his former look, said 'Ah!'
'I am going back to it, you see,' said Pancks.
'Yes. I see you are going back to it,' returned Clennam, wondering why.
'Wasn't it a curious thing that they should run in little Altro's head? Eh?' said Pancks as he smoked. 'Wasn't that how you put it?'
'That was what I said.'
'Ay! But think of the whole Yard having got it. Think of their all meeting me with it, on my collecting days, here and there and everywhere. Whether they pay, or whether they don't pay. Merdle, Merdle, Merdle. Always Merdle.'
'Very strange how these runs on an infatuation prevail,' said Arthur.
'An't it?' returned Pancks. After smoking for a minute or so, more drily than comported with his recent oiling, he added: 'Because you see these people don't understand the subject.'
'Not a bit,' assented Clennam.
'Not a bit,' cried Pancks. 'Know nothing of figures. Know nothing of money questions. Never made a calculation. Never worked it, sir!'
'If they had--' Clennam was going on to say; when Mr Pancks, without change of countenance, produced a sound so far surpassing all his usual efforts, nasal or bronchial, that he stopped.
'If they had?' repeated Pancks in an inquiring tone.
'I thought you--spoke,' said Arthur, hesitating what name to give the interruption.
'Not at all,' said Pancks. 'Not yet. I may in a minute. If they had?'
'If they had,' observed Clennam, who was a little at a loss how to take his friend, 'why, I suppose they would have known better.'
'How so, Mr Clennam?' Pancks asked quickly, and with an odd effect of having been from the commencement of the conversation loaded with the heavy charge he now fired off. 'They're right, you know. They don't mean to be, but they're right.'
'Right in sharing Cavalletto's inclination to speculate with Mr Merdle?'
'Per-fectly, sir,' said Pancks. 'I've gone into it. I've made the calculations. I've worked it. They're safe and genuine.' Relieved by having got to this, Mr Pancks took as long a pull as his lungs would permit at his Eastern pipe, and looked sagaciously and steadily at Clennam while inhaling and exhaling too.