However, the door jarred open on a dead sort of spring; and he closed it behind him as he entered a dull yard, soon brought to a close by another dead wall, where an attempt had been made to train some creeping shrubs, which were dead; and to make a little fountain in a grotto, which was dry; and to decorate that with a little statue, which was gone.
The entry to the house was on the left, and it was garnished as the outer gateway was, with two printed bills in French and English, announcing Furnished Apartments to let, with immediate possession. A strong cheerful peasant woman, all stocking, petticoat, white cap, and ear-ring, stood here in a dark doorway, and said with a pleasant show of teeth, 'Ice-say! Seer! Who?'
Clennam, replying in French, said the English lady; he wished to see the English lady. 'Enter then and ascend, if you please,' returned the peasant woman, in French likewise. He did both, and followed her up a dark bare staircase to a back room on the first- floor. Hence, there was a gloomy view of the yard that was dull, and of the shrubs that were dead, and of the fountain that was dry, and of the pedestal of the statue that was gone.
'Monsieur Blandois,' said Clennam.
'With pleasure, Monsieur.'
Thereupon the woman withdrew and left him to look at the room. It was the pattern of room always to be found in such a house. Cool, dull, and dark. Waxed floor very slippery. A room not large enough to skate in; nor adapted to the easy pursuit of any other occupation. Red and white curtained windows, little straw mat, little round table with a tumultuous assemblage of legs underneath, clumsy rush-bottomed chairs, two great red velvet arm-chairs affording plenty of space to be uncomfortable in, bureau, chimney- glass in several pieces pretending to be in one piece, pair of gaudy vases of very artificial flowers; between them a Greek warrior with his helmet off, sacrificing a clock to the Genius of France.
After some pause, a door of communication with another room was opened, and a lady entered. She manifested great surprise on seeing Clennam, and her glance went round the room in search of some one else.
'Pardon me, Miss Wade. I am alone.'
'It was not your name that was brought to me.'
'No; I know that. Excuse me. I have already had experience that my name does not predispose you to an interview; and I ventured to mention the name of one I am in search of.'
'Pray,' she returned, motioning him to a chair so coldly that he remained standing, 'what name was it that you gave?'
'I mentioned the name of Blandois.'
'A name you are acquainted with.'
'It is strange,' she said, frowning, 'that you should still press an undesired interest in me and my acquaintances, in me and my affairs, Mr Clennam. I don't know what you mean.'
'Pardon me. You know the name?'
'What can you have to do with the name? What can I have to do with the name? What can you have to do with my knowing or not knowing any name? I know many names and I have forgotten many more. This may be in the one class, or it may be in the other, or I may never have heard it. I am acquainted with no reason for examining myself, or for being examined, about it.'
'If you will allow me,' said Clennam, 'I will tell you my reason for pressing the subject. I admit that I do press it, and I must beg you to forgive me if I do so, very earnestly. The reason is all mine, I do not insinuate that it is in any way yours.'
'Well, sir,' she returned, repeating a little less haughtily than before her former invitation to him to be seated: to which he now deferred, as she seated herself. 'I am at least glad to know that this is not another bondswoman of some friend of yours, who is bereft of free choice, and whom I have spirited away. I will hear your reason, if you please.'
'First, to identify the person of whom we speak,' said Clennam, 'let me observe that it is the person you met in London some time back. You will remember meeting him near the river--in the Adelphi!'
'You mix yourself most unaccountably with my business,' she replied, looking full at him with stern displeasure.