He told with perfect truth how it had come of a little contraband trading, and how he had in time been released from prison, and how he had gone away from those antecedents. How, at the house of entertainment called the Break of Day at Chalons on the Saone, he had been awakened in his bed at night by the same assassin, then assuming the name of Lagnier, though his name had formerly been Rigaud; how the assassin had proposed that they should join their fortunes together; how he held the assassin in such dread and aversion that he had fled from him at daylight, and how he had ever since been haunted by the fear of seeing the assassin again and being claimed by him as an acquaintance. When he had related this, with an emphasis and poise on the word, 'assassin,' peculiarly belonging to his own language, and which did not serve to render it less terrible to Clennam, he suddenly sprang to his feet, pounced upon the bill again, and with a vehemence that would have been absolute madness in any man of Northern origin, cried 'Behold the same assassin! Here he is!'
In his passionate raptures, he at first forgot the fact that he had lately seen the assassin in London. On his remembering it, it suggested hope to Clennam that the recognition might be of later date than the night of the visit at his mother's; but Cavalletto was too exact and clear about time and place, to leave any opening for doubt that it had preceded that occasion.
'Listen,' said Arthur, very seriously. 'This man, as we have read here, has wholly disappeared.'
'Of it I am well content!' said Cavalletto, raising his eyes piously. 'A thousand thanks to Heaven! Accursed assassin!'
'Not so,' returned Clennam; 'for until something more is heard of him, I can never know an hour's peace.'
'Enough, Benefactor; that is quite another thing. A million of excuses!'
'Now, Cavalletto,' said Clennam, gently turning him by the arm, so that they looked into each other's eyes. 'I am certain that for the little I have been able to do for you, you are the most sincerely grateful of men.'
'I swear it!' cried the other.
'I know it. If you could find this man, or discover what has become of him, or gain any later intelligence whatever of him, you would render me a service above any other service I could receive in the world, and would make me (with far greater reason) as grateful to you as you are to me.' 'I know not where to look,' cried the little man, kissing Arthur's hand in a transport. 'I know not where to begin. I know not where to go. But, courage! Enough! It matters not! I go, in this instant of time!'
'Not a word to any one but me, Cavalletto.'
'Al-tro!' cried Cavalletto. And was gone with great speed.
Mistress Affery makes a Conditional Promise, respecting her Dreams
Left alone, with the expressive looks and gestures of Mr Baptist, otherwise Giovanni Baptista Cavalletto, vividly before him, Clennam entered on a weary day. It was in vain that he tried to control his attention by directing it to any business occupation or train of thought; it rode at anchor by the haunting topic, and would hold to no other idea. As though a criminal should be chained in a stationary boat on a deep clear river, condemned, whatever countless leagues of water flowed past him, always to see the body of the fellow-creature he had drowned lying at the bottom, immovable, and unchangeable, except as the eddies made it broad or long, now expanding, now contracting its terrible lineaments; so Arthur, below the shifting current of transparent thoughts and fancies which were gone and succeeded by others as soon as come, saw, steady and dark, and not to be stirred from its place, the one subject that he endeavoured with all his might to rid himself of, and that he could not fly from. The assurance he now had, that Blandois, whatever his right name, was one of the worst of characters, greatly augmented the burden of his anxieties. Though the disappearance should be accounted for to-morrow, the fact that his mother had been in communication with such a man, would remain unalterable.