Every partaker of his magnificent feasts would be seen to have been a sharer in the plunder of innumerable homes; every servile worshipper of riches who had helped to set him on his pedestal, would have done better to worship the Devil point-blank. So, the talk, lashed louder and higher by confirmation on confirmation, and by edition after edition of the evening papers, swelled into such a roar when night came, as might have brought one to believe that a solitary watcher on the gallery above the Dome of St Paul's would have perceived the night air to be laden with a heavy muttering of the name of Merdle, coupled with every form of execration.
For by that time it was known that the late Mr Merdle's complaint had been simply Forgery and Robbery. He, the uncouth object of such wide-spread adulation, the sitter at great men's feasts, the roc's egg of great ladies' assemblies, the subduer of exclusiveness, the leveller of pride, the patron of patrons, the bargain-driver with a Minister for Lordships of the Circumlocution Office, the recipient of more acknowledgment within some ten or fifteen years, at most, than had been bestowed in England upon all peaceful public benefactors, and upon all the leaders of all the Arts and Sciences, with all their works to testify for them, during two centuries at least--he, the shining wonder, the new constellation to be followed by the wise men bringing gifts, until it stopped over a certain carrion at the bottom of a bath and disappeared--was simply the greatest Forger and the greatest Thief that ever cheated the gallows.
Reaping the Whirlwind
With a precursory sound of hurried breath and hurried feet, Mr Pancks rushed into Arthur Clennam's Counting-house. The Inquest was over, the letter was public, the Bank was broken, the other model structures of straw had taken fire and were turned to smoke. The admired piratical ship had blown up, in the midst of a vast fleet of ships of all rates, and boats of all sizes; and on the deep was nothing but ruin; nothing but burning hulls, bursting magazines, great guns self-exploded tearing friends and neighbours to pieces, drowning men clinging to unseaworthy spars and going down every minute, spent swimmers floating dead, and sharks.
The usual diligence and order of the Counting-house at the Works were overthrown. Unopened letters and unsorted papers lay strewn about the desk. In the midst of these tokens of prostrated energy and dismissed hope, the master of the Counting-house stood idle in his usual place, with his arms crossed on the desk, and his head bowed down upon them.
Mr Pancks rushed in and saw him, and stood still. In another minute, Mr Pancks's arms were on the desk, and Mr Pancks's head was bowed down upon them; and for some time they remained in these attitudes, idle and silent, with the width of the little room between them. Mr Pancks was the first to lift up his head and speak.
'I persuaded you to it, Mr Clennam. I know it. Say what you will.
You can't say more to me than I say to myself. You can't say more than I deserve.'
'O, Pancks, Pancks!' returned Clennam, 'don't speak of deserving. What do I myself deserve!'
'Better luck,' said Pancks.
'I,' pursued Clennam, without attending to him, 'who have ruined my partner! Pancks, Pancks, I have ruined Doyce! The honest, self- helpful, indefatigable old man who has worked his way all through his life; the man who has contended against so much disappointment, and who has brought out of it such a good and hopeful nature; the man I have felt so much for, and meant to be so true and useful to; I have ruined him--brought him to shame and disgrace--ruined him, ruined him!'
The agony into which the reflection wrought his mind was so distressing to see, that Mr Pancks took hold of himself by the hair of his head, and tore it in desperation at the spectacle.
'Reproach me!' cried Pancks. 'Reproach me, sir, or I'll do myself an injury. Say,--You fool, you villain. Say,--Ass, how could you do it; Beast, what did you mean by it! Catch hold of me somewhere.