Say something abusive to me!' All the time, Mr Pancks was tearing at his tough hair in a most pitiless and cruel manner.
'If you had never yielded to this fatal mania, Pancks,' said Clennam, more in commiseration than retaliation, 'it would have been how much better for you, and how much better for me!'
'At me again, sir!' cried Pancks, grinding his teeth in remorse. 'At me again!' 'If you had never gone into those accursed calculations, and brought out your results with such abominable clearness,' groaned Clennam, 'it would have been how much better for you, Pancks, and how much better for me!'
'At me again, sir!' exclaimed Pancks, loosening his hold of his hair; 'at me again, and again!'
Clennam, however, finding him already beginning to be pacified, had said all he wanted to say, and more. He wrung his hand, only adding, 'Blind leaders of the blind, Pancks! Blind leaders of the blind! But Doyce, Doyce, Doyce; my injured partner!' That brought his head down on the desk once more.
Their former attitudes and their former silence were once more first encroached upon by Pancks.
'Not been to bed, sir, since it began to get about. Been high and low, on the chance of finding some hope of saving any cinders from the fire. All in vain. All gone. All vanished.'
'I know it,' returned Clennam, 'too well.'
Mr Pancks filled up a pause with a groan that came out of the very depths of his soul.
'Only yesterday, Pancks,' said Arthur; 'only yesterday, Monday, I had the fixed intention of selling, realising, and making an end of it.'
'I can't say as much for myself, sir,' returned Pancks. 'Though it's wonderful how many people I've heard of, who were going to realise yesterday, of all days in the three hundred and sixty-five, if it hadn't been too late!'
His steam-like breathings, usually droll in their effect, were more tragic than so many groans: while from head to foot, he was in that begrimed, besmeared, neglected state, that he might have been an authentic portrait of Misfortune which could scarcely be discerned through its want of cleaning.
'Mr Clennam, had you laid out--everything?' He got over the break before the last word, and also brought out the last word itself with great difficulty.
Mr Pancks took hold of his tough hair again, and gave it such a wrench that he pulled out several prongs of it. After looking at these with an eye of wild hatred, he put them in his pocket.
'My course,' said Clennam, brushing away some tears that had been silently dropping down his face, 'must be taken at once. What wretched amends I can make must be made. I must clear my unfortunate partner's reputation. I must retain nothing for myself. I must resign to our creditors the power of management I have so much abused, and I must work out as much of my fault--or crime--as is susceptible of being worked out in the rest of my days.'
'Is it impossible, sir, to tide over the present?'
'Out of the question. Nothing can be tided over now, Pancks. The sooner the business can pass out of my hands, the better for it. There are engagements to be met, this week, which would bring the catastrophe before many days were over, even if I would postpone it for a single day by going on for that space, secretly knowing what I know. All last night I thought of what I would do; what remains is to do it.'
'Not entirely of yourself?' said Pancks, whose face was as damp as if his steam were turning into water as fast as he dismally blew it off. 'Have some legal help.'
'Perhaps I had better.'
'There is not much to do. He will do it as well as another.'
'Shall I fetch Rugg, Mr Clennam?'
'If you could spare the time, I should be much obliged to you.'
Mr Pancks put on his hat that moment, and steamed away to Pentonville. While he was gone Arthur never raised his head from the desk, but remained in that one position.
Mr Pancks brought his friend and professional adviser, Mr Rugg, back with him. Mr Rugg had had such ample experience, on the road, of Mr Pancks's being at that present in an irrational state of mind, that he opened his professional mediation by requesting that gentleman to take himself out of the way.