Concurrently with this measure (the description of which cost Mr Rugg innumerable wry faces and great uneasiness in his limbs), he would address a letter to all the creditors, exonerating his partner in a solemn manner, informing them of the stoppage of the House until their pleasure could be known and his partner communicated with, and humbly submitting himself to their direction. If, through their consideration for his partner's innocence, the affairs could ever be got into such train as that the business could be profitably resumed, and its present downfall overcome, then his own share in it should revert to his partner, as the only reparation he could make to him in money value for the distress and loss he had unhappily brought upon him, and he himself, at as mall a salary as he could live upon, would ask to be allowed to serve the business as a faithful clerk.
Though Mr Rugg saw plainly there was no preventing this from being done, still the wryness of his face and the uneasiness of his limbs so sorely required the propitiation of a Protest, that he made one.
'I offer no objection, sir,' said he, 'I argue no point with you. I will carry out your views, sir; but, under protest.' Mr Rugg then stated, not without prolixity, the heads of his protest. These were, in effect, because the whole town, or he might say the whole country, was in the first madness of the late discovery, and the resentment against the victims would be very strong: those who had not been deluded being certain to wax exceedingly wroth with them for not having been as wise as they were: and those who had been deluded being certain to find excuses and reasons for themselves, of which they were equally certain to see that other sufferers were wholly devoid: not to mention the great probability of every individual sufferer persuading himself, to his violent indignation, that but for the example of all the other sufferers he never would have put himself in the way of suffering. Because such a declaration as Clennam's, made at such a time, would certainly draw down upon him a storm of animosity, rendering it impossible to calculate on forbearance in the creditors, or on unanimity among them; and exposing him a solitary target to a straggling cross- fire, which might bring him down from half-a-dozen quarters at once.
To all this Clennam merely replied that, granting the whole protest, nothing in it lessened the force, or could lessen the force, of the voluntary and public exoneration of his partner. He therefore, once and for all, requested Mr Rugg's immediate aid in getting the business despatched. Upon that, Mr Rugg fell to work; and Arthur, retaining no property to himself but his clothes and books, and a little loose money, placed his small private banker's- account with the papers of the business.
The disclosure was made, and the storm raged fearfully. Thousands of people were wildly staring about for somebody alive to heap reproaches on; and this notable case, courting publicity, set the living somebody so much wanted, on a scaffold. When people who had nothing to do with the case were so sensible of its flagrancy, people who lost money by it could scarcely be expected to deal mildly with it. Letters of reproach and invective showered in from the creditors; and Mr Rugg, who sat upon the high stool every day and read them all, informed his client within a week that he feared there were writs out.
'I must take the consequences of what I have done,' said Clennam. 'The writs will find me here.'
On the very next morning, as he was turning in Bleeding Heart Yard by Mrs Plornish's corner, Mrs Plornish stood at the door waiting for him, and mysteriously besought him to step into Happy Cottage. There he found Mr Rugg.
'I thought I'd wait for you here. I wouldn't go on to the Counting-house this morning if I was you, sir.'
'Why not, Mr Rugg?'
'There are as many as five out, to my knowledge.'
'It cannot be too soon over,' said Clennam. 'Let them take me at once.'
'Yes, but,' said Mr Rugg, getting between him and the door, 'hear reason, hear reason.