'Charming, but imprudent! For it was not well of the fair Gowana to make mysteries of letters from old lovers, in her bedchamber on the mountain, that her husband might not see them. No, no. That was not well. Whoof! The Gowana was mistaken there.'
'I earnestly hope,' cried Arthur aloud, 'that Pancks may not be long gone, for this man's presence pollutes the room.'
'Ah! But he'll flourish here, and everywhere,' said Rigaud, with an exulting look and snap of his fingers. 'He always has; he always will!' Stretching his body out on the only three chairs in the room besides that on which Clennam sat, he sang, smiting himself on the breast as the gallant personage of the song.
'Who passes by this road so late? Compagnon de la Majolaine! Who passes by this road so late? Always gay!
'Sing the Refrain, pig! You could sing it once, in another jail. Sing it! Or, by every Saint who was stoned to death, I'll be affronted and compromising; and then some people who are not dead yet, had better have been stoned along with them!'
'Of all the king's knights 'tis the flower, Compagnon de la Majolaine! Of all the king's knights 'tis the flower, Always gay!'
Partly in his old habit of submission, partly because his not doing it might injure his benefactor, and partly because he would as soon do it as anything else, Cavalletto took up the Refrain this time. Rigaud laughed, and fell to smoking with his eyes shut.
Possibly another quarter of an hour elapsed before Mr Pancks's step was heard upon the stairs, but the interval seemed to Clennam insupportably long. His step was attended by another step; and when Cavalletto opened the door, he admitted Mr Pancks and Mr Flintwinch. The latter was no sooner visible, than Rigaud rushed at him and embraced him boisterously.
'How do you find yourself, sir?' said Mr Flintwinch, as soon as he could disengage himself, which he struggled to do with very little ceremony. 'Thank you, no; I don't want any more.' This was in reference to another menace of attention from his recovered friend.
'Well, Arthur. You remember what I said to you about sleeping dogs and missing ones. It's come true, you see.'
He was as imperturbable as ever, to all appearance, and nodded his head in a moralising way as he looked round the room.
'And this is the Marshalsea prison for debt!' said Mr Flintwinch. 'Hah! you have brought your pigs to a very indifferent market, Arthur.'
If Arthur had patience, Rigaud had not. He took his little Flintwinch, with fierce playfulness, by the two lapels of his coat, and cried:
'To the Devil with the Market, to the Devil with the Pigs, and to the Devil with the Pig-Driver! Now! Give me the answer to my letter.'
'If you can make it convenient to let go a moment, sir,' returned Mr Flintwinch, 'I'll first hand Mr Arthur a little note that I have for him.'
He did so. It was in his mother's maimed writing, on a slip of paper, and contained only these words:
'I hope it is enough that you have ruined yourself. Rest contented without more ruin. Jeremiah Flintwinch is my messenger and representative. Your affectionate M. C.'
Clennam read this twice, in silence, and then tore it to pieces. Rigaud in the meanwhile stepped into a chair, and sat himself on the back with his feet upon the seat.
'Now, Beau Flintwinch,' he said, when he had closely watched the note to its destruction, 'the answer to my letter?'
'Mrs Clennam did not write, Mr Blandois, her hands being cramped, and she thinking it as well to send it verbally by me.' Mr Flintwinch screwed this out of himself, unwillingly and rustily. 'She sends her compliments, and says she doesn't on the whole wish to term you unreasonable, and that she agrees. But without prejudicing the appointment that stands for this day week.'
Monsieur Rigaud, after indulging in a fit of laughter, descended from his throne, saying, 'Good! I go to seek an hotel!' But, there his eyes encountered Cavalletto, who was still at his post.