On no fewer than four occasions the police were called in to receive denunciations of Mr Meagles as a Knight of Industry, a good-for- nothing, and a thief, all of which opprobrious language he bore with the best temper (having no idea what it meant), and was in the most ignominious manner escorted to steam-boats and public carriages, to be got rid of, talking all the while, like a cheerful and fluent Briton as he was, with Mother under his arm.
But, in his own tongue, and in his own head, Mr Meagles was a clear, shrewd, persevering man. When he had 'worked round,' as he called it, to Paris in his pilgrimage, and had wholly failed in it so far, he was not disheartened. 'The nearer to England I follow him, you see, Mother,' argued Mr Meagles, 'the nearer I am likely to come to the papers, whether they turn up or no. Because it is only reasonable to conclude that he would deposit them somewhere where they would be safe from people over in England, and where they would yet be accessible to himself, don't you see?'
At Paris Mr Meagles found a letter from Little Dorrit, lying waiting for him; in which she mentioned that she had been able to talk for a minute or two with Mr Clennam about this man who was no more; and that when she told Mr Clennam that his friend Mr Meagles, who was on his way to see him, had an interest in ascertaining something about the man if he could, he had asked her to tell Mr Meagles that he had been known to Miss Wade, then living in such a street at Calais. 'Oho!' said Mr Meagles.
As soon afterwards as might be in those Diligence days, Mr Meagles rang the cracked bell at the cracked gate, and it jarred open, and the peasant-woman stood in the dark doorway, saying, 'Ice-say! Seer! Who?' In acknowledgment of whose address, Mr Meagles murmured to himself that there was some sense about these Calais people, who really did know something of what you and themselves were up to; and returned, 'Miss Wade, my dear.' He was then shown into the presence of Miss Wade.
'It's some time since we met,' said Mr Meagles, clearing his throat; 'I hope you have been pretty well, Miss Wade?'
Without hoping that he or anybody else had been pretty well, Miss Wade asked him to what she was indebted for the honour of seeing him again? Mr Meagles, in the meanwhile, glanced all round the room without observing anything in the shape of a box.
'Why, the truth is, Miss Wade,' said Mr Meagles, in a comfortable, managing, not to say coaxing voice, 'it is possible that you may be able to throw a light upon a little something that is at present dark. Any unpleasant bygones between us are bygones, I hope. Can't be helped now. You recollect my daughter? Time changes so! A mother!'
In his innocence, Mr Meagles could not have struck a worse key- note. He paused for any expression of interest, but paused in vain.
'That is not the subject you wished to enter on?' she said, after a cold silence.
'No, no,' returned Mr Meagles. 'No. I thought your good nature might--'
'I thought you knew,' she interrupted, with a smile, 'that my good nature is not to be calculated upon?'
'Don't say so,' said Mr Meagles; 'you do yourself an injustice. However, to come to the point.' For he was sensible of having gained nothing by approaching it in a roundabout way. 'I have heard from my friend Clennam, who, you will be sorry to hear, has been and still is very ill--'
He paused again, and again she was silent.
'--that you had some knowledge of one Blandois, lately killed in London by a violent accident. Now, don't mistake me! I know it was a slight knowledge,' said Mr Meagles, dexterously forestalling an angry interruption which he saw about to break. 'I am fully aware of that. It was a slight knowledge, I know. But the question is,' Mr Meagles's voice here became comfortable again, 'did he, on his way to England last time, leave a box of papers, or a bundle of papers, or some papers or other in some receptacle or other--any papers--with you: begging you to allow him to leave them here for a short time, until he wanted them?'
'The question is?' she repeated.