Ruminating on this strange chance and strange glimpse, he turned into the court-yard. As he looked, by mere habit, towards the feebly lighted windows of his mother’s room, his eyes encountered the figure he had just lost, standing against the iron railings of the little waste enclosure looking up at those windows and laughing to himself. Some of the many vagrant cats who were always prowling about there by night, and who had taken fright at him, appeared to have stopped when he had stopped, and were looking at him with eyes by no means unlike his own from tops of walls and porches, and other safe points of pause. He had only halted for a moment to entertain himself thus; he immediately went forward, throwing the end of his cloak off his shoulder as he went, ascended the unevenly sunken steps, and knocked a sounding knock at the door.

Clennam’s surprise was not so absorbing but that he took his resolution without any incertitude. He went up to the door too, and ascended the steps too. His friend looked at him with a braggart air, and sang to himself.

Who passes by this road so late?
   Compagnon de la Majolaine!
Who passes by this road so late?
   Always gay!

After which he knocked again.

‘You are impatient, sir,’ said Arthur.

‘I am, sir. Death of my life, sir,’ returned the stranger, ‘it’s my character to be impatient!’ The sound of Mistress Affery cautiously chaining the door before she opened it, caused them both to look that way. Affery opened it a very little, with a flaring candle in her hands and asked who was that, at that time of night, with that knock! ‘Why, Arthur!’ she added with astonishment, seeing him first. ‘Not you sure? Ah, Lord save us! No,’ she cried out, seeing the other. ‘Him again!’

‘It’s true! Him again, dear Mrs Flintwinch,’ cried the stranger. ‘Open the door, and let me take my dear friend Jeremiah to my arms! Open the door, and let me hasten myself to embrace my Flintwinch!’

‘He’s not at home,’ cried Affery.

‘Fetch him!’ cried the stranger. ‘Fetch my Flintwinch! Tell him that it is his old Blandois, who comes from arriving in England; tell him that it is his little boy who is here, his cabbage, his well-beloved! Open the door, beautiful Mrs Flintwinch, and in the meantime let me to pass upstairs, to present my compliments— homage of Blandois—to my lady! My lady lives always? It is well.

Open then!’

To Arthur’s increased surprise, Mistress Affery, stretching her eyes wide at himself, as if in warning that this was not a gentleman for him to interfere with, drew back the chain, and opened the door. The stranger, without ceremony, walked into the hall, leaving Arthur to follow him.

‘Despatch then! Achieve then! Bring my Flintwinch! Announce me to my lady!’ cried the stranger, clanking about the stone floor.

‘Pray tell me, Affery,’ said Arthur aloud and sternly, as he surveyed him from head to foot with indignation; ‘who is this gentleman?’

‘Pray tell me, Affery,’ the stranger repeated in his turn, ‘who— ha, ha, ha!—who is this gentleman?’

The voice of Mrs Clennam opportunely called from her chamber above, ‘Affery, let them both come up. Arthur, come straight to me!’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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