Reaping the Whirlwind

With a precursory sound of hurried breath and hurried feet, Mr Pancks rushed into Arthur Clennam’s Counting-house. The Inquest was over, the letter was public, the Bank was broken, the other model structures of straw had taken fire and were turned to smoke. The admired piratical ship had blown up, in the midst of a vast fleet of ships of all rates, and boats of all sizes; and on the deep was nothing but ruin; nothing but burning hulls, bursting magazines, great guns self-exploded tearing friends and neighbours to pieces, drowning men clinging to unseaworthy spars and going down every minute, spent swimmers floating dead, and sharks.

The usual diligence and order of the Counting-house at the Works were overthrown. Unopened letters and unsorted papers lay strewn about the desk. In the midst of these tokens of prostrated energy and dismissed hope, the master of the Counting-house stood idle in his usual place, with his arms crossed on the desk, and his head bowed down upon them.

Mr Pancks rushed in and saw him, and stood still. In another minute, Mr Pancks’s arms were on the desk, and Mr Pancks’s head was bowed down upon them; and for some time they remained in these attitudes, idle and silent, with the width of the little room between them. Mr Pancks was the first to lift up his head and speak.

‘I persuaded you to it, Mr Clennam. I know it. Say what you will.

You can’t say more to me than I say to myself. You can’t say more than I deserve.’

‘O, Pancks, Pancks!’ returned Clennam, ‘don’t speak of deserving. What do I myself deserve!’

‘Better luck,’ said Pancks.

‘I,’ pursued Clennam, without attending to him, ‘who have ruined my partner! Pancks, Pancks, I have ruined Doyce! The honest, self- helpful, indefatigable old man who has worked his way all through his life; the man who has contended against so much disappointment, and who has brought out of it such a good and hopeful nature; the man I have felt so much for, and meant to be so true and useful to; I have ruined him—brought him to shame and disgrace—ruined him, ruined him!’

The agony into which the reflection wrought his mind was so distressing to see, that Mr Pancks took hold of himself by the hair of his head, and tore it in desperation at the spectacle.

‘Reproach me!’ cried Pancks. ‘Reproach me, sir, or I’ll do myself an injury. Say,—You fool, you villain. Say,—Ass, how could you do it; Beast, what did you mean by it! Catch hold of me somewhere.

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.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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