Readme.it in English  home page
Readme.it in Italiano  pagina iniziale
readme.it by logo SoftwareHouse.it

Ebook in formato Kindle (mobi) - Kindle File Ebook (mobi)

Formato per Iphone, Ipad e Ebook (epub) - Ipad, Iphone and Ebook reader format (epub)

Versione ebook di Readme.it powered by Softwarehouse.it






Little Dorrit

Charles Dickens

CONTENTS

Preface to the 1857 Edition

BOOK THE FIRST: POVERTY

1. Sun and Shadow
2. Fellow Travellers
3. Home
4. Mrs Flintwinch has a Dream
5. Family Affairs
6. The Father of the Marshalsea
7. The Child of the Marshalsea
8. The Lock
9. little Mother
10. Containing the whole Science of Government
11. Let Loose
12. Bleeding Heart Yard
13. Patriarchal
14. Little Dorrit's Party
15. Mrs Flintwinch has another Dream
16. Nobody's Weakness
17. Nobody's Rival
18. Little Dorrit's Lover
19. The Father of the Marshalsea in two or three Relations
20. Moving in Society
21. Mr Merdle's Complaint
22. A Puzzle
23. Machinery in Motion
24. Fortune-Telling
25. Conspirators and Others
26. Nobody's State of Mind
27. Five-and-Twenty
28. Nobody's Disappearance
29. Mrs Flintwinch goes on Dreaming
30. The Word of a Gentleman
31. Spirit
32. More Fortune-Telling
33. Mrs Merdle's Complaint
34. A Shoal of Barnacles
35. What was behind Mr Pancks on Little Dorrit's Hand
36. The Marshalsea becomes an Orphan
BOOK THE SECOND: RICHES

1. Fellow Travellers
2. Mrs General
3. On the Road

4. A Letter from Little Dorrit
5. Something Wrong Somewhere
6. Something Right Somewhere
7. MostlyPrunes and Prism
8. The Dowager Mrs Gowan is reminded that 'It Never Does'
9. Appearance and Disappearance
10. The Dreams of Mrs Flintwinch thicken
11. A Letter from Little Dorrit
12. In which a Great Patriotic Conference is holden
13. The Progress of an Epidemic
14. Taking Advice
15. No just Cause or Impediment why these Two Persons should
not be joined together
16. Getting on
17. Missing
18. A Castle in the Air
19. The Storming of the Castle in the Air
20. Introduces the next
21. The History of a Self-Tormentor
22. Who Passes by this Road so late?
23. Mistress Affery makes a Conditional Promiserespecting her Dreams
24. The Evening of a Long Day
25. The Chief Butler Resigns the Seals of Office
26. Reaping the Whirlwind
27. The Pupil of the Marshalsea
28. An Appearance in the Marshalsea
29. A Plea in the Marshalsea
30. Closing in
31. Closed
32. Going
33. Going!
34. Gone
PREFACE TO THE 1857 EDITION

I have been occupied with this storyduring many working hours of
two years. I must have been very ill employedif I could not
leave its merits and demerits as a wholeto express themselves on
its being read as a whole. Butas it is not unreasonable to
suppose that I may have held its threads with a more continuous
attention than anyone else can have given them during its desultory
publicationit is not unreasonable to ask that the weaving may be
looked at in its completed stateand with the pattern finished.

If I might offer any apology for so exaggerated a fiction as the
Barnacles and the Circumlocution OfficeI would seek it in the
common experience of an Englishmanwithout presuming to mention
the unimportant fact of my having done that violence to good
mannersin the days of a Russian warand of a Court of Inquiry at
Chelsea. If I might make so bold as to defend that extravagant
conceptionMr MerdleI would hint that it originated after the
Railroad-share epochin the times of a certain Irish bankand of
one or two other equally laudable enterprises. If I were to plead
anything in mitigation of the preposterous fancy that a bad design
will sometimes claim to be a good and an expressly religious
designit would be the curious coincidence that it has been
brought to its climax in these pagesin the days of the public
examination of late Directors of a Royal British Bank. ButI
submit myself to suffer judgment to go by default on all these
countsif need beand to accept the assurance (on good authority)


that nothing like them was ever known in this land.
Some of my readers may have an interest in being informed whether
or no any portions of the Marshalsea Prison are yet standing. I
did not knowmyselfuntil the sixth of this present monthwhen
I went to look. I found the outer front courtyardoften mentioned
heremetamorphosed into a butter shop; and I then almost gave up
every brick of the jail for lost. Wanderinghoweverdown a
certain adjacent 'Angel Courtleading to Bermondsey'I came to
'Marshalsea Place:' the houses in which I recognisednot only as
the great block of the former prisonbut as preserving the rooms
that arose in my mind's-eye when I became Little Dorrit's
biographer. The smallest boy I ever conversed withcarrying the
largest baby I ever sawoffered a supernaturally intelligent
explanation of the locality in its old usesand was very nearly
correct. How this young Newton (for such I judge him to be) came
by his informationI don't know; he was a quarter of a century too
young to know anything about it of himself. I pointed to the
window of the room where Little Dorrit was bornand where her
father lived so longand asked him what was the name of the lodger
who tenanted that apartment at present? He said'Tom Pythick.'
I asked him who was Tom Pythick? and he said'Joe Pythick's
uncle.'

A little further onI found the older and smaller wallwhich used
to enclose the pent-up inner prison where nobody was putexcept
for ceremony. Butwhosoever goes into Marshalsea Placeturning
out of Angel Courtleading to Bermondseywill find his feet on
the very paving-stones of the extinct Marshalsea jail; will see its
narrow yard to the right and to the leftvery little altered if at
allexcept that the walls were lowered when the place got free;
will look upon rooms in which the debtors lived; and will stand
among the crowding ghosts of many miserable years.

In the Preface to Bleak House I remarked that I had never had so
many readers. In the Preface to its next successorLittle Dorrit
I have still to repeat the same words. Deeply sensible of the
affection and confidence that have grown up between usI add to
this Prefaceas I added to thatMay we meet again!

London
May 1857

BOOK THE FIRST
POVERTY

CHAPTER 1
Sun and Shadow

Thirty years agoMarseilles lay burning in the sunone day.

A blazing sun upon a fierce August day was no greater rarity in
southern France thenthan at any other timebefore or since.
Everything in Marseillesand about Marseilleshad stared at the
fervid skyand been stared at in returnuntil a staring habit had
become universal there. Strangers were stared out of countenance
by staring white housesstaring white wallsstaring white
streetsstaring tracts of arid roadstaring hills from which
verdure was burnt away. The only things to be seen not fixedly


staring and glaring were the vines drooping under their load of
grapes. These did occasionally wink a littleas the hot air
barely moved their faint leaves.

There was no wind to make a ripple on the foul water within the
harbouror on the beautiful sea without. The line of demarcation
between the two coloursblack and blueshowed the point which the
pure sea would not pass; but it lay as quiet as the abominable
poolwith which it never mixed. Boats without awnings were too
hot to touch; ships blistered at their moorings; the stones of the
quays had not coolednight or dayfor months. HindoosRussians
ChineseSpaniardsPortugueseEnglishmenFrenchmenGenoese
NeapolitansVenetiansGreeksTurksdescendants from all the
builders of Babelcome to trade at Marseillessought the shade
alike--taking refuge in any hiding-place from a sea too intensely
blue to be looked atand a sky of purpleset with one great
flaming jewel of fire.

The universal stare made the eyes ache. Towards the distant line
of Italian coastindeedit was a little relieved by light clouds
of mistslowly rising from the evaporation of the seabut it
softened nowhere else. Far away the staring roadsdeep in dust
stared from the hill-sidestared from the hollowstared from the
interminable plain. Far away the dusty vines overhanging wayside
cottagesand the monotonous wayside avenues of parched trees
without shadedrooped beneath the stare of earth and sky. So did
the horses with drowsy bellsin long files of cartscreeping
slowly towards the interior; so did their recumbent driverswhen
they were awakewhich rarely happened; so did the exhausted
labourers in the fields. Everything that lived or grewwas
oppressed by the glare; except the lizardpassing swiftly over
rough stone wallsand the cicalachirping his dry hot chirplike
a rattle. The very dust was scorched brownand something quivered
in the atmosphere as if the air itself were panting.

Blindsshutterscurtainsawningswere all closed and drawn to
keep out the stare. Grant it but a chink or keyholeand it shot
in like a white-hot arrow. The churches were the freest from it.
To come out of the twilight of pillars and arches--dreamily dotted
with winking lampsdreamily peopled with ugly old shadows piously
dozingspittingand begging--was to plunge into a fiery river
and swim for life to the nearest strip of shade. Sowith people
lounging and lying wherever shade waswith but little hum of
tongues or barking of dogswith occasional jangling of discordant
church bells and rattling of vicious drumsMarseillesa fact to
be strongly smelt and tastedlay broiling in the sun one day.
In Marseilles that day there was a villainous prison. In one of
its chambersso repulsive a place that even the obtrusive stare
blinked at itand left it to such refuse of reflected light as it
could find for itselfwere two men. Besides the two mena
notched and disfigured benchimmovable from the wallwith a
draught-board rudely hacked upon it with a knifea set of
draughtsmade of old buttons and soup bonesa set of dominoes
two matsand two or three wine bottles. That was all the chamber
heldexclusive of rats and other unseen verminin addition to the
seen verminthe two men.

It received such light as it got through a grating of iron bars
fashioned like a pretty large windowby means of which it could be
always inspected from the gloomy staircase on which the grating
gave. There was a broad strong ledge of stone to this grating
where
the bottom of it was let into the masonrythree or four feet above
the ground. Upon itone of the two men lolledhalf sitting and


half lyingwith his knees drawn upand his feet and shoulders
planted against the opposite sides of the aperture. The bars were
wide enough apart to admit of his thrusting his arm through to the
elbow; and so he held on negligentlyfor his greater ease.

A prison taint was on everything there. The imprisoned airthe
imprisoned lightthe imprisoned dampsthe imprisoned menwere
all deteriorated by confinement. As the captive men were faded and
haggardso the iron was rustythe stone was slimythe wood was
rottenthe air was faintthe light was dim. Like a welllike a
vaultlike a tombthe prison had no knowledge of the brightness
outsideand would have kept its polluted atmosphere intact in one
of the spice islands of the Indian ocean.

The man who lay on the ledge of the grating was even chilled. He
jerked his great cloak more heavily upon him by an impatient
movement of one shoulderand growled'To the devil with this
Brigand of a Sun that never shines in here!'

He was waiting to be fedlooking sideways through the bars that he
might see the further down the stairswith much of the expression
of a wild beast in similar expectation. But his eyestoo close
togetherwere not so nobly set in his head as those of the king of
beasts are in hisand they were sharp rather than bright--pointed
weapons with little surface to betray them. They had no depth or
change; they glitteredand they opened and shut. So farand
waiving their use to himselfa clockmaker could have made a better
pair. He had a hook nosehandsome after its kindbut too high
between the eyes by probably just as much as his eyes were too near
to one another. For the resthe was large and tall in framehad
thin lipswhere his thick moustache showed them at alland a
quantity of dry hairof no definable colourin its shaggy state
but shot with red. The hand with which he held the grating (seamed
all over the back with ugly scratches newly healed)was unusually
small and plump; would have been unusually white but for the prison
grime.
The other man was lying on the stone floorcovered with a coarse
brown coat.

'Get uppig!' growled the first. 'Don't sleep when I am hungry.'

'It's all onemaster' said the pigin a submissive mannerand
not without cheerfulness; 'I can wake when I willI can sleep when
I will. It's all the same.'

As he said ithe roseshook himselfscratched himselftied his
brown coat loosely round his neck by the sleeves (he had previously
used it as a coverlet)and sat down upon the pavement yawning
with his back against the wall opposite to the grating.

'Say what the hour is' grumbled the first man.

'The mid-day bells will ring--in forty minutes.' When he made the
little pausehe had looked round the prison-roomas if for
certain information.

'You are a clock. How is it that you always know?'

'How can I say? I always know what the hour isand where I am.
I was brought in here at nightand out of a boatbut I know where
I am. See here! Marseilles harbour;' on his knees on the
pavementmapping it all out with a swarthy forefinger; 'Toulon
(where the galleys are)Spain over thereAlgiers over there.
Creeping away to the left hereNice. Round by the Cornice to


Genoa. Genoa Mole and Harbour. Quarantine Ground. City there;
terrace gardens blushing with the bella donna. HerePorto Fino.
Stand out for Leghorn. Out again for Civita Vecchia. so away to-hey!
there's no room for Naples;' he had got to the wall by this
time; 'but it's all one; it's in there!'

He remained on his kneeslooking up at his fellow-prisoner with a
lively look for a prison. A sunburntquicklithelittle man
though rather thickset. Earrings in his brown earswhite teeth
lighting up his grotesque brown faceintensely black hair
clustering about his brown throata ragged red shirt open at his
brown breast. Looseseaman-like trousersdecent shoesa long
red capa red sash round his waistand a knife in it.

'Judge if I come back from Naples as I went! See heremy master!
Civita VecchiaLeghornPorto FinoGenoaCorniceOff Nice
(which is in there)Marseillesyou and me. The apartment of the
jailer and his keys is where I put this thumb; and here at my wrist
they keep the national razor in its case--the guillotine locked
up.'

The other man spat suddenly on the pavementand gurgled in his
throat.

Some lock below gurgled in its throat immediately afterwardsand
then a door crashed. Slow steps began ascending the stairs; the
prattle of a sweet little voice mingled with the noise they made;
and the prison-keeper appeared carrying his daughterthree or four
years oldand a basket.

'How goes the world this forenoongentlemen? My little oneyou
seegoing round with me to have a peep at her father's birds.
Fiethen! Look at the birdsmy prettylook at the birds.'

He looked sharply at the birds himselfas he held the child up at
the grateespecially at the little birdwhose activity he seemed
to mistrust. 'I have brought your breadSignor John Baptist'
said he (they all spoke in Frenchbut the little man was an
Italian); 'and if I might recommend you not to game--'

'You don't recommend the master!' said John Baptistshowing his
teeth as he smiled.

'Oh! but the master wins' returned the jailerwith a passing
look of no particular liking at the other man'and you lose. It's
quite another thing. You get husky bread and sour drink by it; and
he gets sausage of Lyonsveal in savoury jellywhite bread
strachino cheeseand good wine by it. Look at the birdsmy
pretty!'

'Poor birds!' said the child.

The fair little facetouched with divine compassionas it peeped
shrinkingly through the gratewas like an angel's in the prison.
John Baptist rose and moved towards itas if it had a good
attraction for him. The other bird remained as beforeexcept for
an impatient glance at the basket.

'Stay!' said the jailerputting his little daughter on the outer
ledge of the grate'she shall feed the birds. This big loaf is
for Signor John Baptist. We must break it to get it through into
the cage. Sothere's a tame bird to kiss the little hand! This
sausage in a vine leaf is for Monsieur Rigaud. Again--this veal in
savoury jelly is for Monsieur Rigaud. Again--these three white


little loaves are for Monsieur Rigaud. Againthis cheese--again
this wine--againthis tobacco--all for Monsieur Rigaud. Lucky
bird!'

The child put all these things between the bars into the soft
Smoothwell-shaped handwith evident dread--more than once
drawing back her own and looking at the man with her fair brow
roughened into an expression half of fright and half of anger.
Whereas she had put the lump of coarse bread into the swart
scaledknotted hands of John Baptist (who had scarcely as much
nail on his eight fingers and two thumbs as would have made out one
for Monsieur Rigaud)with ready confidence; andwhen he kissed
her handhad herself passed it caressingly over his face.
Monsieur Rigaudindifferent to this distinctionpropitiated the
father by laughing and nodding at the daughter as often as she gave
him anything; andso soon as he had all his viands about him in
convenient nooks of the ledge on which he restedbegan to eat with
an appetite.

When Monsieur Rigaud laugheda change took place in his facethat
was more remarkable than prepossessing. His moustache went up
under his noseand his nose came down over his moustachein a
very sinister and cruel manner.

'There!' said the jailerturning his basket upside down to beat
the crumbs out'I have expended all the money I received; here is
the note of itand that's a thing accomplished. Monsieur Rigaud
as I expected yesterdaythe President will look for the pleasure
of your society at an hour after mid-dayto-day.'

'To try meeh?' said Rigaudpausingknife in hand and morsel in
mouth.

'You have said it. To try you.'

'There is no news for me?' asked John Baptistwho had begun
contentedlyto munch his bread.

The jailer shrugged his shoulders.

'Lady of mine! Am I to lie here all my lifemy father?'

'What do I know!' cried the jailerturning upon him with southern
quicknessand gesticulating with both his hands and all his
fingersas if he were threatening to tear him to pieces. 'My
friendhow is it possible for me to tell how long you are to lie
here? What do I knowJohn Baptist Cavalletto? Death of my life!
There are prisoners here sometimeswho are not in such a devil of
a hurry to be tried.'
He seemed to glance obliquely at Monsieur Rigaud in this remark;
but Monsieur Rigaud had already resumed his mealthough not with
quite so quick an appetite as before.

'Adieumy birds!' said the keeper of the prisontaking his pretty
child in his armsand dictating the words with a kiss.

'Adieumy birds!' the pretty child repeated.

Her innocent face looked back so brightly over his shoulderas he
walked away with hersinging her the song of the child's game:

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



Who passes by this road so late?
Always gay!'


that John Baptist felt it a point of honour to reply at the grate
and in good time and tunethough a little hoarsely:

'Of all the king's knights 'tis the flower
Compagnon de la Majolaine!
Of all the king's knights 'tis the flower
Always gay!'


which accompanied them so far down the few steep stairsthat the
prison-keeper had to stop at last for his little daughter to hear
the song outand repeat the Refrain while they were yet in sight.
Then the child's head disappearedand the prison-keeper's head
disappearedbut the little voice prolonged the strain until the
door clashed.


Monsieur Rigaudfinding the listening John Baptist in his way
before the echoes had ceased (even the echoes were the weaker for
imprisonmentand seemed to lag)reminded him with a push of his
foot that he had better resume his own darker place. The little
man sat down again upon the pavement with the negligent ease of one
who was thoroughly accustomed to pavements; and placing three hunks
of coarse bread before himselfand falling to upon a fourthbegan
contentedly to work his way through them as if to clear them off
were a sort of game.


Perhaps he glanced at the Lyons sausageand perhaps he glanced at
the veal in savoury jellybut they were not there longto make
his mouth water; Monsieur Rigaud soon dispatched themin spite of
the president and tribunaland proceeded to suck his fingers as
clean as he couldand to wipe them on his vine leaves. Thenas
he paused in his drink to contemplate his fellow-prisonerhis
moustache went upand his nose came down.


'How do you find the bread?'


'A little drybut I have my old sauce here' returned John
Baptistholding up his knife.
'How sauce?'


'I can cut my bread so--like a melon. Or so--like an omelette. Or
so--like a fried fish. Or so--like Lyons sausage' said John
Baptistdemonstrating the various cuts on the bread he heldand
soberly chewing what he had in his mouth.


'Here!' cried Monsieur Rigaud. 'You may drink. You may finish
this.'


It was no great giftfor there was mighty little wine left; but
Signor Cavallettojumping to his feetreceived the bottle
gratefullyturned it upside down at his mouthand smacked his
lips.


'Put the bottle by with the rest' said Rigaud.


The little man obeyed his ordersand stood ready to give him a
lighted match; for he was now rolling his tobacco into cigarettes
by the aid of little squares of paper which had been brought in
with it.


'Here! You may have one.'



'A thousand thanksmy master!' John Baptist said in his own
languageand with the quick conciliatory manner of his own
countrymen.


Monsieur Rigaud aroselighted a cigaretteput the rest of his
stock into a breast-pocketand stretched himself out at full
length upon the bench. Cavalletto sat down on the pavement
holding one of his ankles in each handand smoking peacefully.
There seemed to be some uncomfortable attraction of Monsieur
Rigaud's eyes to the immediate neighbourhood of that part of the
pavement where the thumb had been in the plan. They were so drawn
in that directionthat the Italian more than once followed them to
and back from the pavement in some surprise.


'What an infernal hole this is!' said Monsieur Rigaudbreaking a
long pause. 'Look at the light of day. Day? the light of
yesterday weekthe light of six months agothe light of six years
ago. So slack and dead!'


It came languishing down a square funnel that blinded a window in
the staircase wallthrough which the sky was never seen--nor
anything else.


'Cavalletto' said Monsieur Rigaudsuddenly withdrawing his gaze
from this funnel to which they had both involuntarily turned their
eyes'you know me for a gentleman?'


'Surelysurely!'


'How long have we been here?'
'Ieleven weeksto-morrow night at midnight. Younine weeks and
three daysat five this afternoon.'


'Have I ever done anything here? Ever touched the broomor spread
the matsor rolled them upor found the draughtsor collected
the dominoesor put my hand to any kind of work?'


'Never!'


'Have you ever thought of looking to me to do any kind of work?'


John Baptist answered with that peculiar back-handed shake of the
right forefinger which is the most expressive negative in the
Italian language.


'No! You knew from the first moment when you saw me herethat I
was a gentleman?'


'ALTRO!' returned John Baptistclosing his eyes and giving his
head a most vehement toss. The word beingaccording to its
Genoese emphasisa confirmationa contradictionan assertiona
deniala taunta complimenta jokeand fifty other things
became in the present instancewith a significance beyond all
power of written expressionour familiar English 'I believe you!'


'Haha! You are right! A gentleman I am! And a gentleman I'll
liveand a gentleman I'll die! It's my intent to be a gentleman.
It's my game. Death of my soulI play it out wherever I go!'


He changed his posture to a sitting onecrying with a triumphant
air:


'Here I am! See me! Shaken out of destiny's dice-box into the
company of a mere smuggler;--shut up with a poor little contraband



traderwhose papers are wrongand whom the police lay hold of
besidesfor placing his boat (as a means of getting beyond the
frontier) at the disposition of other little people whose papers
are wrong; and he instinctively recognises my positioneven by
this light and in this place. It's well done! By Heaven! I win
however the game goes.'

Again his moustache went upand his nose came down.

'What's the hour now?' he askedwith a dry hot pallor upon him
rather difficult of association with merriment.

'A little half-hour after mid-day.'

'Good! The President will have a gentleman before him soon. Come!

Shall I tell you on what accusation? It must be nowor neverfor
I shall not return here. Either I shall go freeor I shall go to
be made ready for shaving. You know where they keep the razor.'

Signor Cavalletto took his cigarette from between his parted lips
and showed more momentary discomfiture than might have been
expected.

'I am a'--Monsieur Rigaud stood up to say it--'I am a cosmopolitan
gentleman. I own no particular country. My father was Swiss--
Canton de Vaud. My mother was French by bloodEnglish by birth.
I myself was born in Belgium. I am a citizen of the world.'

His theatrical airas he stood with one arm on his hip within the
folds of his cloaktogether with his manner of disregarding his
companion and addressing the opposite wall insteadseemed to
intimate that he was rehearsing for the Presidentwhose
examination he was shortly to undergorather than troubling
himself merely to enlighten so small a person as John Baptist
Cavalletto.

'Call me five-and-thirty years of age. I have seen the world. I
have lived hereand lived thereand lived like a gentleman
everywhere. I have been treated and respected as a gentleman
universally. If you try to prejudice me by making out that I have
lived by my wits--how do your lawyers live--your politicians--your
intriguers--your men of the Exchange?'

He kept his small smooth hand in constant requisitionas if it
were a witness to his gentility that had often done him good
service before.

'Two years ago I came to Marseilles. I admit that I was poor; I
had been ill. When your lawyersyour politiciansyour
intriguersyour men of the Exchange fall illand have not scraped
money togetherthey become poor. I put up at the Cross of Gold-kept
then by Monsieur Henri Barronneau--sixty-five at leastand in
a failing state of health. I had lived in the house some four
months when Monsieur Henri Barronneau had the misfortune to die;-at
any ratenot a rare misfortunethat. It happens without any
aid of minepretty often.'

John Baptist having smoked his cigarette down to his fingers' ends
Monsieur Rigaud had the magnanimity to throw him another. He
lighted the second at the ashes of the firstand smoked on
looking sideways at his companionwhopreoccupied with his own
casehardly looked at him.


'Monsieur Barronneau left a widow. She was two-and-twenty. She
had gained a reputation for beautyand (which is often another
thing) was beautiful. I continued to live at the Cross of Gold.
I married Madame Barronneau. It is not for me to say whether there
was any great disparity in such a match. Here I standwith the
contamination of a jail upon me; but it is possible that you may
think me better suited to her than her former husband was.'

He had a certain air of being a handsome man--which he was not; and
a certain air of being a well-bred man--which he was not. It was
mere swagger and challenge; but in this particularas in many
othersblustering assertion goes for proofhalf over the world.

'Be it as it mayMadame Barronneau approved of me. That is not to
prejudice meI hope?'

His eye happening to light upon John Baptist with this inquiry
that little man briskly shook his head in the negativeand
repeated in an argumentative tone under his breathaltroaltro
altroaltro--an infinite number of times.

' Now came the difficulties of our position. I am proud. I say
nothing in defence of pridebut I am proud. It is also my
character to govern. I can't submit; I must govern.
Unfortunatelythe property of Madame Rigaud was settled upon
herself. Such was the insane act of her late husband. More
unfortunately stillshe had relations. When a wife's relations
interpose against a husband who is a gentlemanwho is proudand
who must governthe consequences are inimical to peace. There was
yet another source of difference between us. Madame Rigaud was
unfortunately a little vulgar. I sought to improve her manners and
ameliorate her general tone; she (supported in this likewise by her
relations) resented my endeavours. Quarrels began to arise between
us; andpropagated and exaggerated by the slanders of the
relations of Madame Rigaudto become notorious to the neighbours.
It has been said that I treated Madame Rigaud with cruelty. I may
have been seen to slap her face--nothing more. I have a light
hand; and if I have been seen apparently to correct Madame Rigaud
in that mannerI have done it almost playfully.'

If the playfulness of Monsieur Rigaud were at all expressed by his
smile at this pointthe relations of Madame Rigaud might have said
that they would have much preferred his correcting that unfortunate
woman seriously.

'I am sensitive and brave. I do not advance it as a merit to be
sensitive and bravebut it is my character. If the male relations
of Madame Rigaud had put themselves forward openlyI should have
known how to deal with them. They knew thatand their
machinations were conducted in secret; consequentlyMadame Rigaud
and I were brought into frequent and unfortunate collision. Even
when I wanted any little sum of money for my personal expensesI
could not obtain it without collision--and Itooa man whose
character it is to govern! One nightMadame Rigaud and myself
were walking amicably--I may say like lovers--on a height
overhanging the sea. An evil star occasioned Madame Rigaud to
advert to her relations; I reasoned with her on that subjectand
remonstrated on the want of duty and devotion manifested in her
allowing herself to be influenced by their jealous animosity
towards her husband. Madame Rigaud retorted; I retorted; Madame
Rigaud grew warm; I grew warmand provoked her. I admit it.
Frankness is a part of my character. At lengthMadame Rigaudin
an access of fury that I must ever deplorethrew herself upon me
with screams of passion (no doubt those that were overheard at some


distance)tore my clothestore my hairlacerated my hands
trampled and trod the dustand finally leaped overdashing
herself to death upon the rocks below. Such is the train of
incidents which malice has perverted into my endeavouring to force
from Madame Rigaud a relinquishment of her rights; andon her
persistence in a refusal to make the concession I required
struggling with her--assassinating her!'


He stepped aside to the ledge where the vine leaves yet lay strewn
aboutcollected two or threeand stood wiping his hands upon
themwith his back to the light.


'Well' he demanded after a silence'have you nothing to say to
all that?'


'It's ugly' returned the little manwho had risenand was
brightening his knife upon his shoeas he leaned an arm against
the wall.


'What do you mean?'
John Baptist polished his knife in silence.


'Do you mean that I have not represented the case correctly?'


'Al-tro!' returned John Baptist. The word was an apology nowand
stood for 'Ohby no means!'


'What then?'


'Presidents and tribunals are so prejudiced.'


'Well' cried the otheruneasily flinging the end of his cloak
over his shoulder with an oath'let them do their worst!'


'Truly I think they will' murmured John Baptist to himselfas he
bent his head to put his knife in his sash.


Nothing more was said on either sidethough they both began
walking to and froand necessarily crossed at every turn.
Monsieur Rigaud sometimes stoppedas if he were going to put his
case in a new lightor make some irate remonstrance; but Signor
Cavalletto continuing to go slowly to and fro at a grotesque kind
of jog-trot pace with his eyes turned downwardnothing came of
these inclinings.


By-and-by the noise of the key in the lock arrested them both. The
sound of voices succeededand the tread of feet. The door
clashedthe voices and the feet came onand the prison-keeper
slowly ascended the stairsfollowed by a guard of soldiers.


'NowMonsieur Rigaud' said hepausing for a moment at the grate
with his keys in his hands'have the goodness to come out.'


'I am to depart in stateI see?'
'Whyunless you did' returned the jailer'you might depart in so
many pieces that it would be difficult to get you together again.
There's a crowdMonsieur Rigaudand it doesn't love you.'


He passed on out of sightand unlocked and unbarred a low door in
the corner of the chamber. 'Now' said heas he opened it and
appeared within'come out.'


There is no sort of whiteness in all the hues under the sun at all
like the whiteness of Monsieur Rigaud's face as it was then.



Neither is there any expression of the human countenance at all
like that expression in every little line of which the frightened
heart is seen to beat. Both are conventionally compared with
death; but the difference is the whole deep gulf between the
struggle doneand the fight at its most desperate extremity.

He lighted another of his paper cigars at his companion's; put it
tightly between his teeth; covered his head with a soft slouched
hat; threw the end of his cloak over his shoulder again; and walked
out into the side gallery on which the door openedwithout taking
any further notice of Signor Cavalletto. As to that little man
himselfhis whole attention had become absorbed in getting near
the door and looking out at it. Precisely as a beast might
approach the opened gate of his den and eye the freedom beyondhe
passed those few moments in watching and peeringuntil the door
was closed upon him.

There was an officer in command of the soldiers; a stout
serviceableprofoundly calm manwith his drawn sword in his hand
smoking a cigar. He very briefly directed the placing of Monsieur
Rigaud in the midst of the partyput himself with consummate
indifference at their headgave the word 'march!' and so they all
went jingling down the staircase. The door clashed--the key
turned--and a ray of unusual lightand a breath of unusual air
seemed to have passed through the jailvanishing in a tiny wreath
of smoke from the cigar.

Stillin his captivitylike a lower animal--like some impatient
apeor roused bear of the smaller species--the prisonernow left
solitaryhad jumped upon the ledgeto lose no glimpse of this
departure. As he yet stood clasping the grate with both handsan
uproar broke upon his hearing; yellsshrieksoathsthreats
execrationsall comprehended in itthough (as in a storm) nothing
but a raging swell of sound distinctly heard.

Excited into a still greater resemblance to a caged wild animal by
his anxiety to know morethe prisoner leaped nimbly downran
round the chamberleaped nimbly up againclasped the grate and
tried to shake itleaped down and ranleaped up and listenedand
never rested until the noisebecoming more and more distanthad
died away. How many better prisoners have worn their noble hearts
out so; no man thinking of it; not even the beloved of their souls
realising it; great kings and governorswho had made them captive
careering in the sunlight jauntilyand men cheering them on. Even
the said great personages dying in bedmaking exemplary ends and
sounding speeches; and polite historymore servile than their
instrumentsembalming them!

At lastJohn Baptistnow able to choose his own spot within the
compass of those walls for the exercise of his faculty of going to
sleep when he wouldlay down upon the benchwith his face turned
over on his crossed armsand slumbered. In his submissionin his
lightnessin his good humourin his short-lived passionin his
easy contentment with hard bread and hard stonesin his ready
sleepin his fits and startsaltogether a true son of the land
that gave him birth.

The wide stare stared itself out for one while; the Sun went down
in a redgreengolden glory; the stars came out in the heavens
and the fire-flies mimicked them in the lower airas men may
feebly imitate the goodness of a better order of beings; the long
dusty roads and the interminable plains were in repose--and so deep
a hush was on the seathat it scarcely whispered of the time when
it shall give up its dead.


CHAPTER 2
Fellow Travellers

'No more of yesterday's howling over yonder to-daySir; is there?'

'I have heard none.'

'Then you may be sure there is none. When these people howlthey
howl to be heard.'

'Most people doI suppose.'

'Ah! but these people are always howling. Never happy otherwise.'

'Do you mean the Marseilles people?'

'I mean the French people. They're always at it. As to
Marseilleswe know what Marseilles is. It sent the most
insurrectionary tune into the world that was ever composed. It
couldn't exist without allonging and marshonging to something or
other--victory or deathor blazesor something.'

The speakerwith a whimsical good humour upon him all the time
looked over the parapet-wall with the greatest disparagement of
Marseilles; and taking up a determined position by putting his
hands in his pockets and rattling his money at itapostrophised it
with a short laugh.

'Allong and marshongindeed. It would be more creditable to you
I thinkto let other people allong and marshong about their lawful
businessinstead of shutting 'em up in quarantine!'

'Tiresome enough' said the other. 'But we shall be out to-day.'

'Out to-day!' repeated the first. 'It's almost an aggravation of
the enormitythat we shall be out to-day. Out! What have we ever
been in for?'

'For no very strong reasonI must say. But as we come from the
Eastand as the East is the country of the plague--'

'The plague!' repeated the other. 'That's my grievance. I have
had the plague continuallyever since I have been here. I am like
a sane man shut up in a madhouse; I can't stand the suspicion of
the thing. I came here as well as ever I was in my life; but to
suspect me of the plague is to give me the plague. And I have had
it--and I have got it.'

'You bear it very wellMr Meagles' said the second speaker
smiling.

'No. If you knew the real state of the casethat's the last
observation you would think of making. I have been waking up night
after nightand sayingNOW I have got itNOW it has developed
itselfNOW I am in for itNOW these fellows are making out their
case for their precautions. WhyI'd as soon have a spit put
through meand be stuck upon a card in a collection of beetlesas
lead the life I have been leading here.'


'WellMr Meaglessay no more about it now it's over' urged a
cheerful feminine voice.

'Over!' repeated Mr Meagleswho appeared (though without any illnature)
to be in that peculiar state of mind in which the last word
spoken by anybody else is a new injury. 'Over! and why should I
say no more about it because it's over?'

It was Mrs Meagles who had spoken to Mr Meagles; and Mrs Meagles
waslike Mr Meaglescomely and healthywith a pleasant English
face which had been looking at homely things for five-and-fifty
years or moreand shone with a bright reflection of them.

'There! Never mindFathernever mind!' said Mrs Meagles. 'For
goodness sake content yourself with Pet.'

'With Pet?' repeated Mr Meagles in his injured vein. Pethowever
being close behind himtouched him on the shoulderand Mr Meagles
immediately forgave Marseilles from the bottom of his heart.

Pet was about twenty. A fair girl with rich brown hair hanging
free in natural ringlets. A lovely girlwith a frank faceand
wonderful eyes; so largeso softso brightset to such
perfection in her kind good head. She was round and fresh and
dimpled and spoiltand there was in Pet an air of timidity and
dependence which was the best weakness in the worldand gave her
the only crowning charm a girl so pretty and pleasant could have
been without.

'NowI ask you' said Mr Meagles in the blandest confidence
falling back a step himselfand handing his daughter a step
forward to illustrate his question: 'I ask you simplyas between
man and manyou knowDID you ever hear of such damned nonsense as
putting Pet in quarantine?'

'It has had the result of making even quarantine enjoyable.'
'Come!' said Mr Meagles'that's something to be sure. I am
obliged to you for that remark. NowPetmy darlingyou had
better go along with Mother and get ready for the boat. The
officer of healthand a variety of humbugs in cocked hatsare
coming off to let us out of this at last: and all we jail-birds are
to breakfast together in something approaching to a Christian style
againbefore we take wing for our different destinations.
Tattycoramstick you close to your young mistress.'

He spoke to a handsome girl with lustrous dark hair and eyesand
very neatly dressedwho replied with a half curtsey as she passed
off in the train of Mrs Meagles and Pet. They crossed the bare
scorched terrace all three togetherand disappeared through a
staring white archway. Mr Meagles's companiona grave dark man of
fortystill stood looking towards this archway after they were
gone; until Mr Meagles tapped him on the arm.

'I beg your pardon' said hestarting.

'Not at all' said Mr Meagles.

They took one silent turn backward and forward in the shade of the
wallgettingat the height on which the quarantine barracks are
placedwhat cool refreshment of sea breeze there was at seven in
the morning. Mr Meagles's companion resumed the conversation.

'May I ask you' he said'what is the name of--'


'Tattycoram?' Mr Meagles struck in. 'I have not the least idea.'

'I thought' said the other'that--'

'Tattycoram?' suggested Mr Meagles again.

'Thank you--that Tattycoram was a name; and I have several times
wondered at the oddity of it.'

'Whythe fact is' said Mr Meagles'Mrs Meagles and myself are
you seepractical people.'

'That you have frequently mentioned in the course of the agreeable
and interesting conversations we have had togetherwalking up and
down on these stones' said the otherwith a half smile breaking
through the gravity of his dark face.

'Practical people. So one dayfive or six years ago nowwhen we
took Pet to church at the Foundling--you have heard of the
Foundling Hospital in London? Similar to the Institution for the
Found Children in Paris?'

'I have seen it.'

'Well! One day when we took Pet to church there to hear the
music--becauseas practical peopleit is the business of our
lives to show her everything that we think can please her--Mother
(my usual name for Mrs Meagles) began to cry sothat it was
necessary to take her out. "What's the matterMother?" said I
when we had brought her a little round: "you are frightening Pet
my dear." "YesI know thatFather says Mother, but I think
it's through my loving her so muchthat it ever came into my
head." "That ever what came into your headMother?" "O dear
dear!" cried Motherbreaking out againwhen I saw all those
children ranged tier above tier, and appealing from the father none
of them has ever known on earth, to the great Father of us all in
Heaven, I thought, does any wretched mother ever come here, and
look among those young faces, wondering which is the poor child she
brought into this forlorn world, never through all its life to know
her love, her kiss, her face, her voice, even her name!Now that
was practical in Motherand I told her so. I saidMother,
that's what I call practical in you, my dear.'

The othernot unmovedassented.

'So I said next day: NowMotherI have a proposition to make that
I think you'll approve of. Let us take one of those same little
children to be a little maid to Pet. We are practical people. So
if we should find her temper a little defectiveor any of her ways
a little wide of ourswe shall know what we have to take into
account. We shall know what an immense deduction must be made from
all the influences and experiences that have formed us--no parents
no child-brother or sisterno individuality of homeno Glass
Slipperor Fairy Godmother. And that's the way we came by
Tattycoram.'

'And the name itself--'

'By George!' said Mr Meagles'I was forgetting the name itself.
Whyshe was called in the InstitutionHarriet Beadle--an
arbitrary nameof course. NowHarriet we changed into Hattey
and then into Tattybecauseas practical peoplewe thought even
a playful name might be a new thing to herand might have a
softening and affectionate kind of effectdon't you see? As to


Beadlethat I needn't say was wholly out of the question. If
there is anything that is not to be tolerated on any terms
anything that is a type of Jack-in-office insolence and absurdity
anything that represents in coatswaistcoatsand big sticks our
English holding on by nonsense after every one has found it outit
is a beadle. You haven't seen a beadle lately?'

'As an Englishman who has been more than twenty years in China
no.'

'Then' said Mr Meagleslaying his forefinger on his companion's
breast with great animation'don't you see a beadlenowif you
can help it. Whenever I see a beadle in full figcoming down a
street on a Sunday at the head of a charity schoolI am obliged to
turn and run awayor I should hit him. The name of Beadle being
out of the questionand the originator of the Institution for
these poor foundlings having been a blessed creature of the name of
Coramwe gave that name to Pet's little maid. At one time she was
Tattyand at one time she was Coramuntil we got into a way of
mixing the two names togetherand now she is always Tattycoram.'

'Your daughter' said the otherwhen they had taken another silent
turn to and froandafter standing for a moment at the wall
glancing down at the seahad resumed their walk'is your only
childI knowMr Meagles. May I ask you--in no impertinent
curiositybut because I have had so much pleasure in your society
may never in this labyrinth of a world exchange a quiet word with
you againand wish to preserve an accurate remembrance of you and
yours--may I ask youif I have not gathered from your good wife
that you have had other children?'

'No. No' said Mr Meagles. 'Not exactly other children. One
other child.'

'I am afraid I have inadvertently touched upon a tender theme.'

'Never mind' said Mr Meagles. 'If I am grave about itI am not
at all sorrowful. It quiets me for a momentbut does not make me
unhappy. Pet had a twin sister who died when we could just see her
eyes--exactly like Pet's--above the tableas she stood on tiptoe
holding by it.'

'Ah! indeedindeed!'

'Yesand being practical peoplea result has gradually sprung up
in the minds of Mrs Meagles and myself which perhaps you may--or
perhaps you may not--understand. Pet and her baby sister were so
exactly alikeand so completely onethat in our thoughts we have
never been able to separate them since. It would be of no use to
tell us that our dead child was a mere infant. We have changed
that child according to the changes in the child spared to us and
always with us. As Pet has grownthat child has grown; as Pet has
become more sensible and womanlyher sister has become more
sensible and womanly by just the same degrees. It would be as hard
to convince me that if I was to pass into the other world tomorrow
I should notthrough the mercy of Godbe received there
by a daughterjust like Petas to persuade me that Pet herself is
not a reality at my side.'
'I understand you' said the othergently.

'As to her' pursued her father'the sudden loss of her little
picture and playfellowand her early association with that mystery
in which we all have our equal sharebut which is not often so
forcibly presented to a childhas necessarily had some influence


on her character. Thenher mother and I were not young when we
marriedand Pet has always had a sort of grown-up life with us
though we have tried to adapt ourselves to her. We have been
advised more than once when she has been a little ailingto change
climate and air for her as often as we could--especially at about
this time of her life--and to keep her amused. Soas I have no
need to stick at a bank-desk now (though I have been poor enough in
my time I assure youor I should have married Mrs Meagles long
before)we go trotting about the world. This is how you found us
staring at the Nileand the Pyramidsand the Sphinxesand the
Desertand all the rest of it; and this is how Tattycoram will be
a greater traveller in course of time than Captain Cook.'

'I thank you' said the other'very heartily for your confidence.'

'Don't mention it' returned Mr Meagles'I am sure you are quite
welcome. And nowMr Clennamperhaps I may ask you whether you
have yet come to a decision where to go next?'

'Indeedno. I am such a waif and stray everywherethat I am
liable to be drifted where any current may set.'

'It's extraordinary to me--if you'll excuse my freedom in saying
so--that you don't go straight to London' said Mr Meaglesin the
tone of a confidential adviser.

'Perhaps I shall.'

'Ay! But I mean with a will.'

'I have no will. That is to say'--he coloured a little--'next to
none that I can put in action now. Trained by main force; broken
not bent; heavily ironed with an object on which I was never
consulted and which was never mine; shipped away to the other end
of the world before I was of ageand exiled there until my
father's death therea year ago; always grinding in a mill I
always hated; what is to be expected from me in middle life? Will
purposehope? All those lights were extinguished before I could
sound the words.'

'Light 'em up again!' said Mr Meagles.

'Ah! Easily said. I am the sonMr Meaglesof a hard father and
mother. I am the only child of parents who weighedmeasuredand
priced everything; for whom what could not be weighedmeasured
and pricedhad no existence. Strict people as the phrase is
professors of a stern religiontheir very religion was a gloomy
sacrifice of tastes and sympathies that were never their own
offered up as a part of a bargain for the security of their
possessions. Austere facesinexorable disciplinepenance in this
world and terror in the next--nothing graceful or gentle anywhere
and the void in my cowed heart everywhere--this was my childhood
if I may so misuse the word as to apply it to such a beginning of
life.'

'Really though?' said Mr Meaglesmade very uncomfortable by the
picture offered to his imagination. 'That was a tough
commencement. But come! You must now studyand profit byall
that lies beyond itlike a practical man.'

'If the people who are usually called practicalwere practical in
your direction--'

'Whyso they are!' said Mr Meagles.


'Are they indeed?'

'WellI suppose so' returned Mr Meaglesthinking about it. 'Eh?

One can but be practicaland Mrs Meagles and myself are nothing
else.'

'My unknown course is easier and more helpful than I had expected
to find itthen' said Clennamshaking his head with his grave
smile. 'Enough of me. Here is the boat.'

The boat was filled with the cocked hats to which Mr Meagles
entertained a national objection; and the wearers of those cocked
hats landed and came up the stepsand all the impounded travellers
congregated together. There was then a mighty production of papers
on the part of the cocked hatsand a calling over of namesand
great work of signingsealingstampinginkingand sandingwith
exceedingly blurredgrittyand undecipherable results. Finally
everything was done according to ruleand the travellers were at
liberty to depart whithersoever they would.

They made little account of stare and glarein the new pleasure of
recovering their freedombut flitted across the harbour in gay
boatsand reassembled at a great hotelwhence the sun was
excluded by closed latticesand where bare paved floorslofty
ceilingsand resounding corridors tempered the intense heat.
Therea great table in a great room was soon profusely covered
with a superb repast; and the quarantine quarters became bare
indeedremembered among dainty dishessouthern fruitscooled
winesflowers from Genoasnow from the mountain topsand all the
colours of the rainbow flashing in the mirrors.

'But I bear those monotonous walls no ill-will now' said Mr
Meagles. 'One always begins to forgive a place as soon as it's
left behind; I dare say a prisoner begins to relent towards his
prisonafter he is let out.'

They were about thirty in companyand all talking; but necessarily
in groups. Father and Mother Meagles sat with their daughter
between themthe last three on one side of the table: on the
opposite side sat Mr Clennam; a tall French gentleman with raven
hair and beardof a swart and terriblenot to say genteelly
diabolical aspectbut who had shown himself the mildest of men;
and a handsome young Englishwomantravelling quite alonewho had
a proud observant faceand had either withdrawn herself from the
rest or been avoided by the rest--nobodyherself excepted perhaps
could have quite decided which. The rest of the party were of the
usual materials: travellers on businessand travellers for
pleasure; officers from India on leave; merchants in the Greek and
Turkey trades; a clerical English husband in a meek straitwaistcoat
on a wedding trip with his young wife; a majestic
English mama and papaof the patrician orderwith a family of
three growing-up daughterswho were keeping a journal for the
confusion of their fellow-creatures; and a deaf old English mother
tough in travelwith a very decidedly grown-up daughter indeed
which daughter went sketching about the universe in the expectation
of ultimately toning herself off into the married state.

The reserved Englishwoman took up Mr Meagles in his last remark.
'Do you mean that a prisoner forgives his prison?' said sheslowly
and with emphasis.

'That was my speculationMiss Wade. I don't pretend to know


positively how a prisoner might feel. I never was one before.'

'Mademoiselle doubts' said the French gentleman in his own
language'it's being so easy to forgive?'

'I do.'

Pet had to translate this passage to Mr Meagleswho never by any
accident acquired any knowledge whatever of the language of any
country into which he travelled. 'Oh!' said he. 'Dear me! But
that's a pityisn't it?'

'That I am not credulous?' said Miss Wade.

'Not exactly that. Put it another way. That you can't believe it
easy to forgive.'

'My experience' she quietly returned'has been correcting my
belief in many respectsfor some years. It is our natural
progressI have heard.'

'Wellwell! But it's not natural to bear maliceI hope?' said Mr
Meaglescheerily.

'If I had been shut up in any place to pine and sufferI should
always hate that place and wish to burn it downor raze it to the
ground. I know no more.'
'Strongsir?' said Mr Meagles to the Frenchman; it being another
of his habits to address individuals of all nations in idiomatic
Englishwith a perfect conviction that they were bound to
understand it somehow. 'Rather forcible in our fair friendyou'll
agree with meI think?'

The French gentleman courteously replied'Plait-il?' To which Mr
Meagles returned with much satisfaction'You are right. My
opinion.'

The breakfast beginning by-and-by to languishMr Meagles made the
company a speech. It was short enough and sensible enough
considering that it was a speech at alland hearty. It merely
went to the effect that as they had all been thrown together by
chanceand had all preserved a good understanding togetherand
were now about to disperseand were not likely ever to find
themselves all together againwhat could they do better than bid
farewell to one anotherand give one another good-speed in a
simultaneous glass of cool champagne all round the table? It was
doneand with a general shaking of hands the assembly broke up for
ever.

The solitary young lady all this time had said no more. She rose
with the restand silently withdrew to a remote corner of the
great roomwhere she sat herself on a couch in a windowseeming
to watch the reflection of the water as it made a silver quivering
on the bars of the lattice. She satturned away from the whole
length of the apartmentas if she were lonely of her own haughty
choice. And yet it would have been as difficult as ever to say
positivelywhether she avoided the restor was avoided.

The shadow in which she satfalling like a gloomy veil across her
foreheadaccorded very well with the character of her beauty. One
could hardly see the faceso still and scornfulset off by the
arched dark eyebrowsand the folds of dark hairwithout wondering
what its expression would be if a change came over it. That it
could soften or relentappeared next to impossible. That it could


deepen into anger or any extreme of defianceand that it must
change in that direction when it changed at allwould have been
its peculiar impression upon most observers. It was dressed and
trimmed into no ceremony of expression. Although not an open face
there was no pretence in it. 'I am self-contained and selfreliant;
your opinion is nothing to me; I have no interest in you
care nothing for youand see and hear you with indifference'--this
it said plainly. It said so in the proud eyesin the lifted
nostrilin the handsome but compressed and even cruel mouth.
Cover either two of those channels of expressionand the third
would have said so still. Mask them alland the mere turn of the
head would have shown an unsubduable nature.

Pet had moved up to her (she had been the subject of remark among
her family and Mr Clennamwho were now the only other occupants of
the room)and was standing at her side.

'Are you'--she turned her eyesand Pet faltered--'expecting any
one to meet you hereMiss Wade?'

'I? No.'

'Father is sending to the Poste Restante. Shall he have the
pleasure of directing the messenger to ask if there are any letters
for you?'

'I thank himbut I know there can be none.'

'We are afraid' said Petsitting down beside hershyly and half
tenderly'that you will feel quite deserted when we are all gone.'

'Indeed!'

'Not' said Petapologetically and embarrassed by her eyes'not
of coursethat we are any company to youor that we have been
able to be soor that we thought you wished it.'

'I have not intended to make it understood that I did wish it.'

'No. Of course. But--in short' said Pettimidly touching her
hand as it lay impassive on the sofa between them'will you not
allow Father to tender you any slight assistance or service? He
will be very glad.'

'Very glad' said Mr Meaglescoming forward with his wife and
Clennam. 'Anything short of speaking the languageI shall be
delighted to undertakeI am sure.'

'I am obliged to you' she returned'but my arrangements are made
and I prefer to go my own way in my own manner.'

'Do you?' said Mr Meagles to himselfas he surveyed her with a
puzzled look. 'Well! There's character in thattoo.'

'I am not much used to the society of young ladiesand I am afraid
I may not show my appreciation of it as others might. A pleasant
journey to you. Good-bye!'

She would not have put out her handit seemedbut that Mr Meagles
put out his so straight before her that she could not pass it. She
put hers in itand it lay there just as it had lain upon the
couch.

'Good-bye!' said Mr Meagles. 'This is the last good-bye upon the


listfor Mother and I have just said it to Mr Clennam hereand he
only waits to say it to Pet. Good-bye! We may never meet again.'

'In our course through life we shall meet the people who are coming
to meet usfrom many strange places and by many strange roads'
was the composed reply; 'and what it is set to us to do to them
and what it is set to them to do to uswill all be done.'
There was something in the manner of these words that jarred upon
Pet's ear. It implied that what was to be done was necessarily
eviland it caused her to say in a whisper'O Father!' and to
shrink childishlyin her spoilt waya little closer to him. This
was not lost on the speaker.

'Your pretty daughter' she said'starts to think of such things.
Yet' looking full upon her'you may be sure that there are men
and women already on their roadwho have their business to do with
YOUand who will do it. Of a certainty they will do it. They may
be coming hundredsthousandsof miles over the sea there; they
may be close at hand now; they may be comingfor anything you know
or anything you can do to prevent itfrom the vilest sweepings of
this very town.'

With the coldest of farewellsand with a certain worn expression
on her beauty that gave itthough scarcely yet in its primea
wasted lookshe left the room.

Nowthere were many stairs and passages that she had to traverse
in passing from that part of the spacious house to the chamber she
had secured for her own occupation. When she had almost completed
the journeyand was passing along the gallery in which her room
wasshe heard an angry sound of muttering and sobbing. A door
stood openand within she saw the attendant upon the girl she had
just left; the maid with the curious name.

She stood stillto look at this maid. A sullenpassionate girl!
Her rich black hair was all about her faceher face was flushed
and hotand as she sobbed and ragedshe plucked at her lips with
an unsparing hand.

'Selfish brutes!' said the girlsobbing and heaving between
whiles. 'Not caring what becomes of me! Leaving me here hungry
and thirsty and tiredto starvefor anything they care! Beasts!
Devils! Wretches!'

'My poor girlwhat is the matter?'

She looked up suddenlywith reddened eyesand with her hands
suspendedin the act of pinching her neckfreshly disfigured with
great scarlet blots. 'It's nothing to you what's the matter. It
don't signify to any one.'

'O yes it does; I am sorry to see you so.'

'You are not sorry' said the girl. 'You are glad. You know you
are glad. I never was like this but twice over in the quarantine
yonder; and both times you found me. I am afraid of you.'

'Afraid of me?'

'Yes. You seem to come like my own angermy own malicemy own-whatever
it is--I don't know what it is. But I am ill-usedI am
ill-usedI am ill-used!' Here the sobs and the tearsand the
tearing handwhich had all been suspended together since the first
surprisewent on together anew.


The visitor stood looking at her with a strange attentive smile.
It was wonderful to see the fury of the contest in the girland
the bodily struggle she made as if she were rent by the Demons of
old.

'I am younger than she is by two or three yearsand yet it's me
that looks after heras if I was oldand it's she that's always
petted and called Baby! I detest the name. I hate her! They make
a fool of herthey spoil her. She thinks of nothing but herself
she thinks no more of me than if I was a stock and a stone!' So
the girl went on.

'You must have patience.'

'I WON'T have patience!'

'If they take much care of themselvesand little or none of you
you must not mind it.'

I WILL mind it.'

'Hush! Be more prudent. You forget your dependent position.'

'I don't care for that. I'll run away. I'll do some mischief. I
won't bear it; I can't bear it; I shall die if I try to bear it!'

The observer stood with her hand upon her own bosomlooking at the
girlas one afflicted with a diseased part might curiously watch
the dissection and exposition of an analogous case.

The girl raged and battled with all the force of her youth and
fulness of lifeuntil by little and little her passionate
exclamations trailed off into broken murmurs as if she were in
pain. By corresponding degrees she sank into a chairthen upon
her kneesthen upon the ground beside the beddrawing the
coverlet with herhalf to hide her shamed head and wet hair in it
and halfas it seemedto embrace itrather than have nothing to
take to her repentant breast.

'Go away from mego away from me! When my temper comes upon me
I am mad. I know I might keep it off if I only tried hard enough
and sometimes I do try hard enoughand at other times I don't and
won't. What have I said! I knew when I said itit was all lies.
They think I am being taken care of somewhereand have all I want.

They are nothing but good to me. I love them dearly; no people
could ever be kinder to a thankless creature than they always are
to me. Dodo go awayfor I am afraid of you. I am afraid of
myself when I feel my temper comingand I am as much afraid of
you. Go away from meand let me pray and cry myself better!'
The day passed on; and again the wide stare stared itself out; and
the hot night was on Marseilles; and through it the caravan of the
morningall dispersedwent their appointed ways. And thus ever
by day and nightunder the sun and under the starsclimbing the
dusty hills and toiling along the weary plainsjourneying by land
and journeying by seacoming and going so strangelyto meet and
to act and react on one anothermove all we restless travellers
through the pilgrimage of life.

CHAPTER 3


Home

It was a Sunday evening in Londongloomycloseand stale.
Maddening church bells of all degrees of dissonancesharp and
flatcracked and clearfast and slowmade the brick-and-mortar
echoes hideous. Melancholy streetsin a penitential garb of soot
steeped the souls of the people who were condemned to look at them
out of windowsin dire despondency. In every thoroughfareup
almost every alleyand down almost every turningsome doleful
bell was throbbingjerkingtollingas if the Plague were in the
city and the dead-carts were going round. Everything was bolted
and barred that could by possibility furnish relief to an
overworked people. No picturesno unfamiliar animalsno rare
plants or flowersno natural or artificial wonders of the ancient
world--all TABOO with that enlightened strictnessthat the ugly
South Sea gods in the British Museum might have supposed themselves
at home again. Nothing to see but streetsstreetsstreets.
Nothing to breathe but streetsstreetsstreets. Nothing to
change the brooding mindor raise it up. Nothing for the spent
toiler to dobut to compare the monotony of his seventh day with
the monotony of his six daysthink what a weary life he ledand
make the best of it--or the worstaccording to the probabilities.

At such a happy timeso propitious to the interests of religion
and moralityMr Arthur Clennamnewly arrived from Marseilles by
way of Doverand by Dover coach the Blue-eyed Maidsat in the
window of a coffee-house on Ludgate Hill. Ten thousand responsible
houses surrounded himfrowning as heavily on the streets they
composedas if they were every one inhabited by the ten young men
of the Calender's storywho blackened their faces and bemoaned
their miseries every night. Fifty thousand lairs surrounded him
where people lived so unwholesomely that fair water put into their
crowded rooms on Saturday nightwould be corrupt on Sunday
morning; albeit my lordtheir county memberwas amazed that they
failed to sleep in company with their butcher's meat. Miles of
close wells and pits of houseswhere the inhabitants gasped for
airstretched far away towards every point of the compass.
Through the heart of the town a deadly sewer ebbed and flowedin
the place of a fine fresh river. What secular want could the
million or so of human beings whose daily laboursix days in the
weeklay among these Arcadian objectsfrom the sweet sameness of
which they had no escape between the cradle and the grave--what
secular want could they possibly have upon their seventh day?
Clearly they could want nothing but a stringent policeman.

Mr Arthur Clennam sat in the window of the coffee-house on Ludgate
Hillcounting one of the neighbouring bellsmaking sentences and
burdens of songs out of it in spite of himselfand wondering how
many sick people it might be the death of in the course of the
year. As the hour approachedits changes of measure made it more
and more exasperating. At the quarterit went off into a
condition of deadly-lively importunityurging the populace in a
voluble manner to Come to churchCome to churchCome to church!
At the ten minutesit became aware that the congregation would be
scantyand slowly hammered out in low spiritsThey WON'T come
they WON'T comethey WON'T come! At the five minutesit
abandoned hopeand shook every house in the neighbourhood for
three hundred secondswith one dismal swing per secondas a groan
of despair.

'Thank Heaven!' said Clennamwhen the hour struckand the bell
stopped.


But its sound had revived a long train of miserable Sundaysand
the procession would not stop with the bellbut continued to march
on. 'Heaven forgive me' said he'and those who trained me. How
I have hated this day!'

There was the dreary Sunday of his childhoodwhen he sat with his
hands before himscared out of his senses by a horrible tract
which commenced business with the poor child by asking him in its
titlewhy he was going to Perdition?--a piece of curiosity that he
reallyin a frock and drawerswas not in a condition to satisfy-and
whichfor the further attraction of his infant mindhad a
parenthesis in every other line with some such hiccupping reference
as 2 Ep. Thess. c. iiiv. 6 & 7. There was the sleepy Sunday of
his boyhoodwhenlike a military deserterhe was marched to
chapel by a picquet of teachers three times a daymorally
handcuffed to another boy; and when he would willingly have
bartered two meals of indigestible sermon for another ounce or two
of inferior mutton at his scanty dinner in the flesh. There was
the interminable Sunday of his nonage; when his motherstern of
face and unrelenting of heartwould sit all day behind a Bible-bound
like her own construction of itin the hardestbarestand
straitest boardswith one dinted ornament on the cover like the
drag of a chainand a wrathful sprinkling of red upon the edges of
the leaves--as if itof all books! were a fortification against
sweetness of tempernatural affectionand gentle intercourse.
There was the resentful Sunday of a little laterwhen he sat down
glowering and glooming through the tardy length of the daywith a
sullen sense of injury in his heartand no more real knowledge of
the beneficent history of the New Testament than if he had been
bred among idolaters. There was a legion of Sundaysall days of
unserviceable bitterness and mortificationslowly passing before
him.
'Beg pardonsir' said a brisk waiterrubbing the table. 'Wish
see bed-room?'

'Yes. I have just made up my mind to do it.'

'Chaymaid!' cried the waiter. 'Gelen box num seven wish see room!'

'Stay!' said Clennamrousing himself. 'I was not thinking of what
I said; I answered mechanically. I am not going to sleep here. I
am going home.'

'Deedsir? Chaymaid! Gelen box num sevennot go sleep here
gome.'

He sat in the same place as the day diedlooking at the dull
houses oppositeand thinkingif the disembodied spirits of former
inhabitants were ever conscious of themhow they must pity
themselves for their old places of imprisonment. Sometimes a face
would appear behind the dingy glass of a windowand would fade
away into the gloom as if it had seen enough of life and had
vanished out of it. Presently the rain began to fall in slanting
lines between him and those housesand people began to collect
under cover of the public passage oppositeand to look out
hopelessly at the sky as the rain dropped thicker and faster. Then
wet umbrellas began to appeardraggled skirtsand mud. What the
mud had been doing with itselfor where it came fromwho could
say? But it seemed to collect in a momentas a crowd willand in
five minutes to have splashed all the sons and daughters of Adam.
The lamplighter was going his rounds now; and as the fiery jets
sprang up under his touchone might have fancied them astonished
at being suffered to introduce any show of brightness into such a


dismal scene.

Mr Arthur Clennam took up his hat and buttoned his coatand walked
out. In the countrythe rain would have developed a thousand
fresh scentsand every drop would have had its bright association
with some beautiful form of growth or life. In the cityit
developed only foul stale smellsand was a sicklylukewarmdirtstained
wretched addition to the gutters.

He crossed by St Paul's and went downat a long anglealmost to
the water's edgethrough some of the crooked and descending
streets which lie (and lay more crookedly and closely then) between
the river and Cheapside. Passingnow the mouldy hall of some
obsolete Worshipful Companynow the illuminated windows of a
Congregationless Church that seemed to be waiting for some
adventurous Belzoni to dig it out and discover its history; passing
silent warehouses and wharvesand here and there a narrow alley
leading to the riverwhere a wretched little bill
FOUND DROWNEDwas weeping on the wet wall; he came at last to the
house he sought. An old brick houseso dingy as to be all but
blackstanding by itself within a gateway. Before ita square
court-yard where a shrub or two and a patch of grass were as rank
(which is saying much) as the iron railings enclosing them were
rusty; behind ita jumble of roots. It was a double housewith
longnarrowheavily-framed windows. Many years agoit had had
it in its mind to slide down sideways; it had been propped up
howeverand was leaning on some half-dozen gigantic crutches:
which gymnasium for the neighbouring catsweather-stainedsmokeblackened
and overgrown with weedsappeared in these latter days
to be no very sure reliance.

'Nothing changed' said the travellerstopping to look round.
'Dark and miserable as ever. A light in my mother's windowwhich
seems never to have been extinguished since I came home twice a
year from schooland dragged my box over this pavement. Well
wellwell!'

He went up to the doorwhich had a projecting canopy in carved
work of festooned jack-towels and children's heads with water on
the braindesigned after a once-popular monumental patternand
knocked. A shuffling step was soon heard on the stone floor of the
halland the door was opened by an old manbent and driedbut
with keen eyes.

He had a candle in his handand he held it up for a moment to
assist his keen eyes. 'AhMr Arthur?' he saidwithout any
emotion'you are come at last? Step in.'

Mr Arthur stepped in and shut the door.

'Your figure is filled outand set' said the old manturning to
look at him with the light raised againand shaking his head; 'but
you don't come up to your father in my opinion. Nor yet your
mother.'

'How is my mother?'

'She is as she always is now. Keeps her room when not actually
bedriddenand hasn't been out of it fifteen times in as many
yearsArthur.' They had walked into a sparemeagre dining-room.
The old man had put the candlestick upon the tableandsupporting
his right elbow with his left handwas smoothing his leathern jaws
while he looked at the visitor. The visitor offered his hand. The
old man took it coldly enoughand seemed to prefer his jawsto


which he returned as soon as he could.

'I doubt if your mother will approve of your coming home on the
SabbathArthur' he saidshaking his head warily.

'You wouldn't have me go away again?'

'Oh! I? I? I am not the master. It's not what _I_ would have.
I have stood between your father and mother for a number of years.
I don't pretend to stand between your mother and you.'

'Will you tell her that I have come home?'

'YesArthuryes. Ohto be sure! I'll tell her that you have
come home. Please to wait here. You won't find the room changed.'

He took another candle from a cupboardlighted itleft the first
on the tableand went upon his errand. He was a shortbald old
manin a high-shouldered black coat and waistcoatdrab breeches
and long drab gaiters. He mightfrom his dresshave been either
clerk or servantand in fact had long been both. There was
nothing about him in the way of decoration but a watchwhich was
lowered into the depths of its proper pocket by an old black
ribbonand had a tarnished copper key moored above itto show
where it was sunk. His head was awryand he had a one-sided
crab-like way with himas if his foundations had yielded at about
the same time as those of the houseand he ought to have been
propped up in a similar manner.

'How weak am I' said Arthur Clennamwhen he was gone'that I
could shed tears at this reception! Iwho have never experienced
anything else; who have never expected anything else.' He not only
couldbut did. It was the momentary yielding of a nature that had
been disappointed from the dawn of its perceptionsbut had not
quite given up all its hopeful yearnings yet. He subdued ittook
up the candleand examined the room. The old articles of
furniture were in their old places; the Plagues of Egyptmuch the
dimmer for the fly and smoke plagues of Londonwere framed and
glazed upon the walls. There was the old cellaret with nothing in
itlined with leadlike a sort of coffin in compartments; there
was the old dark closetalso with nothing in itof which he had
been many a time the sole contentsin days of punishmentwhen he
had regarded it as the veritable entrance to that bourne to which
the tract had found him galloping. There was the largehardfeatured
clock on the sideboardwhich he used to see bending its
figured brows upon him with a savage joy when he was behind-hand
with his lessonsand whichwhen it was wound up once a week with
an iron handleused to sound as if it were growling in ferocious
anticipation of the miseries into which it would bring him. But
here was the old man come backsaying'ArthurI'll go before and
light you.'

Arthur followed him up the staircasewhich was panelled off into
spaces like so many mourning tabletsinto a dim bed-chamberthe
floor of which had gradually so sunk and settledthat the fireplace
was in a dell. On a black bier-like sofa in this hollow
propped up behind with one great angular black bolster like the
block at a state execution in the good old timessat his mother in
a widow's dress.

She and his father had been at variance from his earliest
remembrance. To sit speechless himself in the midst of rigid
silenceglancing in dread from the one averted face to the other
had been the peacefullest occupation of his childhood. She gave


him one glassy kissand four stiff fingers muffled in worsted.
This embrace concludedhe sat down on the opposite side of her
little table. There was a fire in the grateas there had been
night and day for fifteen years. There was a kettle on the hobas
there had been night and day for fifteen years. There was a little
mound of damped ashes on the top of the fireand another little
mound swept together under the grateas there had been night and
day for fifteen years. There was a smell of black dye in the
airless roomwhich the fire had been drawing out of the crape and
stuff of the widow's dress for fifteen monthsand out of the bierlike
sofa for fifteen years.

'Motherthis is a change from your old active habits.'

'The world has narrowed to these dimensionsArthur' she rep lied
glancing round the room. 'It is well for me that I never set my
heart upon its hollow vanities.'

The old influence of her presence and her stern strong voiceso
gathered about her sonthat he felt conscious of a renewal of the
timid chill and reserve of his childhood.

'Do you never leave your roommother?'

'What with my rheumatic affectionand what with its attendant
debility or nervous weakness--names are of no matter now--I have
lost the use of my limbs. I never leave my room. I have not been
outside this door for--tell him for how long' she saidspeaking
over her shoulder.

'A dozen year next Christmas' returned a cracked voice out of the
dimness behind.

'Is that Affery?' said Arthurlooking towards it.

The cracked voice replied that it was Affery: and an old woman came
forward into what doubtful light there wasand kissed her hand
once; then subsided again into the dimness.

'I am able' said Mrs Clennamwith a slight motion of her worstedmuffled
right hand toward a chair on wheelsstanding before a tall
writing cabinet close shut up'I am able to attend to my business
dutiesand I am thankful for the privilege. It is a great
privilege. But no more of business on this day. It is a bad
nightis it not?'

'Yesmother.'

'Does it snow?'

'Snowmother? And we only yet in September?'

'All seasons are alike to me' she returnedwith a grim kind of
luxuriousness. 'I know nothing of summer and wintershut up here.

The Lord has been pleased to put me beyond all that.' With her
cold grey eyes and her cold grey hairand her immovable faceas
stiff as the folds of her stony head-dress--her being beyond the
reach of the seasons seemed but a fit sequence to her being beyond
the reach of all changing emotions.

On her little table lay two or three booksher handkerchiefa
pair of steel spectacles newly taken offand an old-fashioned gold
watch in a heavy double case. Upon this last object her son's eyes


and her own now rested together.

'I see that you received the packet I sent you on my father's
deathsafelymother.'

'You see.'

'I never knew my father to show so much anxiety on any subjectas
that his watch should be sent straight to you.'

'I keep it here as a remembrance of your father.'

'It was not until the lastthat he expressed the wish; when he
could only put his hand upon itand very indistinctly say to me
your mother.A moment beforeI thought him wandering in his
mindas he had been for many hours--I think he had no
consciousness of pain in his short illness--when I saw him turn
himself in his bed and try to open it.'

'Was your fatherthennot wandering in his mind when he tried to
open it?'

'No. He was quite sensible at that time.'

Mrs Clennam shook her head; whether in dismissal of the deceased or
opposing herself to her son's opinionwas not clearly expressed.

'After my father's death I opened it myselfthinking there might
befor anything I knewsome memorandum there. Howeveras I need
not tell youmotherthere was nothing but the old silk watchpaper
worked in beadswhich you found (no doubt) in its place
between the caseswhere I found and left it.'

Mrs Clennam signified assent; then added'No more of business on
this day' and then added'Afferyit is nine o'clock.'

Upon thisthe old woman cleared the little tablewent out of the
roomand quickly returned with a tray on which was a dish of
little rusks and a small precise pat of buttercoolsymmetrical
whiteand plump. The old man who had been standing by the door in
one attitude during the whole interviewlooking at the mother upstairs
as he had looked at the son down-stairswent out at the
same timeandafter a longer absencereturned with another tray
on which was the greater part of a bottle of port wine (whichto
judge by his pantinghe had brought from the cellar)a lemona
sugar-basinand a spice box. With these materials and the aid of
the kettlehe filled a tumbler with a hot and odorous mixture
measured out and compounded with as much nicety as a physician's
prescription. Into this mixture Mrs Clennam dipped certain of the
rusksand ate them; while the old woman buttered certain other of
the ruskswhich were to be eaten alone. When the invalid had
eaten all the rusks and drunk all the mixturethe two trays were
removed; and the books and the candlewatchhandkerchiefand
spectacles were replaced upon the table. She then put on the
spectacles and read certain passages aloud from a book--sternly
fiercelywrathfully--praying that her enemies (she made them by
her tone and manner expressly hers) might be put to the edge of the
swordconsumed by firesmitten by plagues and leprosythat their
bones might be ground to dustand that they might be utterly
exterminated. As she read onyears seemed to fall away from her
son like the imaginings of a dreamand all the old dark horrors of
his usual preparation for the sleep of an innocent child to
overshadow him.


She shut the book and remained for a little time with her face
shaded by her hand. So did the old manotherwise still unchanged


in attitude; soprobablydid the old woman in her dimmer part of
the room. Then the sick woman was ready for bed.


'Good nightArthur. Affery will see to your accommodation. Only
touch mefor my hand is tender.' He touched the worsted muffling
of her hand--that was nothing; if his mother had been sheathed in
brass there would have been no new barrier between them--and
followed the old man and woman down-stairs.


The latter asked himwhen they were alone together among the heavy
shadows of the dining-roomwould he have some supper?


'NoAfferyno supper.'


'You shall if you like' said Affery. 'There's her tomorrow's
partridge in the larder--her first this year; say the word and I'll
cook it.'


Nohe had not long dinedand could eat nothing.


'Have something to drinkthen' said Affery; 'you shall have some
of her bottle of portif you like. I'll tell Jeremiah that you
ordered me to bring it you.'


No; nor would he have thateither.


'It's no reasonArthur' said the old womanbending over him to
whisper'that because I am afeared of my life of 'emyou should
be. You've got half the propertyhaven't you?'


'Yesyes.'


'Well thendon't you be cowed. You're cleverArthuran't you?
'
He noddedas she seemed to expect an answer in the affirmative.
'Then stand up against them! She's awful cleverand none but a
clever one durst say a word to her. HE'S a clever one--ohhe's a
clever one!--and he gives it her when he has a mind to'the does!'


'Your husband does?'


'Does? It makes me shake from head to footto hear him give it
her. My husbandJeremiah Flintwinchcan conquer even your
mother. What can he be but a clever one to do that!'


His shuffling footstep coming towards them caused her to retreat to
the other end of the room. Though a tallhard-favouredsinewy
old womanwho in her youth might have enlisted in the Foot Guards
without much fear of discoveryshe collapsed before the little
keen-eyed crab-like old man.


'NowAffery' said he'nowwomanwhat are you doing? Can't you
find Master Arthur something or another to pick at?'


Master Arthur repeated his recent refusal to pick at anything.


'Very wellthen' said the old man; 'make his bed. Stir
yourself.' His neck was so twisted that the knotted ends of his
white cravat usually dangled under one ear; his natural acerbity
and energyalways contending with a second nature of habitual
repressiongave his features a swollen and suffused look; and



altogetherhe had a weird appearance of having hanged himself at
one time or otherand of having gone about ever sincehalter and
allexactly as some timely hand had cut him down.

'You'll have bitter words together to-morrowArthur; you and your
mother' said Jeremiah. 'Your having given up the business on your
father's death--which she suspectsthough we have left it to you
to tell her--won't go off smoothly.'

'I have given up everything in life for the businessand the time
came for me to give up that.'

'Good!' cried Jeremiahevidently meaning Bad. 'Very good! only
don't expect me to stand between your mother and youArthur. I
stood between your mother and your fatherfending off thisand
fending off thatand getting crushed and pounded betwixt em; and
I've done with such work.'

'You will never be asked to begin it again for meJeremiah.'

' Good. I'm glad to hear it; because I should have had to decline
itif I had been. That's enough--as your mother says--and more
than enough of such matters on a Sabbath night. Afferywoman
have you found what you want yet?'

She had been collecting sheets and blankets from a pressand
hastened to gather them upand to reply'YesJeremiah.' Arthur
Clennam helped her by carrying the load himselfwished the old man
good nightand went up-stairs with her to the top of the house.

They mounted up and upthrough the musty smell of an old close
houselittle usedto a large garret bed-room. Meagre and spare
like all the other roomsit was even uglier and grimmer than the
restby being the place of banishment for the worn-out furniture.
Its movables were ugly old chairs with worn-out seatsand ugly old
chairs without any seats; a threadbare patternless carpeta maimed
tablea crippled wardrobea lean set of fire-irons like the
skeleton of a set deceaseda washing-stand that looked as if it
had stood for ages in a hail of dirty soapsudsand a bedstead with
four bare atomies of postseach terminating in a spikeas if for
the dismal accommodation of lodgers who might prefer to impale
themselves. Arthur opened the long low windowand looked out upon
the old blasted and blackened forest of chimneysand the old red
glare in the skywhich had seemed to him once upon a time but a
nightly reflection of the fiery environment that was presented to
his childish fancy in all directionslet it look where it would.

He drew in his head againsat down at the bedsideand looked on
at Affery Flintwinch making the bed.

'Afferyyou were not married when I went away.'

She screwed her mouth into the form of saying 'No' shook her head
and proceeded to get a pillow into its case.

'How did it happen?'

'WhyJeremiaho' course' said Afferywith an end of the pillowcase
between her teeth.

'Of course he proposed itbut how did it all come about? I should
have thought that neither of you would have married; least of all
should I have thought of your marrying each other.'


'No more should I' said Mrs Flintwinchtying the pillow tightly
in its case.


'That's what I mean. When did you begin to think otherwise?'


'Never begun to think otherwise at all' said Mrs Flintwinch.


Seeingas she patted the pillow into its place on the bolster
that he was still looking at her as if waiting for the rest of her
replyshe gave it a great poke in the middleand asked'How
could I help myself?'


'How could you help yourself from being married!'


'O' course' said Mrs Flintwinch. 'It was no doing o' mine. I'D
never thought of it. I'd got something to dowithout thinking
indeed! She kept me to it (as well as he) when she could go about
and she could go about then.'
'Well?'


'Well?' echoed Mrs Flintwinch. 'That's what I said myself. Well!
What's the use of considering? If them two clever ones have made
up their minds to itwhat's left for me to do? Nothing.'


'Was it my mother's projectthen?'


'The Lord bless youArthurand forgive me the wish!' cried
Afferyspeaking always in a low tone. 'If they hadn't been both
of a mind in ithow could it ever have been? Jeremiah never
courted me; t'ant likely that he wouldafter living in the house
with me and ordering me about for as many years as he'd done. He
said to me one dayhe saidAffery,he saidnow I am going to
tell you something. What do you think of the name of Flintwinch?
What do I think of it?I says. "Yes he said, because you're
going to take it he said. Take it?" I says. "Jere-MI-ah?" Oh!
he's a clever one!'


Mrs Flintwinch went on to spread the upper sheet over the bedand
the blanket over thatand the counterpane over thatas if she had
quite concluded her story.
'Well?' said Arthur again.


'Well?' echoed Mrs Flintwinch again. 'How could I help myself? He
said to meAffery, you and me must be married, and I'll tell you
why. She's failing in health, and she'll want pretty constant
attendance up in her room, and we shall have to be much with her,
and there'll be nobody about now but ourselves when we're away from
her, and altogether it will be more convenient. She's of my
opinion,he saidso if you'll put your bonnet on next Monday
morning at eight, we'll get it over.' Mrs Flintwinch tucked up the
bed.


'Well?'


'Well?' repeated Mrs Flintwinch'I think so! I sits me down and
says it. Well!--Jeremiah then says to meAs to banns, next
Sunday being the third time of asking (for I've put 'em up a
fortnight), is my reason for naming Monday. She'll speak to you
about it herself, and now she'll find you prepared, Affery.That
same day she spoke to meand she saidSo, Affery, I understand
that you and Jeremiah are going to be married. I am glad of it,
and so are you, with reason. It is a very good thing for you, and
very welcome under the circumstances to me. He is a sensible man,
and a trustworthy man, and a persevering man, and a pious man.



What could I say when it had come to that? Whyif it had been--a
smothering instead of a wedding' Mrs Flintwinch cast about in her
mind with great pains for this form of expression'I couldn't have
said a word upon itagainst them two clever ones.'

'In good faithI believe so.'
'And so you mayArthur.'

'Afferywhat girl was that in my mother's room just now?'

'Girl?' said Mrs Flintwinch in a rather sharp key.

'It was a girlsurelywhom I saw near you--almost hidden in the
dark corner?'

'Oh! She? Little Dorrit? She's nothing; she's a whim of--hers.'
It was a peculiarity of Affery Flintwinch that she never spoke of
Mrs Clennam by name. 'But there's another sort of girls than that
about. Have you forgot your old sweetheart? Long and long ago
I'll be bound.'

'I suffered enough from my mother's separating usto remember her.

I recollect her very well.'

'Have you got another?'

'No.'

'Here's news for youthen. She's well to do nowand a widow.
And if you like to have herwhy you can.'

'And how do you know thatAffery?'

'Them two clever ones have been speaking about it.--There's
Jeremiah on the stairs!' She was gone in a moment.

Mrs Flintwinch had introduced into the web that his mind was busily
weavingin that old workshop where the loom of his youth had
stoodthe last thread wanting to the pattern. The airy folly of
a boy's love had found its way even into that houseand he had
been as wretched under its hopelessness as if the house had been a
castle of romance. Little more than a week ago at Marseillesthe
face of the pretty girl from whom he had parted with regrethad
had an unusual interest for himand a tender hold upon him
because of some resemblancereal or imaginedto this first face
that had soared out of his gloomy life into the bright glories of
fancy. He leaned upon the sill of the long low windowand looking
out upon the blackened forest of chimneys againbegan to dream;
for it had been the uniform tendency of this man's life--so much
was wanting in it to think aboutso much that might have been
better directed and happier to speculate upon--to make him a
dreamerafter all.

CHAPTER 4

Mrs Flintwinch has a Dream

When Mrs Flintwinch dreamedshe usually dreamedunlike the son of
her old mistresswith her eyes shut. She had a curiously vivid


dream that nightand before she had left the son of her old
mistress many hours. In fact it was not at all like a dream; it
was so very real in every respect. It happened in this wise.

The bed-chamber occupied by Mr and Mrs Flintwinch was within a few
paces of that to which Mrs Clennam had been so long confined. It
was not on the same floorfor it was a room at the side of the
housewhich was approached by a steep descent of a few odd steps
diverging from the main staircase nearly opposite to Mrs Clennam's
door. It could scarcely be said to be within callthe walls
doorsand panelling of the old place were so cumbrous; but it was
within easy reachin any undressat any hour of the nightin any
temperature. At the head of the bed and within a foot of Mrs
Flintwinch's earwas a bellthe line of which hung ready to Mrs
Clennam's hand. Whenever this bell rangup started Afferyand
was in the sick room before she was awake.

Having got her mistress into bedlighted her lampand given her
good nightMrs Flintwinch went to roost as usualsaving that her
lord had not yet appeared. It was her lord himself who became-unlike
the last theme in the mindaccording to the observation of
most philosophers--the subject of Mrs Flintwinch's dream.
It seemed to her that she awoke after sleeping some hoursand
found Jeremiah not yet abed. That she looked at the candle she had
left burningandmeasuring the time like King Alfred the Great
was confirmed by its wasted state in her belief that she had been
asleep for some considerable period. That she arose thereupon
muffled herself up in a wrapperput on her shoesand went out on
the staircasemuch surprisedto look for Jeremiah.

The staircase was as wooden and solid as need beand Affery went
straight down it without any of those deviations peculiar to
dreams. She did not skim over itbut walked down itand guided
herself by the banisters on account of her candle having died out.
In one corner of the hallbehind the house-doorthere was a
little waiting-roomlike a well-shaftwith a long narrow window
in it as if it had been ripped up. In this roomwhich was never
useda light was burning.

Mrs Flintwinch crossed the hallfeeling its pavement cold to her
stockingless feetand peeped in between the rusty hinges on the
doorwhich stood a little open. She expected to see Jeremiah fast
asleep or in a fitbut he was calmly seated in a chairawakeand
in his usual health. But what--hey?--Lord forgive us!--Mrs
Flintwinch muttered some ejaculation to this effectand turned
giddy.

ForMr Flintwinch awakewas watching Mr Flintwinch asleep. He
sat on one side of the small tablelooking keenly at himself on
the other side with his chin sunk on his breastsnoring. The
waking Flintwinch had his full front face presented to his wife;
the sleeping Flintwinch was in profile. The waking Flintwinch was
the old original; the sleeping Flintwinch was the double. just as
she might have distinguished between a tangible object and its
reflection in a glassAffery made out this difference with her
head going round and round.

If she had had any doubt which was her own Jeremiahit would have
been resolved by his impatience. He looked about him for an
offensive weaponcaught up the snuffersandbefore applying them
to the cabbage-headed candlelunged at the sleeper as though he
would have run him through the body.

'Who's that? What's the matter?' cried the sleeperstarting.


Mr Flintwinch made a movement with the snuffersas if he would
have enforced silence on his companion by putting them down his
throat; the companioncoming to himselfsaidrubbing his eyes
'I forgot where I was.'

'You have been asleep' snarled Jeremiahreferring to his watch
'two hours. You said you would be rested enough if you had a short
nap.'

'I have had a short nap' said Double.

'Half-past two o'clock in the morning' muttered Jeremiah.
'Where's your hat? Where's your coat? Where's the box?'

'All here' said Doubletying up his throat with sleepy
carefulness in a shawl. 'Stop a minute. Now give me the sleeve-not
that sleevethe other one. Ha! I'm not as young as I was.'
Mr Flintwinch had pulled him into his coat with vehement energy.
'You promised me a second glass after I was rested.'

'Drink it!' returned Jeremiah'and--choke yourselfI was going to
say--but goI mean.'At the same time he produced the identical
port-wine bottleand filled a wine-glass.

'Her port-wineI believe?' said Doubletasting it as if he were
in the Dockswith hours to spare. 'Her health.'

He took a sip.

'Your health!'

He took another sip.

'His health!'

He took another sip.

'And all friends round St Paul's.' He emptied and put down the
wine-glass half-way through this ancient civic toastand took up
the box. It was an iron box some two feet squarewhich he carried
under his arms pretty easily. Jeremiah watched his manner of
adjusting itwith jealous eyes; tried it with his handsto be
sure that he had a firm hold of it; bade him for his life be
careful what he was about; and then stole out on tiptoe to open the
door for him. Afferyanticipating the last movementwas on the
staircase. The sequence of things was so ordinary and natural
thatstanding thereshe could hear the door openfeel the night
airand see the stars outside.

But now came the most remarkable part of the dream. She felt so
afraid of her husbandthat being on the staircaseshe had not the
power to retreat to her room (which she might easily have done
before he had fastened the door)but stood there staring.
Consequently when he came up the staircase to bedcandle in hand
he came full upon her. He looked astonishedbut said not a word.
He kept his eyes upon herand kept advancing; and shecompletely
under his influencekept retiring before him. Thusshe walking
backward and he walking forwardthey came into their own room.
They were no sooner shut in therethan Mr Flintwinch took her by
the throatand shook her until she was black in the face.

'WhyAfferywoman--Affery!' said Mr Flintwinch. 'What have you
been dreaming of? Wake upwake up! What's the matter?'


'The--the matterJeremiah?' gasped Mrs Flintwinchrolling her
eyes.


'WhyAfferywoman--Affery! You have been getting out of bed in
your sleepmy dear! I come upafter having fallen asleep myself
belowand find you in your wrapper herewith the nightmare.
Afferywoman' said Mr Flintwinchwith a friendly grin on his
expressive countenance'if you ever have a dream of this sort
againit'll be a sign of your being in want of physic. And I'll
give you such a doseold woman--such a dose!'


Mrs Flintwinch thanked him and crept into bed.


CHAPTER 5


Family Affairs


As the city clocks struck nine on Monday morningMrs Clennam was
wheeled by Jeremiah Flintwinch of the cut-down aspect to her tall
cabinet. When she had unlocked and opened itand had settled
herself at its deskJeremiah withdrew--as it might beto hang
himself more effectually--and her son appeared.


'Are you any better this morningmother?'


She shook her headwith the same austere air of luxuriousness that
she had shown over-night when speaking of the weather.


'I shall never be better any more. It is well for meArthurthat
I know it and can bear it.'


Sitting with her hands laid separately upon the deskand the tall
cabinet towering before hershe looked as if she were performing
on a dumb church organ. Her son thought so (it was an old thought
with him)while he took his seat beside it.


She opened a drawer or twolooked over some business papersand
put them back again. Her severe face had no thread of relaxation
in itby which any explorer could have been guided to the gloomy
labyrinth of her thoughts.


'Shall I speak of our affairsmother? Are you inclined to enter
upon business?'


'Am I inclinedArthur? Ratherare you? Your father has been
dead a year and more. I have been at your disposaland waiting
your pleasureever since.'


'There was much to arrange before I could leave; and when I did
leaveI travelled a little for rest and relief.'


She turned her face towards himas not having heard or understood
his last words.
'For rest and relief.'


She glanced round the sombre roomand appeared from the motion of
her lips to repeat the words to herselfas calling it to witness
how little of either it afforded her.



'Besidesmotheryou being sole executrixand having the
direction and management of the estatethere remained little
businessor I might say nonethat I could transactuntil you had
had time to arrange matters to your satisfaction.'

'The accounts are made out' she returned. 'I have them here. The
vouchers have all been examined and passed. You can inspect them
when you likeArthur; nowif you please.'

'It is quite enoughmotherto know that the business is
completed. Shall I proceed then?'

'Why not?' she saidin her frozen way.

'Motherour House has done less and less for some years pastand
our dealings have been progressively on the decline. We have never
shown much confidenceor invited much; we have attached no people
to us; the track we have kept is not the track of the time; and we
have been left far behind. I need not dwell on this to you
mother. You know it necessarily.'

'I know what you mean' she answeredin a qualified tone.
'Even this old house in which we speak' pursued her son'is an
instance of what I say. In my father's earlier timeand in his
uncle's time before himit was a place of business--really a place
of businessand business resort. Nowit is a mere anomaly and
incongruity hereout of date and out of purpose. All our
consignments have long been made to Rovinghams' the commissionmerchants;
and althoughas a check upon themand in the
stewardship of my father's resourcesyour judgment and
watchfulness have been actively exertedstill those qualities
would have influenced my father's fortunes equallyif you had
lived in any private dwelling: would they not?'

'Do you consider' she returnedwithout answering his question
'that a house serves no purposeArthurin sheltering your infirm
and afflicted--justly infirm and righteously afflicted--mother?'

'I was speaking only of business purposes.'

'With what object?'

'I am coming to it.'

'I foresee' she returnedfixing her eyes upon him'what it is.
But the Lord forbid that I should repine under any visitation. In
my sinfulness I merit bitter disappointmentand I accept it.'

'MotherI grieve to hear you speak like thisthough I have had my
apprehensions that you would--'

'You knew I would. You knew ME' she interrupted.

Her son paused for a moment. He had struck fire out of herand
was surprised.

'Well!' she saidrelapsing into stone. 'Go on. Let me hear.'

'You have anticipatedmotherthat I decide for my partto
abandon the business. I have done with it. I will not take upon
myself to advise you; you will continue itI see. If I had any
influence with youI would simply use it to soften your judgment
of me in causing you this disappointment: to represent to you that
I have lived the half of a long term of lifeand have never before


set my own will against yours. I cannot say that I have been able
to conform myselfin heart and spiritto your rules; I cannot say
that I believe my forty years have been profitable or pleasant to
myselfor any one; but I have habitually submittedand I only ask
you to remember it.'

Woe to the suppliantif such a one there were or ever had been
who had any concession to look for in the inexorable face at the
cabinet. Woe to the defaulter whose appeal lay to the tribunal
where those severe eyes presided. Great need had the rigid woman
of her mystical religionveiled in gloom and darknesswith
lightnings of cursingvengeanceand destructionflashing through
the sable clouds. Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors
was a prayer too poor in spirit for her. Smite Thou my debtors
Lordwither themcrush them; do Thou as I would doand Thou
shalt have my worship: this was the impious tower of stone she
built up to scale Heaven.

'Have you finishedArthuror have you anything more to say to me?

I think there can be nothing else. You have been shortbut full
of matter!'

'MotherI have yet something more to say. It has been upon my
mindnight and daythis long time. It is far more difficult to
say than what I have said. That concerned myself; this concerns us
all.'

'Us all! Who are us all?'

'Yourselfmyselfmy dead father.'

She took her hands from the desk; folded them in her lap; and sat
looking towards the firewith the impenetrability of an old
Egyptian sculpture.

'You knew my father infinitely better than I ever knew him; and his
reserve with me yielded to you. You were much the stronger
motherand directed him. As a childI knew it as well as I know
it now. I knew that your ascendancy over him was the cause of his
going to China to take care of the business therewhile you took
care of it here (though I do not even now know whether these were
really terms of separation that you agreed upon); and that it was
your will that I should remain with you until I was twentyand
then go to him as I did. You will not be offended by my recalling
thisafter twenty years?'

'I am waiting to hear why you recall it.'

He lowered his voiceand saidwith manifest reluctanceand
against his will:

'I want to ask youmotherwhether it ever occurred to you to
suspect--'

At the word Suspectshe turned her eyes momentarily upon her son
with a dark frown. She then suffered them to seek the fireas
before; but with the frown fixed above themas if the sculptor of
old Egypt had indented it in the hard granite faceto frown for
ages.

'--that he had any secret remembrance which caused him trouble of
mind--remorse? Whether you ever observed anything in his conduct
suggesting that; or ever spoke to him upon itor ever heard him


hint at such a thing?'

'I do not understand what kind of secret remembrance you mean to
infer that your father was a prey to' she returnedafter a
silence. 'You speak so mysteriously.'

'Is it possiblemother' her son leaned forward to be the nearer
to her while he whispered itand laid his hand nervously upon her
desk'is it possiblemotherthat he had unhappily wronged any
oneand made no reparation?'

Looking at him wrathfullyshe bent herself back in her chair to
keep him further offbut gave him no reply.

'I am deeply sensiblemotherthat if this thought has never at
any time flashed upon youit must seem cruel and unnatural in me
even in this confidenceto breathe it. But I cannot shake it off.

Time and change (I have tried both before breaking silence) do
nothing to wear it out. RememberI was with my father. Remember
I saw his face when he gave the watch into my keepingand
struggled to express that he sent it as a token you would
understandto you. RememberI saw him at the last with the
pencil in his failing handtrying to write some word for you to
readbut to which he could give no shape. The more remote and
cruel this vague suspicion that I havethe stronger the
circumstances that could give it any semblance of probability to
me. For Heaven's sakelet us examine sacredly whether there is
any wrong entrusted to us to set right. No one can help towards
itmotherbut you. '

Still so recoiling in her chair that her overpoised weight moved
itfrom time to timea little on its wheelsand gave her the
appearance of a phantom of fierce aspect gliding away from himshe
interposed her left armbent at the elbow with the back of her
hand towards her facebetween herself and himand looked at him
in a fixed silence.

'In grasping at money and in driving hard bargains--I have begun
and I must speak of such things nowmother--some one may have been
grievously deceivedinjuredruined. You were the moving power of
all this machinery before my birth; your stronger spirit has been
infused into all my father's dealings for more than two score
years. You can set these doubts at restI thinkif you will
really help me to discover the truth. Will youmother?'

He stopped in the hope that she would speak. But her grey hair was
not more immovable in its two foldsthan were her firm lips.

'If reparation can be made to any oneif restitution can be made
to any onelet us know it and make it. Naymotherif within my
meanslet ME make it. I have seen so little happiness come of
money; it has brought within my knowledge so little peace to this
houseor to any one belonging to itthat it is worth less to me
than to another. It can buy me nothing that will not be a reproach
and misery to meif I am haunted by a suspicion that it darkened
my father's last hours with remorseand that it is not honestly
and justly mine.'
There was a bell-rope hanging on the panelled wallsome two or
three yards from the cabinet. By a swift and sudden action of her
footshe drove her wheeled chair rapidly back to it and pulled it
violently--still holding her arm up in its shield-like postureas
if he were striking at herand she warding off the blow.


A girl came hurrying infrightened.

'Send Flintwinch here!'

In a moment the girl had withdrawnand the old man stood within
the door. 'What! You're hammer and tongsalreadyyou two?' he
saidcoolly stroking his face. 'I thought you would be. I was
pretty sure of it.'

'Flintwinch!' said the mother'look at my son. Look at him!'

'WellI AM looking at him' said Flintwinch.

She stretched out the arm with which she had shielded herselfand
as she went onpointed at the object of her anger.

'In the very hour of his return almost--before the shoe upon his
foot is dry--he asperses his father's memory to his mother! Asks
his mother to becomewith hima spy upon his father's
transactions through a lifetime! Has misgivings that the goods of
this world which we have painfully got together early and late
with wear and tear and toil and self-denialare so much plunder;
and asks to whom they shall be given upas reparation and
restitution!'

Although she said this ragingshe said it in a voice so far from
being beyond her control that it was even lower than her usual
tone. She also spoke with great distinctness.

'Reparation!' said she. 'Yestruly! It is easy for him to talk
of reparationfresh from journeying and junketing in foreign
landsand living a life of vanity and pleasure. But let him look
at mein prisonand in bonds here. I endure without murmuring
because it is appointed that I shall so make reparation for my
sins. Reparation! Is there none in this room? Has there been
none here this fifteen years?'

Thus was she always balancing her bargains with the Majesty of
heavenposting up the entries to her creditstrictly keeping her
set-offand claiming her due. She was only remarkable in this
for the force and emphasis with which she did it. Thousands upon
thousands do itaccording to their varying mannerevery day.

'Flintwinchgive me that book!'

The old man handed it to her from the table. She put two fingers
between the leavesclosed the book upon themand held it up to
her son in a threatening way.
' In the days of oldArthurtreated of in this commentarythere
were pious menbeloved of the Lordwho would have cursed their
sons for less than this: who would have sent them forthand sent
whole nations forthif such had supported themto be avoided of
God and manand perishdown to the baby at the breast. But I
only tell you that if you ever renew that theme with meI will
renounce you; I will so dismiss you through that doorwaythat you
had better have been motherless from your cradle. I will never see
or know you more. And ifafter allyou were to come into this
darkened room to look upon me lying deadmy body should bleedif
I could make itwhen you came near me.'

In part relieved by the intensity of this threatand in part
(monstrous as the fact is) by a general impression that it was in
some sort a religious proceedingshe handed back the book to the
old manand was silent.


'Now' said Jeremiah; 'premising that I'm not going to stand
between you twowill you let me ask (as I have been called inand
made a third) what is all this about?'

'Take your version of it' returned Arthurfinding it left to him
to speak'from my mother. Let it rest there. What I have said
was said to my mother only.'
'Oh!' returned the old man. 'From your mother? Take it from your
mother? Well! But your mother mentioned that you had been
suspecting your father. That's not dutifulMr Arthur. Who will
you be suspecting next?'

'Enough' said Mrs Clennamturning her face so that it was
addressed for the moment to the old man only. 'Let no more be said
about this.'

'Yesbut stop a bitstop a bit' the old man persisted. 'Let us
see how we stand. Have you told Mr Arthur that he mustn't lay
offences at his father's door? That he has no right to do it?
That he has no ground to go upon?'

'I tell him so now.'

'Ah! Exactly' said the old man. 'You tell him so now. You
hadn't told him so beforeand you tell him so now. Ayay!
That's right! You know I stood between you and his father so long
that it seems as if death had made no differenceand I was still
standing between you. So I willand so in fairness I require to
have that plainly put forward. Arthuryou please to hear that you
have no right to mistrust your fatherand have no ground to go
upon.'

He put his hands to the back of the wheeled chairand muttering to
himselfslowly wheeled his mistress back to her cabinet. 'Now'
he resumedstanding behind her: 'in case I should go away leaving
things half doneand so should be wanted again when you come to
the other half and get into one of your flightshas Arthur told
you what he means to do about the business?'

'He has relinquished it.'

'In favour of nobodyI suppose?'

Mrs Clennam glanced at her sonleaning against one of the windows.

He observed the look and said'To my motherof course. She does
what she pleases.'

'And if any pleasure' she said after a short pause'could arise
for me out of the disappointment of my expectations that my sonin
the prime of his lifewould infuse new youth and strength into it
and make it of great profit and powerit would be in advancing an
old and faithful servant. Jeremiahthe captain deserts the ship
but you and I will sink or float with it.'

Jeremiahwhose eyes glistened as if they saw moneydarted a
sudden look at the sonwhich seemed to say'I owe YOU no thanks
for this; YOU have done nothing towards it!' and then told the
mother that he thanked herand that Affery thanked herand that
he would never desert herand that Affery would never desert her.
Finallyhe hauled up his watch from its depthsand said'Eleven.
Time for your oysters!' and with that change of subjectwhich
involved no change of expression or mannerrang the bell.


But Mrs Clennamresolved to treat herself with the greater rigour
for having been supposed to be unacquainted with reparation
refused to eat her oysters when they were brought. They looked
tempting; eight in numbercircularly set out on a white plate on
a tray covered with a white napkinflanked by a slice of buttered
French rolland a little compact glass of cool wine and water; but
she resisted all persuasionsand sent them down again--placing the
act to her creditno doubtin her Eternal Day-Book.

This refection of oysters was not presided over by Afferybut by
the girl who had appeared when the bell was rung; the same who had
been in the dimly-lighted room last night. Now that he had an
opportunity of observing herArthur found that her diminutive
figuresmall featuresand slight spare dressgave her the
appearance of being much younger than she was. A womanprobably
of not less than two-and-twentyshe might have been passed in the
street for little more than half that age. Not that her face was
very youthfulfor in truth there was more consideration and care
in it than naturally belonged to her utmost years; but she was so
little and lightso noiseless and shyand appeared so conscious
of being out of place among the three hard eldersthat she had all
the manner and much of the appearance of a subdued child.

In a hard wayand in an uncertain way that fluctuated between
patronage and putting downthe sprinkling from a watering-pot and
hydraulic pressureMrs Clennam showed an interest in this
dependent. Even in the moment of her entranceupon the violent
ringing of the bellwhen the mother shielded herself with that
singular action from the sonMrs Clennam's eyes had had some
individual recognition in themwhich seemed reserved for her. As
there are degrees of hardness in the hardest metaland shades of
colour in black itselfsoeven in the asperity of Mrs Clennam's
demeanour towards all the rest of humanity and towards Little
Dorritthere was a fine gradation.

Little Dorrit let herself out to do needlework. At so much a day-or
at so little--from eight to eightLittle Dorrit was to be
hired. Punctual to the momentLittle Dorrit appeared; punctual to
the momentLittle Dorrit vanished. What became of Little Dorrit
between the two eights was a mystery.

Another of the moral phenomena of Little Dorrit. Besides her
consideration moneyher daily contract included meals. She had an
extraordinary repugnance to dining in company; would never do so
if it were possible to escape. Would always plead that she had
this bit of work to begin firstor that bit of work to finish
first; and wouldof a certaintyscheme and plan--not very
cunninglyit would seemfor she deceived no one--to dine alone.
Successful in thishappy in carrying off her plate anywhereto
make a table of her lapor a boxor the groundor even as was
supposedto stand on tip-toedining moderately at a mantel-shelf;
the great anxiety of Little Dorrit's day was set at rest.

It was not easy to make out Little Dorrit's face; she was so
retiringplied her needle in such removed cornersand started
away so scared if encountered on the stairs. But it seemed to be
a pale transparent facequick in expressionthough not beautiful
in featureits soft hazel eyes excepted. A delicately bent head
a tiny forma quick little pair of busy handsand a shabby
dress--it must needs have been very shabby to look at all sobeing
so neat--were Little Dorrit as she sat at work.

For these particulars or generalities concerning Little DorritMr


Arthur was indebted in the course of the day to his own eyes and to
Mrs Affery's tongue. If Mrs Affery had had any will or way of her
ownit would probably have been unfavourable to Little Dorrit.
But as 'them two clever ones'--Mrs Affery's perpetual referencein
whom her personality was swallowed up--were agreed to accept Little
Dorrit as a matter of courseshe had nothing for it but to follow
suit. Similarlyif the two clever ones had agreed to murder
Little Dorrit by candlelightMrs Afferybeing required to hold
the candlewould no doubt have done it.

In the intervals of roasting the partridge for the invalid chamber
and preparing a baking-dish of beef and pudding for the diningroom
Mrs Affery made the communications above set forth;
invariably putting her head in at the door again after she had
taken it outto enforce resistance to the two clever ones. It
appeared to have become a perfect passion with Mrs Flintwinchthat
the only son should be pitted against them.

In the course of the daytooArthur looked through the whole
house. Dull and dark he found it. The gaunt roomsdeserted for
years upon yearsseemed to have settled down into a gloomy
lethargy from which nothing could rouse them again. The furniture
at once spare and lumberinghid in the rooms rather than furnished
themand there was no colour in all the house; such colour as had
ever been therehad long ago started away on lost sunbeams--got
itself absorbedperhapsinto flowersbutterfliesplumage of
birdsprecious stoneswhat not. There was not one straight floor
from the foundation to the roof; the ceilings were so fantastically
clouded by smoke and dustthat old women might have told fortunes
in them better than in grouts of tea; the dead-cold hearths showed
no traces of having ever been warmed but in heaps of soot that had
tumbled down the chimneysand eddied about in little dusky
whirlwinds when the doors were opened. In what had once been a
drawing-roomthere were a pair of meagre mirrorswith dismal
processions of black figures carrying black garlandswalking round
the frames; but even these were short of heads and legsand one
undertaker-like Cupid had swung round on its own axis and got
upside downand another had fallen off altogether. The room
Arthur Clennam's deceased father had occupied for business
purposeswhen he first remembered himwas so unaltered that he
might have been imagined still to keep it invisiblyas his visible
relict kept her room up-stairs; Jeremiah Flintwinch still going
between them negotiating. His picturedark and gloomyearnestly
speechless on the wallwith the eyes intently looking at his son
as they had looked when life departed from themseemed to urge him
awfully to the task he had attempted; but as to any yielding on the
part of his motherhe had now no hopeand as to any other means
of setting his distrust at resthe had abandoned hope a long time.

Down in the cellarsas up in the bed-chambersold objects that he
well remembered were changed by age and decaybut were still in
their old places; even to empty beer-casks hoary with cobwebsand
empty wine-bottles with fur and fungus choking up their throats.
Theretooamong unusual bottle-racks and pale slants of light
from the yard abovewas the strong room stored with old ledgers
which had as musty and corrupt a smell as if they were regularly
balancedin the dead small hoursby a nightly resurrection of old
book-keepers.

The baking-dish was served up in a penitential manner on a shrunken
cloth at an end of the dining-tableat two o'clockwhen he dined
with Mr Flintwinchthe new partner. Mr Flintwinch informed him
that his mother had recovered her equanimity nowand that he need
not fear her again alluding to what had passed in the morning.


'And don't you lay offences at your father's doorMr Arthur'
added Jeremiah'once for alldon't do it! Nowwe have done with
the subject.'

Mr Flintwinch had been already rearranging and dusting his own
particular little officeas if to do honour to his accession to
new dignity. He resumed this occupation when he was replete with
beefhad sucked up all the gravy in the baking-dish with the flat
of his knifeand had drawn liberally on a barrel of small beer in
the scullery. Thus refreshedhe tucked up his shirt-sleeves and
went to work again; and Mr Arthurwatching him as he set about it
plainly saw that his father's pictureor his father's gravewould
be as communicative with him as this old man.

'NowAfferywoman' said Mr Flintwinchas she crossed the hall.
'You hadn't made Mr Arthur's bed when I was up there last. Stir
yourself. Bustle.'

But Mr Arthur found the house so blank and drearyand was so
unwilling to assist at another implacable consignment of his
mother's enemies (perhaps himself among them) to mortal
disfigurement and immortal ruinthat he announced his intention of
lodging at the coffee-house where he had left his luggage. Mr
Flintwinch taking kindly to the idea of getting rid of himand his
mother being indifferentbeyond considerations of savingto most
domestic arrangements that were not bounded by the walls of her own
chamberhe easily carried this point without new offence. Daily
business hours were agreed uponwhich his motherMr Flintwinch
and hewere to devote together to a necessary checking of books
and papers; and he left the home he had so lately foundwith
depressed heart.

But Little Dorrit?

The business hoursallowing for intervals of invalid regimen of
oysters and partridgesduring which Clennam refreshed himself with
a walkwere from ten to six for about a fortnight. Sometimes
Little Dorrit was employed at her needlesometimes notsometimes
appeared as a humble visitor: which must have been her character on
the occasion of his arrival. His original curiosity augmented
every dayas he watched for hersaw or did not see herand
speculated about her. Influenced by his predominant ideahe even
fell into a habit of discussing with himself the possibility of her
being in some way associated with it. At last he resolved to watch
Little Dorrit and know more of her story.

CHAPTER 6

The Father of the Marshalsea

Thirty years ago there stooda few doors short of the church of
Saint Georgein the borough of Southwarkon the left-hand side of
the way going southwardthe Marshalsea Prison. It had stood there
many years beforeand it remained there some years afterwards; but
it is gone nowand the world is none the worse without it.

It was an oblong pile of barrack buildingpartitioned into squalid
houses standing back to backso that there were no back rooms;
environed by a narrow paved yardhemmed in by high walls duly
spiked at top. Itself a close and confined prison for debtorsit


contained within it a much closer and more confined jail for
smugglers. Offenders against the revenue lawsand defaulters to
excise or customs who had incurred fines which they were unable to
paywere supposed to be incarcerated behind an iron-plated door
closing up a second prisonconsisting of a strong cell or twoand
a blind alley some yard and a half widewhich formed the
mysterious termination of the very limited skittle-ground in which
the Marshalsea debtors bowled down their troubles.

Supposed to be incarcerated therebecause the time had rather
outgrown the strong cells and the blind alley. In practice they
had come to be considered a little too badthough in theory they
were quite as good as ever; which may be observed to be the case at
the present day with other cells that are not at all strongand
with other blind alleys that are stone-blind. Hence the smugglers
habitually consorted with the debtors (who received them with open
arms)except at certain constitutional moments when somebody came
from some Officeto go through some form of overlooking something
which neither he nor anybody else knew anything about. On these
truly British occasionsthe smugglersif anymade a feint of
walking into the strong cells and the blind alleywhile this
somebody pretended to do his something: and made a reality of
walking out again as soon as he hadn't done it--neatly epitomising
the administration of most of the public affairs in our right
littletight littleisland.

There had been taken to the Marshalsea Prisonlong before the day
when the sun shone on Marseilles and on the opening of this
narrativea debtor with whom this narrative has some concern.

He wasat that timea very amiable and very helpless middle-aged
gentlemanwho was going out again directly. Necessarilyhe was
going out again directlybecause the Marshalsea lock never turned
upon a debtor who was not. He brought in a portmanteau with him
which he doubted its being worth while to unpack; he was so
perfectly clear--like all the rest of themthe turnkey on the lock
said--that he was going out again directly.

He was a shyretiring man; well-lookingthough in an effeminate
style; with a mild voicecurling hairand irresolute hands--rings
upon the fingers in those days--which nervously wandered to his
trembling lip a hundred times in the first half-hour of his
acquaintance with the jail. His principal anxiety was about his
wife.

'Do you thinksir' he asked the turnkey'that she will be very
much shockedif she should come to the gate to-morrow morning?'

The turnkey gave it as the result of his experience that some of
'em was and some of 'em wasn't. In generalmore no than yes.
'What like is sheyou see?' he philosophically asked: 'that's what
it hinges on.'

'She is very delicate and inexperienced indeed.'

'That' said the turnkey'is agen her.'

'She is so little used to go out alone' said the debtor'that I
am at a loss to think how she will ever make her way hereif she
walks.'

'P'raps' quoth the turnkey'she'll take a ackney coach.'

'Perhaps.' The irresolute fingers went to the trembling lip. 'I


hope she will. She may not think of it.'

'Or p'raps' said the turnkeyoffering his suggestions from the
the top of his well-worn wooden stoolas he might have offered
them to a child for whose weakness he felt a compassion'p'raps
she'll get her brotheror her sisterto come along with her.'

'She has no brother or sister.'

'Niecenevycousinserwantyoung 'oomangreengrocer.--Dash it!

One or another on 'em' said the turnkeyrepudiating beforehand
the refusal of all his suggestions.

'I fear--I hope it is not against the rules--that she will bring
the children.'

'The children?' said the turnkey. 'And the rules? Whylord set
you up like a corner pinwe've a reg'lar playground o' children
here. Children! Why we swarm with 'em. How many a you got?'

'Two' said the debtorlifting his irresolute hand to his lip
againand turning into the prison.

The turnkey followed him with his eyes. 'And you another' he
observed to himself'which makes three on you. And your wife
anotherI'll lay a crown. Which makes four on you. And another
comingI'll lay half-a-crown. Which'll make five on you. And
I'll go another seven and sixpence to name which is the
helplessestthe unborn baby or you!'

He was right in all his particulars. She came next day with a
little boy of three years oldand a little girl of twoand he
stood entirely corroborated.

'Got a room now; haven't you?' the turnkey asked the debtor after
a week or two.

'YesI have got a very good room.'

'Any little sticks a coming to furnish it?' said the turnkey.

'I expect a few necessary articles of furniture to be delivered by
the carrierthis afternoon.'

'Missis and little 'uns a coming to keep you company?' asked the
turnkey.

'Whyyeswe think it better that we should not be scatteredeven
for a few weeks.'

'Even for a few weeksOF course' replied the turnkey. And he
followed him again with his eyesand nodded his head seven times
when he was gone.

The affairs of this debtor were perplexed by a partnershipof
which he knew no more than that he had invested money in it; by
legal matters of assignment and settlementconveyance here and
conveyance theresuspicion of unlawful preference of creditors in
this directionand of mysterious spiriting away of property in
that; and as nobody on the face of the earth could be more
incapable of explaining any single item in the heap of confusion
than the debtor himselfnothing comprehensible could be made of
his case. To question him in detailand endeavour to reconcile


his answers; to closet him with accountants and sharp
practitionerslearned in the wiles of insolvency and bankruptcy;
was only to put the case out at compound interest and
incomprehensibility. The irresolute fingers fluttered more and
more ineffectually about the trembling lip on every such occasion
and the sharpest practitioners gave him up as a hopeless job.

'Out?' said the turnkey'he'll never get outunless his creditors
take him by the shoulders and shove him out.'

He had been there five or six monthswhen he came running to this
turnkey one forenoon to tell himbreathless and palethat his
wife was ill.

'As anybody might a known she would be' said the turnkey.

'We intended' he returned'that she should go to a country
lodging only to-morrow. What am I to do! Ohgood heavenwhat am
I to do!'

'Don't waste your time in clasping your hands and biting your
fingers' responded the practical turnkeytaking him by the elbow
'but come along with me.'

The turnkey conducted him--trembling from head to footand
constantly crying under his breathWhat was he to do! while his
irresolute fingers bedabbled the tears upon his face--up one of the
common staircases in the prison to a door on the garret story.
Upon which door the turnkey knocked with the handle of his key.

'Come in!' cried a voice inside.

The turnkeyopening the doordisclosed in a wretchedillsmelling
little roomtwo hoarsepuffyred-faced personages
seated at a rickety tableplaying at all-fourssmoking pipesand
drinking brandy.
'Doctor' said the turnkey'here's a gentleman's wife in want of
you without a minute's loss of time!'

The doctor's friend was in the positive degree of hoarseness
puffinessred-facednessall-fourstobaccodirtand brandy; the
doctor in the comparative--hoarserpuffiermore red-facedmore
all-foureytobaccoerdirtierand brandier. The doctor was
amazingly shabbyin a torn and darned rough-weather sea-jacket
out at elbows and eminently short of buttons (he had been in his
time the experienced surgeon carried by a passenger ship)the
dirtiest white trousers conceivable by mortal mancarpet slippers
and no visible linen. 'Childbed?' said the doctor. 'I'm the boy!'
With that the doctor took a comb from the chimney-piece and stuck
his hair upright--which appeared to be his way of washing himself-produced
a professional chest or caseof most abject appearance
from the cupboard where his cup and saucer and coals weresettled
his chin in the frowsy wrapper round his neckand became a ghastly
medical scarecrow.

The doctor and the debtor ran down-stairsleaving the turnkey to
return to the lockand made for the debtor's room. All the ladies
in the prison had got hold of the newsand were in the yard. Some
of them had already taken possession of the two childrenand were
hospitably carrying them off; others were offering loans of little
comforts from their own scanty store; others were sympathising with
the greatest volubility. The gentlemen prisonersfeeling
themselves at a disadvantagehad for the most part retirednot to
say sneakedto their rooms; from the open windows of which some of


them now complimented the doctor with whistles as he passed below
while otherswith several stories between theminterchanged
sarcastic references to the prevalent excitement.

It was a hot summer dayand the prison rooms were baking between
the high walls. In the debtor's confined chamberMrs Bangham
charwoman and messengerwho was not a prisoner (though she had
been once)but was the popular medium of communication with the
outer worldhad volunteered her services as fly-catcher and
general attendant. The walls and ceiling were blackened with
flies. Mrs Banghamexpert in sudden devicewith one hand fanned
the patient with a cabbage leafand with the other set traps of
vinegar and sugar in gallipots; at the same time enunciating
sentiments of an encouraging and congratulatory natureadapted to
the occasion.

'The flies trouble youdon't theymy dear?' said Mrs Bangham.
'But p'raps they'll take your mind off of itand do you good.
What between the buryin groundthe grocer'sthe waggon-stables
and the paunch tradethe Marshalsea flies gets very large. P'raps
they're sent as a consolationif we only know'd it. How are you
nowmy dear? No better? Nomy dearit ain't to be expected;
you'll be worse before you're betterand you know itdon't you?
Yes. That's right! And to think of a sweet little cherub being
born inside the lock! Now ain't it prettyain't THAT something to
carry you through it pleasant? Whywe ain't had such a thing
happen heremy dearnot for I couldn't name the time when. And
you a crying too?' said Mrs Banghamto rally the patient more and
more. 'You! Making yourself so famous! With the flies a falling
into the gallipots by fifties! And everything a going on so well!
And here if there ain't' said Mrs Bangham as the door opened'if
there ain't your dear gentleman along with Dr Haggage! And now
indeed we ARE completeI THINK!'

The doctor was scarcely the kind of apparition to inspire a patient
with a sense of absolute completenessbut as he presently
delivered the opinion'We are as right as we can beMrs Bangham
and we shall come out of this like a house afire;' and as he and
Mrs Bangham took possession of the poor helpless pairas everybody
else and anybody else had always donethe means at hand were as
good on the whole as better would have been. The special feature
in Dr Haggage's treatment of the casewas his determination to
keep Mrs Bangham up to the mark. As thus:

'Mrs Bangham' said the doctorbefore he had been there twenty
minutes'go outside and fetch a little brandyor we shall have
you giving in.'

'Thank yousir. But none on my accounts' said Mrs Bangham.

'Mrs Bangham' returned the doctor'I am in professional
attendance on this ladyand don't choose to allow any discussion
on your part. Go outside and fetch a little brandyor I foresee
that you'll break down.'

'You're to be obeyedsir' said Mrs Banghamrising. 'If you was
to put your own lips to itI think you wouldn't be the worsefor
you look but poorlysir.'

'Mrs Bangham' returned the doctor'I am not your businessthank
youbut you are mine. Never you mind MEif you please. What you
have got to doisto do as you are toldand to go and get what
I bid you.'


Mrs Bangham submitted; and the doctorhaving administered her
potiontook his own. He repeated the treatment every hourbeing
very determined with Mrs Bangham. Three or four hours passed; the
flies fell into the traps by hundreds; and at length one little
lifehardly stronger than theirsappeared among the multitude of
lesser deaths.

'A very nice little girl indeed' said the doctor; 'littlebut
well-formed. HalloaMrs Bangham! You're looking queer! You be
offma'amthis minuteand fetch a little more brandyor we
shall have you in hysterics.'

By this timethe rings had begun to fall from the debtor's
irresolute handslike leaves from a wintry tree. Not one was left
upon them that nightwhen he put something that chinked into the
doctor's greasy palm. In the meantime Mrs Bangham had been out on
an errand to a neighbouring establishment decorated with three
golden ballswhere she was very well known.

'Thank you' said the doctor'thank you. Your good lady is quite
composed. Doing charmingly.'

'I am very happy and very thankful to know it' said the debtor
'though I little thought oncethat--'

'That a child would be born to you in a place like this?' said the
doctor. 'Bahbahsirwhat does it signify? A little more
elbow-room is all we want here. We are quiet here; we don't get
badgered here; there's no knocker heresirto be hammered at by
creditors and bring a man's heart into his mouth. Nobody comes
here to ask if a man's at homeand to say he'll stand on the door
mat till he is. Nobody writes threatening letters about money to
this place. It's freedomsirit's freedom! I have had to-day's
practice at home and abroadon a marchand aboard shipand I'll
tell you this: I don't know that I have ever pursued it under such
quiet circumstances as here this day. Elsewherepeople are
restlessworriedhurried aboutanxious respecting one thing
anxious respecting another. Nothing of the kind heresir. We
have done all that--we know the worst of it; we have got to the
bottomwe can't falland what have we found? Peace. That's the
word for it. Peace.' With this profession of faiththe doctor
who was an old jail-birdand was more sodden than usualand had
the additional and unusual stimulus of money in his pocket
returned to his associate and chum in hoarsenesspuffinessredfacedness
all-fourstobaccodirtand brandy.

Nowthe debtor was a very different man from the doctorbut he
had already begun to travelby his opposite segment of the circle
to the same point. Crushed at first by his imprisonmenthe had
soon found a dull relief in it. He was under lock and key; but the
lock and key that kept him inkept numbers of his troubles out.
If he had been a man with strength of purpose to face those
troubles and fight themhe might have broken the net that held
himor broken his heart; but being what he washe languidly
slipped into this smooth descentand never more took one step
upward.

When he was relieved of the perplexed affairs that nothing would
make plainthrough having them returned upon his hands by a dozen
agents in succession who could make neither beginningmiddlenor
end of them or himhe found his miserable place of refuge a
quieter refuge than it had been before. He had unpacked the
portmanteau long ago; and his elder children now played regularly
about the yardand everybody knew the babyand claimed a kind of


proprietorship in her.

'WhyI'm getting proud of you' said his friend the turnkeyone
day. 'You'll be the oldest inhabitant soon. The Marshalsea
wouldn't be like the Marshalsea nowwithout you and your family.'

The turnkey really was proud of him. He would mention him in
laudatory terms to new-comerswhen his back was turned. 'You took
notice of him' he would say'that went out of the lodge just
now?'

New-comer would probably answer Yes.

'Brought up as a gentlemanhe wasif ever a man was. Ed'cated at
no end of expense. Went into the Marshal's house once to try a new
piano for him. Played itI understandlike one o'clock-beautiful!
As to languages--speaks anything. We've had a
Frenchman here in his timeand it's my opinion he knowed more
French than the Frenchman did. We've had an Italian here in his
timeand he shut him up in about half a minute. You'll find some
characters behind other locksI don't say you won't; but if you
want the top sawyer in such respects as I've mentionedyou must
come to the Marshalsea.'

When his youngest child was eight years oldhis wifewho had long
been languishing away--of her own inherent weaknessnot that she
retained any greater sensitiveness as to her place of abode than he
did--went upon a visit to a poor friend and old nurse in the
countryand died there. He remained shut up in his room for a
fortnight afterwards; and an attorney's clerkwho was going
through the Insolvent Courtengrossed an address of condolence to
himwhich looked like a Leaseand which all the prisoners signed.

When he appeared again he was greyer (he had soon begun to turn
grey); and the turnkey noticed that his hands went often to his
trembling lips againas they had used to do when he first came in.

But he got pretty well over it in a month or two; and in the
meantime the children played about the yard as regularly as ever
but in black.

Then Mrs Banghamlong popular medium of communication with the
outer worldbegan to be infirmand to be found oftener than usual
comatose on pavementswith her basket of purchases spiltand the
change of her clients ninepence short. His son began to supersede
Mrs Banghamand to execute commissions in a knowing mannerand to
be of the prison prisonousof the streets streety.

Time went onand the turnkey began to fail. His chest swelled
and his legs got weakand he was short of breath. The well-worn
wooden stool was 'beyond him' he complained. He sat in an armchair
with a cushionand sometimes wheezed sofor minutes
togetherthat he couldn't turn the key. When he was overpowered
by these fitsthe debtor often turned it for him.
'You and me' said the turnkeyone snowy winter's night when the
lodgewith a bright fire in itwas pretty full of company'is
the oldest inhabitants. I wasn't here myself above seven year
before you. I shan't last long. When I'm off the lock for good
and allyou'll be the Father of the Marshalsea.'

The turnkey went off the lock of this world next day. His words
were remembered and repeated; and tradition afterwards handed down
from generation to generation--a Marshalsea generation might be
calculated as about three months--that the shabby old debtor with


the soft manner and the white hairwas the Father of the
Marshalsea.

And he grew to be proud of the title. If any impostor had arisen
to claim ithe would have shed tears in resentment of the attempt
to deprive him of his rights. A disposition began to be perceived
in him to exaggerate the number of years he had been there; it was
generally understood that you must deduct a few from his account;
he was vainthe fleeting generations of debtors said.

All new-comers were presented to him. He was punctilious in the
exaction of this ceremony. The wits would perform the office of
introduction with overcharged pomp and politenessbut they could
not easily overstep his sense of its gravity. He received them in
his poor room (he disliked an introduction in the mere yardas
informal--a thing that might happen to anybody)with a kind of
bowed-down beneficence. They were welcome to the Marshalseahe
would tell them. Yeshe was the Father of the place. So the
world was kind enough to call him; and so he wasif more than
twenty years of residence gave him a claim to the title. It looked
small at firstbut there was very good company there--among a
mixture--necessarily a mixture--and very good air.

It became a not unusual circumstance for letters to be put under
his door at nightenclosing half-a-crowntwo half-crownsnow and
then at long intervals even half-a-sovereignfor the Father of the
Marshalsea. 'With the compliments of a collegian taking leave.'
He received the gifts as tributesfrom admirersto a public
character. Sometimes these correspondents assumed facetious names
as the BrickBellowsOld GooseberryWideawakeSnooksMops
Cutawaythe Dogs-meat Man; but he considered this in bad taste
and was always a little hurt by it.

In the fulness of timethis correspondence showing signs of
wearing outand seeming to require an effort on the part of the
correspondents to which in the hurried circumstances of departure
many of them might not be equalhe established the custom of
attending collegians of a certain standingto the gateand taking
leave of them there. The collegian under treatmentafter shaking
handswould occasionally stop to wrap up something in a bit of
paperand would come back again calling 'Hi!'

He would look round surprised.'Me?' he would saywith a smile.
By this time the collegian would be up with himand he would
paternally add'What have you forgotten? What can I do for you?'

'I forgot to leave this' the collegian would usually return'for
the Father of the Marshalsea.'

'My good sir' he would rejoin'he is infinitely obliged to you.'
Butto the lastthe irresolute hand of old would remain in the
pocket into which he had slipped the money during two or three
turns about the yardlest the transaction should be too
conspicuous to the general body of collegians.

One afternoon he had been doing the honours of the place to a
rather large party of collegianswho happened to be going out
whenas he was coming backhe encountered one from the poor side
who had been taken in execution for a small sum a week beforehad
'settled' in the course of that afternoonand was going out too.
The man was a mere Plasterer in his working dress; had his wife
with himand a bundle; and was in high spirits.


'God bless yousir' he said in passing.

'And you' benignantly returned the Father of the Marshalsea.

They were pretty far dividedgoing their several wayswhen the
Plasterer called out'I say!--sir!' and came back to him.


'It ain't much' said the Plastererputting a little pile of
halfpence in his hand'but it's well meant.'


The Father of the Marshalsea had never been offered tribute in
copper yet. His children often hadand with his perfect
acquiescence it had gone into the common purse to buy meat that he
had eatenand drink that he had drunk; but fustian splashed with
white limebestowing halfpence on himfront to frontwas new.


'How dare you!' he said to the manand feebly burst into tears.


The Plasterer turned him towards the wallthat his face might not
be seen; and the action was so delicateand the man was so
penetrated with repentanceand asked pardon so honestlythat he
could make him no less acknowledgment than'I know you meant it
kindly. Say no more.'


'Bless your soulsir' urged the Plasterer'I did indeed. I'd do
more by you than the rest of 'em doI fancy.'


'What would you do?' he asked.


'I'd come back to see youafter I was let out.'


'Give me the money again' said the othereagerly'and I'll keep
itand never spend it. Thank you for itthank you! I shall see
you again?'
'If I live a week you shall.'


They shook hands and parted. The collegiansassembled in
Symposium in the Snuggery that nightmarvelled what had happened
to their Father; he walked so late in the shadows of the yardand
seemed so downcast.


CHAPTER 7


The Child of the Marshalsea


The baby whose first draught of air had been tinctured with Doctor
Haggage's brandywas handed down among the generations of
collegianslike the tradition of their common parent. In the
earlier stages of her existenceshe was handed down in a literal
and prosaic sense; it being almost a part of the entrance footing
of every new collegian to nurse the child who had been born in the
college.


'By rights' remarked the turnkey when she was first shown to him
'I ought to be her godfather.'


The debtor irresolutely thought of it for a minuteand said
'Perhaps you wouldn't object to really being her godfather?'


'Oh! _I_ don't object' replied the turnkey'if you don't.'



Thus it came to pass that she was christened one Sunday afternoon
when the turnkeybeing relievedwas off the lock; and that the
turnkey went up to the font of Saint George's Churchand promised
and vowed and renounced on her behalfas he himself related when
he came back'like a good 'un.'

This invested the turnkey with a new proprietary share in the
childover and above his former official one. When she began to
walk and talkhe became fond of her; bought a little arm-chair and
stood it by the high fender of the lodge fire-place; liked to have
her company when he was on the lock; and used to bribe her with
cheap toys to come and talk to him. The childfor her partsoon
grew so fond of the turnkey that she would come climbing up the
lodge-steps of her own accord at all hours of the day. When she
fell asleep in the little armchair by the high fenderthe turnkey
would cover her with his pocket-handkerchief; and when she sat in
it dressing and undressing a doll which soon came to be unlike
dolls on the other side of the lockand to bear a horrible family
resemblance to Mrs Bangham--he would contemplate her from the top
of his stool with exceeding gentleness. Witnessing these things
the collegians would express an opinion that the turnkeywho was
a bachelorhad been cut out by nature for a family man. But the
turnkey thanked themand said'Noon the whole it was enough to
see other people's children there.'
At what period of her early life the little creature began to
perceive that it was not the habit of all the world to live locked
up in narrow yards surrounded by high walls with spikes at the top
would be a difficult question to settle. But she was a veryvery
little creature indeedwhen she had somehow gained the knowledge
that her clasp of her father's hand was to be always loosened at
the door which the great key opened; and that while her own light
steps were free to pass beyond ithis feet must never cross that
line. A pitiful and plaintive lookwith which she had begun to
regard him when she was still extremely youngwas perhaps a part
of this discovery.

With a pitiful and plaintive look for everythingindeedbut with
something in it for only him that was like protectionthis Child
of the Marshalsea and the child of the Father of the Marshalsea
sat by her friend the turnkey in the lodgekept the family room
or wandered about the prison-yardfor the first eight years of her
life. With a pitiful and plaintive look for her wayward sister;
for her idle brother; for the high blank walls; for the faded crowd
they shut in; for the games of the prison children as they whooped
and ranand played at hide-and-seekand made the iron bars of the
inner gateway 'Home.'

Wistful and wonderingshe would sit in summer weather by the high
fender in the lodgelooking up at the sky through the barred
windowuntilwhen she turned her eyes awaybars of light would
arise between her and her friendand she would see him through a
gratingtoo.
'Thinking of the fields' the turnkey said onceafter watching
her'ain't you?'

'Where are they?' she inquired.

'Whythey're--over theremy dear' said the turnkeywith a vague
flourish of his key. 'Just about there.'

'Does anybody open themand shut them? Are they locked?'

The turnkey was discomfited. 'Well' he said. 'Not in general.'


'Are they very prettyBob?' She called him Bobby his own
particular request and instruction.

'Lovely. Full of flowers. There's buttercupsand there's
daisiesand there's'--the turnkey hesitatedbeing short of floral
nomenclature--'there's dandelionsand all manner of games.'

'Is it very pleasant to be thereBob?'

'Prime' said the turnkey.

'Was father ever there?'

'Hem!' coughed the turnkey. 'O yeshe was theresometimes.'

'Is he sorry not to be there now?'

'N-not particular' said the turnkey.

'Nor any of the people?' she askedglancing at the listless crowd
within. 'O are you quite sure and certainBob?'

At this difficult point of the conversation Bob gave inand
changed the subject to hard-bake: always his last resource when he
found his little friend getting him into a politicalsocialor
theological corner. But this was the origin of a series of Sunday
excursions that these two curious companions made together. They
used to issue from the lodge on alternate Sunday afternoons with
great gravitybound for some meadows or green lanes that had been
elaborately appointed by the turnkey in the course of the week; and
there she picked grass and flowers to bring homewhile he smoked
his pipe. Afterwardsthere were tea-gardensshrimpsaleand
other delicacies; and then they would come back hand in hand
unless she was more than usually tiredand had fallen asleep on
his shoulder.

In those early daysthe turnkey first began profoundly to consider
a question which cost him so much mental labourthat it remained
undetermined on the day of his death. He decided to will and
bequeath his little property of savings to his godchildand the
point arose how could it be so 'tied up' as that only she should
have the benefit of it? His experience on the lock gave him such
an acute perception of the enormous difficulty of 'tying up' money
with any approach to tightnessand contrariwise of the remarkable
ease with which it got loosethat through a series of years he
regularly propounded this knotty point to every new insolvent agent
and other professional gentleman who passed in and out.

'Supposing' he would saystating the case with his key on the
professional gentleman's waistcoat; 'supposing a man wanted to
leave his property to a young femaleand wanted to tie it up so
that nobody else should ever be able to make a grab at it; how
would you tie up that property?'

'Settle it strictly on herself' the professional gentleman would
complacently answer.

'But look here' quoth the turnkey. 'Supposing she hadsay a
brothersay a fathersay a husbandwho would be likely to make
a grab at that property when she came into it--how about that?'

'It would be settled on herselfand they would have no more legal
claim on it than you' would be the professional answer.


'Stop a bit' said the turnkey. 'Supposing she was tender-hearted
and they came over her. Where's your law for tying it up then?'

The deepest character whom the turnkey soundedwas unable to
produce his law for tying such a knot as that. Sothe turnkey
thought about it all his lifeand died intestate after all.

But that was long afterwardswhen his god-daughter was past
sixteen. The first half of that space of her life was only just
accomplishedwhen her pitiful and plaintive look saw her father a
widower. From that time the protection that her wondering eyes had
expressed towards himbecame embodied in actionand the Child of
the Marshalsea took upon herself a new relation towards the Father.

At firstsuch a baby could do little more than sit with him
deserting her livelier place by the high fenderand quietly
watching him. But this made her so far necessary to him that he
became accustomed to herand began to be sensible of missing her
when she was not there. Through this little gateshe passed out
of childhood into the care-laden world.

What her pitiful look sawat that early timein her fatherin
her sisterin her brotherin the jail; how muchor how little of
the wretched truth it pleased God to make visible to her; lies
hidden with many mysteries. It is enough that she was inspired to
be something which was not what the rest wereand to be that
somethingdifferent and laboriousfor the sake of the rest.
Inspired? Yes. Shall we speak of the inspiration of a poet or a
priestand not of the heart impelled by love and self-devotion to
the lowliest work in the lowliest way of life!

With no earthly friend to help heror so much as to see herbut
the one so strangely assorted; with no knowledge even of the common
daily tone and habits of the common members of the free community
who are not shut up in prisons; born and bred in a social
conditionfalse even with a reference to the falsest condition
outside the walls; drinking from infancy of a well whose waters had
their own peculiar staintheir own unwholesome and unnatural
taste; the Child of the Marshalsea began her womanly life.

No matter through what mistakes and discouragementswhat ridicule
(not unkindly meantbut deeply felt) of her youth and little
figurewhat humble consciousness of her own babyhood and want of
strengtheven in the matter of lifting and carrying; through how
much weariness and hopelessnessand how many secret tears; she
drudged onuntil recognised as usefuleven indispensable. That
time came. She took the place of eldest of the threein all
things but precedence; was the head of the fallen family; and bore
in her own heartits anxieties and shames.

At thirteenshe could read and keep accountsthat iscould put
down in words and figures how much the bare necessaries that they
wanted would costand how much less they had to buy them with.
She had beenby snatches of a few weeks at a timeto an evening
school outsideand got her sister and brother sent to day-schools
by desultory startsduring three or four years. There was no
instruction for any of them at home; but she knew well--no one
better--that a man so broken as to be the Father of the Marshalsea
could be no father to his own children.

To these scanty means of improvementshe added another of her own
contriving. Onceamong the heterogeneous crowd of inmates there
appeared a dancing-master. Her sister had a great desire to learn


the dancing-master's artand seemed to have a taste that way. At
thirteen years oldthe Child of the Marshalsea presented herself
to the dancing-masterwith a little bag in her handand preferred
her humble petition.

'If you pleaseI was born heresir.'

'Oh! You are the young ladyare you?' said the dancing-master
surveying the small figure and uplifted face.

'Yessir.'

'And what can I do for you?' said the dancing-master.

'Nothing for mesirthank you' anxiously undrawing the strings
of the little bag; 'but ifwhile you stay hereyou could be so
kind as to teach my sister cheap--'

'My childI'll teach her for nothing' said the dancing-master
shutting up the bag. He was as good-natured a dancing-master as
ever danced to the Insolvent Courtand he kept his word. The
sister was so apt a pupiland the dancing-master had such abundant
leisure to bestow upon her (for it took him a matter of ten weeks
to set to his creditorslead offturn the Commissionersand
right and left back to his professional pursuits)that wonderful
progress was made. Indeed the dancing-master was so proud of it
and so wishful to display it before he left to a few select friends
among the collegiansthat at six o'clock on a certain fine
morninga minuet de la cour came off in the yard--the collegerooms
being of too confined proportions for the purpose--in which
so much ground was coveredand the steps were so conscientiously
executedthat the dancing-masterhaving to play the kit besides
was thoroughly blown.

The success of this beginningwhich led to the dancing-master's
continuing his instruction after his releaseemboldened the poor
child to try again. She watched and waited months for a
seamstress. In the fulness of time a milliner came inand to her
she repaired on her own behalf.

'I beg your pardonma'am' she saidlooking timidly round the
door of the millinerwhom she found in tears and in bed: 'but I
was born here.'

Everybody seemed to hear of her as soon as they arrived; for the
milliner sat up in beddrying her eyesand saidjust as the
dancing-master had said:

'Oh! You are the childare you?'

'Yesma'am.'

'I am sorry I haven't got anything for you' said the milliner
shaking her head.

'It's not thatma'am. If you please I want to learn needle-work.'

'Why should you do that' returned the milliner'with me before
you? It has not done me much good.'

'Nothing--whatever it is--seems to have done anybody much good who
comes here' she returned in all simplicity; 'but I want to learn
just the same.'


'I am afraid you are so weakyou see' the milliner objected.

'I don't think I am weakma'am.'

'And you are so veryvery littleyou see' the milliner objected.

'YesI am afraid I am very little indeed' returned the Child of
the Marshalsea; and so began to sob over that unfortunate defect of
herswhich came so often in her way. The milliner--who was not
morose or hard-heartedonly newly insolvent--was touchedtook her
in hand with goodwillfound her the most patient and earnest of
pupilsand made her a cunning work-woman in course of time.

In course of timeand in the very self-same course of timethe
Father of the Marshalsea gradually developed a new flower of
character. The more Fatherly he grew as to the Marshalseaand the
more dependent he became on the contributions of his changing
familythe greater stand he made by his forlorn gentility. With
the same hand that he pocketed a collegian's half-crown half an
hour agohe would wipe away the tears that streamed over his
cheeks if any reference were made to his daughters' earning their
bread. Soover and above other daily caresthe Child of the
Marshalsea had always upon her the care of preserving the genteel
fiction that they were all idle beggars together.

The sister became a dancer. There was a ruined uncle in the family
group--ruined by his brotherthe Father of the Marshalseaand
knowing no more how than his ruiner didbut accepting the fact as
an inevitable certainty--on whom her protection devolved.
Naturally a retired and simple manhe had shown no particular
sense of being ruined at the time when that calamity fell upon him
further than that he left off washing himself when the shock was
announcedand never took to that luxury any more. He had been a
very indifferent musical amateur in his better days; and when he
fell with his brotherresorted for support to playing a clarionet
as dirty as himself in a small Theatre Orchestra. It was the
theatre in which his niece became a dancer; he had been a fixture
there a long time when she took her poor station in it; and he
accepted the task of serving as her escort and guardianjust as he
would have accepted an illnessa legacya feaststarvation-anything
but soap.

To enable this girl to earn her few weekly shillingsit was
necessary for the Child of the Marshalsea to go through an
elaborate form with the Father.

'Fanny is not going to live with us just nowfather. She will be
here a good deal in the daybut she is going to live outside with
uncle.'

'You surprise me. Why?'

'I think uncle wants a companionfather. He should be attended
toand looked after.'

'A companion? He passes much of his time here. And you attend to
him and look after himAmya great deal more than ever your
sister will. You all go out so much; you all go out so much.'

This was to keep up the ceremony and pretence of his having no idea
that Amy herself went out by the day to work.

'But we are always glad to come homefather; noware we not? And
as to Fannyperhaps besides keeping uncle company and taking care


of himit may be as well for her not quite to live herealways.
She was not born here as I wasyou knowfather.'

'WellAmywell. I don't quite follow youbut it's natural I
suppose that Fanny should prefer to be outsideand even that you
often shouldtoo. Soyou and Fanny and your unclemy dear
shall have your own way. Goodgood. I'll not meddle; don't mind
me.'

To get her brother out of the prison; out of the succession to Mrs
Bangham in executing commissionsand out of the slang interchange
with very doubtful companions consequent upon both; was her hardest
task. At eighteen he would have dragged on from hand to mouth
from hour to hourfrom penny to pennyuntil eighty. Nobody got
into the prison from whom he derived anything useful or goodand
she could find no patron for him but her old friend and godfather.

'Dear Bob' said she'what is to become of poor Tip?' His name
was Edwardand Ted had been transformed into Tipwithin the
walls.

The turnkey had strong private opinions as to what would become of
poor Tipand had even gone so far with the view of averting their
fulfilmentas to sound Tip in reference to the expediency of
running away and going to serve his country. But Tip had thanked
himand said he didn't seem to care for his country.

'Wellmy dear' said the turnkey'something ought to be done with
him. Suppose I try and get him into the law?'

'That would be so good of youBob!'

The turnkey had now two points to put to the professional gentlemen
as they passed in and out. He put this second one so perseveringly
that a stool and twelve shillings a week were at last found for Tip
in the office of an attorney in a great National Palladium called
the Palace Court; at that time one of a considerable list of
everlasting bulwarks to the dignity and safety of Albionwhose
places know them no more.

Tip languished in Clifford's Inns for six monthsand at the
expiration of that term sauntered back one evening with his hands
in his pocketsand incidentally observed to his sister that he was
not going back again.

'Not going back again?' said the poor little anxious Child of the
Marshalseaalways calculating and planning for Tipin the front
rank of her charges.

'I am so tired of it' said Tip'that I have cut it.'

Tip tired of everything. With intervals of Marshalsea lounging
and Mrs Bangham successionhis small second motheraided by her
trusty friendgot him into a warehouseinto a market gardeninto
the hop tradeinto the law againinto an auctioneersinto a
breweryinto a stockbroker'sinto the law againinto a coach
officeinto a waggon officeinto the law againinto a general
dealer'sinto a distilleryinto the law againinto a wool house
into a dry goods houseinto the Billingsgate tradeinto the
foreign fruit tradeand into the docks. But whatever Tip went
intohe came out of tiredannouncing that he had cut it.
Wherever he wentthis foredoomed Tip appeared to take the prison
walls with himand to set them up in such trade or calling; and to
prowl about within their narrow limits in the old slip-shod


purposelessdown-at-heel way; until the real immovable Marshalsea
walls asserted their fascination over himand brought him back.


Neverthelessthe brave little creature did so fix her heart on her
brother's rescuethat while he was ringing out these doleful
changesshe pinched and scraped enough together to ship him for
Canada. When he was tired of nothing to doand disposed in its
turn to cut even thathe graciously consented to go to Canada.
And there was grief in her bosom over parting with himand joy in
the hope of his being put in a straight course at last.


'God bless youdear Tip. Don't be too proud to come and see us
when you have made your fortune.'


'All right!' said Tipand went.


But not all the way to Canada; in factnot further than Liverpool.


After making the voyage to that port from Londonhe found himself
so strongly impelled to cut the vesselthat he resolved to walk
back again. Carrying out which intentionhe presented himself
before her at the expiration of a monthin ragswithout shoes
and much more tired than ever.
At lengthafter another interval of successorship to Mrs Bangham
he found a pursuit for himselfand announced it.


'AmyI have got a situation.'


'Have you really and trulyTip?'


'All right. I shall do now. You needn't look anxious about me any
moreold girl.'


'What is itTip?'


'Whyyou know Slingo by sight?'


'Not the man they call the dealer?'


'That's the chap. He'll be out on Mondayand he's going to give
me a berth.'


'What is he a dealer inTip?'


'Horses. All right! I shall do nowAmy.'


She lost sight of him for months afterwardsand only heard from
him once. A whisper passed among the elder collegians that he had
been seen at a mock auction in Moorfieldspretending to buy plated
articles for massive silverand paying for them with the greatest
liberality in bank notes; but it never reached her ears. One
evening she was alone at work--standing up at the windowto save
the twilight lingering above the wall--when he opened the door and
walked in.


She kissed and welcomed him; but was afraid to ask him any
questions. He saw how anxious and timid she wasand appeared
sorry.


'I am afraidAmyyou'll be vexed this time. Upon my life I am!'


'I am very sorry to hear you say soTip. Have you come back?'


'Why--yes.'



'Not expecting this time that what you had found would answer very
wellI am less surprised and sorry than I might have beenTip.'

'Ah! But that's not the worst of it.'

'Not the worst of it?'

'Don't look so startled. NoAmynot the worst of it. I have
come backyou see; but--DON'T look so startled--I have come back
in what I may call a new way. I am off the volunteer list
altogether. I am in nowas one of the regulars.'

'Oh! Don't say you are a prisonerTip! Don'tdon't!'

'WellI don't want to say it' he returned in a reluctant tone;
'but if you can't understand me without my saying itwhat am I to
do? I am in for forty pound odd.'

For the first time in all those yearsshe sunk under her cares.
She criedwith her clasped hands lifted above her headthat it
would kill their father if he ever knew it; and fell down at Tip's
graceless feet.

It was easier for Tip to bring her to her senses than for her to
bring him to understand that the Father of the Marshalsea would be
beside himself if he knew the truth. The thing was
incomprehensible to Tipand altogether a fanciful notion. He
yielded to it in that light onlywhen he submitted to her
entreatiesbacked by those of his uncle and sister. There was no
want of precedent for his return; it was accounted for to the
father in the usual way; and the collegianswith a better
comprehension of the pious fraud than Tipsupported it loyally.

This was the lifeand this the historyof the child of the
Marshalsea at twenty-two. With a still surviving attachment to the
one miserable yard and block of houses as her birthplace and home
she passed to and fro in it shrinkingly nowwith a womanly
consciousness that she was pointed out to every one. Since she had
begun to work beyond the wallsshe had found it necessary to
conceal where she livedand to come and go as secretly as she
couldbetween the free city and the iron gatesoutside of which
she had never slept in her life. Her original timidity had grown
with this concealmentand her light step and her little figure
shunned the thronged streets while they passed along them.

Worldly wise in hard and poor necessitiesshe was innocent in all
things else. Innocentin the mist through which she saw her
fatherand the prisonand the turbid living river that flowed
through it and flowed on.

This was the lifeand this the historyof Little Dorrit; now
going home upon a dull September eveningobserved at a distance by
Arthur Clennam. This was the lifeand this the historyof Little
Dorrit; turning at the end of London Bridgerecrossing itgoing
back againpassing on to Saint George's Churchturning back
suddenly once moreand flitting in at the open outer gate and
little court-yard of the Marshalsea.

CHAPTER 8


The Lock

Arthur Clennam stood in the streetwaiting to ask some passer-by
what place that was. He suffered a few people to pass him in whose
face there was no encouragement to make the inquiryand still
stood pausing in the streetwhen an old man came up and turned
into the courtyard.

He stooped a good dealand plodded along in a slow pre-occupied
mannerwhich made the bustling London thoroughfares no very safe
resort for him. He was dirtily and meanly dressedin a threadbare
coatonce bluereaching to his ankles and buttoned to his chin
where it vanished in the pale ghost of a velvet collar. A piece of
red cloth with which that phantom had been stiffened in its
lifetime was now laid bareand poked itself upat the back of the
old man's neckinto a confusion of grey hair and rusty stock and
buckle which altogether nearly poked his hat off. A greasy hat it
wasand a napless; impending over his eyescracked and crumpled
at the brimand with a wisp of pocket-handkerchief dangling out
below it. His trousers were so long and looseand his shoes so
clumsy and largethat he shuffled like an elephant; though how
much of this was gaitand how much trailing cloth and leatherno
one could have told. Under one arm he carried a limp and worn-out
casecontaining some wind instrument; in the same hand he had a
pennyworth of snuff in a little packet of whitey-brown paperfrom
which he slowly comforted his poor blue old nose with a lengthenedout
pinchas Arthur Clennam looked at him.
To this old man crossing the court-yardhe preferred his inquiry
touching him on the shoulder. The old man stopped and looked
roundwith the expression in his weak grey eyes of one whose
thoughts had been far offand who was a little dull of hearing
also.

'Praysir' said Arthurrepeating his question'what is this
place?'

'Ay! This place?' returned the old manstaying his pinch of snuff
on its roadand pointing at the place without looking at it.
'This is the Marshalseasir.'

'The debtors' prison?'

'Sir' said the old manwith the air of deeming it not quite
necessary to insist upon that designation'the debtors' prison.'

He turned himself aboutand went on.

'I beg your pardon' said Arthurstopping him once more'but will
you allow me to ask you another question? Can any one go in here?'

'Any one can go IN' replied the old man; plainly adding by the
significance of his emphasis'but it is not every one who can go
out.'

'Pardon me once more. Are you familiar with the place?'

'Sir' returned the old mansqueezing his little packet of snuff
in his handand turning upon his interrogator as if such questions
hurt him. 'I am.'

'I beg you to excuse me. I am not impertinently curiousbut have
a good object. Do you know the name of Dorrit here?'


'My namesir' replied the old man most unexpectedly'is Dorrit.'

Arthur pulled off his hat to him. 'Grant me the favour of half-adozen
words. I was wholly unprepared for your announcementand
hope that assurance is my sufficient apology for having taken the
liberty of addressing you. I have recently come home to England
after a long absence. I have seen at my mother's--Mrs Clennam in
the city--a young woman working at her needlewhom I have only
heard addressed or spoken of as Little Dorrit. I have felt
sincerely interested in herand have had a great desire to know
something more about her. I saw hernot a minute before you came
uppass in at that door.'

The old man looked at him attentively. 'Are you a sailorsir?' he
asked. He seemed a little disappointed by the shake of the head
that replied to him. 'Not a sailor? I judged from your sunburnt
face that you might be. Are you in earnestsir?'

'I do assure you that I amand do entreat you to believe that I
amin plain earnest.'

'I know very little of the worldsir' returned the otherwho had
a weak and quavering voice. 'I am merely passing onlike the
shadow over the sun-dial. It would be worth no man's while to
mislead me; it would really be too easy--too poor a successto
yield any satisfaction. The young woman whom you saw go in here is
my brother's child. My brother is William Dorrit; I am Frederick.
You say you have seen her at your mother's (I know your mother
befriends her)you have felt an interest in herand you wish to
know what she does here. Come and see.'

He went on againand Arthur accompanied him.

'My brother' said the old manpausing on the step and slowly
facing round again'has been here many years; and much that
happens even among ourselvesout of doorsis kept from him for
reasons that I needn't enter upon now. Be so good as to say
nothing of my niece's working at her needle. Be so good as to say
nothing that goes beyond what is said among us. If you keep within
our boundsyou cannot well be wrong. Now! Come and see.'

Arthur followed him down a narrow entryat the end of which a key
was turnedand a strong door was opened from within. It admitted
them into a lodge or lobbyacross which they passedand so
through another door and a grating into the prison. The old man
always plodding on beforeturned roundin his slowstiff
stooping mannerwhen they came to the turnkey on dutyas if to
present his companion. The turnkey nodded; and the companion
passed in without being asked whom he wanted.

The night was dark; and the prison lamps in the yardand the
candles in the prison windows faintly shining behind many sorts of
wry old curtain and blindhad not the air of making it lighter.
A few people loitered aboutbut the greater part of the population
was within doors. The old mantaking the right-hand side of the
yardturned in at the third or fourth doorwayand began to ascend
the stairs. 'They are rather darksirbut you will not find
anything in the way.'

He paused for a moment before opening a door on the second story.
He had no sooner turned the handle than the visitor saw Little
Dorritand saw the reason of her setting so much store by dining
alone.


She had brought the meat home that she should have eaten herself
and was already warming it on a gridiron over the fire for her
fatherclad in an old grey gown and a black capawaiting his
supper at the table. A clean cloth was spread before himwith
knifeforkand spoonsalt-cellarpepper-boxglassand pewter
ale-pot. Such zests as his particular little phial of cayenne
pepper and his pennyworth of pickles in a saucerwere not wanting.


She startedcoloured deeplyand turned white. The visitormore
with his eyes than by the slight impulsive motion of his hand
entreated her to be reassured and to trust him.


'I found this gentleman' said the uncle--'Mr ClennamWilliamson
of Amy's friend--at the outer gatewishfulas he was going byof
paying his respectsbut hesitating whether to come in or not.
This is my brother Williamsir.'


'I hope' said Arthurvery doubtful what to say'that my respect
for your daughter may explain and justify my desire to be presented
to yousir.'


'Mr Clennam' returned the otherrisingtaking his cap off in the
flat of his handand so holding itready to put on again'you do
me honour. You are welcomesir;' with a low bow. 'Fredericka
chair. Pray sit downMr Clennam.'


He put his black cap on again as he had taken it offand resumed
his own seat. There was a wonderful air of benignity and patronage
in his manner. These were the ceremonies with which he received
the collegians.


'You are welcome to the Marshalseasir. I have welcomed many
gentlemen to these walls. Perhaps you are aware--my daughter Amy
may have mentioned that I am the Father of this place.'


'I--so I have understood' said Arthurdashing at the assertion.


'You knowI dare saythat my daughter Amy was born here. A good
girlsira dear girland long a comfort and support to me. Amy
my dearput this dish on; Mr Clennam will excuse the primitive
customs to which we are reduced here. Is it a compliment to ask
you if you would do me the honoursirto--'


'Thank you' returned Arthur. 'Not a morsel.'


He felt himself quite lost in wonder at the manner of the manand
that the probability of his daughter's having had a reserve as to
her family historyshould be so far out of his mind.


She filled his glassput all the little matters on the table ready
to his handand then sat beside him while he ate his supper.
Evidently in observance of their nightly customshe put some bread
before herselfand touched his glass with her lips; but Arthur saw
she was troubled and took nothing. Her look at her fatherhalf
admiring him and proud of himhalf ashamed for himall devoted
and lovingwent to his inmost heart.


The Father of the Marshalsea condescended towards his brother as an
amiablewell-meaning man; a private characterwho had not arrived
at distinction. 'Frederick' said he'you and Fanny sup at your
lodgings to-nightI know. What have you done with Fanny
Frederick?'
'She is walking with Tip.'



'Tip--as you may know--is my sonMr Clennam. He has been a little
wildand difficult to settlebut his introduction to the world
was rather'--he shrugged his shoulders with a faint sighand
looked round the room--'a little adverse. Your first visit here
sir?'


'my first.'


'You could hardly have been here since your boyhood without my
knowledge. It very seldom happens that anybody--of any
pretensions-any pretensions--comes here without being presented to
me.'


'As many as forty or fifty in a day have been introduced to my
brother' said Frederickfaintly lighting up with a ray of pride.


'Yes!' the Father of the Marshalsea assented. 'We have even
exceeded that number. On a fine Sunday in term timeit is quite
a Levee--quite a Levee. Amymy dearI have been trying half the
day to remember the name of the gentleman from Camberwell who was
introduced to me last Christmas week by that agreeable coal-
merchant who was remanded for six months.'


'I don't remember his namefather.'


'Frederickdo you remember his name?'
Frederick doubted if he had ever heard it. No one could doubt that
Frederick was the last person upon earth to put such a question to
with any hope of information.


'I mean' said his brother'the gentleman who did that handsome
action with so much delicacy. Ha! Tush! The name has quite
escaped me. Mr Clennamas I have happened to mention handsome and
delicate actionyou may likeperhapsto know what it was.'


'Very much' said Arthurwithdrawing his eyes from the delicate
head beginning to droop and the pale face with a new solicitude
stealing over it.


'It is so generousand shows so much fine feelingthat it is
almost a duty to mention it. I said at the time that I always
would mention it on every suitable occasionwithout regard to
personal sensitiveness. A--well--a--it's of no use to disguise the
fact--you must knowMr Clennamthat it does sometimes occur that
people who come here desire to offer some little--Testimonial--to
the Father of the place.'


To see her hand upon his arm in mute entreaty half-repressedand
her timid little shrinking figure turning awaywas to see a sad
sad sight.


'Sometimes' he went on in a lowsoft voiceagitatedand
clearing his throat every now and then; 'sometimes--hem--it takes
one shape and sometimes another; but it is generally--ha--Money.
And it isI cannot but confess itit is too often--hem--
acceptable. This gentleman that I refer towas presented to me
Mr Clennamin a manner highly gratifying to my feelingsand
conversed not only with great politenessbut with great--ahem--
information.' All this timethough he had finished his supperhe
was nervously going about his plate with his knife and forkas if
some of it were still before him. 'It appeared from his
conversation that he had a gardenthough he was delicate of
mentioning it at firstas gardens are--hem--are not accessible to



me. But it came outthrough my admiring a very fine cluster of
geranium--beautiful cluster of geranium to be sure--which he had
brought from his conservatory. On my taking notice of its rich
colourhe showed me a piece of paper round iton which was
writtenFor the Father of the Marshalsea,and presented it to
me. But this was--hem--not all. He made a particular requeston
taking leavethat I would remove the paper in half an hour. I-ha--
I did so; and I found that it contained--ahem--two guineas.
assure youMr ClennamI have received--hem--Testimonials in many
waysand of many degrees of valueand they have always been--ha-unfortunately
acceptable; but I never was more pleased than with
this--ahem--this particular Testimonial.'
Arthur was in the act of saying the little he could say on such a
themewhen a bell began to ringand footsteps approached the
door. A pretty girl of a far better figure and much more developed
than Little Dorritthough looking much younger in the face when
the two were observed togetherstopped in the doorway on seeing a
stranger; and a young man who was with herstopped too.

'Mr ClennamFanny. My eldest daughter and my sonMr Clennam.
The bell is a signal for visitors to retireand so they have come
to say good night; but there is plenty of timeplenty of time.
GirlsMr Clennam will excuse any household business you may have
together. He knowsI dare saythat I have but one room here.'

'I only want my clean dress from Amyfather' said the second
girl.

'And I my clothes' said Tip.

Amy opened a drawer in an old piece of furniture that was a chest
of drawers above and a bedstead belowand produced two little
bundleswhich she handed to her brother and sister. 'Mended and
made up?' Clennam heard the sister ask in a whisper. To which Amy
answered 'Yes.' He had risen nowand took the opportunity of
glancing round the room. The bare walls had been coloured green
evidently by an unskilled handand were poorly decorated with a
few prints. The window was curtainedand the floor carpeted; and
there were shelves and pegsand other such conveniencesthat had
accumulated in the course of years. It was a closeconfined room
poorly furnished; and the chimney smoked to bootor the tin screen
at the top of the fireplace was superfluous; but constant pains and
care had made it neatand evenafter its kindcomfortable.
All the while the bell was ringingand the uncle was anxious to
go. 'ComeFannycomeFanny' he saidwith his ragged clarionet
case under his arm; 'the lockchildthe lock!'

Fanny bade her father good nightand whisked off airily. Tip had
already clattered down-stairs. 'NowMr Clennam' said the uncle
looking back as he shuffled out after them'the locksirthe
lock.'

Mr Clennam had two things to do before he followed; oneto offer
his testimonial to the Father of the Marshalseawithout giving
pain to his child; the other to say something to that childthough
it were but a wordin explanation of his having come there.

'Allow me' said the Father'to see you down-stairs.'

She had slipped out after the restand they were alone. 'Not on
any account' said the visitorhurriedly. 'Pray allow me to--'
chinkchinkchink.

'Mr Clennam' said the Father'I am deeplydeeply--' But his


visitor had shut up his hand to stop the clinkingand had gone
down-stairs with great speed.

He saw no Little Dorrit on his way downor in the yard. The last
two or three stragglers were hurrying to the lodgeand he was
followingwhen he caught sight of her in the doorway of the first
house from the entrance. He turned back hastily.

'Pray forgive me' he said'for speaking to you here; pray forgive
me for coming here at all! I followed you to-night. I did so
that I might endeavour to render you and your family some service.
You know the terms on which I and my mother areand may not be
surprised that I have preserved our distant relations at her house
lest I should unintentionally make her jealousor resentfulor do
you any injury in her estimation. What I have seen herein this
short timehas greatly increased my heartfelt wish to be a friend
to you. It would recompense me for much disappointment if I could
hope to gain your confidence.'

She was scared at firstbut seemed to take courage while he spoke
to her.

'You are very goodsir. You speak very earnestly to me. But I-but
I wish you had not watched me.'

He understood the emotion with which she said itto arise in her
father's behalf; and he respected itand was silent.

'Mrs Clennam has been of great service to me; I don't know what we
should have done without the employment she has given me; I am
afraid it may not be a good return to become secret with her; I can
say no more to-nightsir. I am sure you mean to be kind to us.
Thank youthank you.'
'Let me ask you one question before I leave. Have you known my
mother long?'

'I think two yearssir--The bell has stopped.'

'How did you know her first? Did she send here for you?'

'No. She does not even know that I live here. We have a friend
father and I--a poor labouring manbut the best of friends--and I
wrote out that I wished to do needleworkand gave his address.
And he got what I wrote out displayed at a few places where it cost
nothingand Mrs Clennam found me that wayand sent for me. The
gate will be lockedsir!'

She was so tremulous and agitatedand he was so moved by
compassion for herand by deep interest in her story as it dawned
upon himthat he could scarcely tear himself away. But the
stoppage of the belland the quiet in the prisonwere a warning
to depart; and with a few hurried words of kindness he left her
gliding back to her father.

But he remained too late. The inner gate was lockedand the lodge
closed. After a little fruitless knocking with his handhe was
standing there with the disagreeable conviction upon him that he
had got to get through the nightwhen a voice accosted him from
behind.

'Caughteh?' said the voice. 'You won't go home till morning.
Oh! It's youis itMr Clennam?'

The voice was Tip's; and they stood looking at one another in the


prison-yardas it began to rain.

'You've done it' observed Tip; 'you must be sharper than that next
time.'

'But you are locked in too' said Arthur.

'I believe I am!' said Tipsarcastically. 'About! But not in
your way. I belong to the shoponly my sister has a theory that
our governor must never know it. I don't see whymyself.'

'Can I get any shelter?' asked Arthur. 'What had I better do?'

'We had better get hold of Amy first of all' said Tipreferring
any difficulty to her as a matter of course.

'I would rather walk about all night--it's not much to do--than
give that trouble.'

'You needn't do thatif you don't mind paying for a bed. If you
don't mind payingthey'll make you up one on the Snuggery table
under the circumstances. If you'll come alongI'll introduce you
there.'

As they passed down the yardArthur looked up at the window of the
room he had lately leftwhere the light was still burning. 'Yes
sir' said Tipfollowing his glance. 'That's the governor's.
She'll sit with him for another hour reading yesterday's paper to
himor something of that sort; and then she'll come out like a
little ghostand vanish away without a sound.'

'I don't understand you.'

'The governor sleeps up in the roomand she has a lodging at the
turnkey's. First house there' said Tippointing out the doorway
into which she had retired. 'First housesky parlour. She pays
twice as much for it as she would for one twice as good outside.
But she stands by the governorpoor dear girlday and night.'

This brought them to the tavern-establishment at the upper end of
the prisonwhere the collegians had just vacated their social
evening club. The apartment on the ground-floor in which it was
heldwas the Snuggery in question; the presidential tribune of the
chairmanthe pewter-potsglassespipestobacco-ashesand
general flavour of memberswere still as that convivial
institution had left them on its adjournment. The Snuggery had two
of the qualities popularly held to be essential to grog for ladies
in respect that it was hot and strong; but in the third point of
analogyrequiring plenty of itthe Snuggery was defective; being
but a cooped-up apartment.

The unaccustomed visitor from outsidenaturally assumed everybody
here to be prisoners--landlordwaiterbarmaidpotboyand all.
Whether they were or notdid not appear; but they all had a weedy
look. The keeper of a chandler's shop in a front parlourwho took
in gentlemen boarderslent his assistance in making the bed. He
had been a tailor in his timeand had kept a phaetonhe said. He
boasted that he stood up litigiously for the interests of the
college; and he had undefined and undefinable ideas that the
marshal intercepted a 'Fund' which ought to come to the
collegians. He liked to believe thisand always impressed the
shadowy grievance on new-comers and strangers; though he could not
for his lifehave explained what Fund he meantor how the notion


had got rooted in his soul. He had fully convinced himself
notwithstandingthat his own proper share of the Fund was three
and ninepence a week; and that in this amount heas an individual
collegianwas swindled by the marshalregularly every Monday.
Apparentlyhe helped to make the bedthat he might not lose an
opportunity of stating this case; after which unloading of his
mindand after announcing (as it seemed he always didwithout
anything coming of it) that he was going to write a letter to the
papers and show the marshal uphe fell into miscellaneous
conversation with the rest. It was evident from the general tone
of the whole partythat they had come to regard insolvency as the
normal state of mankindand the payment of debts as a disease that
occasionally broke out.
In this strange sceneand with these strange spectres flitting
about himArthur Clennam looked on at the preparations as if they
were part of a dream. Pending whichthe long-initiated Tipwith
an awful enjoyment of the Snuggery's resourcespointed out the
common kitchen fire maintained by subscription of collegiansthe
boiler for hot water supported in like mannerand other premises
generally tending to the deduction that the way to be healthy
wealthyand wisewas to come to the Marshalsea.

The two tables put together in a cornerwereat lengthconverted
into a very fair bed; and the stranger was left to the Windsor
chairsthe presidential tribunethe beery atmospheresawdust
pipe-lightsspittoons and repose. But the last item was long
longlongin linking itself to the rest. The novelty of the
placethe coming upon it without preparationthe sense of being
locked upthe remembrance of that room up-stairsof the two
brothersand above all of the retiring childish formand the face
in which he now saw years of insufficient foodif not of want
kept him waking and unhappy.

Speculationstoobearing the strangest relations towards the
prisonbut always concerning the prisonran like nightmares
through his mind while he lay awake. Whether coffins were kept
ready for people who might die therewhere they were kepthow
they were keptwhere people who died in the prison were buried
how they were taken outwhat forms were observedwhether an
implacable creditor could arrest the dead? As to escapingwhat
chances there were of escape? Whether a prisoner could scale the
walls with a cord and grapplehow he would descend upon the other
side? whether he could alight on a housetopsteal down a
staircaselet himself out at a doorand get lost in the crowd?
As to Fire in the prisonif one were to break out while he lay
there?

And these involuntary starts of fancy wereafter allbut the
setting of a picture in which three people kept before him. His
fatherwith the steadfast look with which he had died
prophetically darkened forth in the portrait; his motherwith her
arm upwarding off his suspicion; Little Dorritwith her hand on
the degraded armand her drooping head turned away.

What if his mother had an old reason she well knew for softening to
this poor girl! What if the prisoner now sleeping quietly--Heaven
grant it!--by the light of the great Day of judgment should trace
back his fall to her. What if any act of hers and of his father's
should have even remotely brought the grey heads of those two
brothers so low!

A swift thought shot into his mind. In that long imprisonment
hereand in her own long confinement to her roomdid his mother
find a balance to be struck? 'I admit that I was accessory to that


man's captivity. I have suffered for it in kind. He has decayed
in his prison: I in mine. I have paid the penalty.'

When all the other thoughts had faded outthis one held possession
of him. When he fell asleepshe came before him in her wheeled
chairwarding him off with this justification. When he awokeand
sprang up causelessly frightenedthe words were in his earsas if
her voice had slowly spoken them at his pillowto break his rest:
'He withers away in his prison; I wither away in mine; inexorable
justice is done; what do I owe on this score!'

CHAPTER 9

Little Mother

The morning light was in no hurry to climb the prison wall and look
in at the Snuggery windows; and when it did comeit would have
been more welcome if it had come aloneinstead of bringing a rush
of rain with it. But the equinoctial gales were blowing out at
seaand the impartial south-west windin its flightwould not
neglect even the narrow Marshalsea. While it roared through the
steeple of St George's Churchand twirled all the cowls in the
neighbourhoodit made a swoop to beat the Southwark smoke into the
jail; andplunging down the chimneys of the few early collegians
who were yet lighting their fireshalf suffocated them.
Arthur Clennam would have been little disposed to linger in bed
though his bed had been in a more private situationand less
affected by the raking out of yesterday's firethe kindling of today's
under the collegiate boilerthe filling of that Spartan
vessel at the pumpthe sweeping and sawdusting of the common room
and other such preparations. Heartily glad to see the morning
though little rested by the nighthe turned out as soon as he
could distinguish objects about himand paced the yard for two
heavy hours before the gate was opened.

The walls were so near to one anotherand the wild clouds hurried
over them so fastthat it gave him a sensation like the beginning
of sea-sickness to look up at the gusty sky. The raincarried
aslant by flaws of windblackened that side of the central
building which he had visited last nightbut left a narrow dry
trough under the lee of the wallwhere he walked up and down among
the waits of straw and dust and paperthe waste droppings of the
pumpand the stray leaves of yesterday's greens. It was as
haggard a view of life as a man need look upon.

Nor was it relieved by any glimpse of the little creature who had
brought him there. Perhaps she glided out of her doorway and in at
that where her father livedwhile his face was turned from both;
but he saw nothing of her. It was too early for her brother; to
have seen him oncewas to have seen enough of him to know that he
would be sluggish to leave whatever frowsy bed he occupied at
night; soas Arthur Clennam walked up and downwaiting for the
gate to openhe cast about in his mind for future rather than for
present means of pursuing his discoveries.

At last the lodge-gate turnedand the turnkeystanding on the
steptaking an early comb at his hairwas ready to let him out.
With a joyful sense of release he passed through the lodgeand
found himself again in the little outer court-yard where he had
spoken to the brother last night.


There was a string of people already straggling inwhom it was not
difficult to identify as the nondescript messengersgo-betweens
and errand-bearers of the place. Some of them had been lounging in
the rain until the gate should open; otherswho had timed their
arrival with greater nicetywere coming up nowand passing in
with damp whitey-brown paper bags from the grocersloaves of
breadlumps of buttereggsmilkand the like. The shabbiness
of these attendants upon shabbinessthe poverty of these insolvent
waiters upon insolvencywas a sight to see. Such threadbare coats
and trouserssuch fusty gowns and shawlssuch squashed hats and
bonnetssuch boots and shoessuch umbrellas and walking-sticks
never were seen in Rag Fair. All of them wore the cast-off clothes
of other men and womenwere made up of patches and pieces of other
people's individualityand had no sartorial existence of their own
proper. Their walk was the walk of a race apart. They had a
peculiar way of doggedly slinking round the corneras if they were
eternally going to the pawnbroker's. When they coughedthey
coughed like people accustomed to be forgotten on doorsteps and in
draughty passageswaiting for answers to letters in faded ink
which gave the recipients of those manuscripts great mental
disturbance and no satisfaction. As they eyed the stranger in
passingthey eyed him with borrowing eyes--hungrysharp
speculative as to his softness if they were accredited to himand
the likelihood of his standing something handsome. Mendicity on
commission stooped in their high shouldersshambled in their
unsteady legsbuttoned and pinned and darned and dragged their
clothesfrayed their button-holesleaked out of their figures in
dirty little ends of tapeand issued from their mouths in
alcoholic breathings.

As these people passed him standing still in the court-yardand
one of them turned back to inquire if he could assist him with his
servicesit came into Arthur Clennam's mind that he would speak to
Little Dorrit again before he went away. She would have recovered
her first surpriseand might feel easier with him. He asked this
member of the fraternity (who had two red herrings in his handand
a loaf and a blacking brush under his arm)where was the nearest
place to get a cup of coffee at. The nondescript replied in
encouraging termsand brought him to a coffee-shop in the street
within a stone's throw.

'Do you know Miss Dorrit?' asked the new client.

The nondescript knew two Miss Dorrits; one who was born inside--
That was the one! That was the one? The nondescript had known her
many years. In regard of the other Miss Dorritthe nondescript
lodged in the same house with herself and uncle.

This changed the client's half-formed design of remaining at the
coffee-shop until the nondescript should bring him word that Dorrit
had issued forth into the street. He entrusted the nondescript
with a confidential message to herimporting that the visitor who
had waited on her father last nightbegged the favour of a few
words with her at her uncle's lodging; he obtained from the same
source full directions to the housewhich was very near; dismissed
the nondescript gratified with half-a-crown; and having hastily
refreshed himself at the coffee-shoprepaired with all speed to
the clarionet-player's dwelling.

There were so many lodgers in this house that the doorpost seemed
to be as full of bell-handles as a cathedral organ is of stops.
Doubtful which might be the clarionet-stophe was considering the
pointwhen a shuttlecock flew out of the parlour windowand


alighted on his hat. He then observed that in the parlour window
was a blind with the inscriptionMR CRIPPLES's ACADEMY; also in
another lineEVENING TUITION; and behind the blind was a little
white-faced boywith a slice of bread-and-butter and a battledore.


The window being accessible from the footwayhe looked in over the
blindreturned the shuttlecockand put his question.


'Dorrit?' said the little white-faced boy (Master Cripples in
fact). 'Mr Dorrit? Third bell and one knock.'
The pupils of Mr Cripples appeared to have been making a copy-book
of the street-doorit was so extensively scribbled over in pencil.


The frequency of the inscriptions'Old Dorrit' and 'Dirty Dick'
in combinationsuggested intentions of personality on the part Of
Mr Cripples's pupils. There was ample time to make these
observations before the door was opened by the poor old man
himself.


'Ha!' said hevery slowly remembering Arthur'you were shut in
last night?'


'YesMr Dorrit. I hope to meet your niece here presently.'


'Oh!' said hepondering. 'Out of my brother's way? True. Would
you come up-stairs and wait for her?'


'Thank you.'


Turning himself as slowly as he turned in his mind whatever he
heard or saidhe led the way up the narrow stairs. The house was
very closeand had an unwholesome smell. The little staircase
windows looked in at the back windows of other houses as
unwholesome as itselfwith poles and lines thrust out of themon
which unsightly linen hung; as if the inhabitants were angling for
clothesand had had some wretched bites not worth attending to.
In the back garret--a sickly roomwith a turn-up bedstead in it
so hastily and recently turned up that the blankets were boiling
overas it wereand keeping the lid open--a half-finished
breakfast of coffee and toast for two persons was jumbled down
anyhow on a rickety table.


There was no one there. The old man mumbling to himselfafter
some considerationthat Fanny had run awaywent to the next room
to fetch her back. The visitorobserving that she held the door
on the insideand thatwhen the uncle tried to open itthere was
a sharp adjuration of 'Don'tstupid!' and an appearance of loose
stocking and flannelconcluded that the young lady was in an
undress. The unclewithout appearing to come to any conclusion
shuffled in againsat down in his chairand began warming his
hands at the fire; not that it was coldor that he had any waking
idea whether it was or not.


'What did you think of my brothersir?' he askedwhen he by-and-
by discovered what he was doingleft offreached over to the
chimney-pieceand took his clarionet case down.


'I was glad' said Arthurvery much at a lossfor his thoughts
were on the brother before him; 'to find him so well and cheerful.'
'Ha!' muttered the old man'yesyesyesyesyes!'


Arthur wondered what he could possibly want with the clarionet
case. He did not want it at all. He discoveredin due timethat
it was not the little paper of snuff (which was also on the



chimney-piece)put it back againtook down the snuff insteadand
solaced himself with a pinch. He was as feeblespareand slow in
his pinches as in everything elsebut a certain little trickling
of enjoyment of them played in the poor worn nerves about the
corners of his eyes and mouth.


'AmyMr Clennam. What do you think of her?'


'I am much impressedMr Dorritby all that I have seen of her and
thought of her.'


'My brother would have been quite lost without Amy' he returned.
'We should all have been lost without Amy. She is a very good
girlAmy. She does her duty.'


Arthur fancied that he heard in these praises a certain tone of
customwhich he had heard from the father last night with an
inward protest and feeling of antagonism. It was not that they
stinted her praisesor were insensible to what she did for them;
but that they were lazily habituated to heras they were to all
the rest of their condition. He fancied that although they had
before themevery daythe means of comparison between her and one
another and themselvesthey regarded her as being in her necessary
place; as holding a position towards them all which belonged to
herlike her name or her age. He fancied that they viewed her
not as having risen away from the prison atmospherebut as
appertaining to it; as being vaguely what they had a right to
expectand nothing more.


Her uncle resumed his breakfastand was munching toast sopped in
coffeeoblivious of his guestwhen the third bell rang. That was
Amyhe saidand went down to let her in; leaving the visitor with
as vivid a picture on his mind of his begrimed handsdirt-worn
faceand decayed figureas if he were still drooping in his
chair.


She came up after himin the usual plain dressand with the usual
timid manner. Her lips were a little partedas if her heart beat
faster than usual.


'Mr ClennamAmy' said her uncle'has been expecting you some
time.'


'I took the liberty of sending you a message.'


'I received the messagesir.'


'Are you going to my mother's this morning? I think notfor it is
past your usual hour.'
'Not to-daysir. I am not wanted to-day.'


'Will you allow Me to walk a little way in whatever direction you
may be going? I can then speak to you as we walkboth without
detaining you hereand without intruding longer here myself.'


She looked embarrassedbut saidif he pleased. He made a
pretence of having mislaid his walking-stickto give her time to
set the bedstead rightto answer her sister's impatient knock at
the walland to say a word softly to her uncle. Then he found it
and they went down-stairs; she firsthe following; the uncle
standing at the stair-headand probably forgetting them before
they had reached the ground floor.


Mr Cripples's pupilswho were by this time coming to school



desisted from their morning recreation of cuffing one another with
bags and booksto stare with all the eyes they had at a stranger
who had been to see Dirty Dick. They bore the trying spectacle in
silenceuntil the mysterious visitor was at a safe distance; when
they burst into pebbles and yellsand likewise into reviling
dancesand in all respects buried the pipe of peace with so many
savage ceremoniesthatif Mr Cripples had been the chief of the
Cripplewayboo tribe with his war-paint onthey could scarcely have
done greater justice to their education.


In the midst of this homageMr Arthur Clennam offered his arm to
Little Dorritand Little Dorrit took it. 'Will you go by the Iron
Bridge' said he'where there is an escape from the noise of the
street?' Little Dorrit answeredif he pleasedand presently
ventured to hope that he would 'not mind' Mr Cripples's boysfor
she had herself received her educationsuch as it wasin Mr
Cripples's evening academy. He returnedwith the best will in the
worldthat Mr Cripples's boys were forgiven out of the bottom of
his soul. Thus did Cripples unconsciously become a master of the
ceremonies between themand bring them more naturally together
than Beau Nash might have done if they had lived in his golden
daysand he had alighted from his coach and six for the purpose.


The morning remained squallyand the streets were miserably muddy
but no rain fell as they walked towards the Iron Bridge. The
little creature seemed so young in his eyesthat there were
moments when he found himself thinking of herif not speaking to
heras if she were a child. Perhaps he seemed as old in her eyes
as she seemed young in his.


'I am sorry to hear you were so inconvenienced last nightsiras
to be locked in. It was very unfortunate.'


It was nothinghe returned. He had had a very good bed.


'Oh yes!' she said quickly; 'she believed there were excellent beds
at the coffee-house.' He noticed that the coffee-house was quite
a majestic hotel to herand that she treasured its reputation.
'I believe it is very expensive' said Little Dorrit'but MY
father has told me that quite beautiful dinners may be got there.
And wine' she added timidly.
'Were you ever there?'


'Oh no! Only into the kitchen to fetch hot water.'


To think of growing up with a kind of awe upon one as to the
luxuries of that superb establishmentthe Marshalsea Hotel!


'I asked you last night' said Clennam'how you had become
acquainted with my mother. Did you ever hear her name before she
sent for you?'


'Nosir.'


'Do you think your father ever did?'


'Nosir.'


He met her eyes raised to his with so much wonder in them (she was
scared when the encounter took placeand shrunk away again)that
he felt it necessary to say:


'I have a reason for askingwhich I cannot very well explain; but



you muston no accountsuppose it to be of a nature to cause you
the least alarm or anxiety. Quite the reverse. And you think that
at no time of your father's life was my name of Clennam ever
familiar to him?'

'Nosir.'

He feltfrom the tone in which she spokethat she was glancing up
at him with those parted lips; therefore he looked before him
rather than make her heart beat quicker still by embarrassing her
afresh.

Thus they emerged upon the Iron Bridgewhich was as quiet after
the roaring streets as though it had been open country. The wind
blew roughlythe wet squalls came rattling past themskimming the
pools on the road and pavementand raining them down into the
river. The clouds raced on furiously in the lead-Coloured skythe
smoke and mist raced after themthe dark tide ran fierce and
strong in the same direction. Little Dorrit seemed the leastthe
quietestand weakest of Heaven's creatures.

'Let me put you in a coach' said Clennamvery nearly adding 'my
poor child.'

She hurriedly declinedsaying that wet or dry made little
difference to her; she was used to go about in all weathers. He
knew it to be soand was touched with more pity; thinking of the
slight figure at his sidemaking its nightly way through the damp
dark boisterous streets to such a place of rest.
'You spoke so feelingly to me last nightsirand I found
afterwards that you had been so generous to my fatherthat I could
not resist your messageif it was only to thank you; especially as
I wished very much to say to you--' she hesitated and trembledand
tears rose in her eyesbut did not fall.

'To say to me--?'

'That I hope you will not misunderstand my father. Don't judge
himsiras you would judge others outside the gates. He has been
there so long! I never saw him outsidebut I can understand that
he must have grown different in some things since.'

'My thoughts will never be unjust or harsh towards himbelieve
me.'

'Not' she saidwith a prouder airas the misgiving evidently
crept upon her that she might seem to be abandoning him'not that
he has anything to be ashamed of for himselfor that I have
anything to be ashamed of for him. He only requires to be
understood. I only ask for him that his life may be fairly
remembered. All that he said was quite true. It all happened just
as he related it. He is very much respected. Everybody who comes
inis glad to know him. He is more courted than anyone else. He
is far more thought of than the Marshal is.'

If ever pride were innocentit was innocent in Little Dorrit when
she grew boastful of her father.

'It is often said that his manners are a true gentleman'sand
quite a study. I see none like them in that placebut he is
admitted to be superior to all the rest. This is quite as much why
they make him presentsas because they know him to be needy. He
is not to be blamed for being in needpoor love. Who could be in
prison a quarter of a centuryand be prosperous!'


What affection in her wordswhat compassion in her repressed
tearswhat a great soul of fidelity within herhow true the light
that shed false brightness round him!

'If I have found it best to conceal where my home isit is not
because I am ashamed of him. God forbid! Nor am I so much ashamed
of the place itself as might be supposed. People are not bad
because they come there. I have known numbers of good
perseveringhonest people come there through misfortune. They are
almost all kind-hearted to one another. And it would be ungrateful
indeed in meto forget that I have had many quietcomfortable
hours there; that I had an excellent friend there when I was quite
a babywho was very very fond of me; that I have been taught
thereand have worked thereand have slept soundly there. I
think it would be almost cowardly and cruel not to have some little
attachment for itafter all this.'

She had relieved the faithful fulness of her heartand modestly
saidraising her eyes appealingly to her new friend's'I did not
mean to say so muchnor have I ever but once spoken about this
before. But it seems to set it more right than it was last night.
I said I wished you had not followed mesir. I don't wish it so
much nowunless you should think--indeed I don't wish it at all
unless I should have spoken so confusedlythat--that you can
scarcely understand mewhich I am afraid may be the case.'

He told her with perfect truth that it was not the case; and
putting himself between her and the sharp wind and rainsheltered
her as well as he could.

'I feel permitted now' he said'to ask you a little more
concerning your father. Has he many creditors?'

'Oh! a great number.'

'I mean detaining creditorswho keep him where he is?'

'Oh yes! a great number.'

'Can you tell me--I can get the informationno doubtelsewhere
if you cannot--who is the most influential of them?'

Little Dorrit saidafter considering a littlethat she used to
hear long ago of Mr Tite Barnacle as a man of great power. He was
a commissioneror a boardor a trustee'or something.' He lived
in Grosvenor Squareshe thoughtor very near it. He was under
Government--high in the Circumlocution Office. She appeared to
have acquiredin her infancysome awful impression of the might
of this formidable Mr Tite Barnacle of Grosvenor Squareor very
near itand the Circumlocution Officewhich quite crushed her
when she mentioned him.

'It can do no harm' thought Arthur'if I see this Mr Tite
Barnacle.'

The thought did not present itself so quietly but that her
quickness intercepted it. 'Ah!' said Little Dorritshaking her
head with the mild despair of a lifetime. 'Many people used to
think once of getting my poor father outbut you don't know how
hopeless it is.'

She forgot to be shy at the momentin honestly warning him away
from the sunken wreck he had a dream of raising; and looked at him


with eyes which assuredlyin association with her patient face
her fragile figureher spare dressand the wind and raindid not
turn him from his purpose of helping her.

'Even if it could be done' said she--'and it never can be done
now--where could father liveor how could he live? I have often
thought that if such a change could comeit might be anything but
a service to him now. People might not think so well of him
outside as they do there. He might not be so gently dealt with
outside as he is there. He might not be so fit himself for the
life outside as he is for that.'
Here for the first time she could not restrain her tears from
falling; and the little thin hands he had watched when they were so
busytrembled as they clasped each other.

' It would be a new distress to him even to know that I earn a
little moneyand that Fanny earns a little money. He is so
anxious about usyou seefeeling helplessly shut up there. Such
a goodgood father!'

He let the little burst of feeling go by before he spoke. It was
soon gone. She was not accustomed to think of herselfor to
trouble any one with her emotions. He had but glanced away at the
piles of city roofs and chimneys among which the smoke was rolling
heavilyand at the wilderness of masts on the riverand the
wilderness of steeples on the shoreindistinctly mixed together in
the stormy hazewhen she was again as quiet as if she had been
plying her needle in his mother's room.

'You would be glad to have your brother set at liberty?'

'Oh veryvery gladsir!'

'Wellwe will hope for him at least. You told me last night of a
friend you had?'

His name was PlornishLittle Dorrit said.

And where did Plornish live? Plornish lived in Bleeding Heart
Yard. He was 'only a plasterer' Little Dorrit saidas a caution
to him not to form high social expectations of Plornish. He lived
at the last house in Bleeding Heart Yardand his name was over a
little gateway.
Arthur took down the address and gave her his. He had now done all
he sought to do for the presentexcept that he wished to leave her
with a reliance upon himand to have something like a promise from
her that she would cherish it.

'There is one friend!' he saidputting up his pocketbook. 'As I
take you back--you are going back?'

'Oh yes! going straight home.'

'As I take you back' the word home jarred upon him'let me ask
you to persuade yourself that you have another friend. I make no
professionsand say no more.'

'You are truly kind to mesir. I am sure I need no more.'

They walked back through the miserable muddy streetsand among the
poormean shopsand were jostled by the crowds of dirty hucksters
usual to a poor neighbourhood. There was nothingby the short
waythat was pleasant to any of the five senses. Yet it was not
a common passage through common rainand mireand noiseto


Clennamhaving this littleslendercareful creature on his arm.
How young she seemed to himor how old he to her; or what a secret
either to the otherin that beginning of the destined interweaving
of their storiesmatters not here. He thought of her having been
born and bred among these scenesand shrinking through them now
familiar yet misplaced; he thought of her long acquaintance with
the squalid needs of lifeand of her innocence; of her solicitude
for othersand her few yearsand her childish aspect.

They were come into the High Streetwhere the prison stoodwhen
a voice cried'Little motherlittle mother!' Little Dorrit
stopping and looking backan excited figure of a strange kind
bounced against them (still crying 'little mother')fell downand
scattered the contents of a large basketfilled with potatoesin
the mud.

'OhMaggy' said Little Dorrit'what a clumsy child you are!'

Maggy was not hurtbut picked herself up immediatelyand then
began to pick up the potatoesin which both Little Dorrit and
Arthur Clennam helped. Maggy picked up very few potatoes and a
great quantity of mud; but they were all recoveredand deposited
in the basket. Maggy then smeared her muddy face with her shawl
and presenting it to Mr Clennam as a type of purityenabled him to
see what she was like.

She was about eight-and-twentywith large boneslarge features
large feet and handslarge eyes and no hair. Her large eyes were
limpid and almost colourless; they seemed to be very little
affected by lightand to stand unnaturally still. There was also
that attentive listening expression in her facewhich is seen in
the faces of the blind; but she was not blindhaving one tolerably
serviceable eye. Her face was not exceedingly uglythough it was
only redeemed from being so by a smile; a good-humoured smileand
pleasant in itselfbut rendered pitiable by being constantly
there. A great white capwith a quantity of opaque frilling that
was always flapping aboutapologised for Maggy's baldnessand
made it so very difficult for her old black bonnet to retain its
place upon her headthat it held on round her neck like a gipsy's
baby. A commission of haberdashers could alone have reported what
the rest of her poor dress was made ofbut it had a strong general
resemblance to seaweedwith here and there a gigantic tea-leaf.
Her shawl looked particularly like a tea-leaf after long infusion.

Arthur Clennam looked at Little Dorrit with the expression of one
saying'May I ask who this is?' Little Dorritwhose hand this
Maggystill calling her little motherhad begun to fondle
answered in words (they were under a gateway into which the
majority of the potatoes had rolled).

'This is Maggysir.'

'Maggysir' echoed the personage presented. 'Little mother!'

'She is the grand-daughter--' said Little Dorrit.

'Grand-daughter' echoed Maggy.

'Of my old nursewho has been dead a long time. Maggyhow old
are you?'

'Tenmother' said Maggy.

'You can't think how good she issir' said Little Dorritwith


infinite tenderness.

'Good SHE is' echoed Maggytransferring the pronoun in a most
expressive way from herself to her little mother.

'Or how clever' said Little Dorrit. 'She goes on errands as well
as any one.' Maggy laughed. 'And is as trustworthy as the Bank of
England.' Maggy laughed. 'She earns her own living entirely.
Entirelysir!' said Little Dorritin a lower and triumphant tone.

'Really does!'

'What is her history?' asked Clennam.

'Think of thatMaggy?' said Little Dorrittaking her two large
hands and clapping them together. 'A gentleman from thousands of
miles awaywanting to know your history!'

'My history?' cried Maggy. 'Little mother.'

'She means me' said Little Dorritrather confused; 'she is very
much attached to me. Her old grandmother was not so kind to her as
she should have been; was sheMaggy?'
Maggy shook her headmade a drinking vessel of her clenched left
handdrank out of itand said'Gin.' Then beat an imaginary
childand said'Broom-handles and pokers.'

'When Maggy was ten years old' said Little Dorritwatching her
face while she spoke'she had a bad feversirand she has never
grown any older ever since.'

'Ten years old' said Maggynodding her head. 'But what a nice
hospital! So comfortablewasn't it? Oh so nice it was. Such a
Ev'nly place!'

'She had never been at peace beforesir' said Little Dorrit
turning towards Arthur for an instant and speaking low'and she
always runs off upon that.'

'Such beds there is there!' cried Maggy. 'Such lemonades! Such
oranges! Such d'licious broth and wine! Such Chicking! OhAIN'T
it a delightful place to go and stop at!'

'So Maggy stopped there as long as she could' said Little Dorrit
in her former tone of telling a child's story; the tone designed
for Maggy's ear'and at lastwhen she could stop there no longer
she came out. Thenbecause she was never to be more than ten
years oldhowever long she lived--'

'However long she lived' echoed Maggy.

'And because she was very weak; indeed was so weak that when she
began to laugh she couldn't stop herself--which was a great pity--'

(Maggy mighty grave of a sudden.)

'Her grandmother did not know what to do with herand for some
years was very unkind to her indeed. At lengthin course of time
Maggy began to take pains to improve herselfand to be very
attentive and very industrious; and by degrees was allowed to come
in and out as often as she likedand got enough to do to support
herselfand does support herself. And that' said Little Dorrit
clapping the two great hands together again'is Maggy's history


as Maggy knows!'


Ah! But Arthur would have known what was wanting to its
completenessthough he had never heard of the words Little mother;
though he had never seen the fondling of the small spare hand;
though he had had no sight for the tears now standing in the
colourless eyes; though he had had no hearing for the sob that
checked the clumsy laugh. The dirty gateway with the wind and rain
whistling through itand the basket of muddy potatoes waiting to
be spilt again or taken upnever seemed the common hole it really
waswhen he looked back to it by these lights. Nevernever!


They were very near the end of their walkand they now came out of
the gateway to finish it. Nothing would serve Maggy but that they
must stop at a grocer's windowshort of their destinationfor her
to show her learning. She could read after a sort; and picked out
the fat figures in the tickets of pricesfor the most part
correctly. She also stumbledwith a large balance of success
against her failuresthrough various philanthropic recommendations
to Try our MixtureTry our Family BlackTry our Orange-flavoured
Pekoechallenging competition at the head of Flowery Teas; and
various cautions to the public against spurious establishments and
adulterated articles. When he saw how pleasure brought a rosy tint
into Little Dorrit's face when Maggy made a hithe felt that he
could have stood there making a library of the grocer's window
until the rain and wind were tired.


The court-yard received them at lastand there he said goodbye to
Little Dorrit. Little as she had always lookedshe looked less
than ever when he saw her going into the Marshalsea lodge passage
the little mother attended by her big child.
The cage door openedand when the small birdreared in captivity
had tamely fluttered inhe saw it shut again; and then he came
away.


CHAPTER 10


Containing the whole Science of Government


The Circumlocution Office was (as everybody knows without being
told) the most important Department under Government. No public
business of any kind could possibly be done at any time without the
acquiescence of the Circumlocution Office. Its finger was in the
largest public pieand in the smallest public tart. It was
equally impossible to do the plainest right and to undo the
plainest wrong without the express authority of the Circumlocution
Office. If another Gunpowder Plot had been discovered half an hour
before the lighting of the matchnobody would have been justified
in saving the parliament until there had been half a score of
boardshalf a bushel of minutesseveral sacks of official
memorandaand a family-vault full of ungrammatical correspondence
on the part of the Circumlocution Office.


This glorious establishment had been early in the fieldwhen the
one sublime principle involving the difficult art of governing a
countrywas first distinctly revealed to statesmen. It had been
foremost to study that bright revelation and to carry its shining
influence through the whole of the official proceedings. Whatever
was required to be donethe Circumlocution Office was beforehand
with all the public departments in the art of perceiving--HOW NOT



TO DO IT.

Through this delicate perceptionthrough the tact with which it
invariably seized itand through the genius with which it always
acted on itthe Circumlocution Office had risen to overtop all the
public departments; and the public condition had risen to be--what
it was.

It is true that How not to do it was the great study and object of
all public departments and professional politicians all round the
Circumlocution Office. It is true that every new premier and every
new governmentcoming in because they had upheld a certain thing
as necessary to be donewere no sooner come in than they applied
their utmost faculties to discovering How not to do it. It is true
that from the moment when a general election was overevery
returned man who had been raving on hustings because it hadn't been
doneand who had been asking the friends of the honourable
gentleman in the opposite interest on pain of impeachment to tell
him why it hadn't been doneand who had been asserting that it
must be doneand who had been pledging himself that it should be
donebegan to deviseHow it was not to be done. It is true that
the debates of both Houses of Parliament the whole session through
uniformly tended to the protracted deliberationHow not to do it.
It is true that the royal speech at the opening of such session
virtually saidMy lords and gentlemenyou have a considerable
stroke of work to doand you will please to retire to your
respective chambersand discussHow not to do it. It is true
that the royal speechat the close of such sessionvirtually
saidMy lords and gentlemenyou have through several laborious
months been considering with great loyalty and patriotismHow not
to do itand you have found out; and with the blessing of
Providence upon the harvest (naturalnot political)I now dismiss
you. All this
is truebut the Circumlocution Office went beyond it.

Because the Circumlocution Office went on mechanicallyevery day
keeping this wonderfulall-sufficient wheel of statesmanshipHow
not to do itin motion. Because the Circumlocution Office was
down upon any ill-advised public servant who was going to do itor
who appeared to be by any surprising accident in remote danger of
doing itwith a minuteand a memorandumand a letter of
instructions that extinguished him. It was this spirit of national
efficiency in the Circumlocution Office that had gradually led to
its having something to do with everything. Mechaniciansnatural
philosopherssoldierssailorspetitionersmemorialistspeople
with grievancespeople who wanted to prevent grievancespeople
who wanted to redress grievancesjobbing peoplejobbed people
people who couldn't get rewarded for meritand people who couldn't
get punished for demeritwere all indiscriminately tucked up under
the foolscap paper of the Circumlocution Office.

Numbers of people were lost in the Circumlocution Office.
Unfortunates with wrongsor with projects for the general welfare
(and they had better have had wrongs at firstthan have taken that
bitter English recipe for certainly getting them)who in slow
lapse of time and agony had passed safely through other public
departments; whoaccording to rulehad been bullied in this
over-reached by thatand evaded by the other; got referred at last
to the Circumlocution Officeand never reappeared in the light of
day. Boards sat upon themsecretaries minuted upon them
commissioners gabbled about themclerks registeredentered
checkedand ticked them offand they melted away. In shortall
the business of the country went through the Circumlocution Office
except the business that never came out of it; and its name was


Legion.

Sometimesangry spirits attacked the Circumlocution Office.
Sometimesparliamentary questions were asked about itand even
parliamentary motions made or threatened about it by demagogues so
low and ignorant as to hold that the real recipe of government was
How to do it. Then would the noble lordor right honourable
gentlemanin whose department it was to defend the Circumlocution
Officeput an orange in his pocketand make a regular field-day
of the occasion. Then would he come down to that house with a slap
upon the tableand meet the honourable gentleman foot to foot.
Then would he be there to tell that honourable gentleman that the
Circumlocution Office not only was blameless in this matterbut
was commendable in this matterwas extollable to the skies in this
matter. Then would he be there to tell that honourable gentleman
thatalthough the Circumlocution Office was invariably right and
wholly rightit never was so right as in this matter. Then would
he be there to tell that honourable gentleman that it would have
been more to his honourmore to his creditmore to his good
tastemore to his good sensemore to half the dictionary of
commonplacesif he had left the Circumlocution Office aloneand
never approached this matter. Then would he keep one eye upon a
coach or crammer from the Circumlocution Office sitting below the
barand smash the honourable gentleman with the Circumlocution
Office account of this matter. And although one of two things
always happened; namelyeither that the Circumlocution Office had
nothing to say and said itor that it had something to say of
which the noble lordor right honourable gentlemanblundered one
half and forgot the other; the Circumlocution Office was always
voted immaculate by an accommodating majority.

Such a nursery of statesmen had the Department become in virtue of
a long career of this naturethat several solemn lords had
attained the reputation of being quite unearthly prodigies of
businesssolely from having practisedHow not to do itas the
head of the Circumlocution Office. As to the minor priests and
acolytes of that templethe result of all this was that they stood
divided into two classesanddown to the junior messengereither
believed in the Circumlocution Office as a heaven-born institution
that had an absolute right to do whatever it liked; or took refuge
in total infidelityand considered it a flagrant nuisance.

The Barnacle family had for some time helped to administer the
Circumlocution Office. The Tite Barnacle Branchindeed
considered themselves in a general way as having vested rights in
that directionand took it ill if any other family had much to say
to it. The Barnacles were a very high familyand a very large
family. They were dispersed all over the public officesand held
all sorts of public places. Either the nation was under a load of
obligation to the Barnaclesor the Barnacles were under a load of
obligation to the nation. It was not quite unanimously settled
which; the Barnacles having their opinionthe nation theirs.

The Mr Tite Barnacle who at the period now in question usually
coached or crammed the statesman at the head of the Circumlocution
Officewhen that noble or right honourable individual sat a little
uneasily in his saddle by reason of some vagabond making a tilt at
him in a newspaperwas more flush of blood than money. As a
Barnacle he had his placewhich was a snug thing enough; and as a
Barnacle he had of course put in his son Barnacle Junior in the
office. But he had intermarried with a branch of the
Stiltstalkingswho were also better endowed in a sanguineous point
of view than with real or personal propertyand of this marriage
there had been issueBarnacle junior and three young ladies. What


with the patrician requirements of Barnacle juniorthe three young
ladiesMrs Tite Barnacle nee Stiltstalkingand himselfMr Tite
Barnacle found the intervals between quarter day and quarter day
rather longer than he could have desired; a circumstance which he
always attributed to the country's parsimony.
For Mr Tite BarnacleMr Arthur Clennam made his fifth inquiry one
day at the Circumlocution Office; having on previous occasions
awaited that gentleman successively in a halla glass casea
waiting roomand a fire-proof passage where the Department seemed
to keep its wind. On this occasion Mr Barnacle was not engagedas
he had been beforewith the noble prodigy at the head of the
Department; but was absent. Barnacle Juniorhoweverwas
announced as a lesser staryet visible above the office horizon.

With Barnacle juniorhe signified his desire to confer; and found
that young gentleman singeing the calves of his legs at the
parental fireand supporting his spine against the mantel-shelf.
It was a comfortable roomhandsomely furnished in the higher
official manner; an presenting stately suggestions of the absent
Barnaclein the thick carpetthe leather-covered desk to sit at
the leather-covered desk to stand atthe formidable easy-chair and
hearth-rugthe interposed screenthe torn-up papersthe
dispatch-boxes with little labels sticking out of themlike
medicine bottles or dead gamethe pervading smell of leather and
mahoganyand a general bamboozling air of How not to do it.

The present Barnacleholding Mr Clennam's card in his handhad a
youthful aspectand the fluffiest little whiskerperhapsthat
ever was seen. Such a downy tip was on his callow chinthat he
seemed half fledged like a young bird; and a compassionate observer
might have urged thatif he had not singed the calves of his legs
he would have died of cold. He had a superior eye-glass dangling
round his neckbut unfortunately had such flat orbits to his eyes
and such limp little eyelids that it wouldn't stick in when he put
it upbut kept tumbling out against his waistcoat buttons with a
click that discomposed him very much.

'OhI say. Look here! My father's not in the wayand won't be
in the way to-day' said Barnacle Junior. 'Is this anything that
I can do?'

(Click! Eye-glass down. Barnacle Junior quite frightened and
feeling all round himselfbut not able to find it.)

'You are very good' said Arthur Clennam. 'I wish however to see
Mr Barnacle.'

'But I say. Look here! You haven't got any appointmentyou
know' said Barnacle Junior.

(By this time he had found the eye-glassand put it up again.)

'No' said Arthur Clennam. 'That is what I wish to have.'

'But I say. Look here! Is this public business?' asked Barnacle
junior.

(Click! Eye-glass down again. Barnacle Junior in that state of
search after it that Mr Clennam felt it useless to reply at
present.)

'Is it' said Barnacle juniortaking heed of his visitor's brown
face'anything about--Tonnage--or that sort of thing?'


(Pausing for a replyhe opened his right eye with his handand
stuck his glass in itin that inflammatory manner that his eye
began watering dreadfully.)

'No' said Arthur'it is nothing about tonnage.'

'Then look here. Is it private business?'

'I really am not sure. It relates to a Mr Dorrit.'

'Look hereI tell you what! You had better call at our houseif
you are going that way. Twenty-fourMews StreetGrosvenor
Square. My father's got a slight touch of the goutand is kept at
home by it.'

(The misguided young Barnacle evidently going blind on his eyeglass
sidebut ashamed to make any further alteration in his
painful arrangements.)

'Thank you. I will call there now. Good morning.' Young Barnacle
seemed discomfited at thisas not having at all expected him to
go.

'You are quite sure' said Barnacle juniorcalling after him when
he got to the doorunwilling wholly to relinquish the bright
business idea he had conceived; 'that it's nothing about Tonnage?'

'Quite sure.'

With such assuranceand rather wondering what might have taken
place if it HAD been anything about tonnageMr Clennam withdrew to
pursue his inquiries.

Mews StreetGrosvenor Squarewas not absolutely Grosvenor Square
itselfbut it was very near it. It was a hideous little street of
dead wallstablesand dunghillswith lofts over coach-houses
inhabited by coachmen's familieswho had a passion for drying
clothes and decorating their window-sills with miniature turnpikegates.
The principal chimney-sweep of that fashionable quarter
lived at the blind end of Mews Street; and the same corner
contained an establishment much frequented about early morning and
twilight for the purchase of wine-bottles and kitchen-stuff.
Punch's shows used to lean against the dead wall in Mews Street
while their proprietors were dining elsewhere; and the dogs of the
neighbourhood made appointments to meet in the same locality. Yet
there were two or three small airless houses at the entrance end of
Mews Streetwhich went at enormous rents on account of their being
abject hangers-on to a fashionable situation; and whenever one of
these fearful little coops was to be let (which seldom happened
for they were in great request)the house agent advertised it as
a gentlemanly residence in the most aristocratic part of town
inhabited solely by the elite of the beau monde.

If a gentlemanly residence coming strictly within this narrow
margin had not been essential to the blood of the Barnaclesthis
particular branch would have had a pretty wide selection amonglet
us sayten thousand housesoffering fifty times the accommodation
for a third of the money. As it wasMr Barnaclefinding his
gentlemanly residence extremely inconvenient and extremely dear
always laid itas a public servantat the door of the country
and adduced it as another instance of the country's parsimony.

Arthur Clennam came to a squeezed housewith a ramshackle bowed
frontlittle dingy windowsand a little dark area like a damp


waistcoat-pocketwhich he found to be number twenty-fourMews
StreetGrosvenor Square. To the sense of smell the house was like
a sort of bottle filled with a strong distillation of Mews; and
when the footman opened the doorhe seemed to take the stopper
out.

The footman was to the Grosvenor Square footmenwhat the house was
to the Grosvenor Square houses. Admirable in his wayhis way was
a back and a bye way. His gorgeousness was not unmixed with dirt;
and both in complexion and consistency he had suffered from the
closeness of his pantry. A sallow flabbiness was upon him when he
took the stopper outand presented the bottle to Mr Clennam's
nose.

'Be so good as to give that card to Mr Tite Barnacleand to say
that I have just now seen the younger Mr Barnaclewho recommended
me to call here.'

The footman (who had as many large buttons with the Barnacle crest
upon them on the flaps of his pocketsas if he were the family
strong boxand carried the plate and jewels about with him
buttoned up) pondered over the card a little; then said'Walk in.'

It required some judgment to do it without butting the inner halldoor
openand in the consequent mental confusion and physical
darkness slipping down the kitchen stairs. The visitorhowever
brought himself up safely on the door-mat.

Still the footman said 'Walk in' so the visitor followed him. At
the inner hall-dooranother bottle seemed to be presented and
another stopper taken out. This second vial appeared to be filled
with concentrated provisions and extract of Sink from the pantry.
After a skirmish in the narrow passageoccasioned by the footman's
opening the door of the dismal dining-room with confidencefinding
some one there with consternationand backing on the visitor with
disorderthe visitor was shut uppending his announcementin a
close back parlour. There he had an opportunity of refreshing
himself with both the bottles at oncelooking out at a low
blinding wall three feet offand speculating on the number of
Barnacle families within the bills of mortality who lived in such
hutches of their own free flunkey choice.

Mr Barnacle would see him. Would he walk up-stairs? He wouldand
he did; and in the drawing-roomwith his leg on a resthe found
Mr Barnacle himselfthe express image and presentment of How not
to do it.

Mr Barnacle dated from a better timewhen the country was not so
parsimonious and the Circumlocution Office was not so badgered. He
wound and wound folds of white cravat round his neckas he wound
and wound folds of tape and paper round the neck of the country.
His wristbands and collar were oppressive; his voice and manner
were oppressive. He had a large watch-chain and bunch of sealsa
coat buttoned up to inconveniencea waistcoat buttoned up to
inconveniencean unwrinkled pair of trousersa stiff pair of
boots. He was altogether splendidmassiveoverpoweringand
impracticable. He seemed to have been sitting for his portrait to
Sir Thomas Lawrence all the days of his life.

'Mr Clennam?' said Mr Barnacle. 'Be seated.'

Mr Clennam became seated.

'You have called on meI believe' said Mr Barnacle'at the


Circumlocution--' giving it the air of a word of about five-andtwenty
syllables--'Office.'

'I have taken that liberty.'

Mr Barnacle solemnly bent his head as who should say'I do not
deny that it is a liberty; proceed to take another libertyand let
me know your business.'

'Allow me to observe that I have been for some years in Chinaam
quite a stranger at homeand have no personal motive or interest
in the inquiry I am about to make.'

Mr Barnacle tapped his fingers on the tableandas if he were now
sitting for his portrait to a new and strange artistappeared to
say to his visitor'If you will be good enough to take me with my
present lofty expressionI shall feel obliged.'

'I have found a debtor in the Marshalsea Prison of the name of
Dorritwho has been there many years. I wish to investigate his
confused affairs so far as to ascertain whether it may not be
possibleafter this lapse of timeto ameliorate his unhappy
condition. The name of Mr Tite Barnacle has been mentioned to me
as representing some highly influential interest among his
creditors. Am I correctly informed?'

It being one of the principles of the Circumlocution Office never
on any account whateverto give a straightforward answerMr
Barnacle said'Possibly.'

'On behalf of the Crownmay I askor as private individual?'

'The Circumlocution Departmentsir' Mr Barnacle replied'may
have possibly recommended--possibly--I cannot say--that some public
claim against the insolvent estate of a firm or copartnership to
which this person may have belongedshould be enforced. The
question may have beenin the course of official business
referred to the Circumlocution Department for its consideration.
The Department may have either originatedor confirmeda Minute
making that recommendation.'

'I assume this to be the casethen.'

'The Circumlocution Department' said Mr Barnacle'is not
responsible for any gentleman's assumptions.'

'May I inquire how I can obtain official information as to the real
state of the case?'

'It is competent' said Mr Barnacle'to any member of the-Public'
mentioning that obscure body with reluctanceas his
natural enemy'to memorialise the Circumlocution Department. Such
formalities as are required to be observed in so doingmay be
known on application to the proper branch of that Department.'

'Which is the proper branch?'

'I must refer you' returned Mr Barnacleringing the bell'to the
Department itself for a formal answer to that inquiry.'

'Excuse my mentioning--'

'The Department is accessible to the--Public' Mr Barnacle was
always checked a little by that word of impertinent signification


'if the--Public approaches it according to the official forms; if
the--Public does not approach it according to the official forms
the--Public has itself to blame.'

Mr Barnacle made him a severe bowas a wounded man of familya
wounded man of placeand a wounded man of a gentlemanly residence
all rolled into one; and he made Mr Barnacle a bowand was shut
out into Mews Street by the flabby footman.

Having got to this passhe resolved as an exercise in
perseveranceto betake himself again to the Circumlocution Office
and try what satisfaction he could get there. So he went back to
the Circumlocution Officeand once more sent up his card to
Barnacle junior by a messenger who took it very ill indeed that he
should come back againand who was eating mashed potatoes and
gravy behind a partition by the hall fire.

He was readmitted to the presence of Barnacle juniorand found
that young gentleman singeing his knees nowand gaping his weary
way on to four o'clock.
'I say. Look here. You stick to us in a devil of a manner' Said
Barnacle juniorlooking over his shoulder.

'I want to know--'

'Look here. Upon my soul you mustn't come into the place saying
you want to knowyou know' remonstrated Barnacle juniorturning
about and putting up the eye-glass.

'I want to know' said Arthur Clennamwho had made up his mind to
persistence in one short form of words'the precise nature of the
claim of the Crown against a prisoner for debtnamed Dorrit.'

'I say. Look here. You really are going it at a great paceyou
know. Egadyou haven't got an appointment' said Barnacle junior
as if the thing were growing serious.

'I want to know' said Arthurand repeated his case.

Barnacle junior stared at him until his eye-glass fell outand
then put it in again and stared at him until it fell out again.
'You have no right to come this sort of move' he then observed
with the greatest weakness. 'Look here. What do you mean? You
told me you didn't know whether it was public business or not.'

'I have now ascertained that it is public business' returned the
suitor'and I want to know'--and again repeated his monotonous
inquiry.

Its effect upon young Barnacle was to make him repeat in a
defenceless way'Look here! Upon my SOUL you mustn't come into
the place saying you want to knowyou know!' The effect of that
upon Arthur Clennam was to make him repeat his inquiry in exactly
the same words and tone as before. The effect of that upon young
Barnacle was to make him a wonderful spectacle of failure and
helplessness.

'WellI tell you what. Look here. You had better try the
Secretarial Department' he said at lastsidling to the bell and
ringing it. 'Jenkinson' to the mashed potatoes messenger'Mr
Wobbler!'

Arthur Clennamwho now felt that he had devoted himself to the
storming of the Circumlocution Officeand must go through with it


accompanied the messenger to another floor of the buildingwhere
that functionary pointed out Mr Wobbler's room. He entered that
apartmentand found two gentlemen sitting face to face at a large
and easy deskone of whom was polishing a gun-barrel on his
pocket-handkerchiefwhile the other was spreading marmalade on
bread with a paper-knife.

'Mr Wobbler?' inquired the suitor.

Both gentlemen glanced at himand seemed surprised at his
assurance.

'So he went' said the gentleman with the gun-barrelwho was an
extremely deliberate speaker'down to his cousin's placeand took
the Dog with him by rail. Inestimable Dog. Flew at the porter
fellow when he was put into the dog-boxand flew at the guard when
he was taken out. He got half-a-dozen fellows into a Barnand a
good supply of Ratsand timed the Dog. Finding the Dog able to do
it immenselymade the matchand heavily backed the Dog. When the
match came offsome devil of a fellow was bought overSirDog
was made drunkDog's master was cleaned out.'

'Mr Wobbler?' inquired the suitor.

The gentleman who was spreading the marmalade returnedwithout
looking up from that occupation'What did he call the Dog?'

'Called him Lovely' said the other gentleman. 'Said the Dog was
the perfect picture of the old aunt from whom he had expectations.
Found him particularly like her when hocussed.'

'Mr Wobbler?' said the suitor.

Both gentlemen laughed for some time. The gentleman with the gunbarrel
considering iton inspectionin a satisfactory state
referred it to the other; receiving confirmation of his viewshe
fitted it into its place in the case before himand took out the
stock and polished thatsoftly whistling.

'Mr Wobbler?' said the suitor.

'What's the matter?' then said Mr Wobblerwith his mouth full.

'I want to know--' and Arthur Clennam again mechanically set forth
what he wanted to know.

'Can't inform you' observed Mr Wobblerapparently to his lunch.
'Never heard of it. Nothing at all to do with it. Better try Mr
Clivesecond door on the left in the next passage.'

'Perhaps he will give me the same answer.'

'Very likely. Don't know anything about it' said Mr Wobbler.

The suitor turned away and had left the roomwhen the gentleman
with the gun called out 'Mister! Hallo!'

He looked in again.

'Shut the door after you. You're letting in a devil of a draught
here!'
A few steps brought him to the second door on the left in the next
passage. In that room he found three gentlemen; number one doing
nothing particularnumber two doing nothing particularnumber


three doing nothing particular. They seemedhoweverto be more
directly concerned than the others had been in the effective
execution of the great principle of the officeas there was an
awful inner apartment with a double doorin which the
Circumlocution Sages appeared to be assembled in counciland out
of which there was an imposing coming of papersand into which
there was an imposing going of papersalmost constantly; wherein
another gentlemannumber fourwas the active instrument.

'I want to know' said Arthur Clennam--and again stated his case
in the same barrel-organ way. As number one referred him to number
twoand as number two referred him to number threehe had
occasion to state it three times before they all referred him to
number fourto whom he stated it again.

Number four was a vivaciouswell-lookingwell-dressedagreeable
young fellow--he was a Barnaclebut on the more sprightly side of
the family--and he said in an easy way'Oh! you had better not
bother yourself about itI think.'

'Not bother myself about it?'

'No! I recommend you not to bother yourself about it.'

This was such a new point of view that Arthur Clennam found himself
at a loss how to receive it.

'You can if you like. I can give you plenty of forms to fill up.
Lots of 'em here. You can have a dozen if you like. But you'll
never go on with it' said number four.

'Would it be such hopeless work? Excuse me; I am a stranger in
England.'
'I don't say it would be hopeless' returned number fourwith a
frank smile. 'I don't express an opinion about that; I only
express an opinion about you. I don't think you'd go on with it.
Howeverof courseyou can do as you like. I suppose there was a
failure in the performance of a contractor something of that
kindwas there?'

'I really don't know.'

'Well! That you can find out. Then you'll find out what
Department the contract was inand then you'll find out all about
it there.'

'I beg your pardon. How shall I find out?'

'Whyyou'll--you'll ask till they tell you. Then you'll
memorialise that Department (according to regular forms which
you'll find out) for leave to memorialise this Department. If you
get it (which you may after a time)that memorial must be entered
in that Departmentsent to be registered in this Departmentsent
back to be signed by that Departmentsent back to be countersigned
by this Departmentand then it will begin to be regularly before
that Department. You'll find out when the business passes through
each of these stages by asking at both Departments till they tell
you.'

'But surely this is not the way to do the business' Arthur Clennam
could not help saying.

This airy young Barnacle was quite entertained by his simplicity in
supposing for a moment that it was. This light in hand young


Barnacle knew perfectly that it was not. This touch and go young
Barnacle had 'got up' the Department in a private secretaryship
that he might be ready for any little bit of fat that came to hand;
and he fully understood the Department to be a politico-diplomatic
hocus pocus piece of machinery for the assistance of the nobs in
keeping off the snobs. This dashing young Barnaclein a wordwas
likely to become a statesmanand to make a figure.

'When the business is regularly before that Departmentwhatever it
is' pursued this bright young Barnacle'then you can watch it
from time to time through that Department. When it comes regularly
before this Departmentthen you must watch it from time to time
through this Department. We shall have to refer it right and left;
and when we refer it anywherethen you'll have to look it up.
When it comes back to us at any timethen you had better look US
up. When it sticks anywhereyou'll have to try to give it a jog.
When you write to another Department about itand then to this
Department about itand don't hear anything satisfactory about it
why then you had better--keep on writing.'

Arthur Clennam looked very doubtful indeed. 'But I am obliged to
you at any rate' said he'for your politeness.'

'Not at all' replied this engaging young Barnacle. 'Try the
thingand see how you like it. It will be in your power to give
it up at any timeif you don't like it. You had better take a lot
of forms away with you. Give him a lot of forms!' With which
instruction to number twothis sparkling young Barnacle took a
fresh handful of papers from numbers one and threeand carried
them into the sanctuary to offer to the presiding Idol of the
Circumlocution Office.

Arthur Clennam put his forms in his pocket gloomily enoughand
went his way down the long stone passage and the long stone
staircase. He had come to the swing doors leading into the street
and was waitingnot over patientlyfor two people who were
between him and them to pass out and let him followwhen the voice
of one of them struck familiarly on his ear. He looked at the
speaker and recognised Mr Meagles. Mr Meagles was very red in the
face--redder than travel could have made him--and collaring a short
man who was with himsaid'come outyou rascalcome Out!'

it was such an unexpected hearingand it was also such an
unexpected sight to see Mr Meagles burst the swing doors openand
emerge into the street with the short manwho was of an
unoffending appearancethat Clennam stood still for the moment
exchanging looks of surprise with the porter. He followed
howeverquickly; and saw Mr Meagles going down the street with his
enemy at his side. He soon came up with his old travelling
companionand touched him on the back. The choleric face which Mr
Meagles turned upon him smoothed when he saw who it wasand he put
out his friendly hand.

'How are you?' said Mr Meagles. 'How d'ye do? I have only just
come over from abroad. I am glad to see you.'

'And I am rejoiced to see you.'

'Thank'ee. Thank'ee!'

'Mrs Meagles and your daughter--?'

'Are as well as possible' said Mr Meagles. 'I only wish you had
come upon me in a more prepossessing condition as to coolness.'


Though it was anything but a hot dayMr Meagles was in a heated
state that attracted the attention of the passersby; more
particularly as he leaned his back against a railingtook off his
hat and cravatand heartily rubbed his steaming head and faceand
his reddened ears and neckwithout the least regard for public
opinion.

'Whew!' said Mr Meaglesdressing again. 'That's comfortable. Now
I am cooler.'

'You have been ruffledMr Meagles. What is the matter?'

'Wait a bitand I'll tell you. Have you leisure for a turn in the
Park?'

'As much as you please.'

'Come along then. Ah! you may well look at him.' He happened to
have turned his eyes towards the offender whom Mr Meagles had so
angrily collared. 'He's something to look atthat fellow is.'

He was not much to look ateither in point of size or in point of
dress; being merely a shortsquarepractical looking manwhose
hair had turned greyand in whose face and forehead there were
deep lines of cogitationwhich looked as though they were carved
in hard wood. He was dressed in decent blacka little rustyand
had the appearance of a sagacious master in some handicraft. He
had a spectacle-case in his handwhich he turned over and over
while he was thus in questionwith a certain free use of the thumb
that is never seen but in a hand accustomed to tools.

'You keep with us' said Mr Meaglesin a threatening kind of Way
'and I'll introduce you presently. Now then!'

Clennam wondered within himselfas they took the nearest way to
the Parkwhat this unknown (who complied in the gentlest manner)
could have been doing. His appearance did not at all justify the
suspicion that he had been detected in designs on Mr Meagles's
pocket-handkerchief; nor had he any appearance of being quarrelsome
or violent. He was a quietplainsteady man; made no attempt to
escape; and seemed a little depressedbut neither ashamed nor
repentant. If he were a criminal offenderhe must surely be an
incorrigible hypocrite; and if he were no offenderwhy should Mr
Meagles have collared him in the Circumlocution Office? He
perceived that the man was not a difficulty in his own mind alone
but in Mr Meagles's too; for such conversation as they had together
on the short way to the Park was by no means well sustainedand Mr
Meagles's eye always wandered back to the maneven when he spoke
of something very different.

At length they being among the treesMr Meagles stopped shortand
said:

'Mr Clennamwill you do me the favour to look at this man? His
name is DoyceDaniel Doyce. You wouldn't suppose this man to be
a notorious rascal; would you?'

'I certainly should not.' It was really a disconcerting question
with the man there.

'No. You would not. I know you would not. You wouldn't suppose
him to be a public offender; would you?'


'No.'

'No. But he is. He is a public offender. What has he been guilty
of? Murdermanslaughterarsonforgeryswindlinghousebreaking
highway robberylarcenyconspiracyfraud? Which
should you saynow?'

'I should say' returned Arthur Clennamobserving a faint smile in
Daniel Doyce's face'not one of them.'

'You are right' said Mr Meagles. 'But he has been ingeniousand
he has been trying to turn his ingenuity to his country's service.
That makes him a public offender directlysir.'

Arthur looked at the man himselfwho only shook his head.

'This Doyce' said Mr Meagles'is a smith and engineer. He is not
in a large waybut he is well known as a very ingenious man. A
dozen years agohe perfects an invention (involving a very curious
secret process) of great importance to his country and his fellowcreatures.
I won't say how much money it cost himor how many
years of his life he had been about itbut he brought it to
perfection a dozen years ago. Wasn't it a dozen?' said Mr Meagles
addressing Doyce. 'He is the most exasperating man in the world;
he never complains!'

'Yes. Rather better than twelve years ago.'

'Rather better?' said Mr Meagles'you mean rather worse. WellMr
Clennamhe addresses himself to the Government. The moment he
addresses himself to the Governmenthe becomes a public offender!
Sir' said Mr Meaglesin danger of making himself excessively hot
again'he ceases to be an innocent citizenand becomes a culprit.

He is treated from that instant as a man who has done some infernal
action. He is a man to be shirkedput offbrow-beatensneered
athanded over by this highly-connected young or old gentlemanto
that highly-connected young or old gentlemanand dodged back
again; he is a man with no rights in his own timeor his own
property; a mere outlawwhom it is justifiable to get rid of
anyhow; a man to be worn out by all possible means.'

It was not so difficult to believeafter the morning's experience
as Mr Meagles supposed.

'Don't stand thereDoyceturning your spectacle-case over and
over' cried Mr Meagles'but tell Mr Clennam what you confessed to
me.'

'I undoubtedly was made to feel' said the inventor'as if I had
committed an offence. In dancing attendance at the various
officesI was always treatedmore or lessas if it was a very
bad offence. I have frequently found it necessary to reflectfor
my own self-supportthat I really had not done anything to bring
myself into the Newgate Calendarbut only wanted to effect a great
saving and a great improvement.'

'There!' said Mr Meagles. 'Judge whether I exaggerate. Now you'll
be able to believe me when I tell you the rest of the case.'

With this preludeMr Meagles went through the narrative; the
established narrativewhich has become tiresome; the matter-ofcourse
narrative which we all know by heart. Howafter
interminable attendance and correspondenceafter infinite


impertinencesignorancesand insultsmy lords made a Minute
number three thousand four hundred and seventy-twoallowing the
culprit to make certain trials of his invention at his own expense.

How the trials were made in the presence of a board of sixof whom
two ancient members were too blind to see ittwo other ancient
members were too deaf to hear itone other ancient member was too
lame to get near itand the final ancient member was too pigheaded
to look at it. How there were more years; more
impertinencesignorancesand insults. How my lords then made a
Minutenumber five thousand one hundred and threewhereby they
resigned the business to the Circumlocution Office. How the
Circumlocution Officein course of timetook up the business as
if it were a bran new thing of yesterdaywhich had never been
heard of before; muddled the businessaddled the businesstossed
the business in a wet blanket. How the impertinencesignorances
and insults went through the multiplication table. How there was
a reference of the invention to three Barnacles and a
Stiltstalkingwho knew nothing about it; into whose heads nothing
could be hammered about it; who got bored about itand reported
physical impossibilities about it. How the Circumlocution Office
in a Minutenumber eight thousand seven hundred and forty'saw no
reason to reverse the decision at which my lords had arrived.' How
the Circumlocution Officebeing reminded that my lords had arrived
at no decisionshelved the business. How there had been a final
interview with the head of the Circumlocution Office that very
morningand how the Brazen Head had spokenand had beenupon the
wholeand under all the circumstancesand looking at it from the
various points of viewof opinion that one of two courses was to
be pursued in respect of the business: that was to sayeither to
leave it alone for evermoreor to begin it all over again.

'Upon which' said Mr Meagles'as a practical manI then and
therein that presencetook Doyce by the collarand told him it
was plain to me that he was an infamous rascal and treasonable
disturber of the government peaceand took him away. I brought
him out of the office door by the collarthat the very porter
might know I was a practical man who appreciated the official
estimate of such characters; and here we are!'

If that airy young Barnacle had been therehe would have frankly
told them perhaps that the Circumlocution Office had achieved its
function. That what the Barnacles had to dowas to stick on to
the national ship as long as they could. That to trim the ship
lighten the shipclean the shipwould be to knock them off; that
they could but be knocked off once; and that if the ship went down
with them yet sticking to itthat was the ship's look outand not
theirs.

'There!' said Mr Meagles'now you know all about Doyce. Except
which I own does not improve my state of mindthat even now you
don't hear him complain.'

'You must have great patience' said Arthur Clennamlooking at him
with some wonder'great forbearance.'

'No' he returned'I don't know that I have more than another
man.'

'By the Lordyou have more than I havethough!' cried Mr Meagles.

Doyce smiledas he said to Clennam'You seemy experience of
these things does not begin with myself. It has been in my way to
know a little about them from time to time. Mine is not a


particular case. I am not worse used than a hundred others who
have put themselves in the same position--than all the othersI
was going to say.'

'I don't know that I should find that a consolationif it were my
case; but I am very glad that you do.'

'Understand me! I don't say' he replied in his steadyplanning
wayand looking into the distance before him as if his grey eye
were measuring it'that it's recompense for a man's toil and hope;
but it's a certain sort of relief to know that I might have counted
on this.'

He spoke in that quiet deliberate mannerand in that undertone
which is often observable in mechanics who consider and adjust with
great nicety. It belonged to him like his suppleness of thumbor
his peculiar way of tilting up his hat at the back every now and
thenas if he were contemplating some half-finished work of his
hand and thinking about it.

'Disappointed?' he went onas he walked between them under the
trees. 'Yes. No doubt I am disappointed. Hurt? Yes. No doubt
I am hurt. That's only natural. But what I mean when I say that
people who put themselves in the same position are mostly used in
the same way--'

'In England' said Mr Meagles.

'Oh! of course I mean in England. When they take their inventions
into foreign countriesthat's quite different. And that's the
reason why so many go there.'

Mr Meagles very hot indeed again.

'What I mean isthat however this comes to be the regular way of
our governmentit is its regular way. Have you ever heard of any
projector or inventor who failed to find it all but inaccessible
and whom it did not discourage and ill-treat?'

'I cannot say that I ever have.'

'Have you ever known it to be beforehand in the adoption of any
useful thing? Ever known it to set an example of any useful kind?'

'I am a good deal older than my friend here' said Mr Meagles'and
I'll answer that. Never.'

'But we all three have knownI expect' said the inventor'a
pretty many cases of its fixed determination to be miles upon
milesand years upon yearsbehind the rest of us; and of its
being found out persisting in the use of things long superseded
even after the better things were well known and generally taken
up?'

They all agreed upon that.

'Well then' said Doycewith a sigh'as I know what such a metal
will do at such a temperatureand such a body under such a
pressureso I may know (if I will only consider)how these great
lords and gentlemen will certainly deal with such a matter as mine.

I have no right to be surprisedwith a head upon my shouldersand
memory in itthat I fall into the ranks with all who came before
me. I ought to have let it alone. I have had warning enoughI am


sure.'


With that he put up his spectacle-caseand said to Arthur'If I
don't complainMr ClennamI can feel gratitude; and I assure you
that I feel it towards our mutual friend. Many's the dayand
many's the way in which he has backed me.'


'Stuff and nonsense' said Mr Meagles.


Arthur could not but glance at Daniel Doyce in the ensuing silence.


Though it was evidently in the grain of his characterand of his
respect for his own casethat he should abstain from idle
murmuringit was evident that he had grown the olderthe sterner
and the poorerfor his long endeavour. He could not but think
what a blessed thing it would have been for this manif he had
taken a lesson from the gentlemen who were so kind as to take a
nation's affairs in chargeand had learnt How not to do it.


Mr Meagles was hot and despondent for about five minutesand then
began to cool and clear up.


'Comecome!' said he. 'We shall not make this the better by being
grim. Where do you think of goingDan?'


'I shall go back to the factory' said Dan.
'Why thenwe'll all go back to the factoryor walk in that
direction' returned Mr Meagles cheerfully. 'Mr Clennam won't be
deterred by its being in Bleeding Heart Yard.'


'Bleeding Heart Yard?' said Clennam. 'I want to go there.'


'So much the better' cried Mr Meagles. 'Come along!'


As they went alongcertainly one of the partyand probably more
than onethought that Bleeding Heart Yard was no inappropriate
destination for a man who had been in official correspondence with
my lords and the Barnacles--and perhaps had a misgiving also that
Britannia herself might come to look for lodgings in Bleeding Heart
Yard some ugly day or otherif she over-did the Circumlocution
Office.


CHAPTER 11


Let Loose


A latedull autumn night was closing in upon the river Saone. The
streamlike a sullied looking-glass in a gloomy placereflected
the clouds heavily; and the low banks leaned over here and there
as if they were half curiousand half afraidto see their
darkening pictures in the water. The flat expanse of country about
Chalons lay a long heavy streakoccasionally made a little ragged
by a row of poplar trees against the wrathful sunset. On the banks
of the river Saone it was wetdepressingsolitary; and the night
deepened fast.


One man slowly moving on towards Chalons was the only visible
figure in the landscape. Cain might have looked as lonely and
avoided. With an old sheepskin knapsack at his backand a rough
unbarked stick cut out of some wood in his hand; miryfootsore



his shoes and gaiters trodden outhis hair and beard untrimmed;
the cloak he carried over his shoulderand the clothes he wore
sodden with wet; limping along in pain and difficulty; he looked as
if the clouds were hurrying from himas if the wail of the wind
and the shuddering of the grass were directed against himas if
the low mysterious plashing of the water murmured at himas if the
fitful autumn night were disturbed by him.

He glanced hereand he glanced theresullenly but shrinkingly;
and sometimes stopped and turned aboutand looked all round him.
Then he limped on againtoiling and muttering.

'To the devil with this plain that has no end! To the devil with
these stones that cut like knives! To the devil with this dismal
darknesswrapping itself about one with a chill! I hate you!'

And he would have visited his hatred upon it all with the scowl he
threw about himif he could. He trudged a little further; and
looking into the distance before himstopped again.
'Ihungrythirstyweary. Youimbecileswhere the lights are
yondereating and drinkingand warming yourselves at fires! I
wish I had the sacking of your town; I would repay youmy
children!'

But the teeth he set at the townand the hand he shook at the
townbrought the town no nearer; and the man was yet hungrierand
thirstierand wearierwhen his feet were on its jagged pavement
and he stood looking about him.

There was the hotel with its gatewayand its savoury smell of
cooking; there was the cafe with its bright windowsand its
rattling of dominoes; there was the dyer's with its strips of red
cloth on the doorposts; there was the silversmith's with its
earringsand its offerings for altars; there was the tobacco
dealer's with its lively group of soldier customers coming out pipe
in mouth; there were the bad odours of the townand the rain and
the refuse in the kennelsand the faint lamps slung across the
roadand the huge Diligenceand its mountain of luggageand its
six grey horses with their tails tied upgetting under weigh at
the coach office. But no small cabaret for a straitened traveller
being within sighthe had to seek one round the dark cornerwhere
the cabbage leaves lay thickesttrodden about the public cistern
at which women had not yet left off drawing water. Therein the
back street he found onethe Break of Day. The curtained windows
clouded the Break of Daybut it seemed light and warmand it
announced in legible inscriptions with appropriate pictorial
embellishment of billiard cue and ballthat at the Break of Day
one could play billiards; that there one could find meatdrink
and lodgingswhether one came on horsebackor came on foot; and
that it kept good winesliqueursand brandy. The man turned the
handle of the Break of Day doorand limped in.

He touched his discoloured slouched hatas he came in at the door
to a few men who occupied the room. Two were playing dominoes at
one of the little tables; three or four were seated round the
stoveconversing as they smoked; the billiard-table in the centre
was left alone for the time; the landlady of the Daybreak sat
behind her little counter among her cloudy bottles of syrups
baskets of cakesand leaden drainage for glassesworking at her
needle.

Making his way to an empty little table in a corner of the room
behind the stovehe put down his knapsack and his cloak upon the
ground. As he raised his head from stooping to do sohe found the


landlady beside him.

'One can lodge here to-nightmadame?'

'Perfectly!' said the landlady in a highsing-songcheery voice.

'Good. One can dine--sup--what you please to call it?'

'Ahperfectly!' cried the landlady as before.
'Dispatch thenmadameif you please. Something to eatas
quickly as you can; and some wine at once. I am exhausted.'


'It is very bad weathermonsieur' said the landlady.


'Cursed weather.'


'And a very long road.'


'A cursed road.'


His hoarse voice failed himand he rested his head upon his hands
until a bottle of wine was brought from the counter. Having filled
and emptied his little tumbler twiceand having broken off an end
from the great loaf that was set before him with his cloth and
napkinsoup-platesaltpepperand oilhe rested his back
against the corner of the wallmade a couch of the bench on which
he satand began to chew crustuntil such time as his repast
should be ready.
There had been that momentary interruption of the talk about the
stoveand that temporary inattention to and distraction from one
anotherwhich is usually inseparable in such a company from the
arrival of a stranger. It had passed over by this time; and the
men had done glancing at himand were talking again.


'That's the true reason' said one of thembringing a story he had
been tellingto a close'that's the true reason why they said
that the devil was let loose.' The speaker was the tall Swiss
belonging to the churchand he brought something of the authority
of the church into the discussion--especially as the devil was in
question.


The landlady having given her directions for the new guest's
entertainment to her husbandwho acted as cook to the Break of
Dayhad resumed her needlework behind her counter. She was a
smartneatbright little womanwith a good deal of cap and a
good deal of stockingand she struck into the conversation with
several laughing nods of her headbut without looking up from her
work.


'Ah Heaventhen' said she. 'When the boat came up from Lyons
and brought the news that the devil was actually let loose at
Marseillessome fly-catchers swallowed it. But I? Nonot I.'


'Madameyou are always right' returned the tall Swiss.
'Doubtless you were enraged against that manmadame?'


'Ayyesthen!' cried the landladyraising her eyes from her
workopening them very wideand tossing her head on one side.
'Naturallyyes.'


'He was a bad subject.'


'He was a wicked wretch' said the landlady'and well merited what
he had the good fortune to escape. So much the worse.'



'Staymadame! Let us see' returned the Swissargumentatively
turning his cigar between his lips. 'It may have been his
unfortunate destiny. He may have been the child of circumstances.
It is always possible that he hadand hasgood in him if one did
but know how to find it out. Philosophical philanthropy teaches--'

The rest of the little knot about the stove murmured an objection
to the introduction of that threatening expression. Even the two
players at dominoes glanced up from their gameas if to protest
against philosophical philanthropy being brought by name into the
Break of Day.

'Hold thereyou and your philanthropy' cried the smiling
landladynodding her head more than ever. 'Listen then. I am a
womanI. I know nothing of philosophical philanthropy. But I
know what I have seenand what I have looked in the face in this
world herewhere I find myself. And I tell you thismy friend
that there are people (men and women bothunfortunately) who have
no good in them--none. That there are people whom it is necessary
to detest without compromise. That there are people who must be
dealt with as enemies of the human race. That there are people who
have no human heartand who must be crushed like savage beasts and
cleared out of the way. They are but fewI hope; but I have seen
(in this world here where I find myselfand even at the little
Break of Day) that there are such people. And I do not doubt that
this man--whatever they call himI forget his name--is one of
them.'

The landlady's lively speech was received with greater favour at
the Break of Daythan it would have elicited from certain amiable
whitewashers of the class she so unreasonably objected tonearer
Great Britain.

'My faith! If your philosophical philanthropy' said the landlady
putting down her workand rising to take the stranger's soup from
her husbandwho appeared with it at a side door'puts anybody at
the mercy of such people by holding terms with them at allin
words or deedsor bothtake it away from the Break of Dayfor it
isn't worth a sou.'

As she placed the soup before the guestwho changed his attitude
to a sitting onehe looked her full in the faceand his moustache
went up under his noseand his nose came down over his moustache.

'Well!' said the previous speaker'let us come back to our
subject. Leaving all that asidegentlemenit was because the man
was acquitted on his trial that people said at Marseilles that the
devil was let loose. That was how the phrase began to circulate
and what it meant; nothing more.'

'How do they call him?' said the landlady. 'Biraudis it not?'

'Rigaudmadame' returned the tall Swiss.

'Rigaud! To be sure.'

The traveller's soup was succeeded by a dish of meatand that by
a dish of vegetables. He ate all that was placed before him
emptied his bottle of winecalled for a glass of rumand smoked
his cigarette with his cup of coffee. As he became refreshedhe
became overbearing; and patronised the company at the Daybreak in
certain small talk at which he assistedas if his condition were
far above his appearance.


The company might have had other engagementsor they might have
felt their inferioritybut in any case they dispersed by degrees
and not being replaced by other companyleft their new patron in
possession of the Break of Day. The landlord was clinking about in
his kitchen; the landlady was quiet at her work; and the refreshed
traveller sat smoking by the stovewarming his ragged feet.


'Pardon memadame--that Biraud.'


'Rigaudmonsieur.'


'Rigaud. Pardon me again--has contracted your displeasurehow?'


The landladywho had been at one moment thinking within herself
that this was a handsome manat another moment that this was an
ill-looking manobserved the nose coming down and the moustache
going upand strongly inclined to the latter decision. Rigaud was
a criminalshe saidwho had killed his wife.


'Ayay? Death of my lifethat's a criminal indeed. But how do
you know it?'


'All the world knows it.'


'Hah! And yet he escaped justice?'


'Monsieurthe law could not prove it against him to its
satisfaction. So the law says. Neverthelessall the world knows
he did it. The people knew it so wellthat they tried to tear him
to pieces.'


'Being all in perfect accord with their own wives?' said the guest.


'Haha!'


The landlady of the Break of Day looked at him againand felt
almost confirmed in her last decision. He had a fine handthough
and he turned it with a great show. She began once more to think
that he was not ill-looking after all.


'Did you mentionmadame--or was it mentioned among the gentlemen--
what became of him?'
The landlady shook her head; it being the first conversational
stage at which her vivacious earnestness had ceased to nod it
keeping time to what she said. It had been mentioned at the
Daybreakshe remarkedon the authority of the journalsthat he
had been kept in prison for his own safety. However that might be
he had escaped his deserts; so much the worse.


The guest sat looking at her as he smoked out his final cigarette
and as she sat with her head bent over her workwith an expression
that might have resolved her doubtsand brought her to a lasting
conclusion on the subject of his good or bad looks if she had seen
it. When she did look upthe expression was not there. The hand
was smoothing his shaggy moustache.
'May one ask to be shown to bedmadame?'


Very willinglymonsieur. Holamy husband! My husband would
conduct him up-stairs. There was one traveller thereasleepwho
had gone to bed very early indeedbeing overpowered by fatigue;
but it was a large chamber with two beds in itand space enough
for twenty. This the landlady of the Break of Day chirpingly
explainedcalling between whiles'Holamy husband!' out at the



side door.

My husband answered at length'It is Imy wife!' and presenting
himself in his cook's caplighted the traveller up a steep and
narrow staircase; the traveller carrying his own cloak and
knapsackand bidding the landlady good night with a complimentary
reference to the pleasure of seeing her again to-morrow. It was a
large roomwith a rough splintery floorunplastered rafters
overheadand two bedsteads on opposite sides. Here 'my husband'
put down the candle he carriedand with a sidelong look at his
guest stooping over his knapsackgruffly gave him the instruction
'The bed to the right!' and left him to his repose. The landlord
whether he was a good or a bad physiognomisthad fully made up his
mind that the guest was an ill-looking fellow.

The guest looked contemptuously at the clean coarse bedding
prepared for himandsitting down on the rush chair at the
bedsidedrew his money out of his pocketand told it over in his
hand. 'One must eat' he muttered to himself'but by Heaven I
must eat at the cost of some other man to-morrow!'

As he sat ponderingand mechanically weighing his money in his
palmthe deep breathing of the traveller in the other bed fell so
regularly upon his hearing that it attracted his eyes in that
direction. The man was covered up warmand had drawn the white
curtain at his headso that he could be only heardnot seen. But
the deep regular breathingstill going on while the other was
taking off his worn shoes and gaitersand still continuing when he
had laid aside his coat and cravatbecame at length a strong
provocative to curiosityand incentive to get a glimpse of the
sleeper's face.

The waking travellerthereforestole a little nearerand yet a
little nearerand a little nearer to the sleeping traveller's bed
until he stood close beside it. Even then he could not see his
facefor he had drawn the sheet over it. The regular breathing
still continuinghe put his smooth white hand (such a treacherous
hand it lookedas it went creeping from him!) to the sheetand
gently lifted it away.

'Death of my soul!' he whisperedfalling back'here's
Cavalletto!'

The little Italianpreviously influenced in his sleepperhapsby
the stealthy presence at his bedsidestopped in his regular
breathingand with a long deep respiration opened his eyes. At
first they were not awakethough open. He lay for some seconds
looking placidly at his old prison companionand thenall at
oncewith a cry of surprise and alarmsprang out of bed.

'Hush! What's the matter? Keep quiet! It's I. You know me?'
cried the otherin a suppressed voice.

But John Baptistwidely staringmuttering a number of invocations
and ejaculationstremblingly backing into a cornerslipping on
his trousersand tying his coat by the two sleeves round his neck
manifested an unmistakable desire to escape by the door rather than
renew the acquaintance. Seeing thishis old prison comrade fell
back upon the doorand set his shoulders against it.

'Cavalletto! Wakeboy! Rub your eyes and look at me. Not the
name you used to call me--don't use that--Lagniersay Lagnier!'

John Baptiststaring at him with eyes opened to their utmost


widthmade a number of those nationalbackhanded shakes of the
right forefinger in the airas if he were resolved on negativing
beforehand everything that the other could possibly advance during
the whole term of his life.


'Cavalletto! Give me your hand. You know Lagnierthe gentleman.
Touch the hand of a gentleman!'


Submitting himself to the old tone of condescending authorityJohn
Baptistnot at all steady on his legs as yetadvanced and put his
hand in his patron's. Monsieur Lagnier laughed; and having given
it a squeezetossed it up and let it go.


'Then you were--' faltered John Baptist.


'Not shaved? No. See here!' cried Lagniergiving his head a
twirl; 'as tight on as your own.'


John Baptistwith a slight shiverlooked all round the room as if
to recall where he was. His patron took that opportunity of
turning the key in the doorand then sat down upon his bed.


'Look!' he saidholding up his shoes and gaiters. 'That's a poor
trim for a gentlemanyou'll say. No matteryou shall see how
Soon I'll mend it. Come and sit down. Take your old place!'


John Baptistlooking anything but reassuredsat down on the floor
at the bedsidekeeping his eyes upon his patron all the time.


'That's well!' cried Lagnier. 'Now we might be in the old infernal
hole againhey? How long have you been out?'


'Two days after youmy master.'


'How do you come here?'


'I was cautioned not to stay thereand so I left the town at once
and since then I have changed about. I have been doing odds and
ends at Avignonat Pont Espritat Lyons; upon the Rhoneupon the
Saone.' As he spokehe rapidly mapped the places out with his
sunburnt hand upon the floor.
'And where are you going?'


'Goingmy master?'


'Ay!'


John Baptist seemed to desire to evade the question without knowing
how. 'By Bacchus!' he said at lastas if he were forced to the
admission'I have sometimes had a thought of going to Parisand
perhaps to England.'


'Cavalletto. This is in confidence. I also am going to Paris and
perhaps to England. We'll go together.'


The little man nodded his headand showed his teeth; and yet
seemed not quite convinced that it was a surpassingly desirable
arrangement.


'We'll go together' repeated Lagnier. 'You shall see how soon I
will force myself to be recognised as a gentlemanand you shall
profit by it. It is agreed? Are we one?'


'Ohsurelysurely!' said the little man.



'Then you shall hear before I sleep--and in six wordsfor I want
sleep--how I appear before youILagnier. Remember that. Not
the other.'

'Altroaltro! Not Ri--' Before John Baptist could finish the
namehis comrade had got his hand under his chin and fiercely shut
up his mouth.

'Death! what are you doing? Do you want me to be trampled upon
and stoned? Do YOU want to be trampled upon and stoned? You would
be. You don't imagine that they would set upon meand let my
prison chum go? Don't think it!'
There was an expression in his face as he released his grip of his
friend's jawfrom which his friend inferred that if the course of
events really came to any stoning and tramplingMonsieur Lagnier
would so distinguish him with his notice as to ensure his having
his full share of it. He remembered what a cosmopolitan gentleman
Monsieur Lagnier wasand how few weak distinctions he made.

'I am a man' said Monsieur Lagnier'whom society has deeply
wronged since you last saw me. You know that I am sensitive and
braveand that it is my character to govern. How has society
respected those qualities in me? I have been shrieked at through
the streets. I have been guarded through the streets against men
and especially womenrunning at me armed with any weapons they
could lay their hands on. I have lain in prison for securitywith
the place of my confinement kept a secretlest I should be torn
out of it and felled by a hundred blows. I have been carted out of
Marseilles in the dead of nightand carried leagues away from it
packed in straw. It has not been safe for me to go near my house;
andwith a beggar's pittance in my pocketI have walked through
vile mud and weather ever sinceuntil my feet are crippled--look
at them! Such are the humiliations that society has inflicted upon
mepossessing the qualities I have mentionedand which you know
me to possess. But society shall pay for it.'

All this he said in his companion's earand with his hand before
his lips.

'Even here' he went on in the same way'even in this mean
drinking-shopsociety pursues me. Madame defames meand her
guests defame me. Itooa gentleman with manners and
accomplishments to strike them dead! But the wrongs society has
heaped upon me are treasured in this breast.'

To all of which John Baptistlistening attentively to the
suppressed hoarse voicesaid from time to time'Surelysurely!'
tossing his head and shutting his eyesas if there were the
clearest case against society that perfect candour could make out.

'Put my shoes there' continued Lagnier. 'Hang my cloak to dry
there by the door. Take my hat.' He obeyed each instructionas
it was given. 'And this is the bed to which society consigns me
is it? Hah. Very well!'

As he stretched out his length upon itwith a ragged handkerchief
bound round his wicked headand only his wicked head showing above
the bedclothesJohn Baptist was rather strongly reminded of what
had so very nearly happened to prevent the moustache from any more
going up as it didand the nose from any more coming down as it
did.

'Shaken out of destiny's dice-box again into your companyeh? By


Heaven! So much the better for you. You'll profit by it. I shall
need a long rest. Let me sleep in the morning.'

John Baptist replied that he should sleep as long as he wouldand
wishing him a happy nightput out the candle. One might have
Supposed that the next proceeding of the Italian would have been to
undress; but he did exactly the reverseand dressed himself from
head to footsaving his shoes. When he had so donehe lay down
upon his bed with some of its coverings over himand his coat
still tied round his neckto get through the night.

When he started upthe Godfather Break of Day was peeping at its
namesake. He rosetook his shoes in his handturned the key in
the door with great cautionand crept downstairs. Nothing was
astir there but the smell of coffeewinetobaccoand syrups; and
madame's little counter looked ghastly enough. But he had paid
madame his little note at it over nightand wanted to see nobody-wanted
nothing but to get on his shoes and his knapsackopen the
doorand run away.

He prospered in his object. No movement or voice was heard when he
opened the door; no wicked head tied up in a ragged handkerchief
looked out of the upper window. When the sun had raised his full
disc above the flat line of the horizonand was striking fire out
of the long muddy vista of paved road with its weary avenue of
little treesa black speck moved along the road and splashed among
the flaming pools of rain-waterwhich black speck was John Baptist
Cavalletto running away from his patron.

CHAPTER 12

Bleeding Heart Yard

In London itselfthough in the old rustic road towards a suburb of
note where in the days of William Shakespeareauthor and stageplayer
there were Royal hunting-seats--howbeit no sport is left
there now but for hunters of men--Bleeding Heart Yard was to be
found; a place much changed in feature and in fortuneyet with
some relish of ancient greatness about it. Two or three mighty
stacks of chimneysand a few large dark rooms which had escaped
being walled and subdivided out of the recognition of their old
proportionsgave the Yard a character. It was inhabited by poor
peoplewho set up their rest among its faded gloriesas Arabs of
the desert pitch their tents among the fallen stones of the
Pyramids; but there was a family sentimental feeling prevalent in
the Yardthat it had a character.

As if the aspiring city had become puffed up in the very ground on
which it stoodthe ground had so risen about Bleeding Heart Yard
that you got into it down a flight of steps which formed no part of
the original approachand got out of it by a low gateway into a
maze of shabby streetswhich went about and abouttortuously
ascending to the level again. At this end of the Yard and over the
gatewaywas the factory of Daniel Doyceoften heavily beating
like a bleeding heart of ironwith the clink of metal upon metal.
The opinion of the Yard was divided respecting the derivation of
its name. The more practical of its inmates abided by the
tradition of a murder; the gentler and more imaginative
inhabitantsincluding the whole of the tender sexwere loyal to
the legend of a young lady of former times closely imprisoned in


her chamber by a cruel father for remaining true to her own true
loveand refusing to marry the suitor he chose for her. The
legend related how that the young lady used to be seen up at her
window behind the barsmurmuring a love-lorn song of which the
burden was'Bleeding HeartBleeding Heartbleeding away' until
she died. It was objected by the murderous party that this Refrain
was notoriously the invention of a tambour-workera spinster and
romanticstill lodging in the Yard. Butforasmuch as all
favourite legends must be associated with the affectionsand as
many more people fall in love than commit murder--which it may be
hopedhowsoever bad we arewill continue until the end of the
world to be the dispensation under which we shall live--the
Bleeding HeartBleeding Heartbleeding away storycarried the
day by a great majority. Neither party would listen to the
antiquaries who delivered learned lectures in the neighbourhood
showing the Bleeding Heart to have been the heraldic cognisance of
the old family to whom the property had once belonged. And
considering that the hour-glass they turned from year to year was
filled with the earthiest and coarsest sandthe Bleeding Heart
Yarders had reason enough for objecting to be despoiled of the one
little golden grain of poetry that sparkled in it.


Down in to the Yardby way of the stepscame Daniel DoyceMr
Meaglesand Clennam. Passing along the Yardand between the open
doors on either handall abundantly garnished with light children
nursing heavy onesthey arrived at its opposite boundarythe
gateway. Here Arthur Clennam stopped to look about him for the
domicile of Plornishplastererwhose nameaccording to the
custom of LondonersDaniel Doyce had never seen or heard of to
that hour.


It was plain enoughneverthelessas Little Dorrit had said; over
a lime-splashed gateway in the cornerwithin which Plornish kept
a ladder and a barrel or two. The last house in Bleeding Heart
Yard which she had described as his place of habitationwas a
large houselet off to various tenants; but Plornish ingeniously
hinted that he lived in the parlourby means of a painted hand
under his namethe forefinger of which hand (on which the artist
had depicted a ring and a most elaborate nail of the genteelest
form) referred all inquirers to that apartment.


Parting from his companionsafter arranging another meeting with
Mr MeaglesClennam went alone into the entryand knocked with his
knuckles at the parlour-door. It was opened presently by a woman
with a child in her armswhose unoccupied hand was hastily
rearranging the upper part of her dress. This was Mrs Plornish
and this maternal action was the action of Mrs Plornish during a
large part of her waking existence.


Was Mr Plornish at home? 'Wellsir' said Mrs Plornisha civil
woman'not to deceive youhe's gone to look for a job.'


'Not to deceive you' was a method of speech with Mrs Plornish. She
would deceive youunder any circumstancesas little as might be;
but she had a trick of answering in this provisional form.


'Do you think he will be back soonif I wait for him?'


'I have been expecting him' said Mrs Plornish'this half an hour
at any minute of time. Walk insir.'
Arthur entered the rather dark and close parlour (though it was
lofty too)and sat down in the chair she placed for him.


'Not to deceive yousirI notice it' said Mrs Plornish'and I



take it kind of you.'


He was at a loss to understand what she meant; and by expressing as
much in his lookselicited her explanation.


'It ain't many that comes into a poor placethat deems it worth
their while to move their hats' said Mrs Plornish. 'But people
think more of it than people think.'


Clennam returnedwith an uncomfortable feeling in so very slight
a courtesy being unusualWas that all! And stooping down to pinch
the cheek of another young child who was sitting on the floor
staring at himasked Mrs Plornish how old that fine boy was?


'Four year just turnedsir' said Mrs Plornish. 'He IS a fine
little fellowain't hesir? But this one is rather sickly.' She
tenderly hushed the baby in her armsas she said it. 'You
wouldn't mind my asking if it happened to be a job as you was come
aboutsirwould you?' asked Mrs Plornish wistfully.


She asked it so anxiouslythat if he had been in possession of any
kind of tenementhe would have had it plastered a foot deep rather
than answer No. But he was obliged to answer No; and he saw a
shade of disappointment on her faceas she checked a sighand
looked at the low fire. Then he sawalsothat Mrs Plornish was
a young womanmade somewhat slatternly in herself and her
belongings by poverty; and so dragged at by poverty and the
children togetherthat their united forces had already dragged her
face into wrinkles.


'All such things as jobs' said Mrs Plornish'seems to me to have
gone undergroundthey do indeed.' (Herein Mrs Plornish limited
her remark to the plastering tradeand spoke without reference to
the Circumlocution Office and the Barnacle Family.)


'Is it so difficult to get work?' asked Arthur Clennam.


'Plornish finds it so' she returned. 'He is quite unfortunate.
Really he is.'
Really he was. He was one of those many wayfarers on the road of
lifewho seem to be afflicted with supernatural cornsrendering
it impossible for them to keep up even with their lame competitors.


A willingworkingsoft heartednot hard-headed fellowPlornish
took his fortune as smoothly as could be expected; but it was a
rough one. It so rarely happened that anybody seemed to want him
it was such an exceptional case when his powers were in any
requestthat his misty mind could not make out how it happened.
He took it as it cametherefore; he tumbled into all kinds of
difficultiesand tumbled out of them; andby tumbling through
lifegot himself considerably bruised.


'It's not for want of looking after jobsI am sure' said Mrs
Plornishlifting up her eyebrowsand searching for a solution of
the problem between the bars of the grate; 'nor yet for want of
working at them when they are to be got. No one ever heard my
husband complain of work.'


Somehow or otherthis was the general misfortune of Bleeding Heart
Yard. From time to time there were public complaintspathetically
going aboutof labour being scarce--which certain people seemed to
take extraordinarily illas though they had an absolute right to
it on their own terms--but Bleeding Heart Yardthough as willing
a Yard as any in Britainwas never the better for the demand.



That high old familythe Barnacleshad long been too busy with
their great principle to look into the matter; and indeed the
matter had nothing to do with their watchfulness in out-generalling
all other high old families except the Stiltstalkings.

While Mrs Plornish spoke in these words of her absent lordher
lord returned. A smooth-cheekedfresh-colouredsandy-whiskered
man of thirty. Long in the legsyielding at the kneesfoolish in
the faceflannel-jacketedlime-whitened.

'This is Plornishsir.'

'I came' said Clennamrising'to beg the favour of a little
conversation with you on the subject of the Dorrit family.'

Plornish became suspicious. Seemed to scent a creditor. Said
'Ahyes. Well. He didn't know what satisfaction he could give
any gentlemanrespecting that family. What might it be about
now?'

'I know you better' said Clennamsmiling'than you suppose.'

Plornish observednot Smiling in returnAnd yet he hadn't the
pleasure of being acquainted with the gentlemanneither.

'No' said Arthur'I know your kind offices at second handbut on
the best authority; through Little Dorrit.--I mean' he explained
'Miss Dorrit.'

'Mr Clennamis it? Oh! I've heard of youSir.'

'And I of you' said Arthur.

'Please to sit down againSirand consider yourself welcome.--
Whyyes' said Plornishtaking a chairand lifting the elder
child upon his kneethat he might have the moral support of
speaking to a stranger over his head'I have been on the wrong
side of the Lock myselfand in that way we come to know Miss
Dorrit. Me and my wifewe are well acquainted with Miss Dorrit.'
'Intimate!' cried Mrs Plornish. Indeedshe was so proud of the
acquaintancethat she had awakened some bitterness of spirit in
the Yard by magnifying to an enormous amount the sum for which Miss
Dorrit's father had become insolvent. The Bleeding Hearts resented
her claiming to know people of such distinction.

'It was her father that I got acquainted with first. And through
getting acquainted with himyou see--why--I got acquainted with
her' said Plornish tautologically.

'I see.'

'Ah! And there's manners! There's polish! There's a gentleman to
have run to seed in the Marshalsea jail! Whyperhaps you are not
aware' said Plornishlowering his voiceand speaking with a
perverse admiration of what he ought to have pitied or despised
'not aware that Miss Dorrit and her sister dursn't let him know
that they work for a living. No!' said Plornishlooking with a
ridiculous triumph first at his wifeand then all round the room.
'Dursn't let him know itthey dursn't!'

'Without admiring him for that' Clennam quietly observed'I am
very sorry for him.' The remark appeared to suggest to Plornish
for the first timethat it might not be a very fine trait of
character after all. He pondered about it for a momentand gave


it up.

'As to me' he resumed'certainly Mr Dorrit is as affable with me
I am sureas I can possibly expect. Considering the differences
and distances betwixt usmore so. But it's Miss Dorrit that we
were speaking of.'

'True. Pray how did you introduce her at my mother's!'

Mr Plornish picked a bit of lime out of his whiskerput it between
his lipsturned it with his tongue like a sugar-plumconsidered
found himself unequal to the task of lucid explanationand
appealing to his wifesaid'Sallyyou may as well mention how it
wasold woman.'

'Miss Dorrit' said Sallyhushing the baby from side to sideand
laying her chin upon the little hand as it tried to disarrange the
gown again'came here one afternoon with a bit of writingtelling
that how she wished for needleworkand asked if it would be
considered any ill-conwenience in case she was to give her address
here.' (Plornish repeatedher address herein a low voiceas if
he were making responses at church.) 'Me and Plornish saysNo
Miss Dorritno ill-conwenience' (Plornish repeatedno illconwenience)
'and she wrote it inaccording. Which then me and
Plornish saysHo Miss Dorrit!' (Plornish repeatedHo Miss
Dorrit.) 'Have you thought of copying it three or four timesas
the way to make it known in more places than one? Nosays Miss
DorritI have notbut I will. She copied it out accordingon
this tablein a sweet writingand Plornishhe took it where he
workedhaving a job just then' (Plornish repeated job just then)
'and likewise to the landlord of the Yard; through which it was
that Mrs Clennam first happened to employ Miss Dorrit.' Plornish
repeatedemploy Miss Dorrit; and Mrs Plornish having come to an
endfeigned to bite the fingers of the little hand as she kissed
it.

'The landlord of the Yard' said Arthur Clennam'is--'

'He is Mr Casbyby namehe is' said Plornish'and Panckshe
collects the rents. That' added Mr Plornishdwelling on the
subject with a slow thoughtfulness that appeared to have no
connection with any specific objectand to lead him nowhere'that
is about what they areyou may believe me or notas you think
proper.'

'Ay?' returned Clennamthoughtful in his turn. 'Mr Casbytoo!
An old acquaintance of minelong ago!'

Mr Plornish did not see his road to any comment on this factand
made none. As there truly was no reason why he should have the
least interest in itArthur Clennam went on to the present purport
of his visit; namelyto make Plornish the instrument of effecting
Tip's releasewith as little detriment as possible to the selfreliance
and self-helpfulness of the young mansupposing him to
possess any remnant of those qualities: without doubt a very wide
stretch of supposition. Plornishhaving been made acquainted with
the cause of action from the Defendant's own mouthgave Arthur to
understand that the Plaintiff was a 'Chaunter'--meaningnot a
singer of anthemsbut a seller of horses--and that he (Plornish)
considered that ten shillings in the pound 'would settle handsome'
and that more would be a waste of money. The Principal and
instrument soon drove off together to a stable-yard in High
Holbornwhere a remarkably fine grey geldingworthat the lowest
figureseventy-five guineas (not taking into account the value of


the shot he had been made to swallow for the improvement of his
form)was to be parted with for a twenty-pound notein
consequence of his having run away last week with Mrs Captain
Barbary of Cheltenhamwho wasn't up to a horse of his courageand
whoin mere spiteinsisted on selling him for that ridiculous
sum: orin other wordson giving him away. Plornishgoing up
this yard alone and leaving his Principal outsidefound a
gentleman with tight drab legsa rather old hata little hooked
stickand a blue neckerchief (Captain Maroon of Gloucestershire
a private friend of Captain Barbary); who happened to be therein
a friendly wayto mention these little circumstances concerning
the remarkably fine grey gelding to any real judge of a horse and
quick snapper-up of a good thingwho might look in at that address
as per advertisement. This gentlemanhappening also to be the
Plaintiff in the Tip casereferred Mr Plornish to his solicitor
and declined to treat with Mr Plornishor even to endure his
presence in the yardunless he appeared there with a twenty-pound
note: in which case onlythe gentleman would augur from
appearances that he meant businessand might be induced to talk to
him. On this hintMr Plornish retired to communicate with his
Principaland presently came back with the required credentials.
Then said Captain Maroon'Nowhow much time do you want to make
the other twenty in? NowI'll give you a month.' Then said
Captain Maroonwhen that wouldn't suit'NowI'll tell what I'll
do with you. You shall get me a good bill at four monthsmade
payable at a banking-housefor the other twenty!' Then said
Captain Maroonwhen THAT wouldn't suit'Nowcome; Here's the
last I've got to say to you. You shall give me another ten down
and I'll run my pen clean through it.' Then said Captain Maroon
when THAT wouldn't suit'NowI'll tell you what it isand this
shuts it up; he has used me badbut I'll let him off for another
five down and a bottle of wine; and if you mean donesay doneand
if you don't like itleave it.' Finally said Captain Maroonwhen
THAT wouldn't suit either'Hand overthen!'--And in consideration
of the first offergave a receipt in full and discharged the
prisoner.

'Mr Plornish' said Arthur'I trust to youif you pleaseto keep
my secret. If you will undertake to let the young man know that he
is freeand to tell him that you were employed to compound for the
debt by some one whom you are not at liberty to nameyou will not
only do me a servicebut may do him oneand his sister also.'

'The last reasonsir' said Plornish'would be quite sufficient.
Your wishes shall be attended to.'

'A Friend has obtained his dischargeyou can say if you please.
A Friend who hopes that for his sister's sakeif for no one
else'she will make good use of his liberty.'

'Your wishessirshall be attended to.'

'And if you will be so goodin your better knowledge of the
familyas to communicate freely with meand to point out to me
any means by which you think I may be delicately and really useful
to Little DorritI shall feel under an obligation to you.'

'Don't name itsir' returned Plornish'it'll be ekally a
pleasure an a--it'l be ekally a pleasure and a--' Finding himself
unable to balance his sentence after two effortsMr Plornish
wisely dropped it. He took Clennam's card and appropriate
pecuniary compliment.

He was earnest to finish his commission at onceand his Principal


was in the same mind. So his Principal offered to set him down at
the Marshalsea Gateand they drove in that direction over
Blackfriars Bridge. On the wayArthur elicited from his new
friend a confused summary of the interior life of Bleeding Heart
Yard. They was all hard up thereMr Plornish saiduncommon hard
upto be sure. Wellhe couldn't say how it was; he didn't know
as anybody could say how it was; all he know'd wasthat so it was.

When a man felton his own back and in his own bellythat poor he
wasthat man (Mr Plornish gave it as his decided belief) know'd
well that he was poor somehow or anotherand you couldn't talk it
out of himno more than you could talk Beef into him. Then you
seesome people as was better off saidand a good many such
people lived pretty close up to the mark themselves if not beyond
it so he'd heerdthat they was 'improvident' (that was the
favourite word) down the Yard. For instanceif they see a man
with his wife and children going to Hampton Court in a Wanperhaps
once in a yearthey says'Hallo! I thought you was poormy
improvident friend!' WhyLordhow hard it was upon a man! What
was a man to do? He couldn't go mollancholy madand even if he
didyou wouldn't be the better for it. In Mr Plornish's judgment
you would be the worse for it. Yet you seemed to want to make a
man mollancholy mad. You was always at it--if not with your right
handwith your left. What was they a doing in the Yard? Why
take a look at 'em and see. There was the girls and their mothers
a working at their sewingor their shoe-bindingor their
trimmingor their waistcoat makingday and night and night and
dayand not more than able to keep body and soul together after
all--often not so much. There was people of pretty well all sorts
of trades you could nameall wanting to workand yet not able to
get it. There was old peopleafter working all their livesgoing
and being shut up in the workhousemuch worse fed and lodged and
treated altogetherthan--Mr Plornish said manufacturersbut
appeared to mean malefactors. Whya man didn't know where to turn
himself for a crumb of comfort. As to who was to blame for itMr
Plornish didn't know who was to blame for it. He could tell you
who sufferedbut he couldn't tell you whose fault it was. It
wasn't HIS place to find outand who'd mind what he saidif he
did find out? He only know'd that it wasn't put right by them what
undertook that line of businessand that it didn't come right of
itself. Andin briefhis illogical opinion wasthat if you
couldn't do nothing for himyou had better take nothing from him
for doing of it; so far as he could make outthat was about what
it come to. Thusin a prolixgently-growlingfoolish waydid
Plornish turn the tangled skein of his estate about and aboutlike
a blind man who was trying to find some beginning or end to it;
until they reached the prison gate. Therehe left his Principal
alone; to wonderas he rode awayhow many thousand Plornishes
there might be within a day or two's journey of the Circumlocution
Officeplaying sundry curious variations on the same tunewhich
were not known by ear in that glorious institution.

CHAPTER 13

Patriarchal

The mention of Mr Casby again revived in Clennam's memory the
smouldering embers of curiosity and interest which Mrs Flintwinch
had fanned on the night of his arrival. Flora Casby had been the
beloved of his boyhood; and Flora was the daughter and only child
of wooden-headed old Christopher (so he was still occasionally


spoken of by some irreverent spirits who had had dealings with him
and in whom familiarity had bred its proverbial result perhaps)
who was reputed to be rich in weekly tenantsand to get a good
quantity of blood out of the stones of several unpromising courts
and alleys.
After some days of inquiry and researchArthur Clennam became
convinced that the case of the Father of the Marshalsea was indeed
a hopeless oneand sorrowfully resigned the idea of helping him to
freedom again. He had no hopeful inquiry to make at present
concerning Little Dorrit either; but he argued with himself that it
might--for anything he knew--it might be serviceable to the poor
childif he renewed this acquaintance. It is hardly necessary to
add that beyond all doubt he would have presented himself at Mr
Casby's doorif there had been no Little Dorrit in existence; for
we all know how we all deceive ourselves--that is to sayhow
people in generalour profounder selves excepteddeceive
themselves--as to motives of action.

With a comfortable impression upon himand quite an honest one in
its waythat he was still patronising Little Dorrit in doing what
had no reference to herhe found himself one afternoon at the
corner of Mr Casby's street. Mr Casby lived in a street in the
Gray's Inn Roadwhich had set off from that thoroughfare with the
intention of running at one heat down into the valleyand up again
to the top of Pentonville Hill; but which had run itself out of
breath in twenty yardsand had stood still ever since. There is
no such place in that part now; but it remained there for many
yearslooking with a baulked countenance at the wilderness patched
with unfruitful gardens and pimpled with eruptive summerhouses
that it had meant to run over in no time.

'The house' thought Clennamas he crossed to the door'is as
little changed as my mother'sand looks almost as gloomy. But the
likeness ends outside. I know its staid repose within. The smell
of its jars of old rose-leaves and lavender seems to come upon me
even here.'

When his knock at the bright brass knocker of obsolete shape
brought a woman-servant to the doorthose faded scents in truth
saluted him like wintry breath that had a faint remembrance in it
of the bygone spring. He stepped into the sobersilentair-tight
house--one might have fancied it to have been stifled by Mutes in
the Eastern manner--and the doorclosing againseemed to shut out
sound and motion. The furniture was formalgraveand quakerlike
but well-kept; and had as prepossessing an aspect as
anythingfrom a human creature to a wooden stoolthat is meant
for much use and is preserved for littlecan ever wear. There was
a grave clockticking somewhere up the staircase; and there was a
songless bird in the same directionpecking at his cageas if he
were ticking too. The parlour-fire ticked in the grate. There was
only one person on the parlour-hearthand the loud watch in his
pocket ticked audibly.

The servant-maid had ticked the two words 'Mr Clennam' so softly
that she had not been heard; and he consequently stoodwithin the
door she had closedunnoticed. The figure of a man advanced in
lifewhose smooth grey eyebrows seemed to move to the ticking as
the fire-light flickered on themsat in an arm-chairwith his
list shoes on the rugand his thumbs slowly revolving over one
another. This was old Christopher Casby--recognisable at a
glance--as unchanged in twenty years and upward as his own solid
furniture--as little touched by the influence of the varying
seasons as the old rose-leaves and old lavender in his porcelain
jars.


Perhaps there never was a manin this troublesome worldso
troublesome for the imagination to picture as a boy. And yet he
had changed very little in his progress through life. Confronting
himin the room in which he satwas a boy's portraitwhich
anybody seeing him would have identified as Master Christopher
Casbyaged ten: though disguised with a haymaking rakefor which
he had hadat any timeas much taste or use as for a diving-bell;
and sitting (on one of his own legs) upon a bank of violetsmoved
to precocious contemplation by the spire of a village church.
There was the same smooth face and foreheadthe same calm blue
eyethe same placid air. The shining bald headwhich looked so
very large because it shone so much; and the long grey hair at its
sides and backlike floss silk or spun glasswhich looked so very
benevolent because it was never cut; were notof courseto be
seen in the boy as in the old man. Neverthelessin the Seraphic
creature with the haymaking rakewere clearly to be discerned the
rudiments of the Patriarch with the list shoes.

Patriarch was the name which many people delighted to give him.
Various old ladies in the neighbourhood spoke of him as The Last of
the Patriarchs. So greyso slowso quietso impassionateso
very bumpy in the headPatriarch was the word for him. He had
been accosted in the streetsand respectfully solicited to become
a Patriarch for painters and for sculptors; with so much
importunityin sooththat it would appear to be beyond the Fine
Arts to remember the points of a Patriarchor to invent one.
Philanthropists of both sexes had asked who he wasand on being
informed'Old Christopher Casbyformerly Town-agent to Lord
Decimus Tite Barnacle' had cried in a rapture of disappointment
'Oh! whywith that headis he not a benefactor to his species!
Oh! whywith that headis he not a father to the orphan and a
friend to the friendless!' With that headhoweverhe remained
old Christopher Casbyproclaimed by common report rich in house
property; and with that headhe now sat in his silent parlour.
Indeed it would be the height of unreason to expect him to be
sitting there without that head.

Arthur Clennam moved to attract his attentionand the grey
eyebrows turned towards him.

'I beg your pardon' said Clennam'I fear you did not hear me
announced?'

'NosirI did not. Did you wish to see mesir?'

'I wished to pay my respects.'

Mr Casby seemed a feather's weight disappointed by the last words
having perhaps prepared himself for the visitor's wishing to pay
something else. 'Have I the pleasuresir' he proceeded--'take a
chairif you please--have I the pleasure of knowing--? Ah!
trulyyesI think I have! I believe I am not mistaken in
supposing that I am acquainted with those features? I think I
address a gentleman of whose return to this country I was informed
by Mr Flintwinch?'

'That is your present visitor.'

'Really! Mr Clennam?'

'No otherMr Casby.'

'Mr ClennamI am glad to see you. How have you been since we


met?'

Without thinking it worth while to explain that in the course of
some quarter of a century he had experienced occasional slight
fluctuations in his health and spiritsClennam answered generally
that he had never been betteror something equally to the purpose;
and shook hands with the possessor of 'that head' as it shed its
patriarchal light upon him.

'We are olderMr Clennam' said Christopher Casby.

'We are--not younger' said Clennam. After this wise remark he
felt that he was scarcely shining with brilliancyand became aware
that he was nervous.

'And your respected father' said Mr Casby'is no more! I was
grieved to hear itMr ClennamI was grieved.'

Arthur replied in the usual way that he felt infinitely obliged to
him.

'There was a time' said Mr Casby'when your parents and myself
were not on friendly terms. There was a little family
misunderstanding among us. Your respected mother was rather
jealous of her sonmaybe; when I say her sonI mean your worthy
selfyour worthy self.'

His smooth face had a bloom upon it like ripe wall-fruit. What
with his blooming faceand that headand his blue eyeshe seemed
to be delivering sentiments of rare wisdom and virtue. In like
mannerhis physiognomical expression seemed to teem with
benignity. Nobody could have said where the wisdom wasor where
the virtue wasor where the benignity was; but they all seemed to
be somewhere about him.
'Those timeshowever' pursued Mr Casby'are past and gonepast
and gone. I do myself the pleasure of making a visit to your
respected mother occasionallyand of admiring the fortitude and
strength of mind with which she bears her trialsbears her
trials.' When he made one of these little repetitionssitting
with his hands crossed before himhe did it with his head on one
sideand a gentle smileas if he had something in his thoughts
too sweetly profound to be put into words. As if he denied himself
the pleasure of uttering itlest he should soar too high; and his
meekness therefore preferred to be unmeaning.

'I have heard that you were kind enough on one of those occasions'
said Arthurcatching at the opportunity as it drifted past him
'to mention Little Dorrit to my mother.'

'Little--Dorrit? That's the seamstress who was mentioned to me by
a small tenant of mine? Yesyes. Dorrit? That's the name. Ah
yesyes! You call her Little Dorrit?'

No road in that direction. Nothing came of the cross-cut. It led
no further.

'My daughter Flora' said Mr Casby'as you may have heard
probablyMr Clennamwas married and established in lifeseveral
years ago. She had the misfortune to lose her husband when she had
been married a few months. She resides with me again. She will be
glad to see youif you will permit me to let her know that you are
here.'

'By all means' returned Clennam. 'I should have preferred the


requestif your kindness had not anticipated me.'

Upon this Mr Casby rose up in his list shoesand with a slow
heavy step (he was of an elephantine build)made for the door. He
had a long wide-skirted bottle-green coat onand a bottle-green
pair of trousersand a bottle-green waistcoat. The Patriarchs
were not dressed in bottle-green broadclothand yet his clothes
looked patriarchal.

He had scarcely left the roomand allowed the ticking to become
audible againwhen a quick hand turned a latchkey in the housedoor
opened itand shut it. Immediately afterwardsa quick and
eager short dark man came into the room with so much way upon him
that he was within a foot of Clennam before he could stop.

'Halloa!' he said.

Clennam saw no reason why he should not say 'Halloa!' too.

'What's the matter?' said the short dark man.

'I have not heard that anything is the matter' returned Clennam.

'Where's Mr Casby?' asked the short dark manlooking about.
'He will be here directlyif you want him.'

'_I_ want him?' said the short dark man. 'Don't you?'
This elicited a word or two of explanation from Clennamduring the
delivery of which the short dark man held his breath and looked at
him. He was dressed in black and rusty iron grey; had jet black
beads of eyes; a scrubby little black chin; wiry black hair
striking out from his head in prongslike forks or hair-pins; and
a complexion that was very dingy by natureor very dirty by art
or a compound of nature and art. He had dirty hands and dirty
broken nailsand looked as if he had been in the coals; he was in
a perspirationand snorted and sniffed and puffed and blewlike
a little labouring steam-engine.

'Oh!' said hewhen Arthur told him how he came to be there. 'Very
well. That's right. If he should ask for Panckswill you be so
good as to say that Pancks is come in?' And sowith a snort and
a puffhe worked out by another door.

Nowin the old days at homecertain audacious doubts respecting
the last of the Patriarchswhich were afloat in the airhadby
some forgotten meanscome in contact with Arthur's sensorium. He
was aware of motes and specks of suspicion in the atmosphere of
that time; seen through which mediumChristopher Casby was a mere
Inn signpostwithout any Inn--an invitation to rest and be
thankfulwhen there was no place to put up atand nothing
whatever to be thankful for. He knew that some of these specks
even represented Christopher as capable of harbouring designs in
'that head' and as being a crafty impostor. Other motes there
were which showed him as a heavyselfishdrifting Boobywho
having stumbledin the course of his unwieldy jostlings against
other menon the discovery that to get through life with ease and
credithe had but to hold his tonguekeep the bald part of his
head well polishedand leave his hair alonehad had just cunning
enough to seize the idea and stick to it. It was said that his
being town-agent to Lord Decimus Tite Barnacle was referablenot
to his having the least business capacitybut to his looking so
supremely benignant that nobody could suppose the property screwed
or jobbed under such a man; alsothat for similar reasons he now
got more money out of his own wretched lettingsunquestionedthan


anybody with a less nobby and less shining crown could possibly
have done. In a wordit was represented (Clennam called to mind
alone in the ticking parlour) that many people select their models
much as the paintersjust now mentionedselect theirs; and that
whereas in the Royal Academy some evil old ruffian of a Dog-stealer
will annually be found embodying all the cardinal virtueson
account of his eyelashesor his chinor his legs (thereby
planting thorns of confusion in the breasts of the more observant
students of nature)soin the great social Exhibition
accessories are often accepted in lieu of the internal character.

Calling these things to mindand ranging Mr Pancks in a row with
themArthur Clennam leaned this day to the opinionwithout quite
deciding on itthat the last of the Patriarchs was the drifting
Booby aforesaidwith the one idea of keeping the bald part of his
head highly polished: and thatmuch as an unwieldy ship in the
Thames river may sometimes be seen heavily driving with the tide
broadside onstern firstin its own way and in the way of
everything elsethough making a great show of navigationwhen all
of a suddena little coaly steam-tug will bear down upon ittake
it in towand bustle off with it; similarly the cumbrous Patriarch
had been taken in tow by the snorting Pancksand was now following
in the wake of that dingy little craft.

The return of Mr Casby with his daughter Floraput an end to these
meditations. Clennam's eyes no sooner fell upon the subject of his
old passion than it shivered and broke to pieces.

Most men will be found sufficiently true to themselves to be true
to an old idea. It is no proof of an inconstant mindbut exactly
the oppositewhen the idea will not bear close comparison with the
realityand the contrast is a fatal shock to it. Such was
Clennam's case. In his youth he had ardently loved this womanand
had heaped upon her all the locked-up wealth of his affection and
imagination. That wealth had beenin his desert homelike
Robinson Crusoe's money; exchangeable with no onelying idle in
the dark to rustuntil he poured it out for her. Ever since that
memorable timethough he haduntil the night of his arrivalas
completely dismissed her from any association with his Present or
Future as if she had been dead (which she might easily have been
for anything he knew)he had kept the old fancy of the Past
unchangedin its old sacred place. And nowafter allthe last
of the Patriarchs coolly walked into the parloursaying in effect
'Be good enough to throw it down and dance upon it. This is
Flora.'

Floraalways tallhad grown to be very broad tooand short of
breath; but that was not much. Florawhom he had left a lilyhad
become a peony; but that was not much. Florawho had seemed
enchanting in all she said and thoughtwas diffuse and silly.
That was much. Florawho had been spoiled and artless long ago
was determined to be spoiled and artless now. That was a fatal
blow.

This is Flora!

'I am sure' giggled Floratossing her head with a caricature of
her girlish mannersuch as a mummer might have presented at her
own funeralif she had lived and died in classical antiquity'I
am ashamed to see Mr ClennamI am a mere frightI know he'll find
me fearfully changedI am actually an old womanit's shocking to
be found outit's really shocking!'

He assured her that she was just what he had expected and that time


had not stood still with himself.

'Oh! But with a gentleman it's so different and really you look so
amazingly well that you have no right to say anything of the kind
whileas to meyou know--oh!' cried Flora with a little scream
'I am dreadful!'

The Patriarchapparently not yet understanding his own part in the
drama under representationglowed with vacant serenity.

'But if we talk of not having changed' said Florawhowhatever
she saidnever once came to a full stop'look at Papais not
Papa precisely what he was when you went awayisn't it cruel and
unnatural of Papa to be such a reproach to his own childif we go
on in this way much longer people who don't know us will begin to
suppose that I am Papa's Mama!'

That must be a long time henceArthur considered.

'Oh Mr Clennam you insincerest of creatures' said Flora'I
perceive already you have not lost your old way of paying
complimentsyour old way when you used to pretend to be so
sentimentally struck you know--at least I don't mean thatI--oh I
don't know what I mean!' Here Flora tittered confusedlyand gave
him one of her old glances.

The Patriarchas if he now began to perceive that his part in the
piece was to get off the stage as soon as might beroseand went
to the door by which Pancks had worked outhailing that Tug by
name. He received an answer from some little Dock beyondand was
towed out of sight directly.

'You mustn't think of going yet' said Flora--Arthur had looked at
his hatbeing in a ludicrous dismayand not knowing what to do:
'you could never be so unkind as to think of goingArthur--I mean
Mr Arthur--or I suppose Mr Clennam would be far more proper--but I
am sure I don't know what I am saying--without a word about the
dear old days gone for everwhen I come to think of it I dare say
it would be much better not to speak of them and it's highly
probable that you have some much more agreeable engagement and pray
let Me be the last person in the world to interfere with it though
there was a timebut I am running into nonsense again.'

Was it possible that Flora could have been such a chatterer in the
days she referred to? Could there have been anything like her
present disjointed volubility in the fascinations that had
captivated him?

'Indeed I have little doubt' said Florarunning on with
astonishing speedand pointing her conversation with nothing but
commasand very few of them'that you are married to some Chinese
ladybeing in China so long and being in business and naturally
desirous to settle and extend your connection nothing was more
likely than that you should propose to a Chinese lady and nothing
was more natural I am sure than that the Chinese lady should accept
you and think herself very well off tooI only hope she's not a
Pagodian dissenter.'

'I am not' returned Arthursmiling in spite of himself'married
to any ladyFlora.'

'Oh good gracious me I hope you never kept yourself a bachelor so
long on my account!' tittered Flora; 'but of course you never did
why should youpray don't answerI don't know where I'm running


tooh do tell me something about the Chinese ladies whether their
eyes are really so long and narrow always putting me in mind of
mother-of-pearl fish at cards and do they really wear tails down
their back and plaited too or is it only the menand when they
pull their hair so very tight off their foreheads don't they hurt
themselvesand why do they stick little bells all over their
bridges and temples and hats and things or don't they really do
it?' Flora gave him another of her old glances. Instantly she
went on againas if he had spoken in reply for some time.

'Then it's all true and they really do! good gracious Arthur!-pray
excuse me--old habit--Mr Clennam far more proper--what a
country to live in for so long a timeand with so many lanterns
and umbrellas too how very dark and wet the climate ought to be and
no doubt actually isand the sums of money that must be made by
those two trades where everybody carries them and hangs them
everywherethe little shoes too and the feet screwed back in
infancy is quite surprisingwhat a traveller you are!'

In his ridiculous distressClennam received another of the old
glances without in the least knowing what to do with it.

'Dear dear' said Flora'only to think of the changes at home
Arthur--cannot overcome itand seems so naturalMr Clennam far
more proper--since you became familiar with the Chinese customs and
language which I am persuaded you speak like a Native if not better
for you were always quick and clever though immensely difficult no
doubtI am sure the tea chests alone would kill me if I tried
such changes Arthur--I am doing it againseems so naturalmost
improper--as no one could have believedwho could have ever
imagined Mrs Finching when I can't imagine it myself!'

'Is that your married name?' asked Arthurstruckin the midst of
all thisby a certain warmth of heart that expressed itself in her
tone when she referredhowever oddlyto the youthful relation in
which they had stood to one another. 'Finching?'

'Finching oh yes isn't it a dreadful namebut as Mr F. said when
he proposed to me which he did seven times and handsomely consented
I must say to be what he used to call on liking twelve months
after allhe wasn't answerable for it and couldn't help it could
heExcellent mannot at all like you but excellent man!'

Flora had at last talked herself out of breath for one moment. One
moment; for she recovered breath in the act of raising a minute
corner of her pocket-handkerchief to her eyeas a tribute to the
ghost of the departed Mr F.and began again.

'No one could disputeArthur--Mr Clennam--that it's quite right
you should be formally friendly to me under the altered
circumstances and indeed you couldn't be anything elseat least I
suppose not you ought to knowbut I can't help recalling that
there was a time when things were very different.'

'My dear Mrs Finching' Arthur beganstruck by the good tone
again.

'Oh not that nasty ugly namesay Flora!'

'Flora. I assure youFloraI am happy in seeing you once more
and in finding thatlike meyou have not forgotten the old
foolish dreamswhen we saw all before us in the light of our youth
and hope.'


'You don't seem so' pouted Flora'you take it very coollybut
however I know you are disappointed in meI suppose the Chinese
ladies--Mandarinesses if you call them so--are the cause or perhaps
I am the cause myselfit's just as likely.'

'Nono' Clennam entreated'don't say that.'

'Oh I must you know' said Florain a positive tone'what
nonsense not toI know I am not what you expectedI know that
very well.'

In the midst of her rapidityshe had found that out with the quick
perception of a cleverer woman. The inconsistent and profoundly
unreasonable way in which she instantly went onneverthelessto
interweave their long-abandoned boy and girl relations with their
present interviewmade Clennam feel as if he were light-headed.

'One remark' said Floragiving their conversationwithout the
slightest notice and to the great terror of Clennamthe tone of a
love-quarrel'I wish to makeone explanation I wish to offer
when your Mama came and made a scene of it with my Papa and when I
was called down into the little breakfast-room where they were
looking at one another with your Mama's parasol between them seated
on two chairs like mad bulls what was I to do?'

'My dear Mrs Finching' urged Clennam--'all so long ago and so long
concludedis it worth while seriously to--'

'I can't Arthur' returned Flora'be denounced as heartless by the
whole society of China without setting myself right when I have the
opportunity of doing soand you must be very well aware that there
was Paul and Virginia which had to be returned and which was
returned without note or commentnot that I mean to say you could
have written to me watched as I was but if it had only come back
with a red wafer on the cover I should have known that it meant
Come to Pekin Nankeen and What's the third placebarefoot.'

'My dear Mrs Finchingyou were not to blameand I never blamed
you. We were both too youngtoo dependent and helplessto do
anything but accept our separation.--Pray think how long ago'
gently remonstrated Arthur.
'One more remark' proceeded Flora with unslackened volubility'I
wish to makeone more explanation I wish to offerfor five days
I had a cold in the head from crying which I passed entirely in the
back drawing-room--there is the back drawing-room still on the
first floor and still at the back of the house to confirm my
words--when that dreary period had passed a lull succeeded years
rolled on and Mr F. became acquainted with us at a mutual friend's
he was all attention he called next day he soon began to call three
evenings a week and to send in little things for supper it was not
love on Mr F.'s part it was adorationMr F. proposed with the full
approval of Papa and what could I do?'

'Nothing whatever' said Arthurwith the cheerfulest readiness
'but what you did. Let an old friend assure you of his full
conviction that you did quite right.'

'One last remark' proceeded Florarejecting commonplace life with
a wave of her hand'I wish to makeone last explanation I wish to
offerthere was a time ere Mr F. first paid attentions incapable
of being mistakenbut that is past and was not to bedear Mr
Clennam you no longer wear a golden chain you are free I trust you
may be happyhere is Papa who is always tiresome and putting in
his nose everywhere where he is not wanted.'


With these wordsand with a hasty gesture fraught with timid
caution--such a gesture had Clennam's eyes been familiar with in
the old time--poor Flora left herself at eighteen years of agea
long long way behind again; and came to a full stop at last.

Or rathershe left about half of herself at eighteen years of age
behindand grafted the rest on to the relict of the late Mr F.;
thus making a moral mermaid of herselfwhich her once boy-lover
contemplated with feelings wherein his sense of the sorrowful and
his sense of the comical were curiously blended.

For example. As if there were a secret understanding between
herself and Clennam of the most thrilling nature; as if the first
of a train of post-chaises and fourextending all the way to
Scotlandwere at that moment round the corner; and as if she
couldn't (and wouldn't) have walked into the Parish Church with
himunder the shade of the family umbrellawith the Patriarchal
blessing on her headand the perfect concurrence of all mankind;
Flora comforted her soul with agonies of mysterious signalling
expressing dread of discovery. With the sensation of becoming more
and more light-headed every minuteClennam saw the relict of the
late Mr F. enjoying herself in the most wonderful mannerby
putting herself and him in their old placesand going through all
the old performances--nowwhen the stage was dustywhen the
scenery was fadedwhen the youthful actors were deadwhen the
orchestra was emptywhen the lights were out. And stillthrough
all this grotesque revival of what he remembered as having once
been prettily natural to herhe could not but feel that it revived
at sight of himand that there was a tender memory in it.

The Patriarch insisted on his staying to dinnerand Flora
signalled 'Yes!' Clennam so wished he could have done more than
stay to dinner--so heartily wished he could have found the Flora
that had beenor that never had been--that he thought the least
atonement he could make for the disappointment he almost felt
ashamed ofwas to give himself up to the family desire.
Thereforehe stayed to dinner.

Pancks dined with them. Pancks steamed out of his little dock at
a quarter before sixand bore straight down for the Patriarchwho
happened to be then drivingin an inane mannerthrough a stagnant
account of Bleeding Heart Yard. Pancks instantly made fast to him
and hauled him out.

'Bleeding Heart Yard?' said Panckswith a puff and a snort. 'It's
a troublesome property. Don't pay you badlybut rents are very
hard to get there. You have more trouble with that one place than
with all the places belonging to you.'

just as the big ship in tow gets the creditwith most spectators
of being the powerful objectso the Patriarch usually seemed to
have said himself whatever Pancks said for him.

'Indeed?' returned Clennamupon whom this impression was so
efficiently made by a mere gleam of the polished head that he spoke
the ship instead of the Tug. 'The people are so poor there?'

'You can't sayyou know' snorted Panckstaking one of his dirty
hands out of his rusty iron-grey pockets to bite his nailsif he
could find anyand turning his beads of eyes upon his employer
'whether they're poor or not. They say they arebut they all say
that. When a man says he's richyou're generally sure he isn't.
Besidesif they ARE pooryou can't help it. You'd be poor


yourself if you didn't get your rents.'

'True enough' said Arthur.

'You're not going to keep open house for all the poor of London'
pursued Pancks. 'You're not going to lodge 'em for nothing.
You're not going to open your gates wide and let 'em come free.
Not if you know ityou ain't.'

Mr Casby shook his headin Placid and benignant generality.

'If a man takes a room of you at half-a-crown a weekand when the
week comes round hasn't got the half-crownyou say to that man
Why have you got the roomthen? If you haven't got the one thing
why have you got the other? What have you been and done with your
money? What do you mean by it? What are you up to? That's what
YOU say to a man of that sort; and if you didn't say itmore shame
for you!' Mr Pancks here made a singular and startling noise
produced by a strong blowing effort in the region of the nose
unattended by any result but that acoustic one.

'You have some extent of such property about the east and northeast
hereI believe?' said Clennamdoubtful which of the two to
address.

'Ohpretty well' said Pancks. 'You're not particular to east or
north-eastany point of the compass will do for you. What you
want is a good investment and a quick return. You take it where
you can find it. You ain't nice as to situation--not you.'

There was a fourth and most original figure in the Patriarchal
tentwho also appeared before dinner. This was an amazing little
old womanwith a face like a staring wooden doll too cheap for
expressionand a stiff yellow wig perched unevenly on the top of
her headas if the child who owned the doll had driven a tack
through it anywhereso that it only got fastened on. Another
remarkable thing in this little old woman wasthat the same child
seemed to have damaged her face in two or three places with some
blunt instrument in the nature of a spoon; her countenanceand
particularly the tip of her nosepresenting the phenomena of
several dintsgenerally answering to the bowl of that article. A
further remarkable thing in this little old woman wasthat she had
no name but Mr F.'s Aunt.

She broke upon the visitor's view under the following
circumstances: Flora said when the first dish was being put on the
tableperhaps Mr Clennam might not have heard that Mr F. had left
her a legacy? Clennam in return implied his hope that Mr F. had
endowed the wife whom he adoredwith the greater part of his
worldly substanceif not with all. Flora saidoh yesshe didn't
mean thatMr F. had made a beautiful willbut he had left her as
a separate legacyhis Aunt. She then went out of the room to
fetch the legacyandon her returnrather triumphantly presented
'Mr F.'s Aunt.'

The major characteristics discoverable by the stranger in Mr F.'s
Auntwere extreme severity and grim taciturnity; sometimes
interrupted by a propensity to offer remarks in a deep warning
voicewhichbeing totally uncalled for by anything said by
anybodyand traceable to no association of ideasconfounded and
terrified the Mind. Mr F.'s Aunt may have thrown in these
observations on some system of her ownand it may have been
ingeniousor even subtle: but the key to it was wanted.
The neatly-served and well-cooked dinner (for everything about the


Patriarchal household promoted quiet digestion) began with some
soupsome fried solesa butter-boat of shrimp sauceand a dish
of potatoes. The conversation still turned on the receipt of
rents. Mr F.'s Auntafter regarding the company for ten minutes
with a malevolent gazedelivered the following fearful remark:

'When we lived at HenleyBarnes's gander was stole by tinkers.'
Mr Pancks courageously nodded his head and said'All right
ma'am.' But the effect of this mysterious communication upon
Clennam was absolutely to frighten him. And another circumstance
invested this old lady with peculiar terrors. Though she was
always staringshe never acknowledged that she saw any individual.

The polite and attentive stranger would desiresayto consult her
inclinations on the subject of potatoes. His expressive action
would be hopelessly lost upon herand what could he do? No man
could say'Mr F.'s Auntwill you permit me?' Every man retired
from the spoonas Clennam didcowed and baffled.

There was muttona steakand an apple-pie--nothing in the
remotest way connected with ganders--and the dinner went on like a
disenchanted feastas it truly was. Once upon a time Clennam had
sat at that table taking no heed of anything but Flora; now the
principal heed he took of Flora was to observeagainst his will
that she was very fond of porterthat she combined a great deal of
sherry with sentimentand that if she were a little overgrownit
was upon substantial grounds. The last of the Patriarchs had
always been a mighty eaterand he disposed of an immense quantity
of solid food with the benignity of a good soul who was feeding
some one else. Mr Panckswho was always in a hurryand who
referred at intervals to a little dirty notebook which he kept
beside him (perhaps containing the names of the defaulters he meant
to look up by way of dessert)took in his victuals much as if he
were coaling; with a good deal of noisea good deal of dropping
aboutand a puff and a snort occasionallyas if he were nearly
ready to steam away.

All through dinnerFlora combined her present appetite for eating
and drinking with her past appetite for romantic lovein a way
that made Clennam afraid to lift his eyes from his plate; since he
could not look towards her without receiving some glance of
mysterious meaning or warningas if they were engaged in a plot.
Mr F.'s Aunt sat silently defying him with an aspect of the
greatest bitternessuntil the removal of the cloth and the
appearance of the decanterswhen she originated another
observation--struck into the conversation like a clockwithout
consulting anybody.

Flora had just said'Mr Clennamwill you give me a glass of port
for Mr F.'s Aunt?'

'The Monument near London Bridge' that lady instantly proclaimed
'was put up arter the Great Fire of London; and the Great Fire of
London was not the fire in which your uncle George's workshops was
burned down.'

Mr Panckswith his former couragesaid'Indeedma'am? All
right!' But appearing to be incensed by imaginary contradiction
or other ill-usageMr F.'s Auntinstead of relapsing into
silencemade the following additional proclamation:

'I hate a fool!'

She imparted to this sentimentin itself almost Solomonicso


extremely injurious and personal a character by levelling it
straight at the visitor's headthat it became necessary to lead Mr
F.'s Aunt from the room. This was quietly done by Flora; Mr F.'s
Aunt offering no resistancebut inquiring on her way out'What he
come there forthen?' with implacable animosity.


When Flora returnedshe explained that her legacy was a clever old
ladybut was sometimes a little singularand 'took dislikes'--
peculiarities of which Flora seemed to be proud rather than
otherwise. As Flora's good nature shone in the caseClennam had
no fault to find with the old lady for eliciting itnow that he
was relieved from the terrors of her presence; and they took a
glass or two of wine in peace. Foreseeing then that the Pancks
would shortly get under weighand that the Patriarch would go to
sleephe pleaded the necessity of visiting his motherand asked
Mr Pancks in which direction he was going?


'Citywardssir' said Pancks.
'Shall we walk together?' said Arthur.


'Quite agreeable' said Pancks.


Meanwhile Flora was murmuring in rapid snatches for his earthat
there was a time and that the past was a yawning gulf however and
that a golden chain no longer bound him and that she revered the
memory of the late Mr F. and that she should be at home to-morrow
at half-past one and that the decrees of Fate were beyond recall
and that she considered nothing so improbable as that he ever
walked on the north-west side of Gray's-Inn Gardens at exactly four
o'clock in the afternoon. He tried at parting to give his hand in
frankness to the existing Flora--not the vanished Floraor the
mermaid--but Flora wouldn't have itcouldn't have itwas wholly
destitute of the power of separating herself and him from their
bygone characters. He left the house miserably enough; and so much
more light-headed than everthat if it had not been his good
fortune to be towed awayhe mightfor the first quarter of an
hourhave drifted anywhere.


When he began to come to himselfin the cooler air and the absence
of Florahe found Pancks at full speedcropping such scanty
pasturage of nails as he could findand snorting at intervals.
Thesein conjunction with one hand in his pocket and his roughened
hat hind side beforewere evidently the conditions under which he
reflected.


'A fresh night!' said Arthur.


'Yesit's pretty fresh' assented Pancks. 'As a stranger you feel
the climate more than I doI dare say. Indeed I haven't got time
to feel it.'


'You lead such a busy life?'


'YesI have always some of 'em to look upor something to look
after. But I like business' said Pancksgetting on a little
faster. 'What's a man made for?'


'For nothing else?' said Clennam.


Pancks put the counter question'What else?' It packed upin the
smallest compassa weight that had rested on Clennam's life; and
he made no answer.


'That's what I ask our weekly tenants' said Pancks. 'Some of 'em



will pull long faces to meand sayPoor as you see usmaster
we're always grindingdrudgingtoilingevery minute we're awake.


I say to themWhat else are you made for? It shuts them up. They
haven't a word to answer. What else are you made for? That
clinches it.'


'Ah deardeardear!' sighed Clennam.


'Here am I' said Panckspursuing his argument with the weekly
tenant. 'What else do you suppose I think I am made for? Nothing.


Rattle me out of bed earlyset me goinggive me as short a time
as you like to bolt my meals inand keep me at it. Keep me always
at itand I'll keep you always at ityou keep somebody else
always at it. There you are with the Whole Duty of Man in a
commercial country.'


When they had walked a little further in silenceClennam said:
'Have you no taste for anythingMr Pancks?'


'What's taste?' drily retorted Pancks.


'Let us say inclination.'


'I have an inclination to get moneysir' said Pancks'if you
will show me how.' He blew off that sound againand it occurred
to his companion for the first time that it was his way of
laughing. He was a singular man in all respects; he might not have
been quite in earnestbut that the shorthardrapid manner in
which he shot out these cinders of principlesas if it were done
by mechanical revolvencyseemed irreconcilable with banter.


'You are no great readerI suppose?' said Clennam.


'Never read anything but letters and accounts. Never collect
anything but advertisements relative to next of kin. If that's a
tasteI have got that. You're not of the Clennams of CornwallMr
Clennam?'


'Not that I ever heard of.'
'I know you're not. I asked your mothersir. She has too much
character to let a chance escape her.'


'Supposing I had been of the Clennams of Cornwall?'
'You'd have heard of something to your advantage.'


'Indeed! I have heard of little enough to my advantage for some
time.'


'There's a Cornish property going a beggingsirand not a Cornish
Clennam to have it for the asking' said Panckstaking his note-
book from his breast pocket and putting it in again. 'I turn off
here. I wish you good night.'


'Good night!' said Clennam. But the Tugsuddenly lightenedand
untrammelled by having any weight in towwas already puffing away
into the distance.


They had crossed Smithfield togetherand Clennam was left alone at
the corner of Barbican. He had no intention of presenting himself
in his mother's dismal room that nightand could not have felt
more depressed and cast away if he had been in a wilderness. He
turned slowly down Aldersgate Streetand was pondering his way



along towards Saint Paul'spurposing to come into one of the great
thoroughfares for the sake of their light and lifewhen a crowd of
people flocked towards him on the same pavementand he stood aside
against a shop to let them pass. As they came uphe made out that
they were gathered around a something that was carried on men's
shoulders. He soon saw that it was a litterhastily made of a
shutter or some such thing; and a recumbent figure upon itand the
scraps of conversation in the crowdand a muddy bundle carried by
one manand a muddy hat carried by anotherinformed him that an
accident had occurred. The litter stopped under a lamp before it
had passed him half-a-dozen pacesfor some readjustment of the
burden; andthe crowd stopping toohe found himself in the midst
of the array.

'An accident going to the Hospital?' he asked an old man beside
himwho stood shaking his headinviting conversation.

'Yes' said the man'along of them Mails. They ought to be
prosecuted and finedthem Mails. They come a racing out of Lad
Lane and Wood Street at twelve or fourteen mile a hourthem Mails
do. The only wonder isthat people ain't killed oftener by them
Mails.'

'This person is not killedI hope?'

'I don't know!' said the man'it an't for the want of a will in
them Mailsif he an't.' The speaker having folded his armsand
set in comfortably to address his depreciation of them Mails to any
of the bystanders who would listenseveral voicesout of pure
sympathy with the suffererconfirmed him; one voice saying to
Clennam'They're a public nuisancethem Mailssir;' another'I
see one on 'em pull up within half a inch of a boylast night;'
another'I see one on 'em go over a catsir--and it might have
been your own mother;' and all representingby implicationthat
if he happened to possess any public influencehe could not use it
better than against them Mails.

'Whya native Englishman is put to it every night of his lifeto
save his life from them Mails' argued the first old man; 'and he
knows when they're a coming round the cornerto tear him limb from
limb. What can you expect from a poor foreigner who don't know
nothing about 'em!'

'Is this a foreigner?' said Clennamleaning forward to look.

In the midst of such replies as 'Frenchmansir' 'Portegheesir'
'Dutchmansir' 'Prooshansir' and other conflicting testimony
he now heard a feeble voice askingboth in Italian and in French
for water. A general remark going roundin replyof 'Ahpoor
fellowhe says he'll never get over it; and no wonder!' Clennam
begged to be allowed to passas he understood the poor creature.
He was immediately handed to the frontto speak to him.

'Firsthe wants some water' said helooking round. (A dozen
good fellows dispersed to get it.) 'Are you badly hurtmy friend?'
he asked the man on the litterin Italian.

'Yessir; yesyesyes. It's my legit's my leg. But it
pleases me to hear the old musicthough I am very bad.'

'You are a traveller! Stay! Seethe water! Let me give you
some.' They had rested the litter on a pile of paving stones. It
was at a convenient height from the groundand by stooping he
could lightly raise the head with one hand and hold the glass to


his lips with the other. A littlemuscularbrown manwith black
hair and white teeth. A lively faceapparently. Earrings in his
ears.

'That's well. You are a traveller?'

'Surelysir.'

'A stranger in this city?'

'Surelysurelyaltogether. I am arrived this unhappy evening.'

'From what country?'
'Marseilles.'

'Whysee there! I also! Almost as much a stranger here as you
though born hereI came from Marseilles a little while ago. Don't
be cast down.' The face looked up at him imploringlyas he rose
from wiping itand gently replaced the coat that covered the
writhing figure. 'I won't leave you till you shall be well taken
care of. Courage! You will be very much better half an hour
hence.'

'Ah! AltroAltro!' cried the poor little manin a faintly
incredulous tone; and as they took him uphung out his right hand
to give the forefinger a back-handed shake in the air.

Arthur Clennam turned; and walking beside the litterand saying an
encouraging word now and thenaccompanied it to the neighbouring
hospital of Saint Bartholomew. None of the crowd but the bearers
and he being admittedthe disabled man was soon laid on a table in
a coolmethodical wayand carefully examined by a surgeon who was
as near at handand as ready to appear as Calamity herself. 'He
hardly knows an English word' said Clennam; 'is he badly hurt?'

'Let us know all about it first' said the surgeoncontinuing his
examination with a businesslike delight in it'before we
pronounce.'

After trying the leg with a fingerand two fingersand one hand
and two handsand over and underand up and downand in this
direction and in thatand approvingly remarking on the points of
interest to another gentleman who joined himthe surgeon at last
clapped the patient on the shoulderand said'He won't hurt.
He'll do very well. It's difficult enoughbut we shall not want
him to part with his leg this time.' Which Clennam interpreted to
the patientwho was full of gratitudeandin his demonstrative
waykissed both the interpreter's hand and the surgeon's several
times.

'It's a serious injuryI suppose?' said Clennam.

'Ye-es' replied the surgeonwith the thoughtful pleasure of an
artist contemplating the work upon his easel. 'Yesit's enough.
There's a compound fracture above the kneeand a dislocation
below. They are both of a beautiful kind.' He gave the patient a
friendly clap on the shoulder againas if he really felt that he
was a very good fellow indeedand worthy of all commendation for
having broken his leg in a manner interesting to science.

'He speaks French?' said the surgeon.

'Oh yeshe speaks French.'


'He'll be at no loss herethen.--You have only to bear a little
pain like a brave fellowmy friendand to be thankful that all
goes as well as it does' he addedin that tongue'and you'll
walk again to a marvel. Nowlet us see whether there's anything
else the matterand how our ribs are?'

There was nothing else the matterand our ribs were sound.
Clennam remained until everything possible to be done had been
skilfully and promptly done--the poor belated wanderer in a strange
land movingly besought that favour of him--and lingered by the bed
to which he was in due time removeduntil he had fallen into a
doze. Even then he wrote a few words for him on his cardwith a
promise to return to-morrowand left it to be given to him when he
should awake.
All these proceedings occupied so long that it struck eleven
o'clock at night as he came out at the Hospital Gate. He had hired
a lodging for the present in Covent Gardenand he took the nearest
way to that quarterby Snow Hill and Holborn.

Left to himself againafter the solicitude and compassion of his
last adventurehe was naturally in a thoughtful mood. As
naturallyhe could not walk on thinking for ten minutes without
recalling Flora. She necessarily recalled to him his lifewith
all its misdirection and little happiness.

When he got to his lodginghe sat down before the dying fireas
he had stood at the window of his old room looking out upon the
blackened forest of chimneysand turned his gaze back upon the
gloomy vista by which he had come to that stage in his existence.
So longso bareso blank. No childhood; no youthexcept for one
remembrance; that one remembrance provedonly that dayto be a
piece of folly.

It was a misfortune to himtrifle as it might have been to
another. Forwhile all that was hard and stern in his
recollectionremained Reality on being proved--was obdurate to the
sight and touchand relaxed nothing of its old indomitable
grimness--the one tender recollection of his experience would not
bear the same testand melted away. He had foreseen thison the
former nightwhen he had dreamed with waking eyes. but he had not
felt it then; and he had now.

He was a dreamer in such wisebecause he was a man who haddeeprooted
in his naturea belief in all the gentle and good things
his life had been without. Bred in meanness and hard dealingthis
had rescued him to be a man of honourable mind and open hand. Bred
in coldness and severitythis had rescued him to have a warm and
sympathetic heart. Bred in a creed too darkly audacious to pursue
through its process of reserving the making of man in the image of
his Creator to the making of his Creator in the image of an erring
manthis had rescued him to judge notand in humility to be
mercifuland have hope and charity.

And this saved him still from the whimpering weakness and cruel
selfishness of holding that because such a happiness or such a
virtue had not come into his little pathor worked well for him
therefore it was not in the great schemebut was reduciblewhen
found in appearanceto the basest elements. A disappointed mind
he hadbut a mind too firm and healthy for such unwholesome air.
Leaving himself in the darkit could rise into the lightseeing
it shine on others and hailing it.

Thereforehe sat before his dying firesorrowful to think upon
the way by which he had come to that nightyet not strewing poison


on the way by which other men had come to it. That he should have
missed so muchand at his time of life should look so far about
him for any staff to bear him company upon his downward journey and
cheer itwas a just regret. He looked at the fire from which the
blaze departedfrom which the afterglow subsidedin which the
ashes turned greyfrom which they dropped to dustand thought
'How soon I too shall pass through such changesand be gone!'

To review his life was like descending a green tree in fruit and
flowerand seeing all the branches wither and drop offone by
oneas he came down towards them.

'From the unhappy suppression of my youngest daysthrough the
rigid and unloving home that followed themthrough my departure
my long exilemy returnmy mother's welcomemy intercourse with
her sincedown to the afternoon of this day with poor Flora' said
Arthur Clennam'what have I found!'

His door was softly openedand these spoken words startled him
and came as if they were an answer:

'Little Dorrit.'

CHAPTER 14

Little Dorrit's Party

Arthur Clennam rose hastilyand saw her standing at the door.
This history must sometimes see with Little Dorrit's eyesand
shall begin that course by seeing him.

Little Dorrit looked into a dim roomwhich seemed a spacious one
to herand grandly furnished. Courtly ideas of Covent Gardenas
a place with famous coffee-houseswhere gentlemen wearing goldlaced
coats and swords had quarrelled and fought duels; costly
ideas of Covent Gardenas a place where there were flowers in
winter at guineas a-piecepine-apples at guineas a poundand peas
at guineas a pint; picturesque ideas of Covent Gardenas a place
where there was a mighty theatreshowing wonderful and beautiful
sights to richly-dressed ladies and gentlemenand which was for
ever far beyond the reach of poor Fanny or poor uncle; desolate
ideas of Covent Gardenas having all those arches in itwhere the
miserable children in rags among whom she had just now passedlike
young ratsslunk and hidfed on offalhuddled together for
warmthand were hunted about (look to the rats young and oldall
ye Barnaclesfor before God they are eating away our foundations
and will bring the roofs on our heads!); teeming ideas of Covent
Gardenas a place of past and present mysteryromanceabundance
wantbeautyuglinessfair country gardensand foul street
gutters; all confused together--made the room dimmer than it was
in Little Dorrit's eyesas they timidly saw it from the door.

At first in the chair before the gone-out fireand then turned
round wondering to see herwas the gentleman whom she sought. The
browngrave gentlemanwho smiled so pleasantlywho was so frank
and considerate in his mannerand yet in whose earnestness there
was something that reminded her of his motherwith the great
difference that she was earnest in asperity and he in gentleness.
Now he regarded her with that attentive and inquiring look before
which Little Dorrit's eyes had always fallenand before which they


fell still.

'My poor child! Here at midnight?'

'I said Little Dorritsiron purpose to prepare you. I knew you
must be very much surprised.'

'Are you alone?'

'No sirI have got Maggy with me.'

Considering her entrance sufficiently prepared for by this mention
of her nameMaggy appeared from the landing outsideon the broad
grin. She instantly suppressed that manifestationhoweverand
became fixedly solemn.

'And I have no fire' said Clennam. 'And you are--' He was going
to say so lightly cladbut stopped himself in what would have been
a reference to her povertysaying instead'And it is so cold.'

Putting the chair from which he had risen nearer to the gratehe
made her sit down in it; and hurriedly bringing wood and coal
heaped them together and got a blaze.

'Your foot is like marblemy child;' he had happened to touch it
while stooping on one knee at his work of kindling the fire; 'put
it nearer the warmth.' Little Dorrit thanked him hastily. It was
quite warmit was very warm! It smote upon his heart to feel that
she hid her thinworn shoe.

Little Dorrit was not ashamed of her poor shoes. He knew her
storyand it was not that. Little Dorrit had a misgiving that he
might blame her fatherif he saw them; that he might think'why
did he dine to-dayand leave this little creature to the mercy of
the cold stones!' She had no belief that it would have been a just
reflection; she simply knewby experiencethat such delusions did
sometimes present themselves to people. It was a part of her
father's misfortunes that they did.

'Before I say anything else' Little Dorrit begansitting before
the pale fireand raising her eyes again to the face which in its
harmonious look of interestand pityand protectionshe felt to
be a mystery far above her in degreeand almost removed beyond her
guessing at; 'may I tell you somethingsir?'

'Yesmy child.'
A slight shade of distress fell upon herat his so often calling
her a child. She was surprised that he should see itor think of
such a slight thing; but he said directly:
'I wanted a tender wordand could think of no other. As you just
now gave yourself the name they give you at my mother'sand as
that is the name by which I always think of youlet me call you
Little Dorrit.'

'Thank yousirI should like it better than any name.'

'Little Dorrit.'

'Little mother' Maggy (who had been falling asleep) put inas a
correction.

'It's all the sameMaggY' returned Little Dorrit'all the same.'

'Is it all the samemother?'


'Just the same.'

Maggy laughedand immediately snored. In Little Dorrit's eyes and
earsthe uncouth figure and the uncouth sound were as pleasant as
could be. There was a glow of pride in her big child
overspreading her facewhen it again met the eyes of the grave
brown gentleman. She wondered what he was thinking ofas he
looked at Maggy and her. She thought what a good father he would
be. Howwith some such lookhe would counsel and cherish his
daughter.

'What I was going to tell yousir' said Little Dorrit'isthat
MY brother is at large.'

Arthur was rejoiced to hear itand hoped he would do well.

'And what I was going to tell yousir' said Little Dorrit
trembling in all her little figure and in her voice'isthat I am
not to know whose generosity released him--am never to askand am
never to be toldand am never to thank that gentleman with all MY
grateful heart!'

He would probably need no thanksClennam said. Very likely he
would be thankful himself (and with reason)that he had had the
means and chance of doing a little service to herwho well
deserved a great one.

'And what I was going to saysiris' said Little Dorrit
trembling more and more'that if I knew himand I mightI would
tell him that he can nevernever know how I feel his goodnessand
how my good father would feel it. And what I was going to say
siristhat if I knew himand I might--but I don't know him and
I must not--I know that!--I would tell him that I shall never any
more lie down to sleep without having prayed to Heaven to bless him
and reward him. And if I knew himand I mightI would go down on
my knees to himand take his hand and kiss it and ask him not to
draw it awaybut to leave it--O to leave it for a moment--and let
my thankful tears fall on it; for I have no other thanks to give
him!'

Little Dorrit had put his hand to her lipsand would have kneeled
to himbut he gently prevented herand replaced her in her chair.

Her eyesand the tones of her voicehad thanked him far better
than she thought. He was not able to sayquite as composedly as
usual'ThereLittle Dorrittheretherethere! We will suppose
that you did know this personand that you might do all thisand
that it was all done. And now tell meWho am quite another
person--who am nothing more than the friend who begged you to trust
him--why you are out at midnightand what it is that brings you so
far through the streets at this late hourmy slightdelicate'
child was on his lips again'Little Dorrit!'

'Maggy and I have been to-night' she answeredsubduing herself
with the quiet effort that had long been natural to her'to the
theatre where my sister is engaged.'

'And oh ain't it a Ev'nly place' suddenly interrupted Maggywho
seemed to have the power of going to sleep and waking up whenever
she chose. 'Almost as good as a hospital. Only there ain't no
Chicking in it.'

Here she shook herselfand fell asleep again.


'We went there' said Little Dorritglancing at her charge
'because I like sometimes to knowof my own knowledgethat my
sister is doing well; and like to see her therewith my own eyes
when neither she nor Uncle is aware. It is very seldom indeed that
I can do thatbecause when I am not out at workI am with my
fatherand even when I am out at workI hurry home to him. But
I pretend to-night that I am at a party.'

As she made the confessiontimidly hesitatingshe raised her eyes
to the faceand read its expression so plainly that she answered
it. 'Oh nocertainly! I never was at a party in my life.' She
paused a little under his attentive lookand then said'I hope
there is no harm in it. I could never have been of any useif I
had not pretended a little.'

She feared that he was blaming her in his mind for so devising to
contrive for themthink for themand watch over themwithout
their knowledge or gratitude; perhaps even with their reproaches
for supposed neglect. But what was really in his mindwas the
weak figure with its strong purposethe thin worn shoesthe
insufficient dressand the pretence of recreation and enjoyment.
He asked where the suppositious party was? At a place where she
workedanswered Little Dorritblushing. She had said very little
about it; only a few words to make her father easy. Her father did
not believe it to be a grand party--indeed he might suppose that.
And she glanced for an instant at the shawl she wore.

'It is the first night' said Little Dorrit'that I have ever been
away from home. And London looks so largeso barrenand so
wild.' In Little Dorrit's eyesits vastness under the black sky
was awful; a tremor passed over her as she said the words.

'But this is not' she addedwith the quiet effort again'what I
have come to trouble you withsir. My sister's having found a
frienda lady she has told me of and made me rather anxious about
was the first cause of my coming away from home. And being away
and coming (on purpose) round by where you lived and seeing a light
in the window--'

Not for the first time. Nonot for the first time. In Little
Dorrit's eyesthe outside of that window had been a distant star
on other nights than this. She had toiled out of her waytired
and troubledto look up at itand wonder about the gravebrown
gentleman from so far offwho had spoken to her as a friend and
protector.

'There were three things' said Little Dorrit'that I thought I
would like to sayif you were alone and I might come up-stairs.
Firstwhat I have tried to saybut never can--never shall--'

'Hushhush! That is done withand disposed of. Let us pass to
the second' said Clennamsmiling her agitation awaymaking the
blaze shine upon herand putting wine and cake and fruit towards
her on the table.

'I think' said Little Dorrit--'this is the second thingsir--I
think Mrs Clennam must have found out my secretand must know
where I come from and where I go to. Where I liveI mean.'

'Indeed!' returned Clennam quickly. He asked herafter short
considerationwhy she supposed so.

'I think' replied Little Dorrit'that Mr Flintwinch must have


watched me.'


And whyClennam askedas he turned his eyes upon the firebent
his browsand considered again; why did she suppose that?


'I have met him twice. Both times near home. Both times at night
when I was going back. Both times I thought (though that may
easily be my mistake)that he hardly looked as if he had met me by
accident.'
'Did he say anything?'


'No; he only nodded and put his head on one side.'


'The devil take his head!' mused Clennamstill looking at the
fire; 'it's always on one side.'
He roused himself to persuade her to put some wine to her lipsand
to touch something to eat--it was very difficultshe was so timid
and shy--and then saidmusing again:
'Is my mother at all changed to you?'


'Ohnot at all. She is just the same. I wondered whether I had
better tell her my history. I wondered whether I might--I mean
whether you would like me to tell her. I wondered' said Little
Dorritlooking at him in a suppliant wayand gradually
withdrawing her eyes as he looked at her'whether you would advise
me what I ought to do.'


'Little Dorrit' said Clennam; and the phrase had already begun
between these twoto stand for a hundred gentle phrasesaccording
to the varying tone and connection in which it was used; 'do
nothing. I will have some talk with my old friendMrs Affery. Do
nothingLittle Dorrit--except refresh yourself with such means as
there are here. I entreat you to do that.'


'Thank youI am not hungry. Nor' said Little Dorritas he
softly put her glass towards her'nor thirsty.--I think Maggy
might like somethingperhaps.'


'We will make her find pockets presently for all there is here'
said Clennam: 'but before we awake herthere was a third thing to
say.'


'Yes. You will not be offendedsir?'


'I promise thatunreservedly.'


'It will sound strange. I hardly know how to say it. Don't think
it unreasonable or ungrateful in me' said Little Dorritwith
returning and increasing agitation.


'Nonono. I am sure it will be natural and right. I am not
afraid that I shall put a wrong construction on itwhatever it
is.'


'Thank you. You are coming back to see my father again?'


'Yes.'


'You have been so good and thoughtful as to write him a note
saying that you are coming to-morrow?'


'Ohthat was nothing! Yes.'


'Can you guess' said Little Dorritfolding her small hands tight



in one anotherand looking at him with all the earnestness of her
soul looking steadily out of her eyes'what I am going to ask you
not to do?'


'I think I can. But I may be wrong.'
'Noyou are not wrong' said Little Dorritshaking her head. 'If
we should want it so veryvery badly that we cannot do without it
let me ask you for it.'


'I Will--I Will.'


'Don't encourage him to ask. Don't understand him if he does ask.
Don't give it to him. Save him and spare him thatand you will be
able to think better of him!'


Clennam said--not very plainlyseeing those tears glistening in
her anxious eyes--that her wish should be sacred with him.


'You don't know what he is' she said; 'you don't know what he
really is. How can youseeing him there all at oncedear love
and not graduallyas I have done! You have been so good to usso
delicately and truly goodthat I want him to be better in your
eyes than in anybody's. And I cannot bear to think' cried Little
Dorritcovering her tears with her hands'I cannot bear to think
that you of all the world should see him in his only moments of
degradation.'


'Pray' said Clennam'do not be so distressed. PrayprayLittle
Dorrit! This is quite understood now.'


'Thank yousir. Thank you! I have tried very much to keep myself
from saying this; I have thought about itdays and nights; but
when I knew for certain you were coming againI made up my mind to
speak to you. Not because I am ashamed of him' she dried her
tears quickly'but because I know him better than any one does
and love himand am proud of him.'


Relieved of this weightLittle Dorrit was nervously anxious to be
gone. Maggy being broad awakeand in the act of distantly
gloating over the fruit and cakes with chuckles of anticipation
Clennam made the best diversion in his power by pouring her out a
glass of winewhich she drank in a series of loud smacks; putting
her hand upon her windpipe after every oneand sayingbreathless
with her eyes in a prominent state'Ohain't it d'licious! Ain't
it hospitally!' When she had finished the wine and these
encomiumshe charged her to load her basket (she was never without
her basket) with every eatable thing upon the tableand to take
especial care to leave no scrap behind. Maggy's pleasure in doing
this and her little mother's pleasure in seeing Maggy pleasedwas
as good a turn as circumstances could have given to the late
conversation.


'But the gates will have been locked long ago' said Clennam
suddenly remembering it. 'Where are you going?'


'I am going to Maggy's lodging' answered Little Dorrit. 'I shall
be quite safequite well taken care of.'


'I must accompany you there' said Clennam'I cannot let you go
alone.'


'Yespray leave us to go there by ourselves. Pray do!' begged
Little Dorrit.



She was so earnest in the petitionthat Clennam felt a delicacy in
obtruding himself upon her: the ratherbecause he could well
understand that Maggy's lodging was of the obscurest sort. 'Come
Maggy' said Little Dorrit cheerily'we shall do very well; we
know the way by this timeMaggy?'

'Yesyeslittle mother; we know the way' chuckled Maggy. And
away they went. Little Dorrit turned at the door to say'God
bless you!' She said it very softlybut perhaps she may have been
as audible above--who knows!--as a whole cathedral choir.

Arthur Clennam suffered them to pass the corner of the street
before he followed at a distance; not with any idea of encroaching
a second time on Little Dorrit's privacybut to satisfy his mind
by seeing her secure in the neighbourhood to which she was
accustomed. So diminutive she lookedso fragile and defenceless
against the bleak damp weatherflitting along in the shuffling
shadow of her chargethat he feltin his compassionand in his
habit of considering her a child apart from the rest of the rough
worldas if he would have been glad to take her up in his arms and
carry her to her journey's end.

In course of time she came into the leading thoroughfare where the
Marshalsea wasand then he saw them slacken their paceand soon
turn down a by-street. He stoppedfelt that he had no right to go
furtherand slowly left them. He had no suspicion that they ran
any risk of being houseless until morning; had no idea of the truth
until longlong afterwards.

Butsaid Little Dorritwhen they stopped at a poor dwelling all
in darknessand heard no sound on listening at the door'Now
this is a good lodging for youMaggyand we must not give
offence. Consequentlywe will only knock twiceand not very
loud; and if we cannot wake them sowe must walk about till day.'

OnceLittle Dorrit knocked with a careful handand listened.
TwiceLittle Dorrit knocked with a careful handand listened.
All was close and still. 'Maggywe must do the best we canmy
dear. We must be patientand wait for day.'

It was a chill dark nightwith a damp wind blowingwhen they came
out into the leading street againand heard the clocks strike
half-past one. 'In only five hours and a half' said Little
Dorrit'we shall be able to go home.' To speak of homeand to go
and look at itit being so nearwas a natural sequence. They
went to the closed gateand peeped through into the court-yard.
'I hope he is sound asleep' said Little Dorritkissing one of the
bars'and does not miss me.'

The gate was so familiarand so like a companionthat they put
down Maggy's basket in a corner to serve for a seatand keeping
close togetherrested there for some time. While the street was
empty and silentLittle Dorrit was not afraid; but when she heard
a footstep at a distanceor saw a moving shadow among the street
lampsshe was startledand whispered'MaggyI see some one.
Come away!' Maggy would then wake up more or less fretfullyand
they would wander about a littleand come back again.

As long as eating was a novelty and an amusementMaggy kept up
pretty well. But that period going byshe became querulous about
the coldand shivered and whimpered. 'It will soon be over
dear' said Little Dorrit patiently. 'Oh it's all very fine for
youlittle mother' returned Maggy'but I'm a poor thingonly
ten years old.' At lastin the dead of the nightwhen the street


was very still indeedLittle Dorrit laid the heavy head upon her
bosomand soothed her to sleep. And thus she sat at the gateas
it were alone; looking up at the starsand seeing the clouds pass
over them in their wild flight--which was the dance at Little
Dorrit's party.

'If it really was a party!' she thought onceas she sat there.
'If it was light and warm and beautifuland it was our houseand
my poor dear was its masterand had never been inside these walls.

And if Mr Clennam was one of our visitorsand we were dancing to
delightful musicand were all as gay and light-hearted as ever we
could be! I wonder--' Such a vista of wonder opened out before
herthat she sat looking up at the starsquite lostuntil Maggy
was querulous againand wanted to get up and walk.

Three o'clockand half-past threeand they had passed over London
Bridge. They had heard the rush of the tide against obstacles; and
looked downawedthrough the dark vapour on the river; had seen
little spots of lighted water where the bridge lamps were
reflectedshining like demon eyeswith a terrible fascination in
them for guilt and misery. They had shrunk past homeless people
lying coiled up in nooks. They had run from drunkards. They had
started from slinking menwhistling and signing to one another at
bye cornersor running away at full speed. Though everywhere the
leader and the guideLittle Dorrithappy for once in her youthful
appearancefeigned to cling to and rely upon Maggy. And more than
once some voicefrom among a knot of brawling or prowling figures
in their pathhad called out to the rest to 'let the woman and the
child go by!'

Sothe woman and the child had gone byand gone onand five had
sounded from the steeples. They were walking slowly towards the
eastalready looking for the first pale streak of daywhen a
woman came after them.

'What are you doing with the child?' she said to Maggy.

She was young--far too young to be thereHeaven knows!--and
neither ugly nor wicked-looking. She spoke coarselybut with no
naturally coarse voice; there was even something musical in its
sound.
'What are you doing with yourself?' retorted Maggyfor want Of a
better answer.

'Can't you seewithout my telling you?'

'I don't know as I can' said Maggy.

'Killing myself! Now I have answered youanswer me. What are you
doing with the child?'

The supposed child kept her head drooped downand kept her form
close at Maggy's side.

'Poor thing!' said the woman. 'Have you no feelingthat you keep
her out in the cruel streets at such a time as this? Have you no
eyesthat you don't see how delicate and slender she is? Have you
no sense (you don't look as if you had much) that you don't take
more pity on this cold and trembling little hand?'

She had stepped across to that sideand held the hand between her
own twochafing it. 'Kiss a poor lost creaturedear' she said
bending her face'and tell me where's she taking you.'


Little Dorrit turned towards her.

'Whymy God!' she saidrecoiling'you're a woman!'

'Don't mind that!' said Little Dorritclasping one of her hands
that had suddenly released hers. 'I am not afraid of you.'

'Then you had better be' she answered. 'Have you no mother?'

'No.'

'No father?'

'Yesa very dear one.'

'Go home to himand be afraid of me. Let me go. Good night!'

'I must thank you first; let me speak to you as if I really were a
child.'

'You can't do it' said the woman. 'You are kind and innocent; but
you can't look at me out of a child's eyes. I never should have
touched youbut I thought that you were a child.' And with a
strangewild cryshe went away.

No day yet in the skybut there was day in the resounding stones
of the streets; in the waggonscartsand coaches; in the workers
going to various occupations; in the opening of early shops; in the
traffic at markets; in the stir of the riverside. There was coming
day in the flaring lightswith a feebler colour in them than they
would have had at another time; coming day in the increased
sharpness of the airand the ghastly dying of the night.

They went back again to the gateintending to wait there now until
it should be opened; but the air was so raw and cold that Little
Dorritleading Maggy about in her sleepkept in motion. Going
round by the Churchshe saw lights thereand the door open; and
went up the steps and looked in.

'Who's that?' cried a stout old manwho was putting on a nightcap
as if he were going to bed in a vault.

'It's no one particularsir' said Little Dorrit.

'Stop!' cried the man. 'Let's have a look at you!'

This caused her to turn back again in the act of going outand to
present herself and her charge before him.

'I thought so!' said he. 'I know YOU.'

'We have often seen each other' said Little Dorritrecognising
the sextonor the beadleor the vergeror whatever he was'when
I have been at church here.'

'More than thatwe've got your birth in our Registeryou know;
you're one of our curiosities.'

'Indeed!' said Little Dorrit.

'To be sure. As the child of the--by-the-byehow did you get out
so early?'


'We were shut out last nightand are waiting to get in.'

'You don't mean it? And there's another hour good yet! Come into
the vestry. You'll find a fire in the vestryon account of the
painters. I'm waiting for the paintersor I shouldn't be here
you may depend upon it. One of our curiosities mustn't be cold
when we have it in our power to warm her up comfortable. Come
along.'

He was a very good old fellowin his familiar way; and having
stirred the vestry firehe looked round the shelves of registers
for a particular volume. 'Here you areyou see' he saidtaking
it down and turning the leaves. 'Here you'll find yourselfas
large as life. Amydaughter of William and Fanny Dorrit. Born
Marshalsea PrisonParish of St George. And we tell people that
you have lived therewithout so much as a day's or a night's
absenceever since. Is it true?'

'Quite truetill last night.'
'Lord!' But his surveying her with an admiring gaze suggested
Something else to himto wit: 'I am sorry to seethoughthat you
are faint and tired. Stay a bit. I'll get some cushions out of
the churchand you and your friend shall lie down before the fire.

Don't be afraid of not going in to join your father when the gate
opens. I'll call you.'

He soon brought in the cushionsand strewed them on the ground.

'There you areyou see. Again as large as life. Ohnever mind
thanking. I've daughters of my own. And though they weren't born
in the Marshalsea Prisonthey might have beenif I had beenin
my ways of carrying onof your father's breed. Stop a bit. I
must put something under the cushion for your head. Here's a
burial volume. just the thing! We have got Mrs Bangham in this
book. But what makes these books interesting to most people is-not
who's in 'embut who isn't--who's comingyou knowand when.
That's the interesting question.'

Commendingly looking back at the pillow he had improvisedhe left
them to their hour's repose. Maggy was snoring alreadyand Little
Dorrit was soon fast asleep with her head resting on that sealed
book of Fateuntroubled by its mysterious blank leaves.

This was Little Dorrit's party. The shamedesertion
wretchednessand exposure of the great capital; the wetthe cold
the slow hoursand the swift clouds of the dismal night. This was
the party from which Little Dorrit went homejadedin the first
grey mist of a rainy morning.

CHAPTER 15

Mrs Flintwinch has another Dream

The debilitated old house in the citywrapped in its mantle of
sootand leaning heavily on the crutches that had partaken of its
decay and worn out with itnever knew a healthy or a cheerful
intervallet what would betide. If the sun ever touched itit
was but with a rayand that was gone in half an hour; if the
moonlight ever fell upon itit was only to put a few patches on


its doleful cloakand make it look more wretched. The starsto
be surecoldly watched it when the nights and the smoke were clear
enough; and all bad weather stood by it with a rare fidelity. You
should alike find rainhailfrostand thaw lingering in that
dismal enclosure when they had vanished from other places; and as
to snowyou should see it there for weekslong after it had
changed from yellow to blackslowly weeping away its grimy life.
The place had no other adherents. As to street noisesthe
rumbling of wheels in the lane merely rushed in at the gateway in
going pastand rushed out again: making the listening Mistress
Affery feel as if she were deafand recovered the sense of hearing
by instantaneous flashes. So with whistlingsingingtalking
laughingand all pleasant human sounds. They leaped the gap in a
momentand went upon their way.
The varying light of fire and candle in Mrs Clennam's room made the
greatest change that ever broke the dead monotony of the spot. In
her two long narrow windowsthe fire shone sullenly all dayand
sullenly all night. On rare occasions it flashed up passionately
as she did; but for the most part it was suppressedlike herand
preyed upon itself evenly and slowly. During many hours of the
short winter dayshoweverwhen it was dusk there early in the
afternoonchanging distortions of herself in her wheeled chairof
Mr Flintwinch with his wry neckof Mistress Affery coming and
goingwould be thrown upon the house wall that was over the
gatewayand would hover there like shadows from a great magic
lantern. As the room-ridden invalid settled for the nightthese
would gradually disappear: Mistress Affery's magnified shadow
always flitting aboutlastuntil it finally glided away into the
airas though she were off upon a witch excursion. Then the
solitary light would burn unchanginglyuntil it burned pale before
the dawnand at last died under the breath of Mrs Afferyas her
shadow descended on it from the witch-region of sleep.

Strangeif the little sick-room fire were in effect a beacon fire
summoning some oneand that the most unlikely some one in the
worldto the spot that MUST be come to. Strangeif the little
sick-room light were in effect a watch-lightburning in that place
every night until an appointed event should be watched out! Which
of the vast multitude of travellersunder the sun and the stars
climbing the dusty hills and toiling along the weary plains
journeying by land and journeying by seacoming and going so
strangelyto meet and to act and react on one another; which of
the host maywith no suspicion of the journey's endbe travelling
surely hither?

Time shall show us. The post of honour and the post of shamethe
general's station and the drummer'sa peer's statue in Westminster
Abbey and a seaman's hammock in the bosom of the deepthe mitre
and the workhousethe woolsack and the gallowsthe throne and the
guillotine--the travellers to all are on the great high roadbut
it has wonderful divergenciesand only Time shall show us whither
each traveller is bound.

On a wintry afternoon at twilightMrs Flintwinchhaving been
heavy all daydreamed this dream:

She thought she was in the kitchen getting the kettle ready for
teaand was warming herself with her feet upon the fender and the
skirt of her gown tucked upbefore the collapsed fire in the
middle of the gratebordered on either hand by a deep cold black
ravine. She thought that as she sat thusmusing upon the question
whether life was not for some people a rather dull inventionshe
was frightened by a sudden noise behind her. She thought that she
had been similarly frightened once last weekand that the noise


was of a mysterious kind--a sound of rustling and of three or four
quick beats like a rapid step; while a shock or tremble was
communicated to her heartas if the step had shaken the flooror
even as if she had been touched by some awful hand. She thought
that this revived within her certain old fears of hers that the
house was haunted; and that she flew up the kitchen stairs without
knowing how she got upto be nearer company.

Mistress Affery thought that on reaching the hallshe saw the door
of her liege lord's office standing openand the room empty. That
she went to the ripped-up window in the little room by the street
door to connect her palpitating heartthrough the glasswith
living things beyond and outside the haunted house. That she then
sawon the wall over the gatewaythe shadows of the two clever
ones in conversation above. That she then went upstairs with her
shoes in her handpartly to be near the clever ones as a match for
most ghostsand partly to hear what they were talking about.

'None of your nonsense with me' said Mr Flintwinch. 'I won't take
it from you.'

Mrs Flintwinch dreamed that she stood behind the doorwhich was
just ajarand most distinctly heard her husband say these bold
words.

'Flintwinch' returned Mrs Clennamin her usual strong low voice
'there is a demon of anger in you. Guard against it.'

'I don't care whether there's one or a dozen' said Mr Flintwinch
forcibly suggesting in his tone that the higher number was nearer
the mark. 'If there was fiftythey should all sayNone of your
nonsense with meI won't take it from you--I'd make 'em say it
whether they liked it or not.'

'What have I doneyou wrathful man?' her strong voice asked.

'Done?' said Mr Flintwinch. 'Dropped down upon me.'

'If you meanremonstrated with you--'

'Don't put words into my mouth that I don't mean' said Jeremiah
sticking to his figurative expression with tenacious and
impenetrable obstinacy: 'I mean dropped down upon me.'

'I remonstrated with you' she began again'because--'

'I won't have it!' cried Jeremiah. 'You dropped down upon me.'

'I dropped down upon youthenyou ill-conditioned man' (Jeremiah
chuckled at having forced her to adopt his phrase) 'for having
been needlessly significant to Arthur that morning. I have a right
to complain of it as almost a breach of confidence. You did not
mean it--'

'I won't have it!' interposed the contradictory Jeremiahflinging
back the concession. 'I did mean it.'

'I suppose I must leave you to speak in soliloquy if you choose'
she repliedafter a pause that seemed an angry one. 'It is
useless my addressing myself to a rash and headstrong old man who
has a set purpose not to hear me.'

'NowI won't take that from you either' said Jeremiah. 'I have
no such purpose. I have told you I did mean it. Do you wish to


know why I meant ityou rash and headstrong old woman?'

'After allyou only restore me my own words' she saidstruggling
with her indignation. 'Yes.'

'This is whythen. Because you hadn't cleared his father to him
and you ought to have done it. Becausebefore you went into any
tantrum about yourselfwho are--'

'Hold thereFlintwinch!' she cried out in a changed voice: 'you
may go a word too far.'

The old man seemed to think so. There was another pauseand he
had altered his position in the roomwhen he spoke again more
mildly:

'I was going to tell you why it was. Becausebefore you took your
own partI thought you ought to have taken the part of Arthur's
father. Arthur's father! I had no particular love for Arthur's
father. I served Arthur's father's unclein this housewhen
Arthur's father was not much above me--was poorer as far as his
pocket went--and when his uncle might as soon have left me his heir
as have left him. He starved in the parlourand I starved in the
kitchen; that was the principal difference in our positions; there
was not much more than a flight of breakneck stairs between us. I
never took to him in those times; I don't know that I ever took to
him greatly at any time. He was an undecidedirresolute chapwho
had everything but his orphan life scared out of him when he was
young. And when he brought you home herethe wife his uncle had
named for himI didn't need to look at you twice (you were a goodlooking
woman at that time) to know who'd be master. You have
stood of your own strength ever since. Stand of your own strength
now. Don't lean against the dead.'

'I do not--as you call it--lean against the dead.'

'But you had a mind to do itif I had submitted' growled
Jeremiah'and that's why you drop down upon me. You can't forget
that I didn't submit. I suppose you are astonished that I should
consider it worth my while to have justice done to Arthur's father?

Hey? It doesn't matter whether you answer or notbecause I know
you areand you know you are. ComethenI'll tell you how it
is. I may be a bit of an oddity in point of temperbut this is my
temper--I can't let anybody have entirely their own way. You are
a determined womanand a clever woman; and when you see your
purpose before younothing will turn you from it. Who knows that
better than I do?'

'Nothing will turn me from itFlintwinchwhen I have justified it
to myself. Add that.'

'Justified it to yourself? I said you were the most determined
woman on the face of the earth (or I meant to say so)and if you
are determined to justify any object you entertainof course
you'll do it.'

'Man! I justify myself by the authority of these Books' she
criedwith stern emphasisand appearing from the sound that
followed to strike the dead-weight of her arm upon the table.

'Never mind that' returned Jeremiah calmly'we won't enter into
that question at present. However that may beyou carry out your
purposesand you make everything go down before them. NowI


won't go down before them. I have been faithful to youand useful
to youand I am attached to you. But I can't consentand I won't
consentand I never did consentand I never will consent to be
lost in you. Swallow up everybody elseand welcome. The
peculiarity of my temper isma'amthat I won't be swallowed up
alive.'

Perhaps this had Originally been the mainspring of the
understanding between them. Descrying thus much of force of
character in Mr Flintwinchperhaps Mrs Clennam had deemed alliance
with him worth her while.

'Enough and more than enough of the subject' said she gloomily.

'Unless you drop down upon me again' returned the persistent
Flintwinch'and then you must expect to hear of it again.'

Mistress Affery dreamed that the figure of her lord here began
walking up and down the roomas if to cool his spleenand that
she ran away; but thatas he did not issue forth when she had
stood listening and trembling in the shadowy hall a little time
she crept up-stairs againimpelled as before by ghosts and
curiosityand once more cowered outside the door.

'Please to light the candleFlintwinch' Mrs Clennam was saying
apparently wishing to draw him back into their usual tone. 'It is
nearly time for tea. Little Dorrit is comingand will find me in
the dark.'

Mr Flintwinch lighted the candle brisklyand said as he put it
down upon the table:

'What are you going to do with Little Dorrit? Is she to come to
work here for ever? To come to tea here for ever? To come
backwards and forwards herein the same wayfor ever?'
'How can you talk about "for ever" to a maimed creature like me?
Are we not all cut down like the grass of the fieldand was not I
shorn by the scythe many years ago: since when I have been lying
herewaiting to be gathered into the barn?'

'Ayay! But since you have been lying here--not near dead-nothing
like it--numbers of children and young peopleblooming
womenstrong menand what nothave been cut down and carried;
and still here are youyou seenot much changed after all. Your
time and mine may be a long one yet. When I say for everI mean
(though I am not poetical) through all our time.' Mr Flintwinch
gave this explanation with great calmnessand calmly waited for an
answer.

'So long as Little Dorrit is quiet and industriousand stands in
need of the slight help I can give herand deserves it; so long
I supposeunless she withdraws of her own actshe will continue
to come hereI being spared.'

'Nothing more than that?' said Flintwinchstroking his mouth and
chin.

'What should there be more than that! What could there be more
than that!' she ejaculated in her sternly wondering way.

Mrs Flintwinch dreamedthatfor the space of a minute or two
they remained looking at each other with the candle between them
and that she somehow derived an impression that they looked at each
other fixedly.


'Do you happen to knowMrs Clennam' Affery's liege lord then
demanded in a much lower voiceand with an amount of expression
that seemed quite out of proportion to the simple purpose of his
words'where she lives?'

'No.'

'Would you--nowwould you like to know?' said Jeremiah with a
pounce as if he had sprung upon her.

'If I cared to knowI should know already. Could I not have asked
her any day?'

'Then you don't care to know?'

'I do not.'

Mr Flintwinchhaving expelled a long significant breath saidwith
his former emphasis'For I have accidentally--mind!--found out.'

'Wherever she lives' said Mrs Clennamspeaking in one unmodulated
hard voiceand separating her words as distinctly as if she were
reading them off from separate bits of metal that she took up one
by one'she has made a secret of itand she shall always keep her
secret from me.'

'After allperhaps you would rather not have known the factany
how?' said Jeremiah; and he said it with a twistas if his words
had come out of him in his own wry shape.

'Flintwinch' said his mistress and partnerflashing into a sudden
energy that made Affery start'why do you goad me? Look round
this room. If it is any compensation for my long confinement
within these narrow limits--not that I complain of being afflicted;
you know I never complain of that--if it is any compensation to me
for long confinement to this roomthat while I am shut up from all
pleasant change I am also shut up from the knowledge of some things
that I may prefer to avoid knowingwhy should youof all men
grudge me that belief?'

'I don't grudge it to you' returned Jeremiah.

'Then say no more. Say no more. Let Little Dorrit keep her secret
from meand do you keep it from me also. Let her come and go
unobserved and unquestioned. Let me sufferand let me have what
alleviation belongs to my condition. Is it so muchthat you
torment me like an evil spirit?'

'I asked you a question. That's all.'

'I have answered it. Sosay no more. Say no more.' Here the
sound of the wheeled chair was heard upon the floorand Affery's
bell rang with a hasty jerk.

More afraid of her husband at the moment than of the mysterious
sound in the kitchenAffery crept away as lightly and as quickly
as she coulddescended the kitchen stairs almost as rapidly as she
had ascended themresumed her seat before the firetucked up her
skirt againand finally threw her apron over her head. Then the
bell rang once moreand then once moreand then kept on ringing;
in despite of which importunate summonsAffery still sat behind
her apronrecovering her breath.


At last Mr Flintwinch came shuffling down the staircase into the
hallmuttering and calling 'Affery woman!' all the way. Affery
still remaining behind her apronhe came stumbling down the
kitchen stairscandle in handsidled up to hertwitched her
apron offand roused her.

'Oh Jeremiah!' cried Afferywaking. 'What a start you gave me!'

'What have you been doingwoman?' inquired Jeremiah. 'You've been
rung for fifty times.'

'Oh Jeremiah' said Mistress Affery'I have been a-dreaming!'

Reminded of her former achievement in that wayMr Flintwinch held
the candle to her headas if he had some idea of lighting her up
for the illumination of the kitchen.

'Don't you know it's her tea-time?' he demanded with a vicious
grinand giving one of the legs of Mistress Affery's chair a kick.

'Jeremiah? Tea-time? I don't know what's come to me. But I got
such a dreadful turnJeremiahbefore I went--off a-dreamingthat
I think it must be that.'

'Yoogh! Sleepy-Head!' said Mr Flintwinch'what are you talking
about?'

'Such a strange noiseJeremiahand such a curious movement. In
the kitchen here--just here.'

Jeremiah held up his light and looked at the blackened ceiling
held down his light and looked at the damp stone floorturned
round with his light and looked about at the spotted and blotched
walls.

'Ratscatswaterdrains' said Jeremiah.

Mistress Affery negatived each with a shake of her head. 'No
Jeremiah; I have felt it before. I have felt it up-stairsand
once on the staircase as I was going from her room to ours in the
night--a rustle and a sort of trembling touch behind me.'

'Afferymy woman' said Mr Flintwinch grimlyafter advancing his
nose to that lady's lips as a test for the detection of spirituous
liquors'if you don't get tea pretty quickold womanyou'll
become sensible of a rustle and a touch that'll send you flying to
the other end of the kitchen.'

This prediction stimulated Mrs Flintwinch to bestir herselfand to
hasten up-stairs to Mrs Clennam's chamber. Butfor all thatshe
now began to entertain a settled conviction that there was
something wrong in the gloomy house. Henceforthshe was never at
peace in it after daylight departed; and never went up or down
stairs in the dark without having her apron over her headlest she
should see something.

What with these ghostly apprehensions and her singular dreamsMrs
Flintwinch fell that evening into a haunted state of mindfrom
which it may be long before this present narrative descries any
trace of her recovery. In the vagueness and indistinctness of all
her new experiences and perceptionsas everything about her was
mysterious to herself she began to be mysterious to others: and
became as difficult to be made out to anybody's satisfaction as she
found the house and everything in it difficult to make out to her


own.

She had not yet finished preparing Mrs Clennam's teawhen the soft
knock came to the door which always announced Little Dorrit.
Mistress Affery looked on at Little Dorrit taking off her homely
bonnet in the halland at Mr Flintwinch scraping his jaws and
contemplating her in silenceas expecting some wonderful
consequence to ensue which would frighten her out of her five wits
or blow them all three to pieces.

After tea there came another knock at the doorannouncing Arthur.
Mistress Affery went down to let him inand he said on entering
'AfferyI am glad it's you. I want to ask you a question.'
Affery immediately replied'For goodness sake don't ask me
nothingArthur! I am frightened out of one half of my lifeand
dreamed out of the other. Don't ask me nothing! I don't know
which is whichor what is what!'--and immediately started away
from himand came near him no more.

Mistress Affery having no taste for readingand no sufficient
light for needlework in the subdued roomsupposing her to have the
inclinationnow sat every night in the dimness from which she had
momentarily emerged on the evening of Arthur Clennam's return
occupied with crowds of wild speculations and suspicions respecting
her mistress and her husband and the noises in the house. When the
ferocious devotional exercises were engaged inthese speculations
would distract Mistress Affery's eyes towards the dooras if she
expected some dark form to appear at those propitious momentsand
make the party one too many.

OtherwiseAffery never said or did anything to attract the
attention of the two clever ones towards her in any marked degree
except on certain occasionsgenerally at about the quiet hour
towards bed-timewhen she would suddenly dart out of her dim
cornerand whisper with a face of terror to Mr Flintwinchreading
the paper near Mrs Clennam's little table: 'Therejeremiah! Now!
What's that noise?'

Then the noiseif there were anywould have ceasedand Mr
Flintwinch would snarlturning upon her as if she had cut him down
that moment against his will'Afferyold womanyou shall have a
doseold womansuch a dose! You have been dreaming again!'

CHAPTER 16

Nobody's Weakness

The time being come for the renewal of his acquaintance with the
Meagles familyClennampursuant to contract made between himself
and Mr Meagles within the precincts of Bleeding Heart Yardturned
his face on a certain Saturday towards Twickenhamwhere Mr Meagles
had a cottage-residence of his own. The weather being fine and
dryand any English road abounding in interest for him who had
been so long awayhe sent his valise on by the coachand set out
to walk. A walk was in itself a new enjoyment to himand one that
had rarely diversified his life afar off.

He went by Fulham and Putneyfor the pleasure of strolling over
the heath. It was bright and shining there; and when he found
himself so far on his road to Twickenhamhe found himself a long


way on his road to a number of airier and less substantial
destinations. They had risen before him fastin the healthful
exercise and the pleasant road. It is not easy to walk alone in
the country without musing upon something. And he had plenty of
unsettled subjects to meditate uponthough he had been walking to
the Land's End.


Firstthere was the subject seldom absent from his mindthe
questionwhat he was to do henceforth in life; to what occupation
he should devote himselfand in what direction he had best seek
it. He was far from richand every day of indecision and inaction
made his inheritance a source of greater anxiety to him. As often
as he began to consider how to increase this inheritanceor to lay
it byso often his misgiving that there was some one with an
unsatisfied claim upon his justicereturned; and that alone was a
subject to outlast the longest walk. Againthere was the subject
of his relations with his motherwhich were now upon an equable
and peaceful but never confidential footingand whom he saw
several times a week. Little Dorrit was a leading and a constant
subject: for the circumstances of his lifeunited to those of her
own storypresented the little creature to him as the only person
between whom and himself there were ties of innocent reliance on
one handand affectionate protection on the other; ties of
compassionrespectunselfish interestgratitudeand pity.
Thinking of herand of the possibility of her father's release
from prison by the unbarring hand of death--the only change of
circumstance he could foresee that might enable him to be such a
friend to her as he wished to beby altering her whole manner of
lifesmoothing her rough roadand giving her a home--he regarded
herin that perspectiveas his adopted daughterhis poor child
of the Marshalsea hushed to rest. If there were a last subject in
his thoughtsand it lay towards Twickenhamits form was so
indefinite that it was little more than the pervading atmosphere in
which these other subjects floated before him.


He had crossed the heath and was leaving it behind when he gained
upon a figure which had been in advance of him for some timeand
whichas he gained upon ithe thought he knew. He derived this
impression from something in the turn of the headand in the
figure's action of considerationas it went on at a sufficiently
sturdy walk. But when the man--for it was a man's figure--pushed
his hat up at the back of his headand stopped to consider some
object before himhe knew it to be Daniel Doyce.


'How do you doMr Doyce?' said Clennamovertaking him. 'I am
glad to see you againand in a healthier place than the
Circumlocution Office.'


'Ha! Mr Meagles's friend!' exclaimed that public criminalcoming
out of some mental combinations he had been makingand offering
his hand. 'I am glad to see yousir. Will you excuse me if I
forget your name?'


'Readily. It's not a celebrated name. It's not Barnacle.'
'Nono' said Daniellaughing. 'And now I know what it is. It's
Clennam. How do you doMr Clennam?'


'I have some hope' said Arthuras they walked on together'that
we may be going to the same placeMr Doyce.'


'Meaning Twickenham?' returned Daniel. 'I am glad to hear it.'


They were soon quite intimateand lightened the way with a variety
of conversation. The ingenious culprit was a man of great modesty



and good sense; andthough a plain manhad been too much
accustomed to combine what was original and daring in conception
with what was patient and minute in executionto be by any means
an ordinary man. It was at first difficult to lead him to speak
about himselfand he put off Arthur's advances in that direction
by admitting slightlyoh yeshe had done thisand he had done
thatand such a thing was of his makingand such another thing
was his discoverybut it was his tradeyou seehis trade; until
as he gradually became assured that his companion had a real
interest in his account of himselfhe frankly yielded to it. Then
it appeared that he was the son of a north-country blacksmithand
had originally been apprenticed by his widowed mother to a lock-
maker; that he had 'struck out a few little things' at the lock-
maker'swhich had led to his being released from his indentures
with a presentwhich present had enabled him to gratify his ardent
wish to bind himself to a working engineerunder whom he had
laboured hardlearned hardand lived hardseven years. His time
being outhe had 'worked in the shop' at weekly wages seven or
eight years more; and had then betaken himself to the banks of the
Clydewhere he had studiedand filedand hammeredand improved
his knowledgetheoretical and practicalfor six or seven years
more. There he had had an offer to go to Lyonswhich he had
accepted; and from Lyons had been engaged to go to Germanyand in
Germany had had an offer to go to St Petersburgand there had done
very well indeed--never better. Howeverhe had naturally felt a
preference for his own countryand a wish to gain distinction
thereand to do whatever service he could dothere rather than
elsewhere. And so he had come home. And so at home he had
established himself in businessand had invented and executedand
worked his way onuntilafter a dozen years of constant suit and
servicehe had been enrolled in the Great British Legion of
Honourthe Legion of the Rebuffed of the Circumlocution Office
and had been decorated with the Great British Order of Meritthe
Order of the Disorder of the Barnacles and Stiltstalkings.


'it is much to be regretted' said Clennam'that you ever turned
your thoughts that wayMr Doyce.'


'Truesirtrue to a certain extent. But what is a man to do? if
he has the misfortune to strike out something serviceable to the
nationhe must follow where it leads him.'
'Hadn't he better let it go?' said Clennam.


'He can't do it' said Doyceshaking his head with a thoughtful
smile. 'It's not put into his head to be buried. It's put into
his head to be made useful. You hold your life on the condition
that to the last you shall struggle hard for it. Every man holds
a discovery on the same terms.'


'That is to say' said Arthurwith a growing admiration of his
quiet companion'you are not finally discouraged even now?'


'I have no right to beif I am' returned the other. 'The thing
is as true as it ever was.'


When they had walked a little way in silenceClennamat once to
change the direct point of their conversation and not to change it
too abruptlyasked Mr Doyce if he had any partner in his business
to relieve him of a portion of its anxieties?


'No' he returned'not at present. I had when I first entered on
itand a good man he was. But he has been dead some years; and as
I could not easily take to the notion of another when I lost him
I bought his share for myself and have gone on by myself ever



since. And here's another thing' he saidstopping for a moment
with a good-humoured laugh in his eyesand laying his closed right
handwith its peculiar suppleness of thumbon Clennam's arm'no
inventor can be a man of businessyou know.'

'No?' said Clennam.

'Whyso the men of business say' he answeredresuming the walk
and laughing outright. 'I don't know why we unfortunate creatures
should be supposed to want common sensebut it is generally taken
for granted that we do. Even the best friend I have in the world
our excellent friend over yonder' said Doycenodding towards
Twickenham'extends a sort of protection to medon't you knowas
a man not quite able to take care of himself?'

Arthur Clennam could not help joining in the good-humoured laugh
for he recognised the truth of the description.

'So I find that I must have a partner who is a man of business and
not guilty of any inventions' said Daniel Doycetaking off his
hat to pass his hand over his forehead'if it's only in deference
to the current opinionand to uphold the credit of the Works. I
don't think he'll find that I have been very remiss or confused in
my way of conducting them; but that's for him to say--whoever he
is--not for me.'
'You have not chosen him yetthen?'

'Nosirno. I have only just come to a decision to take one.
The fact isthere's more to do than there used to beand the
Works are enough for me as I grow older. What with the books and
correspondenceand foreign journeys for which a Principal is
necessaryI can't do all. I am going to talk over the best way of
negotiating the matterif I find a spare half-hour between this
and Monday morningwith my--my Nurse and protector' said Doyce
with laughing eyes again. 'He is a sagacious man in businessand
has had a good apprenticeship to it.'

After thisthey conversed on different subjects until they arrived
at their journey's end. A composed and unobtrusive selfsustainment
was noticeable in Daniel Doyce--a calm knowledge that
what was true must remain truein spite of all the Barnacles in
the family oceanand would be just the truthand neither more nor
less when even that sea had run dry--which had a kind of greatness
in itthough not of the official quality.

As he knew the house wellhe conducted Arthur to it by the way
that showed it to the best advantage. It was a charming place
(none the worse for being a little eccentric)on the road by the
riverand just what the residence of the Meagles family ought to
be. It stood in a gardenno doubt as fresh and beautiful in the
May of the Year as Pet now was in the May of her life; and it was
defended by a goodly show of handsome trees and spreading
evergreensas Pet was by Mr and Mrs Meagles. It was made out of
an old brick houseof which a part had been altogether pulled
downand another part had been changed into the present cottage;
so there was a hale elderly portionto represent Mr and Mrs
Meaglesand a young picturesquevery pretty portion to represent
Pet. There was even the later addition of a conservatory
sheltering itself against ituncertain of hue in its deep-stained
glassand in its more transparent portions flashing to the sun's
raysnow like fire and now like harmless water drops; which might
have stood for Tattycoram. Within view was the peaceful river and
the ferry-boatto moralise to all the inmates saying: Young or
oldpassionate or tranquilchafing or contentyouthus runs the


current always. Let the heart swell into what discord it will
thus plays the rippling water on the prow of the ferry-boat ever
the same tune. Year after yearso much allowance for the drifting
of the boatso many miles an hour the flowing of the streamhere
the rushesthere the liliesnothing uncertain or unquietupon
this road that steadily runs away; while youupon your flowing
road of timeare so capricious and distracted.

The bell at the gate had scarcely sounded when Mr Meagles came out
to receive them. Mr Meagles had scarcely come outwhen Mrs
Meagles came out. Mrs Meagles had scarcely come outwhen Pet came
out. Pet scarcely had come outwhen Tattycoram came out. Never
had visitors a more hospitable reception.

'Here we areyou see' said Mr Meagles'boxed upMr Clennam
within our own home-limitsas if we were never going to expand-that
istravel--again. Not like Marseilleseh? No allonging and
marshonging here!'

'A different kind of beautyindeed!' said Clennamlooking about
him.

'ButLord bless me!' cried Mr Meaglesrubbing his hands with a
relish'it was an uncommonly pleasant thing being in quarantine
wasn't it? Do you knowI have often wished myself back again? We
were a capital party.'

This was Mr Meagles's invariable habit. Always to object to
everything while he was travellingand always to want to get back
to it when he was not travelling.

'If it was summer-time' said Mr Meagles'which I wish it was on
your accountand in order that you might see the place at its
bestyou would hardly be able to hear yourself speak for birds.
Being practical peoplewe never allow anybody to scare the birds;
and the birdsbeing practical people toocome about us in
myriads. We are delighted to see youClennam (if you'll allow me
I shall drop the Mister); I heartily assure youwe are delighted.'

'I have not had so pleasant a greeting' said Clennam--then he
recalled what Little Dorrit had said to him in his own roomand
faithfully added 'except once--since we last walked to and fro
looking down at the Mediterranean.'

'Ah!' returned Mr Meagles. 'Something like a look outthat was
wasn't it? I don't want a military governmentbut I shouldn't
mind a little allonging and marshonging--just a dash of it--in this
neighbourhood sometimes. It's Devilish still.'

Bestowing this eulogium on the retired character of his retreat
with a dubious shake of the headMr Meagles led the way into the
house. It was just large enoughand no more; was as pretty within
as it was withoutand was perfectly well-arranged and comfortable.

Some traces of the migratory habits of the family were to be
observed in the covered frames and furnitureand wrapped-up
hangings; but it was easy to see that it was one of Mr Meagles's
whims to have the cottage always keptin their absenceas if they
were always coming back the day after to-morrow. Of articles
collected on his various expeditionsthere was such a vast
miscellany that it was like the dwelling of an amiable Corsair.
There were antiquities from Central Italymade by the best modern
houses in that department of industry; bits of mummy from Egypt
(and perhaps Birmingham); model gondolas from Venice; model


villages from Switzerland; morsels of tesselated pavement from
Herculaneum and Pompeiilike petrified minced veal; ashes out of
tombsand lava out of Vesuvius; Spanish fansSpezzian straw hats
Moorish slippersTuscan hairpinsCarrara sculptureTrastaverini
scarvesGenoese velvets and filigreeNeapolitan coralRoman
cameosGeneva jewelleryArab lanternsrosaries blest all round
by the Pope himselfand an infinite variety of lumber. There were
viewslike and unlikeof a multitude of places; and there was one
little picture-room devoted to a few of the regular sticky old
Saintswith sinews like whipcordhair like Neptune'swrinkles
like tattooingand such coats of varnish that every holy personage
served for a fly-trapand became what is now called in the vulgar
tongue a Catch-em-alive O. Of these pictorial acquisitions Mr
Meagles spoke in the usual manner. He was no judgehe said
except of what pleased himself; he had picked them updirt-cheap
and people had considered them rather fine. One manwho at any
rate ought to know something of the subjecthad declared that
'SageReading' (a specially oily old gentleman in a blanketwith
a swan's-down tippet for a beardand a web of cracks all over him
like rich pie-crust)to be a fine Guercino. As for Sebastian del
Piombo thereyou would judge for yourself; if it were not his
later mannerthe question wasWho was it? Titianthat might or
might not be--perhaps he had only touched it. Daniel Doyce said
perhaps he hadn't touched itbut Mr Meagles rather declined to
overhear the remark.

When he had shown all his spoilsMr Meagles took them into his own
snug room overlooking the lawnwhich was fitted up in part like a
dressing-room and in part like an officeand in whichupon a kind
of counter-deskwere a pair of brass scales for weighing goldand
a scoop for shovelling out money.

'Here they areyou see' said Mr Meagles. 'I stood behind these
two articles five-and-thirty years runningwhen I no more thought
of gadding about than I now think of--staying at home. When I left
the Bank for goodI asked for themand brought them away with me.

I mention it at onceor you might suppose that I sit in my
counting-house (as Pet says I do)like the king in the poem of the
four-and-twenty blackbirdscounting out my money.'

Clennam's eyes had strayed to a natural picture on the wallof two
pretty little girls with their arms entwined. 'YesClennam' said
Mr Meaglesin a lower voice. 'There they both are. It was taken
some seventeen years ago. As I often say to Motherthey were
babies then.'

'Their names?' said Arthur.

'Ahto be sure! You have never heard any name but Pet. Pet's
name is Minnie; her sister's Lillie.'

'Should you have knownMr Clennamthat one of them was meant for
me?' asked Pet herselfnow standing in the doorway.

'I might have thought that both of them were meant for youboth
are still so like you. Indeed' said Clennamglancing from the
fair original to the picture and back'I cannot even now say which
is not your portrait.'
'D'ye hear thatMother?' cried Mr Meagles to his wifewho had
followed her daughter. 'It's always the sameClennam; nobody can
decide. The child to your left is Pet.'

The picture happened to be near a looking-glass. As Arthur looked


at it againhe sawby the reflection of the mirrorTattycoram
stop in passing outside the doorlisten to what was going onand
pass away with an angry and contemptuous frown upon her facethat
changed its beauty into ugliness.

'But come!' said Mr Meagles. 'You have had a long walkand will
be glad to get your boots off. As to Daniel hereI suppose he'd
never think of taking his boots offunless we showed him a bootjack.'


'Why not?' asked Danielwith a significant smile at Clennam.

'Oh! You have so many things to think about' returned Mr Meagles
clapping him on the shoulderas if his weakness must not be left
to itself on any account. 'Figuresand wheelsand cogsand
leversand screwsand cylindersand a thousand things.'

'In my calling' said Danielamused'the greater usually includes
the less. But never mindnever mind! Whatever pleases you
pleases me.'

Clennam could not help speculatingas he seated himself in his
room by the firewhether there might be in the breast of this
honestaffectionateand cordial Mr Meaglesany microscopic
portion of the mustard-seed that had sprung up into the great tree
of the Circumlocution Office. His curious sense of a general
superiority to Daniel Doycewhich seemed to be foundednot so
much on anything in Doyce's personal character as on the mere fact
of his being an originator and a man out of the beaten track of
other mensuggested the idea. It might have occupied him until he
went down to dinner an hour afterwardsif he had not had another
question to considerwhich had been in his mind so long ago as
before he was in quarantine at Marseillesand which had now
returned to itand was very urgent with it. No less a question
than this: Whether he should allow himself to fall in love with
Pet?

He was twice her age. (He changed the leg he had crossed over the
otherand tried the calculation againbut could not bring out the
total at less.) He was twice her age. Well! He was young in
appearanceyoung in health and strengthyoung in heart. A man
was certainly not old at forty; and many men were not in
circumstances to marryor did not marryuntil they had attained
that time of life. On the other handthe question wasnot what
he thought of the pointbut what she thought of it.

He believed that Mr Meagles was disposed to entertain a ripe regard
for himand he knew that he had a sincere regard for Mr Meagles
and his good wife. He could foresee that to relinquish this
beautiful only childof whom they were so fondto any husband
would be a trial of their love which perhaps they never yet had had
the fortitude to contemplate. But the more beautiful and winning
and charming shethe nearer they must always be to the necessity
of approaching it. And why not in his favouras well as in
another's?

When he had got so farit came again into his head that the
question wasnot what they thought of itbut what she thought of
it.

Arthur Clennam was a retiring manwith a sense of many
deficiencies; and he so exalted the merits of the beautiful Minnie
in his mindand depressed his ownthat when he pinned himself to
this pointhis hopes began to fail him. He came to the final


resolutionas he made himself ready for dinnerthat he would not
allow himself to fall in love with Pet.

There were only fiveat a round tableand it was very pleasant
indeed. They had so many places and people to recalland they
were all so easy and cheerful together (Daniel Doyce either sitting
out like an amused spectator at cardsor coming in with some
shrewd little experiences of his ownwhen it happened to be to the
purpose)that they might have been together twenty timesand not
have known so much of one another.

'And Miss Wade' said Mr Meaglesafter they had recalled a number
of fellow-travellers. 'Has anybody seen Miss Wade?'

'I have' said Tattycoram.

She had brought a little mantle which her young mistress had sent
forand was bending over herputting it onwhen she lifted up
her dark eyes and made this unexpected answer.

'Tatty!' her young mistress exclaimed. 'You seen Miss Wade?-where?'


'Heremiss' said Tattycoram.

'How?'

An impatient glance from Tattycoram seemedas Clennam saw itto
answer 'With my eyes!' But her only answer in words was: 'I met
her near the church.'

'What was she doing there I wonder!' said Mr Meagles. 'Not going
to itI should think.'

'She had written to me first' said Tattycoram.

'OhTatty!' murmured her mistress'take your hands away. I feel
as if some one else was touching me!'

She said it in a quick involuntary waybut half playfullyand not
more petulantly or disagreeably than a favourite child might have
donewho laughed next moment. Tattycoram set her full red lips
togetherand crossed her arms upon her bosom.
'Did you wish to knowsir' she saidlooking at Mr Meagles'what
Miss Wade wrote to me about?'

'WellTattycoram' returned Mr Meagles'since you ask the
questionand we are all friends hereperhaps you may as well
mention itif you are so inclined.'

'She knewwhen we were travellingwhere you lived' said
Tattycoram'and she had seen me not quite--not quite--'

'Not quite in a good temperTattycoram?' suggested Mr Meagles
shaking his head at the dark eyes with a quiet caution. 'Take a
little time--count five-and-twentyTattycoram.'

She pressed her lips together againand took a long deep breath.

'So she wrote to me to say that if I ever felt myself hurt' she
looked down at her young mistress'or found myself worried' she
looked down at her again'I might go to herand be considerately
treated. I was to think of itand could speak to her by the
church. So I went there to thank her.'


'Tatty' said her young mistressputting her hand up over her
shoulder that the other might take it'Miss Wade almost frightened
me when we partedand I scarcely like to think of her just now as
having been so near me without my knowing it. Tatty dear!'

Tatty stood for a momentimmovable.

'Hey?' cried Mr Meagles. 'Count another five-and-twenty
Tattycoram.'

She might have counted a dozenwhen she bent and put her lips to
the caressing hand. It patted her cheekas it touched the owner's
beautiful curlsand Tattycoram went away.

'Now there' said Mr Meagles softlyas he gave a turn to the dumbwaiter
on his right hand to twirl the sugar towards himself.
'There's a girl who might be lost and ruinedif she wasn't among
practical people. Mother and I knowsolely from being practical
that there are times when that girl's whole nature seems to roughen
itself against seeing us so bound up in Pet. No father and mother
were bound up in herpoor soul. I don't like to think of the way
in which that unfortunate childwith all that passion and protest
in herfeels when she hears the Fifth Commandment on a Sunday. I
am always inclined to call outChurchCount five-and-twenty
Tattycoram.'

Besides his dumb-waiterMr Meagles had two other not dumb waiters
in the persons of two parlour-maids with rosy faces and bright
eyeswho were a highly ornamental part of the table decoration.
'And why notyou see?' said Mr Meagles on this head. 'As I always
say to Motherwhy not have something pretty to look atif you
have anything at all?'
A certain Mrs Tickitwho was Cook and Housekeeper when the family
were at homeand Housekeeper only when the family were away
completed the establishment. Mr Meagles regretted that the nature
of the duties in which she was engagedrendered Mrs Tickit
unpresentable at presentbut hoped to introduce her to the new
visitor to-morrow. She was an important part of the Cottagehe
saidand all his friends knew her. That was her picture up in the
corner. When they went awayshe always put on the silk-gown and
the jet-black row of curls represented in that portrait (her hair
was reddish-grey in the kitchen)established herself in the
breakfast-roomput her spectacles between two particular leaves of
Doctor Buchan's Domestic Medicineand sat looking over the blind
all day until they came back again. It was supposed that no
persuasion could be invented which would induce Mrs Tickit to
abandon her post at the blindhowever long their absenceor to
dispense with the attendance of Dr Buchan; the lucubrations of
which learned practitionerMr Meagles implicitly believed she had
never yet consulted to the extent of one word in her life.

In the evening they played an old-fashioned rubber; and Pet sat
looking over her father's handor singing to herself by fits and
starts at the piano. She was a spoilt child; but how could she be
otherwise? Who could be much with so pliable and beautiful a
creatureand not yield to her endearing influence? Who could pass
an evening in the houseand not love her for the grace and charm
of her very presence in the room? This was Clennam's reflection
notwithstanding the final conclusion at which he had arrived upstairs.


In making ithe revoked. 'Whywhat are you thinking ofmy good
sir?' asked the astonished Mr Meagleswho was his partner.


'I beg your pardon. Nothing' returned Clennam.


'Think of somethingnext time; that's a dear fellow' said Mr
Meagles.


Pet laughingly believed he had been thinking of Miss Wade.


'Why of Miss WadePet?' asked her father.


'Whyindeed!' said Arthur Clennam.


Pet coloured a littleand went to the piano again.


As they broke up for the nightArthur overheard Doyce ask his host
if he could give him half an hour's conversation before breakfast
in the morning? The host replying willinglyArthur lingered
behind a momenthaving his own word to add to that topic.


'Mr Meagles' he saidon their being left alone'do you remember
when you advised me to go straight to London?'


'Perfectly well.'
'And when you gave me some other good advice which I needed at that
time?'


'I won't say what it was worth' answered Mr Meagles: 'but of
course I remember our being very pleasant and confidential
together.'


'I have acted on your advice; and having disembarrassed myself of
an occupation that was painful to me for many reasonswish to
devote myself and what means I haveto another pursuit.'


'Right! You can't do it too soon' said Mr Meagles.


'Nowas I came down to-dayI found that your friendMr Doyceis
looking for a partner in his business--not a partner in his
mechanical knowledgebut in the ways and means of turning the
business arising from it to the best account.'


'Just so' said Mr Meagleswith his hands in his pocketsand with
the old business expression of face that had belonged to the scales
and scoop.


'Mr Doyce mentioned incidentallyin the course of our
conversationthat he was going to take your valuable advice on the
subject of finding such a partner. If you should think our views
and opportunities at all likely to coincideperhaps you will let
him know my available position. I speakof coursein ignorance
of the detailsand they may be unsuitable on both sides.'


'No doubtno doubt' said Mr Meagleswith the caution belonging
to the scales and scoop.


'But they will be a question of figures and accounts--'


'Just sojust so' said Mr Meagleswith arithmetical solidity
belonging to the scales and scoop.


'--And I shall be glad to enter into the subjectprovided Mr Doyce
respondsand you think well of it. If you will at present
thereforeallow me to place it in your handsyou will much oblige
me.'



'ClennamI accept the trust with readiness' said Mr Meagles.
'And without anticipating any of the points which youas a man of
businesshave of course reservedI am free to say to you that I
think something may come of this. Of one thing you may be
perfectly certain. Daniel is an honest man.'

'I am so sure of it that I have promptly made up my mind to speak
to you.'
'You must guide himyou know; you must steer him; you must direct
him; he is one of a crotchety sort' said Mr Meaglesevidently
meaning nothing more than that he did new things and went new ways;
'but he is as honest as the sunand so good night!'
Clennam went back to his roomsat down again before his fireand
made up his mind that he was glad he had resolved not to fall in
love with Pet. She was so beautifulso amiableso apt to receive
any true impression given to her gentle nature and her innocent
heartand make the man who should be so happy as to communicate
itthe most fortunate and enviable of all menthat he was very
glad indeed he had come to that conclusion.

Butas this might have been a reason for coming to the opposite
conclusionhe followed out the theme again a little way in his
mind; to justify himselfperhaps.

'Suppose that a man' so his thoughts ran'who had been of age
some twenty years or so; who was a diffident manfrom the
circumstances of his youth; who was rather a grave manfrom the
tenor of his life; who knew himself to be deficient in many little
engaging qualities which he admired in othersfrom having been
long in a distant regionwith nothing softening near him; who had
no kind sisters to present to her; who had no congenial home to
make her known in; who was a stranger in the land; who had not a
fortune to compensatein any measurefor these defects; who had
nothing in his favour but his honest love and his general wish to
do right--suppose such a man were to come to this houseand were
to yield to the captivation of this charming girland were to
persuade himself that he could hope to win her; what a weakness it
would be!'

He softly opened his windowand looked out upon the serene river.
Year after year so much allowance for the drifting of the ferryboat
so many miles an hour the flowing of the streamhere the
rushesthere the liliesnothing uncertain or unquiet.

Why should he be vexed or sore at heart? It was not his weakness
that he had imagined. It was nobody'snobody's within his
knowledge; why should it trouble him? And yet it did trouble him.
And he thought--who has not thought for a momentsometimes?--that
it might be better to flow away monotonouslylike the riverand
to compound for its insensibility to happiness with its
insensibility to pain.

CHAPTER 17

Nobody's Rival

Before breakfast in the morningArthur walked out to look about
him. As the morning was fine and he had an hour on his handshe
crossed the river by the ferryand strolled along a footpath


through some meadows. When he came back to the towing-pathhe
found the ferry-boat on the opposite sideand a gentleman hailing
it and waiting to be taken over.


This gentleman looked barely thirty. He was well dressedof a
sprightly and gay appearancea well-knit figureand a rich dark
complexion. As Arthur came over the stile and down to the water's
edgethe lounger glanced at him for a momentand then resumed his
occupation of idly tossing stones into the water with his foot.
There was something in his way of spurning them out of their places
with his heeland getting them into the required positionthat
Clennam thought had an air of cruelty in it. Most of us have more
or less frequently derived a similar impression from a man's manner
of doing some very little thing: plucking a flowerclearing away
an obstacleor even destroying an insentient object.


The gentleman's thoughts were preoccupiedas his face showedand
he took no notice of a fine Newfoundland dogwho watched him
attentivelyand watched every stone tooin its turneager to
spring into the river on receiving his master's sign. The ferry-
boat came overhoweverwithout his receiving any signand when
it grounded his master took him by the collar and walked him into
it.


'Not this morning' he said to the dog. 'You won't do for ladies'
companydripping wet. Lie down.'


Clennam followed the man and the dog into the boatand took his
seat. The dog did as he was ordered. The man remained standing
with his hands in his pocketsand towered between Clennam and the
prospect. Man and dog both jumped lightly out as soon as they
touched the other sideand went away. Clennam was glad to be rid
of them.


The church clock struck the breakfast hour as he walked up the
little lane by which the garden-gate was approached. The moment he
pulled the bell a deep loud barking assailed him from within the
wall.


'I heard no dog last night' thought Clennam. The gate was opened
by one of the rosy maidsand on the lawn were the Newfoundland dog
and the man.


'Miss Minnie is not down yetgentlemen' said the blushing
portressas they all came together in the garden. Then she said
to the master of the dog'Mr Clennamsir' and tripped away.


'Odd enoughMr Clennamthat we should have met just now' said
the man. Upon which the dog became mute. 'Allow me to introduce
myself--Henry Gowan. A pretty place thisand looks wonderfully
well this morning!'


The manner was easyand the voice agreeable; but still Clennam
thoughtthat if he had not made that decided resolution to avoid
falling in love with Pethe would have taken a dislike to this
Henry Gowan.


'It's new to youI believe?' said this Gowanwhen Arthur had
extolled the place.
'Quite new. I made acquaintance with it only yesterday afternoon.'


'Ah! Of course this is not its best aspect. It used to look
charming in the springbefore they went away last time. I should
like you to have seen it then.'



But for that resolution so often recalledClennam might have
wished him in the crater of Mount Etnain return for this
civility.

'I have had the pleasure of seeing it under many circumstances
during the last three yearsand it's--a Paradise.'

It was (at least it might have beenalways excepting for that wise
resolution) like his dexterous impudence to call it a Paradise. He
only called it a Paradise because he first saw her comingand so
made her out within her hearing to be an angelConfusion to him!
And ah! how beaming she lookedand how glad! How she caressed
the dogand how the dog knew her! How expressive that heightened
colour in her facethat fluttered mannerher downcast eyesher
irresolute happiness! When had Clennam seen her look like this?
Not that there was any reason why he mightcouldwouldor should
have ever seen her look like thisor that he had ever hoped for
himself to see her look like this; but still--when had he ever
known her do it!

He stood at a little distance from them. This Gowan when he had
talked about a Paradisehad gone up to her and taken her hand.
The dog had put his great paws on her arm and laid his head against
her dear bosom. She had laughed and welcomed themand made far
too much of the dogfarfartoo much--that is to saysupposing
there had been any third person looking on who loved her.

She disengaged herself nowand came to Clennamand put her hand
in his and wished him good morningand gracefully made as if she
would take his arm and be escorted into the house. To this Gowan
had no objection. Nohe knew he was too safe.

There was a passing cloud on Mr Meagles's good-humoured face when
they all three (fourcounting the dogand he was the most
objectionable but one of the party) came in to breakfast. Neither
itnor the touch of uneasiness on Mrs Meagles as she directed her
eyes towards itwas unobserved by Clennam.

'WellGowan' said Mr Meagleseven suppressing a sigh; 'how goes
the world with you this morning?'

'Much as usualsir. Lion and I being determined not to waste
anything of our weekly visitturned out earlyand came over from
Kingstonmy present headquarterswhere I am making a sketch or
two.' Then he told how he had met Mr Clennam at the ferryand
they had come over together.

'Mrs Gowan is wellHenry?' said Mrs Meagles. (Clennam became
attentive.)

'My mother is quite wellthank you.' (Clennam became
inattentive.) 'I have taken the liberty of making an addition to
your family dinner-party to-daywhich I hope will not be
inconvenient to you or to Mr Meagles. I couldn't very well get out
of it' he explainedturning to the latter. 'The young fellow
wrote to propose himself to me; and as he is well connectedI
thought you would not object to my transferring him here.'

'Who is the young fellow?' asked Mr Meagles with peculiar
complacency.

'He is one of the Barnacles. Tite Barnacle's sonClarence
Barnaclewho is in his father's Department. I can at least


guarantee that the river shall not suffer from his visit. He won't
set it on fire.'

'Ayeaye?' said Meagles. 'A Barnacle is he? We know something of
that familyehDan? By Georgethey are at the top of the tree
though! Let me see. What relation will this young fellow be to
Lord Decimus now? His Lordship marriedin seventeen ninety-seven
Lady Jemima Bilberrywho was the second daughter by the third
marriage--no! There I am wrong! That was Lady Seraphina--Lady
Jemima was the first daughter by the second marriage of the
fifteenth Earl of Stiltstalking with the Honourable Clementina
Toozellem. Very well. Now this young fellow's father married a
Stiltstalking and his father married his cousin who was a Barnacle.

The father of that father who married a Barnaclemarried a
Joddleby.--I am getting a little too far backGowan; I want to
make out what relation this young fellow is to Lord Decimus.'

'That's easily stated. His father is nephew to Lord Decimus.'

'Nephew--to--Lord--Decimus' Mr Meagles luxuriously repeated with
his eyes shutthat he might have nothing to distract him from the
full flavour of the genealogical tree. 'By Georgeyou are right
Gowan. So he is.'

'ConsequentlyLord Decimus is his great uncle.'

'But stop a bit!' said Mr Meaglesopening his eyes with a fresh
discovery. 'Then on the mother's sideLady Stiltstalking is his
great aunt.'

'Of course she is.'

'Ayeayeaye?' said Mr Meagles with much interest. 'Indeed
indeed? We shall be glad to see him. We'll entertain him as well
as we canin our humble way; and we shall not starve himI hope
at all events.'

In the beginning of this dialogueClennam had expected some great
harmless outburst from Mr Meagleslike that which had made him
burst out of the Circumlocution Officeholding Doyce by the
collar. But his good friend had a weakness which none of us need
go into the next street to findand which no amount of
Circumlocution experience could long subdue in him. Clennam looked
at Doyce; but Doyce knew all about it beforehandand looked at his
plateand made no signand said no word.

'I am much obliged to you' said Gowanto conclude the subject.
'Clarence is a great assbut he is one of the dearest and best
fellows that ever lived!'

It appearedbefore the breakfast was overthat everybody whom
this Gowan knew was either more or less of an assor more or less
of a knave; but wasnotwithstandingthe most lovablethe most
engagingthe simplesttruestkindestdearestbest fellow that
ever lived. The process by which this unvarying result was
attainedwhatever the premisesmight have been stated by Mr Henry
Gowan thus: 'I claim to be always book-keepingwith a peculiar
nicetyin every man's caseand posting up a careful little
account of Good and Evil with him. I do this so conscientiously
that I am happy to tell you I find the most worthless of men to be
the dearest old fellow too: and am in a condition to make the
gratifying reportthat there is much less difference than you are
inclined to suppose between an honest man and a scoundrel.' The


effect of this cheering discovery happened to bethat while he
seemed to be scrupulously finding good in most menhe did in
reality lower it where it wasand set it up where it was not; but
that was its only disagreeable or dangerous feature.

It scarcely seemedhoweverto afford Mr Meagles as much
satisfaction as the Barnacle genealogy had done. The cloud that
Clennam had never seen upon his face before that morning
frequently overcast it again; and there was the same shadow of
uneasy observation of him on the comely face of his wife. More
than once or twice when Pet caressed the dogit appeared to
Clennam that her father was unhappy in seeing her do it; andin
one particular instance when Gowan stood on the other side of the
dogand bent his head at the same timeArthur fancied that he saw
tears rise to Mr Meagles's eyes as he hurried out of the room. It
was either the fact tooor he fancied furtherthat Pet herself
was not insensible to these little incidents; that she triedwith
a more delicate affection than usualto express to her good father
how much she loved him; that it was on this account that she fell
behind the restboth as they went to church and as they returned
from itand took his arm. He could not have sworn but that as he
walked alone in the garden afterwardshe had an instantaneous
glimpse of her in her father's roomclinging to both her parents
with the greatest tendernessand weeping on her father's shoulder.

The latter part of the day turning out wetthey were fain to keep
the houselook over Mr Meagles's collectionand beguile the time
with conversation. This Gowan had plenty to say for himselfand
said it in an off-hand and amusing manner. He appeared to be an
artist by professionand to have been at Rome some time; yet he
had a slightcarelessamateur way with him--a perceptible limp
both in his devotion to art and his attainments--which Clennam
could scarcely understand.

He applied to Daniel Doyce for helpas they stood together
looking out of window.

'You know Mr Gowan?' he said in a low voice.

'I have seen him here. Comes here every Sunday when they are at
home.'

'An artistI infer from what he says?'

'A sort of a one' said Daniel Doycein a surly tone.

'What sort of a one?' asked Clennamwith a smile.

'Whyhe has sauntered into the Arts at a leisurely Pall-Mall
pace' said Doyce'and I doubt if they care to be taken quite so
coolly.'

Pursuing his inquiriesClennam found that the Gowan family were a
very distant ramification of the Barnacles; and that the paternal
Gowanoriginally attached to a legation abroadhad been pensioned
off as a Commissioner of nothing particular somewhere or otherand
had died at his post with his drawn salary in his handnobly
defending it to the last extremity. In consideration of this
eminent public servicethe Barnacle then in power had recommended
the Crown to bestow a pension of two or three hundred a-year on his
widow; to which the next Barnacle in power had added certain shady
and sedate apartments in the Palaces at Hampton Courtwhere the
old lady still liveddeploring the degeneracy of the times in
company with several other old ladies of both sexes. Her sonMr


Henry Gowaninheriting from his fatherthe Commissionerthat
very questionable help in lifea very small independencehad been
difficult to settle; the ratheras public appointments chanced to
be scarceand his geniusduring his earlier manhoodwas of that
exclusively agricultural character which applies itself to the
cultivation of wild oats. At last he had declared that he would
become a Painter; partly because he had always had an idle knack
that wayand partly to grieve the souls of the Barnacles-in-chief
who had not provided for him. So it had come to pass successively
firstthat several distinguished ladies had been frightfully
shocked; thenthat portfolios of his performances had been handed
about o' nightsand declared with ecstasy to be perfect Claudes
perfect Cuypsperfect phaenomena; thenthat Lord Decimus had
bought his pictureand had asked the President and Council to
dinner at a blowand had saidwith his own magnificent gravity
'Do you knowthere appears to me to be really immense merit in
that work?' andin shortthat people of condition had absolutely
taken pains to bring him into fashion. Butsomehowit had all
failed. The prejudiced public had stood out against it
obstinately. They had determined not to admire Lord Decimus's
picture. They had determined to believe that in every service
except their owna man must qualify himselfby striving early and
lateand by working heart and soulmight and main. So now Mr
Gowanlike that worn-out old coffin which never was Mahomet's nor
anybody else'shung midway between two points: jaundiced and
jealous as to the one he had left: jaundiced and jealous as to the
other that he couldn't reach.

Such was the substance of Clennam's discoveries concerning him
made that rainy Sunday afternoon and afterwards.

About an hour or so after dinner timeYoung Barnacle appeared
attended by his eye-glass; in honour of whose family connections
Mr Meagles had cashiered the pretty parlour-maids for the dayand
had placed on duty in their stead two dingy men. Young Barnacle
was in the last degree amazed and disconcerted at sight of Arthur
and had murmured involuntarily'Look here! upon my soulyou
know!' before his presence of mind returned.

Even thenhe was obliged to embrace the earliest opportunity of
taking his friend into a windowand sayingin a nasal way that
was a part of his general debility:

'I want to speak to youGowan. I say. Look here. Who is that
fellow?'

'A friend of our host's. None of mine.'

'He's a most ferocious Radicalyou know' said Young Barnacle.

'Is he? How do you know?'

'Ecodsirhe was Pitching into our people the other day in the
most tremendous manner. Went up to our place and Pitched into my
father to that extent that it was necessary to order him out. Came
back to our Departmentand Pitched into me. Look here. You never
saw such a fellow.'

'What did he want?'

'Ecodsir' returned Young Barnacle'he said he wanted to know
you know! Pervaded our Department--without an appointment--and
said he wanted to know!'


The stare of indignant wonder with which Young Barnacle accompanied
this disclosurewould have strained his eyes injuriously but for
the opportune relief of dinner. Mr Meagles (who had been extremely
solicitous to know how his uncle and aunt were) begged him to
conduct Mrs Meagles to the dining-room. And when he sat on Mrs
Meagles's right handMr Meagles looked as gratified as if his
whole family were there.


All the natural charm of the previous day was gone. The eaters of
the dinnerlike the dinner itselfwere lukewarminsipid
overdone--and all owing to this poor little dull Young Barnacle.
Conversationless at any timehe was now the victim of a weakness
special to the occasionand solely referable to Clennam. He was
under a pressing and continual necessity of looking at that
gentlemanwhich occasioned his eye-glass to get into his soup
into his wine-glassinto Mrs Meagles's plateto hang down his
back like a bell-ropeand be several times disgracefully restored
to his bosom by one of the dingy men. Weakened in mind by his
frequent losses of this instrumentand its determination not to
stick in his eyeand more and more enfeebled in intellect every
time he looked at the mysterious Clennamhe applied spoons to his
eyesforksand other foreign matters connected with the furniture
of the dinner-table. His discovery of these mistakes greatly
increased his difficultiesbut never released him from the
necessity of looking at Clennam. And whenever Clennam spokethis
ill-starred young man was clearly seized with a dread that he was
comingby some artful deviceround to that point of wanting to
knowyou know.


It may be questionedthereforewhether any one but Mr Meagles had
much enjoyment of the time. Mr Meagleshoweverthoroughly
enjoyed Young Barnacle. As a mere flask of the golden water in the
tale became a full fountain when it was poured outso Mr Meagles
seemed to feel that this small spice of Barnacle imparted to his
table the flavour of the whole family-tree. In its presencehis
frankfinegenuine qualities paled; he was not so easyhe was
not so naturalhe was striving after something that did not belong
to himhe was not himself. What a strange peculiarity on the part
of Mr Meaglesand where should we find another such case!


At last the wet Sunday wore itself out in a wet night; and Young
Barnacle went home in a cabfeebly smoking; and the objectionable
Gowan went away on footaccompanied by the objectionable dog. Pet
had taken the most amiable pains all day to be friendly with
Clennambut Clennam had been a little reserved since breakfast--
that is to saywould have beenif he had loved her.


When he had gone to his own roomand had again thrown himself into
the chair by the fireMr Doyce knocked at the doorcandle in
handto ask him how and at what hour he proposed returning on the
morrow? After settling this questionhe said a word to Mr Doyce
about this Gowan--who would have run in his head a good dealif he
had been his rival.


'Those are not good prospects for a painter' said Clennam.


'No' returned Doyce.


Mr Doyce stoodchamber-candlestick in handthe other hand in his
pocketlooking hard at the flame of his candlewith a certain
quiet perception in his face that they were going to say something
more.
'I thought our good friend a little changedand out of spirits
after he came this morning?' said Clennam.



'Yes' returned Doyce.

'But not his daughter?' said Clennam.

'No' said Doyce.

There was a pause on both sides. Mr Doycestill looking at the
flame of his candleslowly resumed:

'The truth ishe has twice taken his daughter abroad in the hope
of separating her from Mr Gowan. He rather thinks she is disposed
to like himand he has painful doubts (I quite agree with himas
I dare say you do) of the hopefulness of such a marriage.'

'There--' Clennam chokedand coughedand stopped.

'Yesyou have taken cold' said Daniel Doyce. But without looking
at him.

'There is an engagement between themof course?' said Clennam
airily.

'No. As I am toldcertainly not. It has been solicited on the
gentleman's partbut none has been made. Since their recent
returnour friend has yielded to a weekly visitbut that is the
utmost. Minnie would not deceive her father and mother. You have
travelled with themand I believe you know what a bond there is
among themextending even beyond this present life. All that
there is between Miss Minnie and Mr GowanI have no doubt we see.'

'Ah! We see enough!' cried Arthur.

Mr Doyce wished him Good Night in the tone of a man who had heard
a mournfulnot to say despairingexclamationand who sought to
infuse some encouragement and hope into the mind of the person by
whom it had been uttered. Such tone was probably a part of his
oddityas one of a crotchety band; for how could he have heard
anything of that kindwithout Clennam's hearing it too?

The rain fell heavily on the roofand pattered on the groundand
dripped among the evergreens and the leafless branches of the
trees. The rain fell heavilydrearily. It was a night of tears.

If Clennam had not decided against falling in love with Pet; if he
had had the weakness to do it; if he hadlittle by little
persuaded himself to set all the earnestness of his natureall the
might of his hopeand all the wealth of his matured characteron
that cast; if he had done this and found that all was lost; he
would have beenthat nightunutterably miserable. As it was-- As
it wasthe rain fell heavilydrearily.

CHAPTER 18

Little Dorrit's Lover

Little Dorrit had not attained her twenty-second birthday without
finding a lover. Even in the shallow Marshalseathe ever young
Archer shot off a few featherless arrows now and then from a mouldy
bowand winged a Collegian or two.


Little Dorrit's loverhoweverwas not a Collegian. He was the
sentimental son of a turnkey. His father hopedin the fulness of
timeto leave him the inheritance of an unstained key; and had
from his early youth familiarised him with the duties of his
officeand with an ambition to retain the prison-lock in the
family. While the succession was yet in abeyancehe assisted his
mother in the conduct of a snug tobacco business round the corner
of Horsemonger Lane (his father being a non-resident turnkey)
which could usually command a neat connection within the College
walls.

Years agonewhen the object of his affections was wont to sit in
her little arm-chair by the high Lodge-fenderYoung John (family
nameChivery)a year older than herselfhad eyed her with
admiring wonder. When he had played with her in the yardhis
favourite game had been to counterfeit locking her up in corners
and to counterfeit letting her out for real kisses. When he grew
tall enough to peep through the keyhole of the great lock of the
main doorhe had divers times set down his father's dinneror
supperto get on as it might on the outer side thereofwhile he
stood taking cold in one eye by dint of peeping at her through that
airy perspective.

If Young John had ever slackened in his truth in the less
penetrable days of his boyhoodwhen youth is prone to wear its
boots unlaced and is happily unconscious of digestive organshe
had soon strung it up again and screwed it tight. At nineteenhis
hand had inscribed in chalk on that part of the wall which fronted
her lodgingson the occasion of her birthday'Welcome sweet
nursling of the Fairies!' At twenty-threethe same hand
falteringly presented cigars on Sundays to the Father of the
Marshalseaand Father of the queen of his soul.

Young John was small of staturewith rather weak legs and very
weak light hair. One of his eyes (perhaps the eye that used to
peep through the keyhole) was also weakand looked larger than the
otheras if it couldn't collect itself. Young John was gentle
likewise. But he was great of soul. Poeticalexpansive
faithful.

Though too humble before the ruler of his heart to be sanguine
Young John had considered the object of his attachment in all its
lights and shades. Following it out to blissful resultshe had
descriedwithout self-commendationa fitness in it. Say things
prosperedand they were united. Shethe child of the Marshalsea;
hethe lock-keeper. There was a fitness in that. Say he became
a resident turnkey. She would officially succeed to the chamber
she had rented so long. There was a beautiful propriety in that.
It looked over the wallif you stood on tip-toe; andwith a
trellis-work of scarlet beans and a canary or sowould become a
very Arbour. There was a charming idea in that. Thenbeing all
in all to one anotherthere was even an appropriate grace in the
lock. With the world shut out (except that part of it which would
be shut in); with its troubles and disturbances only known to them
by hearsayas they would be described by the pilgrims tarrying
with them on their way to the Insolvent Shrine; with the Arbour
aboveand the Lodge below; they would glide down the stream of
timein pastoral domestic happiness. Young John drew tears from
his eyes by finishing the picture with a tombstone in the adjoining
churchyardclose against the prison wallbearing the following
touching inscription: 'Sacred to the Memory Of JOHN CHIVERYSixty
years Turnkeyand fifty years Head TurnkeyOf the neighbouring
MarshalseaWho departed this lifeuniversally respectedon the


thirty-first of DecemberOne thousand eight hundred and eightysix
Aged eighty-three years. Also of his truly beloved and truly
loving wifeAMYwhose maiden name was DORRITWho survived his
loss not quite forty-eight hoursAnd who breathed her last in the
Marshalsea aforesaid. There she was bornThere she livedThere
she died.'

The Chivery parents were not ignorant of their son's attachment -indeed
it hadon some exceptional occasionsthrown him into a
state of mind that had impelled him to conduct himself with
irascibility towards the customersand damage the business--but
theyin their turnshad worked it out to desirable conclusions.
Mrs Chiverya prudent womanhad desired her husband to take
notice that their john's prospects of the Lock would certainly be
strengthened by an alliance with Miss Dorritwho had herself a
kind of claim upon the College and was much respected there. Mrs
Chivery had desired her husband to take notice that ifon the one
handtheir John had means and a post of truston the other hand
Miss Dorrit had family; and that her (Mrs Chivery's) sentiment was
that two halves made a whole. Mrs Chiveryspeaking as a mother
and not as a diplomatisthad thenfrom a different point of view
desired her husband to recollect that their John had never been
strongand that his love had fretted and worrited him enough as it
waswithout his being driven to do himself a mischiefas nobody
couldn't say he wouldn't be if he was crossed. These arguments had
so powerfully influenced the mind of Mr Chiverywho was a man of
few wordsthat he had on sundry Sunday morningsgiven his boy
what he termed 'a lucky touch' signifying that he considered such
commendation of him to Good Fortunepreparatory to his that day
declaring his passion and becoming triumphant. But Young John had
never taken courage to make the declaration; and it was principally
on these occasions that he had returned excited to the tobacco
shopand flown at the customers.
In this affairas in every otherLittle Dorrit herself was the
last person considered. Her brother and sister were aware of it
and attained a sort of station by making a peg of it on which to
air the miserably ragged old fiction of the family gentility. Her
sister asserted the family gentility by flouting the poor swain as
he loitered about the prison for glimpses of his dear. Tip
asserted the family gentilityand his ownby coming out in the
character of the aristocratic brotherand loftily swaggering in
the little skittle ground respecting seizures by the scruff of the
neckwhich there were looming probabilities of some gentleman
unknown executing on some little puppy not mentioned. These were
not the only members of the Dorrit family who turned it to account.

Nono. The Father of the Marshalsea was supposed to know nothing
about the matterof course: his poor dignity could not see so low.

But he took the cigarson Sundaysand was glad to get them; and
sometimes even condescended to walk up and down the yard with the
donor (who was proud and hopeful then)and benignantly to smoke
one in his society. With no less readiness and condescension did
he receive attentions from Chivery Seniorwho always relinquished
his arm-chair and newspaper to himwhen he came into the Lodge
during one of his spells of duty; and who had even mentioned to
himthatif he would like at any time after dusk quietly to step
out into the fore-court and take a look at the streetthere was
not much to prevent him. If he did not avail himself of this
latter civilityit was only because he had lost the relish for it;
inasmuch as he took everything else he could getand would say at
times'Extremely civil personChivery; very attentive man and
very respectful. Young Chiverytoo; really almost with a delicate
perception of one's position here. A very well conducted family


indeedthe Chiveries. Their behaviour gratifies me.'

The devoted Young John all this time regarded the family with
reverence. He never dreamed of disputing their pretensionsbut
did homage to the miserable Mumbo jumbo they paraded. As to
resenting any affront from her brotherhe would have felteven if
he had not naturally been of a most pacific dispositionthat to
wag his tongue or lift his hand against that sacred gentleman would
be an unhallowed act. He was sorry that his noble mind should take
offence; stillhe felt the fact to be not incompatible with its
nobilityand sought to propitiate and conciliate that gallant
soul. Her fathera gentleman in misfortune--a gentleman of a fine
spirit and courtly mannerswho always bore with him--he deeply
honoured. Her sister he considered somewhat vain and proudbut a
young lady of infinite accomplishmentswho could not forget the
past. It was an instinctive testimony to Little Dorrit's worth and
difference from all the restthat the poor young fellow honoured
and loved her for being simply what she was.

The tobacco business round the corner of Horsemonger Lane was
carried out in a rural establishment one story highwhich had the
benefit of the air from the yards of Horsemonger Lane jailand the
advantage of a retired walk under the wall of that pleasant
establishment. The business was of too modest a character to
support a life-size Highlanderbut it maintained a little one on
a bracket on the door-postwho looked like a fallen Cherub that
had found it necessary to take to a kilt.
From the portal thus decoratedone Sunday after an early dinner of
baked viandsYoung John issued forth on his usual Sunday errand;
not empty-handedbut with his offering of cigars. He was neatly
attired in a plum-coloured coatwith as large a collar of black
velvet as his figure could carry; a silken waistcoatbedecked with
golden sprigs; a chaste neckerchief much in vogue at that day
representing a preserve of lilac pheasants on a buff ground;
pantaloons so highly decorated with side-stripes that each leg was
a three-stringed lute; and a hat of state very high and hard. When
the prudent Mrs Chivery perceived that in addition to these
adornments her John carried a pair of white kid glovesand a cane
like a little finger-postsurmounted by an ivory hand marshalling
him the way that he should go; and when she saw himin this heavy
marching orderturn the corner to the right; she remarked to Mr
Chiverywho was at home at the timethat she thought she knew
which way the wind blew.

The Collegians were entertaining a considerable number of visitors
that Sunday afternoonand their Father kept his room for the
purpose of receiving presentations. After making the tour of the
yardLittle Dorrit's lover with a hurried heart went up-stairs
and knocked with his knuckles at the Father's door.

'Come income in!' said a gracious voice. The Father's voiceher
father'sthe Marshalsea's father's. He was seated in his black
velvet capwith his newspaperthree-and-sixpence accidentally
left on the tableand two chairs arranged. Everything prepared
for holding his Court.

'AhYoung John! How do you dohow do you do!'

'Pretty wellI thank yousir. I hope you are the same.'

'YesJohn Chivery; yes. Nothing to complain of.'

'I have taken the libertysirof--'


'Eh?' The Father of the Marshalsea always lifted up his eyebrows
at this pointand became amiably distraught and smilingly absent
in mind.


'--A few cigarssir.'


'Oh!' (For the momentexcessively surprised.) 'Thank youYoung
Johnthank you. But reallyI am afraid I am too-- No? Well
thenI will say no more about it. Put them on the mantelshelfif
you pleaseYoung John. And sit downsit down. You are not a
strangerJohn.'


'Thank yousirI am sure-- Miss;' here Young John turned the
great hat round and round upon his left-handlike a slowly
twirling mouse-cage; 'Miss Amy quite wellsir?'
'YesJohnyes; very well. She is out.'
'Indeedsir?'


'YesJohn. Miss Amy is gone for an airing. My young people all
go out a good deal. But at their time of lifeit's natural
John.'


'Very much soI am suresir.'


'An airing. An airing. Yes.' He was blandly tapping his fingers
on the tableand casting his eyes up at the window. 'Amy has gone
for an airing on the Iron Bridge. She has become quite partial to
the Iron Bridge of lateand seems to like to walk there better
than anywhere.' He returned to conversation. 'Your father is not
on duty at presentI thinkJohn?'


'Nosirhe comes on later in the afternoon.' Another twirl of
the great hatand then Young John saidrising'I am afraid I
must wish you good daysir.'


'So soon? Good dayYoung John. Naynay' with the utmost
condescension'never mind your gloveJohn. Shake hands with it
on. You are no stranger hereyou know.'


Highly gratified by the kindness of his receptionYoung John
descended the staircase. On his way down he met some Collegians
bringing up visitors to be presentedand at that moment Mr Dorrit
happened to call over the banisters with particular distinctness
'Much obliged to you for your little testimonialJohn!'


Little Dorrit's lover very soon laid down his penny on the
tollplate of the Iron Bridgeand came upon it looking about him
for the well-known and well-beloved figure. At first he feared she
was not there; but as he walked on towards the Middlesex sidehe
saw her standing stilllooking at the water. She was absorbed in
thoughtand he wondered what she might be thinking about. There
were the piles of city roofs and chimneysmore free from smoke
than on week-days; and there were the distant masts and steeples.
Perhaps she was thinking about them.


Little Dorrit mused so longand was so entirely preoccupiedthat
although her lover stood quiet for what he thought was a long time
and twice or thrice retired and came back again to the former spot
still she did not move. Soin the endhe made up his mind to go
onand seem to come upon her casually in passingand speak to
her. The place was quietand now or never was the time to speak
to her.


He walked onand she did not appear to hear his steps until he was



close upon her. When he said 'Miss Dorrit!' she started and fell
back from himwith an expression in her face of fright and
something like dislike that caused him unutterable dismay. She had
often avoided him before--alwaysindeedfor a longlong while.
She had turned away and glided off so often when she had seen him
coming toward herthat the unfortunate Young John could not think
it accidental. But he had hoped that it might be shynessher
retiring characterher foreknowledge of the state of his heart
anything short of aversion. Nowthat momentary look had said
'Youof all people! I would rather have seen any one on earth
than you!'

It was but a momentary lookinasmuch as she checked itand said
in her soft little voice'OhMr John! Is it you?' But she felt
what it had beenas he felt what it had been; and they stood
looking at one another equally confused.

'Miss AmyI am afraid I disturbed you by speaking to you.'

'Yesrather. I--I came here to be aloneand I thought I was.'

'Miss AmyI took the liberty of walking this waybecause Mr
Dorrit chanced to mentionwhen I called upon him just nowthat
you--'

She caused him more dismay than before by suddenly murmuring'O
fatherfather!' in a heartrending toneand turning her face away.

'Miss AmyI hope I don't give you any uneasiness by naming Mr
Dorrit. I assure you I found him very well and in the best of
Spiritsand he showed me even more than his usual kindness; being
so very kind as to say that I was not a stranger thereand in all
ways gratifying me very much.'

To the inexpressible consternation of her loverLittle Dorrit
with her hands to her averted faceand rocking herself where she
stood as if she were in painmurmured'O fatherhow can you! O
deardear fatherhow can youcan youdo it!'

The poor fellow stood gazing at heroverflowing with sympathybut
not knowing what to make of thisuntilhaving taken out her
handkerchief and put it to her still averted faceshe hurried
away. At first he remained stock still; then hurried after her.

'Miss Amypray! Will you have the goodness to stop a moment?
Miss Amyif it comes to thatlet ME go. I shall go out of my
sensesif I have to think that I have driven you away like this.'

His trembling voice and unfeigned earnestness brought Little Dorrit
to a stop. 'OhI don't know what to do' she cried'I don't know
what to do!'

To Young Johnwho had never seen her bereft of her quiet selfcommand
who had seen her from her infancy ever so reliable and
self-suppressedthere was a shock in her distressand in having
to associate himself with it as its causethat shook him from his
great hat to the pavement. He felt it necessary to explain
himself. He might be misunderstood--supposed to mean somethingor
to have done somethingthat had never entered into his
imagination. He begged her to hear him explain himselfas the
greatest favour she could show him.

'Miss AmyI know very well that your family is far above mine. It
were vain to conceal it. There never was a Chivery a gentleman


that ever I heard ofand I will not commit the meanness of making
a false representation on a subject so momentous. Miss AmyI know
very well that your high-souled brotherand likewise your spirited
sisterspurn me from a height. What I have to do is to respect
themto wish to be admitted to their friendshipto look up at the
eminence on which they are placed from my lowlier station--for
whether viewed as tobacco or viewed as the lockI well know it is
lowly--and ever wish them well and happy.'

There really was a genuineness in the poor fellowand a contrast
between the hardness of his hat and the softness of his heart
(albeitperhapsof his headtoo)that was moving. Little
Dorrit entreated him to disparage neither himself nor his station
andabove all thingsto divest himself of any idea that she
supposed hers to be superior. This gave him a little comfort.

'Miss Amy' he then stammered'I have had for a long time --ages
they seem to me--Revolving ages--a heart-cherished wish to say
something to you. May I say it?'

Little Dorrit involuntarily started from his side againwith the
faintest shadow of her former look; conquering thatshe went on at
great speed half across the Bridge without replying!

'May I--Miss AmyI but ask the question humbly--may I say it? I
have been so unlucky already in giving you pain without having any
such intentionsbefore the holy Heavens! that there is no fear of
my saying it unless I have your leave. I can be miserable alone
I can be cut up by myselfwhy should I also make miserable and cut
up one that I would fling myself off that parapet to give half a
moment's joy to! Not that that's much to dofor I'd do it for
twopence.'

The mournfulness of his spiritsand the gorgeousness of his
appearancemight have made him ridiculousbut that his delicacy
made him respectable. Little Dorrit learnt from it what to do.

'If you pleaseJohn Chivery' she returnedtremblingbut in a
quiet way'since you are so considerate as to ask me whether you
shall say any more--if you pleaseno.'

'NeverMiss Amy?'

'Noif you please. Never.'

'O Lord!' gasped Young John.

'But perhaps you will let meinsteadsay something to you. I
want to say it earnestlyand with as plain a meaning as it is
possible to express. When you think of usJohn--I mean my
brotherand sisterand me--don't think of us as being any
different from the rest; forwhatever we once were (which I hardly
know) we ceased to be long agoand never can be any more. It will
be much better for youand much better for othersif you will do
that instead of what you are doing now.'

Young John dolefully protested that he would try to bear it in
mindand would be heartily glad to do anything she wished.

'As to me' said Little Dorrit'think as little of me as you can;
the lessthe better. When you think of me at allJohnlet it
only be as the child you have seen grow up in the prison with one
set of duties always occupying her; as a weakretiredcontented
unprotected girl. I particularly want you to rememberthat when


I come outside the gateI am unprotected and solitary.'

He would try to do anything she wished. But why did Miss Amy so
much want him to remember that?

'Because' returned Little Dorrit'I know I can then quite trust
you not to forget to-dayand not to say any more to me. You are
so generous that I know I can trust to you for that; and I do and
I always will. I am going to show youat oncethat I fully trust
you. I like this place where we are speaking better than any place
I know;' her slight colour had fadedbut her lover thought he saw
it coming back just then; 'and I may be often here. I know it is
only necessary for me to tell you soto be quite sure that you
will never come here again in search of me. And I am--quite sure!'

She might rely upon itsaid Young John. He was a miserable
wretchbut her word was more than a law for him.

'And good-byeJohn' said Little Dorrit. 'And I hope you will
have a good wife one dayand be a happy man. I am sure you will
deserve to be happyand you will beJohn.'

As she held out her hand to him with these wordsthe heart that
was under the waistcoat of sprigs--mere slop-workif the truth
must be known--swelled to the size of the heart of a gentleman; and
the poor common little fellowhaving no room to hold itburst
into tears.

'Ohdon't cry' said Little Dorrit piteously. 'Don'tdon't!
Good-byeJohn. God bless you!'

'Good-byeMiss Amy. Good-bye!'

And so he left her: first observing that she sat down on the corner
of a seatand not only rested her little hand upon the rough wall
but laid her face against it tooas if her head were heavyand
her mind were sad.
It was an affecting illustration of the fallacy of human projects
to behold her loverwith the great hat pulled over his eyesthe
velvet collar turned up as if it rainedthe plum-coloured coat
buttoned to conceal the silken waistcoat of golden sprigsand the
little direction-post pointing inexorably homecreeping along by
the worst back-streetsand composingas he wentthe following
new inscription for a tombstone in St George's Churchyard:

'Here lie the mortal remains Of JOHN CHIVERYNever anything worth
mentioningWho died about the end of the year one thousand eight
hundred and twenty-sixOf a broken heartRequesting with his last
breath that the word AMY might be inscribed over his asheswhich
was accordingly directed to be doneBy his afflicted Parents.'

CHAPTER 19

The Father of the Marshalsea in two or three Relations

The brothers William and Frederick Dorritwalking up and down the
College-yard--of course on the aristocratic or Pump sidefor the
Father made it a point of his state to be chary of going among his
children on the Poor sideexcept on Sunday morningsChristmas
Daysand other occasions of ceremonyin the observance whereof he


was very punctualand at which times he laid his hand upon the
heads of their infantsand blessed those young insolvents with a
benignity that was highly edifying--the brotherswalking up and
down the College-yard togetherwere a memorable sight. Frederick
the freewas so humbledbowedwitheredand faded; William the
bondwas so courtlycondescendingand benevolently conscious of
a position; that in this regard onlyif in no otherthe brothers
were a spectacle to wonder at.

They walked up and down the yard on the evening of Little Dorrit's
Sunday interview with her lover on the Iron Bridge. The cares of
state were over for that daythe Drawing Room had been well
attendedseveral new presentations had taken placethe three-andsixpence
accidentally left on the table had accidentally increased
to twelve shillingsand the Father of the Marshalsea refreshed
himself with a whiff of cigar. As he walked up and downaffably
accommodating his step to the shuffle of his brothernot proud in
his superioritybut considerate of that poor creaturebearing
with himand breathing toleration of his infirmities in every
little puff of smoke that issued from his lips and aspired to get
over the spiked wallhe was a sight to wonder at.

His brother Frederick of the dim eyepalsied handbent formand
groping mindsubmissively shuffled at his sideaccepting his
patronage as he accepted every incident of the labyrinthian world
in which he had got lost. He held the usual screwed bit of whiteybrown
paper in his handfrom which he ever and again unscrewed a
spare pinch of snuff. That falteringly takenhe would glance at
his brother not unadmiringlyput his hands behind himand shuffle
on so at his side until he took another pinchor stood still to
look about him--perchance suddenly missing his clarionet.
The College visitors were melting away as the shades of night drew
onbut the yard was still pretty fullthe Collegians being mostly
outseeing their friends to the Lodge. As the brothers paced the
yardWilliam the bond looked about him to receive salutes
returned them by graciously lifting off his hatandwith an
engaging airprevented Frederick the free from running against the
companyor being jostled against the wall. The Collegians as a
body were not easily impressiblebut even theyaccording to their
various ways of wonderingappeared to find in the two brothers a
sight to wonder at.

'You are a little low this eveningFrederick' said the Father of
the Marshalsea. 'Anything the matter?'

'The matter?' He stared for a momentand then dropped his head
and eyes again. 'NoWilliamno. Nothing is the matter.'

'If you could be persuaded to smarten yourself up a little
Frederick--'

'Ayeaye!' said the old man hurriedly. 'But I can't be. I can't
be. Don't talk so. That's all over.'

The Father of the Marshalsea glanced at a passing Collegian with
whom he was on friendly termsas who should say'An enfeebled old
manthis; but he is my brothersirmy brotherand the voice of
Nature is potent!' and steered his brother clear of the handle of
the pump by the threadbare sleeve. Nothing would have been wanting
to the perfection of his character as a fraternal guide
philosopher and friendif he had only steered his brother clear of
ruininstead of bringing it upon him.

'I thinkWilliam' said the object of his affectionate


consideration'that I am tiredand will go home to bed.'

'My dear Frederick' returned the other'don't let me detain you;
don't sacrifice your inclination to me.'

'Late hoursand a heated atmosphereand yearsI suppose' said
Frederick'weaken me.'

'My dear Frederick' returned the Father of the Marshalsea'do you
think you are sufficiently careful of yourself? Do you think your
habits are as precise and methodical as--shall I say as mine are?
Not to revert again to that little eccentricity which I mentioned
just nowI doubt if you take air and exercise enoughFrederick.
Here is the paradealways at your service. Why not use it more
regularly than you do?'

'Hah!' sighed the other. 'Yesyesyesyes.'

'But it is of no use saying yesyesmy dear Frederick' the
Father of the Marshalsea in his mild wisdom persisted'unless you
act on that assent. Consider my caseFrederick. I am a kind of
example. Necessity and time have taught me what to do. At certain
stated hours of the dayyou will find me on the paradein my
roomin the Lodgereading the paperreceiving companyeating
and drinking. I have impressed upon Amy during many yearsthat I
must have my meals (for instance) punctually. Amy has grown up in
a sense of the importance of these arrangementsand you know what
a good girl she is.'

The brother only sighed againas he plodded dreamily along'Hah!
Yesyesyesyes.'

'My dear fellow' said the Father of the Marshalsealaying his
hand upon his shoulderand mildly rallying him--mildlybecause of
his weaknesspoor dear soul; 'you said that beforeand it does
not express muchFrederickeven if it means much. I wish I could
rouse youmy good Frederick; you want to be roused.'

'YesWilliamyes. No doubt' returned the otherlifting his dim
eyes to his face. 'But I am not like you.'

The Father of the Marshalsea saidwith a shrug of modest selfdepreciation
'Oh! You might be like memy dear Frederick; you
might beif you chose!' and forborein the magnanimity of his
strengthto press his fallen brother further.

There was a great deal of leave-taking going on in cornersas was
usual on Sunday nights; and here and there in the darksome poor
womanwife or motherwas weeping with a new Collegian. The time
had been when the Father himself had weptin the shades of that
yardas his own poor wife had wept. But it was many years ago;
and now he was like a passenger aboard ship in a long voyagewho
has recovered from sea-sicknessand is impatient of that weakness
in the fresher passengers taken aboard at the last port. He was
inclined to remonstrateand to express his opinion that people who
couldn't get on without cryinghad no business there. In manner
if not in wordshe always testified his displeasure at these
interruptions of the general harmony; and it was so well
understoodthat delinquents usually withdrew if they were aware of
him.

On this Sunday eveninghe accompanied his brother to the gate with
an air of endurance and clemency; being in a bland temper and
graciously disposed to overlook the tears. In the flaring gaslight


of the Lodgeseveral Collegians were basking; some taking leave of
visitorsand some who had no visitorswatching the frequent
turning of the keyand conversing with one another and with Mr
Chivery. The paternal entrance made a sensation of course; and Mr
Chiverytouching his hat (in a short manner though) with his key
hoped he found himself tolerable.

'Thank youChiveryquite well. And you?'

Mr Chivery said in a low growl'Oh! he was all right.' Which was
his general way of acknowledging inquiries after his health when a
little sullen.

'I had a visit from Young John to-dayChivery. And very smart he
lookedI assure you.'

So Mr Chivery had heard. Mr Chivery must confesshoweverthat
his wish was that the boy didn't lay out so much money upon it.
For what did it bring him in? It only brought him in wexation.
And he could get that anywhere for nothing.

'How vexationChivery?' asked the benignant father.

'No odds' returned Mr Chivery. 'Never mind. Mr Frederick going
out?'

'YesChiverymy brother is going home to bed. He is tiredand
not quite well. Take careFredericktake care. Good nightmy
dear Frederick!'

Shaking hands with his brotherand touching his greasy hat to the
company in the LodgeFrederick slowly shuffled out of the door
which Mr Chivery unlocked for him. The Father of the Marshalsea
showed the amiable solicitude of a superior being that he should
come to no harm.

'Be so kind as to keep the door open a momentChiverythat I may
see him go along the passage and down the steps. Take care
Frederick! (He is very infirm.) Mind the steps! (He is so very
absent.) Be careful how you crossFrederick. (I really don't like
the notion of his going wandering at largehe is so extremely
liable to be run over.)'

With these wordsand with a face expressive of many uneasy doubts
and much anxious guardianshiphe turned his regards upon the
assembled company in the Lodge: so plainly indicating that his
brother was to be pitied for not being under lock and keythat an
opinion to that effect went round among the Collegians assembled.

But he did not receive it with unqualified assent; on the contrary
he saidNogentlemenno; let them not misunderstand him. His
brother Frederick was much brokenno doubtand it might be more
comfortable to himself (the Father of the Marshalsea) to know that
he was safe within the walls. Stillit must be remembered that to
support an existence there during many yearsrequired a certain
combination of qualities--he did not say high qualitiesbut
qualities--moral qualities. Nowhad his brother Frederick that
peculiar union of qualities? Gentlemenhe was a most excellent
mana most gentletenderand estimable manwith the simplicity
of a child; but would hethough unsuited for most other placesdo
for that place? No; he said confidentlyno! Andhe saidHeaven
forbid that Frederick should be there in any other character than
in his present voluntary character! Gentlemenwhoever came to
that Collegeto remain there a length of timemust have strength


of character to go through a good deal and to come out of a good
deal. Was his beloved brother Frederick that man? No. They saw
himeven as it wascrushed. Misfortune crushed him. He had not
power of recoil enoughnot elasticity enoughto be a long time in
such a placeand yet preserve his self-respect and feel conscious
that he was a gentleman. Frederick had not (if he might use the
expression) Power enough to see in any delicate little attentions
and--and --Testimonials that he might under such circumstances
receivethe goodness of human naturethe fine spirit animating
the Collegians as a communityand at the same time no degradation
to himselfand no depreciation of his claims as a gentleman.
GentlemenGod bless you!

Such was the homily with which he improved and pointed the occasion
to the company in the Lodge before turning into the sallow yard
againand going with his own poor shabby dignity past the
Collegian in the dressing-gown who had no coatand past the
Collegian in the sea-side slippers who had no shoesand past the
stout greengrocer Collegian in the corduroy knee-breeches who had
no caresand past the lean clerk Collegian in buttonless black who
had no hopesup his own poor shabby staircase to his own poor
shabby room.

Therethe table was laid for his supperand his old grey gown was
ready for him on his chair-back at the fire. His daughter put her
little prayer-book in her pocket--had she been praying for pity on
all prisoners and captives!--and rose to welcome him.

Uncle had gone homethen? she asked @ as she changed his coat and
gave him his black velvet cap. Yesuncle had gone home. Had her
father enjoyed his walk? Whynot muchAmy; not much. No! Did
he not feel quite well?

As she stood behind himleaning over his chair so lovinglyhe
looked with downcast eyes at the fire. An uneasiness stole over
him that was like a touch of shame; and when he spokeas he
presently didit was in an unconnected and embarrassed manner.

'SomethingI--hem!--I don't know whathas gone wrong with
Chivery. He is not--ha!--not nearly so obliging and attentive as
usual to-night. It--hem!--it's a little thingbut it puts me out
my love. It's impossible to forget' turning his hands over and
over and looking closely at them'that--hem!--that in such a life
as mineI am unfortunately dependent on these men for something
every hour in the day.'

Her arm was on his shoulderbut she did not look in his face while
he spoke. Bending her head she looked another way.

'I--hem!--I can't thinkAmywhat has given Chivery offence. He
is generally so--so very attentive and respectful. And to-night he
was quite--quite short with me. Other people there too! Whygood
Heaven! if I was to lose the support and recognition of Chivery
and his brother officersI might starve to death here.' While he
spokehe was opening and shutting his hands like valves; so
conscious all the time of that touch of shamethat he shrunk
before his own knowledge of his meaning.

'I--ha!--I can't think what it's owing to. I am sure I cannot
imagine what the cause of it is. There was a certain Jackson here
oncea turnkey of the name of Jackson (I don't think you can
remember himmy dearyou were very young)and--hem!--and he had
a--brotherand this--young brother paid his addresses to--at
leastdid not go so far as to pay his addresses to--but admired-



respectfully admired--the--not daughterthe sister--of one of us;
a rather distinguished Collegian; I may sayvery much so. His
name was Captain Martin; and he consulted me on the question
whether It was necessary that his daughter--sister--should hazard
offending the turnkey brother by being too--ha!--too plain with the
other brother. Captain Martin was a gentleman and a man of honour
and I put it to him first to give me his--his own opinion. Captain
Martin (highly respected in the army) then unhesitatingly said that
it appeared to him that his--hem!--sister was not called upon to
understand the young man too distinctlyand that she might lead
him on--I am doubtful whether "lead him on" was Captain Martin's
exact expression: indeed I think he said tolerate him--on her
father's--I should saybrother's--account. I hardly know how I
have strayed into this story. I suppose it has been through being
unable to account for Chivery; but as to the connection between the
twoI don't see--'

His voice died awayas if she could not bear the pain of hearing
himand her hand had gradually crept to his lips. For a little
while there was a dead silence and stillness; and he remained
shrunk in his chairand she remained with her arm round his neck
and her head bowed down upon his shoulder.

His supper was cooking in a saucepan on the fireandwhen she
movedit was to make it ready for him on the table. He took his
usual seatshe took hersand he began his meal. They did notas
yetlook at one another. By little and little he began; laying
down his knife and fork with a noisetaking things up sharply
biting at his bread as if he were offended with itand in other
similar ways showing that he was out of sorts. At length he pushed
his plate from himand spoke aloud; with the strangest
inconsistency.

'What does it matter whether I eat or starve? What does it matter
whether such a blighted life as mine comes to an endnownext
weekor next year? What am I worth to anyone? A poor prisoner
fed on alms and broken victuals; a squaliddisgraced wretch!'

'Fatherfather!' As he rose she went on her knees to himand held
up her hands to him.

'Amy' he went on in a suppressed voicetrembling violentlyand
looking at her as wildly as if he had gone mad. 'I tell youif
you could see me as your mother saw meyou wouldn't believe it to
be the creature you have only looked at through the bars of this
cage. I was youngI was accomplishedI was good-lookingI was
independent--by God I waschild!--and people sought me outand
envied me. Envied me!'

'Dear father!' She tried to take down the shaking arm that he
flourished in the airbut he resistedand put her hand away.

'If I had but a picture of myself in those daysthough it was ever
so ill doneyou would be proud of ityou would be proud of it.
But I have no such thing. Nowlet me be a warning! Let no man'
he criedlooking haggardly about'fail to preserve at least that
little of the times of his prosperity and respect. Let his
children have that clue to what he was. Unless my facewhen I am
deadsubsides into the long departed look--they say such things
happenI don't know--my children will have never seen me.'

'Fatherfather!'

'O despise medespise me! Look away from medon't listen to me


stop meblush for mecry for me--even youAmy! Do itdo it!
I do it to myself! I am hardened nowI have sunk too low to care
long even for that.'

'Dear fatherloved fatherdarling of my heart!' She was clinging
to him with her armsand she got him to drop into his chair again
and caught at the raised armand tried to put it round her neck.

'Let it lie therefather. Look at mefatherkiss mefather!
Only think of mefatherfor one little moment!'

Still he went on in the same wild waythough it was gradually
breaking down into a miserable whining.

'And yet I have some respect here. I have made some stand against
it. I am not quite trodden down. Go out and ask who is the chief
person in the place. They'll tell you it's your father. Go out
and ask who is never trifled withand who is always treated with
some delicacy. They'll sayyour father. Go out and ask what
funeral here (it must be hereI know it can be nowhere else) will
make more talkand perhaps more griefthan any that has ever gone
out at the gate. They'll say your father's. Well then. Amy!
Amy! Is your father so universally despised? Is there nothing to
redeem him? Will you have nothing to remember him by but his ruin
and decay? Will you be able to have no affection for him when he
is gonepoor castawaygone?'

He burst into tears of maudlin pity for himselfand at length
suffering her to embrace him and take charge of himlet his grey
head rest against her cheekand bewailed his wretchedness.
Presently he changed the subject of his lamentationsand clasping
his hands about her as she embraced himcriedO Amyhis
motherlessforlorn child! O the days that he had seen her careful
and laborious for him! Then he reverted to himselfand weakly
told her how much better she would have loved him if she had known
him in his vanished characterand how he would have married her to
a gentleman who should have been proud of her as his daughterand
how (at which he cried again) she should first have ridden at his
fatherly side on her own horseand how the crowd (by which he
meant in effect the people who had given him the twelve shillings
he then had in his pocket) should have trudged the dusty roads
respectfully.

Thusnow boastingnow despairingin either fit a captive with
the jail-rot upon himand the impurity of his prison worn into the
grain of his soulhe revealed his degenerate state to his
affectionate child. No one else ever beheld him in the details of
his humiliation. Little recked the Collegians who were laughing in
their rooms over his late address in the Lodgewhat a serious
picture they had in their obscure gallery of the Marshalsea that
Sunday night.

There was a classical daughter once--perhaps--who ministered to her
father in his prison as her mother had ministered to her. Little
Dorritthough of the unheroic modern stock and mere Englishdid
much morein comforting her father's wasted heart upon her
innocent breastand turning to it a fountain of love and fidelity
that never ran dry or waned through all his years of famine.

She soothed him; asked him for his forgiveness if she had beenor
seemed to have beenundutiful; told himHeaven knows trulythat
she could not honour him more if he were the favourite of Fortune
and the whole world acknowledged him. When his tears were dried
and he sobbed in his weakness no longerand was free from that


touch of shameand had recovered his usual bearingshe prepared
the remains of his supper afreshandsitting by his side
rejoiced to see him eat and drink. For now he sat in his black
velvet cap and old grey gownmagnanimous again; and would have
comported himself towards any Collegian who might have looked in to
ask his advicelike a great moral Lord Chesterfieldor Master of
the ethical ceremonies of the Marshalsea.

To keep his attention engagedshe talked with him about his
wardrobe; when he was pleased to saythat Yesindeedthose
shirts she proposed would be exceedingly acceptablefor those he
had were worn outandbeing ready-madehad never fitted him.
Being conversationaland in a reasonable flow of spiritshe then
invited her attention to his coat as it hung behind the door:
remarking that the Father of the place would set an indifferent
example to his childrenalready disposed to be slovenlyif he
went among them out at elbows. He was joculartooas to the
heeling of his shoes; but became grave on the subject of his
cravatand promised her thatwhen she could afford itshe should
buy him a new one.

While he smoked out his cigar in peaceshe made his bedand put
the small room in order for his repose. Being weary thenowing to
the advanced hour and his emotionshe came out of his chair to
bless her and wish her Good night. All this time he had never once
thought of HER dressher shoesher need of anything. No other
person upon earthsave herselfcould have been so unmindful of
her wants.

He kissed her many times with 'Bless youmy love. Good nightMY
dear!'

But her gentle breast had been so deeply wounded by what she had
seen of him that she was unwilling to leave him alonelest he
should lament and despair again. 'FatherdearI am not tired;
let me come back presentlywhen you are in bedand sit by you.'

He asked herwith an air of protectionif she felt solitary?

'Yesfather.'

'Then come back by all meansmy love.'

'I shall be very quietfather.'

'Don't think of memy dear' he saidgiving her his kind
permission fully. 'Come back by all means.'

He seemed to be dozing when she returnedand she put the low fire
together very softly lest she should awake him. But he overheard
herand called out who was that?

'Only Amyfather.'

'Amymy childcome here. I want to say a word to you.' He
raised himself a little in his low bedas she kneeled beside it to
bring her face near him; and put his hand between hers. O! Both
the private father and the Father of the Marshalsea were strong
within him then.

'My loveyou have had a life of hardship here. No companionsno
recreationsmany cares I am afraid?'


'Don't think of thatdear. I never do.'

'You know my positionAmy. I have not been able to do much for
you; but all I have been able to doI have done.'

'Yesmy dear father' she rejoinedkissing him. 'I knowI
know.'

'I am in the twenty-third year of my life here' he saidwith a
catch in his breath that was not so much a sob as an irrepressible
sound of self-approvalthe momentary outburst of a noble
consciousness. 'It is all I could do for my children--I have done
it. Amymy loveyou are by far the best loved of the three; I
have had you principally in my mind--whatever I have done for your
sakemy dear childI have done freely and without murmuring.'

Only the wisdom that holds the clue to all hearts and all
mysteriescan surely know to what extent a manespecially a man
brought down as this man had beencan impose upon himself.
Enoughfor the present placethat he lay down with wet eyelashes
serenein a manner majesticafter bestowing his life of
degradation as a sort of portion on the devoted child upon whom its
miseries had fallen so heavilyand whose love alone had saved him
to be even what he was.

That child had no doubtsasked herself no questionfor she was
but too content to see him with a lustre round his head. Poor
deargood deartruestkindestdearestwere the only words she
had for himas she hushed him to rest.

She never left him all that night. As if she had done him a wrong
which her tenderness could hardly repairshe sat by him in his
sleepat times softly kissing him with suspended breathand
calling him in a whisper by some endearing name. At times she
stood aside so as not to intercept the low fire-lightand
watching him when it fell upon his sleeping facewondered did he
look now at all as he had looked when he was prosperous and happy;
as he had so touched her by imagining that he might look once more
in that awful time. At the thought of that timeshe kneeled
beside his bed againand prayed'O spare his life! O save him to
me! O look down upon my dearlong-sufferingunfortunatemuchchanged
dear dear father!'

Not until the morning came to protect him and encourage himdid
she give him a last kiss and leave the small room. When she had
stolen down-stairsand along the empty yardand had crept up to
her own high garretthe smokeless housetops and the distant
country hills were discernible over the wall in the clear morning.
As she gently opened the windowand looked eastward down the
prison yardthe spikes upon the wall were tipped with redthen
made a sullen purple pattern on the sun as it came flaming up into
the heavens. The spikes had never looked so sharp and cruelnor
the bars so heavynor the prison space so gloomy and contracted.
She thought of the sunrise on rolling riversof the sunrise on
wide seasof the sunrise on rich landscapesof the sunrise on
great forests where the birds were waking and the trees were
rustling; and she looked down into the living grave on which the
sun had risenwith her father in it three-and-twenty yearsand
saidin a burst of sorrow and compassion'NonoI have never
seen him in my life!'


CHAPTER 20

Moving in Society

If Young John Chivery had had the inclination and the power to
write a satire on family pridehe would have had no need to go for
an avenging illustration out of the family of his beloved. He
would have found it amply in that gallant brother and that dainty
sisterso steeped in mean experiencesand so loftily conscious of
the family name; so ready to beg or borrow from the poorestto eat
of anybody's breadspend anybody's moneydrink from anybody's cup
and break it afterwards. To have painted the sordid facts of their
livesand they throughout invoking the death's head apparition of
the family gentility to come and scare their benefactorswould
have made Young John a satirist of the first water.

Tip had turned his liberty to hopeful account by becoming a
billiard-marker. He had troubled himself so little as to the means
of his releasethat Clennam scarcely needed to have been at the
pains of impressing the mind of Mr Plornish on that subject.
Whoever had paid him the complimenthe very readily accepted the
compliment with HIS complimentsand there was an end of it.
Issuing forth from the gate on these easy termshe became a
billiard-marker; and now occasionally looked in at the little
skittle-ground in a green Newmarket coat (second-hand)with a
shining collar and bright buttons (new)and drank the beer of the
Collegians.

One solid stationary point in the looseness of this gentleman's
character wasthat he respected and admired his sister Amy. The
feeling had never induced him to spare her a moment's uneasiness
or to put himself to any restraint or inconvenience on her account;
but with that Marshalsea taint upon his lovehe loved her. The
same rank Marshalsea flavour was to be recognised in his distinctly
perceiving that she sacrificed her life to her fatherand in his
having no idea that she had done anything for himself.

When this spirited young man and his sister had begun
systematically to produce the family skeleton for the overawing of
the Collegethis narrative cannot precisely state. Probably at
about the period when they began to dine on the College charity.
It is certain that the more reduced and necessitous they werethe
more pompously the skeleton emerged from its tomb; and that when
there was anything particularly shabby in the windthe skeleton
always came out with the ghastliest flourish.

Little Dorrit was late on the Monday morningfor her father slept
lateand afterwards there was his breakfast to prepare and his
room to arrange. She had no engagement to go out to workhowever
and therefore stayed with him untilwith Maggy's helpshe had put
everything right about himand had seen him off upon his morning
walk (of twenty yards or so) to the coffee-house to read the paper.

She then got on her bonnet and went outhaving been anxious to get
out much sooner. There wasas usuala cessation of the smalltalk
in the Lodge as she passed through it; and a Collegian who had
come in on Saturday nightreceived the intimation from the elbow
of a more seasoned Collegian'Look out. Here she is!'
She wanted to see her sisterbut when she got round to Mr
Cripples'sshe found that both her sister and her uncle had gone
to the theatre where they were engaged. Having taken thought of
this probability by the wayand having settled that in such case
she would follow themshe set off afresh for the theatrewhich


was on that side of the riverand not very far away.

Little Dorrit was almost as ignorant of the ways of theatres as of
the ways of gold minesand when she was directed to a furtive sort
of doorwith a curious up-all-night air about itthat appeared to
be ashamed of itself and to be hiding in an alleyshe hesitated to
approach it; being further deterred by the sight of some half-dozen
close-shaved gentlemen with their hats very strangely onwho were
lounging about the doorlooking not at all unlike Collegians. On
her applying to themreassured by this resemblancefor a
direction to Miss Dorritthey made way for her to enter a dark
hall--it was more like a great grim lamp gone out than anything
else--where she could hear the distant playing of music and the
sound of dancing feet. A man so much in want of airing that he had
a blue mould upon himsat watching this dark place from a hole in
a cornerlike a spider; and he told her that he would send a
message up to Miss Dorrit by the first lady or gentleman who went
through. The first lady who went through had a roll of musichalf
in her muff and half out of itand was in such a tumbled condition
altogetherthat it seemed as if it would be an act of kindness to
iron her. But as she was very good-naturedand said'Come with
me; I'll soon find Miss Dorrit for you' Miss Dorrit's sister went
with herdrawing nearer and nearer at every step she took in the
darkness to the sound of music and the sound of dancing feet.

At last they came into a maze of dustwhere a quantity of people
were tumbling over one anotherand where there was such a
confusion of unaccountable shapes of beamsbulkheadsbrick walls
ropesand rollersand such a mixing of gaslight and daylight
that they seemed to have got on the wrong side of the pattern of
the universe. Little Dorritleft to herselfand knocked against
by somebody every momentwas quite bewilderedwhen she heard her
sister's voice.

'Whygood graciousAmywhat ever brought you here?'

'I wanted to see youFanny dear; and as I am going out all day tomorrow
and knew you might be engaged all day to-dayI thought--'

'But the ideaAmyof YOU coming behind! I never did!' As her
sister said this in no very cordial tone of welcomeshe conducted
her to a more open part of the mazewhere various golden chairs
and tables were heaped togetherand where a number of young ladies
were sitting on anything they could findchattering. All these
young ladies wanted ironingand all had a curious way of looking
everywhere while they chattered.

just as the sisters arrived herea monotonous boy in a Scotch cap
put his head round a beam on the leftand said'Less noise there
ladies!' and disappeared. Immediately after whicha sprightly
gentleman with a quantity of long black hair looked round a beam on
the rightand said'Less noise theredarlings!' and also
disappeared.

'The notion of you among professionalsAmyis really the last
thing I could have conceived!' said her sister. 'Whyhow did you
ever get here?'

'I don't know. The lady who told you I was herewas so good as to
bring me in.'

'Like you quiet little things! You can make your way anywhereI
believe. I couldn't have managed itAmythough I know so much
more of the world.'


It was the family custom to lay it down as family lawthat she was
a plain domestic little creaturewithout the great and sage
experience of the rest. This family fiction was the family
assertion of itself against her services. Not to make too much of
them.

'Well! And what have you got on your mindAmy? Of course you
have got something on your mind about me?' said Fanny. She spoke
as if her sisterbetween two and three years her juniorwere her
prejudiced grandmother.

'It is not much; but since you told me of the lady who gave you the
braceletFanny--'

The monotonous boy put his head round the beam on the leftand
said'Look out thereladies!' and disappeared. The sprightly
gentleman with the black hair as suddenly put his head round the
beam on the rightand said'Look out theredarlings!' and also
disappeared. Thereupon all the young ladies rose and began shaking
their skirts out behind.

'WellAmy?' said Fannydoing as the rest did; 'what were you
going to say?'

'Since you told me a lady had given you the bracelet you showed me
FannyI have not been quite easy on your accountand indeed want
to know a little more if you will confide more to me.'

'Nowladies!' said the boy in the Scotch cap. 'Nowdarlings!'
said the gentleman with the black hair. They were every one gone
in a momentand the music and the dancing feet were heard again.

Little Dorrit sat down in a golden chairmade quite giddy by these
rapid interruptions. Her sister and the rest were a long time
gone; and during their absence a voice (it appeared to be that of
the gentleman with the black hair) was continually calling out
through the music'Onetwothreefourfivesix--go! One
twothreefourfivesix--go! Steadydarlings! Onetwo
threefourfivesix--go!' Ultimately the voice stoppedand
they all came back againmore or less out of breathfolding
themselves in their shawlsand making ready for the streets.
'Stop a momentAmyand let them get away before us' whispered
Fanny. They were soon left alone; nothing more important
happeningin the meantimethan the boy looking round his old
beamand saying'Everybody at eleven to-morrowladies!' and the
gentleman with the black hair looking round his old beamand
saying'Everybody at eleven to-morrowdarlings!' each in his own
accustomed manner.

When they were alonesomething was rolled up or by other means got
out of the wayand there was a great empty well before them
looking down into the depths of which Fanny said'Nowuncle!'
Little Dorritas her eyes became used to the darknessfaintly
made him out at the bottom of the wellin an obscure corner by
himselfwith his instrument in its ragged case under his arm.

The old man looked as if the remote high gallery windowswith
their little strip of skymight have been the point of his better
fortunesfrom which he had descendeduntil he had gradually sunk
down below there to the bottom. He had been in that place six
nights a week for many yearsbut had never been observed to raise
his eyes above his music-bookand was confidently believed to have
never seen a play. There were legends in the place that he did not


so much as know the popular heroes and heroines by sightand that
the low comedian had 'mugged' at him in his richest manner fifty
nights for a wagerand he had shown no trace of consciousness.
The carpenters had a joke to the effect that he was dead without
being aware of it; and the frequenters of the pit supposed him to
pass his whole lifenight and dayand Sunday and allin the
orchestra. They had tried him a few times with pinches of snuff
offered over the railsand he had always responded to this
attention with a momentary waking up of manner that had the pale
phantom of a gentleman in it: beyond this he neveron any
occasionhad any other part in what was going on than the part
written out for the clarionet; in private lifewhere there was no
part for the clarionethe had no part at all. Some said he was
poorsome said he was a wealthy miser; but he said nothingnever
lifted up his bowed headnever varied his shuffling gait by
getting his springless foot from the ground. Though expecting now
to be summoned by his niecehe did not hear her until she had
spoken to him three or four times; nor was he at all surprised by
the presence of two nieces instead of onebut merely said in his
tremulous voice'I am comingI am coming!' and crept forth by
some underground way which emitted a cellarous smell.

'And soAmy' said her sisterwhen the three together passed out
at the door that had such a shame-faced consciousness of being
different from other doors: the uncle instinctively taking Amy's
arm as the arm to be relied on: 'soAmyyou are curious about
me?'

She was prettyand consciousand rather flaunting; and the
condescension with which she put aside the superiority of her
charmsand of her worldly experienceand addressed her sister on
almost equal termshad a vast deal of the family in it.

'I am interestedFannyand concerned in anything that concerns
you.'

'So you areso you areand you are the best of Amys. If I am
ever a little provokingI am sure you'll consider what a thing it
is to occupy my position and feel a consciousness of being superior
to it. I shouldn't care' said the Daughter of the Father of the
Marshalsea'if the others were not so common. None of them have
come down in the world as we have. They are all on their own
level. Common.'

Little Dorrit mildly looked at the speakerbut did not interrupt
her. Fanny took out her handkerchiefand rather angrily wiped her
eyes. 'I was not born where you wereyou knowAmyand perhaps
that makes a difference. My dear childwhen we get rid of Uncle
you shall know all about it. We'll drop him at the cook's shop
where he is going to dine.'

They walked on with him until they came to a dirty shop window in
a dirty streetwhich was made almost opaque by the steam of hot
meatsvegetablesand puddings. But glimpses were to be caught of
a roast leg of pork bursting into tears of sage and onion in a
metal reservoir full of gravyof an unctuous piece of roast beef
and blisterous Yorkshire puddingbubbling hot in a similar
receptacleof a stuffed fillet of veal in rapid cutof a ham in
a perspiration with the pace it was going atof a shallow tank of
baked potatoes glued together by their own richnessof a truss or
two of boiled greensand other substantial delicacies. Within
were a few wooden partitionsbehind which such customers as found
it more convenient to take away their dinners in stomachs than in
their handsPacked their purchases in solitude. Fanny opening her


reticuleas they surveyed these thingsproduced from that
repository a shilling and handed it to Uncle. Uncleafter not
looking at it a little whiledivined its objectand muttering
'Dinner? Ha! Yesyesyes!' slowly vanished from them into the
mist.

'NowAmy' said her sister'come with meif you are not too
tired to walk to Harley StreetCavendish Square.'

The air with which she threw off this distinguished address and the
toss she gave to her new bonnet (which was more gauzy than
serviceable)made her sister wonder; howevershe expressed her
readiness to go to Harley Streetand thither they directed their
steps. Arrived at that grand destinationFanny singled out the
handsomest houseand knocking at the doorinquired for Mrs
Merdle. The footman who opened the dooralthough he had powder on
his head and was backed up by two other footmen likewise powdered
not only admitted Mrs Merdle to be at homebut asked Fanny to walk
in. Fanny walked intaking her sister with her; and they went upstairs
with powder going before and powder stopping behindand
were left in a spacious semicircular drawing-roomone of several
drawing-roomswhere there was a parrot on the outside of a golden
cage holding on by its beakwith its scaly legs in the airand
putting itself into many strange upside-down postures. This
peculiarity has been observed in birds of quite another feather
climbing upon golden wires.

The room was far more splendid than anything Little Dorrit had ever
imaginedand would have been splendid and costly in any eyes. She
looked in amazement at her sister and would have asked a question
but that Fanny with a warning frown pointed to a curtained doorway
of communication with another room. The curtain shook next moment
and a ladyraising it with a heavily ringed handdropped it
behind her again as she entered.

The lady was not young and fresh from the hand of Naturebut was
young and fresh from the hand of her maid. She had large unfeeling
handsome eyesand dark unfeeling handsome hairand a broad
unfeeling handsome bosomand was made the most of in every
particular. Either because she had a coldor because it suited
her faceshe wore a rich white fillet tied over her head and under
her chin. And if ever there were an unfeeling handsome chin that
looked as iffor certainit had never beenin familiar parlance
'chucked' by the hand of manit was the chin curbed up so tight
and close by that laced bridle.

'Mrs Merdle' said Fanny. 'My sisterma'am.'

'I am glad to see your sisterMiss Dorrit. I did not remember
that you had a sister.'

'I did not mention that I had' said Fanny.

'Ah!' Mrs Merdle curled the little finger of her left hand as who
should say'I have caught you. I know you didn't!' All her
action was usually with her left hand because her hands were not a
pair; and left being much the whiter and plumper of the two. Then
she added: 'Sit down' and composed herself voluptuouslyin a nest
of crimson and gold cushionson an ottoman near the parrot.

'Also professional?' said Mrs Merdlelooking at Little Dorrit
through an eye-glass.

Fanny answered No. 'No' said Mrs Merdledropping her glass.


'Has not a professional air. Very pleasant; but not professional.'

'My sisterma'am' said Fannyin whom there was a singular
mixture of deference and hardihood'has been asking me to tell
heras between sistershow I came to have the honour of knowing
you. And as I had engaged to call upon you once moreI thought I
might take the liberty of bringing her with mewhen perhaps you
would tell her. I wish her to knowand perhaps you will tell
her?'
'Do you thinkat your sister's age--' hinted Mrs Merdle.

'She is much older than she looks' said Fanny; 'almost as old as
I am.'

'Society' said Mrs Merdlewith another curve of her little
finger'is so difficult to explain to young persons (indeed is so
difficult to explain to most persons)that I am glad to hear that.

I wish Society was not so arbitraryI wish it was not so exacting
-- Birdbe quiet!'

The parrot had given a most piercing shriekas if its name were
Society and it asserted its right to its exactions.

'But' resumed Mrs Merdle'we must take it as we find it. We know
it is hollow and conventional and worldly and very shockingbut
unless we are Savages in the Tropical seas (I should have been
charmed to be one myself--most delightful life and perfect climate
I am told)we must consult it. It is the common lot. Mr Merdle
is a most extensive merchanthis transactions are on the vastest
scalehis wealth and influence are very greatbut even he-- Bird
be quiet!'

The parrot had shrieked another shriek; and it filled up the
sentence so expressively that Mrs Merdle was under no necessity to
end it.

'Since your sister begs that I would terminate our personal
acquaintance' she began againaddressing Little Dorrit'by
relating the circumstances that are much to her creditI cannot
object to comply with her requestI am sure. I have a son (I was
first married extremely young) of two or three-and-twenty.'

Fanny set her lipsand her eyes looked half triumphantly at her
sister.

'A son of two or three-and-twenty. He is a little gaya thing
Society is accustomed to in young menand he is very impressible.
Perhaps he inherits that misfortune. I am very impressible myself
by nature. The weakest of creatures--my feelings are touched in a
moment.'

She said all thisand everything elseas coldly as a woman of
snow; quite forgetting the sisters except at odd timesand
apparently addressing some abstraction of Society; for whose
behooftooshe occasionally arranged her dressor the
composition of her figure upon the ottoman.

'So he is very impressible. Not a misfortune in our natural state
I dare saybut we are not in a natural state. Much to be
lamentedno doubtparticularly by myselfwho am a child of
nature if I could but show it; but so it is. Society suppresses us
and dominates us-- Birdbe quiet!'
The parrot had broken into a violent fit of laughterafter


twisting divers bars of his cage with his crooked billand licking
them with his black tongue.

'It is quite unnecessary to say to a person of your good sense
wide range of experienceand cultivated feeling' said Mrs Merdle
from her nest of crimson and gold--and there put up her glass to
refresh her memory as to whom she was addressing--'that the stage
sometimes has a fascination for young men of that class of
character. In saying the stageI mean the people on it of the
female sex. Thereforewhen I heard that my son was supposed to be
fascinated by a dancerI knew what that usually meant in Society
and confided in her being a dancer at the Operawhere young men
moving in Society are usually fascinated.'

She passed her white hands over one anotherobservant of the
sisters now; and the rings upon her fingers grated against each
other with a hard sound.

'As your sister will tell youwhen I found what the theatre was I
was much surprised and much distressed. But when I found that your
sisterby rejecting my son's advances (I must addin an
unexpected manner)had brought him to the point of proposing
marriagemy feelings were of the profoundest anguish--acute.' She
traced the outline of her left eyebrowand put it right.

'In a distracted conditionwhich only a mother--moving in
Society--can be susceptible ofI determined to go myself to the
theatreand represent my state of mind to the dancer. I made
myself known to your sister. I found herto my surprisein many
respects different from my expectations; and certainly in none more
sothan in meeting me with--what shall I say--a sort of family
assertion on her own part?' Mrs Merdle smiled.

'I told youma'am' said Fannywith a heightening colour'that
although you found me in that situationI was so far above the
restthat I considered my family as good as your son's; and that
I had a brother whoknowing the circumstanceswould be of the
same opinionand would not consider such a connection any honour.'

'Miss Dorrit' said Mrs Merdleafter frostily looking at her
through her glass'precisely what I was on the point of telling
your sisterin pursuance of your request. Much obliged to you for
recalling it so accurately and anticipating me. I immediately'
addressing Little Dorrit'(for I am the creature of impulse)took
a bracelet from my armand begged your sister to let me clasp it
on hersin token of the delight I had in our being able to
approach the subject so far on a common footing.' (This was
perfectly truethe lady having bought a cheap and showy article on
her way to the interviewwith a general eye to bribery.)

'And I told youMrs Merdle' said Fanny'that we might be
unfortunatebut we are not common.'

'I thinkthe very wordsMiss Dorrit' assented Mrs Merdle.

'And I told youMrs Merdle' said Fanny'that if you spoke to me
of the superiority of your son's standing in Societyit was barely
possible that you rather deceived yourself in your suppositions
about my origin; and that my father's standingeven in the Society
in which he now moved (what that waswas best known to myself)
was eminently superiorand was acknowledged by every one.'

'Quite accurate' rejoined Mrs Merdle. 'A most admirable memory.'


'Thank youma'am. Perhaps you will be so kind as to tell my
sister the rest.'

'There is very little to tell' said Mrs Merdlereviewing the
breadth of bosom which seemed essential to her having room enough
to be unfeeling in'but it is to your sister's credit. I pointed
out to your sister the plain state of the case; the impossibility
of the Society in which we moved recognising the Society in which
she moved--though charmingI have no doubt; the immense
disadvantage at which she would consequently place the family she
had so high an opinion ofupon which we should find ourselves
compelled to look down with contemptand from which (socially
speaking) we should feel obliged to recoil with abhorrence. In
shortI made an appeal to that laudable pride in your sister.'

'Let my sister knowif you pleaseMrs Merdle' Fanny poutedwith
a toss of her gauzy bonnet'that I had already had the honour of
telling your son that I wished to have nothing whatever to say to
him.'

'WellMiss Dorrit' assented Mrs Merdle'perhaps I might have
mentioned that before. If I did not think of itperhaps it was
because my mind reverted to the apprehensions I had at the time
that he might persevere and you might have something to say to him.

I also mentioned to your sister--I again address the nonprofessional
Miss Dorrit--that my son would have nothing in the
event of such a marriageand would be an absolute beggar. (I
mention that merely as a fact which is part of the narrativeand
not as supposing it to have influenced your sisterexcept in the
prudent and legitimate way in whichconstituted as our artificial
system iswe must all be influenced by such considerations.)
Finallyafter some high words and high spirit on the part of your
sisterwe came to the complete understanding that there was no
danger; and your sister was so obliging as to allow me to present
her with a mark or two of my appreciation at my dressmaker's.'

Little Dorrit looked sorryand glanced at Fanny with a troubled
face.

'Also' said Mrs Merdle'as to promise to give me the present
pleasure of a closing interviewand of parting with her on the
best of terms. On which occasion' added Mrs Merdlequitting her
nestand putting something in Fanny's hand'Miss Dorrit will
permit me to say Farewell with best wishes in my own dull manner.'

The sisters rose at the same timeand they all stood near the cage
of the parrotas he tore at a claw-full of biscuit and spat it
outseemed to mock them with a pompous dance of his body without
moving his feetand suddenly turned himself upside down and
trailed himself all over the outside of his golden cagewith the
aid of his cruel beak and black tongue.

'AdieuMiss Dorritwith best wishes' said Mrs Merdle. 'If we
could only come to a Millenniumor something of that sortI for
one might have the pleasure of knowing a number of charming and
talented persons from whom I am at present excluded. A more
primitive state of society would be delicious to me. There used to
be a poem when I learnt lessonssomething about Lo the poor
Indians whose something mind! If a few thousand persons moving in
Societycould only go and be IndiansI would put my name down
directly; but asmoving in Societywe can't be Indians
unfortunately--Good morning!'


They came down-stairs with powder before them and powder behind
the elder sister haughty and the younger sister humbledand were
shut out into unpowdered Harley StreetCavendish Square.


'Well?' said Fannywhen they had gone a little way without
speaking. 'Have you nothing to sayAmy?'


'OhI don't know what to say!' she answereddistressed. 'You
didn't like this young manFanny?'


'Like him? He is almost an idiot.'


'I am so sorry--don't be hurt--butsince you ask me what I have to
sayI am so very sorryFannythat you suffered this lady to give
you anything.'


'You little Fool!' returned her sistershaking her with the sharp
pull she gave her arm. 'Have you no spirit at all? But that's
just the way! You have no self-respectyou have no becoming
pride. just as you allow yourself to be followed about by a
contemptible little Chivery of a thing' with the scornfullest
emphasis'you would let your family be trodden onand never
turn.'


'Don't say thatdear Fanny. I do what I can for them.'


'You do what you can for them!' repeated Fannywalking her on very
fast. 'Would you let a woman like thiswhom you could seeif you
had any experience of anythingto be as false and insolent as a
woman can be--would you let her put her foot upon your familyand
thank her for it?'


'NoFannyI am sure.'
'Then make her pay for ityou mean little thing. What else can
you make her do? Make her pay for ityou stupid child; and do
your family some credit with the money!'


They spoke no more all the way back to the lodging where Fanny and
her uncle lived. When they arrived therethey found the old man
practising his clarionet in the dolefullest manner in a corner of
the room. Fanny had a composite meal to makeof chopsand
porterand tea; and indignantly pretended to prepare it for
herselfthough her sister did all that in quiet reality. When at
last Fanny sat down to eat and drinkshe threw the table
implements about and was angry with her breadmuch as her father
had been last night.


'If you despise me' she saidbursting into vehement tears
'because I am a dancerwhy did you put me in the way of being one?


It was your doing. You would have me stoop as low as the ground
before this Mrs Merdleand let her say what she liked and do what
she likedand hold us all in contemptand tell me so to my face.
Because I am a dancer!'


'O Fanny!'


'And Tiptoopoor fellow. She is to disparage him just as much
as she likeswithout any check--I suppose because he has been in
the lawand the docksand different things. Whyit was your
doingAmy. You might at least approve of his being defended.'


All this time the uncle was dolefully blowing his clarionet in the



cornersometimes taking it an inch or so from his mouth for a
moment while he stopped to gaze at themwith a vague impression
that somebody had said something.

'And your fatheryour poor fatherAmy. Because he is not free to
show himself and to speak for himselfyou would let such people
insult him with impunity. If you don't feel for yourself because
you go out to workyou might at least feel for himI should
thinkknowing what he has undergone so long.'

Poor Little Dorrit felt the injustice of this taunt rather sharply.

The remembrance of last night added a barbed point to it. She said
nothing in replybut turned her chair from the table towards the
fire. Uncleafter making one more pauseblew a dismal wail and
went on again.

Fanny was passionate with the tea-cups and the bread as long as her
passion lastedand then protested that she was the wretchedest
girl in the worldand she wished she was dead. After thather
crying became remorsefuland she got up and put her arms round her
sister. Little Dorrit tried to stop her from saying anythingbut
she answered that she wouldshe must! Thereupon she said again
and again'I beg your pardonAmy' and 'Forgive meAmy' almost
as passionately as she had said what she regretted.

'But indeedindeedAmy' she resumed when they were seated in
sisterly accord side by side'I hope and I think you would have
seen this differentlyif you had known a little more of Society.'

'Perhaps I mightFanny' said the mild Little Dorrit.

'You seewhile you have been domestic and resignedly shut up
thereAmy' pursued her sistergradually beginning to patronise
'I have been outmoving more in Societyand may have been getting
proud and spirited--more than I ought to beperhaps?'

Little Dorrit answered 'Yes. O yes!'

'And while you have been thinking of the dinner or the clothesI
may have been thinkingyou knowof the family. Nowmay it not
be soAmy?'

Little Dorrit again nodded 'Yes' with a more cheerful face than
heart.

'Especially as we know' said Fanny'that there certainly is a
tone in the place to which you have been so truewhich does belong
to itand which does make it different from other aspects of
Society. So kiss me once againAmy dearand we will agree that
we may both be rightand that you are a tranquildomestichomeloving
good girl.'

The clarionet had been lamenting most pathetically during this
dialoguebut was cut short now by Fanny's announcement that it was
time to go; which she conveyed to her uncle by shutting up his
scrap of musicand taking the clarionet out of his mouth.

Little Dorrit parted from them at the doorand hastened back to
the Marshalsea. It fell dark there sooner than elsewhereand
going into it that evening was like going into a deep trench. The
shadow of the wall was on every object. Not least upon the figure
in the old grey gown and the black velvet capas it turned towards
her when she opened the door of the dim room.


'Why not upon me too!' thought Little Dorritwith the door Yet in
her hand. 'It was not unreasonable in Fanny.'

CHAPTER 21

Mr Merdle's Complaint

Upon that establishment of statethe Merdle establishment in
Harley StreetCavendish Squarethere was the shadow of no more
common wall than the fronts of other establishments of state on the
opposite side of the street. Like unexceptionable Societythe
opposing rows of houses in Harley Street were very grim with one
another. Indeedthe mansions and their inhabitants were so much
alike in that respectthat the people were often to be found drawn
up on opposite sides of dinner-tablesin the shade of their own
loftinessstaring at the other side of the way with the dullness
of the houses.

Everybody knows how like the street the two dinner-rows of people
who take their stand by the street will be. The expressionless
uniform twenty housesall to be knocked at and rung at in the same
formall approachable by the same dull stepsall fended off by
the same pattern of railingall with the same impracticable fireescapes
the same inconvenient fixtures in their headsand
everything without exception to be taken at a high valuation--who
has not dined with these? The house so drearily out of repairthe
occasional bow-windowthe stuccoed housethe newly-fronted house
the corner house with nothing but angular roomsthe house with the
blinds always downthe house with the hatchment always upthe
house where the collector has called for one quarter of an Idea
and found nobody at home--who has not dined with these? The house
that nobody will takeand is to be had a bargain--who does not
know her? The showy house that was taken for life by the
disappointed gentlemanand which does not suit him at all--who is
unacquainted with that haunted habitation?

Harley StreetCavendish Squarewas more than aware of Mr and Mrs
Merdle. Intruders there were in Harley Streetof whom it was not
aware; but Mr and Mrs Merdle it delighted to honour. Society was
aware of Mr and Mrs Merdle. Society had said 'Let us license them;
let us know them.'

Mr Merdle was immensely rich; a man of prodigious enterprise; a
Midas without the earswho turned all he touched to gold. He was
in everything goodfrom banking to building. He was in
Parliamentof course. He was in the Citynecessarily. He was
Chairman of thisTrustee of thatPresident of the other. The
weightiest of men had said to projectors'Nowwhat name have you
got? Have you got Merdle?' Andthe reply being in the negative
had said'Then I won't look at you.'

This great and fortunate man had provided that extensive bosom
which required so much room to be unfeeling enough inwith a nest
of crimson and gold some fifteen years before. It was not a bosom
to repose uponbut it was a capital bosom to hang jewels upon. Mr
Merdle wanted something to hang jewels uponand he bought it for
the purpose. Storr and Mortimer might have married on the same
speculation.


Like all his other speculationsit was sound and successful. The
jewels showed to the richest advantage. The bosom moving in
Society with the jewels displayed upon itattracted general
admiration. Society approvingMr Merdle was satisfied. He was
the most disinterested of men--did everything for Societyand got
as little for himself out of all his gain and careas a man might.

That is to sayit may be supposed that he got all he wanted
otherwise with unlimited wealth he would have got it. But his
desire was to the utmost to satisfy Society (whatever that was)
and take up all its drafts upon him for tribute. He did not shine
in company; he had not very much to say for himself; he was a
reserved manwith a broadoverhangingwatchful headthat
particular kind of dull red colour in his cheeks which is rather
stale than freshand a somewhat uneasy expression about his coatcuffs
as if they were in his confidenceand had reasons for being
anxious to hide his hands. In the little he saidhe was a
pleasant man enough; plainemphatic about public and private
confidenceand tenacious of the utmost deference being shown by
every onein all thingsto Society. In this same Society (if
that were it which came to his dinnersand to Mrs Merdle's
receptions and concerts)he hardly seemed to enjoy himself much
and was mostly to be found against walls and behind doors. Also
when he went out to itinstead of its coming home to himhe
seemed a little fatiguedand upon the whole rather more disposed
for bed; but he was always cultivating it neverthelessand always
moving in it--and always laying out money on it with the greatest
liberality.

Mrs Merdle's first husband had been a colonelunder whose auspices
the bosom had entered into competition with the snows of North
Americaand had come off at little disadvantage in point of
whitenessand at none in point of coldness. The colonel's son was
Mrs Merdle's only child. He was of a chuckle-headedhighshouldered
makewith a general appearance of beingnot so much a
young man as a swelled boy. He had given so few signs of reason
that a by-word went among his companions that his brain had been
frozen up in a mighty frost which prevailed at St john'sNew
Brunswickat the period of his birth thereand had never thawed
from that hour. Another by-word represented him as having in his
infancythrough the negligence of a nursefallen out of a high
window on his headwhich had been heard by responsible witnesses
to crack. It is probable that both these representations were of
ex post facto origin; the young gentleman (whose expressive name
was Sparkler) being monomaniacal in offering marriage to all manner
of undesirable young ladiesand in remarking of every successive
young lady to whom he tendered a matrimonial proposal that she was
'a doosed fine gal--well educated too--with no biggodd nonsense
about her.'

A son-in-law with these limited talentsmight have been a clog
upon another man; but Mr Merdle did not want a son-in-law for
himself; he wanted a son-in-law for Society. Mr Sparkler having
been in the Guardsand being in the habit of frequenting all the
racesand all the loungesand all the partiesand being well
knownSociety was satisfied with its son-in-law. This happy
result Mr Merdle would have considered well attainedthough Mr
Sparkler had been a more expensive article. And he did not get Mr
Sparkler by any means cheap for Societyeven as it was.
There was a dinner giving in the Harley Street establishmentwhile
Little Dorrit was stitching at her father's new shirts by his side
that night; and there were magnates from the Court and magnates
from the Citymagnates from the Commons and magnates from the
Lordsmagnates from the bench and magnates from the barBishop


magnatesTreasury magnatesHorse Guard magnatesAdmiralty
magnates--all the magnates that keep us goingand sometimes trip
us up.

'I am told' said Bishop magnate to Horse Guards'that Mr Merdle
has made another enormous hit. They say a hundred thousand
pounds.'

Horse Guards had heard two.

Treasury had heard three.

Barhandling his persuasive double eye-glasswas by no means
clear but that it might be four. It was one of those happy strokes
of calculation and combinationthe result of which it was
difficult to estimate. It was one of those instances of a
comprehensive graspassociated with habitual luck and
characteristic boldnessof which an age presented us but few. But
here was Brother Bellowswho had been in the great Bank caseand
who could probably tell us more. What did Brother Bellows put this
new success at?

Brother Bellows was on his way to make his bow to the bosomand
could only tell them in passing that he had heard it statedwith
great appearance of truthas being worthfrom first to last
half-a-million of money.

Admiralty said Mr Merdle was a wonderful manTreasury said he was
a new power in the countryand would be able to buy up the whole
House of Commons. Bishop said he was glad to think that this
wealth flowed into the coffers of a gentleman who was always
disposed to maintain the best interests of Society.

Mr Merdle himself was usually late on these occasionsas a man
still detained in the clutch of giant enterprises when other men
had shaken off their dwarfs for the day. On this occasionhe was
the last arrival. Treasury said Merdle's work punished him a
little. Bishop said he was glad to think that this wealth flowed
into the coffers of a gentleman who accepted it with meekness.

Powder! There was so much Powder in waitingthat it flavoured the
dinner. Pulverous particles got into the dishesand Society's
meats had a seasoning of first-rate footmen. Mr Merdle took down
a countess who was secluded somewhere in the core of an immense
dressto which she was in the proportion of the heart to the
overgrown cabbage. If so low a simile may be admittedthe dress
went down the staircase like a richly brocaded Jack in the Green
and nobody knew what sort of small person carried it.

Society had everything it could wantand could not wantfor
dinner. It had everything to look atand everything to eatand
everything to drink. It is to be hoped it enjoyed itself; for Mr
Merdle's own share of the repast might have been paid for with
eighteenpence. Mrs Merdle was magnificent. The chief butler was
the next magnificent institution of the day. He was the stateliest
man in the company. He did nothingbut he looked on as few other
men could have done. He was Mr Merdle's last gift to Society. Mr
Merdle didn't want himand was put out of countenance when the
great creature looked at him; but inappeasable Society would have
him--and had got him.

The invisible countess carried out the Green at the usual stage of
the entertainmentand the file of beauty was closed up by the
bosom. Treasury saidJuno. Bishop saidJudith.


Bar fell into discussion with Horse Guards concerning courtsmartial.
Brothers Bellows and Bench struck in. Other magnates
paired off. Mr Merdle sat silentand looked at the table-cloth.
Sometimes a magnate addressed himto turn the stream of his own
particular discussion towards him; but Mr Merdle seldom gave much
attention to itor did more than rouse himself from his
calculations and pass the wine.

When they roseso many of the magnates had something to say to Mr
Merdle individually that he held little levees by the sideboard
and checked them off as they went out at the door.

Treasury hoped he might venture to congratulate one of England's
world-famed capitalists and merchant-princes (he had turned that
original sentiment in the house a few timesand it came easy to
him) on a new achievement. To extend the triumphs of such men was
to extend the triumphs and resources of the nation; and Treasury
felt--he gave Mr Merdle to understand--patriotic on the subject.

'Thank youmy lord' said Mr Merdle; 'thank you. I accept your
congratulations with prideand I am glad you approve.'

'WhyI don't unreservedly approvemy dear Mr Merdle. Because'
smiling Treasury turned him by the arm towards the sideboard and
spoke banteringly'it never can be worth your while to come among
us and help us.'

Mr Merdle felt honoured by the-


'Nono' said Treasury'that is not the light in which one so
distinguished for practical knowledge and great foresightcan be
expected to regard it. If we should ever be happily enabledby
accidentally possessing the control over circumstancesto propose
to one so eminent to--to come among usand give us the weight of
his influenceknowledgeand characterwe could only propose it
to him as a duty. In factas a duty that he owed to Society.'

Mr Merdle intimated that Society was the apple of his eyeand that
its claims were paramount to every other consideration. Treasury
moved onand Bar came up.
Barwith his little insinuating jury droopand fingering his
persuasive double eye-glasshoped he might be excused if he
mentioned to one of the greatest converters of the root of all evil
into the root of all goodwho had for a long time reflected a
shining lustre on the annals even of our commercial country--if he
mentioneddisinterestedlyand aswhat we lawyers called in our
pedantic wayamicus curiaea fact that had come by accident
within his knowledge. He had been required to look over the title
of a very considerable estate in one of the eastern counties-lying
in factfor Mr Merdle knew we lawyers loved to be
particularon the borders of two of the eastern counties. Now
the title was perfectly soundand the estate was to be purchased
by one who had the command of--Money (jury droop and persuasive
eye-glass)on remarkably advantageous terms. This had come to
Bar's knowledge only that dayand it had occurred to him'I shall
have the honour of dining with my esteemed friend Mr Merdle this
eveningandstrictly between ourselvesI will mention the
opportunity.' Such a purchase would involve not only a great
legitimate political influencebut some half-dozen church
presentations of considerable annual value. Nowthat Mr Merdle
was already at no loss to discover means of occupying even his
capitaland of fully employing even his active and vigorous
intellectBar well knew: but he would venture to suggest that the


question arose in his mindwhether one who had deservedly gained
so high a position and so European a reputation did not owe it--we
would not say to himselfbut we would say to Societyto possess
himself of such influences as these; and to exercise them--we would
not say for his ownor for his party'sbut we would say for
Society's--benefit.

Mr Merdle again expressed himself as wholly devoted to that object
of his constant considerationand Bar took his persuasive eyeglass
up the grand staircase. Bishop then came undesignedly
sidling in the direction of the sideboard.

Surely the goods of this worldit occurred in an accidental way to
Bishop to remarkcould scarcely be directed into happier channels
than when they accumulated under the magic touch of the wise and
sagaciouswhowhile they knew the just value of riches (Bishop
tried here to look as if he were rather poor himself)were aware
of their importancejudiciously governed and rightly distributed
to the welfare of our brethren at large.

Mr Merdle with humility expressed his conviction that Bishop
couldn't mean himand with inconsistency expressed his high
gratification in Bishop's good opinion.

Bishop then--jauntily stepping out a little with his well-shaped
right legas though he said to Mr Merdle 'don't mind the apron; a
mere form!' put this case to his good friend:

Whether it had occurred to his good friendthat Society might not
unreasonably hope that one so blest in his undertakingsand whose
example on his pedestal was so influential with itwould shed a
little money in the direction of a mission or so to Africa?

Mr Merdle signifying that the idea should have his best attention
Bishop put another case:

Whether his good friend had at all interested himself in the
proceedings of our Combined Additional Endowed Dignitaries
Committeeand whether it had occurred to him that to shed a little
money in that direction might be a great conception finely
executed?

Mr Merdle made a similar replyand Bishop explained his reason for
inquiring.

Society looked to such men as his good friend to do such things.
It was not that HE looked to thembut that Society looked to them.

just as it was not Our Committee who wanted the Additional Endowed
Dignitariesbut it was Society that was in a state of the most
agonising uneasiness of mind until it got them. He begged to
assure his good friend that he was extremely sensible of his good
friend's regard on all occasions for the best interests of Society;
and he considered that he was at once consulting those interests
and expressing the feeling of Societywhen he wished him continued
prosperitycontinued increase of richesand continued things in
general.

Bishop then betook himself up-stairsand the other magnates
gradually floated up after him until there was no one left below
but Mr Merdle. That gentlemanafter looking at the table-cloth
until the soul of the chief butler glowed with a noble resentment
went slowly up after the restand became of no account in the
stream of people on the grand staircase. Mrs Merdle was at home


the best of the jewels were hung out to be seenSociety got what
it came forMr Merdle drank twopennyworth of tea in a corner and
got more than he wanted.

Among the evening magnates was a famous physicianwho knew
everybodyand whom everybody knew. On entering at the doorhe
came upon Mr Merdle drinking his tea in a cornerand touched him
on the arm.

Mr Merdle started. 'Oh! It's you!'

'Any better to-day?'

'No' said Mr Merdle'I am no better.'

'A pity I didn't see you this morning. Pray come to me to-morrow
or let me come to you. '

'Well!' he replied. 'I will come to-morrow as I drive by.'
Bar and Bishop had both been bystanders during this short dialogue
and as Mr Merdle was swept away by the crowdthey made their
remarks upon it to the Physician. Bar saidthere was a certain
point of mental strain beyond which no man could go; that the point
varied with various textures of brain and peculiarities of
constitutionas he had had occasion to notice in several of his
learned brothers; but the point of endurance passed by a line's
breadthdepression and dyspepsia ensued. Not to intrude on the
sacred mysteries of medicinehe took itnow (with the jury droop
and persuasive eye-glass)that this was Merdle's case? Bishop
said that when he was a young manand had fallen for a brief space
into the habit of writing sermons on Saturdaysa habit which all
young sons of the church should sedulously avoidhe had frequently
been sensible of a depressionarising as he supposed from an overtaxed
intellectupon which the yolk of a new-laid eggbeaten up
by the good woman in whose house he at that time lodgedwith a
glass of sound sherrynutmegand powdered sugar acted like a
charm. Without presuming to offer so simple a remedy to the
consideration of so profound a professor of the great healing art
he would venture to inquire whether the strainbeing by way of
intricate calculationsthe spirits might not (humanly speaking) be
restored to their tone by a gentle and yet generous stimulant?

'Yes' said the physician'yesyou are both right. But I may as
well tell you that I can find nothing the matter with Mr Merdle.
He has the constitution of a rhinocerosthe digestion of an
ostrichand the concentration of an oyster. As to nervesMr
Merdle is of a cool temperamentand not a sensitive man: is about
as invulnerableI should sayas Achilles. How such a man should
suppose himself unwell without reasonyou may think strange. But
I have found nothing the matter with him. He may have some deepseated
recondite complaint. I can't say. I only saythat at
present I have not found it out.'

There was no shadow of Mr Merdle's complaint on the bosom now
displaying precious stones in rivalry with many similar superb
jewel-stands; there was no shadow of Mr Merdle's complaint on young
Sparkler hovering about the roomsmonomaniacally seeking any
sufficiently ineligible young lady with no nonsense about her;
there was no shadow of Mr Merdle's complaint on the Barnacles and
Stiltstalkingsof whom whole colonies were present; or on any of
the company. Even on himselfits shadow was faint enough as he
moved about among the throngreceiving homage.

Mr Merdle's complaint. Society and he had so much to do with one


another in all things elsethat it is hard to imagine his
complaintif he had onebeing solely his own affair. Had he that
deep-seated recondite complaintand did any doctor find it out?
Patience. in the meantimethe shadow of the Marshalsea wall was
a real darkening influenceand could be seen on the Dorrit Family
at any stage of the sun's course.

CHAPTER 22

A Puzzle

Mr Clennam did not increase in favour with the Father of the
Marshalsea in the ratio of his increasing visits. His obtuseness
on the great Testimonial question was not calculated to awaken
admiration in the paternal breastbut had rather a tendency to
give offence in that sensitive quarterand to be regarded as a
positive shortcoming in point of gentlemanly feeling. An
impression of disappointmentoccasioned by the discovery that Mr
Clennam scarcely possessed that delicacy for whichin the
confidence of his naturehe had been inclined to give him credit
began to darken the fatherly mind in connection with that
gentleman. The father went so far as to sayin his private family
circlethat he feared Mr Clennam was not a man of high instincts.
He was happyhe observedin his public capacity as leader and
representative of the Collegeto receive Mr Clennam when he called
to pay his respects; but he didn't find that he got on with him
personally. There appeared to be something (he didn't know what it
was) wanting in him. Howbeitthe father did not fail in any
outward show of politenessbuton the contraryhonoured him with
much attention; perhaps cherishing the hope thatalthough not a
man of a sufficiently brilliant and spontaneous turn of mind to
repeat his former testimonial unsolicitedit might still be within
the compass of his nature to bear the part of a responsive
gentlemanin any correspondence that way tending.

In the threefold capacityof the gentleman from outside who had
been accidentally locked in on the night of his first appearance
of the gentleman from outside who had inquired into the affairs of
the Father of the Marshalsea with the stupendous idea of getting
him outand of the gentleman from outside who took an interest in
the child of the MarshalseaClennam soon became a visitor of mark.

He was not surprised by the attentions he received from Mr Chivery
when that officer was on the lockfor he made little distinction
between Mr Chivery's politeness and that of the other turnkeys. It
was on one particular afternoon that Mr Chivery surprised him all
at onceand stood forth from his companions in bold relief.

Mr Chiveryby some artful exercise of his power of clearing the
Lodgehad contrived to rid it of all sauntering Collegians; so
that Clennamcoming out of the prisonshould find him on duty
alone.

'(Private) I ask your pardonsir' said Mr Chivery in a secret
manner; 'but which way might you be going?'

'I am going over the Bridge.' He saw in Mr Chiverywith some
astonishmentquite an Allegory of Silenceas he stood with his
key on his lips.


'(Private) I ask your pardon again' said Mr Chivery'but could
you go round by Horsemonger Lane? Could you by any means find time
to look in at that address?' handing him a little cardprinted for
circulation among the connection of Chivery and Co.Tobacconists
Importers of pure Havannah CigarsBengal Cherootsand fineflavoured
CubasDealers in Fancy Snuffs&C. &C.

'(Private) It an't tobacco business' said Mr Chivery. 'The truth
isit's my wife. She's wishful to say a word to yousirupon a
point respecting--yes' said Mr Chiveryanswering Clennam's look
of apprehension with a nod'respecting her.'

'I will make a point of seeing your wife directly.'

'Thank yousir. Much obliged. It an't above ten minutes out of
your way. Please to ask for Mrs Chivery!' These instructionsMr
Chiverywho had already let him outcautiously called through a
little slide in the outer doorwhich he could draw back from
within for the inspection of visitors when it pleased him.

Arthur Clennamwith the card in his handbetook himself to the
address set forth upon itand speedily arrived there. It was a
very small establishmentwherein a decent woman sat behind the
counter working at her needle. Little jars of tobaccolittle
boxes of cigarsa little assortment of pipesa little jar or two
of snuffand a little instrument like a shoeing horn for serving
it outcomposed the retail stock in trade.

Arthur mentioned his nameand his having promised to callon the
solicitation of Mr Chivery. About something relating to Miss
Dorrithe believed. Mrs Chivery at once laid aside her workrose
up from her seat behind the counterand deploringly shook her
head.

'You may see him now' said she'if you'll condescend to take a
peep.'

With these mysterious wordsshe preceded the visitor into a little
parlour behind the shopwith a little window in it commanding a
very little dull back-yard. In this yard a wash of sheets and
table-cloths tried (in vainfor want of air) to get itself dried
on a line or two; and among those flapping articles was sitting in
a chairlike the last mariner left alive on the deck of a damp
ship without the power of furling the sailsa little woe-begone
young man.

'Our John' said Mrs Chivery.

Not to be deficient in interestClennam asked what he might be
doing there?

'It's the only change he takes' said Mrs Chiveryshaking her head
afresh. 'He won't go outeven in the back-yardwhen there's no
linen; but when there's linen to keep the neighbours' eyes off
he'll sit therehours. Hours he will. Says he feels as if it was
groves!' Mrs Chivery shook her head againput her apron in a
motherly way to her eyesand reconducted her visitor into the
regions of the business.

'Please to take a seatsir' said Mrs Chivery. 'Miss Dorrit is
the matter with Our Johnsir; he's a breaking his heart for her
and I would wish to take the liberty to ask how it's to be made
good to his parents when bust?'


Mrs Chiverywho was a comfortable-looking woman much respected
about Horsemonger Lane for her feelings and her conversation
uttered this speech with fell composureand immediately afterwards
began again to shake her head and dry her eyes.

'Sir' said she in continuation'you are acquainted with the
familyand have interested yourself with the familyand are
influential with the family. If you can promote views calculated
to make two young people happylet mefor Our john's sakeand
for both their sakesimplore you so to do!'

'I have been so habituated' returned Arthurat a loss'during
the short time I have known herto consider Little-- I have been
so habituated to consider Miss Dorrit in a light altogether removed
from that in which you present her to methat you quite take me by
surprise. Does she know your son?'

'Brought up togethersir' said Mrs Chivery. 'Played together.'

'Does she know your son as her admirer?'

'Oh! bless yousir' said Mrs Chiverywith a sort of triumphant
shiver'she never could have seen him on a Sunday without knowing
he was that. His cane alone would have told it long agoif
nothing else had. Young men like John don't take to ivory hands a
pintingfor nothing. How did I first know it myself? Similarly.'

'Perhaps Miss Dorrit may not be so ready as youyou see.'

'Then she knows itsir' said Mrs Chivery'by word of mouth.'

'Are you sure?'

'Sir' said Mrs Chivery'sure and certain as in this house I am.
I see my son go out with my own eyes when in this house I wasand
I see my son come in with my own eyes when in this house I wasand
I know he done it!' Mrs Chivery derived a surprising force of
emphasis from the foregoing circumstantiality and repetition.

'May I ask you how he came to fall into the desponding state which
causes you so much uneasiness?'

'That' said Mrs Chivery'took place on that same day when to this
house I see that John with these eyes return. Never been himself
in this house since. Never was like what he has been sincenot
from the hour when to this house seven year ago me and his father
as tenants by the quartercame!' An effect in the nature of an
affidavit was gained from this speech by Mrs Chivery's peculiar
power of construction.
'May I venture to inquire what is your version of the matter?'

'You may' said Mrs Chivery'and I will give it to you in honour
and in word as true as in this shop I stand. Our John has every
one's good word and every one's good wish. He played with her as
a child when in that yard a child she played. He has known her
ever since. He went out upon the Sunday afternoon when in this
very parlour he had dinedand met herwith appointment or without
appointment; whichI do not pretend to say. He made his offer to
her. Her brother and sister is high in their viewsand against
Our John. Her father is all for himself in his views and against
sharing her with any one. Under which circumstances she has
answered Our JohnNo, John, I cannot have you, I cannot have any
husband, it is not my intentions ever to become a wife, it is my
intentions to be always a sacrifice, farewell, find another worthy


of you, and forget me!This is the way in which she is doomed to
be a constant slave to them that are not worthy that a constant
slave she unto them should be. This is the way in which Our John
has come to find no pleasure but in taking cold among the linen
and in showing in that yardas in that yard I have myself shown
youa broken-down ruin that goes home to his mother's heart!'
Here the good woman pointed to the little windowwhence her son
might be seen sitting disconsolate in the tuneless groves; and
again shook her head and wiped her eyesand besought himfor the
united sakes of both the young peopleto exercise his influence
towards the bright reversal of these dismal events.

She was so confident in her exposition of the caseand it was so
undeniably founded on correct premises in so far as the relative
positions of Little Dorrit and her family were concernedthat
Clennam could not feel positive on the other side. He had come to
attach to Little Dorrit an interest so peculiar--an interest that
removed her fromwhile it grew out ofthe common and coarse
things surrounding her--that he found it disappointing
disagreeablealmost painfulto suppose her in love with young Mr
Chivery in the back-yardor any such person. On the other hand
he reasoned with himself that she was just as good and just as true
in love with himas not in love with him; and that to make a kind
of domesticated fairy of heron the penalty of isolation at heart
from the only people she knewwould be but a weakness of his own
fancyand not a kind one. Stillher youthful and ethereal
appearanceher timid mannerthe charm of her sensitive voice and
eyesthe very many respects in which she had interested him out of
her own individualityand the strong difference between herself
and those about herwere not in unisonand were determined not to
be in unisonwith this newly presented idea.

He told the worthy Mrs Chiveryafter turning these things over in
his mind--he did thatindeedwhile she was yet speaking--that he
might be relied upon to do his utmost at all times to promote the
happiness of Miss Dorritand to further the wishes of her heart if
it were in his power to do soand if he could discover what they
were. At the same time he cautioned her against assumptions and
appearances; enjoined strict silence and secrecylest Miss Dorrit
should be made unhappy; and particularly advised her to endeavour
to win her son's confidence and so to make quite sure of the state
of the case. Mrs Chivery considered the latter precaution
superfluousbut said she would try. She shook her head as if she
had not derived all the comfort she had fondly expected from this
interviewbut thanked him nevertheless for the trouble he had
kindly taken. They then parted good friendsand Arthur walked
away.

The crowd in the street jostling the crowd in his mindand the two
crowds making a confusionhe avoided London Bridgeand turned off
in the quieter direction of the Iron Bridge. He had scarcely set
foot upon itwhen he saw Little Dorrit walking on before him. It
was a pleasant daywith a light breeze blowingand she seemed to
have that minute come there for air. He had left her in her
father's room within an hour.

It was a timely chancefavourable to his wish of observing her
face and manner when no one else was by. He quickened his pace;
but before he reached hershe turned her head.

'Have I startled you?' he asked.

'I thought I knew the step' she answeredhesitating.


'And did you know itLittle Dorrit? You could hardly have
expected mine.'


'I did not expect any. But when I heard a stepI thought it--
sounded like yours.'


'Are you going further?'


'NosirI am only walking her for a little change.'


They walked togetherand she recovered her confiding manner with
himand looked up in his face as she saidafter glancing around:


'It is so strange. Perhaps you can hardly understand it. I
sometimes have a sensation as if it was almost unfeeling to walk
here.'


'Unfeeling?'


'To see the riverand so much skyand so many objectsand such
change and motion. Then to go backyou knowand find him in the
same cramped place.'


'Ah yes! But going backyou must remember that you take with you
the spirit and influence of such things to cheer him.'


'Do I? I hope I may! I am afraid you fancy too muchsirand
make me out too powerful. If you were in prisoncould I bring
such comfort to you?'
'YesLittle DorritI am sure of it.'


He gathered from a tremor on her lipand a passing shadow of great
agitation on her facethat her mind was with her father. He
remained silent for a few momentsthat she might regain her
composure. The Little Dorrittrembling on his armwas less in
unison than ever with Mrs Chivery's theoryand yet was not
irreconcilable with a new fancy which sprung up within himthat
there might be some one else in the hopeless--newer fancy still--in
the hopeless unattainable distance.


They turnedand Clennam saidHere was Maggy coming! Little
Dorrit looked upsurprisedand they confronted Maggywho brought
herself at sight of them to a dead stop. She had been trotting
alongso preoccupied and busy that she had not recognised them
until they turned upon her. She was now in a moment so conscience-
stricken that her very basket partook of the change.


'Maggyyou promised me to stop near father.'


'So I wouldLittle Motheronly he wouldn't let me. If he takes
and sends me out I must go. If he takes and saysMaggy, you
hurry away and back with that letter, and you shall have a sixpence
if the answer's a good 'un,I must take it. LorLittle Mother
what's a poor thing of ten year old to do? And if Mr Tip--if he
happens to be a coming in as I come outand if he says "Where are
you goingMaggy?" and if I saysI'm a going So and So,and if
he saysI'll have a Try too,and if he goes into the George and
writes a letter and if he gives it me and saysTake that one to
the same place, and if the answer's a good 'un I'll give you a
shilling,it ain't my faultmother!'


Arthur readin Little Dorrit's downcast eyesto whom she foresaw
that the letters were addressed.



'I'm a going So and So. There! That's where I am a going to'
said Maggy. 'I'm a going So and So. It ain't youLittle Mother
that's got anything to do with it--it's youyou know' said Maggy
addressing Arthur. 'You'd better comeSo and Soand let me take
and give 'em to you.'

'We will not be so particular as thatMaggy. Give them me here'
said Clennam in a low voice.

'Wellthencome across the road' answered Maggy in a very loud
whisper. 'Little Mother wasn't to know nothing of itand she
would never have known nothing of it if you had only gone So and
Soinstead of bothering and loitering about. It ain't my fault.
I must do what I am told. They ought to be ashamed of themselves
for telling me.'

Clennam crossed to the other sideand hurriedly opened the
letters. That from the father mentioned that most unexpectedly
finding himself in the novel position of having been disappointed
of a remittance from the City on which he had confidently counted
he took up his penbeing restrained by the unhappy circumstance of
his incarceration during three-and-twenty years (doubly
underlined)from coming himselfas he would otherwise certainly
have done--took up his pen to entreat Mr Clennam to advance him the
sum of Three Pounds Ten Shillings upon his I.O.U.which he begged
to enclose. That from the son set forth that Mr Clennam wouldhe
knewbe gratified to hear that he had at length obtained permanent
employment of a highly satisfactory natureaccompanied with every
prospect of complete success in life; but that the temporary
inability of his employer to pay him his arrears of salary to that
date (in which condition said employer had appealed to that
generous forbearance in which he trusted he should never be wanting
towards a fellow-creature)combined with the fraudulent conduct of
a false friend and the present high price of provisionshad
reduced him to the verge of ruinunless he could by a quarter
before six that evening raise the sum of eight pounds. This sum
Mr Clennam would be happy to learnhe hadthrough the promptitude
of several friends who had a lively confidence in his probity
already raisedwith the exception of a trifling balance of one
pound seventeen and fourpence; the loan of which balancefor the
period of one monthwould be fraught with the usual beneficent
consequences.

These letters Clennam answered with the aid of his pencil and
pocket-bookon the spot; sending the father what he asked forand
excusing himself from compliance with the demand of the son. He
then commissioned Maggy to return with his repliesand gave her
the shilling of which the failure of her supplemental enterprise
would have disappointed her otherwise.

When he rejoined Little Dorritand they had begun walking as
beforeshe said all at once:

'I think I had better go. I had better go home.'

'Don't be distressed' said Clennam'I have answered the letters.
They were nothing. You know what they were. They were nothing.'

'But I am afraid' she returned'to leave himI am afraid to
leave any of them. When I am gonethey pervert--but they don't
mean it--even Maggy.'

'It was a very innocent commission that she undertookpoor thing.
And in keeping it secret from youshe supposedno doubtthat she


was only saving you uneasiness.'

'YesI hope soI hope so. But I had better go home! It was but
the other day that my sister told me I had become so used to the
prison that I had its tone and character. It must be so. I am
sure it must be when I see these things. My place is there. I am
better there. it is unfeeling in me to be herewhen I can do the
least thing there. Good-bye. I had far better stay at home!'

The agonised way in which she poured this outas if it burst of
itself from her suppressed heartmade it difficult for Clennam to
keep the tears from his eyes as he saw and heard her.

'Don't call it homemy child!' he entreated. 'It is always
painful to me to hear you call it home.'

'But it is home! What else can I call home? Why should I ever
forget it for a single moment?'

'You never dodear Little Dorritin any good and true service.'

'I hope notO I hope not! But it is better for me to stay there;
much bettermuch more dutifulmuch happier. Please don't go with
melet me go by myself. Good-byeGod bless you. Thank you
thank you.'

He felt that it was better to respect her entreatyand did not
move while her slight form went quickly away from him. When it had
fluttered out of sighthe turned his face towards the water and
stood thinking.

She would have been distressed at any time by this discovery of the
letters; but so much soand in that unrestrainable way?

No.

When she had seen her father begging with his threadbare disguise
onwhen she had entreated him not to give her father moneyshe
had been distressedbut not like this. Something had made her
keenly and additionally sensitive just now. Nowwas there some
one in the hopeless unattainable distance? Or had the suspicion
been brought into his mindby his own associations of the troubled
river running beneath the bridge with the same river higher upits
changeless tune upon the prow of the ferry-boatso many miles an
hour the peaceful flowing of the streamhere the rushesthere the
liliesnothing uncertain or unquiet?

He thought of his poor childLittle Dorritfor a long time there;
he thought of her going home; he thought of her in the night; he
thought of her when the day came round again. And the poor child
Little Dorrit thought of him--too faithfullyahtoo faithfully!-in
the shadow of the Marshalsea wall.

CHAPTER 23

Machinery in Motion

Mr Meagles bestirred himself with such prompt activity in the
matter of the negotiation with Daniel Doyce which Clennam had
entrusted to himthat he soon brought it into business trainand


called on Clennam at nine o'clock one morning to make his report.
'Doyce is highly gratified by your good opinion' he opened the
business by saying'and desires nothing so much as that you should
examine the affairs of the Works for yourselfand entirely
understand them. He has handed me the keys of all his books and
papers--here they are jingling in this pocket--and the only charge
he has given me is "Let Mr Clennam have the means of putting
himself on a perfect equality with me as to knowing whatever I
know. If it should come to nothing after allhe will respect my
confidence. Unless I was sure of that to begin withI should have
nothing to do with him." And thereyou see' said Mr Meagles
'you have Daniel Doyce all over.'

'A very honourable character.'

'Ohyesto be sure. Not a doubt of it. Oddbut very
honourable. Very odd though. Nowwould you believeClennam'
said Mr Meagleswith a hearty enjoyment of his friend's
eccentricity'that I had a whole morning in What's-his-name Yard-'


'Bleeding Heart?'

'A whole morning in Bleeding Heart Yardbefore I could induce him
to pursue the subject at all?'

'How was that?'

'How was thatmy friend? I no sooner mentioned your name in
connection with it than he declared off.'

'Declared off on my account?'

'I no sooner mentioned your nameClennamthan he saidThat will
never do!What did he mean by that? I asked him. No matter
Meagles; that would never do. Why would it never do? You'll
hardly believe itClennam' said Mr Meagleslaughing within
himself'but it came out that it would never dobecause you and
hewalking down to Twickenham togetherhad glided into a friendly
conversation in the course of which he had referred to his
intention of taking a partnersupposing at the time that you were
as firmly and finally settled as St Paul's Cathedral. "Whereas
says he, Mr Clennam might now believeif I entertained his
propositionthat I had a sinister and designing motive in what was
open free speech. Which I can't bear says he, which I really

am too proud to bear."'

'I should as soon suspect--'

'Of course you would' interrupted Mr Meagles'and so I told him.
But it took a morning to scale that wall; and I doubt if any other
man than myself (he likes me of old) could have got his leg over
it. WellClennam. This business-like obstacle surmountedhe
then stipulated that before resuming with you I should look over
the books and form my own opinion. I looked over the booksand
formed my own opinion. "Is iton the wholeforor against?"
says he. "For says I. Then says he, you may nowmy good
friendgive Mr Clennam the means of forming his opinion. To
enable him to do whichwithout bias and with perfect freedomI
shall go out of town for a week." And he's gone' said Mr Meagles;
that's the rich conclusion of the thing.'

'Leaving me' said Clennam'with a high senseI must sayof his


candour and his--'

'Oddity' Mr Meagles struck in. 'I should think so!'

It was not exactly the word on Clennam's lipsbut he forbore to
interrupt his good-humoured friend.

'And now' added Mr Meagles'you can begin to look into matters as
soon as you think proper. I have undertaken to explain where you
may want explanationbut to be strictly impartialand to do
nothing more.'

They began their perquisitions in Bleeding Heart Yard that same
forenoon. Little peculiarities were easily to be detected by
experienced eyes in Mr Doyce's way of managing his affairsbut
they almost always involved some ingenious simplification of a
difficultyand some plain road to the desired end. That his
papers were in arrearand that he stood in need of assistance to
develop the capacity of his businesswas clear enough; but all the
results of his undertakings during many years were distinctly set
forthand were ascertainable with ease. Nothing had been done for
the purposes of the pending investigation; everything was in its
genuine working dressand in a certain honest rugged order. The
calculations and entriesin his own handof which there were
manywere bluntly writtenand with no very neat precision; but
were always plain and directed straight to the purpose. It
occurred to Arthur that a far more elaborate and taking show of
business--such as the records of the Circumlocution Office made
perhaps--might be far less serviceableas being meant to be far
less intelligible.

Three or four days of steady application tendered him master of all
the facts it was essential to become acquainted with. Mr Meagles
was at hand the whole timealways ready to illuminate any dim
place with the bright little safety-lamp belonging to the scales
and scoop. Between them they agreed upon the sum it would be fair
to offer for the purchase of a half-share in the businessand then
Mr Meagles unsealed a paper in which Daniel Doyce had noted the
amount at which he valued it; which was even something less. Thus
when Daniel came backhe found the affair as good as concluded.

'And I may now avowMr Clennam' said hewith a cordial shake of
the hand'that if I had looked high and low for a partnerI
believe I could not have found one more to my mind.'

'I say the same' said Clennam.

'And I say of both of you' added Mr Meagles'that you are well
matched. You keep him in checkClennamwith your common sense
and you stick to the WorksDanwith your--'

'Uncommon sense?' suggested Danielwith his quiet smile.

'You may call it soif you like--and each of you will be a right
hand to the other. Here's my own right hand upon itas a
practical manto both of you.'

The purchase was completed within a month. It left Arthur in
possession of private personal means not exceeding a few hundred
pounds; but it opened to him an active and promising career. The
three friends dined together on the auspicious occasion; the
factory and the factory wives and children made holiday and dined
too; even Bleeding Heart Yard dined and was full of meat. Two
months had barely gone by in allwhen Bleeding Heart Yard had


become so familiar with short-commons againthat the treat was
forgotten there; when nothing seemed new in the partnership but the
paint of the inscription on the door-postsDOYCE AND CLENNAM; when
it appeared even to Clennam himselfthat he had had the affairs of
the firm in his mind for years.

The little counting-house reserved for his own occupationwas a
room of wood and glass at the end of a long low workshopfilled
with benchesand vicesand toolsand strapsand wheels; which
when they were in gear with the steam-enginewent tearing round as
though they had a suicidal mission to grind the business to dust
and tear the factory to pieces. A communication of great trapdoors
in the floor and roof with the workshop above and the
workshop belowmade a shaft of light in this perspectivewhich
brought to Clennam's mind the child's old picture-bookwhere
similar rays were the witnesses of Abel's murder. The noises were
sufficiently removed and shut out from the counting-house to blend
into a busy huminterspersed with periodical clinks and thumps.
The patient figures at work were swarthy with the filings of iron
and steel that danced on every bench and bubbled up through every
chink in the planking. The workshop was arrived at by a stepladder
from the outer yard belowwhere it served as a shelter for
the large grindstone where tools were sharpened. The whole had at
once a fanciful and practical air in Clennam's eyeswhich was a
welcome change; andas often as he raised them from his first work
of getting the array of business documents into perfect orderhe
glanced at these things with a feeling of pleasure in his pursuit
that was new to him.

Raising his eyes thus one dayhe was surprised to see a bonnet
labouring up the step-ladder. The unusual apparition was followed
by another bonnet. He then perceived that the first bonnet was on
the head of Mr F.'s Auntand that the second bonnet was on the
head of Florawho seemed to have propelled her legacy up the steep
ascent with considerable difficulty.
Though not altogether enraptured at the sight of these visitors
Clennam lost no time in opening the counting-house doorand
extricating them from the workshop; a rescue which was rendered the
more necessary by Mr F.'s Aunt already stumbling over some
impedimentand menacing steam power as an Institution with a stony
reticule she carried.

'Good graciousArthur--I should say Mr Clennamfar more proper-the
climb we have had to get up here and how ever to get down again
without a fire-escape and Mr F.'s Aunt slipping through the steps
and bruised all over and you in the machinery and foundry way too
only thinkand never told us!'

ThusFloraout of breath. MeanwhileMr F.'s Aunt rubbed her
esteemed insteps with her umbrellaand vindictively glared.

'Most unkind never to have come back to see us since that day
though naturally it was not to be expected that there should be any
attraction at our house and you were much more pleasantly engaged
that's pretty certainand is she fair or dark blue eyes or black
I wondernot that I expect that she should be anything but a
perfect contrast to me in all particulars for I am a disappointment
as I very well know and you are quite right to be devoted no doubt
though what I am saying Arthur never mind I hardly know myself Good
gracious!'

By this time he had placed chairs for them in the counting-house.
As Flora dropped into hersshe bestowed the old look upon him.


'And to think of Doyce and Clennamand who Doyce can be' said
Flora; 'delightful man no doubt and married perhaps or perhaps a
daughternow has he really? then one understands the partnership
and sees it alldon't tell me anything about it for I know I have
no claim to ask the question the golden chain that once was forged
being snapped and very proper.'

Flora put her hand tenderly on hisand gave him another of the
youthful glances.

'Dear Arthur--force of habitMr Clennam every way more delicate
and adapted to existing circumstances--I must beg to be excused for
taking the liberty of this intrusion but I thought I might so far
presume upon old times for ever faded never more to bloom as to
call with Mr F.'s Aunt to congratulate and offer best wishesA
great deal superior to China not to be denied and much nearer
though higher up!'

'I am very happy to see you' said Clennam'and I thank you
Floravery much for your kind remembrance.'

'More than I can say myself at any rate' returned Flora'for I
might have been dead and buried twenty distinct times over and no
doubt whatever should have been before you had genuinely remembered
Me or anything like it in spite of which one last remark I wish to
makeone last explanation I wish to offer--'

'My dear Mrs Finching' Arthur remonstrated in alarm.

'Oh not that disagreeable namesay Flora!'

'Florais it worth troubling yourself afresh to enter into
explanations? I assure you none are needed. I am satisfied--I am
perfectly satisfied.'

A diversion was occasioned hereby Mr F.'s Aunt making the
following inexorable and awful statement:

'There's mile-stones on the Dover road!'

With such mortal hostility towards the human race did she discharge
this missilethat Clennam was quite at a loss how to defend
himself; the rather as he had been already perplexed in his mind by
the honour of a visit from this venerable ladywhen it was plain
she held him in the utmost abhorrence. He could not but look at
her with disconcertmentas she sat breathing bitterness and scorn
and staring leagues away. Florahoweverreceived the remark as
if it had been of a most apposite and agreeable nature; approvingly
observing aloud that Mr F.'s Aunt had a great deal of spirit.
Stimulated either by this complimentor by her burning
indignationthat illustrious woman then added'Let him meet it if
he can!' Andwith a rigid movement of her stony reticule (an
appendage of great size and of a fossil appearance)indicated that
Clennam was the unfortunate person at whom the challenge was
hurled.

'One last remark' resumed Flora'I was going to say I wish to
make one last explanation I wish to offerMr F.'s Aunt and myself
would not have intruded on business hours Mr F. having been in
business and though the wine trade still business is equally
business call it what you will and business habits are just the
same as witness Mr F. himself who had his slippers always on the
mat at ten minutes before six in the afternoon and his boots inside
the fender at ten minutes before eight in the morning to the moment


in all weathers light or dark--would not therefore have intruded
without a motive which being kindly meant it may be hoped will be
kindly taken ArthurMr Clennam far more propereven Doyce and
Clennam probably more business-like.'

'Pray say nothing in the way of apology' Arthur entreated. 'You
are always welcome.'

'Very polite of you to say so Arthur--cannot remember Mr Clennam
until the word is outsuch is the habit of times for ever fled
and so true it is that oft in the stilly night ere slumber's chain
has bound peoplefond memory brings the light of other days around
people--very polite but more polite than true I am afraidfor to
go into the machinery business without so much as sending a line or
a card to papa--I don't say me though there was a time but that is
past and stern reality has now my gracious never mind--does not
look like it you must confess.'

Even Flora's commas seemed to have fled on this occasion; she was
so much more disjointed and voluble than in the preceding
interview.

'Though indeed' she hurried on'nothing else is to be expected
and why should it be expected and if it's not to be expected why
should it beand I am far from blaming you or any oneWhen your
mama and my papa worried us to death and severed the golden bowl--I
mean bond but I dare say you know what I mean and if you don't you
don't lose much and care just as little I will venture to add--when
they severed the golden bond that bound us and threw us into fits
of crying on the sofa nearly choked at least myself everything was
changed and in giving my hand to Mr F. I know I did so with my eyes
open but he was so very unsettled and in such low spirits that he
had distractedly alluded to the river if not oil of something from
the chemist's and I did it for the best.'

'My good Florawe settled that before. It was all quite right.'

'It's perfectly clear you think so' returned Flora'for you take
it very coollyif I hadn't known it to be China I should have
guessed myself the Polar regionsdear Mr Clennam you are right
however and I cannot blame you but as to Doyce and Clennam papa's
property being about here we heard it from Pancks and but for him
we never should have heard one word about it I am satisfied.'

'Nonodon't say that.'

'What nonsense not to say it Arthur--Doyce and Clennam--easier and
less trying to me than Mr Clennam--when I know it and you know it
too and can't deny it.'

'But I do deny itFlora. I should soon have made you a friendly
visit.'

'Ah!' said Floratossing her head. 'I dare say!' and she gave him
another of the old looks. 'However when Pancks told us I made up
my mind that Mr F.'s Aunt and I would come and call because when
papa--which was before that--happened to mention her name to me and
to say that you were interested in her I said at the moment Good
gracious why not have her here then when there's anything to do
instead of putting it out.'

'When you say Her' observed Clennamby this time pretty well
bewildered'do you mean Mr F.'s--'


'My goodnessArthur--Doyce and Clennam really easier to me with
old remembrances--who ever heard of Mr F.'s Aunt doing needlework
and going out by the day?'

'Going out by the day! Do you speak of Little Dorrit?'
'Why yes of course' returned Flora; 'and of all the strangest
names I ever heard the strangestlike a place down in the country
with a turnpikeor a favourite pony or a puppy or a bird or
something from a seed-shop to be put in a garden or a flower-pot
and come up speckled.'

'ThenFlora' said Arthurwith a sudden interest in the
conversation'Mr Casby was so kind as to mention Little Dorrit to
youwas he? What did he say?'

'Oh you know what papa is' rejoined Flora'and how aggravatingly
he sits looking beautiful and turning his thumbs over and over one
another till he makes one giddy if one keeps one's eyes upon him
he said when we were talking of you--I don't know who began the
subject Arthur (Doyce and Clennam) but I am sure it wasn't meat
least I hope not but you really must excuse my confessing more on
that point.'

'Certainly' said Arthur. 'By all means.'

'You are very ready' pouted Floracoming to a sudden stop in a
captivating bashfulness'that I must admitPapa said you had
spoken of her in an earnest way and I said what I have told you and
that's all.'

'That's all?' said Arthura little disappointed.

'Except that when Pancks told us of your having embarked in this
business and with difficulty persuaded us that it was really you I
said to Mr F.'s Aunt then we would come and ask you if it would be
agreeable to all parties that she should be engaged at our house
when required for I know she often goes to your mama's and I know
that your mama has a very touchy temper Arthur--Doyce and Clennam-or
I never might have married Mr F. and might have been at this
hour but I am running into nonsense.'

'It was very kind of youFlorato think of this.'

Poor Flora rejoined with a plain sincerity which became her better
than her youngest glancesthat she was glad he thought so. She
said it with so much heart that Clennam would have given a great
deal to buy his old character of her on the spotand throw it and
the mermaid away for ever.

'I thinkFlora' he said'that the employment you can give Little
Dorritand the kindness you can show her--'

'Yes and I will' said Floraquickly.

'I am sure of it--will be a great assistance and support to her.
I do not feel that I have the right to tell you what I know of her
for I acquired the knowledge confidentiallyand under
circumstances that bind me to silence. But I have an interest in
the little creatureand a respect for her that I cannot express to
you. Her life has been one of such trial and devotionand such
quiet goodnessas you can scarcely imagine. I can hardly think of
herfar less speak of herwithout feeling moved. Let that
feeling represent what I could tell youand commit her to your
friendliness with my thanks.'


Once more he put out his hand frankly to poor Flora; once more poor
Flora couldn't accept it franklyfound it worth nothing openly
must make the old intrigue and mystery of it. As much to her own
enjoyment as to his dismayshe covered it with a corner of her
shawl as she took it. Thenlooking towards the glass front of the
counting-houseand seeing two figures approachingshe cried with
infinite relish'Papa! HushArthurfor Mercy's sake!' and
tottered back to her chair with an amazing imitation of being in
danger of swooningin the dread surprise and maidenly flutter of
her spirits.

The Patriarchmeanwhilecame inanely beaming towards the
counting-house in the wake of Pancks. Pancks opened the door for
himtowed him inand retired to his own moorings in a corner.

'I heard from Flora' said the Patriarch with his benevolent smile
'that she was coming to callcoming to call. And being outI
thought I'd come alsothought I'd come also.'

The benign wisdom he infused into this declaration (not of itself
profound)by means of his blue eyeshis shining headand his
long white hairwas most impressive. It seemed worth putting down
among the noblest sentiments enunciated by the best of men. Also
when he said to Clennamseating himself in the proffered chair
'And you are in a new businessMr Clennam? I wish you wellsir
I wish you well!' he seemed to have done benevolent wonders.

'Mrs Finching has been telling mesir' said Arthurafter making
his acknowledgments; the relict of the late Mr F. meanwhile
protestingwith a gestureagainst his use of that respectable
name; 'that she hopes occasionally to employ the young needlewoman
you recommended to my mother. For which I have been thanking her.'

The Patriarch turning his head in a lumbering way towards Pancks
that assistant put up the note-book in which he had been absorbed
and took him in tow.

'You didn't recommend heryou know' said Pancks; 'how could you?
You knew nothing about heryou didn't. The name was mentioned to
youand you passed it on. That's what YOU did.'

'Well!' said Clennam. 'As she justifies any recommendationit is
much the same thing.'

'You are glad she turns out well' said Pancks'but it wouldn't
have been your fault if she had turned out ill. The credit's not
yours as it isand the blame wouldn't have been yours as it might
have been. You gave no guarantee. You knew nothing about her.'
'You are not acquaintedthen' said Arthurhazarding a random
question'with any of her family?'

'Acquainted with any of her family?' returned Pancks. 'How should
you be acquainted with any of her family? You never heard of 'em.
You can't be acquainted with people you never heard ofcan you?
You should think not!'

All this time the Patriarch sat serenely smiling; nodding or
shaking his head benevolentlyas the case required.

'As to being a reference' said Pancks'you knowin a general
waywhat being a reference means. It's all your eyethat is!
Look at your tenants down the Yard here. They'd all be references
for one anotherif you'd let 'em. What would be the good of


letting 'em? It's no satisfaction to be done by two men instead of
one. One's enough. A person who can't paygets another person
who can't payto guarantee that he can pay. Like a person with
two wooden legs getting another person with two wooden legsto
guarantee that he has got two natural legs. It don't make either
of them able to do a walking match. And four wooden legs are more
troublesome to you than twowhen you don't want any.' Mr Pancks
concluded by blowing off that steam of his.

A momentary silence that ensued was broken by Mr F.'s Auntwho had
been sitting upright in a cataleptic state since her last public
remark. She now underwent a violent twitchcalculated to produce
a startling effect on the nerves of the uninitiatedand with the
deadliest animosity observed:

'You can't make a head and brains out of a brass knob with nothing
in it. You couldn't do it when your Uncle George was living; much
less when he's dead.'

Mr Pancks was not slow to replywith his usual calmness'Indeed
ma'am! Bless my soul! I'm surprised to hear it.' Despite his
presence of mindhoweverthe speech of Mr F.'s Aunt produced a
depressing effect on the little assembly; firstlybecause it was
impossible to disguise that Clennam's unoffending head was the
particular temple of reason depreciated; and secondlybecause
nobody ever knew on these occasions whose Uncle George was referred
toor what spectral presence might be invoked under that
appellation.

Therefore Flora saidthough still not without a certain
boastfulness and triumph in her legacythat Mr F.'s Aunt was 'very
lively to-dayand she thought they had better go.' But Mr F.'s
Aunt proved so lively as to take the suggestion in unexpected
dudgeon and declare that she would not go; addingwith several
injurious expressionsthat if 'He'--too evidently meaning
Clennam--wanted to get rid of her'let him chuck her out of
winder;' and urgently expressing her desire to see 'Him' perform
that ceremony.

In this dilemmaMr Panckswhose resources appeared equal to any
emergency in the Patriarchal watersslipped on his hatslipped
out at the counting-house doorand slipped in again a moment
afterwards with an artificial freshness upon himas if he had been
in the country for some weeks. 'Whybless my heartma'am!' said
Mr Pancksrubbing up his hair in great astonishment'is that you?

How do you doma'am? You are looking charming to-day! I am
delighted to see you. Favour me with your armma'am; we'll have
a little walk togetheryou and meif you'll honour me with your
company.' And so escorted Mr F.'s Aunt down the private staircase
of the counting-house with great gallantry and success. The
patriarchal Mr Casby then rose with the air of having done it
himselfand blandly followed: leaving his daughteras she
followed in her turnto remark to her former lover in a distracted
whisper (which she very much enjoyed)that they had drained the
cup of life to the dregs; and further to hint mysteriously that the
late Mr F. was at the bottom of it.

Alone againClennam became a prey to his old doubts in reference
to his mother and Little Dorritand revolved the old thoughts and
suspicions. They were all in his mindblending themselves with
the duties he was mechanically dischargingwhen a shadow on his
papers caused him to look up for the cause. The cause was Mr
Pancks. With his hat thrown back upon his ears as if his wiry


prongs of hair had darted up like springs and cast it offwith his
jet-black beads of eyes inquisitively sharpwith the fingers of
his right hand in his mouth that he might bite the nailsand with
the fingers of his left hand in reserve in his pocket for another
courseMr Pancks cast his shadow through the glass upon the books
and papers.

Mr Pancks askedwith a little inquiring twist of his headif he
might come in again? Clennam replied with a nod of his head in the
affirmative. Mr Pancks worked his way incame alongside the desk
made himself fast by leaning his arms upon itand started
conversation with a puff and a snort.

'Mr F.'s Aunt is appeasedI hope?' said Clennam.

'All rightsir' said Pancks.

'I am so unfortunate as to have awakened a strong animosity in the
breast of that lady' said Clennam. 'Do you know why?'

'Does SHE know why?' said Pancks.

'I suppose not.'

'_I_ suppose not' said Pancks.

He took out his note-bookopened itshut itdropped it into his
hatwhich was beside him on the deskand looked in at it as it
lay at the bottom of the hat: all with a great appearance of
consideration.

'Mr Clennam' he then began'I am in want of informationsir.'

'Connected with this firm?' asked Clennam.

'No' said Pancks.

'With what thenMr Pancks? That is to sayassuming that you want
it of me.'

'Yessir; yesI want it of you' said Pancks'if I can persuade
you to furnish it. ABCD. DADEDIDO. Dictionary order.

Dorrit. That's the namesir?'

Mr Pancks blew off his peculiar noise againand fell to at his
right-hand nails. Arthur looked searchingly at him; he returned
the look.

'I don't understand youMr Pancks.'

'That's the name that I want to know about.'

'And what do you want to know?'

'Whatever you can and will tell me.' This comprehensive summary of
his desires was not discharged without some heavy labouring on the
part of Mr Pancks's machinery.

'This is a singular visitMr Pancks. It strikes me as rather
extraordinary that you should comewith such an objectto me.'

'It may be all extraordinary together' returned Pancks. 'It may
be out of the ordinary courseand yet be business. In shortit


is business. I am a man of business. What business have I in this
present worldexcept to stick to business? No business.'

With his former doubt whether this dry hard personage were quite in
earnestClennam again turned his eyes attentively upon his face.
It was as scrubby and dingy as everand as eager and quick as
everand he could see nothing lurking in it that was at all
expressive of a latent mockery that had seemed to strike upon his
ear in the voice.

'Now' said Pancks'to put this business on its own footingit's
not my proprietor's.'

'Do you refer to Mr Casby as your proprietor?'

Pancks nodded. 'My proprietor. Put a case. Sayat my
proprietor's I hear name--name of young person Mr Clennam wants to
serve. Sayname first mentioned to my proprietor by Plornish in
the Yard. SayI go to Plornish. SayI ask Plornish as a matter
of business for information. SayPlornishthough six weeks in
arrear to my proprietordeclines. SayMrs Plornish declines.
Sayboth refer to Mr Clennam. Put the case.'
'Well?'

'Wellsir' returned Pancks'sayI come to him. Sayhere I
am.'

With those prongs of hair sticking up all over his headand his
breath coming and going very hard and shortthe busy Pancks fell
back a step (in Tug metaphortook half a turn astern) as if to
show his dingy hull completethen forged a-head againand
directed his quick glance by turns into his hat where his note-book
wasand into Clennam's face.

'Mr Pancksnot to trespass on your grounds of mysteryI will be
as plain with you as I can. Let me ask two questions. First--'

'All right!' said Pancksholding up his dirty forefinger with his
broken nail. 'I see! "What's your motive?"'

'Exactly.'

'Motive' said Pancks'good. Nothing to do with my proprietor;
not stateable at presentridiculous to state at present; but good.

Desiring to serve young personname of Dorrit' said Panckswith
his forefinger still up as a caution. 'Better admit motive to be
good.'

'Secondlyand lastlywhat do you want to know?'

Mr Pancks fished up his note-book before the question was putand
buttoning it with care in an inner breast-pocketand looking
straight at Clennam all the timereplied with a pause and a puff
'I want supplementary information of any sort.'

Clennam could not withhold a smileas the panting little steamtug
so useful to that unwieldy shipthe Casbywaited on and
watched him as if it were seeking an opportunity of running in and
rifling him of all he wanted before he could resist its manoeuvres;
though there was that in Mr Pancks's eagernesstoowhich awakened
many wondering speculations in his mind. After a little
considerationhe resolved to supply Mr Pancks with such leading
information as it was in his power to impart him; well knowing that


Mr Pancksif he failed in his present researchwas pretty sure to
find other means of getting it.

Hethereforefirst requesting Mr Pancks to remember his voluntary
declaration that his proprietor had no part in the disclosureand
that his own intentions were good (two declarations which that
coaly little gentleman with the greatest ardour repeated)openly
told him that as to the Dorrit lineage or former place of
habitationhe had no information to communicateand that his
knowledge of the family did not extend beyond the fact that it
appeared to be now reduced to five members; namelyto two
brothersof whom one was singleand one a widower with three
children. The ages of the whole family he made known to Mr Pancks
as nearly as he could guess at them; and finally he described to
him the position of the Father of the Marshalseaand the course of
time and events through which he had become invested with that
character. To all thisMr Panckssnorting and blowing in a more
and more portentous manner as he became more interestedlistened
with great attention; appearing to derive the most agreeable
sensations from the painfullest parts of the narrativeand
particularly to be quite charmed by the account of William Dorrit's
long imprisonment.

'In conclusionMr Pancks' said Arthur'I have but to say this.
I have reasons beyond a personal regard for speaking as little as
I can of the Dorrit familyparticularly at my mother's house' (Mr
Pancks nodded)'and for knowing as much as I can. So devoted a
man of business as you are--eh?'

For Mr Pancks had suddenly made that blowing effort with unusual
force.

'It's nothing' said Pancks.

'So devoted a man of business as yourself has a perfect
understanding of a fair bargain. I wish to make a fair bargain
with youthat you shall enlighten me concerning the Dorrit family
when you have it in your poweras I have enlightened you. It may
not give you a very flattering idea of my business habitsthat I
failed to make my terms beforehand' continued Clennam; 'but I
prefer to make them a point of honour. I have seen so much
business done on sharp principles thatto tell you the truthMr
PancksI am tired of them.'

Mr Pancks laughed. 'It's a bargainsir' said he. 'You shall
find me stick to it.'

After thathe stood a little while looking at Clennamand biting
his ten nails all round; evidently while he fixed in his mind what
he had been toldand went over it carefullybefore the means of
supplying a gap in his memory should be no longer at hand. 'It's
all right' he said at last'and now I'll wish you good dayas
it's collecting day in the Yard. By-the-byethough. A lame
foreigner with a stick.'

'Ayay. You do take a reference sometimesI see?' said Clennam.

'When he can paysir' replied Pancks. 'Take all you can getand
keep back all you can't be forced to give up. That's business.
The lame foreigner with the stick wants a top room down the Yard.
Is he good for it?'

'I am' said Clennam'and I will answer for him.'


'That's enough. What I must have of Bleeding Heart Yard' said
Pancksmaking a note of the case in his book'is my bond. I want
my bondyou see. Pay upor produce your property! That's the
watchword down the Yard. The lame foreigner with the stick
represented that you sent him; but he could represent (as far as
that goes) that the Great Mogul sent him. He has been in the
hospitalI believe?'

'Yes. Through having met with an accident. He is only just now
discharged.'

'It's pauperising a mansirI have been shownto let him into a
hospital?' said Pancks. And again blew off that remarkable sound.

'I have been shown so too' said Clennamcoldly.

Mr Pancksbeing by that time quite ready for a startgot under
steam in a momentandwithout any other signal or ceremonywas
snorting down the step-ladder and working into Bleeding Heart Yard
before he seemed to be well out of the counting-house.

Throughout the remainder of the dayBleeding Heart Yard was in
consternationas the grim Pancks cruised in it; haranguing the
inhabitants on their backslidings in respect of paymentdemanding
his bondbreathing notices to quit and executionsrunning down
defaulterssending a swell of terror on before himand leaving it
in his wake. Knots of peopleimpelled by a fatal attraction
lurked outside any house in which he was known to belistening for
fragments of his discourses to the inmates; andwhen he was
rumoured to be coming down the stairsoften could not disperse so
quickly but that he would be prematurely in among themdemanding
their own arrearsand rooting them to the spot. Throughout the
remainder of the dayMr Pancks's What were they up to? and What
did they mean by it? sounded all over the Yard. Mr Pancks
wouldn't hear of excuseswouldn't hear of complaintswouldn't
hear of repairswouldn't hear of anything but unconditional money
down. Perspiring and puffing and darting about in eccentric
directionsand becoming hotter and dingier every momenthe lashed
the tide of the yard into a most agitated and turbid state. It had
not settled down into calm water again full two hours after he had
been seen fuming away on the horizon at the top of the steps.

There were several small assemblages of the Bleeding Hearts at the
popular points of meeting in the Yard that nightamong whom it was
universally agreed that Mr Pancks was a hard man to have to do
with; and that it was much to be regrettedso it wasthat a
gentleman like Mr Casby should put his rents in his handsand
never know him in his true light. For (said the Bleeding Hearts)
if a gentleman with that head of hair and them eyes took his rents
into his own handsma'amthere would be none of this worriting
and wearingand things would be very different.

At which identical evening hour and minutethe Patriarch--who had
floated serenely through the Yard in the forenoon before the
harrying beganwith the express design of getting up this
trustfulness in his shining bumps and silken locks--at which
identical hour and minutethat first-rate humbug of a thousand
guns was heavily floundering in the little Dock of his exhausted
Tug at homeand was sayingas he turned his thumbs:

'A very bad day's workPancksvery bad day's work. It seems to
mesirand I must insist on making this observation forcibly in
justice to myselfthat you ought to have got much more moneymuch
more money.'


CHAPTER 24

Fortune-Telling

Little Dorrit received a call that same evening from Mr Plornish
whohaving intimated that he wished to speak to her privatelyin
a series of coughs so very noticeable as to favour the idea that
her fatheras regarded her seamstress occupationwas an
illustration of the axiom that there are no such stone-blind men as
those who will not seeobtained an audience with her on the common
staircase outside the door.

'There's been a lady at our place to-dayMiss Dorrit' Plornish
growled'and another one along with her as is a old wixen if ever
I met with such. The way she snapped a person's head offdear
me!'

The mild Plornish was at first quite unable to get his mind away
from Mr F.'s Aunt. 'For' said heto excuse himself'she isI
do assure youthe winegariest party.'

At lengthby a great efforthe detached himself from the subject
sufficiently to observe:

'But she's neither here nor there just at present. The other lady
she's Mr Casby's daughter; and if Mr Casby an't well offnone
betterit an't through any fault of Pancks. Foras to Panckshe
doeshe really doeshe does indeed!'

Mr Plornishafter his usual mannerwas a little obscurebut
conscientiously emphatic.

'And what she come to our place for' he pursued'was to leave
word that if Miss Dorrit would step up to that card--which it's Mr
Casby's house that isand Pancks he has a office at the back
where he really doesbeyond belief--she would be glad for to
engage her. She was a old and a dear friendshe said particular
of Mr Clennamand hoped for to prove herself a useful friend to
his friend. Them was her words. Wishing to know whether Miss
Dorrit could come to-morrow morningI said I would see youMiss
and inquireand look round there to-nightto say yesorif you
was engaged to-morrowwhen.'

'I can go to-morrowthank you' said Little Dorrit. 'This is very
kind of youbut you are always kind.'

Mr Plornishwith a modest disavowal of his meritsopened the room
door for her readmissionand followed her in with such an
exceedingly bald pretence of not having been out at allthat her
father might have observed it without being very suspicious. In
his affable unconsciousnesshoweverhe took no heed. Plornish
after a little conversationin which he blended his former duty as
a Collegian with his present privilege as a humble outside friend
qualified again by his low estate as a plasterertook his leave;
making the tour of the prison before he leftand looking on at a
game of skittles with the mixed feelings of an old inhabitant who
had his private reasons for believing that it might be his destiny
to come back again.


Early in the morningLittle Dorritleaving Maggy in high domestic
trustset off for the Patriarchal tent. She went by the Iron
Bridgethough it cost her a pennyand walked more slowly in that
part of her journey than in any other. At five minutes before
eight her hand was on the Patriarchal knockerwhich was quite as
high as she could reach.

She gave Mrs Finching's card to the young woman who opened the
doorand the young woman told her that 'Miss Flora'--Flora having
on her return to the parental roofreinvested herself with the
title under which she had lived there--was not yet out of her
bedroombut she was to please to walk up into Miss Flora's
sitting-room. She walked up into Miss Flora's sitting-roomas in
duty boundand there found a breakfast-table comfortably laid for
twowith a supplementary tray upon it laid for one. The young
womandisappearing for a few momentsreturned to say that she was
to please to take a chair by the fireand to take off her bonnet
and make herself at home. But Little Dorritbeing bashfuland
not used to make herself at home on such occasionsfelt at a loss
how to do it; so she was still sitting near the door with her
bonnet onwhen Flora came in in a hurry half an hour afterwards.

Flora was so sorry to have kept her waitingand good gracious why
did she sit out there in the cold when she had expected to find her
by the fire reading the paperand hadn't that heedless girl given
her the message thenand had she really been in her bonnet all
this timeand pray for goodness sake let Flora take it off! Flora
taking it off in the best-natured manner in the worldwas so
struck with the face disclosedthat she said'Whywhat a good
little thing you aremy dear!' and pressed her face between her
hands like the gentlest of women.

It was the word and the action of a moment. Little Dorrit had
hardly time to think how kind it waswhen Flora dashed at the
breakfast-table full of businessand plunged over head and ears
into loquacity.

'Really so sorry that I should happen to be late on this morning of
all mornings because my intention and my wish was to be ready to
meet you when you came in and to say that any one that interested
Arthur Clennam half so much must interest me and that I gave you
the heartiest welcome and was so gladinstead of which they never
called me and there I still am snoring I dare say if the truth was
known and if you don't like either cold fowl or hot boiled ham
which many people don't I dare say besides Jews and theirs are
scruples of conscience which we must all respect though I must say
I wish they had them equally strong when they sell us false
articles for real that certainly ain't worth the money I shall be
quite vexed' said Flora.

Little Dorrit thanked herand saidshylybread-and-butter and
tea was all she usually-


'Oh nonsense my dear child I can never hear of that' said Flora
turning on the urn in the most reckless mannerand making herself
wink by splashing hot water into her eyes as she bent down to look
into the teapot. 'You are coming here on the footing of a friend
and companion you know if you will let me take that liberty and I
should be ashamed of myself indeed if you could come here upon any
otherbesides which Arthur Clennam spoke in such terms--you are
tired my dear.'

'Noma'am.'


'You turn so pale you have walked too far before breakfast and I
dare say live a great way off and ought to have had a ride' said
Flora'dear dear is there anything that would do you good?'

'Indeed I am quite wellma'am. I thank you again and againbut
I am quite well.'

'Then take your tea at once I beg' said Flora'and this wing of
fowl and bit of hamdon't mind me or wait for mebecause I always
carry in this tray myself to Mr F.'s Aunt who breakfasts in bed and
a charming old lady too and very cleverPortrait of Mr F. behind
the door and very like though too much forehead and as to a pillar
with a marble pavement and balustrades and a mountainI never saw
him near it nor not likely in the wine tradeexcellent man but not
at all in that way.'

Little Dorrit glanced at the portraitvery imperfectly following
the references to that work of art.

'Mr F. was so devoted to me that he never could bear me out of his
sight' said Flora'though of course I am unable to say how long
that might have lasted if he hadn't been cut short while I was a
new broomworthy man but not poetical manly prose but not
romance.'

Little Dorrit glanced at the portrait again. The artist had given
it a head that would have beenin an intellectual point of view
top-heavy for Shakespeare.
'Romancehowever' Flora went onbusily arranging Mr F.'s Aunt's
toast'as I openly said to Mr F. when he proposed to me and you
will be surprised to hear that he proposed seven times once in a
hackney-coach once in a boat once in a pew once on a donkey at
Tunbridge Wells and the rest on his kneesRomance was fled with
the early days of Arthur Clennamour parents tore us asunder we
became marble and stern reality usurped the throneMr F. said very
much to his credit that he was perfectly aware of it and even
preferred that state of things accordingly the word was spoken the
fiat went forth and such is life you see my dear and yet we do not
break but bendpray make a good breakfast while I go in with the
tray.'

She disappearedleaving Little Dorrit to ponder over the meaning
of her scattered words. She soon came back again; and at last
began to take her own breakfasttalking all the while.

'You seemy dear' said Florameasuring out a spoonful or two of
some brown liquid that smelt like brandyand putting it into her
tea'I am obliged to be careful to follow the directions of my
medical man though the flavour is anything but agreeable being a
poor creature and it may be have never recovered the shock received
in youth from too much giving way to crying in the next room when
separated from Arthurhave you known him long?'

As soon as Little Dorrit comprehended that she had been asked this
question--for which time was necessarythe galloping pace of her
new patroness having left her far behind--she answered that she had
known Mr Clennam ever since his return.

'To be sure you couldn't have known him before unless you had been
in China or had corresponded neither of which is likely' returned
Flora'for travelling-people usually get more or less mahogany and
you are not at all so and as to corresponding what about? that's
very true unless teaso it was at his mother's was it really that


you knew him firsthighly sensible and firm but dreadfully
severe--ought to be the mother of the man in the iron mask."

'Mrs Clennam has been kind to me' said Little Dorrit.

'Really? I am sure I am glad to hear it because as Arthur's mother
it's naturally pleasant to my feelings to have a better opinion of
her than I had beforethough what she thinks of me when I run on
as I am certain to do and she sits glowering at me like Fate in a
go-cart--shocking comparison really--invalid and not her fault--I
never know or can imagine.'

'Shall I find my work anywherema'am?' asked Little Dorrit
looking timidly about; 'can I get it?'

'You industrious little fairy' returned Floratakingin another
cup of teaanother of the doses prescribed by her medical man
'there's not the slightest hurry and it's better that we should
begin by being confidential about our mutual friend--too cold a
word for me at least I don't mean thatvery proper expression
mutual friend--than become through mere formalities not you but me
like the Spartan boy with the fox biting himwhich I hope you'll
excuse my bringing up for of all the tiresome boys that will go
tumbling into every sort of company that boy's the tiresomest.'

Little Dorrither face very palesat down again to listen.
'Hadn't I better work the while?' she asked. 'I can work and
attend too. I would ratherif I may.'

Her earnestness was so expressive of her being uneasy without her
workthat Flora answered'Well my dear whatever you like best'
and produced a basket of white handkerchiefs. Little Dorrit gladly
put it by her sidetook out her little pocket-housewifethreaded
the needleand began to hem.

'What nimble fingers you have' said Flora'but are you sure you
are well?'

'Oh yesindeed!'

Flora put her feet upon the fenderand settled herself for a
thorough good romantic disclosure. She started off at score
tossing her headsighing in the most demonstrative mannermaking
a great deal of use of her eyebrowsand occasionallybut not
oftenglancing at the quiet face that bent over the work.

'You must know my dear' said Flora'but that I have no doubt you
know already not only because I have already thrown it out in a
general way but because I feel I carry it stamped in burning what's
his names upon my brow that before I was introduced to the late Mr

F. I had been engaged to Arthur Clennam--Mr Clennam in public where
reserve is necessary Arthur here--we were all in all to one another
it was the morning of life it was bliss it was frenzy it was
everything else of that sort in the highest degreewhen rent
asunder we turned to stone in which capacity Arthur went to China
and I became the statue bride of the late Mr F.'
Florauttering these words in a deep voiceenjoyed herself
immensely.

'To paint' said she'the emotions of that morning when all was
marble within and Mr F.'s Aunt followed in a glass-coach which it
stands to reason must have been in shameful repair or it never
could have broken down two streets from the house and Mr F.'s Aunt


brought home like the fifth of November in a rush-bottomed chair I
will not attemptsuffice it to say that the hollow form of
breakfast took place in the dining-room downstairs that papa
partaking too freely of pickled salmon was ill for weeks and that
Mr F. and myself went upon a continental tour to Calais where the
people fought for us on the pier until they separated us though not
for ever that was not yet to be.'

The statue bridehardly pausing for breathwent onwith the
greatest complacencyin a rambling manner sometimes incidental to
flesh and blood.

'I will draw a veil over that dreamy lifeMr F. was in good
spirits his appetite was good he liked the cookery he considered
the wine weak but palatable and all was wellwe returned to the
immediate neighbourhood of Number Thirty Little Gosling Street
London Docks and settled downere we had yet fully detected the
housemaid in selling the feathers out of the spare bed Gout flying
upwards soared with Mr F. to another sphere.'

His relictwith a glance at his portraitshook her head and wiped
her eyes.

'I revere the memory of Mr F. as an estimable man and most
indulgent husbandonly necessary to mention Asparagus and it
appeared or to hint at any little delicate thing to drink and it
came like magic in a pint bottle it was not ecstasy but it was
comfortI returned to papa's roof and lived secluded if not happy
during some years until one day papa came smoothly blundering in
and said that Arthur Clennam awaited me belowI went below and
found him ask me not what I found him except that he was still
unmarried still unchanged!'

The dark mystery with which Flora now enshrouded herself might have
stopped other fingers than the nimble fingers that worked near her.

They worked on without pauseand the busy head bent over them
watching the stitches.

'Ask me not' said Flora'if I love him still or if he still loves
me or what the end is to be or whenwe are surrounded by watchful
eyes and it may be that we are destined to pine asunder it may be
never more to be reunited not a word not a breath not a look to
betray us all must be secret as the tomb wonder not therefore that
even if I should seem comparatively cold to Arthur or Arthur should
seem comparatively cold to me we have fatal reasons it is enough if
we understand them hush!'

All of which Flora said with so much headlong vehemence as if she
really believed it. There is not much doubt that when she worked
herself into full mermaid conditionshe did actually believe
whatever she said in it.

'Hush!' repeated Flora'I have now told you allconfidence is
established between us hushfor Arthur's sake I will always be a
friend to you my dear girl and in Arthur's name you may always rely
upon me.'

The nimble fingers laid aside the workand the little figure rose
and kissed her hand. 'You are very cold' said Florachanging to
her own natural kind-hearted mannerand gaining greatly by the
change. 'Don't work to-day. I am sure you are not well I am sure
you are not strong.'


'It is only that I feel a little overcome by your kindnessand by
Mr Clennam's kindness in confiding me to one he has known and loved
so long.'

'Well really my dear' said Florawho had a decided tendency to be
always honest when she gave herself time to think about it'it's
as well to leave that alone nowfor I couldn't undertake to say
after allbut it doesn't signify lie down a little!'

'I have always been strong enough to do what I want to doand I
shall be quite well directly' returned Little Dorritwith a faint
smile. 'You have overpowered me with gratitudethat's all. If I
keep near the window for a moment I shall be quite myself.'

Flora opened a windowsat her in a chair by itand considerately
retired to her former place. It was a windy dayand the air
stirring on Little Dorrit's face soon brightened it. In a very few
minutes she returned to her basket of workand her nimble fingers
were as nimble as ever.

Quietly pursuing her taskshe asked Flora if Mr Clennam had told
her where she lived? When Flora replied in the negativeLittle
Dorrit said that she understood why he had been so delicatebut
that she felt sure he would approve of her confiding her secret to
Floraand that she would therefore do so now with Flora's
permission. Receiving an encouraging answershe condensed the
narrative of her life into a few scanty words about herself and a
glowing eulogy upon her father; and Flora took it all in with a
natural tenderness that quite understood itand in which there was
no incoherence.

When dinner-time cameFlora drew the arm of her new charge through
hersand led her down-stairsand presented her to the Patriarch
and Mr Panckswho were already in the dining-room waiting to
begin. (Mr F.'s Aunt wasfor the timelaid up in ordinary in her
chamber.) By those gentlemen she was received according to their
characters; the Patriarch appearing to do her some inestimable
service in saying that he was glad to see herglad to see her; and
Mr Pancks blowing off his favourite sound as a salute.

In that new presence she would have been bashful enough under any
circumstancesand particularly under Flora's insisting on her
drinking a glass of wine and eating of the best that was there; but
her constraint was greatly increased by Mr Pancks. The demeanour
of that gentleman at first suggested to her mind that he might be
a taker of likenessesso intently did he look at herand so
frequently did he glance at the little note-book by his side.
Observing that he made no sketchhoweverand that he talked about
business onlyshe began to have suspicions that he represented
some creditor of her father'sthe balance due to whom was noted in
that pocket volume. Regarded from this point of view Mr Pancks's
puffings expressed injury and impatienceand each of his louder
snorts became a demand for payment.

But here again she was undeceived by anomalous and incongruous
conduct on the part of Mr Pancks himself. She had left the table
half an hourand was at work alone. Flora had 'gone to lie down'
in the next roomconcurrently with which retirement a smell of
something to drink had broken out in the house. The Patriarch was
fast asleepwith his philanthropic mouth open under a yellow
pocket-handkerchief in the dining-room. At this quiet timeMr
Pancks softly appeared before herurbanely nodding.

'Find it a little dullMiss Dorrit?' inquired Pancks in a low


voice.

'Nothank yousir' said Little Dorrit.

'BusyI see' observed Mr Pancksstealing into the room by
inches. 'What are those nowMiss Dorrit?'

'Handkerchiefs.'

'Are theythough!' said Pancks. 'I shouldn't have thought it.'
Not in the least looking at thembut looking at Little Dorrit.
'Perhaps you wonder who I am. Shall I tell you? I am a fortuneteller.'


Little Dorrit now began to think he was mad.

'I belong body and soul to my proprietor' said Pancks; 'you saw my
proprietor having his dinner below. But I do a little in the other
waysometimes; privatelyvery privatelyMiss Dorrit.'

Little Dorrit looked at him doubtfullyand not without alarm.

'I wish you'd show me the palm of your hand' said Pancks. 'I
should like to have a look at it. Don't let me be troublesome.'
He was so far troublesome that he was not at all wanted therebut
she laid her work in her lap for a momentand held out her left
hand with her thimble on it.

'Years of toileh?' said Panckssoftlytouching it with his
blunt forefinger. 'But what else are we made for? Nothing.
Hallo!' looking into the lines. 'What's this with bars? It's a
College! And what's this with a grey gown and a black velvet cap?
it's a father! And what's this with a clarionet? It's an uncle!
And what's this in dancing-shoes? It's a sister! And what's this
straggling about in an idle sort of a way? It's a brother! And
what's this thinking for 'em all? Whythis is youMiss Dorrit!'
Her eyes met his as she looked up wonderingly into his faceand
she thought that although his were sharp eyeshe was a brighter
and gentler-looking man than she had supposed at dinner. His eyes
were on her hand again directlyand her opportunity of confirming
or correcting the impression was gone.

'Nowthe deuce is in it' muttered Panckstracing out a line in
her hand with his clumsy finger'if this isn't me in the corner
here! What do I want here? What's behind me?'

He carried his finger slowly down to the wristand round the
wristand affected to look at the back of the hand for what was
behind him.

'Is it any harm?' asked Little Dorritsmiling.

'Deuce a bit!' said Pancks. 'What do you think it's worth?'

'I ought to ask you that. I am not the fortune-teller.'

'True' said Pancks. 'What's it worth? You shall live to see
Miss Dorrit.'

Releasing the hand by slow degreeshe drew all his fingers through
his prongs of hairso that they stood up in their most portentous
manner; and repeated slowly'Remember what I sayMiss Dorrit.
You shall live to see.'


She could not help showing that she was much surprisedif it were
only by his knowing so much about her.

'Ah! That's it!' said Panckspointing at her. 'Miss Dorritnot
thatever!'

More surprised than beforeand a little more frightenedshe
looked to him for an explanation of his last words.

'Not that' said Pancksmakingwith great seriousnessan
imitation of a surprised look and manner that appeared to be
unintentionally grotesque. 'Don't do that. Never on seeing meno
matter whenno matter where. I am nobody. Don't take on to mind
me. Don't mention me. Take no notice. Will you agreeMiss
Dorrit?'

'I hardly know what to say' returned Little Dorritquite
astounded. 'Why?'

'Because I am a fortune-teller. Pancks the gipsy. I haven't told
you so much of your fortune yetMiss Dorritas to tell you what's
behind me on that little hand. I have told you you shall live to
see. Is it agreedMiss Dorrit?'

'Agreed that I--am--to--'

'To take no notice of me away from hereunless I take on first.
Not to mind me when I come and go. It's very easy. I am no loss
I am not handsomeI am not good companyI am only my proprietors
grubber. You need do no more than thinkAh! Pancks the gipsy at
his fortune-telling--he'll tell the rest of my fortune one day--I
shall live to know it.Is it agreedMiss Dorrit?'

'Ye-es' faltered Little Dorritwhom he greatly confused'I
suppose sowhile you do no harm.'

'Good!' Mr Pancks glanced at the wall of the adjoining roomand
stooped forward. 'Honest creaturewoman of capital pointsbut
heedless and a loose talkerMiss Dorrit.' With that he rubbed his
hands as if the interview had been very satisfactory to himpanted
away to the doorand urbanely nodded himself out again.

If Little Dorrit were beyond measure perplexed by this curious
conduct on the part of her new acquaintanceand by finding herself
involved in this singular treatyher perplexity was not diminished
by ensuing circumstances. Besides that Mr Pancks took every
opportunity afforded him in Mr Casby's house of significantly
glancing at her and snorting at her--which was not muchafter what
he had done already--he began to pervade her daily life. She saw
him in the streetconstantly. When she went to Mr Casby'she was
always there. When she went to Mrs Clennam'she came there on any
pretenceas if to keep her in his sight. A week had not gone by
when she found him to her astonishment in the Lodge one night
conversing with the turnkey on dutyand to all appearance one of
his familiar companions. Her next surprise was to find him equally
at his ease within the prison; to hear of his presenting himself
among the visitors at her father's Sunday levee; to see him arm in
arm with a Collegiate friend about the yard; to learnfrom Fame
that he had greatly distinguished himself one evening at the social
club that held its meetings in the Snuggeryby addressing a speech
to the members of the institutionsinging a songand treating the
company to five gallons of ale--report madly added a bushel of
shrimps. The effect on Mr Plornish of such of these phenomena as
he became an eye-witness of in his faithful visitsmade an


impression on Little Dorrit only second to that produced by the
phenomena themselves. They seemed to gag and bind him. He could
only stareand sometimes weakly mutter that it wouldn't be
believed down Bleeding Heart Yard that this was Pancks; but he
never said a word moreor made a sign moreeven to Little Dorrit.

Mr Pancks crowned his mysteries by making himself acquainted with
Tip in some unknown mannerand taking a Sunday saunter into the
College on that gentleman's arm. Throughout he never took any
notice of Little Dorritsave once or twice when he happened to
come close to her and there was no one very near; on which
occasionshe said in passingwith a friendly look and a puff of
encouragement'Pancks the gipsy--fortune-telling.'

Little Dorrit worked and strove as usualwondering at all this
but keeping her wonderas she had from her earliest years kept
many heavier loadsin her own breast. A change had stolenand
was stealing yetover the patient heart. Every day found her
something more retiring than the day before. To pass in and out of
the prison unnoticedand elsewhere to be overlooked and forgotten
werefor herselfher chief desires.

To her own room toostrangely assorted room for her delicate youth
and charactershe was glad to retreat as often as she could
without desertion of any duty. There were afternoon times when she
was unemployedwhen visitors dropped in to play a hand at cards
with her fatherwhen she could be spared and was better away.
Then she would flit along the yardclimb the scores of stairs that
led to her roomand take her seat at the window. Many
combinations did those spikes upon the wall assumemany light
shapes did the strong iron weave itself intomany golden touches
fell upon the rustwhile Little Dorrit sat there musing. New zigzags
sprung into the cruel pattern sometimeswhen she saw it
through a burst of tears; but beautified or hardened stillalways
over it and under it and through itshe was fain to look in her
solitudeseeing everything with that ineffaceable brand.

A garretand a Marshalsea garret without compromisewas Little
Dorrit's room. Beautifully keptit was ugly in itselfand had
little but cleanliness and air to set it off; for what
embellishment she had ever been able to buyhad gone to her
father's room. Howbeitfor this poor place she showed an
increasing love; and to sit in it alone became her favourite rest.

Insomuchthat on a certain afternoon during the Pancks mysteries
when she was seated at her windowand heard Maggy's well-known
step coming up the stairsshe was very much disturbed by the
apprehension of being summoned away. As Maggy's step came higher
up and nearershe trembled and faltered; and it was as much as she
could do to speakwhen Maggy at length appeared.

'PleaseLittle Mother' said Maggypanting for breath'you must
come down and see him. He's here.'

'WhoMaggy?'

'Whoo' course Mr Clennam. He's in your father's roomand he
says to meMaggywill you be so kind and go and say it's only
me.'

'I am not very wellMaggy. I had better not go. I am going to
lie down. See! I lie down nowto ease my head. Saywith my
grateful regardthat you left me soor I would have come.'


'Wellit an't very polite thoughLittle Mother' said the staring
Maggy'to turn your face awayneither!'

Maggy was very susceptible to personal slightsand very ingenious
in inventing them. 'Putting both your hands afore your face too!'
she went on. 'If you can't bear the looks of a poor thingit
would be better to tell her so at onceand not go and shut her out
like thathurting her feelings and breaking her heart at ten year
oldpoor thing!'

'It's to ease my headMaggy.'

'Welland if you cry to ease your headLittle Motherlet me cry
too. Don't go and have all the crying to yourself' expostulated
Maggy'that an't not being greedy.' And immediately began to
blubber.

It was with some difficulty that she could be induced to go back
with the excuse; but the promise of being told a story--of old her
great delight--on condition that she concentrated her faculties
upon the errand and left her little mistress to herself for an hour
longercombined with a misgiving on Maggy's part that she had left
her good temper at the bottom of the staircaseprevailed. So away
she wentmuttering her message all the way to keep it in her mind
andat the appointed timecame back.

'He was very sorryI can tell you' she announced'and wanted to
send a doctor. And he's coming again to-morrow he is and I don't
think he'll have a good sleep to-night along o' hearing about your
headLittle Mother. Oh my! Ain't you been a-crying!'

'I think I havea littleMaggy.'

'A little! Oh!'

'But it's all over now--all over for goodMaggy. And my head is
much better and coolerand I am quite comfortable. I am very glad
I did not go down.'

Her great staring child tenderly embraced her; and having smoothed
her hairand bathed her forehead and eyes with cold water (offices
in which her awkward hands became skilful)hugged her again
exulted in her brighter looksand stationed her in her chair by
the window. Over against this chairMaggywith apoplectic
exertions that were not at all requireddragged the box which was
her seat on story-telling occasionssat down upon ithugged her
own kneesand saidwith a voracious appetite for storiesand
with widely-opened eyes:

'NowLittle Motherlet's have a good 'un!'

'What shall it be aboutMaggy?'

'Ohlet's have a princess' said Maggy'and let her be a reg'lar
one. Beyond all beliefyou know!'

Little Dorrit considered for a moment; and with a rather sad smile
upon her facewhich was flushed by the sunsetbegan:

'Maggythere was once upon a time a fine Kingand he had
everything he could wish forand a great deal more. He had gold
and silverdiamonds and rubiesriches of every kind. He had
palacesand he had--'


'Hospitals' interposed Maggystill nursing her knees. 'Let him
have hospitalsbecause they're so comfortable. Hospitals with
lots of Chicking.'

'Yeshe had plenty of themand he had plenty of everything.'

'Plenty of baked potatoesfor instance?' said Maggy.

'Plenty of everything.'

'Lor!' chuckled Maggygiving her knees a hug. 'Wasn't it prime!'

'This King had a daughterwho was the wisest and most beautiful
Princess that ever was seen. When she was a child she understood
all her lessons before her masters taught them to her; and when she
was grown upshe was the wonder of the world. Nownear the
Palace where this Princess livedthere was a cottage in which
there was a poor little tiny womanwho lived all alone by
herself.'

'An old woman' said Maggywith an unctuous smack of her lips.

'Nonot an old woman. Quite a young one.'

'I wonder she warn't afraid' said Maggy. 'Go onplease.'

'The Princess passed the cottage nearly every dayand whenever she
went by in her beautiful carriageshe saw the poor tiny woman
spinning at her wheeland she looked at the tiny womanand the
tiny woman looked at her. Soone day she stopped the coachman a
little way from the cottageand got out and walked on and peeped
in at the doorand thereas usualwas the tiny woman spinning at
her wheeland she looked at the Princessand the Princess looked
at her.'

'Like trying to stare one another out' said Maggy. 'Please go on
Little Mother.'

'The Princess was such a wonderful Princess that she had the power
of knowing secretsand she said to the tiny womanWhy do you keep
it there? This showed her directly that the Princess knew why she
lived all alone by herself spinning at her wheeland she kneeled
down at the Princess's feetand asked her never to betray her. So
the Princess saidI never will betray you. Let me see it. So the
tiny woman closed the shutter of the cottage window and fastened
the doorand trembling from head to foot for fear that any one
should suspect heropened a very secret place and showed the
Princess a shadow.'

'Lor!' said Maggy.
'It was the shadow of Some one who had gone by long before: of Some
one who had gone on far away quite out of reachnevernever to
come back. It was bright to look at; and when the tiny woman
showed it to the Princessshe was proud of it with all her heart
as a greatgreat treasure. When the Princess had considered it a
little whileshe said to the tiny womanAnd you keep watch over
this every day? And she cast down her eyesand whisperedYes.
Then the Princess saidRemind me why. To which the other replied
that no one so good and kind had ever passed that wayand that was
why in the beginning. She saidtoothat nobody missed itthat
nobody was the worse for itthat Some one had gone onto those
who were expecting him--'

'Some one was a man then?' interposed Maggy.


Little Dorrit timidly said Yesshe believed so; and resumed:

'--Had gone on to those who were expecting himand that this
remembrance was stolen or kept back from nobody. The Princess made
answerAh! But when the cottager died it would be discovered
there. The tiny woman told her No; when that time cameit would
sink quietly into her own graveand would never be found.'

'Wellto be sure!' said Maggy. 'Go onplease.'

'The Princess was very much astonished to hear thisas you may
supposeMaggy.' ('And well she might be' said Maggy.)

'So she resolved to watch the tiny womanand see what came of it.
Every day she drove in her beautiful carriage by the cottage-door
and there she saw the tiny woman always alone by herself spinning
at her wheeland she looked at the tiny womanand the tiny woman
looked at her. At last one day the wheel was stilland the tiny
woman was not to be seen. When the Princess made inquiries why the
wheel had stoppedand where the tiny woman wasshe was informed
that the wheel had stopped because there was nobody to turn itthe
tiny woman being dead.'

('They ought to have took her to the Hospital' said Maggyand
then she'd have got over it.')

'The Princessafter crying a very little for the loss of the tiny
womandried her eyes and got out of her carriage at the place
where she had stopped it beforeand went to the cottage and peeped
in at the door. There was nobody to look at her nowand nobody
for her to look atso she went in at once to search for the
treasured shadow. But there was no sign of it to be found
anywhere; and then she knew that the tiny woman had told her the
truthand that it would never give anybody any troubleand that
it had sunk quietly into her own graveand that she and it were at
rest together.

'That's allMaggy.'

The sunset flush was so bright on Little Dorrit's face when she
came thus to the end of her storythat she interposed her hand to
shade it.

'Had she got to be old?' Maggy asked.

'The tiny woman?'
'Ah!'

'I don't know' said Little Dorrit. 'But it would have been just
the same if she had been ever so old.'

'Would it raly!' said Maggy. 'WellI suppose it would though.'
And sat staring and ruminating.

She sat so long with her eyes wide openthat at length Little
Dorritto entice her from her boxrose and looked out of window.
As she glanced down into the yardshe saw Pancks come in and leer
up with the corner of his eye as he went by.

'Who's heLittle Mother?' said Maggy. She had joined her at the
window and was leaning on her shoulder. 'I see him come in and out
often.'


'I have heard him called a fortune-teller' said Little Dorrit.
'But I doubt if he could tell many people even their past or
present fortunes.'

'Couldn't have told the Princess hers?' said Maggy.

Little Dorritlooking musingly down into the dark valley of the
prisonshook her head.

'Nor the tiny woman hers?' said Maggy.

'No' said Little Dorritwith the sunset very bright upon her.
'But let us come away from the window.'

CHAPTER 25

Conspirators and Others

The private residence of Mr Pancks was in Pentonvillewhere he
lodged on the second-floor of a professional gentleman in an
extremely small waywho had an inner-door within the street door
poised on a spring and starting open with a click like a trap; and
who wrote up in the fan-lightRUGGGENERAL AGENTACCOUNTANT
DEBTS RECOVERED.

This scrollmajestic in its severe simplicityilluminated a
little slip of front garden abutting on the thirsty high-road
where a few of the dustiest of leaves hung their dismal heads and
led a life of choking. A professor of writing occupied the firstfloor
and enlivened the garden railings with glass-cases
containing choice examples of what his pupils had been before six
lessons and while the whole of his young family shook the table
and what they had become after six lessons when the young family
was under restraint. The tenancy of Mr Pancks was limited to one
airy bedroom; he covenanting and agreeing with Mr Rugg his
landlordthat in consideration of a certain scale of payments
accurately definedand on certain verbal notice duly givenhe
should be at liberty to elect to share the Sunday breakfast
dinnerteaor supperor each or any or all of those repasts or
meals of Mr and Miss Rugg (his daughter) in the back-parlour.

Miss Rugg was a lady of a little property which she had acquired
together with much distinction in the neighbourhoodby having her
heart severely lacerated and her feelings mangled by a middle-aged
baker resident in the vicinityagainst whom she hadby the agency
of Mr Ruggfound it necessary to proceed at law to recover damages
for a breach of promise of marriage. The baker having beenby the
counsel for Miss Ruggwitheringly denounced on that occasion up to
the full amount of twenty guineasat the rate of about eighteenpence
an epithetand having been cast in corresponding damages
still suffered occasional persecution from the youth of
Pentonville. But Miss Ruggenvironed by the majesty of the law
and having her damages invested in the public securitieswas
regarded with consideration.

In the society of Mr Ruggwho had a round white visageas if all
his blushes had been drawn out of him long agoand who had a
ragged yellow head like a worn-out hearth broom; and in the society
of Miss Ruggwho had little nankeen spotslike shirt buttonsall
over her faceand whose own yellow tresses were rather scrubby


than luxuriant; Mr Pancks had usually dined on Sundays for some few
yearsand had twice a weekor soenjoyed an evening collation of
breadDutch cheeseand porter. Mr Pancks was one of the very few
marriageable men for whom Miss Rugg had no terrorsthe argument
with which he reassured himself being twofold; that is to say
firstly'that it wouldn't do twice' and secondly'that he wasn't
worth it.' Fortified within this double armourMr Pancks snorted
at Miss Rugg on easy terms.

Up to this timeMr Pancks had transacted little or no business at
his quarters in Pentonvilleexcept in the sleeping line; but now
that he had become a fortune-tellerhe was often closeted after
midnight with Mr Rugg in his little front-parlour officeand even
after those untimely hoursburnt tallow in his bed-room. Though
his duties as his proprietor's grubber were in no wise lessened;
and though that service bore no greater resemblance to a bed of
roses than was to be discovered in its many thorns; some new branch
of industry made a constant demand upon him. When he cast off the
Patriarch at nightit was only to take an anonymous craft in tow
and labour away afresh in other waters.

The advance from a personal acquaintance with the elder Mr Chivery
to an introduction to his amiable wife and disconsolate sonmay
have been easy; but easy or notMr Pancks soon made it. He
nestled in the bosom of the tobacco business within a week or two
after his first appearance in the Collegeand particularly
addressed himself to the cultivation of a good understanding with
Young John. In this endeavour he so prospered as to lure that
pining shepherd forth from the grovesand tempt him to undertake
mysterious missions; on which he began to disappear at uncertain
intervals for as long a space as two or three days together. The
prudent Mrs Chiverywho wondered greatly at this changewould
have protested against it as detrimental to the Highland
typification on the doorpost but for two forcible reasons; one
that her John was roused to take strong interest in the business
which these starts were supposed to advance--and this she held to
be good for his drooping spirits; the otherthat Mr Pancks
confidentially agreed to pay herfor the occupation of her son's
timeat the handsome rate of seven and sixpence per day. The
proposal originated with himselfand was couched in the pithy
terms'If your John is weak enoughma'amnot to take itthat is
no reason why you should bedon't you see? Soquite between
ourselvesma'ambusiness being businesshere it is!'

What Mr Chivery thought of these thingsor how much or how little
he knew about themwas never gathered from himself. It has been
already remarked that he was a man of few words; and it may be here
observed that he had imbibed a professional habit of locking
everything up. He locked himself up as carefully as he locked up
the Marshalsea debtors. Even his custom of bolting his meals may
have been a part of an uniform whole; but there is no question
thatas to all other purposeshe kept his mouth as he kept the
Marshalsea door. He never opened it without occasion. When it was
necessary to let anything outhe opened it a little wayheld it
open just as long as sufficed for the purposeand locked it again.

Even as he would be sparing of his trouble at the Marshalsea door
and would keep a visitor who wanted to go outwaiting for a few
moments if he saw another visitor coming down the yardso that one
turn of the key should suffice for bothsimilarly he would often
reserve a remark if he perceived another on its way to his lips
and would deliver himself of the two together. As to any key to
his inner knowledge being to be found in his facethe Marshalsea
key was as legible as an index to the individual characters and


histories upon which it was turned.

That Mr Pancks should be moved to invite any one to dinner at
Pentonvillewas an unprecedented fact in his calendar. But he
invited Young John to dinnerand even brought him within range of
the dangerous (because expensive) fascinations of Miss Rugg. The
banquet was appointed for a Sundayand Miss Rugg with her own
hands stuffed a leg of mutton with oysters on the occasionand
sent it to the baker's--not THE baker's but an opposition
establishment. Provision of orangesapplesand nuts was also
made. And rum was brought home by Mr Pancks on Saturday nightto
gladden the visitor's heart.
The store of creature comforts was not the chief part of the
visitor's reception. Its special feature was a foregone family
confidence and sympathy. When Young John appeared at half-past one
without the ivory hand and waistcoat of golden sprigsthe sun
shorn of his beams by disastrous cloudsMr Pancks presented him to
the yellow-haired Ruggs as the young man he had so often mentioned
who loved Miss Dorrit.
'I am glad' said Mr Ruggchallenging him specially in that
character'to have the distinguished gratification of making your
acquaintancesir. Your feelings do you honour. You are young;
may you never outlive your feelings! If I was to outlive my own
feelingssir' said Mr Ruggwho was a man of many wordsand was
considered to possess a remarkably good address; 'if I was to
outlive my own feelingsI'd leave fifty pound in my will to the
man who would put me out of existence.'

Miss Rugg heaved a sigh.

'My daughtersir' said Mr Rugg. 'Anastatiayou are no stranger
to the state of this young man's affections. My daughter has had
her trialssir'--Mr Rugg might have used the word more pointedly
in the singular number--'and she can feel for you.'

Young Johnalmost overwhelmed by the touching nature of this
greetingprofessed himself to that effect.

'What I envy yousiris' said Mr Rugg'allow me to take your
hat--we are rather short of pegs--I'll put it in the cornernobody
will tread on it there--What I envy yousiris the luxury of your
own feelings. I belong to a profession in which that luxury is
sometimes denied us.'

Young John repliedwith acknowledgmentsthat he only hoped he did
what was rightand what showed how entirely he was devoted to Miss
Dorrit. He wished to be unselfish; and he hoped he was. He wished
to do anything as laid in his power to serve Miss Dorrit
altogether putting himself out of sight; and he hoped he did. It
was but little that he could dobut he hoped he did it.

'Sir' said Mr Ruggtaking him by the hand'you are a young man
that it does one good to come across. You are a young man that I
should like to put in the witness-boxto humanise the minds of the
legal profession. I hope you have brought your appetite with you
and intend to play a good knife and fork?'

'Thank yousir' returned Young John'I don't eat much at
present.'

Mr Rugg drew him a little apart. 'My daughter's casesir' said
he'at the time whenin vindication of her outraged feelings and
her sexshe became the plaintiff in Rugg and Bawkins. I suppose
I could have put it in evidenceMr Chiveryif I had thought it


worth my whilethat the amount of solid sustenance my daughter
consumed at that period did not exceed ten ounces per week.'
'I think I go a little beyond thatsir' returned the other
hesitatingas if he confessed it with some shame.


'But in your case there's no fiend in human form' said Mr Rugg
with argumentative smile and action of hand. 'ObserveMr Chivery!


No fiend in human form!'
'Nosircertainly' Young John added with simplicity'I should
be very sorry if there was.'


'The sentiment' said Mr Rugg'is what I should have expected from
your known principles. It would affect my daughter greatlysir
if she heard it. As I perceive the muttonI am glad she didn't
hear it. Mr Panckson this occasionpray face me. My dearface
Mr Chivery. For what we are going to receivemay we (and Miss
Dorrit) be truly thankful!'


But for a grave waggishness in Mr Rugg's manner of delivering this
introduction to the feastit might have appeared that Miss Dorrit
was expected to be one of the company. Pancks recognised the sally
in his usual wayand took in his provender in his usual way. Miss
Ruggperhaps making up some of her arrearslikewise took very
kindly to the muttonand it rapidly diminished to the bone. A
bread-and-butter pudding entirely disappearedand a considerable
amount of cheese and radishes vanished by the same means. Then
came the dessert.


Then alsoand before the broaching of the rum and watercame Mr
Pancks's note-book. The ensuing business proceedings were brief
but curiousand rather in the nature of a conspiracy. Mr Pancks
looked over his note-bookwhich was now getting fullstudiously;
and picked out little extractswhich he wrote on separate slips of
paper on the table; Mr Ruggin the meanwhilelooking at him with
close attentionand Young John losing his uncollected eye in mists
of meditation. When Mr Panckswho supported the character of
chief conspiratorhad completed his extractshe looked them over
corrected themput up his note-bookand held them like a hand at
cards.


'Nowthere's a churchyard in Bedfordshire' said Pancks. 'Who
takes it?'


'I'll take itsir' returned Mr Rugg'if no one bids.'


Mr Pancks dealt him his cardand looked at his hand again.


'Nowthere's an Enquiry in York' said Pancks. 'Who takes it?'


'I'm not good for York' said Mr Rugg.


'Then perhaps' pursued Pancks'you'll be so obligingJohn
Chivery?' Young John assentingPancks dealt him his cardand
consulted his hand again.


'There's a Church in London; I may as well take that. And a Family
Bible; I may as well take thattoo. That's two to me. Two to
me' repeated Pancksbreathing hard over his cards. 'Here's a
Clerk at Durham for youJohnand an old seafaring gentleman at
Dunstable for youMr Rugg. Two to mewas it? Yestwo to me.
Here's a Stone; three to me. And a Still-born Baby; four to me.
And allfor the presenttold.'
When he had thus disposed of his cardsall being done very quietly



and in a suppressed toneMr Pancks puffed his way into his own
breast-pocket and tugged out a canvas bag; from whichwith a
sparing handhe told forth money for travelling expenses in two
little portions. 'Cash goes out fast' he said anxiouslyas he
pushed a portion to each of his male companions'very fast.'

'I can only assure youMr Pancks' said Young John'that I deeply
regret my circumstances being such that I can't afford to pay my
own chargesor that it's not advisable to allow me the time
necessary for my doing the distances on foot; because nothing would
give me greater satisfaction than to walk myself off my legs
without fee or reward.'

This young man's disinterestedness appeared so very ludicrous in
the eyes of Miss Ruggthat she was obliged to effect a precipitate
retirement from the companyand to sit upon the stairs until she
had had her laugh out. Meanwhile Mr Panckslookingnot without
some pityat Young Johnslowly and thoughtfully twisted up his
canvas bag as if he were wringing its neck. The ladyreturning as
he restored it to his pocketmixed rum and water for the party
not forgetting her fair selfand handed to every one his glass.
When all were suppliedMr Rugg roseand silently holding out his
glass at arm's length above the centre of the tableby that
gesture invited the other three to add theirsand to unite in a
general conspiratorial clink. The ceremony was effective up to a
certain pointand would have been wholly so throughoutif Miss
Ruggas she raised her glass to her lips in completion of ithad
not happened to look at Young John; when she was again so overcome
by the contemptible comicality of his disinterestedness as to
splutter some ambrosial drops of rum and water aroundand withdraw
in confusion.

Such was the dinner without precedentgiven by Pancks at
Pentonville; and such was the busy and strange life Pancks led.
The only waking moments at which he appeared to relax from his
caresand to recreate himself by going anywhere or saying anything
without a pervading objectwere when he showed a dawning interest
in the lame foreigner with the stickdown Bleeding Heart Yard.

The foreignerby name John Baptist Cavalletto--they called him Mr
Baptist in the Yard--was such a chirpingeasyhopeful little
fellowthat his attraction for Pancks was probably in the force of
contrast. Solitaryweakand scantily acquainted with the most
necessary words of the only language in which he could communicate
with the people about himhe went with the stream of his fortunes
in a brisk way that was new in those parts. With little to eat
and less to drinkand nothing to wear but what he wore upon him
or had brought tied up in one of the smallest bundles that ever
were seenhe put as bright a face upon it as if he were in the
most flourishing circumstances when he first hobbled up and down
the Yardhumbly propitiating the general good-will with his white
teeth.

It was uphill work for a foreignerlame or soundto make his way
with the Bleeding Hearts. In the first placethey were vaguely
persuaded that every foreigner had a knife about him; in the
secondthey held it to be a sound constitutional national axiom
that he ought to go home to his own country. They never thought of
inquiring how many of their own countrymen would be returned upon
their hands from divers parts of the worldif the principle were
generally recognised; they considered it particularly and
peculiarly British. In the third placethey had a notion that it
was a sort of Divine visitation upon a foreigner that he was not an
Englishmanand that all kinds of calamities happened to his


country because it did things that England did notand did not do
things that England did. In this beliefto be surethey had long
been carefully trained by the Barnacles and Stiltstalkingswho
were always proclaiming to themofficiallythat no country which
failed to submit itself to those two large families could possibly
hope to be under the protection of Providence; and whowhen they
believed itdisparaged them in private as the most prejudiced
people under the sun.

Thisthereforemight be called a political position of the
Bleeding Hearts; but they entertained other objections to having
foreigners in the Yard. They believed that foreigners were always
badly off; and though they were as ill off themselves as they could
desire to bethat did not diminish the force of the objection.
They believed that foreigners were dragooned and bayoneted; and
though they certainly got their own skulls promptly fractured if
they showed any ill-humourstill it was with a blunt instrument
and that didn't count. They believed that foreigners were always
immoral; and though they had an occasional assize at homeand now
and then a divorce case or sothat had nothing to do with it.
They believed that foreigners had no independent spiritas never
being escorted to the poll in droves by Lord Decimus Tite Barnacle
with colours flying and the tune of Rule Britannia playing. Not to
be tediousthey had many other beliefs of a similar kind.

Against these obstaclesthe lame foreigner with the stick had to
make head as well as he could; not absolutely single-handed
because Mr Arthur Clennam had recommended him to the Plornishes (he
lived at the top of the same house)but still at heavy odds.
Howeverthe Bleeding Hearts were kind hearts; and when they saw
the little fellow cheerily limping about with a good-humoured face
doing no harmdrawing no knivescommitting no outrageous
immoralitiesliving chiefly on farinaceous and milk dietand
playing with Mrs Plornish's children of an eveningthey began to
think that although he could never hope to be an Englishmanstill
it would be hard to visit that affliction on his head. They began
to accommodate themselves to his levelcalling him 'Mr Baptist'
but treating him like a babyand laughing immoderately at his
lively gestures and his childish English--morebecause he didn't
mind itand laughed too. They spoke to him in very loud voices as
if he were stone deaf. They constructed sentencesby way of
teaching him the language in its puritysuch as were addressed by
the savages to Captain Cookor by Friday to Robinson Crusoe. Mrs
Plornish was particularly ingenious in this art; and attained so
much celebrity for saying 'Me ope you leg well soon' that it was
considered in the Yard but a very short remove indeed from speaking
Italian. Even Mrs Plornish herself began to think that she had a
natural call towards that language. As he became more popular
household objects were brought into requisition for his instruction
in a copious vocabulary; and whenever he appeared in the Yard
ladies would fly out at their doors crying 'Mr Baptist--tea-pot!'
'Mr Baptist--dust-pan!' 'Mr Baptist--flour-dredger!' 'Mr
Baptist--coffee-biggin!' At the same time exhibiting those
articlesand penetrating him with a sense of the appalling
difficulties of the Anglo-Saxon tongue.

It was in this stage of his progressand in about the third week
of his occupationthat Mr Pancks's fancy became attracted by the
little man. Mounting to his atticattended by Mrs Plornish as
interpreterhe found Mr Baptist with no furniture but his bed on
the grounda tableand a chaircarving with the aid of a few
simple toolsin the blithest way possible.

'Nowold chap' said Mr Pancks'pay up!'


He had his money readyfolded in a scrap of paperand laughingly
handed it in; then with a free actionthrew out as many fingers of
his right hand as there were shillingsand made a cut crosswise in
the air for an odd sixpence.

'Oh!' said Mr Panckswatching himwonderingly. 'That's itis
it? You're a quick customer. It's all right. I didn't expect to
receive itthough.'

Mrs Plornish here interposed with great condescensionand
explained to Mr Baptist. 'E please. E glad get money.'

The little man smiled and nodded. His bright face seemed
uncommonly attractive to Mr Pancks. 'How's he getting on in his
limb?' he asked Mrs Plornish.

'Ohhe's a deal bettersir' said Mrs Plornish. 'We expect next
week he'll be able to leave off his stick entirely.' (The
opportunity being too favourable to be lostMrs Plornish displayed
her great accomplishment by explaining with pardonable pride to Mr
Baptist'E ope you leg well soon.')

'He's a merry fellowtoo' said Mr Pancksadmiring him as if he
were a mechanical toy. 'How does he live?'

'Whysir' rejoined Mrs Plornish'he turns out to have quite a
power of carving them flowers that you see him at now.' (Mr
Baptistwatching their faces as they spokeheld up his work. Mrs
Plornish interpreted in her Italian manneron behalf of Mr Pancks
'E please. Double good!')

'Can he live by that?' asked Mr Pancks.
'He can live on very littlesirand it is expected as he will be
ablein timeto make a very good living. Mr Clennam got it him
to doand gives him odd jobs besides in at the Works next door-makes
'em for himin shortwhen he knows he wants 'em.'

'And what does he do with himselfnowwhen he ain't hard at it?'
said Mr Pancks.

'Whynot much as yetsiron accounts I suppose of not being able
to walk much; but he goes about the Yardand he chats without
particular understanding or being understoodand he plays with the
childrenand he sits in the sun--he'll sit down anywhereas if it
was an arm-chair--and he'll singand he'll laugh!'

'Laugh!' echoed Mr Pancks. 'He looks to me as if every tooth in
his head was always laughing.'

'But whenever he gets to the top of the steps at t'other end of the
Yard' said Mrs Plornish'he'll peep out in the curiousest way!
So that some of us thinks he's peeping out towards where his own
country isand some of us thinks he's looking for somebody he
don't want to seeand some of us don't know what to think.'

Mr Baptist seemed to have a general understanding of what she said;
or perhaps his quickness caught and applied her slight action of
peeping. In any case he closed his eyes and tossed his head with
the air of a man who had sufficient reasons for what he didand
said in his own tongueit didn't matter. Altro!

'What's Altro?' said Pancks.


'Hem! It's a sort of a general kind of expressionsir' said Mrs
Plornish.

'Is it?' said Pancks. 'Whythen Altro to youold chap. Good
afternoon. Altro!'

Mr Baptist in his vivacious way repeating the word several times
Mr Pancks in his duller way gave it him back once. From that time
it became a frequent custom with Pancks the gipsyas he went home
jaded at nightto pass round by Bleeding Heart Yardgo quietly up
the stairslook in at Mr Baptist's doorandfinding him in his
roomto say'Halloold chap! Altro!' To which Mr Baptist would
reply with innumerable bright nods and smiles'Altrosignore
altroaltroaltro!' After this highly condensed conversationMr
Pancks would go his way with an appearance of being lightened and
refreshed.

CHAPTER 26

Nobody's State of Mind

If Arthur Clennam had not arrived at that wise decision firmly to
restrain himself from loving Pethe would have lived on in a state
of much perplexityinvolving difficult struggles with his own
heart. Not the least of these would have been a contentionalways
waging within itbetween a tendency to dislike Mr Henry Gowanif
not to regard him with positive repugnanceand a whisper that the
inclination was unworthy. A generous nature is not prone to strong
aversionsand is slow to admit them even dispassionately; but when
it finds ill-will gaining upon itand can discern between-whiles
that its origin is not dispassionatesuch a nature becomes
distressed.

Therefore Mr Henry Gowan would have clouded Clennam's mindand
would have been far oftener present to it than more agreeable
persons and subjects but for the great prudence of his decision
aforesaid. As it wasMr Gowan seemed transferred to Daniel
Doyce's mind; at all eventsit so happened that it usually fell to
Mr Doyce's turnrather than to Clennam'sto speak of him in the
friendly conversations they held together. These were of frequent
occurrence now; as the two partners shared a portion of a roomy
house in one of the grave old-fashioned City streetslying not far
from the Bank of Englandby London Wall.

Mr Doyce had been to Twickenham to pass the day. Clennam had
excused himself. Mr Doyce was just come home. He put in his head
at the door of Clennam's sitting-room to say Good night.

'Come income in!' said Clennam.

'I saw you were reading' returned Doyceas he entered'and
thought you might not care to be disturbed.'

But for the notable resolution he had madeClennam really might
not have known what he had been reading; really might not have had
his eyes upon the book for an hour pastthough it lay open before
him. He shut it uprather quickly.

'Are they well?' he asked.


'Yes' said Doyce; 'they are well. They are all well.'


Daniel had an old workmanlike habit of carrying his pocket-
handkerchief in his hat. He took it out and wiped his forehead
with itslowly repeating'They are all well. Miss Minnie looking
particularly wellI thought.'


'Any company at the cottage?'


'Nono company.'
'And how did you get onyou four?' asked Clennam gaily.


'There were five of us' returned his partner. 'There was What's-
his-name. He was there.'
'Who is he?' said Clennam.


'Mr Henry Gowan.'


'Ahto be sure!' cried Clennam with unusual vivacity'Yes!--I
forgot him.'


'As I mentionedyou may remember' said Daniel Doyce'he is
always there on Sunday.'


'Yesyes' returned Clennam; 'I remember now.'


Daniel Doycestill wiping his foreheadploddingly repeated.
'Yes. He was therehe was there. Oh yeshe was there. And his
dog. He was there too.'


'Miss Meagles is quite attached to--the--dog' observed Clennam.


'Quite so' assented his partner. 'More attached to the dog than
I am to the man.'


'You mean Mr--?'


'I mean Mr Gowanmost decidedly' said Daniel Doyce.


There was a gap in the conversationwhich Clennam devoted to
winding up his watch.


'Perhaps you are a little hasty in your judgment' he said. 'Our
judgments--I am supposing a general case--'


'Of course' said Doyce.


'Are so liable to be influenced by many considerationswhich
almost without our knowing itare unfairthat it is necessary to
keep a guard upon them. For instanceMr--'


'Gowan' quietly said Doyceupon whom the utterance of the name
almost always devolved.


'Is young and handsomeeasy and quickhas talentand has seen a
good deal of various kinds of life. It might be difficult to give
an unselfish reason for being prepossessed against him.'


'Not difficult for meI thinkClennam' returned his partner. 'I
see him bringing present anxietyandI fearfuture sorrowinto
my old friend's house. I see him wearing deeper lines into my old
friend's facethe nearer he draws toand the oftener he looks at
the face of his daughter. In shortI see him with a net about the
pretty and affectionate creature whom he will never make happy.'



'We don't know' said Clennamalmost in the tone of a man in pain
'that he will not make her happy.'

'We don't know' returned his partner'that the earth will last
another hundred yearsbut we think it highly probable.'

'Wellwell!' said Clennam'we must be hopefuland we must at
least try to beif not generous (whichin this casewe have no
opportunity of being)just. We will not disparage this gentleman
because he is successful in his addresses to the beautiful object
of his ambition; and we will not question her natural right to
bestow her love on one whom she finds worthy of it.'

'Maybemy friend' said Doyce. 'Maybe alsothat she is too young
and pettedtoo confiding and inexperiencedto discriminate well.'

'That' said Clennam'would be far beyond our power of
correction.'

Daniel Doyce shook his head gravelyand rejoined'I fear so.'

'Thereforein a word' said Clennam'we should make up our minds
that it is not worthy of us to say any ill of Mr Gowan. It would
be a poor thing to gratify a prejudice against him. And I resolve
for my partnot to depreciate him.'

'I am not quite so sure of myselfand therefore I reserve my
privilege of objecting to him' returned the other. 'Butif I am
not sure of myselfI am sure of youClennamand I know what an
upright man you areand how much to be respected. Good nightMY
friend and partner!' He shook his hand in saying thisas if there
had been something serious at the bottom of their conversation; and
they separated.

By this time they had visited the family on several occasionsand
had always observed that even a passing allusion to Mr Henry Gowan
when he was not among thembrought back the cloud which had
obscured Mr Meagles's sunshine on the morning of the chance
encounter at the Ferry. If Clennam had ever admitted the forbidden
passion into his breastthis period might have been a period of
real trial; under the actual circumstancesdoubtless it was
nothing--nothing.

Equallyif his heart had given entertainment to that prohibited
guesthis silent fighting of his way through the mental condition
of this period might have been a little meritorious. In the
constant effort not to be betrayed into a new phase of the
besetting sin of his experiencethe pursuit of selfish objects by
low and small meansand to hold instead to some high principle of
honour and generositythere might have been a little merit. In
the resolution not even to avoid Mr Meagles's houselestin the
selfish sparing of himselfhe should bring any slight distress
upon the daughter through making her the cause of an estrangement
which he believed the father would regretthere might have been a
little merit. In the modest truthfulness of always keeping in view
the greater equality of Mr Gowan's years and the greater
attractions of his person and mannerthere might have been a
little merit. In doing all this and much morein a perfectly
unaffected way and with a manful and composed constancywhile the
pain within him (peculiar as his life and history) was very sharp
there might have been some quiet strength of character. Butafter
the resolution he had madeof course he could have no such merits
as these; and such a state of mind was nobody's--nobody's.


Mr Gowan made it no concern of his whether it was nobody's or
somebody's. He preserved his perfect serenity of manner on all
occasionsas if the possibility of Clennam's presuming to have
debated the great question were too distant and ridiculous to be
imagined. He had always an affability to bestow on Clennam and an
ease to treat him withwhich might of itself (in the
supposititious case of his not having taken that sagacious course)
have been a very uncomfortable element in his state of mind.

'I quite regret you were not with us yesterday' said Mr Henry
Gowancalling on Clennam the next morning. 'We had an agreeable
day up the river there.'

So he had heardArthur said.

'From your partner?' returned Henry Gowan. 'What a dear old fellow
he is!'

'I have a great regard for him.'

'By Jovehe is the finest creature!' said Gowan. 'So freshso
greentrusts in such wonderful things!'

Here was one of the many little rough points that had a tendency to
grate on Clennam's hearing. He put it aside by merely repeating
that he had a high regard for Mr Doyce.

'He is charming! To see him mooning along to that time of life
laying down nothing by the way and picking up nothing by the way
is delightful. It warms a man. So unspoiltso simplesuch a
good soul! Upon my life Mr Clennamone feels desperately worldly
and wicked in comparison with such an innocent creature. I speak
for myselflet me addwithout including you. You are genuine
also.'

'Thank you for the compliment' said Clennamill at ease; 'you are
tooI hope?'

'So so' rejoined the other. 'To be candid with youtolerably.
I am not a great impostor. Buy one of my picturesand I assure
youin confidenceit will not be worth the money. Buy one of
another man's--any great professor who beats me hollow--and the
chances are that the more you give himthe more he'll impose upon
you. They all do it.'
'All painters?'

'Painterswriterspatriotsall the rest who have stands in the
market. Give almost any man I know ten poundsand he will impose
upon you to a corresponding extent; a thousand pounds--to a
corresponding extent; ten thousand pounds--to a corresponding
extent. So great the successso great the imposition. But what
a capital world it is!' cried Gowan with warm enthusiasm. 'What a
jollyexcellentlovable world it is!'

'I had rather thought' said Clennam'that the principle you
mention was chiefly acted on by--'

'By the Barnacles?' interrupted Gowanlaughing.

'By the political gentlemen who condescend to keep the
Circumlocution Office.'

'Ah! Don't be hard upon the Barnacles' said Gowanlaughing
afresh'they are darling fellows! Even poor little Clarencethe


born idiot of the familyis the most agreeable and most endearing
blockhead! And by Jupiterwith a kind of cleverness in him too
that would astonish you!'

'It would. Very much' said Clennamdrily.

'And after all' cried Gowanwith that characteristic balancing of
his which reduced everything in the wide world to the same light
weight'though I can't deny that the Circumlocution Office may
ultimately shipwreck everybody and everythingstillthat will
probably not be in our time--and it's a school for gentlemen.'

'It's a very dangerousunsatisfactoryand expensive school to the
people who pay to keep the pupils thereI am afraid' said
Clennamshaking his head.

'Ah! You are a terrible fellow' returned Gowanairily. 'I can
understand how you have frightened that little donkeyClarence
the most estimable of moon-calves (I really love him) nearly out of
his wits. But enough of himand of all the rest of them. I want
to present you to my motherMr Clennam. Pray do me the favour to
give me the opportunity.'

In nobody's state of mindthere was nothing Clennam would have
desired lessor would have been more at a loss how to avoid.

'My mother lives in a most primitive manner down in that dreary
red-brick dungeon at Hampton Court' said Gowan. 'If you would
make your own appointmentsuggest your own day for permitting me
to take you there to dinneryou would be bored and she would be
charmed. Really that's the state of the case.'

What could Clennam say after this? His retiring character included
a great deal that was simple in the best sensebecause unpractised
and unused; and in his simplicity and modestyhe could only say
that he was happy to place himself at Mr Gowan's disposal.
Accordingly he said itand the day was fixed. And a dreaded day
it was on his partand a very unwelcome day when it came and they
went down to Hampton Court together.

The venerable inhabitants of that venerable pile seemedin those
timesto be encamped there like a sort of civilised gipsies.
There was a temporary air about their establishmentsas if they
were going away the moment they could get anything better; there
was also a dissatisfied air about themselvesas if they took it
very ill that they had not already got something much better.
Genteel blinds and makeshifts were more or less observable as soon
as their doors were opened; screens not half high enoughwhich
made dining-rooms out of arched passagesand warded off obscure
corners where footboys slept at nights with their heads among the
knives and forks; curtains which called upon you to believe that
they didn't hide anything; panes of glass which requested you not
to see them; many objects of various formsfeigning to have no
connection with their guilty secreta bed; disguised traps in
wallswhich were clearly coal-cellars; affectations of no
thoroughfareswhich were evidently doors to little kitchens.
Mental reservations and artful mysteries grew out of these things.
Callers looking steadily into the eyes of their receivers
pretended not to smell cooking three feet off; peopleconfronting
closets accidentally left openpretended not to see bottles;
visitors with their heads against a partition of thin canvasand
a page and a young female at high words on the other sidemade
believe to be sitting in a primeval silence. There was no end to
the small social accommodation-bills of this nature which the


gipsies of gentility were constantly drawing uponand accepting
forone another.

Some of these Bohemians were of an irritable temperamentas
constantly soured and vexed by two mental trials: the firstthe
consciousness that they had never got enough out of the public; the
secondthe consciousness that the public were admitted into the
building. Under the latter great wronga few suffered
dreadfully--particularly on Sundayswhen they had for some time
expected the earth to open and swallow the public up; but which
desirable event had not yet occurredin consequence of some
reprehensible laxity in the arrangements of the Universe.

Mrs Gowan's door was attended by a family servant of several years'
standingwho had his own crow to pluck with the public concerning
a situation in the Post-Office which he had been for some time
expectingand to which he was not yet appointed. He perfectly
knew that the public could never have got him inbut he grimly
gratified himself with the idea that the public kept him out.
Under the influence of this injury (and perhaps of some little
straitness and irregularity in the matter of wages)he had grown
neglectful of his person and morose in mind; and now beholding in
Clennam one of the degraded body of his oppressorsreceived him
with ignominy.
Mrs Gowanhoweverreceived him with condescension. He found her
a courtly old ladyformerly a Beautyand still sufficiently wellfavoured
to have dispensed with the powder on her nose and a
certain impossible bloom under each eye. She was a little lofty
with him; so was another old ladydark-browed and high-nosedand
who must have had something real about her or she could not have
existedbut it was certainly not her hair or her teeth or her
figure or her complexion; so was a grey old gentleman of dignified
and sullen appearance; both of whom had come to dinner. Butas
they had all been in the British Embassy way in sundry parts of the
earthand as a British Embassy cannot better establish a character
with the Circumlocution Office than by treating its compatriots
with illimitable contempt (else it would become like the Embassies
of other countries)Clennam felt that on the whole they let him
off lightly.

The dignified old gentleman turned out to be Lord Lancaster
Stiltstalkingwho had been maintained by the Circumlocution Office
for many years as a representative of the Britannic Majesty abroad.

This noble Refrigerator had iced several European courts in his
timeand had done it with such complete success that the very name
of Englishman yet struck cold to the stomachs of foreigners who had
the distinguished honour of remembering him at a distance of a
quarter of a century.

He was now in retirementand hence (in a ponderous white cravat
like a stiff snow-drift) was so obliging as to shade the dinner.
There was a whisper of the pervading Bohemian character in the
nomadic nature of the service and its curious races of plates and
dishes; but the noble Refrigeratorinfinitely better than plate or
porcelainmade it superb. He shaded the dinnercooled the wines
chilled the gravyand blighted the vegetables.

There was only one other person in the room: a microscopically
small footboywho waited on the malevolent man who hadn't got into
the Post-Office. Even this youthif his jacket could have been
unbuttoned and his heart laid barewould have been seenas a
distant adherent of the Barnacle familyalready to aspire to a
situation under Government.


Mrs Gowan with a gentle melancholy upon heroccasioned by her
son's being reduced to court the swinish public as a follower of
the low Artsinstead of asserting his birthright and putting a
ring through its nose as an acknowledged Barnacleheaded the
conversation at dinner on the evil days. It was then that Clennam
learned for the first time what little pivots this great world goes
round upon.

'If John Barnacle' said Mrs Gowanafter the degeneracy of the
times had been fully ascertained'if John Barnacle had but
abandoned his most unfortunate idea of conciliating the moball
would have been welland I think the country would have been
preserved.'
The old lady with the high nose assented; but added that if
Augustus Stiltstalking had in a general way ordered the cavalry out
with instructions to chargeshe thought the country would have
been preserved.

The noble Refrigerator assented; but added that if William Barnacle
and Tudor Stiltstalkingwhen they came over to one another and
formed their ever-memorable coalitionhad boldly muzzled the
newspapersand rendered it penal for any Editor-person to presume
to discuss the conduct of any appointed authority abroad or at
homehe thought the country would have been preserved.

It was agreed that the country (another word for the Barnacles and
Stiltstalkings) wanted preservingbut how it came to want
preserving was not so clear. It was only clear that the question
was all about John BarnacleAugustus StiltstalkingWilliam
Barnacle and Tudor StiltstalkingTomDickor Harry Barnacle or
Stiltstalkingbecause there was nobody else but mob. And this was
the feature of the conversation which impressed Clennamas a man
not used to itvery disagreeably: making him doubt if it were
quite right to sit theresilently hearing a great nation narrowed
to such little bounds. Rememberinghoweverthat in the
Parliamentary debateswhether on the life of that nation's body or
the life of its soulthe question was usually all about and
between John BarnacleAugustus StiltstalkingWilliam Barnacle and
Tudor StiltstalkingTomDickor Harry Barnacle or Stiltstalking
and nobody else; he said nothing on the part of mobbethinking
himself that mob was used to it.

Mr Henry Gowan seemed to have a malicious pleasure in playing off
the three talkers against each otherand in seeing Clennam
startled by what they said. Having as supreme a contempt for the
class that had thrown him off as for the class that had not taken
him onhe had no personal disquiet in anything that passed. His
healthy state of mind appeared even to derive a gratification from
Clennam's position of embarrassment and isolation among the good
company; and if Clennam had been in that condition with which
Nobody was incessantly contendinghe would have suspected itand
would have struggled with the suspicion as a meannesseven while
he sat at the table.

In the course of a couple of hours the noble Refrigeratorat no
time less than a hundred years behind the periodgot about five
centuries in arrearsand delivered solemn political oracles
appropriate to that epoch. He finished by freezing a cup of tea
for his own drinkingand retiring at his lowest temperature. Then
Mrs Gowanwho had been accustomed in her days of a vacant armchair
beside her to which to summon state to retain her devoted
slavesone by onefor short audiences as marks of her especial
favourinvited Clennam with a turn of her fan to approach the


presence. He obeyedand took the tripod recently vacated by Lord
Lancaster Stiltstalking.


'Mr Clennam' said Mrs Gowan'apart from the happiness I have in
becoming known to youthough in this odiously inconvenient place--
a mere barrack--there is a subject on which I am dying to speak to
you. It is the subject in connection with which my son first had
I believethe pleasure of cultivating your acquaintance.'


Clennam inclined his headas a generally suitable reply to what he
did not yet quite understand.


'First' said Mrs Gowan'nowis she really pretty?'


In nobody's difficultieshe would have found it very difficult to
answer; very difficult indeed to smileand say 'Who?'


'Oh! You know!' she returned. 'This flame of Henry's. This
unfortunate fancy. There! If it is a point of honour that I
should originate the name--Miss Mickles--Miggles.'


'Miss Meagles' said Clennam'is very beautiful.'


'Men are so often mistaken on those points' returned Mrs Gowan
shaking her head'that I candidly confess to you I feel anything
but sure of iteven now; though it is something to have Henry
corroborated with so much gravity and emphasis. He picked the
people up at RomeI think?'


The phrase would have given nobody mortal offence. Clennam
replied'Excuse meI doubt if I understand your expression.'


'Picked the people up' said Mrs Gowantapping the sticks of her
closed fan (a large green onewhich she used as a hand-screen) on
her little table. 'Came upon them. Found them out. Stumbled UP
against them.'


'The people?'


'Yes. The Miggles people.'


'I really cannot say' said Clennam'where my friend Mr Meagles
first presented Mr Henry Gowan to his daughter.'


'I am pretty sure he picked her up at Rome; but never mind where--
somewhere. Now (this is entirely between ourselves)is she very
plebeian?'


'Reallyma'am' returned Clennam'I am so undoubtedly plebeian
myselfthat I do not feel qualified to judge.'


'Very neat!' said Mrs Gowancoolly unfurling her screen. 'Very
happy! From which I infer that you secretly think her manner equal
to her looks?'


Clennamafter a moment's stiffnessbowed.


'That's comfortingand I hope you may be right. Did Henry tell me
you had travelled with them?'
'I travelled with my friend Mr Meaglesand his wife and daughter
during some months.' (Nobody's heart might have been wrung by the
remembrance.)


'Really comfortingbecause you must have had a large experience of



them. You seeMr Clennamthis thing has been going on for a long
timeand I find no improvement in it. Therefore to have the
opportunity of speaking to one so well informed about it as
yourselfis an immense relief to me. Quite a boon. Quite a
blessingI am sure.'

'Pardon me' returned Clennam'but I am not in Mr Henry Gowan's
confidence. I am far from being so well informed as you suppose me
to be. Your mistake makes my position a very delicate one. No
word on this topic has ever passed between Mr Henry Gowan and
myself.'

Mrs Gowan glanced at the other end of the roomwhere her son was
playing ecarte on a sofawith the old lady who was for a charge of
cavalry.

'Not in his confidence? No' said Mrs Gowan. 'No word has passed
between you? No. That I can imagine. But there are unexpressed
confidencesMr Clennam; and as you have been together intimately
among these peopleI cannot doubt that a confidence of that sort
exists in the present case. Perhaps you have heard that I have
suffered the keenest distress of mind from Henry's having taken to
a pursuit which--well!' shrugging her shoulders'a very
respectable pursuitI dare sayand some artists areas artists
quite superior persons; stillwe never yet in our family have gone
beyond an Amateurand it is a pardonable weakness to feel a
little--'

As Mrs Gowan broke off to heave a sighClennamhowever resolute
to be magnanimouscould not keep down the thought that there was
mighty little danger of the family's ever going beyond an Amateur
even as it was.

'Henry' the mother resumed'is self-willed and resolute; and as
these people naturally strain every nerve to catch himI can
entertain very little hopeMr Clennamthat the thing will be
broken off. I apprehend the girl's fortune will be very small;
Henry might have done much better; there is scarcely anything to
compensate for the connection: stillhe acts for himself; and if
I find no improvement within a short timeI see no other course
than to resign myself and make the best of these people. I am
infinitely obliged to you for what you have told me.'
As she shrugged her shouldersClennam stiffly bowed again. With
an uneasy flush upon his faceand hesitation in his mannerhe
then said in a still lower tone than he had adopted yet:

'Mrs GowanI scarcely know how to acquit myself of what I feel to
be a dutyand yet I must ask you for your kind consideration in
attempting to discharge it. A misconception on your parta very
great misconception if I may venture to call it soseems to
require setting right. You have supposed Mr Meagles and his family
to strain every nerveI think you said--'

'Every nerve' repeated Mrs Gowanlooking at him in calm
obstinacywith her green fan between her face and the fire.

'To secure Mr Henry Gowan?'

The lady placidly assented.

'Now that is so far' said Arthur'from being the casethat I
know Mr Meagles to be unhappy in this matter; and to have
interposed all reasonable obstacles with the hope of putting an end
to it.'


Mrs Gowan shut up her great green fantapped him on the arm with
itand tapped her smiling lips. 'Whyof course' said she.
'Just what I mean.'

Arthur watched her face for some explanation of what she did mean.

'Are you really seriousMr Clennam? Don't you see?'

Arthur did not see; and said so.

'Whydon't I know my sonand don't I know that this is exactly
the way to hold him?' said Mrs Gowancontemptuously; 'and do not
these Miggles people know itat least as well as I? Ohshrewd
peopleMr Clennam: evidently people of business! I believe
Miggles belonged to a Bank. It ought to have been a very
profitable Bankif he had much to do with its management. This is
very well doneindeed.'

'I beg and entreat youma'am--' Arthur interposed.

'OhMr Clennamcan you really be so credulous?'

It made such a painful impression upon him to hear her talking in
this haughty toneand to see her patting her contemptuous lips
with her fanthat he said very earnestly'Believe mema'amthis
is unjusta perfectly groundless suspicion.'

'Suspicion?' repeated Mrs Gowan. 'Not suspicionMr Clennam
Certainty. It is very knowingly done indeedand seems to have
taken YOU in completely.' She laughed; and again sat tapping her
lips with her fanand tossing her headas if she added'Don't
tell me. I know such people will do anything for the honour of
such an alliance.'

At this opportune momentthe cards were thrown upand Mr Henry
Gowan came across the room saying'Motherif you can spare Mr
Clennam for this timewe have a long way to goand it's getting
late.' Mr Clennam thereupon roseas he had no choice but to do;
and Mrs Gowan showed himto the lastthe same look and the same
tapped contemptuous lips.

'You have had a portentously long audience of my mother' said
Gowanas the door closed upon them. 'I fervently hope she has not
bored you?'

'Not at all' said Clennam.

They had a little open phaeton for the journeyand were soon in it
on the road home. Gowandrivinglighted a cigar; Clennam
declined one. Do what he wouldhe fell into such a mood of
abstraction that Gowan said again'I am very much afraid my mother
has bored you?' To which he roused himself to answer'Not at
all!' and soon relapsed again.

In that state of mind which rendered nobody uneasyhis
thoughtfulness would have turned principally on the man at his
side. He would have thought of the morning when he first saw him
rooting out the stones with his heeland would have asked himself
'Does he jerk me out of the path in the same carelesscruel way?'
He would have thoughthad this introduction to his mother been
brought about by him because he knew what she would sayand that
he could thus place his position before a rival and loftily warn
him offwithout himself reposing a word of confidence in him? He


would have thoughteven if there were no such design as thathad
he brought him there to play with his repressed emotionsand
torment him? The current of these meditations would have been
stayed sometimes by a rush of shamebearing a remonstrance to
himself from his own open naturerepresenting that to shelter such
suspicionseven for the passing momentwas not to hold the high
unenvious course he had resolved to keep. At those timesthe
striving within him would have been hardest; and looking up and
catching Gowan's eyeshe would have started as if he had done him
an injury.


Thenlooking at the dark road and its uncertain objectshe would
have gradually trailed off again into thinking'Where are we
drivinghe and II wonderon the darker road of life? How will
it be with usand with herin the obscure distance?' Thinking of
herhe would have been troubled anew with a reproachful misgiving
that it was not even loyal to her to dislike himand that in being
so easily prejudiced against him he was less deserving of her than
at first.


'You are evidently out of spirits' said Gowan; 'I am very much
afraid my mother must have bored you dreadfully.'
'Believe menot at all' said Clennam. 'It's nothing--nothing!'


CHAPTER 27


Five-and-Twenty


A frequently recurring doubtwhether Mr Pancks's desire to collect
information relative to the Dorrit family could have any possible
bearing on the misgivings he had imparted to his mother on his
return from his long exilecaused Arthur Clennam much uneasiness
at this period. What Mr Pancks already knew about the Dorrit
familywhat more he really wanted to find outand why he should
trouble his busy head about them at allwere questions that often
perplexed him. Mr Pancks was not a man to waste his time and
trouble in researches prompted by idle curiosity. That he had a
specific object Clennam could not doubt. And whether the
attainment of that object by Mr Pancks's industry might bring to
lightin some untimely waysecret reasons which had induced his
mother to take Little Dorrit by the handwas a serious
speculation.


Not that he ever wavered either in his desire or his determination
to repair a wrong that had been done in his father's timeshould
a wrong come to lightand be reparable. The shadow of a supposed
act of injusticewhich had hung over him since his father's death
was so vague and formless that it might be the result of a reality
widely remote from his idea of it. Butif his apprehensions
should prove to be well foundedhe was ready at any moment to lay
down all he hadand begin the world anew. As the fierce dark
teaching of his childhood had never sunk into his heartso that
first article in his code of morals wasthat he must beginin
practical humilitywith looking well to his feet on Earthand
that he could never mount on wings of words to Heaven. Duty on
earthrestitution on earthaction on earth; these firstas the
first steep steps upward. Strait was the gate and narrow was the
way; far straiter and narrower than the broad high road paved with
vain professions and vain repetitionsmotes from other men's eyes
and liberal delivery of others to the judgment--all cheap materials
costing absolutely nothing.



No. It was not a selfish fear or hesitation that rendered him
uneasybut a mistrust lest Pancks might not observe his part of
the understanding between themandmaking any discoverymight
take some course upon it without imparting it to him. On the other
handwhen he recalled his conversation with Pancksand the little
reason he had to suppose that there was any likelihood of that
strange personage being on that track at allthere were times when
he wondered that he made so much of it. Labouring in this seaas
all barks labour in cross seashe tossed about and came to no
haven.

The removal of Little Dorrit herself from their customary
associationdid not mend the matter. She was so much outand so
much in her own roomthat he began to miss her and to find a blank
in her place. He had written to her to inquire if she were better
and she had written backvery gratefully and earnestly telling him
not to be uneasy on her behalffor she was quite well; but he had
not seen herfor whatin their intercoursewas a long time.

He returned home one evening from an interview with her fatherwho
had mentioned that she was out visiting--which was what he always
said when she was hard at work to buy his supper--and found Mr
Meagles in an excited state walking up and down his room. On his
opening the doorMr Meagles stoppedfaced roundand said:

'Clennam!--Tattycoram!'

'What's the matter?'

'Lost!'

'Whybless my heart alive!' cried Clennam in amazement. 'What do
you mean?'

'Wouldn't count five-and-twentysir; couldn't be got to do it;
stopped at eightand took herself off.'

'Left your house?'

'Never to come back' said Mr Meaglesshaking his head. 'You
don't know that girl's passionate and proud character. A team of
horses couldn't draw her back now; the bolts and bars of the old
Bastille couldn't keep her.'

'How did it happen? Pray sit down and tell me.'

'As to how it happenedit's not so easy to relate: because you
must have the unfortunate temperament of the poor impetuous girl
herselfbefore you can fully understand it. But it came about in
this way. Pet and Mother and I have been having a good deal of
talk together of late. I'll not disguise from youClennamthat
those conversations have not been of as bright a kind as I could
wish; they have referred to our going away again. In proposing to
do whichI have hadin factan object.'

Nobody's heart beat quickly.

'An object' said Mr Meaglesafter a moment's pause'that I will
not disguise from youeitherClennam. There's an inclination on
the part of my dear child which I am sorry for. Perhaps you guess
the person. Henry Gowan.'

'I was not unprepared to hear it.'


'Well!' said Mr Meagleswith a heavy sigh'I wish to God you had
never had to hear it. Howeverso it is. Mother and I have done
all we could to get the better of itClennam. We have tried
tender advicewe have tried timewe have tried absence. As yet
of no use. Our late conversations have been upon the subject of
going away for another year at leastin order that there might be
an entire separation and breaking off for that term. Upon that
questionPet has been unhappyand therefore Mother and I have
been unhappy.'
Clennam said that he could easily believe it.

'Well!' continued Mr Meagles in an apologetic way'I admit as a
practical manand I am sure Mother would admit as a practical
womanthat we doin familiesmagnify our troubles and make
mountains of our molehills in a way that is calculated to be rather
trying to people who look on--to mere outsidersyou knowClennam.

StillPet's happiness or unhappiness is quite a life or death
question with us; and we may be excusedI hopefor making much of
it. At all eventsit might have been borne by Tattycoram. Now
don't you think so?'

'I do indeed think so' returned Clennamin most emphatic
recognition of this very moderate expectation.

'Nosir' said Mr Meaglesshaking his head ruefully. 'She
couldn't stand it. The chafing and firing of that girlthe
wearing and tearing of that girl within her own breasthas been
such that I have softly said to her again and again in passing her
'Five-and-twentyTattycoramfive-and-twenty!" I heartily wish she
could have gone on counting five-and-twenty day and nightand then
it wouldn't have happened.'

Mr Meagles with a despondent countenance in which the goodness of
his heart was even more expressed than in his times of cheerfulness
and gaietystroked his face down from his forehead to his chin
and shook his head again.

'I said to Mother (not that it was necessaryfor she would have
thought it all for herself)we are practical peoplemy dearand
we know her story; we see in this unhappy girl some reflection of
what was raging in her mother's heart before ever such a creature
as this poor thing was in the world; we'll gloss her temper over
Motherwe won't notice it at presentmy dearwe'll take
advantage of some better disposition in her another time. So we
said nothing. Butdo what we wouldit seems as if it was to be;
she broke out violently one night.'

'Howand why?'

'If you ask me Why' said Mr Meaglesa little disturbed by the
questionfor he was far more intent on softening her case than the
family's'I can only refer you to what I have just repeated as
having been pretty near my words to Mother. As to Howwe had said
Good night to Pet in her presence (very affectionatelyI must
allow)and she had attended Pet up-stairs--you remember she was
her maid. Perhaps Pethaving been out of sortsmay have been a
little more inconsiderate than usual in requiring services of her:
but I don't know that I have any right to say so; she was always
thoughtful and gentle.'

'The gentlest mistress in the world.'


'Thank youClennam' said Mr Meaglesshaking him by the hand;
'you have often seen them together. Well! We presently heard this
unfortunate Tattycoram loud and angryand before we could ask what
was the matterPet came back in a tremblesaying she was
frightened of her. Close after her came Tattycoram in a flaming
rage. "I hate you all three says she, stamping her foot at us.
I am bursting with hate of the whole house."'

'Upon which you--?'

'I?' said Mr Meagleswith a plain good faith that might have
commanded the belief of Mrs Gowan herself. 'I saidcount fiveand-
twentyTattycoram.'

Mr Meagles again stroked his face and shook his headwith an air
of profound regret.

'She was so used to do itClennamthat even thensuch a picture
of passion as you never sawshe stopped shortlooked me full in
the faceand counted (as I made out) to eight. But she couldn't
control herself to go any further. There she broke downpoor
thingand gave the other seventeen to the four winds. Then it all
burst out. She detested usshe was miserable with usshe
couldn't bear itshe wouldn't bear itshe was determined to go
away. She was younger than her young mistressand would she
remain to see her always held up as the only creature who was young
and interestingand to be cherished and loved? No. She wouldn't
she wouldn'tshe wouldn't! What did we think sheTattycoram
might have been if she had been caressed and cared for in her
childhoodlike her young mistress? As good as her? Ah! Perhaps
fifty times as good. When we pretended to be so fond of one
anotherwe exulted over her; that was what we did; we exulted over
her and shamed her. And all in the house did the same. They
talked about their fathers and mothersand brothers and sisters;
they liked to drag them up before her face. There was Mrs Tickit
only yesterdaywhen her little grandchild was with herhad been
amused by the child's trying to call her (Tattycoram) by the
wretched name we gave her; and had laughed at the name. Whywho
didn't; and who were we that we should have a right to name her
like a dog or a cat? But she didn't care. She would take no more
benefits from us; she would fling us her name back againand she
would go. She would leave us that minutenobody should stop her
and we should never hear of her again.'

Mr Meagles had recited all this with such a vivid remembrance of
his originalthat he was almost as flushed and hot by this time as
he described her to have been.

'Ahwell!' he saidwiping his face. 'It was of no use trying
reason thenwith that vehement panting creature (Heaven knows what
her mother's story must have been); so I quietly told her that she
should not go at that late hour of nightand I gave her MY hand
and took her to her roomand locked the house doors. But she was
gone this morning.'
'And you know no more of her?'

'No more' returned Mr Meagles. 'I have been hunting about all
day. She must have gone very early and very silently. I have
found no trace of her down about us.'

'Stay! You want' said Clennamafter a moment's reflection'to
see her? I assume that?'

'Yesassuredly; I want to give her another chance; Mother and Pet


want to give her another chance; come! You yourself' said Mr
Meaglespersuasivelyas if the provocation to be angry were not
his own at all'want to give the poor passionate girl another
chanceI knowClennam.'

'It would be strange and hard indeed if I did not' said Clennam
'when you are all so forgiving. What I was going to ask you was
have you thought of that Miss Wade?'

'I have. I did not think of her until I had pervaded the whole of
our neighbourhoodand I don't know that I should have done so then
but for finding Mother and Petwhen I went homefull of the idea
that Tattycoram must have gone to her. Thenof courseI recalled
what she said that day at dinner when you were first with US.'

'Have you any idea where Miss Wade is to be found?'

'To tell you the truth' returned Mr Meagles'it's because I have
an addled jumble of a notion on that subject that you found me
waiting here. There is one of those odd impressions in my house
which do mysteriously get into houses sometimeswhich nobody seems
to have picked up in a distinct form from anybodyand yet which
everybody seems to have got hold of loosely from somebody and let
go againthat she livesor was livingthereabouts.' Mr Meagles
handed him a slip of paperon which was written the name of one of
the dull by-streets in the Grosvenor regionnear Park Lane.

'Here is no number' said Arthur looking over it.

'No numbermy dear Clennam?' returned his friend. 'No anything!
The very name of the street may have been floating in the air; for
as I tell younone of my people can say where they got it from.
Howeverit's worth an inquiry; and as I would rather make it in
company than aloneand as you too were a fellow-traveller of that
immovable woman'sI thought perhaps--' Clennam finished the
sentence for him by taking up his hat againand saying he was
ready.

It was now summer-time; a greyhotdusty evening. They rode to
the top of Oxford Streetand there alightingdived in among the
great streets of melancholy statelinessand the little streets
that try to be as stately and succeed in being more melancholyof
which there is a labyrinth near Park Lane. Wildernesses of corner
houseswith barbarous old porticoes and appurtenances; horrors
that came into existence under some wrong-headed person in some
wrong-headed timestill demanding the blind admiration of all
ensuing generations and determined to do so until they tumbled
down; frowned upon the twilight. Parasite little tenementswith
the cramp in their whole framefrom the dwarf hall-door on the
giant model of His Grace's in the Square to the squeezed window of
the boudoir commanding the dunghills in the Mewsmade the evening
doleful. Rickety dwellings of undoubted fashionbut of a capacity
to hold nothing comfortably except a dismal smelllooked like the
last result of the great mansions' breeding in-and-in; andwhere
their little supplementary bows and balconies were supported on
thin iron columnsseemed to be scrofulously resting upon crutches.

Here and there a Hatchmentwith the whole science of Heraldry in
itloomed down upon the streetlike an Archbishop discoursing on
Vanity. The shopsfew in numbermade no show; for popular
opinion was as nothing to them. The pastrycook knew who was on his
booksand in that knowledge could be calmwith a few glass
cylinders of dowager peppermint-drops in his windowand half-adozen
ancient specimens of currant-jelly. A few oranges formed the


greengrocer's whole concession to the vulgar mind. A single basket
made of mossonce containing plovers' eggsheld all that the
poulterer had to say to the rabble. Everybody in those streets
seemed (which is always the case at that hour and season) to be
gone out to dinnerand nobody seemed to be giving the dinners they
had gone to. On the doorsteps there were lounging footmen with
bright parti-coloured plumage and white pollslike an extinct race
of monstrous birds; and butlerssolitary men of recluse demeanour
each of whom appeared distrustful of all other butlers. The roll
of carriages in the Park was done for the day; the street lamps
were lighting; and wicked little grooms in the tightest fitting
garmentswith twists in their legs answering to the twists in
their mindshung about in pairschewing straws and exchanging
fraudulent secrets. The spotted dogs who went out with the
carriagesand who were so associated with splendid equipages that
it looked like a condescension in those animals to come out without
themaccompanied helpers to and fro on messages. Here and there
was a retiring public-house which did not require to be supported
on the shoulders of the peopleand where gentlemen out of livery
were not much wanted.

This last discovery was made by the two friends in pursuing their
inquiries. Nothing was thereor anywhereknown of such a person
as Miss Wadein connection with the street they sought. It was
one of the parasite streets; longregularnarrowdull and
gloomy; like a brick and mortar funeral. They inquired at several
little area gateswhere a dejected youth stood spiking his chin on
the summit of a precipitous little shoot of wooden stepsbut could
gain no information. They walked up the street on one side of the
wayand down it on the otherwhat time two vociferous newssellers
announcing an extraordinary event that had never happened
and never would happenpitched their hoarse voices into the secret
chambers; but nothing came of it. At length they stood at the
corner from which they had begunand it had fallen quite darkand
they were no wiser.

It happened that in the street they had several times passed a
dingy houseapparently emptywith bills in the windows
announcing that it was to let. The billsas a variety in the
funeral processionalmost amounted to a decoration. Perhaps
because they kept the house separated in his mindor perhaps
because Mr Meagles and himself had twice agreed in passing'It is
clear she don't live there' Clennam now proposed that they should
go back and try that house before finally going away. Mr Meagles
agreedand back they went.

They knocked onceand they rang oncewithout any response.

'Empty' said Mr Meagleslistening. 'Once more' said Clennam
and knocked again. After that knock they heard a movement below
and somebody shuffling up towards the door.

The confined entrance was so dark that it was impossible to make
out distinctly what kind of person opened the door; but it appeared
to be an old woman. 'Excuse our troubling you' said Clennam.
'Pray can you tell us where Miss Wade lives?' The voice in the
darkness unexpectedly replied'Lives here.'

'Is she at home?'

No answer comingMr Meagles asked again. 'Pray is she at home?'

After another delay'I suppose she is' said the voice abruptly;
'you had better come inand I'll ask.'


They 'were summarily shut into the close black house; and the
figure rustling awayand speaking from a higher levelsaid'Come
upif you please; you can't tumble over anything.' They groped
their way up-stairs towards a faint lightwhich proved to be the
light of the street shining through a window; and the figure left
them shut in an airless room.

'This is oddClennam' said Mr Meaglessoftly.

'Odd enough' assented Clennam in the same tone'but we have
succeeded; that's the main point. Here's a light coming!'

The light was a lampand the bearer was an old woman: very dirty
very wrinkled and dry. 'She's at home' she said (and the voice
was the same that had spoken before); 'she'll come directly.'
Having set the lamp down on the tablethe old woman dusted her
hands on her apronwhich she might have done for ever without
cleaning themlooked at the visitors with a dim pair of eyesand
backed out.

The lady whom they had come to seeif she were the present
occupant of the houseappeared to have taken up her quarters there
as she might have established herself in an Eastern caravanserai.
A small square of carpet in the middle of the rooma few articles
of furniture that evidently did not belong to the roomand a
disorder of trunks and travelling articlesformed the whole of her
surroundings. Under some former regular inhabitantthe stifling
little apartment had broken out into a pier-glass and a gilt table;
but the gilding was as faded as last year's flowersand the glass
was so clouded that it seemed to hold in magic preservation all the
fogs and bad weather it had ever reflected. The visitors had had
a minute or two to look about themwhen the door opened and Miss
Wade came in.

She was exactly the same as when they had parted. just as
handsomejust as scornfuljust as repressed. She manifested no
surprise in seeing themnor any other emotion. She requested them
to be seated; and declining to take a seat herselfat once
anticipated any introduction of their business.

'I apprehend' she said'that I know the cause of your favouring
me with this visit. We may come to it at once.'

'The cause thenma'am' said Mr Meagles'is Tattycoram.'

'So I supposed.'

'Miss Wade' said Mr Meagles'will you be so kind as to say
whether you know anything of her?'

'Surely. I know she is here with me.'

'Thenma'am' said Mr Meagles'allow me to make known to you that
I shall be happy to have her backand that my wife and daughter
will be happy to have her back. She has been with us a long time:
we don't forget her claims upon usand I hope we know how to make
allowances.'

'You hope to know how to make allowances?' she returnedin a
levelmeasured voice. 'For what?'

'I think my friend would sayMiss Wade' Arthur Clennam
interposedseeing Mr Meagles rather at a loss'for the passionate


sense that sometimes comes upon the poor girlof being at a
disadvantage. Which occasionally gets the better of better
remembrances.'


The lady broke into a smile as she turned her eyes upon him.
'Indeed?' was all she answered.


She stood by the table so perfectly composed and still after this
acknowledgment of his remark that Mr Meagles stared at her under a
sort of fascinationand could not even look to Clennam to make
another move. After waitingawkwardly enoughfor some moments
Arthur said:
'Perhaps it would be well if Mr Meagles could see herMiss Wade?'


'That is easily done' said she. 'Come herechild.' She had
opened a door while saying thisand now led the girl in by the
hand. It was very curious to see them standing together: the girl
with her disengaged fingers plaiting the bosom of her dresshalf
irresolutelyhalf passionately; Miss Wade with her composed face
attentively regarding herand suggesting to an observerwith
extraordinary forcein her composure itself (as a veil will
suggest the form it covers)the unquenchable passion of her own
nature.


'See here' she saidin the same level way as before. 'Here is
your patronyour master. He is willing to take you backmy dear
if you are sensible of the favour and choose to go. You can be
againa foil to his pretty daughtera slave to her pleasant
wilfulnessand a toy in the house showing the goodness of the
family. You can have your droll name againplayfully pointing you
out and setting you apartas it is right that you should be
pointed out and set apart. (Your birthyou know; you must not
forget your birth.) You can again be shown to this gentleman's
daughterHarrietand kept before heras a living reminder of her
own superiority and her gracious condescension. You can recover
all these advantages and many more of the same kind which I dare
say start up in your memory while I speakand which you lose in
taking refuge with me--you can recover them all by telling these
gentlemen how humbled and penitent you areand by going back to
them to be forgiven. What do you sayHarriet? Will you go?'


The girl whounder the influence of these wordshad gradually
risen in anger and heightened in colouransweredraising her
lustrous black eyes for the momentand clenching her hand upon the
folds it had been puckering up'I'd die sooner!'


Miss Wadestill standing at her side holding her handlooked
quietly round and said with a smile'Gentlemen! What do you do
upon that?'


Poor Mr Meagles's inexpressible consternation in hearing his
motives and actions so pervertedhad prevented him from
interposing any word until now; but now he regained the power of
speech.


'Tattycoram' said he'for I'll call you by that name stillmy
good girlconscious that I meant nothing but kindness when I gave
it to youand conscious that you know it--'


'I don't!' said shelooking up againand almost rending herself
with the same busy hand.


'Nonot nowperhaps' said Mr Meagles; 'not with that lady's eyes
so intent upon youTattycoram' she glanced at them for a moment



'and that power over youwhich we see she exercises; not now
perhapsbut at another time. TattycoramI'll not ask that lady
whether she believes what she has saideven in the anger and ill
blood in which I and my friend here equally know she has spoken
though she subdues herselfwith a determination that any one who
has once seen her is not likely to forget. I'll not ask youwith
your remembrance of my house and all belonging to itwhether you
believe it. I'll only say that you have no profession to make to
me or mineand no forgiveness to entreat; and that all in the
world that I ask you to doisto count five-and-twenty
Tattycoram.'


She looked at him for an instantand then said frowningly'I
won't. Miss Wadetake me awayplease.'


The contention that raged within her had no softening in it now; it
was wholly between passionate defiance and stubborn defiance. Her
rich colourher quick bloodher rapid breathwere all setting
themselves against the opportunity of retracing their steps. 'I
won't. I won't. I won't!' she repeated in a lowthick voice.
'I'd be torn to pieces first. I'd tear myself to pieces first!'


Miss Wadewho had released her holdlaid her hand protectingly on
the girl's neck for a momentand then saidlooking round with her
former smile and speaking exactly in her former tone'Gentlemen!
What do you do upon that?'


'OhTattycoramTattycoram!' cried Mr Meaglesadjuring her
besides with an earnest hand. 'Hear that lady's voicelook at
that lady's faceconsider what is in that lady's heartand think
what a future lies before you. My childwhatever you may think
that lady's influence over you--astonishing to usand I should
hardly go too far in saying terrible to us to see--is founded in
passion fiercer than yoursand temper more violent than yours.
What can you two be together? What can come of it?'


'I am alone heregentlemen' observed Miss Wadewith no change of
voice or manner. 'Say anything you will.'


'Politeness must yield to this misguided girlma'am' said Mr
Meagles'at her present pass; though I hope not altogether to
dismiss iteven with the injury you do her so strongly before me.
Excuse me for reminding you in her hearing--I must say it--that you
were a mystery to all of usand had nothing in common with any of
us when she unfortunately fell in your way. I don't know what you
arebut you don't hidecan't hidewhat a dark spirit you have
within you. If it should happen that you are a womanwhofrom
whatever causehas a perverted delight in making a sister-woman as
wretched as she is (I am old enough to have heard of such)I warn
her against youand I warn you against yourself.'


'Gentlemen!' said Miss Wadecalmly. 'When you have concluded--Mr
Clennamperhaps you will induce your friend--'


'Not without another effort' said Mr Meaglesstoutly.
'Tattycorammy poor dear girlcount five-and-twenty.'
'Do not reject the hopethe certaintythis kind man offers you'
said Clennam in a low emphatic voice. 'Turn to the friends you
have not forgotten. Think once more!'


'I won't! Miss Wade' said the girlwith her bosom swelling high
and speaking with her hand held to her throat'take me away!'


'Tattycoram' said Mr Meagles. 'Once more yet! The only thing I



ask of you in the worldmy child! Count five-and-twenty!'

She put her hands tightly over her earsconfusedly tumbling down
her bright black hair in the vehemence of the actionand turned
her face resolutely to the wall. Miss Wadewho had watched her
under this final appeal with that strange attentive smileand that
repressing hand upon her own bosom with which she had watched her
in her struggle at Marseillesthen put her arm about her waist as
if she took possession of her for evermore.

And there was a visible triumph in her face when she turned it to
dismiss the visitors.

'As it is the last time I shall have the honour' she said'and as
you have spoken of not knowing what I amand also of the
foundation of my influence hereyou may now know that it is
founded in a common cause. What your broken plaything is as to
birthI am. She has no nameI have no name. Her wrong is my
wrong. I have nothing more to say to you.'

This was addressed to Mr Meagleswho sorrowfully went out. As
Clennam followedshe said to himwith the same external composure
and in the same level voicebut with a smile that is only seen on
cruel faces: a very faint smilelifting the nostrilscarcely
touching the lipsand not breaking away graduallybut instantly
dismissed when done with:

'I hope the wife of your dear friend Mr Gowanmay be happy in the
contrast of her extraction to this girl's and mineand in the high
good fortune that awaits her.'

CHAPTER 28

Nobody's Disappearance

Not resting satisfied with the endeavours he had made to recover
his lost chargeMr Meagles addressed a letter of remonstrance
breathing nothing but goodwillnot only to herbut to Miss Wade
too. No answer coming to these epistlesor to another written to
the stubborn girl by the hand of her late young mistresswhich
might have melted her if anything could (all three letters were
returned weeks afterwards as having been refused at the housedoor)
he deputed Mrs Meagles to make the experiment of a personal
interview. That worthy lady being unable to obtain oneand being
steadfastly denied admissionMr Meagles besought Arthur to essay
once more what he could do. All that came of his compliance was
his discovery that the empty house was left in charge of the old
womanthat Miss Wade was gonethat the waifs and strays of
furniture were goneand that the old woman would accept any number
of half-crowns and thank the donor kindlybut had no information
whatever to exchange for those coinsbeyond constantly offering
for perusal a memorandum relative to fixtureswhich the houseagent's
young man had left in the hall.

Unwillingeven under this discomfitureto resign the ingrate and
leave her hopelessin case of her better dispositions obtaining
the mastery over the darker side of her characterMr Meaglesfor
six successive dayspublished a discreetly covert advertisement in
the morning papersto the effect that if a certain young person
who had lately left home without reflectionwould at any time


apply to his address at Twickenhameverything would be as it had
been beforeand no reproaches need be apprehended. The unexpected
consequences of this notification suggested to the dismayed Mr
Meagles for the first time that some hundreds of young persons must
be leaving their homes without reflection every day; for shoals of
wrong young people came down to Twickenhamwhonot finding
themselves received with enthusiasmgenerally demanded
compensation by way of damagesin addition to coach-hire there and
back. Nor were these the only uninvited clients whom the
advertisement produced. The swarm of begging-letter writerswho
would seem to be always watching eagerly for any hookhowever
smallto hang a letter uponwrote to say that having seen the
advertisementthey were induced to apply with confidence for
various sumsranging from ten shillings to fifty pounds: not
because they knew anything about the young personbut because they
felt that to part with those donations would greatly relieve the
advertiser's mind. Several projectorslikewiseavailed
themselves of the same opportunity to correspond with Mr Meagles;
asfor exampleto apprise him that their attention having been
called to the advertisement by a friendthey begged to state that
if they should ever hear anything of the young personthey would
not fail to make it known to him immediatelyand that in the
meantime if he would oblige them with the funds necessary for
bringing to perfection a certain entirely novel description of
Pumpthe happiest results would ensue to mankind.

Mr Meagles and his familyunder these combined discouragements
had begun reluctantly to give up Tattycoram as irrecoverablewhen
the new and active firm of Doyce and Clennamin their private
capacitieswent down on a Saturday to stay at the cottage until
Monday. The senior partner took the coachand the junior partner
took his walking-stick.

A tranquil summer sunset shone upon him as he approached the end of
his walkand passed through the meadows by the river side. He had
that sense of peaceand of being lightened of a weight of care
which country quiet awakens in the breasts of dwellers in towns.
Everything within his view was lovely and placid. The rich foliage
of the treesthe luxuriant grass diversified with wild flowers
the little green islands in the riverthe beds of rushesthe
water-lilies floating on the surface of the streamthe distant
voices in boats borne musically towards him on the ripple of the
water and the evening airwere all expressive of rest. In the
occasional leap of a fishor dip of an oaror twittering of a
bird not yet at roostor distant barking of a dogor lowing of a
cow--in all such soundsthere was the prevailing breath of rest
which seemed to encompass him in every scent that sweetened the
fragrant air. The long lines of red and gold in the skyand the
glorious track of the descending sunwere all divinely calm. Upon
the purple tree-tops far awayand on the green height near at hand
up which the shades were slowly creepingthere was an equal hush.
Between the real landscape and its shadow in the waterthere was
no division; both were so untroubled and clearandwhile so
fraught with solemn mystery of life and deathso hopefully
reassuring to the gazer's soothed heartbecause so tenderly and
mercifully beautiful.

Clennam had stoppednot for the first time by many timesto look
about him and suffer what he saw to sink into his soulas the
shadowslooked atseemed to sink deeper and deeper into the
water. He was slowly resuming his waywhen he saw a figure in the
path before him which he hadperhapsalready associated with the
evening and its impressions.


Minnie was therealone. She had some roses in her handand
seemed to have stood still on seeing himwaiting for him. Her
face was towards himand she appeared to have been coming from the
opposite direction. There was a flutter in her mannerwhich
Clennam had never seen in it before; and as he came near herit
entered his mind all at once that she was there of a set purpose to
speak to him.

She gave him her handand said'You wonder to see me here by
myself? But the evening is so lovelyI have strolled further than
I meant at first. I thought it likely I might meet youand that
made me more confident. You always come this waydo you not?'

As Clennam said that it was his favourite wayhe felt her hand
falter on his armand saw the roses shake.

'Will you let me give you oneMr Clennam? I gathered them as I
came out of the garden. IndeedI almost gathered them for you
thinking it so likely I might meet you. Mr Doyce arrived more than
an hour agoand told us you were walking down.'

His own hand shookas he accepted a rose or two from hers and
thanked her. They were now by an avenue of trees. Whether they
turned into it on his movement or on hers matters little. He never
knew how that was.

'It is very grave here' said Clennam'but very pleasant at this
hour. Passing along this deep shadeand out at that arch of light
at the other endwe come upon the ferry and the cottage by the
best approachI think.'
In her simple garden-hat and her light summer dresswith her rich
brown hair naturally clustering about herand her wonderful eyes
raised to his for a moment with a look in which regard for him and
trustfulness in him were strikingly blended with a kind of timid
sorrow for himshe was so beautiful that it was well for his
peace--or ill for his peacehe did not quite know which--that he
had made that vigorous resolution he had so often thought about.

She broke a momentary silence by inquiring if he knew that papa had
been thinking of another tour abroad? He said he had heard it
mentioned. She broke another momentary silence by addingwith
some hesitationthat papa had abandoned the idea.

At thishe thought directly'they are to be married.'

'Mr Clennam' she saidhesitating more timidly yetand speaking
so low that he bent his head to hear her. 'I should very much like
to give you my confidenceif you would not mind having the
goodness to receive it. I should have very much liked to have
given it to you long agobecause--I felt that you were becoming so
much our friend.'

'How can I be otherwise than proud of it at any time! Pray give it
to me. Pray trust me.'

'I could never have been afraid of trusting you' she returned
raising her eyes frankly to his face. 'I think I would have done
so some time agoif I had known how. But I scarcely know how
even now.'

'Mr Gowan' said Arthur Clennam'has reason to be very happy. God
bless his wife and him!'

She weptas she tried to thank him. He reassured hertook her


hand as it lay with the trembling roses in it on his armtook the
remaining roses from itand put it to his lips. At that timeit
seemed to himhe first finally resigned the dying hope that had
flickered in nobody's heart so much to its pain and trouble; and
from that time he became in his own eyesas to any similar hope or
prospecta very much older man who had done with that part of
life.

He put the roses in his breast and they walked on for a little
whileslowly and silentlyunder the umbrageous trees. Then he
asked herin a voice of cheerful kindnesswas there anything else
that she would say to him as her friend and her father's friend
many years older than herself; was there any trust she would repose
in himany service she would ask of himany little aid to her
happiness that she could give him the lasting gratification of
believing it was in his power to render?

She was going to answerwhen she was so touched by some little
hidden sorrow or sympathy--what could it have been?--that she said
bursting into tears again: 'O Mr Clennam! GoodgenerousMr
Clennampray tell me you do not blame me.'

'I blame you?' said Clennam. 'My dearest girl! I blame you? No!'

After clasping both her hands upon his armand looking
confidentially up into his facewith some hurried words to the
effect that she thanked him from her heart (as she didif it be
the source of earnestness)she gradually composed herselfwith
now and then a word of encouragement from himas they walked on
slowly and almost silently under the darkening trees.

'AndnowMinnie Gowan' at length said Clennamsmiling; 'will
you ask me nothing?'

'Oh! I have very much to ask of you.'

'That's well! I hope so; I am not disappointed.'

'You know how I am loved at homeand how I love home. You can
hardly think it perhapsdear Mr Clennam' she spoke with great
agitation'seeing me going from it of my own free will and choice
but I do so dearly love it!'

'I am sure of that' said Clennam. 'Can you suppose I doubt it?'

'Nono. But it is strangeeven to methat loving it so much and
being so much beloved in itI can bear to cast it away. It seems
so neglectful of itso unthankful.'

'My dear girl' said Clennam'it is in the natural progress and
change of time. All homes are left so.'

'YesI know; but all homes are not left with such a blank in them
as there will be in mine when I am gone. Not that there is any
scarcity of far better and more endearing and more accomplished
girls than I am; not that I am muchbut that they have made so
much of me!'

Pet's affectionate heart was overchargedand she sobbed while she
pictured what would happen.

'I know what a change papa will feel at firstand I know that at
first I cannot be to him anything like what I have been these many
years. And it is thenMr Clennamthen more than at any time


that I beg and entreat you to remember himand sometimes to keep
him company when you can spare a little while; and to tell him that
you know I was fonder of him when I left himthan I ever was in
all my life. For there is nobody--he told me so himself when he
talked to me this very day--there is nobody he likes so well as
youor trusts so much.'

A clue to what had passed between the father and daughter dropped
like a heavy stone into the well of Clennam's heartand swelled
the water to his eyes. He saidcheerilybut not quite so
cheerily as he tried to saythat it should be done--that he gave
her his faithful promise.

'If I do not speak of mama' said Petmore moved byand more
pretty inher innocent griefthan Clennam could trust himself
even to consider--for which reason he counted the trees between
them and the fading light as they slowly diminished in number--'it
is because mama will understand me better in this actionand will
feel my loss in a different wayand will look forward in a
different manner. But you know what a deardevoted mother she is
and you will remember her too; will you not?'

Let Minnie trust himClennam saidlet Minnie trust him to do all
she wished.

'Anddear Mr Clennam' said Minnie'because papa and one whom I
need not namedo not fully appreciate and understand one another
yetas they will by-and-by; and because it will be the dutyand
the prideand pleasure of my new lifeto draw them to a better
knowledge of one anotherand to be a happiness to one anotherand
to be proud of one anotherand to love one anotherboth loving me
so dearly; ohas you are a kindtrue man! when I am first
separated from home (I am going a long distance away)try to
reconcile papa to him a little moreand use your great influence
to keep him before papa's mind free from prejudice and in his real
form. Will you do this for meas you are a noble-hearted friend?'

Poor Pet! Self-deceivedmistaken child! When were such changes
ever made in men's natural relations to one another: when was such
reconcilement of ingrain differences ever effected! It has been
tried many times by other daughtersMinnie; it has never
succeeded; nothing has ever come of it but failure.

So Clennam thought. So he did not say; it was too late. He bound
himself to do all she askedand she knew full well that he would
do it.

They were now at the last tree in the avenue. She stoppedand
withdrew her arm. Speaking to him with her eyes lifted up to his
and with the hand that had lately rested on his sleeve trembling by
touching one of the roses in his breast as an additional appeal to
himshe said:

'Dear Mr Clennamin my happiness--for I am happythough you have
seen me crying--I cannot bear to leave any cloud between us. If
you have anything to forgive me (not anything that I have wilfully
donebut any trouble I may have caused you without meaning itor
having it in my power to help it)forgive me to-night out of your
noble heart!'

He stooped to meet the guileless face that met his without
shrinking. He kissed itand answeredHeaven knew that he had
nothing to forgive. As he stooped to meet the innocent face once
againshe whispered'Good-bye!' and he repeated it. It was


taking leave of all his old hopes--all nobody's old restless
doubts. They came out of the avenue next momentarm-in-arm as
they had entered it: and the trees seemed to close up behind them
in the darknesslike their own perspective of the past.

The voices of Mr and Mrs Meagles and Doyce were audible directly
speaking near the garden gate. Hearing Pet's name among them
Clennam called out'She is herewith me.' There was some little
wondering and laughing until they came up; but as soon as they had
all come togetherit ceasedand Pet glided away.

Mr MeaglesDoyceand Clennamwithout speakingwalked up and
down on the brink of the riverin the light of the rising moon
for a few minutes; and then Doyce lingered behindand went into
the house. Mr Meagles and Clennam walked up and down together for
a few minutes more without speakinguntil at length the former
broke silence.

'Arthur' said heusing that familiar address for the first time
in their communication'do you remember my telling youas we
walked up and down one hot morninglooking over the harbour at
Marseillesthat Pet's baby sister who was dead seemed to Mother
and me to have grown as she had grownand changed as she had
changed?'

'Very well.'

'You remember my saying that our thoughts had never been able to
separate those twin sistersand thatin our fancywhatever Pet
wasthe other was?'

'Yesvery well.'

'Arthur' said Mr Meaglesmuch subdued'I carry that fancy
further to-night. I feel to-nightmy dear fellowas if you had
loved my dead child very tenderlyand had lost her when she was
like what Pet is now.'

'Thank you!' murmured Clennam'thank you!' And pressed his hand.

'Will you come in?' said Mr Meaglespresently.

'In a little while.'

Mr Meagles fell awayand he was left alone. When he had walked on
the river's brink in the peaceful moonlight for some half an hour
he put his hand in his breast and tenderly took out the handful of
roses. Perhaps he put them to his heartperhaps he put them to
his lipsbut certainly he bent down on the shore and gently
launched them on the flowing river. Pale and unreal in the
moonlightthe river floated them away.
The lights were bright within doors when he enteredand the faces
on which they shonehis own face not exceptedwere soon quietly
cheerful. They talked of many subjects (his partner never had had
such a ready store to draw upon for the beguiling of the time)and
so to bedand to sleep. While the flowerspale and unreal in the
moonlightfloated away upon the river; and thus do greater things
that once were in our breastsand near our heartsflow from us to
the eternal seas.

CHAPTER 29


Mrs Flintwinch goes on Dreaming

The house in the city preserved its heavy dulness through all these
transactionsand the invalid within it turned the same unvarying
round of life. Morningnoonand nightmorningnoonand night
each recurring with its accompanying monotonyalways the same
reluctant return of the same sequences of machinerylike a
dragging piece of clockwork.

The wheeled chair had its associated remembrances and reveriesone
may supposeas every place that is made the station of a human
being has. Pictures of demolished streets and altered housesas
they formerly were when the occupant of the chair was familiar with
themimages of people as they too used to bewith little or no
allowance made for the lapse of time since they were seen; of
thesethere must have been many in the long routine of gloomy
days. To stop the clock of busy existence at the hour when we were
personally sequestered from itto suppose mankind stricken
motionless when we were brought to a stand-stillto be unable to
measure the changes beyond our view by any larger standard than the
shrunken one of our own uniform and contracted existenceis the
infirmity of many invalidsand the mental unhealthiness of almost
all recluses.

What scenes and actors the stern woman most reviewedas she sat
from season to season in her one dark roomnone knew but herself.
Mr Flintwinchwith his wry presence brought to bear upon her daily
like some eccentric mechanical forcewould perhaps have screwed it
out of herif there had been less resistance in her; but she was
too strong for him. So far as Mistress Affery was concernedto
regard her liege-lord and her disabled mistress with a face of
blank wonderto go about the house after dark with her apron over
her headalways to listen for the strange noises and sometimes to
hear themand never to emerge from her ghostlydreamysleepwaking
statewas occupation enough for her.

There was a fair stroke of business doingas Mistress Affery made
outfor her husband had abundant occupation in his little office
and saw more people than had been used to come there for some
years. This might easily bethe house having been long deserted;
but he did receive lettersand comersand keep booksand
correspond. Moreoverhe went about to other counting-housesand
to wharvesand docksand to the Custom House' and to Garraway's
Coffee Houseand the Jerusalem Coffee Houseand on 'Change; so
that he was much in and out. He begantoosometimes of an
eveningwhen Mrs Clennam expressed no particular wish for his
societyto resort to a tavern in the neighbourhood to look at the
shipping news and closing prices in the evening paperand even to
exchange Small socialities with mercantile Sea Captains who
frequented that establishment. At some period of every dayhe and
Mrs Clennam held a council on matters of business; and it appeared
to Afferywho was always groping aboutlistening and watching
that the two clever ones were making money.

The state of mind into which Mr Flintwinch's dazed lady had fallen
had now begun to be so expressed in all her looks and actions that
she was held in very low account by the two clever onesas a
personnever of strong intellectwho was becoming foolish.
Perhaps because her appearance was not of a commercial castor
perhaps because it occurred to him that his having taken her to
wife might expose his judgment to doubt in the minds of customers
Mr Flintwinch laid his commands upon her that she should hold her


peace on the subject of her conjugal relationsand should no
longer call him Jeremiah out of the domestic trio. Her frequent
forgetfulness of this admonition intensified her startled manner
since Mr Flintwinch's habit of avenging himself on her remissness
by making springs after her on the staircaseand shaking her
occasioned her to be always nervously uncertain when she might be
thus waylaid next.


Little Dorrit had finished a long day's work in Mrs Clennam's room
and was neatly gathering up her shreds and odds and ends before
going home. Mr Panckswhom Affery had just shown inwas
addressing an inquiry to Mrs Clennam on the subject of her health
coupled with the remark that'happening to find himself in that
direction' he had looked in to inquireon behalf of his
proprietorhow she found herself. Mrs Clennamwith a deep
contraction of her browswas looking at him.


'Mr Casby knows' said she'that I am not subject to changes. The
change that I await here is the great change.'


'Indeedma'am?' returned Mr Panckswith a wandering eye towards
the figure of the little seamstress on her knee picking threads and
fraying of her work from the carpet. 'You look nicelyma'am.'


'I bear what I have to bear' she answered. 'Do you what you have
to do.'
'Thank youma'am' said Mr Pancks'such is my endeavour.'


'You are often in this directionare you not?' asked Mrs Clennam.


'Whyyesma'am' said Pancks'rather so lately; I have lately
been round this way a good dealowing to one thing and another.'
'Beg Mr Casby and his daughter not to trouble themselvesby
deputyabout me. When they wish to see methey know I am here to
see them. They have no need to trouble themselves to send. You
have no need to trouble yourself to come.'
'Not the least troublema'am' said Mr Pancks. 'You really are
looking uncommonly nicelyma'am.'


'Thank you. Good evening.'


The dismissaland its accompanying finger pointed straight at the
doorwas so curt and direct that Mr Pancks did not see his way to
prolong his visit. He stirred up his hair with his sprightliest
expressionglanced at the little figure againsaid 'Good evening
ma 'am; don't come downMrs AfferyI know the road to the door'
and steamed out. Mrs Clennamher chin resting on her hand
followed him with attentive and darkly distrustful eyes; and Affery
stood looking at her as if she were spell-bound.


Slowly and thoughtfullyMrs Clennam's eyes turned from the door by
which Pancks had gone outto Little Dorritrising from the
carpet. With her chin drooping more heavily on her handand her
eyes vigilant and loweringthe sick woman sat looking at her until
she attracted her attention. Little Dorrit coloured under such a
gazeand looked down. Mrs Clennam still sat intent.


'Little Dorrit' she saidwhen she at last broke silence'what do
you know of that man?'


'I don't know anything of himma'amexcept that I have seen him
aboutand that he has spoken to me.'


'What has he said to you?'



'I don't understand what he has saidhe is so strange. But
nothing rough or disagreeable.'

'Why does he come here to see you?'

'I don't knowma'am' said Little Dorritwith perfect frankness.

'You know that he does come here to see you?'

'I have fancied so' said Little Dorrit. 'But why he should come
here or anywhere for thatma'amI can't think.'

Mrs Clennam cast her eyes towards the groundand with her strong
set faceas intent upon a subject in her mind as it had lately
been upon the form that seemed to pass out of her viewsat
absorbed. Some minutes elapsed before she came out of this
thoughtfulnessand resumed her hard composure.

Little Dorrit in the meanwhile had been waiting to gobut afraid
to disturb her by moving. She now ventured to leave the spot where
she had been standing since she had risenand to pass gently round
by the wheeled chair. She stopped at its side to say 'Good night
ma'am.'

Mrs Clennam put out her handand laid it on her arm. Little
Dorritconfused under the touchstood faltering. Perhaps some
momentary recollection of the story of the Princess may have been
in her mind.

'Tell meLittle Dorrit' said Mrs Clennam'have you many friends
now?'

'Very fewma'am. Besides youonly Miss Flora and--one more.'

'Meaning' said Mrs Clennamwith her unbent finger again pointing
to the door'that man?'

'Oh noma'am!'

'Some friend of hisperhaps?'

'No ma'am.' Little Dorrit earnestly shook her head. 'Oh no! No
one at all like himor belonging to him.'

'Well!' said Mrs Clennamalmost smiling. 'It is no affair of
mine. I askbecause I take an interest in you; and because I
believe I was your friend when you had no other who could serve
you. Is that so?'

'Yesma'am; indeed it is. I have been here many a time whenbut
for you and the work you gave mewe should have wanted
everything.'

'We' repeated Mrs Clennamlooking towards the watchonce her
dead husband'swhich always lay upon her table. 'Are there many
of you?'

'Only father and Inow. I meanonly father and I to keep
regularly out of what we get.'

'Have you undergone many privations? You and your father and who
else there may be of you?' asked Mrs Clennamspeaking
deliberatelyand meditatively turning the watch over and over.


'Sometimes it has been rather hard to live' said Little Dorritin
her soft voiceand timid uncomplaining way; 'but I think not
harder--as to that--than many people find it.'


'That's well said!' Mrs Clennam quickly returned. 'That's the
truth! You are a goodthoughtful girl. You are a grateful girl
tooor I much mistake you.'


'It is only natural to be that. There is no merit in being that'
said Little Dorrit. 'I am indeed.'
Mrs Clennamwith a gentleness of which the dreaming Affery had
never dreamed her to be capabledrew down the face of her little
seamstressand kissed her on the forehead. 'Now goLittle
Dorrit' said she'or you will be latepoor child!'


In all the dreams Mistress Affery had been piling up since she
first became devoted to the pursuitshe had dreamed nothing more
astonishing than this. Her head ached with the idea that she would
find the other clever one kissing Little Dorrit nextand then the
two clever ones embracing each other and dissolving into tears of
tenderness for all mankind. The idea quite stunned heras she
attended the light footsteps down the stairsthat the house door
might be safely shut.


On opening it to let Little Dorrit outshe found Mr Pancks
instead of having gone his wayas in any less wonderful place and
among less wonderful phenomena he might have been reasonably
expected to dofluttering up and down the court outside the house.


The moment he saw Little Dorrithe passed her brisklysaid with
his finger to his nose (as Mrs Affery distinctly heard)'Pancks
the gipsyfortune-telling' and went away. 'Lord save ushere's
a gipsy and a fortune-teller in it now!' cried Mistress Affery.
'What next! She stood at the open doorstaggering herself with
this enigmaon a rainythundery evening. The clouds were flying
fastand the wind was coming up in gustsbanging some
neighbouring shutters that had broken loosetwirling the rusty
chimney-cowls and weather-cocksand rushing round and round a
confined adjacent churchyard as if it had a mind to blow the dead
citizens out of their graves. The low thundermuttering in all
quarters of the sky at onceseemed to threaten vengeance for this
attempted desecrationand to mutter'Let them rest! Let them
rest!'


Mistress Afferywhose fear of thunder and lightning was only to be
equalled by her dread of the haunted house with a premature and
preternatural darkness in itstood undecided whether to go in or
notuntil the question was settled for her by the door blowing
upon her in a violent gust of wind and shutting her out. 'What's
to be done nowwhat's to be done now!' cried Mistress Affery
wringing her hands in this last uneasy dream of all; 'when she's
all alone by herself insideand can no more come down to open it
than the churchyard dead themselves!'


In this dilemmaMistress Afferywith her apron as a hood to keep
the rain offran crying up and down the solitary paved enclosure
several times. Why she should then stoop down and look in at the
keyhole of the door as if an eye would open itit would be
difficult to say; but it is none the less what most people would
have done in the same situationand it is what she did.


From this posture she started up suddenlywith a half scream
feeling something on her shoulder. It was the touch of a hand; of



a man's hand.

The man was dressed like a travellerin a foraging cap with fur
about itand a heap of cloak. He looked like a foreigner. He had
a quantity of hair and moustache--jet blackexcept at the shaggy
endswhere it had a tinge of red--and a high hook nose. He
laughed at Mistress Affery's start and cry; and as he laughedhis
moustache went up under his noseand his nose came down over his
moustache.

'What's the matter?' he asked in plain English. 'What are you
frightened at?'

'At you' panted Affery.

'Memadam?'

'And the dismal eveningand--and everything' said Affery. 'And
here! The wind has been and blown the door toand I can't get
in.'

'Hah!' said the gentlemanwho took that very coolly. 'Indeed! Do
you know such a name as Clennam about here?'

'Lord bless usI should think I didI should think I did!' cried
Afferyexasperated into a new wringing of hands by the inquiry.

'Where about here?'

'Where!' cried Afferygoaded into another inspection of the
keyhole. 'Where but here in this house? And she's all alone in
her roomand lost the use of her limbs and can't stir to help
herself or meand t'other clever one's outand Lord forgive me!'
cried Afferydriven into a frantic dance by these accumulated
considerations'if I ain't a-going headlong out of my mind!'

Taking a warmer view of the matter now that it concerned himself
the gentleman stepped back to glance at the houseand his eye soon
rested on the long narrow window of the little room near the halldoor.


'Where may the lady be who has lost the use of her limbsmadam?'
he inquiredwith that peculiar smile which Mistress Affery could
not choose but keep her eyes upon.

'Up there!' said Affery. 'Them two windows.'

'Hah! I am of a fair sizebut could not have the honour of
presenting myself in that room without a ladder. Nowmadam
frankly --frankness is a part of my character--shall I open the
door for you?'

'Yesbless yousirfor a dear creeturand do it at once' cried
Affery'for she may be a-calling to me at this very present
minuteor may be setting herself a fire and burning herself to
deathor there's no knowing what may be happening to herand me
a-going out of my mind at thinking of it!'

'Staymy good madam!' He restrained her impatience with a smooth
white hand. 'Business-hoursI apprehendare over for the day?'
'Yesyesyes' cried Affery. 'Long ago.'

'Let me makethena fair proposal. Fairness is a part of my
character. I am just landed from the packet-boatas you may see.'


He showed her that his cloak was very wetand that his boots were
saturated with water; she had previously observed that he was
dishevelled and sallowas if from a rough voyageand so chilled
that he could not keep his teeth from chattering. 'I am just
landed from the packet-boatmadamand have been delayed by the
weather: the infernal weather! In consequence of thismadamsome
necessary business that I should otherwise have transacted here
within the regular hours (necessary business because money-
business)still remains to be done. Nowif you will fetch any
authorised neighbouring somebody to do it in return for my opening
the doorI'll open the door. If this arrangement should be
objectionableI'll--' and with the same smile he made a
significant feint of backing away.


Mistress Afferyheartily glad to effect the proposed compromise
gave in her willing adhesion to it. The gentleman at once
requested her to do him the favour of holding his cloaktook a
short run at the narrow windowmade a leap at the sillclung his
way up the bricksand in a moment had his hand at the sash
raising it. His eyes looked so very sinisteras he put his leg
into the room and glanced round at Mistress Afferythat she
thought with a sudden coldnessif he were to go straight up-stairs
to murder the invalidwhat could she do to prevent him?


Happily he had no such purpose; for he reappearedin a momentat
the house door. 'Nowmy dear madam' he saidas he took back his
cloak and threw it on'if you have the goodness to--what the
Devil's that!'


The strangest of sounds. Evidently close at hand from the peculiar
shock it communicated to the airyet subdued as if it were far
off. A tremblea rumbleand a fall of some light dry matter.


'What the Devil is it?'


'I don't know what it isbut I've heard the like of it over and
over again' said Afferywho had caught his arm.
He could hardly be a very brave maneven she thought in her dreamy
start and frightfor his trembling lips had turned colourless.
After listening a few momentshe made light of it.


'Bah! Nothing! Nowmy dear madamI think you spoke of some
clever personage. Will you be so good as to confront me with that
genius?' He held the door in his handas though he were quite
ready to shut her out again if she failed.


'Don't you say anything about the door and methen' whispered
Affery.


'Not a word.'


'And don't you stir from hereor speak if she callswhile I run
round the corner.'


'MadamI am a statue.'


Affery had so vivid a fear of his going stealthily up-stairs the
moment her back was turnedthat after hurrying out of sightshe
returned to the gateway to peep at him. Seeing him still on the
thresholdmore out of the house than in itas if he had no love
for darkness and no desire to probe its mysteriesshe flew into
the next streetand sent a message into the tavern to Mr
Flintwinchwho came out directly. The two returning together--the



lady in advanceand Mr Flintwinch coming up briskly behind
animated with the hope of shaking her before she could get housed-saw
the gentleman standing in the same place in the darkand heard
the strong voice of Mrs Clennam calling from her room'Who is it?
What is it? Why does no one answer? Who is thatdown there?'

CHAPTER 30

The Word of a Gentleman

When Mr and Mrs Flintwinch panted up to the door of the old house
in the twilightJeremiah within a second of Afferythe stranger
started back. 'Death of my soul!' he exclaimed. 'Whyhow did you
get here?'

Mr Flintwinchto whom these words were spokenrepaid the
stranger's wonder in full. He gazed at him with blank
astonishment; he looked over his own shoulderas expecting to see
some one he had not been aware of standing behind him; he gazed at
the stranger againspeechlesslyat a loss to know what he meant;
he looked to his wife for explanation; receiving nonehe pounced
upon herand shook her with such heartiness that he shook her cap
off her headsaying between his teethwith grim railleryas he
did it'Afferymy womanyou must have a dosemy woman! This is
some of your tricks! You have been dreaming againmistress.
What's it about? Who is it? What does it mean! Speak out or be
choked! It's the only choice I'll give you.'

Supposing Mistress Affery to have any power of election at the
momenther choice was decidedly to be choked; for she answered not
a syllable to this adjurationbutwith her bare head wagging
violently backwards and forwardsresigned herself to her
punishment. The strangerhoweverpicking up her cap with an air
of gallantryinterposed.

'Permit me' said helaying his hand on the shoulder of Jeremiah
who stopped and released his victim. 'Thank you. Excuse me.
Husband and wife I knowfrom this playfulness. Haha! Always
agreeable to see that relation playfully maintained. Listen! May
I suggest that somebody up-stairsin the darkis becoming
energetically curious to know what is going on here?'

This reference to Mrs Clennam's voice reminded Mr Flintwinch to
step into the hall and call up the staircase. 'It's all rightI
am hereAffery is coming with your light.' Then he said to the
latter flustered womanwho was putting her cap on'Get out with
youand get up-stairs!' and then turned to the stranger and said
to him'Nowsirwhat might you please to want?'

'I am afraid' said the stranger'I must be so troublesome as to
propose a candle.'

'True' assented Jeremiah. 'I was going to do so. Please to stand
where you are while I get one.'

The visitor was standing in the doorwaybut turned a little into
the gloom of the house as Mr Flintwinch turnedand pursued him
with his eyes into the little roomwhere he groped about for a
phosphorus box. When he found itit was dampor otherwise out of
order; and match after match that he struck into it lighted


sufficiently to throw a dull glare about his groping faceand to
sprinkle his hands with pale little spots of firebut not
sufficiently to light the candle. The strangertaking advantage
of this fitful illumination of his visagelooked intently and
wonderingly at him. Jeremiahwhen he at last lighted the candle
knew he had been doing thisby seeing the last shade of a lowering
watchfulness clear away from his faceas it broke into the
doubtful smile that was a large ingredient in its expression.

'Be so good' said Jeremiahclosing the house doorand taking a
pretty sharp survey of the smiling visitor in his turn'as to step
into my counting-house.-- It's all rightI tell you!' petulantly
breaking off to answer the voice up-stairsstill unsatisfied
though Affery was therespeaking in persuasive tones. 'Don't I
tell you it's all right? Preserve the womanhas she no reason at
all in her!'

'Timorous' remarked the stranger.

'Timorous?' said Mr Flintwinchturning his head to retortas he
went before with the candle. 'More courageous than ninety men in
a hundredsirlet me tell you.'

'Though an invalid?'

'Many years an invalid. Mrs Clennam. The only one of that name
left in the House now. My partner.'
Saying something apologetically as he crossed the hallto the
effect that at that time of night they were not in the habit of
receiving any oneand were always shut upMr Flintwinch led the
way into his own officewhich presented a sufficiently businesslike
appearance. Here he put the light on his deskand said to
the strangerwith his wryest twist upon him'Your commands.'

'MY name is Blandois.'

'Blandois. I don't know it' said Jeremiah.

'I thought it possible' resumed the other'that you might have
been advised from Paris--'

'We have had no advice from Paris respecting anybody of the name of
Blandois' said Jeremiah.

'No?'

'No.'

Jeremiah stood in his favourite attitude. The smiling Mr Blandois
opening his cloak to get his hand to a breast-pocketpaused to
saywith a laugh in his glittering eyeswhich it occurred to Mr
Flintwinch were too near together:

'You are so like a friend of mine! Not so identically the same as
I supposed when I really did for the moment take you to be the same
in the dusk--for which I ought to apologise; permit me to do so; a
readiness to confess my errors isI hopea part of the frankness
of my character--stillhoweveruncommonly like.'

'Indeed?' said Jeremiahperversely. 'But I have not received any
letter of advice from anywhere respecting anybody of the name of
Blandois.'

'Just so' said the stranger.


'JUST so' said Jeremiah.

Mr Blandoisnot at all put out by this omission on the part of the
correspondents of the house of Clennam and Co.took his pocket-
book from his breast-pocketselected a letter from that
receptacleand handed it to Mr Flintwinch. 'No doubt you are well
acquainted with the writing. Perhaps the letter speaks for itself
and requires no advice. You are a far more competent judge of such
affairs than I am. It is my misfortune to benot so much a man of
businessas what the world calls (arbitrarily) a gentleman.'

Mr Flintwinch took the letterand readunder date of Paris'We
have to present to youon behalf of a highly esteemed
correspondent of our FirmM. Blandoisof this city' &c. &c.
'Such facilities as he may require and such attentions as may lie
in your power' &c. &c. 'Also have to add that if you will honour

M. Blandois' drafts at sight to the extent ofsay Fifty Pounds
sterling (l50)' &c. &c.
'Very goodsir' said Mr Flintwinch. 'Take a chair. To the
extent of anything that our House can do--we are in a retiredoldfashioned
steady way of businesssir--we shall be happy to render
you our best assistance. I observefrom the date of thisthat we
could not yet be advised of it. Probably you came over with the
delayed mail that brings the advice.'

'That I came over with the delayed mailsir' returned Mr
Blandoispassing his white hand down his high-hooked nose'I know
to the cost of my head and stomach: the detestable and intolerable
weather having racked them both. You see me in the plight in which
I came out of the packet within this half-hour. I ought to have
been here hours agoand then I should not have to apologise-permit
me to apologise--for presenting myself so unreasonablyand
frightening--noby-the-byeyou said not frightening; permit me to
apologise again--the esteemed ladyMrs Clennamin her invalid
chamber above stairs.'

Swagger and an air of authorised condescension do so muchthat Mr
Flintwinch had already begun to think this a highly gentlemanly
personage. Not the less unyielding with him on that accounthe
scraped his chin and saidwhat could he have the honour of doing
for Mr Blandois to-nightout of business hours?

'Faith!' returned that gentlemanshrugging his cloaked shoulders
'I must changeand eat and drinkand be lodged somewhere. Have
the kindness to advise mea total strangerwhereand money is a
matter of perfect indifference until to-morrow. The nearer the
placethe better. Next doorif that's all.'

Mr Flintwinch was slowly beginning'For a gentleman of your
habitsthere is not in this immediate neighbourhood any hotel--'
when Mr Blandois took him up.

'So much for my habits! my dear sir' snapping his fingers. 'A
citizen of the world has no habits. That I amin my poor waya
gentlemanby Heaven! I will not denybut I have no
unaccommodating prejudiced habits. A clean rooma hot dish for
dinnerand a bottle of not absolutely poisonous wineare all I
want tonight. But I want that much without the trouble of going
one unnecessary inch to get it.'

'There is' said Mr Flintwinchwith more than his usual
deliberationas he metfor a momentMr Blandois' shining eyes


which were restless; 'there is a coffee-house and tavern close
herewhichso farI can recommend; but there's no style about
it.'

'I dispense with style!' said Mr Blandoiswaving his hand. 'Do me
the honour to show me the houseand introduce me there (if I am
not too troublesome)and I shall be infinitely obliged.'
Mr Flintwinchupon thislooked up his hatand lighted Mr
Blandois across the hall again. As he put the candle on a bracket
where the dark old panelling almost served as an extinguisher for
ithe bethought himself of going up to tell the invalid that he
would not be absent five minutes.
'Oblige me' said the visitoron his saying so'by presenting my
card of visit. Do me the favour to add that I shall be happy to
wait on Mrs Clennamto offer my personal complimentsand to
apologise for having occasioned any agitation in this tranquil
cornerif it should suit her convenience to endure the presence of
a stranger for a few minutesafter he shall have changed his wet
clothes and fortified himself with something to eat and drink.'

Jeremiah made all despatchand saidon his return'She'll be
glad to see yousir; butbeing conscious that her sick room has
no attractionswishes me to say that she won't hold you to your
offerin case you should think better of it.'

'To think better of it' returned the gallant Blandois'would be
to slight a lady; to slight a lady would be to be deficient in
chivalry towards the sex; and chivalry towards the sex is a part of
my character!' Thus expressing himselfhe threw the draggled
skirt of his cloak over his shoulderand accompanied Mr Flintwinch
to the tavern; taking up on the road a porter who was waiting with
his portmanteau on the outer side of the gateway.

The house was kept in a homely mannerand the condescension of Mr
Blandois was infinite. It seemed to fill to inconvenience the
little bar in which the widow landlady and her two daughters
received him; it was much too big for the narrow wainscoted room
with a bagatelle-board in itthat was first proposed for his
reception; it perfectly swamped the little private holiday sittingroom
of the familywhich was finally given up to him. Herein
dry clothes and scented linenwith sleeked haira great ring on
each forefinger and a massive show of watch-chainMr Blandois
waiting for his dinnerlolling on a window-seat with his knees
drawn uplooked (for all the difference in the setting of the
jewel) fearfully and wonderfully like a certain Monsieur Rigaud who
had once so waited for his breakfastlying on the stone ledge of
the iron grating of a cell in a villainous dungeon at Marseilles.

His greed at dinnertoowas closely in keeping with the greed of
Monsieur Rigaud at breakfast. His avaricious manner of collecting
all the eatables about himand devouring some with his eyes while
devouring others with his jawswas the same manner. His utter
disregard of other peopleas shown in his way of tossing the
little womanly toys of furniture aboutflinging favourite cushions
under his boots for a softer restand crushing delicate coverings
with his big body and his great black headhad the same brute
selfishness at the bottom of it. The softly moving hands that were
so busy among the dishes had the old wicked facility of the hands
that had clung to the bars. And when he could eat no moreand sat
sucking his delicate fingers one by one and wiping them on a cloth
there wanted nothing but the substitution of vine-leaves to finish
the picture.

On this manwith his moustache going up and his nose coming down


in that most evil of smilesand with his surface eyes looking as
if they belonged to his dyed hairand had had their natural power
of reflecting light stopped by some similar processNaturealways
trueand never working in vainhad set the markBeware! It was
not her faultif the warning were fruitless. She is never to
blame in any such instance.

Mr Blandoishaving finished his repast and cleaned his fingers
took a cigar from his pocketandlying on the window-seat again
smoked it out at his leisureoccasionally apostrophising the smoke
as it parted from his thin lips in a thin stream:

'Blandoisyou shall turn the tables on societymy little child.
Haha! Holy blueyou have begun wellBlandois! At a pinchan
excellent master in English or French; a man for the bosom of
families! You have a quick perceptionyou have humouryou have
easeyou have insinuating mannersyou have a good appearance; in
effectyou are a gentleman! A gentleman you shall livemy small
boyand a gentleman you shall die. You shall winhowever the
game goes. They shall all confess your meritBlandois. You shall
subdue the society which has grievously wronged youto your own
high spirit. Death of my soul! You are high spirited by right and
by naturemy Blandois!'

To such soothing murmurs did this gentleman smoke out his cigar and
drink out his bottle of wine. Both being finishedhe shook
himself into a sitting attitude; and with the concluding serious
apostrophe'Holdthen! Blandoisyou ingenious onehave all
your wits about you!' arose and went back to the house of Clennam
and Co.

He was received at the door by Mistress Afferywhounder
instructions from her lordhad lighted up two candles in the hall
and a third on the staircaseand who conducted him to Mrs
Clennam's room. Tea was prepared thereand such little company
arrangements had been made as usually attended the reception of
expected visitors. They were slight on the greatest occasion
never extending beyond the production of the China tea-serviceand
the covering of the bed with a sober and sad drapery. For the
restthere was the bier-like sofa with the block upon itand the
figure in the widow's dressas if attired for execution; the fire
topped by the mound of damped ashes; the grate with its second
little mound of ashes; the kettle and the smell of black dye; all
as they had been for fifteen years.

Mr Flintwinch presented the gentleman commended to the
consideration of Clennam and Co. Mrs Clennamwho had the letter
lying before herbent her head and requested him to sit. They
looked very closely at one another. That was but natural
curiosity.
'I thank yousirfor thinking of a disabled woman like me. Few
who come here on business have any remembrance to bestow on one so
removed from observation. It would be idle to expect that they
should have. Out of sightout of mind. While I am grateful for
the exceptionI don't complain of the rule. '

Mr Blandoisin his most gentlemanly mannerwas afraid he had
disturbed her by unhappily presenting himself at such an
unconscionable time. For which he had already offered his best
apologies to Mr--he begged pardon--but by name had not the
distinguished honour-


'Mr Flintwinch has been connected with the House many years.'


Mr Blandois was Mr Flintwinch's most obedient humble servant. He
entreated Mr Flintwinch to receive the assurance of his profoundest
consideration.

'My husband being dead' said Mrs Clennam'and my son preferring
another pursuitour old House has no other representative in these
days than Mr Flintwinch. '

'What do you call yourself?' was the surly demand of that
gentleman. 'You have the head of two men.'

'My sex disqualifies me' she proceeded with merely a slight turn
of her eyes in jeremiah's direction'from taking a responsible
part in the businesseven if I had the ability; and therefore Mr
Flintwinch combines my interest with his ownand conducts it. It
is not what it used to be; but some of our old friends (principally
the writers of this letter) have the kindness not to forget usand
we retain the power of doing what they entrust to us as efficiently
as we ever did. This however is not interesting to you. You are
Englishsir?'

'Faithmadamno; I am neither born nor bred in England. In
effectI am of no country' said Mr Blandoisstretching out his
leg and smiting it: 'I descend from half-a-dozen countries.'

'You have been much about the world?'

'It is true. By HeavenmadamI have been here and there and
everywhere!'

'You have no tiesprobably. Are not married?'

'Madam' said Mr Blandoiswith an ugly fall of his eyebrows'I
adore your sexbut I am not married--never was.'

Mistress Afferywho stood at the table near himpouring out the
teahappened in her dreamy state to look at him as he said these
wordsand to fancy that she caught an expression in his eyes which
attracted her own eyes so that she could not get them away. The
effect of this fancy was to keep her staring at him with the teapot
in her handnot only to her own great uneasinessbut
manifestly to histoo; andthrough them bothto Mrs Clennam's
and Mr Flintwinch's. Thus a few ghostly moments supervenedwhen
they were all confusedly staring without knowing why.

'Affery' her mistress was the first to say'what is the matter
with you?'

'I don't know' said Mistress Afferywith her disengaged left hand
extended towards the visitor. 'It ain't me. It's him!'

'What does this good woman mean?' cried Mr Blandoisturning white
hotand slowly rising with a look of such deadly wrath that it
contrasted surprisingly with the slight force of his words. 'How
is it possible to understand this good creature?'

'It's NOT possible' said Mr Flintwinchscrewing himself rapidly
in that direction. 'She don't know what she means. She's an
idiota wanderer in her mind. She shall have a doseshe shall
have such a dose! Get along with youmy woman' he added in her
ear'get along with youwhile you know you're Afferyand before
you're shaken to yeast.'


Mistress Afferysensible of the danger in which her identity
stoodrelinquished the tea-pot as her husband seized itput her
apron over her headand in a twinkling vanished. The visitor
gradually broke into a smileand sat down again.

'You'll excuse herMr Blandois' said Jeremiahpouring out the
tea himself'she's failing and breaking up; that's what she's
about. Do you take sugarsir? '

'Thank youno tea for me.--Pardon my observing itbut that's a
very remarkable watch!'

The tea-table was drawn up near the sofawith a small interval
between it and Mrs Clennam's own particular table. Mr Blandois in
his gallantry had risen to hand that lady her tea (her dish of
toast was already there)and it was in placing the cup
conveniently within her reach that the watchlying before her as
it always didattracted his attention. Mrs Clennam looked
suddenly up at him.

'May I be permitted? Thank you. A fine old-fashioned watch' he
saidtaking it in his hand. 'Heavy for usebut massive and
genuine. I have a partiality for everything genuine. Such as I
amI am genuine myself. Hah! A gentleman's watch with two cases
in the old fashion. May I remove it from the outer case? Thank
you. Aye? An old silk watch-liningworked with beads! I have
often seen these among old Dutch people and Belgians. Quaint
things!'

'They are old-fashionedtoo' said Mrs Clennam.
'Very. But this is not so old as the watchI think?'

'I think not.'

'Extraordinary how they used to complicate these cyphers!' remarked
Mr Blandoisglancing up with his own smile again. 'Now is this D.

N. F.? It might be almost anything.'
'Those are the letters.'

Mr Flintwinchwho had been observantly pausing all this time with
a cup of tea in his handand his mouth open ready to swallow the
contentsbegan to do so: always entirely filling his mouth before
he emptied it at a gulp; and always deliberating again before he
refilled it.

'D. N. F. was some tenderlovelyfascinating fair-creatureI
make no doubt' observed Mr Blandoisas he snapped on the case
again. 'I adore her memory on the assumption. Unfortunately for
my peace of mindI adore but too readily. It may be a viceit
may be a virtuebut adoration of female beauty and merit
constitutes three parts of my charactermadam.'

Mr Flintwinch had by this time poured himself out another cup of
teawhich he was swallowing in gulps as beforewith his eyes
directed to the invalid.

'You may be heart-free heresir' she returned to Mr Blandois.
'Those letters are not intendedI believefor the initials of any
name.'

'Of a mottoperhaps' said Mr Blandoiscasually.

'Of a sentence. They have always stoodI believefor Do Not


Forget!'

'And naturally' said Mr Blandoisreplacing the watch and stepping
backward to his former chair'you do not forget.'

Mr Flintwinchfinishing his teanot only took a longer gulp than
he had taken yetbut made his succeeding pause under new
circumstances: that is to saywith his head thrown back and his
cup held still at his lipswhile his eyes were still directed at
the invalid. She had that force of faceand that concentrated air
of collecting her firmness or obstinacywhich represented in her
case what would have been gesture and action in anotheras she
replied with her deliberate strength of speech:
'NosirI do not forget. To lead a life as monotonous as mine
has been during many yearsis not the way to forget. To lead a
life of self-correction is not the way to forget. To be sensible
of having (as we all haveevery one of usall the children of
Adam!) offences to expiate and peace to makedoes not justify the
desire to forget. Therefore I have long dismissed itand I
neither forget nor wish to forget.'

Mr Flintwinchwho had latterly been shaking the sediment at the
bottom of his tea-cupround and roundhere gulped it downand
putting the cup in the tea-trayas done withturned his eyes upon
Mr Blandois as if to ask him what he thought of that?

'All expressedmadam' said Mr Blandoiswith his smoothest bow
and his white hand on his breast'by the word "naturally which
I am proud to have had sufficient apprehension and appreciation
(but without appreciation I could not be Blandois) to employ.'

'Pardon me, sir,' she returned, 'if I doubt the likelihood of a
gentleman of pleasure, and change, and politeness, accustomed to
court and to be courted--'

'Oh madam! By Heaven!'

'--If I doubt the likelihood of such a character quite
comprehending what belongs to mine in my circumstances. Not to
obtrude doctrine upon you,' she looked at the rigid pile of hard
pale books before her, '(for you go your own way, and the
consequences are on your own head), I will say this much: that I
shape my course by pilots, strictly by proved and tried pilots,
under whom I cannot be shipwrecked--can not be--and that if I were
unmindful of the admonition conveyed in those three letters, I
should not be half as chastened as I am.'

It was curious how she seized the occasion to argue with some
invisible opponent. Perhaps with her own better sense, always
turning upon herself and her own deception.

'If I forgot my ignorances in my life of health and freedom, I
might complain of the life to which I am now condemned. I never
do; I never have done. If I forgot that this scene, the Earth, is
expressly meant to be a scene of gloom, and hardship, and dark
trial, for the creatures who are made out of its dust, I might have
some tenderness for its vanities. But I have no such tenderness.
If I did not know that we are, every one, the subject (most justly
the subject) of a wrath that must be satisfied, and against which
mere actions are nothing, I might repine at the difference between
me, imprisoned here, and the people who pass that gateway yonder.
But I take it as a grace and favour to be elected to make the
satisfaction I am making here, to know what I know for certain
here, and to work out what I have worked out here. My affliction


might otherwise have had no meaning to me. Hence I would forget,
and I do forget, nothing. Hence I am contented, and say it is
better with me than with millions.'
As she spoke these words, she put her hand upon the watch, and
restored it to the precise spot on her little table which it always
occupied. With her touch lingering upon it, she sat for some
moments afterwards, looking at it steadily and half-defiantly.

Mr Blandois, during this exposition, had been strictly attentive,
keeping his eyes fastened on the lady, and thoughtfully stroking
his moustache with his two hands. Mr Flintwinch had been a little
fidgety, and now struck in.

'There, there, there!' said he. 'That is quite understood, Mrs
Clennam, and you have spoken piously and well. Mr Blandois, I
suspect, is not of a pious cast.'
'On the contrary, sir!' that gentleman protested, snapping his
fingers. 'Your pardon! It's a part of my character. I am
sensitive, ardent, conscientious, and imaginative. A sensitive,
ardent, conscientious, and imaginative man, Mr Flintwinch, must be
that, or nothing!'

There was an inkling of suspicion in Mr Flintwinch's face that he
might be nothing, as he swaggered out of his chair (it was
characteristic of this man, as it is of all men similarly marked,
that whatever he did, he overdid, though it were sometimes by only
a hairsbreadth), and approached to take his leave of Mrs Clennam.

'With what will appear to you the egotism of a sick old woman,
sir,' she then said, 'though really through your accidental
allusion, I have been led away into the subject of myself and my
infirmities. Being so considerate as to visit me, I hope you will
be likewise so considerate as to overlook that. Don't compliment
me, if you please.' For he was evidently going to do it. 'Mr
Flintwinch will be happy to render you any service, and I hope your
stay in this city may prove agreeable.'

Mr Blandois thanked her, and kissed his hand several times. 'This
is an old room,' he remarked, with a sudden sprightliness of
manner, looking round when he got near the door, 'I have been so
interested that I have not observed it. But it's a genuine old
room.'

'It is a genuine old house,' said Mrs Clennam, with her frozen
smile. 'A place of no pretensions, but a piece of antiquity.'

'Faith!' cried the visitor. 'If Mr Flintwinch would do me the
favour to take me through the rooms on my way out, he could hardly
oblige me more. An old house is a weakness with me. I have many
weaknesses, but none greater. I love and study the picturesque in
all its varieties. I have been called picturesque myself. It is
no merit to be picturesque--I have greater merits, perhaps--but I
may be, by an accident. Sympathy, sympathy!'

'I tell you beforehand, Mr Blandois, that you'll find it very dingy
and very bare,' said Jeremiah, taking up the candle. 'It's not
worth your looking at.'But Mr Blandois, smiting him in a friendly
manner on the back, only laughed; so the said Blandois kissed his
hand again to Mrs Clennam, and they went out of the room together.

'You don't care to go up-stairs?' said Jeremiah, on the landing.
'On the contrary, Mr Flintwinch; if not tiresome to you, I shall be
ravished!'


Mr Flintwinch, therefore, wormed himself up the staircase, and Mr
Blandois followed close. They ascended to the great garret bed-
room which Arthur had occupied on the night of his return. 'There,
Mr Blandois!' said Jeremiah, showing it, 'I hope you may think that
worth coming so high to see. I confess I don't.'


Mr Blandois being enraptured, they walked through other garrets and
passages, and came down the staircase again. By this time Mr
Flintwinch had remarked that he never found the visitor looking at
any room, after throwing one quick glance around, but always found
the visitor looking at him, Mr Flintwinch. With this discovery in
his thoughts, he turned about on the staircase for another
experiment. He met his eyes directly; and on the instant of their
fixing one another, the visitor, with that ugly play of nose and
moustache, laughed (as he had done at every similar moment since
they left Mrs Clennam's chamber) a diabolically silent laugh.


As a much shorter man than the visitor, Mr Flintwinch was at the
physical disadvantage of being thus disagreeably leered at from a
height; and as he went first down the staircase, and was usually a
step or two lower than the other, this disadvantage was at the time
increased. He postponed looking at Mr Blandois again until this
accidental inequality was removed by their having entered the late
Mr Clennam's room. But, then twisting himself suddenly round upon
him, he found his look unchanged.


'A most admirable old house,' smiled Mr Blandois. 'So mysterious.
Do you never hear any haunted noises here?'


'Noises,' returned Mr Flintwinch. 'No.'


'Nor see any devils?'


'Not,' said Mr Flintwinch, grimly screwing himself at his
questioner, 'not any that introduce themselves under that name and
in that capacity.'


'Haha! A portrait here, I see.'


(Still looking at Mr Flintwinch, as if he were the portrait.)


'It's a portrait, sir, as you observe.'


'May I ask the subject, Mr Flintwinch?'


'Mr Clennam, deceased. Her husband.'
'Former owner of the remarkable watch, perhaps?' said the visitor.


Mr Flintwinch, who had cast his eyes towards the portrait, twisted
himself about again, and again found himself the subject of the
same look and smile. 'Yes, Mr Blandois,' he replied tartly. 'It
was his, and his uncle's before him, and Lord knows who before him;
and that's all I can tell you of its pedigree.'


'That's a strongly marked character, Mr Flintwinch, our friend up-
stairs.'


'Yes, sir,' said Jeremiah, twisting himself at the visitor again,
as he did during the whole of this dialogue, like some screw-
machine that fell short of its grip; for the other never changed,
and he always felt obliged to retreat a little. 'She is a
remarkable woman. Great fortitude--great strength of mind.'


'They must have been very happy,' said Blandois.



'Who?' demanded Mr Flintwinch, with another screw at him.

Mr Blandois shook his right forefinger towards the sick room, and
his left forefinger towards the portrait, and then, putting his
arms akimbo and striding his legs wide apart, stood smiling down at
Mr Flintwinch with the advancing nose and the retreating moustache.

'As happy as most other married people, I suppose,' returned Mr
Flintwinch. 'I can't say. I don't know. There are secrets in all
families.'

'Secrets!' cried Mr Blandois, quickly. 'Say it again, my son.'

'I say,' replied Mr Flintwinch, upon whom he had swelled himself so
suddenly that Mr Flintwinch found his face almost brushed by the
dilated chest. 'I say there are secrets in all families.'

'So there are,' cried the other, clapping him on both shoulders,
and rolling him backwards and forwards. 'Haha! you are right. So
there are! Secrets! Holy Blue! There are the devil's own secrets
in some families, Mr Flintwinch!' With that, after clapping Mr
Flintwinch on both shoulders several times, as if in a friendly and
humorous way he were rallying him on a joke he had made, he threw
up his arms, threw back his head, hooked his hands together behind
it, and burst into a roar of laughter. It was in vain for Mr
Flintwinch to try another screw at him. He had his laugh out.

'But, favour me with the candle a moment,' he said, when he had
done. 'Let us have a look at the husband of the remarkable lady.
Hah!' holding up the light at arm's length. 'A decided expression
of face here too, though not of the same character. Looks as if he
were saying, what is it--Do Not Forget--does he not, Mr Flintwinch?

By Heaven, sir, he does!'

As he returned the candle, he looked at him once more; and then,
leisurely strolling out with him into the hall, declared it to be
a charming old house indeed, and one which had so greatly pleased
him that he would not have missed inspecting it for a hundred
pounds.
Throughout these singular freedoms on the part of Mr Blandois,
which involved a general alteration in his demeanour, making it
much coarser and rougher, much more violent and audacious than
before, Mr Flintwinch, whose leathern face was not liable to many
changes, preserved its immobility intact. Beyond now appearing
perhaps, to have been left hanging a trifle too long before that
friendly operation of cutting down, he outwardly maintained an
equable composure. They had brought their survey to a close in the
little room at the side of the hall, and he stood there, eyeing Mr
Blandois.

'I am glad you are so well satisfied, sir,' was his calm remark.
'I didn't expect it. You seem to be quite in good spirits.'

'In admirable spirits,' returned Blandois. 'Word of honour! never
more refreshed in spirits. Do you ever have presentiments, Mr
Flintwinch?'

'I am not sure that I know what you mean by the term, sir,' replied
that gentleman.

'Say, in this case, Mr Flintwinch, undefined anticipations of
pleasure to come.'


'I can't say I'm sensible of such a sensation at present,' returned
Mr Flintwinch with the utmost gravity. 'If I should find it coming
on, I'll mention it.'

'Now I,' said Blandois, 'I, my son, have a presentiment to-night
that we shall be well acquainted. Do you find it coming on?'

'N-no,' returned Mr Flintwinch, deliberately inquiring of himself.
'I can't say I do.'

'I have a strong presentiment that we shall become intimately
acquainted.--You have no feeling of that sort yet?'

'Not yet,' said Mr Flintwinch.

Mr Blandois, taking him by both shoulders again, rolled him about
a little in his former merry way, then drew his arm through his
own, and invited him to come off and drink a bottle of wine like a
dear deep old dog as he was.

Without a moment's indecision, Mr Flintwinch accepted the
invitation, and they went out to the quarters where the traveller
was lodged, through a heavy rain which had rattled on the windows,
roofs, and pavements, ever since nightfall. The thunder and
lightning had long ago passed over, but the rain was furious. On
their arrival at Mr Blandois' room, a bottle of port wine was
ordered by that gallant gentleman; who (crushing every pretty thing
he could collect, in the soft disposition of his dainty figure)
coiled himself upon the window-seat, while Mr Flintwinch took a
chair opposite to him, with the table between them. Mr Blandois
proposed having the largest glasses in the house, to which Mr
Flintwinch assented. The bumpers filled, Mr Blandois, with a
roystering gaiety, clinked the top of his glass against the bottom
of Mr Flintwinch's, and the bottom of his glass against the top of
Mr Flintwinch's, and drank to the intimate acquaintance he foresaw.

Mr Flintwinch gravely pledged him, and drank all the wine he could
get, and said nothing. As often as Mr Blandois clinked glasses
(which was at every replenishment), Mr Flintwinch stolidly did his
part of the clinking, and would have stolidly done his companion's
part of the wine as well as his own: being, except in the article
of palate, a mere cask.

In short, Mr Blandois found that to pour port wine into the
reticent Flintwinch was, not to open him but to shut him up.
Moreover, he had the appearance of a perfect ability to go on all
night; or, if occasion were, all next day and all next night;
whereas Mr Blandois soon grew indistinctly conscious of swaggering
too fiercely and boastfully. He therefore terminated the
entertainment at the end of the third bottle.

'You will draw upon us to-morrow, sir,' said Mr Flintwinch, with a
business-like face at parting.

'My Cabbage,' returned the other, taking him by the collar with
both hands, 'I'll draw upon you; have no fear. Adieu, my
Flintwinch. Receive at parting;' here he gave him a southern
embrace, and kissed him soundly on both cheeks; 'the word of a
gentleman! By a thousand Thunders, you shall see me again!'

He did not present himself next day, though the letter of advice
came duly to hand. Inquiring after him at night, Mr Flintwinch
found, with surprise, that he had paid his bill and gone back to


the Continent by way of Calais. Nevertheless, Jeremiah scraped out
of his cogitating face a lively conviction that Mr Blandois would
keep his word on this occasion, and would be seen again.

CHAPTER 31

Spirit

Anybody may pass, any day, in the thronged thoroughfares of the
metropolis, some meagre, wrinkled, yellow old man (who might be
supposed to have dropped from the stars, if there were any star in
the Heavens dull enough to be suspected of casting off so feeble a
spark), creeping along with a scared air, as though bewildered and
a little frightened by the noise and bustle. This old man is
always a little old man. If he were ever a big old man, he has
shrunk into a little old man; if he were always a little old man,
he has dwindled into a less old man. His coat is a colour, and
cut, that never was the mode anywhere, at any period. Clearly, it
was not made for him, or for any individual mortal. Some wholesale
contractor measured Fate for five thousand coats of such quality,
and Fate has lent this old coat to this old man, as one of a long
unfinished line of many old men. It has always large dull metal
buttons, similar to no other buttons. This old man wears a hat, a
thumbed and napless and yet an obdurate hat, which has never
adapted itself to the shape of his poor head. His coarse shirt and
his coarse neckcloth have no more individuality than his coat and
hat; they have the same character of not being his--of not being
anybody's. Yet this old man wears these clothes with a certain
unaccustomed air of being dressed and elaborated for the public
ways; as though he passed the greater part of his time in a
nightcap and gown. And so, like the country mouse in the second
year of a famine, come to see the town mouse, and timidly threading
his way to the town-mouse's lodging through a city of cats, this
old man passes in the streets.

Sometimes, on holidays towards evening, he will be seen to walk
with a slightly increased infirmity, and his old eyes will glimmer
with a moist and marshy light. Then the little old man is drunk.
A very small measure will overset him; he may be bowled off his
unsteady legs with a half-pint pot. Some pitying acquaintance-chance
acquaintance very often--has warmed up his weakness with a
treat of beer, and the consequence will be the lapse of a longer
time than usual before he shall pass again. For the little old man
is going home to the Workhouse; and on his good behaviour they do
not let him out often (though methinks they might, considering the
few years he has before him to go out in, under the sun); and on
his bad behaviour they shut him up closer than ever in a grove of
two score and nineteen more old men, every one of whom smells of
all the others.

Mrs Plornish's father,--a poor little reedy piping old gentleman,
like a worn-out bird; who had been in what he called the musicbinding
business, and met with great misfortunes, and who had
seldom been able to make his way, or to see it or to pay it, or to
do anything at all with it but find it no thoroughfare,--had
retired of his own accord to the Workhouse which was appointed by
law to be the Good Samaritan of his district (without the twopence,
which was bad political economy), on the settlement of that
execution which had carried Mr Plornish to the Marshalsea College.


Previous to his son-in-law's difficulties coming to that head, Old
Nandy (he was always so called in his legal Retreat, but he was Old
Mr Nandy among the Bleeding Hearts) had sat in a corner of the
Plornish fireside, and taken his bite and sup out of the Plornish
cupboard. He still hoped to resume that domestic position when
Fortune should smile upon his son-in-law; in the meantime, while
she preserved an immovable countenance, he was, and resolved to
remain, one of these little old men in a grove of little old men
with a community of flavour.

But no poverty in him, and no coat on him that never was the mode,
and no Old Men's Ward for his dwelling-place, could quench his
daughter's admiration. Mrs Plornish was as proud of her father's
talents as she could possibly have been if they had made him Lord
Chancellor. She had as firm a belief in the sweetness and
propriety of his manners as she could possibly have had if he had
been Lord Chamberlain. The poor little old man knew some pale and
vapid little songs, long out of date, about Chloe, and Phyllis, and
Strephon being wounded by the son of Venus; and for Mrs Plornish
there was no such music at the Opera as the small internal
flutterings and chirpings wherein he would discharge himself of
these ditties, like a weak, little, broken barrel-organ, ground by
a baby. On his 'days out,' those flecks of light in his flat vista
of pollard old men,' it was at once Mrs Plornish's delight and
sorrow, when he was strong with meat, and had taken his full
halfpenny-worth of porter, to say, 'Sing us a song, Father.' Then
he would give them Chloe, and if he were in pretty good spirits,
Phyllis also--Strephon he had hardly been up to since he went into
retirement--and then would Mrs Plornish declare she did believe
there never was such a singer as Father, and wipe her eyes.

If he had come from Court on these occasions, nay, if he had been
the noble Refrigerator come home triumphantly from a foreign court
to be presented and promoted on his last tremendous failure, Mrs
Plornish could not have handed him with greater elevation about
Bleeding Heart Yard. 'Here's Father,' she would say, presenting
him to a neighbour. 'Father will soon be home with us for good,
now. Ain't Father looking well? Father's a sweeter singer than
ever; you'd never have forgotten it, if you'd aheard him just now.'

As to Mr Plornish, he had married these articles of belief in
marrying Mr Nandy's daughter, and only wondered how it was that so
gifted an old gentleman had not made a fortune. This he
attributed, after much reflection, to his musical genius not having
been scientifically developed in his youth. 'For why,' argued Mr
Plornish, 'why go a-binding music when you've got it in yourself?
That's where it is, I consider.'

Old Nandy had a patron: one patron. He had a patron who in a
certain sumptuous way--an apologetic way, as if he constantly took
an admiring audience to witness that he really could not help being
more free with this old fellow than they might have expected, on
account of his simplicity and poverty--was mightily good to him.
Old Nandy had been several times to the Marshalsea College,
communicating with his son-in-law during his short durance there;
and had happily acquired to himself, and had by degrees and in
course of time much improved, the patronage of the Father of that
national institution.

Mr Dorrit was in the habit of receiving this old man as if the old
man held of him in vassalage under some feudal tenure. He made
little treats and teas for him, as if he came in with his homage
from some outlying district where the tenantry were in a primitive
state.


It seemed as if there were moments when he could by no means have
sworn but that the old man was an ancient retainer of his, who had
been meritoriously faithful. When he mentioned him, he spoke of
him casually as his old pensioner. He had a wonderful satisfaction
in seeing him, and in commenting on his decayed condition after he
was gone. It appeared to him amazing that he could hold up his
head at all, poor creature. 'In the Workhouse, sir, the Union; no
privacy, no visitors, no station, no respect, no speciality. Most
deplorable!'

It was Old Nandy's birthday, and they let him out. He said nothing
about its being his birthday, or they might have kept him in; for
such old men should not be born. He passed along the streets as
usual to Bleeding Heart Yard, and had his dinner with his daughter
and son-in-law, and gave them Phyllis. He had hardly concluded,
when Little Dorrit looked in to see how they all were.

'Miss Dorrit,' said Mrs Plornish, 'here's Father! Ain't he looking
nice? And such voice he's in!'

Little Dorrit gave him her hand, and smilingly said she had not
seen him this long time.

'No, they're rather hard on poor Father,' said Mrs Plornish with a
lengthening face, 'and don't let him have half as much change and
fresh air as would benefit him. But he'll soon be home for good,
now. Won't you, Father?'

'Yes, my dear, I hope so. In good time, please God.'

Here Mr Plornish delivered himself of an oration which he
invariably made, word for word the same, on all such opportunities.

It was couched in the following terms:

'John Edward Nandy. Sir. While there's a ounce of wittles or
drink of any sort in this present roof, you're fully welcome to
your share on it. While there's a handful of fire or a mouthful of
bed in this present roof, you're fully welcome to your share on it.

If so be as there should be nothing in this present roof, you
should be as welcome to your share on it as if it was something,
much or little. And this is what I mean and so I don't deceive
you, and consequently which is to stand out is to entreat of you,
and therefore why not do it?'

To this lucid address, which Mr Plornish always delivered as if he
had composed it (as no doubt he had) with enormous labour, Mrs
Plornish's father pipingly replied:

'I thank you kindly, Thomas, and I know your intentions well, which
is the same I thank you kindly for. But no, Thomas. Until such
times as it's not to take it out of your children's mouths, which
take it is, and call it by what name you will it do remain and
equally deprive, though may they come, and too soon they can not
come, no Thomas, no!'

Mrs Plornish, who had been turning her face a little away with a
corner of her apron in her hand, brought herself back to the
conversation again by telling Miss Dorrit that Father was going
over the water to pay his respects, unless she knew of any reason
why it might not be agreeable.


Her answer was, 'I am going straight home, and if he will come with
me I shall be so glad to take care of him--so glad,' said Little
Dorrit, always thoughtful of the feelings of the weak, 'of his
company.'

'There, Father!' cried Mrs Plornish. 'Ain't you a gay young man to
be going for a walk along with Miss Dorrit! Let me tie your neckhandkerchief
into a regular good bow, for you're a regular beau
yourself, Father, if ever there was one.'

With this filial joke his daughter smartened him up, and gave him
a loving hug, and stood at the door with her weak child in her
arms, and her strong child tumbling down the steps, looking after
her little old father as he toddled away with his arm under Little
Dorrit's.

They walked at a slow pace, and Little Dorrit took him by the Iron
Bridge and sat him down there for a rest, and they looked over at
the water and talked about the shipping, and the old man mentioned
what he would do if he had a ship full of gold coming home to him
(his plan was to take a noble lodging for the Plornishes and
himself at a Tea Gardens, and live there all the rest of their
lives, attended on by the waiter), and it was a special birthday of
the old man. They were within five minutes of their destination,
when, at the corner of her own street, they came upon Fanny in her
new bonnet bound for the same port.

'Why, good gracious me, Amy!' cried that young lady starting. 'You
never mean it!'

'Mean what, Fanny dear?'

'Well! I could have believed a great deal of you,' returned the
young lady with burning indignation, 'but I don't think even I
could have believed this, of even you!'

'Fanny!' cried Little Dorrit, wounded and astonished.

'Oh! Don't Fanny me, you mean little thing, don't! The idea of
coming along the open streets, in the broad light of day, with a
Pauper!' (firing off the last word as if it were a ball from an
air-gun).
'O Fanny!'

'I tell you not to Fanny me, for I'll not submit to it! I never
knew such a thing. The way in which you are resolved and
determined to disgrace us on all occasions, is really infamous.
You bad little thing!'

'Does it disgrace anybody,' said Little Dorrit, very gently, 'to
take care of this poor old man?'

'Yes, miss,' returned her sister, 'and you ought to know it does.
And you do know it does, and you do it because you know it does.
The principal pleasure of your life is to remind your family of
their misfortunes. And the next great pleasure of your existence
is to keep low company. But, however, if you have no sense of
decency, I have. You'll please to allow me to go on the other side
of the way, unmolested.'

With this, she bounced across to the opposite pavement. The old
disgrace, who had been deferentially bowing a pace or two off (for
Little Dorrit had let his arm go in her wonder, when Fanny began),
and who had been hustled and cursed by impatient passengers for


stopping the way, rejoined his companion, rather giddy, and said,
'I hope nothing's wrong with your honoured father, Miss? I hope
there's nothing the matter in the honoured family?'

'No, no,' returned Little Dorrit. 'No, thank you. Give me your
arm again, Mr Nandy. We shall soon be there now.'

So she talked to him as she had talked before, and they came to the
Lodge and found Mr Chivery on the lock, and went in. Now, it
happened that the Father of the Marshalsea was sauntering towards
the Lodge at the moment when they were coming out of it, entering
the prison arm in arm. As the spectacle of their approach met his
view, he displayed the utmost agitation and despondency of mind;
and--altogether regardless of Old Nandy, who, making his reverence,
stood with his hat in his hand, as he always did in that gracious
presence--turned about, and hurried in at his own doorway and up
the staircase.

Leaving the old unfortunate, whom in an evil hour she had taken
under her protection, with a hurried promise to return to him
directly, Little Dorrit hastened after her father, and, on the
staircase, found Fanny following her, and flouncing up with
offended dignity. The three came into the room almost together;
and the Father sat down in his chair, buried his face in his hands,
and uttered a groan.

'Of course,' said Fanny. 'Very proper. Poor, afflicted Pa! Now,
I hope you believe me, Miss?'

'What is it, father?' cried Little Dorrit, bending over him. 'Have
I made you unhappy, father? Not I, I hope!'

'You hope, indeed! I dare say! Oh, you'--Fanny paused for a
sufficiently strong expression--'you Common-minded little Amy! You
complete prison-child!'

He stopped these angry reproaches with a wave of his hand, and
sobbed out, raising his face and shaking his melancholy head at his
younger daughter, 'Amy, I know that you are innocent in intention.
But you have cut me to the soul.'
'Innocent in intention!' the implacable Fanny struck in. 'Stuff in
intention! Low in intention! Lowering of the family in
intention!'

'Father!' cried Little Dorrit, pale and trembling. 'I am very
sorry. Pray forgive me. Tell me how it is, that I may not do it
again!'

'How it is, you prevaricating little piece of goods!' cried Fanny.
'You know how it is. I have told you already, so don't fly in the
face of Providence by attempting to deny it!'

'Hush! Amy,' said the father, passing his pocket-handkerchief
several times across his face, and then grasping it convulsively in
the hand that dropped across his knee, 'I have done what I could to
keep you select here; I have done what I could to retain you a
position here. I may have succeeded; I may not. You may know it;
you may not. I give no opinion. I have endured everything here
but humiliation. That I have happily been spared--until this day.'

Here his convulsive grasp unclosed itself, and he put his pockethandkerchief
to his eyes again. Little Dorrit, on the ground
beside him, with her imploring hand upon his arm, watched him
remorsefully. Coming out of his fit of grief, he clenched his


pocket-handkerchief once more.

'Humiliation I have happily been spared until this day. Through
all my troubles there has been that--Spirit in myself, and that-that
submission to it, if I may use the term, in those about me,
which has spared me--ha--humiliation. But this day, this minute,
I have keenly felt it.'

'Of course! How could it be otherwise?' exclaimed the
irrepressible Fanny. 'Careering and prancing about with a Pauper!'
(air-gun again).

'But, dear father,' cried Little Dorrit, 'I don't justify myself
for having wounded your dear heart--no! Heaven knows I don't!'
She clasped her hands in quite an agony of distress. 'I do nothing
but beg and pray you to be comforted and overlook it. But if I had
not known that you were kind to the old man yourself, and took much
notice of him, and were always glad to see him, I would not have
come here with him, father, I would not, indeed. What I have been
so unhappy as to do, I have done in mistake. I would not wilfully
bring a tear to your eyes, dear love!' said Little Dorrit, her
heart well-nigh broken, 'for anything the world could give me, or
anything it could take away.'

Fanny, with a partly angry and partly repentant sob, began to cry
herself, and to say--as this young lady always said when she was
half in passion and half out of it, half spiteful with herself and
half spiteful with everybody else--that she wished she were dead.

The Father of the Marshalsea in the meantime took his younger
daughter to his breast, and patted her head.
'There, there! Say no more, Amy, say no more, my child. I will
forget it as soon as I can. I,' with hysterical cheerfulness, 'I-shall
soon be able to dismiss it. It is perfectly true, my dear,
that I am always glad to see my old pensioner--as such, as such-and
that I do--ha--extend as much protection and kindness to the-hum--
the bruised reed--I trust I may so call him without
impropriety--as in my circumstances, I can. It is quite true that
this is the case, my dear child. At the same time, I preserve in
doing this, if I may--ha--if I may use the expression--Spirit.
Becoming Spirit. And there are some things which are,' he stopped
to sob, 'irreconcilable with that, and wound that--wound it deeply.

It is not that I have seen my good Amy attentive, and--ha-condescending
to my old pensioner--it is not that that hurts me.
It is, if I am to close the painful subject by being explicit, that
I have seen my child, my own child, my own daughter, coming into
this College out of the public streets--smiling! smiling!--arm in
arm with--O my God, a livery!'

This reference to the coat of no cut and no time, the unfortunate
gentleman gasped forth, in a scarcely audible voice, and with his
clenched pocket-handkerchief raised in the air. His excited
feelings might have found some further painful utterance, but for
a knock at the door, which had been already twice repeated, and to
which Fanny (still wishing herself dead, and indeed now going so
far as to add, buried) cried 'Come in!'

'Ah, Young John!' said the Father, in an altered and calmed voice.
'What is it, Young John?'

'A letter for you, sir, being left in the Lodge just this minute,
and a message with it, I thought, happening to be there myself,
sir, I would bring it to your room.' The speaker's attention was


much distracted by the piteous spectacle of Little Dorrit at her
father's feet, with her head turned away.

'Indeed, John? Thank you.'

'The letter is from Mr Clennam, sir--it's the answer--and the
message was, sir, that Mr Clennam also sent his compliments, and
word that he would do himself the pleasure of calling this
afternoon, hoping to see you, and likewise,' attention more
distracted than before, 'Miss Amy.'

'Oh!' As the Father glanced into the letter (there was a bank-note
in it), he reddened a little, and patted Amy on the head afresh.
'Thank you, Young John. Quite right. Much obliged to you for your
attention. No one waiting?'

'No, sir, no one waiting.'

'Thank you, John. How is your mother, Young John?'

'Thank you, sir, she's not quite as well as we could wish--in fact,
we none of us are, except father--but she's pretty well, sir.'
'Say we sent our remembrances, will you? Say kind remembrances, if
you please, Young John.'

'Thank you, sir, I will.' And Mr Chivery junior went his way,
having spontaneously composed on the spot an entirely new epitaph
for himself, to the effect that Here lay the body of John Chivery,
Who, Having at such a date, Beheld the idol of his life, In grief
and tears, And feeling unable to bear the harrowing spectacle,
Immediately repaired to the abode of his inconsolable parents, And
terminated his existence by his own rash act.

'There, there, Amy!' said the Father, when Young John had closed
the door, 'let us say no more about it.' The last few minutes had
improved his spirits remarkably, and he was quite lightsome.
'Where is my old pensioner all this while? We must not leave him
by himself any longer, or he will begin to suppose he is not
welcome, and that would pain me. Will you fetch him, my child, or
shall I?'

'If you wouldn't mind, father,' said Little Dorrit, trying to bring
her sobbing to a close.

'Certainly I will go, my dear. I forgot; your eyes are rather red.

There! Cheer up, Amy. Don't be uneasy about me. I am quite
myself again, my love, quite myself. Go to your room, Amy, and
make yourself look comfortable and pleasant to receive Mr Clennam.'

'I would rather stay in my own room, Father,' returned Little
Dorrit, finding it more difficult than before to regain her
composure. 'I would far rather not see Mr Clennam.'

'Oh, fie, fie, my dear, that's folly. Mr Clennam is a very
gentlemanly man--very gentlemanly. A little reserved at times; but
I will say extremely gentlemanly. I couldn't think of your not
being here to receive Mr Clennam, my dear, especially this
afternoon. So go and freshen yourself up, Amy; go and freshen
yourself up, like a good girl.'

Thus directed, Little Dorrit dutifully rose and obeyed: only
pausing for a moment as she went out of the room, to give her
sister a kiss of reconciliation. Upon which, that young lady,


feeling much harassed in her mind, and having for the time worn out
the wish with which she generally relieved it, conceived and
executed the brilliant idea of wishing Old Nandy dead, rather than
that he should come bothering there like a disgusting, tiresome,
wicked wretch, and making mischief between two sisters.

The Father of the Marshalsea, even humming a tune, and wearing his
black velvet cap a little on one side, so much improved were his
spirits, went down into the yard, and found his old pensioner
standing there hat in hand just within the gate, as he had stood
all this time. 'Come, Nandy!' said he, with great suavity. 'Come
up-stairs, Nandy; you know the way; why don't you come up-stairs?'
He went the length, on this occasion, of giving him his hand and
saying, 'How are you, Nandy? Are you pretty well?' To which that
vocalist returned, 'I thank you, honoured sir, I am all the better
for seeing your honour.' As they went along the yard, the Father
of the Marshalsea presented him to a Collegian of recent date. 'An
old acquaintance of mine, sir, an old pensioner.' And then said,
'Be covered, my good Nandy; put your hat on,' with great
consideration.

His patronage did not stop here; for he charged Maggy to get the
tea ready, and instructed her to buy certain tea-cakes, fresh
butter, eggs, cold ham, and shrimps: to purchase which collation he
gave her a bank-note for ten pounds, laying strict injunctions on
her to be careful of the change. These preparations were in an
advanced stage of progress, and his daughter Amy had come back with
her work, when Clennam presented himself; whom he most graciously
received, and besought to join their meal.

'Amy, my love, you know Mr Clennam even better than I have the
happiness of doing. Fanny, my dear, you are acquainted with Mr
Clennam.' Fanny acknowledged him haughtily; the position she
tacitly took up in all such cases being that there was a vast
conspiracy to insult the family by not understanding it, or
sufficiently deferring to it, and here was one of the conspirators.

'This, Mr Clennam, you must know, is an old pensioner of mine, Old
Nandy, a very faithful old man.' (He always spoke of him as an
object of great antiquity, but he was two or three years younger
than himself.) 'Let me see. You know Plornish, I think? I think
my daughter Amy has mentioned to me that you know poor Plornish?'

'O yes!' said Arthur Clennam.

'Well, sir, this is Mrs Plornish's father.'

'Indeed? I am glad to see him.'

'You would be more glad if you knew his many good qualities,
Mr Clennam.'

'I hope I shall come to know them through knowing him,' said
Arthur, secretly pitying the bowed and submissive figure.

'It is a holiday with him, and he comes to see his old friends, who
are always glad to see him,' observed the Father of the Marshalsea.

Then he added behind his hand, ('Union, poor old fellow. Out for
the day.')

By this time Maggy, quietly assisted by her Little Mother, had
spread the board, and the repast was ready. It being hot weather
and the prison very close, the window was as wide open as it could


be pushed. 'If Maggy will spread that newspaper on the windowsill,
my dear,' remarked the Father complacently and in a half
whisper to Little Dorrit, 'my old pensioner can have his tea there,
while we are having ours.'

So, with a gulf between him and the good company of about a foot in
width, standard measure, Mrs Plornish's father was handsomely
regaled. Clennam had never seen anything like his magnanimous
protection by that other Father, he of the Marshalsea; and was lost
in the contemplation of its many wonders.

The most striking of these was perhaps the relishing manner in
which he remarked on the pensioner's infirmities and failings, as
if he were a gracious Keeper making a running commentary on the
decline of the harmless animal he exhibited.

'Not ready for more ham yet, Nandy? Why, how slow you are! (His
last teeth,' he explained to the company, 'are going, poor old
boy.')

At another time, he said, 'No shrimps, Nandy?' and on his not
instantly replying, observed, ('His hearing is becoming very
defective. He'll be deaf directly.')

At another time he asked him, 'Do you walk much, Nandy, about the
yard within the walls of that place of yours?'

'No, sir; no. I haven't any great liking for that.'

'No, to be sure,' he assented. 'Very natural.' Then he privately
informed the circle ('Legs going.')

Once he asked the pensioner, in that general clemency which asked
him anything to keep him afloat, how old his younger grandchild
was?

'John Edward,' said the pensioner, slowly laying down his knife and
fork to consider. 'How old, sir? Let me think now.'

The Father of the Marshalsea tapped his forehead ('Memory weak.')

'John Edward, sir? Well, I really forget. I couldn't say at this
minute, sir, whether it's two and two months, or whether it's two
and five months. It's one or the other.'

'Don't distress yourself by worrying your mind about it,' he
returned, with infinite forbearance. ('Faculties evidently
decaying--old man rusts in the life he leads!')

The more of these discoveries that he persuaded himself he made in
the pensioner, the better he appeared to like him; and when he got
out of his chair after tea to bid the pensioner good-bye, on his
intimating that he feared, honoured sir, his time was running out,
he made himself look as erect and strong as possible.

'We don't call this a shilling, Nandy, you know,' he said, putting
one in his hand. 'We call it tobacco.'

'Honoured sir, I thank you. It shall buy tobacco. My thanks and
duty to Miss Amy and Miss Fanny. I wish you good night, Mr
Clennam.'

'And mind you don't forget us, you know, Nandy,' said the Father.
'You must come again, mind, whenever you have an afternoon. You


must not come out without seeing us, or we shall be jealous. Good
night, Nandy. Be very careful how you descend the stairs, Nandy;
they are rather uneven and worn.' With that he stood on the
landing, watching the old man down: and when he came into the room
again, said, with a solemn satisfaction on him, 'A melancholy sight
that, Mr Clennam, though one has the consolation of knowing that he
doesn't feel it himself. The poor old fellow is a dismal wreck.
Spirit broken and gone--pulverised--crushed out of him, sir,
completely!'

As Clennam had a purpose in remaining, he said what he could
responsive to these sentiments, and stood at the window with their
enunciator, while Maggy and her Little Mother washed the teaservice
and cleared it away. He noticed that his companion stood
at the window with the air of an affable and accessible Sovereign,
and that, when any of his people in the yard below looked up, his
recognition of their salutes just stopped short of a blessing.

When Little Dorrit had her work on the table, and Maggy hers on the
bedstead, Fanny fell to tying her bonnet as a preliminary to her
departure. Arthur, still having his purpose, still remained. At
this time the door opened, without any notice, and Mr Tip came in.
He kissed Amy as she started up to meet him, nodded to Fanny,
nodded to his father, gloomed on the visitor without further
recognition, and sat down.

'Tip, dear,' said Little Dorrit, mildly, shocked by this, 'don't
you see--'

'Yes, I see, Amy. If you refer to the presence of any visitor you
have here--I say, if you refer to that,' answered Tip, jerking his
head with emphasis towards his shoulder nearest Clennam, 'I see!'

'Is that all you say?'

'That's all I say. And I suppose,' added the lofty young man,
after a moment's pause, 'that visitor will understand me, when I
say that's all I say. In short, I suppose the visitor will
understand that he hasn't used me like a gentleman.'

'I do not understand that,' observed the obnoxious personage
referred to with tranquillity.

'No? Why, then, to make it clearer to you, sir, I beg to let you
know that when I address what I call a properly-worded appeal, and
an urgent appeal, and a delicate appeal, to an individual, for a
small temporary accommodation, easily within his power--easily
within his power, mind!--and when that individual writes back word
to me that he begs to be excused, I consider that he doesn't treat
me like a gentleman.'

The Father of the Marshalsea, who had surveyed his son in silence,
no sooner heard this sentiment, than he began in angry voice:-


'How dare you--' But his son stopped him.

'Now, don't ask me how I dare, father, because that's bosh. As to
the fact of the line of conduct I choose to adopt towards the
individual present, you ought to be proud of my showing a proper
spirit.'

'I should think so!' cried Fanny.


'A proper spirit?' said the Father. 'Yes, a proper spirit; a
becoming spirit. Is it come to this that my son teaches me--ME-spirit!'


'Now, don't let us bother about it, father, or have any row on the
subject. I have fully made up my mind that the individual present
has not treated me like a gentleman. And there's an end of it.'

'But there is not an end of it, sir,' returned the Father. 'But
there shall not be an end of it. You have made up your mind? You
have made up your mind?'

'Yes, I have. What's the good of keeping on like that?'

'Because,' returned the Father, in a great heat, 'you had no right
to make up your mind to what is monstrous, to what is--ha--immoral,
to what is--hum--parricidal. No, Mr Clennam, I beg, sir. Don't
ask me to desist; there is a--hum--a general principle involved
here, which rises even above considerations of--ha--hospitality.
I object to the assertion made by my son. I--ha--I personally
repel it.'

'Why, what is it to you, father?' returned the son, over his
shoulder.

'What is it to me, sir? I have a--hum--a spirit, sir, that will
not endure it. I,' he took out his pocket-handkerchief again and
dabbed his face. 'I am outraged and insulted by it. Let me
suppose the case that I myself may at a certain time--ha--or times,
have made a--hum--an appeal, and a properly-worded appeal, and a
delicate appeal, and an urgent appeal to some individual for a
small temporary accommodation. Let me suppose that that
accommodation could have been easily extended, and was not
extended, and that that individual informed me that he begged to be
excused. Am I to be told by my own son, that I therefore received
treatment not due to a gentleman, and that I--ha--I submitted to
it?'

His daughter Amy gently tried to calm him, but he would not on any
account be calmed. He said his spirit was up, and wouldn't endure
this.

Was he to be told that, he wished to know again, by his own son on
his own hearth, to his own face? Was that humiliation to be put
upon him by his own blood?

'You are putting it on yourself, father, and getting into all this
injury of your own accord!' said the young gentleman morosely.
'What I have made up my mind about has nothing to do with you.
What I said had nothing to do with you. Why need you go trying on
other people's hats?'

'I reply it has everything to do with me,' returned the Father. 'I
point out to you, sir, with indignation, that--hum--the--ha-delicacy
and peculiarity of your father's position should strike
you dumb, sir, if nothing else should, in laying down such--ha-such
unnatural principles. Besides; if you are not filial, sir, if
you discard that duty, you are at least--hum--not a Christian? Are
you--ha--an Atheist? And is it Christian, let me ask you, to
stigmatise and denounce an individual for begging to be excused
this time, when the same individual may--ha--respond with the
required accommodation next time? Is it the part of a Christian
not to--hum--not to try him again?' He had worked himself into
quite a religious glow and fervour.


'I see precious well,' said Mr Tip, rising, 'that I shall get no
sensible or fair argument here to-night, and so the best thing I
can do is to cut. Good night, Amy. Don't be vexed. I am very
sorry it happens here, and you here, upon my soul I am; but I can't
altogether part with my spirit, even for your sake, old girl.'

With those words he put on his hat and went out, accompanied by
Miss Fanny; who did not consider it spirited on her part to take
leave of Clennam with any less opposing demonstration than a stare,
importing that she had always known him for one of the large body
of conspirators.

When they were gone, the Father of the Marshalsea was at first
inclined to sink into despondency again, and would have done so,
but that a gentleman opportunely came up within a minute or two to
attend him to the Snuggery. It was the gentleman Clennam had seen
on the night of his own accidental detention there, who had that
impalpable grievance about the misappropriated Fund on which the
Marshal was supposed to batten. He presented himself as deputation
to escort the Father to the Chair, it being an occasion on which he
had promised to preside over the assembled Collegians in the
enjoyment of a little Harmony.

'Such, you see, Mr Clennam,' said the Father, 'are the
incongruities of my position here. But a public duty! No man, I
am sure, would more readily recognise a public duty than yourself.'

Clennam besought him not to delay a moment.
'Amy, my dear, if you can persuade Mr Clennam to stay longer, I can
leave the honours of our poor apology for an establishment with
confidence in your hands, and perhaps you may do something towards
erasing from Mr Clennam's mind the--ha--untoward and unpleasant
circumstance which has occurred since tea-time.'

Clennam assured him that it had made no impression on his mind, and
therefore required no erasure.

'My dear sir,' said the Father, with a removal of his black cap and
a grasp of Clennam's hand, combining to express the safe receipt of
his note and enclosure that afternoon, 'Heaven ever bless you!'

So, at last, Clennam's purpose in remaining was attained, and he
could speak to Little Dorrit with nobody by. Maggy counted as
nobody, and she was by.

CHAPTER 32

More Fortune-Telling

Maggy sat at her work in her great white cap with its quantity of
opaque frilling hiding what profile she had (she had none to
spare), and her serviceable eye brought to bear upon her
occupation, on the window side of the room. What with her flapping
cap, and what with her unserviceable eye, she was quite partitioned
off from her Little Mother, whose seat was opposite the window.
The tread and shuffle of feet on the pavement of the yard had much
diminished since the taking of the Chair, the tide of Collegians
having set strongly in the direction of Harmony. Some few who had
no music in their souls, or no money in their pockets, dawdled


about; and the old spectacle of the visitor-wife and the depressed
unseasoned prisoner still lingered in corners, as broken cobwebs
and such unsightly discomforts draggle in corners of other places.
It was the quietest time the College knew, saving the night hours
when the Collegians took the benefit of the act of sleep. The
occasional rattle of applause upon the tables of the Snuggery,
denoted the successful termination of a morsel of Harmony; or the
responsive acceptance, by the united children, of some toast or
sentiment offered to them by their Father. Occasionally, a vocal
strain more sonorous than the generality informed the listener that
some boastful bass was in blue water, or in the hunting field, or
with the reindeer, or on the mountain, or among the heather; but
the Marshal of the Marshalsea knew better, and had got him hard and
fast.

As Arthur Clennam moved to sit down by the side of Little Dorrit,
she trembled so that she had much ado to hold her needle. Clennam
gently put his hand upon her work, and said, 'Dear Little Dorrit,
let me lay it down.'

She yielded it to him, and he put it aside. Her hands were then
nervously clasping together, but he took one of them.
'How seldom I have seen you lately, Little Dorrit!'

'I have been busy, sir.'

'But I heard only to-day,' said Clennam, 'by mere accident, of your
having been with those good people close by me. Why not come to
me, then?'

'I--I don't know. Or rather, I thought you might be busy too. You
generally are now, are you not?'

He saw her trembling little form and her downcast face, and the
eyes that drooped the moment they were raised to his--he saw them
almost with as much concern as tenderness.

'My child, your manner is so changed!'

The trembling was now quite beyond her control. Softly withdrawing
her hand, and laying it in her other hand, she sat before him with
her head bent and her whole form trembling.

'My own Little Dorrit,' said Clennam, compassionately.

She burst into tears. Maggy looked round of a sudden, and stared
for at least a minute; but did not interpose. Clennam waited some
little while before he spoke again.

'I cannot bear,' he said then, 'to see you weep; but I hope this is
a relief to an overcharged heart.'

'Yes it is, sir. Nothing but that.'

'Well, well! I feared you would think too much of what passed here
just now. It is of no moment; not the least. I am only
unfortunate to have come in the way. Let it go by with these
tears. It is not worth one of them. One of them? Such an idle
thing should be repeated, with my glad consent, fifty times a day,
to save you a moment's heart-ache, Little Dorrit.'

She had taken courage now, and answered, far more in her usual
manner, 'You are so good! But even if there was nothing else in it
to be sorry for and ashamed of, it is such a bad return to you--'


'Hush!' said Clennam, smiling and touching her lips with his hand.
'Forgetfulness in you who remember so many and so much, would be
new indeed. Shall I remind you that I am not, and that I never
was, anything but the friend whom you agreed to trust? No. You
remember it, don't you?'

'I try to do so, or I should have broken the promise just now, when
my mistaken brother was here. You will consider his bringing-up in
this place, and will not judge him hardly, poor fellow, I know!'
In raising her eyes with these words, she observed his face more
nearly than she had done yet, and said, with a quick change of
tone, 'You have not been ill, Mr Clennam?'

'No.'

'Nor tried? Nor hurt?' she asked him, anxiously.

It fell to Clennam now, to be not quite certain how to answer. He
said in reply:

'To speak the truth, I have been a little troubled, but it is over.

Do I show it so plainly? I ought to have more fortitude and selfcommand
than that. I thought I had. I must learn them of you.
Who could teach me better!'

He never thought that she saw in him what no one else could see.
He never thought that in the whole world there were no other eyes
that looked upon him with the same light and strength as hers.

'But it brings me to something that I wish to say,' he continued,
'and therefore I will not quarrel even with my own face for telling
tales and being unfaithful to me. Besides, it is a privilege and
pleasure to confide in my Little Dorrit. Let me confess then,
that, forgetting how grave I was, and how old I was, and how the
time for such things had gone by me with the many years of sameness
and little happiness that made up my long life far away, without
marking it--that, forgetting all this, I fancied I loved some one.'

'Do I know her, sir?' asked Little Dorrit.

'No, my child.'

'Not the lady who has been kind to me for your sake?'

'Flora. No, no. Do you think--'

'I never quite thought so,' said Little Dorrit, more to herself
than him. 'I did wonder at it a little.'

'Well!' said Clennam, abiding by the feeling that had fallen on him
in the avenue on the night of the roses, the feeling that he was an
older man, who had done with that tender part of life, 'I found out
my mistake, and I thought about it a little--in short, a good
deal--and got wiser. Being wiser, I counted up my years and
considered what I am, and looked back, and looked forward, and
found that I should soon be grey. I found that I had climbed the
hill, and passed the level ground upon the top, and was descending
quickly.'

If he had known the sharpness of the pain he caused the patient
heart, in speaking thus! While doing it, too, with the purpose of
easing and serving her.


'I found that the day when any such thing would have been graceful
in me, or good in me, or hopeful or happy for me or any one in
connection with me, was gone, and would never shine again.'

O! If he had known, if he had known! If he could have seen the
dagger in his hand, and the cruel wounds it struck in the faithful
bleeding breast of his Little Dorrit!

'All that is over, and I have turned my face from it. Why do I
speak of this to Little Dorrit? Why do I show you, my child, the
space of years that there is between us, and recall to you that I
have passed, by the amount of your whole life, the time that is
present to you?'

'Because you trust me, I hope. Because you know that nothing can
touch you without touching me; that nothing can make you happy or
unhappy, but it must make me, who am so grateful to you, the same.'

He heard the thrill in her voice, he saw her earnest face, he saw
her clear true eyes, he saw the quickened bosom that would have
joyfully thrown itself before him to receive a mortal wound
directed at his breast, with the dying cry, 'I love him!' and the
remotest suspicion of the truth never dawned upon his mind. No.
He saw the devoted little creature with her worn shoes, in her
common dress, in her jail-home; a slender child in body, a strong
heroine in soul; and the light of her domestic story made all else
dark to him.

'For those reasons assuredly, Little Dorrit, but for another too.
So far removed, so different, and so much older, I am the better
fitted for your friend and adviser. I mean, I am the more easily
to be trusted; and any little constraint that you might feel with
another, may vanish before me. Why have you kept so retired from
me? Tell me.'

'I am better here. My place and use are here. I am much better
here,' said Little Dorrit, faintly.

'So you said that day upon the bridge. I thought of it much
afterwards. Have you no secret you could entrust to me, with hope
and comfort, if you would!'

'Secret? No, I have no secret,' said Little Dorrit in some
trouble.

They had been speaking in low voices; more because it was natural
to what they said to adopt that tone, than with any care to reserve
it from Maggy at her work. All of a sudden Maggy stared again, and
this time spoke:

'I say! Little Mother!'

'Yes, Maggy.'

'If you an't got no secret of your own to tell him, tell him that
about the Princess. She had a secret, you know.'

'The Princess had a secret?' said Clennam, in some surprise. 'What
Princess was that, Maggy?'

'Lor! How you do go and bother a gal of ten,' said Maggy,
'catching the poor thing up in that way. Whoever said the Princess
had a secret? _I_ never said so.'


'I beg your pardon. I thought you did.'

'No, I didn't. How could I, when it was her as wanted to find it
out? It was the little woman as had the secret, and she was always
a spinning at her wheel. And so she says to her, why do you keep
it there? And so the t'other one says to her, no I don't; and so
the t'other one says to her, yes you do; and then they both goes to
the cupboard, and there it is. And she wouldn't go into the
Hospital, and so she died. You know, Little Mother; tell him that.

For it was a reg'lar good secret, that was!' cried Maggy, hugging
herself.

Arthur looked at Little Dorrit for help to comprehend this, and was
struck by seeing her so timid and red. But, when she told him that
it was only a Fairy Tale she had one day made up for Maggy, and
that there was nothing in it which she wouldn't be ashamed to tell
again to anybody else, even if she could remember it, he left the
subject where it was.

However, he returned to his own subject by first entreating her to
see him oftener, and to remember that it was impossible to have a
stronger interest in her welfare than he had, or to be more set
upon promoting it than he was. When she answered fervently, she
well knew that, she never forgot it, he touched upon his second and
more delicate point--the suspicion he had formed.

'Little Dorrit,' he said, taking her hand again, and speaking lower
than he had spoken yet, so that even Maggy in the small room could
not hear him, 'another word. I have wanted very much to say this
to you; I have tried for opportunities. Don't mind me, who, for
the matter of years, might be your father or your uncle. Always
think of me as quite an old man. I know that all your devotion
centres in this room, and that nothing to the last will ever tempt
you away from the duties you discharge here. If I were not sure of
it, I should, before now, have implored you, and implored your
father, to let me make some provision for you in a more suitable
place. But you may have an interest--I will not say, now, though
even that might be--may have, at another time, an interest in some
one else; an interest not incompatible with your affection here.'

She was very, very pale, and silently shook her head.

'It may be, dear Little Dorrit.'

'No. No. No.' She shook her head, after each slow repetition of
the word, with an air of quiet desolation that he remembered long
afterwards. The time came when he remembered it well, long
afterwards, within those prison walls; within that very room.

'But, if it ever should be, tell me so, my dear child. Entrust the
truth to me, point out the object of such an interest to me, and I
will try with all the zeal, and honour, and friendship and respect
that I feel for you, good Little Dorrit of my heart, to do you a
lasting service.'

'O thank you, thank you! But, O no, O no, O no!' She said this,
looking at him with her work-worn hands folded together, and in the
same resigned accents as before.

'I press for no confidence now. I only ask you to repose
unhesitating trust in me.'


'Can I do less than that, when you are so good!'

'Then you will trust me fully? Will have no secret unhappiness, or
anxiety, concealed from me?'

'Almost none.'

'And you have none now?'

She shook her head. But she was very pale.

'When I lie down to-night, and my thoughts come back--as they will,
for they do every night, even when I have not seen you--to this sad
place, I may believe that there is no grief beyond this room, now,
and its usual occupants, which preys on Little Dorrit's mind?'

She seemed to catch at these words--that he remembered, too, long
afterwards--and said, more brightly, 'Yes, Mr Clennam; yes, you
may!'

The crazy staircase, usually not slow to give notice when any one
was coming up or down, here creaked under a quick tread, and a
further sound was heard upon it, as if a little steam-engine with
more steam than it knew what to do with, were working towards the
room. As it approached, which it did very rapidly, it laboured
with increased energy; and, after knocking at the door, it sounded
as if it were stooping down and snorting in at the keyhole.

Before Maggy could open the door, Mr Pancks, opening it from
without, stood without a hat and with his bare head in the wildest
condition, looking at Clennam and Little Dorrit, over her shoulder.

He had a lighted cigar in his hand, and brought with him airs of
ale and tobacco smoke.

'Pancks the gipsy,' he observed out of breath, 'fortune-telling.'
He stood dingily smiling, and breathing hard at them, with a most
curious air; as if, instead of being his proprietor's grubber, he
were the triumphant proprietor of the Marshalsea, the Marshal, all
the turnkeys, and all the Collegians. In his great selfsatisfaction
he put his cigar to his lips (being evidently no
smoker), and took such a pull at it, with his right eye shut up
tight for the purpose, that he underwent a convulsion of shuddering
and choking. But even in the midst of that paroxysm, he still
essayed to repeat his favourite introduction of himself, 'Pa-ancks
the gi-ipsy, fortune-telling.'

'I am spending the evening with the rest of 'em,' said Pancks.
'I've been singing. I've been taking a part in White sand and grey
sand. I don't know anything about it. Never mind. I'll take any
part in anything. It's all the same, if you're loud enough.'

At first Clennam supposed him to be intoxicated. But he soon
perceived that though he might be a little the worse (or better)
for ale, the staple of his excitement was not brewed from malt, or
distilled from any grain or berry.

'How d'ye do, Miss Dorrit?' said Pancks. 'I thought you wouldn't
mind my running round, and looking in for a moment. Mr Clennam I
heard was here, from Mr Dorrit. How are you, Sir?'

Clennam thanked him, and said he was glad to see him so gay.

'Gay!' said Pancks. 'I'm in wonderful feather, sir. I can't stop


a minute, or I shall be missed, and I don't want 'em to miss me.--
Eh, Miss Dorrit?'

He seemed to have an insatiate delight in appealing to her and
looking at her; excitedly sticking his hair up at the same moment,
like a dark species of cockatoo.

'I haven't been here half an hour. I knew Mr Dorrit was in the
chair, and I said, I'll go and support him!" I ought to be down in
Bleeding Heart Yard by rights; but I can worry them to-morrow.--Eh
Miss Dorrit?'

His little black eyes sparkled electrically. His very hair seemed
to sparkle as he roughened it. He was in that highly-charged state
that one might have expected to draw sparks and snaps from him by
presenting a knuckle to any part of his figure.

'Capital company here' said Pancks.--'EhMiss Dorrit?'

She was half afraid of himand irresolute what to say. He
laughedwith a nod towards Clennam.

'Don't mind himMiss Dorrit. He's one of us. We agreed that you
shouldn't take on to mind me before peoplebut we didn't mean Mr
Clennam. He's one of us. He's in it. An't youMr Clennam?--Eh
Miss Dorrit?'
The excitement of this strange creature was fast communicating
itself to Clennam. Little Dorrit with amazementsaw thisand
observed that they exchanged quick looks.

'I was making a remark' said Pancks'but I declare I forget what
it was. OhI know! Capital company here. I've been treating 'em
all round.--EhMiss Dorrit?'

'Very generous of you' she returnednoticing another of the quick
looks between the two.

'Not at all' said Pancks. 'Don't mention it. I'm coming into my
propertythat's the fact. I can afford to be liberal. I think
I'll give 'em a treat here. Tables laid in the yard. Bread in
stacks. Pipes in faggots. Tobacco in hayloads. Roast beef and
plum-pudding for every one. Quart of double stout a head. Pint of
wine tooif they like itand the authorities give permission.--
EhMiss Dorrit?'

She was thrown into such a confusion by his manneror rather by
Clennam's growing understanding of his manner (for she looked to
him after every fresh appeal and cockatoo demonstration on the part
of Mr Pancks)that she only moved her lips in answerwithout
forming any word.

'And ohby-the-bye!' said Pancks'you were to live to know what
was behind us on that little hand of yours. And so you shallyou
shallmy darling.--EhMiss Dorrit?'

He had suddenly checked himself. Where he got all the additional
black prongs fromthat now flew up all over his head like the
myriads of points that break out in the large change of a great
fireworkwas a wonderful mystery.

'But I shall be missed;' he came back to that; 'and I don't want
'em to miss me. Mr Clennamyou and I made a bargain. I said you
should find me stick to it. You shall find me stick to it now


sirif you'll step out of the room a moment. Miss DorritI wish
you good night. Miss DorritI wish you good fortune.'


He rapidly shook her by both handsand puffed down stairs. Arthur
followed him with such a hurried stepthat he had very nearly
tumbled over him on the last landingand rolled him down into the
yard.


'What is itfor Heaven's sake!' Arthur demandedwhen they burst
out there both together.


'Stop a momentsir. Mr Rugg. Let me introduce him.' With those
words he presented another man without a hatand also with a
cigarand also surrounded with a halo of ale and tobacco smoke
which manthough not so excited as himselfwas in a state which
would have been akin to lunacy but for its fading into sober method
when compared with the rampancy of Mr Pancks.
'Mr ClennamMr Rugg' said Pancks. 'Stop a moment. Come to the
pump.'


They adjourned to the pump. Mr Pancksinstantly putting his head
under the spoutrequested Mr Rugg to take a good strong turn at
the handle. Mr Rugg complying to the letterMr Pancks came forth
snorting and blowing to some purposeand dried himself on his
handkerchief.


'I am the clearer for that' he gasped to Clennam standing
astonished. 'But upon my soulto hear her father making speeches
in that chairknowing what we knowand to see her up in that room
in that dressknowing what we knowis enough to--give me a back
Mr Rugg--a little highersir--that'll do!'


Then and thereon that Marshalsea pavementin the shades of
eveningdid Mr Pancksof all mankindfly over the head and
shoulders of Mr Rugg of PentonvilleGeneral AgentAccountantand
Recoverer of Debts. Alighting on his feethe took Clennam by the
button-holeled him behind the pumpand pantingly produced from
his pocket a bundle of papers. Mr Ruggalsopantingly produced
from his pocket a bundle of papers.


'Stay!' said Clennam in a whisper.'You have made a discovery.'


Mr Pancks answeredwith an unction which there is no language to
convey'We rather think so.'


'Does it implicate any one?'


'How implicatesir?'


'In any suppression or wrong dealing of any kind?'


'Not a bit of it.'


'Thank God!' said Clennam to himself. 'Now show me.'
'You are to understand'--snorted Pancksfeverishly unfolding
papersand speaking in short high-pressure blasts of sentences
'Where's the Pedigree? Where's Schedule number fourMr Rugg? Oh!


all right! Here we are.--You are to understand that we are this
very day virtually complete. We shan't be legally for a day or
two. Call it at the outside a week. We've been at it night and
day for I don't know how long. Mr Ruggyou know how long? Never
mind. Don't say. You'll only confuse me. You shall tell herMr
Clennam. Not till we give you leave. Where's that rough totalMr



Rugg? Oh! Here we are! There sir! That's what you'll have to
break to her. That man's your Father of the Marshalsea!'

CHAPTER 33

Mrs Merdle's Complaint

Resigning herself to inevitable fate by making the best of those
peoplethe Migglesesand submitting her philosophy to the draught
upon itof which she had foreseen the likelihood in her interview
with ArthurMrs Gowan handsomely resolved not to oppose her son's
marriage. In her progress toand happy arrival atthis
resolutionshe was possibly influencednot only by her maternal
affections but by three politic considerations.

Of thesethe first may have been that her son had never signified
the smallest intention to ask her consentor any mistrust of his
ability to dispense with it; the secondthat the pension bestowed
upon her by a grateful country (and a Barnacle) would be freed from
any little filial inroadswhen her Henry should be married to the
darling only child of a man in very easy circumstances; the third
that Henry's debts must clearly be paid down upon the altar-railing
by his father-in-law. Whento these three-fold points of prudence
there is added the fact that Mrs Gowan yielded her consent the
moment she knew of Mr Meagles having yielded hisand that Mr
Meagles's objection to the marriage had been the sole obstacle in
its way all alongit becomes the height of probability that the
relict of the deceased Commissioner of nothing particularturned
these ideas in her sagacious mind.

Among her connections and acquaintanceshowevershe maintained
her individual dignity and the dignity of the blood of the
Barnaclesby diligently nursing the pretence that it was a most
unfortunate business; that she was sadly cut up by it; that this
was a perfect fascination under which Henry laboured; that she had
opposed it for a long timebut what could a mother do; and the
like. She had already called Arthur Clennam to bear witness to
this fableas a friend of the Meagles family; and she followed up
the move by now impounding the family itself for the same purpose.
In the first interview she accorded to Mr Meaglesshe slided
herself into the position of disconsolately but gracefully yielding
to irresistible pressure. With the utmost politeness and goodbreeding
she feigned that it was she--not he--who had made the
difficultyand who at length gave way; and that the sacrifice was
hers--not his. The same feintwith the same polite dexterityshe
foisted on Mrs Meaglesas a conjuror might have forced a card on
that innocent lady; andwhen her future daughter-in-law was
presented to her by her sonshe said on embracing her'My dear
what have you done to Henry that has bewitched him so!' at the same
time allowing a few tears to carry before themin little pills
the cosmetic powder on her nose; as a delicate but touching signal
that she suffered much inwardly for the show of composure with
which she bore her misfortune.

Among the friends of Mrs Gowan (who piqued herself at once on being
Societyand on maintaining intimate and easy relations with that
Power)Mrs Merdle occupied a front row. Truethe Hampton Court
Bohemianswithout exceptionturned up their noses at Merdle as an
upstart; but they turned them down againby falling flat on their
faces to worship his wealth. In which compensating adjustment of
their nosesthey were pretty much like TreasuryBarand Bishop


and all the rest of them.

To Mrs MerdleMrs Gowan repaired on a visit of self-condolence
after having given the gracious consent aforesaid. She drove into
town for the purpose in a one-horse carriage irreverently called at
that period of English historya pill-box. It belonged to a jobmaster
in a small waywho drove it himselfand who jobbed it by
the dayor hourto most of the old ladies in Hampton Court
Palace; but it was a point of ceremonyin that encampmentthat
the whole equipage should be tacitly regarded as the private
property of the jobber for the time beingand that the job-master
should betray personal knowledge of nobody but the jobber in
possession. So the Circumlocution Barnacleswho were the largest
job-masters in the universealways pretended to know of no other
job but the job immediately in hand.

Mrs Merdle was at homeand was in her nest of crimson and gold
with the parrot on a neighbouring stem watching her with his head
on one sideas if he took her for another splendid parrot of a
larger species. To whom entered Mrs Gowanwith her favourite
green fanwhich softened the light on the spots of bloom.

'My dear soul' said Mrs Gowantapping the back of her friend's
hand with this fan after a little indifferent conversation'you
are my only comfort. That affair of Henry's that I told you ofis
to take place. Nowhow does it strike you? I am dying to know
because you represent and express Society so well.'

Mrs Merdle reviewed the bosom which Society was accustomed to
review; and having ascertained that show-window of Mr Merdle's and
the London jewellers' to be in good orderreplied:

'As to marriage on the part of a manmy dearSociety requires
that he should retrieve his fortunes by marriage. Society requires
that he should gain by marriage. Society requires that he should
found a handsome establishment by marriage. Society does not see
otherwisewhat he has to do with marriage. Birdbe quiet!'

For the parrot on his cage above thempresiding over the
conference as if he were a judge (and indeed he looked rather like
one)had wound up the exposition with a shriek.

'Cases there are' said Mrs Merdledelicately crooking the little
finger of her favourite handand making her remarks neater by that
neat action; 'cases there are where a man is not young or elegant
and is richand has a handsome establishment already. Those are
of a different kind. In such cases--'

Mrs Merdle shrugged her snowy shoulders and put her hand upon the
jewel-standchecking a little coughas though to add'whya man
looks out for this sort of thingmy dear.' Then the parrot
shrieked againand she put up her glass to look at himand said
'Bird! Do be quiet!'
'Butyoung men' resumed Mrs Merdle'and by young men you know
what I meanmy love--I mean people's sons who have the world
before them--they must place themselves in a better position
towards Society by marriageor Society really will not have any
patience with their making fools of themselves. Dreadfully worldly
all this sounds' said Mrs Merdleleaning back in her nest and
putting up her glass again'does it not?'

'But it is true' said Mrs Gowanwith a highly moral air.

'My dearit is not to be disputed for a moment' returned Mrs


Merdle; 'because Society has made up its mind on the subjectand
there is nothing more to be said. If we were in a more primitive
stateif we lived under roofs of leavesand kept cows and sheep
and creatures instead of banker's accounts (which would be
delicious; my dearI am pastoral to a degreeby nature)well and
good. But we don't live under leavesand keep cows and sheep and
creatures. I perfectly exhaust myself sometimesin pointing out
the distinction to Edmund Sparkler.'

Mrs Gowanlooking over her green fan when this young gentleman's
name was mentionedreplied as follows:

'My loveyou know the wretched state of the country--those
unfortunate concessions of John Barnacle's!--and you therefore know
the reasons for my being as poor as Thingummy.'

'A church mouse?' Mrs Merdle suggested with a smile.

'I was thinking of the other proverbial church person--Job' said
Mrs Gowan. 'Either will do. It would be idle to disguise
consequentlythat there is a wide difference between the position
of your son and mine. I may addtoothat Henry has talent--'

'Which Edmund certainly has not' said Mrs Merdlewith the
greatest suavity.

'--and that his talentcombined with disappointment' Mrs Gowan
went on'has led him into a pursuit which--ah dear me! You know
my dear. Such being Henry's different positionthe question is
what is the most inferior class of marriage to which I can
reconcile myself.'

Mrs Merdle was so much engaged with the contemplation of her arms
(beautiful-formed armsand the very thing for bracelets)that she
omitted to reply for a while. Roused at length by the silenceshe
folded the armsand with admirable presence of mind looked her
friend full in the faceand said interrogatively'Ye-es? And
then?'

'And thenmy dear' said Mrs Gowan not quite so sweetly as before
'I should be glad to hear what you have to say to it.'

Here the parrotwho had been standing on one leg since he screamed
lastburst into a fit of laughterbobbed himself derisively up
and down on both legsand finished by standing on one leg again
and pausing for a replywith his head as much awry as he could
possibly twist it.

'Sounds mercenary to ask what the gentleman is to get with the
lady' said Mrs Merdle; 'but Society is perhaps a little mercenary
you knowmy dear.'

'From what I can make out' said Mrs Gowan'I believe I may say
that Henry will be relieved from debt--'

'Much in debt?' asked Mrs Merdle through her eyeglass.

'Why tolerablyI should think' said Mrs Gowan.

'Meaning the usual thing; I understand; just so' Mrs Merdle
observed in a comfortable sort of way.

'And that the father will make them an allowance of three hundred
a-yearor perhaps altogether something morewhichin Italy-'


'Oh! Going to Italy?' said Mrs Merdle.

'For Henry to study. You need be at no loss to guess whymy dear.

That dreadful Art--'

True. Mrs Merdle hastened to spare the feelings of her afflicted
friend. She understood. Say no more!

'And that' said Mrs Gowanshaking her despondent head'that's
all. That' repeated Mrs Gowanfurling her green fan for the
momentand tapping her chin with it (it was on the way to being a
double chin; might be called a chin and a half at present)'that's
all! On the death of the old peopleI suppose there will be more
to come; but how it may be restricted or locked upI don't know.
And as to thatthey may live for ever. My dearthey are just the
kind of people to do it.'

NowMrs Merdlewho really knew her friend Society pretty well
and who knew what Society's mothers wereand what Society's
daughters wereand what Society's matrimonial market wasand how
prices ruled in itand what scheming and counter-scheming took
place for the high buyersand what bargaining and huckstering went
onthought in the depths of her capacious bosom that this was a
sufficiently good catch. Knowinghoweverwhat was expected of
herand perceiving the exact nature of the fiction to be nursed
she took it delicately in her armsand put her required
contribution of gloss upon it.

'And that is allmy dear?' said sheheaving a friendly sigh.
'Wellwell! The fault is not yours. You have nothing to reproach
yourself with. You must exercise the strength of mind for which
you are renownedand make the best of it.'
'The girl's family have made' said Mrs Gowan'of coursethe most
strenuous endeavours to--as the lawyers say--to have and to hold
Henry.'

'Of course they havemy dear' said Mrs Merdle.

'I have persisted in every possible objectionand have worried
myself morningnoonand nightfor means to detach Henry from the
connection.'

'No doubt you havemy dear' said Mrs Merdle.

'And all of no use. All has broken down beneath me. Now tell me
my love. Am I justified in at last yielding my most reluctant
consent to Henry's marrying among people not in Society; orhave
I acted with inexcusable weakness?'

In answer to this direct appealMrs Merdle assured Mrs Gowan
(speaking as a Priestess of Society) that she was highly to be
commendedthat she was much to be sympathised withthat she had
taken the highest of partsand had come out of the furnace
refined. And Mrs Gowanwho of course saw through her own
threadbare blind perfectlyand who knew that Mrs Merdle saw
through it perfectlyand who knew that Society would see through
it perfectlycame out of this formnotwithstandingas she had
gone into itwith immense complacency and gravity.

The conference was held at four or five o'clock in the afternoon
when all the region of Harley StreetCavendish Squarewas
resonant of carriage-wheels and double-knocks. It had reached this


point when Mr Merdle came home from his daily occupation of causing
the British name to be more and more respected in all parts of the
civilised globe capable of the appreciation of world-wide
commercial enterprise and gigantic combinations of skill and
capital. Forthough nobody knew with the least precision what Mr
Merdle's business wasexcept that it was to coin moneythese were
the terms in which everybody defined it on all ceremonious
occasionsand which it was the last new polite reading of the
parable of the camel and the needle's eye to accept without
inquiry.

For a gentleman who had this splendid work cut out for himMr
Merdle looked a little commonand rather as ifin the course of
his vast transactionshe had accidentally made an interchange of
heads with some inferior spirit. He presented himself before the
two ladies in the course of a dismal stroll through his mansion
which had no apparent object but escape from the presence of the
chief butler.

'I beg your pardon' he saidstopping short in confusion; 'I
didn't know there was anybody here but the parrot.'

Howeveras Mrs Merdle said'You can come in!' and as Mrs Gowan
said she was just goingand had already risen to take her leave
he came inand stood looking out at a distant windowwith his
hands crossed under his uneasy coat-cuffsclasping his wrists as
if he were taking himself into custody. In this attitude he fell
directly into a reverie from which he was only aroused by his
wife's calling to him from her ottomanwhen they had been for some
quarter of an hour alone.

'Eh? Yes?' said Mr Merdleturning towards her. 'What is it?'

'What is it?' repeated Mrs Merdle. 'It isI supposethat you
have not heard a word of my complaint.'

'Your complaintMrs Merdle?' said Mr Merdle. 'I didn't know that
you were suffering from a complaint. What complaint?'

'A complaint of you' said Mrs Merdle.

'Oh! A complaint of me' said Mr Merdle. 'What is the--what have
I--what may you have to complain of in meMrs Merdle?' In his
withdrawingabstractedpondering wayit took him some time to
shape this question. As a kind of faint attempt to convince
himself that he was the master of the househe concluded by
presenting his forefinger to the parrotwho expressed his opinion
on that subject by instantly driving his bill into it.

'You were sayingMrs Merdle' said Mr Merdlewith his wounded
finger in his mouth'that you had a complaint against me?'

'A complaint which I could scarcely show the justice of more
emphaticallythan by having to repeat it' said Mrs Merdle. 'I
might as well have stated it to the wall. I had far better have
stated it to the bird. He would at least have screamed.'

'You don't want me to screamMrs MerdleI suppose' said Mr
Merdletaking a chair.

'Indeed I don't know' retorted Mrs Merdle'but that you had
better do thatthan be so moody and distraught. One would at
least know that you were sensible of what was going on around you.'


'A man might screamand yet not be thatMrs Merdle' said Mr
Merdleheavily.


'And might be doggedas you are at presentwithout screaming'
returned Mrs Merdle. 'That's very true. If you wish to know the
complaint I make against youit isin so many plain wordsthat
you really ought not to go into Society unless you can accommodate
yourself to Society.'


Mr Merdleso twisting his hands into what hair he had upon his
head that he seemed to lift himself up by it as he started out of
his chaircried:
'Whyin the name of all the infernal powersMrs Merdlewho does
more for Society than I do? Do you see these premisesMrs Merdle?


Do you see this furnitureMrs Merdle? Do you look in the glass
and see yourselfMrs Merdle? Do you know the cost of all this
and who it's all provided for? And yet will you tell me that I
oughtn't to go into Society? Iwho shower money upon it in this
way? Iwho might always be said--to--to--to harness myself to a
watering-cart full of moneyand go about saturating Society every
day of my life.'


'Praydon't be violentMr Merdle' said Mrs Merdle.


'Violent?' said Mr Merdle. 'You are enough to make me desperate.
You don't know half of what I do to accommodate Society. You don't
know anything of the sacrifices I make for it.'


'I know' returned Mrs Merdle'that you receive the best in the
land. I know that you move in the whole Society of the country.
And I believe I know (indeednot to make any ridiculous pretence
about itI know I know) who sustains you in itMr Merdle.'


'Mrs Merdle' retorted that gentlemanwiping his dull red and
yellow face'I know that as well as you do. If you were not an
ornament to Societyand if I was not a benefactor to Societyyou
and I would never have come together. When I say a benefactor to
itI mean a person who provides it with all sorts of expensive
things to eat and drink and look at. Butto tell me that I am not
fit for it after all I have done for it--after all I have done for
it' repeated Mr Merdlewith a wild emphasis that made his wife
lift up her eyelids'after all--all!--to tell me I have no right
to mix with it after allis a pretty reward.'


'I say' answered Mrs Merdle composedly'that you ought to make
yourself fit for it by being more degageand less preoccupied.
There is a positive vulgarity in carrying your business affairs
about with you as you do.'
'How do I carry them aboutMrs Merdle?' asked Mr Merdle.


'How do you carry them about?' said Mrs Merdle. 'Look at yourself
in the glass.'


Mr Merdle involuntarily turned his eyes in the direction of the
nearest mirrorand askedwith a slow determination of his turbid
blood to his templeswhether a man was to be called to account for
his digestion?


'You have a physician' said Mrs Merdle.


'He does me no good' said Mr Merdle.


Mrs Merdle changed her ground.



'Besides' said she'your digestion is nonsense. I don't speak of
your digestion. I speak of your manner.'
'Mrs Merdle' returned her husband'I look to you for that. You
supply mannerand I supply money.'


'I don't expect you' said Mrs Merdlereposing easily among her
cushions'to captivate people. I don't want you to take any
trouble upon yourselfor to try to be fascinating. I simply
request you to care about nothing--or seem to care about nothing--
as everybody else does.'


'Do I ever say I care about anything?' asked Mr Merdle.


'Say? No! Nobody would attend to you if you did. But you show
it.'


'Show what? What do I show?' demanded Mr Merdle hurriedly.


'I have already told you. You show that you carry your business
cares an projects aboutinstead of leaving them in the Cityor
wherever else they belong to' said Mrs Merdle. 'Or seeming to.
Seeming would be quite enough: I ask no more. Whereas you couldn't
be more occupied with your day's calculations and combinations than
you habitually show yourself to beif you were a carpenter.'


'A carpenter!' repeated Mr Merdlechecking something like a groan.


'I shouldn't so much mind being a carpenterMrs Merdle.'


'And my complaint is' pursued the ladydisregarding the low
remark'that it is not the tone of Societyand that you ought to
correct itMr Merdle. If you have any doubt of my judgmentask
even Edmund Sparkler.' The door of the room had openedand Mrs
Merdle now surveyed the head of her son through her glass.
'Edmund; we want you here.'


Mr Sparklerwho had merely put in his head and looked round the
room without entering (as if he were searching the house for that
young lady with no nonsense about her)upon this followed up his
head with his bodyand stood before them. To whomin a few easy
words adapted to his capacityMrs Merdle stated the question at
issue.


The young gentlemanafter anxiously feeling his shirt-collar as if
it were his pulse and he were hypochondriacalobserved'That he
had heard it noticed by fellers.'


'Edmund Sparkler has heard it noticed' said Mrs Merdlewith
languid triumph. 'Whyno doubt everybody has heard it noticed!'
Which in truth was no unreasonable inference; seeing that Mr
Sparkler would probably be the last personin any assemblage of
the human speciesto receive an impression from anything that
passed in his presence.


'And Edmund Sparkler will tell youI dare say' said Mrs Merdle
waving her favourite hand towards her husband'how he has heard it
noticed.'
'I couldn't' said Mr Sparklerafter feeling his pulse as before
'couldn't undertake to say what led to it--'cause memory desperate
loose. But being in company with the brother of a doosed fine
gal--well educated too--with no biggodd nonsense about her--at the
period alluded to--'



'There! Never mind the sister' remarked Mrs Merdlea little
impatiently. 'What did the brother say?'

'Didn't say a wordma'am' answered Mr Sparkler. 'As silent a
feller as myself. Equally hard up for a remark.'

'Somebody said something' returned Mrs Merdle. 'Never mind who it
was.'

('Assure you I don't in the least' said Mr Sparkler.)

'But tell us what it was.'

Mr Sparkler referred to his pulse againand put himself through
some severe mental discipline before he replied:

'Fellers referring to my Governor--expression not my own-occasionally
compliment my Governor in a very handsome way on being
immensely rich and knowing--perfect phenomenon of Buyer and Banker
and that--but say the Shop sits heavily on him. Say he carried the
Shop abouton his back rather--like Jew clothesmen with too much
business.'

'Which' said Mrs Merdlerisingwith her floating drapery about
her'is exactly my complaint. Edmundgive me your arm upstairs.'


Mr Merdleleft alone to meditate on a better conformation of
himself to Societylooked out of nine windows in successionand
appeared to see nine wastes of space. When he had thus entertained
himself he went down-stairsand looked intently at all the carpets
on the ground-floor; and then came up-stairs againand looked
intently at all the carpets on the first-floor; as if they were
gloomy depthsin unison with his oppressed soul. Through all the
rooms he wanderedas he always didlike the last person on earth
who had any business to approach them. Let Mrs Merdle announce
with all her mightthat she was at Home ever so many nights in a
seasonshe could not announce more widely and unmistakably than Mr
Merdle did that he was never at home.

At last he met the chief butlerthe sight of which splendid
retainer always finished him. Extinguished by this great creature
he sneaked to his dressing-roomand there remained shut up until
he rode out to dinnerwith Mrs Merdlein her own handsome
chariot. At dinnerhe was envied and flattered as a being of
mightwas TreasuriedBarredand Bishopedas much as he would;
and an hour after midnight came home aloneand being instantly put
out again in his own halllike a rushlightby the chief butler
went sighing to bed.

CHAPTER 34

A Shoal of Barnacles

Mr Henry Gowan and the dog were established frequenters of the
cottageand the day was fixed for the wedding. There was to be a
convocation of Barnacles on the occasionin order that that very
high and very large family might shed as much lustre on the
marriage as so dim an event was capable of receiving.


To have got the whole Barnacle family together would have been
impossible for two reasons. Firstlybecause no building could
have held all the members and connections of that illustrious
house. Secondlybecause wherever there was a square yard of
ground in British occupation under the sun or moonwith a public
post upon itsticking to that post was a Barnacle. No intrepid
navigator could plant a flag-staff upon any spot of earthand take
possession of it in the British namebut to that spot of earthso
soon as the discovery was knownthe Circumlocution Office sent out
a Barnacle and a despatch-box. Thus the Barnacles were all over
the worldin every direction--despatch-boxing the compass.

Butwhile the so-potent art of Prospero himself would have failed
in summoning the Barnacles from every speck of ocean and dry land
on which there was nothing (except mischief) to be done and
anything to be pocketedit was perfectly feasible to assemble a
good many Barnacles. This Mrs Gowan applied herself to do; calling
on Mr Meagles frequently with new additions to the listand
holding conferences with that gentleman when he was not engaged (as
he generally was at this period) in examining and paying the debts
of his future son-in-lawin the apartment of scales and scoops.

One marriage guest there wasin reference to whose presence Mr
Meagles felt a nearer interest and concern than in the attendance
of the most elevated Barnacle expected; though he was far from
insensible of the honour of having such company. This guest was
Clennam. But Clennam had made a promise he held sacredamong the
trees that summer nightandin the chivalry of his heart
regarded it as binding him to many implied obligations. In
forgetfulness of himselfand delicate service to her on all
occasionshe was never to fail; to begin ithe answered Mr
Meagles cheerfully'I shall comeof course.'

His partnerDaniel Doycewas something of a stumbling-block in Mr
Meagles's waythe worthy gentleman being not at all clear in his
own anxious mind but that the mingling of Daniel with official
Barnacleism might produce some explosive combinationeven at a
marriage breakfast. The national offenderhoweverlightened him
of his uneasiness by coming down to Twickenham to represent that he
beggedwith the freedom of an old friendand as a favour to one
that he might not be invited. 'For' said he'as my business with
this set of gentlemen was to do a public duty and a public service
and as their business with me was to prevent it by wearing my soul
outI think we had better not eat and drink together with a show
of being of one mind.' Mr Meagles was much amused by his friend's
oddity; and patronised him with a more protecting air of allowance
than usualwhen he rejoined: 'WellwellDanyou shall have your
own crotchety way.'

To Mr Henry Gowanas the time approachedClennam tried to convey
by all quiet and unpretending meansthat he was frankly and
disinterestedly desirous of tendering him any friendship he would
accept. Mr Gowan treated him in return with his usual easeand
with his usual show of confidencewhich was no confidence at all.

'You seeClennam' he happened to remark in the course of
conversation one daywhen they were walking near the Cottage
within a week of the marriage'I am a disappointed man. That you
know already.'

'Upon my word' said Clennama little embarrassed'I scarcely
know how.'


'Why' returned Gowan'I belong to a clanor a cliqueor a
familyor a connectionor whatever you like to call itthat
might have provided for me in any one of fifty waysand that took
it into its head not to do it at all. So here I ama poor devil
of an artist.'

Clennam was beginning'But on the other hand--' when Gowan took
him up.

'YesyesI know. I have the good fortune of being beloved by a
beautiful and charming girl whom I love with all my heart.'
('Is there much of it?' Clennam thought. And as he thought it
felt ashamed of himself.)

'And of finding a father-in-law who is a capital fellow and a
liberal good old boy. StillI had other prospects washed and
combed into my childish head when it was washed and combed for me
and I took them to a public school when I washed and combed it for
myselfand I am here without themand thus I am a disappointed
man.'

Clennam thought (and as he thought itagain felt ashamed of
himself)was this notion of being disappointed in lifean
assertion of station which the bridegroom brought into the family
as his propertyhaving already carried it detrimentally into his
pursuit? And was it a hopeful or a promising thing anywhere?

'Not bitterly disappointedI think' he said aloud.
'Hang itno; not bitterly' laughed Gowan. 'My people are not
worth that--though they are charming fellowsand I have the
greatest affection for them. Besidesit's pleasant to show them
that I can do without themand that they may all go to the Devil.
And besidesagainmost men are disappointed in lifesomehow or
otherand influenced by their disappointment. But it's a dear
good worldand I love it!'

'It lies fair before you now' said Arthur.

'Fair as this summer river' cried the otherwith enthusiasm'and
by Jove I glow with admiration of itand with ardour to run a race
in it. It's the best of old worlds! And my calling! The best of
old callingsisn't it?'

'Full of interest and ambitionI conceive' said Clennam.

'And imposition' added Gowanlaughing; 'we won't leave out the
imposition. I hope I may not break down in that; but theremy
being a disappointed man may show itself. I may not be able to
face it out gravely enough. Between you and meI think there is
some danger of my being just enough soured not to be able to do
that.'

'To do what?' asked Clennam.

'To keep it up. To help myself in my turnas the man before me
helps himself in hisand pass the bottle of smoke. To keep up the
pretence as to labourand studyand patienceand being devoted
to my artand giving up many solitary days to itand abandoning
many pleasures for itand living in itand all the rest of it--in
shortto pass the bottle of smoke according to rule.'

'But it is well for a man to respect his own vocationwhatever it
is; and to think himself bound to uphold itand to claim for it
the respect it deserves; is it not?' Arthur reasoned. 'And your


vocationGowanmay really demand this suit and service. I
confess I should have thought that all Art did.'

'What a good fellow you areClennam!' exclaimed the other
stopping to look at himas if with irrepressible admiration.
'What a capital fellow! You have never been disappointed. That's
easy to see.'

It would have been so cruel if he had meant itthat Clennam firmly
resolved to believe he did not mean it. Gowanwithout pausing
laid his hand upon his shoulderand laughingly and lightly went
on:

'ClennamI don't like to dispel your generous visionsand I would
give any money (if I had any)to live in such a rose-coloured
mist. But what I do in my tradeI do to sell. What all we
fellows dowe do to sell. If we didn't want to sell it for the
most we can get for itwe shouldn't do it. Being workit has to
be done; but it's easily enough done. All the rest is hocus-pocus.

Now here's one of the advantagesor disadvantagesof knowing a
disappointed man. You hear the truth.'

Whatever he had heardand whether it deserved that name or
anotherit sank into Clennam's mind. It so took root therethat
he began to fear Henry Gowan would always be a trouble to himand
that so far he had gained little or nothing from the dismissal of
Nobodywith all his inconsistenciesanxietiesand
contradictions. He found a contest still always going on in his
breast between his promise to keep Gowan in none but good aspects
before the mind of Mr Meaglesand his enforced observation of
Gowan in aspects that had no good in them. Nor could he quite
support his own conscientious nature against misgivings that he
distorted and discoloured himselfby reminding himself that he
never sought those discoveriesand that he would have avoided them
with willingness and great relief. For he never could forget what
he had been; and he knew that he had once disliked Gowan for no
better reason than that he had come in his way.

Harassed by these thoughtshe now began to wish the marriage over
Gowan and his young wife goneand himself left to fulfil his
promiseand discharge the generous function he had accepted. This
last week wasin truthan uneasy interval for the whole house.
Before Petor before GowanMr Meagles was radiant; but Clennam
had more than once found him alonewith his view of the scales and
scoop much blurredand had often seen him look after the lovers
in the garden or elsewhere when he was not seen by themwith the
old clouded face on which Gowan had fallen like a shadow. In the
arrangement of the house for the great occasionmany little
reminders of the old travels of the father and mother and daughter
had to be disturbed and passed from hand to hand; and sometimesin
the midst of these mute witnessesto the life they had had
togethereven Pet herself would yield to lamenting and weeping.
Mrs Meaglesthe blithest and busiest of motherswent about
singing and cheering everybody; but shehonest soulhad her
flights into store roomswhere she would cry until her eyes were
redand would then come outattributing that appearance to
pickled onions and pepperand singing clearer than ever. Mrs
Tickitfinding no balsam for a wounded mind in Buchan's Domestic
Medicinesuffered greatly from low spiritsand from moving
recollections of Minnie's infancy. When the latter was powerful
with hershe usually sent up secret messages importing that she
was not in parlour condition as to her attireand that she
solicited a sight of 'her child' in the kitchen; thereshe would


bless her child's faceand bless her child's heartand hug her
childin a medley of tears and congratulationschopping-boards
rolling-pinsand pie-crustwith the tenderness of an old attached
servantwhich is a very pretty tenderness indeed.

But all days come that are to be; and the marriage-day was to be
and it came; and with it came all the Barnacles who were bidden to
the feast.
There was Mr Tite Barnaclefrom the Circumlocution Officeand
Mews StreetGrosvenor Squarewith the expensive Mrs Tite Barnacle
NEE Stiltstalkingwho made the Quarter Days so long in comingand
the three expensive Miss Tite Barnaclesdouble-loaded with
accomplishments and ready to go offand yet not going off with the
sharpness of flash and bang that might have been expectedbut
rather hanging fire. There was Barnacle junioralso from the
Circumlocution Officeleaving the Tonnage of the countrywhich he
was somehow supposed to take under his protectionto look after
itselfandsooth to saynot at all impairing the efficiency of
its protection by leaving it alone. There was the engaging Young
Barnaclederiving from the sprightly side of the familyalso from
the Circumlocution Officegaily and agreeably helping the occasion
alongand treating itin his sparkling wayas one of the
official forms and fees of the Church Department of How not to do
it. There were three other Young Barnacles from three other
officesinsipid to all the sensesand terribly in want of
seasoningdoing the marriage as they would have 'done' the Nile
Old Romethe new singeror Jerusalem.

But there was greater game than this. There was Lord Decimus Tite
Barnacle himselfin the odour of Circumlocution--with the very
smell of Despatch-Boxes upon him. Yesthere was Lord Decimus Tite
Barnaclewho had risen to official heights on the wings of one
indignant ideaand that wasMy Lordsthat I am yet to be told
that it behoves a Minister of this free country to set bounds to
the philanthropyto cramp the charityto fetter the public
spiritto contract the enterpriseto damp the independent selfreliance
of its people. That wasin other wordsthat this great
statesman was always yet to be told that it behoved the Pilot of
the ship to do anything but prosper in the private loaf and fish
trade ashorethe crew being ableby dint of hard pumpingto keep
the ship above water without him. On this sublime discovery in the
great art How not to do itLord Decimus had long sustained the
highest glory of the Barnacle family; and let any ill-advised
member of either House but try How to do it by bringing in a Bill
to do itthat Bill was as good as dead and buried when Lord
Decimus Tite Barnacle rose up in his place and solemnly said
soaring into indignant majesty as the Circumlocution cheering
soared around himthat he was yet to be toldMy Lordsthat it
behoved him as the Minister of this free countryto set bounds to
the philanthropyto cramp the charityto fetter the public
spiritto contract the enterpriseto damp the independent selfreliance
of its people. The discovery of this Behoving Machine
was the discovery of the political perpetual motion. It never wore
outthough it was always going round and round in all the State
Departments.

And therewith his noble friend and relative Lord Decimuswas
William Barnaclewho had made the ever-famous coalition with Tudor
Stiltstalkingand who always kept ready his own particular recipe
for How not to do it; sometimes tapping the Speakerand drawing it
fresh out of himwith a 'FirstI will beg yousirto inform the
House what Precedent we have for the course into which the
honourable gentleman would precipitate us;' sometimes asking the
honourable gentleman to favour him with his own version of the


Precedent; sometimes telling the honourable gentleman that he
(William Barnacle) would search for a Precedent; and oftentimes
crushing the honourable gentleman flat on the spot by telling him
there was no Precedent. But Precedent and Precipitate wereunder
all circumstancesthe well-matched pair of battle-horses of this
able Circumlocutionist. No matter that the unhappy honourable
gentleman had been trying in vainfor twenty-five yearsto
precipitate William Barnacle into this--William Barnacle still put
it to the Houseand (at second-hand or so) to the countrywhether
he was to be precipitated into this. No matter that it was utterly
irreconcilable with the nature of things and course of events that
the wretched honourable gentleman could possibly produce a
Precedent for this--William Barnacle would nevertheless thank the
honourable gentleman for that ironical cheerand would close with
him upon that issueand would tell him to his teeth that there Was
NO Precedent for this. It might perhaps have been objected that
the William Barnacle wisdom was not high wisdom or the earth it
bamboozled would never have been madeorif made in a rash
mistakewould have remained blank mud. But Precedent and
Precipitate together frightened all objection out of most people.

And theretoowas another Barnaclea lively onewho had leaped
through twenty places in quick successionand was always in two or
three at onceand who was the much-respected inventor of an art
which he practised with great success and admiration in all
Barnacle Governments. This waswhen he was asked a Parliamentary
question on any one topicto return an answer on any other. It
had done immense serviceand brought him into high esteem with the
Circumlocution Office.

And theretoowas a sprinkling of less distinguished
Parliamentary Barnacleswho had not as yet got anything snugand
were going through their probation to prove their worthiness.
These Barnacles perched upon staircases and hid in passages
waiting their orders to make houses or not to make houses; and they
did all their hearingand ohingand cheeringand barkingunder
directions from the heads of the family; and they put dummy motions
on the paper in the way of other men's motions; and they stalled
disagreeable subjects off until late in the night and late in the
sessionand then with virtuous patriotism cried out that it was
too late; and they went down into the countrywhenever they were
sentand swore that Lord Decimus had revived trade from a swoon
and commerce from a fitand had doubled the harvest of corn
quadrupled the harvest of hayand prevented no end of gold from
flying out of the Bank. Also these Barnacles were dealtby the
heads of the familylike so many cards below the court-cardsto
public meetings and dinners; where they bore testimony to all sorts
of services on the part of their noble and honourable relatives
and buttered the Barnacles on all sorts of toasts. And they stood
under similar ordersat all sorts of elections; and they turned
out of their own seatson the shortest notice and the most
unreasonable termsto let in other men; and they fetched and
carriedand toadied and jobbedand corruptedand ate heaps of
dirtand were indefatigable in the public service. And there was
not a listin all the Circumlocution Officeof places that might
fall vacant anywhere within half a centuryfrom a lord of the
Treasury to a Chinese consuland up again to a governor-general of
Indiabut as applicants for such placesthe names of some or of
every one of these hungry and adhesive Barnacles were down.

It was necessarily but a sprinkling of any class of Barnacles that
attended the marriagefor there were not two score in alland
what is that subtracted from Legion! But the sprinkling was a
swarm in the Twickenham cottageand filled it. A Barnacle


(assisted by a Barnacle) married the happy pairand it behoved
Lord Decimus Tite Barnacle himself to conduct Mrs Meagles to
breakfast.

The entertainment was not as agreeable and natural as it might have
been. Mr Meagleshove down by his good company while he highly
appreciated itwas not himself. Mrs Gowan was herselfand that
did not improve him. The fiction that it was not Mr Meagles who
had stood in the waybut that it was the Family greatnessand
that the Family greatness had made a concessionand there was now
a soothing unanimitypervaded the affairthough it was never
openly expressed. Then the Barnacles felt that they for their
parts would have done with the Meagleses when the present
patronising occasion was over; and the Meagleses felt the same for
their parts. Then Gowan asserting his rights as a disappointed man
who had his grudge against the familyand whoperhapshad
allowed his mother to have them thereas much in the hope it might
give them some annoyance as with any other benevolent objectaired
his pencil and his poverty ostentatiously before themand told
them he hoped in time to settle a crust of bread and cheese on his
wifeand that he begged such of them as (more fortunate than
himself) came in for any good thingand could buy a pictureto
please to remember the poor painter. Then Lord Decimuswho was a
wonder on his own Parliamentary pedestalturned out to be the
windiest creature here: proposing happiness to the bride and
bridegroom in a series of platitudes that would have made the hair
of any sincere disciple and believer stand on end; and trotting
with the complacency of an idiotic elephantamong howling
labyrinths of sentences which he seemed to take for high roadsand
never so much as wanted to get out of. Then Mr Tite Barnacle could
not but feel that there was a person in companywho would have
disturbed his life-long sitting to Sir Thomas Lawrence in full
official characterif such disturbance had been possible: while
Barnacle junior didwith indignationcommunicate to two vapid
gentlemenhis relativesthat there was a feller herelook here
who had come to our Department without an appointment and said he
wanted to knowyou know; and thatlook hereif he was to break
out nowas he might you know (for you never could tell what an
ungentlemanly Radical of that sort would be up to next)and was to
saylook herethat he wanted to know this momentyou knowthat
would be jolly; wouldn't it?

The pleasantest part of the occasion by farto Clennamwas the
painfullest. When Mr and Mrs Meagles at last hung about Pet in the
room with the two pictures (where the company were not)before
going with her to the threshold which she could never recross to be
the old Pet and the old delightnothing could be more natural and
simple than the three were. Gowan himself was touchedand
answered Mr Meagles's 'O Gowantake care of hertake care of
her!' with an earnest 'Don't be so broken-heartedsir. By Heaven
I will!'

And sowith the last sobs and last loving wordsand a last look
to Clennam of confidence in his promisePet fell back in the
carriageand her husband waved his handand they were away for
Dover; though not until the faithful Mrs Tickitin her silk gown
and jet black curlshad rushed out from some hiding-placeand
thrown both her shoes after the carriage: an apparition which
occasioned great surprise to the distinguished company at the
windows.

The said company being now relieved from further attendanceand
the chief Barnacles being rather hurried (for they had it in hand
just then to send a mail or two which was in danger of going


straight to its destinationbeating about the seas like the Flying
Dutchmanand to arrange with complexity for the stoppage of a good
deal of important business otherwise in peril of being done)went
their several ways; with all affability conveying to Mr and Mrs
Meagles that general assurance that what they had been doing there
they had been doing at a sacrifice for Mr and Mrs Meagles's good
which they always conveyed to Mr John Bull in their official
condescension to that most unfortunate creature.

A miserable blank remained in the house and in the hearts of the
father and mother and Clennam. Mr Meagles called only one
remembrance to his aidthat really did him good.

'It's very gratifyingArthur' he said'after allto look back
upon.'

'The past?' said Clennam.

'Yes--but I mean the company.'

It had made him much more low and unhappy at the timebut now it
really did him good. 'It's very gratifying' he saidoften
repeating the remark in the course of the evening. 'Such high
company!'

CHAPTER 35

What was behind Mr Pancks on Little Dorrit's Hand

It was at this time that Mr Pancksin discharge of his compact
with Clennamrevealed to him the whole of his gipsy storyand
told him Little Dorrit's fortune. Her father was heir-at-law to a
great estate that had long lain unknown ofunclaimedand
accumulating. His right was now clearnothing interposed in his
waythe Marshalsea gates stood openthe Marshalsea walls were
downa few flourishes of his penand he was extremely rich.

In his tracking out of the claim to its complete establishmentMr
Pancks had shown a sagacity that nothing could baffleand a
patience and secrecy that nothing could tire. 'I little thought
sir' said Pancks'when you and I crossed Smithfield that night
and I told you what sort of a Collector I wasthat this would come
of it. I little thoughtsirwhen I told you you were not of the
Clennams of Cornwallthat I was ever going to tell you who were of
the Dorrits of Dorsetshire.' He then went on to detail. How
having that name recorded in his note-bookhe was first attracted
by the name alone. Howhaving often found two exactly similar
nameseven belonging to the same placeto involve no traceable
consanguinitynear or distanthe did not at first give much heed
to thisexcept in the way of speculation as to what a surprising
change would be made in the condition of a little seamstressif
she could be shown to have any interest in so large a property.
How he rather supposed himself to have pursued the idea into its
next degreebecause there was something uncommon in the quiet
little seamstresswhich pleased him and provoked his curiosity.

How he had felt his way inch by inchand 'Moled it outsir' (that
was Mr Pancks's expression)grain by grain. Howin the beginning
of the labour described by this new verband to render which the
more expressive Mr Pancks shut his eyes in pronouncing it and shook


his hair over themhe had alternated from sudden lights and hopes
to sudden darkness and no hopesand back againand back again.
How he had made acquaintances in the Prisonexpressly that he
might come and go there as all other comers and goers did; and how
his first ray of light was unconsciously given him by Mr Dorrit
himself and by his son; to both of whom he easily became known;
with both of whom he talked muchcasually ('but always Moleing
you'll observe' said Mr Pancks): and from whom he derivedwithout
being at all suspectedtwo or three little points of family
history whichas he began to hold clues of his ownsuggested
others. How it had at length become plain to Mr Pancks that he had
made a real discovery of the heir-at-law to a great fortuneand
that his discovery had but to be ripened to legal fulness and
perfection. How he hadthereuponsworn his landlordMr Ruggto
secrecy in a solemn mannerand taken him into Moleing partnership.

How they had employed John Chivery as their sole clerk and agent
seeing to whom he was devoted. And howuntil the present hour
when authorities mighty in the Bank and learned in the law declared
their successful labours endedthey had confided in no other human
being.

'So if the whole thing had broken downsir' concluded Pancks'at
the very lastsay the day before the other day when I showed you
our papers in the Prison yardor say that very daynobody but
ourselves would have been cruelly disappointedor a penny the
worse.'

Clennamwho had been almost incessantly shaking hands with him
throughout the narrativewas reminded by this to sayin an
amazement which even the preparation he had had for the main
disclosure smoothed down'My dear Mr Pancksthis must have cost
you a great sum of money.'

'Pretty wellsir' said the triumphant Pancks. 'No triflethough
we did it as cheap as it could be done. And the outlay was a
difficultylet me tell you.'

'A difficulty!' repeated Clennam. 'But the difficulties you have
so wonderfully conquered in the whole business!' shaking his hand
again.

'I'll tell you how I did it' said the delighted Pancksputting
his hair into a condition as elevated as himself. 'FirstI spent
all I had of my own. That wasn't much.'

'I am sorry for it' said Clennam: 'not that it matters now
though. Thenwhat did you do?'

'Then' answered Pancks'I borrowed a sum of my proprietor.'

'Of Mr Casby?' said Clennam. 'He's a fine old fellow.'

'Noble old boy; an't he?' said Mr Pancksentering on a series of
the dryest snorts. 'Generous old buck. Confiding old boy.
Philanthropic old buck. Benevolent old boy! Twenty per cent. I
engaged to pay himsir. But we never do business for less at our
shop.'

Arthur felt an awkward consciousness of havingin his exultant
conditionbeen a little premature.

'I said to that boiling-over old Christian' Mr Pancks pursued
appearing greatly to relish this descriptive epithet'that I had


got a little project on hand; a hopeful one; I told him a hopeful
one; which wanted a certain small capital. I proposed to him to
lend me the money on my note. Which he didat twenty; sticking
the twenty on in a business-like wayand putting it into the note
to look like a part of the principal. If I had broken down after
thatI should have been his grubber for the next seven years at
half wages and double grind. But he's a perfect Patriarch; and it
would do a man good to serve him on such terms--on any terms.'

Arthur for his life could not have said with confidence whether
Pancks really thought so or not.

'When that was gonesir' resumed Pancks'and it did gothough
I dribbled it out like so much bloodI had taken Mr Rugg into the
secret. I proposed to borrow of Mr Rugg (or of Miss Rugg; it's the
same thing; she made a little money by a speculation in the Common
Pleas once). He lent it at tenand thought that pretty high. But
Mr Rugg's a red-haired mansirand gets his hair cut. And as to
the crown of his hatit's high. And as to the brim of his hat
it's narrow. And there's no more benevolence bubbling out of him
than out of a ninepin.'

'Your own recompense for all thisMr Pancks' said Clennam'ought
to be a large one.'

'I don't mistrust getting itsir' said Pancks. 'I have made no
bargain. I owed you one on that score; now I have paid it. Money
out of pocket made goodtime fairly allowed forand Mr Rugg's
bill settleda thousand pounds would be a fortune to me. That
matter I place in your hands. I authorize you now to break all
this to the family in any way you think best. Miss Amy Dorrit will
be with Mrs Finching this morning. The sooner done the better.
Can't be done too soon.'

This conversation took place in Clennam's bed-roomwhile he was
yet in bed. For Mr Pancks had knocked up the house and made his
way invery early in the morning; andwithout once sitting down
or standing stillhad delivered himself of the whole of his
details (illustrated with a variety of documents) at the bedside.
He now said he would 'go and look up Mr Rugg'from whom his
excited state of mind appeared to require another back; and
bundling up his papersand exchanging one more hearty shake of the
hand with Clennamhe went at full speed down-stairsand steamed
off.

Clennamof courseresolved to go direct to Mr Casby's. He
dressed and got out so quickly that he found himself at the corner
of the patriarchal street nearly an hour before her time; but he
was not sorry to have the opportunity of calming himself with a
leisurely walk.

When he returned to the streetand had knocked at the bright brass
knockerhe was informed that she had comeand was shown up-stairs
to Flora's breakfast-room. Little Dorrit was not there herself
but Flora wasand testified the greatest amazement at seeing him.

'Good graciousArthur--Doyce and Clennam!' cried that lady'who
would have ever thought of seeing such a sight as this and pray
excuse a wrapper for upon my word I really never and a faded check
too which is worse but our little friend is making me anot that
I need mind mentioning it to you for you must know that there are
such things a skirtand having arranged that a trying on should
take place after breakfast is the reason though I wish not so badly
starched.'


'I ought to make an apology' said Arthur'for so early and abrupt
a visit; but you will excuse it when I tell you the cause.'


'In times for ever fled Arthur' returned Mrs Finching'pray
excuse me Doyce and Clennam infinitely more correct and though
unquestionably distant still 'tis distance lends enchantment to the
viewat least I don't mean that and if I did I suppose it would
depend considerably on the nature of the viewbut I'm running on
again and you put it all out of my head.'


She glanced at him tenderlyand resumed:


'In times for ever fled I was going to say it would have sounded
strange indeed for Arthur Clennam--Doyce and Clennam naturally
quite different--to make apologies for coming here at any timebut
that is past and what is past can never be recalled except in his
own case as poor Mr F. said when he was in spirits Cucumber and
therefore never ate it.'


She was making the tea when Arthur came inand now hastily
finished that operation.


'Papa' she saidall mystery and whisperas she shut down the
tea-pot lid'is sitting prosingly breaking his new laid egg in the
back parlour over the City article exactly like the Woodpecker
Tapping and need never know that you are hereand our little
friend you are well aware may be fully trusted when she comes down
from cutting out on the large table overhead.'


Arthur then told herin the fewest wordsthat it was their little
friend he came to see; and what he had to announce to their little
friend. At which astounding intelligenceFlora clasped her hands
fell into a trembleand shed tears of sympathy and pleasurelike
the good-natured creature she really was.


'For goodness sake let me get out of the way first' said Flora
putting her hands to her ears and moving towards the door'or I
know I shall go off dead and screaming and make everybody worse
and the dear little thing only this morning looking so nice and
neat and good and yet so poor and now a fortune is she really and
deserves it too! and might I mention it to Mr F.'s Aunt Arthur not
Doyce and Clennam for this once or if objectionable not on any
account.'


Arthur nodded his free permissionsince Flora shut out all verbal
communication. Flora nodded in return to thank himand hurried
out of the room.


Little Dorrit's step was already on the stairsand in another
moment she was at the door. Do what he could to compose his face
he could not convey so much of an ordinary expression into itbut
that the moment she saw it she dropped her workand cried'Mr
Clennam! What's the matter?'


' Nothingnothing. That isno misfortune has happened. I have
come to tell you somethingbut it is a piece of great good-
fortune.'
'Good-fortune?'


'Wonderful fortune!'


They stood in a windowand her eyesfull of lightwere fixed
upon his face. He put an arm about herseeing her likely to sink



down. She put a hand upon that armpartly to rest upon itand
partly so to preserve their relative positions as that her intent
look at him should be shaken by no change of attitude in either of
them. Her lips seemed to repeat 'Wonderful fortune?' He repeated
it againaloud.

'Dear Little Dorrit! Your father.'

The ice of the pale face broke at the wordand little lights and
shoots of expression passed all over it. They were all expressions
of pain. Her breath was faint and hurried. Her heart beat fast.
He would have clasped the little figure closerbut he saw that the
eyes appealed to him not to be moved.

'Your father can be free within this week. He does not know it; we
must go to him from hereto tell him of it. Your father will be
free within a few days. Your father will be free within a few
hours. Remember we must go to him from hereto tell him of it!'

That brought her back. Her eyes were closingbut they opened
again.

'This is not all the good-fortune. This is not all the wonderful
good-fortunemy dear Little Dorrit. Shall I tell you more?'

Her lips shaped 'Yes.'

'Your father will be no beggar when he is free. He will want for
nothing. Shall I tell you more? Remember! He knows nothing of
it; we must go to himfrom hereto tell him of it!'

She seemed to entreat him for a little time. He held her in his
armandafter a pausebent down his ear to listen.

'Did you ask me to go on?'

'Yes.'

'He will be a rich man. He is a rich man. A great sum of money is
waiting to be paid over to him as his inheritance; you are all
henceforth very wealthy. Bravest and best of childrenI thank
Heaven that you are rewarded!'

As he kissed hershe turned her head towards his shoulderand
raised her arm towards his neck; cried out 'Father! Father!
Father!' and swooned away.

Upon which Flora returned to take care of herand hovered about
her on a sofaintermingling kind offices and incoherent scraps of
conversation in a manner so confoundingthat whether she pressed
the Marshalsea to take a spoonful of unclaimed dividendsfor it
would do her good; or whether she congratulated Little Dorrit's
father on coming into possession of a hundred thousand smellingbottles;
or whether she explained that she put seventy-five
thousand drops of spirits of lavender on fifty thousand pounds of
lump sugarand that she entreated Little Dorrit to take that
gentle restorative; or whether she bathed the foreheads of Doyce
and Clennam in vinegarand gave the late Mr F. more air; no one
with any sense of responsibility could have undertaken to decide.
A tributary stream of confusionmoreoverpoured in from an
adjoining bedroomwhere Mr F.'s Aunt appearedfrom the sound of
her voiceto be in a horizontal postureawaiting her breakfast;
and from which bower that inexorable lady snapped off short taunts
whenever she could get a hearingas'Don't believe it's his


doing!' and 'He needn't take no credit to himself for it!' and
'It'll be long enoughI expectafore he'll give up any of his own
money!' all designed to disparage Clennam's share in the discovery
and to relieve those inveterate feelings with which Mr F.'s Aunt
regarded him.

But Little Dorrit's solicitude to get to her fatherand to carry
the joyful tidings to himand not to leave him in his jail a
moment with this happiness in store for him and still unknown to
himdid more for her speedy restoration than all the skill and
attention on earth could have done. 'Come with me to my dear
father. Pray come and tell my dear father!' were the first words
she said. Her fatherher father. She spoke of nothing but him
thought of nothing but him. Kneeling down and pouring out her
thankfulness with uplifted handsher thanks were for her father.

Flora's tenderness was quite overcome by thisand she launched out
among the cups and saucers into a wonderful flow of tears and
speech.

'I declare' she sobbed'I never was so cut up since your mama and
my papa not Doyce and Clennam for this once but give the precious
little thing a cup of tea and make her put it to her lips at least
pray Arthur donot even Mr F.'s last illness for that was of
another kind and gout is not a child's affection though very
painful for all parties and Mr F. a martyr with his leg upon a rest
and the wine trade in itself inflammatory for they will do it more
or less among themselves and who can wonderit seems like a dream
I am sure to think of nothing at all this morning and now Mines of
money is it reallybut you must know my darling love because you
never will be strong enough to tell him all about it upon
teaspoonsmightn't it be even best to try the directions of my own
medical man for though the flavour is anything but agreeable still
I force myself to do it as a prescription and find the benefit
you'd rather not why no my dear I'd rather not but still I do it as
a dutyeverybody will congratulate you some in earnest and some
not and many will congratulate you with all their hearts but none
more so I do assure you from the bottom of my own I do myself
though sensible of blundering and being stupidand will be judged
by Arthur not Doyce and Clennam for this once so good-bye darling
and God bless you and may you be very happy and excuse the liberty
vowing that the dress shall never be finished by anybody else but
shall be laid by for a keepsake just as it is and called Little
Dorrit though why that strangest of denominations at any time I
never did myself and now I never shall!'

Thus Florain taking leave of her favourite. Little Dorrit
thanked herand embraced herover and over again; and finally
came out of the house with Clennamand took coach for the
Marshalsea.

It was a strangely unreal ride through the old squalid streets
with a sensation of being raised out of them into an airy world of
wealth and grandeur. When Arthur told her that she would soon ride
in her own carriage through very different sceneswhen all the
familiar experiences would have vanished awayshe looked
frightened. But when he substituted her father for herselfand
told her how he would ride in his carriageand how great and grand
he would beher tears of joy and innocent pride fell fast. Seeing
that the happiness her mind could realise was all shining upon him
Arthur kept that single figure before her; and so they rode
brightly through the poor streets in the prison neighbourhood to
carry him the great news.


When Mr Chiverywho was on dutyadmitted them into the Lodgehe
saw something in their faces which filled him with astonishment.
He stood looking after themwhen they hurried into the prisonas
though he perceived that they had come back accompanied by a ghost
a-piece. Two or three Collegians whom they passedlooked after
them tooand presently joining Mr Chiveryformed a little group
on the Lodge stepsin the midst of which there spontaneously
originated a whisper that the Father was going to get his
discharge. Within a few minutesit was heard in the remotest room
in the College.

Little Dorrit opened the door from withoutand they both entered.
He was sitting in his old grey gown and his old black capin the
sunlight by the windowreading his newspaper. His glasses were in
his handand he had just looked round; surprised at firstno
doubtby her step upon the stairsnot expecting her until night;
surprised againby seeing Arthur Clennam in her company. As they
came inthe same unwonted look in both of them which had already
caught attention in the yard belowstruck him. He did not rise or
speakbut laid down his glasses and his newspaper on the table
beside himand looked at them with his mouth a little open and his
lips trembling. When Arthur put out his handhe touched itbut
not with his usual state; and then he turned to his daughterwho
had sat down close beside him with her hands upon his shoulderand
looked attentively in her face.

'Father! I have been made so happy this morning!'

'You have been made so happymy dear?'

'By Mr Clennamfather. He brought me such joyful and wonderful
intelligence about you! If he had not with his great kindness and
gentlenessprepared me for itfather--prepared me for it
father--I think I could not have borne it.'

Her agitation was exceedingly greatand the tears rolled down her
face. He put his hand suddenly to his heartand looked at
Clennam.

'Compose yourselfsir' said Clennam'and take a little time to
think. To think of the brightest and most fortunate accidents of
life. We have all heard of great surprises of joy. They are not
at an endsir. They are rarebut not at an end.'

'Mr Clennam? Not at an end? Not at an end for--' He touched
himself upon the breastinstead of saying 'me.'

'No' returned Clennam.

'What surprise' he askedkeeping his left hand over his heart
and there stopping in his speechwhile with his right hand he put
his glasses exactly level on the table: 'what such surprise can be
in store for me?'

'Let me answer with another question. Tell meMr Dorritwhat
surprise would be the most unlooked for and the most acceptable to
you. Do not be afraid to imagine itor to say what it would be.'

He looked steadfastly at Clennamandso looking at himseemed to
change into a very old haggard man. The sun was bright upon the
wall beyond the windowand on the spikes at top. He slowly
stretched out the hand that had been upon his heartand pointed at
the wall.


'It is down' said Clennam. 'Gone!'

He remained in the same attitudelooking steadfastly at him.

'And in its place' said Clennamslowly and distinctly'are the
means to possess and enjoy the utmost that they have so long shut
out. Mr Dorritthere is not the smallest doubt that within a few
days you will be freeand highly prosperous. I congratulate you
with all my soul on this change of fortuneand on the happy future
into which you are soon to carry the treasure you have been blest
with here--the best of all the riches you can have elsewhere--the
treasure at your side.'

With those wordshe pressed his hand and released it; and his
daughterlaying her face against hisencircled him in the hour of
his prosperity with her armsas she had in the long years of his
adversity encircled him with her love and toil and truth; and
poured out her full heart in gratitudehopejoyblissful
ecstasyand all for him.

'I shall see him as I never saw him yet. I shall see my dear love
with the dark cloud cleared away. I shall see himas my poor
mother saw him long ago. O my dearmy dear! O fatherfather!
O thank Godthank God!'

He yielded himself to her kisses and caressesbut did not return
themexcept that he put an arm about her. Neither did he say one
word. His steadfast look was now divided between her and Clennam
and he began to shake as if he were very cold. Explaining to
Little Dorrit that he would run to the coffee-house for a bottle of
wineArthur fetched it with all the haste he could use. While it
was being brought from the cellar to the bara number of excited
people asked him what had happened; when he hurriedly informed them
that Mr Dorrit had succeeded to a fortune.

On coming back with the wine in his handhe found that she had
placed her father in his easy chairand had loosened his shirt and
neckcloth. They filled a tumbler with wineand held it to his
lips. When he had swallowed a littlehe took the glass himself
and emptied it. Soon after thathe leaned back in his chair and
criedwith his handkerchief before his face.

After this had lasted a while Clennam thought it a good season for
diverting his attention from the main surpriseby relating its
details. Slowlythereforeand in a quiet tone of voicehe
explained them as best he couldand enlarged on the nature of
Pancks's service.

'He shall be--ha--he shall be handsomely recompensedsir' said
the Fatherstarting up and moving hurriedly about the room.
'Assure yourselfMr Clennamthat everybody concerned shall be-ha--
shall be nobly rewarded. No onemy dear sirshall say that
he has an unsatisfied claim against me. I shall repay the--hum-the
advances I have had from yousirwith peculiar pleasure. I
beg to be informed at your earliest conveniencewhat advances you
have made my son.'

He had no purpose in going about the roombut he was not still a
moment.

'Everybody' he said'shall be remembered. I will not go away
from here in anybody's debt. All the people who have been--ha-well
behaved towards myself and my familyshall be rewarded.
Chivery shall be rewarded. Young John shall be rewarded. I


particularly wishand intendto act munificentlyMr Clennam.'

'Will you allow me' said Arthurlaying his purse on the table
'to supply any present contingenciesMr Dorrit? I thought it best
to bring a sum of money for the purpose.'

'Thank yousirthank you. I accept with readinessat the
present momentwhat I could not an hour ago have conscientiously
taken. I am obliged to you for the temporary accommodation.
Exceedingly temporarybut well timed--well timed.' His hand had
closed upon the moneyand he carried it about with him. 'Be so
kindsiras to add the amount to those former advances to which
I have already referred; being carefulif you pleasenot to omit
advances made to my son. A mere verbal statement of the gross
amount is all I shall--ha--all I shall require.'

His eye fell upon his daughter at this pointand he stopped for a
moment to kiss herand to pat her head.

'It will be necessary to find a millinermy loveand to make a
speedy and complete change in your very plain dress. Something
must be done with Maggy toowho at present is--ha--barely
respectablebarely respectable. And your sisterAmyand your
brother. And my brotheryour uncle--poor soulI trust this will
rouse him--messengers must be despatched to fetch them. They must
be informed of this. We must break it to them cautiouslybut they
must be informed directly. We owe it as a duty to them and to
ourselvesfrom this momentnot to let them--hum--not to let them
do anything.'

This was the first intimation he had ever giventhat he was privy
to the fact that they did something for a livelihood.

He was still jogging about the roomwith the purse clutched in his
handwhen a great cheering arose in the yard. 'The news has
spread already' said Clennamlooking down from the window. 'Will
you show yourself to themMr Dorrit? They are very earnestand
they evidently wish it.'

'I--hum--ha--I confess I could have desiredAmy my dear' he said
jogging about in a more feverish flutter than before'to have made
some change in my dress firstand to have bought a-hum--
a watch and chain. But if it must be done as it isit--ha-it
must be done. Fasten the collar of my shirtmy dear. Mr
Clennamwould you oblige me--hum--with a blue neckcloth you will
find in that drawer at your elbow. Button my coat across at the
chestmy love. It looks--ha--it looks broaderbuttoned.'

With his trembling hand he pushed his grey hair upand then
taking Clennam and his daughter for supportersappeared at the
window leaning on an arm of each. The Collegians cheered him very
heartilyand he kissed his hand to them with great urbanity and
protection. When he withdrew into the room againhe said 'Poor
creatures!' in a tone of much pity for their miserable condition.

Little Dorrit was deeply anxious that he should lie down to compose
himself. On Arthur's speaking to her of his going to inform Pancks
that he might now appear as soon as he wouldand pursue the joyful
business to its closeshe entreated him in a whisper to stay with
her until her father should be quite calm and at rest. He needed
no second entreaty; and she prepared her father's bedand begged
him to lie down. For another half-hour or more he would be
persuaded to do nothing but go about the roomdiscussing with
himself the probabilities for and against the Marshal's allowing


the whole of the prisoners to go to the windows of the official
residence which commanded the streetto see himself and family
depart for ever in a carriage--whichhe saidhe thought would be
a Sight for them. But gradually he began to droop and tireand at
last stretched himself upon the bed.

She took her faithful place beside himfanning him and cooling his
forehead; and he seemed to be falling asleep (always with the money
in his hand)when he unexpectedly sat up and said:

'Mr ClennamI beg your pardon. Am I to understandmy dear sir
that I could--ha--could pass through the Lodge at this moment
and--hum--take a walk?'

'I think notMr Dorrit' was the unwilling reply. 'There are
certain forms to be completed; and although your detention here is
now in itself a formI fear it is one that for a little longer has
to be observed too.'

At this he shed tears again.

'It is but a few hourssir' Clennam cheerfully urged upon him.

'A few hourssir' he returned in a sudden passion. 'You talk
very easily of hourssir! How long do you supposesirthat an
hour is to a man who is choking for want of air?'

It was his last demonstration for that time; asafter shedding
some more tears and querulously complaining that he couldn't
breathehe slowly fell into a slumber. Clennam had abundant
occupation for his thoughtsas he sat in the quiet room watching
the father on his bedand the daughter fanning his face.
Little Dorrit had been thinking too. After softly putting his grey
hair asideand touching his forehead with her lipsshe looked
towards Arthurwho came nearer to herand pursued in a low
whisper the subject of her thoughts.

'Mr Clennamwill he pay all his debts before he leaves here?'

'No doubt. All.'

'All the debts for which he had been imprisoned hereall my life
and longer?'

'No doubt.'

There was something of uncertainty and remonstrance in her look;
something that was not all satisfaction. He wondered to detect it
and said:

'You are glad that he should do so?'

'Are you?' asked Little Dorritwistfully.

'Am I? Most heartily glad!'

'Then I know I ought to be.'

'And are you not?'

'It seems to me hard' said Little Dorrit'that he should have
lost so many years and suffered so muchand at last pay all the
debts as well. It seems to me hard that he should pay in life and
money both.'


'My dear child--' Clennam was beginning.

'YesI know I am wrong' she pleaded timidly'don't think any
worse of me; it has grown up with me here.'

The prisonwhich could spoil so many thingshad tainted Little
Dorrit's mind no more than this. Engendered as the confusion was
in compassion for the poor prisonerher fatherit was the first
speck Clennam had ever seenit was the last speck Clennam ever
sawof the prison atmosphere upon her.

He thought thisand forebore to say another word. With the
thoughther purity and goodness came before him in their brightest
light. The little spot made them the more beautiful.

Worn out with her own emotionsand yielding to the silence of the
roomher hand slowly slackened and failed in its fanning movement
and her head dropped down on the pillow at her father's side.
Clennam rose softlyopened and closed the door without a sound
and passed from the prisoncarrying the quiet with him into the
turbulent streets.

CHAPTER 36

The Marshalsea becomes an Orphan

And now the day arrived when Mr Dorrit and his family were to leave
the prison for everand the stones of its much-trodden pavement
were to know them no more.

The interval had been shortbut he had greatly complained of its
lengthand had been imperious with Mr Rugg touching the delay. He
had been high with Mr Ruggand had threatened to employ some one
else. He had requested Mr Rugg not to presume upon the place in
which he found himbut to do his dutysirand to do it with
promptitude. He had told Mr Rugg that he knew what lawyers and
agents wereand that he would not submit to imposition. On that
gentleman's humbly representing that he exerted himself to the
utmostMiss Fanny was very short with him; desiring to know what
less he could dowhen he had been told a dozen times that money
was no objectand expressing her suspicion that he forgot whom he
talked to.

Towards the Marshalwho was a Marshal of many years' standingand
with whom he had never had any previous differenceMr Dorrit
comported himself with severity. That officeron personally
tendering his congratulationsoffered the free use of two rooms in
his house for Mr Dorrit's occupation until his departure. Mr
Dorrit thanked him at the momentand replied that he would think
of it; but the Marshal was no sooner gone than he sat down and
wrote him a cutting notein which he remarked that he had never on
any former occasion had the honour of receiving his congratulations
(which was truethough indeed there had not been anything
particular to congratulate him upon)and that he beggedon behalf
of himself and familyto repudiate the Marshal's offerwith all
those thanks which its disinterested character and its perfect
independence of all worldly considerations demanded.

Although his brother showed so dim a glimmering of interest in


their altered fortunes that it was very doubtful whether he
understood themMr Dorrit caused him to be measured for new
raiment by the hosierstailorshattersand bootmakers whom he
called in for himself; and ordered that his old clothes should be
taken from him and burned. Miss Fanny and Mr Tip required no
direction in making an appearance of great fashion and elegance;
and the three passed this interval together at the best hotel in
the neighbourhood--though trulyas Miss Fanny saidthe best was
very indifferent. In connection with that establishmentMr Tip
hired a cabriolethorseand grooma very neat turn outwhich
was usually to be observed for two or three hours at a time gracing
the Borough High Streetoutside the Marshalsea court-yard. A
modest little hired chariot and pair was also frequently to be seen
there; in alighting from and entering which vehicleMiss Fanny
fluttered the Marshal's daughters by the display of inaccessible
bonnets.

A great deal of business was transacted in this short period.
Among other itemsMessrs Peddle and Poolsolicitorsof Monument
Yardwere instructed by their client Edward DorritEsquireto
address a letter to Mr Arthur Clennamenclosing the sum of twentyfour
pounds nine shillings and eightpencebeing the amount of
principal and interest computed at the rate of five per cent. per
annumin which their client believed himself to be indebted to Mr
Clennam. In making this communication and remittanceMessrs
Peddle and Pool were further instructed by their client to remind
Mr Clennam that the favour of the advance now repaid (including
gate-fees) had not been asked of himand to inform him that it
would not have been accepted if it had been openly proffered in his
name. With which they requested a stamped receiptand remained
his obedient servants. A great deal of business had likewise to be
donewithin the so-soon-to-be-orphaned Marshalseaby Mr Dorrit so
long its Fatherchiefly arising out of applications made to him by
Collegians for small sums of money. To these he responded with the
greatest liberalityand with no lack of formality; always first
writing to appoint a time at which the applicant might wait upon
him in his roomand then receiving him in the midst of a vast
accumulation of documentsand accompanying his donation (for he
said in every such case'it is a donationnot a loan') with a
great deal of good counsel: to the effect that hethe expiring
Father of the Marshalseahoped to be long rememberedas an
example that a man might preserve his own and the general respect
even there.

The Collegians were not envious. Besides that they had a personal
and traditional regard for a Collegian of so many years' standing
the event was creditable to the Collegeand made it famous in the
newspapers. Perhaps more of them thoughttoothan were quite
aware of itthat the thing might in the lottery of chances have
happened to themselvesor that something of the sort might yet
happen to themselves some day or other. They took it very well.
A few were low at the thought of being left behindand being left
poor; but even these did not grudge the family their brilliant
reverse. There might have been much more envy in politer places.
It seems probable that mediocrity of fortune would have been
disposed to be less magnanimous than the Collegianswho lived from
hand to mouth--from the pawnbroker's hand to the day's dinner.

They got up an address to himwhich they presented in a neat frame
and glass (though it was not afterwards displayed in the family
mansion or preserved among the family papers); and to which he
returned a gracious answer. In that document he assured themin
a Royal mannerthat he received the profession of their attachment
with a full conviction of its sincerity; and again generally


exhorted them to follow his example--whichat least in so far as
coming into a great property was concernedthere is no doubt they
would have gladly imitated. He took the same occasion of inviting
them to a comprehensive entertainmentto be given to the whole
College in the yardand at which he signified he would have the
honour of taking a parting glass to the health and happiness of all
those whom he was about to leave behind.

He did not in person dine at this public repast (it took place at
two in the afternoonand his dinners now came in from the hotel at
six)but his son was so good as to take the head of the principal
tableand to be very free and engaging. He himself went about
among the companyand took notice of individualsand saw that the
viands were of the quality he had orderedand that all were
served. On the wholehe was like a baron of the olden time in a
rare good humour. At the conclusion of the repasthe pledged his
guests in a bumper of old Madeira; and told them that he hoped they
had enjoyed themselvesand what was morethat they would enjoy
themselves for the rest of the evening; that he wished them well;
and that he bade them welcome.

His health being drunk with acclamationshe was not so baronial
after all but that in trying to return thanks he broke downin the
manner of a mere serf with a heart in his breastand wept before
them all. After this great successwhich he supposed to be a
failurehe gave them 'Mr Chivery and his brother officers;' whom
he had beforehand presented with ten pounds eachand who were all
in attendance. Mr Chivery spoke to the toastsayingWhat you
undertake to lock uplock up; but remember that you arein the
words of the fettered Africana man and a brother ever. The list
of toasts disposed ofMr Dorrit urbanely went through the motions
of playing a game of skittles with the Collegian who was the next
oldest inhabitant to himself; and left the tenantry to their
diversions.

But all these occurrences preceded the final day. And now the day
arrived when he and his family were to leave the prison for ever
and when the stones of its much-trodden pavement were to know them
no more.

Noon was the hour appointed for the departure. As it approached
there was not a Collegian within doorsnor a turnkey absent. The
latter class of gentlemen appeared in their Sunday clothesand the
greater part of the Collegians were brightened up as much as
circumstances allowed. Two or three flags were even displayedand
the children put on odds and ends of ribbon. Mr Dorrit himselfat
this trying timepreserved a serious but graceful dignity. Much
of his great attention was given to his brotheras to whose
bearing on the great occasion he felt anxious.

'My dear Frederick' said he'if you will give me your arm we will
pass among our friends together. I think it is right that we
should go out arm in armmy dear Frederick.'

'Hah!' said Frederick. 'Yesyesyesyes.'

'And ifmy dear Frederick--if you couldwithout putting any great
constraint upon yourselfthrow a little (pray excuse me
Frederick)a little Polish into your usual demeanour--'

'WilliamWilliam' said the othershaking his head'it's for you
to do all that. I don't know how. All forgottenforgotten!'

'Butmy dear fellow' returned William'for that very reasonif


for no otheryou must positively try to rouse yourself. What you
have forgotten you must now begin to recallmy dear Frederick.
Your position--'

'Eh?' said Frederick.

'Your positionmy dear Frederick.'

'Mine?' He looked first at his own figureand then at his
brother'sand thendrawing a long breathcried'Hahto be
sure! Yesyesyes.'
'Your positionmy dear Frederickis now a fine one. Your
positionas my brotheris a very fine one. And I know that it
belongs to your conscientious nature to try to become worthy of it
my dear Frederickand to try to adorn it. To be no discredit to
itbut to adorn it.'

'William' said the other weaklyand with a sigh'I will do
anything you wishmy brotherprovided it lies in my power. Pray
be so kind as to recollect what a limited power mine is. What
would you wish me to do to-daybrother? Say what it isonly say
what it is.'

'My dearest Fredericknothing. It is not worth troubling so good
a heart as yours with.'

'Pray trouble it' returned the other. 'It finds it no trouble
Williamto do anything it can for you.'

William passed his hand across his eyesand murmured with august
satisfaction'Blessings on your attachmentmy poor dear fellow!'
Then he said aloud'Wellmy dear Frederickif you will only try
as we walk outto show that you are alive to the occasion --that
you think about it--'

'What would you advise me to think about it?' returned his
submissive brother.

'Oh! my dear Frederickhow can I answer you? I can only say
whatin leaving these good peopleI think myself.'

'That's it!' cried his brother. 'That will help me.'

'I find that I thinkmy dear Frederickand with mixed emotions in
which a softened compassion predominatesWhat will they do without
me!'

'True' returned his brother. 'Yesyesyesyes. I'll think
that as we goWhat will they do without my brother! Poor things!
What will they do without him!'

Twelve o'clock having just struckand the carriage being reported
ready in the outer court-yardthe brothers proceeded down-stairs
arm-in-arm. Edward DorritEsquire (once Tip)and his sister
Fanny followedalso arm-in-arm; Mr Plornish and Maggyto whom had
been entrusted the removal of such of the family effects as were
considered worth removingfollowedbearing bundles and burdens to
be packed in a cart.

In the yardwere the Collegians and turnkeys. In the yardwere
Mr Pancks and Mr Ruggcome to see the last touch given to their
work. In the yardwas Young John making a new epitaph for
himselfon the occasion of his dying of a broken heart. In the
yardwas the Patriarchal Casbylooking so tremendously benevolent


that many enthusiastic Collegians grasped him fervently by the
handand the wives and female relatives of many more Collegians
kissed his handnothing doubting that he had done it all. In the
yardwas the man with the shadowy grievance respecting the Fund
which the Marshal embezzledwho had got up at five in the morning
to complete the copying of a perfectly unintelligible history of
that transactionwhich he had committed to Mr Dorrit's careas a
document of the last importancecalculated to stun the Government
and effect the Marshal's downfall. In the yardwas the insolvent
whose utmost energies were always set on getting into debtwho
broke into prison with as much pains as other men have broken out
of itand who was always being cleared and complimented; while the
insolvent at his elbow--a mere littlesnivellingstriving
tradesmanhalf dead of anxious efforts to keep out of debt--found
it a hard matterindeedto get a Commissioner to release him with
much reproof and reproach. In the yardwas the man of many
children and many burdenswhose failure astonished everybody; in
the yardwas the man of no children and large resourceswhose
failure astonished nobody. Therewere the people who were always
going out to-morrowand always putting it off; therewere the
people who had come in yesterdayand who were much more jealous
and resentful of this freak of fortune than the seasoned birds.
Therewere some whoin pure meanness of spiritcringed and bowed
before the enriched Collegian and his family; therewere others
who did so really because their eyesaccustomed to the gloom of
their imprisonment and povertycould not support the light of such
bright sunshine. Therewere many whose shillings had gone into
his pocket to buy him meat and drink; but none who were now
obtrusively Hail fellow well met! with himon the strength of
that assistance. It was rather to be remarked of the caged birds
that they were a little shy of the bird about to be so grandly
freeand that they had a tendency to withdraw themselves towards
the barsand seem a little fluttered as he passed.

Through these spectators the little processionheaded by the two
brothersmoved slowly to the gate. Mr Dorrityielding to the
vast speculation how the poor creatures were to get on without him
was greatand sadbut not absorbed. He patted children on the
head like Sir Roger de Coverley
going to churchhe spoke to people in the background by their
Christian nameshe condescended to all presentand seemed for
their consolation to walk encircled by the legend in golden
characters'Be comfortedmy people! Bear it!'

At last three honest cheers announced that he had passed the gate
and that the Marshalsea was an orphan. Before they had ceased to
ring in the echoes of the prison wallsthe family had got into
their carriageand the attendant had the steps in his hand.

Thenand not before'Good Gracious!' cried Miss Fanny all at
once'Where's Amy!'

Her father had thought she was with her sister. Her sister had
thought she was 'somewhere or other.' They had all trusted to
finding heras they had always donequietly in the right place at
the right moment. This going away was perhaps the very first
action of their joint lives that they had got through without her.

A minute might have been consumed in the ascertaining of these
pointswhen Miss Fannywhofrom her seat in the carriage
commanded the long narrow passage leading to the Lodgeflushed
indignantly.

'Now I do sayPa' cried she'that this is disgraceful!'


'What is disgracefulFanny?'

'I do say' she repeated'this is perfectly infamous! Really
almost enougheven at such a time as thisto make one wish one
was dead! Here is that child Amyin her ugly old shabby dress
which she was so obstinate aboutPawhich I over and over again
begged and prayed her to changeand which she over and over again
objected toand promised to change to-daysaying she wished to
wear it as long as ever she remained in there with you--which was
absolutely romantic nonsense of the lowest kind--here is that child
Amy disgracing us to the last moment and at the last momentby
being carried out in that dress after all. And by that Mr Clennam
too!'

The offence was provedas she delivered the indictment. Clennam
appeared at the carriage-doorbearing the little insensible figure
in his arms.

'She has been forgotten' he saidin a tone of pity not free from
reproach. 'I ran up to her room (which Mr Chivery showed me) and
found the door openand that she had fainted on the floordear
child. She appeared to have gone to change her dressand to have
sunk down overpowered. It may have been the cheeringor it may
have happened sooner. Take care of this poor cold handMiss
Dorrit. Don't let it fall.'

'Thank yousir' returned Miss Dorritbursting into tears. 'I
believe I know what to doif you will give me leave. Dear Amy
open your eyesthat's a love! OhAmyAmyI really am so vexed
and ashamed! Do rouse yourselfdarling! Ohwhy are they not
driving on! PrayPado drive on!'

The attendantgetting between Clennam and the carriage-doorwith
a sharp 'By your leavesir!' bundled up the stepsand they drove
away.

BOOK THE SECOND
RICHES

CHAPTER 1

Fellow Travellers

In the autumn of the yearDarkness and Night were creeping up to
the highest ridges of the Alps.

It was vintage time in the valleys on the Swiss side of the Pass of
the Great Saint Bernardand along the banks of the Lake of Geneva.

The air there was charged with the scent of gathered grapes.
Basketstroughsand tubs of grapes stood in the dim village
doorwaysstopped the steep and narrow village streetsand had
been carrying all day along the roads and lanes. Grapessplit and
crushed under footlay about everywhere. The child carried in a
sling by the laden peasant woman toiling homewas quieted with


picked-up grapes; the idiot sunning his big goitre under the leaves
of the wooden chalet by the way to the Waterfallsat Munching
grapes; the breath of the cows and goats was redolent of leaves and
stalks of grapes; the company in every little cabaret were eating
drinkingtalking grapes. A pity that no ripe touch of this
generous abundance could be given to the thinhardstony wine
which after all was made from the grapes!

The air had been warm and transparent through the whole of the
bright day. Shining metal spires and church-roofsdistant and
rarely seenhad sparkled in the view; and the snowy mountain-tops
had been so clear that unaccustomed eyescancelling the
intervening countryand slighting their rugged heights for
something fabulouswould have measured them as within a few hours
easy reach. Mountain-peaks of great celebrity in the valleys
whence no trace of their existence was visible sometimes for months
togetherhad been since morning plain and near in the blue sky.
And nowwhen it was dark belowthough they seemed solemnly to
recedelike spectres who were going to vanishas the red dye of
the sunset faded out of them and left them coldly whitethey were
yet distinctly defined in their loneliness above the mists and
shadows.
Seen from these solitudesand from the Pass of the Great Saint
Bernardwhich was one of themthe ascending Night came up the
mountain like a rising water. When it at last rose to the walls of
the convent of the Great Saint Bernardit was as if that weatherbeaten
structure were another Arkand floated on the shadowy
waves.

Darknessoutstripping some visitors on muleshad risen thus to
the rough convent wallswhen those travellers were yet climbing
the mountain. As the heat of the glowing day when they had stopped
to drink at the streams of melted ice and snowwas changed to the
searching cold of the frosty rarefied night air at a great height
so the fresh beauty of the lower journey had yielded to barrenness
and desolation. A craggy trackup which the mules in single file
scrambled and turned from block to blockas though they were
ascending the broken staircase of a gigantic ruinwas their way
now. No trees were to be seennor any vegetable growth save a
poor brown scrubby mossfreezing in the chinks of rock. Blackened
skeleton arms of wood by the wayside pointed upward to the convent
as if the ghosts of former travellers overwhelmed by the snow
haunted the scene of their distress. Icicle-hung caves and cellars
built for refuges from sudden stormswere like so many whispers of
the perils of the place; never-resting wreaths and mazes of mist
wandered abouthunted by a moaning wind; and snowthe besetting
danger of the mountainagainst which all its defences were taken
drifted sharply down.

The file of mulesjaded by their day's workturned and wound
slowly up the deep ascent; the foremost led by a guide on footin
his broad-brimmed hat and round jacketcarrying a mountain staff
or two upon his shoulderwith whom another guide conversed. There
was no speaking among the string of riders. The sharp coldthe
fatigue of the journeyand a new sensation of a catching in the
breathpartly as if they had just emerged from very clear crisp
waterand partly as if they had been sobbingkept them silent.

At lengtha light on the summit of the rocky staircase gleamed
through the snow and mist. The guides called to the mulesthe
mules pricked up their drooping headsthe travellers' tongues were
loosenedand in a sudden burst of slippingclimbingjingling
clinkingand talkingthey arrived at the convent door.


Other mules had arrived not long beforesome with peasant riders
and some with goodsand had trodden the snow about the door into
a pool of mud. Riding-saddles and bridlespack-saddles and
strings of bellsmules and menlanternstorchessacks
provenderbarrelscheeseskegs of honey and butterstraw
bundles and packages of many shapeswere crowded confusedly
together in this thawed quagmire and about the steps. Up here in
the cloudseverything was seen through cloudand seemed
dissolving into cloud. The breath of the men was cloudthe breath
of the mules was cloudthe lights were encircled by cloud
speakers close at hand were not seen for cloudthough their voices
and all other sounds were surprisingly clear. Of the cloudy line
of mules hastily tied to rings in the wallone would bite another
or kick anotherand then the whole mist would be disturbed: with
men diving into itand cries of men and beasts coming out of it
and no bystander discerning what was wrong. In the midst of this
the great stable of the conventoccupying the basement story and
entered by the basement dooroutside which all the disorder was
poured forth its con