Part 16 out of 20
lady so crushed with gifts would find them irresistible.
Mr Dorrit was not sure of that. But, for example, the sprightly
little woman was very sure of it, she said. So Mr Dorrit bought a
gift of each sort, and paid handsomely for it. As he strolled back
to his hotel afterwards, he carried his head high: having plainly
got up his castle now to a much loftier altitude than the two
square towers of Notre Dame.
Building away with all his might, but reserving the plans of his
castle exclusively for his own eye, Mr Dorrit posted away for
Marseilles. Building on, building on, busily, busily, from morning
to night. Falling asleep, and leaving great blocks of building
materials dangling in the air; waking again, to resume work and get
them into their places. What time the Courier in the rumble,
smoking Young john's best cigars, left a little thread of thin
light smoke behind--perhaps as he built a castle or two with stray
pieces of Mr Dorrit's money.
Not a fortified town that they passed in all their journey was as
strong, not a Cathedral summit was as high, as Mr Dorrit's castle.
Neither the Saone nor the Rhone sped with the swiftness of that
peerless building; nor was the Mediterranean deeper than its
foundations; nor were the distant landscapes on the Cornice road,
nor the hills and bay of Genoa the Superb, more beautiful. Mr
Dorrit and his matchless castle were disembarked among the dirty
white houses and dirtier felons of Civita Vecchia, and thence
scrambled on to Rome as they could, through the filth that festered
on the way.
The Storming of the Castle in the Air
The sun had gone down full four hours, and it was later than most
travellers would like it to be for finding themselves outside the
walls of Rome, when Mr Dorrit's carriage, still on its last
wearisome stage, rattled over the solitary Campagna. The savage
herdsmen and the fierce-looking peasants who had chequered the way
while the light lasted, had all gone down with the sun, and left
the wilderness blank. At some turns of the road, a pale flare on
the horizon, like an exhalation from the ruin-sown land, showed
that the city was yet far off; but this poor relief was rare and
short-lived. The carriage dipped down again into a hollow of the
black dry sea, and for a long time there was nothing visible save
its petrified swell and the gloomy sky.
Mr Dorrit, though he had his castle-building to engage his mind,
could not be quite easy in that desolate place. He was far more
curious, in every swerve of the carriage, and every cry of the
postilions, than he had been since he quitted London. The valet on
the box evidently quaked. The Courier in the rumble was not
altogether comfortable in his mind. As often as Mr Dorrit let down
the glass and looked back at him (which was very often), he saw him
smoking John Chivery out, it is true, but still generally standing
up the while and looking about him, like a man who had his
suspicions, and kept upon his guard. Then would Mr Dorrit, pulling
up the glass again, reflect that those postilions were cut-throat
looking fellows, and that he would have done better to have slept
at Civita Vecchia, and have started betimes in the morning. But,
for all this, he worked at his castle in the intervals.
And now, fragments of ruinous enclosure, yawning window-gap and
crazy wall, deserted houses, leaking wells, broken water-tanks,
spectral cypress-trees, patches of tangled vine, and the changing
of the track to a long, irregular, disordered lane where everything
was crumbling away, from the unsightly buildings to the jolting
road--now, these objects showed that they were nearing Rome. And
now, a sudden twist and stoppage of the carriage inspired Mr Dorrit
with the mistrust that the brigand moment was come for twisting him
into a ditch and robbing him; until, letting down the glass again
and looking out, he perceived himself assailed by nothing worse
than a funeral procession, which came mechanically chaunting by,
with an indistinct show of dirty vestments, lurid torches, swinging
censers, and a great cross borne before a priest. He was an ugly
priest by torchlight; of a lowering aspect, with an overhanging
brow; and as his eyes met those of Mr Dorrit, looking bareheaded
out of the carriage, his lips, moving as they chaunted, seemed to
threaten that important traveller; likewise the action of his hand,
which was in fact his manner of returning the traveller's
salutation, seemed to come in aid of that menace. So thought Mr
Dorrit, made fanciful by the weariness of building and travelling,
as the priest drifted past him, and the procession straggled away,
taking its dead along with it. Upon their so-different way went Mr
Dorrit's company too; and soon, with their coach load of luxuries
from the two great capitals of Europe, they were (like the Goths
reversed) beating at the gates of Rome.
Mr Dorrit was not expected by his own people that night. He had
been; but they had given him up until to-morrow, not doubting that
it was later than he would care, in those parts, to be out. Thus,
when his equipage stopped at his own gate, no one but the porter
appeared to receive him. Was Miss Dorrit from home? he asked.
No. She was within. Good, said Mr Dorrit to the assembling
servants; let them keep where they were; let them help to unload
the carriage; he would find Miss Dorrit for himself.
So he went up his grand staircase, slowly, and tired, and looked
into various chambers which were empty, until he saw a light in a
small ante-room. It was a curtained nook, like a tent, within two
other rooms; and it looked warm and bright in colour, as he
approached it through the dark avenue they made.
There was a draped doorway, but no door; and as he stopped here,
looking in unseen, he felt a pang. Surely not like jealousy? For
why like jealousy? There was only his daughter and his brother
there: he, with his chair drawn to the hearth, enjoying the warmth
of the evening wood fire; she seated at a little table, busied with
some embroidery work. Allowing for the great difference in the
still-life of the picture, the figures were much the same as of
old; his brother being sufficiently like himself to represent
himself, for a moment, in the composition. So had he sat many a
night, over a coal fire far away; so had she sat, devoted to him.
Yet surely there was nothing to be jealous of in the old miserable
poverty. Whence, then, the pang in his heart?
'Do you know, uncle, I think you are growing young again?'
Her uncle shook his head and said, 'Since when, my dear; since
'I think,' returned Little Dorrit, plying her needle, 'that you
have been growing younger for weeks past. So cheerful, uncle, and
so ready, and so interested.'
'My dear child--all you.'
'All me, uncle!'
'Yes, yes. You have done me a world of good. You have been so
considerate of me, and so tender with me, and so delicate in trying
to hide your attentions from me, that I--well, well, well! It's
treasured up, my darling, treasured up.'
'There is nothing in it but your own fresh fancy, uncle,' said
Little Dorrit, cheerfully.
'Well, well, well!' murmured the old man. 'Thank God!'
She paused for an instant in her work to look at him, and her look
revived that former pain in her father's breast; in his poor weak
breast, so full of contradictions, vacillations, inconsistencies,
the little peevish perplexities of this ignorant life, mists which
the morning without a night only can clear away.
'I have been freer with you, you see, my dove,' said the old man,
'since we have been alone. I say, alone, for I don't count Mrs
General; I don't care for her; she has nothing to do with me. But
I know Fanny was impatient of me. And I don't wonder at it, or
complain of it, for I am sensible that I must be in the way, though
I try to keep out of it as well as I can. I know I am not fit
company for our company. My brother William,' said the old man
admiringly, 'is fit company for monarchs; but not so your uncle, my
dear. Frederick Dorrit is no credit to William Dorrit, and he
knows it quite well. Ah! Why, here's your father, Amy! My dear
William, welcome back! My beloved brother, I am rejoiced to see
(Turning his head in speaking, he had caught sight of him as he
stood in the doorway.)
Little Dorrit with a cry of pleasure put her arms about her
father's neck, and kissed him again and again. Her father was a
little impatient, and a little querulous. 'I am glad to find you
at last, Amy,' he said. 'Ha. Really I am glad to find--hum--any
one to receive me at last. I appear to have been--ha--so little
expected, that upon my word I began--ha hum--to think it might be
right to offer an apology for--ha--taking the liberty of coming
back at all.'
'It was so late, my dear William,' said his brother, 'that we had
given you up for to-night.'
'I am stronger than you, dear Frederick,' returned his brother with
an elaboration of fraternity in which there was severity; 'and I
hope I can travel without detriment at--ha--any hour I choose.'
'Surely, surely,' returned the other, with a misgiving that he had
given offence. 'Surely, William.'
'Thank you, Amy,' pursued Mr Dorrit, as she helped him to put off
his wrappers. 'I can do it without assistance. I--ha--need not
trouble you, Amy. Could I have a morsel of bread and a glass of
wine, or--hum--would it cause too much inconvenience?'
'Dear father, you shall have supper in a very few minutes.'
'Thank you, my love,' said Mr Dorrit, with a reproachful frost upon
him; 'I--ha--am afraid I am causing inconvenience. Hum. Mrs
General pretty well?'
'Mrs General complained of a headache, and of being fatigued; and
so, when we gave you up, she went to bed, dear.'
Perhaps Mr Dorrit thought that Mrs General had done well in being
overcome by the disappointment of his not arriving. At any rate,
his face relaxed, and he said with obvious satisfaction, 'Extremely
sorry to hear that Mrs General is not well.'
During this short dialogue, his daughter had been observant of him,
with something more than her usual interest. It would seem as
though he had a changed or worn appearance in her eyes, and he
perceived and resented it; for he said with renewed peevishness,
when he had divested himself of his travelling-cloak, and had come
to the fire:
'Amy, what are you looking at? What do you see in me that causes
you to--ha--concentrate your solicitude on me in that--hum--very
'I did not know it, father; I beg your pardon. It gladdens my eyes
to see you again; that's all.'
'Don't say that's all, because--ha--that's not all. You--hum--you
think,' said Mr Dorrit, with an accusatory emphasis, 'that I am not
'I thought you looked a little tired, love.'
'Then you are mistaken,' said Mr Dorrit. 'Ha, I am not tired. Ha,
hum. I am very much fresher than I was when I went away.'
He was so inclined to be angry that she said nothing more in her
justification, but remained quietly beside him embracing his arm.
As he stood thus, with his brother on the other side, he fell into
a heavy doze, of not a minute's duration, and awoke with a start.
'Frederick,' he said, turning to his brother: 'I recommend you to
go to bed immediately.'
'No, William. I'll wait and see you sup.'
'Frederick,' he retorted, 'I beg you to go to bed. I--ha--make it
a personal request that you go to bed. You ought to have been in
bed long ago. You are very feeble.'
'Hah!' said the old man, who had no wish but to please him. 'Well,
well, well! I dare say I am.'
'My dear Frederick,' returned Mr Dorrit, with an astonishing
superiority to his brother's failing powers, 'there can be no doubt
of it. It is painful to me to see you so weak. Ha. It distresses
me. Hum. I don't find you looking at all well. You are not fit
for this sort of thing. You should be more careful, you should be
'Shall I go to bed?' asked Frederick.
'Dear Frederick,' said Mr Dorrit, 'do, I adjure you! Good night,
brother. I hope you will be stronger to-morrow. I am not at all
pleased with your looks. Good night, dear fellow.' After
dismissing his brother in this gracious way, he fell into a doze
again before the old man was well out of the room: and he would
have stumbled forward upon the logs, but for his daughter's
'Your uncle wanders very much, Amy,' he said, when he was thus
roused. 'He is less--ha--coherent, and his conversation is more--
hum--broken, than I have--ha, hum--ever known. Has he had any
illness since I have been gone?'
'You--ha--see a great change in him, Amy?'
'I have not observed it, dear.'
'Greatly broken,' said Mr Dorrit. 'Greatly broken. My poor,
affectionate, failing Frederick! Ha. Even taking into account
what he was before, he is--hum--sadly broken!'
His supper, which was brought to him there, and spread upon the
little table where he had seen her working, diverted his attention.
She sat at his side as in the days that were gone, for the first
time since those days ended. They were alone, and she helped him
to his meat and poured out his drink for him, as she had been used
to do in the prison. All this happened now, for the first time
since their accession to wealth. She was afraid to look at him
much, after the offence he had taken; but she noticed two occasions
in the course of his meal, when he all of a sudden looked at her,
and looked about him, as if the association were so strong that he
needed assurance from his sense of sight that they were not in the
old prison-room. Both times, he put his hand to his head as if he
missed his old black cap--though it had been ignominiously given
away in the Marshalsea, and had never got free to that hour, but
still hovered about the yards on the head of his successor.
He took very little supper, but was a long time over it, and often
reverted to his brother's declining state. Though he expressed the
greatest pity for him, he was almost bitter upon him. He said that
poor Frederick--ha hum--drivelled. There was no other word to
express it; drivelled. Poor fellow! It was melancholy to reflect
what Amy must have undergone from the excessive tediousness of his
Society--wandering and babbling on, poor dear estimable creature,
wandering and babbling on--if it had not been for the relief she
had had in Mrs General. Extremely sorry, he then repeated with his
former satisfaction, that that--ha--superior woman was poorly.
Little Dorrit, in her watchful love, would have remembered the
lightest thing he said or did that night, though she had had no
subsequent reason to recall that night. She always remembered
that, when he looked about him under the strong influence of the
old association, he tried to keep it out of her mind, and perhaps
out of his own too, by immediately expatiating on the great riches
and great company that had encompassed him in his absence, and on
the lofty position he and his family had to sustain. Nor did she
fail to recall that there were two under-currents, side by side,
pervading all his discourse and all his manner; one showing her how
well he had got on without her, and how independent he was of her;
the other, in a fitful and unintelligible way almost complaining of
her, as if it had been possible that she had neglected him while he
His telling her of the glorious state that Mr Merdle kept, and of
the court that bowed before him, naturally brought him to Mrs
Merdle. So naturally indeed, that although there was an unusual
want of sequence in the greater part of his remarks, he passed to
her at once, and asked how she was.
'She is very well. She is going away next week.'
'Home?' asked Mr Dorrit.
'After a few weeks' stay upon the road.'
'She will be a vast loss here,' said Mr Dorrit. 'A vast--ha--
acquisition at home. To Fanny, and to--hum--the rest of the--ha--
Little Dorrit thought of the competition that was to be entered
upon, and assented very softly.
'Mrs Merdle is going to have a great farewell Assembly, dear, and
a dinner before it. She has been expressing her anxiety that you
should return in time. She has invited both you and me to her
'She is--ha--very kind. When is the day?'
'The day after to-morrow.'
'Write round in the morning, and say that I have returned, and
'May I walk with you up the stairs to your room, dear?'
'No!' he answered, looking angrily round; for he was moving away,
as if forgetful of leave-taking. 'You may not, Amy. I want no
help. I am your father, not your infirm uncle!' He checked
himself, as abruptly as he had broken into this reply, and said,
'You have not kissed me, Amy. Good night, my dear! We must
marry--ha--we must marry YOU, now.' With that he went, more slowly
and more tired, up the staircase to his rooms, and, almost as soon
as he got there, dismissed his valet. His next care was to look
about him for his Paris purchases, and, after opening their cases
and carefully surveying them, to put them away under lock and key.
After that, what with dozing and what with castle-building, he lost
himself for a long time, so that there was a touch of morning on
the eastward rim of the desolate Campagna when he crept to bed.
Mrs General sent up her compliments in good time next day, and
hoped he had rested well after this fatiguing journey. He sent
down his compliments, and begged to inform Mrs General that he had
rested very well indeed, and was in high condition. Nevertheless,
he did not come forth from his own rooms until late in the
afternoon; and, although he then caused himself to be magnificently
arrayed for a drive with Mrs General and his daughter, his
appearance was scarcely up to his description of himself.
As the family had no visitors that day, its four members dined
alone together. He conducted Mrs General to the seat at his right
hand with immense ceremony; and Little Dorrit could not but notice
as she followed with her uncle, both that he was again elaborately
dressed, and that his manner towards Mrs General was very
particular. The perfect formation of that accomplished lady's
surface rendered it difficult to displace an atom of its genteel
glaze, but Little Dorrit thought she descried a slight thaw of
triumph in a corner of her frosty eye.
Notwithstanding what may be called in these pages the Pruney and
Prismatic nature of the family banquet, Mr Dorrit several times
fell asleep while it was in progress. His fits of dozing were as
sudden as they had been overnight, and were as short and profound.
When the first of these slumberings seized him, Mrs General looked
almost amazed: but, on each recurrence of the symptoms, she told
her polite beads, Papa, Potatoes, Poultry, Prunes, and Prism; and,
by dint of going through that infallible performance very slowly,
appeared to finish her rosary at about the same time as Mr Dorrit
started from his sleep.
He was again painfully aware of a somnolent tendency in Frederick
(which had no existence out of his own imagination), and after
dinner, when Frederick had withdrawn, privately apologised to Mrs
General for the poor man. 'The most estimable and affectionate of
brothers,' he said, 'but--ha, hum--broken up altogether.
Unhappily, declining fast.'
'Mr Frederick, sir,' quoth Mrs General, 'is habitually absent and
drooping, but let us hope it is not so bad as that.'
Mr Dorrit, however, was determined not to let him off. 'Fast
declining, madam. A wreck. A ruin. Mouldering away before our
eyes. Hum. Good Frederick!'
'You left Mrs Sparkler quite well and happy, I trust?' said Mrs
General, after heaving a cool sigh for Frederick.
'Surrounded,' replied Mr Dorrit, 'by--ha--all that can charm the
taste, and--hum--elevate the mind. Happy, my dear madam, in
Mrs General was a little fluttered; seeming delicately to put the
word away with her gloves, as if there were no knowing what it
might lead to.
'Fanny,' Mr Dorrit continued. 'Fanny, Mrs General, has high
qualities. Ha. Ambition--hum--purpose, consciousness of--ha--
position, determination to support that position--ha, hum--grace,
beauty, and native nobility.'
'No doubt,' said Mrs General (with a little extra stiffness).
'Combined with these qualities, madam,' said Mr Dorrit, 'Fanny
has--ha--manifested one blemish which has made me--hum--made me
uneasy, and--ha--I must add, angry; but which I trust may now be
considered at an end, even as to herself, and which is undoubtedly
at an end as to--ha--others.'
'To what, Mr Dorrit,' returned Mrs General, with her gloves again
somewhat excited, 'can you allude? I am at a loss to--'
'Do not say that, my dear madam,' interrupted Mr Dorrit.
Mrs General's voice, as it died away, pronounced the words, 'at a
loss to imagine.'
After which Mr Dorrit was seized with a doze for about a minute,
out of which he sprang with spasmodic nimbleness.
'I refer, Mrs General, to that--ha--strong spirit of opposition,
or--hum--I might say--ha--jealousy in Fanny, which has occasionally
risen against the--ha--sense I entertain of--hum--the claims of--
ha--the lady with whom I have now the honour of communing.'
'Mr Dorrit,' returned Mrs General, 'is ever but too obliging, ever
but too appreciative. If there have been moments when I have
imagined that Miss Dorrit has indeed resented the favourable
opinion Mr Dorrit has formed of my services, I have found, in that
only too high opinion, my consolation and recompense.'
'Opinion of your services, madam?' said Mr Dorrit.
'Of,' Mrs General repeated, in an elegantly impressive manner, 'my
'Of your services alone, dear madam?' said Mr Dorrit.
'I presume,' retorted Mrs General, in her former impressive manner,
'of my services alone. For, to what else,' said Mrs General, with
a slightly interrogative action of her gloves, 'could I impute--'
'To--ha--yourself, Mrs General. Ha, hum. To yourself and your
merits,' was Mr Dorrit's rejoinder.
'Mr Dorrit will pardon me,' said Mrs General, 'if I remark that
this is not a time or place for the pursuit of the present
conversation. Mr Dorrit will excuse me if I remind him that Miss
Dorrit is in the adjoining room, and is visible to myself while I
utter her name. Mr Dorrit will forgive me if I observe that I am
agitated, and that I find there are moments when weaknesses I
supposed myself to have subdued, return with redoubled power. Mr
Dorrit will allow me to withdraw.'
'Hum. Perhaps we may resume this--ha--interesting conversation,'
said Mr Dorrit, 'at another time; unless it should be, what I hope
it is not--hum--in any way disagreeable to--ah--Mrs General.'
'Mr Dorrit,' said Mrs General, casting down her eyes as she rose
with a bend, 'must ever claim my homage and obedience.'
Mrs General then took herself off in a stately way, and not with
that amount of trepidation upon her which might have been expected
in a less remarkable woman. Mr Dorrit, who had conducted his part
of the dialogue with a certain majestic and admiring condescension
--much as some people may be seen to conduct themselves in Church,
and to perform their part in the service--appeared, on the whole,
very well satisfied with himself and with Mrs General too. On the
return of that lady to tea, she had touched herself up with a
little powder and pomatum, and was not without moral enchantment
likewise: the latter showing itself in much sweet patronage of
manner towards Miss Dorrit, and in an air of as tender interest in
Mr Dorrit as was consistent with rigid propriety. At the close of
the evening, when she rose to retire, Mr Dorrit took her by the
hand as if he were going to lead her out into the Piazza of the
people to walk a minuet by moonlight, and with great solemnity
conducted her to the room door, where he raised her knuckles to his
lips. Having parted from her with what may be conjectured to have
been a rather bony kiss of a cosmetic flavour, he gave his daughter
his blessing, graciously. And having thus hinted that there was
something remarkable in the wind, he again went to bed.
He remained in the seclusion of his own chamber next morning; but,
early in the afternoon, sent down his best compliments to Mrs
General, by Mr Tinkler, and begged she would accompany Miss Dorrit
on an airing without him. His daughter was dressed for Mrs
Merdle's dinner before he appeared. He then presented himself in
a refulgent condition as to his attire, but looking indefinably
shrunken and old. However, as he was plainly determined to be
angry with her if she so much as asked him how he was, she only
ventured to kiss his cheek, before accompanying him to Mrs Merdle's
with an anxious heart.
The distance that they had to go was very short, but he was at his
building work again before the carriage had half traversed it. Mrs
Merdle received him with great distinction; the bosom was in
admirable preservation, and on the best terms with itself; the
dinner was very choice; and the company was very select.
It was principally English; saving that it comprised the usual
French Count and the usual Italian Marchese--decorative social
milestones, always to be found in certain places, and varying very
little in appearance. The table was long, and the dinner was long;
and Little Dorrit, overshadowed by a large pair of black whiskers
and a large white cravat, lost sight of her father altogether,
until a servant put a scrap of paper in her hand, with a whispered
request from Mrs Merdle that she would read it directly. Mrs
Merdle had written on it in pencil, 'Pray come and speak to Mr
Dorrit, I doubt if he is well.'
She was hurrying to him, unobserved, when he got up out of his
chair, and leaning over the table called to her, supposing her to
be still in her place:
'Amy, Amy, my child!'
The action was so unusual, to say nothing of his strange eager
appearance and strange eager voice, that it instantaneously caused
a profound silence.
' Amy, my dear,' he repeated. 'Will you go and see if Bob is on
She was at his side, and touching him, but he still perversely
supposed her to be in her seat, and called out, still leaning over
the table, 'Amy, Amy. I don't feel quite myself. Ha. I don't
know what's the matter with me. I particularly wish to see Bob.
Ha. Of all the turnkeys, he's as much my friend as yours. See if
Bob is in the lodge, and beg him to come to me.'
All the guests were now in consternation, and everybody rose.
'Dear father, I am not there; I am here, by you.'
'Oh! You are here, Amy! Good. Hum. Good. Ha. Call Bob. If he
has been relieved, and is not on the lock, tell Mrs Bangham to go
and fetch him.'
She was gently trying to get him away; but he resisted, and would
'I tell you, child,' he said petulantly, 'I can't be got up the
narrow stairs without Bob. Ha. Send for Bob. Hum. Send for
Bob--best of all the turnkeys--send for Bob!'
He looked confusedly about him, and, becoming conscious of the
number of faces by which he was surrounded, addressed them:
'Ladies and gentlemen, the duty--ha--devolves upon me of--hum--
welcoming you to the Marshalsea! Welcome to the Marshalsea! The
space is--ha--limited--limited--the parade might be wider; but you
will find it apparently grow larger after a time--a time, ladies
and gentlemen--and the air is, all things considered, very good.
It blows over the--ha--Surrey hills. Blows over the Surrey hills.
This is the Snuggery. Hum. Supported by a small subscription of
the--ha--Collegiate body. In return for which--hot water--general
kitchen--and little domestic advantages. Those who are habituated
to the--ha--Marshalsea, are pleased to call me its father. I am
accustomed to be complimented by strangers as the--ha--Father of
the Marshalsea. Certainly, if years of residence may establish a
claim to so--ha--honourable a title, I may accept the--hum--
conferred distinction. My child, ladies and gentlemen. My
daughter. Born here!'
She was not ashamed of it, or ashamed of him. She was pale and
frightened; but she had no other care than to soothe him and get
him away, for his own dear sake. She was between him and the
wondering faces, turned round upon his breast with her own face
raised to his. He held her clasped in his left arm, and between
whiles her low voice was heard tenderly imploring him to go away
'Born here,' he repeated, shedding tears. 'Bred here. Ladies and
gentlemen, my daughter. Child of an unfortunate father, but--ha--
always a gentleman. Poor, no doubt, but--hum--proud. Always
proud. It has become a--hum--not infrequent custom for my--ha--
personal admirers--personal admirers solely--to be pleased to
express their desire to acknowledge my semi-official position here,
by offering--ha--little tributes, which usually take the form of--
ha--voluntary recognitions of my humble endeavours to--hum--to
uphold a Tone here--a Tone--I beg it to be understood that I do not
consider myself compromised. Ha. Not compromised. Ha. Not a
beggar. No; I repudiate the title! At the same time far be it
from me to--hum--to put upon the fine feelings by which my partial
friends are actuated, the slight of scrupling to admit that those
offerings are--hum--highly acceptable. On the contrary, they are
most acceptable. In my child's name, if not in my own, I make the
admission in the fullest manner, at the same time reserving--ha--
shall I say my personal dignity? Ladies and gentlemen, God bless
By this time, the exceeding mortification undergone by the Bosom
had occasioned the withdrawal of the greater part of the company
into other rooms. The few who had lingered thus long followed the
rest, and Little Dorrit and her father were left to the servants
and themselves. Dearest and most precious to her, he would come
with her now, would he not? He replied to her fervid entreaties,
that he would never be able to get up the narrow stairs without
Bob; where was Bob, would nobody fetch Bob? Under pretence of
looking for Bob, she got him out against the stream of gay company
now pouring in for the evening assembly, and got him into a coach
that had just set down its load, and got him home.
The broad stairs of his Roman palace were contracted in his failing
sight to the narrow stairs of his London prison; and he would
suffer no one but her to touch him, his brother excepted. They got
him up to his room without help, and laid him down on his bed. And
from that hour his poor maimed spirit, only remembering the place
where it had broken its wings, cancelled the dream through which it
had since groped, and knew of nothing beyond the Marshalsea. When
he heard footsteps in the street, he took them for the old weary
tread in the yards. When the hour came for locking up, he supposed
all strangers to be excluded for the night. When the time for
opening came again, he was so anxious to see Bob, that they were
fain to patch up a narrative how that Bob--many a year dead then,
gentle turnkey--had taken cold, but hoped to be out to-morrow, or
the next day, or the next at furthest.
He fell away into a weakness so extreme that he could not raise his
hand. But he still protected his brother according to his long
usage; and would say with some complacency, fifty times a day, when
he saw him standing by his bed, 'My good Frederick, sit down. You
are very feeble indeed.'
They tried him with Mrs General, but he had not the faintest
knowledge of her. Some injurious suspicion lodged itself in his
brain, that she wanted to supplant Mrs Bangham, and that she was
given to drinking. He charged her with it in no measured terms;
and was so urgent with his daughter to go round to the Marshal and
entreat him to turn her out, that she was never reproduced after
the first failure.
Saving that he once asked 'if Tip had gone outside?' the
remembrance of his two children not present seemed to have departed
from him. But the child who had done so much for him and had been
so poorly repaid, was never out of his mind. Not that he spared
her, or was fearful of her being spent by watching and fatigue; he
was not more troubled on that score than he had usually been. No;
he loved her in his old way. They were in the jail again, and she
tended him, and he had constant need of her, and could not turn
without her; and he even told her, sometimes, that he was content
to have undergone a great deal for her sake. As to her, she bent
over his bed with her quiet face against his, and would have laid
down her own life to restore him.
When he had been sinking in this painless way for two or three
days, she observed him to be troubled by the ticking of his watch--
a pompous gold watch that made as great a to-do about its going as
if nothing else went but itself and Time. She suffered it to run
down; but he was still uneasy, and showed that was not what he
wanted. At length he roused himself to explain that he wanted
money to be raised on this watch. He was quite pleased when she
pretended to take it away for the purpose, and afterwards had a
relish for his little tastes of wine and jelly, that he had not had
He soon made it plain that this was so; for, in another day or two
he sent off his sleeve-buttons and finger-rings. He had an amazing
satisfaction in entrusting her with these errands, and appeared to
consider it equivalent to making the most methodical and provident
arrangements. After his trinkets, or such of them as he had been
able to see about him, were gone, his clothes engaged his
attention; and it is as likely as not that he was kept alive for
some days by the satisfaction of sending them, piece by piece, to
an imaginary pawnbroker's.
Thus for ten days Little Dorrit bent over his pillow, laying her
cheek against his. Sometimes she was so worn out that for a few
minutes they would slumber together. Then she would awake; to
recollect with fast-flowing silent tears what it was that touched
her face, and to see, stealing over the cherished face upon the
pillow, a deeper shadow than the shadow of the Marshalsea Wall.
Quietly, quietly, all the lines of the plan of the great Castle
melted one after another. Quietly, quietly, the ruled and cross-
ruled countenance on which they were traced, became fair and blank.
Quietly, quietly, the reflected marks of the prison bars and of the
zig-zag iron on the wall-top, faded away. Quietly, quietly, the
face subsided into a far younger likeness of her own than she had
ever seen under the grey hair, and sank to rest.
At first her uncle was stark distracted. 'O my brother! O
William, William! You to go before me; you to go alone; you to go,
and I to remain! You, so far superior, so distinguished, so noble;
I, a poor useless creature fit for nothing, and whom no one would
It did her, for the time, the good of having him to think of and to
'Uncle, dear uncle, spare yourself, spare me!'
The old man was not deaf to the last words. When he did begin to
restrain himself, it was that he might spare her. He had no care
for himself; but, with all the remaining power of the honest heart,
stunned so long and now awaking to be broken, he honoured and
'O God,' he cried, before they left the room, with his wrinkled
hands clasped over her. 'Thou seest this daughter of my dear dead
brother! All that I have looked upon, with my half-blind and
sinful eyes, Thou hast discerned clearly, brightly. Not a hair of
her head shall be harmed before Thee. Thou wilt uphold her here to
her last hour. And I know Thou wilt reward her hereafter!'
They remained in a dim room near, until it was almost midnight,
quiet and sad together. At times his grief would seek relief in a
burst like that in which it had found its earliest expression; but,
besides that his little strength would soon have been unequal to
such strains, he never failed to recall her words, and to reproach
himself and calm himself. The only utterance with which he
indulged his sorrow, was the frequent exclamation that his brother
was gone, alone; that they had been together in the outset of their
lives, that they had fallen into misfortune together, that they had
kept together through their many years of poverty, that they had
remained together to that day; and that his brother was gone alone,
They parted, heavy and sorrowful. She would not consent to leave
him anywhere but in his own room, and she saw him lie down in his
clothes upon his bed, and covered him with her own hands. Then she
sank upon her own bed, and fell into a deep sleep: the sleep of
exhaustion and rest, though not of complete release from a
pervading consciousness of affliction. Sleep, good Little Dorrit.
Sleep through the night!
It was a moonlight night; but the moon rose late, being long past
the full. When it was high in the peaceful firmament, it shone
through half-closed lattice blinds into the solemn room where the
stumblings and wanderings of a life had so lately ended. Two quiet
figures were within the room; two figures, equally still and
impassive, equally removed by an untraversable distance from the
teeming earth and all that it contains, though soon to lie in it.
One figure reposed upon the bed. The other, kneeling on the floor,
drooped over it; the arms easily and peacefully resting on the
coverlet; the face bowed down, so that the lips touched the hand
over which with its last breath it had bent. The two brothers were
before their Father; far beyond the twilight judgment of this
world; high above its mists and obscurities.
Introduces the next
The passengers were landing from the packet on the pier at Calais.
A low-lying place and a low-spirited place Calais was, with the
tide ebbing out towards low water-mark. There had been no more
water on the bar than had sufficed to float the packet in; and now
the bar itself, with a shallow break of sea over it, looked like a
lazy marine monster just risen to the surface, whose form was
indistinctly shown as it lay asleep. The meagre lighthouse all in
white, haunting the seaboard as if it were the ghost of an edifice
that had once had colour and rotundity, dropped melancholy tears
after its late buffeting by the waves. The long rows of gaunt
black piles, slimy and wet and weather-worn, with funeral garlands
of seaweed twisted about them by the late tide, might have
represented an unsightly marine cemetery. Every wave-dashed,
storm-beaten object, was so low and so little, under the broad grey
sky, in the noise of the wind and sea, and before the curling lines
of surf, making at it ferociously, that the wonder was there was
any Calais left, and that its low gates and low wall and low roofs
and low ditches and low sand-hills and low ramparts and flat
streets, had not yielded long ago to the undermining and besieging
sea, like the fortifications children make on the sea-shore.
After slipping among oozy piles and planks, stumbling up wet steps
and encountering many salt difficulties, the passengers entered on
their comfortless peregrination along the pier; where all the
French vagabonds and English outlaws in the town (half the
population) attended to prevent their recovery from bewilderment.
After being minutely inspected by all the English, and claimed and
reclaimed and counter-claimed as prizes by all the French in a
hand-to-hand scuffle three quarters of a mile long, they were at
last free to enter the streets, and to make off in their various
directions, hotly pursued.
Clennam, harassed by more anxieties than one, was among this
devoted band. Having rescued the most defenceless of his
compatriots from situations of great extremity, he now went his way
alone, or as nearly alone as he could be, with a native gentleman
in a suit of grease and a cap of the same material, giving chase at
a distance of some fifty yards, and continually calling after him,
'Hi! Ice-say! You! Seer! Ice-say! Nice Oatel!'
Even this hospitable person, however, was left behind at last, and
Clennam pursued his way, unmolested. There was a tranquil air in
the town after the turbulence of the Channel and the beach, and its
dulness in that comparison was agreeable. He met new groups of his
countrymen, who had all a straggling air of having at one time
overblown themselves, like certain uncomfortable kinds of flowers,
and of being now mere weeds. They had all an air, too, of lounging
out a limited round, day after day, which strongly reminded him of
the Marshalsea. But, taking no further note of them than was
sufficient to give birth to the reflection, he sought out a certain
street and number which he kept in his mind.
'So Pancks said,' he murmured to himself, as he stopped before a
dull house answering to the address. 'I suppose his information to
be correct and his discovery, among Mr Casby's loose papers,
indisputable; but, without it, I should hardly have supposed this
to be a likely place.'
A dead sort of house, with a dead wall over the way and a dead
gateway at the side, where a pendant bell-handle produced two dead
tinkles, and a knocker produced a dead, flat, surface-tapping, that
seemed not to have depth enough in it to penetrate even the cracked
door. However, the door jarred open on a dead sort of spring; and
he closed it behind him as he entered a dull yard, soon brought to
a close by another dead wall, where an attempt had been made to
train some creeping shrubs, which were dead; and to make a little
fountain in a grotto, which was dry; and to decorate that with a
little statue, which was gone.
The entry to the house was on the left, and it was garnished as the
outer gateway was, with two printed bills in French and English,
announcing Furnished Apartments to let, with immediate possession.
A strong cheerful peasant woman, all stocking, petticoat, white
cap, and ear-ring, stood here in a dark doorway, and said with a
pleasant show of teeth, 'Ice-say! Seer! Who?'
Clennam, replying in French, said the English lady; he wished to
see the English lady. 'Enter then and ascend, if you please,'
returned the peasant woman, in French likewise. He did both, and
followed her up a dark bare staircase to a back room on the first-
floor. Hence, there was a gloomy view of the yard that was dull,
and of the shrubs that were dead, and of the fountain that was dry,
and of the pedestal of the statue that was gone.
'Monsieur Blandois,' said Clennam.
'With pleasure, Monsieur.'
Thereupon the woman withdrew and left him to look at the room. It
was the pattern of room always to be found in such a house. Cool,
dull, and dark. Waxed floor very slippery. A room not large
enough to skate in; nor adapted to the easy pursuit of any other
occupation. Red and white curtained windows, little straw mat,
little round table with a tumultuous assemblage of legs underneath,
clumsy rush-bottomed chairs, two great red velvet arm-chairs
affording plenty of space to be uncomfortable in, bureau, chimney-
glass in several pieces pretending to be in one piece, pair of
gaudy vases of very artificial flowers; between them a Greek
warrior with his helmet off, sacrificing a clock to the Genius of
After some pause, a door of communication with another room was
opened, and a lady entered. She manifested great surprise on
seeing Clennam, and her glance went round the room in search of
some one else.
'Pardon me, Miss Wade. I am alone.'
'It was not your name that was brought to me.'
'No; I know that. Excuse me. I have already had experience that
my name does not predispose you to an interview; and I ventured to
mention the name of one I am in search of.'
'Pray,' she returned, motioning him to a chair so coldly that he
remained standing, 'what name was it that you gave?'
'I mentioned the name of Blandois.'
'A name you are acquainted with.'
'It is strange,' she said, frowning, 'that you should still press
an undesired interest in me and my acquaintances, in me and my
affairs, Mr Clennam. I don't know what you mean.'
'Pardon me. You know the name?'
'What can you have to do with the name? What can I have to do with
the name? What can you have to do with my knowing or not knowing
any name? I know many names and I have forgotten many more. This
may be in the one class, or it may be in the other, or I may never
have heard it. I am acquainted with no reason for examining
myself, or for being examined, about it.'
'If you will allow me,' said Clennam, 'I will tell you my reason
for pressing the subject. I admit that I do press it, and I must
beg you to forgive me if I do so, very earnestly. The reason is
all mine, I do not insinuate that it is in any way yours.'
'Well, sir,' she returned, repeating a little less haughtily than
before her former invitation to him to be seated: to which he now
deferred, as she seated herself. 'I am at least glad to know that
this is not another bondswoman of some friend of yours, who is
bereft of free choice, and whom I have spirited away. I will hear
your reason, if you please.'
'First, to identify the person of whom we speak,' said Clennam,
'let me observe that it is the person you met in London some time
back. You will remember meeting him near the river--in the
'You mix yourself most unaccountably with my business,' she
replied, looking full at him with stern displeasure. 'How do you
'I entreat you not to take it ill. By mere accident.'
'Solely the accident of coming upon you in the street and seeing
'Do you speak of yourself, or of some one else?'
'Of myself. I saw it.'
'To be sure it was in the open street,' she observed, after a few
moments of less and less angry reflection. 'Fifty people might
have seen it. It would have signified nothing if they had.'
'Nor do I make my having seen it of any moment, nor (otherwise than
as an explanation of my coming here) do I connect my visit with it
or the favour that I have to ask.'
'Oh! You have to ask a favour! It occurred to me,' and the
handsome face looked bitterly at him, 'that your manner was
softened, Mr Clennam.'
He was content to protest against this by a slight action without
contesting it in words. He then referred to Blandois'
disappearance, of which it was probable she had heard? However
probable it was to him, she had heard of no such thing. Let him
look round him (she said) and judge for himself what general
intelligence was likely to reach the ears of a woman who had been
shut up there while it was rife, devouring her own heart. When she
had uttered this denial, which he believed to be true, she asked
him what he meant by disappearance? That led to his narrating the
circumstances in detail, and expressing something of his anxiety to
discover what had really become of the man, and to repel the dark
suspicions that clouded about his mother's house. She heard him
with evident surprise, and with more marks of suppressed interest
than he had seen in her; still they did not overcome her distant,
proud, and self-secluded manner. When he had finished, she said
nothing but these words:
'You have not yet told me, sir, what I have to do with it, or what
the favour is? Will you be so good as come to that?'
'I assume,' said Arthur, persevering, in his endeavour to soften
her scornful demeanour, 'that being in communication--may I say,
confidential communication?--with this person--'
'You may say, of course, whatever you like,' she remarked; 'but I
do not subscribe to your assumptions, Mr Clennam, or to any one's.'
'--that being, at least in personal communication with him,' said
Clennam, changing the form of his position in the hope of making it
unobjectionable, 'you can tell me something of his antecedents,
pursuits, habits, usual place of residence. Can give me some
little clue by which to seek him out in the likeliest manner, and
either produce him, or establish what has become of him. This is
the favour I ask, and I ask it in a distress of mind for which I
hope you will feel some consideration. If you should have any
reason for imposing conditions upon me, I will respect it without
asking what it is.'
'You chanced to see me in the street with the man,' she observed,
after being, to his mortification, evidently more occupied with her
own reflections on the matter than with his appeal. 'Then you knew
the man before?'
'Not before; afterwards. I never saw him before, but I saw him
again on this very night of his disappearance. In my mother's
room, in fact. I left him there. You will read in this paper all
that is known of him.'
He handed her one of the printed bills, which she read with a
steady and attentive face.
'This is more than I knew of him,' she said, giving it back.
Clennam's looks expressed his heavy disappointment, perhaps his
incredulity; for she added in the same unsympathetic tone: 'You
don't believe it. Still, it is so. As to personal communication:
it seems that there was personal communication between him and your
mother. And yet you say you believe her declaration that she knows
no more of him!'
A sufficiently expressive hint of suspicion was conveyed in these
words, and in the smile by which they were accompanied, to bring
the blood into Clennam's cheeks.
'Come, sir,' she said, with a cruel pleasure in repeating the stab,
'I will be as open with you as you can desire. I will confess that
if I cared for my credit (which I do not), or had a good name to
preserve (which I have not, for I am utterly indifferent to its
being considered good or bad), I should regard myself as heavily
compromised by having had anything to do with this fellow. Yet he
never passed in at MY door--never sat in colloquy with ME until
She took her revenge for her old grudge in thus turning his subject
against him. Hers was not the nature to spare him, and she had no
'That he is a low, mercenary wretch; that I first saw him prowling
about Italy (where I was, not long ago), and that I hired him
there, as the suitable instrument of a purpose I happened to have;
I have no objection to tell you. In short, it was worth my while,
for my own pleasure--the gratification of a strong feeling--to pay
a spy who would fetch and carry for money. I paid this creature.
And I dare say that if I had wanted to make such a bargain, and if
I could have paid him enough, and if he could have done it in the
dark, free from all risk, he would have taken any life with as
little scruple as he took my money. That, at least, is my opinion
of him; and I see it is not very far removed from yours. Your
mother's opinion of him, I am to assume (following your example of
assuming this and that), was vastly different.'
'My mother, let me remind you,' said Clennam, 'was first brought
into communication with him in the unlucky course of business.'
'It appears to have been an unlucky course of business that last
brought her into communication with him,' returned Miss Wade; 'and
business hours on that occasion were late.'
'You imply,' said Arthur, smarting under these cool-handed thrusts,
of which he had deeply felt the force already, 'that there was
'Mr Clennam,' she composedly interrupted, 'recollect that I do not
speak by implication about the man. He is, I say again without
disguise, a low mercenary wretch. I suppose such a creature goes
where there is occasion for him. If I had not had occasion for
him, you would not have seen him and me together.'
Wrung by her persistence in keeping that dark side of the case
before him, of which there was a half-hidden shadow in his own
breast, Clennam was silent.
'I have spoken of him as still living,' she added, 'but he may have
been put out of the way for anything I know. For anything I care,
also. I have no further occasion for him.'
With a heavy sigh and a despondent air, Arthur Clennam slowly rose.
She did not rise also, but said, having looked at him in the
meanwhile with a fixed look of suspicion, and lips angrily
'He was the chosen associate of your dear friend, Mr Gowan, was he
not? Why don't you ask your dear friend to help you?'
The denial that he was a dear friend rose to Arthur's lips; but he
repressed it, remembering his old struggles and resolutions, and
'Further than that he has never seen Blandois since Blandois set
out for England, Mr Gowan knows nothing additional about him. He
was a chance acquaintance, made abroad.'
'A chance acquaintance made abroad!' she repeated. 'Yes. Your
dear friend has need to divert himself with all the acquaintances
he can make, seeing what a wife he has. I hate his wife, sir.'
The anger with which she said it, the more remarkable for being so
much under her restraint, fixed Clennam's attention, and kept him
on the spot. It flashed out of her dark eyes as they regarded him,
quivered in her nostrils, and fired the very breath she exhaled;
but her face was otherwise composed into a disdainful serenity; and
her attitude was as calmly and haughtily graceful as if she had
been in a mood of complete indifference.
'All I will say is, Miss Wade,' he remarked, 'that you can have
received no provocation to a feeling in which I believe you have no
'You may ask your dear friend, if you choose,' she returned, 'for
his opinion upon that subject.'
'I am scarcely on those intimate terms with my dear friend,' said
Arthur, in spite of his resolutions, 'that would render my
approaching the subject very probable, Miss Wade.'
'I hate him,' she returned. 'Worse than his wife, because I was
once dupe enough, and false enough to myself, almost to love him.
You have seen me, sir, only on common-place occasions, when I dare
say you have thought me a common-place woman, a little more self-
willed than the generality. You don't know what I mean by hating,
if you know me no better than that; you can't know, without knowing
with what care I have studied myself and people about me. For this
reason I have for some time inclined to tell you what my life has
been--not to propitiate your opinion, for I set no value on it; but
that you may comprehend, when you think of your dear friend and his
dear wife, what I mean by hating. Shall I give you something I
have written and put by for your perusal, or shall I hold my hand?'
Arthur begged her to give it to him. She went to the bureau,
unlocked it, and took from an inner drawer a few folded sheets of
paper. Without any conciliation of him, scarcely addressing him,
rather speaking as if she were speaking to her own looking-glass
for the justification of her own stubbornness, she said, as she
gave them to him:
'Now you may know what I mean by hating! No more of that. Sir,
whether you find me temporarily and cheaply lodging in an empty
London house, or in a Calais apartment, you find Harriet with me.
You may like to see her before you leave. Harriet, come in!' She
called Harriet again. The second call produced Harriet, once
'Here is Mr Clennam,' said Miss Wade; 'not come for you; he has
given you up,--I suppose you have, by this time?'
'Having no authority, or influence--yes,' assented Clennam.
'Not come in search of you, you see; but still seeking some one.
He wants that Blandois man.'
'With whom I saw you in the Strand in London,' hinted Arthur.
'If you know anything of him, Harriet, except that he came from
Venice--which we all know--tell it to Mr Clennam freely.'
'I know nothing more about him,' said the girl.
'Are you satisfied?' Miss Wade inquired of Arthur.
He had no reason to disbelieve them; the girl's manner being so
natural as to be almost convincing, if he had had any previous
doubts. He replied, 'I must seek for intelligence elsewhere.'
He was not going in the same breath; but he had risen before the
girl entered, and she evidently thought he was. She looked quickly
at him, and said:
'Are they well, sir?'
She stopped herself in saying what would have been 'all of them;'
glanced at Miss Wade; and said 'Mr and Mrs Meagles.'
'They were, when I last heard of them. They are not at home. By
the way, let me ask you. Is it true that you were seen there?'
'Where? Where does any one say I was seen?' returned the girl,
sullenly casting down her eyes.
'Looking in at the garden gate of the cottage.'
'No,' said Miss Wade. 'She has never been near it.'
'You are wrong, then,' said the girl. 'I went down there the last
time we were in London. I went one afternoon when you left me
alone. And I did look in.'
'You poor-spirited girl,' returned Miss Wade with infinite
contempt; 'does all our companionship, do all our conversations, do
all your old complainings, tell for so little as that?'
'There was no harm in looking in at the gate for an instant,' said
the girl. 'I saw by the windows that the family were not there.'
'Why should you go near the place?'
'Because I wanted to see it. Because I felt that I should like to
look at it again.'
As each of the two handsome faces looked at the other, Clennam felt
how each of the two natures must be constantly tearing the other to
'Oh!' said Miss Wade, coldly subduing and removing her glance; 'if
you had any desire to see the place where you led the life from
which I rescued you because you had found out what it was, that is
another thing. But is that your truth to me? Is that your
fidelity to me? Is that the common cause I make with you? You are
not worth the confidence I have placed in you. You are not worth
the favour I have shown you. You are no higher than a spaniel, and
had better go back to the people who did worse than whip you.'
'If you speak so of them with any one else by to hear, you'll
provoke me to take their part,' said the girl.
'Go back to them,' Miss Wade retorted. 'Go back to them.'
'You know very well,' retorted Harriet in her turn, 'that I won't
go back to them. You know very well that I have thrown them off,
and never can, never shall, never will, go back to them. Let them
alone, then, Miss Wade.'
'You prefer their plenty to your less fat living here,' she
rejoined. 'You exalt them, and slight me. What else should I have
expected? I ought to have known it.'
'It's not so,' said the girl, flushing high, 'and you don't say
what you mean. I know what you mean. You are reproaching me,
underhanded, with having nobody but you to look to. And because I
have nobody but you to look to, you think you are to make me do, or
not do, everything you please, and are to put any affront upon me.
You are as bad as they were, every bit. But I will not be quite
tamed, and made submissive. I will say again that I went to look
at the house, because I had often thought that I should like to see
it once more. I will ask again how they are, because I once liked
them and at times thought they were kind to me.'
Hereupon Clennam said that he was sure they would still receive her
kindly, if she should ever desire to return.
'Never!' said the girl passionately. 'I shall never do that.
Nobody knows that better than Miss Wade, though she taunts me
because she has made me her dependent. And I know I am so; and I
know she is overjoyed when she can bring it to my mind.'
'A good pretence!' said Miss Wade, with no less anger, haughtiness,
and bitterness; 'but too threadbare to cover what I plainly see in
this. My poverty will not bear competition with their money.
Better go back at once, better go back at once, and have done with
Arthur Clennam looked at them, standing a little distance asunder
in the dull confined room, each proudly cherishing her own anger;
each, with a fixed determination, torturing her own breast, and
torturing the other's. He said a word or two of leave-taking; but
Miss Wade barely inclined her head, and Harriet, with the assumed
humiliation of an abject dependent and serf (but not without
defiance for all that), made as if she were too low to notice or to
He came down the dark winding stairs into the yard with an
increased sense upon him of the gloom of the wall that was dead,
and of the shrubs that were dead, and of the fountain that was dry,
and of the statue that was gone. Pondering much on what he had
seen and heard in that house, as well as on the failure of all his
efforts to trace the suspicious character who was lost, he returned
to London and to England by the packet that had taken him over. On
the way he unfolded the sheets of paper, and read in them what is
reproduced in the next chapter.
The History of a Self-Tormentor
I have the misfortune of not being a fool. From a very early age
I have detected what those about me thought they hid from me. If
I could have been habitually imposed upon, instead of habitually
discerning the truth, I might have lived as smoothly as most fools
My childhood was passed with a grandmother; that is to say, with a
lady who represented that relative to me, and who took that title
on herself. She had no claim to it, but I--being to that extent a
little fool--had no suspicion of her. She had some children of her
own family in her house, and some children of other people. All
girls; ten in number, including me. We all lived together and were
I must have been about twelve years old when I began to see how
determinedly those girls patronised me. I was told I was an
orphan. There was no other orphan among us; and I perceived (here
was the first disadvantage of not being a fool) that they
conciliated me in an insolent pity, and in a sense of superiority.
I did not set this down as a discovery, rashly. I tried them
often. I could hardly make them quarrel with me. When I succeeded
with any of them, they were sure to come after an hour or two, and
begin a reconciliation. I tried them over and over again, and I
never knew them wait for me to begin. They were always forgiving
me, in their vanity and condescension. Little images of grown
One of them was my chosen friend. I loved that stupid mite in a
passionate way that she could no more deserve than I can remember
without feeling ashamed of, though I was but a child. She had what
they called an amiable temper, an affectionate temper. She could
distribute, and did distribute pretty looks and smiles to every one
among them. I believe there was not a soul in the place, except
myself, who knew that she did it purposely to wound and gall me!
Nevertheless, I so loved that unworthy girl that my life was made
stormy by my fondness for her. I was constantly lectured and
disgraced for what was called 'trying her;' in other words charging
her with her little perfidy and throwing her into tears by showing
her that I read her heart. However, I loved her faithfully; and
one time I went home with her for the holidays.
She was worse at home than she had been at school. She had a crowd
of cousins and acquaintances, and we had dances at her house, and
went out to dances at other houses, and, both at home and out, she
tormented my love beyond endurance. Her plan was, to make them all
fond of her--and so drive me wild with jealousy. To be familiar
and endearing with them all--and so make me mad with envying them.
When we were left alone in our bedroom at night, I would reproach
her with my perfect knowledge of her baseness; and then she would
cry and cry and say I was cruel, and then I would hold her in my
arms till morning: loving her as much as ever, and often feeling as
if, rather than suffer so, I could so hold her in my arms and
plunge to the bottom of a river--where I would still hold her after
we were both dead.
It came to an end, and I was relieved. In the family there was an
aunt who was not fond of me. I doubt if any of the family liked me
much; but I never wanted them to like me, being altogether bound up
in the one girl. The aunt was a young woman, and she had a serious
way with her eyes of watching me. She was an audacious woman, and
openly looked compassionately at me. After one of the nights that
I have spoken of, I came down into a greenhouse before breakfast.
Charlotte (the name of my false young friend) had gone down before
me, and I heard this aunt speaking to her about me as I entered.
I stopped where I was, among the leaves, and listened.
The aunt said, 'Charlotte, Miss Wade is wearing you to death, and
this must not continue.' I repeat the very words I heard.
Now, what did she answer? Did she say, 'It is I who am wearing her
to death, I who am keeping her on a rack and am the executioner,
yet she tells me every night that she loves me devotedly, though
she knows what I make her undergo?' No; my first memorable
experience was true to what I knew her to be, and to all my
experience. She began sobbing and weeping (to secure the aunt's
sympathy to herself), and said, 'Dear aunt, she has an unhappy
temper; other girls at school, besides I, try hard to make it
better; we all try hard.'
Upon that the aunt fondled her, as if she had said something noble
instead of despicable and false, and kept up the infamous pretence
by replying, 'But there are reasonable limits, my dear love, to
everything, and I see that this poor miserable girl causes you more
constant and useless distress than even so good an effort
The poor miserable girl came out of her concealment, as you may be
prepared to hear, and said, 'Send me home.' I never said another
word to either of them, or to any of them, but 'Send me home, or I
will walk home alone, night and day!' When I got home, I told my
supposed grandmother that, unless I was sent away to finish my
education somewhere else before that girl came back, or before any
one of them came back, I would burn my sight away by throwing
myself into the fire, rather than I would endure to look at their
I went among young women next, and I found them no better. Fair
words and fair pretences; but I penetrated below those assertions
of themselves and depreciations of me, and they were no better.
Before I left them, I learned that I had no grandmother and no
recognised relation. I carried the light of that information both
into my past and into my future. It showed me many new occasions
on which people triumphed over me, when they made a pretence of
treating me with consideration, or doing me a service.
A man of business had a small property in trust for me. I was to
be a governess; I became a governess; and went into the family of
a poor nobleman, where there were two daughters--little children,
but the parents wished them to grow up, if possible, under one
instructress. The mother was young and pretty. From the first,
she made a show of behaving to me with great delicacy. I kept my
resentment to myself; but I knew very well that it was her way of
petting the knowledge that she was my Mistress, and might have
behaved differently to her servant if it had been her fancy.
I say I did not resent it, nor did I; but I showed her, by not
gratifying her, that I understood her. When she pressed me to take
wine, I took water. If there happened to be anything choice at
table, she always sent it to me: but I always declined it, and ate
of the rejected dishes. These disappointments of her patronage
were a sharp retort, and made me feel independent.
I liked the children. They were timid, but on the whole disposed
to attach themselves to me. There was a nurse, however, in the
house, a rosy-faced woman always making an obtrusive pretence of
being gay and good-humoured, who had nursed them both, and who had
secured their affections before I saw them. I could almost have
settled down to my fate but for this woman. Her artful devices for
keeping herself before the children in constant competition with
me, might have blinded many in my place; but I saw through them
from the first. On the pretext of arranging my rooms and waiting
on me and taking care of my wardrobe (all of which she did busily),
she was never absent. The most crafty of her many subtleties was
her feint of seeking to make the children fonder of me. She would
lead them to me and coax them to me. 'Come to good Miss Wade, come
to dear Miss Wade, come to pretty Miss Wade. She loves you very
much. Miss Wade is a clever lady, who has read heaps of books, and
can tell you far better and more interesting stories than I know.
Come and hear Miss Wade!' How could I engage their attentions,
when my heart was burning against these ignorant designs? How
could I wonder, when I saw their innocent faces shrinking away, and
their arms twining round her neck, instead of mine? Then she would
look up at me, shaking their curls from her face, and say, 'They'll
come round soon, Miss Wade; they're very simple and loving, ma'am;
don't be at all cast down about it, ma'am'--exulting over me!
There was another thing the woman did. At times, when she saw that
she had safely plunged me into a black despondent brooding by these
means, she would call the attention of the children to it, and
would show them the difference between herself and me. 'Hush!
Poor Miss Wade is not well. Don't make a noise, my dears, her head
aches. Come and comfort her. Come and ask her if she is better;
come and ask her to lie down. I hope you have nothing on your
mind, ma'am. Don't take on, ma'am, and be sorry!'
It became intolerable. Her ladyship, my Mistress, coming in one
day when I was alone, and at the height of feeling that I could
support it no longer, I told her I must go. I could not bear the
presence of that woman Dawes.
'Miss Wade! Poor Dawes is devoted to you; would do anything for
I knew beforehand she would say so; I was quite prepared for it; I
only answered, it was not for me to contradict my Mistress; I must
'I hope, Miss Wade,' she returned, instantly assuming the tone of
superiority she had always so thinly concealed, 'that nothing I
have ever said or done since we have been together, has justified
your use of that disagreeable word, "Mistress." It must have been
wholly inadvertent on my part. Pray tell me what it is.'
I replied that I had no complaint to make, either of my Mistress or
to my Mistress; but I must go.
She hesitated a moment, and then sat down beside me, and laid her
hand on mine. As if that honour would obliterate any remembrance!
'Miss Wade, I fear you are unhappy, through causes over which I
have no influence.'
I smiled, thinking of the experience the word awakened, and said,
'I have an unhappy temper, I suppose.'
'I did not say that.'
'It is an easy way of accounting for anything,' said I.
'It may be; but I did not say so. What I wish to approach is
something very different. My husband and I have exchanged some
remarks upon the subject, when we have observed with pain that you
have not been easy with us.'
'Easy? Oh! You are such great people, my lady,' said I.
'I am unfortunate in using a word which may convey a meaning--and
evidently does--quite opposite to my intention.' (She had not
expected my reply, and it shamed her.) 'I only mean, not happy with
us. It is a difficult topic to enter on; but, from one young woman
to another, perhaps--in short, we have been apprehensive that you
may allow some family circumstances of which no one can be more
innocent than yourself, to prey upon your spirits. If so, let us
entreat you not to make them a cause of grief. My husband himself,
as is well known, formerly had a very dear sister who was not in
law his sister, but who was universally beloved and respected .
I saw directly that they had taken me in for the sake of the dead
woman, whoever she was, and to have that boast of me and advantage
of me; I saw, in the nurse's knowledge of it, an encouragement to
goad me as she had done; and I saw, in the children's shrinking
away, a vague impression, that I was not like other people. I left
that house that night.
After one or two short and very similar experiences, which are not
to the present purpose, I entered another family where I had but
one pupil: a girl of fifteen, who was the only daughter. The
parents here were elderly people: people of station, and rich. A
nephew whom they had brought up was a frequent visitor at the
house, among many other visitors; and he began to pay me attention.
I was resolute in repulsing him; for I had determined when I went
there, that no one should pity me or condescend to me. But he
wrote me a letter. It led to our being engaged to be married.
He was a year younger than I, and young-looking even when that
allowance was made. He was on absence from India, where he had a
post that was soon to grow into a very good one. In six months we
were to be married, and were to go to India. I was to stay in the
house, and was to be married from the house. Nobody objected to
any part of the plan.
I cannot avoid saying he admired me; but, if I could, I would.
Vanity has nothing to do with the declaration, for his admiration
worried me. He took no pains to hide it; and caused me to feel
among the rich people as if he had bought me for my looks, and made
a show of his purchase to justify himself. They appraised me in
their own minds, I saw, and were curious to ascertain what my full
value was. I resolved that they should not know. I was immovable
and silent before them; and would have suffered any one of them to
kill me sooner than I would have laid myself out to bespeak their
He told me I did not do myself justice. I told him I did, and it
was because I did and meant to do so to the last, that I would not
stoop to propitiate any of them. He was concerned and even
shocked, when I added that I wished he would not parade his
attachment before them; but he said he would sacrifice even the
honest impulses of his affection to my peace.
Under that pretence he began to retort upon me. By the hour
together, he would keep at a distance from me, talking to any one
rather than to me. I have sat alone and unnoticed, half an
evening, while he conversed with his young cousin, my pupil. I
have seen all the while, in people's eyes, that they thought the
two looked nearer on an equality than he and I. I have sat,
divining their thoughts, until I have felt that his young
appearance made me ridiculous, and have raged against myself for
ever loving him.
For I did love him once. Undeserving as he was, and little as he
thought of all these agonies that it cost me--agonies which should
have made him wholly and gratefully mine to his life's end--I loved
him. I bore with his cousin's praising him to my face, and with
her pretending to think that it pleased me, but full well knowing
that it rankled in my breast; for his sake. While I have sat in
his presence recalling all my slights and wrongs, and deliberating
whether I should not fly from the house at once and never see him
again--I have loved him.
His aunt (my Mistress you will please to remember) deliberately,
wilfully, added to my trials and vexations. It was her delight to
expatiate on the style in which we were to live in India, and on
the establishment we should keep, and the company we should
entertain when he got his advancement. My pride rose against this
barefaced way of pointing out the contrast my married life was to
present to my then dependent and inferior position. I suppressed
my indignation; but I showed her that her intention was not lost
upon me, and I repaid her annoyance by affecting humility. What
she described would surely be a great deal too much honour for me,
I would tell her. I was afraid I might not be able to support so
great a change. Think of a mere governess, her daughter's
governess, coming to that high distinction! It made her uneasy,
and made them all uneasy, when I answered in this way. They knew
that I fully understood her.
It was at the time when my troubles were at their highest, and when
I was most incensed against my lover for his ingratitude in caring
as little as he did for the innumerable distresses and
mortifications I underwent on his account, that your dear friend,
Mr Gowan, appeared at the house. He had been intimate there for a
long time, but had been abroad. He understood the state of things
at a glance, and he understood me.
He was the first person I had ever seen in my life who had
understood me. He was not in the house three times before I knew
that he accompanied every movement of my mind. In his coldly easy
way with all of them, and with me, and with the whole subject, I
saw it clearly. In his light protestations of admiration of my
future husband, in his enthusiasm regarding our engagement and our
prospects, in his hopeful congratulations on our future wealth and
his despondent references to his own poverty--all equally hollow,
and jesting, and full of mockery--I saw it clearly. He made me
feel more and more resentful, and more and more contemptible, by
always presenting to me everything that surrounded me with some new
hateful light upon it, while he pretended to exhibit it in its best
aspect for my admiration and his own. He was like the dressed-up
Death in the Dutch series; whatever figure he took upon his arm,
whether it was youth or age, beauty or ugliness, whether he danced
with it, sang with it, played with it, or prayed with it, he made
You will understand, then, that when your dear friend complimented
me, he really condoled with me; that when he soothed me under my
vexations, he laid bare every smarting wound I had; that when he
declared my 'faithful swain' to be 'the most loving young fellow in
the world, with the tenderest heart that ever beat,' he touched my
old misgiving that I was made ridiculous. These were not great
services, you may say. They were acceptable to me, because they
echoed my own mind, and confirmed my own knowledge. I soon began
to like the society of your dear friend better than any other.
When I perceived (which I did, almost as soon) that jealousy was
growing out of this, I liked this society still better. Had I not
been subject to jealousy, and were the endurances to be all mine?
No. Let him know what it was! I was delighted that he should know
it; I was delighted that he should feel keenly, and I hoped he did.
More than that. He was tame in comparison with Mr Gowan, who knew
how to address me on equal terms, and how to anatomise the wretched
people around us.
This went on, until the aunt, my Mistress, took it upon herself to
speak to me. It was scarcely worth alluding to; she knew I meant
nothing; but she suggested from herself, knowing it was only
necessary to suggest, that it might be better if I were a little
less companionable with Mr Gowan.
I asked her how she could answer for what I meant? She could
always answer, she replied, for my meaning nothing wrong. I
thanked her, but said I would prefer to answer for myself and to
myself. Her other servants would probably be grateful for good
characters, but I wanted none.
Other conversation followed, and induced me to ask her how she knew
that it was only necessary for her to make a suggestion to me, to
have it obeyed? Did she presume on my birth, or on my hire? I was
not bought, body and soul. She seemed to think that her
distinguished nephew had gone into a slave-market and purchased a
It would probably have come, sooner or later, to the end to which
it did come, but she brought it to its issue at once. She told me,
with assumed commiseration, that I had an unhappy temper. On this
repetition of the old wicked injury, I withheld no longer, but
exposed to her all I had known of her and seen in her, and all I
had undergone within myself since I had occupied the despicable
position of being engaged to her nephew. I told her that Mr Gowan
was the only relief I had had in my degradation; that I had borne
it too long, and that I shook it off too late; but that I would see
none of them more. And I never did.
Your dear friend followed me to my retreat, and was very droll on
the severance of the connection; though he was sorry, too, for the
excellent people (in their way the best he had ever met), and
deplored the necessity of breaking mere house-flies on the wheel.
He protested before long, and far more truly than I then supposed,
that he was not worth acceptance by a woman of such endowments, and
such power of character; but--well, well!--
Your dear friend amused me and amused himself as long as it suited
his inclinations; and then reminded me that we were both people of
the world, that we both understood mankind, that we both knew there
was no such thing as romance, that we were both prepared for going
different ways to seek our fortunes like people of sense, and that
we both foresaw that whenever we encountered one another again we
should meet as the best friends on earth. So he said, and I did
not contradict him.
It was not very long before I found that he was courting his
present wife, and that she had been taken away to be out of his
reach. I hated her then, quite as much as I hate her now; and
naturally, therefore, could desire nothing better than that she
should marry him. But I was restlessly curious to look at her--so
curious that I felt it to be one of the few sources of
entertainment left to me. I travelled a little: travelled until I
found myself in her society, and in yours. Your dear friend, I
think, was not known to you then, and had not given you any of
those signal marks of his friendship which he has bestowed upon
In that company I found a girl, in various circumstances of whose
position there was a singular likeness to my own, and in whose
character I was interested and pleased to see much of the rising
against swollen patronage and selfishness, calling themselves
kindness, protection, benevolence, and other fine names, which I
have described as inherent in my nature. I often heard it said,
too, that she had 'an unhappy temper.' Well understanding what was
meant by the convenient phrase, and wanting a companion with a
knowledge of what I knew, I thought I would try to release the girl
from her bondage and sense of injustice. I have no occasion to
relate that I succeeded.
We have been together ever since, sharing my small means.
Who passes by this Road so late?
Arthur Clennam had made his unavailing expedition to Calais in the
midst of a great pressure of business. A certain barbaric Power
with valuable possessions on the map of the world, had occasion for
the services of one or two engineers, quick in invention and
determined in execution: practical men, who could make the men and
means their ingenuity perceived to be wanted out of the best
materials they could find at hand; and who were as bold and fertile
in the adaptation of such materials to their purpose, as in the
conception of their purpose itself. This Power, being a barbaric
one, had no idea of stowing away a great national object in a
Circumlocution Office, as strong wine is hidden from the light in
a cellar until its fire and youth are gone, and the labourers who
worked in the vineyard and pressed the grapes are dust. With
characteristic ignorance, it acted on the most decided and
energetic notions of How to do it; and never showed the least
respect for, or gave any quarter to, the great political science,
How not to do it. Indeed it had a barbarous way of striking the
latter art and mystery dead, in the person of any enlightened
subject who practised it.
Accordingly, the men who were wanted were sought out and found;
which was in itself a most uncivilised and irregular way of
proceeding. Being found, they were treated with great confidence
and honour (which again showed dense political ignorance), and were
invited to come at once and do what they had to do. In short, they
were regarded as men who meant to do it, engaging with other men
who meant it to be done.
Daniel Doyce was one of the chosen. There was no foreseeing at
that time whether he would be absent months or years. The
preparations for his departure, and the conscientious arrangement
for him of all the details and results of their joint business, had
necessitated labour within a short compass of time, which had
occupied Clennam day and night. He had slipped across the water in
his first leisure, and had slipped as quickly back again for his
farewell interview with Doyce.
Him Arthur now showed, with pains and care, the state of their
gains and losses, responsibilities and prospects. Daniel went
through it all in his patient manner, and admired it all
exceedingly. He audited the accounts, as if they were a far more
ingenious piece of mechanism than he had ever constructed, and
afterwards stood looking at them, weighing his hat over his head by
the brims, as if he were absorbed in the contemplation of some
'It's all beautiful, Clennam, in its regularity and order. Nothing
can be plainer. Nothing can be better.'
'I am glad you approve, Doyce. Now, as to the management of your
capital while you are away, and as to the conversion of so much of
it as the business may need from time to time--' His partner
'As to that, and as to everything else of that kind, all rests with
you. You will continue in all such matters to act for both of us,
as you have done hitherto, and to lighten my mind of a load it is
much relieved from.'
'Though, as I often tell you,' returned Clennam, 'you unreasonably
depreciate your business qualities.'
'Perhaps so,' said Doyce, smiling. 'And perhaps not. Anyhow, I
have a calling that I have studied more than such matters, and that
I am better fitted for. I have perfect confidence in my partner,
and I am satisfied that he will do what is best. If I have a
prejudice connected with money and money figures,' continued Doyce,
laying that plastic workman's thumb of his on the lapel of his
partner's coat, 'it is against speculating. I don't think I have
any other. I dare say I entertain that prejudice, only because I
have never given my mind fully to the subject.'
'But you shouldn't call it a prejudice,' said Clennam. 'My dear
Doyce, it is the soundest sense.'
'I am glad you think so,' returned Doyce, with his grey eye looking
kind and bright.
'It so happens,' said Clennam, 'that just now, not half an hour
before you came down, I was saying the same thing to Pancks, who
looked in here. We both agreed that to travel out of safe
investments is one of the most dangerous, as it is one of the most
common, of those follies which often deserve the name of vices.'
'Pancks?' said Doyce, tilting up his hat at the back, and nodding
with an air of confidence. 'Aye, aye, aye! That's a cautious
'He is a very cautious fellow indeed,' returned Arthur. 'Quite a
specimen of caution.'
They both appeared to derive a larger amount of satisfaction from
the cautious character of Mr Pancks, than was quite intelligible,
judged by the surface of their conversation.
'And now,' said Daniel, looking at his watch, 'as time and tide
wait for no man, my trusty partner, and as I am ready for starting,
bag and baggage, at the gate below, let me say a last word. I want
you to grant a request of mine.'
'Any request you can make--Except,' Clennam was quick with his
exception, for his partner's face was quick in suggesting it,
'except that I will abandon your invention.'
'That's the request, and you know it is,' said Doyce.
'I say, No, then. I say positively, No. Now that I have begun, I
will have some definite reason, some responsible statement,
something in the nature of a real answer, from those people.'
'You will not,' returned Doyce, shaking his head. 'Take my word
for it, you never will.'
'At least, I'll try,' said Clennam. 'It will do me no harm to
'I am not certain of that,' rejoined Doyce, laying his hand
persuasively on his shoulder. 'It has done me harm, my friend. It
has aged me, tired me, vexed me, disappointed me. It does no man
any good to have his patience worn out, and to think himself ill-
used. I fancy, even already, that unavailing attendance on delays
and evasions has made you something less elastic than you used to
'Private anxieties may have done that for the moment,' said
Clennam, 'but not official harrying. Not yet. I am not hurt yet.'
'Then you won't grant my request?'
'Decidedly, No,' said Clennam. 'I should be ashamed if I submitted
to be so soon driven out of the field, where a much older and a
much more sensitively interested man contended with fortitude so
As there was no moving him, Daniel Doyce returned the grasp of his
hand, and, casting a farewell look round the counting-house, went
down-stairs with him. Doyce was to go to Southampton to join the
small staff of his fellow-travellers; and a coach was at the gate,
well furnished and packed, and ready to take him there. The
workmen were at the gate to see him off, and were mightily proud of
him. 'Good luck to you, Mr Doyce!' said one of the number.
'Wherever you go, they'll find as they've got a man among 'em) a
man as knows his tools and as his tools knows, a man as is willing
and a man as is able, and if that's not a man, where is a man!'
This oration from a gruff volunteer in the back-ground, not
previously suspected of any powers in that way, was received with
three loud cheers; and the speaker became a distinguished character
for ever afterwards. In the midst of the three loud cheers, Daniel
gave them all a hearty 'Good Bye, Men!' and the coach disappeared
from sight, as if the concussion of the air had blown it out of
Bleeding Heart Yard.
Mr Baptist, as a grateful little fellow in a position of trust, was
among the workmen, and had done as much towards the cheering as a
mere foreigner could. In truth, no men on earth can cheer like
Englishmen, who do so rally one another's blood and spirit when
they cheer in earnest, that the stir is like the rush of their
whole history, with all its standards waving at once, from Saxon
Alfred's downwards. Mr Baptist had been in a manner whirled away
before the onset, and was taking his breath in quite a scared
condition when Clennam beckoned him to follow up-stairs, and return
the books and papers to their places.
In the lull consequent on the departure--in that first vacuity
which ensues on every separation, foreshadowing the great
separation that is always overhanging all mankind--Arthur stood at
his desk, looking dreamily out at a gleam of sun. But his
liberated attention soon reverted to the theme that was foremost in
his thoughts, and began, for the hundredth time, to dwell upon
every circumstance that had impressed itself upon his mind on the
mysterious night when he had seen the man at his mother's. Again
the man jostled him in the crooked street, again he followed the
man and lost him, again he came upon the man in the court-yard
looking at the house, again he followed the man and stood beside
him on the door-steps.
'Who passes by this road so late?
Compagnon de la Majolaine;
Who passes by this road so late?
It was not the first time, by many, that he had recalled the song
of the child's game, of which the fellow had hummed @ verse while
they stood side by side; but he was so unconscious of having
repeated it audibly, that he started to hear the next verse.
'Of all the king's knights 'tis the flower,
Compagnon de la Majolaine;
Of all the king's knights 'tis the flower,
Cavalletto had deferentially suggested the words and tune,
supposing him to have stopped short for want of more.
'Ah! You know the song, Cavalletto?'
'By Bacchus, yes, sir! They all know it in France. I have heard
it many times, sung by the little children. The last time when it
I have heard,' said Mr Baptist, formerly Cavalletto, who usually
went back to his native construction of sentences when his memory
went near home, 'is from a sweet little voice. A little voice,
very pretty, very innocent. Altro!'
'The last time I heard it,' returned Arthur, 'was in a voice quite
the reverse of pretty, and quite the reverse of innocent.' He said
it more to himself than to his companion, and added to himself,
repeating the man's next words. 'Death of my life, sir, it's my
character to be impatient!'
'EH!' cried Cavalletto, astounded, and with all his colour gone in
'What is the matter?'
'Sir! You know where I have heard that song the last time?'
With his rapid native action, his hands made the outline of a high
hook nose, pushed his eyes near together, dishevelled his hair,
puffed out his upper lip to represent a thick moustache, and threw
the heavy end of an ideal cloak over his shoulder. While doing
this, with a swiftness incredible to one who has not watched an
Italian peasant, he indicated a very remarkable and sinister smile.
The whole change passed over him like a flash of light, and he
stood in the same instant, pale and astonished, before his patron.
'In the name of Fate and wonder,' said Clennam, 'what do you mean?
Do you know a man of the name of Blandois?'
'No!' said Mr Baptist, shaking his head.
'You have just now described a man who was by when you heard that
song; have you not?'
'Yes!' said Mr Baptist, nodding fifty times.
'And was he not called Blandois?'
'No!' said Mr Baptist. 'Altro, Altro, Altro, Altro!' He could not
reject the name sufficiently, with his head and his right
forefinger going at once.
'Stay!' cried Clennam, spreading out the handbill on his desk.
'Was this the man? You can understand what I read aloud?'
'But look at it, too. Come here and look over me, while I read.'
Mr Baptist approached, followed every word with his quick eyes, saw
and heard it all out with the greatest impatience, then clapped his
two hands flat upon the bill as if he had fiercely caught some
noxious creature, and cried, looking eagerly at Clennam, 'It is the
man! Behold him!'
'This is of far greater moment to me' said Clennam, in great
agitation, 'than you can imagine. Tell me where you knew the man.'
Mr Baptist, releasing the paper very slowly and with much
discomfiture, and drawing himself back two or three paces, and
making as though he dusted his hands, returned, very much against
'What was he?'
'A prisoner, and--Altro! I believe yes!--an,' Mr Baptist crept
closer again to whisper it, 'Assassin!'
Clennam fell back as if the word had struck him a blow: so terrible
did it make his mother's communication with the man appear.
Cavalletto dropped on one knee, and implored him, with a redundancy
of gesticulation, to hear what had brought himself into such foul
He told with perfect truth how it had come of a little contraband
trading, and how he had in time been released from prison, and how
he had gone away from those antecedents. How, at the house of
entertainment called the Break of Day at Chalons on the Saone, he
had been awakened in his bed at night by the same assassin, then
assuming the name of Lagnier, though his name had formerly been
Rigaud; how the assassin had proposed that they should join their
fortunes together; how he held the assassin in such dread and
aversion that he had fled from him at daylight, and how he had ever
since been haunted by the fear of seeing the assassin again and
being claimed by him as an acquaintance. When he had related this,
with an emphasis and poise on the word, 'assassin,' peculiarly
belonging to his own language, and which did not serve to render it
less terrible to Clennam, he suddenly sprang to his feet, pounced
upon the bill again, and with a vehemence that would have been
absolute madness in any man of Northern origin, cried 'Behold the
same assassin! Here he is!'
In his passionate raptures, he at first forgot the fact that he had
lately seen the assassin in London. On his remembering it, it
suggested hope to Clennam that the recognition might be of later
date than the night of the visit at his mother's; but Cavalletto
was too exact and clear about time and place, to leave any opening
for doubt that it had preceded that occasion.
'Listen,' said Arthur, very seriously. 'This man, as we have read
here, has wholly disappeared.'
'Of it I am well content!' said Cavalletto, raising his eyes
piously. 'A thousand thanks to Heaven! Accursed assassin!'
'Not so,' returned Clennam; 'for until something more is heard of
him, I can never know an hour's peace.'
'Enough, Benefactor; that is quite another thing. A million of
'Now, Cavalletto,' said Clennam, gently turning him by the arm, so
that they looked into each other's eyes. 'I am certain that for
the little I have been able to do for you, you are the most
sincerely grateful of men.'
'I swear it!' cried the other.