Part 18 out of 20
shook hands with him in a shame-faced kind of way, and said, 'I
don't call to mind, sir, as I was ever less glad to see you.' The
younger Mr Chivery, more distant, did not shake hands with him at
all; he stood looking at him in a state of indecision so observable
that it even came within the observation of Clennam with his heavy
eyes and heavy heart. Presently afterwards, Young John disappeared
into the jail.
As Clennam knew enough of the place to know that he was required to
remain in the Lodge a certain time, he took a seat in a corner, and
feigned to be occupied with the perusal of letters from his pocket.
They did not so engross his attention, but that he saw, with
gratitude, how the elder Mr Chivery kept the Lodge clear of
prisoners; how he signed to some, with his keys, not to come in,
how he nudged others with his elbows to go out, and how he made his
misery as easy to him as he could.
Arthur was sitting with his eyes fixed on the floor, recalling the
past, brooding over the present, and not attending to either, when
he felt himself touched upon the shoulder. It was by Young John;
and he said, 'You can come now.'
He got up and followed Young John. When they had gone a step or
two within the inner iron-gate, Young John turned and said to him:
'You want a room. I have got you one.'
'I thank you heartily.'
Young John turned again, and took him in at the old doorway, up the
old staircase, into the old room. Arthur stretched out his hand.
Young John looked at it, looked at him--sternly--swelled, choked,
'I don't know as I can. No, I find I can't. But I thought you'd
like the room, and here it is for you.'
Surprise at this inconsistent behaviour yielded when he was gone
(he went away directly) to the feelings which the empty room
awakened in Clennam's wounded breast, and to the crowding
associations with the one good and gentle creature who had
sanctified it. Her absence in his altered fortunes made it, and
him in it, so very desolate and so much in need of such a face of
love and truth, that he turned against the wall to weep, sobbing
out, as his heart relieved itself, 'O my Little Dorrit!'
The Pupil of the Marshalsea
The day was sunny, and the Marshalsea, with the hot noon striking
upon it, was unwontedly quiet. Arthur Clennam dropped into a
solitary arm-chair, itself as faded as any debtor in the jail, and
yielded himself to his thoughts.
In the unnatural peace of having gone through the dreaded arrest,
and got there,--the first change of feeling which the prison most
commonly induced, and from which dangerous resting-place so many
men had slipped down to the depths of degradation and disgrace by
so many ways,--he could think of some passages in his life, almost
as if he were removed from them into another state of existence.
Taking into account where he was, the interest that had first
brought him there when he had been free to keep away, and the
gentle presence that was equally inseparable from the walls and
bars about him and from the impalpable remembrances of his later
life which no walls or bars could imprison, it was not remarkable
that everything his memory turned upon should bring him round again
to Little Dorrit. Yet it was remarkable to him; not because of the
fact itself, but because of the reminder it brought with it, how
much the dear little creature had influenced his better
None of us clearly know to whom or to what we are indebted in this
wise, until some marked stop in the whirling wheel of life brings
the right perception with it. It comes with sickness, it comes
with sorrow, it comes with the loss of the dearly loved, it is one
of the most frequent uses of adversity. It came to Clennam in his
adversity, strongly and tenderly. 'When I first gathered myself
together,' he thought, 'and set something like purpose before my
jaded eyes, whom had I before me, toiling on, for a good object's
sake, without encouragement, without notice, against ignoble
obstacles that would have turned an army of received heroes and
heroines? One weak girl! When I tried to conquer my misplaced
love, and to be generous to the man who was more fortunate than I,
though he should never know it or repay me with a gracious word, in
whom had I watched patience, self-denial, self-subdual, charitable
construction, the noblest generosity of the affections? In the
same poor girl! If I, a man, with a man's advantages and means and
energies, had slighted the whisper in my heart, that if my father
had erred, it was my first duty to conceal the fault and to repair
it, what youthful figure with tender feet going almost bare on the
damp ground, with spare hands ever working, with its slight shape
but half protected from the sharp weather, would have stood before
me to put me to shame? Little Dorrit's.' So always as he sat
alone in the faded chair, thinking. Always, Little Dorrit. Until
it seemed to him as if he met the reward of having wandered away
from her, and suffered anything to pass between him and his
remembrance of her virtues.
His door was opened, and the head of the elder Chivery was put in
a very little way, without being turned towards him.
'I am off the Lock, Mr Clennam, and going out. Can I do anything
'Many thanks. Nothing.'
'You'll excuse me opening the door,' said Mr Chivery; 'but I
couldn't make you hear.'
'Did you knock?'
Rousing himself, Clennam observed that the prison had awakened from
its noontide doze, that the inmates were loitering about the shady
yard, and that it was late in the afternoon. He had been thinking
'Your things is come,' said Mr Chivery, 'and my son is going to
carry 'em up. I should have sent 'em up but for his wishing to
carry 'em himself. Indeed he would have 'em himself, and so I
couldn't send 'em up. Mr Clennam, could I say a word to you?'
'Pray come in,' said Arthur; for Mr Chivery's head was still put in
at the door a very little way, and Mr Chivery had but one ear upon
him, instead of both eyes. This was native delicacy in Mr Chivery
--true politeness; though his exterior had very much of a turnkey
about it, and not the least of a gentleman.
'Thank you, sir,' said Mr Chivery, without advancing; 'it's no odds
me coming in. Mr Clennam, don't you take no notice of my son (if
you'll be so good) in case you find him cut up anyways difficult.
My son has a 'art, and my son's 'art is in the right place. Me and
his mother knows where to find it, and we find it sitiwated
With this mysterious speech, Mr Chivery took his ear away and shut
the door. He might have been gone ten minutes, when his son
'Here's your portmanteau,' he said to Arthur, putting it carefully
'It's very kind of you. I am ashamed that you should have the
He was gone before it came to that; but soon returned, saying
exactly as before, 'Here's your black box:' which he also put down
'I am very sensible of this attention. I hope we may shake hands
now, Mr John.'
Young John, however, drew back, turning his right wrist in a socket
made of his left thumb and middle-finger and said as he had said at
first, 'I don't know as I can. No; I find I can't!' He then stood
regarding the prisoner sternly, though with a swelling humour in
his eyes that looked like pity.
'Why are you angry with me,' said Clennam, 'and yet so ready to do
me these kind services? There must be some mistake between us. If
I have done anything to occasion it I am sorry.'
'No mistake, sir,' returned John, turning the wrist backwards and
forwards in the socket, for which it was rather tight. 'No
mistake, sir, in the feelings with which my eyes behold you at the
present moment! If I was at all fairly equal to your weight, Mr
Clennam--which I am not; and if you weren't under a cloud--which
you are; and if it wasn't against all rules of the Marshalsea--
which it is; those feelings are such, that they would stimulate me,
more to having it out with you in a Round on the present spot than
to anything else I could name.'
Arthur looked at him for a moment in some wonder, and some little
anger. 'Well, well!' he said. 'A mistake, a mistake!' Turning
away, he sat down with a heavy sigh in the faded chair again.
Young John followed him with his eyes, and, after a short pause,
cried out, 'I beg your pardon!'
'Freely granted,' said Clennam, waving his hand without raising his
sunken head. 'Say no more. I am not worth it.'
'This furniture, sir,' said Young John in a voice of mild and soft
explanation, 'belongs to me. I am in the habit of letting it out
to parties without furniture, that have the room. It an't much,
but it's at your service. Free, I mean. I could not think of
letting you have it on any other terms. You're welcome to it for
Arthur raised his head again to thank him, and to say he could not
accept the favour. John was still turning his wrist, and still
contending with himself in his former divided manner.
'What is the matter between us?' said Arthur.
'I decline to name it, sir,' returned Young John, suddenly turning
loud and sharp. 'Nothing's the matter.'
Arthur looked at him again, in vain, for an explanation of his
behaviour. After a while, Arthur turned away his head again.
Young John said, presently afterwards, with the utmost mildness:
'The little round table, sir, that's nigh your elbow, was--you know
whose--I needn't mention him--he died a great gentleman. I bought
it of an individual that he gave it to, and that lived here after
him. But the individual wasn't any ways equal to him. Most
individuals would find it hard to come up to his level.'
Arthur drew the little table nearer, rested his arm upon it, and
kept it there.
'Perhaps you may not be aware, sir,' said Young John, 'that I
intruded upon him when he was over here in London. On the whole he
was of opinion that it WAS an intrusion, though he was so good as
to ask me to sit down and to inquire after father and all other old
friends. Leastways humblest acquaintances. He looked, to me, a
good deal changed, and I said so when I came back. I asked him if
Miss Amy was well--'
'And she was?'
'I should have thought you would have known without putting the
question to such as me,' returned Young John, after appearing to
take a large invisible pill. 'Since you do put me the question, I
am sorry I can't answer it. But the truth is, he looked upon the
inquiry as a liberty, and said, "What was that to me?" It was then
I became quite aware I was intruding: of which I had been fearful
before. However, he spoke very handsome afterwards; very
They were both silent for several minutes: except that Young John
remarked, at about the middle of the pause, 'He both spoke and
acted very handsome.'
It was again Young John who broke the silence by inquiring:
'If it's not a liberty, how long may it be your intentions, sir, to
go without eating and drinking?'
'I have not felt the want of anything yet,' returned Clennam. 'I
have no appetite just now.'
'The more reason why you should take some support, sir,' urged
Young John. 'If you find yourself going on sitting here for hours
and hours partaking of no refreshment because you have no appetite,
why then you should and must partake of refreshment without an
appetite. I'm going to have tea in my own apartment. If it's not
a liberty, please to come and take a cup. Or I can bring a tray
here in two minutes.'
Feeling that Young John would impose that trouble on himself if he
refused, and also feeling anxious to show that he bore in mind both
the elder Mr Chivery's entreaty, and the younger Mr Chivery's
apology, Arthur rose and expressed his willingness to take a cup of
tea in Mr john's apartment. Young John locked his door for him as
they went out, slided the key into his pocket with great dexterity,
and led the way to his own residence.
It was at the top of the house nearest to the gateway. It was the
room to which Clennam had hurried on the day when the enriched
family had left the prison for ever, and where he had lifted her
insensible from the floor. He foresaw where they were going as
soon as their feet touched the staircase. The room was so far
changed that it was papered now, and had been repainted, and was
far more comfortably furnished; but he could recall it just as he
had seen it in that single glance, when he raised her from the
ground and carried her down to the carriage.
Young John looked hard at him, biting his fingers.
'I see you recollect the room, Mr Clennam?'
'I recollect it well, Heaven bless her!'
Oblivious of the tea, Young John continued to bite his fingers and
to look at his visitor, as long as his visitor continued to glance
about the room. Finally, he made a start at the teapot, gustily
rattled a quantity of tea into it from a canister, and set off for
the common kitchen to fill it with hot water.
The room was so eloquent to Clennam in the changed circumstances of
his return to the miserable Marshalsea; it spoke to him so
mournfully of her, and of his loss of her; that it would have gone
hard with him to resist it, even though he had not been alone.
Alone, he did not try. He had his hand on the insensible wall as
tenderly as if it had been herself that he touched, and pronounced
her name in a low voice. He stood at the window, looking over the
prison-parapet with its grim spiked border, and breathed a
benediction through the summer haze towards the distant land where
she was rich and prosperous.
Young John was some time absent, and, when he came back, showed
that he had been outside by bringing with him fresh butter in a
cabbage leaf, some thin slices of boiled ham in another cabbage
leaf, and a little basket of water-cresses and salad herbs. When
these were arranged upon the table to his satisfaction, they sat
down to tea.
Clennam tried to do honour to the meal, but unavailingly. The ham
sickened him, the bread seemed to turn to sand in his mouth. He
could force nothing upon himself but a cup of tea.
'Try a little something green,' said Young John, handing him the
He took a sprig or so of water-cress, and tried again; but the
bread turned to a heavier sand than before, and the ham (though it
was good enough of itself) seemed to blow a faint simoom of ham
through the whole Marshalsea.
'Try a little more something green, sir,' said Young John; and
again handed the basket.
It was so like handing green meat into the cage of a dull
imprisoned bird, and John had so evidently brought the little
basket as a handful of fresh relief from the stale hot paving-
stones and bricks of the jail, that Clennam said, with a smile, 'It
was very kind of you to think of putting this between the wires;
but I cannot even get this down to-day.'
As if the difficulty were contagious, Young John soon pushed away
his own plate, and fell to folding the cabbage-leaf that had
contained the ham. When he had folded it into a number of layers,
one over another, so that it was small in the palm of his hand, he
began to flatten it between both his hands, and to eye Clennam
'I wonder,' he at length said, compressing his green packet with
some force, 'that if it's not worth your while to take care of
yourself for your own sake, it's not worth doing for some one
'Truly,' returned Arthur, with a sigh and a smile, 'I don't know
'Mr Clennam,' said John, warmly, 'I am surprised that a gentleman
who is capable of the straightforwardness that you are capable of,
should be capable of the mean action of making me such an answer.
Mr Clennam, I am surprised that a gentleman who is capable of
having a heart of his own, should be capable of the heartlessness
of treating mine in that way. I am astonished at it, sir. Really
and truly I am astonished!'
Having got upon his feet to emphasise his concluding words, Young
John sat down again, and fell to rolling his green packet on his
right leg; never taking his eyes off Clennam, but surveying him
with a fixed look of indignant reproach.
'I had got over it, sir,' said John. 'I had conquered it, knowing
that it must be conquered, and had come to the resolution to think
no more about it. I shouldn't have given my mind to it again, I
hope, if to this prison you had not been brought, and in an hour
unfortunate for me, this day!' (In his agitation Young John
adopted his mother's powerful construction of sentences.) 'When you
first came upon me, sir, in the Lodge, this day, more as if a Upas
tree had been made a capture of than a private defendant, such
mingled streams of feelings broke loose again within me, that
everything was for the first few minutes swept away before them,
and I was going round and round in a vortex. I got out of it. I
struggled, and got out of it. If it was the last word I had to
speak, against that vortex with my utmost powers I strove, and out
of it I came. I argued that if I had been rude, apologies was due,
and those apologies without a question of demeaning, I did make.
And now, when I've been so wishful to show that one thought is next
to being a holy one with me and goes before all others--now, after
all, you dodge me when I ever so gently hint at it, and throw me
back upon myself. For, do not, sir,' said Young John, 'do not be
so base as to deny that dodge you do, and thrown me back upon
myself you have!'
All amazement, Arthur gazed at him like one lost, only saying,
'What is it? What do you mean, John?' But, John, being in that
state of mind in which nothing would seem to be more impossible to
a certain class of people than the giving of an answer, went ahead
'I hadn't,' John declared, 'no, I hadn't, and I never had the
audaciousness to think, I am sure, that all was anything but lost.
I hadn't, no, why should I say I hadn't if I ever had, any hope
that it was possible to be so blest, not after the words that
passed, not even if barriers insurmountable had not been raised!
But is that a reason why I am to have no memory, why I am to have
no thoughts, why I am to have no sacred spots, nor anything?'
'What can you mean?' cried Arthur.
'It's all very well to trample on it, sir,' John went on, scouring
a very prairie of wild words, 'if a person can make up his mind to
be guilty of the action. It's all very well to trample on it, but
it's there. It may be that it couldn't be trampled upon if it
wasn't there. But that doesn't make it gentlemanly, that doesn't
make it honourable, that doesn't justify throwing a person back
upon himself after he has struggled and strived out of himself like
a butterfly. The world may sneer at a turnkey, but he's a man--
when he isn't a woman, which among female criminals he's expected
Ridiculous as the incoherence of his talk was, there was yet a
truthfulness in Young john's simple, sentimental character, and a
sense of being wounded in some very tender respect, expressed in
his burning face and in the agitation of his voice and manner,
which Arthur must have been cruel to disregard. He turned his
thoughts back to the starting-point of this unknown injury; and in
the meantime Young John, having rolled his green packet pretty
round, cut it carefully into three pieces, and laid it on a plate
as if it were some particular delicacy.
'It seems to me just possible,' said Arthur, when he had retraced
the conversation to the water-cresses and back again, 'that you
have made some reference to Miss Dorrit.'
'It is just possible, sir,' returned John Chivery.
'I don't understand it. I hope I may not be so unlucky as to make
you think I mean to offend you again, for I never have meant to
offend you yet, when I say I don't understand it.'
'Sir,' said Young John, 'will you have the perfidy to deny that you
know and long have known that I felt towards Miss Dorrit, call it
not the presumption of love, but adoration and sacrifice ?'
'Indeed, John, I will not have any perfidy if I know it; why you
should suspect me of it I am at a loss to think. Did you ever hear
from Mrs Chivery, your mother, that I went to see her once?'
'No, sir,' returned John, shortly. 'Never heard of such a thing.'
'But I did. Can you imagine why?'
'No, sir,' returned John, shortly. 'I can't imagine why.'
'I will tell you. I was solicitous to promote Miss Dorrit's
happiness; and if I could have supposed that Miss Dorrit returned
Poor John Chivery turned crimson to the tips of his ears. 'Miss
Dorrit never did, sir. I wish to be honourable and true, so far as
in my humble way I can, and I would scorn to pretend for a moment
that she ever did, or that she ever led me to believe she did; no,
nor even that it was ever to be expected in any cool reason that
she would or could. She was far above me in all respects at all
times. As likewise,' added John, 'similarly was her gen-teel
His chivalrous feeling towards all that belonged to her made him so
very respectable, in spite of his small stature and his rather weak
legs, and his very weak hair, and his poetical temperament, that a
Goliath might have sat in his place demanding less consideration at
'You speak, john,' he said, with cordial admiration, 'like a Man.'
'Well, sir,' returned John, brushing his hand across his eyes,
'then I wish you'd do the same.'
He was quick with this unexpected retort, and it again made Arthur
regard him with a wondering expression of face.
'Leastways,' said John, stretching his hand across the tea-tray,
'if too strong a remark, withdrawn! But, why not, why not? When
I say to you, Mr Clennam, take care of yourself for some one else's
sake, why not be open, though a turnkey? Why did I get you the
room which I knew you'd like best? Why did I carry up your things?
Not that I found 'em heavy; I don't mention 'em on that accounts;
far from it. Why have I cultivated you in the manner I have done
since the morning? On the ground of your own merits? No. They're
very great, I've no doubt at all; but not on the ground of them.
Another's merits have had their weight, and have had far more
weight with Me. Then why not speak free?'
'Unaffectedly, John,' said Clennam, 'you are so good a fellow and
I have so true a respect for your character, that if I have
appeared to be less sensible than I really am of the fact that the
kind services you have rendered me to-day are attributable to my
having been trusted by Miss Dorrit as her friend--I confess it to
be a fault, and I ask your forgiveness.'
'Oh! why not,' John repeated with returning scorn, 'why not speak
'I declare to you,' returned Arthur, 'that I do not understand you.
Look at me. Consider the trouble I have been in. Is it likely
that I would wilfully add to my other self-reproaches, that of
being ungrateful or treacherous to you. I do not understand you.'
john's incredulous face slowly softened into a face of doubt. He
rose, backed into the garret-window of the room, beckoned Arthur to
come there, and stood looking at him thoughtfully.
'Mr Clennam, do you mean to say that you don't know?'
'Lord,' said Young John, appealing with a gasp to the spikes on the
wall. 'He says, What!'
Clennam looked at the spikes, and looked at John; and looked at the
spikes, and looked at John.
'He says What! And what is more,' exclaimed Young John, surveying
him in a doleful maze, 'he appears to mean it! Do you see this
'Of course I see this window.'
'See this room?'
'Why, of course I see this room.'
'That wall opposite, and that yard down below? They have all been
witnesses of it, from day to day, from night to night, from week to
week, from month to month. For how often have I seen Miss Dorrit
here when she has not seen me!'
'Witnesses of what?' said Clennam.
'Of Miss Dorrit's love.'
'You,' said John. And touched him with the back of his hand upon
the breast, and backed to his chair, and sat down on it with a pale
face, holding the arms, and shaking his head at him.
If he had dealt Clennam a heavy blow, instead of laying that light
touch upon him, its effect could not have been to shake him more.
He stood amazed; his eyes looking at John; his lips parted, and
seeming now and then to form the word 'Me!' without uttering it;
his hands dropped at his sides; his whole appearance that of a man
who has been awakened from sleep, and stupefied by intelligence
beyond his full comprehension.
'Me!' he at length said aloud.
'Ah!' groaned Young John. 'You!'
He did what he could to muster a smile, and returned, 'Your fancy.
You are completely mistaken.'
'I mistaken, sir!' said Young John. '_I_ completely mistaken on
that subject! No, Mr Clennam, don't tell me so. On any other, if
you like, for I don't set up to be a penetrating character, and am
well aware of my own deficiencies. But, _I_ mistaken on a point
that has caused me more smart in my breast than a flight of
savages' arrows could have done! _I_ mistaken on a point that
almost sent me into my grave, as I sometimes wished it would, if
the grave could only have been made compatible with the tobacco-
business and father and mother's feelings! I mistaken on a point
that, even at the present moment, makes me take out my pocket-
handkercher like a great girl, as people say: though I am sure I
don't know why a great girl should be a term of reproach, for every
rightly constituted male mind loves 'em great and small. Don't
tell me so, don't tell me so!'
Still highly respectable at bottom, though absurd enough upon the
surface, Young John took out his pocket-handkerchief with a genuine
absence both of display and concealment, which is only to be seen
in a man with a great deal of good in him, when he takes out his
pocket-handkerchief for the purpose of wiping his eyes. Having
dried them, and indulged in the harmless luxury of a sob and a
sniff, he put it up again.
The touch was still in its influence so like a blow that Arthur
could not get many words together to close the subject with. He
assured John Chivery when he had returned his handkerchief to his
pocket, that he did all honour to his disinterestedness and to the
fidelity of his remembrance of Miss Dorrit. As to the impression
on his mind, of which he had just relieved it--here John
interposed, and said, 'No impression! Certainty!'--as to that,
they might perhaps speak of it at another time, but would say no
more now. Feeling low-spirited and weary, he would go back to his
room, with john's leave, and come out no more that night. John
assented, and he crept back in the shadow of the wall to his own
The feeling of the blow was still so strong upon him that, when the
dirty old woman was gone whom he found sitting on the stairs
outside his door, waiting to make his bed, and who gave him to
understand while doing it, that she had received her instructions
from Mr Chivery, 'not the old 'un but the young 'un,' he sat down
in the faded arm-chair, pressing his head between his hands, as if
he had been stunned. Little Dorrit love him! More bewildering to
him than his misery, far.
Consider the improbability. He had been accustomed to call her his
child, and his dear child, and to invite her confidence by dwelling
upon the difference in their respective ages, and to speak of
himself as one who was turning old. Yet she might not have thought
him old. Something reminded him that he had not thought himself
so, until the roses had floated away upon the river.
He had her two letters among other papers in his box, and he took
them out and read them. There seemed to be a sound in them like
the sound of her sweet voice. It fell upon his ear with many tones
of tenderness, that were not insusceptible of the new meaning. Now
it was that the quiet desolation of her answer,'No, No, No,' made
to him that night in that very room--that night when he had been
shown the dawn of her altered fortune, and when other words had
passed between them which he had been destined to remember in
humiliation and a prisoner, rushed into his mind.
Consider the improbability.
But it had a preponderating tendency, when considered, to become
fainter. There was another and a curious inquiry of his own
heart's that concurrently became stronger. In the reluctance he
had felt to believe that she loved any one; in his desire to set
that question at rest; in a half-formed consciousness he had had
that there would be a kind of nobleness in his helping her love for
any one, was there no suppressed something on his own side that he
had hushed as it arose? Had he ever whispered to himself that he
must not think of such a thing as her loving him, that he must not
take advantage of her gratitude, that he must keep his experience
in remembrance as a warning and reproof; that he must regard such
youthful hopes as having passed away, as his friend's dead daughter
had passed away; that he must be steady in saying to himself that
the time had gone by him, and he was too saddened and old?
He had kissed her when he raised her from the ground on the day
when she had been so consistently and expressively forgotten.
Quite as he might have kissed her, if she had been conscious? No
The darkness found him occupied with these thoughts. The darkness
also found Mr and Mrs Plornish knocking at his door. They brought
with them a basket, filled with choice selections from that stock
in trade which met with such a quick sale and produced such a slow
return. Mrs Plornish was affected to tears. Mr Plornish amiably
growled, in his philosophical but not lucid manner, that there was
ups you see, and there was downs. It was in vain to ask why ups,
why downs; there they was, you know. He had heerd it given for a
truth that accordin' as the world went round, which round it did
rewolve undoubted, even the best of gentlemen must take his turn of
standing with his ed upside down and all his air a flying the wrong
way into what you might call Space. Wery well then. What Mr
Plornish said was, wery well then. That gentleman's ed would come
up-ards when his turn come, that gentleman's air would be a
pleasure to look upon being all smooth again, and wery well then!
It has been already stated that Mrs Plornish, not being
philosophical, wept. It further happened that Mrs Plornish, not
being philosophical, was intelligible. It may have arisen out of
her softened state of mind, out of her sex's wit, out of a woman's
quick association of ideas, or out of a woman's no association of
ideas, but it further happened somehow that Mrs Plornish's
intelligibility displayed itself upon the very subject of Arthur's
'The way father has been talking about you, Mr Clennam,' said Mrs
Plornish, 'you hardly would believe. It's made him quite poorly.
As to his voice, this misfortune has took it away. You know what
a sweet singer father is; but he couldn't get a note out for the
children at tea, if you'll credit what I tell you.'
While speaking, Mrs Plornish shook her head, and wiped her eyes,
and looked retrospectively about the room.
'As to Mr Baptist,' pursued Mrs Plornish, 'whatever he'll do when
he comes to know of it, I can't conceive nor yet imagine. He'd
have been here before now, you may be sure, but that he's away on
confidential business of your own. The persevering manner in which
he follows up that business, and gives himself no rest from it--it
really do,' said Mrs Plornish, winding up in the Italian manner,
'as I say to him, Mooshattonisha padrona.'
Though not conceited, Mrs Plornish felt that she had turned this
Tuscan sentence with peculiar elegance. Mr Plornish could not
conceal his exultation in her accomplishments as a linguist.
'But what I say is, Mr Clennam,' the good woman went on, 'there's
always something to be thankful for, as I am sure you will yourself
admit. Speaking in this room, it's not hard to think what the
present something is. It's a thing to be thankful for, indeed,
that Miss Dorrit is not here to know it.'
Arthur thought she looked at him with particular expression.
'It's a thing,' reiterated Mrs Plornish, 'to be thankful for,
indeed, that Miss Dorrit is far away. It's to be hoped she is not
likely to hear of it. If she had been here to see it, sir, it's
not to be doubted that the sight of you,' Mrs Plornish repeated
those words--'not to be doubted, that the sight of you--in
misfortune and trouble, would have been almost too much for her
affectionate heart. There's nothing I can think of, that would
have touched Miss Dorrit so bad as that.'
Of a certainty Mrs Plornish did look at him now, with a sort of
quivering defiance in her friendly emotion.
'Yes!' said she. 'And it shows what notice father takes, though at
his time of life, that he says to me this afternoon, which Happy
Cottage knows I neither make it up nor any ways enlarge, "Mary,
it's much to be rejoiced in that Miss Dorrit is not on the spot to
behold it." Those were father's words. Father's own words was,
"Much to be rejoiced in, Mary, that Miss Dorrit is not on the spot
to behold it." I says to father then, I says to him, "Father, you
are right!" That,' Mrs Plornish concluded, with the air of a very
precise legal witness, 'is what passed betwixt father and me. And
I tell you nothing but what did pass betwixt me and father.'
Mr Plornish, as being of a more laconic temperament, embraced this
opportunity of interposing with the suggestion that she should now
leave Mr Clennam to himself. 'For, you see,' said Mr Plornish,
gravely, 'I know what it is, old gal;' repeating that valuable
remark several times, as if it appeared to him to include some
great moral secret. Finally, the worthy couple went away arm in
Little Dorrit, Little Dorrit. Again, for hours. Always Little
Happily, if it ever had been so, it was over, and better over.
Granted that she had loved him, and he had known it and had
suffered himself to love her, what a road to have led her away
upon--the road that would have brought her back to this miserable
place! He ought to be much comforted by the reflection that she
was quit of it forever; that she was, or would soon be, married
(vague rumours of her father's projects in that direction had
reached Bleeding Heart Yard, with the news of her sister's
marriage); and that the Marshalsea gate had shut for ever on all
those perplexed possibilities of a time that was gone.
Dear Little Dorrit.
Looking back upon his own poor story, she was its vanishing-point.
Every thing in its perspective led to her innocent figure. He had
travelled thousands of miles towards it; previous unquiet hopes and
doubts had worked themselves out before it; it was the centre of
the interest of his life; it was the termination of everything that
was good and pleasant in it; beyond, there was nothing but mere
waste and darkened sky.
As ill at ease as on the first night of his lying down to sleep
within those dreary walls, he wore the night out with such
thoughts. What time Young John lay wrapt in peaceful slumber,
after composing and arranging the following monumental inscription
on his pillow--
RESPECT THE TOMB OF
JOHN CHIVERY, JUNIOR,
WHO DIED AT AN ADVANCED AGE
NOT NECESSARY TO MENTION.
HE ENCOUNTERED HIS RIVAL IN A DISTRESSED STATE,
AND FELT INCLINED
TO HAVE A ROUND WITH HIM;
BUT, FOR THE SAKE OF THE LOVED ONE, CONQUERED THOSE FEELINGS
OF BITTERNESS, AND BECAME
An Appearance in the Marshalsea
The opinion of the community outside the prison gates bore hard on
Clennam as time went on, and he made no friends among the community
within. Too depressed to associate with the herd in the yard, who
got together to forget their cares; too retiring and too unhappy to
join in the poor socialities of the tavern; he kept his own room,
and was held in distrust. Some said he was proud; some objected
that he was sullen and reserved; some were contemptuous of him, for
that he was a poor-spirited dog who pined under his debts. The
whole population were shy of him on these various counts of
indictment, but especially the last, which involved a species of
domestic treason; and he soon became so confirmed in his seclusion,
that his only time for walking up and down was when the evening
Club were assembled at their songs and toasts and sentiments, and
when the yard was nearly left to the women and children.
Imprisonment began to tell upon him. He knew that he idled and
moped. After what he had known of the influences of imprisonment
within the four small walls of the very room he occupied, this
consciousness made him afraid of himself. Shrinking from the
observation of other men, and shrinking from his own, he began to
change very sensibly. Anybody might see that the shadow of the
wall was dark upon him.
One day when he might have been some ten or twelve weeks in jail,
and when he had been trying to read and had not been able to
release even the imaginary people of the book from the Marshalsea,
a footstep stopped at his door, and a hand tapped at it. He arose
and opened it, and an agreeable voice accosted him with 'How do you
do, Mr Clennam? I hope I am not unwelcome in calling to see you.'
It was the sprightly young Barnacle, Ferdinand. He looked very
good-natured and prepossessing, though overpoweringly gay and free,
in contrast with the squalid prison.
'You are surprised to see me, Mr Clennam,' he said, taking the seat
which Clennam offered him.
'I must confess to being much surprised.'
'Not disagreeably, I hope?'
'By no means.'
'Thank you. Frankly,' said the engaging young Barnacle, 'I have
been excessively sorry to hear that you were under the necessity of
a temporary retirement here, and I hope (of course as between two
private gentlemen) that our place has had nothing to do with it?'
'Our Circumlocution place.'
'I cannot charge any part of my reverses upon that remarkable
Upon my life,' said the vivacious young Barnacle, 'I am heartily
glad to know it. It is quite a relief to me to hear you say it.
I should have so exceedingly regretted our place having had
anything to do with your difficulties.'
Clennam again assured him that he absolved it of the
'That's right,' said Ferdinand. 'I am very happy to hear it. I
was rather afraid in my own mind that we might have helped to floor
you, because there is no doubt that it is our misfortune to do that
kind of thing now and then. We don't want to do it; but if men
will be gravelled, why--we can't help it.'
'Without giving an unqualified assent to what you say,' returned
Arthur, gloomily, 'I am much obliged to you for your interest in
'No, but really! Our place is,' said the easy young Barnacle, 'the
most inoffensive place possible. You'll say we are a humbug. I
won't say we are not; but all that sort of thing is intended to be,
and must be. Don't you see?'
'I do not,' said Clennam.
'You don't regard it from the right point of view. It is the point
of view that is the essential thing. Regard our place from the
point of view that we only ask you to leave us alone, and we are as
capital a Department as you'll find anywhere.'
'Is your place there to be left alone?' asked Clennam.
'You exactly hit it,' returned Ferdinand. 'It is there with the
express intention that everything shall be left alone. That is
what it means. That is what it's for. No doubt there's a certain
form to be kept up that it's for something else, but it's only a
form. Why, good Heaven, we are nothing but forms! Think what a
lot of our forms you have gone through. And you have never got any
nearer to an end?'
'Never,' said Clennam.
'Look at it from the right point of view, and there you have us--
official and effectual. It's like a limited game of cricket. A
field of outsiders are always going in to bowl at the Public
Service, and we block the balls.'
Clennam asked what became of the bowlers? The airy young Barnacle
replied that they grew tired, got dead beat, got lamed, got their
backs broken, died off, gave it up, went in for other games.
'And this occasions me to congratulate myself again,' he pursued,
'on the circumstance that our place has had nothing to do with your
temporary retirement. It very easily might have had a hand in it;
because it is undeniable that we are sometimes a most unlucky
place, in our effects upon people who will not leave us alone. Mr
Clennam, I am quite unreserved with you. As between yourself and
myself, I know I may be. I was so, when I first saw you making the
mistake of not leaving us alone; because I perceived that you were
inexperienced and sanguine, and had--I hope you'll not object to my
'Not at all.'
'Some simplicity. Therefore I felt what a pity it was, and I went
out of my way to hint to you (which really was not official, but I
never am official when I can help it) something to the effect that
if I were you, I wouldn't bother myself. However, you did bother
yourself, and you have since bothered yourself. Now, don't do it
'I am not likely to have the opportunity,' said Clennam.
'Oh yes, you are! You'll leave here. Everybody leaves here.
There are no ends of ways of leaving here. Now, don't come back to
us. That entreaty is the second object of my call. Pray, don't
come back to us. Upon my honour,' said Ferdinand in a very
friendly and confiding way, 'I shall be greatly vexed if you don't
take warning by the past and keep away from us.'
'And the invention?' said Clennam.
'My good fellow,' returned Ferdinand, 'if you'll excuse the freedom
of that form of address, nobody wants to know of the invention, and
nobody cares twopence-halfpenny about it.'
'Nobody in the Office, that is to say?'
'Nor out of it. Everybody is ready to dislike and ridicule any
invention. You have no idea how many people want to be left alone.
You have no idea how the Genius of the country (overlook the
Parliamentary nature of the phrase, and don't be bored by it) tends
to being left alone. Believe me, Mr Clennam,' said the sprightly
young Barnacle in his pleasantest manner, 'our place is not a
wicked Giant to be charged at full tilt; but only a windmill
showing you, as it grinds immense quantities of chaff, which way
the country wind blows.'
'If I could believe that,' said Clennam, 'it would be a dismal
prospect for all of us.'
'Oh! Don't say so!' returned Ferdinand. 'It's all right. We must
have humbug, we all like humbug, we couldn't get on without humbug.
A little humbug, and a groove, and everything goes on admirably, if
you leave it alone.'
With this hopeful confession of his faith as the head of the rising
Barnacles who were born of woman, to be followed under a variety of
watchwords which they utterly repudiated and disbelieved, Ferdinand
rose. Nothing could be more agreeable than his frank and courteous
bearing, or adapted with a more gentlemanly instinct to the
circumstances of his visit.
'Is it fair to ask,' he said, as Clennam gave him his hand with a
real feeling of thankfulness for his candour and good-humour,
'whether it is true that our late lamented Merdle is the cause of
this passing inconvenience?'
'I am one of the many he has ruined. Yes.'
'He must have been an exceedingly clever fellow,' said Ferdinand
Arthur, not being in the mood to extol the memory of the deceased,
'A consummate rascal, of course,' said Ferdinand, 'but remarkably
clever! One cannot help admiring the fellow. Must have been such
a master of humbug. Knew people so well--got over them so
completely--did so much with them!' In his easy way, he was really
moved to genuine admiration.
'I hope,' said Arthur, 'that he and his dupes may be a warning to
people not to have so much done with them again.'
'My dear Mr Clennam,' returned Ferdinand, laughing, 'have you
really such a verdant hope? The next man who has as large a
capacity and as genuine a taste for swindling, will succeed as
well. Pardon me, but I think you really have no idea how the human
bees will swarm to the beating of any old tin kettle; in that fact
lies the complete manual of governing them. When they can be got
to believe that the kettle is made of the precious metals, in that
fact lies the whole power of men like our late lamented. No doubt
there are here and there,' said Ferdinand politely, 'exceptional
cases, where people have been taken in for what appeared to them to
be much better reasons; and I need not go far to find such a case;
but they don't invalidate the rule. Good day! I hope that when I
have the pleasure of seeing you, next, this passing cloud will have
given place to sunshine. Don't come a step beyond the door. I
know the way out perfectly. Good day!'
With those words, the best and brightest of the Barnacles went
down-stairs, hummed his way through the Lodge, mounted his horse in
the front court-yard, and rode off to keep an appointment with his
noble kinsman, who wanted a little coaching before he could
triumphantly answer certain infidel Snobs who were going to
question the Nobs about their statesmanship.
He must have passed Mr Rugg on his way out, for, a minute or two
afterwards, that ruddy-headed gentleman shone in at the door, like
an elderly Phoebus.
'How do you do to-day, sir?' said Mr Rugg. 'Is there any little
thing I can do for you to-day, sir?'
'No, I thank you.'
Mr Rugg's enjoyment of embarrassed affairs was like a housekeeper's
enjoyment in pickling and preserving, or a washerwoman's enjoyment
of a heavy wash, or a dustman's enjoyment of an overflowing dust-
bin, or any other professional enjoyment of a mess in the way of
'I still look round, from time to time, sir,' said Mr Rugg,
cheerfully, 'to see whether any lingering Detainers are
accumulating at the gate. They have fallen in pretty thick, sir;
as thick as we could have expected.'
He remarked upon the circumstance as if it were matter of
congratulation: rubbing his hands briskly, and rolling his head a
'As thick,' repeated Mr Rugg, 'as we could reasonably have
expected. Quite a shower-bath of 'em. I don't often intrude upon
you now, when I look round, because I know you are not inclined for
company, and that if you wished to see me, you would leave word in
the Lodge. But I am here pretty well every day, sir. Would this
be an unseasonable time, sir,' asked Mr Rugg, coaxingly, 'for me to
offer an observation?'
'As seasonable a time as any other.'
'Hum! Public opinion, sir,' said Mr Rugg, 'has been busy with
'I don't doubt it.'
'Might it not be advisable, sir,' said Mr Rugg, more coaxingly yet,
'now to make, at last and after all, a trifling concession to
public opinion? We all do it in one way or another. The fact is,
we must do it.'
'I cannot set myself right with it, Mr Rugg, and have no business
to expect that I ever shall.'
'Don't say that, sir, don't say that. The cost of being moved to
the Bench is almost insignificant, and if the general feeling is
strong that you ought to be there, why--really--'
'I thought you had settled, Mr Rugg,' said Arthur, 'that my
determination to remain here was a matter of taste.'
'Well, sir, well! But is it good taste, is it good taste? That's
the Question.' Mr Rugg was so soothingly persuasive as to be quite
pathetic. 'I was almost going to say, is it good feeling? This is
an extensive affair of yours; and your remaining here where a man
can come for a pound or two, is remarked upon as not in keeping.
It is not in keeping. I can't tell you, sir, in how many quarters
I heard it mentioned. I heard comments made upon it last night in
a Parlour frequented by what I should call, if I did not look in
there now and then myself, the best legal company--I heard, there,
comments on it that I was sorry to hear. They hurt me on your
account. Again, only this morning at breakfast. My daughter (but
a woman, you'll say: yet still with a feeling for these things, and
even with some little personal experience, as the plaintiff in Rugg
and Bawkins) was expressing her great surprise; her great surprise.
Now under these circumstances, and considering that none of us can
quite set ourselves above public opinion, wouldn't a trifling
concession to that opinion be-- Come, sir,' said Rugg, 'I will put
it on the lowest ground of argument, and say, amiable?'
Arthur's thoughts had once more wandered away to Little Dorrit, and
the question remained unanswered.
'As to myself, sir,' said Mr Rugg, hoping that his eloquence had
reduced him to a state of indecision, 'it is a principle of mine
not to consider myself when a client's inclinations are in the
scale. But, knowing your considerate character and general wish to
oblige, I will repeat that I should prefer your being in the Bench.
Your case has made a noise; it is a creditable case to be
professionally concerned in; I should feel on a better standing
with my connection, if you went to the Bench. Don't let that
influence you, sir. I merely state the fact.'
So errant had the prisoner's attention already grown in solitude
and dejection, and so accustomed had it become to commune with only
one silent figure within the ever-frowning walls, that Clennam had
to shake off a kind of stupor before he could look at Mr Rugg,
recall the thread of his talk, and hurriedly say, 'I am unchanged,
and unchangeable, in my decision. Pray, let it be; let it be!' Mr
Rugg, without concealing that he was nettled and mortified,
'Oh! Beyond a doubt, sir. I have travelled out of the record,
sir, I am aware, in putting the point to you. But really, when I
herd it remarked in several companies, and in very good company,
that however worthy of a foreigner, it is not worthy of the spirit
of an Englishman to remain in the Marshalsea when the glorious
liberties of his island home admit of his removal to the Bench, I
thought I would depart from the narrow professional line marked out
to me, and mention it. Personally,' said Mr Rugg, 'I have no
opinion on the topic.'
'That's well,' returned Arthur.
'Oh! None at all, sir!' said Mr Rugg. 'If I had, I should have
unwilling, some minutes ago, to see a client of mine visited in
this place by a gentleman of a high family riding a saddle-horse.
But it was not my business. If I had, I might have wished to be
now empowered to mention to another gentleman, a gentleman of
exterior at present waiting in the Lodge, that my client had never
intended to remain here, and was on the eve of removal to a
superior abode. But my course as a professional machine is clear;
I have nothing to do with it. Is it your good pleasure to see the
'Who is waiting to see me, did you say?'
'I did take that unprofessional liberty, sir. Hearing that I was
your professional adviser, he declined to interpose before my very
limited function was performed. Happily,' said Mr Rugg, with
sarcasm, 'I did not so far travel out of the record as to ask the
gentleman for his name.'
'I suppose I have no resource but to see him,' sighed Clennam,
'Then it IS your good pleasure, sir?' retorted Rugg. 'Am I
honoured by your instructions to mention as much to the gentleman,
as I pass out? I am? Thank you, sir. I take my leave.' His
leave he took accordingly, in dudgeon.
The gentleman of military exterior had so imperfectly awakened
Clennam's curiosity, in the existing state of his mind, that a
half-forgetfulness of such a visitor's having been referred to, was
already creeping over it as a part of the sombre veil which almost
always dimmed it now, when a heavy footstep on the stairs aroused
him. It appeared to ascend them, not very promptly or
spontaneously, yet with a display of stride and clatter meant to be
insulting. As it paused for a moment on the landing outside his
door, he could not recall his association with the peculiarity of
its sound, though he thought he had one. Only a moment was given
him for consideration. His door was immediately swung open by a
thump, and in the doorway stood the missing Blandois, the cause of
'Salve, fellow jail-bird !' said he. 'You want me, it seems. Here
Before Arthur could speak to him in his indignant wonder,
Cavalletto followed him into the room. Mr Pancks followed
Cavalletto. Neither of the two had been there since its present
occupant had had possession of it. Mr Pancks, breathing hard,
sidled near the window, put his hat on the ground, stirred his hair
up with both hands, and folded his arms, like a man who had come to
a pause in a hard day's work. Mr Baptist, never taking his eyes
from his dreaded chum of old, softly sat down on the floor with his
back against the door and one of his ankles in each hand: resuming
the attitude (except that it was now expressive of unwinking
watchfulness) in which he had sat before the same man in the deeper
shade of another prison, one hot morning at Marseilles.
'I have it on the witnessing of these two madmen,' said Monsieur
Blandois, otherwise Lagnier, otherwise Rigaud, 'that you want me,
brother-bird. Here I am!'
Glancing round contemptuously at the bedstead, which was turned up
by day, he leaned his back against it as a resting-place, without
removing his hat from his head, and stood defiantly lounging with
his hands in his pockets.
'You villain of ill-omen!' said Arthur. 'You have purposely cast
a dreadful suspicion upon my mother's house. Why have you done it?
What prompted you to the devilish invention?'
Monsieur Rigaud, after frowning at him for a moment, laughed.
'Hear this noble gentleman! Listen, all the world, to this
creature of Virtue! But take care, take care. It is possible, my
friend, that your ardour is a little compromising. Holy Blue! It
'Signore!' interposed Cavalletto, also addressing Arthur: 'for to
commence, hear me! I received your instructions to find him,
Rigaud; is it not?'
'It is the truth.'
'I go, consequentementally,'--it would have given Mrs Plornish
great concern if she could have been persuaded that his occasional
lengthening of an adverb in this way, was the chief fault of his
English,--'first among my countrymen. I ask them what news in
Londra, of foreigners arrived. Then I go among the French. Then
I go among the Germans. They all tell me. The great part of us
know well the other, and they all tell me. But!--no person can
tell me nothing of him, Rigaud. Fifteen times,' said Cavalletto,
thrice throwing out his left hand with all its fingers spread, and
doing it so rapidly that the sense of sight could hardly follow the
action, 'I ask of him in every place where go the foreigners; and
fifteen times,' repeating the same swift performance, 'they know
nothing. But!--' At this significant Italian rest on the word
'But,' his backhanded shake of his right forefinger came into play;
a very little, and very cautiously.
'But!--After a long time when I have not been able to find that he
is here in Londra, some one tells me of a soldier with white hair--
hey?--not hair like this that he carries--white--who lives retired
secrettementally, in a certain place. But!--' with another rest
upon the word, 'who sometimes in the after-dinner, walks, and
smokes. It is necessary, as they say in Italy (and as they know,
poor people), to have patience. I have patience. I ask where is
this certain place. One. believes it is here, one believes it is
there. Eh well! It is not here, it is not there. I wait
patientissamentally. At last I find it. Then I watch; then I
hide, until he walks and smokes. He is a soldier with grey hair--
But!--' a very decided rest indeed, and a very vigorous play from
side to side of the back-handed forefinger--'he is also this man
that you see.'
It was noticeable, that, in his old habit of submission to one who
had been at the trouble of asserting superiority over him, he even
then bestowed upon Rigaud a confused bend of his head, after thus
pointing him out.
'Eh well, Signore!' he cried in conclusion, addressing Arthur
again. 'I waited for a good opportunity. I writed some words to
Signor Panco,' an air of novelty came over Mr Pancks with this
designation, 'to come and help. I showed him, Rigaud, at his
window, to Signor Panco, who was often the spy in the day. I slept
at night near the door of the house. At last we entered, only this
to-day, and now you see him! As he would not come up in presence
of the illustrious Advocate,' such was Mr Baptist's honourable
mention of Mr Rugg, 'we waited down below there, together, and
Signor Panco guarded the street.'
At the close of this recital, Arthur turned his eyes upon the
impudent and wicked face. As it met his, the nose came down over
the moustache and the moustache went up under the nose. When nose
and moustache had settled into their places again, Monsieur Rigaud
loudly snapped his fingers half-a-dozen times; bending forward to
jerk the snaps at Arthur, as if they were palpable missiles which
he jerked into his face.
'Now, Philosopher!' said Rigaud.'What do you want with me?'
'I want to know,' returned Arthur, without disguising his
abhorrence, 'how you dare direct a suspicion of murder against my
'Dare!' cried Rigaud. 'Ho, ho! Hear him! Dare? Is it dare? By
Heaven, my small boy, but you are a little imprudent!'
'I want that suspicion to be cleared away,' said Arthur. 'You
shall be taken there, and be publicly seen. I want to know,
moreover, what business you had there when I had a burning desire
to fling you down-stairs. Don't frown at me, man! I have seen
enough of you to know that you are a bully and coward. I need no
revival of my spirits from the effects of this wretched place to
tell you so plain a fact, and one that you know so well.'
White to the lips, Rigaud stroked his moustache, muttering, 'By
Heaven, my small boy, but you are a little compromising of my lady,
your respectable mother'--and seemed for a minute undecided how to
act. His indecision was soon gone. He sat himself down with a
threatening swagger, and said:
'Give me a bottle of wine. You can buy wine here. Send one of
your madmen to get me a bottle of wine. I won't talk to you
without wine. Come! Yes or no?'
'Fetch him what he wants, Cavalletto,' said Arthur, scornfully,
producing the money.
'Contraband beast,' added Rigaud, 'bring Port wine! I'll drink
nothing but Porto-Porto.'
The contraband beast, however, assuring all present, with his
significant finger, that he peremptorily declined to leave his post
at the door, Signor Panco offered his services. He soon returned
with the bottle of wine: which, according to the custom of the
place, originating in a scarcity of corkscrews among the Collegians
(in common with a scarcity of much else), was already opened for
'Madman! A large glass,' said Rigaud.
Signor Panco put a tumbler before him; not without a visible
conflict of feeling on the question of throwing it at his head.
'Haha!' boasted Rigaud. 'Once a gentleman, and always a gentleman.
A gentleman from the beginning, and a gentleman to the end. What
the Devil! A gentleman must be waited on, I hope? It's a part of
my character to be waited on!'
He half filled the tumbler as he said it, and drank off the
contents when he had done saying it.
'Hah!' smacking his lips. 'Not a very old prisoner that! I judge
by your looks, brave sir, that imprisonment will subdue your blood
much sooner than it softens this hot wine. You are mellowing--
losing body and colour already. I salute you!'
He tossed off another half glass: holding it up both before and
afterwards, so as to display his small, white hand.
'To business,' he then continued. 'To conversation. You have
shown yourself more free of speech than body, sir.'
'I have used the freedom of telling you what you know yourself to
be. You know yourself, as we all know you, to be far worse than
'Add, always a gentleman, and it's no matter. Except in that
regard, we are all alike. For example: you couldn't for your life
be a gentleman; I couldn't for my life be otherwise. How great the
difference! Let us go on. Words, sir, never influence the course
of the cards, or the course of the dice. Do you know that? You
do? I also play a game, and words are without power over it.'
Now that he was confronted with Cavalletto, and knew that his story
was known--whatever thin disguise he had worn, he dropped; and
faced it out, with a bare face, as the infamous wretch he was.
'No, my son,' he resumed, with a snap of his fingers. 'I play my
game to the end in spite of words; and Death of my Body and Death
of my Soul! I'll win it. You want to know why I played this
little trick that you have interrupted? Know then that I had, and
that I have--do you understand me? have--a commodity to sell to my
lady your respectable mother. I described my precious commodity,
and fixed my price. Touching the bargain, your admirable mother
was a little too calm, too stolid, too immovable and statue-like.
In fine, your admirable mother vexed me. To make variety in my
position, and to amuse myself--what! a gentleman must be amused at
somebody's expense!--I conceived the happy idea of disappearing.
An idea, see you, that your characteristic mother and my Flintwinch
would have been well enough pleased to execute. Ah! Bah, bah,
bah, don't look as from high to low at me! I repeat it. Well
enough pleased, excessively enchanted, and with all their hearts
ravished. How strongly will you have it?'
He threw out the lees of his glass on the ground, so that they
nearly spattered Cavalletto. This seemed to draw his attention to
him anew. He set down his glass and said:
'I'll not fill it. What! I am born to be served. Come then, you
Cavalletto, and fill!'
The little man looked at Clennam, whose eyes were occupied with
Rigaud, and, seeing no prohibition, got up from the ground, and
poured out from the bottle into the glass. The blending, as he did
so, of his old submission with a sense of something humorous; the
striving of that with a certain smouldering ferocity, which might
have flashed fire in an instant (as the born gentleman seemed to
think, for he had a wary eye upon him); and the easy yielding of
all to a good-natured, careless, predominant propensity to sit down
on the ground again: formed a very remarkable combination of
'This happy idea, brave sir,' Rigaud resumed after drinking, 'was
a happy idea for several reasons. It amused me, it worried your
dear mama and my Flintwinch, it caused you agonies (my terms for a
lesson in politeness towards a gentleman), and it suggested to all
the amiable persons interested that your entirely devoted is a man
to fear. By Heaven, he is a man to fear! Beyond this; it might
have restored her wit to my lady your mother--might, under the
pressing little suspicion your wisdom has recognised, have
persuaded her at last to announce, covertly, in the journals, that
the difficulties of a certain contract would be removed by the
appearance of a certain important party to it. Perhaps yes,
perhaps no. But that, you have interrupted. Now, what is it you
say? What is it you want?'
Never had Clennam felt more acutely that he was a prisoner in
bonds, than when he saw this man before him, and could not
accompany him to his mother's house. All the undiscernible
difficulties and dangers he had ever feared were closing in, when
he could not stir hand or foot.
'Perhaps, my friend, philosopher, man of virtue, Imbecile, what you
will; perhaps,' said Rigaud, pausing in his drink to look out of
his glass with his horrible smile, 'you would have done better to
leave me alone?'
'No! At least,' said Clennam, 'you are known to be alive and
unharmed. At least you cannot escape from these two witnesses; and
they can produce you before any public authorities, or before
hundreds of people!'
'But will not produce me before one,' said Rigaud, snapping his
fingers again with an air of triumphant menace. 'To the Devil with
your witnesses! To the Devil with your produced! To the Devil
with yourself! What! Do I know what I know, for that? Have I my
commodity on sale, for that? Bah, poor debtor! You have
interrupted my little project. Let it pass. How then? What
remains? To you, nothing; to me, all. Produce me! Is that what
you want? I will produce myself, only too quickly. Contrabandist!
Give me pen, ink, and paper.'
Cavalletto got up again as before, and laid them before him in his
former manner. Rigaud, after some villainous thinking and smiling,
wrote, and read aloud, as follows:
'To MRS CLENNAM.
'Prison of the Marshalsea.
'At the apartment of your son.
'Dear Madam,--I am in despair to be informed to-day by our prisoner
here (who has had the goodness to employ spies to seek me, living
for politic reasons in retirement), that you have had fears for my
'Reassure yourself, dear madam. I am well, I am strong and
'With the greatest impatience I should fly to your house, but that
I foresee it to be possible, under the circumstances, that you will
not yet have quite definitively arranged the little proposition I
have had the honour to submit to you. I name one week from this
day, for a last final visit on my part; when you will
unconditionally accept it or reject it, with its train of
'I suppress my ardour to embrace you and achieve this interesting
business, in order that you may have leisure to adjust its details
to our perfect mutual satisfaction.
'In the meanwhile, it is not too much to propose (our prisoner
having deranged my housekeeping), that my expenses of lodging and
nourishment at an hotel shall be paid by you.
'Receive, dear madam, the assurance of my highest and most
'A thousand friendships to that dear Flintwinch.
'I kiss the hands of Madame F.'
When he had finished this epistle, Rigaud folded it and tossed it
with a flourish at Clennam's feet. 'Hola you! Apropos of
producing, let somebody produce that at its address, and produce
the answer here.'
'Cavalletto,' said Arthur. 'Will you take this fellow's letter?'
But, Cavalletto's significant finger again expressing that his post
was at the door to keep watch over Rigaud, now he had found him
with so much trouble, and that the duty of his post was to sit on
the floor backed up by the door, looking at Rigaud and holding his
own ankles,--Signor Panco once more volunteered. His services
being accepted, Cavalletto suffered the door to open barely wide
enough to admit of his squeezing himself out, and immediately shut
it on him.
'Touch me with a finger, touch me with an epithet, question my
superiority as I sit here drinking my wine at my pleasure,' said
Rigaud, 'and I follow the letter and cancel my week's grace. You
wanted me? You have got me! How do you like me?'
'You know,' returned Clennam, with a bitter sense of his
helplessness, 'that when I sought you, I was not a prisoner.'
'To the Devil with you and your prison,' retorted Rigaud,
leisurely, as he took from his pocket a case containing the
materials for making cigarettes, and employed his facile hands in
folding a few for present use; 'I care for neither of you.
Contrabandist! A light.'
Again Cavalletto got up, and gave him what he wanted. There had
been something dreadful in the noiseless skill of his cold, white
hands, with the fingers lithely twisting about and twining one over
another like serpents. Clennam could not prevent himself from
shuddering inwardly, as if he had been looking on at a nest of
'Hola, Pig!' cried Rigaud, with a noisy stimulating cry, as if
Cavalletto were an Italian horse or mule. 'What! The infernal old
jail was a respectable one to this. There was dignity in the bars
and stones of that place. It was a prison for men. But this?
Bah! A hospital for imbeciles!'
He smoked his cigarette out, with his ugly smile so fixed upon his
face that he looked as though he were smoking with his drooping
beak of a nose, rather than with his mouth; like a fancy in a weird
picture. When he had lighted a second cigarette at the still
burning end of the first, he said to Clennam:
'One must pass the time in the madman's absence. One must talk.
One can't drink strong wine all day long, or I would have another
bottle. She's handsome, sir. Though not exactly to my taste,
still, by the Thunder and the Lightning! handsome. I felicitate
you on your admiration.'
'I neither know nor ask,' said Clennam, 'of whom you speak.'
'Della bella Gowana, sir, as they say in Italy. Of the Gowan, the
'Of whose husband you were the--follower, I think?'
'Sir? Follower? You are insolent. The friend.'
'Do you sell all your friends?'
Rigaud took his cigarette from his mouth, and eyed him with a
momentary revelation of surprise. But he put it between his lips
again, as he answered with coolness:
'I sell anything that commands a price. How do your lawyers live,
your politicians, your intriguers, your men of the Exchange? How
do you live? How do you come here? Have you sold no friend? Lady
of mine! I rather think, yes!'
Clennam turned away from him towards the window, and sat looking
out at the wall.
'Effectively, sir,' said Rigaud, 'Society sells itself and sells
me: and I sell Society. I perceive you have acquaintance with
another lady. Also handsome. A strong spirit. Let us see. How
do they call her? Wade.'
He received no answer, but could easily discern that he had hit the
'Yes,' he went on, 'that handsome lady and strong spirit addresses
me in the street, and I am not insensible. I respond. That
handsome lady and strong spirit does me the favour to remark, in
full confidence, "I have my curiosity, and I have my chagrins. You
are not more than ordinarily honourable, perhaps?" I announce
myself, "Madame, a gentleman from the birth, and a gentleman to the
death; but NOT more than ordinarily honourable. I despise such a
weak fantasy." Thereupon she is pleased to compliment. "The
difference between you and the rest is," she answers, "that you say
so." For she knows Society. I accept her congratulations with
gallantry and politeness. Politeness and little gallantries are
inseparable from my character. She then makes a proposition, which
is, in effect, that she has seen us much together; that it appears
to her that I am for the passing time the cat of the house, the
friend of the family; that her curiosity and her chagrins awaken
the fancy to be acquainted with their movements, to know the manner
of their life, how the fair Gowana is beloved, how the fair Gowana
is cherished, and so on. She is not rich, but offers such and such
little recompenses for the little cares and derangements of such
services; and I graciously--to do everything graciously is a part
of my character--consent to accept them. O yes! So goes the
world. It is the mode.'
Though Clennam's back was turned while he spoke, and thenceforth to
the end of the interview, he kept those glittering eyes of his that
were too near together, upon him, and evidently saw in the very
carriage of the head, as he passed with his braggart recklessness
from clause to clause of what he said, that he was saying nothing
which Clennam did not already know.
'Whoof! The fair Gowana!' he said, lighting a third cigarette with
a sound as if his lightest breath could blow her away. 'Charming,
but imprudent! For it was not well of the fair Gowana to make
mysteries of letters from old lovers, in her bedchamber on the
mountain, that her husband might not see them. No, no. That was
not well. Whoof! The Gowana was mistaken there.'
'I earnestly hope,' cried Arthur aloud, 'that Pancks may not be
long gone, for this man's presence pollutes the room.'
'Ah! But he'll flourish here, and everywhere,' said Rigaud, with
an exulting look and snap of his fingers. 'He always has; he
always will!' Stretching his body out on the only three chairs in
the room besides that on which Clennam sat, he sang, smiting
himself on the breast as the gallant personage of the song.
'Who passes by this road so late?
Compagnon de la Majolaine!
Who passes by this road so late?
'Sing the Refrain, pig! You could sing it once, in another jail.
Sing it! Or, by every Saint who was stoned to death, I'll be
affronted and compromising; and then some people who are not dead
yet, had better have been stoned along with them!'
'Of all the king's knights 'tis the flower,
Compagnon de la Majolaine!
Of all the king's knights 'tis the flower,
Partly in his old habit of submission, partly because his not doing
it might injure his benefactor, and partly because he would as soon
do it as anything else, Cavalletto took up the Refrain this time.
Rigaud laughed, and fell to smoking with his eyes shut.
Possibly another quarter of an hour elapsed before Mr Pancks's step
was heard upon the stairs, but the interval seemed to Clennam
insupportably long. His step was attended by another step; and
when Cavalletto opened the door, he admitted Mr Pancks and Mr
Flintwinch. The latter was no sooner visible, than Rigaud rushed
at him and embraced him boisterously.
'How do you find yourself, sir?' said Mr Flintwinch, as soon as he
could disengage himself, which he struggled to do with very little
ceremony. 'Thank you, no; I don't want any more.' This was in
reference to another menace of attention from his recovered friend.
'Well, Arthur. You remember what I said to you about sleeping dogs
and missing ones. It's come true, you see.'
He was as imperturbable as ever, to all appearance, and nodded his
head in a moralising way as he looked round the room.
'And this is the Marshalsea prison for debt!' said Mr Flintwinch.
'Hah! you have brought your pigs to a very indifferent market,
If Arthur had patience, Rigaud had not. He took his little
Flintwinch, with fierce playfulness, by the two lapels of his coat,
'To the Devil with the Market, to the Devil with the Pigs, and to
the Devil with the Pig-Driver! Now! Give me the answer to my
'If you can make it convenient to let go a moment, sir,' returned
Mr Flintwinch, 'I'll first hand Mr Arthur a little note that I have
He did so. It was in his mother's maimed writing, on a slip of
paper, and contained only these words:
'I hope it is enough that you have ruined yourself. Rest contented
without more ruin. Jeremiah Flintwinch is my messenger and
representative. Your affectionate M. C.'
Clennam read this twice, in silence, and then tore it to pieces.
Rigaud in the meanwhile stepped into a chair, and sat himself on
the back with his feet upon the seat.
'Now, Beau Flintwinch,' he said, when he had closely watched the
note to its destruction, 'the answer to my letter?'
'Mrs Clennam did not write, Mr Blandois, her hands being cramped,
and she thinking it as well to send it verbally by me.' Mr
Flintwinch screwed this out of himself, unwillingly and rustily.
'She sends her compliments, and says she doesn't on the whole wish
to term you unreasonable, and that she agrees. But without
prejudicing the appointment that stands for this day week.'
Monsieur Rigaud, after indulging in a fit of laughter, descended
from his throne, saying, 'Good! I go to seek an hotel!' But,
there his eyes encountered Cavalletto, who was still at his post.
'Come, Pig,' he added, 'I have had you for a follower against my
will; now, I'll have you against yours. I tell you, my little
reptiles, I am born to be served. I demand the service of this
contrabandist as my domestic until this day week.'
In answer to Cavalletto's look of inquiry, Clennam made him a sign
to go; but he added aloud, 'unless you are afraid of him.'
Cavalletto replied with a very emphatic finger-negative.'No,
master, I am not afraid of him, when I no more keep it
secrettementally that he was once my comrade.' Rigaud took no
notice of either remark until he had lighted his last cigarette and
was quite ready for walking.
'Afraid of him,' he said then, looking round upon them all.
'Whoof! My children, my babies, my little dolls, you are all
afraid of him. You give him his bottle of wine here; you give him
meat, drink, and lodging there; you dare not touch him with a
finger or an epithet. No. It is his character to triumph! Whoof!
'Of all the king's knights he's the flower,
And he's always gay!'
With this adaptation of the Refrain to himself, he stalked out of
the room closely followed by Cavalletto, whom perhaps he had
pressed into his service because he tolerably well knew it would
not be easy to get rid of him. Mr Flintwinch, after scraping his
chin, and looking about with caustic disparagement of the Pig-
Market, nodded to Arthur, and followed. Mr Pancks, still penitent
and depressed, followed too; after receiving with great attention
a secret word or two of instructions from Arthur, and whispering
back that he would see this affair out, and stand by it to the end.
The prisoner, with the feeling that he was more despised, more
scorned and repudiated, more helpless, altogether more miserable
and fallen than before, was left alone again.
A Plea in the Marshalsea
Haggard anxiety and remorse are bad companions to be barred up
with. Brooding all day, and resting very little indeed at night,
t will not arm a man against misery. Next morning, Clennam felt
that his health was sinking, as his spirits had already sunk and
that the weight under which he bent was bearing him down.
Night after night he had risen from his bed of wretchedness at
twelve or one o'clock, and had sat at his window watching the
sickly lamps in the yard, and looking upward for the first wan
trace of day, hours before it was possible that the sky could show
it to him. Now when the night came, he could not even persuade
himself to undress.
For a burning restlessness set in, an agonised impatience of the
prison, and a conviction that he was going to break his heart and
die there, which caused him indescribable suffering. His dread and
hatred of the place became so intense that he felt it a labour to
draw his breath in it. The sensation of being stifled sometimes so
overpowered him, that he would stand at the window holding his
throat and gasping. At the same time a longing for other air, and
a yearning to be beyond the blind blank wall, made him feel as if
he must go mad with the ardour of the desire.
Many other prisoners had had experience of this condition before
him, and its violence and continuity had worn themselves out in
their cases, as they did in his. Two nights and a day exhausted
it. It came back by fits, but those grew fainter and returned at
lengthening intervals. A desolate calm succeeded; and the middle
of the week found him settled down in the despondency of low, slow
With Cavalletto and Pancks away, he had no visitors to fear but Mr
and Mrs Plornish. His anxiety, in reference to that worthy pair,
was that they should not come near him; for, in the morbid state of
his nerves, he sought to be left alone, and spared the being seen
so subdued and weak. He wrote a note to Mrs Plornish representing
himself as occupied with his affairs, and bound by the necessity of
devoting himself to them, to remain for a time even without the
pleasant interruption of a sight of her kind face. As to Young
John, who looked in daily at a certain hour, when the turnkeys were
relieved, to ask if he could do anything for him; he always made a
pretence of being engaged in writing, and to answer cheerfully in
the negative. The subject of their only long conversation had
never been revived between them. Through all these changes of
unhappiness, however, it had never lost its hold on Clennam's mind.
The sixth day of the appointed week was a moist, hot, misty day.
It seemed as though the prison's poverty, and shabbiness, and dirt,
were growing in the sultry atmosphere. With an aching head and a
weary heart, Clennam had watched the miserable night out, listening
to the fall of rain on the yard pavement, thinking of its softer
fall upon the country earth. A blurred circle of yellow haze had
risen up in the sky in lieu of sun, and he had watched the patch it
put upon his wall, like a bit of the prison's raggedness. He had
heard the gates open; and the badly shod feet that waited outside
shuffle in; and the sweeping, and pumping, and moving about, begin,
which commenced the prison morning. So ill and faint that he was
obliged to rest many times in the process of getting himself
washed, he had at length crept to his chair by the open window. In
it he sat dozing, while the old woman who arranged his room went
through her morning's work.
Light of head with want of sleep and want of food (his appetite,
and even his sense of taste, having forsaken him), he had been two
or three times conscious, in the night, of going astray. He had
heard fragments of tunes and songs in the warm wind, which he knew
had no existence. Now that he began to doze in exhaustion, he
heard them again; and voices seemed to address him, and he
answered, and started.
Dozing and dreaming, without the power of reckoning time, so that
a minute might have been an hour and an hour a minute, some abiding
impression of a garden stole over him--a garden of flowers, with a
damp warm wind gently stirring their scents. It required such a
painful effort to lift his head for the purpose of inquiring into
this, or inquiring into anything, that the impression appeared to
have become quite an old and importunate one when he looked round.
Beside the tea-cup on his table he saw, then, a blooming nosegay:
a wonderful handful of the choicest and most lovely flowers.
Nothing had ever appeared so beautiful in his sight. He took them
up and inhaled their fragrance, and he lifted them to his hot head,
and he put them down and opened his parched hands to them, as cold
hands are opened to receive the cheering of a fire. It was not
until he had delighted in them for some time, that he wondered who
had sent them; and opened his door to ask the woman who must have
put them there, how they had come into her hands. But she was
gone, and seemed to have been long gone; for the tea she had left
for him on the table was cold. He tried to drink some, but could
not bear the odour of it: so he crept back to his chair by the open
window, and put the flowers on the little round table of old.
When the first faintness consequent on having moved about had left
him, he subsided into his former state. One of the night-tunes was
playing in the wind, when the door of his room seemed to open to a
light touch, and, after a moment's pause, a quiet figure seemed to
stand there, with a black mantle on it. It seemed to draw the
mantle off and drop it on the ground, and then it seemed to be his
Little Dorrit in her old, worn dress. It seemed to tremble, and to
clasp its hands, and to smile, and to burst into tears.
He roused himself, and cried out. And then he saw, in the loving,
pitying, sorrowing, dear face, as in a mirror, how changed he was;
and she came towards him; and with her hands laid on his breast to
keep him in his chair, and with her knees upon the floor at his
feet, and with her lips raised up to kiss him, and with her tears
dropping on him as the rain from Heaven had dropped upon the
flowers, Little Dorrit, a living presence, called him by his name.
'O, my best friend! Dear Mr Clennam, don't let me see you weep!
Unless you weep with pleasure to see me. I hope you do. Your own
poor child come back!'
So faithful, tender, and unspoiled by Fortune. In the sound of her
voice, in the light of her eyes, in the touch of her hands, so
Angelically comforting and true!
As he embraced her, she said to him, 'They never told me you were
ill,' and drawing an arm softly round his neck, laid his head upon
her bosom, put a hand upon his head, and resting her cheek upon
that hand, nursed him as lovingly, and GOD knows as innocently, as
she had nursed her father in that room when she had been but a
baby, needing all the care from others that she took of them.
When he could speak, he said, 'Is it possible that you have come to
me? And in this dress?'
'I hoped you would like me better in this dress than any other. I
have always kept it by me, to remind me: though I wanted no
reminding. I am not alone, you see. I have brought an old friend
Looking round, he saw Maggy in her big cap which had been long
abandoned, with a basket on her arm as in the bygone days,
'It was only yesterday evening that I came to London with my
brother. I sent round to Mrs Plornish almost as soon as we
arrived, that I might hear of you and let you know I had come.
Then I heard that you were here. Did you happen to think of me in
the night? I almost believe you must have thought of me a little.
I thought of you so anxiously, and it appeared so long to morning.'
'I have thought of you--' he hesitated what to call her. She
perceived it in an instant.
'You have not spoken to me by my right name yet. You know what my
right name always is with you.'
'I have thought of you, Little Dorrit, every day, every hour, every
minute, since I have been here.'
'Have you? Have you?'
He saw the bright delight of her face, and the flush that kindled
in it, with a feeling of shame. He, a broken, bankrupt, sick,
'I was here before the gates were opened, but I was afraid to come
straight to you. I should have done you more harm than good, at
first; for the prison was so familiar and yet so strange, and it
brought back so many remembrances of my poor father, and of you
too, that at first it overpowered me. But we went to Mr Chivery
before we came to the gate, and he brought us in, and got john's
room for us--my poor old room, you know--and we waited there a
little. I brought the flowers to the door, but you didn't hear
She looked something more womanly than when she had gone away, and
the ripening touch of the Italian sun was visible upon her face.
But, otherwise, she was quite unchanged. The same deep, timid
earnestness that he had always seen in her, and never without
emotion, he saw still. If it had a new meaning that smote him to
the heart, the change was in his perception, not in her.
She took off her old bonnet, hung it in the old place, and
noiselessly began, with Maggy's help, to make his room as fresh and
neat as it could be made, and to sprinkle it with a pleasant-
smelling water. When that was done, the basket, which was filled
with grapes and other fruit, was unpacked, and all its contents
were quietly put away. When that was done, a moment's whisper
despatched Maggy to despatch somebody else to fill the basket
again; which soon came back replenished with new stores, from which
a present provision of cooling drink and jelly, and a prospective
supply of roast chicken and wine and water, were the first
extracts. These various arrangements completed, she took out her
old needle-case to make him a curtain for his window; and thus,
with a quiet reigning in the room, that seemed to diffuse itself
through the else noisy prison, he found himself composed in his
chair, with Little Dorrit working at his side.
To see the modest head again bent down over its task, and the
nimble fingers busy at their old work--though she was not so
absorbed in it, but that her compassionate eyes were often raised
to his face, and, when they drooped again had tears in them--to be
so consoled and comforted, and to believe that all the devotion of
this great nature was turned to him in his adversity to pour out
its inexhaustible wealth of goodness upon him, did not steady
Clennam's trembling voice or hand, or strengthen him in his
weakness. Yet it inspired him with an inward fortitude, that rose
with his love. And how dearly he loved her now, what words can
As they sat side by side in the shadow of the wall, the shadow fell
like light upon him. She would not let him speak much, and he lay
back in his chair, looking at her. Now and again she would rise
and give him the glass that he might drink, or would smooth the
resting-place of his head; then she would gently resume her seat by
him, and bend over her work again.
The shadow moved with the sun, but she never moved from his side,
except to wait upon him. The sun went down and she was still
there. She had done her work now, and her hand, faltering on the
arm of his chair since its last tending of him, was hesitating
there yet. He laid his hand upon it, and it clasped him with a
'Dear Mr Clennam, I must say something to you before I go. I have
put it off from hour to hour, but I must say it.'
'I too, dear Little Dorrit. I have put off what I must say.'
She nervously moved her hand towards his lips as if to stop him;
then it dropped, trembling, into its former place.
'I am not going abroad again. My brother is, but I am not. He was
always attached to me, and he is so grateful to me now--so much too
grateful, for it is only because I happened to be with him in his
illness--that he says I shall be free to stay where I like best,
and to do what I like best. He only wishes me to be happy, he
There was one bright star shining in the sky. She looked up at it
While she spoke, as if it were the fervent purpose of her own heart
shining above her.
'You will understand, I dare say, without my telling you, that my
brother has come home to find my dear father's will, and to take
possession of his property. He says, if there is a will, he is
sure i shall be left rich; and if there is none, that he will make
He would have spoken; but she put up her trembling hand again, and
'I have no use for money, I have no wish for it. It would be of no
value at all to me but for your sake. I could not be rich, and you
here. I must always be much worse than poor, with you distressed.
Will you let me lend you all I have? Will you let me give it you?
Will you let me show you that I have never forgotten, that I never
can forget, your protection of me when this was my home? Dear Mr
Clennam, make me of all the world the happiest, by saying Yes.
Make me as happy as I can be in leaving you here, by saying nothing
to-night, and letting me go away with the hope that you will think
of it kindly; and that for my sake--not for yours, for mine, for
nobody's but mine!--you will give me the greatest joy I can
experience on earth, the joy of knowing that I have been
serviceable to you, and that I have paid some little of the great
debt of my affection and gratitude. I can't say what I wish to
say. I can't visit you here where I have lived so long, I can't
think of you here where I have seen so much, and be as calm and
comforting as I ought. My tears will make their way. I cannot
keep them back. But pray, pray, pray, do not turn from your Little
Dorrit, now, in your affliction! Pray, pray, pray, I beg you and
implore you with all my grieving heart, my friend--my dear!--take
all I have, and make it a Blessing to me!'
The star had shone on her face until now, when her face sank upon
his hand and her own.
It had grown darker when he raised her in his encircling arm, and
softly answered her.
'No, darling Little Dorrit. No, my child. I must not hear of such
a sacrifice. Liberty and hope would be so dear, bought at such a
price, that I could never support their weight, never bear the
reproach of possessing them. But with what ardent thankfulness and
love I say this, I may call Heaven to witness!'
'And yet you will not let me be faithful to you in your
'Say, dearest Little Dorrit, and yet I will try to be faithful to
you. If, in the bygone days when this was your home and when this
was your dress, I had understood myself (I speak only of myself)
better, and had read the secrets of my own breast more distinctly;
if, through my reserve and self-mistrust, I had discerned a light
that I see brightly now when it has passed far away, and my weak
footsteps can never overtake it; if I had then known, and told you
that I loved and honoured you, not as the poor child I used to call
you, but as a woman whose true hand would raise me high above
myself and make me a far happier and better man; if I had so used
the opportunity there is no recalling--as I wish I had, O I wish I
had!--and if something had kept us apart then, when I was
moderately thriving, and when you were poor; I might have met your
noble offer of your fortune, dearest girl, with other words than
these, and still have blushed to touch it. But, as it is, I must
never touch it, never!'
She besought him, more pathetically and earnestly, with her little
supplicatory hand, than she could have done in any words.
'I am disgraced enough, my Little Dorrit. I must not descend so
low as that, and carry you--so dear, so generous, so good--down
with me. GOD bless you, GOD reward you! It is past.' He took her
in his arms, as if she had been his daughter.
'Always so much older, so much rougher, and so much less worthy,
even what I was must be dismissed by both of us, and you must see
me only as I am. I put this parting kiss upon your cheek, my
child--who might have been more near to me, who never could have
been more dear--a ruined man far removed from you, for ever
separated from you, whose course is run while yours is but