Part 3 out of 20
'You are welcome to the Marshalsea, sir. I have welcomed many
gentlemen to these walls. Perhaps you are aware--my daughter Amy
may have mentioned that I am the Father of this place.'
'I--so I have understood,' said Arthur, dashing at the assertion.
'You know, I dare say, that my daughter Amy was born here. A good
girl, sir, a dear girl, and long a comfort and support to me. Amy,
my dear, put this dish on; Mr Clennam will excuse the primitive
customs to which we are reduced here. Is it a compliment to ask
you if you would do me the honour, sir, to--'
'Thank you,' returned Arthur. 'Not a morsel.'
He felt himself quite lost in wonder at the manner of the man, and
that the probability of his daughter's having had a reserve as to
her family history, should be so far out of his mind.
She filled his glass, put all the little matters on the table ready
to his hand, and then sat beside him while he ate his supper.
Evidently in observance of their nightly custom, she put some bread
before herself, and touched his glass with her lips; but Arthur saw
she was troubled and took nothing. Her look at her father, half
admiring him and proud of him, half ashamed for him, all devoted
and loving, went to his inmost heart.
The Father of the Marshalsea condescended towards his brother as an
amiable, well-meaning man; a private character, who had not arrived
at distinction. 'Frederick,' said he, 'you and Fanny sup at your
lodgings to-night, I know. What have you done with Fanny,
'She is walking with Tip.'
'Tip--as you may know--is my son, Mr Clennam. He has been a little
wild, and difficult to settle, but his introduction to the world
was rather'--he shrugged his shoulders with a faint sigh, and
looked round the room--'a little adverse. Your first visit here,
'You could hardly have been here since your boyhood without my
knowledge. It very seldom happens that anybody--of any
pretensions-any pretensions--comes here without being presented to
'As many as forty or fifty in a day have been introduced to my
brother,' said Frederick, faintly lighting up with a ray of pride.
'Yes!' the Father of the Marshalsea assented. 'We have even
exceeded that number. On a fine Sunday in term time, it is quite
a Levee--quite a Levee. Amy, my dear, I have been trying half the
day to remember the name of the gentleman from Camberwell who was
introduced to me last Christmas week by that agreeable coal-
merchant who was remanded for six months.'
'I don't remember his name, father.'
'Frederick, do you remember his name?'
Frederick doubted if he had ever heard it. No one could doubt that
Frederick was the last person upon earth to put such a question to,
with any hope of information.
'I mean,' said his brother, 'the gentleman who did that handsome
action with so much delicacy. Ha! Tush! The name has quite
escaped me. Mr Clennam, as I have happened to mention handsome and
delicate action, you may like, perhaps, to know what it was.'
'Very much,' said Arthur, withdrawing his eyes from the delicate
head beginning to droop and the pale face with a new solicitude
stealing over it.
'It is so generous, and shows so much fine feeling, that it is
almost a duty to mention it. I said at the time that I always
would mention it on every suitable occasion, without regard to
personal sensitiveness. A--well--a--it's of no use to disguise the
fact--you must know, Mr Clennam, that it does sometimes occur that
people who come here desire to offer some little--Testimonial--to
the Father of the place.'
To see her hand upon his arm in mute entreaty half-repressed, and
her timid little shrinking figure turning away, was to see a sad,
'Sometimes,' he went on in a low, soft voice, agitated, and
clearing his throat every now and then; 'sometimes--hem--it takes
one shape and sometimes another; but it is generally--ha--Money.
And it is, I cannot but confess it, it is too often--hem--
acceptable. This gentleman that I refer to, was presented to me,
Mr Clennam, in a manner highly gratifying to my feelings, and
conversed not only with great politeness, but with great--ahem--
information.' All this time, though he had finished his supper, he
was nervously going about his plate with his knife and fork, as if
some of it were still before him. 'It appeared from his
conversation that he had a garden, though he was delicate of
mentioning it at first, as gardens are--hem--are not accessible to
me. But it came out, through my admiring a very fine cluster of
geranium--beautiful cluster of geranium to be sure--which he had
brought from his conservatory. On my taking notice of its rich
colour, he showed me a piece of paper round it, on which was
written, "For the Father of the Marshalsea," and presented it to
me. But this was--hem--not all. He made a particular request, on
taking leave, that I would remove the paper in half an hour. I--
ha--I did so; and I found that it contained--ahem--two guineas. I
assure you, Mr Clennam, I have received--hem--Testimonials in many
ways, and of many degrees of value, and they have always been--ha--
unfortunately acceptable; but I never was more pleased than with
this--ahem--this particular Testimonial.'
Arthur was in the act of saying the little he could say on such a
theme, when a bell began to ring, and footsteps approached the
door. A pretty girl of a far better figure and much more developed
than Little Dorrit, though looking much younger in the face when
the two were observed together, stopped in the doorway on seeing a
stranger; and a young man who was with her, stopped too.
'Mr Clennam, Fanny. My eldest daughter and my son, Mr Clennam.
The bell is a signal for visitors to retire, and so they have come
to say good night; but there is plenty of time, plenty of time.
Girls, Mr Clennam will excuse any household business you may have
together. He knows, I dare say, that I have but one room here.'
'I only want my clean dress from Amy, father,' said the second
'And I my clothes,' said Tip.
Amy opened a drawer in an old piece of furniture that was a chest
of drawers above and a bedstead below, and produced two little
bundles, which she handed to her brother and sister. 'Mended and
made up?' Clennam heard the sister ask in a whisper. To which Amy
answered 'Yes.' He had risen now, and took the opportunity of
glancing round the room. The bare walls had been coloured green,
evidently by an unskilled hand, and were poorly decorated with a
few prints. The window was curtained, and the floor carpeted; and
there were shelves and pegs, and other such conveniences, that had
accumulated in the course of years. It was a close, confined room,
poorly furnished; and the chimney smoked to boot, or the tin screen
at the top of the fireplace was superfluous; but constant pains and
care had made it neat, and even, after its kind, comfortable.
All the while the bell was ringing, and the uncle was anxious to
go. 'Come, Fanny, come, Fanny,' he said, with his ragged clarionet
case under his arm; 'the lock, child, the lock!'
Fanny bade her father good night, and whisked off airily. Tip had
already clattered down-stairs. 'Now, Mr Clennam,' said the uncle,
looking back as he shuffled out after them, 'the lock, sir, the
Mr Clennam had two things to do before he followed; one, to offer
his testimonial to the Father of the Marshalsea, without giving
pain to his child; the other to say something to that child, though
it were but a word, in explanation of his having come there.
'Allow me,' said the Father, 'to see you down-stairs.'
She had slipped out after the rest, and they were alone. 'Not on
any account,' said the visitor, hurriedly. 'Pray allow me to--'
chink, chink, chink.
'Mr Clennam,' said the Father, 'I am deeply, deeply--' But his
visitor had shut up his hand to stop the clinking, and had gone
down-stairs with great speed.
He saw no Little Dorrit on his way down, or in the yard. The last
two or three stragglers were hurrying to the lodge, and he was
following, when he caught sight of her in the doorway of the first
house from the entrance. He turned back hastily.
'Pray forgive me,' he said, 'for speaking to you here; pray forgive
me for coming here at all! I followed you to-night. I did so,
that I might endeavour to render you and your family some service.
You know the terms on which I and my mother are, and may not be
surprised that I have preserved our distant relations at her house,
lest I should unintentionally make her jealous, or resentful, or do
you any injury in her estimation. What I have seen here, in this
short time, has greatly increased my heartfelt wish to be a friend
to you. It would recompense me for much disappointment if I could
hope to gain your confidence.'
She was scared at first, but seemed to take courage while he spoke
'You are very good, sir. You speak very earnestly to me. But I--
but I wish you had not watched me.'
He understood the emotion with which she said it, to arise in her
father's behalf; and he respected it, and was silent.
'Mrs Clennam has been of great service to me; I don't know what we
should have done without the employment she has given me; I am
afraid it may not be a good return to become secret with her; I can
say no more to-night, sir. I am sure you mean to be kind to us.
Thank you, thank you.'
'Let me ask you one question before I leave. Have you known my
'I think two years, sir,--The bell has stopped.'
'How did you know her first? Did she send here for you?'
'No. She does not even know that I live here. We have a friend,
father and I--a poor labouring man, but the best of friends--and I
wrote out that I wished to do needlework, and gave his address.
And he got what I wrote out displayed at a few places where it cost
nothing, and Mrs Clennam found me that way, and sent for me. The
gate will be locked, sir!'
She was so tremulous and agitated, and he was so moved by
compassion for her, and by deep interest in her story as it dawned
upon him, that he could scarcely tear himself away. But the
stoppage of the bell, and the quiet in the prison, were a warning
to depart; and with a few hurried words of kindness he left her
gliding back to her father.
But he remained too late. The inner gate was locked, and the lodge
closed. After a little fruitless knocking with his hand, he was
standing there with the disagreeable conviction upon him that he
had got to get through the night, when a voice accosted him from
'Caught, eh?' said the voice. 'You won't go home till morning.
Oh! It's you, is it, Mr Clennam?'
The voice was Tip's; and they stood looking at one another in the
prison-yard, as it began to rain.
'You've done it,' observed Tip; 'you must be sharper than that next
'But you are locked in too,' said Arthur.
'I believe I am!' said Tip, sarcastically. 'About! But not in
your way. I belong to the shop, only my sister has a theory that
our governor must never know it. I don't see why, myself.'
'Can I get any shelter?' asked Arthur. 'What had I better do?'
'We had better get hold of Amy first of all,' said Tip, referring
any difficulty to her as a matter of course.
'I would rather walk about all night--it's not much to do--than
give that trouble.'
'You needn't do that, if you don't mind paying for a bed. If you
don't mind paying, they'll make you up one on the Snuggery table,
under the circumstances. If you'll come along, I'll introduce you
As they passed down the yard, Arthur looked up at the window of the
room he had lately left, where the light was still burning. 'Yes,
sir,' said Tip, following his glance. 'That's the governor's.
She'll sit with him for another hour reading yesterday's paper to
him, or something of that sort; and then she'll come out like a
little ghost, and vanish away without a sound.'
'I don't understand you.'
'The governor sleeps up in the room, and she has a lodging at the
turnkey's. First house there,' said Tip, pointing out the doorway
into which she had retired. 'First house, sky parlour. She pays
twice as much for it as she would for one twice as good outside.
But she stands by the governor, poor dear girl, day and night.'
This brought them to the tavern-establishment at the upper end of
the prison, where the collegians had just vacated their social
evening club. The apartment on the ground-floor in which it was
held, was the Snuggery in question; the presidential tribune of the
chairman, the pewter-pots, glasses, pipes, tobacco-ashes, and
general flavour of members, were still as that convivial
institution had left them on its adjournment. The Snuggery had two
of the qualities popularly held to be essential to grog for ladies,
in respect that it was hot and strong; but in the third point of
analogy, requiring plenty of it, the Snuggery was defective; being
but a cooped-up apartment.
The unaccustomed visitor from outside, naturally assumed everybody
here to be prisoners--landlord, waiter, barmaid, potboy, and all.
Whether they were or not, did not appear; but they all had a weedy
look. The keeper of a chandler's shop in a front parlour, who took
in gentlemen boarders, lent his assistance in making the bed. He
had been a tailor in his time, and had kept a phaeton, he said. He
boasted that he stood up litigiously for the interests of the
college; and he had undefined and undefinable ideas that the
marshal intercepted a 'Fund,' which ought to come to the
collegians. He liked to believe this, and always impressed the
shadowy grievance on new-comers and strangers; though he could not,
for his life, have explained what Fund he meant, or how the notion
had got rooted in his soul. He had fully convinced himself,
notwithstanding, that his own proper share of the Fund was three
and ninepence a week; and that in this amount he, as an individual
collegian, was swindled by the marshal, regularly every Monday.
Apparently, he helped to make the bed, that he might not lose an
opportunity of stating this case; after which unloading of his
mind, and after announcing (as it seemed he always did, without
anything coming of it) that he was going to write a letter to the
papers and show the marshal up, he fell into miscellaneous
conversation with the rest. It was evident from the general tone
of the whole party, that they had come to regard insolvency as the
normal state of mankind, and the payment of debts as a disease that
occasionally broke out.
In this strange scene, and with these strange spectres flitting
about him, Arthur Clennam looked on at the preparations as if they
were part of a dream. Pending which, the long-initiated Tip, with
an awful enjoyment of the Snuggery's resources, pointed out the
common kitchen fire maintained by subscription of collegians, the
boiler for hot water supported in like manner, and other premises
generally tending to the deduction that the way to be healthy,
wealthy, and wise, was to come to the Marshalsea.
The two tables put together in a corner, were, at length, converted
into a very fair bed; and the stranger was left to the Windsor
chairs, the presidential tribune, the beery atmosphere, sawdust,
pipe-lights, spittoons and repose. But the last item was long,
long, long, in linking itself to the rest. The novelty of the
place, the coming upon it without preparation, the sense of being
locked up, the remembrance of that room up-stairs, of the two
brothers, and above all of the retiring childish form, and the face
in which he now saw years of insufficient food, if not of want,
kept him waking and unhappy.
Speculations, too, bearing the strangest relations towards the
prison, but always concerning the prison, ran like nightmares
through his mind while he lay awake. Whether coffins were kept
ready for people who might die there, where they were kept, how
they were kept, where people who died in the prison were buried,
how they were taken out, what forms were observed, whether an
implacable creditor could arrest the dead? As to escaping, what
chances there were of escape? Whether a prisoner could scale the
walls with a cord and grapple, how he would descend upon the other
side? whether he could alight on a housetop, steal down a
staircase, let himself out at a door, and get lost in the crowd?
As to Fire in the prison, if one were to break out while he lay
And these involuntary starts of fancy were, after all, but the
setting of a picture in which three people kept before him. His
father, with the steadfast look with which he had died,
prophetically darkened forth in the portrait; his mother, with her
arm up, warding off his suspicion; Little Dorrit, with her hand on
the degraded arm, and her drooping head turned away.
What if his mother had an old reason she well knew for softening to
this poor girl! What if the prisoner now sleeping quietly--Heaven
grant it!--by the light of the great Day of judgment should trace
back his fall to her. What if any act of hers and of his father's,
should have even remotely brought the grey heads of those two
brothers so low!
A swift thought shot into his mind. In that long imprisonment
here, and in her own long confinement to her room, did his mother
find a balance to be struck? 'I admit that I was accessory to that
man's captivity. I have suffered for it in kind. He has decayed
in his prison: I in mine. I have paid the penalty.'
When all the other thoughts had faded out, this one held possession
of him. When he fell asleep, she came before him in her wheeled
chair, warding him off with this justification. When he awoke, and
sprang up causelessly frightened, the words were in his ears, as if
her voice had slowly spoken them at his pillow, to break his rest:
'He withers away in his prison; I wither away in mine; inexorable
justice is done; what do I owe on this score!'
The morning light was in no hurry to climb the prison wall and look
in at the Snuggery windows; and when it did come, it would have
been more welcome if it had come alone, instead of bringing a rush
of rain with it. But the equinoctial gales were blowing out at
sea, and the impartial south-west wind, in its flight, would not
neglect even the narrow Marshalsea. While it roared through the
steeple of St George's Church, and twirled all the cowls in the
neighbourhood, it made a swoop to beat the Southwark smoke into the
jail; and, plunging down the chimneys of the few early collegians
who were yet lighting their fires, half suffocated them.
Arthur Clennam would have been little disposed to linger in bed,
though his bed had been in a more private situation, and less
affected by the raking out of yesterday's fire, the kindling of to-
day's under the collegiate boiler, the filling of that Spartan
vessel at the pump, the sweeping and sawdusting of the common room,
and other such preparations. Heartily glad to see the morning,
though little rested by the night, he turned out as soon as he
could distinguish objects about him, and paced the yard for two
heavy hours before the gate was opened.
The walls were so near to one another, and the wild clouds hurried
over them so fast, that it gave him a sensation like the beginning
of sea-sickness to look up at the gusty sky. The rain, carried
aslant by flaws of wind, blackened that side of the central
building which he had visited last night, but left a narrow dry
trough under the lee of the wall, where he walked up and down among
the waits of straw and dust and paper, the waste droppings of the
pump, and the stray leaves of yesterday's greens. It was as
haggard a view of life as a man need look upon.
Nor was it relieved by any glimpse of the little creature who had
brought him there. Perhaps she glided out of her doorway and in at
that where her father lived, while his face was turned from both;
but he saw nothing of her. It was too early for her brother; to
have seen him once, was to have seen enough of him to know that he
would be sluggish to leave whatever frowsy bed he occupied at
night; so, as Arthur Clennam walked up and down, waiting for the
gate to open, he cast about in his mind for future rather than for
present means of pursuing his discoveries.
At last the lodge-gate turned, and the turnkey, standing on the
step, taking an early comb at his hair, was ready to let him out.
With a joyful sense of release he passed through the lodge, and
found himself again in the little outer court-yard where he had
spoken to the brother last night.
There was a string of people already straggling in, whom it was not
difficult to identify as the nondescript messengers, go-betweens,
and errand-bearers of the place. Some of them had been lounging in
the rain until the gate should open; others, who had timed their
arrival with greater nicety, were coming up now, and passing in
with damp whitey-brown paper bags from the grocers, loaves of
bread, lumps of butter, eggs, milk, and the like. The shabbiness
of these attendants upon shabbiness, the poverty of these insolvent
waiters upon insolvency, was a sight to see. Such threadbare coats
and trousers, such fusty gowns and shawls, such squashed hats and
bonnets, such boots and shoes, such umbrellas and walking-sticks,
never were seen in Rag Fair. All of them wore the cast-off clothes
of other men and women, were made up of patches and pieces of other
people's individuality, and had no sartorial existence of their own
proper. Their walk was the walk of a race apart. They had a
peculiar way of doggedly slinking round the corner, as if they were
eternally going to the pawnbroker's. When they coughed, they
coughed like people accustomed to be forgotten on doorsteps and in
draughty passages, waiting for answers to letters in faded ink,
which gave the recipients of those manuscripts great mental
disturbance and no satisfaction. As they eyed the stranger in
passing, they eyed him with borrowing eyes--hungry, sharp,
speculative as to his softness if they were accredited to him, and
the likelihood of his standing something handsome. Mendicity on
commission stooped in their high shoulders, shambled in their
unsteady legs, buttoned and pinned and darned and dragged their
clothes, frayed their button-holes, leaked out of their figures in
dirty little ends of tape, and issued from their mouths in
As these people passed him standing still in the court-yard, and
one of them turned back to inquire if he could assist him with his
services, it came into Arthur Clennam's mind that he would speak to
Little Dorrit again before he went away. She would have recovered
her first surprise, and might feel easier with him. He asked this
member of the fraternity (who had two red herrings in his hand, and
a loaf and a blacking brush under his arm), where was the nearest
place to get a cup of coffee at. The nondescript replied in
encouraging terms, and brought him to a coffee-shop in the street
within a stone's throw.
'Do you know Miss Dorrit?' asked the new client.
The nondescript knew two Miss Dorrits; one who was born inside--
That was the one! That was the one? The nondescript had known her
many years. In regard of the other Miss Dorrit, the nondescript
lodged in the same house with herself and uncle.
This changed the client's half-formed design of remaining at the
coffee-shop until the nondescript should bring him word that Dorrit
had issued forth into the street. He entrusted the nondescript
with a confidential message to her, importing that the visitor who
had waited on her father last night, begged the favour of a few
words with her at her uncle's lodging; he obtained from the same
source full directions to the house, which was very near; dismissed
the nondescript gratified with half-a-crown; and having hastily
refreshed himself at the coffee-shop, repaired with all speed to
the clarionet-player's dwelling.
There were so many lodgers in this house that the doorpost seemed
to be as full of bell-handles as a cathedral organ is of stops.
Doubtful which might be the clarionet-stop, he was considering the
point, when a shuttlecock flew out of the parlour window, and
alighted on his hat. He then observed that in the parlour window
was a blind with the inscription, MR CRIPPLES's ACADEMY; also in
another line, EVENING TUITION; and behind the blind was a little
white-faced boy, with a slice of bread-and-butter and a battledore.
The window being accessible from the footway, he looked in over the
blind, returned the shuttlecock, and put his question.
'Dorrit?' said the little white-faced boy (Master Cripples in
fact). 'Mr Dorrit? Third bell and one knock.'
The pupils of Mr Cripples appeared to have been making a copy-book
of the street-door, it was so extensively scribbled over in pencil.
The frequency of the inscriptions, 'Old Dorrit,' and 'Dirty Dick,'
in combination, suggested intentions of personality on the part Of
Mr Cripples's pupils. There was ample time to make these
observations before the door was opened by the poor old man
'Ha!' said he, very slowly remembering Arthur, 'you were shut in
'Yes, Mr Dorrit. I hope to meet your niece here presently.'
'Oh!' said he, pondering. 'Out of my brother's way? True. Would
you come up-stairs and wait for her?'
Turning himself as slowly as he turned in his mind whatever he
heard or said, he led the way up the narrow stairs. The house was
very close, and had an unwholesome smell. The little staircase
windows looked in at the back windows of other houses as
unwholesome as itself, with poles and lines thrust out of them, on
which unsightly linen hung; as if the inhabitants were angling for
clothes, and had had some wretched bites not worth attending to.
In the back garret--a sickly room, with a turn-up bedstead in it,
so hastily and recently turned up that the blankets were boiling
over, as it were, and keeping the lid open--a half-finished
breakfast of coffee and toast for two persons was jumbled down
anyhow on a rickety table.
There was no one there. The old man mumbling to himself, after
some consideration, that Fanny had run away, went to the next room
to fetch her back. The visitor, observing that she held the door
on the inside, and that, when the uncle tried to open it, there was
a sharp adjuration of 'Don't, stupid!' and an appearance of loose
stocking and flannel, concluded that the young lady was in an
undress. The uncle, without appearing to come to any conclusion,
shuffled in again, sat down in his chair, and began warming his
hands at the fire; not that it was cold, or that he had any waking
idea whether it was or not.
'What did you think of my brother, sir?' he asked, when he by-and-
by discovered what he was doing, left off, reached over to the
chimney-piece, and took his clarionet case down.
'I was glad,' said Arthur, very much at a loss, for his thoughts
were on the brother before him; 'to find him so well and cheerful.'
'Ha!' muttered the old man, 'yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!'
Arthur wondered what he could possibly want with the clarionet
case. He did not want it at all. He discovered, in due time, that
it was not the little paper of snuff (which was also on the
chimney-piece), put it back again, took down the snuff instead, and
solaced himself with a pinch. He was as feeble, spare, and slow in
his pinches as in everything else, but a certain little trickling
of enjoyment of them played in the poor worn nerves about the
corners of his eyes and mouth.
'Amy, Mr Clennam. What do you think of her?'
'I am much impressed, Mr Dorrit, by all that I have seen of her and
thought of her.'
'My brother would have been quite lost without Amy,' he returned.
'We should all have been lost without Amy. She is a very good
girl, Amy. She does her duty.'
Arthur fancied that he heard in these praises a certain tone of
custom, which he had heard from the father last night with an
inward protest and feeling of antagonism. It was not that they
stinted her praises, or were insensible to what she did for them;
but that they were lazily habituated to her, as they were to all
the rest of their condition. He fancied that although they had
before them, every day, the means of comparison between her and one
another and themselves, they regarded her as being in her necessary
place; as holding a position towards them all which belonged to
her, like her name or her age. He fancied that they viewed her,
not as having risen away from the prison atmosphere, but as
appertaining to it; as being vaguely what they had a right to
expect, and nothing more.
Her uncle resumed his breakfast, and was munching toast sopped in
coffee, oblivious of his guest, when the third bell rang. That was
Amy, he said, and went down to let her in; leaving the visitor with
as vivid a picture on his mind of his begrimed hands, dirt-worn
face, and decayed figure, as if he were still drooping in his
She came up after him, in the usual plain dress, and with the usual
timid manner. Her lips were a little parted, as if her heart beat
faster than usual.
'Mr Clennam, Amy,' said her uncle, 'has been expecting you some
'I took the liberty of sending you a message.'
'I received the message, sir.'
'Are you going to my mother's this morning? I think not, for it is
past your usual hour.'
'Not to-day, sir. I am not wanted to-day.'
'Will you allow Me to walk a little way in whatever direction you
may be going? I can then speak to you as we walk, both without
detaining you here, and without intruding longer here myself.'
She looked embarrassed, but said, if he pleased. He made a
pretence of having mislaid his walking-stick, to give her time to
set the bedstead right, to answer her sister's impatient knock at
the wall, and to say a word softly to her uncle. Then he found it,
and they went down-stairs; she first, he following; the uncle
standing at the stair-head, and probably forgetting them before
they had reached the ground floor.
Mr Cripples's pupils, who were by this time coming to school,
desisted from their morning recreation of cuffing one another with
bags and books, to stare with all the eyes they had at a stranger
who had been to see Dirty Dick. They bore the trying spectacle in
silence, until the mysterious visitor was at a safe distance; when
they burst into pebbles and yells, and likewise into reviling
dances, and in all respects buried the pipe of peace with so many
savage ceremonies, that, if Mr Cripples had been the chief of the
Cripplewayboo tribe with his war-paint on, they could scarcely have
done greater justice to their education.
In the midst of this homage, Mr Arthur Clennam offered his arm to
Little Dorrit, and Little Dorrit took it. 'Will you go by the Iron
Bridge,' said he, 'where there is an escape from the noise of the
street?' Little Dorrit answered, if he pleased, and presently
ventured to hope that he would 'not mind' Mr Cripples's boys, for
she had herself received her education, such as it was, in Mr
Cripples's evening academy. He returned, with the best will in the
world, that Mr Cripples's boys were forgiven out of the bottom of
his soul. Thus did Cripples unconsciously become a master of the
ceremonies between them, and bring them more naturally together
than Beau Nash might have done if they had lived in his golden
days, and he had alighted from his coach and six for the purpose.
The morning remained squally, and the streets were miserably muddy,
but no rain fell as they walked towards the Iron Bridge. The
little creature seemed so young in his eyes, that there were
moments when he found himself thinking of her, if not speaking to
her, as if she were a child. Perhaps he seemed as old in her eyes
as she seemed young in his.
'I am sorry to hear you were so inconvenienced last night, sir, as
to be locked in. It was very unfortunate.'
It was nothing, he returned. He had had a very good bed.
'Oh yes!' she said quickly; 'she believed there were excellent beds
at the coffee-house.' He noticed that the coffee-house was quite
a majestic hotel to her, and that she treasured its reputation.
'I believe it is very expensive,' said Little Dorrit, 'but MY
father has told me that quite beautiful dinners may be got there.
And wine,' she added timidly.
'Were you ever there?'
'Oh no! Only into the kitchen to fetch hot water.'
To think of growing up with a kind of awe upon one as to the
luxuries of that superb establishment, the Marshalsea Hotel!
'I asked you last night,' said Clennam, 'how you had become
acquainted with my mother. Did you ever hear her name before she
sent for you?'
'Do you think your father ever did?'
He met her eyes raised to his with so much wonder in them (she was
scared when the encounter took place, and shrunk away again), that
he felt it necessary to say:
'I have a reason for asking, which I cannot very well explain; but
you must, on no account, suppose it to be of a nature to cause you
the least alarm or anxiety. Quite the reverse. And you think that
at no time of your father's life was my name of Clennam ever
familiar to him?'
He felt, from the tone in which she spoke, that she was glancing up
at him with those parted lips; therefore he looked before him,
rather than make her heart beat quicker still by embarrassing her
Thus they emerged upon the Iron Bridge, which was as quiet after
the roaring streets as though it had been open country. The wind
blew roughly, the wet squalls came rattling past them, skimming the
pools on the road and pavement, and raining them down into the
river. The clouds raced on furiously in the lead-Coloured sky, the
smoke and mist raced after them, the dark tide ran fierce and
strong in the same direction. Little Dorrit seemed the least, the
quietest, and weakest of Heaven's creatures.
'Let me put you in a coach,' said Clennam, very nearly adding 'my
She hurriedly declined, saying that wet or dry made little
difference to her; she was used to go about in all weathers. He
knew it to be so, and was touched with more pity; thinking of the
slight figure at his side, making its nightly way through the damp
dark boisterous streets to such a place of rest.
'You spoke so feelingly to me last night, sir, and I found
afterwards that you had been so generous to my father, that I could
not resist your message, if it was only to thank you; especially as
I wished very much to say to you--' she hesitated and trembled, and
tears rose in her eyes, but did not fall.
'To say to me--?'
'That I hope you will not misunderstand my father. Don't judge
him, sir, as you would judge others outside the gates. He has been
there so long! I never saw him outside, but I can understand that
he must have grown different in some things since.'
'My thoughts will never be unjust or harsh towards him, believe
'Not,' she said, with a prouder air, as the misgiving evidently
crept upon her that she might seem to be abandoning him, 'not that
he has anything to be ashamed of for himself, or that I have
anything to be ashamed of for him. He only requires to be
understood. I only ask for him that his life may be fairly
remembered. All that he said was quite true. It all happened just
as he related it. He is very much respected. Everybody who comes
in, is glad to know him. He is more courted than anyone else. He
is far more thought of than the Marshal is.'
If ever pride were innocent, it was innocent in Little Dorrit when
she grew boastful of her father.
'It is often said that his manners are a true gentleman's, and
quite a study. I see none like them in that place, but he is
admitted to be superior to all the rest. This is quite as much why
they make him presents, as because they know him to be needy. He
is not to be blamed for being in need, poor love. Who could be in
prison a quarter of a century, and be prosperous!'
What affection in her words, what compassion in her repressed
tears, what a great soul of fidelity within her, how true the light
that shed false brightness round him!
'If I have found it best to conceal where my home is, it is not
because I am ashamed of him. God forbid! Nor am I so much ashamed
of the place itself as might be supposed. People are not bad
because they come there. I have known numbers of good,
persevering, honest people come there through misfortune. They are
almost all kind-hearted to one another. And it would be ungrateful
indeed in me, to forget that I have had many quiet, comfortable
hours there; that I had an excellent friend there when I was quite
a baby, who was very very fond of me; that I have been taught
there, and have worked there, and have slept soundly there. I
think it would be almost cowardly and cruel not to have some little
attachment for it, after all this.'
She had relieved the faithful fulness of her heart, and modestly
said, raising her eyes appealingly to her new friend's, 'I did not
mean to say so much, nor have I ever but once spoken about this
before. But it seems to set it more right than it was last night.
I said I wished you had not followed me, sir. I don't wish it so
much now, unless you should think--indeed I don't wish it at all,
unless I should have spoken so confusedly, that--that you can
scarcely understand me, which I am afraid may be the case.'
He told her with perfect truth that it was not the case; and
putting himself between her and the sharp wind and rain, sheltered
her as well as he could.
'I feel permitted now,' he said, 'to ask you a little more
concerning your father. Has he many creditors?'
'Oh! a great number.'
'I mean detaining creditors, who keep him where he is?'
'Oh yes! a great number.'
'Can you tell me--I can get the information, no doubt, elsewhere,
if you cannot--who is the most influential of them?'
Little Dorrit said, after considering a little, that she used to
hear long ago of Mr Tite Barnacle as a man of great power. He was
a commissioner, or a board, or a trustee, 'or something.' He lived
in Grosvenor Square, she thought, or very near it. He was under
Government--high in the Circumlocution Office. She appeared to
have acquired, in her infancy, some awful impression of the might
of this formidable Mr Tite Barnacle of Grosvenor Square, or very
near it, and the Circumlocution Office, which quite crushed her
when she mentioned him.
'It can do no harm,' thought Arthur, 'if I see this Mr Tite
The thought did not present itself so quietly but that her
quickness intercepted it. 'Ah!' said Little Dorrit, shaking her
head with the mild despair of a lifetime. 'Many people used to
think once of getting my poor father out, but you don't know how
hopeless it is.'
She forgot to be shy at the moment, in honestly warning him away
from the sunken wreck he had a dream of raising; and looked at him
with eyes which assuredly, in association with her patient face,
her fragile figure, her spare dress, and the wind and rain, did not
turn him from his purpose of helping her.
'Even if it could be done,' said she--'and it never can be done
now--where could father live, or how could he live? I have often
thought that if such a change could come, it might be anything but
a service to him now. People might not think so well of him
outside as they do there. He might not be so gently dealt with
outside as he is there. He might not be so fit himself for the
life outside as he is for that.'
Here for the first time she could not restrain her tears from
falling; and the little thin hands he had watched when they were so
busy, trembled as they clasped each other.
' It would be a new distress to him even to know that I earn a
little money, and that Fanny earns a little money. He is so
anxious about us, you see, feeling helplessly shut up there. Such
a good, good father!'
He let the little burst of feeling go by before he spoke. It was
soon gone. She was not accustomed to think of herself, or to
trouble any one with her emotions. He had but glanced away at the
piles of city roofs and chimneys among which the smoke was rolling
heavily, and at the wilderness of masts on the river, and the
wilderness of steeples on the shore, indistinctly mixed together in
the stormy haze, when she was again as quiet as if she had been
plying her needle in his mother's room.
'You would be glad to have your brother set at liberty?'
'Oh very, very glad, sir!'
'Well, we will hope for him at least. You told me last night of a
friend you had?'
His name was Plornish, Little Dorrit said.
And where did Plornish live? Plornish lived in Bleeding Heart
Yard. He was 'only a plasterer,' Little Dorrit said, as a caution
to him not to form high social expectations of Plornish. He lived
at the last house in Bleeding Heart Yard, and his name was over a
Arthur took down the address and gave her his. He had now done all
he sought to do for the present, except that he wished to leave her
with a reliance upon him, and to have something like a promise from
her that she would cherish it.
'There is one friend!' he said, putting up his pocketbook. 'As I
take you back--you are going back?'
'Oh yes! going straight home.'
'As I take you back,' the word home jarred upon him, 'let me ask
you to persuade yourself that you have another friend. I make no
professions, and say no more.'
'You are truly kind to me, sir. I am sure I need no more.'
They walked back through the miserable muddy streets, and among the
poor, mean shops, and were jostled by the crowds of dirty hucksters
usual to a poor neighbourhood. There was nothing, by the short
way, that was pleasant to any of the five senses. Yet it was not
a common passage through common rain, and mire, and noise, to
Clennam, having this little, slender, careful creature on his arm.
How young she seemed to him, or how old he to her; or what a secret
either to the other, in that beginning of the destined interweaving
of their stories, matters not here. He thought of her having been
born and bred among these scenes, and shrinking through them now,
familiar yet misplaced; he thought of her long acquaintance with
the squalid needs of life, and of her innocence; of her solicitude
for others, and her few years, and her childish aspect.
They were come into the High Street, where the prison stood, when
a voice cried, 'Little mother, little mother!' Little Dorrit
stopping and looking back, an excited figure of a strange kind
bounced against them (still crying 'little mother'), fell down, and
scattered the contents of a large basket, filled with potatoes, in
'Oh, Maggy,' said Little Dorrit, 'what a clumsy child you are!'
Maggy was not hurt, but picked herself up immediately, and then
began to pick up the potatoes, in which both Little Dorrit and
Arthur Clennam helped. Maggy picked up very few potatoes and a
great quantity of mud; but they were all recovered, and deposited
in the basket. Maggy then smeared her muddy face with her shawl,
and presenting it to Mr Clennam as a type of purity, enabled him to
see what she was like.
She was about eight-and-twenty, with large bones , large features,
large feet and hands, large eyes and no hair. Her large eyes were
limpid and almost colourless; they seemed to be very little
affected by light, and to stand unnaturally still. There was also
that attentive listening expression in her face, which is seen in
the faces of the blind; but she was not blind, having one tolerably
serviceable eye. Her face was not exceedingly ugly, though it was
only redeemed from being so by a smile; a good-humoured smile, and
pleasant in itself, but rendered pitiable by being constantly
there. A great white cap, with a quantity of opaque frilling that
was always flapping about, apologised for Maggy's baldness, and
made it so very difficult for her old black bonnet to retain its
place upon her head, that it held on round her neck like a gipsy's
baby. A commission of haberdashers could alone have reported what
the rest of her poor dress was made of, but it had a strong general
resemblance to seaweed, with here and there a gigantic tea-leaf.
Her shawl looked particularly like a tea-leaf after long infusion.
Arthur Clennam looked at Little Dorrit with the expression of one
saying, 'May I ask who this is?' Little Dorrit, whose hand this
Maggy, still calling her little mother, had begun to fondle,
answered in words (they were under a gateway into which the
majority of the potatoes had rolled).
'This is Maggy, sir.'
'Maggy, sir,' echoed the personage presented. 'Little mother!'
'She is the grand-daughter--' said Little Dorrit.
'Grand-daughter,' echoed Maggy.
'Of my old nurse, who has been dead a long time. Maggy, how old
'Ten, mother,' said Maggy.
'You can't think how good she is, sir,' said Little Dorrit, with
'Good SHE is,' echoed Maggy, transferring the pronoun in a most
expressive way from herself to her little mother.
'Or how clever,' said Little Dorrit. 'She goes on errands as well
as any one.' Maggy laughed. 'And is as trustworthy as the Bank of
England.' Maggy laughed. 'She earns her own living entirely.
Entirely, sir!' said Little Dorrit, in a lower and triumphant tone.
'What is her history?' asked Clennam.
'Think of that, Maggy?' said Little Dorrit, taking her two large
hands and clapping them together. 'A gentleman from thousands of
miles away, wanting to know your history!'
'My history?' cried Maggy. 'Little mother.'
'She means me,' said Little Dorrit, rather confused; 'she is very
much attached to me. Her old grandmother was not so kind to her as
she should have been; was she, Maggy?'
Maggy shook her head, made a drinking vessel of her clenched left
hand, drank out of it, and said, 'Gin.' Then beat an imaginary
child, and said, 'Broom-handles and pokers.'
'When Maggy was ten years old,' said Little Dorrit, watching her
face while she spoke, 'she had a bad fever, sir, and she has never
grown any older ever since.'
'Ten years old,' said Maggy, nodding her head. 'But what a nice
hospital! So comfortable, wasn't it? Oh so nice it was. Such a
'She had never been at peace before, sir,' said Little Dorrit,
turning towards Arthur for an instant and speaking low, 'and she
always runs off upon that.'
'Such beds there is there!' cried Maggy. 'Such lemonades! Such
oranges! Such d'licious broth and wine! Such Chicking! Oh, AIN'T
it a delightful place to go and stop at!'
'So Maggy stopped there as long as she could,' said Little Dorrit,
in her former tone of telling a child's story; the tone designed
for Maggy's ear, 'and at last, when she could stop there no longer,
she came out. Then, because she was never to be more than ten
years old, however long she lived--'
'However long she lived,' echoed Maggy.
'And because she was very weak; indeed was so weak that when she
began to laugh she couldn't stop herself--which was a great pity--'
(Maggy mighty grave of a sudden.)
'Her grandmother did not know what to do with her, and for some
years was very unkind to her indeed. At length, in course of time,
Maggy began to take pains to improve herself, and to be very
attentive and very industrious; and by degrees was allowed to come
in and out as often as she liked, and got enough to do to support
herself, and does support herself. And that,' said Little Dorrit,
clapping the two great hands together again, 'is Maggy's history,
as Maggy knows!'
Ah! But Arthur would have known what was wanting to its
completeness, though he had never heard of the words Little mother;
though he had never seen the fondling of the small spare hand;
though he had had no sight for the tears now standing in the
colourless eyes; though he had had no hearing for the sob that
checked the clumsy laugh. The dirty gateway with the wind and rain
whistling through it, and the basket of muddy potatoes waiting to
be spilt again or taken up, never seemed the common hole it really
was, when he looked back to it by these lights. Never, never!
They were very near the end of their walk, and they now came out of
the gateway to finish it. Nothing would serve Maggy but that they
must stop at a grocer's window, short of their destination, for her
to show her learning. She could read after a sort; and picked out
the fat figures in the tickets of prices, for the most part
correctly. She also stumbled, with a large balance of success
against her failures, through various philanthropic recommendations
to Try our Mixture, Try our Family Black, Try our Orange-flavoured
Pekoe, challenging competition at the head of Flowery Teas; and
various cautions to the public against spurious establishments and
adulterated articles. When he saw how pleasure brought a rosy tint
into Little Dorrit's face when Maggy made a hit, he felt that he
could have stood there making a library of the grocer's window
until the rain and wind were tired.
The court-yard received them at last, and there he said goodbye to
Little Dorrit. Little as she had always looked, she looked less
than ever when he saw her going into the Marshalsea lodge passage,
the little mother attended by her big child.
The cage door opened, and when the small bird, reared in captivity,
had tamely fluttered in, he saw it shut again; and then he came
Containing the whole Science of Government
The Circumlocution Office was (as everybody knows without being
told) the most important Department under Government. No public
business of any kind could possibly be done at any time without the
acquiescence of the Circumlocution Office. Its finger was in the
largest public pie, and in the smallest public tart. It was
equally impossible to do the plainest right and to undo the
plainest wrong without the express authority of the Circumlocution
Office. If another Gunpowder Plot had been discovered half an hour
before the lighting of the match, nobody would have been justified
in saving the parliament until there had been half a score of
boards, half a bushel of minutes, several sacks of official
memoranda, and a family-vault full of ungrammatical correspondence,
on the part of the Circumlocution Office.
This glorious establishment had been early in the field, when the
one sublime principle involving the difficult art of governing a
country, was first distinctly revealed to statesmen. It had been
foremost to study that bright revelation and to carry its shining
influence through the whole of the official proceedings. Whatever
was required to be done, the Circumlocution Office was beforehand
with all the public departments in the art of perceiving--HOW NOT
TO DO IT.
Through this delicate perception, through the tact with which it
invariably seized it, and through the genius with which it always
acted on it, the Circumlocution Office had risen to overtop all the
public departments; and the public condition had risen to be--what
It is true that How not to do it was the great study and object of
all public departments and professional politicians all round the
Circumlocution Office. It is true that every new premier and every
new government, coming in because they had upheld a certain thing
as necessary to be done, were no sooner come in than they applied
their utmost faculties to discovering How not to do it. It is true
that from the moment when a general election was over, every
returned man who had been raving on hustings because it hadn't been
done, and who had been asking the friends of the honourable
gentleman in the opposite interest on pain of impeachment to tell
him why it hadn't been done, and who had been asserting that it
must be done, and who had been pledging himself that it should be
done, began to devise, How it was not to be done. It is true that
the debates of both Houses of Parliament the whole session through,
uniformly tended to the protracted deliberation, How not to do it.
It is true that the royal speech at the opening of such session
virtually said, My lords and gentlemen, you have a considerable
stroke of work to do, and you will please to retire to your
respective chambers, and discuss, How not to do it. It is true
that the royal speech, at the close of such session, virtually
said, My lords and gentlemen, you have through several laborious
months been considering with great loyalty and patriotism, How not
to do it, and you have found out; and with the blessing of
Providence upon the harvest (natural, not political), I now dismiss
you. All this
is true, but the Circumlocution Office went beyond it.
Because the Circumlocution Office went on mechanically, every day,
keeping this wonderful, all-sufficient wheel of statesmanship, How
not to do it, in motion. Because the Circumlocution Office was
down upon any ill-advised public servant who was going to do it, or
who appeared to be by any surprising accident in remote danger of
doing it, with a minute, and a memorandum, and a letter of
instructions that extinguished him. It was this spirit of national
efficiency in the Circumlocution Office that had gradually led to
its having something to do with everything. Mechanicians, natural
philosophers, soldiers, sailors, petitioners, memorialists, people
with grievances, people who wanted to prevent grievances, people
who wanted to redress grievances, jobbing people, jobbed people,
people who couldn't get rewarded for merit, and people who couldn't
get punished for demerit, were all indiscriminately tucked up under
the foolscap paper of the Circumlocution Office.
Numbers of people were lost in the Circumlocution Office.
Unfortunates with wrongs, or with projects for the general welfare
(and they had better have had wrongs at first, than have taken that
bitter English recipe for certainly getting them), who in slow
lapse of time and agony had passed safely through other public
departments; who, according to rule, had been bullied in this,
over-reached by that, and evaded by the other; got referred at last
to the Circumlocution Office, and never reappeared in the light of
day. Boards sat upon them, secretaries minuted upon them,
commissioners gabbled about them, clerks registered, entered,
checked, and ticked them off, and they melted away. In short, all
the business of the country went through the Circumlocution Office,
except the business that never came out of it; and its name was
Sometimes, angry spirits attacked the Circumlocution Office.
Sometimes, parliamentary questions were asked about it, and even
parliamentary motions made or threatened about it by demagogues so
low and ignorant as to hold that the real recipe of government was,
How to do it. Then would the noble lord, or right honourable
gentleman, in whose department it was to defend the Circumlocution
Office, put an orange in his pocket, and make a regular field-day
of the occasion. Then would he come down to that house with a slap
upon the table, and meet the honourable gentleman foot to foot.
Then would he be there to tell that honourable gentleman that the
Circumlocution Office not only was blameless in this matter, but
was commendable in this matter, was extollable to the skies in this
matter. Then would he be there to tell that honourable gentleman
that, although the Circumlocution Office was invariably right and
wholly right, it never was so right as in this matter. Then would
he be there to tell that honourable gentleman that it would have
been more to his honour, more to his credit, more to his good
taste, more to his good sense, more to half the dictionary of
commonplaces, if he had left the Circumlocution Office alone, and
never approached this matter. Then would he keep one eye upon a
coach or crammer from the Circumlocution Office sitting below the
bar, and smash the honourable gentleman with the Circumlocution
Office account of this matter. And although one of two things
always happened; namely, either that the Circumlocution Office had
nothing to say and said it, or that it had something to say of
which the noble lord, or right honourable gentleman, blundered one
half and forgot the other; the Circumlocution Office was always
voted immaculate by an accommodating majority.
Such a nursery of statesmen had the Department become in virtue of
a long career of this nature, that several solemn lords had
attained the reputation of being quite unearthly prodigies of
business, solely from having practised, How not to do it, as the
head of the Circumlocution Office. As to the minor priests and
acolytes of that temple, the result of all this was that they stood
divided into two classes, and, down to the junior messenger, either
believed in the Circumlocution Office as a heaven-born institution
that had an absolute right to do whatever it liked; or took refuge
in total infidelity, and considered it a flagrant nuisance.
The Barnacle family had for some time helped to administer the
Circumlocution Office. The Tite Barnacle Branch, indeed,
considered themselves in a general way as having vested rights in
that direction, and took it ill if any other family had much to say
to it. The Barnacles were a very high family, and a very large
family. They were dispersed all over the public offices, and held
all sorts of public places. Either the nation was under a load of
obligation to the Barnacles, or the Barnacles were under a load of
obligation to the nation. It was not quite unanimously settled
which; the Barnacles having their opinion, the nation theirs.
The Mr Tite Barnacle who at the period now in question usually
coached or crammed the statesman at the head of the Circumlocution
Office, when that noble or right honourable individual sat a little
uneasily in his saddle by reason of some vagabond making a tilt at
him in a newspaper, was more flush of blood than money. As a
Barnacle he had his place, which was a snug thing enough; and as a
Barnacle he had of course put in his son Barnacle Junior in the
office. But he had intermarried with a branch of the
Stiltstalkings, who were also better endowed in a sanguineous point
of view than with real or personal property, and of this marriage
there had been issue, Barnacle junior and three young ladies. What
with the patrician requirements of Barnacle junior, the three young
ladies, Mrs Tite Barnacle nee Stiltstalking, and himself, Mr Tite
Barnacle found the intervals between quarter day and quarter day
rather longer than he could have desired; a circumstance which he
always attributed to the country's parsimony.
For Mr Tite Barnacle, Mr Arthur Clennam made his fifth inquiry one
day at the Circumlocution Office; having on previous occasions
awaited that gentleman successively in a hall, a glass case, a
waiting room, and a fire-proof passage where the Department seemed
to keep its wind. On this occasion Mr Barnacle was not engaged, as
he had been before, with the noble prodigy at the head of the
Department; but was absent. Barnacle Junior, however, was
announced as a lesser star, yet visible above the office horizon.
With Barnacle junior, he signified his desire to confer; and found
that young gentleman singeing the calves of his legs at the
parental fire, and supporting his spine against the mantel-shelf.
It was a comfortable room, handsomely furnished in the higher
official manner; an presenting stately suggestions of the absent
Barnacle, in the thick carpet, the leather-covered desk to sit at,
the leather-covered desk to stand at, the formidable easy-chair and
hearth-rug, the interposed screen, the torn-up papers, the
dispatch-boxes with little labels sticking out of them, like
medicine bottles or dead game, the pervading smell of leather and
mahogany, and a general bamboozling air of How not to do it.
The present Barnacle, holding Mr Clennam's card in his hand, had a
youthful aspect, and the fluffiest little whisker, perhaps, that
ever was seen. Such a downy tip was on his callow chin, that he
seemed half fledged like a young bird; and a compassionate observer
might have urged that, if he had not singed the calves of his legs,
he would have died of cold. He had a superior eye-glass dangling
round his neck, but unfortunately had such flat orbits to his eyes
and such limp little eyelids that it wouldn't stick in when he put
it up, but kept tumbling out against his waistcoat buttons with a
click that discomposed him very much.
'Oh, I say. Look here! My father's not in the way, and won't be
in the way to-day,' said Barnacle Junior. 'Is this anything that
I can do?'
(Click! Eye-glass down. Barnacle Junior quite frightened and
feeling all round himself, but not able to find it.)
'You are very good,' said Arthur Clennam. 'I wish however to see
'But I say. Look here! You haven't got any appointment, you
know,' said Barnacle Junior.
(By this time he had found the eye-glass, and put it up again.)
'No,' said Arthur Clennam. 'That is what I wish to have.'
'But I say. Look here! Is this public business?' asked Barnacle
(Click! Eye-glass down again. Barnacle Junior in that state of
search after it that Mr Clennam felt it useless to reply at
'Is it,' said Barnacle junior, taking heed of his visitor's brown
face, 'anything about--Tonnage--or that sort of thing?'
(Pausing for a reply, he opened his right eye with his hand, and
stuck his glass in it, in that inflammatory manner that his eye
began watering dreadfully.)
'No,' said Arthur, 'it is nothing about tonnage.'
'Then look here. Is it private business?'
'I really am not sure. It relates to a Mr Dorrit.'
'Look here, I tell you what! You had better call at our house, if
you are going that way. Twenty-four, Mews Street, Grosvenor
Square. My father's got a slight touch of the gout, and is kept at
home by it.'
(The misguided young Barnacle evidently going blind on his eye-
glass side, but ashamed to make any further alteration in his
'Thank you. I will call there now. Good morning.' Young Barnacle
seemed discomfited at this, as not having at all expected him to
'You are quite sure,' said Barnacle junior, calling after him when
he got to the door, unwilling wholly to relinquish the bright
business idea he had conceived; 'that it's nothing about Tonnage?'
With such assurance, and rather wondering what might have taken
place if it HAD been anything about tonnage, Mr Clennam withdrew to
pursue his inquiries.
Mews Street, Grosvenor Square, was not absolutely Grosvenor Square
itself, but it was very near it. It was a hideous little street of
dead wall, stables, and dunghills, with lofts over coach-houses
inhabited by coachmen's families, who had a passion for drying
clothes and decorating their window-sills with miniature turnpike-
gates. The principal chimney-sweep of that fashionable quarter
lived at the blind end of Mews Street; and the same corner
contained an establishment much frequented about early morning and
twilight for the purchase of wine-bottles and kitchen-stuff.
Punch's shows used to lean against the dead wall in Mews Street,
while their proprietors were dining elsewhere; and the dogs of the
neighbourhood made appointments to meet in the same locality. Yet
there were two or three small airless houses at the entrance end of
Mews Street, which went at enormous rents on account of their being
abject hangers-on to a fashionable situation; and whenever one of
these fearful little coops was to be let (which seldom happened,
for they were in great request), the house agent advertised it as
a gentlemanly residence in the most aristocratic part of town,
inhabited solely by the elite of the beau monde.
If a gentlemanly residence coming strictly within this narrow
margin had not been essential to the blood of the Barnacles, this
particular branch would have had a pretty wide selection among, let
us say, ten thousand houses, offering fifty times the accommodation
for a third of the money. As it was, Mr Barnacle, finding his
gentlemanly residence extremely inconvenient and extremely dear,
always laid it, as a public servant, at the door of the country,
and adduced it as another instance of the country's parsimony.
Arthur Clennam came to a squeezed house, with a ramshackle bowed
front, little dingy windows, and a little dark area like a damp
waistcoat-pocket, which he found to be number twenty-four, Mews
Street, Grosvenor Square. To the sense of smell the house was like
a sort of bottle filled with a strong distillation of Mews; and
when the footman opened the door, he seemed to take the stopper
The footman was to the Grosvenor Square footmen, what the house was
to the Grosvenor Square houses. Admirable in his way, his way was
a back and a bye way. His gorgeousness was not unmixed with dirt;
and both in complexion and consistency he had suffered from the
closeness of his pantry. A sallow flabbiness was upon him when he
took the stopper out, and presented the bottle to Mr Clennam's
'Be so good as to give that card to Mr Tite Barnacle, and to say
that I have just now seen the younger Mr Barnacle, who recommended
me to call here.'
The footman (who had as many large buttons with the Barnacle crest
upon them on the flaps of his pockets, as if he were the family
strong box, and carried the plate and jewels about with him
buttoned up) pondered over the card a little; then said, 'Walk in.'
It required some judgment to do it without butting the inner hall-
door open, and in the consequent mental confusion and physical
darkness slipping down the kitchen stairs. The visitor, however,
brought himself up safely on the door-mat.
Still the footman said 'Walk in,' so the visitor followed him. At
the inner hall-door, another bottle seemed to be presented and
another stopper taken out. This second vial appeared to be filled
with concentrated provisions and extract of Sink from the pantry.
After a skirmish in the narrow passage, occasioned by the footman's
opening the door of the dismal dining-room with confidence, finding
some one there with consternation, and backing on the visitor with
disorder, the visitor was shut up, pending his announcement, in a
close back parlour. There he had an opportunity of refreshing
himself with both the bottles at once, looking out at a low
blinding wall three feet off, and speculating on the number of
Barnacle families within the bills of mortality who lived in such
hutches of their own free flunkey choice.
Mr Barnacle would see him. Would he walk up-stairs? He would, and
he did; and in the drawing-room, with his leg on a rest, he found
Mr Barnacle himself, the express image and presentment of How not
to do it.
Mr Barnacle dated from a better time, when the country was not so
parsimonious and the Circumlocution Office was not so badgered. He
wound and wound folds of white cravat round his neck, as he wound
and wound folds of tape and paper round the neck of the country.
His wristbands and collar were oppressive; his voice and manner
were oppressive. He had a large watch-chain and bunch of seals, a
coat buttoned up to inconvenience, a waistcoat buttoned up to
inconvenience, an unwrinkled pair of trousers, a stiff pair of
boots. He was altogether splendid, massive, overpowering, and
impracticable. He seemed to have been sitting for his portrait to
Sir Thomas Lawrence all the days of his life.
'Mr Clennam?' said Mr Barnacle. 'Be seated.'
Mr Clennam became seated.
'You have called on me, I believe,' said Mr Barnacle, 'at the
Circumlocution--' giving it the air of a word of about five-and-
'I have taken that liberty.'
Mr Barnacle solemnly bent his head as who should say, 'I do not
deny that it is a liberty; proceed to take another liberty, and let
me know your business.'
'Allow me to observe that I have been for some years in China, am
quite a stranger at home, and have no personal motive or interest
in the inquiry I am about to make.'
Mr Barnacle tapped his fingers on the table, and, as if he were now
sitting for his portrait to a new and strange artist, appeared to
say to his visitor, 'If you will be good enough to take me with my
present lofty expression, I shall feel obliged.'
'I have found a debtor in the Marshalsea Prison of the name of
Dorrit, who has been there many years. I wish to investigate his
confused affairs so far as to ascertain whether it may not be
possible, after this lapse of time, to ameliorate his unhappy
condition. The name of Mr Tite Barnacle has been mentioned to me
as representing some highly influential interest among his
creditors. Am I correctly informed?'
It being one of the principles of the Circumlocution Office never,
on any account whatever, to give a straightforward answer, Mr
Barnacle said, 'Possibly.'
'On behalf of the Crown, may I ask, or as private individual?'
'The Circumlocution Department, sir,' Mr Barnacle replied, 'may
have possibly recommended--possibly--I cannot say--that some public
claim against the insolvent estate of a firm or copartnership to
which this person may have belonged, should be enforced. The
question may have been, in the course of official business,
referred to the Circumlocution Department for its consideration.
The Department may have either originated, or confirmed, a Minute
making that recommendation.'
'I assume this to be the case, then.'
'The Circumlocution Department,' said Mr Barnacle, 'is not
responsible for any gentleman's assumptions.'
'May I inquire how I can obtain official information as to the real
state of the case?'
'It is competent,' said Mr Barnacle, 'to any member of the--
Public,' mentioning that obscure body with reluctance, as his
natural enemy, 'to memorialise the Circumlocution Department. Such
formalities as are required to be observed in so doing, may be
known on application to the proper branch of that Department.'
'Which is the proper branch?'
'I must refer you,' returned Mr Barnacle, ringing the bell, 'to the
Department itself for a formal answer to that inquiry.'
'Excuse my mentioning--'
'The Department is accessible to the--Public,' Mr Barnacle was
always checked a little by that word of impertinent signification,
'if the--Public approaches it according to the official forms; if
the--Public does not approach it according to the official forms,
the--Public has itself to blame.'
Mr Barnacle made him a severe bow, as a wounded man of family, a
wounded man of place, and a wounded man of a gentlemanly residence,
all rolled into one; and he made Mr Barnacle a bow, and was shut
out into Mews Street by the flabby footman.
Having got to this pass, he resolved as an exercise in
perseverance, to betake himself again to the Circumlocution Office,
and try what satisfaction he could get there. So he went back to
the Circumlocution Office, and once more sent up his card to
Barnacle junior by a messenger who took it very ill indeed that he
should come back again, and who was eating mashed potatoes and
gravy behind a partition by the hall fire.
He was readmitted to the presence of Barnacle junior, and found
that young gentleman singeing his knees now, and gaping his weary
way on to four o'clock.
'I say. Look here. You stick to us in a devil of a manner,' Said
Barnacle junior, looking over his shoulder.
'I want to know--'
'Look here. Upon my soul you mustn't come into the place saying
you want to know, you know,' remonstrated Barnacle junior, turning
about and putting up the eye-glass.
'I want to know,' said Arthur Clennam, who had made up his mind to
persistence in one short form of words, 'the precise nature of the
claim of the Crown against a prisoner for debt, named Dorrit.'
'I say. Look here. You really are going it at a great pace, you
know. Egad, you haven't got an appointment,' said Barnacle junior,
as if the thing were growing serious.
'I want to know,' said Arthur, and repeated his case.
Barnacle junior stared at him until his eye-glass fell out, and
then put it in again and stared at him until it fell out again.
'You have no right to come this sort of move,' he then observed
with the greatest weakness. 'Look here. What do you mean? You
told me you didn't know whether it was public business or not.'
'I have now ascertained that it is public business,' returned the
suitor, 'and I want to know'--and again repeated his monotonous
Its effect upon young Barnacle was to make him repeat in a
defenceless way, 'Look here! Upon my SOUL you mustn't come into
the place saying you want to know, you know!' The effect of that
upon Arthur Clennam was to make him repeat his inquiry in exactly
the same words and tone as before. The effect of that upon young
Barnacle was to make him a wonderful spectacle of failure and
'Well, I tell you what. Look here. You had better try the
Secretarial Department,' he said at last, sidling to the bell and
ringing it. 'Jenkinson,' to the mashed potatoes messenger, 'Mr
Arthur Clennam, who now felt that he had devoted himself to the
storming of the Circumlocution Office, and must go through with it,
accompanied the messenger to another floor of the building, where
that functionary pointed out Mr Wobbler's room. He entered that
apartment, and found two gentlemen sitting face to face at a large
and easy desk, one of whom was polishing a gun-barrel on his
pocket-handkerchief, while the other was spreading marmalade on
bread with a paper-knife.
'Mr Wobbler?' inquired the suitor.
Both gentlemen glanced at him, and seemed surprised at his
'So he went,' said the gentleman with the gun-barrel, who was an
extremely deliberate speaker, 'down to his cousin's place, and took
the Dog with him by rail. Inestimable Dog. Flew at the porter
fellow when he was put into the dog-box, and flew at the guard when
he was taken out. He got half-a-dozen fellows into a Barn, and a
good supply of Rats, and timed the Dog. Finding the Dog able to do
it immensely, made the match, and heavily backed the Dog. When the
match came off, some devil of a fellow was bought over, Sir, Dog
was made drunk, Dog's master was cleaned out.'
'Mr Wobbler?' inquired the suitor.
The gentleman who was spreading the marmalade returned, without
looking up from that occupation, 'What did he call the Dog?'
'Called him Lovely,' said the other gentleman. 'Said the Dog was
the perfect picture of the old aunt from whom he had expectations.
Found him particularly like her when hocussed.'
'Mr Wobbler?' said the suitor.
Both gentlemen laughed for some time. The gentleman with the gun-
barrel, considering it, on inspection, in a satisfactory state,
referred it to the other; receiving confirmation of his views, he
fitted it into its place in the case before him, and took out the
stock and polished that, softly whistling.
'Mr Wobbler?' said the suitor.
'What's the matter?' then said Mr Wobbler, with his mouth full.
'I want to know--' and Arthur Clennam again mechanically set forth
what he wanted to know.
'Can't inform you,' observed Mr Wobbler, apparently to his lunch.
'Never heard of it. Nothing at all to do with it. Better try Mr
Clive, second door on the left in the next passage.'
'Perhaps he will give me the same answer.'
'Very likely. Don't know anything about it,' said Mr Wobbler.
The suitor turned away and had left the room, when the gentleman
with the gun called out 'Mister! Hallo!'
He looked in again.
'Shut the door after you. You're letting in a devil of a draught
A few steps brought him to the second door on the left in the next
passage. In that room he found three gentlemen; number one doing
nothing particular, number two doing nothing particular, number
three doing nothing particular. They seemed, however, to be more
directly concerned than the others had been in the effective
execution of the great principle of the office, as there was an
awful inner apartment with a double door, in which the
Circumlocution Sages appeared to be assembled in council, and out
of which there was an imposing coming of papers, and into which
there was an imposing going of papers, almost constantly; wherein
another gentleman, number four, was the active instrument.
'I want to know,' said Arthur Clennam,--and again stated his case
in the same barrel-organ way. As number one referred him to number
two, and as number two referred him to number three, he had
occasion to state it three times before they all referred him to
number four, to whom he stated it again.
Number four was a vivacious, well-looking, well-dressed, agreeable
young fellow--he was a Barnacle, but on the more sprightly side of
the family--and he said in an easy way, 'Oh! you had better not
bother yourself about it, I think.'
'Not bother myself about it?'
'No! I recommend you not to bother yourself about it.'
This was such a new point of view that Arthur Clennam found himself
at a loss how to receive it.
'You can if you like. I can give you plenty of forms to fill up.
Lots of 'em here. You can have a dozen if you like. But you'll
never go on with it,' said number four.
'Would it be such hopeless work? Excuse me; I am a stranger in
'I don't say it would be hopeless,' returned number four, with a
frank smile. 'I don't express an opinion about that; I only
express an opinion about you. I don't think you'd go on with it.
However, of course, you can do as you like. I suppose there was a
failure in the performance of a contract, or something of that
kind, was there?'
'I really don't know.'
'Well! That you can find out. Then you'll find out what
Department the contract was in, and then you'll find out all about
'I beg your pardon. How shall I find out?'
'Why, you'll--you'll ask till they tell you. Then you'll
memorialise that Department (according to regular forms which
you'll find out) for leave to memorialise this Department. If you
get it (which you may after a time), that memorial must be entered
in that Department, sent to be registered in this Department, sent
back to be signed by that Department, sent back to be countersigned
by this Department, and then it will begin to be regularly before
that Department. You'll find out when the business passes through
each of these stages by asking at both Departments till they tell
'But surely this is not the way to do the business,' Arthur Clennam
could not help saying.
This airy young Barnacle was quite entertained by his simplicity in
supposing for a moment that it was. This light in hand young
Barnacle knew perfectly that it was not. This touch and go young
Barnacle had 'got up' the Department in a private secretaryship,
that he might be ready for any little bit of fat that came to hand;
and he fully understood the Department to be a politico-diplomatic
hocus pocus piece of machinery for the assistance of the nobs in
keeping off the snobs. This dashing young Barnacle, in a word, was
likely to become a statesman, and to make a figure.
'When the business is regularly before that Department, whatever it
is,' pursued this bright young Barnacle, 'then you can watch it
from time to time through that Department. When it comes regularly
before this Department, then you must watch it from time to time
through this Department. We shall have to refer it right and left;
and when we refer it anywhere, then you'll have to look it up.
When it comes back to us at any time, then you had better look US
up. When it sticks anywhere, you'll have to try to give it a jog.
When you write to another Department about it, and then to this
Department about it, and don't hear anything satisfactory about it,
why then you had better--keep on writing.'
Arthur Clennam looked very doubtful indeed. 'But I am obliged to
you at any rate,' said he, 'for your politeness.'
'Not at all,' replied this engaging young Barnacle. 'Try the
thing, and see how you like it. It will be in your power to give
it up at any time, if you don't like it. You had better take a lot
of forms away with you. Give him a lot of forms!' With which
instruction to number two, this sparkling young Barnacle took a
fresh handful of papers from numbers one and three, and carried
them into the sanctuary to offer to the presiding Idol of the
Arthur Clennam put his forms in his pocket gloomily enough, and
went his way down the long stone passage and the long stone
staircase. He had come to the swing doors leading into the street,
and was waiting, not over patiently, for two people who were
between him and them to pass out and let him follow, when the voice
of one of them struck familiarly on his ear. He looked at the
speaker and recognised Mr Meagles. Mr Meagles was very red in the
face--redder than travel could have made him--and collaring a short
man who was with him, said, 'come out, you rascal, come Out!'
it was such an unexpected hearing, and it was also such an
unexpected sight to see Mr Meagles burst the swing doors open, and
emerge into the street with the short man, who was of an
unoffending appearance, that Clennam stood still for the moment
exchanging looks of surprise with the porter. He followed,
however, quickly; and saw Mr Meagles going down the street with his
enemy at his side. He soon came up with his old travelling
companion, and touched him on the back. The choleric face which Mr
Meagles turned upon him smoothed when he saw who it was, and he put
out his friendly hand.
'How are you?' said Mr Meagles. 'How d'ye do? I have only just
come over from abroad. I am glad to see you.'
'And I am rejoiced to see you.'
'Mrs Meagles and your daughter--?'
'Are as well as possible,' said Mr Meagles. 'I only wish you had
come upon me in a more prepossessing condition as to coolness.'
Though it was anything but a hot day, Mr Meagles was in a heated
state that attracted the attention of the passersby; more
particularly as he leaned his back against a railing, took off his
hat and cravat, and heartily rubbed his steaming head and face, and
his reddened ears and neck, without the least regard for public
'Whew!' said Mr Meagles, dressing again. 'That's comfortable. Now
I am cooler.'
'You have been ruffled, Mr Meagles. What is the matter?'
'Wait a bit, and I'll tell you. Have you leisure for a turn in the
'As much as you please.'
'Come along then. Ah! you may well look at him.' He happened to
have turned his eyes towards the offender whom Mr Meagles had so
angrily collared. 'He's something to look at, that fellow is.'
He was not much to look at, either in point of size or in point of
dress; being merely a short, square, practical looking man, whose
hair had turned grey, and in whose face and forehead there were
deep lines of cogitation, which looked as though they were carved
in hard wood. He was dressed in decent black, a little rusty, and
had the appearance of a sagacious master in some handicraft. He
had a spectacle-case in his hand, which he turned over and over
while he was thus in question, with a certain free use of the thumb
that is never seen but in a hand accustomed to tools.
'You keep with us,' said Mr Meagles, in a threatening kind of Way,
'and I'll introduce you presently. Now then!'
Clennam wondered within himself, as they took the nearest way to
the Park, what this unknown (who complied in the gentlest manner)
could have been doing. His appearance did not at all justify the
suspicion that he had been detected in designs on Mr Meagles's
pocket-handkerchief; nor had he any appearance of being quarrelsome
or violent. He was a quiet, plain, steady man; made no attempt to
escape; and seemed a little depressed, but neither ashamed nor
repentant. If he were a criminal offender, he must surely be an
incorrigible hypocrite; and if he were no offender, why should Mr
Meagles have collared him in the Circumlocution Office? He
perceived that the man was not a difficulty in his own mind alone,
but in Mr Meagles's too; for such conversation as they had together
on the short way to the Park was by no means well sustained, and Mr
Meagles's eye always wandered back to the man, even when he spoke
of something very different.
At length they being among the trees, Mr Meagles stopped short, and
'Mr Clennam, will you do me the favour to look at this man? His
name is Doyce, Daniel Doyce. You wouldn't suppose this man to be
a notorious rascal; would you?'
'I certainly should not.' It was really a disconcerting question,
with the man there.
'No. You would not. I know you would not. You wouldn't suppose
him to be a public offender; would you?'
'No. But he is. He is a public offender. What has he been guilty
of? Murder, manslaughter, arson, forgery, swindling, house-
breaking, highway robbery, larceny, conspiracy, fraud? Which
should you say, now?'
'I should say,' returned Arthur Clennam, observing a faint smile in
Daniel Doyce's face, 'not one of them.'
'You are right,' said Mr Meagles. 'But he has been ingenious, and
he has been trying to turn his ingenuity to his country's service.
That makes him a public offender directly, sir.'
Arthur looked at the man himself, who only shook his head.
'This Doyce,' said Mr Meagles, 'is a smith and engineer. He is not
in a large way, but he is well known as a very ingenious man. A
dozen years ago, he perfects an invention (involving a very curious
secret process) of great importance to his country and his fellow-
creatures. I won't say how much money it cost him, or how many
years of his life he had been about it, but he brought it to
perfection a dozen years ago. Wasn't it a dozen?' said Mr Meagles,
addressing Doyce. 'He is the most exasperating man in the world;
he never complains!'
'Yes. Rather better than twelve years ago.'
'Rather better?' said Mr Meagles, 'you mean rather worse. Well, Mr
Clennam, he addresses himself to the Government. The moment he
addresses himself to the Government, he becomes a public offender!
Sir,' said Mr Meagles, in danger of making himself excessively hot
again, 'he ceases to be an innocent citizen, and becomes a culprit.
He is treated from that instant as a man who has done some infernal
action. He is a man to be shirked, put off, brow-beaten, sneered
at, handed over by this highly-connected young or old gentleman, to
that highly-connected young or old gentleman, and dodged back
again; he is a man with no rights in his own time, or his own
property; a mere outlaw, whom it is justifiable to get rid of
anyhow; a man to be worn out by all possible means.'
It was not so difficult to believe, after the morning's experience,
as Mr Meagles supposed.
'Don't stand there, Doyce, turning your spectacle-case over and
over,' cried Mr Meagles, 'but tell Mr Clennam what you confessed to
'I undoubtedly was made to feel,' said the inventor, 'as if I had
committed an offence. In dancing attendance at the various
offices, I was always treated, more or less, as if it was a very
bad offence. I have frequently found it necessary to reflect, for
my own self-support, that I really had not done anything to bring
myself into the Newgate Calendar, but only wanted to effect a great
saving and a great improvement.'
'There!' said Mr Meagles. 'Judge whether I exaggerate. Now you'll
be able to believe me when I tell you the rest of the case.'
With this prelude, Mr Meagles went through the narrative; the
established narrative, which has become tiresome; the matter-of-
course narrative which we all know by heart. How, after
interminable attendance and correspondence, after infinite
impertinences, ignorances, and insults, my lords made a Minute,
number three thousand four hundred and seventy-two, allowing the
culprit to make certain trials of his invention at his own expense.
How the trials were made in the presence of a board of six, of whom
two ancient members were too blind to see it, two other ancient
members were too deaf to hear it, one other ancient member was too
lame to get near it, and the final ancient member was too pig-
headed to look at it. How there were more years; more
impertinences, ignorances, and insults. How my lords then made a
Minute, number five thousand one hundred and three, whereby they
resigned the business to the Circumlocution Office. How the
Circumlocution Office, in course of time, took up the business as
if it were a bran new thing of yesterday, which had never been
heard of before; muddled the business, addled the business, tossed
the business in a wet blanket. How the impertinences, ignorances,
and insults went through the multiplication table. How there was
a reference of the invention to three Barnacles and a
Stiltstalking, who knew nothing about it; into whose heads nothing
could be hammered about it; who got bored about it, and reported
physical impossibilities about it. How the Circumlocution Office,
in a Minute, number eight thousand seven hundred and forty, 'saw no
reason to reverse the decision at which my lords had arrived.' How
the Circumlocution Office, being reminded that my lords had arrived
at no decision, shelved the business. How there had been a final
interview with the head of the Circumlocution Office that very
morning, and how the Brazen Head had spoken, and had been, upon the
whole, and under all the circumstances, and looking at it from the
various points of view, of opinion that one of two courses was to
be pursued in respect of the business: that was to say, either to
leave it alone for evermore, or to begin it all over again.
'Upon which,' said Mr Meagles, 'as a practical man, I then and
there, in that presence, took Doyce by the collar, and told him it
was plain to me that he was an infamous rascal and treasonable
disturber of the government peace, and took him away. I brought
him out of the office door by the collar, that the very porter
might know I was a practical man who appreciated the official
estimate of such characters; and here we are!'
If that airy young Barnacle had been there, he would have frankly
told them perhaps that the Circumlocution Office had achieved its
function. That what the Barnacles had to do, was to stick on to
the national ship as long as they could. That to trim the ship,
lighten the ship, clean the ship, would be to knock them off; that
they could but be knocked off once; and that if the ship went down
with them yet sticking to it, that was the ship's look out, and not
'There!' said Mr Meagles, 'now you know all about Doyce. Except,
which I own does not improve my state of mind, that even now you
don't hear him complain.'
'You must have great patience,' said Arthur Clennam, looking at him
with some wonder, 'great forbearance.'
'No,' he returned, 'I don't know that I have more than another
'By the Lord, you have more than I have, though!' cried Mr Meagles.
Doyce smiled, as he said to Clennam, 'You see, my experience of
these things does not begin with myself. It has been in my way to
know a little about them from time to time. Mine is not a
particular case. I am not worse used than a hundred others who
have put themselves in the same position--than all the others, I
was going to say.'
'I don't know that I should find that a consolation, if it were my
case; but I am very glad that you do.'
'Understand me! I don't say,' he replied in his steady, planning
way, and looking into the distance before him as if his grey eye
were measuring it, 'that it's recompense for a man's toil and hope;
but it's a certain sort of relief to know that I might have counted
He spoke in that quiet deliberate manner, and in that undertone,
which is often observable in mechanics who consider and adjust with
great nicety. It belonged to him like his suppleness of thumb, or
his peculiar way of tilting up his hat at the back every now and
then, as if he were contemplating some half-finished work of his
hand and thinking about it.
'Disappointed?' he went on, as he walked between them under the
trees. 'Yes. No doubt I am disappointed. Hurt? Yes. No doubt
I am hurt. That's only natural. But what I mean when I say that
people who put themselves in the same position are mostly used in
the same way--'
'In England,' said Mr Meagles.
'Oh! of course I mean in England. When they take their inventions
into foreign countries, that's quite different. And that's the
reason why so many go there.'
Mr Meagles very hot indeed again.
'What I mean is, that however this comes to be the regular way of
our government, it is its regular way. Have you ever heard of any
projector or inventor who failed to find it all but inaccessible,
and whom it did not discourage and ill-treat?'
'I cannot say that I ever have.'
'Have you ever known it to be beforehand in the adoption of any
useful thing? Ever known it to set an example of any useful kind?'
'I am a good deal older than my friend here,' said Mr Meagles, 'and
I'll answer that. Never.'
'But we all three have known, I expect,' said the inventor, 'a
pretty many cases of its fixed determination to be miles upon
miles, and years upon years, behind the rest of us; and of its
being found out persisting in the use of things long superseded,
even after the better things were well known and generally taken
They all agreed upon that.
'Well then,' said Doyce, with a sigh, 'as I know what such a metal
will do at such a temperature, and such a body under such a
pressure, so I may know (if I will only consider), how these great
lords and gentlemen will certainly deal with such a matter as mine.
I have no right to be surprised, with a head upon my shoulders, and
memory in it, that I fall into the ranks with all who came before
me. I ought to have let it alone. I have had warning enough, I am
With that he put up his spectacle-case, and said to Arthur, 'If I
don't complain, Mr Clennam, I can feel gratitude; and I assure you
that I feel it towards our mutual friend. Many's the day, and
many's the way in which he has backed me.'
'Stuff and nonsense,' said Mr Meagles.
Arthur could not but glance at Daniel Doyce in the ensuing silence.
Though it was evidently in the grain of his character, and of his
respect for his own case, that he should abstain from idle
murmuring, it was evident that he had grown the older, the sterner,
and the poorer, for his long endeavour. He could not but think
what a blessed thing it would have been for this man, if he had
taken a lesson from the gentlemen who were so kind as to take a
nation's affairs in charge, and had learnt How not to do it.
Mr Meagles was hot and despondent for about five minutes, and then
began to cool and clear up.
'Come, come!' said he. 'We shall not make this the better by being
grim. Where do you think of going, Dan?'
'I shall go back to the factory,' said Dan.
'Why then, we'll all go back to the factory, or walk in that
direction,' returned Mr Meagles cheerfully. 'Mr Clennam won't be
deterred by its being in Bleeding Heart Yard.'
'Bleeding Heart Yard?' said Clennam. 'I want to go there.'
'So much the better,' cried Mr Meagles. 'Come along!'
As they went along, certainly one of the party, and probably more
than one, thought that Bleeding Heart Yard was no inappropriate
destination for a man who had been in official correspondence with
my lords and the Barnacles--and perhaps had a misgiving also that
Britannia herself might come to look for lodgings in Bleeding Heart
Yard some ugly day or other, if she over-did the Circumlocution