Part 5 out of 20
Now he regarded her with that attentive and inquiring look before
which Little Dorrit's eyes had always fallen, and before which they
'My poor child! Here at midnight?'
'I said Little Dorrit, sir, on purpose to prepare you. I knew you
must be very much surprised.'
'Are you alone?'
'No sir, I have got Maggy with me.'
Considering her entrance sufficiently prepared for by this mention
of her name, Maggy appeared from the landing outside, on the broad
grin. She instantly suppressed that manifestation, however, and
became fixedly solemn.
'And I have no fire,' said Clennam. 'And you are--' He was going
to say so lightly clad, but stopped himself in what would have been
a reference to her poverty, saying instead, 'And it is so cold.'
Putting the chair from which he had risen nearer to the grate, he
made her sit down in it; and hurriedly bringing wood and coal,
heaped them together and got a blaze.
'Your foot is like marble, my child;' he had happened to touch it,
while stooping on one knee at his work of kindling the fire; 'put
it nearer the warmth.' Little Dorrit thanked him hastily. It was
quite warm, it was very warm! It smote upon his heart to feel that
she hid her thin, worn shoe.
Little Dorrit was not ashamed of her poor shoes. He knew her
story, and it was not that. Little Dorrit had a misgiving that he
might blame her father, if he saw them; that he might think, 'why
did he dine to-day, and leave this little creature to the mercy of
the cold stones!' She had no belief that it would have been a just
reflection; she simply knew, by experience, that such delusions did
sometimes present themselves to people. It was a part of her
father's misfortunes that they did.
'Before I say anything else,' Little Dorrit began, sitting before
the pale fire, and raising her eyes again to the face which in its
harmonious look of interest, and pity, and protection, she felt to
be a mystery far above her in degree, and almost removed beyond her
guessing at; 'may I tell you something, sir?'
'Yes, my child.'
A slight shade of distress fell upon her, at his so often calling
her a child. She was surprised that he should see it, or think of
such a slight thing; but he said directly:
'I wanted a tender word, and could think of no other. As you just
now gave yourself the name they give you at my mother's, and as
that is the name by which I always think of you, let me call you
'Thank you, sir, I should like it better than any name.'
'Little mother,' Maggy (who had been falling asleep) put in, as a
'It's all the same, MaggY,' returned Little Dorrit, 'all the same.'
'Is it all the same, mother?'
'Just the same.'
Maggy laughed, and immediately snored. In Little Dorrit's eyes and
ears, the uncouth figure and the uncouth sound were as pleasant as
could be. There was a glow of pride in her big child,
overspreading her face, when it again met the eyes of the grave
brown gentleman. She wondered what he was thinking of, as he
looked at Maggy and her. She thought what a good father he would
be. How, with some such look, he would counsel and cherish his
'What I was going to tell you, sir,' said Little Dorrit, 'is, that
MY brother is at large.'
Arthur was rejoiced to hear it, and hoped he would do well.
'And what I was going to tell you, sir,' said Little Dorrit,
trembling in all her little figure and in her voice, 'is, that I am
not to know whose generosity released him--am never to ask, and am
never to be told, and am never to thank that gentleman with all MY
He would probably need no thanks, Clennam said. Very likely he
would be thankful himself (and with reason), that he had had the
means and chance of doing a little service to her, who well
deserved a great one.
'And what I was going to say, sir, is,' said Little Dorrit,
trembling more and more, 'that if I knew him, and I might, I would
tell him that he can never, never know how I feel his goodness, and
how my good father would feel it. And what I was going to say,
sir, is, that if I knew him, and I might--but I don't know him and
I must not--I know that!--I would tell him that I shall never any
more lie down to sleep without having prayed to Heaven to bless him
and reward him. And if I knew him, and I might, I would go down on
my knees to him, and take his hand and kiss it and ask him not to
draw it away, but to leave it--O to leave it for a moment--and let
my thankful tears fall on it; for I have no other thanks to give
Little Dorrit had put his hand to her lips, and would have kneeled
to him, but he gently prevented her, and replaced her in her chair.
Her eyes, and the tones of her voice, had thanked him far better
than she thought. He was not able to say, quite as composedly as
usual, 'There, Little Dorrit, there, there, there! We will suppose
that you did know this person, and that you might do all this, and
that it was all done. And now tell me, Who am quite another
person--who am nothing more than the friend who begged you to trust
him--why you are out at midnight, and what it is that brings you so
far through the streets at this late hour, my slight, delicate,'
child was on his lips again, 'Little Dorrit!'
'Maggy and I have been to-night,' she answered, subduing herself
with the quiet effort that had long been natural to her, 'to the
theatre where my sister is engaged.'
'And oh ain't it a Ev'nly place,' suddenly interrupted Maggy, who
seemed to have the power of going to sleep and waking up whenever
she chose. 'Almost as good as a hospital. Only there ain't no
Chicking in it.'
Here she shook herself, and fell asleep again.
'We went there,' said Little Dorrit, glancing at her charge,
'because I like sometimes to know, of my own knowledge, that my
sister is doing well; and like to see her there, with my own eyes,
when neither she nor Uncle is aware. It is very seldom indeed that
I can do that, because when I am not out at work, I am with my
father, and even when I am out at work, I hurry home to him. But
I pretend to-night that I am at a party.'
As she made the confession, timidly hesitating, she raised her eyes
to the face, and read its expression so plainly that she answered
it. 'Oh no, certainly! I never was at a party in my life.' She
paused a little under his attentive look, and then said, 'I hope
there is no harm in it. I could never have been of any use, if I
had not pretended a little.'
She feared that he was blaming her in his mind for so devising to
contrive for them, think for them, and watch over them, without
their knowledge or gratitude; perhaps even with their reproaches
for supposed neglect. But what was really in his mind, was the
weak figure with its strong purpose, the thin worn shoes, the
insufficient dress, and the pretence of recreation and enjoyment.
He asked where the suppositious party was? At a place where she
worked, answered Little Dorrit, blushing. She had said very little
about it; only a few words to make her father easy. Her father did
not believe it to be a grand party--indeed he might suppose that.
And she glanced for an instant at the shawl she wore.
'It is the first night,' said Little Dorrit, 'that I have ever been
away from home. And London looks so large, so barren, and so
wild.' In Little Dorrit's eyes, its vastness under the black sky
was awful; a tremor passed over her as she said the words.
'But this is not,' she added, with the quiet effort again, 'what I
have come to trouble you with, sir. My sister's having found a
friend, a lady she has told me of and made me rather anxious about,
was the first cause of my coming away from home. And being away,
and coming (on purpose) round by where you lived and seeing a light
in the window--'
Not for the first time. No, not for the first time. In Little
Dorrit's eyes, the outside of that window had been a distant star
on other nights than this. She had toiled out of her way, tired
and troubled, to look up at it, and wonder about the grave, brown
gentleman from so far off, who had spoken to her as a friend and
'There were three things,' said Little Dorrit, 'that I thought I
would like to say, if you were alone and I might come up-stairs.
First, what I have tried to say, but never can--never shall--'
'Hush, hush! That is done with, and disposed of. Let us pass to
the second,' said Clennam, smiling her agitation away, making the
blaze shine upon her, and putting wine and cake and fruit towards
her on the table.
'I think,' said Little Dorrit--'this is the second thing, sir--I
think Mrs Clennam must have found out my secret, and must know
where I come from and where I go to. Where I live, I mean.'
'Indeed!' returned Clennam quickly. He asked her, after short
consideration, why she supposed so.
'I think,' replied Little Dorrit, 'that Mr Flintwinch must have
And why, Clennam asked, as he turned his eyes upon the fire, bent
his brows, and considered again; why did she suppose that?
'I have met him twice. Both times near home. Both times at night,
when I was going back. Both times I thought (though that may
easily be my mistake), that he hardly looked as if he had met me by
'Did he say anything?'
'No; he only nodded and put his head on one side.'
'The devil take his head!' mused Clennam, still looking at the
fire; 'it's always on one side.'
He roused himself to persuade her to put some wine to her lips, and
to touch something to eat--it was very difficult, she was so timid
and shy--and then said, musing again:
'Is my mother at all changed to you?'
'Oh, not at all. She is just the same. I wondered whether I had
better tell her my history. I wondered whether I might--I mean,
whether you would like me to tell her. I wondered,' said Little
Dorrit, looking at him in a suppliant way, and gradually
withdrawing her eyes as he looked at her, 'whether you would advise
me what I ought to do.'
'Little Dorrit,' said Clennam; and the phrase had already begun,
between these two, to stand for a hundred gentle phrases, according
to the varying tone and connection in which it was used; 'do
nothing. I will have some talk with my old friend, Mrs Affery. Do
nothing, Little Dorrit--except refresh yourself with such means as
there are here. I entreat you to do that.'
'Thank you, I am not hungry. Nor,' said Little Dorrit, as he
softly put her glass towards her, 'nor thirsty.--I think Maggy
might like something, perhaps.'
'We will make her find pockets presently for all there is here,'
said Clennam: 'but before we awake her, there was a third thing to
'Yes. You will not be offended, sir?'
'I promise that, unreservedly.'
'It will sound strange. I hardly know how to say it. Don't think
it unreasonable or ungrateful in me,' said Little Dorrit, with
returning and increasing agitation.
'No, no, no. I am sure it will be natural and right. I am not
afraid that I shall put a wrong construction on it, whatever it
'Thank you. You are coming back to see my father again?'
'You have been so good and thoughtful as to write him a note,
saying that you are coming to-morrow?'
'Oh, that was nothing! Yes.'
'Can you guess,' said Little Dorrit, folding her small hands tight
in one another, and looking at him with all the earnestness of her
soul looking steadily out of her eyes, 'what I am going to ask you
not to do?'
'I think I can. But I may be wrong.'
'No, you are not wrong,' said Little Dorrit, shaking her head. 'If
we should want it so very, very badly that we cannot do without it,
let me ask you for it.'
'I Will,--I Will.'
'Don't encourage him to ask. Don't understand him if he does ask.
Don't give it to him. Save him and spare him that, and you will be
able to think better of him!'
Clennam said--not very plainly, seeing those tears glistening in
her anxious eyes--that her wish should be sacred with him.
'You don't know what he is,' she said; 'you don't know what he
really is. How can you, seeing him there all at once, dear love,
and not gradually, as I have done! You have been so good to us, so
delicately and truly good, that I want him to be better in your
eyes than in anybody's. And I cannot bear to think,' cried Little
Dorrit, covering her tears with her hands, 'I cannot bear to think
that you of all the world should see him in his only moments of
'Pray,' said Clennam, 'do not be so distressed. Pray, pray, Little
Dorrit! This is quite understood now.'
'Thank you, sir. Thank you! I have tried very much to keep myself
from saying this; I have thought about it, days and nights; but
when I knew for certain you were coming again, I made up my mind to
speak to you. Not because I am ashamed of him,' she dried her
tears quickly, 'but because I know him better than any one does,
and love him, and am proud of him.'
Relieved of this weight, Little Dorrit was nervously anxious to be
gone. Maggy being broad awake, and in the act of distantly
gloating over the fruit and cakes with chuckles of anticipation,
Clennam made the best diversion in his power by pouring her out a
glass of wine, which she drank in a series of loud smacks; putting
her hand upon her windpipe after every one, and saying, breathless,
with her eyes in a prominent state, 'Oh, ain't it d'licious! Ain't
it hospitally!' When she had finished the wine and these
encomiums, he charged her to load her basket (she was never without
her basket) with every eatable thing upon the table, and to take
especial care to leave no scrap behind. Maggy's pleasure in doing
this and her little mother's pleasure in seeing Maggy pleased, was
as good a turn as circumstances could have given to the late
'But the gates will have been locked long ago,' said Clennam,
suddenly remembering it. 'Where are you going?'
'I am going to Maggy's lodging,' answered Little Dorrit. 'I shall
be quite safe, quite well taken care of.'
'I must accompany you there,' said Clennam, 'I cannot let you go
'Yes, pray leave us to go there by ourselves. Pray do!' begged
She was so earnest in the petition, that Clennam felt a delicacy in
obtruding himself upon her: the rather, because he could well
understand that Maggy's lodging was of the obscurest sort. 'Come,
Maggy,' said Little Dorrit cheerily, 'we shall do very well; we
know the way by this time, Maggy?'
'Yes, yes, little mother; we know the way,' chuckled Maggy. And
away they went. Little Dorrit turned at the door to say, 'God
bless you!' She said it very softly, but perhaps she may have been
as audible above--who knows!--as a whole cathedral choir.
Arthur Clennam suffered them to pass the corner of the street
before he followed at a distance; not with any idea of encroaching
a second time on Little Dorrit's privacy, but to satisfy his mind
by seeing her secure in the neighbourhood to which she was
accustomed. So diminutive she looked, so fragile and defenceless
against the bleak damp weather, flitting along in the shuffling
shadow of her charge, that he felt, in his compassion, and in his
habit of considering her a child apart from the rest of the rough
world, as if he would have been glad to take her up in his arms and
carry her to her journey's end.
In course of time she came into the leading thoroughfare where the
Marshalsea was, and then he saw them slacken their pace, and soon
turn down a by-street. He stopped, felt that he had no right to go
further, and slowly left them. He had no suspicion that they ran
any risk of being houseless until morning; had no idea of the truth
until long, long afterwards.
But, said Little Dorrit, when they stopped at a poor dwelling all
in darkness, and heard no sound on listening at the door, 'Now,
this is a good lodging for you, Maggy, and we must not give
offence. Consequently, we will only knock twice, and not very
loud; and if we cannot wake them so, we must walk about till day.'
Once, Little Dorrit knocked with a careful hand, and listened.
Twice, Little Dorrit knocked with a careful hand, and listened.
All was close and still. 'Maggy, we must do the best we can, my
dear. We must be patient, and wait for day.'
It was a chill dark night, with a damp wind blowing, when they came
out into the leading street again, and heard the clocks strike
half-past one. 'In only five hours and a half,' said Little
Dorrit, 'we shall be able to go home.' To speak of home, and to go
and look at it, it being so near, was a natural sequence. They
went to the closed gate, and peeped through into the court-yard.
'I hope he is sound asleep,' said Little Dorrit, kissing one of the
bars, 'and does not miss me.'
The gate was so familiar, and so like a companion, that they put
down Maggy's basket in a corner to serve for a seat, and keeping
close together, rested there for some time. While the street was
empty and silent, Little Dorrit was not afraid; but when she heard
a footstep at a distance, or saw a moving shadow among the street
lamps, she was startled, and whispered, 'Maggy, I see some one.
Come away!' Maggy would then wake up more or less fretfully, and
they would wander about a little, and come back again.
As long as eating was a novelty and an amusement, Maggy kept up
pretty well. But that period going by, she became querulous about
the cold, and shivered and whimpered. 'It will soon be over,
dear,' said Little Dorrit patiently. 'Oh it's all very fine for
you, little mother,' returned Maggy, 'but I'm a poor thing, only
ten years old.' At last, in the dead of the night, when the street
was very still indeed, Little Dorrit laid the heavy head upon her
bosom, and soothed her to sleep. And thus she sat at the gate, as
it were alone; looking up at the stars, and seeing the clouds pass
over them in their wild flight--which was the dance at Little
'If it really was a party!' she thought once, as she sat there.
'If it was light and warm and beautiful, and it was our house, and
my poor dear was its master, and had never been inside these walls.
And if Mr Clennam was one of our visitors, and we were dancing to
delightful music, and were all as gay and light-hearted as ever we
could be! I wonder--' Such a vista of wonder opened out before
her, that she sat looking up at the stars, quite lost, until Maggy
was querulous again, and wanted to get up and walk.
Three o'clock, and half-past three, and they had passed over London
Bridge. They had heard the rush of the tide against obstacles; and
looked down, awed, through the dark vapour on the river; had seen
little spots of lighted water where the bridge lamps were
reflected, shining like demon eyes, with a terrible fascination in
them for guilt and misery. They had shrunk past homeless people,
lying coiled up in nooks. They had run from drunkards. They had
started from slinking men, whistling and signing to one another at
bye corners, or running away at full speed. Though everywhere the
leader and the guide, Little Dorrit, happy for once in her youthful
appearance, feigned to cling to and rely upon Maggy. And more than
once some voice, from among a knot of brawling or prowling figures
in their path, had called out to the rest to 'let the woman and the
child go by!'
So, the woman and the child had gone by, and gone on, and five had
sounded from the steeples. They were walking slowly towards the
east, already looking for the first pale streak of day, when a
woman came after them.
'What are you doing with the child?' she said to Maggy.
She was young--far too young to be there, Heaven knows!--and
neither ugly nor wicked-looking. She spoke coarsely, but with no
naturally coarse voice; there was even something musical in its
'What are you doing with yourself?' retorted Maggy, for want Of a
'Can't you see, without my telling you?'
'I don't know as I can,' said Maggy.
'Killing myself! Now I have answered you, answer me. What are you
doing with the child?'
The supposed child kept her head drooped down, and kept her form
close at Maggy's side.
'Poor thing!' said the woman. 'Have you no feeling, that you keep
her out in the cruel streets at such a time as this? Have you no
eyes, that you don't see how delicate and slender she is? Have you
no sense (you don't look as if you had much) that you don't take
more pity on this cold and trembling little hand?'
She had stepped across to that side, and held the hand between her
own two, chafing it. 'Kiss a poor lost creature, dear,' she said,
bending her face, 'and tell me where's she taking you.'
Little Dorrit turned towards her.
'Why, my God!' she said, recoiling, 'you're a woman!'
'Don't mind that!' said Little Dorrit, clasping one of her hands
that had suddenly released hers. 'I am not afraid of you.'
'Then you had better be,' she answered. 'Have you no mother?'
'Yes, a very dear one.'
'Go home to him, and be afraid of me. Let me go. Good night!'
'I must thank you first; let me speak to you as if I really were a
'You can't do it,' said the woman. 'You are kind and innocent; but
you can't look at me out of a child's eyes. I never should have
touched you, but I thought that you were a child.' And with a
strange, wild cry, she went away.
No day yet in the sky, but there was day in the resounding stones
of the streets; in the waggons, carts, and coaches; in the workers
going to various occupations; in the opening of early shops; in the
traffic at markets; in the stir of the riverside. There was coming
day in the flaring lights, with a feebler colour in them than they
would have had at another time; coming day in the increased
sharpness of the air, and the ghastly dying of the night.
They went back again to the gate, intending to wait there now until
it should be opened; but the air was so raw and cold that Little
Dorrit, leading Maggy about in her sleep, kept in motion. Going
round by the Church, she saw lights there, and the door open; and
went up the steps and looked in.
'Who's that?' cried a stout old man, who was putting on a nightcap
as if he were going to bed in a vault.
'It's no one particular, sir,' said Little Dorrit.
'Stop!' cried the man. 'Let's have a look at you!'
This caused her to turn back again in the act of going out, and to
present herself and her charge before him.
'I thought so!' said he. 'I know YOU.'
'We have often seen each other,' said Little Dorrit, recognising
the sexton, or the beadle, or the verger, or whatever he was, 'when
I have been at church here.'
'More than that, we've got your birth in our Register, you know;
you're one of our curiosities.'
'Indeed!' said Little Dorrit.
'To be sure. As the child of the--by-the-bye, how did you get out
'We were shut out last night, and are waiting to get in.'
'You don't mean it? And there's another hour good yet! Come into
the vestry. You'll find a fire in the vestry, on account of the
painters. I'm waiting for the painters, or I shouldn't be here,
you may depend upon it. One of our curiosities mustn't be cold
when we have it in our power to warm her up comfortable. Come
He was a very good old fellow, in his familiar way; and having
stirred the vestry fire, he looked round the shelves of registers
for a particular volume. 'Here you are, you see,' he said, taking
it down and turning the leaves. 'Here you'll find yourself, as
large as life. Amy, daughter of William and Fanny Dorrit. Born,
Marshalsea Prison, Parish of St George. And we tell people that
you have lived there, without so much as a day's or a night's
absence, ever since. Is it true?'
'Quite true, till last night.'
'Lord!' But his surveying her with an admiring gaze suggested
Something else to him, to wit: 'I am sorry to see, though, that you
are faint and tired. Stay a bit. I'll get some cushions out of
the church, and you and your friend shall lie down before the fire.
Don't be afraid of not going in to join your father when the gate
opens. I'll call you.'
He soon brought in the cushions, and strewed them on the ground.
'There you are, you see. Again as large as life. Oh, never mind
thanking. I've daughters of my own. And though they weren't born
in the Marshalsea Prison, they might have been, if I had been, in
my ways of carrying on, of your father's breed. Stop a bit. I
must put something under the cushion for your head. Here's a
burial volume. just the thing! We have got Mrs Bangham in this
book. But what makes these books interesting to most people is--
not who's in 'em, but who isn't--who's coming, you know, and when.
That's the interesting question.'
Commendingly looking back at the pillow he had improvised, he left
them to their hour's repose. Maggy was snoring already, and Little
Dorrit was soon fast asleep with her head resting on that sealed
book of Fate, untroubled by its mysterious blank leaves.
This was Little Dorrit's party. The shame, desertion,
wretchedness, and exposure of the great capital; the wet, the cold,
the slow hours, and the swift clouds of the dismal night. This was
the party from which Little Dorrit went home, jaded, in the first
grey mist of a rainy morning.
Mrs Flintwinch has another Dream
The debilitated old house in the city, wrapped in its mantle of
soot, and leaning heavily on the crutches that had partaken of its
decay and worn out with it, never knew a healthy or a cheerful
interval, let what would betide. If the sun ever touched it, it
was but with a ray, and that was gone in half an hour; if the
moonlight ever fell upon it, it was only to put a few patches on
its doleful cloak, and make it look more wretched. The stars, to
be sure, coldly watched it when the nights and the smoke were clear
enough; and all bad weather stood by it with a rare fidelity. You
should alike find rain, hail, frost, and thaw lingering in that
dismal enclosure when they had vanished from other places; and as
to snow, you should see it there for weeks, long after it had
changed from yellow to black, slowly weeping away its grimy life.
The place had no other adherents. As to street noises, the
rumbling of wheels in the lane merely rushed in at the gateway in
going past, and rushed out again: making the listening Mistress
Affery feel as if she were deaf, and recovered the sense of hearing
by instantaneous flashes. So with whistling, singing, talking,
laughing, and all pleasant human sounds. They leaped the gap in a
moment, and went upon their way.
The varying light of fire and candle in Mrs Clennam's room made the
greatest change that ever broke the dead monotony of the spot. In
her two long narrow windows, the fire shone sullenly all day, and
sullenly all night. On rare occasions it flashed up passionately,
as she did; but for the most part it was suppressed, like her, and
preyed upon itself evenly and slowly. During many hours of the
short winter days, however, when it was dusk there early in the
afternoon, changing distortions of herself in her wheeled chair, of
Mr Flintwinch with his wry neck, of Mistress Affery coming and
going, would be thrown upon the house wall that was over the
gateway, and would hover there like shadows from a great magic
lantern. As the room-ridden invalid settled for the night, these
would gradually disappear: Mistress Affery's magnified shadow
always flitting about, last, until it finally glided away into the
air, as though she were off upon a witch excursion. Then the
solitary light would burn unchangingly, until it burned pale before
the dawn, and at last died under the breath of Mrs Affery, as her
shadow descended on it from the witch-region of sleep.
Strange, if the little sick-room fire were in effect a beacon fire,
summoning some one, and that the most unlikely some one in the
world, to the spot that MUST be come to. Strange, if the little
sick-room light were in effect a watch-light, burning in that place
every night until an appointed event should be watched out! Which
of the vast multitude of travellers, under the sun and the stars,
climbing the dusty hills and toiling along the weary plains,
journeying by land and journeying by sea, coming and going so
strangely, to meet and to act and react on one another; which of
the host may, with no suspicion of the journey's end, be travelling
Time shall show us. The post of honour and the post of shame, the
general's station and the drummer's, a peer's statue in Westminster
Abbey and a seaman's hammock in the bosom of the deep, the mitre
and the workhouse, the woolsack and the gallows, the throne and the
guillotine--the travellers to all are on the great high road, but
it has wonderful divergencies, and only Time shall show us whither
each traveller is bound.
On a wintry afternoon at twilight, Mrs Flintwinch, having been
heavy all day, dreamed this dream:
She thought she was in the kitchen getting the kettle ready for
tea, and was warming herself with her feet upon the fender and the
skirt of her gown tucked up, before the collapsed fire in the
middle of the grate, bordered on either hand by a deep cold black
ravine. She thought that as she sat thus, musing upon the question
whether life was not for some people a rather dull invention, she
was frightened by a sudden noise behind her. She thought that she
had been similarly frightened once last week, and that the noise
was of a mysterious kind--a sound of rustling and of three or four
quick beats like a rapid step; while a shock or tremble was
communicated to her heart, as if the step had shaken the floor, or
even as if she had been touched by some awful hand. She thought
that this revived within her certain old fears of hers that the
house was haunted; and that she flew up the kitchen stairs without
knowing how she got up, to be nearer company.
Mistress Affery thought that on reaching the hall, she saw the door
of her liege lord's office standing open, and the room empty. That
she went to the ripped-up window in the little room by the street
door to connect her palpitating heart, through the glass, with
living things beyond and outside the haunted house. That she then
saw, on the wall over the gateway, the shadows of the two clever
ones in conversation above. That she then went upstairs with her
shoes in her hand, partly to be near the clever ones as a match for
most ghosts, and partly to hear what they were talking about.
'None of your nonsense with me,' said Mr Flintwinch. 'I won't take
it from you.'
Mrs Flintwinch dreamed that she stood behind the door, which was
just ajar, and most distinctly heard her husband say these bold
'Flintwinch,' returned Mrs Clennam, in her usual strong low voice,
'there is a demon of anger in you. Guard against it.'
'I don't care whether there's one or a dozen,' said Mr Flintwinch,
forcibly suggesting in his tone that the higher number was nearer
the mark. 'If there was fifty, they should all say, None of your
nonsense with me, I won't take it from you--I'd make 'em say it,
whether they liked it or not.'
'What have I done, you wrathful man?' her strong voice asked.
'Done?' said Mr Flintwinch. 'Dropped down upon me.'
'If you mean, remonstrated with you--'
'Don't put words into my mouth that I don't mean,' said Jeremiah,
sticking to his figurative expression with tenacious and
impenetrable obstinacy: 'I mean dropped down upon me.'
'I remonstrated with you,' she began again, 'because--'
'I won't have it!' cried Jeremiah. 'You dropped down upon me.'
'I dropped down upon you, then, you ill-conditioned man,' (Jeremiah
chuckled at having forced her to adopt his phrase,) 'for having
been needlessly significant to Arthur that morning. I have a right
to complain of it as almost a breach of confidence. You did not
'I won't have it!' interposed the contradictory Jeremiah, flinging
back the concession. 'I did mean it.'
'I suppose I must leave you to speak in soliloquy if you choose,'
she replied, after a pause that seemed an angry one. 'It is
useless my addressing myself to a rash and headstrong old man who
has a set purpose not to hear me.'
'Now, I won't take that from you either,' said Jeremiah. 'I have
no such purpose. I have told you I did mean it. Do you wish to
know why I meant it, you rash and headstrong old woman?'
'After all, you only restore me my own words,' she said, struggling
with her indignation. 'Yes.'
'This is why, then. Because you hadn't cleared his father to him,
and you ought to have done it. Because, before you went into any
tantrum about yourself, who are--'
'Hold there, Flintwinch!' she cried out in a changed voice: 'you
may go a word too far.'
The old man seemed to think so. There was another pause, and he
had altered his position in the room, when he spoke again more
'I was going to tell you why it was. Because, before you took your
own part, I thought you ought to have taken the part of Arthur's
father. Arthur's father! I had no particular love for Arthur's
father. I served Arthur's father's uncle, in this house, when
Arthur's father was not much above me--was poorer as far as his
pocket went--and when his uncle might as soon have left me his heir
as have left him. He starved in the parlour, and I starved in the
kitchen; that was the principal difference in our positions; there
was not much more than a flight of breakneck stairs between us. I
never took to him in those times; I don't know that I ever took to
him greatly at any time. He was an undecided, irresolute chap, who
had everything but his orphan life scared out of him when he was
young. And when he brought you home here, the wife his uncle had
named for him, I didn't need to look at you twice (you were a good-
looking woman at that time) to know who'd be master. You have
stood of your own strength ever since. Stand of your own strength
now. Don't lean against the dead.'
'I do not--as you call it--lean against the dead.'
'But you had a mind to do it, if I had submitted,' growled
Jeremiah, 'and that's why you drop down upon me. You can't forget
that I didn't submit. I suppose you are astonished that I should
consider it worth my while to have justice done to Arthur's father?
Hey? It doesn't matter whether you answer or not, because I know
you are, and you know you are. Come, then, I'll tell you how it
is. I may be a bit of an oddity in point of temper, but this is my
temper--I can't let anybody have entirely their own way. You are
a determined woman, and a clever woman; and when you see your
purpose before you, nothing will turn you from it. Who knows that
better than I do?'
'Nothing will turn me from it, Flintwinch, when I have justified it
to myself. Add that.'
'Justified it to yourself? I said you were the most determined
woman on the face of the earth (or I meant to say so), and if you
are determined to justify any object you entertain, of course
you'll do it.'
'Man! I justify myself by the authority of these Books,' she
cried, with stern emphasis, and appearing from the sound that
followed to strike the dead-weight of her arm upon the table.
'Never mind that,' returned Jeremiah calmly, 'we won't enter into
that question at present. However that may be, you carry out your
purposes, and you make everything go down before them. Now, I
won't go down before them. I have been faithful to you, and useful
to you, and I am attached to you. But I can't consent, and I won't
consent, and I never did consent, and I never will consent to be
lost in you. Swallow up everybody else, and welcome. The
peculiarity of my temper is, ma'am, that I won't be swallowed up
Perhaps this had Originally been the mainspring of the
understanding between them. Descrying thus much of force of
character in Mr Flintwinch, perhaps Mrs Clennam had deemed alliance
with him worth her while.
'Enough and more than enough of the subject,' said she gloomily.
'Unless you drop down upon me again,' returned the persistent
Flintwinch, 'and then you must expect to hear of it again.'
Mistress Affery dreamed that the figure of her lord here began
walking up and down the room, as if to cool his spleen, and that
she ran away; but that, as he did not issue forth when she had
stood listening and trembling in the shadowy hall a little time,
she crept up-stairs again, impelled as before by ghosts and
curiosity, and once more cowered outside the door.
'Please to light the candle, Flintwinch,' Mrs Clennam was saying,
apparently wishing to draw him back into their usual tone. 'It is
nearly time for tea. Little Dorrit is coming, and will find me in
Mr Flintwinch lighted the candle briskly, and said as he put it
down upon the table:
'What are you going to do with Little Dorrit? Is she to come to
work here for ever? To come to tea here for ever? To come
backwards and forwards here, in the same way, for ever?'
'How can you talk about "for ever" to a maimed creature like me?
Are we not all cut down like the grass of the field, and was not I
shorn by the scythe many years ago: since when I have been lying
here, waiting to be gathered into the barn?'
'Ay, ay! But since you have been lying here--not near dead--
nothing like it--numbers of children and young people, blooming
women, strong men, and what not, have been cut down and carried;
and still here are you, you see, not much changed after all. Your
time and mine may be a long one yet. When I say for ever, I mean
(though I am not poetical) through all our time.' Mr Flintwinch
gave this explanation with great calmness, and calmly waited for an
'So long as Little Dorrit is quiet and industrious, and stands in
need of the slight help I can give her, and deserves it; so long,
I suppose, unless she withdraws of her own act, she will continue
to come here, I being spared.'
'Nothing more than that?' said Flintwinch, stroking his mouth and
'What should there be more than that! What could there be more
than that!' she ejaculated in her sternly wondering way.
Mrs Flintwinch dreamed, that, for the space of a minute or two,
they remained looking at each other with the candle between them,
and that she somehow derived an impression that they looked at each
'Do you happen to know, Mrs Clennam,' Affery's liege lord then
demanded in a much lower voice, and with an amount of expression
that seemed quite out of proportion to the simple purpose of his
words, 'where she lives?'
'Would you--now, would you like to know?' said Jeremiah with a
pounce as if he had sprung upon her.
'If I cared to know, I should know already. Could I not have asked
her any day?'
'Then you don't care to know?'
'I do not.'
Mr Flintwinch, having expelled a long significant breath said, with
his former emphasis, 'For I have accidentally--mind!--found out.'
'Wherever she lives,' said Mrs Clennam, speaking in one unmodulated
hard voice, and separating her words as distinctly as if she were
reading them off from separate bits of metal that she took up one
by one, 'she has made a secret of it, and she shall always keep her
secret from me.'
'After all, perhaps you would rather not have known the fact, any
how?' said Jeremiah; and he said it with a twist, as if his words
had come out of him in his own wry shape.
'Flintwinch,' said his mistress and partner, flashing into a sudden
energy that made Affery start, 'why do you goad me? Look round
this room. If it is any compensation for my long confinement
within these narrow limits--not that I complain of being afflicted;
you know I never complain of that--if it is any compensation to me
for long confinement to this room, that while I am shut up from all
pleasant change I am also shut up from the knowledge of some things
that I may prefer to avoid knowing, why should you, of all men,
grudge me that belief?'
'I don't grudge it to you,' returned Jeremiah.
'Then say no more. Say no more. Let Little Dorrit keep her secret
from me, and do you keep it from me also. Let her come and go,
unobserved and unquestioned. Let me suffer, and let me have what
alleviation belongs to my condition. Is it so much, that you
torment me like an evil spirit?'
'I asked you a question. That's all.'
'I have answered it. So, say no more. Say no more.' Here the
sound of the wheeled chair was heard upon the floor, and Affery's
bell rang with a hasty jerk.
More afraid of her husband at the moment than of the mysterious
sound in the kitchen, Affery crept away as lightly and as quickly
as she could, descended the kitchen stairs almost as rapidly as she
had ascended them, resumed her seat before the fire, tucked up her
skirt again, and finally threw her apron over her head. Then the
bell rang once more, and then once more, and then kept on ringing;
in despite of which importunate summons, Affery still sat behind
her apron, recovering her breath.
At last Mr Flintwinch came shuffling down the staircase into the
hall, muttering and calling 'Affery woman!' all the way. Affery
still remaining behind her apron, he came stumbling down the
kitchen stairs, candle in hand, sidled up to her, twitched her
apron off, and roused her.
'Oh Jeremiah!' cried Affery, waking. 'What a start you gave me!'
'What have you been doing, woman?' inquired Jeremiah. 'You've been
rung for fifty times.'
'Oh Jeremiah,' said Mistress Affery, 'I have been a-dreaming!'
Reminded of her former achievement in that way, Mr Flintwinch held
the candle to her head, as if he had some idea of lighting her up
for the illumination of the kitchen.
'Don't you know it's her tea-time?' he demanded with a vicious
grin, and giving one of the legs of Mistress Affery's chair a kick.
'Jeremiah? Tea-time? I don't know what's come to me. But I got
such a dreadful turn, Jeremiah, before I went--off a-dreaming, that
I think it must be that.'
'Yoogh! Sleepy-Head!' said Mr Flintwinch, 'what are you talking
'Such a strange noise, Jeremiah, and such a curious movement. In
the kitchen here--just here.'
Jeremiah held up his light and looked at the blackened ceiling,
held down his light and looked at the damp stone floor, turned
round with his light and looked about at the spotted and blotched
'Rats, cats, water, drains,' said Jeremiah.
Mistress Affery negatived each with a shake of her head. 'No,
Jeremiah; I have felt it before. I have felt it up-stairs, and
once on the staircase as I was going from her room to ours in the
night--a rustle and a sort of trembling touch behind me.'
'Affery, my woman,' said Mr Flintwinch grimly, after advancing his
nose to that lady's lips as a test for the detection of spirituous
liquors, 'if you don't get tea pretty quick, old woman, you'll
become sensible of a rustle and a touch that'll send you flying to
the other end of the kitchen.'
This prediction stimulated Mrs Flintwinch to bestir herself, and to
hasten up-stairs to Mrs Clennam's chamber. But, for all that, she
now began to entertain a settled conviction that there was
something wrong in the gloomy house. Henceforth, she was never at
peace in it after daylight departed; and never went up or down
stairs in the dark without having her apron over her head, lest she
should see something.
What with these ghostly apprehensions and her singular dreams, Mrs
Flintwinch fell that evening into a haunted state of mind, from
which it may be long before this present narrative descries any
trace of her recovery. In the vagueness and indistinctness of all
her new experiences and perceptions, as everything about her was
mysterious to herself she began to be mysterious to others: and
became as difficult to be made out to anybody's satisfaction as she
found the house and everything in it difficult to make out to her
She had not yet finished preparing Mrs Clennam's tea, when the soft
knock came to the door which always announced Little Dorrit.
Mistress Affery looked on at Little Dorrit taking off her homely
bonnet in the hall, and at Mr Flintwinch scraping his jaws and
contemplating her in silence, as expecting some wonderful
consequence to ensue which would frighten her out of her five wits
or blow them all three to pieces.
After tea there came another knock at the door, announcing Arthur.
Mistress Affery went down to let him in, and he said on entering,
'Affery, I am glad it's you. I want to ask you a question.'
Affery immediately replied, 'For goodness sake don't ask me
nothing, Arthur! I am frightened out of one half of my life, and
dreamed out of the other. Don't ask me nothing! I don't know
which is which, or what is what!'--and immediately started away
from him, and came near him no more.
Mistress Affery having no taste for reading, and no sufficient
light for needlework in the subdued room, supposing her to have the
inclination, now sat every night in the dimness from which she had
momentarily emerged on the evening of Arthur Clennam's return,
occupied with crowds of wild speculations and suspicions respecting
her mistress and her husband and the noises in the house. When the
ferocious devotional exercises were engaged in, these speculations
would distract Mistress Affery's eyes towards the door, as if she
expected some dark form to appear at those propitious moments, and
make the party one too many.
Otherwise, Affery never said or did anything to attract the
attention of the two clever ones towards her in any marked degree,
except on certain occasions, generally at about the quiet hour
towards bed-time, when she would suddenly dart out of her dim
corner, and whisper with a face of terror to Mr Flintwinch, reading
the paper near Mrs Clennam's little table: 'There, jeremiah! Now!
What's that noise?'
Then the noise, if there were any, would have ceased, and Mr
Flintwinch would snarl, turning upon her as if she had cut him down
that moment against his will, 'Affery, old woman, you shall have a
dose, old woman, such a dose! You have been dreaming again!'
The time being come for the renewal of his acquaintance with the
Meagles family, Clennam, pursuant to contract made between himself
and Mr Meagles within the precincts of Bleeding Heart Yard, turned
his face on a certain Saturday towards Twickenham, where Mr Meagles
had a cottage-residence of his own. The weather being fine and
dry, and any English road abounding in interest for him who had
been so long away, he sent his valise on by the coach, and set out
to walk. A walk was in itself a new enjoyment to him, and one that
had rarely diversified his life afar off.
He went by Fulham and Putney, for the pleasure of strolling over
the heath. It was bright and shining there; and when he found
himself so far on his road to Twickenham, he found himself a long
way on his road to a number of airier and less substantial
destinations. They had risen before him fast, in the healthful
exercise and the pleasant road. It is not easy to walk alone in
the country without musing upon something. And he had plenty of
unsettled subjects to meditate upon, though he had been walking to
the Land's End.
First, there was the subject seldom absent from his mind, the
question, what he was to do henceforth in life; to what occupation
he should devote himself, and in what direction he had best seek
it. He was far from rich, and every day of indecision and inaction
made his inheritance a source of greater anxiety to him. As often
as he began to consider how to increase this inheritance, or to lay
it by, so often his misgiving that there was some one with an
unsatisfied claim upon his justice, returned; and that alone was a
subject to outlast the longest walk. Again, there was the subject
of his relations with his mother, which were now upon an equable
and peaceful but never confidential footing, and whom he saw
several times a week. Little Dorrit was a leading and a constant
subject: for the circumstances of his life, united to those of her
own story, presented the little creature to him as the only person
between whom and himself there were ties of innocent reliance on
one hand, and affectionate protection on the other; ties of
compassion, respect, unselfish interest, gratitude, and pity.
Thinking of her, and of the possibility of her father's release
from prison by the unbarring hand of death--the only change of
circumstance he could foresee that might enable him to be such a
friend to her as he wished to be, by altering her whole manner of
life, smoothing her rough road, and giving her a home--he regarded
her, in that perspective, as his adopted daughter, his poor child
of the Marshalsea hushed to rest. If there were a last subject in
his thoughts, and it lay towards Twickenham, its form was so
indefinite that it was little more than the pervading atmosphere in
which these other subjects floated before him.
He had crossed the heath and was leaving it behind when he gained
upon a figure which had been in advance of him for some time, and
which, as he gained upon it, he thought he knew. He derived this
impression from something in the turn of the head, and in the
figure's action of consideration, as it went on at a sufficiently
sturdy walk. But when the man--for it was a man's figure--pushed
his hat up at the back of his head, and stopped to consider some
object before him, he knew it to be Daniel Doyce.
'How do you do, Mr Doyce?' said Clennam, overtaking him. 'I am
glad to see you again, and in a healthier place than the
'Ha! Mr Meagles's friend!' exclaimed that public criminal, coming
out of some mental combinations he had been making, and offering
his hand. 'I am glad to see you, sir. Will you excuse me if I
forget your name?'
'Readily. It's not a celebrated name. It's not Barnacle.'
'No, no,' said Daniel, laughing. 'And now I know what it is. It's
Clennam. How do you do, Mr Clennam?'
'I have some hope,' said Arthur, as they walked on together, 'that
we may be going to the same place, Mr Doyce.'
'Meaning Twickenham?' returned Daniel. 'I am glad to hear it.'
They were soon quite intimate, and lightened the way with a variety
of conversation. The ingenious culprit was a man of great modesty
and good sense; and, though a plain man, had been too much
accustomed to combine what was original and daring in conception
with what was patient and minute in execution, to be by any means
an ordinary man. It was at first difficult to lead him to speak
about himself, and he put off Arthur's advances in that direction
by admitting slightly, oh yes, he had done this, and he had done
that, and such a thing was of his making, and such another thing
was his discovery, but it was his trade, you see, his trade; until,
as he gradually became assured that his companion had a real
interest in his account of himself, he frankly yielded to it. Then
it appeared that he was the son of a north-country blacksmith, and
had originally been apprenticed by his widowed mother to a lock-
maker; that he had 'struck out a few little things' at the lock-
maker's, which had led to his being released from his indentures
with a present, which present had enabled him to gratify his ardent
wish to bind himself to a working engineer, under whom he had
laboured hard, learned hard, and lived hard, seven years. His time
being out, he had 'worked in the shop' at weekly wages seven or
eight years more; and had then betaken himself to the banks of the
Clyde, where he had studied, and filed, and hammered, and improved
his knowledge, theoretical and practical, for six or seven years
more. There he had had an offer to go to Lyons, which he had
accepted; and from Lyons had been engaged to go to Germany, and in
Germany had had an offer to go to St Petersburg, and there had done
very well indeed--never better. However, he had naturally felt a
preference for his own country, and a wish to gain distinction
there, and to do whatever service he could do, there rather than
elsewhere. And so he had come home. And so at home he had
established himself in business, and had invented and executed, and
worked his way on, until, after a dozen years of constant suit and
service, he had been enrolled in the Great British Legion of
Honour, the Legion of the Rebuffed of the Circumlocution Office,
and had been decorated with the Great British Order of Merit, the
Order of the Disorder of the Barnacles and Stiltstalkings.
'it is much to be regretted,' said Clennam, 'that you ever turned
your thoughts that way, Mr Doyce.'
'True, sir, true to a certain extent. But what is a man to do? if
he has the misfortune to strike out something serviceable to the
nation, he must follow where it leads him.'
'Hadn't he better let it go?' said Clennam.
'He can't do it,' said Doyce, shaking his head with a thoughtful
smile. 'It's not put into his head to be buried. It's put into
his head to be made useful. You hold your life on the condition
that to the last you shall struggle hard for it. Every man holds
a discovery on the same terms.'
'That is to say,' said Arthur, with a growing admiration of his
quiet companion, 'you are not finally discouraged even now?'
'I have no right to be, if I am,' returned the other. 'The thing
is as true as it ever was.'
When they had walked a little way in silence, Clennam, at once to
change the direct point of their conversation and not to change it
too abruptly, asked Mr Doyce if he had any partner in his business
to relieve him of a portion of its anxieties?
'No,' he returned, 'not at present. I had when I first entered on
it, and a good man he was. But he has been dead some years; and as
I could not easily take to the notion of another when I lost him,
I bought his share for myself and have gone on by myself ever
since. And here's another thing,' he said, stopping for a moment
with a good-humoured laugh in his eyes, and laying his closed right
hand, with its peculiar suppleness of thumb, on Clennam's arm, 'no
inventor can be a man of business, you know.'
'No?' said Clennam.
'Why, so the men of business say,' he answered, resuming the walk
and laughing outright. 'I don't know why we unfortunate creatures
should be supposed to want common sense, but it is generally taken
for granted that we do. Even the best friend I have in the world,
our excellent friend over yonder,' said Doyce, nodding towards
Twickenham, 'extends a sort of protection to me, don't you know, as
a man not quite able to take care of himself?'
Arthur Clennam could not help joining in the good-humoured laugh,
for he recognised the truth of the description.
'So I find that I must have a partner who is a man of business and
not guilty of any inventions,' said Daniel Doyce, taking off his
hat to pass his hand over his forehead, 'if it's only in deference
to the current opinion, and to uphold the credit of the Works. I
don't think he'll find that I have been very remiss or confused in
my way of conducting them; but that's for him to say--whoever he
is--not for me.'
'You have not chosen him yet, then?'
'No, sir, no. I have only just come to a decision to take one.
The fact is, there's more to do than there used to be, and the
Works are enough for me as I grow older. What with the books and
correspondence, and foreign journeys for which a Principal is
necessary, I can't do all. I am going to talk over the best way of
negotiating the matter, if I find a spare half-hour between this
and Monday morning, with my--my Nurse and protector,' said Doyce,
with laughing eyes again. 'He is a sagacious man in business, and
has had a good apprenticeship to it.'
After this, they conversed on different subjects until they arrived
at their journey's end. A composed and unobtrusive self-
sustainment was noticeable in Daniel Doyce--a calm knowledge that
what was true must remain true, in spite of all the Barnacles in
the family ocean, and would be just the truth, and neither more nor
less when even that sea had run dry--which had a kind of greatness
in it, though not of the official quality.
As he knew the house well, he conducted Arthur to it by the way
that showed it to the best advantage. It was a charming place
(none the worse for being a little eccentric), on the road by the
river, and just what the residence of the Meagles family ought to
be. It stood in a garden, no doubt as fresh and beautiful in the
May of the Year as Pet now was in the May of her life; and it was
defended by a goodly show of handsome trees and spreading
evergreens, as Pet was by Mr and Mrs Meagles. It was made out of
an old brick house, of which a part had been altogether pulled
down, and another part had been changed into the present cottage;
so there was a hale elderly portion, to represent Mr and Mrs
Meagles, and a young picturesque, very pretty portion to represent
Pet. There was even the later addition of a conservatory
sheltering itself against it, uncertain of hue in its deep-stained
glass, and in its more transparent portions flashing to the sun's
rays, now like fire and now like harmless water drops; which might
have stood for Tattycoram. Within view was the peaceful river and
the ferry-boat, to moralise to all the inmates saying: Young or
old, passionate or tranquil, chafing or content, you, thus runs the
current always. Let the heart swell into what discord it will,
thus plays the rippling water on the prow of the ferry-boat ever
the same tune. Year after year, so much allowance for the drifting
of the boat, so many miles an hour the flowing of the stream, here
the rushes, there the lilies, nothing uncertain or unquiet, upon
this road that steadily runs away; while you, upon your flowing
road of time, are so capricious and distracted.
The bell at the gate had scarcely sounded when Mr Meagles came out
to receive them. Mr Meagles had scarcely come out, when Mrs
Meagles came out. Mrs Meagles had scarcely come out, when Pet came
out. Pet scarcely had come out, when Tattycoram came out. Never
had visitors a more hospitable reception.
'Here we are, you see,' said Mr Meagles, 'boxed up, Mr Clennam,
within our own home-limits, as if we were never going to expand--
that is, travel--again. Not like Marseilles, eh? No allonging and
'A different kind of beauty, indeed!' said Clennam, looking about
'But, Lord bless me!' cried Mr Meagles, rubbing his hands with a
relish, 'it was an uncommonly pleasant thing being in quarantine,
wasn't it? Do you know, I have often wished myself back again? We
were a capital party.'
This was Mr Meagles's invariable habit. Always to object to
everything while he was travelling, and always to want to get back
to it when he was not travelling.
'If it was summer-time,' said Mr Meagles, 'which I wish it was on
your account, and in order that you might see the place at its
best, you would hardly be able to hear yourself speak for birds.
Being practical people, we never allow anybody to scare the birds;
and the birds, being practical people too, come about us in
myriads. We are delighted to see you, Clennam (if you'll allow me,
I shall drop the Mister); I heartily assure you, we are delighted.'
'I have not had so pleasant a greeting,' said Clennam--then he
recalled what Little Dorrit had said to him in his own room, and
faithfully added 'except once--since we last walked to and fro,
looking down at the Mediterranean.'
'Ah!' returned Mr Meagles. 'Something like a look out, that was,
wasn't it? I don't want a military government, but I shouldn't
mind a little allonging and marshonging--just a dash of it--in this
neighbourhood sometimes. It's Devilish still.'
Bestowing this eulogium on the retired character of his retreat
with a dubious shake of the head, Mr Meagles led the way into the
house. It was just large enough, and no more; was as pretty within
as it was without, and was perfectly well-arranged and comfortable.
Some traces of the migratory habits of the family were to be
observed in the covered frames and furniture, and wrapped-up
hangings; but it was easy to see that it was one of Mr Meagles's
whims to have the cottage always kept, in their absence, as if they
were always coming back the day after to-morrow. Of articles
collected on his various expeditions, there was such a vast
miscellany that it was like the dwelling of an amiable Corsair.
There were antiquities from Central Italy, made by the best modern
houses in that department of industry; bits of mummy from Egypt
(and perhaps Birmingham); model gondolas from Venice; model
villages from Switzerland; morsels of tesselated pavement from
Herculaneum and Pompeii, like petrified minced veal; ashes out of
tombs, and lava out of Vesuvius; Spanish fans, Spezzian straw hats,
Moorish slippers, Tuscan hairpins, Carrara sculpture, Trastaverini
scarves, Genoese velvets and filigree, Neapolitan coral, Roman
cameos, Geneva jewellery, Arab lanterns, rosaries blest all round
by the Pope himself, and an infinite variety of lumber. There were
views, like and unlike, of a multitude of places; and there was one
little picture-room devoted to a few of the regular sticky old
Saints, with sinews like whipcord, hair like Neptune's, wrinkles
like tattooing, and such coats of varnish that every holy personage
served for a fly-trap, and became what is now called in the vulgar
tongue a Catch-em-alive O. Of these pictorial acquisitions Mr
Meagles spoke in the usual manner. He was no judge, he said,
except of what pleased himself; he had picked them up, dirt-cheap,
and people had considered them rather fine. One man, who at any
rate ought to know something of the subject, had declared that
'Sage, Reading' (a specially oily old gentleman in a blanket, with
a swan's-down tippet for a beard, and a web of cracks all over him
like rich pie-crust), to be a fine Guercino. As for Sebastian del
Piombo there, you would judge for yourself; if it were not his
later manner, the question was, Who was it? Titian, that might or
might not be--perhaps he had only touched it. Daniel Doyce said
perhaps he hadn't touched it, but Mr Meagles rather declined to
overhear the remark.
When he had shown all his spoils, Mr Meagles took them into his own
snug room overlooking the lawn, which was fitted up in part like a
dressing-room and in part like an office, and in which, upon a kind
of counter-desk, were a pair of brass scales for weighing gold, and
a scoop for shovelling out money.
'Here they are, you see,' said Mr Meagles. 'I stood behind these
two articles five-and-thirty years running, when I no more thought
of gadding about than I now think of--staying at home. When I left
the Bank for good, I asked for them, and brought them away with me.
I mention it at once, or you might suppose that I sit in my
counting-house (as Pet says I do), like the king in the poem of the
four-and-twenty blackbirds, counting out my money.'
Clennam's eyes had strayed to a natural picture on the wall, of two
pretty little girls with their arms entwined. 'Yes, Clennam,' said
Mr Meagles, in a lower voice. 'There they both are. It was taken
some seventeen years ago. As I often say to Mother, they were
'Their names?' said Arthur.
'Ah, to be sure! You have never heard any name but Pet. Pet's
name is Minnie; her sister's Lillie.'
'Should you have known, Mr Clennam, that one of them was meant for
me?' asked Pet herself, now standing in the doorway.
'I might have thought that both of them were meant for you, both
are still so like you. Indeed,' said Clennam, glancing from the
fair original to the picture and back, 'I cannot even now say which
is not your portrait.'
'D'ye hear that, Mother?' cried Mr Meagles to his wife, who had
followed her daughter. 'It's always the same, Clennam; nobody can
decide. The child to your left is Pet.'
The picture happened to be near a looking-glass. As Arthur looked
at it again, he saw, by the reflection of the mirror, Tattycoram
stop in passing outside the door, listen to what was going on, and
pass away with an angry and contemptuous frown upon her face, that
changed its beauty into ugliness.
'But come!' said Mr Meagles. 'You have had a long walk, and will
be glad to get your boots off. As to Daniel here, I suppose he'd
never think of taking his boots off, unless we showed him a boot-
'Why not?' asked Daniel, with a significant smile at Clennam.
'Oh! You have so many things to think about,' returned Mr Meagles,
clapping him on the shoulder, as if his weakness must not be left
to itself on any account. 'Figures, and wheels, and cogs, and
levers, and screws, and cylinders, and a thousand things.'
'In my calling,' said Daniel, amused, 'the greater usually includes
the less. But never mind, never mind! Whatever pleases you,
Clennam could not help speculating, as he seated himself in his
room by the fire, whether there might be in the breast of this
honest, affectionate, and cordial Mr Meagles, any microscopic
portion of the mustard-seed that had sprung up into the great tree
of the Circumlocution Office. His curious sense of a general
superiority to Daniel Doyce, which seemed to be founded, not so
much on anything in Doyce's personal character as on the mere fact
of his being an originator and a man out of the beaten track of
other men, suggested the idea. It might have occupied him until he
went down to dinner an hour afterwards, if he had not had another
question to consider, which had been in his mind so long ago as
before he was in quarantine at Marseilles, and which had now
returned to it, and was very urgent with it. No less a question
than this: Whether he should allow himself to fall in love with
He was twice her age. (He changed the leg he had crossed over the
other, and tried the calculation again, but could not bring out the
total at less.) He was twice her age. Well! He was young in
appearance, young in health and strength, young in heart. A man
was certainly not old at forty; and many men were not in
circumstances to marry, or did not marry, until they had attained
that time of life. On the other hand, the question was, not what
he thought of the point, but what she thought of it.
He believed that Mr Meagles was disposed to entertain a ripe regard
for him, and he knew that he had a sincere regard for Mr Meagles
and his good wife. He could foresee that to relinquish this
beautiful only child, of whom they were so fond, to any husband,
would be a trial of their love which perhaps they never yet had had
the fortitude to contemplate. But the more beautiful and winning
and charming she, the nearer they must always be to the necessity
of approaching it. And why not in his favour, as well as in
When he had got so far, it came again into his head that the
question was, not what they thought of it, but what she thought of
Arthur Clennam was a retiring man, with a sense of many
deficiencies; and he so exalted the merits of the beautiful Minnie
in his mind, and depressed his own, that when he pinned himself to
this point, his hopes began to fail him. He came to the final
resolution, as he made himself ready for dinner, that he would not
allow himself to fall in love with Pet.
There were only five, at a round table, and it was very pleasant
indeed. They had so many places and people to recall, and they
were all so easy and cheerful together (Daniel Doyce either sitting
out like an amused spectator at cards, or coming in with some
shrewd little experiences of his own, when it happened to be to the
purpose), that they might have been together twenty times, and not
have known so much of one another.
'And Miss Wade,' said Mr Meagles, after they had recalled a number
of fellow-travellers. 'Has anybody seen Miss Wade?'
'I have,' said Tattycoram.
She had brought a little mantle which her young mistress had sent
for, and was bending over her, putting it on, when she lifted up
her dark eyes and made this unexpected answer.
'Tatty!' her young mistress exclaimed. 'You seen Miss Wade?--
'Here, miss,' said Tattycoram.
An impatient glance from Tattycoram seemed, as Clennam saw it, to
answer 'With my eyes!' But her only answer in words was: 'I met
her near the church.'
'What was she doing there I wonder!' said Mr Meagles. 'Not going
to it, I should think.'
'She had written to me first,' said Tattycoram.
'Oh, Tatty!' murmured her mistress, 'take your hands away. I feel
as if some one else was touching me!'
She said it in a quick involuntary way, but half playfully, and not
more petulantly or disagreeably than a favourite child might have
done, who laughed next moment. Tattycoram set her full red lips
together, and crossed her arms upon her bosom.
'Did you wish to know, sir,' she said, looking at Mr Meagles, 'what
Miss Wade wrote to me about?'
'Well, Tattycoram,' returned Mr Meagles, 'since you ask the
question, and we are all friends here, perhaps you may as well
mention it, if you are so inclined.'
'She knew, when we were travelling, where you lived,' said
Tattycoram, 'and she had seen me not quite--not quite--'
'Not quite in a good temper, Tattycoram?' suggested Mr Meagles,
shaking his head at the dark eyes with a quiet caution. 'Take a
little time--count five-and-twenty, Tattycoram.'
She pressed her lips together again, and took a long deep breath.
'So she wrote to me to say that if I ever felt myself hurt,' she
looked down at her young mistress, 'or found myself worried,' she
looked down at her again, 'I might go to her, and be considerately
treated. I was to think of it, and could speak to her by the
church. So I went there to thank her.'
'Tatty,' said her young mistress, putting her hand up over her
shoulder that the other might take it, 'Miss Wade almost frightened
me when we parted, and I scarcely like to think of her just now as
having been so near me without my knowing it. Tatty dear!'
Tatty stood for a moment, immovable.
'Hey?' cried Mr Meagles. 'Count another five-and-twenty,
She might have counted a dozen, when she bent and put her lips to
the caressing hand. It patted her cheek, as it touched the owner's
beautiful curls, and Tattycoram went away.
'Now there,' said Mr Meagles softly, as he gave a turn to the dumb-
waiter on his right hand to twirl the sugar towards himself.
'There's a girl who might be lost and ruined, if she wasn't among
practical people. Mother and I know, solely from being practical,
that there are times when that girl's whole nature seems to roughen
itself against seeing us so bound up in Pet. No father and mother
were bound up in her, poor soul. I don't like to think of the way
in which that unfortunate child, with all that passion and protest
in her, feels when she hears the Fifth Commandment on a Sunday. I
am always inclined to call out, Church, Count five-and-twenty,
Besides his dumb-waiter, Mr Meagles had two other not dumb waiters
in the persons of two parlour-maids with rosy faces and bright
eyes, who were a highly ornamental part of the table decoration.
'And why not, you see?' said Mr Meagles on this head. 'As I always
say to Mother, why not have something pretty to look at, if you
have anything at all?'
A certain Mrs Tickit, who was Cook and Housekeeper when the family
were at home, and Housekeeper only when the family were away,
completed the establishment. Mr Meagles regretted that the nature
of the duties in which she was engaged, rendered Mrs Tickit
unpresentable at present, but hoped to introduce her to the new
visitor to-morrow. She was an important part of the Cottage, he
said, and all his friends knew her. That was her picture up in the
corner. When they went away, she always put on the silk-gown and
the jet-black row of curls represented in that portrait (her hair
was reddish-grey in the kitchen), established herself in the
breakfast-room, put her spectacles between two particular leaves of
Doctor Buchan's Domestic Medicine, and sat looking over the blind
all day until they came back again. It was supposed that no
persuasion could be invented which would induce Mrs Tickit to
abandon her post at the blind, however long their absence, or to
dispense with the attendance of Dr Buchan; the lucubrations of
which learned practitioner, Mr Meagles implicitly believed she had
never yet consulted to the extent of one word in her life.
In the evening they played an old-fashioned rubber; and Pet sat
looking over her father's hand, or singing to herself by fits and
starts at the piano. She was a spoilt child; but how could she be
otherwise? Who could be much with so pliable and beautiful a
creature, and not yield to her endearing influence? Who could pass
an evening in the house, and not love her for the grace and charm
of her very presence in the room? This was Clennam's reflection,
notwithstanding the final conclusion at which he had arrived up-
In making it, he revoked. 'Why, what are you thinking of, my good
sir?' asked the astonished Mr Meagles, who was his partner.
'I beg your pardon. Nothing,' returned Clennam.
'Think of something, next time; that's a dear fellow,' said Mr
Pet laughingly believed he had been thinking of Miss Wade.
'Why of Miss Wade, Pet?' asked her father.
'Why, indeed!' said Arthur Clennam.
Pet coloured a little, and went to the piano again.
As they broke up for the night, Arthur overheard Doyce ask his host
if he could give him half an hour's conversation before breakfast
in the morning? The host replying willingly, Arthur lingered
behind a moment, having his own word to add to that topic.
'Mr Meagles,' he said, on their being left alone, 'do you remember
when you advised me to go straight to London?'
'And when you gave me some other good advice which I needed at that
'I won't say what it was worth,' answered Mr Meagles: 'but of
course I remember our being very pleasant and confidential
'I have acted on your advice; and having disembarrassed myself of
an occupation that was painful to me for many reasons, wish to
devote myself and what means I have, to another pursuit.'
'Right! You can't do it too soon,' said Mr Meagles.
'Now, as I came down to-day, I found that your friend, Mr Doyce, is
looking for a partner in his business--not a partner in his
mechanical knowledge, but in the ways and means of turning the
business arising from it to the best account.'
'Just so,' said Mr Meagles, with his hands in his pockets, and with
the old business expression of face that had belonged to the scales
'Mr Doyce mentioned incidentally, in the course of our
conversation, that he was going to take your valuable advice on the
subject of finding such a partner. If you should think our views
and opportunities at all likely to coincide, perhaps you will let
him know my available position. I speak, of course, in ignorance
of the details, and they may be unsuitable on both sides.'
'No doubt, no doubt,' said Mr Meagles, with the caution belonging
to the scales and scoop.
'But they will be a question of figures and accounts--'
'Just so, just so,' said Mr Meagles, with arithmetical solidity
belonging to the scales and scoop.
'--And I shall be glad to enter into the subject, provided Mr Doyce
responds, and you think well of it. If you will at present,
therefore, allow me to place it in your hands, you will much oblige
'Clennam, I accept the trust with readiness,' said Mr Meagles.
'And without anticipating any of the points which you, as a man of
business, have of course reserved, I am free to say to you that I
think something may come of this. Of one thing you may be
perfectly certain. Daniel is an honest man.'
'I am so sure of it that I have promptly made up my mind to speak
'You must guide him, you know; you must steer him; you must direct
him; he is one of a crotchety sort,' said Mr Meagles, evidently
meaning nothing more than that he did new things and went new ways;
'but he is as honest as the sun, and so good night!'
Clennam went back to his room, sat down again before his fire, and
made up his mind that he was glad he had resolved not to fall in
love with Pet. She was so beautiful, so amiable, so apt to receive
any true impression given to her gentle nature and her innocent
heart, and make the man who should be so happy as to communicate
it, the most fortunate and enviable of all men, that he was very
glad indeed he had come to that conclusion.
But, as this might have been a reason for coming to the opposite
conclusion, he followed out the theme again a little way in his
mind; to justify himself, perhaps.
'Suppose that a man,' so his thoughts ran, 'who had been of age
some twenty years or so; who was a diffident man, from the
circumstances of his youth; who was rather a grave man, from the
tenor of his life; who knew himself to be deficient in many little
engaging qualities which he admired in others, from having been
long in a distant region, with nothing softening near him; who had
no kind sisters to present to her; who had no congenial home to
make her known in; who was a stranger in the land; who had not a
fortune to compensate, in any measure, for these defects; who had
nothing in his favour but his honest love and his general wish to
do right--suppose such a man were to come to this house, and were
to yield to the captivation of this charming girl, and were to
persuade himself that he could hope to win her; what a weakness it
He softly opened his window, and looked out upon the serene river.
Year after year so much allowance for the drifting of the ferry-
boat, so many miles an hour the flowing of the stream, here the
rushes, there the lilies, nothing uncertain or unquiet.
Why should he be vexed or sore at heart? It was not his weakness
that he had imagined. It was nobody's, nobody's within his
knowledge; why should it trouble him? And yet it did trouble him.
And he thought--who has not thought for a moment, sometimes?--that
it might be better to flow away monotonously, like the river, and
to compound for its insensibility to happiness with its
insensibility to pain.
Before breakfast in the morning, Arthur walked out to look about
him. As the morning was fine and he had an hour on his hands, he
crossed the river by the ferry, and strolled along a footpath
through some meadows. When he came back to the towing-path, he
found the ferry-boat on the opposite side, and a gentleman hailing
it and waiting to be taken over.
This gentleman looked barely thirty. He was well dressed, of a
sprightly and gay appearance, a well-knit figure, and a rich dark
complexion. As Arthur came over the stile and down to the water's
edge, the lounger glanced at him for a moment, and then resumed his
occupation of idly tossing stones into the water with his foot.
There was something in his way of spurning them out of their places
with his heel, and getting them into the required position, that
Clennam thought had an air of cruelty in it. Most of us have more
or less frequently derived a similar impression from a man's manner
of doing some very little thing: plucking a flower, clearing away
an obstacle, or even destroying an insentient object.
The gentleman's thoughts were preoccupied, as his face showed, and
he took no notice of a fine Newfoundland dog, who watched him
attentively, and watched every stone too, in its turn, eager to
spring into the river on receiving his master's sign. The ferry-
boat came over, however, without his receiving any sign, and when
it grounded his master took him by the collar and walked him into
'Not this morning,' he said to the dog. 'You won't do for ladies'
company, dripping wet. Lie down.'
Clennam followed the man and the dog into the boat, and took his
seat. The dog did as he was ordered. The man remained standing,
with his hands in his pockets, and towered between Clennam and the
prospect. Man and dog both jumped lightly out as soon as they
touched the other side, and went away. Clennam was glad to be rid
The church clock struck the breakfast hour as he walked up the
little lane by which the garden-gate was approached. The moment he
pulled the bell a deep loud barking assailed him from within the
'I heard no dog last night,' thought Clennam. The gate was opened
by one of the rosy maids, and on the lawn were the Newfoundland dog
and the man.
'Miss Minnie is not down yet, gentlemen,' said the blushing
portress, as they all came together in the garden. Then she said
to the master of the dog, 'Mr Clennam, sir,' and tripped away.
'Odd enough, Mr Clennam, that we should have met just now,' said
the man. Upon which the dog became mute. 'Allow me to introduce
myself--Henry Gowan. A pretty place this, and looks wonderfully
well this morning!'
The manner was easy, and the voice agreeable; but still Clennam
thought, that if he had not made that decided resolution to avoid
falling in love with Pet, he would have taken a dislike to this
'It's new to you, I believe?' said this Gowan, when Arthur had
extolled the place.
'Quite new. I made acquaintance with it only yesterday afternoon.'
'Ah! Of course this is not its best aspect. It used to look
charming in the spring, before they went away last time. I should
like you to have seen it then.'
But for that resolution so often recalled, Clennam might have
wished him in the crater of Mount Etna, in return for this
'I have had the pleasure of seeing it under many circumstances
during the last three years, and it's--a Paradise.'
It was (at least it might have been, always excepting for that wise
resolution) like his dexterous impudence to call it a Paradise. He
only called it a Paradise because he first saw her coming, and so
made her out within her hearing to be an angel, Confusion to him!
And ah! how beaming she looked, and how glad! How she caressed
the dog, and how the dog knew her! How expressive that heightened
colour in her face, that fluttered manner, her downcast eyes, her
irresolute happiness! When had Clennam seen her look like this?
Not that there was any reason why he might, could, would, or should
have ever seen her look like this, or that he had ever hoped for
himself to see her look like this; but still--when had he ever
known her do it!
He stood at a little distance from them. This Gowan when he had
talked about a Paradise, had gone up to her and taken her hand.
The dog had put his great paws on her arm and laid his head against
her dear bosom. She had laughed and welcomed them, and made far
too much of the dog, far, far, too much--that is to say, supposing
there had been any third person looking on who loved her.
She disengaged herself now, and came to Clennam, and put her hand
in his and wished him good morning, and gracefully made as if she
would take his arm and be escorted into the house. To this Gowan
had no objection. No, he knew he was too safe.
There was a passing cloud on Mr Meagles's good-humoured face when
they all three (four, counting the dog, and he was the most
objectionable but one of the party) came in to breakfast. Neither
it, nor the touch of uneasiness on Mrs Meagles as she directed her
eyes towards it, was unobserved by Clennam.
'Well, Gowan,' said Mr Meagles, even suppressing a sigh; 'how goes
the world with you this morning?'
'Much as usual, sir. Lion and I being determined not to waste
anything of our weekly visit, turned out early, and came over from
Kingston, my present headquarters, where I am making a sketch or
two.' Then he told how he had met Mr Clennam at the ferry, and
they had come over together.
'Mrs Gowan is well, Henry?' said Mrs Meagles. (Clennam became
'My mother is quite well, thank you.' (Clennam became
inattentive.) 'I have taken the liberty of making an addition to
your family dinner-party to-day, which I hope will not be
inconvenient to you or to Mr Meagles. I couldn't very well get out
of it,' he explained, turning to the latter. 'The young fellow
wrote to propose himself to me; and as he is well connected, I
thought you would not object to my transferring him here.'
'Who is the young fellow?' asked Mr Meagles with peculiar
'He is one of the Barnacles. Tite Barnacle's son, Clarence
Barnacle, who is in his father's Department. I can at least
guarantee that the river shall not suffer from his visit. He won't
set it on fire.'
'Aye, aye?' said Meagles. 'A Barnacle is he? We know something of
that family, eh, Dan? By George, they are at the top of the tree,
though! Let me see. What relation will this young fellow be to
Lord Decimus now? His Lordship married, in seventeen ninety-seven,
Lady Jemima Bilberry, who was the second daughter by the third
marriage--no! There I am wrong! That was Lady Seraphina--Lady
Jemima was the first daughter by the second marriage of the
fifteenth Earl of Stiltstalking with the Honourable Clementina
Toozellem. Very well. Now this young fellow's father married a
Stiltstalking and his father married his cousin who was a Barnacle.
The father of that father who married a Barnacle, married a
Joddleby.--I am getting a little too far back, Gowan; I want to
make out what relation this young fellow is to Lord Decimus.'
'That's easily stated. His father is nephew to Lord Decimus.'
'Nephew--to--Lord--Decimus,' Mr Meagles luxuriously repeated with
his eyes shut, that he might have nothing to distract him from the
full flavour of the genealogical tree. 'By George, you are right,
Gowan. So he is.'
'Consequently, Lord Decimus is his great uncle.'
'But stop a bit!' said Mr Meagles, opening his eyes with a fresh
discovery. 'Then on the mother's side, Lady Stiltstalking is his
'Of course she is.'
'Aye, aye, aye?' said Mr Meagles with much interest. 'Indeed,
indeed? We shall be glad to see him. We'll entertain him as well
as we can, in our humble way; and we shall not starve him, I hope,
at all events.'
In the beginning of this dialogue, Clennam had expected some great
harmless outburst from Mr Meagles, like that which had made him
burst out of the Circumlocution Office, holding Doyce by the
collar. But his good friend had a weakness which none of us need
go into the next street to find, and which no amount of
Circumlocution experience could long subdue in him. Clennam looked
at Doyce; but Doyce knew all about it beforehand, and looked at his
plate, and made no sign, and said no word.
'I am much obliged to you,' said Gowan, to conclude the subject.
'Clarence is a great ass, but he is one of the dearest and best
fellows that ever lived!'
It appeared, before the breakfast was over, that everybody whom
this Gowan knew was either more or less of an ass, or more or less
of a knave; but was, notwithstanding, the most lovable, the most
engaging, the simplest, truest, kindest, dearest, best fellow that
ever lived. The process by which this unvarying result was
attained, whatever the premises, might have been stated by Mr Henry
Gowan thus: 'I claim to be always book-keeping, with a peculiar
nicety, in every man's case, and posting up a careful little
account of Good and Evil with him. I do this so conscientiously,
that I am happy to tell you I find the most worthless of men to be
the dearest old fellow too: and am in a condition to make the
gratifying report, that there is much less difference than you are
inclined to suppose between an honest man and a scoundrel.' The
effect of this cheering discovery happened to be, that while he
seemed to be scrupulously finding good in most men, he did in
reality lower it where it was, and set it up where it was not; but
that was its only disagreeable or dangerous feature.
It scarcely seemed, however, to afford Mr Meagles as much
satisfaction as the Barnacle genealogy had done. The cloud that
Clennam had never seen upon his face before that morning,
frequently overcast it again; and there was the same shadow of
uneasy observation of him on the comely face of his wife. More
than once or twice when Pet caressed the dog, it appeared to
Clennam that her father was unhappy in seeing her do it; and, in
one particular instance when Gowan stood on the other side of the
dog, and bent his head at the same time, Arthur fancied that he saw
tears rise to Mr Meagles's eyes as he hurried out of the room. It
was either the fact too, or he fancied further, that Pet herself
was not insensible to these little incidents; that she tried, with
a more delicate affection than usual, to express to her good father
how much she loved him; that it was on this account that she fell
behind the rest, both as they went to church and as they returned
from it, and took his arm. He could not have sworn but that as he
walked alone in the garden afterwards, he had an instantaneous
glimpse of her in her father's room, clinging to both her parents
with the greatest tenderness, and weeping on her father's shoulder.
The latter part of the day turning out wet, they were fain to keep
the house, look over Mr Meagles's collection, and beguile the time
with conversation. This Gowan had plenty to say for himself, and
said it in an off-hand and amusing manner. He appeared to be an
artist by profession, and to have been at Rome some time; yet he
had a slight, careless, amateur way with him--a perceptible limp,
both in his devotion to art and his attainments--which Clennam
could scarcely understand.
He applied to Daniel Doyce for help, as they stood together,
looking out of window.
'You know Mr Gowan?' he said in a low voice.
'I have seen him here. Comes here every Sunday when they are at
'An artist, I infer from what he says?'
'A sort of a one,' said Daniel Doyce, in a surly tone.
'What sort of a one?' asked Clennam, with a smile.
'Why, he has sauntered into the Arts at a leisurely Pall-Mall
pace,' said Doyce, 'and I doubt if they care to be taken quite so
Pursuing his inquiries, Clennam found that the Gowan family were a
very distant ramification of the Barnacles; and that the paternal
Gowan, originally attached to a legation abroad, had been pensioned
off as a Commissioner of nothing particular somewhere or other, and
had died at his post with his drawn salary in his hand, nobly
defending it to the last extremity. In consideration of this
eminent public service, the Barnacle then in power had recommended
the Crown to bestow a pension of two or three hundred a-year on his
widow; to which the next Barnacle in power had added certain shady
and sedate apartments in the Palaces at Hampton Court, where the
old lady still lived, deploring the degeneracy of the times in
company with several other old ladies of both sexes. Her son, Mr
Henry Gowan, inheriting from his father, the Commissioner, that
very questionable help in life, a very small independence, had been
difficult to settle; the rather, as public appointments chanced to
be scarce, and his genius, during his earlier manhood, was of that
exclusively agricultural character which applies itself to the
cultivation of wild oats. At last he had declared that he would
become a Painter; partly because he had always had an idle knack
that way, and partly to grieve the souls of the Barnacles-in-chief
who had not provided for him. So it had come to pass successively,
first, that several distinguished ladies had been frightfully
shocked; then, that portfolios of his performances had been handed
about o' nights, and declared with ecstasy to be perfect Claudes,
perfect Cuyps, perfect phaenomena; then, that Lord Decimus had
bought his picture, and had asked the President and Council to
dinner at a blow, and had said, with his own magnificent gravity,
'Do you know, there appears to me to be really immense merit in
that work?' and, in short, that people of condition had absolutely
taken pains to bring him into fashion. But, somehow, it had all
failed. The prejudiced public had stood out against it
obstinately. They had determined not to admire Lord Decimus's
picture. They had determined to believe that in every service,
except their own, a man must qualify himself, by striving early and
late, and by working heart and soul, might and main. So now Mr
Gowan, like that worn-out old coffin which never was Mahomet's nor
anybody else's, hung midway between two points: jaundiced and
jealous as to the one he had left: jaundiced and jealous as to the
other that he couldn't reach.
Such was the substance of Clennam's discoveries concerning him,
made that rainy Sunday afternoon and afterwards.
About an hour or so after dinner time, Young Barnacle appeared,
attended by his eye-glass; in honour of whose family connections,
Mr Meagles had cashiered the pretty parlour-maids for the day, and
had placed on duty in their stead two dingy men. Young Barnacle
was in the last degree amazed and disconcerted at sight of Arthur,
and had murmured involuntarily, 'Look here! upon my soul, you
know!' before his presence of mind returned.
Even then, he was obliged to embrace the earliest opportunity of
taking his friend into a window, and saying, in a nasal way that
was a part of his general debility:
'I want to speak to you, Gowan. I say. Look here. Who is that
'A friend of our host's. None of mine.'
'He's a most ferocious Radical, you know,' said Young Barnacle.
'Is he? How do you know?'
'Ecod, sir, he was Pitching into our people the other day in the
most tremendous manner. Went up to our place and Pitched into my
father to that extent that it was necessary to order him out. Came
back to our Department, and Pitched into me. Look here. You never
saw such a fellow.'
'What did he want?'
'Ecod, sir,' returned Young Barnacle, 'he said he wanted to know,
you know! Pervaded our Department--without an appointment--and
said he wanted to know!'
The stare of indignant wonder with which Young Barnacle accompanied
this disclosure, would have strained his eyes injuriously but for
the opportune relief of dinner. Mr Meagles (who had been extremely
solicitous to know how his uncle and aunt were) begged him to
conduct Mrs Meagles to the dining-room. And when he sat on Mrs
Meagles's right hand, Mr Meagles looked as gratified as if his
whole family were there.
All the natural charm of the previous day was gone. The eaters of
the dinner, like the dinner itself, were lukewarm, insipid,
overdone--and all owing to this poor little dull Young Barnacle.
Conversationless at any time, he was now the victim of a weakness
special to the occasion, and solely referable to Clennam. He was
under a pressing and continual necessity of looking at that