Part 9 out of 20
first I cannot be to him anything like what I have been these many
years. And it is then, Mr Clennam, then more than at any time,
that I beg and entreat you to remember him, and sometimes to keep
him company when you can spare a little while; and to tell him that
you know I was fonder of him when I left him, than I ever was in
all my life. For there is nobody--he told me so himself when he
talked to me this very day--there is nobody he likes so well as
you, or trusts so much.'
A clue to what had passed between the father and daughter dropped
like a heavy stone into the well of Clennam's heart, and swelled
the water to his eyes. He said, cheerily, but not quite so
cheerily as he tried to say, that it should be done--that he gave
her his faithful promise.
'If I do not speak of mama,' said Pet, more moved by, and more
pretty in, her innocent grief, than Clennam could trust himself
even to consider--for which reason he counted the trees between
them and the fading light as they slowly diminished in number--'it
is because mama will understand me better in this action, and will
feel my loss in a different way, and will look forward in a
different manner. But you know what a dear, devoted mother she is,
and you will remember her too; will you not?'
Let Minnie trust him, Clennam said, let Minnie trust him to do all
'And, dear Mr Clennam,' said Minnie, 'because papa and one whom I
need not name, do not fully appreciate and understand one another
yet, as they will by-and-by; and because it will be the duty, and
the pride, and pleasure of my new life, to draw them to a better
knowledge of one another, and to be a happiness to one another, and
to be proud of one another, and to love one another, both loving me
so dearly; oh, as you are a kind, true man! when I am first
separated from home (I am going a long distance away), try to
reconcile papa to him a little more, and use your great influence
to keep him before papa's mind free from prejudice and in his real
form. Will you do this for me, as you are a noble-hearted friend?'
Poor Pet! Self-deceived, mistaken child! When were such changes
ever made in men's natural relations to one another: when was such
reconcilement of ingrain differences ever effected! It has been
tried many times by other daughters, Minnie; it has never
succeeded; nothing has ever come of it but failure.
So Clennam thought. So he did not say; it was too late. He bound
himself to do all she asked, and she knew full well that he would
They were now at the last tree in the avenue. She stopped, and
withdrew her arm. Speaking to him with her eyes lifted up to his,
and with the hand that had lately rested on his sleeve trembling by
touching one of the roses in his breast as an additional appeal to
him, she said:
'Dear Mr Clennam, in my happiness--for I am happy, though you have
seen me crying--I cannot bear to leave any cloud between us. If
you have anything to forgive me (not anything that I have wilfully
done, but any trouble I may have caused you without meaning it, or
having it in my power to help it), forgive me to-night out of your
He stooped to meet the guileless face that met his without
shrinking. He kissed it, and answered, Heaven knew that he had
nothing to forgive. As he stooped to meet the innocent face once
again, she whispered, 'Good-bye!' and he repeated it. It was
taking leave of all his old hopes--all nobody's old restless
doubts. They came out of the avenue next moment, arm-in-arm as
they had entered it: and the trees seemed to close up behind them
in the darkness, like their own perspective of the past.
The voices of Mr and Mrs Meagles and Doyce were audible directly,
speaking near the garden gate. Hearing Pet's name among them,
Clennam called out, 'She is here, with me.' There was some little
wondering and laughing until they came up; but as soon as they had
all come together, it ceased, and Pet glided away.
Mr Meagles, Doyce, and Clennam, without speaking, walked up and
down on the brink of the river, in the light of the rising moon,
for a few minutes; and then Doyce lingered behind, and went into
the house. Mr Meagles and Clennam walked up and down together for
a few minutes more without speaking, until at length the former
'Arthur,' said he, using that familiar address for the first time
in their communication, 'do you remember my telling you, as we
walked up and down one hot morning, looking over the harbour at
Marseilles, that Pet's baby sister who was dead seemed to Mother
and me to have grown as she had grown, and changed as she had
'You remember my saying that our thoughts had never been able to
separate those twin sisters, and that, in our fancy, whatever Pet
was, the other was?'
'Yes, very well.'
'Arthur,' said Mr Meagles, much subdued, 'I carry that fancy
further to-night. I feel to-night, my dear fellow, as if you had
loved my dead child very tenderly, and had lost her when she was
like what Pet is now.'
'Thank you!' murmured Clennam, 'thank you!' And pressed his hand.
'Will you come in?' said Mr Meagles, presently.
'In a little while.'
Mr Meagles fell away, and he was left alone. When he had walked on
the river's brink in the peaceful moonlight for some half an hour,
he put his hand in his breast and tenderly took out the handful of
roses. Perhaps he put them to his heart, perhaps he put them to
his lips, but certainly he bent down on the shore and gently
launched them on the flowing river. Pale and unreal in the
moonlight, the river floated them away.
The lights were bright within doors when he entered, and the faces
on which they shone, his own face not excepted, were soon quietly
cheerful. They talked of many subjects (his partner never had had
such a ready store to draw upon for the beguiling of the time), and
so to bed, and to sleep. While the flowers, pale and unreal in the
moonlight, floated away upon the river; and thus do greater things
that once were in our breasts, and near our hearts, flow from us to
the eternal seas.
Mrs Flintwinch goes on Dreaming
The house in the city preserved its heavy dulness through all these
transactions, and the invalid within it turned the same unvarying
round of life. Morning, noon, and night, morning, noon, and night,
each recurring with its accompanying monotony, always the same
reluctant return of the same sequences of machinery, like a
dragging piece of clockwork.
The wheeled chair had its associated remembrances and reveries, one
may suppose, as every place that is made the station of a human
being has. Pictures of demolished streets and altered houses, as
they formerly were when the occupant of the chair was familiar with
them, images of people as they too used to be, with little or no
allowance made for the lapse of time since they were seen; of
these, there must have been many in the long routine of gloomy
days. To stop the clock of busy existence at the hour when we were
personally sequestered from it, to suppose mankind stricken
motionless when we were brought to a stand-still, to be unable to
measure the changes beyond our view by any larger standard than the
shrunken one of our own uniform and contracted existence, is the
infirmity of many invalids, and the mental unhealthiness of almost
What scenes and actors the stern woman most reviewed, as she sat
from season to season in her one dark room, none knew but herself.
Mr Flintwinch, with his wry presence brought to bear upon her daily
like some eccentric mechanical force, would perhaps have screwed it
out of her, if there had been less resistance in her; but she was
too strong for him. So far as Mistress Affery was concerned, to
regard her liege-lord and her disabled mistress with a face of
blank wonder, to go about the house after dark with her apron over
her head, always to listen for the strange noises and sometimes to
hear them, and never to emerge from her ghostly, dreamy, sleep-
waking state, was occupation enough for her.
There was a fair stroke of business doing, as Mistress Affery made
out, for her husband had abundant occupation in his little office,
and saw more people than had been used to come there for some
years. This might easily be, the house having been long deserted;
but he did receive letters, and comers, and keep books, and
correspond. Moreover, he went about to other counting-houses, and
to wharves, and docks, and to the Custom House,' and to Garraway's
Coffee House, and the Jerusalem Coffee House, and on 'Change; so
that he was much in and out. He began, too, sometimes of an
evening, when Mrs Clennam expressed no particular wish for his
society, to resort to a tavern in the neighbourhood to look at the
shipping news and closing prices in the evening paper, and even to
exchange Small socialities with mercantile Sea Captains who
frequented that establishment. At some period of every day, he and
Mrs Clennam held a council on matters of business; and it appeared
to Affery, who was always groping about, listening and watching,
that the two clever ones were making money.
The state of mind into which Mr Flintwinch's dazed lady had fallen,
had now begun to be so expressed in all her looks and actions that
she was held in very low account by the two clever ones, as a
person, never of strong intellect, who was becoming foolish.
Perhaps because her appearance was not of a commercial cast, or
perhaps because it occurred to him that his having taken her to
wife might expose his judgment to doubt in the minds of customers,
Mr Flintwinch laid his commands upon her that she should hold her
peace on the subject of her conjugal relations, and should no
longer call him Jeremiah out of the domestic trio. Her frequent
forgetfulness of this admonition intensified her startled manner,
since Mr Flintwinch's habit of avenging himself on her remissness
by making springs after her on the staircase, and shaking her,
occasioned her to be always nervously uncertain when she might be
thus waylaid next.
Little Dorrit had finished a long day's work in Mrs Clennam's room,
and was neatly gathering up her shreds and odds and ends before
going home. Mr Pancks, whom Affery had just shown in, was
addressing an inquiry to Mrs Clennam on the subject of her health,
coupled with the remark that, 'happening to find himself in that
direction,' he had looked in to inquire, on behalf of his
proprietor, how she found herself. Mrs Clennam, with a deep
contraction of her brows, was looking at him.
'Mr Casby knows,' said she, 'that I am not subject to changes. The
change that I await here is the great change.'
'Indeed, ma'am?' returned Mr Pancks, with a wandering eye towards
the figure of the little seamstress on her knee picking threads and
fraying of her work from the carpet. 'You look nicely, ma'am.'
'I bear what I have to bear,' she answered. 'Do you what you have
'Thank you, ma'am,' said Mr Pancks, 'such is my endeavour.'
'You are often in this direction, are you not?' asked Mrs Clennam.
'Why, yes, ma'am,' said Pancks, 'rather so lately; I have lately
been round this way a good deal, owing to one thing and another.'
'Beg Mr Casby and his daughter not to trouble themselves, by
deputy, about me. When they wish to see me, they know I am here to
see them. They have no need to trouble themselves to send. You
have no need to trouble yourself to come.'
'Not the least trouble, ma'am,' said Mr Pancks. 'You really are
looking uncommonly nicely, ma'am.'
'Thank you. Good evening.'
The dismissal, and its accompanying finger pointed straight at the
door, was so curt and direct that Mr Pancks did not see his way to
prolong his visit. He stirred up his hair with his sprightliest
expression, glanced at the little figure again, said 'Good evening,
ma 'am; don't come down, Mrs Affery, I know the road to the door,'
and steamed out. Mrs Clennam, her chin resting on her hand,
followed him with attentive and darkly distrustful eyes; and Affery
stood looking at her as if she were spell-bound.
Slowly and thoughtfully, Mrs Clennam's eyes turned from the door by
which Pancks had gone out, to Little Dorrit, rising from the
carpet. With her chin drooping more heavily on her hand, and her
eyes vigilant and lowering, the sick woman sat looking at her until
she attracted her attention. Little Dorrit coloured under such a
gaze, and looked down. Mrs Clennam still sat intent.
'Little Dorrit,' she said, when she at last broke silence, 'what do
you know of that man?'
'I don't know anything of him, ma'am, except that I have seen him
about, and that he has spoken to me.'
'What has he said to you?'
'I don't understand what he has said, he is so strange. But
nothing rough or disagreeable.'
'Why does he come here to see you?'
'I don't know, ma'am,' said Little Dorrit, with perfect frankness.
'You know that he does come here to see you?'
'I have fancied so,' said Little Dorrit. 'But why he should come
here or anywhere for that, ma'am, I can't think.'
Mrs Clennam cast her eyes towards the ground, and with her strong,
set face, as intent upon a subject in her mind as it had lately
been upon the form that seemed to pass out of her view, sat
absorbed. Some minutes elapsed before she came out of this
thoughtfulness, and resumed her hard composure.
Little Dorrit in the meanwhile had been waiting to go, but afraid
to disturb her by moving. She now ventured to leave the spot where
she had been standing since she had risen, and to pass gently round
by the wheeled chair. She stopped at its side to say 'Good night,
Mrs Clennam put out her hand, and laid it on her arm. Little
Dorrit, confused under the touch, stood faltering. Perhaps some
momentary recollection of the story of the Princess may have been
in her mind.
'Tell me, Little Dorrit,' said Mrs Clennam, 'have you many friends
'Very few, ma'am. Besides you, only Miss Flora and--one more.'
'Meaning,' said Mrs Clennam, with her unbent finger again pointing
to the door, 'that man?'
'Oh no, ma'am!'
'Some friend of his, perhaps?'
'No ma'am.' Little Dorrit earnestly shook her head. 'Oh no! No
one at all like him, or belonging to him.'
'Well!' said Mrs Clennam, almost smiling. 'It is no affair of
mine. I ask, because I take an interest in you; and because I
believe I was your friend when you had no other who could serve
you. Is that so?'
'Yes, ma'am; indeed it is. I have been here many a time when, but
for you and the work you gave me, we should have wanted
'We,' repeated Mrs Clennam, looking towards the watch, once her
dead husband's, which always lay upon her table. 'Are there many
'Only father and I, now. I mean, only father and I to keep
regularly out of what we get.'
'Have you undergone many privations? You and your father and who
else there may be of you?' asked Mrs Clennam, speaking
deliberately, and meditatively turning the watch over and over.
'Sometimes it has been rather hard to live,' said Little Dorrit, in
her soft voice, and timid uncomplaining way; 'but I think not
harder--as to that--than many people find it.'
'That's well said!' Mrs Clennam quickly returned. 'That's the
truth! You are a good, thoughtful girl. You are a grateful girl
too, or I much mistake you.'
'It is only natural to be that. There is no merit in being that,'
said Little Dorrit. 'I am indeed.'
Mrs Clennam, with a gentleness of which the dreaming Affery had
never dreamed her to be capable, drew down the face of her little
seamstress, and kissed her on the forehead. 'Now go, Little
Dorrit,' said she,'or you will be late, poor child!'
In all the dreams Mistress Affery had been piling up since she
first became devoted to the pursuit, she had dreamed nothing more
astonishing than this. Her head ached with the idea that she would
find the other clever one kissing Little Dorrit next, and then the
two clever ones embracing each other and dissolving into tears of
tenderness for all mankind. The idea quite stunned her, as she
attended the light footsteps down the stairs, that the house door
might be safely shut.
On opening it to let Little Dorrit out, she found Mr Pancks,
instead of having gone his way, as in any less wonderful place and
among less wonderful phenomena he might have been reasonably
expected to do, fluttering up and down the court outside the house.
The moment he saw Little Dorrit, he passed her briskly, said with
his finger to his nose (as Mrs Affery distinctly heard), 'Pancks
the gipsy, fortune-telling,' and went away. 'Lord save us, here's
a gipsy and a fortune-teller in it now!' cried Mistress Affery.
'What next! She stood at the open door, staggering herself with
this enigma, on a rainy, thundery evening. The clouds were flying
fast, and the wind was coming up in gusts, banging some
neighbouring shutters that had broken loose, twirling the rusty
chimney-cowls and weather-cocks, and rushing round and round a
confined adjacent churchyard as if it had a mind to blow the dead
citizens out of their graves. The low thunder, muttering in all
quarters of the sky at once, seemed to threaten vengeance for this
attempted desecration, and to mutter, 'Let them rest! Let them
Mistress Affery, whose fear of thunder and lightning was only to be
equalled by her dread of the haunted house with a premature and
preternatural darkness in it, stood undecided whether to go in or
not, until the question was settled for her by the door blowing
upon her in a violent gust of wind and shutting her out. 'What's
to be done now, what's to be done now!' cried Mistress Affery,
wringing her hands in this last uneasy dream of all; 'when she's
all alone by herself inside, and can no more come down to open it
than the churchyard dead themselves!'
In this dilemma, Mistress Affery, with her apron as a hood to keep
the rain off, ran crying up and down the solitary paved enclosure
several times. Why she should then stoop down and look in at the
keyhole of the door as if an eye would open it, it would be
difficult to say; but it is none the less what most people would
have done in the same situation, and it is what she did.
From this posture she started up suddenly, with a half scream,
feeling something on her shoulder. It was the touch of a hand; of
a man's hand.
The man was dressed like a traveller, in a foraging cap with fur
about it, and a heap of cloak. He looked like a foreigner. He had
a quantity of hair and moustache--jet black, except at the shaggy
ends, where it had a tinge of red--and a high hook nose. He
laughed at Mistress Affery's start and cry; and as he laughed, his
moustache went up under his nose, and his nose came down over his
'What's the matter?' he asked in plain English. 'What are you
'At you,' panted Affery.
'And the dismal evening, and--and everything,' said Affery. 'And
here! The wind has been and blown the door to, and I can't get
'Hah!' said the gentleman, who took that very coolly. 'Indeed! Do
you know such a name as Clennam about here?'
'Lord bless us, I should think I did, I should think I did!' cried
Affery, exasperated into a new wringing of hands by the inquiry.
'Where about here?'
'Where!' cried Affery, goaded into another inspection of the
keyhole. 'Where but here in this house? And she's all alone in
her room, and lost the use of her limbs and can't stir to help
herself or me, and t'other clever one's out, and Lord forgive me!'
cried Affery, driven into a frantic dance by these accumulated
considerations, 'if I ain't a-going headlong out of my mind!'
Taking a warmer view of the matter now that it concerned himself,
the gentleman stepped back to glance at the house, and his eye soon
rested on the long narrow window of the little room near the hall-
'Where may the lady be who has lost the use of her limbs, madam?'
he inquired, with that peculiar smile which Mistress Affery could
not choose but keep her eyes upon.
'Up there!' said Affery. 'Them two windows.'
'Hah! I am of a fair size, but could not have the honour of
presenting myself in that room without a ladder. Now, madam,
frankly --frankness is a part of my character--shall I open the
door for you?'
'Yes, bless you, sir, for a dear creetur, and do it at once,' cried
Affery, 'for she may be a-calling to me at this very present
minute, or may be setting herself a fire and burning herself to
death, or there's no knowing what may be happening to her, and me
a-going out of my mind at thinking of it!'
'Stay, my good madam!' He restrained her impatience with a smooth
white hand. 'Business-hours, I apprehend, are over for the day?'
'Yes, yes, yes,' cried Affery. 'Long ago.'
'Let me make, then, a fair proposal. Fairness is a part of my
character. I am just landed from the packet-boat, as you may see.'
He showed her that his cloak was very wet, and that his boots were
saturated with water; she had previously observed that he was
dishevelled and sallow, as if from a rough voyage, and so chilled
that he could not keep his teeth from chattering. 'I am just
landed from the packet-boat, madam, and have been delayed by the
weather: the infernal weather! In consequence of this, madam, some
necessary business that I should otherwise have transacted here
within the regular hours (necessary business because money-
business), still remains to be done. Now, if you will fetch any
authorised neighbouring somebody to do it in return for my opening
the door, I'll open the door. If this arrangement should be
objectionable, I'll--' and with the same smile he made a
significant feint of backing away.
Mistress Affery, heartily glad to effect the proposed compromise,
gave in her willing adhesion to it. The gentleman at once
requested her to do him the favour of holding his cloak, took a
short run at the narrow window, made a leap at the sill, clung his
way up the bricks, and in a moment had his hand at the sash,
raising it. His eyes looked so very sinister, as he put his leg
into the room and glanced round at Mistress Affery, that she
thought with a sudden coldness, if he were to go straight up-stairs
to murder the invalid, what could she do to prevent him?
Happily he had no such purpose; for he reappeared, in a moment, at
the house door. 'Now, my dear madam,' he said, as he took back his
cloak and threw it on, 'if you have the goodness to--what the
The strangest of sounds. Evidently close at hand from the peculiar
shock it communicated to the air, yet subdued as if it were far
off. A tremble, a rumble, and a fall of some light dry matter.
'What the Devil is it?'
'I don't know what it is, but I've heard the like of it over and
over again,' said Affery, who had caught his arm.
He could hardly be a very brave man, even she thought in her dreamy
start and fright, for his trembling lips had turned colourless.
After listening a few moments, he made light of it.
'Bah! Nothing! Now, my dear madam, I think you spoke of some
clever personage. Will you be so good as to confront me with that
genius?' He held the door in his hand, as though he were quite
ready to shut her out again if she failed.
'Don't you say anything about the door and me, then,' whispered
'Not a word.'
'And don't you stir from here, or speak if she calls, while I run
round the corner.'
'Madam, I am a statue.'
Affery had so vivid a fear of his going stealthily up-stairs the
moment her back was turned, that after hurrying out of sight, she
returned to the gateway to peep at him. Seeing him still on the
threshold, more out of the house than in it, as if he had no love
for darkness and no desire to probe its mysteries, she flew into
the next street, and sent a message into the tavern to Mr
Flintwinch, who came out directly. The two returning together--the
lady in advance, and Mr Flintwinch coming up briskly behind,
animated with the hope of shaking her before she could get housed--
saw the gentleman standing in the same place in the dark, and heard
the strong voice of Mrs Clennam calling from her room, 'Who is it?
What is it? Why does no one answer? Who is that, down there?'
The Word of a Gentleman
When Mr and Mrs Flintwinch panted up to the door of the old house
in the twilight, Jeremiah within a second of Affery, the stranger
started back. 'Death of my soul!' he exclaimed. 'Why, how did you
Mr Flintwinch, to whom these words were spoken, repaid the
stranger's wonder in full. He gazed at him with blank
astonishment; he looked over his own shoulder, as expecting to see
some one he had not been aware of standing behind him; he gazed at
the stranger again, speechlessly, at a loss to know what he meant;
he looked to his wife for explanation; receiving none, he pounced
upon her, and shook her with such heartiness that he shook her cap
off her head, saying between his teeth, with grim raillery, as he
did it, 'Affery, my woman, you must have a dose, my woman! This is
some of your tricks! You have been dreaming again, mistress.
What's it about? Who is it? What does it mean! Speak out or be
choked! It's the only choice I'll give you.'
Supposing Mistress Affery to have any power of election at the
moment, her choice was decidedly to be choked; for she answered not
a syllable to this adjuration, but, with her bare head wagging
violently backwards and forwards, resigned herself to her
punishment. The stranger, however, picking up her cap with an air
of gallantry, interposed.
'Permit me,' said he, laying his hand on the shoulder of Jeremiah,
who stopped and released his victim. 'Thank you. Excuse me.
Husband and wife I know, from this playfulness. Haha! Always
agreeable to see that relation playfully maintained. Listen! May
I suggest that somebody up-stairs, in the dark, is becoming
energetically curious to know what is going on here?'
This reference to Mrs Clennam's voice reminded Mr Flintwinch to
step into the hall and call up the staircase. 'It's all right, I
am here, Affery is coming with your light.' Then he said to the
latter flustered woman, who was putting her cap on, 'Get out with
you, and get up-stairs!' and then turned to the stranger and said
to him, 'Now, sir, what might you please to want?'
'I am afraid,' said the stranger, 'I must be so troublesome as to
propose a candle.'
'True,' assented Jeremiah. 'I was going to do so. Please to stand
where you are while I get one.'
The visitor was standing in the doorway, but turned a little into
the gloom of the house as Mr Flintwinch turned, and pursued him
with his eyes into the little room, where he groped about for a
phosphorus box. When he found it, it was damp, or otherwise out of
order; and match after match that he struck into it lighted
sufficiently to throw a dull glare about his groping face, and to
sprinkle his hands with pale little spots of fire, but not
sufficiently to light the candle. The stranger, taking advantage
of this fitful illumination of his visage, looked intently and
wonderingly at him. Jeremiah, when he at last lighted the candle,
knew he had been doing this, by seeing the last shade of a lowering
watchfulness clear away from his face, as it broke into the
doubtful smile that was a large ingredient in its expression.
'Be so good,' said Jeremiah, closing the house door, and taking a
pretty sharp survey of the smiling visitor in his turn, 'as to step
into my counting-house.-- It's all right, I tell you!' petulantly
breaking off to answer the voice up-stairs, still unsatisfied,
though Affery was there, speaking in persuasive tones. 'Don't I
tell you it's all right? Preserve the woman, has she no reason at
all in her!'
'Timorous,' remarked the stranger.
'Timorous?' said Mr Flintwinch, turning his head to retort, as he
went before with the candle. 'More courageous than ninety men in
a hundred, sir, let me tell you.'
'Though an invalid?'
'Many years an invalid. Mrs Clennam. The only one of that name
left in the House now. My partner.'
Saying something apologetically as he crossed the hall, to the
effect that at that time of night they were not in the habit of
receiving any one, and were always shut up, Mr Flintwinch led the
way into his own office, which presented a sufficiently business-
like appearance. Here he put the light on his desk, and said to
the stranger, with his wryest twist upon him, 'Your commands.'
'MY name is Blandois.'
'Blandois. I don't know it,' said Jeremiah.
'I thought it possible,' resumed the other, 'that you might have
been advised from Paris--'
'We have had no advice from Paris respecting anybody of the name of
Blandois,' said Jeremiah.
Jeremiah stood in his favourite attitude. The smiling Mr Blandois,
opening his cloak to get his hand to a breast-pocket, paused to
say, with a laugh in his glittering eyes, which it occurred to Mr
Flintwinch were too near together:
'You are so like a friend of mine! Not so identically the same as
I supposed when I really did for the moment take you to be the same
in the dusk--for which I ought to apologise; permit me to do so; a
readiness to confess my errors is, I hope, a part of the frankness
of my character--still, however, uncommonly like.'
'Indeed?' said Jeremiah, perversely. 'But I have not received any
letter of advice from anywhere respecting anybody of the name of
'Just so,' said the stranger.
'JUST so,' said Jeremiah.
Mr Blandois, not at all put out by this omission on the part of the
correspondents of the house of Clennam and Co., took his pocket-
book from his breast-pocket, selected a letter from that
receptacle, and handed it to Mr Flintwinch. 'No doubt you are well
acquainted with the writing. Perhaps the letter speaks for itself,
and requires no advice. You are a far more competent judge of such
affairs than I am. It is my misfortune to be, not so much a man of
business, as what the world calls (arbitrarily) a gentleman.'
Mr Flintwinch took the letter, and read, under date of Paris, 'We
have to present to you, on behalf of a highly esteemed
correspondent of our Firm, M. Blandois, of this city,' &c. &c.
'Such facilities as he may require and such attentions as may lie
in your power,' &c. &c. 'Also have to add that if you will honour
M. Blandois' drafts at sight to the extent of, say Fifty Pounds
sterling (l50),' &c. &c.
'Very good, sir,' said Mr Flintwinch. 'Take a chair. To the
extent of anything that our House can do--we are in a retired, old-
fashioned, steady way of business, sir--we shall be happy to render
you our best assistance. I observe, from the date of this, that we
could not yet be advised of it. Probably you came over with the
delayed mail that brings the advice.'
'That I came over with the delayed mail, sir,' returned Mr
Blandois, passing his white hand down his high-hooked nose, 'I know
to the cost of my head and stomach: the detestable and intolerable
weather having racked them both. You see me in the plight in which
I came out of the packet within this half-hour. I ought to have
been here hours ago, and then I should not have to apologise--
permit me to apologise--for presenting myself so unreasonably, and
frightening--no, by-the-bye, you said not frightening; permit me to
apologise again--the esteemed lady, Mrs Clennam, in her invalid
chamber above stairs.'
Swagger and an air of authorised condescension do so much, that Mr
Flintwinch had already begun to think this a highly gentlemanly
personage. Not the less unyielding with him on that account, he
scraped his chin and said, what could he have the honour of doing
for Mr Blandois to-night, out of business hours?
'Faith!' returned that gentleman, shrugging his cloaked shoulders,
'I must change, and eat and drink, and be lodged somewhere. Have
the kindness to advise me, a total stranger, where, and money is a
matter of perfect indifference until to-morrow. The nearer the
place, the better. Next door, if that's all.'
Mr Flintwinch was slowly beginning, 'For a gentleman of your
habits, there is not in this immediate neighbourhood any hotel--'
when Mr Blandois took him up.
'So much for my habits! my dear sir,' snapping his fingers. 'A
citizen of the world has no habits. That I am, in my poor way, a
gentleman, by Heaven! I will not deny, but I have no
unaccommodating prejudiced habits. A clean room, a hot dish for
dinner, and a bottle of not absolutely poisonous wine, are all I
want tonight. But I want that much without the trouble of going
one unnecessary inch to get it.'
'There is,' said Mr Flintwinch, with more than his usual
deliberation, as he met, for a moment, Mr Blandois' shining eyes,
which were restless; 'there is a coffee-house and tavern close
here, which, so far, I can recommend; but there's no style about
'I dispense with style!' said Mr Blandois, waving his hand. 'Do me
the honour to show me the house, and introduce me there (if I am
not too troublesome), and I shall be infinitely obliged.'
Mr Flintwinch, upon this, looked up his hat, and lighted Mr
Blandois across the hall again. As he put the candle on a bracket,
where the dark old panelling almost served as an extinguisher for
it, he bethought himself of going up to tell the invalid that he
would not be absent five minutes.
'Oblige me,' said the visitor, on his saying so, 'by presenting my
card of visit. Do me the favour to add that I shall be happy to
wait on Mrs Clennam, to offer my personal compliments, and to
apologise for having occasioned any agitation in this tranquil
corner, if it should suit her convenience to endure the presence of
a stranger for a few minutes, after he shall have changed his wet
clothes and fortified himself with something to eat and drink.'
Jeremiah made all despatch, and said, on his return, 'She'll be
glad to see you, sir; but, being conscious that her sick room has
no attractions, wishes me to say that she won't hold you to your
offer, in case you should think better of it.'
'To think better of it,' returned the gallant Blandois, 'would be
to slight a lady; to slight a lady would be to be deficient in
chivalry towards the sex; and chivalry towards the sex is a part of
my character!' Thus expressing himself, he threw the draggled
skirt of his cloak over his shoulder, and accompanied Mr Flintwinch
to the tavern; taking up on the road a porter who was waiting with
his portmanteau on the outer side of the gateway.
The house was kept in a homely manner, and the condescension of Mr
Blandois was infinite. It seemed to fill to inconvenience the
little bar in which the widow landlady and her two daughters
received him; it was much too big for the narrow wainscoted room
with a bagatelle-board in it, that was first proposed for his
reception; it perfectly swamped the little private holiday sitting-
room of the family, which was finally given up to him. Here, in
dry clothes and scented linen, with sleeked hair, a great ring on
each forefinger and a massive show of watch-chain, Mr Blandois
waiting for his dinner, lolling on a window-seat with his knees
drawn up, looked (for all the difference in the setting of the
jewel) fearfully and wonderfully like a certain Monsieur Rigaud who
had once so waited for his breakfast, lying on the stone ledge of
the iron grating of a cell in a villainous dungeon at Marseilles.
His greed at dinner, too, was closely in keeping with the greed of
Monsieur Rigaud at breakfast. His avaricious manner of collecting
all the eatables about him, and devouring some with his eyes while
devouring others with his jaws, was the same manner. His utter
disregard of other people, as shown in his way of tossing the
little womanly toys of furniture about, flinging favourite cushions
under his boots for a softer rest, and crushing delicate coverings
with his big body and his great black head, had the same brute
selfishness at the bottom of it. The softly moving hands that were
so busy among the dishes had the old wicked facility of the hands
that had clung to the bars. And when he could eat no more, and sat
sucking his delicate fingers one by one and wiping them on a cloth,
there wanted nothing but the substitution of vine-leaves to finish
On this man, with his moustache going up and his nose coming down
in that most evil of smiles, and with his surface eyes looking as
if they belonged to his dyed hair, and had had their natural power
of reflecting light stopped by some similar process, Nature, always
true, and never working in vain, had set the mark, Beware! It was
not her fault, if the warning were fruitless. She is never to
blame in any such instance.
Mr Blandois, having finished his repast and cleaned his fingers,
took a cigar from his pocket, and, lying on the window-seat again,
smoked it out at his leisure, occasionally apostrophising the smoke
as it parted from his thin lips in a thin stream:
'Blandois, you shall turn the tables on society, my little child.
Haha! Holy blue, you have begun well, Blandois! At a pinch, an
excellent master in English or French; a man for the bosom of
families! You have a quick perception, you have humour, you have
ease, you have insinuating manners, you have a good appearance; in
effect, you are a gentleman! A gentleman you shall live, my small
boy, and a gentleman you shall die. You shall win, however the
game goes. They shall all confess your merit, Blandois. You shall
subdue the society which has grievously wronged you, to your own
high spirit. Death of my soul! You are high spirited by right and
by nature, my Blandois!'
To such soothing murmurs did this gentleman smoke out his cigar and
drink out his bottle of wine. Both being finished, he shook
himself into a sitting attitude; and with the concluding serious
apostrophe, 'Hold, then! Blandois, you ingenious one, have all
your wits about you!' arose and went back to the house of Clennam
He was received at the door by Mistress Affery, who, under
instructions from her lord, had lighted up two candles in the hall
and a third on the staircase, and who conducted him to Mrs
Clennam's room. Tea was prepared there, and such little company
arrangements had been made as usually attended the reception of
expected visitors. They were slight on the greatest occasion,
never extending beyond the production of the China tea-service, and
the covering of the bed with a sober and sad drapery. For the
rest, there was the bier-like sofa with the block upon it, and the
figure in the widow's dress, as if attired for execution; the fire
topped by the mound of damped ashes; the grate with its second
little mound of ashes; the kettle and the smell of black dye; all
as they had been for fifteen years.
Mr Flintwinch presented the gentleman commended to the
consideration of Clennam and Co. Mrs Clennam, who had the letter
lying before her, bent her head and requested him to sit. They
looked very closely at one another. That was but natural
'I thank you, sir, for thinking of a disabled woman like me. Few
who come here on business have any remembrance to bestow on one so
removed from observation. It would be idle to expect that they
should have. Out of sight, out of mind. While I am grateful for
the exception, I don't complain of the rule. '
Mr Blandois, in his most gentlemanly manner, was afraid he had
disturbed her by unhappily presenting himself at such an
unconscionable time. For which he had already offered his best
apologies to Mr--he begged pardon--but by name had not the
'Mr Flintwinch has been connected with the House many years.'
Mr Blandois was Mr Flintwinch's most obedient humble servant. He
entreated Mr Flintwinch to receive the assurance of his profoundest
'My husband being dead,' said Mrs Clennam, 'and my son preferring
another pursuit, our old House has no other representative in these
days than Mr Flintwinch. '
'What do you call yourself?' was the surly demand of that
gentleman. 'You have the head of two men.'
'My sex disqualifies me,' she proceeded with merely a slight turn
of her eyes in jeremiah's direction, 'from taking a responsible
part in the business, even if I had the ability; and therefore Mr
Flintwinch combines my interest with his own, and conducts it. It
is not what it used to be; but some of our old friends (principally
the writers of this letter) have the kindness not to forget us, and
we retain the power of doing what they entrust to us as efficiently
as we ever did. This however is not interesting to you. You are
'Faith, madam, no; I am neither born nor bred in England. In
effect, I am of no country,' said Mr Blandois, stretching out his
leg and smiting it: 'I descend from half-a-dozen countries.'
'You have been much about the world?'
'It is true. By Heaven, madam, I have been here and there and
'You have no ties, probably. Are not married?'
'Madam,' said Mr Blandois, with an ugly fall of his eyebrows, 'I
adore your sex, but I am not married--never was.'
Mistress Affery, who stood at the table near him, pouring out the
tea, happened in her dreamy state to look at him as he said these
words, and to fancy that she caught an expression in his eyes which
attracted her own eyes so that she could not get them away. The
effect of this fancy was to keep her staring at him with the tea-
pot in her hand, not only to her own great uneasiness, but
manifestly to his, too; and, through them both, to Mrs Clennam's
and Mr Flintwinch's. Thus a few ghostly moments supervened, when
they were all confusedly staring without knowing why.
'Affery,' her mistress was the first to say, 'what is the matter
'I don't know,' said Mistress Affery, with her disengaged left hand
extended towards the visitor. 'It ain't me. It's him!'
'What does this good woman mean?' cried Mr Blandois, turning white,
hot, and slowly rising with a look of such deadly wrath that it
contrasted surprisingly with the slight force of his words. 'How
is it possible to understand this good creature?'
'It's NOT possible,' said Mr Flintwinch, screwing himself rapidly
in that direction. 'She don't know what she means. She's an
idiot, a wanderer in her mind. She shall have a dose, she shall
have such a dose! Get along with you, my woman,' he added in her
ear, 'get along with you, while you know you're Affery, and before
you're shaken to yeast.'
Mistress Affery, sensible of the danger in which her identity
stood, relinquished the tea-pot as her husband seized it, put her
apron over her head, and in a twinkling vanished. The visitor
gradually broke into a smile, and sat down again.
'You'll excuse her, Mr Blandois,' said Jeremiah, pouring out the
tea himself, 'she's failing and breaking up; that's what she's
about. Do you take sugar, sir? '
'Thank you, no tea for me.--Pardon my observing it, but that's a
very remarkable watch!'
The tea-table was drawn up near the sofa, with a small interval
between it and Mrs Clennam's own particular table. Mr Blandois in
his gallantry had risen to hand that lady her tea (her dish of
toast was already there), and it was in placing the cup
conveniently within her reach that the watch, lying before her as
it always did, attracted his attention. Mrs Clennam looked
suddenly up at him.
'May I be permitted? Thank you. A fine old-fashioned watch,' he
said, taking it in his hand. 'Heavy for use, but massive and
genuine. I have a partiality for everything genuine. Such as I
am, I am genuine myself. Hah! A gentleman's watch with two cases
in the old fashion. May I remove it from the outer case? Thank
you. Aye? An old silk watch-lining, worked with beads! I have
often seen these among old Dutch people and Belgians. Quaint
'They are old-fashioned, too,' said Mrs Clennam.
'Very. But this is not so old as the watch, I think?'
'I think not.'
'Extraordinary how they used to complicate these cyphers!' remarked
Mr Blandois, glancing up with his own smile again. 'Now is this D.
N. F.? It might be almost anything.'
'Those are the letters.'
Mr Flintwinch, who had been observantly pausing all this time with
a cup of tea in his hand, and his mouth open ready to swallow the
contents, began to do so: always entirely filling his mouth before
he emptied it at a gulp; and always deliberating again before he
'D. N. F. was some tender, lovely, fascinating fair-creature, I
make no doubt,' observed Mr Blandois, as he snapped on the case
again. 'I adore her memory on the assumption. Unfortunately for
my peace of mind, I adore but too readily. It may be a vice, it
may be a virtue, but adoration of female beauty and merit
constitutes three parts of my character, madam.'
Mr Flintwinch had by this time poured himself out another cup of
tea, which he was swallowing in gulps as before, with his eyes
directed to the invalid.
'You may be heart-free here, sir,' she returned to Mr Blandois.
'Those letters are not intended, I believe, for the initials of any
'Of a motto, perhaps,' said Mr Blandois, casually.
'Of a sentence. They have always stood, I believe, for Do Not
'And naturally,' said Mr Blandois, replacing the watch and stepping
backward to his former chair, 'you do not forget.'
Mr Flintwinch, finishing his tea, not only took a longer gulp than
he had taken yet, but made his succeeding pause under new
circumstances: that is to say, with his head thrown back and his
cup held still at his lips, while his eyes were still directed at
the invalid. She had that force of face, and that concentrated air
of collecting her firmness or obstinacy, which represented in her
case what would have been gesture and action in another, as she
replied with her deliberate strength of speech:
'No, sir, I do not forget. To lead a life as monotonous as mine
has been during many years, is not the way to forget. To lead a
life of self-correction is not the way to forget. To be sensible
of having (as we all have, every one of us, all the children of
Adam!) offences to expiate and peace to make, does not justify the
desire to forget. Therefore I have long dismissed it, and I
neither forget nor wish to forget.'
Mr Flintwinch, who had latterly been shaking the sediment at the
bottom of his tea-cup, round and round, here gulped it down, and
putting the cup in the tea-tray, as done with, turned his eyes upon
Mr Blandois as if to ask him what he thought of that?
'All expressed, madam,' said Mr Blandois, with his smoothest bow
and his white hand on his breast, 'by the word "naturally," which
I am proud to have had sufficient apprehension and appreciation
(but without appreciation I could not be Blandois) to employ.'
'Pardon me, sir,' she returned, 'if I doubt the likelihood of a
gentleman of pleasure, and change, and politeness, accustomed to
court and to be courted--'
'Oh madam! By Heaven!'
'--If I doubt the likelihood of such a character quite
comprehending what belongs to mine in my circumstances. Not to
obtrude doctrine upon you,' she looked at the rigid pile of hard
pale books before her, '(for you go your own way, and the
consequences are on your own head), I will say this much: that I
shape my course by pilots, strictly by proved and tried pilots,
under whom I cannot be shipwrecked--can not be--and that if I were
unmindful of the admonition conveyed in those three letters, I
should not be half as chastened as I am.'
It was curious how she seized the occasion to argue with some
invisible opponent. Perhaps with her own better sense, always
turning upon herself and her own deception.
'If I forgot my ignorances in my life of health and freedom, I
might complain of the life to which I am now condemned. I never
do; I never have done. If I forgot that this scene, the Earth, is
expressly meant to be a scene of gloom, and hardship, and dark
trial, for the creatures who are made out of its dust, I might have
some tenderness for its vanities. But I have no such tenderness.
If I did not know that we are, every one, the subject (most justly
the subject) of a wrath that must be satisfied, and against which
mere actions are nothing, I might repine at the difference between
me, imprisoned here, and the people who pass that gateway yonder.
But I take it as a grace and favour to be elected to make the
satisfaction I am making here, to know what I know for certain
here, and to work out what I have worked out here. My affliction
might otherwise have had no meaning to me. Hence I would forget,
and I do forget, nothing. Hence I am contented, and say it is
better with me than with millions.'
As she spoke these words, she put her hand upon the watch, and
restored it to the precise spot on her little table which it always
occupied. With her touch lingering upon it, she sat for some
moments afterwards, looking at it steadily and half-defiantly.
Mr Blandois, during this exposition, had been strictly attentive,
keeping his eyes fastened on the lady, and thoughtfully stroking
his moustache with his two hands. Mr Flintwinch had been a little
fidgety, and now struck in.
'There, there, there!' said he. 'That is quite understood, Mrs
Clennam, and you have spoken piously and well. Mr Blandois, I
suspect, is not of a pious cast.'
'On the contrary, sir!' that gentleman protested, snapping his
fingers. 'Your pardon! It's a part of my character. I am
sensitive, ardent, conscientious, and imaginative. A sensitive,
ardent, conscientious, and imaginative man, Mr Flintwinch, must be
that, or nothing!'
There was an inkling of suspicion in Mr Flintwinch's face that he
might be nothing, as he swaggered out of his chair (it was
characteristic of this man, as it is of all men similarly marked,
that whatever he did, he overdid, though it were sometimes by only
a hairsbreadth), and approached to take his leave of Mrs Clennam.
'With what will appear to you the egotism of a sick old woman,
sir,' she then said, 'though really through your accidental
allusion, I have been led away into the subject of myself and my
infirmities. Being so considerate as to visit me, I hope you will
be likewise so considerate as to overlook that. Don't compliment
me, if you please.' For he was evidently going to do it. 'Mr
Flintwinch will be happy to render you any service, and I hope your
stay in this city may prove agreeable.'
Mr Blandois thanked her, and kissed his hand several times. 'This
is an old room,' he remarked, with a sudden sprightliness of
manner, looking round when he got near the door, 'I have been so
interested that I have not observed it. But it's a genuine old
'It is a genuine old house,' said Mrs Clennam, with her frozen
smile. 'A place of no pretensions, but a piece of antiquity.'
'Faith!' cried the visitor. 'If Mr Flintwinch would do me the
favour to take me through the rooms on my way out, he could hardly
oblige me more. An old house is a weakness with me. I have many
weaknesses, but none greater. I love and study the picturesque in
all its varieties. I have been called picturesque myself. It is
no merit to be picturesque--I have greater merits, perhaps--but I
may be, by an accident. Sympathy, sympathy!'
'I tell you beforehand, Mr Blandois, that you'll find it very dingy
and very bare,' said Jeremiah, taking up the candle. 'It's not
worth your looking at.'But Mr Blandois, smiting him in a friendly
manner on the back, only laughed; so the said Blandois kissed his
hand again to Mrs Clennam, and they went out of the room together.
'You don't care to go up-stairs?' said Jeremiah, on the landing.
'On the contrary, Mr Flintwinch; if not tiresome to you, I shall be
Mr Flintwinch, therefore, wormed himself up the staircase, and Mr
Blandois followed close. They ascended to the great garret bed-
room which Arthur had occupied on the night of his return. 'There,
Mr Blandois!' said Jeremiah, showing it, 'I hope you may think that
worth coming so high to see. I confess I don't.'
Mr Blandois being enraptured, they walked through other garrets and
passages, and came down the staircase again. By this time Mr
Flintwinch had remarked that he never found the visitor looking at
any room, after throwing one quick glance around, but always found
the visitor looking at him, Mr Flintwinch. With this discovery in
his thoughts, he turned about on the staircase for another
experiment. He met his eyes directly; and on the instant of their
fixing one another, the visitor, with that ugly play of nose and
moustache, laughed (as he had done at every similar moment since
they left Mrs Clennam's chamber) a diabolically silent laugh.
As a much shorter man than the visitor, Mr Flintwinch was at the
physical disadvantage of being thus disagreeably leered at from a
height; and as he went first down the staircase, and was usually a
step or two lower than the other, this disadvantage was at the time
increased. He postponed looking at Mr Blandois again until this
accidental inequality was removed by their having entered the late
Mr Clennam's room. But, then twisting himself suddenly round upon
him, he found his look unchanged.
'A most admirable old house,' smiled Mr Blandois. 'So mysterious.
Do you never hear any haunted noises here?'
'Noises,' returned Mr Flintwinch. 'No.'
'Nor see any devils?'
'Not,' said Mr Flintwinch, grimly screwing himself at his
questioner, 'not any that introduce themselves under that name and
in that capacity.'
'Haha! A portrait here, I see.'
(Still looking at Mr Flintwinch, as if he were the portrait.)
'It's a portrait, sir, as you observe.'
'May I ask the subject, Mr Flintwinch?'
'Mr Clennam, deceased. Her husband.'
'Former owner of the remarkable watch, perhaps?' said the visitor.
Mr Flintwinch, who had cast his eyes towards the portrait, twisted
himself about again, and again found himself the subject of the
same look and smile. 'Yes, Mr Blandois,' he replied tartly. 'It
was his, and his uncle's before him, and Lord knows who before him;
and that's all I can tell you of its pedigree.'
'That's a strongly marked character, Mr Flintwinch, our friend up-
'Yes, sir,' said Jeremiah, twisting himself at the visitor again,
as he did during the whole of this dialogue, like some screw-
machine that fell short of its grip; for the other never changed,
and he always felt obliged to retreat a little. 'She is a
remarkable woman. Great fortitude--great strength of mind.'
'They must have been very happy,' said Blandois.
'Who?' demanded Mr Flintwinch, with another screw at him.
Mr Blandois shook his right forefinger towards the sick room, and
his left forefinger towards the portrait, and then, putting his
arms akimbo and striding his legs wide apart, stood smiling down at
Mr Flintwinch with the advancing nose and the retreating moustache.
'As happy as most other married people, I suppose,' returned Mr
Flintwinch. 'I can't say. I don't know. There are secrets in all
'Secrets!' cried Mr Blandois, quickly. 'Say it again, my son.'
'I say,' replied Mr Flintwinch, upon whom he had swelled himself so
suddenly that Mr Flintwinch found his face almost brushed by the
dilated chest. 'I say there are secrets in all families.'
'So there are,' cried the other, clapping him on both shoulders,
and rolling him backwards and forwards. 'Haha! you are right. So
there are! Secrets! Holy Blue! There are the devil's own secrets
in some families, Mr Flintwinch!' With that, after clapping Mr
Flintwinch on both shoulders several times, as if in a friendly and
humorous way he were rallying him on a joke he had made, he threw
up his arms, threw back his head, hooked his hands together behind
it, and burst into a roar of laughter. It was in vain for Mr
Flintwinch to try another screw at him. He had his laugh out.
'But, favour me with the candle a moment,' he said, when he had
done. 'Let us have a look at the husband of the remarkable lady.
Hah!' holding up the light at arm's length. 'A decided expression
of face here too, though not of the same character. Looks as if he
were saying, what is it--Do Not Forget--does he not, Mr Flintwinch?
By Heaven, sir, he does!'
As he returned the candle, he looked at him once more; and then,
leisurely strolling out with him into the hall, declared it to be
a charming old house indeed, and one which had so greatly pleased
him that he would not have missed inspecting it for a hundred
Throughout these singular freedoms on the part of Mr Blandois,
which involved a general alteration in his demeanour, making it
much coarser and rougher, much more violent and audacious than
before, Mr Flintwinch, whose leathern face was not liable to many
changes, preserved its immobility intact. Beyond now appearing
perhaps, to have been left hanging a trifle too long before that
friendly operation of cutting down, he outwardly maintained an
equable composure. They had brought their survey to a close in the
little room at the side of the hall, and he stood there, eyeing Mr
'I am glad you are so well satisfied, sir,' was his calm remark.
'I didn't expect it. You seem to be quite in good spirits.'
'In admirable spirits,' returned Blandois. 'Word of honour! never
more refreshed in spirits. Do you ever have presentiments, Mr
'I am not sure that I know what you mean by the term, sir,' replied
'Say, in this case, Mr Flintwinch, undefined anticipations of
pleasure to come.'
'I can't say I'm sensible of such a sensation at present,' returned
Mr Flintwinch with the utmost gravity. 'If I should find it coming
on, I'll mention it.'
'Now I,' said Blandois, 'I, my son, have a presentiment to-night
that we shall be well acquainted. Do you find it coming on?'
'N-no,' returned Mr Flintwinch, deliberately inquiring of himself.
'I can't say I do.'
'I have a strong presentiment that we shall become intimately
acquainted.--You have no feeling of that sort yet?'
'Not yet,' said Mr Flintwinch.
Mr Blandois, taking him by both shoulders again, rolled him about
a little in his former merry way, then drew his arm through his
own, and invited him to come off and drink a bottle of wine like a
dear deep old dog as he was.
Without a moment's indecision, Mr Flintwinch accepted the
invitation, and they went out to the quarters where the traveller
was lodged, through a heavy rain which had rattled on the windows,
roofs, and pavements, ever since nightfall. The thunder and
lightning had long ago passed over, but the rain was furious. On
their arrival at Mr Blandois' room, a bottle of port wine was
ordered by that gallant gentleman; who (crushing every pretty thing
he could collect, in the soft disposition of his dainty figure)
coiled himself upon the window-seat, while Mr Flintwinch took a
chair opposite to him, with the table between them. Mr Blandois
proposed having the largest glasses in the house, to which Mr
Flintwinch assented. The bumpers filled, Mr Blandois, with a
roystering gaiety, clinked the top of his glass against the bottom
of Mr Flintwinch's, and the bottom of his glass against the top of
Mr Flintwinch's, and drank to the intimate acquaintance he foresaw.
Mr Flintwinch gravely pledged him, and drank all the wine he could
get, and said nothing. As often as Mr Blandois clinked glasses
(which was at every replenishment), Mr Flintwinch stolidly did his
part of the clinking, and would have stolidly done his companion's
part of the wine as well as his own: being, except in the article
of palate, a mere cask.
In short, Mr Blandois found that to pour port wine into the
reticent Flintwinch was, not to open him but to shut him up.
Moreover, he had the appearance of a perfect ability to go on all
night; or, if occasion were, all next day and all next night;
whereas Mr Blandois soon grew indistinctly conscious of swaggering
too fiercely and boastfully. He therefore terminated the
entertainment at the end of the third bottle.
'You will draw upon us to-morrow, sir,' said Mr Flintwinch, with a
business-like face at parting.
'My Cabbage,' returned the other, taking him by the collar with
both hands, 'I'll draw upon you; have no fear. Adieu, my
Flintwinch. Receive at parting;' here he gave him a southern
embrace, and kissed him soundly on both cheeks; 'the word of a
gentleman! By a thousand Thunders, you shall see me again!'
He did not present himself next day, though the letter of advice
came duly to hand. Inquiring after him at night, Mr Flintwinch
found, with surprise, that he had paid his bill and gone back to
the Continent by way of Calais. Nevertheless, Jeremiah scraped out
of his cogitating face a lively conviction that Mr Blandois would
keep his word on this occasion, and would be seen again.
Anybody may pass, any day, in the thronged thoroughfares of the
metropolis, some meagre, wrinkled, yellow old man (who might be
supposed to have dropped from the stars, if there were any star in
the Heavens dull enough to be suspected of casting off so feeble a
spark), creeping along with a scared air, as though bewildered and
a little frightened by the noise and bustle. This old man is
always a little old man. If he were ever a big old man, he has
shrunk into a little old man; if he were always a little old man,
he has dwindled into a less old man. His coat is a colour, and
cut, that never was the mode anywhere, at any period. Clearly, it
was not made for him, or for any individual mortal. Some wholesale
contractor measured Fate for five thousand coats of such quality,
and Fate has lent this old coat to this old man, as one of a long
unfinished line of many old men. It has always large dull metal
buttons, similar to no other buttons. This old man wears a hat, a
thumbed and napless and yet an obdurate hat, which has never
adapted itself to the shape of his poor head. His coarse shirt and
his coarse neckcloth have no more individuality than his coat and
hat; they have the same character of not being his--of not being
anybody's. Yet this old man wears these clothes with a certain
unaccustomed air of being dressed and elaborated for the public
ways; as though he passed the greater part of his time in a
nightcap and gown. And so, like the country mouse in the second
year of a famine, come to see the town mouse, and timidly threading
his way to the town-mouse's lodging through a city of cats, this
old man passes in the streets.
Sometimes, on holidays towards evening, he will be seen to walk
with a slightly increased infirmity, and his old eyes will glimmer
with a moist and marshy light. Then the little old man is drunk.
A very small measure will overset him; he may be bowled off his
unsteady legs with a half-pint pot. Some pitying acquaintance--
chance acquaintance very often--has warmed up his weakness with a
treat of beer, and the consequence will be the lapse of a longer
time than usual before he shall pass again. For the little old man
is going home to the Workhouse; and on his good behaviour they do
not let him out often (though methinks they might, considering the
few years he has before him to go out in, under the sun); and on
his bad behaviour they shut him up closer than ever in a grove of
two score and nineteen more old men, every one of whom smells of
all the others.
Mrs Plornish's father,--a poor little reedy piping old gentleman,
like a worn-out bird; who had been in what he called the music-
binding business, and met with great misfortunes, and who had
seldom been able to make his way, or to see it or to pay it, or to
do anything at all with it but find it no thoroughfare,--had
retired of his own accord to the Workhouse which was appointed by
law to be the Good Samaritan of his district (without the twopence,
which was bad political economy), on the settlement of that
execution which had carried Mr Plornish to the Marshalsea College.
Previous to his son-in-law's difficulties coming to that head, Old
Nandy (he was always so called in his legal Retreat, but he was Old
Mr Nandy among the Bleeding Hearts) had sat in a corner of the
Plornish fireside, and taken his bite and sup out of the Plornish
cupboard. He still hoped to resume that domestic position when
Fortune should smile upon his son-in-law; in the meantime, while
she preserved an immovable countenance, he was, and resolved to
remain, one of these little old men in a grove of little old men
with a community of flavour.
But no poverty in him, and no coat on him that never was the mode,
and no Old Men's Ward for his dwelling-place, could quench his
daughter's admiration. Mrs Plornish was as proud of her father's
talents as she could possibly have been if they had made him Lord
Chancellor. She had as firm a belief in the sweetness and
propriety of his manners as she could possibly have had if he had
been Lord Chamberlain. The poor little old man knew some pale and
vapid little songs, long out of date, about Chloe, and Phyllis, and
Strephon being wounded by the son of Venus; and for Mrs Plornish
there was no such music at the Opera as the small internal
flutterings and chirpings wherein he would discharge himself of
these ditties, like a weak, little, broken barrel-organ, ground by
a baby. On his 'days out,' those flecks of light in his flat vista
of pollard old men,' it was at once Mrs Plornish's delight and
sorrow, when he was strong with meat, and had taken his full
halfpenny-worth of porter, to say, 'Sing us a song, Father.' Then
he would give them Chloe, and if he were in pretty good spirits,
Phyllis also--Strephon he had hardly been up to since he went into
retirement--and then would Mrs Plornish declare she did believe
there never was such a singer as Father, and wipe her eyes.
If he had come from Court on these occasions, nay, if he had been
the noble Refrigerator come home triumphantly from a foreign court
to be presented and promoted on his last tremendous failure, Mrs
Plornish could not have handed him with greater elevation about
Bleeding Heart Yard. 'Here's Father,' she would say, presenting
him to a neighbour. 'Father will soon be home with us for good,
now. Ain't Father looking well? Father's a sweeter singer than
ever; you'd never have forgotten it, if you'd aheard him just now.'
As to Mr Plornish, he had married these articles of belief in
marrying Mr Nandy's daughter, and only wondered how it was that so
gifted an old gentleman had not made a fortune. This he
attributed, after much reflection, to his musical genius not having
been scientifically developed in his youth. 'For why,' argued Mr
Plornish, 'why go a-binding music when you've got it in yourself?
That's where it is, I consider.'
Old Nandy had a patron: one patron. He had a patron who in a
certain sumptuous way--an apologetic way, as if he constantly took
an admiring audience to witness that he really could not help being
more free with this old fellow than they might have expected, on
account of his simplicity and poverty--was mightily good to him.
Old Nandy had been several times to the Marshalsea College,
communicating with his son-in-law during his short durance there;
and had happily acquired to himself, and had by degrees and in
course of time much improved, the patronage of the Father of that
Mr Dorrit was in the habit of receiving this old man as if the old
man held of him in vassalage under some feudal tenure. He made
little treats and teas for him, as if he came in with his homage
from some outlying district where the tenantry were in a primitive
It seemed as if there were moments when he could by no means have
sworn but that the old man was an ancient retainer of his, who had
been meritoriously faithful. When he mentioned him, he spoke of
him casually as his old pensioner. He had a wonderful satisfaction
in seeing him, and in commenting on his decayed condition after he
was gone. It appeared to him amazing that he could hold up his
head at all, poor creature. 'In the Workhouse, sir, the Union; no
privacy, no visitors, no station, no respect, no speciality. Most
It was Old Nandy's birthday, and they let him out. He said nothing
about its being his birthday, or they might have kept him in; for
such old men should not be born. He passed along the streets as
usual to Bleeding Heart Yard, and had his dinner with his daughter
and son-in-law, and gave them Phyllis. He had hardly concluded,
when Little Dorrit looked in to see how they all were.
'Miss Dorrit,' said Mrs Plornish, 'here's Father! Ain't he looking
nice? And such voice he's in!'
Little Dorrit gave him her hand, and smilingly said she had not
seen him this long time.
'No, they're rather hard on poor Father,' said Mrs Plornish with a
lengthening face, 'and don't let him have half as much change and
fresh air as would benefit him. But he'll soon be home for good,
now. Won't you, Father?'
'Yes, my dear, I hope so. In good time, please God.'
Here Mr Plornish delivered himself of an oration which he
invariably made, word for word the same, on all such opportunities.
It was couched in the following terms:
'John Edward Nandy. Sir. While there's a ounce of wittles or
drink of any sort in this present roof, you're fully welcome to
your share on it. While there's a handful of fire or a mouthful of
bed in this present roof, you're fully welcome to your share on it.
If so be as there should be nothing in this present roof, you
should be as welcome to your share on it as if it was something,
much or little. And this is what I mean and so I don't deceive
you, and consequently which is to stand out is to entreat of you,
and therefore why not do it?'
To this lucid address, which Mr Plornish always delivered as if he
had composed it (as no doubt he had) with enormous labour, Mrs
Plornish's father pipingly replied:
'I thank you kindly, Thomas, and I know your intentions well, which
is the same I thank you kindly for. But no, Thomas. Until such
times as it's not to take it out of your children's mouths, which
take it is, and call it by what name you will it do remain and
equally deprive, though may they come, and too soon they can not
come, no Thomas, no!'
Mrs Plornish, who had been turning her face a little away with a
corner of her apron in her hand, brought herself back to the
conversation again by telling Miss Dorrit that Father was going
over the water to pay his respects, unless she knew of any reason
why it might not be agreeable.
Her answer was, 'I am going straight home, and if he will come with
me I shall be so glad to take care of him--so glad,' said Little
Dorrit, always thoughtful of the feelings of the weak, 'of his
'There, Father!' cried Mrs Plornish. 'Ain't you a gay young man to
be going for a walk along with Miss Dorrit! Let me tie your neck-
handkerchief into a regular good bow, for you're a regular beau
yourself, Father, if ever there was one.'
With this filial joke his daughter smartened him up, and gave him
a loving hug, and stood at the door with her weak child in her
arms, and her strong child tumbling down the steps, looking after
her little old father as he toddled away with his arm under Little
They walked at a slow pace, and Little Dorrit took him by the Iron
Bridge and sat him down there for a rest, and they looked over at
the water and talked about the shipping, and the old man mentioned
what he would do if he had a ship full of gold coming home to him
(his plan was to take a noble lodging for the Plornishes and
himself at a Tea Gardens, and live there all the rest of their
lives, attended on by the waiter), and it was a special birthday of
the old man. They were within five minutes of their destination,
when, at the corner of her own street, they came upon Fanny in her
new bonnet bound for the same port.
'Why, good gracious me, Amy!' cried that young lady starting. 'You
never mean it!'
'Mean what, Fanny dear?'
'Well! I could have believed a great deal of you,' returned the
young lady with burning indignation, 'but I don't think even I
could have believed this, of even you!'
'Fanny!' cried Little Dorrit, wounded and astonished.
'Oh! Don't Fanny me, you mean little thing, don't! The idea of
coming along the open streets, in the broad light of day, with a
Pauper!' (firing off the last word as if it were a ball from an
'I tell you not to Fanny me, for I'll not submit to it! I never
knew such a thing. The way in which you are resolved and
determined to disgrace us on all occasions, is really infamous.
You bad little thing!'
'Does it disgrace anybody,' said Little Dorrit, very gently, 'to
take care of this poor old man?'
'Yes, miss,' returned her sister, 'and you ought to know it does.
And you do know it does, and you do it because you know it does.
The principal pleasure of your life is to remind your family of
their misfortunes. And the next great pleasure of your existence
is to keep low company. But, however, if you have no sense of
decency, I have. You'll please to allow me to go on the other side
of the way, unmolested.'
With this, she bounced across to the opposite pavement. The old
disgrace, who had been deferentially bowing a pace or two off (for
Little Dorrit had let his arm go in her wonder, when Fanny began),
and who had been hustled and cursed by impatient passengers for
stopping the way, rejoined his companion, rather giddy, and said,
'I hope nothing's wrong with your honoured father, Miss? I hope
there's nothing the matter in the honoured family?'
'No, no,' returned Little Dorrit. 'No, thank you. Give me your
arm again, Mr Nandy. We shall soon be there now.'
So she talked to him as she had talked before, and they came to the
Lodge and found Mr Chivery on the lock, and went in. Now, it
happened that the Father of the Marshalsea was sauntering towards
the Lodge at the moment when they were coming out of it, entering
the prison arm in arm. As the spectacle of their approach met his
view, he displayed the utmost agitation and despondency of mind;
and--altogether regardless of Old Nandy, who, making his reverence,
stood with his hat in his hand, as he always did in that gracious
presence--turned about, and hurried in at his own doorway and up
Leaving the old unfortunate, whom in an evil hour she had taken
under her protection, with a hurried promise to return to him
directly, Little Dorrit hastened after her father, and, on the
staircase, found Fanny following her, and flouncing up with
offended dignity. The three came into the room almost together;
and the Father sat down in his chair, buried his face in his hands,
and uttered a groan.
'Of course,' said Fanny. 'Very proper. Poor, afflicted Pa! Now,
I hope you believe me, Miss?'
'What is it, father?' cried Little Dorrit, bending over him. 'Have
I made you unhappy, father? Not I, I hope!'
'You hope, indeed! I dare say! Oh, you'--Fanny paused for a
sufficiently strong expression--'you Common-minded little Amy! You
He stopped these angry reproaches with a wave of his hand, and
sobbed out, raising his face and shaking his melancholy head at his
younger daughter, 'Amy, I know that you are innocent in intention.
But you have cut me to the soul.'
'Innocent in intention!' the implacable Fanny struck in. 'Stuff in
intention! Low in intention! Lowering of the family in
'Father!' cried Little Dorrit, pale and trembling. 'I am very
sorry. Pray forgive me. Tell me how it is, that I may not do it
'How it is, you prevaricating little piece of goods!' cried Fanny.
'You know how it is. I have told you already, so don't fly in the
face of Providence by attempting to deny it!'
'Hush! Amy,' said the father, passing his pocket-handkerchief
several times across his face, and then grasping it convulsively in
the hand that dropped across his knee, 'I have done what I could to
keep you select here; I have done what I could to retain you a
position here. I may have succeeded; I may not. You may know it;
you may not. I give no opinion. I have endured everything here
but humiliation. That I have happily been spared--until this day.'
Here his convulsive grasp unclosed itself, and he put his pocket-
handkerchief to his eyes again. Little Dorrit, on the ground
beside him, with her imploring hand upon his arm, watched him
remorsefully. Coming out of his fit of grief, he clenched his
pocket-handkerchief once more.
'Humiliation I have happily been spared until this day. Through
all my troubles there has been that--Spirit in myself, and that--
that submission to it, if I may use the term, in those about me,
which has spared me--ha--humiliation. But this day, this minute,
I have keenly felt it.'
'Of course! How could it be otherwise?' exclaimed the
irrepressible Fanny. 'Careering and prancing about with a Pauper!'
'But, dear father,' cried Little Dorrit, 'I don't justify myself
for having wounded your dear heart--no! Heaven knows I don't!'
She clasped her hands in quite an agony of distress. 'I do nothing
but beg and pray you to be comforted and overlook it. But if I had
not known that you were kind to the old man yourself, and took much
notice of him, and were always glad to see him, I would not have
come here with him, father, I would not, indeed. What I have been
so unhappy as to do, I have done in mistake. I would not wilfully
bring a tear to your eyes, dear love!' said Little Dorrit, her
heart well-nigh broken, 'for anything the world could give me, or
anything it could take away.'
Fanny, with a partly angry and partly repentant sob, began to cry
herself, and to say--as this young lady always said when she was
half in passion and half out of it, half spiteful with herself and
half spiteful with everybody else--that she wished she were dead.
The Father of the Marshalsea in the meantime took his younger
daughter to his breast, and patted her head.
'There, there! Say no more, Amy, say no more, my child. I will
forget it as soon as I can. I,' with hysterical cheerfulness, 'I--
shall soon be able to dismiss it. It is perfectly true, my dear,
that I am always glad to see my old pensioner--as such, as such--
and that I do--ha--extend as much protection and kindness to the--
hum--the bruised reed--I trust I may so call him without
impropriety--as in my circumstances, I can. It is quite true that
this is the case, my dear child. At the same time, I preserve in
doing this, if I may--ha--if I may use the expression--Spirit.
Becoming Spirit. And there are some things which are,' he stopped
to sob, 'irreconcilable with that, and wound that--wound it deeply.
It is not that I have seen my good Amy attentive, and--ha--
condescending to my old pensioner--it is not that that hurts me.
It is, if I am to close the painful subject by being explicit, that
I have seen my child, my own child, my own daughter, coming into
this College out of the public streets--smiling! smiling!--arm in
arm with--O my God, a livery!'
This reference to the coat of no cut and no time, the unfortunate
gentleman gasped forth, in a scarcely audible voice, and with his
clenched pocket-handkerchief raised in the air. His excited
feelings might have found some further painful utterance, but for
a knock at the door, which had been already twice repeated, and to
which Fanny (still wishing herself dead, and indeed now going so
far as to add, buried) cried 'Come in!'
'Ah, Young John!' said the Father, in an altered and calmed voice.
'What is it, Young John?'
'A letter for you, sir, being left in the Lodge just this minute,
and a message with it, I thought, happening to be there myself,
sir, I would bring it to your room.' The speaker's attention was
much distracted by the piteous spectacle of Little Dorrit at her
father's feet, with her head turned away.
'Indeed, John? Thank you.'
'The letter is from Mr Clennam, sir--it's the answer--and the
message was, sir, that Mr Clennam also sent his compliments, and
word that he would do himself the pleasure of calling this
afternoon, hoping to see you, and likewise,' attention more
distracted than before, 'Miss Amy.'
'Oh!' As the Father glanced into the letter (there was a bank-note
in it), he reddened a little, and patted Amy on the head afresh.
'Thank you, Young John. Quite right. Much obliged to you for your
attention. No one waiting?'
'No, sir, no one waiting.'
'Thank you, John. How is your mother, Young John?'
'Thank you, sir, she's not quite as well as we could wish--in fact,
we none of us are, except father--but she's pretty well, sir.'
'Say we sent our remembrances, will you? Say kind remembrances, if
you please, Young John.'
'Thank you, sir, I will.' And Mr Chivery junior went his way,
having spontaneously composed on the spot an entirely new epitaph
for himself, to the effect that Here lay the body of John Chivery,
Who, Having at such a date, Beheld the idol of his life, In grief
and tears, And feeling unable to bear the harrowing spectacle,
Immediately repaired to the abode of his inconsolable parents, And
terminated his existence by his own rash act.
'There, there, Amy!' said the Father, when Young John had closed
the door, 'let us say no more about it.' The last few minutes had
improved his spirits remarkably, and he was quite lightsome.
'Where is my old pensioner all this while? We must not leave him
by himself any longer, or he will begin to suppose he is not
welcome, and that would pain me. Will you fetch him, my child, or
'If you wouldn't mind, father,' said Little Dorrit, trying to bring
her sobbing to a close.
'Certainly I will go, my dear. I forgot; your eyes are rather red.
There! Cheer up, Amy. Don't be uneasy about me. I am quite
myself again, my love, quite myself. Go to your room, Amy, and
make yourself look comfortable and pleasant to receive Mr Clennam.'
'I would rather stay in my own room, Father,' returned Little
Dorrit, finding it more difficult than before to regain her
composure. 'I would far rather not see Mr Clennam.'
'Oh, fie, fie, my dear, that's folly. Mr Clennam is a very
gentlemanly man--very gentlemanly. A little reserved at times; but
I will say extremely gentlemanly. I couldn't think of your not
being here to receive Mr Clennam, my dear, especially this
afternoon. So go and freshen yourself up, Amy; go and freshen
yourself up, like a good girl.'
Thus directed, Little Dorrit dutifully rose and obeyed: only
pausing for a moment as she went out of the room, to give her
sister a kiss of reconciliation. Upon which, that young lady,
feeling much harassed in her mind, and having for the time worn out
the wish with which she generally relieved it, conceived and
executed the brilliant idea of wishing Old Nandy dead, rather than
that he should come bothering there like a disgusting, tiresome,
wicked wretch, and making mischief between two sisters.
The Father of the Marshalsea, even humming a tune, and wearing his
black velvet cap a little on one side, so much improved were his
spirits, went down into the yard, and found his old pensioner
standing there hat in hand just within the gate, as he had stood
all this time. 'Come, Nandy!' said he, with great suavity. 'Come
up-stairs, Nandy; you know the way; why don't you come up-stairs?'
He went the length, on this occasion, of giving him his hand and
saying, 'How are you, Nandy? Are you pretty well?' To which that
vocalist returned, 'I thank you, honoured sir, I am all the better
for seeing your honour.' As they went along the yard, the Father
of the Marshalsea presented him to a Collegian of recent date. 'An
old acquaintance of mine, sir, an old pensioner.' And then said,
'Be covered, my good Nandy; put your hat on,' with great
His patronage did not stop here; for he charged Maggy to get the
tea ready, and instructed her to buy certain tea-cakes, fresh
butter, eggs, cold ham, and shrimps: to purchase which collation he
gave her a bank-note for ten pounds, laying strict injunctions on
her to be careful of the change. These preparations were in an
advanced stage of progress, and his daughter Amy had come back with
her work, when Clennam presented himself; whom he most graciously
received, and besought to join their meal.
'Amy, my love, you know Mr Clennam even better than I have the
happiness of doing. Fanny, my dear, you are acquainted with Mr
Clennam.' Fanny acknowledged him haughtily; the position she
tacitly took up in all such cases being that there was a vast
conspiracy to insult the family by not understanding it, or
sufficiently deferring to it, and here was one of the conspirators.
'This, Mr Clennam, you must know, is an old pensioner of mine, Old
Nandy, a very faithful old man.' (He always spoke of him as an
object of great antiquity, but he was two or three years younger
than himself.) 'Let me see. You know Plornish, I think? I think
my daughter Amy has mentioned to me that you know poor Plornish?'
'O yes!' said Arthur Clennam.
'Well, sir, this is Mrs Plornish's father.'
'Indeed? I am glad to see him.'
'You would be more glad if you knew his many good qualities,
'I hope I shall come to know them through knowing him,' said
Arthur, secretly pitying the bowed and submissive figure.
'It is a holiday with him, and he comes to see his old friends, who
are always glad to see him,' observed the Father of the Marshalsea.
Then he added behind his hand, ('Union, poor old fellow. Out for
By this time Maggy, quietly assisted by her Little Mother, had
spread the board, and the repast was ready. It being hot weather
and the prison very close, the window was as wide open as it could
be pushed. 'If Maggy will spread that newspaper on the window-
sill, my dear,' remarked the Father complacently and in a half
whisper to Little Dorrit, 'my old pensioner can have his tea there,
while we are having ours.'
So, with a gulf between him and the good company of about a foot in
width, standard measure, Mrs Plornish's father was handsomely
regaled. Clennam had never seen anything like his magnanimous
protection by that other Father, he of the Marshalsea; and was lost
in the contemplation of its many wonders.
The most striking of these was perhaps the relishing manner in
which he remarked on the pensioner's infirmities and failings, as
if he were a gracious Keeper making a running commentary on the
decline of the harmless animal he exhibited.
'Not ready for more ham yet, Nandy? Why, how slow you are! (His
last teeth,' he explained to the company, 'are going, poor old
At another time, he said, 'No shrimps, Nandy?' and on his not
instantly replying, observed, ('His hearing is becoming very
defective. He'll be deaf directly.')
At another time he asked him, 'Do you walk much, Nandy, about the
yard within the walls of that place of yours?'
'No, sir; no. I haven't any great liking for that.'
'No, to be sure,' he assented. 'Very natural.' Then he privately
informed the circle ('Legs going.')
Once he asked the pensioner, in that general clemency which asked
him anything to keep him afloat, how old his younger grandchild
'John Edward,' said the pensioner, slowly laying down his knife and
fork to consider. 'How old, sir? Let me think now.'
The Father of the Marshalsea tapped his forehead ('Memory weak.')
'John Edward, sir? Well, I really forget. I couldn't say at this
minute, sir, whether it's two and two months, or whether it's two
and five months. It's one or the other.'
'Don't distress yourself by worrying your mind about it,' he
returned, with infinite forbearance. ('Faculties evidently
decaying--old man rusts in the life he leads!')
The more of these discoveries that he persuaded himself he made in
the pensioner, the better he appeared to like him; and when he got
out of his chair after tea to bid the pensioner good-bye, on his
intimating that he feared, honoured sir, his time was running out,
he made himself look as erect and strong as possible.
'We don't call this a shilling, Nandy, you know,' he said, putting
one in his hand. 'We call it tobacco.'
'Honoured sir, I thank you. It shall buy tobacco. My thanks and
duty to Miss Amy and Miss Fanny. I wish you good night, Mr
'And mind you don't forget us, you know, Nandy,' said the Father.
'You must come again, mind, whenever you have an afternoon. You
must not come out without seeing us, or we shall be jealous. Good
night, Nandy. Be very careful how you descend the stairs, Nandy;
they are rather uneven and worn.' With that he stood on the
landing, watching the old man down: and when he came into the room
again, said, with a solemn satisfaction on him, 'A melancholy sight
that, Mr Clennam, though one has the consolation of knowing that he
doesn't feel it himself. The poor old fellow is a dismal wreck.
Spirit broken and gone--pulverised--crushed out of him, sir,
As Clennam had a purpose in remaining, he said what he could
responsive to these sentiments, and stood at the window with their
enunciator, while Maggy and her Little Mother washed the tea-
service and cleared it away. He noticed that his companion stood
at the window with the air of an affable and accessible Sovereign,
and that, when any of his people in the yard below looked up, his
recognition of their salutes just stopped short of a blessing.
When Little Dorrit had her work on the table, and Maggy hers on the
bedstead, Fanny fell to tying her bonnet as a preliminary to her
departure. Arthur, still having his purpose, still remained. At
this time the door opened, without any notice, and Mr Tip came in.
He kissed Amy as she started up to meet him, nodded to Fanny,
nodded to his father, gloomed on the visitor without further
recognition, and sat down.
'Tip, dear,' said Little Dorrit, mildly, shocked by this, 'don't
'Yes, I see, Amy. If you refer to the presence of any visitor you
have here--I say, if you refer to that,' answered Tip, jerking his
head with emphasis towards his shoulder nearest Clennam, 'I see!'
'Is that all you say?'
'That's all I say. And I suppose,' added the lofty young man,
after a moment's pause, 'that visitor will understand me, when I
say that's all I say. In short, I suppose the visitor will
understand that he hasn't used me like a gentleman.'
'I do not understand that,' observed the obnoxious personage
referred to with tranquillity.
'No? Why, then, to make it clearer to you, sir, I beg to let you
know that when I address what I call a properly-worded appeal, and
an urgent appeal, and a delicate appeal, to an individual, for a
small temporary accommodation, easily within his power--easily
within his power, mind!--and when that individual writes back word
to me that he begs to be excused, I consider that he doesn't treat
me like a gentleman.'
The Father of the Marshalsea, who had surveyed his son in silence,
no sooner heard this sentiment, than he began in angry voice:--
'How dare you--' But his son stopped him.
'Now, don't ask me how I dare, father, because that's bosh. As to
the fact of the line of conduct I choose to adopt towards the
individual present, you ought to be proud of my showing a proper
'I should think so!' cried Fanny.
'A proper spirit?' said the Father. 'Yes, a proper spirit; a
becoming spirit. Is it come to this that my son teaches me--ME--
'Now, don't let us bother about it, father, or have any row on the
subject. I have fully made up my mind that the individual present
has not treated me like a gentleman. And there's an end of it.'
'But there is not an end of it, sir,' returned the Father. 'But
there shall not be an end of it. You have made up your mind? You
have made up your mind?'
'Yes, I have. What's the good of keeping on like that?'
'Because,' returned the Father, in a great heat, 'you had no right
to make up your mind to what is monstrous, to what is--ha--immoral,
to what is--hum--parricidal. No, Mr Clennam, I beg, sir. Don't
ask me to desist; there is a--hum--a general principle involved
here, which rises even above considerations of--ha--hospitality.
I object to the assertion made by my son. I--ha--I personally
'Why, what is it to you, father?' returned the son, over his
'What is it to me, sir? I have a--hum--a spirit, sir, that will
not endure it. I,' he took out his pocket-handkerchief again and
dabbed his face. 'I am outraged and insulted by it. Let me
suppose the case that I myself may at a certain time--ha--or times,
have made a--hum--an appeal, and a properly-worded appeal, and a
delicate appeal, and an urgent appeal to some individual for a
small temporary accommodation. Let me suppose that that
accommodation could have been easily extended, and was not
extended, and that that individual informed me that he begged to be
excused. Am I to be told by my own son, that I therefore received
treatment not due to a gentleman, and that I--ha--I submitted to
His daughter Amy gently tried to calm him, but he would not on any
account be calmed. He said his spirit was up, and wouldn't endure
Was he to be told that, he wished to know again, by his own son on
his own hearth, to his own face? Was that humiliation to be put
upon him by his own blood?
'You are putting it on yourself, father, and getting into all this
injury of your own accord!' said the young gentleman morosely.
'What I have made up my mind about has nothing to do with you.
What I said had nothing to do with you. Why need you go trying on
other people's hats?'
'I reply it has everything to do with me,' returned the Father. 'I
point out to you, sir, with indignation, that--hum--the--ha--
delicacy and peculiarity of your father's position should strike
you dumb, sir, if nothing else should, in laying down such--ha--
such unnatural principles. Besides; if you are not filial, sir, if
you discard that duty, you are at least--hum--not a Christian? Are
you--ha--an Atheist? And is it Christian, let me ask you, to
stigmatise and denounce an individual for begging to be excused
this time, when the same individual may--ha--respond with the
required accommodation next time? Is it the part of a Christian
not to--hum--not to try him again?' He had worked himself into
quite a religious glow and fervour.
'I see precious well,' said Mr Tip, rising, 'that I shall get no
sensible or fair argument here to-night, and so the best thing I
can do is to cut. Good night, Amy. Don't be vexed. I am very
sorry it happens here, and you here, upon my soul I am; but I can't
altogether part with my spirit, even for your sake, old girl.'
With those words he put on his hat and went out, accompanied by
Miss Fanny; who did not consider it spirited on her part to take
leave of Clennam with any less opposing demonstration than a stare,
importing that she had always known him for one of the large body
When they were gone, the Father of the Marshalsea was at first