Part 10 out of 20
inclined to sink into despondency again, and would have done so,
but that a gentleman opportunely came up within a minute or two to
attend him to the Snuggery. It was the gentleman Clennam had seen
on the night of his own accidental detention there, who had that
impalpable grievance about the misappropriated Fund on which the
Marshal was supposed to batten. He presented himself as deputation
to escort the Father to the Chair, it being an occasion on which he
had promised to preside over the assembled Collegians in the
enjoyment of a little Harmony.
'Such, you see, Mr Clennam,' said the Father, 'are the
incongruities of my position here. But a public duty! No man, I
am sure, would more readily recognise a public duty than yourself.'
Clennam besought him not to delay a moment.
'Amy, my dear, if you can persuade Mr Clennam to stay longer, I can
leave the honours of our poor apology for an establishment with
confidence in your hands, and perhaps you may do something towards
erasing from Mr Clennam's mind the--ha--untoward and unpleasant
circumstance which has occurred since tea-time.'
Clennam assured him that it had made no impression on his mind, and
therefore required no erasure.
'My dear sir,' said the Father, with a removal of his black cap and
a grasp of Clennam's hand, combining to express the safe receipt of
his note and enclosure that afternoon, 'Heaven ever bless you!'
So, at last, Clennam's purpose in remaining was attained, and he
could speak to Little Dorrit with nobody by. Maggy counted as
nobody, and she was by.
Maggy sat at her work in her great white cap with its quantity of
opaque frilling hiding what profile she had (she had none to
spare), and her serviceable eye brought to bear upon her
occupation, on the window side of the room. What with her flapping
cap, and what with her unserviceable eye, she was quite partitioned
off from her Little Mother, whose seat was opposite the window.
The tread and shuffle of feet on the pavement of the yard had much
diminished since the taking of the Chair, the tide of Collegians
having set strongly in the direction of Harmony. Some few who had
no music in their souls, or no money in their pockets, dawdled
about; and the old spectacle of the visitor-wife and the depressed
unseasoned prisoner still lingered in corners, as broken cobwebs
and such unsightly discomforts draggle in corners of other places.
It was the quietest time the College knew, saving the night hours
when the Collegians took the benefit of the act of sleep. The
occasional rattle of applause upon the tables of the Snuggery,
denoted the successful termination of a morsel of Harmony; or the
responsive acceptance, by the united children, of some toast or
sentiment offered to them by their Father. Occasionally, a vocal
strain more sonorous than the generality informed the listener that
some boastful bass was in blue water, or in the hunting field, or
with the reindeer, or on the mountain, or among the heather; but
the Marshal of the Marshalsea knew better, and had got him hard and
As Arthur Clennam moved to sit down by the side of Little Dorrit,
she trembled so that she had much ado to hold her needle. Clennam
gently put his hand upon her work, and said, 'Dear Little Dorrit,
let me lay it down.'
She yielded it to him, and he put it aside. Her hands were then
nervously clasping together, but he took one of them.
'How seldom I have seen you lately, Little Dorrit!'
'I have been busy, sir.'
'But I heard only to-day,' said Clennam, 'by mere accident, of your
having been with those good people close by me. Why not come to
'I--I don't know. Or rather, I thought you might be busy too. You
generally are now, are you not?'
He saw her trembling little form and her downcast face, and the
eyes that drooped the moment they were raised to his--he saw them
almost with as much concern as tenderness.
'My child, your manner is so changed!'
The trembling was now quite beyond her control. Softly withdrawing
her hand, and laying it in her other hand, she sat before him with
her head bent and her whole form trembling.
'My own Little Dorrit,' said Clennam, compassionately.
She burst into tears. Maggy looked round of a sudden, and stared
for at least a minute; but did not interpose. Clennam waited some
little while before he spoke again.
'I cannot bear,' he said then, 'to see you weep; but I hope this is
a relief to an overcharged heart.'
'Yes it is, sir. Nothing but that.'
'Well, well! I feared you would think too much of what passed here
just now. It is of no moment; not the least. I am only
unfortunate to have come in the way. Let it go by with these
tears. It is not worth one of them. One of them? Such an idle
thing should be repeated, with my glad consent, fifty times a day,
to save you a moment's heart-ache, Little Dorrit.'
She had taken courage now, and answered, far more in her usual
manner, 'You are so good! But even if there was nothing else in it
to be sorry for and ashamed of, it is such a bad return to you--'
'Hush!' said Clennam, smiling and touching her lips with his hand.
'Forgetfulness in you who remember so many and so much, would be
new indeed. Shall I remind you that I am not, and that I never
was, anything but the friend whom you agreed to trust? No. You
remember it, don't you?'
'I try to do so, or I should have broken the promise just now, when
my mistaken brother was here. You will consider his bringing-up in
this place, and will not judge him hardly, poor fellow, I know!'
In raising her eyes with these words, she observed his face more
nearly than she had done yet, and said, with a quick change of
tone, 'You have not been ill, Mr Clennam?'
'Nor tried? Nor hurt?' she asked him, anxiously.
It fell to Clennam now, to be not quite certain how to answer. He
said in reply:
'To speak the truth, I have been a little troubled, but it is over.
Do I show it so plainly? I ought to have more fortitude and self-
command than that. I thought I had. I must learn them of you.
Who could teach me better!'
He never thought that she saw in him what no one else could see.
He never thought that in the whole world there were no other eyes
that looked upon him with the same light and strength as hers.
'But it brings me to something that I wish to say,' he continued,
'and therefore I will not quarrel even with my own face for telling
tales and being unfaithful to me. Besides, it is a privilege and
pleasure to confide in my Little Dorrit. Let me confess then,
that, forgetting how grave I was, and how old I was, and how the
time for such things had gone by me with the many years of sameness
and little happiness that made up my long life far away, without
marking it--that, forgetting all this, I fancied I loved some one.'
'Do I know her, sir?' asked Little Dorrit.
'No, my child.'
'Not the lady who has been kind to me for your sake?'
'Flora. No, no. Do you think--'
'I never quite thought so,' said Little Dorrit, more to herself
than him. 'I did wonder at it a little.'
'Well!' said Clennam, abiding by the feeling that had fallen on him
in the avenue on the night of the roses, the feeling that he was an
older man, who had done with that tender part of life, 'I found out
my mistake, and I thought about it a little--in short, a good
deal--and got wiser. Being wiser, I counted up my years and
considered what I am, and looked back, and looked forward, and
found that I should soon be grey. I found that I had climbed the
hill, and passed the level ground upon the top, and was descending
If he had known the sharpness of the pain he caused the patient
heart, in speaking thus! While doing it, too, with the purpose of
easing and serving her.
'I found that the day when any such thing would have been graceful
in me, or good in me, or hopeful or happy for me or any one in
connection with me, was gone, and would never shine again.'
O! If he had known, if he had known! If he could have seen the
dagger in his hand, and the cruel wounds it struck in the faithful
bleeding breast of his Little Dorrit!
'All that is over, and I have turned my face from it. Why do I
speak of this to Little Dorrit? Why do I show you, my child, the
space of years that there is between us, and recall to you that I
have passed, by the amount of your whole life, the time that is
present to you?'
'Because you trust me, I hope. Because you know that nothing can
touch you without touching me; that nothing can make you happy or
unhappy, but it must make me, who am so grateful to you, the same.'
He heard the thrill in her voice, he saw her earnest face, he saw
her clear true eyes, he saw the quickened bosom that would have
joyfully thrown itself before him to receive a mortal wound
directed at his breast, with the dying cry, 'I love him!' and the
remotest suspicion of the truth never dawned upon his mind. No.
He saw the devoted little creature with her worn shoes, in her
common dress, in her jail-home; a slender child in body, a strong
heroine in soul; and the light of her domestic story made all else
dark to him.
'For those reasons assuredly, Little Dorrit, but for another too.
So far removed, so different, and so much older, I am the better
fitted for your friend and adviser. I mean, I am the more easily
to be trusted; and any little constraint that you might feel with
another, may vanish before me. Why have you kept so retired from
me? Tell me.'
'I am better here. My place and use are here. I am much better
here,' said Little Dorrit, faintly.
'So you said that day upon the bridge. I thought of it much
afterwards. Have you no secret you could entrust to me, with hope
and comfort, if you would!'
'Secret? No, I have no secret,' said Little Dorrit in some
They had been speaking in low voices; more because it was natural
to what they said to adopt that tone, than with any care to reserve
it from Maggy at her work. All of a sudden Maggy stared again, and
this time spoke:
'I say! Little Mother!'
'If you an't got no secret of your own to tell him, tell him that
about the Princess. She had a secret, you know.'
'The Princess had a secret?' said Clennam, in some surprise. 'What
Princess was that, Maggy?'
'Lor! How you do go and bother a gal of ten,' said Maggy,
'catching the poor thing up in that way. Whoever said the Princess
had a secret? _I_ never said so.'
'I beg your pardon. I thought you did.'
'No, I didn't. How could I, when it was her as wanted to find it
out? It was the little woman as had the secret, and she was always
a spinning at her wheel. And so she says to her, why do you keep
it there? And so the t'other one says to her, no I don't; and so
the t'other one says to her, yes you do; and then they both goes to
the cupboard, and there it is. And she wouldn't go into the
Hospital, and so she died. You know, Little Mother; tell him that.
For it was a reg'lar good secret, that was!' cried Maggy, hugging
Arthur looked at Little Dorrit for help to comprehend this, and was
struck by seeing her so timid and red. But, when she told him that
it was only a Fairy Tale she had one day made up for Maggy, and
that there was nothing in it which she wouldn't be ashamed to tell
again to anybody else, even if she could remember it, he left the
subject where it was.
However, he returned to his own subject by first entreating her to
see him oftener, and to remember that it was impossible to have a
stronger interest in her welfare than he had, or to be more set
upon promoting it than he was. When she answered fervently, she
well knew that, she never forgot it, he touched upon his second and
more delicate point--the suspicion he had formed.
'Little Dorrit,' he said, taking her hand again, and speaking lower
than he had spoken yet, so that even Maggy in the small room could
not hear him, 'another word. I have wanted very much to say this
to you; I have tried for opportunities. Don't mind me, who, for
the matter of years, might be your father or your uncle. Always
think of me as quite an old man. I know that all your devotion
centres in this room, and that nothing to the last will ever tempt
you away from the duties you discharge here. If I were not sure of
it, I should, before now, have implored you, and implored your
father, to let me make some provision for you in a more suitable
place. But you may have an interest--I will not say, now, though
even that might be--may have, at another time, an interest in some
one else; an interest not incompatible with your affection here.'
She was very, very pale, and silently shook her head.
'It may be, dear Little Dorrit.'
'No. No. No.' She shook her head, after each slow repetition of
the word, with an air of quiet desolation that he remembered long
afterwards. The time came when he remembered it well, long
afterwards, within those prison walls; within that very room.
'But, if it ever should be, tell me so, my dear child. Entrust the
truth to me, point out the object of such an interest to me, and I
will try with all the zeal, and honour, and friendship and respect
that I feel for you, good Little Dorrit of my heart, to do you a
'O thank you, thank you! But, O no, O no, O no!' She said this,
looking at him with her work-worn hands folded together, and in the
same resigned accents as before.
'I press for no confidence now. I only ask you to repose
unhesitating trust in me.'
'Can I do less than that, when you are so good!'
'Then you will trust me fully? Will have no secret unhappiness, or
anxiety, concealed from me?'
'And you have none now?'
She shook her head. But she was very pale.
'When I lie down to-night, and my thoughts come back--as they will,
for they do every night, even when I have not seen you--to this sad
place, I may believe that there is no grief beyond this room, now,
and its usual occupants, which preys on Little Dorrit's mind?'
She seemed to catch at these words--that he remembered, too, long
afterwards--and said, more brightly, 'Yes, Mr Clennam; yes, you
The crazy staircase, usually not slow to give notice when any one
was coming up or down, here creaked under a quick tread, and a
further sound was heard upon it, as if a little steam-engine with
more steam than it knew what to do with, were working towards the
room. As it approached, which it did very rapidly, it laboured
with increased energy; and, after knocking at the door, it sounded
as if it were stooping down and snorting in at the keyhole.
Before Maggy could open the door, Mr Pancks, opening it from
without, stood without a hat and with his bare head in the wildest
condition, looking at Clennam and Little Dorrit, over her shoulder.
He had a lighted cigar in his hand, and brought with him airs of
ale and tobacco smoke.
'Pancks the gipsy,' he observed out of breath, 'fortune-telling.'
He stood dingily smiling, and breathing hard at them, with a most
curious air; as if, instead of being his proprietor's grubber, he
were the triumphant proprietor of the Marshalsea, the Marshal, all
the turnkeys, and all the Collegians. In his great self-
satisfaction he put his cigar to his lips (being evidently no
smoker), and took such a pull at it, with his right eye shut up
tight for the purpose, that he underwent a convulsion of shuddering
and choking. But even in the midst of that paroxysm, he still
essayed to repeat his favourite introduction of himself, 'Pa-ancks
the gi-ipsy, fortune-telling.'
'I am spending the evening with the rest of 'em,' said Pancks.
'I've been singing. I've been taking a part in White sand and grey
sand. I don't know anything about it. Never mind. I'll take any
part in anything. It's all the same, if you're loud enough.'
At first Clennam supposed him to be intoxicated. But he soon
perceived that though he might be a little the worse (or better)
for ale, the staple of his excitement was not brewed from malt, or
distilled from any grain or berry.
'How d'ye do, Miss Dorrit?' said Pancks. 'I thought you wouldn't
mind my running round, and looking in for a moment. Mr Clennam I
heard was here, from Mr Dorrit. How are you, Sir?'
Clennam thanked him, and said he was glad to see him so gay.
'Gay!' said Pancks. 'I'm in wonderful feather, sir. I can't stop
a minute, or I shall be missed, and I don't want 'em to miss me.--
Eh, Miss Dorrit?'
He seemed to have an insatiate delight in appealing to her and
looking at her; excitedly sticking his hair up at the same moment,
like a dark species of cockatoo.
'I haven't been here half an hour. I knew Mr Dorrit was in the
chair, and I said, "I'll go and support him!" I ought to be down in
Bleeding Heart Yard by rights; but I can worry them to-morrow.--Eh,
His little black eyes sparkled electrically. His very hair seemed
to sparkle as he roughened it. He was in that highly-charged state
that one might have expected to draw sparks and snaps from him by
presenting a knuckle to any part of his figure.
'Capital company here,' said Pancks.--'Eh, Miss Dorrit?'
She was half afraid of him, and irresolute what to say. He
laughed, with a nod towards Clennam.
'Don't mind him, Miss Dorrit. He's one of us. We agreed that you
shouldn't take on to mind me before people, but we didn't mean Mr
Clennam. He's one of us. He's in it. An't you, Mr Clennam?--Eh,
The excitement of this strange creature was fast communicating
itself to Clennam. Little Dorrit with amazement, saw this, and
observed that they exchanged quick looks.
'I was making a remark,' said Pancks, 'but I declare I forget what
it was. Oh, I know! Capital company here. I've been treating 'em
all round.--Eh, Miss Dorrit?'
'Very generous of you,' she returned, noticing another of the quick
looks between the two.
'Not at all,' said Pancks. 'Don't mention it. I'm coming into my
property, that's the fact. I can afford to be liberal. I think
I'll give 'em a treat here. Tables laid in the yard. Bread in
stacks. Pipes in faggots. Tobacco in hayloads. Roast beef and
plum-pudding for every one. Quart of double stout a head. Pint of
wine too, if they like it, and the authorities give permission.--
Eh, Miss Dorrit?'
She was thrown into such a confusion by his manner, or rather by
Clennam's growing understanding of his manner (for she looked to
him after every fresh appeal and cockatoo demonstration on the part
of Mr Pancks), that she only moved her lips in answer, without
forming any word.
'And oh, by-the-bye!' said Pancks, 'you were to live to know what
was behind us on that little hand of yours. And so you shall, you
shall, my darling.--Eh, Miss Dorrit?'
He had suddenly checked himself. Where he got all the additional
black prongs from, that now flew up all over his head like the
myriads of points that break out in the large change of a great
firework, was a wonderful mystery.
'But I shall be missed;' he came back to that; 'and I don't want
'em to miss me. Mr Clennam, you and I made a bargain. I said you
should find me stick to it. You shall find me stick to it now,
sir, if you'll step out of the room a moment. Miss Dorrit, I wish
you good night. Miss Dorrit, I wish you good fortune.'
He rapidly shook her by both hands, and puffed down stairs. Arthur
followed him with such a hurried step, that he had very nearly
tumbled over him on the last landing, and rolled him down into the
'What is it, for Heaven's sake!' Arthur demanded, when they burst
out there both together.
'Stop a moment, sir. Mr Rugg. Let me introduce him.' With those
words he presented another man without a hat, and also with a
cigar, and also surrounded with a halo of ale and tobacco smoke,
which man, though not so excited as himself, was in a state which
would have been akin to lunacy but for its fading into sober method
when compared with the rampancy of Mr Pancks.
'Mr Clennam, Mr Rugg,' said Pancks. 'Stop a moment. Come to the
They adjourned to the pump. Mr Pancks, instantly putting his head
under the spout, requested Mr Rugg to take a good strong turn at
the handle. Mr Rugg complying to the letter, Mr Pancks came forth
snorting and blowing to some purpose, and dried himself on his
'I am the clearer for that,' he gasped to Clennam standing
astonished. 'But upon my soul, to hear her father making speeches
in that chair, knowing what we know, and to see her up in that room
in that dress, knowing what we know, is enough to--give me a back,
Mr Rugg--a little higher, sir,--that'll do!'
Then and there, on that Marshalsea pavement, in the shades of
evening, did Mr Pancks, of all mankind, fly over the head and
shoulders of Mr Rugg of Pentonville, General Agent, Accountant, and
Recoverer of Debts. Alighting on his feet, he took Clennam by the
button-hole, led him behind the pump, and pantingly produced from
his pocket a bundle of papers. Mr Rugg, also, pantingly produced
from his pocket a bundle of papers.
'Stay!' said Clennam in a whisper.'You have made a discovery.'
Mr Pancks answered, with an unction which there is no language to
convey, 'We rather think so.'
'Does it implicate any one?'
'How implicate, sir?'
'In any suppression or wrong dealing of any kind?'
'Not a bit of it.'
'Thank God!' said Clennam to himself. 'Now show me.'
'You are to understand'--snorted Pancks, feverishly unfolding
papers, and speaking in short high-pressure blasts of sentences,
'Where's the Pedigree? Where's Schedule number four, Mr Rugg? Oh!
all right! Here we are.--You are to understand that we are this
very day virtually complete. We shan't be legally for a day or
two. Call it at the outside a week. We've been at it night and
day for I don't know how long. Mr Rugg, you know how long? Never
mind. Don't say. You'll only confuse me. You shall tell her, Mr
Clennam. Not till we give you leave. Where's that rough total, Mr
Rugg? Oh! Here we are! There sir! That's what you'll have to
break to her. That man's your Father of the Marshalsea!'
Mrs Merdle's Complaint
Resigning herself to inevitable fate by making the best of those
people, the Miggleses, and submitting her philosophy to the draught
upon it, of which she had foreseen the likelihood in her interview
with Arthur, Mrs Gowan handsomely resolved not to oppose her son's
marriage. In her progress to, and happy arrival at, this
resolution, she was possibly influenced, not only by her maternal
affections but by three politic considerations.
Of these, the first may have been that her son had never signified
the smallest intention to ask her consent, or any mistrust of his
ability to dispense with it; the second, that the pension bestowed
upon her by a grateful country (and a Barnacle) would be freed from
any little filial inroads, when her Henry should be married to the
darling only child of a man in very easy circumstances; the third,
that Henry's debts must clearly be paid down upon the altar-railing
by his father-in-law. When, to these three-fold points of prudence
there is added the fact that Mrs Gowan yielded her consent the
moment she knew of Mr Meagles having yielded his, and that Mr
Meagles's objection to the marriage had been the sole obstacle in
its way all along, it becomes the height of probability that the
relict of the deceased Commissioner of nothing particular, turned
these ideas in her sagacious mind.
Among her connections and acquaintances, however, she maintained
her individual dignity and the dignity of the blood of the
Barnacles, by diligently nursing the pretence that it was a most
unfortunate business; that she was sadly cut up by it; that this
was a perfect fascination under which Henry laboured; that she had
opposed it for a long time, but what could a mother do; and the
like. She had already called Arthur Clennam to bear witness to
this fable, as a friend of the Meagles family; and she followed up
the move by now impounding the family itself for the same purpose.
In the first interview she accorded to Mr Meagles, she slided
herself into the position of disconsolately but gracefully yielding
to irresistible pressure. With the utmost politeness and good-
breeding, she feigned that it was she--not he--who had made the
difficulty, and who at length gave way; and that the sacrifice was
hers--not his. The same feint, with the same polite dexterity, she
foisted on Mrs Meagles, as a conjuror might have forced a card on
that innocent lady; and, when her future daughter-in-law was
presented to her by her son, she said on embracing her, 'My dear,
what have you done to Henry that has bewitched him so!' at the same
time allowing a few tears to carry before them, in little pills,
the cosmetic powder on her nose; as a delicate but touching signal
that she suffered much inwardly for the show of composure with
which she bore her misfortune.
Among the friends of Mrs Gowan (who piqued herself at once on being
Society, and on maintaining intimate and easy relations with that
Power), Mrs Merdle occupied a front row. True, the Hampton Court
Bohemians, without exception, turned up their noses at Merdle as an
upstart; but they turned them down again, by falling flat on their
faces to worship his wealth. In which compensating adjustment of
their noses, they were pretty much like Treasury, Bar, and Bishop,
and all the rest of them.
To Mrs Merdle, Mrs Gowan repaired on a visit of self-condolence,
after having given the gracious consent aforesaid. She drove into
town for the purpose in a one-horse carriage irreverently called at
that period of English history, a pill-box. It belonged to a job-
master in a small way, who drove it himself, and who jobbed it by
the day, or hour, to most of the old ladies in Hampton Court
Palace; but it was a point of ceremony, in that encampment, that
the whole equipage should be tacitly regarded as the private
property of the jobber for the time being, and that the job-master
should betray personal knowledge of nobody but the jobber in
possession. So the Circumlocution Barnacles, who were the largest
job-masters in the universe, always pretended to know of no other
job but the job immediately in hand.
Mrs Merdle was at home, and was in her nest of crimson and gold,
with the parrot on a neighbouring stem watching her with his head
on one side, as if he took her for another splendid parrot of a
larger species. To whom entered Mrs Gowan, with her favourite
green fan, which softened the light on the spots of bloom.
'My dear soul,' said Mrs Gowan, tapping the back of her friend's
hand with this fan after a little indifferent conversation, 'you
are my only comfort. That affair of Henry's that I told you of, is
to take place. Now, how does it strike you? I am dying to know,
because you represent and express Society so well.'
Mrs Merdle reviewed the bosom which Society was accustomed to
review; and having ascertained that show-window of Mr Merdle's and
the London jewellers' to be in good order, replied:
'As to marriage on the part of a man, my dear, Society requires
that he should retrieve his fortunes by marriage. Society requires
that he should gain by marriage. Society requires that he should
found a handsome establishment by marriage. Society does not see,
otherwise, what he has to do with marriage. Bird, be quiet!'
For the parrot on his cage above them, presiding over the
conference as if he were a judge (and indeed he looked rather like
one), had wound up the exposition with a shriek.
'Cases there are,' said Mrs Merdle, delicately crooking the little
finger of her favourite hand, and making her remarks neater by that
neat action; 'cases there are where a man is not young or elegant,
and is rich, and has a handsome establishment already. Those are
of a different kind. In such cases--'
Mrs Merdle shrugged her snowy shoulders and put her hand upon the
jewel-stand, checking a little cough, as though to add, 'why, a man
looks out for this sort of thing, my dear.' Then the parrot
shrieked again, and she put up her glass to look at him, and said,
'Bird! Do be quiet!'
'But, young men,' resumed Mrs Merdle, 'and by young men you know
what I mean, my love--I mean people's sons who have the world
before them--they must place themselves in a better position
towards Society by marriage, or Society really will not have any
patience with their making fools of themselves. Dreadfully worldly
all this sounds,' said Mrs Merdle, leaning back in her nest and
putting up her glass again, 'does it not?'
'But it is true,' said Mrs Gowan, with a highly moral air.
'My dear, it is not to be disputed for a moment,' returned Mrs
Merdle; 'because Society has made up its mind on the subject, and
there is nothing more to be said. If we were in a more primitive
state, if we lived under roofs of leaves, and kept cows and sheep
and creatures instead of banker's accounts (which would be
delicious; my dear, I am pastoral to a degree, by nature), well and
good. But we don't live under leaves, and keep cows and sheep and
creatures. I perfectly exhaust myself sometimes, in pointing out
the distinction to Edmund Sparkler.'
Mrs Gowan, looking over her green fan when this young gentleman's
name was mentioned, replied as follows:
'My love, you know the wretched state of the country--those
unfortunate concessions of John Barnacle's!--and you therefore know
the reasons for my being as poor as Thingummy.'
'A church mouse?' Mrs Merdle suggested with a smile.
'I was thinking of the other proverbial church person--Job,' said
Mrs Gowan. 'Either will do. It would be idle to disguise,
consequently, that there is a wide difference between the position
of your son and mine. I may add, too, that Henry has talent--'
'Which Edmund certainly has not,' said Mrs Merdle, with the
'--and that his talent, combined with disappointment,' Mrs Gowan
went on, 'has led him into a pursuit which--ah dear me! You know,
my dear. Such being Henry's different position, the question is
what is the most inferior class of marriage to which I can
Mrs Merdle was so much engaged with the contemplation of her arms
(beautiful-formed arms, and the very thing for bracelets), that she
omitted to reply for a while. Roused at length by the silence, she
folded the arms, and with admirable presence of mind looked her
friend full in the face, and said interrogatively, 'Ye-es? And
'And then, my dear,' said Mrs Gowan not quite so sweetly as before,
'I should be glad to hear what you have to say to it.'
Here the parrot, who had been standing on one leg since he screamed
last, burst into a fit of laughter, bobbed himself derisively up
and down on both legs, and finished by standing on one leg again,
and pausing for a reply, with his head as much awry as he could
possibly twist it.
'Sounds mercenary to ask what the gentleman is to get with the
lady,' said Mrs Merdle; 'but Society is perhaps a little mercenary,
you know, my dear.'
'From what I can make out,' said Mrs Gowan, 'I believe I may say
that Henry will be relieved from debt--'
'Much in debt?' asked Mrs Merdle through her eyeglass.
'Why tolerably, I should think,' said Mrs Gowan.
'Meaning the usual thing; I understand; just so,' Mrs Merdle
observed in a comfortable sort of way.
'And that the father will make them an allowance of three hundred
a-year, or perhaps altogether something more, which, in Italy-'
'Oh! Going to Italy?' said Mrs Merdle.
'For Henry to study. You need be at no loss to guess why, my dear.
That dreadful Art--'
True. Mrs Merdle hastened to spare the feelings of her afflicted
friend. She understood. Say no more!
'And that,' said Mrs Gowan, shaking her despondent head, 'that's
all. That,' repeated Mrs Gowan, furling her green fan for the
moment, and tapping her chin with it (it was on the way to being a
double chin; might be called a chin and a half at present), 'that's
all! On the death of the old people, I suppose there will be more
to come; but how it may be restricted or locked up, I don't know.
And as to that, they may live for ever. My dear, they are just the
kind of people to do it.'
Now, Mrs Merdle, who really knew her friend Society pretty well,
and who knew what Society's mothers were, and what Society's
daughters were, and what Society's matrimonial market was, and how
prices ruled in it, and what scheming and counter-scheming took
place for the high buyers, and what bargaining and huckstering went
on, thought in the depths of her capacious bosom that this was a
sufficiently good catch. Knowing, however, what was expected of
her, and perceiving the exact nature of the fiction to be nursed,
she took it delicately in her arms, and put her required
contribution of gloss upon it.
'And that is all, my dear?' said she, heaving a friendly sigh.
'Well, well! The fault is not yours. You have nothing to reproach
yourself with. You must exercise the strength of mind for which
you are renowned, and make the best of it.'
'The girl's family have made,' said Mrs Gowan, 'of course, the most
strenuous endeavours to--as the lawyers say--to have and to hold
'Of course they have, my dear,' said Mrs Merdle.
'I have persisted in every possible objection, and have worried
myself morning, noon, and night, for means to detach Henry from the
'No doubt you have, my dear,' said Mrs Merdle.
'And all of no use. All has broken down beneath me. Now tell me,
my love. Am I justified in at last yielding my most reluctant
consent to Henry's marrying among people not in Society; or, have
I acted with inexcusable weakness?'
In answer to this direct appeal, Mrs Merdle assured Mrs Gowan
(speaking as a Priestess of Society) that she was highly to be
commended, that she was much to be sympathised with, that she had
taken the highest of parts, and had come out of the furnace
refined. And Mrs Gowan, who of course saw through her own
threadbare blind perfectly, and who knew that Mrs Merdle saw
through it perfectly, and who knew that Society would see through
it perfectly, came out of this form, notwithstanding, as she had
gone into it, with immense complacency and gravity.
The conference was held at four or five o'clock in the afternoon,
when all the region of Harley Street, Cavendish Square, was
resonant of carriage-wheels and double-knocks. It had reached this
point when Mr Merdle came home from his daily occupation of causing
the British name to be more and more respected in all parts of the
civilised globe capable of the appreciation of world-wide
commercial enterprise and gigantic combinations of skill and
capital. For, though nobody knew with the least precision what Mr
Merdle's business was, except that it was to coin money, these were
the terms in which everybody defined it on all ceremonious
occasions, and which it was the last new polite reading of the
parable of the camel and the needle's eye to accept without
For a gentleman who had this splendid work cut out for him, Mr
Merdle looked a little common, and rather as if, in the course of
his vast transactions, he had accidentally made an interchange of
heads with some inferior spirit. He presented himself before the
two ladies in the course of a dismal stroll through his mansion,
which had no apparent object but escape from the presence of the
'I beg your pardon,' he said, stopping short in confusion; 'I
didn't know there was anybody here but the parrot.'
However, as Mrs Merdle said, 'You can come in!' and as Mrs Gowan
said she was just going, and had already risen to take her leave,
he came in, and stood looking out at a distant window, with his
hands crossed under his uneasy coat-cuffs, clasping his wrists as
if he were taking himself into custody. In this attitude he fell
directly into a reverie from which he was only aroused by his
wife's calling to him from her ottoman, when they had been for some
quarter of an hour alone.
'Eh? Yes?' said Mr Merdle, turning towards her. 'What is it?'
'What is it?' repeated Mrs Merdle. 'It is, I suppose, that you
have not heard a word of my complaint.'
'Your complaint, Mrs Merdle?' said Mr Merdle. 'I didn't know that
you were suffering from a complaint. What complaint?'
'A complaint of you,' said Mrs Merdle.
'Oh! A complaint of me,' said Mr Merdle. 'What is the--what have
I--what may you have to complain of in me, Mrs Merdle?' In his
withdrawing, abstracted, pondering way, it took him some time to
shape this question. As a kind of faint attempt to convince
himself that he was the master of the house, he concluded by
presenting his forefinger to the parrot, who expressed his opinion
on that subject by instantly driving his bill into it.
'You were saying, Mrs Merdle,' said Mr Merdle, with his wounded
finger in his mouth, 'that you had a complaint against me?'
'A complaint which I could scarcely show the justice of more
emphatically, than by having to repeat it,' said Mrs Merdle. 'I
might as well have stated it to the wall. I had far better have
stated it to the bird. He would at least have screamed.'
'You don't want me to scream, Mrs Merdle, I suppose,' said Mr
Merdle, taking a chair.
'Indeed I don't know,' retorted Mrs Merdle, 'but that you had
better do that, than be so moody and distraught. One would at
least know that you were sensible of what was going on around you.'
'A man might scream, and yet not be that, Mrs Merdle,' said Mr
'And might be dogged, as you are at present, without screaming,'
returned Mrs Merdle. 'That's very true. If you wish to know the
complaint I make against you, it is, in so many plain words, that
you really ought not to go into Society unless you can accommodate
yourself to Society.'
Mr Merdle, so twisting his hands into what hair he had upon his
head that he seemed to lift himself up by it as he started out of
his chair, cried:
'Why, in the name of all the infernal powers, Mrs Merdle, who does
more for Society than I do? Do you see these premises, Mrs Merdle?
Do you see this furniture, Mrs Merdle? Do you look in the glass
and see yourself, Mrs Merdle? Do you know the cost of all this,
and who it's all provided for? And yet will you tell me that I
oughtn't to go into Society? I, who shower money upon it in this
way? I, who might always be said--to--to--to harness myself to a
watering-cart full of money, and go about saturating Society every
day of my life.'
'Pray, don't be violent, Mr Merdle,' said Mrs Merdle.
'Violent?' said Mr Merdle. 'You are enough to make me desperate.
You don't know half of what I do to accommodate Society. You don't
know anything of the sacrifices I make for it.'
'I know,' returned Mrs Merdle, 'that you receive the best in the
land. I know that you move in the whole Society of the country.
And I believe I know (indeed, not to make any ridiculous pretence
about it, I know I know) who sustains you in it, Mr Merdle.'
'Mrs Merdle,' retorted that gentleman, wiping his dull red and
yellow face, 'I know that as well as you do. If you were not an
ornament to Society, and if I was not a benefactor to Society, you
and I would never have come together. When I say a benefactor to
it, I mean a person who provides it with all sorts of expensive
things to eat and drink and look at. But, to tell me that I am not
fit for it after all I have done for it--after all I have done for
it,' repeated Mr Merdle, with a wild emphasis that made his wife
lift up her eyelids, 'after all--all!--to tell me I have no right
to mix with it after all, is a pretty reward.'
'I say,' answered Mrs Merdle composedly, 'that you ought to make
yourself fit for it by being more degage, and less preoccupied.
There is a positive vulgarity in carrying your business affairs
about with you as you do.'
'How do I carry them about, Mrs Merdle?' asked Mr Merdle.
'How do you carry them about?' said Mrs Merdle. 'Look at yourself
in the glass.'
Mr Merdle involuntarily turned his eyes in the direction of the
nearest mirror, and asked, with a slow determination of his turbid
blood to his temples, whether a man was to be called to account for
'You have a physician,' said Mrs Merdle.
'He does me no good,' said Mr Merdle.
Mrs Merdle changed her ground.
'Besides,' said she, 'your digestion is nonsense. I don't speak of
your digestion. I speak of your manner.'
'Mrs Merdle,' returned her husband, 'I look to you for that. You
supply manner, and I supply money.'
'I don't expect you,' said Mrs Merdle, reposing easily among her
cushions, 'to captivate people. I don't want you to take any
trouble upon yourself, or to try to be fascinating. I simply
request you to care about nothing--or seem to care about nothing--
as everybody else does.'
'Do I ever say I care about anything?' asked Mr Merdle.
'Say? No! Nobody would attend to you if you did. But you show
'Show what? What do I show?' demanded Mr Merdle hurriedly.
'I have already told you. You show that you carry your business
cares an projects about, instead of leaving them in the City, or
wherever else they belong to,' said Mrs Merdle. 'Or seeming to.
Seeming would be quite enough: I ask no more. Whereas you couldn't
be more occupied with your day's calculations and combinations than
you habitually show yourself to be, if you were a carpenter.'
'A carpenter!' repeated Mr Merdle, checking something like a groan.
'I shouldn't so much mind being a carpenter, Mrs Merdle.'
'And my complaint is,' pursued the lady, disregarding the low
remark, 'that it is not the tone of Society, and that you ought to
correct it, Mr Merdle. If you have any doubt of my judgment, ask
even Edmund Sparkler.' The door of the room had opened, and Mrs
Merdle now surveyed the head of her son through her glass.
'Edmund; we want you here.'
Mr Sparkler, who had merely put in his head and looked round the
room without entering (as if he were searching the house for that
young lady with no nonsense about her), upon this followed up his
head with his body, and stood before them. To whom, in a few easy
words adapted to his capacity, Mrs Merdle stated the question at
The young gentleman, after anxiously feeling his shirt-collar as if
it were his pulse and he were hypochondriacal, observed, 'That he
had heard it noticed by fellers.'
'Edmund Sparkler has heard it noticed,' said Mrs Merdle, with
languid triumph. 'Why, no doubt everybody has heard it noticed!'
Which in truth was no unreasonable inference; seeing that Mr
Sparkler would probably be the last person, in any assemblage of
the human species, to receive an impression from anything that
passed in his presence.
'And Edmund Sparkler will tell you, I dare say,' said Mrs Merdle,
waving her favourite hand towards her husband, 'how he has heard it
'I couldn't,' said Mr Sparkler, after feeling his pulse as before,
'couldn't undertake to say what led to it--'cause memory desperate
loose. But being in company with the brother of a doosed fine
gal--well educated too--with no biggodd nonsense about her--at the
period alluded to--'
'There! Never mind the sister,' remarked Mrs Merdle, a little
impatiently. 'What did the brother say?'
'Didn't say a word, ma'am,' answered Mr Sparkler. 'As silent a
feller as myself. Equally hard up for a remark.'
'Somebody said something,' returned Mrs Merdle. 'Never mind who it
('Assure you I don't in the least,' said Mr Sparkler.)
'But tell us what it was.'
Mr Sparkler referred to his pulse again, and put himself through
some severe mental discipline before he replied:
'Fellers referring to my Governor--expression not my own--
occasionally compliment my Governor in a very handsome way on being
immensely rich and knowing--perfect phenomenon of Buyer and Banker
and that--but say the Shop sits heavily on him. Say he carried the
Shop about, on his back rather--like Jew clothesmen with too much
'Which,' said Mrs Merdle, rising, with her floating drapery about
her, 'is exactly my complaint. Edmund, give me your arm up-
Mr Merdle, left alone to meditate on a better conformation of
himself to Society, looked out of nine windows in succession, and
appeared to see nine wastes of space. When he had thus entertained
himself he went down-stairs, and looked intently at all the carpets
on the ground-floor; and then came up-stairs again, and looked
intently at all the carpets on the first-floor; as if they were
gloomy depths, in unison with his oppressed soul. Through all the
rooms he wandered, as he always did, like the last person on earth
who had any business to approach them. Let Mrs Merdle announce,
with all her might, that she was at Home ever so many nights in a
season, she could not announce more widely and unmistakably than Mr
Merdle did that he was never at home.
At last he met the chief butler, the sight of which splendid
retainer always finished him. Extinguished by this great creature,
he sneaked to his dressing-room, and there remained shut up until
he rode out to dinner, with Mrs Merdle, in her own handsome
chariot. At dinner, he was envied and flattered as a being of
might, was Treasuried, Barred, and Bishoped, as much as he would;
and an hour after midnight came home alone, and being instantly put
out again in his own hall, like a rushlight, by the chief butler,
went sighing to bed.
A Shoal of Barnacles
Mr Henry Gowan and the dog were established frequenters of the
cottage, and the day was fixed for the wedding. There was to be a
convocation of Barnacles on the occasion, in order that that very
high and very large family might shed as much lustre on the
marriage as so dim an event was capable of receiving.
To have got the whole Barnacle family together would have been
impossible for two reasons. Firstly, because no building could
have held all the members and connections of that illustrious
house. Secondly, because wherever there was a square yard of
ground in British occupation under the sun or moon, with a public
post upon it, sticking to that post was a Barnacle. No intrepid
navigator could plant a flag-staff upon any spot of earth, and take
possession of it in the British name, but to that spot of earth, so
soon as the discovery was known, the Circumlocution Office sent out
a Barnacle and a despatch-box. Thus the Barnacles were all over
the world, in every direction--despatch-boxing the compass.
But, while the so-potent art of Prospero himself would have failed
in summoning the Barnacles from every speck of ocean and dry land
on which there was nothing (except mischief) to be done and
anything to be pocketed, it was perfectly feasible to assemble a
good many Barnacles. This Mrs Gowan applied herself to do; calling
on Mr Meagles frequently with new additions to the list, and
holding conferences with that gentleman when he was not engaged (as
he generally was at this period) in examining and paying the debts
of his future son-in-law, in the apartment of scales and scoops.
One marriage guest there was, in reference to whose presence Mr
Meagles felt a nearer interest and concern than in the attendance
of the most elevated Barnacle expected; though he was far from
insensible of the honour of having such company. This guest was
Clennam. But Clennam had made a promise he held sacred, among the
trees that summer night, and, in the chivalry of his heart,
regarded it as binding him to many implied obligations. In
forgetfulness of himself, and delicate service to her on all
occasions, he was never to fail; to begin it, he answered Mr
Meagles cheerfully, 'I shall come, of course.'
His partner, Daniel Doyce, was something of a stumbling-block in Mr
Meagles's way, the worthy gentleman being not at all clear in his
own anxious mind but that the mingling of Daniel with official
Barnacleism might produce some explosive combination, even at a
marriage breakfast. The national offender, however, lightened him
of his uneasiness by coming down to Twickenham to represent that he
begged, with the freedom of an old friend, and as a favour to one,
that he might not be invited. 'For,' said he, 'as my business with
this set of gentlemen was to do a public duty and a public service,
and as their business with me was to prevent it by wearing my soul
out, I think we had better not eat and drink together with a show
of being of one mind.' Mr Meagles was much amused by his friend's
oddity; and patronised him with a more protecting air of allowance
than usual, when he rejoined: 'Well, well, Dan, you shall have your
own crotchety way.'
To Mr Henry Gowan, as the time approached, Clennam tried to convey
by all quiet and unpretending means, that he was frankly and
disinterestedly desirous of tendering him any friendship he would
accept. Mr Gowan treated him in return with his usual ease, and
with his usual show of confidence, which was no confidence at all.
'You see, Clennam,' he happened to remark in the course of
conversation one day, when they were walking near the Cottage
within a week of the marriage, 'I am a disappointed man. That you
'Upon my word,' said Clennam, a little embarrassed, 'I scarcely
'Why,' returned Gowan, 'I belong to a clan, or a clique, or a
family, or a connection, or whatever you like to call it, that
might have provided for me in any one of fifty ways, and that took
it into its head not to do it at all. So here I am, a poor devil
of an artist.'
Clennam was beginning, 'But on the other hand--' when Gowan took
'Yes, yes, I know. I have the good fortune of being beloved by a
beautiful and charming girl whom I love with all my heart.'
('Is there much of it?' Clennam thought. And as he thought it,
felt ashamed of himself.)
'And of finding a father-in-law who is a capital fellow and a
liberal good old boy. Still, I had other prospects washed and
combed into my childish head when it was washed and combed for me,
and I took them to a public school when I washed and combed it for
myself, and I am here without them, and thus I am a disappointed
Clennam thought (and as he thought it, again felt ashamed of
himself), was this notion of being disappointed in life, an
assertion of station which the bridegroom brought into the family
as his property, having already carried it detrimentally into his
pursuit? And was it a hopeful or a promising thing anywhere?
'Not bitterly disappointed, I think,' he said aloud.
'Hang it, no; not bitterly,' laughed Gowan. 'My people are not
worth that--though they are charming fellows, and I have the
greatest affection for them. Besides, it's pleasant to show them
that I can do without them, and that they may all go to the Devil.
And besides, again, most men are disappointed in life, somehow or
other, and influenced by their disappointment. But it's a dear
good world, and I love it!'
'It lies fair before you now,' said Arthur.
'Fair as this summer river,' cried the other, with enthusiasm, 'and
by Jove I glow with admiration of it, and with ardour to run a race
in it. It's the best of old worlds! And my calling! The best of
old callings, isn't it?'
'Full of interest and ambition, I conceive,' said Clennam.
'And imposition,' added Gowan, laughing; 'we won't leave out the
imposition. I hope I may not break down in that; but there, my
being a disappointed man may show itself. I may not be able to
face it out gravely enough. Between you and me, I think there is
some danger of my being just enough soured not to be able to do
'To do what?' asked Clennam.
'To keep it up. To help myself in my turn, as the man before me
helps himself in his, and pass the bottle of smoke. To keep up the
pretence as to labour, and study, and patience, and being devoted
to my art, and giving up many solitary days to it, and abandoning
many pleasures for it, and living in it, and all the rest of it--in
short, to pass the bottle of smoke according to rule.'
'But it is well for a man to respect his own vocation, whatever it
is; and to think himself bound to uphold it, and to claim for it
the respect it deserves; is it not?' Arthur reasoned. 'And your
vocation, Gowan, may really demand this suit and service. I
confess I should have thought that all Art did.'
'What a good fellow you are, Clennam!' exclaimed the other,
stopping to look at him, as if with irrepressible admiration.
'What a capital fellow! You have never been disappointed. That's
easy to see.'
It would have been so cruel if he had meant it, that Clennam firmly
resolved to believe he did not mean it. Gowan, without pausing,
laid his hand upon his shoulder, and laughingly and lightly went
'Clennam, I don't like to dispel your generous visions, and I would
give any money (if I had any), to live in such a rose-coloured
mist. But what I do in my trade, I do to sell. What all we
fellows do, we do to sell. If we didn't want to sell it for the
most we can get for it, we shouldn't do it. Being work, it has to
be done; but it's easily enough done. All the rest is hocus-pocus.
Now here's one of the advantages, or disadvantages, of knowing a
disappointed man. You hear the truth.'
Whatever he had heard, and whether it deserved that name or
another, it sank into Clennam's mind. It so took root there, that
he began to fear Henry Gowan would always be a trouble to him, and
that so far he had gained little or nothing from the dismissal of
Nobody, with all his inconsistencies, anxieties, and
contradictions. He found a contest still always going on in his
breast between his promise to keep Gowan in none but good aspects
before the mind of Mr Meagles, and his enforced observation of
Gowan in aspects that had no good in them. Nor could he quite
support his own conscientious nature against misgivings that he
distorted and discoloured himself, by reminding himself that he
never sought those discoveries, and that he would have avoided them
with willingness and great relief. For he never could forget what
he had been; and he knew that he had once disliked Gowan for no
better reason than that he had come in his way.
Harassed by these thoughts, he now began to wish the marriage over,
Gowan and his young wife gone, and himself left to fulfil his
promise, and discharge the generous function he had accepted. This
last week was, in truth, an uneasy interval for the whole house.
Before Pet, or before Gowan, Mr Meagles was radiant; but Clennam
had more than once found him alone, with his view of the scales and
scoop much blurred, and had often seen him look after the lovers,
in the garden or elsewhere when he was not seen by them, with the
old clouded face on which Gowan had fallen like a shadow. In the
arrangement of the house for the great occasion, many little
reminders of the old travels of the father and mother and daughter
had to be disturbed and passed from hand to hand; and sometimes, in
the midst of these mute witnesses, to the life they had had
together, even Pet herself would yield to lamenting and weeping.
Mrs Meagles, the blithest and busiest of mothers, went about
singing and cheering everybody; but she, honest soul, had her
flights into store rooms, where she would cry until her eyes were
red, and would then come out, attributing that appearance to
pickled onions and pepper, and singing clearer than ever. Mrs
Tickit, finding no balsam for a wounded mind in Buchan's Domestic
Medicine, suffered greatly from low spirits, and from moving
recollections of Minnie's infancy. When the latter was powerful
with her, she usually sent up secret messages importing that she
was not in parlour condition as to her attire, and that she
solicited a sight of 'her child' in the kitchen; there, she would
bless her child's face, and bless her child's heart, and hug her
child, in a medley of tears and congratulations, chopping-boards,
rolling-pins, and pie-crust, with the tenderness of an old attached
servant, which is a very pretty tenderness indeed.
But all days come that are to be; and the marriage-day was to be,
and it came; and with it came all the Barnacles who were bidden to
There was Mr Tite Barnacle, from the Circumlocution Office, and
Mews Street, Grosvenor Square, with the expensive Mrs Tite Barnacle
NEE Stiltstalking, who made the Quarter Days so long in coming, and
the three expensive Miss Tite Barnacles, double-loaded with
accomplishments and ready to go off, and yet not going off with the
sharpness of flash and bang that might have been expected, but
rather hanging fire. There was Barnacle junior, also from the
Circumlocution Office, leaving the Tonnage of the country, which he
was somehow supposed to take under his protection, to look after
itself, and, sooth to say, not at all impairing the efficiency of
its protection by leaving it alone. There was the engaging Young
Barnacle, deriving from the sprightly side of the family, also from
the Circumlocution Office, gaily and agreeably helping the occasion
along, and treating it, in his sparkling way, as one of the
official forms and fees of the Church Department of How not to do
it. There were three other Young Barnacles from three other
offices, insipid to all the senses, and terribly in want of
seasoning, doing the marriage as they would have 'done' the Nile,
Old Rome, the new singer, or Jerusalem.
But there was greater game than this. There was Lord Decimus Tite
Barnacle himself, in the odour of Circumlocution--with the very
smell of Despatch-Boxes upon him. Yes, there was Lord Decimus Tite
Barnacle, who had risen to official heights on the wings of one
indignant idea, and that was, My Lords, that I am yet to be told
that it behoves a Minister of this free country to set bounds to
the philanthropy, to cramp the charity, to fetter the public
spirit, to contract the enterprise, to damp the independent self-
reliance, of its people. That was, in other words, that this great
statesman was always yet to be told that it behoved the Pilot of
the ship to do anything but prosper in the private loaf and fish
trade ashore, the crew being able, by dint of hard pumping, to keep
the ship above water without him. On this sublime discovery in the
great art How not to do it, Lord Decimus had long sustained the
highest glory of the Barnacle family; and let any ill-advised
member of either House but try How to do it by bringing in a Bill
to do it, that Bill was as good as dead and buried when Lord
Decimus Tite Barnacle rose up in his place and solemnly said,
soaring into indignant majesty as the Circumlocution cheering
soared around him, that he was yet to be told, My Lords, that it
behoved him as the Minister of this free country, to set bounds to
the philanthropy, to cramp the charity, to fetter the public
spirit, to contract the enterprise, to damp the independent self-
reliance, of its people. The discovery of this Behoving Machine
was the discovery of the political perpetual motion. It never wore
out, though it was always going round and round in all the State
And there, with his noble friend and relative Lord Decimus, was
William Barnacle, who had made the ever-famous coalition with Tudor
Stiltstalking, and who always kept ready his own particular recipe
for How not to do it; sometimes tapping the Speaker, and drawing it
fresh out of him, with a 'First, I will beg you, sir, to inform the
House what Precedent we have for the course into which the
honourable gentleman would precipitate us;' sometimes asking the
honourable gentleman to favour him with his own version of the
Precedent; sometimes telling the honourable gentleman that he
(William Barnacle) would search for a Precedent; and oftentimes
crushing the honourable gentleman flat on the spot by telling him
there was no Precedent. But Precedent and Precipitate were, under
all circumstances, the well-matched pair of battle-horses of this
able Circumlocutionist. No matter that the unhappy honourable
gentleman had been trying in vain, for twenty-five years, to
precipitate William Barnacle into this--William Barnacle still put
it to the House, and (at second-hand or so) to the country, whether
he was to be precipitated into this. No matter that it was utterly
irreconcilable with the nature of things and course of events that
the wretched honourable gentleman could possibly produce a
Precedent for this--William Barnacle would nevertheless thank the
honourable gentleman for that ironical cheer, and would close with
him upon that issue, and would tell him to his teeth that there Was
NO Precedent for this. It might perhaps have been objected that
the William Barnacle wisdom was not high wisdom or the earth it
bamboozled would never have been made, or, if made in a rash
mistake, would have remained blank mud. But Precedent and
Precipitate together frightened all objection out of most people.
And there, too, was another Barnacle, a lively one, who had leaped
through twenty places in quick succession, and was always in two or
three at once, and who was the much-respected inventor of an art
which he practised with great success and admiration in all
Barnacle Governments. This was, when he was asked a Parliamentary
question on any one topic, to return an answer on any other. It
had done immense service, and brought him into high esteem with the
And there, too, was a sprinkling of less distinguished
Parliamentary Barnacles, who had not as yet got anything snug, and
were going through their probation to prove their worthiness.
These Barnacles perched upon staircases and hid in passages,
waiting their orders to make houses or not to make houses; and they
did all their hearing, and ohing, and cheering, and barking, under
directions from the heads of the family; and they put dummy motions
on the paper in the way of other men's motions; and they stalled
disagreeable subjects off until late in the night and late in the
session, and then with virtuous patriotism cried out that it was
too late; and they went down into the country, whenever they were
sent, and swore that Lord Decimus had revived trade from a swoon,
and commerce from a fit, and had doubled the harvest of corn,
quadrupled the harvest of hay, and prevented no end of gold from
flying out of the Bank. Also these Barnacles were dealt, by the
heads of the family, like so many cards below the court-cards, to
public meetings and dinners; where they bore testimony to all sorts
of services on the part of their noble and honourable relatives,
and buttered the Barnacles on all sorts of toasts. And they stood,
under similar orders, at all sorts of elections; and they turned
out of their own seats, on the shortest notice and the most
unreasonable terms, to let in other men; and they fetched and
carried, and toadied and jobbed, and corrupted, and ate heaps of
dirt, and were indefatigable in the public service. And there was
not a list, in all the Circumlocution Office, of places that might
fall vacant anywhere within half a century, from a lord of the
Treasury to a Chinese consul, and up again to a governor-general of
India, but as applicants for such places, the names of some or of
every one of these hungry and adhesive Barnacles were down.
It was necessarily but a sprinkling of any class of Barnacles that
attended the marriage, for there were not two score in all, and
what is that subtracted from Legion! But the sprinkling was a
swarm in the Twickenham cottage, and filled it. A Barnacle
(assisted by a Barnacle) married the happy pair, and it behoved
Lord Decimus Tite Barnacle himself to conduct Mrs Meagles to
The entertainment was not as agreeable and natural as it might have
been. Mr Meagles, hove down by his good company while he highly
appreciated it, was not himself. Mrs Gowan was herself, and that
did not improve him. The fiction that it was not Mr Meagles who
had stood in the way, but that it was the Family greatness, and
that the Family greatness had made a concession, and there was now
a soothing unanimity, pervaded the affair, though it was never
openly expressed. Then the Barnacles felt that they for their
parts would have done with the Meagleses when the present
patronising occasion was over; and the Meagleses felt the same for
their parts. Then Gowan asserting his rights as a disappointed man
who had his grudge against the family, and who, perhaps, had
allowed his mother to have them there, as much in the hope it might
give them some annoyance as with any other benevolent object, aired
his pencil and his poverty ostentatiously before them, and told
them he hoped in time to settle a crust of bread and cheese on his
wife, and that he begged such of them as (more fortunate than
himself) came in for any good thing, and could buy a picture, to
please to remember the poor painter. Then Lord Decimus, who was a
wonder on his own Parliamentary pedestal, turned out to be the
windiest creature here: proposing happiness to the bride and
bridegroom in a series of platitudes that would have made the hair
of any sincere disciple and believer stand on end; and trotting,
with the complacency of an idiotic elephant, among howling
labyrinths of sentences which he seemed to take for high roads, and
never so much as wanted to get out of. Then Mr Tite Barnacle could
not but feel that there was a person in company, who would have
disturbed his life-long sitting to Sir Thomas Lawrence in full
official character, if such disturbance had been possible: while
Barnacle junior did, with indignation, communicate to two vapid
gentlemen, his relatives, that there was a feller here, look here,
who had come to our Department without an appointment and said he
wanted to know, you know; and that, look here, if he was to break
out now, as he might you know (for you never could tell what an
ungentlemanly Radical of that sort would be up to next), and was to
say, look here, that he wanted to know this moment, you know, that
would be jolly; wouldn't it?
The pleasantest part of the occasion by far, to Clennam, was the
painfullest. When Mr and Mrs Meagles at last hung about Pet in the
room with the two pictures (where the company were not), before
going with her to the threshold which she could never recross to be
the old Pet and the old delight, nothing could be more natural and
simple than the three were. Gowan himself was touched, and
answered Mr Meagles's 'O Gowan, take care of her, take care of
her!' with an earnest 'Don't be so broken-hearted, sir. By Heaven
And so, with the last sobs and last loving words, and a last look
to Clennam of confidence in his promise, Pet fell back in the
carriage, and her husband waved his hand, and they were away for
Dover; though not until the faithful Mrs Tickit, in her silk gown
and jet black curls, had rushed out from some hiding-place, and
thrown both her shoes after the carriage: an apparition which
occasioned great surprise to the distinguished company at the
The said company being now relieved from further attendance, and
the chief Barnacles being rather hurried (for they had it in hand
just then to send a mail or two which was in danger of going
straight to its destination, beating about the seas like the Flying
Dutchman, and to arrange with complexity for the stoppage of a good
deal of important business otherwise in peril of being done), went
their several ways; with all affability conveying to Mr and Mrs
Meagles that general assurance that what they had been doing there,
they had been doing at a sacrifice for Mr and Mrs Meagles's good,
which they always conveyed to Mr John Bull in their official
condescension to that most unfortunate creature.
A miserable blank remained in the house and in the hearts of the
father and mother and Clennam. Mr Meagles called only one
remembrance to his aid, that really did him good.
'It's very gratifying, Arthur,' he said, 'after all, to look back
'The past?' said Clennam.
'Yes--but I mean the company.'
It had made him much more low and unhappy at the time, but now it
really did him good. 'It's very gratifying,' he said, often
repeating the remark in the course of the evening. 'Such high
What was behind Mr Pancks on Little Dorrit's Hand
It was at this time that Mr Pancks, in discharge of his compact
with Clennam, revealed to him the whole of his gipsy story, and
told him Little Dorrit's fortune. Her father was heir-at-law to a
great estate that had long lain unknown of, unclaimed, and
accumulating. His right was now clear, nothing interposed in his
way, the Marshalsea gates stood open, the Marshalsea walls were
down, a few flourishes of his pen, and he was extremely rich.
In his tracking out of the claim to its complete establishment, Mr
Pancks had shown a sagacity that nothing could baffle, and a
patience and secrecy that nothing could tire. 'I little thought,
sir,' said Pancks, 'when you and I crossed Smithfield that night,
and I told you what sort of a Collector I was, that this would come
of it. I little thought, sir, when I told you you were not of the
Clennams of Cornwall, that I was ever going to tell you who were of
the Dorrits of Dorsetshire.' He then went on to detail. How,
having that name recorded in his note-book, he was first attracted
by the name alone. How, having often found two exactly similar
names, even belonging to the same place, to involve no traceable
consanguinity, near or distant, he did not at first give much heed
to this, except in the way of speculation as to what a surprising
change would be made in the condition of a little seamstress, if
she could be shown to have any interest in so large a property.
How he rather supposed himself to have pursued the idea into its
next degree, because there was something uncommon in the quiet
little seamstress, which pleased him and provoked his curiosity.
How he had felt his way inch by inch, and 'Moled it out, sir' (that
was Mr Pancks's expression), grain by grain. How, in the beginning
of the labour described by this new verb, and to render which the
more expressive Mr Pancks shut his eyes in pronouncing it and shook
his hair over them, he had alternated from sudden lights and hopes
to sudden darkness and no hopes, and back again, and back again.
How he had made acquaintances in the Prison, expressly that he
might come and go there as all other comers and goers did; and how
his first ray of light was unconsciously given him by Mr Dorrit
himself and by his son; to both of whom he easily became known;
with both of whom he talked much, casually ('but always Moleing
you'll observe,' said Mr Pancks): and from whom he derived, without
being at all suspected, two or three little points of family
history which, as he began to hold clues of his own, suggested
others. How it had at length become plain to Mr Pancks that he had
made a real discovery of the heir-at-law to a great fortune, and
that his discovery had but to be ripened to legal fulness and
perfection. How he had, thereupon, sworn his landlord, Mr Rugg, to
secrecy in a solemn manner, and taken him into Moleing partnership.
How they had employed John Chivery as their sole clerk and agent,
seeing to whom he was devoted. And how, until the present hour,
when authorities mighty in the Bank and learned in the law declared
their successful labours ended, they had confided in no other human
'So if the whole thing had broken down, sir,' concluded Pancks, 'at
the very last, say the day before the other day when I showed you
our papers in the Prison yard, or say that very day, nobody but
ourselves would have been cruelly disappointed, or a penny the
Clennam, who had been almost incessantly shaking hands with him
throughout the narrative, was reminded by this to say, in an
amazement which even the preparation he had had for the main
disclosure smoothed down, 'My dear Mr Pancks, this must have cost
you a great sum of money.'
'Pretty well, sir,' said the triumphant Pancks. 'No trifle, though
we did it as cheap as it could be done. And the outlay was a
difficulty, let me tell you.'
'A difficulty!' repeated Clennam. 'But the difficulties you have
so wonderfully conquered in the whole business!' shaking his hand
'I'll tell you how I did it,' said the delighted Pancks, putting
his hair into a condition as elevated as himself. 'First, I spent
all I had of my own. That wasn't much.'
'I am sorry for it,' said Clennam: 'not that it matters now,
though. Then, what did you do?'
'Then,' answered Pancks, 'I borrowed a sum of my proprietor.'
'Of Mr Casby?' said Clennam. 'He's a fine old fellow.'
'Noble old boy; an't he?' said Mr Pancks, entering on a series of
the dryest snorts. 'Generous old buck. Confiding old boy.
Philanthropic old buck. Benevolent old boy! Twenty per cent. I
engaged to pay him, sir. But we never do business for less at our
Arthur felt an awkward consciousness of having, in his exultant
condition, been a little premature.
'I said to that boiling-over old Christian,' Mr Pancks pursued,
appearing greatly to relish this descriptive epithet, 'that I had
got a little project on hand; a hopeful one; I told him a hopeful
one; which wanted a certain small capital. I proposed to him to
lend me the money on my note. Which he did, at twenty; sticking
the twenty on in a business-like way, and putting it into the note,
to look like a part of the principal. If I had broken down after
that, I should have been his grubber for the next seven years at
half wages and double grind. But he's a perfect Patriarch; and it
would do a man good to serve him on such terms--on any terms.'
Arthur for his life could not have said with confidence whether
Pancks really thought so or not.
'When that was gone, sir,' resumed Pancks, 'and it did go, though
I dribbled it out like so much blood, I had taken Mr Rugg into the
secret. I proposed to borrow of Mr Rugg (or of Miss Rugg; it's the
same thing; she made a little money by a speculation in the Common
Pleas once). He lent it at ten, and thought that pretty high. But
Mr Rugg's a red-haired man, sir, and gets his hair cut. And as to
the crown of his hat, it's high. And as to the brim of his hat,
it's narrow. And there's no more benevolence bubbling out of him,
than out of a ninepin.'
'Your own recompense for all this, Mr Pancks,' said Clennam, 'ought
to be a large one.'
'I don't mistrust getting it, sir,' said Pancks. 'I have made no
bargain. I owed you one on that score; now I have paid it. Money
out of pocket made good, time fairly allowed for, and Mr Rugg's
bill settled, a thousand pounds would be a fortune to me. That
matter I place in your hands. I authorize you now to break all
this to the family in any way you think best. Miss Amy Dorrit will
be with Mrs Finching this morning. The sooner done the better.
Can't be done too soon.'
This conversation took place in Clennam's bed-room, while he was
yet in bed. For Mr Pancks had knocked up the house and made his
way in, very early in the morning; and, without once sitting down
or standing still, had delivered himself of the whole of his
details (illustrated with a variety of documents) at the bedside.
He now said he would 'go and look up Mr Rugg', from whom his
excited state of mind appeared to require another back; and
bundling up his papers, and exchanging one more hearty shake of the
hand with Clennam, he went at full speed down-stairs, and steamed
Clennam, of course, resolved to go direct to Mr Casby's. He
dressed and got out so quickly that he found himself at the corner
of the patriarchal street nearly an hour before her time; but he
was not sorry to have the opportunity of calming himself with a
When he returned to the street, and had knocked at the bright brass
knocker, he was informed that she had come, and was shown up-stairs
to Flora's breakfast-room. Little Dorrit was not there herself,
but Flora was, and testified the greatest amazement at seeing him.
'Good gracious, Arthur--Doyce and Clennam!' cried that lady, 'who
would have ever thought of seeing such a sight as this and pray
excuse a wrapper for upon my word I really never and a faded check
too which is worse but our little friend is making me a, not that
I need mind mentioning it to you for you must know that there are
such things a skirt, and having arranged that a trying on should
take place after breakfast is the reason though I wish not so badly
'I ought to make an apology,' said Arthur, 'for so early and abrupt
a visit; but you will excuse it when I tell you the cause.'
'In times for ever fled Arthur,' returned Mrs Finching, 'pray
excuse me Doyce and Clennam infinitely more correct and though
unquestionably distant still 'tis distance lends enchantment to the
view, at least I don't mean that and if I did I suppose it would
depend considerably on the nature of the view, but I'm running on
again and you put it all out of my head.'
She glanced at him tenderly, and resumed:
'In times for ever fled I was going to say it would have sounded
strange indeed for Arthur Clennam--Doyce and Clennam naturally
quite different--to make apologies for coming here at any time, but
that is past and what is past can never be recalled except in his
own case as poor Mr F. said when he was in spirits Cucumber and
therefore never ate it.'
She was making the tea when Arthur came in, and now hastily
finished that operation.
'Papa,' she said, all mystery and whisper, as she shut down the
tea-pot lid, 'is sitting prosingly breaking his new laid egg in the
back parlour over the City article exactly like the Woodpecker
Tapping and need never know that you are here, and our little
friend you are well aware may be fully trusted when she comes down
from cutting out on the large table overhead.'
Arthur then told her, in the fewest words, that it was their little
friend he came to see; and what he had to announce to their little
friend. At which astounding intelligence, Flora clasped her hands,
fell into a tremble, and shed tears of sympathy and pleasure, like
the good-natured creature she really was.
'For goodness sake let me get out of the way first,' said Flora,
putting her hands to her ears and moving towards the door, 'or I
know I shall go off dead and screaming and make everybody worse,
and the dear little thing only this morning looking so nice and
neat and good and yet so poor and now a fortune is she really and
deserves it too! and might I mention it to Mr F.'s Aunt Arthur not
Doyce and Clennam for this once or if objectionable not on any
Arthur nodded his free permission, since Flora shut out all verbal
communication. Flora nodded in return to thank him, and hurried
out of the room.
Little Dorrit's step was already on the stairs, and in another
moment she was at the door. Do what he could to compose his face,
he could not convey so much of an ordinary expression into it, but
that the moment she saw it she dropped her work, and cried, 'Mr
Clennam! What's the matter?'
' Nothing, nothing. That is, no misfortune has happened. I have
come to tell you something, but it is a piece of great good-
They stood in a window, and her eyes, full of light, were fixed
upon his face. He put an arm about her, seeing her likely to sink
down. She put a hand upon that arm, partly to rest upon it, and
partly so to preserve their relative positions as that her intent
look at him should be shaken by no change of attitude in either of
them. Her lips seemed to repeat 'Wonderful fortune?' He repeated
it again, aloud.
'Dear Little Dorrit! Your father.'
The ice of the pale face broke at the word, and little lights and
shoots of expression passed all over it. They were all expressions
of pain. Her breath was faint and hurried. Her heart beat fast.
He would have clasped the little figure closer, but he saw that the
eyes appealed to him not to be moved.
'Your father can be free within this week. He does not know it; we
must go to him from here, to tell him of it. Your father will be
free within a few days. Your father will be free within a few
hours. Remember we must go to him from here, to tell him of it!'
That brought her back. Her eyes were closing, but they opened
'This is not all the good-fortune. This is not all the wonderful
good-fortune, my dear Little Dorrit. Shall I tell you more?'
Her lips shaped 'Yes.'
'Your father will be no beggar when he is free. He will want for
nothing. Shall I tell you more? Remember! He knows nothing of
it; we must go to him, from here, to tell him of it!'
She seemed to entreat him for a little time. He held her in his
arm, and, after a pause, bent down his ear to listen.
'Did you ask me to go on?'
'He will be a rich man. He is a rich man. A great sum of money is
waiting to be paid over to him as his inheritance; you are all
henceforth very wealthy. Bravest and best of children, I thank
Heaven that you are rewarded!'
As he kissed her, she turned her head towards his shoulder, and
raised her arm towards his neck; cried out 'Father! Father!
Father!' and swooned away.
Upon which Flora returned to take care of her, and hovered about
her on a sofa, intermingling kind offices and incoherent scraps of
conversation in a manner so confounding, that whether she pressed
the Marshalsea to take a spoonful of unclaimed dividends, for it
would do her good; or whether she congratulated Little Dorrit's
father on coming into possession of a hundred thousand smelling-
bottles; or whether she explained that she put seventy-five
thousand drops of spirits of lavender on fifty thousand pounds of
lump sugar, and that she entreated Little Dorrit to take that
gentle restorative; or whether she bathed the foreheads of Doyce
and Clennam in vinegar, and gave the late Mr F. more air; no one
with any sense of responsibility could have undertaken to decide.
A tributary stream of confusion, moreover, poured in from an
adjoining bedroom, where Mr F.'s Aunt appeared, from the sound of
her voice, to be in a horizontal posture, awaiting her breakfast;
and from which bower that inexorable lady snapped off short taunts,
whenever she could get a hearing, as, 'Don't believe it's his
doing!' and 'He needn't take no credit to himself for it!' and
'It'll be long enough, I expect, afore he'll give up any of his own
money!' all designed to disparage Clennam's share in the discovery,
and to relieve those inveterate feelings with which Mr F.'s Aunt
But Little Dorrit's solicitude to get to her father, and to carry
the joyful tidings to him, and not to leave him in his jail a
moment with this happiness in store for him and still unknown to
him, did more for her speedy restoration than all the skill and
attention on earth could have done. 'Come with me to my dear
father. Pray come and tell my dear father!' were the first words
she said. Her father, her father. She spoke of nothing but him,
thought of nothing but him. Kneeling down and pouring out her
thankfulness with uplifted hands, her thanks were for her father.
Flora's tenderness was quite overcome by this, and she launched out
among the cups and saucers into a wonderful flow of tears and
'I declare,' she sobbed, 'I never was so cut up since your mama and
my papa not Doyce and Clennam for this once but give the precious
little thing a cup of tea and make her put it to her lips at least
pray Arthur do, not even Mr F.'s last illness for that was of
another kind and gout is not a child's affection though very
painful for all parties and Mr F. a martyr with his leg upon a rest
and the wine trade in itself inflammatory for they will do it more
or less among themselves and who can wonder, it seems like a dream
I am sure to think of nothing at all this morning and now Mines of
money is it really, but you must know my darling love because you
never will be strong enough to tell him all about it upon
teaspoons, mightn't it be even best to try the directions of my own
medical man for though the flavour is anything but agreeable still
I force myself to do it as a prescription and find the benefit,
you'd rather not why no my dear I'd rather not but still I do it as
a duty, everybody will congratulate you some in earnest and some
not and many will congratulate you with all their hearts but none
more so I do assure you from the bottom of my own I do myself
though sensible of blundering and being stupid, and will be judged
by Arthur not Doyce and Clennam for this once so good-bye darling
and God bless you and may you be very happy and excuse the liberty,
vowing that the dress shall never be finished by anybody else but
shall be laid by for a keepsake just as it is and called Little
Dorrit though why that strangest of denominations at any time I
never did myself and now I never shall!'
Thus Flora, in taking leave of her favourite. Little Dorrit
thanked her, and embraced her, over and over again; and finally
came out of the house with Clennam, and took coach for the
It was a strangely unreal ride through the old squalid streets,
with a sensation of being raised out of them into an airy world of
wealth and grandeur. When Arthur told her that she would soon ride
in her own carriage through very different scenes, when all the
familiar experiences would have vanished away, she looked
frightened. But when he substituted her father for herself, and
told her how he would ride in his carriage, and how great and grand
he would be, her tears of joy and innocent pride fell fast. Seeing
that the happiness her mind could realise was all shining upon him,
Arthur kept that single figure before her; and so they rode
brightly through the poor streets in the prison neighbourhood to
carry him the great news.
When Mr Chivery, who was on duty, admitted them into the Lodge, he
saw something in their faces which filled him with astonishment.
He stood looking after them, when they hurried into the prison, as
though he perceived that they had come back accompanied by a ghost
a-piece. Two or three Collegians whom they passed, looked after
them too, and presently joining Mr Chivery, formed a little group
on the Lodge steps, in the midst of which there spontaneously
originated a whisper that the Father was going to get his
discharge. Within a few minutes, it was heard in the remotest room
in the College.
Little Dorrit opened the door from without, and they both entered.
He was sitting in his old grey gown and his old black cap, in the
sunlight by the window, reading his newspaper. His glasses were in
his hand, and he had just looked round; surprised at first, no
doubt, by her step upon the stairs, not expecting her until night;
surprised again, by seeing Arthur Clennam in her company. As they
came in, the same unwonted look in both of them which had already
caught attention in the yard below, struck him. He did not rise or
speak, but laid down his glasses and his newspaper on the table
beside him, and looked at them with his mouth a little open and his
lips trembling. When Arthur put out his hand, he touched it, but
not with his usual state; and then he turned to his daughter, who
had sat down close beside him with her hands upon his shoulder, and
looked attentively in her face.
'Father! I have been made so happy this morning!'
'You have been made so happy, my dear?'
'By Mr Clennam, father. He brought me such joyful and wonderful
intelligence about you! If he had not with his great kindness and
gentleness, prepared me for it, father--prepared me for it,
father--I think I could not have borne it.'
Her agitation was exceedingly great, and the tears rolled down her
face. He put his hand suddenly to his heart, and looked at
'Compose yourself, sir,' said Clennam, 'and take a little time to
think. To think of the brightest and most fortunate accidents of
life. We have all heard of great surprises of joy. They are not
at an end, sir. They are rare, but not at an end.'
'Mr Clennam? Not at an end? Not at an end for--' He touched
himself upon the breast, instead of saying 'me.'
'No,' returned Clennam.
'What surprise,' he asked, keeping his left hand over his heart,
and there stopping in his speech, while with his right hand he put
his glasses exactly level on the table: 'what such surprise can be
in store for me?'
'Let me answer with another question. Tell me, Mr Dorrit, what
surprise would be the most unlooked for and the most acceptable to
you. Do not be afraid to imagine it, or to say what it would be.'
He looked steadfastly at Clennam, and, so looking at him, seemed to
change into a very old haggard man. The sun was bright upon the
wall beyond the window, and on the spikes at top. He slowly
stretched out the hand that had been upon his heart, and pointed at
'It is down,' said Clennam. 'Gone!'
He remained in the same attitude, looking steadfastly at him.
'And in its place,' said Clennam, slowly and distinctly, 'are the
means to possess and enjoy the utmost that they have so long shut
out. Mr Dorrit, there is not the smallest doubt that within a few
days you will be free, and highly prosperous. I congratulate you
with all my soul on this change of fortune, and on the happy future
into which you are soon to carry the treasure you have been blest
with here--the best of all the riches you can have elsewhere--the
treasure at your side.'
With those words, he pressed his hand and released it; and his
daughter, laying her face against his, encircled him in the hour of
his prosperity with her arms, as she had in the long years of his
adversity encircled him with her love and toil and truth; and
poured out her full heart in gratitude, hope, joy, blissful
ecstasy, and all for him.
'I shall see him as I never saw him yet. I shall see my dear love,
with the dark cloud cleared away. I shall see him, as my poor
mother saw him long ago. O my dear, my dear! O father, father!
O thank God, thank God!'
He yielded himself to her kisses and caresses, but did not return
them, except that he put an arm about her. Neither did he say one
word. His steadfast look was now divided between her and Clennam,
and he began to shake as if he were very cold. Explaining to
Little Dorrit that he would run to the coffee-house for a bottle of
wine, Arthur fetched it with all the haste he could use. While it
was being brought from the cellar to the bar, a number of excited
people asked him what had happened; when he hurriedly informed them
that Mr Dorrit had succeeded to a fortune.
On coming back with the wine in his hand, he found that she had
placed her father in his easy chair, and had loosened his shirt and
neckcloth. They filled a tumbler with wine, and held it to his
lips. When he had swallowed a little, he took the glass himself
and emptied it. Soon after that, he leaned back in his chair and
cried, with his handkerchief before his face.
After this had lasted a while Clennam thought it a good season for
diverting his attention from the main surprise, by relating its
details. Slowly, therefore, and in a quiet tone of voice, he
explained them as best he could, and enlarged on the nature of
'He shall be--ha--he shall be handsomely recompensed, sir,' said
the Father, starting up and moving hurriedly about the room.
'Assure yourself, Mr Clennam, that everybody concerned shall be--
ha--shall be nobly rewarded. No one, my dear sir, shall say that
he has an unsatisfied claim against me. I shall repay the--hum--
the advances I have had from you, sir, with peculiar pleasure. I
beg to be informed at your earliest convenience, what advances you
have made my son.'
He had no purpose in going about the room, but he was not still a
'Everybody,' he said, 'shall be remembered. I will not go away
from here in anybody's debt. All the people who have been--ha--
well behaved towards myself and my family, shall be rewarded.
Chivery shall be rewarded. Young John shall be rewarded. I
particularly wish, and intend, to act munificently, Mr Clennam.'
'Will you allow me,' said Arthur, laying his purse on the table,
'to supply any present contingencies, Mr Dorrit? I thought it best
to bring a sum of money for the purpose.'
'Thank you, sir, thank you. I accept with readiness, at the
present moment, what I could not an hour ago have conscientiously
taken. I am obliged to you for the temporary accommodation.
Exceedingly temporary, but well timed--well timed.' His hand had
closed upon the money, and he carried it about with him. 'Be so
kind, sir, as to add the amount to those former advances to which
I have already referred; being careful, if you please, not to omit
advances made to my son. A mere verbal statement of the gross
amount is all I shall--ha--all I shall require.'
His eye fell upon his daughter at this point, and he stopped for a
moment to kiss her, and to pat her head.
'It will be necessary to find a milliner, my love, and to make a
speedy and complete change in your very plain dress. Something
must be done with Maggy too, who at present is--ha--barely
respectable, barely respectable. And your sister, Amy, and your
brother. And my brother, your uncle--poor soul, I trust this will
rouse him--messengers must be despatched to fetch them. They must
be informed of this. We must break it to them cautiously, but they
must be informed directly. We owe it as a duty to them and to
ourselves, from this moment, not to let them--hum--not to let them
This was the first intimation he had ever given, that he was privy
to the fact that they did something for a livelihood.
He was still jogging about the room, with the purse clutched in his
hand, when a great cheering arose in the yard. 'The news has
spread already,' said Clennam, looking down from the window. 'Will
you show yourself to them, Mr Dorrit? They are very earnest, and
they evidently wish it.'
'I--hum--ha--I confess I could have desired, Amy my dear,' he said,
jogging about in a more feverish flutter than before, 'to have made
some change in my dress first, and to have bought a--
hum--a watch and chain. But if it must be done as it is, it--ha--
it must be done. Fasten the collar of my shirt, my dear. Mr
Clennam, would you oblige me--hum--with a blue neckcloth you will
find in that drawer at your elbow. Button my coat across at the
chest, my love. It looks--ha--it looks broader, buttoned.'
With his trembling hand he pushed his grey hair up, and then,
taking Clennam and his daughter for supporters, appeared at the
window leaning on an arm of each. The Collegians cheered him very
heartily, and he kissed his hand to them with great urbanity and
protection. When he withdrew into the room again, he said 'Poor
creatures!' in a tone of much pity for their miserable condition.
Little Dorrit was deeply anxious that he should lie down to compose
himself. On Arthur's speaking to her of his going to inform Pancks
that he might now appear as soon as he would, and pursue the joyful
business to its close, she entreated him in a whisper to stay with
her until her father should be quite calm and at rest. He needed
no second entreaty; and she prepared her father's bed, and begged
him to lie down. For another half-hour or more he would be
persuaded to do nothing but go about the room, discussing with
himself the probabilities for and against the Marshal's allowing
the whole of the prisoners to go to the windows of the official
residence which commanded the street, to see himself and family
depart for ever in a carriage--which, he said, he thought would be
a Sight for them. But gradually he began to droop and tire, and at
last stretched himself upon the bed.
She took her faithful place beside him, fanning him and cooling his
forehead; and he seemed to be falling asleep (always with the money
in his hand), when he unexpectedly sat up and said:
'Mr Clennam, I beg your pardon. Am I to understand, my dear sir,
that I could--ha--could pass through the Lodge at this moment,
and--hum--take a walk?'
'I think not, Mr Dorrit,' was the unwilling reply. 'There are
certain forms to be completed; and although your detention here is
now in itself a form, I fear it is one that for a little longer has
to be observed too.'
At this he shed tears again.
'It is but a few hours, sir,' Clennam cheerfully urged upon him.
'A few hours, sir,' he returned in a sudden passion. 'You talk
very easily of hours, sir! How long do you suppose, sir, that an
hour is to a man who is choking for want of air?'
It was his last demonstration for that time; as, after shedding
some more tears and querulously complaining that he couldn't
breathe, he slowly fell into a slumber. Clennam had abundant