Part 4 out of 20
A late, dull autumn night was closing in upon the river Saone. The
stream, like a sullied looking-glass in a gloomy place, reflected
the clouds heavily; and the low banks leaned over here and there,
as if they were half curious, and half afraid, to see their
darkening pictures in the water. The flat expanse of country about
Chalons lay a long heavy streak, occasionally made a little ragged
by a row of poplar trees against the wrathful sunset. On the banks
of the river Saone it was wet, depressing, solitary; and the night
One man slowly moving on towards Chalons was the only visible
figure in the landscape. Cain might have looked as lonely and
avoided. With an old sheepskin knapsack at his back, and a rough,
unbarked stick cut out of some wood in his hand; miry, footsore,
his shoes and gaiters trodden out, his hair and beard untrimmed;
the cloak he carried over his shoulder, and the clothes he wore,
sodden with wet; limping along in pain and difficulty; he looked as
if the clouds were hurrying from him, as if the wail of the wind
and the shuddering of the grass were directed against him, as if
the low mysterious plashing of the water murmured at him, as if the
fitful autumn night were disturbed by him.
He glanced here, and he glanced there, sullenly but shrinkingly;
and sometimes stopped and turned about, and looked all round him.
Then he limped on again, toiling and muttering.
'To the devil with this plain that has no end! To the devil with
these stones that cut like knives! To the devil with this dismal
darkness, wrapping itself about one with a chill! I hate you!'
And he would have visited his hatred upon it all with the scowl he
threw about him, if he could. He trudged a little further; and
looking into the distance before him, stopped again.
'I, hungry, thirsty, weary. You, imbeciles, where the lights are
yonder, eating and drinking, and warming yourselves at fires! I
wish I had the sacking of your town; I would repay you, my
But the teeth he set at the town, and the hand he shook at the
town, brought the town no nearer; and the man was yet hungrier, and
thirstier, and wearier, when his feet were on its jagged pavement,
and he stood looking about him.
There was the hotel with its gateway, and its savoury smell of
cooking; there was the cafe with its bright windows, and its
rattling of dominoes; there was the dyer's with its strips of red
cloth on the doorposts; there was the silversmith's with its
earrings, and its offerings for altars; there was the tobacco
dealer's with its lively group of soldier customers coming out pipe
in mouth; there were the bad odours of the town, and the rain and
the refuse in the kennels, and the faint lamps slung across the
road, and the huge Diligence, and its mountain of luggage, and its
six grey horses with their tails tied up, getting under weigh at
the coach office. But no small cabaret for a straitened traveller
being within sight, he had to seek one round the dark corner, where
the cabbage leaves lay thickest, trodden about the public cistern
at which women had not yet left off drawing water. There, in the
back street he found one, the Break of Day. The curtained windows
clouded the Break of Day, but it seemed light and warm, and it
announced in legible inscriptions with appropriate pictorial
embellishment of billiard cue and ball, that at the Break of Day
one could play billiards; that there one could find meat, drink,
and lodgings, whether one came on horseback, or came on foot; and
that it kept good wines, liqueurs, and brandy. The man turned the
handle of the Break of Day door, and limped in.
He touched his discoloured slouched hat, as he came in at the door,
to a few men who occupied the room. Two were playing dominoes at
one of the little tables; three or four were seated round the
stove, conversing as they smoked; the billiard-table in the centre
was left alone for the time; the landlady of the Daybreak sat
behind her little counter among her cloudy bottles of syrups,
baskets of cakes, and leaden drainage for glasses, working at her
Making his way to an empty little table in a corner of the room
behind the stove, he put down his knapsack and his cloak upon the
ground. As he raised his head from stooping to do so, he found the
landlady beside him.
'One can lodge here to-night, madame?'
'Perfectly!' said the landlady in a high, sing-song, cheery voice.
'Good. One can dine--sup--what you please to call it?'
'Ah, perfectly!' cried the landlady as before.
'Dispatch then, madame, if you please. Something to eat, as
quickly as you can; and some wine at once. I am exhausted.'
'It is very bad weather, monsieur,' said the landlady.
'And a very long road.'
'A cursed road.'
His hoarse voice failed him, and he rested his head upon his hands
until a bottle of wine was brought from the counter. Having filled
and emptied his little tumbler twice, and having broken off an end
from the great loaf that was set before him with his cloth and
napkin, soup-plate, salt, pepper, and oil, he rested his back
against the corner of the wall, made a couch of the bench on which
he sat, and began to chew crust, until such time as his repast
should be ready.
There had been that momentary interruption of the talk about the
stove, and that temporary inattention to and distraction from one
another, which is usually inseparable in such a company from the
arrival of a stranger. It had passed over by this time; and the
men had done glancing at him, and were talking again.
'That's the true reason,' said one of them, bringing a story he had
been telling, to a close, 'that's the true reason why they said
that the devil was let loose.' The speaker was the tall Swiss
belonging to the church, and he brought something of the authority
of the church into the discussion--especially as the devil was in
The landlady having given her directions for the new guest's
entertainment to her husband, who acted as cook to the Break of
Day, had resumed her needlework behind her counter. She was a
smart, neat, bright little woman, with a good deal of cap and a
good deal of stocking, and she struck into the conversation with
several laughing nods of her head, but without looking up from her
'Ah Heaven, then,' said she. 'When the boat came up from Lyons,
and brought the news that the devil was actually let loose at
Marseilles, some fly-catchers swallowed it. But I? No, not I.'
'Madame, you are always right,' returned the tall Swiss.
'Doubtless you were enraged against that man, madame?'
'Ay, yes, then!' cried the landlady, raising her eyes from her
work, opening them very wide, and tossing her head on one side.
'He was a bad subject.'
'He was a wicked wretch,' said the landlady, 'and well merited what
he had the good fortune to escape. So much the worse.'
'Stay, madame! Let us see,' returned the Swiss, argumentatively
turning his cigar between his lips. 'It may have been his
unfortunate destiny. He may have been the child of circumstances.
It is always possible that he had, and has, good in him if one did
but know how to find it out. Philosophical philanthropy teaches--'
The rest of the little knot about the stove murmured an objection
to the introduction of that threatening expression. Even the two
players at dominoes glanced up from their game, as if to protest
against philosophical philanthropy being brought by name into the
Break of Day.
'Hold there, you and your philanthropy,' cried the smiling
landlady, nodding her head more than ever. 'Listen then. I am a
woman, I. I know nothing of philosophical philanthropy. But I
know what I have seen, and what I have looked in the face in this
world here, where I find myself. And I tell you this, my friend,
that there are people (men and women both, unfortunately) who have
no good in them--none. That there are people whom it is necessary
to detest without compromise. That there are people who must be
dealt with as enemies of the human race. That there are people who
have no human heart, and who must be crushed like savage beasts and
cleared out of the way. They are but few, I hope; but I have seen
(in this world here where I find myself, and even at the little
Break of Day) that there are such people. And I do not doubt that
this man--whatever they call him, I forget his name--is one of
The landlady's lively speech was received with greater favour at
the Break of Day, than it would have elicited from certain amiable
whitewashers of the class she so unreasonably objected to, nearer
'My faith! If your philosophical philanthropy,' said the landlady,
putting down her work, and rising to take the stranger's soup from
her husband, who appeared with it at a side door, 'puts anybody at
the mercy of such people by holding terms with them at all, in
words or deeds, or both, take it away from the Break of Day, for it
isn't worth a sou.'
As she placed the soup before the guest, who changed his attitude
to a sitting one, he looked her full in the face, and his moustache
went up under his nose, and his nose came down over his moustache.
'Well!' said the previous speaker, 'let us come back to our
subject. Leaving all that aside, gentlemen, it was because the man
was acquitted on his trial that people said at Marseilles that the
devil was let loose. That was how the phrase began to circulate,
and what it meant; nothing more.'
'How do they call him?' said the landlady. 'Biraud, is it not?'
'Rigaud, madame,' returned the tall Swiss.
'Rigaud! To be sure.'
The traveller's soup was succeeded by a dish of meat, and that by
a dish of vegetables. He ate all that was placed before him,
emptied his bottle of wine, called for a glass of rum, and smoked
his cigarette with his cup of coffee. As he became refreshed, he
became overbearing; and patronised the company at the Daybreak in
certain small talk at which he assisted, as if his condition were
far above his appearance.
The company might have had other engagements, or they might have
felt their inferiority, but in any case they dispersed by degrees,
and not being replaced by other company, left their new patron in
possession of the Break of Day. The landlord was clinking about in
his kitchen; the landlady was quiet at her work; and the refreshed
traveller sat smoking by the stove, warming his ragged feet.
'Pardon me, madame--that Biraud.'
'Rigaud. Pardon me again--has contracted your displeasure, how?'
The landlady, who had been at one moment thinking within herself
that this was a handsome man, at another moment that this was an
ill-looking man, observed the nose coming down and the moustache
going up, and strongly inclined to the latter decision. Rigaud was
a criminal, she said, who had killed his wife.
'Ay, ay? Death of my life, that's a criminal indeed. But how do
you know it?'
'All the world knows it.'
'Hah! And yet he escaped justice?'
'Monsieur, the law could not prove it against him to its
satisfaction. So the law says. Nevertheless, all the world knows
he did it. The people knew it so well, that they tried to tear him
'Being all in perfect accord with their own wives?' said the guest.
The landlady of the Break of Day looked at him again, and felt
almost confirmed in her last decision. He had a fine hand, though,
and he turned it with a great show. She began once more to think
that he was not ill-looking after all.
'Did you mention, madame--or was it mentioned among the gentlemen--
what became of him?'
The landlady shook her head; it being the first conversational
stage at which her vivacious earnestness had ceased to nod it,
keeping time to what she said. It had been mentioned at the
Daybreak, she remarked, on the authority of the journals, that he
had been kept in prison for his own safety. However that might be,
he had escaped his deserts; so much the worse.
The guest sat looking at her as he smoked out his final cigarette,
and as she sat with her head bent over her work, with an expression
that might have resolved her doubts, and brought her to a lasting
conclusion on the subject of his good or bad looks if she had seen
it. When she did look up, the expression was not there. The hand
was smoothing his shaggy moustache.
'May one ask to be shown to bed, madame?'
Very willingly, monsieur. Hola, my husband! My husband would
conduct him up-stairs. There was one traveller there, asleep, who
had gone to bed very early indeed, being overpowered by fatigue;
but it was a large chamber with two beds in it, and space enough
for twenty. This the landlady of the Break of Day chirpingly
explained, calling between whiles, 'Hola, my husband!' out at the
My husband answered at length, 'It is I, my wife!' and presenting
himself in his cook's cap, lighted the traveller up a steep and
narrow staircase; the traveller carrying his own cloak and
knapsack, and bidding the landlady good night with a complimentary
reference to the pleasure of seeing her again to-morrow. It was a
large room, with a rough splintery floor, unplastered rafters
overhead, and two bedsteads on opposite sides. Here 'my husband'
put down the candle he carried, and with a sidelong look at his
guest stooping over his knapsack, gruffly gave him the instruction,
'The bed to the right!' and left him to his repose. The landlord,
whether he was a good or a bad physiognomist, had fully made up his
mind that the guest was an ill-looking fellow.
The guest looked contemptuously at the clean coarse bedding
prepared for him, and, sitting down on the rush chair at the
bedside, drew his money out of his pocket, and told it over in his
hand. 'One must eat,' he muttered to himself, 'but by Heaven I
must eat at the cost of some other man to-morrow!'
As he sat pondering, and mechanically weighing his money in his
palm, the deep breathing of the traveller in the other bed fell so
regularly upon his hearing that it attracted his eyes in that
direction. The man was covered up warm, and had drawn the white
curtain at his head, so that he could be only heard, not seen. But
the deep regular breathing, still going on while the other was
taking off his worn shoes and gaiters, and still continuing when he
had laid aside his coat and cravat, became at length a strong
provocative to curiosity, and incentive to get a glimpse of the
The waking traveller, therefore, stole a little nearer, and yet a
little nearer, and a little nearer to the sleeping traveller's bed,
until he stood close beside it. Even then he could not see his
face, for he had drawn the sheet over it. The regular breathing
still continuing, he put his smooth white hand (such a treacherous
hand it looked, as it went creeping from him!) to the sheet, and
gently lifted it away.
'Death of my soul!' he whispered, falling back, 'here's
The little Italian, previously influenced in his sleep, perhaps, by
the stealthy presence at his bedside, stopped in his regular
breathing, and with a long deep respiration opened his eyes. At
first they were not awake, though open. He lay for some seconds
looking placidly at his old prison companion, and then, all at
once, with a cry of surprise and alarm, sprang out of bed.
'Hush! What's the matter? Keep quiet! It's I. You know me?'
cried the other, in a suppressed voice.
But John Baptist, widely staring, muttering a number of invocations
and ejaculations, tremblingly backing into a corner, slipping on
his trousers, and tying his coat by the two sleeves round his neck,
manifested an unmistakable desire to escape by the door rather than
renew the acquaintance. Seeing this, his old prison comrade fell
back upon the door, and set his shoulders against it.
'Cavalletto! Wake, boy! Rub your eyes and look at me. Not the
name you used to call me--don't use that--Lagnier, say Lagnier!'
John Baptist, staring at him with eyes opened to their utmost
width, made a number of those national, backhanded shakes of the
right forefinger in the air, as if he were resolved on negativing
beforehand everything that the other could possibly advance during
the whole term of his life.
'Cavalletto! Give me your hand. You know Lagnier, the gentleman.
Touch the hand of a gentleman!'
Submitting himself to the old tone of condescending authority, John
Baptist, not at all steady on his legs as yet, advanced and put his
hand in his patron's. Monsieur Lagnier laughed; and having given
it a squeeze, tossed it up and let it go.
'Then you were--' faltered John Baptist.
'Not shaved? No. See here!' cried Lagnier, giving his head a
twirl; 'as tight on as your own.'
John Baptist, with a slight shiver, looked all round the room as if
to recall where he was. His patron took that opportunity of
turning the key in the door, and then sat down upon his bed.
'Look!' he said, holding up his shoes and gaiters. 'That's a poor
trim for a gentleman, you'll say. No matter, you shall see how
Soon I'll mend it. Come and sit down. Take your old place!'
John Baptist, looking anything but reassured, sat down on the floor
at the bedside, keeping his eyes upon his patron all the time.
'That's well!' cried Lagnier. 'Now we might be in the old infernal
hole again, hey? How long have you been out?'
'Two days after you, my master.'
'How do you come here?'
'I was cautioned not to stay there, and so I left the town at once,
and since then I have changed about. I have been doing odds and
ends at Avignon, at Pont Esprit, at Lyons; upon the Rhone, upon the
Saone.' As he spoke, he rapidly mapped the places out with his
sunburnt hand upon the floor.
'And where are you going?'
'Going, my master?'
John Baptist seemed to desire to evade the question without knowing
how. 'By Bacchus!' he said at last, as if he were forced to the
admission, 'I have sometimes had a thought of going to Paris, and
perhaps to England.'
'Cavalletto. This is in confidence. I also am going to Paris and
perhaps to England. We'll go together.'
The little man nodded his head, and showed his teeth; and yet
seemed not quite convinced that it was a surpassingly desirable
'We'll go together,' repeated Lagnier. 'You shall see how soon I
will force myself to be recognised as a gentleman, and you shall
profit by it. It is agreed? Are we one?'
'Oh, surely, surely!' said the little man.
'Then you shall hear before I sleep--and in six words, for I want
sleep--how I appear before you, I, Lagnier. Remember that. Not
'Altro, altro! Not Ri--' Before John Baptist could finish the
name, his comrade had got his hand under his chin and fiercely shut
up his mouth.
'Death! what are you doing? Do you want me to be trampled upon
and stoned? Do YOU want to be trampled upon and stoned? You would
be. You don't imagine that they would set upon me, and let my
prison chum go? Don't think it!'
There was an expression in his face as he released his grip of his
friend's jaw, from which his friend inferred that if the course of
events really came to any stoning and trampling, Monsieur Lagnier
would so distinguish him with his notice as to ensure his having
his full share of it. He remembered what a cosmopolitan gentleman
Monsieur Lagnier was, and how few weak distinctions he made.
'I am a man,' said Monsieur Lagnier, 'whom society has deeply
wronged since you last saw me. You know that I am sensitive and
brave, and that it is my character to govern. How has society
respected those qualities in me? I have been shrieked at through
the streets. I have been guarded through the streets against men,
and especially women, running at me armed with any weapons they
could lay their hands on. I have lain in prison for security, with
the place of my confinement kept a secret, lest I should be torn
out of it and felled by a hundred blows. I have been carted out of
Marseilles in the dead of night, and carried leagues away from it
packed in straw. It has not been safe for me to go near my house;
and, with a beggar's pittance in my pocket, I have walked through
vile mud and weather ever since, until my feet are crippled--look
at them! Such are the humiliations that society has inflicted upon
me, possessing the qualities I have mentioned, and which you know
me to possess. But society shall pay for it.'
All this he said in his companion's ear, and with his hand before
'Even here,' he went on in the same way, 'even in this mean
drinking-shop, society pursues me. Madame defames me, and her
guests defame me. I, too, a gentleman with manners and
accomplishments to strike them dead! But the wrongs society has
heaped upon me are treasured in this breast.'
To all of which John Baptist, listening attentively to the
suppressed hoarse voice, said from time to time, 'Surely, surely!'
tossing his head and shutting his eyes, as if there were the
clearest case against society that perfect candour could make out.
'Put my shoes there,' continued Lagnier. 'Hang my cloak to dry
there by the door. Take my hat.' He obeyed each instruction, as
it was given. 'And this is the bed to which society consigns me,
is it? Hah. Very well!'
As he stretched out his length upon it, with a ragged handkerchief
bound round his wicked head, and only his wicked head showing above
the bedclothes, John Baptist was rather strongly reminded of what
had so very nearly happened to prevent the moustache from any more
going up as it did, and the nose from any more coming down as it
'Shaken out of destiny's dice-box again into your company, eh? By
Heaven! So much the better for you. You'll profit by it. I shall
need a long rest. Let me sleep in the morning.'
John Baptist replied that he should sleep as long as he would, and
wishing him a happy night, put out the candle. One might have
Supposed that the next proceeding of the Italian would have been to
undress; but he did exactly the reverse, and dressed himself from
head to foot, saving his shoes. When he had so done, he lay down
upon his bed with some of its coverings over him, and his coat
still tied round his neck, to get through the night.
When he started up, the Godfather Break of Day was peeping at its
namesake. He rose, took his shoes in his hand, turned the key in
the door with great caution, and crept downstairs. Nothing was
astir there but the smell of coffee, wine, tobacco, and syrups; and
madame's little counter looked ghastly enough. But he had paid
madame his little note at it over night, and wanted to see nobody--
wanted nothing but to get on his shoes and his knapsack, open the
door, and run away.
He prospered in his object. No movement or voice was heard when he
opened the door; no wicked head tied up in a ragged handkerchief
looked out of the upper window. When the sun had raised his full
disc above the flat line of the horizon, and was striking fire out
of the long muddy vista of paved road with its weary avenue of
little trees, a black speck moved along the road and splashed among
the flaming pools of rain-water, which black speck was John Baptist
Cavalletto running away from his patron.
Bleeding Heart Yard
In London itself, though in the old rustic road towards a suburb of
note where in the days of William Shakespeare, author and stage-
player, there were Royal hunting-seats--howbeit no sport is left
there now but for hunters of men--Bleeding Heart Yard was to be
found; a place much changed in feature and in fortune, yet with
some relish of ancient greatness about it. Two or three mighty
stacks of chimneys, and a few large dark rooms which had escaped
being walled and subdivided out of the recognition of their old
proportions, gave the Yard a character. It was inhabited by poor
people, who set up their rest among its faded glories, as Arabs of
the desert pitch their tents among the fallen stones of the
Pyramids; but there was a family sentimental feeling prevalent in
the Yard, that it had a character.
As if the aspiring city had become puffed up in the very ground on
which it stood, the ground had so risen about Bleeding Heart Yard
that you got into it down a flight of steps which formed no part of
the original approach, and got out of it by a low gateway into a
maze of shabby streets, which went about and about, tortuously
ascending to the level again. At this end of the Yard and over the
gateway, was the factory of Daniel Doyce, often heavily beating
like a bleeding heart of iron, with the clink of metal upon metal.
The opinion of the Yard was divided respecting the derivation of
its name. The more practical of its inmates abided by the
tradition of a murder; the gentler and more imaginative
inhabitants, including the whole of the tender sex, were loyal to
the legend of a young lady of former times closely imprisoned in
her chamber by a cruel father for remaining true to her own true
love, and refusing to marry the suitor he chose for her. The
legend related how that the young lady used to be seen up at her
window behind the bars, murmuring a love-lorn song of which the
burden was, 'Bleeding Heart, Bleeding Heart, bleeding away,' until
she died. It was objected by the murderous party that this Refrain
was notoriously the invention of a tambour-worker, a spinster and
romantic, still lodging in the Yard. But, forasmuch as all
favourite legends must be associated with the affections, and as
many more people fall in love than commit murder--which it may be
hoped, howsoever bad we are, will continue until the end of the
world to be the dispensation under which we shall live--the
Bleeding Heart, Bleeding Heart, bleeding away story, carried the
day by a great majority. Neither party would listen to the
antiquaries who delivered learned lectures in the neighbourhood,
showing the Bleeding Heart to have been the heraldic cognisance of
the old family to whom the property had once belonged. And,
considering that the hour-glass they turned from year to year was
filled with the earthiest and coarsest sand, the Bleeding Heart
Yarders had reason enough for objecting to be despoiled of the one
little golden grain of poetry that sparkled in it.
Down in to the Yard, by way of the steps, came Daniel Doyce, Mr
Meagles, and Clennam. Passing along the Yard, and between the open
doors on either hand, all abundantly garnished with light children
nursing heavy ones, they arrived at its opposite boundary, the
gateway. Here Arthur Clennam stopped to look about him for the
domicile of Plornish, plasterer, whose name, according to the
custom of Londoners, Daniel Doyce had never seen or heard of to
It was plain enough, nevertheless, as Little Dorrit had said; over
a lime-splashed gateway in the corner, within which Plornish kept
a ladder and a barrel or two. The last house in Bleeding Heart
Yard which she had described as his place of habitation, was a
large house, let off to various tenants; but Plornish ingeniously
hinted that he lived in the parlour, by means of a painted hand
under his name, the forefinger of which hand (on which the artist
had depicted a ring and a most elaborate nail of the genteelest
form) referred all inquirers to that apartment.
Parting from his companions, after arranging another meeting with
Mr Meagles, Clennam went alone into the entry, and knocked with his
knuckles at the parlour-door. It was opened presently by a woman
with a child in her arms, whose unoccupied hand was hastily
rearranging the upper part of her dress. This was Mrs Plornish,
and this maternal action was the action of Mrs Plornish during a
large part of her waking existence.
Was Mr Plornish at home? 'Well, sir,' said Mrs Plornish, a civil
woman, 'not to deceive you, he's gone to look for a job.'
'Not to deceive you' was a method of speech with Mrs Plornish. She
would deceive you, under any circumstances, as little as might be;
but she had a trick of answering in this provisional form.
'Do you think he will be back soon, if I wait for him?'
'I have been expecting him,' said Mrs Plornish, 'this half an hour,
at any minute of time. Walk in, sir.'
Arthur entered the rather dark and close parlour (though it was
lofty too), and sat down in the chair she placed for him.
'Not to deceive you, sir, I notice it,' said Mrs Plornish, 'and I
take it kind of you.'
He was at a loss to understand what she meant; and by expressing as
much in his looks, elicited her explanation.
'It ain't many that comes into a poor place, that deems it worth
their while to move their hats,' said Mrs Plornish. 'But people
think more of it than people think.'
Clennam returned, with an uncomfortable feeling in so very slight
a courtesy being unusual, Was that all! And stooping down to pinch
the cheek of another young child who was sitting on the floor,
staring at him, asked Mrs Plornish how old that fine boy was?
'Four year just turned, sir,' said Mrs Plornish. 'He IS a fine
little fellow, ain't he, sir? But this one is rather sickly.' She
tenderly hushed the baby in her arms, as she said it. 'You
wouldn't mind my asking if it happened to be a job as you was come
about, sir, would you?' asked Mrs Plornish wistfully.
She asked it so anxiously, that if he had been in possession of any
kind of tenement, he would have had it plastered a foot deep rather
than answer No. But he was obliged to answer No; and he saw a
shade of disappointment on her face, as she checked a sigh, and
looked at the low fire. Then he saw, also, that Mrs Plornish was
a young woman, made somewhat slatternly in herself and her
belongings by poverty; and so dragged at by poverty and the
children together, that their united forces had already dragged her
face into wrinkles.
'All such things as jobs,' said Mrs Plornish, 'seems to me to have
gone underground, they do indeed.' (Herein Mrs Plornish limited
her remark to the plastering trade, and spoke without reference to
the Circumlocution Office and the Barnacle Family.)
'Is it so difficult to get work?' asked Arthur Clennam.
'Plornish finds it so,' she returned. 'He is quite unfortunate.
Really he is.'
Really he was. He was one of those many wayfarers on the road of
life, who seem to be afflicted with supernatural corns, rendering
it impossible for them to keep up even with their lame competitors.
A willing, working, soft hearted, not hard-headed fellow, Plornish
took his fortune as smoothly as could be expected; but it was a
rough one. It so rarely happened that anybody seemed to want him,
it was such an exceptional case when his powers were in any
request, that his misty mind could not make out how it happened.
He took it as it came, therefore; he tumbled into all kinds of
difficulties, and tumbled out of them; and, by tumbling through
life, got himself considerably bruised.
'It's not for want of looking after jobs, I am sure,' said Mrs
Plornish, lifting up her eyebrows, and searching for a solution of
the problem between the bars of the grate; 'nor yet for want of
working at them when they are to be got. No one ever heard my
husband complain of work.'
Somehow or other, this was the general misfortune of Bleeding Heart
Yard. From time to time there were public complaints, pathetically
going about, of labour being scarce--which certain people seemed to
take extraordinarily ill, as though they had an absolute right to
it on their own terms--but Bleeding Heart Yard, though as willing
a Yard as any in Britain, was never the better for the demand.
That high old family, the Barnacles, had long been too busy with
their great principle to look into the matter; and indeed the
matter had nothing to do with their watchfulness in out-generalling
all other high old families except the Stiltstalkings.
While Mrs Plornish spoke in these words of her absent lord, her
lord returned. A smooth-cheeked, fresh-coloured, sandy-whiskered
man of thirty. Long in the legs, yielding at the knees, foolish in
the face, flannel-jacketed, lime-whitened.
'This is Plornish, sir.'
'I came,' said Clennam, rising, 'to beg the favour of a little
conversation with you on the subject of the Dorrit family.'
Plornish became suspicious. Seemed to scent a creditor. Said,
'Ah, yes. Well. He didn't know what satisfaction he could give
any gentleman, respecting that family. What might it be about,
'I know you better,' said Clennam, smiling, 'than you suppose.'
Plornish observed, not Smiling in return, And yet he hadn't the
pleasure of being acquainted with the gentleman, neither.
'No,' said Arthur, 'I know your kind offices at second hand, but on
the best authority; through Little Dorrit.--I mean,' he explained,
'Mr Clennam, is it? Oh! I've heard of you, Sir.'
'And I of you,' said Arthur.
'Please to sit down again, Sir, and consider yourself welcome.--
Why, yes,' said Plornish, taking a chair, and lifting the elder
child upon his knee, that he might have the moral support of
speaking to a stranger over his head, 'I have been on the wrong
side of the Lock myself, and in that way we come to know Miss
Dorrit. Me and my wife, we are well acquainted with Miss Dorrit.'
'Intimate!' cried Mrs Plornish. Indeed, she was so proud of the
acquaintance, that she had awakened some bitterness of spirit in
the Yard by magnifying to an enormous amount the sum for which Miss
Dorrit's father had become insolvent. The Bleeding Hearts resented
her claiming to know people of such distinction.
'It was her father that I got acquainted with first. And through
getting acquainted with him, you see--why--I got acquainted with
her,' said Plornish tautologically.
'Ah! And there's manners! There's polish! There's a gentleman to
have run to seed in the Marshalsea jail! Why, perhaps you are not
aware,' said Plornish, lowering his voice, and speaking with a
perverse admiration of what he ought to have pitied or despised,
'not aware that Miss Dorrit and her sister dursn't let him know
that they work for a living. No!' said Plornish, looking with a
ridiculous triumph first at his wife, and then all round the room.
'Dursn't let him know it, they dursn't!'
'Without admiring him for that,' Clennam quietly observed, 'I am
very sorry for him.' The remark appeared to suggest to Plornish,
for the first time, that it might not be a very fine trait of
character after all. He pondered about it for a moment, and gave
'As to me,' he resumed, 'certainly Mr Dorrit is as affable with me,
I am sure, as I can possibly expect. Considering the differences
and distances betwixt us, more so. But it's Miss Dorrit that we
were speaking of.'
'True. Pray how did you introduce her at my mother's!'
Mr Plornish picked a bit of lime out of his whisker, put it between
his lips, turned it with his tongue like a sugar-plum, considered,
found himself unequal to the task of lucid explanation, and
appealing to his wife, said, 'Sally, you may as well mention how it
was, old woman.'
'Miss Dorrit,' said Sally, hushing the baby from side to side, and
laying her chin upon the little hand as it tried to disarrange the
gown again, 'came here one afternoon with a bit of writing, telling
that how she wished for needlework, and asked if it would be
considered any ill-conwenience in case she was to give her address
here.' (Plornish repeated, her address here, in a low voice, as if
he were making responses at church.) 'Me and Plornish says, No,
Miss Dorrit, no ill-conwenience,' (Plornish repeated, no ill-
conwenience,) 'and she wrote it in, according. Which then me and
Plornish says, Ho Miss Dorrit!' (Plornish repeated, Ho Miss
Dorrit.) 'Have you thought of copying it three or four times, as
the way to make it known in more places than one? No, says Miss
Dorrit, I have not, but I will. She copied it out according, on
this table, in a sweet writing, and Plornish, he took it where he
worked, having a job just then,' (Plornish repeated job just then,)
'and likewise to the landlord of the Yard; through which it was
that Mrs Clennam first happened to employ Miss Dorrit.' Plornish
repeated, employ Miss Dorrit; and Mrs Plornish having come to an
end, feigned to bite the fingers of the little hand as she kissed
'The landlord of the Yard,' said Arthur Clennam, 'is--'
'He is Mr Casby, by name, he is,' said Plornish, 'and Pancks, he
collects the rents. That,' added Mr Plornish, dwelling on the
subject with a slow thoughtfulness that appeared to have no
connection with any specific object, and to lead him nowhere, 'that
is about what they are, you may believe me or not, as you think
'Ay?' returned Clennam, thoughtful in his turn. 'Mr Casby, too!
An old acquaintance of mine, long ago!'
Mr Plornish did not see his road to any comment on this fact, and
made none. As there truly was no reason why he should have the
least interest in it, Arthur Clennam went on to the present purport
of his visit; namely, to make Plornish the instrument of effecting
Tip's release, with as little detriment as possible to the self-
reliance and self-helpfulness of the young man, supposing him to
possess any remnant of those qualities: without doubt a very wide
stretch of supposition. Plornish, having been made acquainted with
the cause of action from the Defendant's own mouth, gave Arthur to
understand that the Plaintiff was a 'Chaunter'--meaning, not a
singer of anthems, but a seller of horses--and that he (Plornish)
considered that ten shillings in the pound 'would settle handsome,'
and that more would be a waste of money. The Principal and
instrument soon drove off together to a stable-yard in High
Holborn, where a remarkably fine grey gelding, worth, at the lowest
figure, seventy-five guineas (not taking into account the value of
the shot he had been made to swallow for the improvement of his
form), was to be parted with for a twenty-pound note, in
consequence of his having run away last week with Mrs Captain
Barbary of Cheltenham, who wasn't up to a horse of his courage, and
who, in mere spite, insisted on selling him for that ridiculous
sum: or, in other words, on giving him away. Plornish, going up
this yard alone and leaving his Principal outside, found a
gentleman with tight drab legs, a rather old hat, a little hooked
stick, and a blue neckerchief (Captain Maroon of Gloucestershire,
a private friend of Captain Barbary); who happened to be there, in
a friendly way, to mention these little circumstances concerning
the remarkably fine grey gelding to any real judge of a horse and
quick snapper-up of a good thing, who might look in at that address
as per advertisement. This gentleman, happening also to be the
Plaintiff in the Tip case, referred Mr Plornish to his solicitor,
and declined to treat with Mr Plornish, or even to endure his
presence in the yard, unless he appeared there with a twenty-pound
note: in which case only, the gentleman would augur from
appearances that he meant business, and might be induced to talk to
him. On this hint, Mr Plornish retired to communicate with his
Principal, and presently came back with the required credentials.
Then said Captain Maroon, 'Now, how much time do you want to make
the other twenty in? Now, I'll give you a month.' Then said
Captain Maroon, when that wouldn't suit, 'Now, I'll tell what I'll
do with you. You shall get me a good bill at four months, made
payable at a banking-house, for the other twenty!' Then said
Captain Maroon, when THAT wouldn't suit, 'Now, come; Here's the
last I've got to say to you. You shall give me another ten down,
and I'll run my pen clean through it.' Then said Captain Maroon
when THAT wouldn't suit, 'Now, I'll tell you what it is, and this
shuts it up; he has used me bad, but I'll let him off for another
five down and a bottle of wine; and if you mean done, say done, and
if you don't like it, leave it.' Finally said Captain Maroon, when
THAT wouldn't suit either, 'Hand over, then!'--And in consideration
of the first offer, gave a receipt in full and discharged the
'Mr Plornish,' said Arthur, 'I trust to you, if you please, to keep
my secret. If you will undertake to let the young man know that he
is free, and to tell him that you were employed to compound for the
debt by some one whom you are not at liberty to name, you will not
only do me a service, but may do him one, and his sister also.'
'The last reason, sir,' said Plornish, 'would be quite sufficient.
Your wishes shall be attended to.'
'A Friend has obtained his discharge, you can say if you please.
A Friend who hopes that for his sister's sake, if for no one
else's, he will make good use of his liberty.'
'Your wishes, sir, shall be attended to.'
'And if you will be so good, in your better knowledge of the
family, as to communicate freely with me, and to point out to me
any means by which you think I may be delicately and really useful
to Little Dorrit, I shall feel under an obligation to you.'
'Don't name it, sir,' returned Plornish, 'it'll be ekally a
pleasure an a--it'l be ekally a pleasure and a--' Finding himself
unable to balance his sentence after two efforts, Mr Plornish
wisely dropped it. He took Clennam's card and appropriate
He was earnest to finish his commission at once, and his Principal
was in the same mind. So his Principal offered to set him down at
the Marshalsea Gate, and they drove in that direction over
Blackfriars Bridge. On the way, Arthur elicited from his new
friend a confused summary of the interior life of Bleeding Heart
Yard. They was all hard up there, Mr Plornish said, uncommon hard
up, to be sure. Well, he couldn't say how it was; he didn't know
as anybody could say how it was; all he know'd was, that so it was.
When a man felt, on his own back and in his own belly, that poor he
was, that man (Mr Plornish gave it as his decided belief) know'd
well that he was poor somehow or another, and you couldn't talk it
out of him, no more than you could talk Beef into him. Then you
see, some people as was better off said, and a good many such
people lived pretty close up to the mark themselves if not beyond
it so he'd heerd, that they was 'improvident' (that was the
favourite word) down the Yard. For instance, if they see a man
with his wife and children going to Hampton Court in a Wan, perhaps
once in a year, they says, 'Hallo! I thought you was poor, my
improvident friend!' Why, Lord, how hard it was upon a man! What
was a man to do? He couldn't go mollancholy mad, and even if he
did, you wouldn't be the better for it. In Mr Plornish's judgment
you would be the worse for it. Yet you seemed to want to make a
man mollancholy mad. You was always at it--if not with your right
hand, with your left. What was they a doing in the Yard? Why,
take a look at 'em and see. There was the girls and their mothers
a working at their sewing, or their shoe-binding, or their
trimming, or their waistcoat making, day and night and night and
day, and not more than able to keep body and soul together after
all--often not so much. There was people of pretty well all sorts
of trades you could name, all wanting to work, and yet not able to
get it. There was old people, after working all their lives, going
and being shut up in the workhouse, much worse fed and lodged and
treated altogether, than--Mr Plornish said manufacturers, but
appeared to mean malefactors. Why, a man didn't know where to turn
himself for a crumb of comfort. As to who was to blame for it, Mr
Plornish didn't know who was to blame for it. He could tell you
who suffered, but he couldn't tell you whose fault it was. It
wasn't HIS place to find out, and who'd mind what he said, if he
did find out? He only know'd that it wasn't put right by them what
undertook that line of business, and that it didn't come right of
itself. And, in brief, his illogical opinion was, that if you
couldn't do nothing for him, you had better take nothing from him
for doing of it; so far as he could make out, that was about what
it come to. Thus, in a prolix, gently-growling, foolish way, did
Plornish turn the tangled skein of his estate about and about, like
a blind man who was trying to find some beginning or end to it;
until they reached the prison gate. There, he left his Principal
alone; to wonder, as he rode away, how many thousand Plornishes
there might be within a day or two's journey of the Circumlocution
Office, playing sundry curious variations on the same tune, which
were not known by ear in that glorious institution.
The mention of Mr Casby again revived in Clennam's memory the
smouldering embers of curiosity and interest which Mrs Flintwinch
had fanned on the night of his arrival. Flora Casby had been the
beloved of his boyhood; and Flora was the daughter and only child
of wooden-headed old Christopher (so he was still occasionally
spoken of by some irreverent spirits who had had dealings with him,
and in whom familiarity had bred its proverbial result perhaps),
who was reputed to be rich in weekly tenants, and to get a good
quantity of blood out of the stones of several unpromising courts
After some days of inquiry and research, Arthur Clennam became
convinced that the case of the Father of the Marshalsea was indeed
a hopeless one, and sorrowfully resigned the idea of helping him to
freedom again. He had no hopeful inquiry to make at present,
concerning Little Dorrit either; but he argued with himself that it
might--for anything he knew--it might be serviceable to the poor
child, if he renewed this acquaintance. It is hardly necessary to
add that beyond all doubt he would have presented himself at Mr
Casby's door, if there had been no Little Dorrit in existence; for
we all know how we all deceive ourselves--that is to say, how
people in general, our profounder selves excepted, deceive
themselves--as to motives of action.
With a comfortable impression upon him, and quite an honest one in
its way, that he was still patronising Little Dorrit in doing what
had no reference to her, he found himself one afternoon at the
corner of Mr Casby's street. Mr Casby lived in a street in the
Gray's Inn Road, which had set off from that thoroughfare with the
intention of running at one heat down into the valley, and up again
to the top of Pentonville Hill; but which had run itself out of
breath in twenty yards, and had stood still ever since. There is
no such place in that part now; but it remained there for many
years, looking with a baulked countenance at the wilderness patched
with unfruitful gardens and pimpled with eruptive summerhouses,
that it had meant to run over in no time.
'The house,' thought Clennam, as he crossed to the door, 'is as
little changed as my mother's, and looks almost as gloomy. But the
likeness ends outside. I know its staid repose within. The smell
of its jars of old rose-leaves and lavender seems to come upon me
When his knock at the bright brass knocker of obsolete shape
brought a woman-servant to the door, those faded scents in truth
saluted him like wintry breath that had a faint remembrance in it
of the bygone spring. He stepped into the sober, silent, air-tight
house--one might have fancied it to have been stifled by Mutes in
the Eastern manner--and the door, closing again, seemed to shut out
sound and motion. The furniture was formal, grave, and quaker-
like, but well-kept; and had as prepossessing an aspect as
anything, from a human creature to a wooden stool, that is meant
for much use and is preserved for little, can ever wear. There was
a grave clock, ticking somewhere up the staircase; and there was a
songless bird in the same direction, pecking at his cage, as if he
were ticking too. The parlour-fire ticked in the grate. There was
only one person on the parlour-hearth, and the loud watch in his
pocket ticked audibly.
The servant-maid had ticked the two words 'Mr Clennam' so softly
that she had not been heard; and he consequently stood, within the
door she had closed, unnoticed. The figure of a man advanced in
life, whose smooth grey eyebrows seemed to move to the ticking as
the fire-light flickered on them, sat in an arm-chair, with his
list shoes on the rug, and his thumbs slowly revolving over one
another. This was old Christopher Casby--recognisable at a
glance--as unchanged in twenty years and upward as his own solid
furniture--as little touched by the influence of the varying
seasons as the old rose-leaves and old lavender in his porcelain
Perhaps there never was a man, in this troublesome world, so
troublesome for the imagination to picture as a boy. And yet he
had changed very little in his progress through life. Confronting
him, in the room in which he sat, was a boy's portrait, which
anybody seeing him would have identified as Master Christopher
Casby, aged ten: though disguised with a haymaking rake, for which
he had had, at any time, as much taste or use as for a diving-bell;
and sitting (on one of his own legs) upon a bank of violets, moved
to precocious contemplation by the spire of a village church.
There was the same smooth face and forehead, the same calm blue
eye, the same placid air. The shining bald head, which looked so
very large because it shone so much; and the long grey hair at its
sides and back, like floss silk or spun glass, which looked so very
benevolent because it was never cut; were not, of course, to be
seen in the boy as in the old man. Nevertheless, in the Seraphic
creature with the haymaking rake, were clearly to be discerned the
rudiments of the Patriarch with the list shoes.
Patriarch was the name which many people delighted to give him.
Various old ladies in the neighbourhood spoke of him as The Last of
the Patriarchs. So grey, so slow, so quiet, so impassionate, so
very bumpy in the head, Patriarch was the word for him. He had
been accosted in the streets, and respectfully solicited to become
a Patriarch for painters and for sculptors; with so much
importunity, in sooth, that it would appear to be beyond the Fine
Arts to remember the points of a Patriarch, or to invent one.
Philanthropists of both sexes had asked who he was, and on being
informed, 'Old Christopher Casby, formerly Town-agent to Lord
Decimus Tite Barnacle,' had cried in a rapture of disappointment,
'Oh! why, with that head, is he not a benefactor to his species!
Oh! why, with that head, is he not a father to the orphan and a
friend to the friendless!' With that head, however, he remained
old Christopher Casby, proclaimed by common report rich in house
property; and with that head, he now sat in his silent parlour.
Indeed it would be the height of unreason to expect him to be
sitting there without that head.
Arthur Clennam moved to attract his attention, and the grey
eyebrows turned towards him.
'I beg your pardon,' said Clennam, 'I fear you did not hear me
'No, sir, I did not. Did you wish to see me, sir?'
'I wished to pay my respects.'
Mr Casby seemed a feather's weight disappointed by the last words,
having perhaps prepared himself for the visitor's wishing to pay
something else. 'Have I the pleasure, sir,' he proceeded--'take a
chair, if you please--have I the pleasure of knowing--? Ah!
truly, yes, I think I have! I believe I am not mistaken in
supposing that I am acquainted with those features? I think I
address a gentleman of whose return to this country I was informed
by Mr Flintwinch?'
'That is your present visitor.'
'Really! Mr Clennam?'
'No other, Mr Casby.'
'Mr Clennam, I am glad to see you. How have you been since we
Without thinking it worth while to explain that in the course of
some quarter of a century he had experienced occasional slight
fluctuations in his health and spirits, Clennam answered generally
that he had never been better, or something equally to the purpose;
and shook hands with the possessor of 'that head' as it shed its
patriarchal light upon him.
'We are older, Mr Clennam,' said Christopher Casby.
'We are--not younger,' said Clennam. After this wise remark he
felt that he was scarcely shining with brilliancy, and became aware
that he was nervous.
'And your respected father,' said Mr Casby, 'is no more! I was
grieved to hear it, Mr Clennam, I was grieved.'
Arthur replied in the usual way that he felt infinitely obliged to
'There was a time,' said Mr Casby, 'when your parents and myself
were not on friendly terms. There was a little family
misunderstanding among us. Your respected mother was rather
jealous of her son, maybe; when I say her son, I mean your worthy
self, your worthy self.'
His smooth face had a bloom upon it like ripe wall-fruit. What
with his blooming face, and that head, and his blue eyes, he seemed
to be delivering sentiments of rare wisdom and virtue. In like
manner, his physiognomical expression seemed to teem with
benignity. Nobody could have said where the wisdom was, or where
the virtue was, or where the benignity was; but they all seemed to
be somewhere about him.
'Those times, however,' pursued Mr Casby, 'are past and gone, past
and gone. I do myself the pleasure of making a visit to your
respected mother occasionally, and of admiring the fortitude and
strength of mind with which she bears her trials, bears her
trials.' When he made one of these little repetitions, sitting
with his hands crossed before him, he did it with his head on one
side, and a gentle smile, as if he had something in his thoughts
too sweetly profound to be put into words. As if he denied himself
the pleasure of uttering it, lest he should soar too high; and his
meekness therefore preferred to be unmeaning.
'I have heard that you were kind enough on one of those occasions,'
said Arthur, catching at the opportunity as it drifted past him,
'to mention Little Dorrit to my mother.'
'Little--Dorrit? That's the seamstress who was mentioned to me by
a small tenant of mine? Yes, yes. Dorrit? That's the name. Ah,
yes, yes! You call her Little Dorrit?'
No road in that direction. Nothing came of the cross-cut. It led
'My daughter Flora,' said Mr Casby, 'as you may have heard
probably, Mr Clennam, was married and established in life, several
years ago. She had the misfortune to lose her husband when she had
been married a few months. She resides with me again. She will be
glad to see you, if you will permit me to let her know that you are
'By all means,' returned Clennam. 'I should have preferred the
request, if your kindness had not anticipated me.'
Upon this Mr Casby rose up in his list shoes, and with a slow,
heavy step (he was of an elephantine build), made for the door. He
had a long wide-skirted bottle-green coat on, and a bottle-green
pair of trousers, and a bottle-green waistcoat. The Patriarchs
were not dressed in bottle-green broadcloth, and yet his clothes
He had scarcely left the room, and allowed the ticking to become
audible again, when a quick hand turned a latchkey in the house-
door, opened it, and shut it. Immediately afterwards, a quick and
eager short dark man came into the room with so much way upon him
that he was within a foot of Clennam before he could stop.
'Halloa!' he said.
Clennam saw no reason why he should not say 'Halloa!' too.
'What's the matter?' said the short dark man.
'I have not heard that anything is the matter,' returned Clennam.
'Where's Mr Casby?' asked the short dark man, looking about.
'He will be here directly, if you want him.'
'_I_ want him?' said the short dark man. 'Don't you?'
This elicited a word or two of explanation from Clennam, during the
delivery of which the short dark man held his breath and looked at
him. He was dressed in black and rusty iron grey; had jet black
beads of eyes; a scrubby little black chin; wiry black hair
striking out from his head in prongs, like forks or hair-pins; and
a complexion that was very dingy by nature, or very dirty by art,
or a compound of nature and art. He had dirty hands and dirty
broken nails, and looked as if he had been in the coals; he was in
a perspiration, and snorted and sniffed and puffed and blew, like
a little labouring steam-engine.
'Oh!' said he, when Arthur told him how he came to be there. 'Very
well. That's right. If he should ask for Pancks, will you be so
good as to say that Pancks is come in?' And so, with a snort and
a puff, he worked out by another door.
Now, in the old days at home, certain audacious doubts respecting
the last of the Patriarchs, which were afloat in the air, had, by
some forgotten means, come in contact with Arthur's sensorium. He
was aware of motes and specks of suspicion in the atmosphere of
that time; seen through which medium, Christopher Casby was a mere
Inn signpost, without any Inn--an invitation to rest and be
thankful, when there was no place to put up at, and nothing
whatever to be thankful for. He knew that some of these specks
even represented Christopher as capable of harbouring designs in
'that head,' and as being a crafty impostor. Other motes there
were which showed him as a heavy, selfish, drifting Booby, who,
having stumbled, in the course of his unwieldy jostlings against
other men, on the discovery that to get through life with ease and
credit, he had but to hold his tongue, keep the bald part of his
head well polished, and leave his hair alone, had had just cunning
enough to seize the idea and stick to it. It was said that his
being town-agent to Lord Decimus Tite Barnacle was referable, not
to his having the least business capacity, but to his looking so
supremely benignant that nobody could suppose the property screwed
or jobbed under such a man; also, that for similar reasons he now
got more money out of his own wretched lettings, unquestioned, than
anybody with a less nobby and less shining crown could possibly
have done. In a word, it was represented (Clennam called to mind,
alone in the ticking parlour) that many people select their models,
much as the painters, just now mentioned, select theirs; and that,
whereas in the Royal Academy some evil old ruffian of a Dog-stealer
will annually be found embodying all the cardinal virtues, on
account of his eyelashes, or his chin, or his legs (thereby
planting thorns of confusion in the breasts of the more observant
students of nature), so, in the great social Exhibition,
accessories are often accepted in lieu of the internal character.
Calling these things to mind, and ranging Mr Pancks in a row with
them, Arthur Clennam leaned this day to the opinion, without quite
deciding on it, that the last of the Patriarchs was the drifting
Booby aforesaid, with the one idea of keeping the bald part of his
head highly polished: and that, much as an unwieldy ship in the
Thames river may sometimes be seen heavily driving with the tide,
broadside on, stern first, in its own way and in the way of
everything else, though making a great show of navigation, when all
of a sudden, a little coaly steam-tug will bear down upon it, take
it in tow, and bustle off with it; similarly the cumbrous Patriarch
had been taken in tow by the snorting Pancks, and was now following
in the wake of that dingy little craft.
The return of Mr Casby with his daughter Flora, put an end to these
meditations. Clennam's eyes no sooner fell upon the subject of his
old passion than it shivered and broke to pieces.
Most men will be found sufficiently true to themselves to be true
to an old idea. It is no proof of an inconstant mind, but exactly
the opposite, when the idea will not bear close comparison with the
reality, and the contrast is a fatal shock to it. Such was
Clennam's case. In his youth he had ardently loved this woman, and
had heaped upon her all the locked-up wealth of his affection and
imagination. That wealth had been, in his desert home, like
Robinson Crusoe's money; exchangeable with no one, lying idle in
the dark to rust, until he poured it out for her. Ever since that
memorable time, though he had, until the night of his arrival, as
completely dismissed her from any association with his Present or
Future as if she had been dead (which she might easily have been
for anything he knew), he had kept the old fancy of the Past
unchanged, in its old sacred place. And now, after all, the last
of the Patriarchs coolly walked into the parlour, saying in effect,
'Be good enough to throw it down and dance upon it. This is
Flora, always tall, had grown to be very broad too, and short of
breath; but that was not much. Flora, whom he had left a lily, had
become a peony; but that was not much. Flora, who had seemed
enchanting in all she said and thought, was diffuse and silly.
That was much. Flora, who had been spoiled and artless long ago,
was determined to be spoiled and artless now. That was a fatal
This is Flora!
'I am sure,' giggled Flora, tossing her head with a caricature of
her girlish manner, such as a mummer might have presented at her
own funeral, if she had lived and died in classical antiquity, 'I
am ashamed to see Mr Clennam, I am a mere fright, I know he'll find
me fearfully changed, I am actually an old woman, it's shocking to
be found out, it's really shocking!'
He assured her that she was just what he had expected and that time
had not stood still with himself.
'Oh! But with a gentleman it's so different and really you look so
amazingly well that you have no right to say anything of the kind,
while, as to me, you know--oh!' cried Flora with a little scream,
'I am dreadful!'
The Patriarch, apparently not yet understanding his own part in the
drama under representation, glowed with vacant serenity.
'But if we talk of not having changed,' said Flora, who, whatever
she said, never once came to a full stop, 'look at Papa, is not
Papa precisely what he was when you went away, isn't it cruel and
unnatural of Papa to be such a reproach to his own child, if we go
on in this way much longer people who don't know us will begin to
suppose that I am Papa's Mama!'
That must be a long time hence, Arthur considered.
'Oh Mr Clennam you insincerest of creatures,' said Flora, 'I
perceive already you have not lost your old way of paying
compliments, your old way when you used to pretend to be so
sentimentally struck you know--at least I don't mean that, I--oh I
don't know what I mean!' Here Flora tittered confusedly, and gave
him one of her old glances.
The Patriarch, as if he now began to perceive that his part in the
piece was to get off the stage as soon as might be, rose, and went
to the door by which Pancks had worked out, hailing that Tug by
name. He received an answer from some little Dock beyond, and was
towed out of sight directly.
'You mustn't think of going yet,' said Flora--Arthur had looked at
his hat, being in a ludicrous dismay, and not knowing what to do:
'you could never be so unkind as to think of going, Arthur--I mean
Mr Arthur--or I suppose Mr Clennam would be far more proper--but I
am sure I don't know what I am saying--without a word about the
dear old days gone for ever, when I come to think of it I dare say
it would be much better not to speak of them and it's highly
probable that you have some much more agreeable engagement and pray
let Me be the last person in the world to interfere with it though
there was a time, but I am running into nonsense again.'
Was it possible that Flora could have been such a chatterer in the
days she referred to? Could there have been anything like her
present disjointed volubility in the fascinations that had
'Indeed I have little doubt,' said Flora, running on with
astonishing speed, and pointing her conversation with nothing but
commas, and very few of them, 'that you are married to some Chinese
lady, being in China so long and being in business and naturally
desirous to settle and extend your connection nothing was more
likely than that you should propose to a Chinese lady and nothing
was more natural I am sure than that the Chinese lady should accept
you and think herself very well off too, I only hope she's not a
'I am not,' returned Arthur, smiling in spite of himself, 'married
to any lady, Flora.'
'Oh good gracious me I hope you never kept yourself a bachelor so
long on my account!' tittered Flora; 'but of course you never did
why should you, pray don't answer, I don't know where I'm running
to, oh do tell me something about the Chinese ladies whether their
eyes are really so long and narrow always putting me in mind of
mother-of-pearl fish at cards and do they really wear tails down
their back and plaited too or is it only the men, and when they
pull their hair so very tight off their foreheads don't they hurt
themselves, and why do they stick little bells all over their
bridges and temples and hats and things or don't they really do
it?' Flora gave him another of her old glances. Instantly she
went on again, as if he had spoken in reply for some time.
'Then it's all true and they really do! good gracious Arthur!--
pray excuse me--old habit--Mr Clennam far more proper--what a
country to live in for so long a time, and with so many lanterns
and umbrellas too how very dark and wet the climate ought to be and
no doubt actually is, and the sums of money that must be made by
those two trades where everybody carries them and hangs them
everywhere, the little shoes too and the feet screwed back in
infancy is quite surprising, what a traveller you are!'
In his ridiculous distress, Clennam received another of the old
glances without in the least knowing what to do with it.
'Dear dear,' said Flora, 'only to think of the changes at home
Arthur--cannot overcome it, and seems so natural, Mr Clennam far
more proper--since you became familiar with the Chinese customs and
language which I am persuaded you speak like a Native if not better
for you were always quick and clever though immensely difficult no
doubt, I am sure the tea chests alone would kill me if I tried,
such changes Arthur--I am doing it again, seems so natural, most
improper--as no one could have believed, who could have ever
imagined Mrs Finching when I can't imagine it myself!'
'Is that your married name?' asked Arthur, struck, in the midst of
all this, by a certain warmth of heart that expressed itself in her
tone when she referred, however oddly, to the youthful relation in
which they had stood to one another. 'Finching?'
'Finching oh yes isn't it a dreadful name, but as Mr F. said when
he proposed to me which he did seven times and handsomely consented
I must say to be what he used to call on liking twelve months,
after all, he wasn't answerable for it and couldn't help it could
he, Excellent man, not at all like you but excellent man!'
Flora had at last talked herself out of breath for one moment. One
moment; for she recovered breath in the act of raising a minute
corner of her pocket-handkerchief to her eye, as a tribute to the
ghost of the departed Mr F., and began again.
'No one could dispute, Arthur--Mr Clennam--that it's quite right
you should be formally friendly to me under the altered
circumstances and indeed you couldn't be anything else, at least I
suppose not you ought to know, but I can't help recalling that
there was a time when things were very different.'
'My dear Mrs Finching,' Arthur began, struck by the good tone
'Oh not that nasty ugly name, say Flora!'
'Flora. I assure you, Flora, I am happy in seeing you once more,
and in finding that, like me, you have not forgotten the old
foolish dreams, when we saw all before us in the light of our youth
'You don't seem so,' pouted Flora, 'you take it very coolly, but
however I know you are disappointed in me, I suppose the Chinese
ladies--Mandarinesses if you call them so--are the cause or perhaps
I am the cause myself, it's just as likely.'
'No, no,' Clennam entreated, 'don't say that.'
'Oh I must you know,' said Flora, in a positive tone, 'what
nonsense not to, I know I am not what you expected, I know that
In the midst of her rapidity, she had found that out with the quick
perception of a cleverer woman. The inconsistent and profoundly
unreasonable way in which she instantly went on, nevertheless, to
interweave their long-abandoned boy and girl relations with their
present interview, made Clennam feel as if he were light-headed.
'One remark,' said Flora, giving their conversation, without the
slightest notice and to the great terror of Clennam, the tone of a
love-quarrel, 'I wish to make, one explanation I wish to offer,
when your Mama came and made a scene of it with my Papa and when I
was called down into the little breakfast-room where they were
looking at one another with your Mama's parasol between them seated
on two chairs like mad bulls what was I to do?'
'My dear Mrs Finching,' urged Clennam--'all so long ago and so long
concluded, is it worth while seriously to--'
'I can't Arthur,' returned Flora, 'be denounced as heartless by the
whole society of China without setting myself right when I have the
opportunity of doing so, and you must be very well aware that there
was Paul and Virginia which had to be returned and which was
returned without note or comment, not that I mean to say you could
have written to me watched as I was but if it had only come back
with a red wafer on the cover I should have known that it meant
Come to Pekin Nankeen and What's the third place, barefoot.'
'My dear Mrs Finching, you were not to blame, and I never blamed
you. We were both too young, too dependent and helpless, to do
anything but accept our separation.--Pray think how long ago,'
gently remonstrated Arthur.
'One more remark,' proceeded Flora with unslackened volubility, 'I
wish to make, one more explanation I wish to offer, for five days
I had a cold in the head from crying which I passed entirely in the
back drawing-room--there is the back drawing-room still on the
first floor and still at the back of the house to confirm my
words--when that dreary period had passed a lull succeeded years
rolled on and Mr F. became acquainted with us at a mutual friend's,
he was all attention he called next day he soon began to call three
evenings a week and to send in little things for supper it was not
love on Mr F.'s part it was adoration, Mr F. proposed with the full
approval of Papa and what could I do?'
'Nothing whatever,' said Arthur, with the cheerfulest readiness,
'but what you did. Let an old friend assure you of his full
conviction that you did quite right.'
'One last remark,' proceeded Flora, rejecting commonplace life with
a wave of her hand, 'I wish to make, one last explanation I wish to
offer, there was a time ere Mr F. first paid attentions incapable
of being mistaken, but that is past and was not to be, dear Mr
Clennam you no longer wear a golden chain you are free I trust you
may be happy, here is Papa who is always tiresome and putting in
his nose everywhere where he is not wanted.'
With these words, and with a hasty gesture fraught with timid
caution--such a gesture had Clennam's eyes been familiar with in
the old time--poor Flora left herself at eighteen years of age, a
long long way behind again; and came to a full stop at last.
Or rather, she left about half of herself at eighteen years of age
behind, and grafted the rest on to the relict of the late Mr F.;
thus making a moral mermaid of herself, which her once boy-lover
contemplated with feelings wherein his sense of the sorrowful and
his sense of the comical were curiously blended.
For example. As if there were a secret understanding between
herself and Clennam of the most thrilling nature; as if the first
of a train of post-chaises and four, extending all the way to
Scotland, were at that moment round the corner; and as if she
couldn't (and wouldn't) have walked into the Parish Church with
him, under the shade of the family umbrella, with the Patriarchal
blessing on her head, and the perfect concurrence of all mankind;
Flora comforted her soul with agonies of mysterious signalling,
expressing dread of discovery. With the sensation of becoming more
and more light-headed every minute, Clennam saw the relict of the
late Mr F. enjoying herself in the most wonderful manner, by
putting herself and him in their old places, and going through all
the old performances--now, when the stage was dusty, when the
scenery was faded, when the youthful actors were dead, when the
orchestra was empty, when the lights were out. And still, through
all this grotesque revival of what he remembered as having once
been prettily natural to her, he could not but feel that it revived
at sight of him, and that there was a tender memory in it.
The Patriarch insisted on his staying to dinner, and Flora
signalled 'Yes!' Clennam so wished he could have done more than
stay to dinner--so heartily wished he could have found the Flora
that had been, or that never had been--that he thought the least
atonement he could make for the disappointment he almost felt
ashamed of, was to give himself up to the family desire.
Therefore, he stayed to dinner.
Pancks dined with them. Pancks steamed out of his little dock at
a quarter before six, and bore straight down for the Patriarch, who
happened to be then driving, in an inane manner, through a stagnant
account of Bleeding Heart Yard. Pancks instantly made fast to him
and hauled him out.
'Bleeding Heart Yard?' said Pancks, with a puff and a snort. 'It's
a troublesome property. Don't pay you badly, but rents are very
hard to get there. You have more trouble with that one place than
with all the places belonging to you.'
just as the big ship in tow gets the credit, with most spectators,
of being the powerful object, so the Patriarch usually seemed to
have said himself whatever Pancks said for him.
'Indeed?' returned Clennam, upon whom this impression was so
efficiently made by a mere gleam of the polished head that he spoke
the ship instead of the Tug. 'The people are so poor there?'
'You can't say, you know,' snorted Pancks, taking one of his dirty
hands out of his rusty iron-grey pockets to bite his nails, if he
could find any, and turning his beads of eyes upon his employer,
'whether they're poor or not. They say they are, but they all say
that. When a man says he's rich, you're generally sure he isn't.
Besides, if they ARE poor, you can't help it. You'd be poor
yourself if you didn't get your rents.'
'True enough,' said Arthur.
'You're not going to keep open house for all the poor of London,'
pursued Pancks. 'You're not going to lodge 'em for nothing.
You're not going to open your gates wide and let 'em come free.
Not if you know it, you ain't.'
Mr Casby shook his head, in Placid and benignant generality.
'If a man takes a room of you at half-a-crown a week, and when the
week comes round hasn't got the half-crown, you say to that man,
Why have you got the room, then? If you haven't got the one thing,
why have you got the other? What have you been and done with your
money? What do you mean by it? What are you up to? That's what
YOU say to a man of that sort; and if you didn't say it, more shame
for you!' Mr Pancks here made a singular and startling noise,
produced by a strong blowing effort in the region of the nose,
unattended by any result but that acoustic one.
'You have some extent of such property about the east and north-
east here, I believe?' said Clennam, doubtful which of the two to
'Oh, pretty well,' said Pancks. 'You're not particular to east or
north-east, any point of the compass will do for you. What you
want is a good investment and a quick return. You take it where
you can find it. You ain't nice as to situation--not you.'
There was a fourth and most original figure in the Patriarchal
tent, who also appeared before dinner. This was an amazing little
old woman, with a face like a staring wooden doll too cheap for
expression, and a stiff yellow wig perched unevenly on the top of
her head, as if the child who owned the doll had driven a tack
through it anywhere, so that it only got fastened on. Another
remarkable thing in this little old woman was, that the same child
seemed to have damaged her face in two or three places with some
blunt instrument in the nature of a spoon; her countenance, and
particularly the tip of her nose, presenting the phenomena of
several dints, generally answering to the bowl of that article. A
further remarkable thing in this little old woman was, that she had
no name but Mr F.'s Aunt.
She broke upon the visitor's view under the following
circumstances: Flora said when the first dish was being put on the
table, perhaps Mr Clennam might not have heard that Mr F. had left
her a legacy? Clennam in return implied his hope that Mr F. had
endowed the wife whom he adored, with the greater part of his
worldly substance, if not with all. Flora said, oh yes, she didn't
mean that, Mr F. had made a beautiful will, but he had left her as
a separate legacy, his Aunt. She then went out of the room to
fetch the legacy, and, on her return, rather triumphantly presented
'Mr F.'s Aunt.'
The major characteristics discoverable by the stranger in Mr F.'s
Aunt, were extreme severity and grim taciturnity; sometimes
interrupted by a propensity to offer remarks in a deep warning
voice, which, being totally uncalled for by anything said by
anybody, and traceable to no association of ideas, confounded and
terrified the Mind. Mr F.'s Aunt may have thrown in these
observations on some system of her own, and it may have been
ingenious, or even subtle: but the key to it was wanted.
The neatly-served and well-cooked dinner (for everything about the
Patriarchal household promoted quiet digestion) began with some
soup, some fried soles, a butter-boat of shrimp sauce, and a dish
of potatoes. The conversation still turned on the receipt of
rents. Mr F.'s Aunt, after regarding the company for ten minutes
with a malevolent gaze, delivered the following fearful remark:
'When we lived at Henley, Barnes's gander was stole by tinkers.'
Mr Pancks courageously nodded his head and said, 'All right,
ma'am.' But the effect of this mysterious communication upon
Clennam was absolutely to frighten him. And another circumstance
invested this old lady with peculiar terrors. Though she was
always staring, she never acknowledged that she saw any individual.
The polite and attentive stranger would desire, say, to consult her
inclinations on the subject of potatoes. His expressive action
would be hopelessly lost upon her, and what could he do? No man
could say, 'Mr F.'s Aunt, will you permit me?' Every man retired
from the spoon, as Clennam did, cowed and baffled.
There was mutton, a steak, and an apple-pie--nothing in the
remotest way connected with ganders--and the dinner went on like a
disenchanted feast, as it truly was. Once upon a time Clennam had
sat at that table taking no heed of anything but Flora; now the
principal heed he took of Flora was to observe, against his will,
that she was very fond of porter, that she combined a great deal of
sherry with sentiment, and that if she were a little overgrown, it
was upon substantial grounds. The last of the Patriarchs had
always been a mighty eater, and he disposed of an immense quantity
of solid food with the benignity of a good soul who was feeding
some one else. Mr Pancks, who was always in a hurry, and who
referred at intervals to a little dirty notebook which he kept
beside him (perhaps containing the names of the defaulters he meant
to look up by way of dessert), took in his victuals much as if he
were coaling; with a good deal of noise, a good deal of dropping
about, and a puff and a snort occasionally, as if he were nearly
ready to steam away.
All through dinner, Flora combined her present appetite for eating
and drinking with her past appetite for romantic love, in a way
that made Clennam afraid to lift his eyes from his plate; since he
could not look towards her without receiving some glance of
mysterious meaning or warning, as if they were engaged in a plot.
Mr F.'s Aunt sat silently defying him with an aspect of the
greatest bitterness, until the removal of the cloth and the
appearance of the decanters, when she originated another
observation--struck into the conversation like a clock, without
Flora had just said, 'Mr Clennam, will you give me a glass of port
for Mr F.'s Aunt?'
'The Monument near London Bridge,' that lady instantly proclaimed,
'was put up arter the Great Fire of London; and the Great Fire of
London was not the fire in which your uncle George's workshops was
Mr Pancks, with his former courage, said, 'Indeed, ma'am? All
right!' But appearing to be incensed by imaginary contradiction,
or other ill-usage, Mr F.'s Aunt, instead of relapsing into
silence, made the following additional proclamation:
'I hate a fool!'
She imparted to this sentiment, in itself almost Solomonic, so
extremely injurious and personal a character by levelling it
straight at the visitor's head, that it became necessary to lead Mr
F.'s Aunt from the room. This was quietly done by Flora; Mr F.'s
Aunt offering no resistance, but inquiring on her way out, 'What he
come there for, then?' with implacable animosity.
When Flora returned, she explained that her legacy was a clever old
lady, but was sometimes a little singular, and 'took dislikes'--
peculiarities of which Flora seemed to be proud rather than
otherwise. As Flora's good nature shone in the case, Clennam had
no fault to find with the old lady for eliciting it, now that he
was relieved from the terrors of her presence; and they took a
glass or two of wine in peace. Foreseeing then that the Pancks
would shortly get under weigh, and that the Patriarch would go to
sleep, he pleaded the necessity of visiting his mother, and asked
Mr Pancks in which direction he was going?
'Citywards, sir,' said Pancks.
'Shall we walk together?' said Arthur.
'Quite agreeable,' said Pancks.
Meanwhile Flora was murmuring in rapid snatches for his ear, that
there was a time and that the past was a yawning gulf however and
that a golden chain no longer bound him and that she revered the
memory of the late Mr F. and that she should be at home to-morrow
at half-past one and that the decrees of Fate were beyond recall
and that she considered nothing so improbable as that he ever
walked on the north-west side of Gray's-Inn Gardens at exactly four
o'clock in the afternoon. He tried at parting to give his hand in
frankness to the existing Flora--not the vanished Flora, or the
mermaid--but Flora wouldn't have it, couldn't have it, was wholly
destitute of the power of separating herself and him from their
bygone characters. He left the house miserably enough; and so much
more light-headed than ever, that if it had not been his good
fortune to be towed away, he might, for the first quarter of an
hour, have drifted anywhere.
When he began to come to himself, in the cooler air and the absence
of Flora, he found Pancks at full speed, cropping such scanty
pasturage of nails as he could find, and snorting at intervals.
These, in conjunction with one hand in his pocket and his roughened
hat hind side before, were evidently the conditions under which he
'A fresh night!' said Arthur.
'Yes, it's pretty fresh,' assented Pancks. 'As a stranger you feel
the climate more than I do, I dare say. Indeed I haven't got time
to feel it.'
'You lead such a busy life?'
'Yes, I have always some of 'em to look up, or something to look
after. But I like business,' said Pancks, getting on a little
faster. 'What's a man made for?'
'For nothing else?' said Clennam.
Pancks put the counter question, 'What else?' It packed up, in the
smallest compass, a weight that had rested on Clennam's life; and
he made no answer.
'That's what I ask our weekly tenants,' said Pancks. 'Some of 'em
will pull long faces to me, and say, Poor as you see us, master,
we're always grinding, drudging, toiling, every minute we're awake.
I say to them, What else are you made for? It shuts them up. They
haven't a word to answer. What else are you made for? That
'Ah dear, dear, dear!' sighed Clennam.
'Here am I,' said Pancks, pursuing his argument with the weekly
tenant. 'What else do you suppose I think I am made for? Nothing.
Rattle me out of bed early, set me going, give me as short a time
as you like to bolt my meals in, and keep me at it. Keep me always
at it, and I'll keep you always at it, you keep somebody else
always at it. There you are with the Whole Duty of Man in a
When they had walked a little further in silence, Clennam said:
'Have you no taste for anything, Mr Pancks?'
'What's taste?' drily retorted Pancks.
'Let us say inclination.'
'I have an inclination to get money, sir,' said Pancks, 'if you
will show me how.' He blew off that sound again, and it occurred
to his companion for the first time that it was his way of
laughing. He was a singular man in all respects; he might not have
been quite in earnest, but that the short, hard, rapid manner in
which he shot out these cinders of principles, as if it were done
by mechanical revolvency, seemed irreconcilable with banter.
'You are no great reader, I suppose?' said Clennam.
'Never read anything but letters and accounts. Never collect
anything but advertisements relative to next of kin. If that's a
taste, I have got that. You're not of the Clennams of Cornwall, Mr
'Not that I ever heard of.'
'I know you're not. I asked your mother, sir. She has too much
character to let a chance escape her.'
'Supposing I had been of the Clennams of Cornwall?'
'You'd have heard of something to your advantage.'
'Indeed! I have heard of little enough to my advantage for some
'There's a Cornish property going a begging, sir, and not a Cornish
Clennam to have it for the asking,' said Pancks, taking his note-
book from his breast pocket and putting it in again. 'I turn off
here. I wish you good night.'
'Good night!' said Clennam. But the Tug, suddenly lightened, and
untrammelled by having any weight in tow, was already puffing away
into the distance.
They had crossed Smithfield together, and Clennam was left alone at
the corner of Barbican. He had no intention of presenting himself
in his mother's dismal room that night, and could not have felt
more depressed and cast away if he had been in a wilderness. He
turned slowly down Aldersgate Street, and was pondering his way
along towards Saint Paul's, purposing to come into one of the great
thoroughfares for the sake of their light and life, when a crowd of
people flocked towards him on the same pavement, and he stood aside
against a shop to let them pass. As they came up, he made out that
they were gathered around a something that was carried on men's
shoulders. He soon saw that it was a litter, hastily made of a
shutter or some such thing; and a recumbent figure upon it, and the
scraps of conversation in the crowd, and a muddy bundle carried by
one man, and a muddy hat carried by another, informed him that an
accident had occurred. The litter stopped under a lamp before it
had passed him half-a-dozen paces, for some readjustment of the
burden; and, the crowd stopping too, he found himself in the midst
of the array.
'An accident going to the Hospital?' he asked an old man beside
him, who stood shaking his head, inviting conversation.
'Yes,' said the man, 'along of them Mails. They ought to be
prosecuted and fined, them Mails. They come a racing out of Lad
Lane and Wood Street at twelve or fourteen mile a hour, them Mails
do. The only wonder is, that people ain't killed oftener by them
'This person is not killed, I hope?'
'I don't know!' said the man, 'it an't for the want of a will in
them Mails, if he an't.' The speaker having folded his arms, and
set in comfortably to address his depreciation of them Mails to any
of the bystanders who would listen, several voices, out of pure
sympathy with the sufferer, confirmed him; one voice saying to
Clennam, 'They're a public nuisance, them Mails, sir;' another, 'I
see one on 'em pull up within half a inch of a boy, last night;'
another, 'I see one on 'em go over a cat, sir--and it might have
been your own mother;' and all representing, by implication, that
if he happened to possess any public influence, he could not use it
better than against them Mails.
'Why, a native Englishman is put to it every night of his life, to
save his life from them Mails,' argued the first old man; 'and he
knows when they're a coming round the corner, to tear him limb from
limb. What can you expect from a poor foreigner who don't know
nothing about 'em!'
'Is this a foreigner?' said Clennam, leaning forward to look.
In the midst of such replies as 'Frenchman, sir,' 'Porteghee, sir,'
'Dutchman, sir,' 'Prooshan, sir,' and other conflicting testimony,
he now heard a feeble voice asking, both in Italian and in French,
for water. A general remark going round, in reply, of 'Ah, poor
fellow, he says he'll never get over it; and no wonder!' Clennam
begged to be allowed to pass, as he understood the poor creature.
He was immediately handed to the front, to speak to him.
'First, he wants some water,' said he, looking round. (A dozen
good fellows dispersed to get it.) 'Are you badly hurt, my friend?'
he asked the man on the litter, in Italian.
'Yes, sir; yes, yes, yes. It's my leg, it's my leg. But it
pleases me to hear the old music, though I am very bad.'
'You are a traveller! Stay! See, the water! Let me give you
some.' They had rested the litter on a pile of paving stones. It
was at a convenient height from the ground, and by stooping he
could lightly raise the head with one hand and hold the glass to
his lips with the other. A little, muscular, brown man, with black
hair and white teeth. A lively face, apparently. Earrings in his
'That's well. You are a traveller?'
'A stranger in this city?'
'Surely, surely, altogether. I am arrived this unhappy evening.'
'From what country?'
'Why, see there! I also! Almost as much a stranger here as you,
though born here, I came from Marseilles a little while ago. Don't
be cast down.' The face looked up at him imploringly, as he rose
from wiping it, and gently replaced the coat that covered the
writhing figure. 'I won't leave you till you shall be well taken
care of. Courage! You will be very much better half an hour
'Ah! Altro, Altro!' cried the poor little man, in a faintly
incredulous tone; and as they took him up, hung out his right hand
to give the forefinger a back-handed shake in the air.
Arthur Clennam turned; and walking beside the litter, and saying an
encouraging word now and then, accompanied it to the neighbouring
hospital of Saint Bartholomew. None of the crowd but the bearers
and he being admitted, the disabled man was soon laid on a table in
a cool, methodical way, and carefully examined by a surgeon who was
as near at hand, and as ready to appear as Calamity herself. 'He
hardly knows an English word,' said Clennam; 'is he badly hurt?'
'Let us know all about it first,' said the surgeon, continuing his
examination with a businesslike delight in it, 'before we
After trying the leg with a finger, and two fingers, and one hand
and two hands, and over and under, and up and down, and in this
direction and in that, and approvingly remarking on the points of
interest to another gentleman who joined him, the surgeon at last
clapped the patient on the shoulder, and said, 'He won't hurt.
He'll do very well. It's difficult enough, but we shall not want
him to part with his leg this time.' Which Clennam interpreted to
the patient, who was full of gratitude, and, in his demonstrative
way, kissed both the interpreter's hand and the surgeon's several
'It's a serious injury, I suppose?' said Clennam.
'Ye-es,' replied the surgeon, with the thoughtful pleasure of an
artist contemplating the work upon his easel. 'Yes, it's enough.
There's a compound fracture above the knee, and a dislocation
below. They are both of a beautiful kind.' He gave the patient a
friendly clap on the shoulder again, as if he really felt that he
was a very good fellow indeed, and worthy of all commendation for
having broken his leg in a manner interesting to science.
'He speaks French?' said the surgeon.
'Oh yes, he speaks French.'
'He'll be at no loss here, then.--You have only to bear a little
pain like a brave fellow, my friend, and to be thankful that all
goes as well as it does,' he added, in that tongue, 'and you'll
walk again to a marvel. Now, let us see whether there's anything
else the matter, and how our ribs are?'
There was nothing else the matter, and our ribs were sound.
Clennam remained until everything possible to be done had been
skilfully and promptly done--the poor belated wanderer in a strange
land movingly besought that favour of him--and lingered by the bed
to which he was in due time removed, until he had fallen into a
doze. Even then he wrote a few words for him on his card, with a
promise to return to-morrow, and left it to be given to him when he
All these proceedings occupied so long that it struck eleven
o'clock at night as he came out at the Hospital Gate. He had hired
a lodging for the present in Covent Garden, and he took the nearest
way to that quarter, by Snow Hill and Holborn.
Left to himself again, after the solicitude and compassion of his
last adventure, he was naturally in a thoughtful mood. As
naturally, he could not walk on thinking for ten minutes without
recalling Flora. She necessarily recalled to him his life, with
all its misdirection and little happiness.
When he got to his lodging, he sat down before the dying fire, as
he had stood at the window of his old room looking out upon the
blackened forest of chimneys, and turned his gaze back upon the
gloomy vista by which he had come to that stage in his existence.
So long, so bare, so blank. No childhood; no youth, except for one
remembrance; that one remembrance proved, only that day, to be a
piece of folly.
It was a misfortune to him, trifle as it might have been to
another. For, while all that was hard and stern in his
recollection, remained Reality on being proved--was obdurate to the
sight and touch, and relaxed nothing of its old indomitable
grimness--the one tender recollection of his experience would not
bear the same test, and melted away. He had foreseen this, on the
former night, when he had dreamed with waking eyes. but he had not
felt it then; and he had now.
He was a dreamer in such wise, because he was a man who had, deep-
rooted in his nature, a belief in all the gentle and good things
his life had been without. Bred in meanness and hard dealing, this
had rescued him to be a man of honourable mind and open hand. Bred
in coldness and severity, this had rescued him to have a warm and
sympathetic heart. Bred in a creed too darkly audacious to pursue,
through its process of reserving the making of man in the image of
his Creator to the making of his Creator in the image of an erring
man, this had rescued him to judge not, and in humility to be
merciful, and have hope and charity.
And this saved him still from the whimpering weakness and cruel
selfishness of holding that because such a happiness or such a
virtue had not come into his little path, or worked well for him,
therefore it was not in the great scheme, but was reducible, when
found in appearance, to the basest elements. A disappointed mind
he had, but a mind too firm and healthy for such unwholesome air.
Leaving himself in the dark, it could rise into the light, seeing
it shine on others and hailing it.
Therefore, he sat before his dying fire, sorrowful to think upon
the way by which he had come to that night, yet not strewing poison
on the way by which other men had come to it. That he should have
missed so much, and at his time of life should look so far about
him for any staff to bear him company upon his downward journey and
cheer it, was a just regret. He looked at the fire from which the
blaze departed, from which the afterglow subsided, in which the
ashes turned grey, from which they dropped to dust, and thought,
'How soon I too shall pass through such changes, and be gone!'
To review his life was like descending a green tree in fruit and
flower, and seeing all the branches wither and drop off, one by
one, as he came down towards them.
'From the unhappy suppression of my youngest days, through the
rigid and unloving home that followed them, through my departure,
my long exile, my return, my mother's welcome, my intercourse with
her since, down to the afternoon of this day with poor Flora,' said
Arthur Clennam, 'what have I found!'
His door was softly opened, and these spoken words startled him,
and came as if they were an answer:
Little Dorrit's Party
Arthur Clennam rose hastily, and saw her standing at the door.
This history must sometimes see with Little Dorrit's eyes, and
shall begin that course by seeing him.
Little Dorrit looked into a dim room, which seemed a spacious one
to her, and grandly furnished. Courtly ideas of Covent Garden, as
a place with famous coffee-houses, where gentlemen wearing gold-
laced coats and swords had quarrelled and fought duels; costly
ideas of Covent Garden, as a place where there were flowers in
winter at guineas a-piece, pine-apples at guineas a pound, and peas
at guineas a pint; picturesque ideas of Covent Garden, as a place
where there was a mighty theatre, showing wonderful and beautiful
sights to richly-dressed ladies and gentlemen, and which was for
ever far beyond the reach of poor Fanny or poor uncle; desolate
ideas of Covent Garden, as having all those arches in it, where the
miserable children in rags among whom she had just now passed, like
young rats, slunk and hid, fed on offal, huddled together for
warmth, and were hunted about (look to the rats young and old, all
ye Barnacles, for before God they are eating away our foundations,
and will bring the roofs on our heads!); teeming ideas of Covent
Garden, as a place of past and present mystery, romance, abundance,
want, beauty, ugliness, fair country gardens, and foul street
gutters; all confused together,--made the room dimmer than it was
in Little Dorrit's eyes, as they timidly saw it from the door.
At first in the chair before the gone-out fire, and then turned
round wondering to see her, was the gentleman whom she sought. The
brown, grave gentleman, who smiled so pleasantly, who was so frank
and considerate in his manner, and yet in whose earnestness there
was something that reminded her of his mother, with the great
difference that she was earnest in asperity and he in gentleness.