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Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens

Part 8 out of 20

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should suspect her, opened a very secret place and showed the
Princess a shadow.'

'Lor!' said Maggy.
'It was the shadow of Some one who had gone by long before: of Some
one who had gone on far away quite out of reach, never, never to
come back. It was bright to look at; and when the tiny woman
showed it to the Princess, she was proud of it with all her heart,
as a great, great treasure. When the Princess had considered it a
little while, she said to the tiny woman, And you keep watch over
this every day? And she cast down her eyes, and whispered, Yes.
Then the Princess said, Remind me why. To which the other replied,
that no one so good and kind had ever passed that way, and that was
why in the beginning. She said, too, that nobody missed it, that
nobody was the worse for it, that Some one had gone on, to those
who were expecting him--'

'Some one was a man then?' interposed Maggy.

Little Dorrit timidly said Yes, she believed so; and resumed:

'--Had gone on to those who were expecting him, and that this
remembrance was stolen or kept back from nobody. The Princess made
answer, Ah! But when the cottager died it would be discovered
there. The tiny woman told her No; when that time came, it would
sink quietly into her own grave, and would never be found.'

'Well, to be sure!' said Maggy. 'Go on, please.'

'The Princess was very much astonished to hear this, as you may
suppose, Maggy.' ('And well she might be,' said Maggy.)

'So she resolved to watch the tiny woman, and see what came of it.
Every day she drove in her beautiful carriage by the cottage-door,
and there she saw the tiny woman always alone by herself spinning
at her wheel, and she looked at the tiny woman, and the tiny woman
looked at her. At last one day the wheel was still, and the tiny
woman was not to be seen. When the Princess made inquiries why the
wheel had stopped, and where the tiny woman was, she was informed
that the wheel had stopped because there was nobody to turn it, the
tiny woman being dead.'

('They ought to have took her to the Hospital,' said Maggy, and
then she'd have got over it.')

'The Princess, after crying a very little for the loss of the tiny
woman, dried her eyes and got out of her carriage at the place
where she had stopped it before, and went to the cottage and peeped
in at the door. There was nobody to look at her now, and nobody
for her to look at, so she went in at once to search for the
treasured shadow. But there was no sign of it to be found
anywhere; and then she knew that the tiny woman had told her the
truth, and that it would never give anybody any trouble, and that
it had sunk quietly into her own grave, and that she and it were at
rest together.

'That's all, Maggy.'

The sunset flush was so bright on Little Dorrit's face when she
came thus to the end of her story, that she interposed her hand to
shade it.

'Had she got to be old?' Maggy asked.

'The tiny woman?'
'Ah!'

'I don't know,' said Little Dorrit. 'But it would have been just
the same if she had been ever so old.'

'Would it raly!' said Maggy. 'Well, I suppose it would though.'
And sat staring and ruminating.

She sat so long with her eyes wide open, that at length Little
Dorrit, to entice her from her box, rose and looked out of window.
As she glanced down into the yard, she saw Pancks come in and leer
up with the corner of his eye as he went by.

'Who's he, Little Mother?' said Maggy. She had joined her at the
window and was leaning on her shoulder. 'I see him come in and out
often.'

'I have heard him called a fortune-teller,' said Little Dorrit.
'But I doubt if he could tell many people even their past or
present fortunes.'

'Couldn't have told the Princess hers?' said Maggy.

Little Dorrit, looking musingly down into the dark valley of the
prison, shook her head.

'Nor the tiny woman hers?' said Maggy.

'No,' said Little Dorrit, with the sunset very bright upon her.
'But let us come away from the window.'

CHAPTER 25

Conspirators and Others

The private residence of Mr Pancks was in Pentonville, where he
lodged on the second-floor of a professional gentleman in an
extremely small way, who had an inner-door within the street door,
poised on a spring and starting open with a click like a trap; and
who wrote up in the fan-light, RUGG, GENERAL AGENT, ACCOUNTANT,
DEBTS RECOVERED.

This scroll, majestic in its severe simplicity, illuminated a
little slip of front garden abutting on the thirsty high-road,
where a few of the dustiest of leaves hung their dismal heads and
led a life of choking. A professor of writing occupied the first-
floor, and enlivened the garden railings with glass-cases
containing choice examples of what his pupils had been before six
lessons and while the whole of his young family shook the table,
and what they had become after six lessons when the young family
was under restraint. The tenancy of Mr Pancks was limited to one
airy bedroom; he covenanting and agreeing with Mr Rugg his
landlord, that in consideration of a certain scale of payments
accurately defined, and on certain verbal notice duly given, he
should be at liberty to elect to share the Sunday breakfast,
dinner, tea, or supper, or each or any or all of those repasts or
meals of Mr and Miss Rugg (his daughter) in the back-parlour.

Miss Rugg was a lady of a little property which she had acquired,
together with much distinction in the neighbourhood, by having her
heart severely lacerated and her feelings mangled by a middle-aged
baker resident in the vicinity, against whom she had, by the agency
of Mr Rugg, found it necessary to proceed at law to recover damages
for a breach of promise of marriage. The baker having been, by the
counsel for Miss Rugg, witheringly denounced on that occasion up to
the full amount of twenty guineas, at the rate of about eighteen-
pence an epithet, and having been cast in corresponding damages,
still suffered occasional persecution from the youth of
Pentonville. But Miss Rugg, environed by the majesty of the law,
and having her damages invested in the public securities, was
regarded with consideration.

In the society of Mr Rugg, who had a round white visage, as if all
his blushes had been drawn out of him long ago, and who had a
ragged yellow head like a worn-out hearth broom; and in the society
of Miss Rugg, who had little nankeen spots, like shirt buttons, all
over her face, and whose own yellow tresses were rather scrubby
than luxuriant; Mr Pancks had usually dined on Sundays for some few
years, and had twice a week, or so, enjoyed an evening collation of
bread, Dutch cheese, and porter. Mr Pancks was one of the very few
marriageable men for whom Miss Rugg had no terrors, the argument
with which he reassured himself being twofold; that is to say,
firstly, 'that it wouldn't do twice,' and secondly, 'that he wasn't
worth it.' Fortified within this double armour, Mr Pancks snorted
at Miss Rugg on easy terms.

Up to this time, Mr Pancks had transacted little or no business at
his quarters in Pentonville, except in the sleeping line; but now
that he had become a fortune-teller, he was often closeted after
midnight with Mr Rugg in his little front-parlour office, and even
after those untimely hours, burnt tallow in his bed-room. Though
his duties as his proprietor's grubber were in no wise lessened;
and though that service bore no greater resemblance to a bed of
roses than was to be discovered in its many thorns; some new branch
of industry made a constant demand upon him. When he cast off the
Patriarch at night, it was only to take an anonymous craft in tow,
and labour away afresh in other waters.

The advance from a personal acquaintance with the elder Mr Chivery
to an introduction to his amiable wife and disconsolate son, may
have been easy; but easy or not, Mr Pancks soon made it. He
nestled in the bosom of the tobacco business within a week or two
after his first appearance in the College, and particularly
addressed himself to the cultivation of a good understanding with
Young John. In this endeavour he so prospered as to lure that
pining shepherd forth from the groves, and tempt him to undertake
mysterious missions; on which he began to disappear at uncertain
intervals for as long a space as two or three days together. The
prudent Mrs Chivery, who wondered greatly at this change, would
have protested against it as detrimental to the Highland
typification on the doorpost but for two forcible reasons; one,
that her John was roused to take strong interest in the business
which these starts were supposed to advance--and this she held to
be good for his drooping spirits; the other, that Mr Pancks
confidentially agreed to pay her, for the occupation of her son's
time, at the handsome rate of seven and sixpence per day. The
proposal originated with himself, and was couched in the pithy
terms, 'If your John is weak enough, ma'am, not to take it, that is
no reason why you should be, don't you see? So, quite between
ourselves, ma'am, business being business, here it is!'

What Mr Chivery thought of these things, or how much or how little
he knew about them, was never gathered from himself. It has been
already remarked that he was a man of few words; and it may be here
observed that he had imbibed a professional habit of locking
everything up. He locked himself up as carefully as he locked up
the Marshalsea debtors. Even his custom of bolting his meals may
have been a part of an uniform whole; but there is no question,
that, as to all other purposes, he kept his mouth as he kept the
Marshalsea door. He never opened it without occasion. When it was
necessary to let anything out, he opened it a little way, held it
open just as long as sufficed for the purpose, and locked it again.

Even as he would be sparing of his trouble at the Marshalsea door,
and would keep a visitor who wanted to go out, waiting for a few
moments if he saw another visitor coming down the yard, so that one
turn of the key should suffice for both, similarly he would often
reserve a remark if he perceived another on its way to his lips,
and would deliver himself of the two together. As to any key to
his inner knowledge being to be found in his face, the Marshalsea
key was as legible as an index to the individual characters and
histories upon which it was turned.

That Mr Pancks should be moved to invite any one to dinner at
Pentonville, was an unprecedented fact in his calendar. But he
invited Young John to dinner, and even brought him within range of
the dangerous (because expensive) fascinations of Miss Rugg. The
banquet was appointed for a Sunday, and Miss Rugg with her own
hands stuffed a leg of mutton with oysters on the occasion, and
sent it to the baker's--not THE baker's but an opposition
establishment. Provision of oranges, apples, and nuts was also
made. And rum was brought home by Mr Pancks on Saturday night, to
gladden the visitor's heart.
The store of creature comforts was not the chief part of the
visitor's reception. Its special feature was a foregone family
confidence and sympathy. When Young John appeared at half-past one
without the ivory hand and waistcoat of golden sprigs, the sun
shorn of his beams by disastrous clouds, Mr Pancks presented him to
the yellow-haired Ruggs as the young man he had so often mentioned
who loved Miss Dorrit.
'I am glad,' said Mr Rugg, challenging him specially in that
character, 'to have the distinguished gratification of making your
acquaintance, sir. Your feelings do you honour. You are young;
may you never outlive your feelings! If I was to outlive my own
feelings, sir,' said Mr Rugg, who was a man of many words, and was
considered to possess a remarkably good address; 'if I was to
outlive my own feelings, I'd leave fifty pound in my will to the
man who would put me out of existence.'

Miss Rugg heaved a sigh.

'My daughter, sir,' said Mr Rugg. 'Anastatia, you are no stranger
to the state of this young man's affections. My daughter has had
her trials, sir'--Mr Rugg might have used the word more pointedly
in the singular number--'and she can feel for you.'

Young John, almost overwhelmed by the touching nature of this
greeting, professed himself to that effect.

'What I envy you, sir, is,' said Mr Rugg, 'allow me to take your
hat--we are rather short of pegs--I'll put it in the corner, nobody
will tread on it there--What I envy you, sir, is the luxury of your
own feelings. I belong to a profession in which that luxury is
sometimes denied us.'

Young John replied, with acknowledgments, that he only hoped he did
what was right, and what showed how entirely he was devoted to Miss
Dorrit. He wished to be unselfish; and he hoped he was. He wished
to do anything as laid in his power to serve Miss Dorrit,
altogether putting himself out of sight; and he hoped he did. It
was but little that he could do, but he hoped he did it.

'Sir,' said Mr Rugg, taking him by the hand, 'you are a young man
that it does one good to come across. You are a young man that I
should like to put in the witness-box, to humanise the minds of the
legal profession. I hope you have brought your appetite with you,
and intend to play a good knife and fork?'

'Thank you, sir,' returned Young John, 'I don't eat much at
present.'

Mr Rugg drew him a little apart. 'My daughter's case, sir,' said
he, 'at the time when, in vindication of her outraged feelings and
her sex, she became the plaintiff in Rugg and Bawkins. I suppose
I could have put it in evidence, Mr Chivery, if I had thought it
worth my while, that the amount of solid sustenance my daughter
consumed at that period did not exceed ten ounces per week.'
'I think I go a little beyond that, sir,' returned the other,
hesitating, as if he confessed it with some shame.

'But in your case there's no fiend in human form,' said Mr Rugg,
with argumentative smile and action of hand. 'Observe, Mr Chivery!

No fiend in human form!'
'No, sir, certainly,' Young John added with simplicity, 'I should
be very sorry if there was.'

'The sentiment,' said Mr Rugg, 'is what I should have expected from
your known principles. It would affect my daughter greatly, sir,
if she heard it. As I perceive the mutton, I am glad she didn't
hear it. Mr Pancks, on this occasion, pray face me. My dear, face
Mr Chivery. For what we are going to receive, may we (and Miss
Dorrit) be truly thankful!'

But for a grave waggishness in Mr Rugg's manner of delivering this
introduction to the feast, it might have appeared that Miss Dorrit
was expected to be one of the company. Pancks recognised the sally
in his usual way, and took in his provender in his usual way. Miss
Rugg, perhaps making up some of her arrears, likewise took very
kindly to the mutton, and it rapidly diminished to the bone. A
bread-and-butter pudding entirely disappeared, and a considerable
amount of cheese and radishes vanished by the same means. Then
came the dessert.

Then also, and before the broaching of the rum and water, came Mr
Pancks's note-book. The ensuing business proceedings were brief
but curious, and rather in the nature of a conspiracy. Mr Pancks
looked over his note-book, which was now getting full, studiously;
and picked out little extracts, which he wrote on separate slips of
paper on the table; Mr Rugg, in the meanwhile, looking at him with
close attention, and Young John losing his uncollected eye in mists
of meditation. When Mr Pancks, who supported the character of
chief conspirator, had completed his extracts, he looked them over,
corrected them, put up his note-book, and held them like a hand at
cards.

'Now, there's a churchyard in Bedfordshire,' said Pancks. 'Who
takes it?'

'I'll take it, sir,' returned Mr Rugg, 'if no one bids.'

Mr Pancks dealt him his card, and looked at his hand again.

'Now, there's an Enquiry in York,' said Pancks. 'Who takes it?'

'I'm not good for York,' said Mr Rugg.

'Then perhaps,' pursued Pancks, 'you'll be so obliging, John
Chivery?' Young John assenting, Pancks dealt him his card, and
consulted his hand again.

'There's a Church in London; I may as well take that. And a Family
Bible; I may as well take that, too. That's two to me. Two to
me,' repeated Pancks, breathing hard over his cards. 'Here's a
Clerk at Durham for you, John, and an old seafaring gentleman at
Dunstable for you, Mr Rugg. Two to me, was it? Yes, two to me.
Here's a Stone; three to me. And a Still-born Baby; four to me.
And all, for the present, told.'
When he had thus disposed of his cards, all being done very quietly
and in a suppressed tone, Mr Pancks puffed his way into his own
breast-pocket and tugged out a canvas bag; from which, with a
sparing hand, he told forth money for travelling expenses in two
little portions. 'Cash goes out fast,' he said anxiously, as he
pushed a portion to each of his male companions, 'very fast.'

'I can only assure you, Mr Pancks,' said Young John, 'that I deeply
regret my circumstances being such that I can't afford to pay my
own charges, or that it's not advisable to allow me the time
necessary for my doing the distances on foot; because nothing would
give me greater satisfaction than to walk myself off my legs
without fee or reward.'

This young man's disinterestedness appeared so very ludicrous in
the eyes of Miss Rugg, that she was obliged to effect a precipitate
retirement from the company, and to sit upon the stairs until she
had had her laugh out. Meanwhile Mr Pancks, looking, not without
some pity, at Young John, slowly and thoughtfully twisted up his
canvas bag as if he were wringing its neck. The lady, returning as
he restored it to his pocket, mixed rum and water for the party,
not forgetting her fair self, and handed to every one his glass.
When all were supplied, Mr Rugg rose, and silently holding out his
glass at arm's length above the centre of the table, by that
gesture invited the other three to add theirs, and to unite in a
general conspiratorial clink. The ceremony was effective up to a
certain point, and would have been wholly so throughout, if Miss
Rugg, as she raised her glass to her lips in completion of it, had
not happened to look at Young John; when she was again so overcome
by the contemptible comicality of his disinterestedness as to
splutter some ambrosial drops of rum and water around, and withdraw
in confusion.

Such was the dinner without precedent, given by Pancks at
Pentonville; and such was the busy and strange life Pancks led.
The only waking moments at which he appeared to relax from his
cares, and to recreate himself by going anywhere or saying anything
without a pervading object, were when he showed a dawning interest
in the lame foreigner with the stick, down Bleeding Heart Yard.

The foreigner, by name John Baptist Cavalletto--they called him Mr
Baptist in the Yard--was such a chirping, easy, hopeful little
fellow, that his attraction for Pancks was probably in the force of
contrast. Solitary, weak, and scantily acquainted with the most
necessary words of the only language in which he could communicate
with the people about him, he went with the stream of his fortunes,
in a brisk way that was new in those parts. With little to eat,
and less to drink, and nothing to wear but what he wore upon him,
or had brought tied up in one of the smallest bundles that ever
were seen, he put as bright a face upon it as if he were in the
most flourishing circumstances when he first hobbled up and down
the Yard, humbly propitiating the general good-will with his white
teeth.

It was uphill work for a foreigner, lame or sound, to make his way
with the Bleeding Hearts. In the first place, they were vaguely
persuaded that every foreigner had a knife about him; in the
second, they held it to be a sound constitutional national axiom
that he ought to go home to his own country. They never thought of
inquiring how many of their own countrymen would be returned upon
their hands from divers parts of the world, if the principle were
generally recognised; they considered it particularly and
peculiarly British. In the third place, they had a notion that it
was a sort of Divine visitation upon a foreigner that he was not an
Englishman, and that all kinds of calamities happened to his
country because it did things that England did not, and did not do
things that England did. In this belief, to be sure, they had long
been carefully trained by the Barnacles and Stiltstalkings, who
were always proclaiming to them, officially, that no country which
failed to submit itself to those two large families could possibly
hope to be under the protection of Providence; and who, when they
believed it, disparaged them in private as the most prejudiced
people under the sun.

This, therefore, might be called a political position of the
Bleeding Hearts; but they entertained other objections to having
foreigners in the Yard. They believed that foreigners were always
badly off; and though they were as ill off themselves as they could
desire to be, that did not diminish the force of the objection.
They believed that foreigners were dragooned and bayoneted; and
though they certainly got their own skulls promptly fractured if
they showed any ill-humour, still it was with a blunt instrument,
and that didn't count. They believed that foreigners were always
immoral; and though they had an occasional assize at home, and now
and then a divorce case or so, that had nothing to do with it.
They believed that foreigners had no independent spirit, as never
being escorted to the poll in droves by Lord Decimus Tite Barnacle,
with colours flying and the tune of Rule Britannia playing. Not to
be tedious, they had many other beliefs of a similar kind.

Against these obstacles, the lame foreigner with the stick had to
make head as well as he could; not absolutely single-handed,
because Mr Arthur Clennam had recommended him to the Plornishes (he
lived at the top of the same house), but still at heavy odds.
However, the Bleeding Hearts were kind hearts; and when they saw
the little fellow cheerily limping about with a good-humoured face,
doing no harm, drawing no knives, committing no outrageous
immoralities, living chiefly on farinaceous and milk diet, and
playing with Mrs Plornish's children of an evening, they began to
think that although he could never hope to be an Englishman, still
it would be hard to visit that affliction on his head. They began
to accommodate themselves to his level, calling him 'Mr Baptist,'
but treating him like a baby, and laughing immoderately at his
lively gestures and his childish English--more, because he didn't
mind it, and laughed too. They spoke to him in very loud voices as
if he were stone deaf. They constructed sentences, by way of
teaching him the language in its purity, such as were addressed by
the savages to Captain Cook, or by Friday to Robinson Crusoe. Mrs
Plornish was particularly ingenious in this art; and attained so
much celebrity for saying 'Me ope you leg well soon,' that it was
considered in the Yard but a very short remove indeed from speaking
Italian. Even Mrs Plornish herself began to think that she had a
natural call towards that language. As he became more popular,
household objects were brought into requisition for his instruction
in a copious vocabulary; and whenever he appeared in the Yard
ladies would fly out at their doors crying 'Mr Baptist--tea-pot!'
'Mr Baptist--dust-pan!' 'Mr Baptist--flour-dredger!' 'Mr
Baptist--coffee-biggin!' At the same time exhibiting those
articles, and penetrating him with a sense of the appalling
difficulties of the Anglo-Saxon tongue.

It was in this stage of his progress, and in about the third week
of his occupation, that Mr Pancks's fancy became attracted by the
little man. Mounting to his attic, attended by Mrs Plornish as
interpreter, he found Mr Baptist with no furniture but his bed on
the ground, a table, and a chair, carving with the aid of a few
simple tools, in the blithest way possible.

'Now, old chap,' said Mr Pancks, 'pay up!'

He had his money ready, folded in a scrap of paper, and laughingly
handed it in; then with a free action, threw out as many fingers of
his right hand as there were shillings, and made a cut crosswise in
the air for an odd sixpence.

'Oh!' said Mr Pancks, watching him, wonderingly. 'That's it, is
it? You're a quick customer. It's all right. I didn't expect to
receive it, though.'

Mrs Plornish here interposed with great condescension, and
explained to Mr Baptist. 'E please. E glad get money.'

The little man smiled and nodded. His bright face seemed
uncommonly attractive to Mr Pancks. 'How's he getting on in his
limb?' he asked Mrs Plornish.

'Oh, he's a deal better, sir,' said Mrs Plornish. 'We expect next
week he'll be able to leave off his stick entirely.' (The
opportunity being too favourable to be lost, Mrs Plornish displayed
her great accomplishment by explaining with pardonable pride to Mr
Baptist, 'E ope you leg well soon.')

'He's a merry fellow, too,' said Mr Pancks, admiring him as if he
were a mechanical toy. 'How does he live?'

'Why, sir,' rejoined Mrs Plornish, 'he turns out to have quite a
power of carving them flowers that you see him at now.' (Mr
Baptist, watching their faces as they spoke, held up his work. Mrs
Plornish interpreted in her Italian manner, on behalf of Mr Pancks,
'E please. Double good!')

'Can he live by that?' asked Mr Pancks.
'He can live on very little, sir, and it is expected as he will be
able, in time, to make a very good living. Mr Clennam got it him
to do, and gives him odd jobs besides in at the Works next door--
makes 'em for him, in short, when he knows he wants 'em.'

'And what does he do with himself, now, when he ain't hard at it?'
said Mr Pancks.

'Why, not much as yet, sir, on accounts I suppose of not being able
to walk much; but he goes about the Yard, and he chats without
particular understanding or being understood, and he plays with the
children, and he sits in the sun--he'll sit down anywhere, as if it
was an arm-chair--and he'll sing, and he'll laugh!'

'Laugh!' echoed Mr Pancks. 'He looks to me as if every tooth in
his head was always laughing.'

'But whenever he gets to the top of the steps at t'other end of the
Yard,' said Mrs Plornish, 'he'll peep out in the curiousest way!
So that some of us thinks he's peeping out towards where his own
country is, and some of us thinks he's looking for somebody he
don't want to see, and some of us don't know what to think.'

Mr Baptist seemed to have a general understanding of what she said;
or perhaps his quickness caught and applied her slight action of
peeping. In any case he closed his eyes and tossed his head with
the air of a man who had sufficient reasons for what he did, and
said in his own tongue, it didn't matter. Altro!

'What's Altro?' said Pancks.

'Hem! It's a sort of a general kind of expression, sir,' said Mrs
Plornish.

'Is it?' said Pancks. 'Why, then Altro to you, old chap. Good
afternoon. Altro!'

Mr Baptist in his vivacious way repeating the word several times,
Mr Pancks in his duller way gave it him back once. From that time
it became a frequent custom with Pancks the gipsy, as he went home
jaded at night, to pass round by Bleeding Heart Yard, go quietly up
the stairs, look in at Mr Baptist's door, and, finding him in his
room, to say, 'Hallo, old chap! Altro!' To which Mr Baptist would
reply with innumerable bright nods and smiles, 'Altro, signore,
altro, altro, altro!' After this highly condensed conversation, Mr
Pancks would go his way with an appearance of being lightened and
refreshed.

CHAPTER 26

Nobody's State of Mind

If Arthur Clennam had not arrived at that wise decision firmly to
restrain himself from loving Pet, he would have lived on in a state
of much perplexity, involving difficult struggles with his own
heart. Not the least of these would have been a contention, always
waging within it, between a tendency to dislike Mr Henry Gowan, if
not to regard him with positive repugnance, and a whisper that the
inclination was unworthy. A generous nature is not prone to strong
aversions, and is slow to admit them even dispassionately; but when
it finds ill-will gaining upon it, and can discern between-whiles
that its origin is not dispassionate, such a nature becomes
distressed.

Therefore Mr Henry Gowan would have clouded Clennam's mind, and
would have been far oftener present to it than more agreeable
persons and subjects but for the great prudence of his decision
aforesaid. As it was, Mr Gowan seemed transferred to Daniel
Doyce's mind; at all events, it so happened that it usually fell to
Mr Doyce's turn, rather than to Clennam's, to speak of him in the
friendly conversations they held together. These were of frequent
occurrence now; as the two partners shared a portion of a roomy
house in one of the grave old-fashioned City streets, lying not far
from the Bank of England, by London Wall.

Mr Doyce had been to Twickenham to pass the day. Clennam had
excused himself. Mr Doyce was just come home. He put in his head
at the door of Clennam's sitting-room to say Good night.

'Come in, come in!' said Clennam.

'I saw you were reading,' returned Doyce, as he entered, 'and
thought you might not care to be disturbed.'

But for the notable resolution he had made, Clennam really might
not have known what he had been reading; really might not have had
his eyes upon the book for an hour past, though it lay open before
him. He shut it up, rather quickly.

'Are they well?' he asked.

'Yes,' said Doyce; 'they are well. They are all well.'

Daniel had an old workmanlike habit of carrying his pocket-
handkerchief in his hat. He took it out and wiped his forehead
with it, slowly repeating, 'They are all well. Miss Minnie looking
particularly well, I thought.'

'Any company at the cottage?'

'No, no company.'
'And how did you get on, you four?' asked Clennam gaily.

'There were five of us,' returned his partner. 'There was What's-
his-name. He was there.'
'Who is he?' said Clennam.

'Mr Henry Gowan.'

'Ah, to be sure!' cried Clennam with unusual vivacity, 'Yes!--I
forgot him.'

'As I mentioned, you may remember,' said Daniel Doyce, 'he is
always there on Sunday.'

'Yes, yes,' returned Clennam; 'I remember now.'

Daniel Doyce, still wiping his forehead, ploddingly repeated.
'Yes. He was there, he was there. Oh yes, he was there. And his
dog. He was there too.'

'Miss Meagles is quite attached to--the--dog,' observed Clennam.

'Quite so,' assented his partner. 'More attached to the dog than
I am to the man.'

'You mean Mr--?'

'I mean Mr Gowan, most decidedly,' said Daniel Doyce.

There was a gap in the conversation, which Clennam devoted to
winding up his watch.

'Perhaps you are a little hasty in your judgment,' he said. 'Our
judgments--I am supposing a general case--'

'Of course,' said Doyce.

'Are so liable to be influenced by many considerations, which,
almost without our knowing it, are unfair, that it is necessary to
keep a guard upon them. For instance, Mr--'

'Gowan,' quietly said Doyce, upon whom the utterance of the name
almost always devolved.

'Is young and handsome, easy and quick, has talent, and has seen a
good deal of various kinds of life. It might be difficult to give
an unselfish reason for being prepossessed against him.'

'Not difficult for me, I think, Clennam,' returned his partner. 'I
see him bringing present anxiety, and, I fear, future sorrow, into
my old friend's house. I see him wearing deeper lines into my old
friend's face, the nearer he draws to, and the oftener he looks at,
the face of his daughter. In short, I see him with a net about the
pretty and affectionate creature whom he will never make happy.'
'We don't know,' said Clennam, almost in the tone of a man in pain,
'that he will not make her happy.'

'We don't know,' returned his partner, 'that the earth will last
another hundred years, but we think it highly probable.'

'Well, well!' said Clennam, 'we must be hopeful, and we must at
least try to be, if not generous (which, in this case, we have no
opportunity of being), just. We will not disparage this gentleman,
because he is successful in his addresses to the beautiful object
of his ambition; and we will not question her natural right to
bestow her love on one whom she finds worthy of it.'

'Maybe, my friend,' said Doyce. 'Maybe also, that she is too young
and petted, too confiding and inexperienced, to discriminate well.'

'That,' said Clennam, 'would be far beyond our power of
correction.'

Daniel Doyce shook his head gravely, and rejoined, 'I fear so.'

'Therefore, in a word,' said Clennam, 'we should make up our minds
that it is not worthy of us to say any ill of Mr Gowan. It would
be a poor thing to gratify a prejudice against him. And I resolve,
for my part, not to depreciate him.'

'I am not quite so sure of myself, and therefore I reserve my
privilege of objecting to him,' returned the other. 'But, if I am
not sure of myself, I am sure of you, Clennam, and I know what an
upright man you are, and how much to be respected. Good night, MY
friend and partner!' He shook his hand in saying this, as if there
had been something serious at the bottom of their conversation; and
they separated.

By this time they had visited the family on several occasions, and
had always observed that even a passing allusion to Mr Henry Gowan
when he was not among them, brought back the cloud which had
obscured Mr Meagles's sunshine on the morning of the chance
encounter at the Ferry. If Clennam had ever admitted the forbidden
passion into his breast, this period might have been a period of
real trial; under the actual circumstances, doubtless it was
nothing--nothing.

Equally, if his heart had given entertainment to that prohibited
guest, his silent fighting of his way through the mental condition
of this period might have been a little meritorious. In the
constant effort not to be betrayed into a new phase of the
besetting sin of his experience, the pursuit of selfish objects by
low and small means, and to hold instead to some high principle of
honour and generosity, there might have been a little merit. In
the resolution not even to avoid Mr Meagles's house, lest, in the
selfish sparing of himself, he should bring any slight distress
upon the daughter through making her the cause of an estrangement
which he believed the father would regret, there might have been a
little merit. In the modest truthfulness of always keeping in view
the greater equality of Mr Gowan's years and the greater
attractions of his person and manner, there might have been a
little merit. In doing all this and much more, in a perfectly
unaffected way and with a manful and composed constancy, while the
pain within him (peculiar as his life and history) was very sharp,
there might have been some quiet strength of character. But, after
the resolution he had made, of course he could have no such merits
as these; and such a state of mind was nobody's--nobody's.

Mr Gowan made it no concern of his whether it was nobody's or
somebody's. He preserved his perfect serenity of manner on all
occasions, as if the possibility of Clennam's presuming to have
debated the great question were too distant and ridiculous to be
imagined. He had always an affability to bestow on Clennam and an
ease to treat him with, which might of itself (in the
supposititious case of his not having taken that sagacious course)
have been a very uncomfortable element in his state of mind.

'I quite regret you were not with us yesterday,' said Mr Henry
Gowan, calling on Clennam the next morning. 'We had an agreeable
day up the river there.'

So he had heard, Arthur said.

'From your partner?' returned Henry Gowan. 'What a dear old fellow
he is!'

'I have a great regard for him.'

'By Jove, he is the finest creature!' said Gowan. 'So fresh, so
green, trusts in such wonderful things!'

Here was one of the many little rough points that had a tendency to
grate on Clennam's hearing. He put it aside by merely repeating
that he had a high regard for Mr Doyce.

'He is charming! To see him mooning along to that time of life,
laying down nothing by the way and picking up nothing by the way,
is delightful. It warms a man. So unspoilt, so simple, such a
good soul! Upon my life Mr Clennam, one feels desperately worldly
and wicked in comparison with such an innocent creature. I speak
for myself, let me add, without including you. You are genuine
also.'

'Thank you for the compliment,' said Clennam, ill at ease; 'you are
too, I hope?'

'So so,' rejoined the other. 'To be candid with you, tolerably.
I am not a great impostor. Buy one of my pictures, and I assure
you, in confidence, it will not be worth the money. Buy one of
another man's--any great professor who beats me hollow--and the
chances are that the more you give him, the more he'll impose upon
you. They all do it.'
'All painters?'

'Painters, writers, patriots, all the rest who have stands in the
market. Give almost any man I know ten pounds, and he will impose
upon you to a corresponding extent; a thousand pounds--to a
corresponding extent; ten thousand pounds--to a corresponding
extent. So great the success, so great the imposition. But what
a capital world it is!' cried Gowan with warm enthusiasm. 'What a
jolly, excellent, lovable world it is!'

'I had rather thought,' said Clennam, 'that the principle you
mention was chiefly acted on by--'

'By the Barnacles?' interrupted Gowan, laughing.

'By the political gentlemen who condescend to keep the
Circumlocution Office.'

'Ah! Don't be hard upon the Barnacles,' said Gowan, laughing
afresh, 'they are darling fellows! Even poor little Clarence, the
born idiot of the family, is the most agreeable and most endearing
blockhead! And by Jupiter, with a kind of cleverness in him too
that would astonish you!'

'It would. Very much,' said Clennam, drily.

'And after all,' cried Gowan, with that characteristic balancing of
his which reduced everything in the wide world to the same light
weight, 'though I can't deny that the Circumlocution Office may
ultimately shipwreck everybody and everything, still, that will
probably not be in our time--and it's a school for gentlemen.'

'It's a very dangerous, unsatisfactory, and expensive school to the
people who pay to keep the pupils there, I am afraid,' said
Clennam, shaking his head.

'Ah! You are a terrible fellow,' returned Gowan, airily. 'I can
understand how you have frightened that little donkey, Clarence,
the most estimable of moon-calves (I really love him) nearly out of
his wits. But enough of him, and of all the rest of them. I want
to present you to my mother, Mr Clennam. Pray do me the favour to
give me the opportunity.'

In nobody's state of mind, there was nothing Clennam would have
desired less, or would have been more at a loss how to avoid.

'My mother lives in a most primitive manner down in that dreary
red-brick dungeon at Hampton Court,' said Gowan. 'If you would
make your own appointment, suggest your own day for permitting me
to take you there to dinner, you would be bored and she would be
charmed. Really that's the state of the case.'

What could Clennam say after this? His retiring character included
a great deal that was simple in the best sense, because unpractised
and unused; and in his simplicity and modesty, he could only say
that he was happy to place himself at Mr Gowan's disposal.
Accordingly he said it, and the day was fixed. And a dreaded day
it was on his part, and a very unwelcome day when it came and they
went down to Hampton Court together.

The venerable inhabitants of that venerable pile seemed, in those
times, to be encamped there like a sort of civilised gipsies.
There was a temporary air about their establishments, as if they
were going away the moment they could get anything better; there
was also a dissatisfied air about themselves, as if they took it
very ill that they had not already got something much better.
Genteel blinds and makeshifts were more or less observable as soon
as their doors were opened; screens not half high enough, which
made dining-rooms out of arched passages, and warded off obscure
corners where footboys slept at nights with their heads among the
knives and forks; curtains which called upon you to believe that
they didn't hide anything; panes of glass which requested you not
to see them; many objects of various forms, feigning to have no
connection with their guilty secret, a bed; disguised traps in
walls, which were clearly coal-cellars; affectations of no
thoroughfares, which were evidently doors to little kitchens.
Mental reservations and artful mysteries grew out of these things.
Callers looking steadily into the eyes of their receivers,
pretended not to smell cooking three feet off; people, confronting
closets accidentally left open, pretended not to see bottles;
visitors with their heads against a partition of thin canvas, and
a page and a young female at high words on the other side, made
believe to be sitting in a primeval silence. There was no end to
the small social accommodation-bills of this nature which the
gipsies of gentility were constantly drawing upon, and accepting
for, one another.

Some of these Bohemians were of an irritable temperament, as
constantly soured and vexed by two mental trials: the first, the
consciousness that they had never got enough out of the public; the
second, the consciousness that the public were admitted into the
building. Under the latter great wrong, a few suffered
dreadfully--particularly on Sundays, when they had for some time
expected the earth to open and swallow the public up; but which
desirable event had not yet occurred, in consequence of some
reprehensible laxity in the arrangements of the Universe.

Mrs Gowan's door was attended by a family servant of several years'
standing, who had his own crow to pluck with the public concerning
a situation in the Post-Office which he had been for some time
expecting, and to which he was not yet appointed. He perfectly
knew that the public could never have got him in, but he grimly
gratified himself with the idea that the public kept him out.
Under the influence of this injury (and perhaps of some little
straitness and irregularity in the matter of wages), he had grown
neglectful of his person and morose in mind; and now beholding in
Clennam one of the degraded body of his oppressors, received him
with ignominy.
Mrs Gowan, however, received him with condescension. He found her
a courtly old lady, formerly a Beauty, and still sufficiently well-
favoured to have dispensed with the powder on her nose and a
certain impossible bloom under each eye. She was a little lofty
with him; so was another old lady, dark-browed and high-nosed, and
who must have had something real about her or she could not have
existed, but it was certainly not her hair or her teeth or her
figure or her complexion; so was a grey old gentleman of dignified
and sullen appearance; both of whom had come to dinner. But, as
they had all been in the British Embassy way in sundry parts of the
earth, and as a British Embassy cannot better establish a character
with the Circumlocution Office than by treating its compatriots
with illimitable contempt (else it would become like the Embassies
of other countries), Clennam felt that on the whole they let him
off lightly.

The dignified old gentleman turned out to be Lord Lancaster
Stiltstalking, who had been maintained by the Circumlocution Office
for many years as a representative of the Britannic Majesty abroad.

This noble Refrigerator had iced several European courts in his
time, and had done it with such complete success that the very name
of Englishman yet struck cold to the stomachs of foreigners who had
the distinguished honour of remembering him at a distance of a
quarter of a century.

He was now in retirement, and hence (in a ponderous white cravat,
like a stiff snow-drift) was so obliging as to shade the dinner.
There was a whisper of the pervading Bohemian character in the
nomadic nature of the service and its curious races of plates and
dishes; but the noble Refrigerator, infinitely better than plate or
porcelain, made it superb. He shaded the dinner, cooled the wines,
chilled the gravy, and blighted the vegetables.

There was only one other person in the room: a microscopically
small footboy, who waited on the malevolent man who hadn't got into
the Post-Office. Even this youth, if his jacket could have been
unbuttoned and his heart laid bare, would have been seen, as a
distant adherent of the Barnacle family, already to aspire to a
situation under Government.

Mrs Gowan with a gentle melancholy upon her, occasioned by her
son's being reduced to court the swinish public as a follower of
the low Arts, instead of asserting his birthright and putting a
ring through its nose as an acknowledged Barnacle, headed the
conversation at dinner on the evil days. It was then that Clennam
learned for the first time what little pivots this great world goes
round upon.

'If John Barnacle,' said Mrs Gowan, after the degeneracy of the
times had been fully ascertained, 'if John Barnacle had but
abandoned his most unfortunate idea of conciliating the mob, all
would have been well, and I think the country would have been
preserved.'
The old lady with the high nose assented; but added that if
Augustus Stiltstalking had in a general way ordered the cavalry out
with instructions to charge, she thought the country would have
been preserved.

The noble Refrigerator assented; but added that if William Barnacle
and Tudor Stiltstalking, when they came over to one another and
formed their ever-memorable coalition, had boldly muzzled the
newspapers, and rendered it penal for any Editor-person to presume
to discuss the conduct of any appointed authority abroad or at
home, he thought the country would have been preserved.

It was agreed that the country (another word for the Barnacles and
Stiltstalkings) wanted preserving, but how it came to want
preserving was not so clear. It was only clear that the question
was all about John Barnacle, Augustus Stiltstalking, William
Barnacle and Tudor Stiltstalking, Tom, Dick, or Harry Barnacle or
Stiltstalking, because there was nobody else but mob. And this was
the feature of the conversation which impressed Clennam, as a man
not used to it, very disagreeably: making him doubt if it were
quite right to sit there, silently hearing a great nation narrowed
to such little bounds. Remembering, however, that in the
Parliamentary debates, whether on the life of that nation's body or
the life of its soul, the question was usually all about and
between John Barnacle, Augustus Stiltstalking, William Barnacle and
Tudor Stiltstalking, Tom, Dick, or Harry Barnacle or Stiltstalking,
and nobody else; he said nothing on the part of mob, bethinking
himself that mob was used to it.

Mr Henry Gowan seemed to have a malicious pleasure in playing off
the three talkers against each other, and in seeing Clennam
startled by what they said. Having as supreme a contempt for the
class that had thrown him off as for the class that had not taken
him on, he had no personal disquiet in anything that passed. His
healthy state of mind appeared even to derive a gratification from
Clennam's position of embarrassment and isolation among the good
company; and if Clennam had been in that condition with which
Nobody was incessantly contending, he would have suspected it, and
would have struggled with the suspicion as a meanness, even while
he sat at the table.

In the course of a couple of hours the noble Refrigerator, at no
time less than a hundred years behind the period, got about five
centuries in arrears, and delivered solemn political oracles
appropriate to that epoch. He finished by freezing a cup of tea
for his own drinking, and retiring at his lowest temperature. Then
Mrs Gowan, who had been accustomed in her days of a vacant arm-
chair beside her to which to summon state to retain her devoted
slaves, one by one, for short audiences as marks of her especial
favour, invited Clennam with a turn of her fan to approach the
presence. He obeyed, and took the tripod recently vacated by Lord
Lancaster Stiltstalking.

'Mr Clennam,' said Mrs Gowan, 'apart from the happiness I have in
becoming known to you, though in this odiously inconvenient place--
a mere barrack--there is a subject on which I am dying to speak to
you. It is the subject in connection with which my son first had,
I believe, the pleasure of cultivating your acquaintance.'

Clennam inclined his head, as a generally suitable reply to what he
did not yet quite understand.

'First,' said Mrs Gowan, 'now, is she really pretty?'

In nobody's difficulties, he would have found it very difficult to
answer; very difficult indeed to smile, and say 'Who?'

'Oh! You know!' she returned. 'This flame of Henry's. This
unfortunate fancy. There! If it is a point of honour that I
should originate the name--Miss Mickles--Miggles.'

'Miss Meagles,' said Clennam, 'is very beautiful.'

'Men are so often mistaken on those points,' returned Mrs Gowan,
shaking her head, 'that I candidly confess to you I feel anything
but sure of it, even now; though it is something to have Henry
corroborated with so much gravity and emphasis. He picked the
people up at Rome, I think?'

The phrase would have given nobody mortal offence. Clennam
replied, 'Excuse me, I doubt if I understand your expression.'

'Picked the people up,' said Mrs Gowan, tapping the sticks of her
closed fan (a large green one, which she used as a hand-screen) on
her little table. 'Came upon them. Found them out. Stumbled UP
against them.'

'The people?'

'Yes. The Miggles people.'

'I really cannot say,' said Clennam, 'where my friend Mr Meagles
first presented Mr Henry Gowan to his daughter.'

'I am pretty sure he picked her up at Rome; but never mind where--
somewhere. Now (this is entirely between ourselves), is she very
plebeian?'

'Really, ma'am,' returned Clennam, 'I am so undoubtedly plebeian
myself, that I do not feel qualified to judge.'

'Very neat!' said Mrs Gowan, coolly unfurling her screen. 'Very
happy! From which I infer that you secretly think her manner equal
to her looks?'

Clennam, after a moment's stiffness, bowed.

'That's comforting, and I hope you may be right. Did Henry tell me
you had travelled with them?'
'I travelled with my friend Mr Meagles, and his wife and daughter,
during some months.' (Nobody's heart might have been wrung by the
remembrance.)

'Really comforting, because you must have had a large experience of
them. You see, Mr Clennam, this thing has been going on for a long
time, and I find no improvement in it. Therefore to have the
opportunity of speaking to one so well informed about it as
yourself, is an immense relief to me. Quite a boon. Quite a
blessing, I am sure.'

'Pardon me,' returned Clennam, 'but I am not in Mr Henry Gowan's
confidence. I am far from being so well informed as you suppose me
to be. Your mistake makes my position a very delicate one. No
word on this topic has ever passed between Mr Henry Gowan and
myself.'

Mrs Gowan glanced at the other end of the room, where her son was
playing ecarte on a sofa, with the old lady who was for a charge of
cavalry.

'Not in his confidence? No,' said Mrs Gowan. 'No word has passed
between you? No. That I can imagine. But there are unexpressed
confidences, Mr Clennam; and as you have been together intimately
among these people, I cannot doubt that a confidence of that sort
exists in the present case. Perhaps you have heard that I have
suffered the keenest distress of mind from Henry's having taken to
a pursuit which--well!' shrugging her shoulders, 'a very
respectable pursuit, I dare say, and some artists are, as artists,
quite superior persons; still, we never yet in our family have gone
beyond an Amateur, and it is a pardonable weakness to feel a
little--'

As Mrs Gowan broke off to heave a sigh, Clennam, however resolute
to be magnanimous, could not keep down the thought that there was
mighty little danger of the family's ever going beyond an Amateur,
even as it was.

'Henry,' the mother resumed, 'is self-willed and resolute; and as
these people naturally strain every nerve to catch him, I can
entertain very little hope, Mr Clennam, that the thing will be
broken off. I apprehend the girl's fortune will be very small;
Henry might have done much better; there is scarcely anything to
compensate for the connection: still, he acts for himself; and if
I find no improvement within a short time, I see no other course
than to resign myself and make the best of these people. I am
infinitely obliged to you for what you have told me.'
As she shrugged her shoulders, Clennam stiffly bowed again. With
an uneasy flush upon his face, and hesitation in his manner, he
then said in a still lower tone than he had adopted yet:

'Mrs Gowan, I scarcely know how to acquit myself of what I feel to
be a duty, and yet I must ask you for your kind consideration in
attempting to discharge it. A misconception on your part, a very
great misconception if I may venture to call it so, seems to
require setting right. You have supposed Mr Meagles and his family
to strain every nerve, I think you said--'

'Every nerve,' repeated Mrs Gowan, looking at him in calm
obstinacy, with her green fan between her face and the fire.

'To secure Mr Henry Gowan?'

The lady placidly assented.

'Now that is so far,' said Arthur, 'from being the case, that I
know Mr Meagles to be unhappy in this matter; and to have
interposed all reasonable obstacles with the hope of putting an end
to it.'

Mrs Gowan shut up her great green fan, tapped him on the arm with
it, and tapped her smiling lips. 'Why, of course,' said she.
'Just what I mean.'

Arthur watched her face for some explanation of what she did mean.

'Are you really serious, Mr Clennam? Don't you see?'

Arthur did not see; and said so.

'Why, don't I know my son, and don't I know that this is exactly
the way to hold him?' said Mrs Gowan, contemptuously; 'and do not
these Miggles people know it, at least as well as I? Oh, shrewd
people, Mr Clennam: evidently people of business! I believe
Miggles belonged to a Bank. It ought to have been a very
profitable Bank, if he had much to do with its management. This is
very well done, indeed.'

'I beg and entreat you, ma'am--' Arthur interposed.

'Oh, Mr Clennam, can you really be so credulous?'

It made such a painful impression upon him to hear her talking in
this haughty tone, and to see her patting her contemptuous lips
with her fan, that he said very earnestly, 'Believe me, ma'am, this
is unjust, a perfectly groundless suspicion.'

'Suspicion?' repeated Mrs Gowan. 'Not suspicion, Mr Clennam,
Certainty. It is very knowingly done indeed, and seems to have
taken YOU in completely.' She laughed; and again sat tapping her
lips with her fan, and tossing her head, as if she added, 'Don't
tell me. I know such people will do anything for the honour of
such an alliance.'

At this opportune moment, the cards were thrown up, and Mr Henry
Gowan came across the room saying, 'Mother, if you can spare Mr
Clennam for this time, we have a long way to go, and it's getting
late.' Mr Clennam thereupon rose, as he had no choice but to do;
and Mrs Gowan showed him, to the last, the same look and the same
tapped contemptuous lips.

'You have had a portentously long audience of my mother,' said
Gowan, as the door closed upon them. 'I fervently hope she has not
bored you?'

'Not at all,' said Clennam.

They had a little open phaeton for the journey, and were soon in it
on the road home. Gowan, driving, lighted a cigar; Clennam
declined one. Do what he would, he fell into such a mood of
abstraction that Gowan said again, 'I am very much afraid my mother
has bored you?' To which he roused himself to answer, 'Not at
all!' and soon relapsed again.

In that state of mind which rendered nobody uneasy, his
thoughtfulness would have turned principally on the man at his
side. He would have thought of the morning when he first saw him
rooting out the stones with his heel, and would have asked himself,
'Does he jerk me out of the path in the same careless, cruel way?'
He would have thought, had this introduction to his mother been
brought about by him because he knew what she would say, and that
he could thus place his position before a rival and loftily warn
him off, without himself reposing a word of confidence in him? He
would have thought, even if there were no such design as that, had
he brought him there to play with his repressed emotions, and
torment him? The current of these meditations would have been
stayed sometimes by a rush of shame, bearing a remonstrance to
himself from his own open nature, representing that to shelter such
suspicions, even for the passing moment, was not to hold the high,
unenvious course he had resolved to keep. At those times, the
striving within him would have been hardest; and looking up and
catching Gowan's eyes, he would have started as if he had done him
an injury.

Then, looking at the dark road and its uncertain objects, he would
have gradually trailed off again into thinking, 'Where are we
driving, he and I, I wonder, on the darker road of life? How will
it be with us, and with her, in the obscure distance?' Thinking of
her, he would have been troubled anew with a reproachful misgiving
that it was not even loyal to her to dislike him, and that in being
so easily prejudiced against him he was less deserving of her than
at first.

'You are evidently out of spirits,' said Gowan; 'I am very much
afraid my mother must have bored you dreadfully.'
'Believe me, not at all,' said Clennam. 'It's nothing--nothing!'

CHAPTER 27

Five-and-Twenty

A frequently recurring doubt, whether Mr Pancks's desire to collect
information relative to the Dorrit family could have any possible
bearing on the misgivings he had imparted to his mother on his
return from his long exile, caused Arthur Clennam much uneasiness
at this period. What Mr Pancks already knew about the Dorrit
family, what more he really wanted to find out, and why he should
trouble his busy head about them at all, were questions that often
perplexed him. Mr Pancks was not a man to waste his time and
trouble in researches prompted by idle curiosity. That he had a
specific object Clennam could not doubt. And whether the
attainment of that object by Mr Pancks's industry might bring to
light, in some untimely way, secret reasons which had induced his
mother to take Little Dorrit by the hand, was a serious
speculation.

Not that he ever wavered either in his desire or his determination
to repair a wrong that had been done in his father's time, should
a wrong come to light, and be reparable. The shadow of a supposed
act of injustice, which had hung over him since his father's death,
was so vague and formless that it might be the result of a reality
widely remote from his idea of it. But, if his apprehensions
should prove to be well founded, he was ready at any moment to lay
down all he had, and begin the world anew. As the fierce dark
teaching of his childhood had never sunk into his heart, so that
first article in his code of morals was, that he must begin, in
practical humility, with looking well to his feet on Earth, and
that he could never mount on wings of words to Heaven. Duty on
earth, restitution on earth, action on earth; these first, as the
first steep steps upward. Strait was the gate and narrow was the
way; far straiter and narrower than the broad high road paved with
vain professions and vain repetitions, motes from other men's eyes
and liberal delivery of others to the judgment--all cheap materials
costing absolutely nothing.

No. It was not a selfish fear or hesitation that rendered him
uneasy, but a mistrust lest Pancks might not observe his part of
the understanding between them, and, making any discovery, might
take some course upon it without imparting it to him. On the other
hand, when he recalled his conversation with Pancks, and the little
reason he had to suppose that there was any likelihood of that
strange personage being on that track at all, there were times when
he wondered that he made so much of it. Labouring in this sea, as
all barks labour in cross seas, he tossed about and came to no
haven.

The removal of Little Dorrit herself from their customary
association, did not mend the matter. She was so much out, and so
much in her own room, that he began to miss her and to find a blank
in her place. He had written to her to inquire if she were better,
and she had written back, very gratefully and earnestly telling him
not to be uneasy on her behalf, for she was quite well; but he had
not seen her, for what, in their intercourse, was a long time.

He returned home one evening from an interview with her father, who
had mentioned that she was out visiting--which was what he always
said when she was hard at work to buy his supper--and found Mr
Meagles in an excited state walking up and down his room. On his
opening the door, Mr Meagles stopped, faced round, and said:

'Clennam!--Tattycoram!'

'What's the matter?'

'Lost!'

'Why, bless my heart alive!' cried Clennam in amazement. 'What do
you mean?'

'Wouldn't count five-and-twenty, sir; couldn't be got to do it;
stopped at eight, and took herself off.'

'Left your house?'

'Never to come back,' said Mr Meagles, shaking his head. 'You
don't know that girl's passionate and proud character. A team of
horses couldn't draw her back now; the bolts and bars of the old
Bastille couldn't keep her.'

'How did it happen? Pray sit down and tell me.'

'As to how it happened, it's not so easy to relate: because you
must have the unfortunate temperament of the poor impetuous girl
herself, before you can fully understand it. But it came about in
this way. Pet and Mother and I have been having a good deal of
talk together of late. I'll not disguise from you, Clennam, that
those conversations have not been of as bright a kind as I could
wish; they have referred to our going away again. In proposing to
do which, I have had, in fact, an object.'

Nobody's heart beat quickly.

'An object,' said Mr Meagles, after a moment's pause, 'that I will
not disguise from you, either, Clennam. There's an inclination on
the part of my dear child which I am sorry for. Perhaps you guess
the person. Henry Gowan.'

'I was not unprepared to hear it.'

'Well!' said Mr Meagles, with a heavy sigh, 'I wish to God you had
never had to hear it. However, so it is. Mother and I have done
all we could to get the better of it, Clennam. We have tried
tender advice, we have tried time, we have tried absence. As yet,
of no use. Our late conversations have been upon the subject of
going away for another year at least, in order that there might be
an entire separation and breaking off for that term. Upon that
question, Pet has been unhappy, and therefore Mother and I have
been unhappy.'
Clennam said that he could easily believe it.

'Well!' continued Mr Meagles in an apologetic way, 'I admit as a
practical man, and I am sure Mother would admit as a practical
woman, that we do, in families, magnify our troubles and make
mountains of our molehills in a way that is calculated to be rather
trying to people who look on--to mere outsiders, you know, Clennam.

Still, Pet's happiness or unhappiness is quite a life or death
question with us; and we may be excused, I hope, for making much of
it. At all events, it might have been borne by Tattycoram. Now,
don't you think so?'

'I do indeed think so,' returned Clennam, in most emphatic
recognition of this very moderate expectation.

'No, sir,' said Mr Meagles, shaking his head ruefully. 'She
couldn't stand it. The chafing and firing of that girl, the
wearing and tearing of that girl within her own breast, has been
such that I have softly said to her again and again in passing her,
'Five-and-twenty, Tattycoram, five-and-twenty!" I heartily wish she
could have gone on counting five-and-twenty day and night, and then
it wouldn't have happened.'

Mr Meagles with a despondent countenance in which the goodness of
his heart was even more expressed than in his times of cheerfulness
and gaiety, stroked his face down from his forehead to his chin,
and shook his head again.

'I said to Mother (not that it was necessary, for she would have
thought it all for herself), we are practical people, my dear, and
we know her story; we see in this unhappy girl some reflection of
what was raging in her mother's heart before ever such a creature
as this poor thing was in the world; we'll gloss her temper over,
Mother, we won't notice it at present, my dear, we'll take
advantage of some better disposition in her another time. So we
said nothing. But, do what we would, it seems as if it was to be;
she broke out violently one night.'

'How, and why?'

'If you ask me Why,' said Mr Meagles, a little disturbed by the
question, for he was far more intent on softening her case than the
family's, 'I can only refer you to what I have just repeated as
having been pretty near my words to Mother. As to How, we had said
Good night to Pet in her presence (very affectionately, I must
allow), and she had attended Pet up-stairs--you remember she was
her maid. Perhaps Pet, having been out of sorts, may have been a
little more inconsiderate than usual in requiring services of her:
but I don't know that I have any right to say so; she was always
thoughtful and gentle.'

'The gentlest mistress in the world.'

'Thank you, Clennam,' said Mr Meagles, shaking him by the hand;
'you have often seen them together. Well! We presently heard this
unfortunate Tattycoram loud and angry, and before we could ask what
was the matter, Pet came back in a tremble, saying she was
frightened of her. Close after her came Tattycoram in a flaming
rage. "I hate you all three," says she, stamping her foot at us.
"I am bursting with hate of the whole house."'

'Upon which you--?'

'I?' said Mr Meagles, with a plain good faith that might have
commanded the belief of Mrs Gowan herself. 'I said, count five-
and-twenty, Tattycoram.'

Mr Meagles again stroked his face and shook his head, with an air
of profound regret.

'She was so used to do it, Clennam, that even then, such a picture
of passion as you never saw, she stopped short, looked me full in
the face, and counted (as I made out) to eight. But she couldn't
control herself to go any further. There she broke down, poor
thing, and gave the other seventeen to the four winds. Then it all
burst out. She detested us, she was miserable with us, she
couldn't bear it, she wouldn't bear it, she was determined to go
away. She was younger than her young mistress, and would she
remain to see her always held up as the only creature who was young
and interesting, and to be cherished and loved? No. She wouldn't,
she wouldn't, she wouldn't! What did we think she, Tattycoram,
might have been if she had been caressed and cared for in her
childhood, like her young mistress? As good as her? Ah! Perhaps
fifty times as good. When we pretended to be so fond of one
another, we exulted over her; that was what we did; we exulted over
her and shamed her. And all in the house did the same. They
talked about their fathers and mothers, and brothers and sisters;
they liked to drag them up before her face. There was Mrs Tickit,
only yesterday, when her little grandchild was with her, had been
amused by the child's trying to call her (Tattycoram) by the
wretched name we gave her; and had laughed at the name. Why, who
didn't; and who were we that we should have a right to name her
like a dog or a cat? But she didn't care. She would take no more
benefits from us; she would fling us her name back again, and she
would go. She would leave us that minute, nobody should stop her,
and we should never hear of her again.'

Mr Meagles had recited all this with such a vivid remembrance of
his original, that he was almost as flushed and hot by this time as
he described her to have been.

'Ah, well!' he said, wiping his face. 'It was of no use trying
reason then, with that vehement panting creature (Heaven knows what
her mother's story must have been); so I quietly told her that she
should not go at that late hour of night, and I gave her MY hand
and took her to her room, and locked the house doors. But she was
gone this morning.'
'And you know no more of her?'

'No more,' returned Mr Meagles. 'I have been hunting about all
day. She must have gone very early and very silently. I have
found no trace of her down about us.'

'Stay! You want,' said Clennam, after a moment's reflection, 'to
see her? I assume that?'

'Yes, assuredly; I want to give her another chance; Mother and Pet
want to give her another chance; come! You yourself,' said Mr
Meagles, persuasively, as if the provocation to be angry were not
his own at all, 'want to give the poor passionate girl another
chance, I know, Clennam.'

'It would be strange and hard indeed if I did not,' said Clennam,
'when you are all so forgiving. What I was going to ask you was,
have you thought of that Miss Wade?'

'I have. I did not think of her until I had pervaded the whole of
our neighbourhood, and I don't know that I should have done so then
but for finding Mother and Pet, when I went home, full of the idea
that Tattycoram must have gone to her. Then, of course, I recalled
what she said that day at dinner when you were first with US.'

'Have you any idea where Miss Wade is to be found?'

'To tell you the truth,' returned Mr Meagles, 'it's because I have
an addled jumble of a notion on that subject that you found me
waiting here. There is one of those odd impressions in my house,
which do mysteriously get into houses sometimes, which nobody seems
to have picked up in a distinct form from anybody, and yet which
everybody seems to have got hold of loosely from somebody and let
go again, that she lives, or was living, thereabouts.' Mr Meagles
handed him a slip of paper, on which was written the name of one of
the dull by-streets in the Grosvenor region, near Park Lane.

'Here is no number,' said Arthur looking over it.

'No number, my dear Clennam?' returned his friend. 'No anything!
The very name of the street may have been floating in the air; for,
as I tell you, none of my people can say where they got it from.
However, it's worth an inquiry; and as I would rather make it in
company than alone, and as you too were a fellow-traveller of that
immovable woman's, I thought perhaps--' Clennam finished the
sentence for him by taking up his hat again, and saying he was
ready.

It was now summer-time; a grey, hot, dusty evening. They rode to
the top of Oxford Street, and there alighting, dived in among the
great streets of melancholy stateliness, and the little streets
that try to be as stately and succeed in being more melancholy, of
which there is a labyrinth near Park Lane. Wildernesses of corner
houses, with barbarous old porticoes and appurtenances; horrors
that came into existence under some wrong-headed person in some
wrong-headed time, still demanding the blind admiration of all
ensuing generations and determined to do so until they tumbled
down; frowned upon the twilight. Parasite little tenements, with
the cramp in their whole frame, from the dwarf hall-door on the
giant model of His Grace's in the Square to the squeezed window of
the boudoir commanding the dunghills in the Mews, made the evening
doleful. Rickety dwellings of undoubted fashion, but of a capacity
to hold nothing comfortably except a dismal smell, looked like the
last result of the great mansions' breeding in-and-in; and, where
their little supplementary bows and balconies were supported on
thin iron columns, seemed to be scrofulously resting upon crutches.

Here and there a Hatchment, with the whole science of Heraldry in
it, loomed down upon the street, like an Archbishop discoursing on
Vanity. The shops, few in number, made no show; for popular
opinion was as nothing to them. The pastrycook knew who was on his
books, and in that knowledge could be calm, with a few glass
cylinders of dowager peppermint-drops in his window, and half-a-
dozen ancient specimens of currant-jelly. A few oranges formed the
greengrocer's whole concession to the vulgar mind. A single basket
made of moss, once containing plovers' eggs, held all that the
poulterer had to say to the rabble. Everybody in those streets
seemed (which is always the case at that hour and season) to be
gone out to dinner, and nobody seemed to be giving the dinners they
had gone to. On the doorsteps there were lounging footmen with
bright parti-coloured plumage and white polls, like an extinct race
of monstrous birds; and butlers, solitary men of recluse demeanour,
each of whom appeared distrustful of all other butlers. The roll
of carriages in the Park was done for the day; the street lamps
were lighting; and wicked little grooms in the tightest fitting
garments, with twists in their legs answering to the twists in
their minds, hung about in pairs, chewing straws and exchanging
fraudulent secrets. The spotted dogs who went out with the
carriages, and who were so associated with splendid equipages that
it looked like a condescension in those animals to come out without
them, accompanied helpers to and fro on messages. Here and there
was a retiring public-house which did not require to be supported
on the shoulders of the people, and where gentlemen out of livery
were not much wanted.

This last discovery was made by the two friends in pursuing their
inquiries. Nothing was there, or anywhere, known of such a person
as Miss Wade, in connection with the street they sought. It was
one of the parasite streets; long, regular, narrow, dull and
gloomy; like a brick and mortar funeral. They inquired at several
little area gates, where a dejected youth stood spiking his chin on
the summit of a precipitous little shoot of wooden steps, but could
gain no information. They walked up the street on one side of the
way, and down it on the other, what time two vociferous news-
sellers, announcing an extraordinary event that had never happened
and never would happen, pitched their hoarse voices into the secret
chambers; but nothing came of it. At length they stood at the
corner from which they had begun, and it had fallen quite dark, and
they were no wiser.

It happened that in the street they had several times passed a
dingy house, apparently empty, with bills in the windows,
announcing that it was to let. The bills, as a variety in the
funeral procession, almost amounted to a decoration. Perhaps
because they kept the house separated in his mind, or perhaps
because Mr Meagles and himself had twice agreed in passing, 'It is
clear she don't live there,' Clennam now proposed that they should
go back and try that house before finally going away. Mr Meagles
agreed, and back they went.

They knocked once, and they rang once, without any response.

'Empty,' said Mr Meagles, listening. 'Once more,' said Clennam,
and knocked again. After that knock they heard a movement below,
and somebody shuffling up towards the door.

The confined entrance was so dark that it was impossible to make
out distinctly what kind of person opened the door; but it appeared
to be an old woman. 'Excuse our troubling you,' said Clennam.
'Pray can you tell us where Miss Wade lives?' The voice in the
darkness unexpectedly replied, 'Lives here.'

'Is she at home?'

No answer coming, Mr Meagles asked again. 'Pray is she at home?'

After another delay, 'I suppose she is,' said the voice abruptly;
'you had better come in, and I'll ask.'

They 'were summarily shut into the close black house; and the
figure rustling away, and speaking from a higher level, said, 'Come
up, if you please; you can't tumble over anything.' They groped
their way up-stairs towards a faint light, which proved to be the
light of the street shining through a window; and the figure left
them shut in an airless room.

'This is odd, Clennam,' said Mr Meagles, softly.

'Odd enough,' assented Clennam in the same tone, 'but we have
succeeded; that's the main point. Here's a light coming!'

The light was a lamp, and the bearer was an old woman: very dirty,
very wrinkled and dry. 'She's at home,' she said (and the voice
was the same that had spoken before); 'she'll come directly.'
Having set the lamp down on the table, the old woman dusted her
hands on her apron, which she might have done for ever without
cleaning them, looked at the visitors with a dim pair of eyes, and
backed out.

The lady whom they had come to see, if she were the present
occupant of the house, appeared to have taken up her quarters there
as she might have established herself in an Eastern caravanserai.
A small square of carpet in the middle of the room, a few articles
of furniture that evidently did not belong to the room, and a
disorder of trunks and travelling articles, formed the whole of her
surroundings. Under some former regular inhabitant, the stifling
little apartment had broken out into a pier-glass and a gilt table;
but the gilding was as faded as last year's flowers, and the glass
was so clouded that it seemed to hold in magic preservation all the
fogs and bad weather it had ever reflected. The visitors had had
a minute or two to look about them, when the door opened and Miss
Wade came in.

She was exactly the same as when they had parted. just as
handsome, just as scornful, just as repressed. She manifested no
surprise in seeing them, nor any other emotion. She requested them
to be seated; and declining to take a seat herself, at once
anticipated any introduction of their business.

'I apprehend,' she said, 'that I know the cause of your favouring
me with this visit. We may come to it at once.'

'The cause then, ma'am,' said Mr Meagles, 'is Tattycoram.'

'So I supposed.'

'Miss Wade,' said Mr Meagles, 'will you be so kind as to say
whether you know anything of her?'

'Surely. I know she is here with me.'

'Then, ma'am,' said Mr Meagles, 'allow me to make known to you that
I shall be happy to have her back, and that my wife and daughter
will be happy to have her back. She has been with us a long time:
we don't forget her claims upon us, and I hope we know how to make
allowances.'

'You hope to know how to make allowances?' she returned, in a
level, measured voice. 'For what?'

'I think my friend would say, Miss Wade,' Arthur Clennam
interposed, seeing Mr Meagles rather at a loss, 'for the passionate
sense that sometimes comes upon the poor girl, of being at a
disadvantage. Which occasionally gets the better of better
remembrances.'

The lady broke into a smile as she turned her eyes upon him.
'Indeed?' was all she answered.

She stood by the table so perfectly composed and still after this
acknowledgment of his remark that Mr Meagles stared at her under a
sort of fascination, and could not even look to Clennam to make
another move. After waiting, awkwardly enough, for some moments,
Arthur said:
'Perhaps it would be well if Mr Meagles could see her, Miss Wade?'

'That is easily done,' said she. 'Come here, child.' She had
opened a door while saying this, and now led the girl in by the
hand. It was very curious to see them standing together: the girl
with her disengaged fingers plaiting the bosom of her dress, half
irresolutely, half passionately; Miss Wade with her composed face
attentively regarding her, and suggesting to an observer, with
extraordinary force, in her composure itself (as a veil will
suggest the form it covers), the unquenchable passion of her own
nature.

'See here,' she said, in the same level way as before. 'Here is
your patron, your master. He is willing to take you back, my dear,
if you are sensible of the favour and choose to go. You can be,
again, a foil to his pretty daughter, a slave to her pleasant
wilfulness, and a toy in the house showing the goodness of the
family. You can have your droll name again, playfully pointing you
out and setting you apart, as it is right that you should be
pointed out and set apart. (Your birth, you know; you must not
forget your birth.) You can again be shown to this gentleman's
daughter, Harriet, and kept before her, as a living reminder of her
own superiority and her gracious condescension. You can recover
all these advantages and many more of the same kind which I dare
say start up in your memory while I speak, and which you lose in
taking refuge with me--you can recover them all by telling these
gentlemen how humbled and penitent you are, and by going back to
them to be forgiven. What do you say, Harriet? Will you go?'

The girl who, under the influence of these words, had gradually
risen in anger and heightened in colour, answered, raising her
lustrous black eyes for the moment, and clenching her hand upon the
folds it had been puckering up, 'I'd die sooner!'

Miss Wade, still standing at her side holding her hand, looked
quietly round and said with a smile, 'Gentlemen! What do you do
upon that?'

Poor Mr Meagles's inexpressible consternation in hearing his
motives and actions so perverted, had prevented him from
interposing any word until now; but now he regained the power of
speech.

'Tattycoram,' said he, 'for I'll call you by that name still, my
good girl, conscious that I meant nothing but kindness when I gave
it to you, and conscious that you know it--'

'I don't!' said she, looking up again, and almost rending herself
with the same busy hand.

'No, not now, perhaps,' said Mr Meagles; 'not with that lady's eyes
so intent upon you, Tattycoram,' she glanced at them for a moment,
'and that power over you, which we see she exercises; not now,
perhaps, but at another time. Tattycoram, I'll not ask that lady
whether she believes what she has said, even in the anger and ill
blood in which I and my friend here equally know she has spoken,
though she subdues herself, with a determination that any one who
has once seen her is not likely to forget. I'll not ask you, with
your remembrance of my house and all belonging to it, whether you
believe it. I'll only say that you have no profession to make to
me or mine, and no forgiveness to entreat; and that all in the
world that I ask you to do, is, to count five-and-twenty,
Tattycoram.'

She looked at him for an instant, and then said frowningly, 'I
won't. Miss Wade, take me away, please.'

The contention that raged within her had no softening in it now; it
was wholly between passionate defiance and stubborn defiance. Her
rich colour, her quick blood, her rapid breath, were all setting
themselves against the opportunity of retracing their steps. 'I
won't. I won't. I won't!' she repeated in a low, thick voice.
'I'd be torn to pieces first. I'd tear myself to pieces first!'

Miss Wade, who had released her hold, laid her hand protectingly on
the girl's neck for a moment, and then said, looking round with her
former smile and speaking exactly in her former tone, 'Gentlemen!
What do you do upon that?'

'Oh, Tattycoram, Tattycoram!' cried Mr Meagles, adjuring her
besides with an earnest hand. 'Hear that lady's voice, look at
that lady's face, consider what is in that lady's heart, and think
what a future lies before you. My child, whatever you may think,
that lady's influence over you--astonishing to us, and I should
hardly go too far in saying terrible to us to see--is founded in
passion fiercer than yours, and temper more violent than yours.
What can you two be together? What can come of it?'

'I am alone here, gentlemen,' observed Miss Wade, with no change of
voice or manner. 'Say anything you will.'

'Politeness must yield to this misguided girl, ma'am,' said Mr
Meagles, 'at her present pass; though I hope not altogether to
dismiss it, even with the injury you do her so strongly before me.
Excuse me for reminding you in her hearing--I must say it--that you
were a mystery to all of us, and had nothing in common with any of
us when she unfortunately fell in your way. I don't know what you
are, but you don't hide, can't hide, what a dark spirit you have
within you. If it should happen that you are a woman, who, from
whatever cause, has a perverted delight in making a sister-woman as
wretched as she is (I am old enough to have heard of such), I warn
her against you, and I warn you against yourself.'

'Gentlemen!' said Miss Wade, calmly. 'When you have concluded--Mr
Clennam, perhaps you will induce your friend--'

'Not without another effort,' said Mr Meagles, stoutly.
'Tattycoram, my poor dear girl, count five-and-twenty.'
'Do not reject the hope, the certainty, this kind man offers you,'
said Clennam in a low emphatic voice. 'Turn to the friends you
have not forgotten. Think once more!'

'I won't! Miss Wade,' said the girl, with her bosom swelling high,
and speaking with her hand held to her throat, 'take me away!'

'Tattycoram,' said Mr Meagles. 'Once more yet! The only thing I
ask of you in the world, my child! Count five-and-twenty!'

She put her hands tightly over her ears, confusedly tumbling down
her bright black hair in the vehemence of the action, and turned
her face resolutely to the wall. Miss Wade, who had watched her
under this final appeal with that strange attentive smile, and that
repressing hand upon her own bosom with which she had watched her
in her struggle at Marseilles, then put her arm about her waist as
if she took possession of her for evermore.

And there was a visible triumph in her face when she turned it to
dismiss the visitors.

'As it is the last time I shall have the honour,' she said, 'and as
you have spoken of not knowing what I am, and also of the
foundation of my influence here, you may now know that it is
founded in a common cause. What your broken plaything is as to
birth, I am. She has no name, I have no name. Her wrong is my
wrong. I have nothing more to say to you.'

This was addressed to Mr Meagles, who sorrowfully went out. As
Clennam followed, she said to him, with the same external composure
and in the same level voice, but with a smile that is only seen on
cruel faces: a very faint smile, lifting the nostril, scarcely
touching the lips, and not breaking away gradually, but instantly
dismissed when done with:

'I hope the wife of your dear friend Mr Gowan, may be happy in the
contrast of her extraction to this girl's and mine, and in the high
good fortune that awaits her.'

CHAPTER 28

Nobody's Disappearance

Not resting satisfied with the endeavours he had made to recover
his lost charge, Mr Meagles addressed a letter of remonstrance,
breathing nothing but goodwill, not only to her, but to Miss Wade
too. No answer coming to these epistles, or to another written to
the stubborn girl by the hand of her late young mistress, which
might have melted her if anything could (all three letters were
returned weeks afterwards as having been refused at the house-
door), he deputed Mrs Meagles to make the experiment of a personal
interview. That worthy lady being unable to obtain one, and being
steadfastly denied admission, Mr Meagles besought Arthur to essay
once more what he could do. All that came of his compliance was,
his discovery that the empty house was left in charge of the old
woman, that Miss Wade was gone, that the waifs and strays of
furniture were gone, and that the old woman would accept any number
of half-crowns and thank the donor kindly, but had no information
whatever to exchange for those coins, beyond constantly offering
for perusal a memorandum relative to fixtures, which the house-
agent's young man had left in the hall.

Unwilling, even under this discomfiture, to resign the ingrate and
leave her hopeless, in case of her better dispositions obtaining
the mastery over the darker side of her character, Mr Meagles, for
six successive days, published a discreetly covert advertisement in
the morning papers, to the effect that if a certain young person
who had lately left home without reflection, would at any time
apply to his address at Twickenham, everything would be as it had
been before, and no reproaches need be apprehended. The unexpected
consequences of this notification suggested to the dismayed Mr
Meagles for the first time that some hundreds of young persons must
be leaving their homes without reflection every day; for shoals of
wrong young people came down to Twickenham, who, not finding
themselves received with enthusiasm, generally demanded
compensation by way of damages, in addition to coach-hire there and
back. Nor were these the only uninvited clients whom the
advertisement produced. The swarm of begging-letter writers, who
would seem to be always watching eagerly for any hook, however
small, to hang a letter upon, wrote to say that having seen the
advertisement, they were induced to apply with confidence for
various sums, ranging from ten shillings to fifty pounds: not
because they knew anything about the young person, but because they
felt that to part with those donations would greatly relieve the
advertiser's mind. Several projectors, likewise, availed
themselves of the same opportunity to correspond with Mr Meagles;
as, for example, to apprise him that their attention having been
called to the advertisement by a friend, they begged to state that
if they should ever hear anything of the young person, they would
not fail to make it known to him immediately, and that in the
meantime if he would oblige them with the funds necessary for
bringing to perfection a certain entirely novel description of
Pump, the happiest results would ensue to mankind.

Mr Meagles and his family, under these combined discouragements,
had begun reluctantly to give up Tattycoram as irrecoverable, when
the new and active firm of Doyce and Clennam, in their private
capacities, went down on a Saturday to stay at the cottage until
Monday. The senior partner took the coach, and the junior partner
took his walking-stick.

A tranquil summer sunset shone upon him as he approached the end of
his walk, and passed through the meadows by the river side. He had
that sense of peace, and of being lightened of a weight of care,
which country quiet awakens in the breasts of dwellers in towns.
Everything within his view was lovely and placid. The rich foliage
of the trees, the luxuriant grass diversified with wild flowers,
the little green islands in the river, the beds of rushes, the
water-lilies floating on the surface of the stream, the distant
voices in boats borne musically towards him on the ripple of the
water and the evening air, were all expressive of rest. In the
occasional leap of a fish, or dip of an oar, or twittering of a
bird not yet at roost, or distant barking of a dog, or lowing of a
cow--in all such sounds, there was the prevailing breath of rest,
which seemed to encompass him in every scent that sweetened the
fragrant air. The long lines of red and gold in the sky, and the
glorious track of the descending sun, were all divinely calm. Upon
the purple tree-tops far away, and on the green height near at hand
up which the shades were slowly creeping, there was an equal hush.
Between the real landscape and its shadow in the water, there was
no division; both were so untroubled and clear, and, while so
fraught with solemn mystery of life and death, so hopefully
reassuring to the gazer's soothed heart, because so tenderly and
mercifully beautiful.

Clennam had stopped, not for the first time by many times, to look
about him and suffer what he saw to sink into his soul, as the
shadows, looked at, seemed to sink deeper and deeper into the
water. He was slowly resuming his way, when he saw a figure in the
path before him which he had, perhaps, already associated with the
evening and its impressions.

Minnie was there, alone. She had some roses in her hand, and
seemed to have stood still on seeing him, waiting for him. Her
face was towards him, and she appeared to have been coming from the
opposite direction. There was a flutter in her manner, which
Clennam had never seen in it before; and as he came near her, it
entered his mind all at once that she was there of a set purpose to
speak to him.

She gave him her hand, and said, 'You wonder to see me here by
myself? But the evening is so lovely, I have strolled further than
I meant at first. I thought it likely I might meet you, and that
made me more confident. You always come this way, do you not?'

As Clennam said that it was his favourite way, he felt her hand
falter on his arm, and saw the roses shake.

'Will you let me give you one, Mr Clennam? I gathered them as I
came out of the garden. Indeed, I almost gathered them for you,
thinking it so likely I might meet you. Mr Doyce arrived more than
an hour ago, and told us you were walking down.'

His own hand shook, as he accepted a rose or two from hers and
thanked her. They were now by an avenue of trees. Whether they
turned into it on his movement or on hers matters little. He never
knew how that was.

'It is very grave here,' said Clennam, 'but very pleasant at this
hour. Passing along this deep shade, and out at that arch of light
at the other end, we come upon the ferry and the cottage by the
best approach, I think.'
In her simple garden-hat and her light summer dress, with her rich
brown hair naturally clustering about her, and her wonderful eyes
raised to his for a moment with a look in which regard for him and
trustfulness in him were strikingly blended with a kind of timid
sorrow for him, she was so beautiful that it was well for his
peace--or ill for his peace, he did not quite know which--that he
had made that vigorous resolution he had so often thought about.

She broke a momentary silence by inquiring if he knew that papa had
been thinking of another tour abroad? He said he had heard it
mentioned. She broke another momentary silence by adding, with
some hesitation, that papa had abandoned the idea.

At this, he thought directly, 'they are to be married.'

'Mr Clennam,' she said, hesitating more timidly yet, and speaking
so low that he bent his head to hear her. 'I should very much like
to give you my confidence, if you would not mind having the
goodness to receive it. I should have very much liked to have
given it to you long ago, because--I felt that you were becoming so
much our friend.'

'How can I be otherwise than proud of it at any time! Pray give it
to me. Pray trust me.'

'I could never have been afraid of trusting you,' she returned,
raising her eyes frankly to his face. 'I think I would have done
so some time ago, if I had known how. But I scarcely know how,
even now.'

'Mr Gowan,' said Arthur Clennam, 'has reason to be very happy. God
bless his wife and him!'

She wept, as she tried to thank him. He reassured her, took her
hand as it lay with the trembling roses in it on his arm, took the
remaining roses from it, and put it to his lips. At that time, it
seemed to him, he first finally resigned the dying hope that had
flickered in nobody's heart so much to its pain and trouble; and
from that time he became in his own eyes, as to any similar hope or
prospect, a very much older man who had done with that part of
life.

He put the roses in his breast and they walked on for a little
while, slowly and silently, under the umbrageous trees. Then he
asked her, in a voice of cheerful kindness, was there anything else
that she would say to him as her friend and her father's friend,
many years older than herself; was there any trust she would repose
in him, any service she would ask of him, any little aid to her
happiness that she could give him the lasting gratification of
believing it was in his power to render?

She was going to answer, when she was so touched by some little
hidden sorrow or sympathy--what could it have been?--that she said,
bursting into tears again: 'O Mr Clennam! Good, generous, Mr
Clennam, pray tell me you do not blame me.'

'I blame you?' said Clennam. 'My dearest girl! I blame you? No!'

After clasping both her hands upon his arm, and looking
confidentially up into his face, with some hurried words to the
effect that she thanked him from her heart (as she did, if it be
the source of earnestness), she gradually composed herself, with
now and then a word of encouragement from him, as they walked on
slowly and almost silently under the darkening trees.

'And, now, Minnie Gowan,' at length said Clennam, smiling; 'will
you ask me nothing?'

'Oh! I have very much to ask of you.'

'That's well! I hope so; I am not disappointed.'

'You know how I am loved at home, and how I love home. You can
hardly think it perhaps, dear Mr Clennam,' she spoke with great
agitation, 'seeing me going from it of my own free will and choice,
but I do so dearly love it!'

'I am sure of that,' said Clennam. 'Can you suppose I doubt it?'

'No, no. But it is strange, even to me, that loving it so much and
being so much beloved in it, I can bear to cast it away. It seems
so neglectful of it, so unthankful.'

'My dear girl,' said Clennam, 'it is in the natural progress and
change of time. All homes are left so.'

'Yes, I know; but all homes are not left with such a blank in them
as there will be in mine when I am gone. Not that there is any
scarcity of far better and more endearing and more accomplished
girls than I am; not that I am much, but that they have made so
much of me!'

Pet's affectionate heart was overcharged, and she sobbed while she
pictured what would happen.

'I know what a change papa will feel at first, and I know that at

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