Part 11 out of 20
occupation for his thoughts, as he sat in the quiet room watching
the father on his bed, and the daughter fanning his face.
Little Dorrit had been thinking too. After softly putting his grey
hair aside, and touching his forehead with her lips, she looked
towards Arthur, who came nearer to her, and pursued in a low
whisper the subject of her thoughts.
'Mr Clennam, will he pay all his debts before he leaves here?'
'No doubt. All.'
'All the debts for which he had been imprisoned here, all my life
There was something of uncertainty and remonstrance in her look;
something that was not all satisfaction. He wondered to detect it,
'You are glad that he should do so?'
'Are you?' asked Little Dorrit, wistfully.
'Am I? Most heartily glad!'
'Then I know I ought to be.'
'And are you not?'
'It seems to me hard,' said Little Dorrit, 'that he should have
lost so many years and suffered so much, and at last pay all the
debts as well. It seems to me hard that he should pay in life and
'My dear child--' Clennam was beginning.
'Yes, I know I am wrong,' she pleaded timidly, 'don't think any
worse of me; it has grown up with me here.'
The prison, which could spoil so many things, had tainted Little
Dorrit's mind no more than this. Engendered as the confusion was,
in compassion for the poor prisoner, her father, it was the first
speck Clennam had ever seen, it was the last speck Clennam ever
saw, of the prison atmosphere upon her.
He thought this, and forebore to say another word. With the
thought, her purity and goodness came before him in their brightest
light. The little spot made them the more beautiful.
Worn out with her own emotions, and yielding to the silence of the
room, her hand slowly slackened and failed in its fanning movement,
and her head dropped down on the pillow at her father's side.
Clennam rose softly, opened and closed the door without a sound,
and passed from the prison, carrying the quiet with him into the
The Marshalsea becomes an Orphan
And now the day arrived when Mr Dorrit and his family were to leave
the prison for ever, and the stones of its much-trodden pavement
were to know them no more.
The interval had been short, but he had greatly complained of its
length, and had been imperious with Mr Rugg touching the delay. He
had been high with Mr Rugg, and had threatened to employ some one
else. He had requested Mr Rugg not to presume upon the place in
which he found him, but to do his duty, sir, and to do it with
promptitude. He had told Mr Rugg that he knew what lawyers and
agents were, and that he would not submit to imposition. On that
gentleman's humbly representing that he exerted himself to the
utmost, Miss Fanny was very short with him; desiring to know what
less he could do, when he had been told a dozen times that money
was no object, and expressing her suspicion that he forgot whom he
Towards the Marshal, who was a Marshal of many years' standing, and
with whom he had never had any previous difference, Mr Dorrit
comported himself with severity. That officer, on personally
tendering his congratulations, offered the free use of two rooms in
his house for Mr Dorrit's occupation until his departure. Mr
Dorrit thanked him at the moment, and replied that he would think
of it; but the Marshal was no sooner gone than he sat down and
wrote him a cutting note, in which he remarked that he had never on
any former occasion had the honour of receiving his congratulations
(which was true, though indeed there had not been anything
particular to congratulate him upon), and that he begged, on behalf
of himself and family, to repudiate the Marshal's offer, with all
those thanks which its disinterested character and its perfect
independence of all worldly considerations demanded.
Although his brother showed so dim a glimmering of interest in
their altered fortunes that it was very doubtful whether he
understood them, Mr Dorrit caused him to be measured for new
raiment by the hosiers, tailors, hatters, and bootmakers whom he
called in for himself; and ordered that his old clothes should be
taken from him and burned. Miss Fanny and Mr Tip required no
direction in making an appearance of great fashion and elegance;
and the three passed this interval together at the best hotel in
the neighbourhood--though truly, as Miss Fanny said, the best was
very indifferent. In connection with that establishment, Mr Tip
hired a cabriolet, horse, and groom, a very neat turn out, which
was usually to be observed for two or three hours at a time gracing
the Borough High Street, outside the Marshalsea court-yard. A
modest little hired chariot and pair was also frequently to be seen
there; in alighting from and entering which vehicle, Miss Fanny
fluttered the Marshal's daughters by the display of inaccessible
A great deal of business was transacted in this short period.
Among other items, Messrs Peddle and Pool, solicitors, of Monument
Yard, were instructed by their client Edward Dorrit, Esquire, to
address a letter to Mr Arthur Clennam, enclosing the sum of twenty-
four pounds nine shillings and eightpence, being the amount of
principal and interest computed at the rate of five per cent. per
annum, in which their client believed himself to be indebted to Mr
Clennam. In making this communication and remittance, Messrs
Peddle and Pool were further instructed by their client to remind
Mr Clennam that the favour of the advance now repaid (including
gate-fees) had not been asked of him, and to inform him that it
would not have been accepted if it had been openly proffered in his
name. With which they requested a stamped receipt, and remained
his obedient servants. A great deal of business had likewise to be
done, within the so-soon-to-be-orphaned Marshalsea, by Mr Dorrit so
long its Father, chiefly arising out of applications made to him by
Collegians for small sums of money. To these he responded with the
greatest liberality, and with no lack of formality; always first
writing to appoint a time at which the applicant might wait upon
him in his room, and then receiving him in the midst of a vast
accumulation of documents, and accompanying his donation (for he
said in every such case, 'it is a donation, not a loan') with a
great deal of good counsel: to the effect that he, the expiring
Father of the Marshalsea, hoped to be long remembered, as an
example that a man might preserve his own and the general respect
The Collegians were not envious. Besides that they had a personal
and traditional regard for a Collegian of so many years' standing,
the event was creditable to the College, and made it famous in the
newspapers. Perhaps more of them thought, too, than were quite
aware of it, that the thing might in the lottery of chances have
happened to themselves, or that something of the sort might yet
happen to themselves some day or other. They took it very well.
A few were low at the thought of being left behind, and being left
poor; but even these did not grudge the family their brilliant
reverse. There might have been much more envy in politer places.
It seems probable that mediocrity of fortune would have been
disposed to be less magnanimous than the Collegians, who lived from
hand to mouth--from the pawnbroker's hand to the day's dinner.
They got up an address to him, which they presented in a neat frame
and glass (though it was not afterwards displayed in the family
mansion or preserved among the family papers); and to which he
returned a gracious answer. In that document he assured them, in
a Royal manner, that he received the profession of their attachment
with a full conviction of its sincerity; and again generally
exhorted them to follow his example--which, at least in so far as
coming into a great property was concerned, there is no doubt they
would have gladly imitated. He took the same occasion of inviting
them to a comprehensive entertainment, to be given to the whole
College in the yard, and at which he signified he would have the
honour of taking a parting glass to the health and happiness of all
those whom he was about to leave behind.
He did not in person dine at this public repast (it took place at
two in the afternoon, and his dinners now came in from the hotel at
six), but his son was so good as to take the head of the principal
table, and to be very free and engaging. He himself went about
among the company, and took notice of individuals, and saw that the
viands were of the quality he had ordered, and that all were
served. On the whole, he was like a baron of the olden time in a
rare good humour. At the conclusion of the repast, he pledged his
guests in a bumper of old Madeira; and told them that he hoped they
had enjoyed themselves, and what was more, that they would enjoy
themselves for the rest of the evening; that he wished them well;
and that he bade them welcome.
His health being drunk with acclamations, he was not so baronial
after all but that in trying to return thanks he broke down, in the
manner of a mere serf with a heart in his breast, and wept before
them all. After this great success, which he supposed to be a
failure, he gave them 'Mr Chivery and his brother officers;' whom
he had beforehand presented with ten pounds each, and who were all
in attendance. Mr Chivery spoke to the toast, saying, What you
undertake to lock up, lock up; but remember that you are, in the
words of the fettered African, a man and a brother ever. The list
of toasts disposed of, Mr Dorrit urbanely went through the motions
of playing a game of skittles with the Collegian who was the next
oldest inhabitant to himself; and left the tenantry to their
But all these occurrences preceded the final day. And now the day
arrived when he and his family were to leave the prison for ever,
and when the stones of its much-trodden pavement were to know them
Noon was the hour appointed for the departure. As it approached,
there was not a Collegian within doors, nor a turnkey absent. The
latter class of gentlemen appeared in their Sunday clothes, and the
greater part of the Collegians were brightened up as much as
circumstances allowed. Two or three flags were even displayed, and
the children put on odds and ends of ribbon. Mr Dorrit himself, at
this trying time, preserved a serious but graceful dignity. Much
of his great attention was given to his brother, as to whose
bearing on the great occasion he felt anxious.
'My dear Frederick,' said he, 'if you will give me your arm we will
pass among our friends together. I think it is right that we
should go out arm in arm, my dear Frederick.'
'Hah!' said Frederick. 'Yes, yes, yes, yes.'
'And if, my dear Frederick--if you could, without putting any great
constraint upon yourself, throw a little (pray excuse me,
Frederick), a little Polish into your usual demeanour--'
'William, William,' said the other, shaking his head, 'it's for you
to do all that. I don't know how. All forgotten, forgotten!'
'But, my dear fellow,' returned William, 'for that very reason, if
for no other, you must positively try to rouse yourself. What you
have forgotten you must now begin to recall, my dear Frederick.
'Eh?' said Frederick.
'Your position, my dear Frederick.'
'Mine?' He looked first at his own figure, and then at his
brother's, and then, drawing a long breath, cried, 'Hah, to be
sure! Yes, yes, yes.'
'Your position, my dear Frederick, is now a fine one. Your
position, as my brother, is a very fine one. And I know that it
belongs to your conscientious nature to try to become worthy of it,
my dear Frederick, and to try to adorn it. To be no discredit to
it, but to adorn it.'
'William,' said the other weakly, and with a sigh, 'I will do
anything you wish, my brother, provided it lies in my power. Pray
be so kind as to recollect what a limited power mine is. What
would you wish me to do to-day, brother? Say what it is, only say
what it is.'
'My dearest Frederick, nothing. It is not worth troubling so good
a heart as yours with.'
'Pray trouble it,' returned the other. 'It finds it no trouble,
William, to do anything it can for you.'
William passed his hand across his eyes, and murmured with august
satisfaction, 'Blessings on your attachment, my poor dear fellow!'
Then he said aloud, 'Well, my dear Frederick, if you will only try,
as we walk out, to show that you are alive to the occasion --that
you think about it--'
'What would you advise me to think about it?' returned his
'Oh! my dear Frederick, how can I answer you? I can only say
what, in leaving these good people, I think myself.'
'That's it!' cried his brother. 'That will help me.'
'I find that I think, my dear Frederick, and with mixed emotions in
which a softened compassion predominates, What will they do without
'True,' returned his brother. 'Yes, yes, yes, yes. I'll think
that as we go, What will they do without my brother! Poor things!
What will they do without him!'
Twelve o'clock having just struck, and the carriage being reported
ready in the outer court-yard, the brothers proceeded down-stairs
arm-in-arm. Edward Dorrit, Esquire (once Tip), and his sister
Fanny followed, also arm-in-arm; Mr Plornish and Maggy, to whom had
been entrusted the removal of such of the family effects as were
considered worth removing, followed, bearing bundles and burdens to
be packed in a cart.
In the yard, were the Collegians and turnkeys. In the yard, were
Mr Pancks and Mr Rugg, come to see the last touch given to their
work. In the yard, was Young John making a new epitaph for
himself, on the occasion of his dying of a broken heart. In the
yard, was the Patriarchal Casby, looking so tremendously benevolent
that many enthusiastic Collegians grasped him fervently by the
hand, and the wives and female relatives of many more Collegians
kissed his hand, nothing doubting that he had done it all. In the
yard, was the man with the shadowy grievance respecting the Fund
which the Marshal embezzled, who had got up at five in the morning
to complete the copying of a perfectly unintelligible history of
that transaction, which he had committed to Mr Dorrit's care, as a
document of the last importance, calculated to stun the Government
and effect the Marshal's downfall. In the yard, was the insolvent
whose utmost energies were always set on getting into debt, who
broke into prison with as much pains as other men have broken out
of it, and who was always being cleared and complimented; while the
insolvent at his elbow--a mere little, snivelling, striving
tradesman, half dead of anxious efforts to keep out of debt--found
it a hard matter, indeed, to get a Commissioner to release him with
much reproof and reproach. In the yard, was the man of many
children and many burdens, whose failure astonished everybody; in
the yard, was the man of no children and large resources, whose
failure astonished nobody. There, were the people who were always
going out to-morrow, and always putting it off; there, were the
people who had come in yesterday, and who were much more jealous
and resentful of this freak of fortune than the seasoned birds.
There, were some who, in pure meanness of spirit, cringed and bowed
before the enriched Collegian and his family; there, were others
who did so really because their eyes, accustomed to the gloom of
their imprisonment and poverty, could not support the light of such
bright sunshine. There, were many whose shillings had gone into
his pocket to buy him meat and drink; but none who were now
obtrusively Hail fellow well met! with him, on the strength of
that assistance. It was rather to be remarked of the caged birds,
that they were a little shy of the bird about to be so grandly
free, and that they had a tendency to withdraw themselves towards
the bars, and seem a little fluttered as he passed.
Through these spectators the little procession, headed by the two
brothers, moved slowly to the gate. Mr Dorrit, yielding to the
vast speculation how the poor creatures were to get on without him,
was great, and sad, but not absorbed. He patted children on the
head like Sir Roger de Coverley
going to church, he spoke to people in the background by their
Christian names, he condescended to all present, and seemed for
their consolation to walk encircled by the legend in golden
characters, 'Be comforted, my people! Bear it!'
At last three honest cheers announced that he had passed the gate,
and that the Marshalsea was an orphan. Before they had ceased to
ring in the echoes of the prison walls, the family had got into
their carriage, and the attendant had the steps in his hand.
Then, and not before, 'Good Gracious!' cried Miss Fanny all at
once, 'Where's Amy!'
Her father had thought she was with her sister. Her sister had
thought she was 'somewhere or other.' They had all trusted to
finding her, as they had always done, quietly in the right place at
the right moment. This going away was perhaps the very first
action of their joint lives that they had got through without her.
A minute might have been consumed in the ascertaining of these
points, when Miss Fanny, who, from her seat in the carriage,
commanded the long narrow passage leading to the Lodge, flushed
'Now I do say, Pa,' cried she, 'that this is disgraceful!'
'What is disgraceful, Fanny?'
'I do say,' she repeated, 'this is perfectly infamous! Really
almost enough, even at such a time as this, to make one wish one
was dead! Here is that child Amy, in her ugly old shabby dress,
which she was so obstinate about, Pa, which I over and over again
begged and prayed her to change, and which she over and over again
objected to, and promised to change to-day, saying she wished to
wear it as long as ever she remained in there with you--which was
absolutely romantic nonsense of the lowest kind--here is that child
Amy disgracing us to the last moment and at the last moment, by
being carried out in that dress after all. And by that Mr Clennam
The offence was proved, as she delivered the indictment. Clennam
appeared at the carriage-door, bearing the little insensible figure
in his arms.
'She has been forgotten,' he said, in a tone of pity not free from
reproach. 'I ran up to her room (which Mr Chivery showed me) and
found the door open, and that she had fainted on the floor, dear
child. She appeared to have gone to change her dress, and to have
sunk down overpowered. It may have been the cheering, or it may
have happened sooner. Take care of this poor cold hand, Miss
Dorrit. Don't let it fall.'
'Thank you, sir,' returned Miss Dorrit, bursting into tears. 'I
believe I know what to do, if you will give me leave. Dear Amy,
open your eyes, that's a love! Oh, Amy, Amy, I really am so vexed
and ashamed! Do rouse yourself, darling! Oh, why are they not
driving on! Pray, Pa, do drive on!'
The attendant, getting between Clennam and the carriage-door, with
a sharp 'By your leave, sir!' bundled up the steps, and they drove
BOOK THE SECOND
In the autumn of the year, Darkness and Night were creeping up to
the highest ridges of the Alps.
It was vintage time in the valleys on the Swiss side of the Pass of
the Great Saint Bernard, and along the banks of the Lake of Geneva.
The air there was charged with the scent of gathered grapes.
Baskets, troughs, and tubs of grapes stood in the dim village
doorways, stopped the steep and narrow village streets, and had
been carrying all day along the roads and lanes. Grapes, split and
crushed under foot, lay about everywhere. The child carried in a
sling by the laden peasant woman toiling home, was quieted with
picked-up grapes; the idiot sunning his big goitre under the leaves
of the wooden chalet by the way to the Waterfall, sat Munching
grapes; the breath of the cows and goats was redolent of leaves and
stalks of grapes; the company in every little cabaret were eating,
drinking, talking grapes. A pity that no ripe touch of this
generous abundance could be given to the thin, hard, stony wine,
which after all was made from the grapes!
The air had been warm and transparent through the whole of the
bright day. Shining metal spires and church-roofs, distant and
rarely seen, had sparkled in the view; and the snowy mountain-tops
had been so clear that unaccustomed eyes, cancelling the
intervening country, and slighting their rugged heights for
something fabulous, would have measured them as within a few hours
easy reach. Mountain-peaks of great celebrity in the valleys,
whence no trace of their existence was visible sometimes for months
together, had been since morning plain and near in the blue sky.
And now, when it was dark below, though they seemed solemnly to
recede, like spectres who were going to vanish, as the red dye of
the sunset faded out of them and left them coldly white, they were
yet distinctly defined in their loneliness above the mists and
Seen from these solitudes, and from the Pass of the Great Saint
Bernard, which was one of them, the ascending Night came up the
mountain like a rising water. When it at last rose to the walls of
the convent of the Great Saint Bernard, it was as if that weather-
beaten structure were another Ark, and floated on the shadowy
Darkness, outstripping some visitors on mules, had risen thus to
the rough convent walls, when those travellers were yet climbing
the mountain. As the heat of the glowing day when they had stopped
to drink at the streams of melted ice and snow, was changed to the
searching cold of the frosty rarefied night air at a great height,
so the fresh beauty of the lower journey had yielded to barrenness
and desolation. A craggy track, up which the mules in single file
scrambled and turned from block to block, as though they were
ascending the broken staircase of a gigantic ruin, was their way
now. No trees were to be seen, nor any vegetable growth save a
poor brown scrubby moss, freezing in the chinks of rock. Blackened
skeleton arms of wood by the wayside pointed upward to the convent
as if the ghosts of former travellers overwhelmed by the snow
haunted the scene of their distress. Icicle-hung caves and cellars
built for refuges from sudden storms, were like so many whispers of
the perils of the place; never-resting wreaths and mazes of mist
wandered about, hunted by a moaning wind; and snow, the besetting
danger of the mountain, against which all its defences were taken,
drifted sharply down.
The file of mules, jaded by their day's work, turned and wound
slowly up the deep ascent; the foremost led by a guide on foot, in
his broad-brimmed hat and round jacket, carrying a mountain staff
or two upon his shoulder, with whom another guide conversed. There
was no speaking among the string of riders. The sharp cold, the
fatigue of the journey, and a new sensation of a catching in the
breath, partly as if they had just emerged from very clear crisp
water, and partly as if they had been sobbing, kept them silent.
At length, a light on the summit of the rocky staircase gleamed
through the snow and mist. The guides called to the mules, the
mules pricked up their drooping heads, the travellers' tongues were
loosened, and in a sudden burst of slipping, climbing, jingling,
clinking, and talking, they arrived at the convent door.
Other mules had arrived not long before, some with peasant riders
and some with goods, and had trodden the snow about the door into
a pool of mud. Riding-saddles and bridles, pack-saddles and
strings of bells, mules and men, lanterns, torches, sacks,
provender, barrels, cheeses, kegs of honey and butter, straw
bundles and packages of many shapes, were crowded confusedly
together in this thawed quagmire and about the steps. Up here in
the clouds, everything was seen through cloud, and seemed
dissolving into cloud. The breath of the men was cloud, the breath
of the mules was cloud, the lights were encircled by cloud,
speakers close at hand were not seen for cloud, though their voices
and all other sounds were surprisingly clear. Of the cloudy line
of mules hastily tied to rings in the wall, one would bite another,
or kick another, and then the whole mist would be disturbed: with
men diving into it, and cries of men and beasts coming out of it,
and no bystander discerning what was wrong. In the midst of this,
the great stable of the convent, occupying the basement story and
entered by the basement door, outside which all the disorder was,
poured forth its contribution of cloud, as if the whole rugged
edifice were filled with nothing else, and would collapse as soon
as it had emptied itself, leaving the snow to fall upon the bare
While all this noise and hurry were rife among the living
travellers, there, too, silently assembled in a grated house half-
a-dozen paces removed, with the same cloud enfolding them and the
same snow flakes drifting in upon them, were the dead travellers
found upon the mountain. The mother, storm-belated many winters
ago, still standing in the corner with her baby at her breast; the
man who had frozen with his arm raised to his mouth in fear or
hunger, still pressing it with his dry lips after years and years.
An awful company, mysteriously come together! A wild destiny for
that mother to have foreseen! 'Surrounded by so many and such
companions upon whom I never looked, and never shall look, I and my
child will dwell together inseparable, on the Great Saint Bernard,
outlasting generations who will come to see us, and will never know
our name, or one word of our story but the end.'
The living travellers thought little or nothing of the dead just
then. They thought much more of alighting at the convent door, and
warming themselves at the convent fire. Disengaged from the
turmoil, which was already calming down as the crowd of mules began
to be bestowed in the stable, they hurried shivering up the steps
and into the building. There was a smell within, coming up from
the floor, of tethered beasts, like the smell of a menagerie of
wild animals. There were strong arched galleries within, huge
stone piers, great staircases, and thick walls pierced with small
sunken windows--fortifications against the mountain storms, as if
they had been human enemies. There were gloomy vaulted sleeping-
rooms within, intensely cold, but clean and hospitably prepared for
guests. Finally, there was a parlour for guests to sit in and sup
in, where a table was already laid, and where a blazing fire shone
red and high.
In this room, after having had their quarters for the night
allotted to them by two young Fathers, the travellers presently
drew round the hearth. They were in three parties; of whom the
first, as the most numerous and important, was the slowest, and had
been overtaken by one of the others on the way up. It consisted of
an elderly lady, two grey-haired gentlemen, two young ladies, and
their brother. These were attended (not to mention four guides),
by a courier, two footmen, and two waiting-maids: which strong body
of inconvenience was accommodated elsewhere under the same roof.
The party that had overtaken them, and followed in their train,
consisted of only three members: one lady and two gentlemen. The
third party, which had ascended from the valley on the Italian side
of the Pass, and had arrived first, were four in number: a
plethoric, hungry, and silent German tutor in spectacles, on a tour
with three young men, his pupils, all plethoric, hungry, and
silent, and all in spectacles.
These three groups sat round the fire eyeing each other drily, and
waiting for supper. Only one among them, one of the gentlemen
belonging to the party of three, made advances towards
conversation. Throwing out his lines for the Chief of the
important tribe, while addressing himself to his own companions, he
remarked, in a tone of voice which included all the company if they
chose to be included, that it had been a long day, and that he felt
for the ladies. That he feared one of the young ladies was not a
strong or accustomed traveller, and had been over-fatigued two or
three hours ago. That he had observed, from his station in the
rear, that she sat her mule as if she were exhausted. That he had,
twice or thrice afterwards, done himself the honour of inquiring of
one of the guides, when he fell behind, how the lady did. That he
had been enchanted to learn that she had recovered her spirits, and
that it had been but a passing discomfort. That he trusted (by
this time he had secured the eyes of the Chief, and addressed him)
he might be permitted to express his hope that she was now none the
worse, and that she would not regret having made the journey.
'My daughter, I am obliged to you, sir,' returned the Chief, 'is
quite restored, and has been greatly interested.'
'New to mountains, perhaps?' said the insinuating traveller.
'New to--ha--to mountains,' said the Chief.
'But you are familiar with them, sir?' the insinuating traveller
'I am--hum--tolerably familiar. Not of late years. Not of late
years,' replied the Chief, with a flourish of his hand.
The insinuating traveller, acknowledging the flourish with an
inclination of his head, passed from the Chief to the second young
lady, who had not yet been referred to otherwise than as one of the
ladies in whose behalf he felt so sensitive an interest.
He hoped she was not incommoded by the fatigues of the day.
'Incommoded, certainly,' returned the young lady, 'but not tired.'
The insinuating traveller complimented her on the justice of the
distinction. It was what he had meant to say. Every lady must
doubtless be incommoded by having to do with that proverbially
unaccommodating animal, the mule.
'We have had, of course,' said the young lady, who was rather
reserved and haughty, 'to leave the carriages and fourgon at
Martigny. And the impossibility of bringing anything that one
wants to this inaccessible place, and the necessity of leaving
every comfort behind, is not convenient.'
'A savage place indeed,' said the insinuating traveller.
The elderly lady, who was a model of accurate dressing, and whose
manner was perfect, considered as a piece of machinery, here
interposed a remark in a low soft voice.
'But, like other inconvenient places,' she observed, 'it must be
seen. As a place much spoken of, it is necessary to see it.'
'O! I have not the least objection to seeing it, I assure you, Mrs
General,' returned the other, carelessly.
'You, madam,' said the insinuating traveller, 'have visited this
'Yes,' returned Mrs General. 'I have been here before. Let me
commend you, my dear,' to the former young lady, 'to shade your
face from the hot wood, after exposure to the mountain air and
snow. You, too, my dear,' to the other and younger lady, who
immediately did so; while the former merely said, 'Thank you, Mrs
General, I am Perfectly comfortable, and prefer remaining as I am.'
The brother, who had left his chair to open a piano that stood in
the room, and who had whistled into it and shut it up again, now
came strolling back to the fire with his glass in his eye. He was
dressed in the very fullest and completest travelling trim. The
world seemed hardly large enough to yield him an amount of travel
proportionate to his equipment.
'These fellows are an immense time with supper,' he drawled. 'I
wonder what they'll give us! Has anybody any idea?'
'Not roast man, I believe,' replied the voice of the second
gentleman of the party of three.
'I suppose not. What d'ye mean?' he inquired.
'That, as you are not to be served for the general supper, perhaps
you will do us the favour of not cooking yourself at the general
fire,' returned the other.
The young gentleman who was standing in an easy attitude on the
hearth, cocking his glass at the company, with his back to the
blaze and his coat tucked under his arms, something as if he were
Of the Poultry species and were trussed for roasting, lost
countenance at this reply; he seemed about to demand further
explanation, when it was discovered--through all eyes turning on
the speaker--that the lady with him, who was young and beautiful,
had not heard what had passed through having fainted with her head
upon his shoulder.
'I think,' said the gentleman in a subdued tone, 'I had best carry
her straight to her room. Will you call to some one to bring a
light?' addressing his companion, 'and to show the way? In this
strange rambling place I don't know that I could find it.'
'Pray, let me call my maid,' cried the taller of the young ladies.
'Pray, let me put this water to her lips,' said the shorter, who
had not spoken yet.
Each doing what she suggested, there was no want of assistance.
Indeed, when the two maids came in (escorted by the courier, lest
any one should strike them dumb by addressing a foreign language to
them on the road), there was a prospect of too much assistance.
Seeing this, and saying as much in a few words to the slighter and
younger of the two ladies, the gentleman put his wife's arm over
his shoulder, lifted her up, and carried her away.
His friend, being left alone with the other visitors, walked slowly
up and down the room without coming to the fire again, pulling his
black moustache in a contemplative manner, as if he felt himself
committed to the late retort. While the subject of it was
breathing injury in a corner, the Chief loftily addressed this
'Your friend, sir,' said he, 'is--ha--is a little impatient; and,
in his impatience, is not perhaps fully sensible of what he owes
to--hum--to--but we will waive that, we will waive that. Your
friend is a little impatient, sir.'
'It may be so, sir,' returned the other. 'But having had the
honour of making that gentleman's acquaintance at the hotel at
Geneva, where we and much good company met some time ago, and
having had the honour of exchanging company and conversation with
that gentleman on several subsequent excursions, I can hear
nothing--no, not even from one of your appearance and station,
sir--detrimental to that gentleman.'
'You are in no danger, sir, of hearing any such thing from me. In
remarking that your friend has shown impatience, I say no such
thing. I make that remark, because it is not to be doubted that my
son, being by birth and by--ha--by education a--hum--a gentleman,
would have readily adapted himself to any obligingly expressed wish
on the subject of the fire being equally accessible to the whole of
the present circle. Which, in principle, I--ha--for all are--hum--
equal on these occasions--I consider right.'
'Good,' was the reply. 'And there it ends! I am your son's
obedient servant. I beg your son to receive the assurance of my
profound consideration. And now, sir, I may admit, freely admit,
that my friend is sometimes of a sarcastic temper.'
'The lady is your friend's wife, sir?'
'The lady is my friend's wife, sir.'
'She is very handsome.'
'Sir, she is peerless. They are still in the first year of their
marriage. They are still partly on a marriage, and partly on an
'Your friend is an artist, sir?'
The gentleman replied by kissing the fingers of his right hand, and
wafting the kiss the length of his arm towards Heaven. As who
should say, I devote him to the celestial Powers as an immortal
'But he is a man of family,' he added. 'His connections are of the
best. He is more than an artist: he is highly connected. He may,
in effect, have repudiated his connections, proudly, impatiently,
sarcastically (I make the concession of both words); but he has
them. Sparks that have been struck out during our intercourse have
shown me this.'
'Well! I hope,' said the lofty gentleman, with the air of finally
disposing of the subject, 'that the lady's indisposition may be
'Sir, I hope so.'
'Mere fatigue, I dare say.'
'Not altogether mere fatigue, sir, for her mule stumbled to-day,
and she fell from the saddle. She fell lightly, and was up again
without assistance, and rode from us laughing; but she complained
towards evening of a slight bruise in the side. She spoke of it
more than once, as we followed your party up the mountain.'
The head of the large retinue, who was gracious but not familiar,
appeared by this time to think that he had condescended more than
enough. He said no more, and there was silence for some quarter of
an hour until supper appeared.
With the supper came one of the young Fathers (there seemed to be
no old Fathers) to take the head of the table. It was like the
supper of an ordinary Swiss hotel, and good red wine grown by the
convent in more genial air was not wanting. The artist traveller
calmly came and took his place at table when the rest sat down,
with no apparent sense upon him of his late skirmish with the
completely dressed traveller.
'Pray,' he inquired of the host, over his soup, 'has your convent
many of its famous dogs now?'
'Monsieur, it has three.'
'I saw three in the gallery below. Doubtless the three in
The host, a slender, bright-eyed, dark young man of polite manners,
whose garment was a black gown with strips of white crossed over it
like braces, and who no more resembled the conventional breed of
Saint Bernard monks than he resembled the conventional breed of
Saint Bernard dogs, replied, doubtless those were the three in
'And I think,' said the artist traveller, 'I have seen one of them
It was possible. He was a dog sufficiently well known. Monsieur
might have easily seen him in the valley or somewhere on the lake,
when he (the dog) had gone down with one of the order to solicit
aid for the convent.
'Which is done in its regular season of the year, I think?'
Monsieur was right.
'And never without a dog. The dog is very important.'
Again Monsieur was right. The dog was very important. People were
justly interested in the dog. As one of the dogs celebrated
everywhere, Ma'amselle would observe.
Ma'amselle was a little slow to observe it, as though she were not
yet well accustomed to the French tongue. Mrs General, however,
observed it for her.
'Ask him if he has saved many lives?' said, in his native English,
the young man who had been put out of countenance.
The host needed no translation of the question. He promptly
replied in French, 'No. Not this one.'
'Why not?' the same gentleman asked.
'Pardon,' returned the host composedly, 'give him the opportunity
and he will do it without doubt. For example, I am well
convinced,' smiling sedately, as he cut up the dish of veal to be
handed round, on the young man who had been put out of countenance,
'that if you, Monsieur, would give him the opportunity, he would
hasten with great ardour to fulfil his duty.'
The artist traveller laughed. The insinuating traveller (who
evinced a provident anxiety to get his full share of the supper),
wiping some drops of wine from his moustache with a piece of bread,
joined the conversation.
'It is becoming late in the year, my Father,' said he, 'for
tourist-travellers, is it not?'
'Yes, it is late. Yet two or three weeks, at most, and we shall be
left to the winter snows.'
'And then,' said the insinuating traveller, 'for the scratching
dogs and the buried children, according to the pictures!'
'Pardon,' said the host, not quite understanding the allusion.
'How, then the scratching dogs and the buried children according to
The artist traveller struck in again before an answer could be
'Don't you know,' he coldly inquired across the table of his
companion, 'that none but smugglers come this way in the winter or
can have any possible business this way?'
'Holy blue! No; never heard of it.'
'So it is, I believe. And as they know the signs of the weather
tolerably well, they don't give much employment to the dogs--who
have consequently died out rather--though this house of
entertainment is conveniently situated for themselves. Their young
families, I am told, they usually leave at home. But it's a grand
idea!' cried the artist traveller, unexpectedly rising into a tone
of enthusiasm. 'It's a sublime idea. It's the finest idea in the
world, and brings tears into a man's eyes, by Jupiter!' He then
went on eating his veal with great composure.
There was enough of mocking inconsistency at the bottom of this
speech to make it rather discordant, though the manner was refined
and the person well-favoured, and though the depreciatory part of
it was so skilfully thrown off as to be very difficult for one not
perfectly acquainted with the English language to understand, or ,
even understanding, to take offence at: so simple and dispassionate
was its tone. After finishing his veal in the midst of silence,
the speaker again addressed his friend.
'Look,' said he, in his former tone, 'at this gentleman our host,
not yet in the prime of life, who in so graceful a way and with
such courtly urbanity and modesty presides over us! Manners fit
for a crown! Dine with the Lord Mayor of London (if you can get an
invitation) and observe the contrast. This dear fellow, with the
finest cut face I ever saw, a face in perfect drawing, leaves some
laborious life and comes up here I don't know how many feet above
the level of the sea, for no other purpose on earth (except
enjoying himself, I hope, in a capital refectory) than to keep an
hotel for idle poor devils like you and me, and leave the bill to
our consciences! Why, isn't it a beautiful sacrifice? What do we
want more to touch us? Because rescued people of interesting
appearance are not, for eight or nine months out of every twelve,
holding on here round the necks of the most sagacious of dogs
carrying wooden bottles, shall we disparage the place? No! Bless
the place. It's a great place, a glorious place!'
The chest of the grey-haired gentleman who was the Chief of the
important party, had swelled as if with a protest against his being
numbered among poor devils. No sooner had the artist traveller
ceased speaking than he himself spoke with great dignity, as having
it incumbent on him to take the lead in most places, and having
deserted that duty for a little while.
He weightily communicated his opinion to their host, that his life
must be a very dreary life here in the winter.
The host allowed to Monsieur that it was a little monotonous. The
air was difficult to breathe for a length of time consecutively.
The cold was very severe. One needed youth and strength to bear
it. However, having them and the blessing of Heaven--
Yes, that was very good. 'But the confinement,' said the grey-
There were many days, even in bad weather, when it was possible to
walk about outside. It was the custom to beat a little track, and
take exercise there.
'But the space,' urged the grey-haired gentleman. 'So small. So--
Monsieur would recall to himself that there were the refuges to
visit, and that tracks had to be made to them also.
Monsieur still urged, on the other hand, that the space was so--
ha--hum--so very contracted. More than that, it was always the
same, always the same.
With a deprecating smile, the host gently raised and gently lowered
his shoulders. That was true, he remarked, but permit him to say
that almost all objects had their various points of view. Monsieur
and he did not see this poor life of his from the same point of
view. Monsieur was not used to confinement.
'I--ha--yes, very true,' said the grey-haired gentleman. He seemed
to receive quite a shock from the force of the argument.
Monsieur, as an English traveller, surrounded by all means of
travelling pleasantly; doubtless possessing fortune, carriages, and
'Perfectly, perfectly. Without doubt,' said the gentleman.
Monsieur could not easily place himself in the position of a person
who had not the power to choose, I will go here to-morrow, or there
next day; I will pass these barriers, I will enlarge those bounds.
Monsieur could not realise, perhaps, how the mind accommodated
itself in such things to the force of necessity.
'It is true,' said Monsieur. 'We will--ha--not pursue the subject.
You are--hum--quite accurate, I have no doubt. We will say no
The supper having come to a close, he drew his chair away as he
spoke, and moved back to his former place by the fire. As it was
very cold at the greater part of the table, the other guests also
resumed their former seats by the fire, designing to toast
themselves well before going to bed. The host, when they rose from
the table, bowed to all present, wished them good night, and
withdrew. But first the insinuating traveller had asked him if
they could have some wine made hot; and as he had answered Yes, and
had presently afterwards sent it in, that traveller, seated in the
centre of the group, and in the full heat of the fire, was soon
engaged in serving it out to the rest.
At this time, the younger of the two young ladies, who had been
silently attentive in her dark corner (the fire-light was the chief
light in the sombre room, the lamp being smoky and dull) to what
had been said of the absent lady, glided out. She was at a loss
which way to turn when she had softly closed the door; but, after
a little hesitation among the sounding passages and the many ways,
came to a room in a corner of the main gallery, where the servants
were at their supper. From these she obtained a lamp, and a
direction to the lady's room.
It was up the great staircase on the story above. Here and there,
the bare white walls were broken by an iron grate, and she thought
as she went along that the place was something like a prison. The
arched door of the lady's room, or cell, was not quite shut. After
knocking at it two or three times without receiving an answer, she
pushed it gently open, and looked in.
The lady lay with closed eyes on the outside of the bed, protected
from the cold by the blankets and wrappers with which she had been
covered when she revived from her fainting fit. A dull light
placed in the deep recess of the window, made little impression on
the arched room. The visitor timidly stepped to the bed, and said,
in a soft whisper, 'Are you better?'
The lady had fallen into a slumber, and the whisper was too low to
awake her. Her visitor, standing quite still, looked at her
'She is very pretty,' she said to herself. 'I never saw so
beautiful a face. O how unlike me!'
It was a curious thing to say, but it had some hidden meaning, for
it filled her eyes with tears.
'I know I must be right. I know he spoke of her that evening. I
could very easily be wrong on any other subject, but not on this,
not on this!'
With a quiet and tender hand she put aside a straying fold of the
sleeper's hair, and then touched the hand that lay outside the
'I like to look at her,' she breathed to herself. 'I like to see
what has affected him so much.'
She had not withdrawn her hand, when the sleeper opened her eyes
'Pray don't be alarmed. I am only one of the travellers from down-
stairs. I came to ask if you were better, and if I could do
anything for you.'
'I think you have already been so kind as to send your servants to
'No, not I; that was my sister. Are you better?'
'Much better. It is only a slight bruise, and has been well looked
to, and is almost easy now. It made me giddy and faint in a
moment. It had hurt me before; but at last it overpowered me all
'May I stay with you until some one comes? Would you like it?'
'I should like it, for it is lonely here; but I am afraid you will
feel the cold too much.'
'I don't mind cold. I am not delicate, if I look so.' She quickly
moved one of the two rough chairs to the bedside, and sat down.
The other as quickly moved a part of some travelling wrapper from
herself, and drew it over her, so that her arm, in keeping it about
her, rested on her shoulder.
'You have so much the air of a kind nurse,' said the lady, smiling
on her, 'that you seem as if you had come to me from home.'
'I am very glad of it.'
'I was dreaming of home when I woke just now. Of my old home, I
mean, before I was married.'
'And before you were so far away from it.'
'I have been much farther away from it than this; but then I took
the best part of it with me, and missed nothing. I felt solitary
as I dropped asleep here, and, missing it a little, wandered back
to it.' There was a sorrowfully affectionate and regretful sound
in her voice, which made her visitor refrain from looking at her
for the moment.
'It is a curious chance which at last brings us together, under
this covering in which you have wrapped me,' said the visitor after
a pause;'for do you know, I think I have been looking for you some
'Looking for me?'
'I believe I have a little note here, which I was to give to you
whenever I found you. This is it. Unless I greatly mistake, it is
addressed to you? Is it not?'
The lady took it, and said yes, and read it. Her visitor watched
her as she did so. It was very short. She flushed a little as she
put her lips to her visitor's cheek, and pressed her hand.
'The dear young friend to whom he presents me, may be a comfort to
me at some time, he says. She is truly a comfort to me the first
time I see her.'
'Perhaps you don't,' said the visitor, hesitating--'perhaps you
don't know my story? Perhaps he never told you my story ?'
'Oh no, why should he! I have scarcely the right to tell it myself
at present, because I have been entreated not to do so. There is
not much in it, but it might account to you for my asking you not
to say anything about the letter here. You saw my family with me,
perhaps? Some of them--I only say this to you--are a little proud,
a little prejudiced.'
'You shall take it back again,' said the other; 'and then my
husband is sure not to see it. He might see it and speak of it,
otherwise, by some accident. Will you put it in your bosom again,
to be certain?'
She did so with great care. Her small, slight hand was still upon
the letter, when they heard some one in the gallery outside.
'I promised,' said the visitor, rising, 'that I would write to him
after seeing you (I could hardly fail to see you sooner or later),
and tell him if you were well and happy. I had better say you were
well and happy.'
'Yes, yes, yes! Say I was very well and very happy. And that I
thanked him affectionately, and would never forget him.'
'I shall see you in the morning. After that we are sure to meet
again before very long. Good night!'
'Good night. Thank you, thank you. Good night, my dear!'
Both of them were hurried and fluttered as they exchanged this
parting, and as the visitor came out of the door. She had expected
to meet the lady's husband approaching it; but the person in the
gallery was not he: it was the traveller who had wiped the wine-
drops from his moustache with the piece of bread. When he heard
the step behind him, he turned round--for he was walking away in
His politeness, which was extreme, would not allow of the young
lady's lighting herself down-stairs, or going down alone. He took
her lamp, held it so as to throw the best light on the stone steps,
and followed her all the way to the supper-room. She went down,
not easily hiding how much she was inclined to shrink and tremble;
for the appearance of this traveller was particularly disagreeable
to her. She had sat in her quiet corner before supper imagining
what he would have been in the scenes and places within her
experience, until he inspired her with an aversion that made him
little less than terrific.
He followed her down with his smiling politeness, followed her in,
and resumed his seat in the best place in the hearth. There with
the wood-fire, which was beginning to burn low, rising and falling
upon him in the dark room, he sat with his legs thrust out to warm,
drinking the hot wine down to the lees, with a monstrous shadow
imitating him on the wall and ceiling.
The tired company had broken up, and all the rest were gone to bed
except the young lady's father, who dozed in his chair by the fire.
The traveller had been at the pains of going a long way up-stairs
to his sleeping-room to fetch his pocket-flask of brandy. He told
them so, as he poured its contents into what was left of the wine,
and drank with a new relish.
'May I ask, sir, if you are on your way to Italy?'
The grey-haired gentleman had roused himself, and was preparing to
withdraw. He answered in the affirmative.
'I also!' said the traveller. 'I shall hope to have the honour of
offering my compliments in fairer scenes, and under softer
circumstances, than on this dismal mountain.'
The gentleman bowed, distantly enough, and said he was obliged to
'We poor gentlemen, sir,' said the traveller, pulling his moustache
dry with his hand, for he had dipped it in the wine and brandy; 'we
poor gentlemen do not travel like princes, but the courtesies and
graces of life are precious to us. To your health, sir!'
'Sir, I thank you.'
'To the health of your distinguished family--of the fair ladies,
'Sir, I thank you again, I wish you good night. My dear, are our--
ha--our people in attendance?'
'They are close by, father.'
'Permit me!' said the traveller, rising and holding the door open,
as the gentleman crossed the room towards it with his arm drawn
through his daughter's. 'Good repose! To the pleasure of seeing
you once more! To to-morrow!'
As he kissed his hand, with his best manner and his daintiest
smile, the young lady drew a little nearer to her father, and
passed him with a dread of touching him.
'Humph!' said the insinuating traveller, whose manner shrunk, and
whose voice dropped when he was left alone. 'If they all go to
bed, why I must go. They are in a devil of a hurry. One would
think the night would be long enough, in this freezing silence and
solitude, if one went to bed two hours hence.'
Throwing back his head in emptying his glass, he cast his eyes upon
the travellers' book, which lay on the piano, open, with pens and
ink beside it, as if the night's names had been registered when he
was absent. Taking it in his hand, he read these entries.
William Dorrit, Esquire
Frederick Dorrit, Esquire
Edward Dorrit, Esquire
Miss Amy Dorrit
From France to Italy.
Mr and Mrs Henry Gowan.
From France to Italy.
To which he added, in a small complicated hand, ending with a long
lean flourish, not unlike a lasso thrown at all the rest of the
From France to Italy.
And then, with his nose coming down over his moustache and his
moustache going up and under his nose, repaired to his allotted
It is indispensable to present the accomplished lady who was of
sufficient importance in the suite of the Dorrit Family to have a
line to herself in the Travellers' Book.
Mrs General was the daughter of a clerical dignitary in a cathedral
town, where she had led the fashion until she was as near forty-
five as a single lady can be. A stiff commissariat officer of
sixty, famous as a martinet, had then become enamoured of the
gravity with which she drove the proprieties four-in-hand through
the cathedral town society, and had solicited to be taken beside
her on the box of the cool coach of ceremony to which that team was
harnessed. His proposal of marriage being accepted by the lady,
the commissary took his seat behind the proprieties with great
decorum, and Mrs General drove until the commissary died. In the
course of their united journey, they ran over several people who
came in the way of the proprieties; but always in a high style and
The commissary having been buried with all the decorations suitable
to the service (the whole team of proprieties were harnessed to his
hearse, and they all had feathers and black velvet housings with
his coat of arms in the corner), Mrs General began to inquire what
quantity of dust and ashes was deposited at the bankers'. It then
transpired that the commissary had so far stolen a march on Mrs
General as to have bought himself an annuity some years before his
marriage, and to have reserved that circumstance in mentioning, at
the period of his proposal, that his income was derived from the
interest of his money. Mrs General consequently found her means so
much diminished, that, but for the perfect regulation of her mind,
she might have felt disposed to question the accuracy of that
portion of the late service which had declared that the commissary
could take nothing away with him.
In this state of affairs it occurred to Mrs General, that she might
'form the mind,' and eke the manners of some young lady of
distinction. Or, that she might harness the proprieties to the
carriage of some rich young heiress or widow, and become at once
the driver and guard of such vehicle through the social mazes. Mrs
General's communication of this idea to her clerical and
commissariat connection was so warmly applauded that, but for the
lady's undoubted merit, it might have appeared as though they
wanted to get rid of her. Testimonials representing Mrs General as
a prodigy of piety, learning, virtue, and gentility, were lavishly
contributed from influential quarters; and one venerable archdeacon
even shed tears in recording his testimony to her perfections
(described to him by persons on whom he could rely), though he had
never had the honour and moral gratification of setting eyes on Mrs
General in all his life.
Thus delegated on her mission, as it were by Church and State, Mrs
General, who had always occupied high ground, felt in a condition
to keep it, and began by putting herself up at a very high figure.
An interval of some duration elapsed, in which there was no bid for
Mrs General. At length a county-widower, with a daughter of
fourteen, opened negotiations with the lady; and as it was a part
either of the native dignity or of the artificial policy of Mrs
General (but certainly one or the other) to comport herself as if
she were much more sought than seeking, the widower pursued Mrs
General until he prevailed upon her to form his daughter's mind and
The execution of this trust occupied Mrs General about seven years,
in the course of which time she made the tour of Europe, and saw
most of that extensive miscellany of objects which it is essential
that all persons of polite cultivation should see with other
people's eyes, and never with their own. When her charge was at
length formed, the marriage, not only of the young lady, but
likewise of her father, the widower, was resolved on. The widower
then finding Mrs General both inconvenient and expensive, became of
a sudden almost as much affected by her merits as the archdeacon
had been, and circulated such praises of her surpassing worth, in
all quarters where he thought an opportunity might arise of
transferring the blessing to somebody else, that Mrs General was a
name more honourable than ever.
The phoenix was to let, on this elevated perch, when Mr Dorrit, who
had lately succeeded to his property, mentioned to his bankers that
he wished to discover a lady, well-bred, accomplished, well
connected, well accustomed to good society, who was qualified at
once to complete the education of his daughters, and to be their
matron or chaperon. Mr Dorrit's bankers, as bankers of the county-
widower, instantly said, 'Mrs General.'
Pursuing the light so fortunately hit upon, and finding the
concurrent testimony of the whole of Mrs General's acquaintance to
be of the pathetic nature already recorded, Mr Dorrit took the
trouble of going down to the county of the county-widower to see
Mrs General, in whom he found a lady of a quality superior to his
'Might I be excused,' said Mr Dorrit, 'if I inquired--ha--what
'Why, indeed,' returned Mrs General, stopping the word, 'it is a
subject on which I prefer to avoid entering. I have never entered
on it with my friends here; and I cannot overcome the delicacy, Mr
Dorrit, with which I have always regarded it. I am not, as I hope
you are aware, a governess--'
'O dear no!' said Mr Dorrit. 'Pray, madam, do not imagine for a
moment that I think so.' He really blushed to be suspected of it.
Mrs General gravely inclined her head. 'I cannot, therefore, put
a price upon services which it is a pleasure to me to render if I
can render them spontaneously, but which I could not render in mere
return for any consideration. Neither do I know how, or where, to
find a case parallel to my own. It is peculiar.'
No doubt. But how then (Mr Dorrit not unnaturally hinted) could
the subject be approached.
'I cannot object,' said Mrs General--'though even that is
disagreeable to me--to Mr Dorrit's inquiring, in confidence of my
friends here, what amount they have been accustomed, at quarterly
intervals, to pay to my credit at my bankers'.'
Mr Dorrit bowed his acknowledgements.
'Permit me to add,' said Mrs General, 'that beyond this, I can
never resume the topic. Also that I can accept no second or
inferior position. If the honour were proposed to me of becoming
known to Mr Dorrit's family--I think two daughters were
'I could only accept it on terms of perfect equality, as a
companion, protector, Mentor, and friend.'
Mr Dorrit, in spite of his sense of his importance, felt as if it
would be quite a kindness in her to accept it on any conditions.
He almost said as much.
'I think,' repeated Mrs General, 'two daughters were mentioned?'
'Two daughters,' said Mr Dorrit again.
'It would therefore,' said Mrs General, 'be necessary to add a
third more to the payment (whatever its amount may prove to be),
which my friends here have been accustomed to make to my bankers'.'
Mr Dorrit lost no time in referring the delicate question to the
county-widower, and finding that he had been accustomed to pay
three hundred pounds a-year to the credit of Mrs General, arrived,
without any severe strain on his arithmetic, at the conclusion that
he himself must pay four. Mrs General being an article of that
lustrous surface which suggests that it is worth any money, he made
a formal proposal to be allowed to have the honour and pleasure of
regarding her as a member of his family. Mrs General conceded that
high privilege, and here she was.
In person, Mrs General, including her skirts which had much to do
with it, was of a dignified and imposing appearance; ample,
rustling, gravely voluminous; always upright behind the
proprieties. She might have been taken--had been taken--to the top
of the Alps and the bottom of Herculaneum, without disarranging a
fold in her dress, or displacing a pin. If her countenance and
hair had rather a floury appearance, as though from living in some
transcendently genteel Mill, it was rather because she was a chalky
creation altogether, than because she mended her complexion with
violet powder, or had turned grey. If her eyes had no expression,
it was probably because they had nothing to express. If she had
few wrinkles, it was because her mind had never traced its name or
any other inscription on her face. A cool, waxy, blown-out woman,
who had never lighted well.
Mrs General had no opinions. Her way of forming a mind was to
prevent it from forming opinions. She had a little circular set of
mental grooves or rails on which she started little trains of other
people's opinions, which never overtook one another, and never got
anywhere. Even her propriety could not dispute that there was
impropriety in the world; but Mrs General's way of getting rid of
it was to put it out of sight, and make believe that there was no
such thing. This was another of her ways of forming a mind--to
cram all articles of difficulty into cupboards, lock them up, and
say they had no existence. It was the easiest way, and, beyond all
comparison, the properest.
Mrs General was not to be told of anything shocking. Accidents,
miseries, and offences, were never to be mentioned before her.
Passion was to go to sleep in the presence of Mrs General, and
blood was to change to milk and water. The little that was left in
the world, when all these deductions were made, it was Mrs
General's province to varnish. In that formation process of hers,
she dipped the smallest of brushes into the largest of pots, and
varnished the surface of every object that came under
consideration. The more cracked it was, the more Mrs General
There was varnish in Mrs General's voice, varnish in Mrs General's
touch, an atmosphere of varnish round Mrs General's figure. Mrs
General's dreams ought to have been varnished--if she had any--
lying asleep in the arms of the good Saint Bernard, with the
feathery snow falling on his house-top.
On the Road
The bright morning sun dazzled the eyes, the snow had ceased, the
mists had vanished, the mountain air was so clear and light that
the new sensation of breathing it was like the having entered on a
new existence. To help the delusion, the solid ground itself
seemed gone, and the mountain, a shining waste of immense white
heaps and masses, to be a region of cloud floating between the blue
sky above and the earth far below.
Some dark specks in the snow, like knots upon a little thread,
beginning at the convent door and winding away down the descent in
broken lengths which were not yet pieced together, showed where the
Brethren were at work in several places clearing the track.
Already the snow had begun to be foot-thawed again about the door.
Mules were busily brought out, tied to the rings in the wall, and
laden; strings of bells were buckled on, burdens were adjusted, the
voices of drivers and riders sounded musically. Some of the
earliest had even already resumed their journey; and, both on the
level summit by the dark water near the convent, and on the
downward way of yesterday's ascent, little moving figures of men
and mules, reduced to miniatures by the immensity around, went with
a clear tinkling of bells and a pleasant harmony of tongues.
In the supper-room of last night, a new fire, piled upon the
feathery ashes of the old one, shone upon a homely breakfast of
loaves, butter, and milk. It also shone on the courier of the
Dorrit family, making tea for his party from a supply he had
brought up with him, together with several other small stores which
were chiefly laid in for the use of the strong body of
inconvenience. Mr Gowan and Blandois of Paris had already
breakfasted, and were walking up and down by the lake, smoking
'Gowan, eh?' muttered Tip, otherwise Edward Dorrit, Esquire,
turning over the leaves of the book, when the courier had left them
to breakfast. 'Then Gowan is the name of a puppy, that's all I
have got to say! If it was worth my while, I'd pull his nose. But
it isn't worth my while--fortunately for him. How's his wife, Amy?
I suppose you know. You generally know things of that sort.'
'She is better, Edward. But they are not going to-day.'
'Oh! They are not going to-day! Fortunately for that fellow too,'
said Tip, 'or he and I might have come into collision.'
'It is thought better here that she should lie quiet to-day, and
not be fatigued and shaken by the ride down until to-morrow.'
'With all my heart. But you talk as if you had been nursing her.
You haven't been relapsing into (Mrs General is not here) into old
habits, have you, Amy?'
He asked her the question with a sly glance of observation at Miss
Fanny, and at his father too.
'I have only been in to ask her if I could do anything for her,
Tip,' said Little Dorrit.
'You needn't call me Tip, Amy child,' returned that young gentleman
with a frown; 'because that's an old habit, and one you may as well
'I didn't mean to say so, Edward dear. I forgot. It was so
natural once, that it seemed at the moment the right word.'
'Oh yes!' Miss Fanny struck in. 'Natural, and right word, and
once, and all the rest of it! Nonsense, you little thing! I know
perfectly well why you have been taking such an interest in this
Mrs Gowan. You can't blind me.'
'I will not try to, Fanny. Don't be angry.'
'Oh! angry!' returned that young lady with a flounce. 'I have no
patience' (which indeed was the truth).
'Pray, Fanny,' said Mr Dorrit, raising his eyebrows, 'what do you
mean? Explain yourself.'
'Oh! Never mind, Pa,' replied Miss Fanny, 'it's no great matter.
Amy will understand me. She knew, or knew of, this Mrs Gowan
before yesterday, and she may as well admit that she did.'
'My child,' said Mr Dorrit, turning to his younger daughter, 'has
your sister--any--ha--authority for this curious statement?'
'However meek we are,' Miss Fanny struck in before she could
answer, 'we don't go creeping into people's rooms on the tops of
cold mountains, and sitting perishing in the frost with people,
unless we know something about them beforehand. It's not very hard
to divine whose friend Mrs Gowan is.'
'Whose friend?' inquired her father.
'Pa, I am sorry to say,' returned Miss Fanny, who had by this time
succeeded in goading herself into a state of much ill-usage and
grievance, which she was often at great pains to do: 'that I
believe her to be a friend of that very objectionable and
unpleasant person, who, with a total absence of all delicacy, which
our experience might have led us to expect from him, insulted us
and outraged our feelings in so public and wilful a manner on an
occasion to which it is understood among us that we will not more
'Amy, my child,' said Mr Dorrit, tempering a bland severity with a
dignified affection, 'is this the case?'
Little Dorrit mildly answered, yes it was.
'Yes it is!' cried Miss Fanny. 'Of course! I said so! And now,
Pa, I do declare once for all'--this young lady was in the habit of
declaring the same thing once for all every day of her life, and
even several times in a day--'that this is shameful! I do declare
once for all that it ought to be put a stop to. Is it not enough
that we have gone through what is only known to ourselves, but are
we to have it thrown in our faces, perseveringly and
systematically, by the very person who should spare our feelings
most? Are we to be exposed to this unnatural conduct every moment
of our lives? Are we never to be permitted to forget? I say
again, it is absolutely infamous!'
'Well, Amy,' observed her brother, shaking his head, 'you know I
stand by you whenever I can, and on most occasions. But I must
say, that, upon my soul, I do consider it rather an unaccountable
mode of showing your sisterly affection, that you should back up a
man who treated me in the most ungentlemanly way in which one man
can treat another. And who,' he added convincingly, must be a low-
minded thief, you know, or he never could have conducted himself as
'And see,' said Miss Fanny, 'see what is involved in this! Can we
ever hope to be respected by our servants? Never. Here are our
two women, and Pa's valet, and a footman, and a courier, and all
sorts of dependents, and yet in the midst of these, we are to have
one of ourselves rushing about with tumblers of cold water, like a
menial! Why, a policeman,' said Miss Fanny, 'if a beggar had a fit
in the street, could but go plunging about with tumblers, as this
very Amy did in this very room before our very eyes last night!'
'I don't so much mind that, once in a way,' remarked Mr Edward;
'but your Clennam, as he thinks proper to call himself, is another
'He is part of the same thing,' returned Miss Fanny, 'and of a
piece with all the rest. He obtruded himself upon us in the first
instance. We never wanted him. I always showed him, for one, that
I could have dispensed with his company with the greatest pleasure.
He then commits that gross outrage upon our feelings, which he
never could or would have committed but for the delight he took in
exposing us; and then we are to be demeaned for the service of his
friends! Why, I don't wonder at this Mr Gowan's conduct towards
you. What else was to be expected when he was enjoying our past
misfortunes--gloating over them at the moment!'
'Father--Edward--no indeed!' pleaded Little Dorrit. 'Neither Mr
nor Mrs Gowan had ever heard our name. They were, and they are,
quite ignorant of our history.'
'So much the worse,' retorted Fanny, determined not to admit
anything in extenuation, 'for then you have no excuse. If they had
known about us, you might have felt yourself called upon to
conciliate them. That would have been a weak and ridiculous
mistake, but I can respect a mistake, whereas I can't respect a
wilful and deliberate abasing of those who should be nearest and
dearest to us. No. I can't respect that. I can do nothing but
'I never offend you wilfully, Fanny,' said Little Dorrit, 'though
you are so hard with me.'
'Then you should be more careful, Amy,' returned her sister. 'If
you do such things by accident, you should be more careful. If I
happened to have been born in a peculiar place, and under peculiar
circumstances that blunted my knowledge of propriety, I fancy I
should think myself bound to consider at every step, "Am I going,
ignorantly, to compromise any near and dear relations?" That is
what I fancy I should do, if it was my case.'
Mr Dorrit now interposed, at once to stop these painful subjects by
his authority, and to point their moral by his wisdom.
'My dear,' said he to his younger daughter, 'I beg you to--ha--to
say no more. Your sister Fanny expresses herself strongly, but not
without considerable reason. You have now a--hum--a great position
to support. That great position is not occupied by yourself alone,
but by--ha--by me, and--ha hum--by us. Us. Now, it is incumbent
upon all people in an exalted position, but it is particularly so
on this family, for reasons which I--ha--will not dwell upon, to
make themselves respected. To be vigilant in making themselves
respected. Dependants, to respect us, must be--ha--kept at a
distance and--hum--kept down. Down. Therefore, your not exposing
yourself to the remarks of our attendants by appearing to have at
any time dispensed with their services and performed them for
yourself, is--ha--highly important.'
'Why, who can doubt it?' cried Miss Fanny. 'It's the essence of
'Fanny,' returned her father, grandiloquently, 'give me leave, my
dear. We then come to--ha--to Mr Clennam. I am free to say that
I do not, Amy, share your sister's sentiments--that is to say
altogether--hum--altogether--in reference to Mr Clennam. I am
content to regard that individual in the light of--ha--generally--
a well-behaved person. Hum. A well-behaved person. Nor will I
inquire whether Mr Clennam did, at any time, obtrude himself on--
ha--my society. He knew my society to be--hum--sought, and his
plea might be that he regarded me in the light of a public
character. But there were circumstances attending my--ha--slight
knowledge of Mr Clennam (it was very slight), which,' here Mr
Dorrit became extremely grave and impressive, 'would render it
highly indelicate in Mr Clennam to--ha--to seek to renew
communication with me or with any member of my family under
existing circumstances. If Mr Clennam has sufficient delicacy to
perceive the impropriety of any such attempt, I am bound as a
responsible gentleman to--ha--defer to that delicacy on his part.
If, on the other hand, Mr Clennam has not that delicacy, I cannot
for a moment--ha--hold any correspondence with so--hum--coarse a
mind. In either case, it would appear that Mr Clennam is put
altogether out of the question, and that we have nothing to do with
him or he with us. Ha--Mrs General!'
The entrance of the lady whom he announced, to take her place at
the breakfast-table, terminated the discussion. Shortly
afterwards, the courier announced that the valet, and the footman,
and the two maids, and the four guides, and the fourteen mules,
were in readiness; so the breakfast party went out to the convent
door to join the cavalcade.
Mr Gowan stood aloof with his cigar and pencil, but Mr Blandois was
on the spot to pay his respects to the ladies. When he gallantly
pulled off his slouched hat to Little Dorrit, she thought he had
even a more sinister look, standing swart and cloaked in the snow,
than he had in the fire-light over-night. But, as both her father
and her sister received his homage with some favour, she refrained
from expressing any distrust of him, lest it should prove to be a
new blemish derived from her prison birth.
Nevertheless, as they wound down the rugged way while the convent
was yet in sight, she more than once looked round, and descried Mr
Blandois, backed by the convent smoke which rose straight and high
from the chimneys in a golden film, always standing on one jutting
point looking down after them. Long after he was a mere black
stick in the snow, she felt as though she could yet see that smile
of his, that high nose, and those eyes that were too near it. And
even after that, when the convent was gone and some light morning
clouds veiled the pass below it, the ghastly skeleton arms by the
wayside seemed to be all pointing up at him.
More treacherous than snow, perhaps, colder at heart, and harder to
melt, Blandois of Paris by degrees passed out of her mind, as they
came down into the softer regions. Again the sun was warm, again
the streams descending from glaciers and snowy caverns were
refreshing to drink at, again they came among the pine-trees, the
rocky rivulets, the verdant heights and dales, the wooden chalets
and rough zigzag fences of Swiss country. Sometimes the way so
widened that she and her father could ride abreast. And then to
look at him, handsomely clothed in his fur and broadcloths, rich,
free, numerously served and attended, his eyes roving far away
among the glories of the landscape, no miserable screen before them
to darken his sight and cast its shadow on him, was enough.
Her uncle was so far rescued from that shadow of old, that he wore
the clothes they gave him, and performed some ablutions as a
sacrifice to the family credit, and went where he was taken, with
a certain patient animal enjoyment, which seemed to express that
the air and change did him good. In all other respects, save one,
he shone with no light but such as was reflected from his brother.
His brother's greatness, wealth, freedom, and grandeur, pleased him
without any reference to himself. Silent and retiring, he had no
use for speech when he could hear his brother speak; no desire to
be waited on, so that the servants devoted themselves to his
brother. The only noticeable change he originated in himself, was
an alteration in his manner to his younger niece. Every day it
refined more and more into a marked respect, very rarely shown by
age to youth, and still more rarely susceptible, one would have
said, of the fitness with which he invested it. On those occasions
when Miss Fanny did declare once for all, he would take the next
opportunity of baring his grey head before his younger niece, and
of helping her to alight, or handing her to the carriage, or
showing her any other attention, with the profoundest deference.
Yet it never appeared misplaced or forced, being always heartily
simple, spontaneous, and genuine. Neither would he ever consent,
even at his brother's request, to be helped to any place before
her, or to take precedence of her in anything. So jealous was he
of her being respected, that, on this very journey down from the
Great Saint Bernard, he took sudden and violent umbrage at the
footman's being remiss to hold her stirrup, though standing near
when she dismounted; and unspeakably astonished the whole retinue
by charging at him on a hard-headed mule, riding him into a corner,
and threatening to trample him to death.
They were a goodly company, and the Innkeepers all but worshipped
them. Wherever they went, their importance preceded them in the
person of the courier riding before, to see that the rooms of state
were ready. He was the herald of the family procession. The great
travelling-carriage came next: containing, inside, Mr Dorrit, Miss
Dorrit, Miss Amy Dorrit, and Mrs General; outside, some of the
retainers, and (in fine weather) Edward Dorrit, Esquire, for whom
the box was reserved. Then came the chariot containing Frederick
Dorrit, Esquire, and an empty place occupied by Edward Dorrit,
Esquire, in wet weather. Then came the fourgon with the rest of
the retainers, the heavy baggage, and as much as it could carry of
the mud and dust which the other vehicles left behind.
These equipages adorned the yard of the hotel at Martigny, on the
return of the family from their mountain excursion. Other vehicles
were there, much company being on the road, from the patched
Italian Vettura--like the body of a swing from an English fair put
upon a wooden tray on wheels, and having another wooden tray
without wheels put atop of it--to the trim English carriage. But
there was another adornment of the hotel which Mr Dorrit had not
bargained for. Two strange travellers embellished one of his
The Innkeeper, hat in hand in the yard, swore to the courier that
he was blighted, that he was desolated, that he was profoundly
afflicted, that he was the most miserable and unfortunate of
beasts, that he had the head of a wooden pig. He ought never to
have made the concession, he said, but the very genteel lady had so
passionately prayed him for the accommodation of that room to dine
in, only for a little half-hour, that he had been vanquished. The
little half-hour was expired, the lady and gentleman were taking
their little dessert and half-cup of coffee, the note was paid, the
horses were ordered, they would depart immediately; but, owing to
an unhappy destiny and the curse of Heaven, they were not yet gone.
Nothing could exceed Mr Dorrit's indignation, as he turned at the
foot of the staircase on hearing these apologies. He felt that the
family dignity was struck at by an assassin's hand. He had a sense
of his dignity, which was of the most exquisite nature. He could
detect a design upon it when nobody else had any perception of the
fact. His life was made an agony by the number of fine scalpels
that he felt to be incessantly engaged in dissecting his dignity.
'Is it possible, sir,' said Mr Dorrit, reddening excessively, 'that
you have--ha--had the audacity to place one of my rooms at the
disposition of any other person?'
Thousands of pardons! It was the host's profound misfortune to
have been overcome by that too genteel lady. He besought
Monseigneur not to enrage himself. He threw himself on Monseigneur
for clemency. If Monseigneur would have the distinguished goodness
to occupy the other salon especially reserved for him, for but five
minutes, all would go well.
'No, sir,' said Mr Dorrit. 'I will not occupy any salon. I will
leave your house without eating or drinking, or setting foot in it.
How do you dare to act like this? Who am I that you--ha--separate
me from other gentlemen?'
Alas! The host called all the universe to witness that Monseigneur
was the most amiable of the whole body of nobility, the most
important, the most estimable, the most honoured. If he separated
Monseigneur from others, it was only because he was more
distinguished, more cherished, more generous, more renowned.
'Don't tell me so, sir,' returned Mr Dorrit, in a mighty heat.
'You have affronted me. You have heaped insults upon me. How dare
you? Explain yourself.'
Ah, just Heaven, then, how could the host explain himself when he
had nothing more to explain; when he had only to apologise, and
confide himself to the so well-known magnanimity of Monseigneur!
'I tell you, sir,' said Mr Dorrit, panting with anger, 'that you
separate me--ha--from other gentlemen; that you make distinctions
between me and other gentlemen of fortune and station. I demand of
you, why? I wish to know on--ha--what authority, on whose
authority. Reply sir. Explain. Answer why.'
Permit the landlord humbly to submit to Monsieur the Courier then,
that Monseigneur, ordinarily so gracious, enraged himself without
cause. There was no why. Monsieur the Courier would represent to
Monseigneur, that he deceived himself in suspecting that there was
any why, but the why his devoted servant had already had the honour
to present to him. The very genteel lady--
'Silence!' cried Mr Dorrit. 'Hold your tongue! I will hear no
more of the very genteel lady; I will hear no more of you. Look at
this family--my family--a family more genteel than any lady. You
have treated this family with disrespect; you have been insolent to
this family. I'll ruin you. Ha--send for the horses, pack the
carriages, I'll not set foot in this man's house again!'
No one had interfered in the dispute, which was beyond the French
colloquial powers of Edward Dorrit, Esquire, and scarcely within
the province of the ladies. Miss Fanny, however, now supported her
father with great bitterness; declaring, in her native tongue, that
it was quite clear there was something special in this man's
impertinence; and that she considered it important that he should
be, by some means, forced to give up his authority for making
distinctions between that family and other wealthy families. What
the reasons of his presumption could be, she was at a loss to
imagine; but reasons he must have, and they ought to be torn from
All the guides, mule-drivers, and idlers in the yard, had made
themselves parties to the angry conference, and were much impressed
by the courier's now bestirring himself to get the carriages out.
With the aid of some dozen people to each wheel, this was done at
a great cost of noise; and then the loading was proceeded with,
pending the arrival of the horses from the post-house.
But the very genteel lady's English chariot being already horsed
and at the inn-door, the landlord had slipped up-stairs to
represent his hard case. This was notified to the yard by his now
coming down the staircase in attendance on the gentleman and the
lady, and by his pointing out the offended majesty of Mr Dorrit to
them with a significant motion of his hand.
'Beg your pardon,' said the gentleman, detaching himself from the
lady, and coming forward. 'I am a man of few words and a bad hand
at an explanation--but lady here is extremely anxious that there
should be no Row. Lady--a mother of mine, in point of fact--wishes
me to say that she hopes no Row.'
Mr Dorrit, still panting under his injury, saluted the gentleman,
and saluted the lady, in a distant, final, and invincible manner.
'No, but really--here, old feller; you!' This was the gentleman's
way of appealing to Edward Dorrit, Esquire, on whom he pounced as
a great and providential relief. 'Let you and I try to make this
all right. Lady so very much wishes no Row.'
Edward Dorrit, Esquire, led a little apart by the button, assumed
a diplomatic expression of countenance in replying, 'Why you must
confess, that when you bespeak a lot of rooms beforehand, and they
belong to you, it's not pleasant to find other people in 'em.'
'No,' said the other, 'I know it isn't. I admit it. Still, let
you and I try to make it all right, and avoid Row. The fault is
not this chap's at all, but my mother's. Being a remarkably fine
woman with no bigodd nonsense about her--well educated, too--she
was too many for this chap. Regularly pocketed him.'
'If that's the case--' Edward Dorrit, Esquire, began.
'Assure you 'pon my soul 'tis the case. Consequently,' said the
other gentleman, retiring on his main position, 'why Row?'
'Edmund,' said the lady from the doorway, 'I hope you have
explained, or are explaining, to the satisfaction of this gentleman
and his family that the civil landlord is not to blame?'
'Assure you, ma'am,' returned Edmund, 'perfectly paralysing myself
with trying it on.' He then looked steadfastly at Edward Dorrit,
Esquire, for some seconds, and suddenly added, in a burst of
confidence, 'Old feller! Is it all right?'
'I don't know, after all,' said the lady, gracefully advancing a
step or two towards Mr Dorrit, 'but that I had better say myself,
at once, that I assured this good man I took all the consequences
on myself of occupying one of a stranger's suite of rooms during
his absence, for just as much (or as little) time as I could dine
in. I had no idea the rightful owner would come back so soon, nor
had I any idea that he had come back, or I should have hastened to
make restoration of my ill-gotten chamber, and to have offered my
explanation and apology. I trust in saying this--'
For a moment the lady, with a glass at her eye, stood transfixed
and speechless before the two Miss Dorrits. At the same moment,
Miss Fanny, in the foreground of a grand pictorial composition,
formed by the family, the family equipages, and the family
servants, held her sister tight under one arm to detain her on the
spot, and with the other arm fanned herself with a distinguished
air, and negligently surveyed the lady from head to foot.
The lady, recovering herself quickly--for it was Mrs Merdle and she
was not easily dashed--went on to add that she trusted in saying
this, she apologised for her boldness, and restored this well-
behaved landlord to the favour that was so very valuable to him.
Mr Dorrit, on the altar of whose dignity all this was incense, made
a gracious reply; and said that his people should--ha--countermand
his horses, and he would--hum--overlook what he had at first
supposed to be an affront, but now regarded as an honour. Upon
this the bosom bent to him; and its owner, with a wonderful command
of feature, addressed a winning smile of adieu to the two sisters,
as young ladies of fortune in whose favour she was much
prepossessed, and whom she had never had the gratification of
Not so, however, Mr Sparkler. This gentleman, becoming transfixed
at the same moment as his lady-mother, could not by any means unfix
himself again, but stood stiffly staring at the whole composition
with Miss Fanny in the Foreground. On his mother saying, 'Edmund,
we are quite ready; will you give me your arm?' he seemed, by the
motion of his lips, to reply with some remark comprehending the
form of words in which his shining talents found the most frequent
utterance, but he relaxed no muscle. So fixed was his figure, that
it would have been matter of some difficulty to bend him
sufficiently to get him in the carriage-door, if he had not
received the timely assistance of a maternal pull from within. He
was no sooner within than the pad of the little window in the back
of the chariot disappeared, and his eye usurped its place. There
it remained as long as so small an object was discernible, and
probably much longer, staring (as though something inexpressibly
surprising should happen to a codfish) like an ill-executed eye in
a large locket.
This encounter was so highly agreeable to Miss Fanny, and gave her
so much to think of with triumph afterwards, that it softened her
asperities exceedingly. When the procession was again in motion
next day, she occupied her place in it with a new gaiety; and
showed such a flow of spirits indeed, that Mrs General looked
Little Dorrit was glad to be found no fault with, and to see that
Fanny was pleased; but her part in the procession was a musing
part, and a quiet one. Sitting opposite her father in the
travelling-carriage, and recalling the old Marshalsea room, her
present existence was a dream. All that she saw was new and
wonderful, but it was not real; it seemed to her as if those
visions of mountains and picturesque countries might melt away at
any moment, and the carriage, turning some abrupt corner, bring up
with a jolt at the old Marshalsea gate.
To have no work to do was strange, but not half so strange as
having glided into a corner where she had no one to think for,
nothing to plan and contrive, no cares of others to load herself
with. Strange as that was, it was far stranger yet to find a space
between herself and her father, where others occupied themselves in
taking care of him, and where she was never expected to be. At
first, this was so much more unlike her old experience than even
the mountains themselves, that she had been unable to resign
herself to it, and had tried to retain her old place about him.
But he had spoken to her alone, and had said that people--ha--
people in an exalted position, my dear, must scrupulously exact
respect from their dependents; and that for her, his daughter, Miss
Amy Dorrit, of the sole remaining branch of the Dorrits of
Dorsetshire, to be known to--hum--to occupy herself in fulfilling
the functions of--ha hum--a valet, would be incompatible with that
respect. Therefore, my dear, he--ha--he laid his parental
injunctions upon her, to remember that she was a lady, who had now
to conduct herself with--hum--a proper pride, and to preserve the
rank of a lady; and consequently he requested her to abstain from
doing what would occasion--ha--unpleasant and derogatory remarks.
She had obeyed without a murmur. Thus it had been brought about
that she now sat in her corner of the luxurious carriage with her
little patient hands folded before her, quite displaced even from
the last point of the old standing ground in life on which her feet
It was from this position that all she saw appeared unreal; the
more surprising the scenes, the more they resembled the unreality
of her own inner life as she went through its vacant places all day
long. The gorges of the Simplon, its enormous depths and
thundering waterfalls, the wonderful road, the points of danger
where a loose wheel or a faltering horse would have been
destruction, the descent into Italy, the opening of that beautiful
land as the rugged mountain-chasm widened and let them out from a
gloomy and dark imprisonment--all a dream--only the old mean
Marshalsea a reality. Nay, even the old mean Marshalsea was shaken
to its foundations when she pictured it without her father. She
could scarcely believe that the prisoners were still lingering in
the close yard, that the mean rooms were still every one tenanted,
and that the turnkey still stood in the Lodge letting people in and
out, all just as she well knew it to be.
With a remembrance of her father's old life in prison hanging about
her like the burden of a sorrowful tune, Little Dorrit would wake
from a dream of her birth-place into a whole day's dream. The
painted room in which she awoke, often a humbled state-chamber in
a dilapidated palace, would begin it; with its wild red autumnal
vine-leaves overhanging the glass, its orange-trees on the cracked
white terrace outside the window, a group of monks and peasants in
the little street below, misery and magnificence wrestling with
each other upon every rood of ground in the prospect, no matter how
widely diversified, and misery throwing magnificence with the
strength of fate. To this would succeed a labyrinth of bare
passages and pillared galleries, with the family procession already
preparing in the quadrangle below, through the carriages and
luggage being brought together by the servants for the day's
journey. Then breakfast in another painted chamber, damp-stained
and of desolate proportions; and then the departure, which, to her
timidity and sense of not being grand enough for her place in the
ceremonies, was always an uneasy thing. For then the courier (who
himself would have been a foreign gentleman of high mark in the
Marshalsea) would present himself to report that all was ready; and
then her father's valet would pompously induct him into his
travelling-cloak; and then Fanny's maid, and her own maid (who was
a weight on Little Dorrit's mind--absolutely made her cry at first,
she knew so little what to do with her), would be in attendance;
and then her brother's man would complete his master's equipment;
and then her father would give his arm to Mrs General, and her
uncle would give his to her, and, escorted by the landlord and Inn
servants, they would swoop down-stairs. There, a crowd would be
collected to see them enter their carriages, which, amidst much
bowing, and begging, and prancing, and lashing, and clattering,
they would do; and so they would be driven madly through narrow
unsavoury streets, and jerked out at the town gate.
Among the day's unrealities would be roads where the bright red
vines were looped and garlanded together on trees for many miles;
woods of olives; white villages and towns on hill-sides, lovely
without, but frightful in their dirt and poverty within; crosses by
the way; deep blue lakes with fairy islands, and clustering boats
with awnings of bright colours and sails of beautiful forms; vast
piles of building mouldering to dust; hanging-gardens where the
weeds had grown so strong that their stems, like wedges driven
home, had split the arch and rent the wall; stone-terraced lanes,
with the lizards running into and out of every chink; beggars of
all sorts everywhere: pitiful, picturesque, hungry, merry; children
beggars and aged beggars. Often at posting-houses and other
halting places, these miserable creatures would appear to her the
only realities of the day; and many a time, when the money she had
brought to give them was all given away, she would sit with her
folded hands, thoughtfully looking after some diminutive girl
leading her grey father, as if the sight reminded her of something
in the days that were gone.