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Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens

Part 15 out of 20

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know what this means?'

'She's as beautiful as she's doated on,' stammered Mr Sparkler--
'and there's no nonsense about her--it's arranged--'

'You needn't explain, Edmund,' said Fanny.

'No, my love,' said Mr Sparkler.

'In short, pet,' proceeded Fanny, 'on the whole, we are engaged.
We must tell papa about it either to-night or to-morrow, according
to the opportunities. Then it's done, and very little more need be
said.'

'My dear Fanny,' said Mr Sparkler, with deference, 'I should like
to say a word to Amy.'

'Well, well! Say it for goodness' sake,' returned the young lady.

'I am convinced, my dear Amy,' said Mr Sparkler, 'that if ever
there was a girl, next to your highly endowed and beautiful sister,
who had no nonsense about her--'

'We know all about that, Edmund,' interposed Miss Fanny. 'Never
mind that. Pray go on to something else besides our having no
nonsense about us.'

'Yes, my love,' said Mr Sparkler. 'And I assure you, Amy, that
nothing can be a greater happiness to myself, myself--next to the
happiness of being so highly honoured with the choice of a glorious
girl who hasn't an atom of--'

'Pray, Edmund, pray!' interrupted Fanny, with a slight pat of her
pretty foot upon the floor.

'My love, you're quite right,' said Mr Sparkler, 'and I know I have
a habit of it. What I wished to declare was, that nothing can be
a greater happiness to myself, myself-next to the happiness of
being united to pre-eminently the most glorious of girls--than to
have the happiness of cultivating the affectionate acquaintance of
Amy. I may not myself,' said Mr Sparkler manfully, 'be up to the
mark on some other subjects at a short notice, and I am aware that
if you were to poll Society the general opinion would be that I am
not; but on the subject of Amy I am up to the mark!'

Mr Sparkler kissed her, in witness thereof.

'A knife and fork and an apartment,' proceeded Mr Sparkler,
growing, in comparison with his oratorical antecedents, quite
diffuse, 'will ever be at Amy's disposal. My Governor, I am sure,
will always be proud to entertain one whom I so much esteem. And
regarding my mother,' said Mr Sparkler, 'who is a remarkably fine
woman, with--'

'Edmund, Edmund!' cried Miss Fanny, as before.

'With submission, my soul,' pleaded Mr Sparkler. 'I know I have a
habit of it, and I thank you very much, my adorable girl, for
taking the trouble to correct it; but my mother is admitted on all
sides to be a remarkably fine woman, and she really hasn't any.'

'That may be, or may not be,' returned Fanny, 'but pray don't
mention it any more.'

'I will not, my love,' said Mr Sparkler.

'Then, in fact, you have nothing more to say, Edmund; have you?'
inquired Fanny.

'So far from it, my adorable girl,' answered Mr Sparkler, 'I
apologise for having said so much.'

Mr Sparkler perceived, by a kind of inspiration, that the question
implied had he not better go? He therefore withdrew the fraternal
railing, and neatly said that he thought he would, with submission,
take his leave. He did not go without being congratulated by Amy,
as well as she could discharge that office in the flutter and
distress of her spirits.

When he was gone, she said, 'O Fanny, Fanny!' and turned to her
sister in the bright window, and fell upon her bosom and cried
there. Fanny laughed at first; but soon laid her face against her
sister's and cried too--a little. It was the last time Fanny ever
showed that there was any hidden, suppressed, or conquered feeling
in her on the matter. From that hour the way she had chosen lay
before her, and she trod it with her own imperious self-willed
step.

CHAPTER 15

No just Cause or Impediment why these Two Persons
should not be joined together

Mr Dorrit, on being informed by his elder daughter that she had
accepted matrimonial overtures from Mr Sparkler, to whom she had
plighted her troth, received the communication at once with great
dignity and with a large display of parental pride; his dignity
dilating with the widened prospect of advantageous ground from
which to make acquaintances, and his parental pride being developed
by Miss Fanny's ready sympathy with that great object of his
existence. He gave her to understand that her noble ambition found
harmonious echoes in his heart; and bestowed his blessing on her,
as a child brimful of duty and good principle, self-devoted to the
aggrandisement of the family name.

To Mr Sparkler, when Miss Fanny permitted him to appear, Mr Dorrit
said, he would not disguise that the alliance Mr Sparkler did him
the honour to propose was highly congenial to his feelings; both as
being in unison with the spontaneous affections of his daughter
Fanny, and as opening a family connection of a gratifying nature
with Mr Merdle, the master spirit of the age. Mrs Merdle also, as
a leading lady rich in distinction, elegance, grace, and beauty, he
mentioned in very laudatory terms. He felt it his duty to remark
(he was sure a gentleman of Mr Sparkler's fine sense would
interpret him with all delicacy), that he could not consider this
proposal definitely determined on, until he should have had the
privilege of holding some correspondence with Mr Merdle; and of
ascertaining it to be so far accordant with the views of that
eminent gentleman as that his (Mr Dorrit's) daughter would be
received on that footing which her station in life and her dowry
and expectations warranted him in requiring that she should
maintain in what he trusted he might be allowed, without the
appearance of being mercenary, to call the Eye of the Great World.
While saying this, which his character as a gentleman of some
little station, and his character as a father, equally demanded of
him, he would not be so diplomatic as to conceal that the proposal
remained in hopeful abeyance and under conditional acceptance, and
that he thanked Mr Sparkler for the compliment rendered to himself
and to his family. He concluded with some further and more general
observations on the--ha--character of an independent gentleman, and
the--hum--character of a possibly too partial and admiring parent.
To sum the whole up shortly, he received Mr Sparkler's offer very
much as he would have received three or four half-crowns from him
in the days that were gone.

Mr Sparkler, finding himself stunned by the words thus heaped upon
his inoffensive head, made a brief though pertinent rejoinder; the
same being neither more nor less than that he had long perceived
Miss Fanny to have no nonsense about her, and that he had no doubt
of its being all right with his Governor. At that point the object
of his affections shut him up like a box with a spring lid, and
sent him away.

Proceeding shortly afterwards to pay his respects to the Bosom, Mr
Dorrit was received by it with great consideration. Mrs Merdle had
heard of this affair from Edmund. She had been surprised at first,
because she had not thought Edmund a marrying man. Society had not
thought Edmund a marrying man. Still, of course she had seen, as
a woman (we women did instinctively see these things, Mr Dorrit!),
that Edmund had been immensely captivated by Miss Dorrit, and she
had openly said that Mr Dorrit had much to answer for in bringing
so charming a girl abroad to turn the heads of his countrymen.

'Have I the honour to conclude, madam,' said Mr Dorrit, 'that the
direction which Mr Sparkler's affections have taken, is--ha-
approved of by you?'

'I assure you, Mr Dorrit,' returned the lady, 'that, personally, I
am charmed.'

That was very gratifying to Mr Dorrit.

'Personally,' repeated Mrs Merdle, 'charmed.'

This casual repetition of the word 'personally,' moved Mr Dorrit to
express his hope that Mr Merdle's approval, too, would not be
wanting?

'I cannot,' said Mrs Merdle, 'take upon myself to answer positively
for Mr Merdle; gentlemen, especially gentlemen who are what Society
calls capitalists, having their own ideas of these matters. But I
should think--merely giving an opinion, Mr Dorrit--I should think
Mr Merdle would be upon the whole,' here she held a review of
herself before adding at her leisure, 'quite charmed.'

At the mention of gentlemen whom Society called capitalists, Mr
Dorrit had coughed, as if some internal demur were breaking out of
him. Mrs Merdle had observed it, and went on to take up the cue.

'Though, indeed, Mr Dorrit, it is scarcely necessary for me to make
that remark, except in the mere openness of saying what is
uppermost to one whom I so highly regard, and with whom I hope I
may have the pleasure of being brought into still more agreeable
relations. For one cannot but see the great probability of your
considering such things from Mr Merdle's own point of view, except
indeed that circumstances have made it Mr Merdle's accidental
fortune, or misfortune, to be engaged in business transactions, and
that they, however vast, may a little cramp his horizons. I am a
very child as to having any notion of business,' said Mrs Merdle;
'but I am afraid, Mr Dorrit, it may have that tendency.'

This skilful see-saw of Mr Dorrit and Mrs Merdle, so that each of
them sent the other up, and each of them sent the other down, and
neither had the advantage, acted as a sedative on Mr Dorrit's
cough. He remarked with his utmost politeness, that he must beg to
protest against its being supposed, even by Mrs Merdle, the
accomplished and graceful (to which compliment she bent herself),
that such enterprises as Mr Merdle's, apart as they were from the
puny undertakings of the rest of men, had any lower tendency than
to enlarge and expand the genius in which they were conceived.
'You are generosity itself,' said Mrs Merdle in return, smiling her
best smile; 'let us hope so. But I confess I am almost
superstitious in my ideas about business.'

Mr Dorrit threw in another compliment here, to the effect that
business, like the time which was precious in it, was made for
slaves; and that it was not for Mrs Merdle, who ruled all hearts at
her supreme pleasure, to have anything to do with it. Mrs Merdle
laughed, and conveyed to Mr Dorrit an idea that the Bosom flushed--
which was one of her best effects.

'I say so much,' she then explained, 'merely because Mr Merdle has
always taken the greatest interest in Edmund, and has always
expressed the strongest desire to advance his prospects. Edmund's
public position, I think you know. His private position rests
solely
with Mr Merdle. In my foolish incapacity for business, I assure
you I know no more.'

Mr Dorrit again expressed, in his own way, the sentiment that
business was below the ken of enslavers and enchantresses. He then
mentioned his intention, as a gentleman and a parent, of writing to
Mr Merdle. Mrs Merdle concurred with all her heart--or with all
her art, which was exactly the same thing--and herself despatched
a preparatory letter by the next post to the eighth wonder of the
world.

In his epistolary communication, as in his dialogues and discourses
on the great question to which it related, Mr Dorrit surrounded the
subject with flourishes, as writing-masters embellish copy-books
and ciphering-books: where the titles of the elementary rules of
arithmetic diverge into swans, eagles, griffins, and other
calligraphic recreations, and where the capital letters go out of
their minds and bodies into ecstasies of pen and ink.
Nevertheless, he did render the purport of his letter sufficiently
clear, to enable Mr Merdle to make a decent pretence of having
learnt it from that source. Mr Merdle replied to it accordingly.
Mr Dorrit replied to Mr Merdle; Mr Merdle replied to Mr Dorrit; and
it was soon announced that the corresponding powers had come to a
satisfactory understanding.

Now, and not before, Miss Fanny burst upon the scene, completely
arrayed for her new part. Now and not before, she wholly absorbed
Mr Sparkler in her light, and shone for both, and twenty more. No
longer feeling that want of a defined place and character which had
caused her so much trouble, this fair ship began to steer steadily
on a shaped course, and to swim with a weight and balance that
developed her sailing qualities.

'The preliminaries being so satisfactorily arranged, I think I will
now, my dear,' said Mr Dorrit, 'announce--ha--formally, to Mrs
General--'

'Papa,' returned Fanny, taking him up short upon that name, 'I
don't see what Mrs General has got to do with it.'

'My dear,' said Mr Dorrit, 'it will be an act of courtesy to--hum--
a lady, well bred and refined--'

'Oh! I am sick of Mrs General's good breeding and refinement,
papa,' said Fanny. 'I am tired of Mrs General.'

'Tired,' repeated Mr Dorrit in reproachful astonishment, 'of--ha--
Mrs General.'

'Quite disgusted with her, papa,' said Fanny. 'I really don't see
what she has to do with my marriage. Let her keep to her own
matrimonial projects--if she has any.'

'Fanny,' returned Mr Dorrit, with a grave and weighty slowness upon
him, contrasting strongly with his daughter's levity: 'I beg the
favour of your explaining--ha--what it is you mean.'
'I mean, papa,' said Fanny, 'that if Mrs General should happen to
have any matrimonial projects of her own, I dare say they are quite
enough to occupy her spare time. And that if she has not, so much
the better; but still I don't wish to have the honour of making
announcements to her.'

'Permit me to ask you, Fanny,' said Mr Dorrit, 'why not?'

'Because she can find my engagement out for herself, papa,'
retorted Fanny. 'She is watchful enough, I dare say. I think I
have seen her so. Let her find it out for herself. If she should
not find it out for herself, she will know it when I am married.
And I hope you will not consider me wanting in affection for you,
papa, if I say it strikes me that will be quite enough for Mrs
General.'

'Fanny,' returned Mr Dorrit, 'I am amazed, I am displeased by
this--hum--this capricious and unintelligible display of animosity
towards--ha--Mrs General.'

'Do not, if you please, papa,' urged Fanny, 'call it animosity,
because I assure you I do not consider Mrs General worth my
animosity.'

At this, Mr Dorrit rose from his chair with a fixed look of severe
reproof, and remained standing in his dignity before his daughter.
His daughter, turning the bracelet on her arm, and now looking at
him, and now looking from him, said, 'Very well, papa. I am truly
sorry if you don't like it; but I can't help it. I am not a child,
and I am not Amy, and I must speak.'

'Fanny,' gasped Mr Dorrit, after a majestic silence, 'if I request
you to remain here, while I formally announce to Mrs General, as an
exemplary lady, who is--hum--a trusted member of this family, the--
ha--the change that is contemplated among us; if I--ha--not only
request it, but--hum--insist upon it--'

'Oh, papa,' Fanny broke in with pointed significance, 'if you make
so much of it as that, I have in duty nothing to do but comply. I
hope I may have my thoughts upon the subject, however, for I really
cannot help it under the circumstances.'So, Fanny sat down
with a meekness which, in the junction of extremes, became
defiance; and her father, either not deigning to answer, or not
knowing what to answer, summoned Mr Tinkler into his presence.

'Mrs General.'

Mr Tinkler, unused to receive such short orders in connection with
the fair varnisher, paused. Mr Dorrit, seeing the whole Marshalsea
and all its testimonials in the pause, instantly flew at him with,
'How dare you, sir? What do you mean?'

'I beg your pardon, sir,' pleaded Mr Tinkler, 'I was wishful to
know--'
'You wished to know nothing, sir,' cried Mr Dorrit, highly flushed.

'Don't tell me you did. Ha. You didn't. You are guilty of
mockery, sir.'

'I assure you, sir--' Mr Tinkler began.

'Don't assure me!' said Mr Dorrit. 'I will not be assured by a
domestic. You are guilty of mockery. You shall leave me--hum--the
whole establishment shall leave me. What are you waiting for?'

'Only for my orders, sir.'

'It's false,' said Mr Dorrit, 'you have your orders. Ha--hum. MY
compliments to Mrs General, and I beg the favour of her coming to
me, if quite convenient, for a few minutes. Those are your
orders.'

In his execution of this mission, Mr Tinkler perhaps expressed that
Mr Dorrit was in a raging fume. However that was, Mrs General's
skirts were very speedily heard outside, coming along--one might
almost have said bouncing along--with unusual expedition. Albeit,
they settled down at the door and swept into the room with their
customary coolness.

'Mrs General,' said Mr Dorrit, 'take a chair.'

Mrs General, with a graceful curve of acknowledgment, descended
into the chair which Mr Dorrit offered.

'Madam,' pursued that gentleman, 'as you have had the kindness to
undertake the--hum--formation of my daughters, and as I am
persuaded that nothing nearly affecting them can--ha--be
indifferent to you--'

'Wholly impossible,' said Mrs General in the calmest of ways.

'--I therefore wish to announce to you, madam, that my daughter now
present--'

Mrs General made a slight inclination of her head to Fanny, who
made a very low inclination of her head to Mrs General, and came
loftily upright again.

'--That my daughter Fanny is--ha--contracted to be married to Mr
Sparkler, with whom you are acquainted. Hence, madam, you will be
relieved of half your difficult charge--ha--difficult charge.' Mr
Dorrit repeated it with his angry eye on Fanny. 'But not, I hope,
to the--hum--diminution of any other portion, direct or indirect,
of the footing you have at present the kindness to occupy in my
family.'

'Mr Dorrit,' returned Mrs General, with her gloved hands resting on
one another in exemplary repose, 'is ever considerate, and ever but
too appreciative of my friendly services.'

(Miss Fanny coughed, as much as to say, 'You are right.')

'Miss Dorrit has no doubt exercised the soundest discretion of
which the circumstances admitted, and I trust will allow me to
offer her my sincere congratulations. When free from the trammels
of passion,' Mrs General closed her eyes at the word, as if she
could not utter it, and see anybody; 'when occurring with the
approbation of near relatives; and when cementing the proud
structure of a family edifice; these are usually auspicious events.

I trust Miss Dorrit will allow me to offer her my best
congratulations.'

Here Mrs General stopped, and added internally, for the setting of
her face, 'Papa, potatoes, poultry, Prunes, and prism.'

'Mr Dorrit,' she superadded aloud, 'is ever most obliging; and for
the attention, and I will add distinction, of having this
confidence imparted to me by himself and Miss Dorrit at this early
time, I beg to offer the tribute of my thanks. My thanks, and my
congratulations, are equally the meed of Mr Dorrit and of Miss
Dorrit.'

'To me,' observed Miss Fanny, 'they are excessively gratifying--
inexpressibly so. The relief of finding that you have no objection
to make, Mrs General, quite takes a load off my mind, I am sure.
I hardly know what I should have done,' said Fanny, 'if you had
interposed any objection, Mrs General.'

Mrs General changed her gloves, as to the right glove being
uppermost and the left undermost, with a Prunes and Prism smile.

'To preserve your approbation, Mrs General,' said Fanny, returning
the smile with one in which there was no trace of those
ingredients, 'will of course be the highest object of my married
life; to lose it, would of course be perfect wretchedness. I am
sure your great kindness will not object, and I hope papa will not
object, to my correcting a small mistake you have made, however.
The best of us are so liable to mistakes, that even you, Mrs
General, have fallen into a little error. The attention and
distinction you have so impressively mentioned, Mrs General, as
attaching to this confidence, are, I have no doubt, of the most
complimentary and gratifying description; but they don't at all
proceed from me. The merit of having consulted you on the subject
would have been so great in me, that I feel I must not lay claim to
it when it really is not mine. It is wholly papa's. I am deeply
obliged to you for your encouragement and patronage, but it was
papa who asked for it. I have to thank you, Mrs General, for
relieving my breast of a great weight by so handsomely giving your
consent to my engagement, but you have really nothing to thank me
for. I hope you will always approve of my proceedings after I have
left home and that my sister also may long remain the favoured
object of your condescension, Mrs General.'

With this address, which was delivered in her politest manner,
Fanny left the room with an elegant and cheerful air--to tear up-
stairs with a flushed face as soon as she was out of hearing,
pounce in upon her sister, call her a little Dormouse, shake her
for the better opening of her eyes, tell her what had passed below,
and ask her what she thought of Pa now?

Towards Mrs Merdle, the young lady comported herself with great
independence and self-possession; but not as yet with any more
decided opening of hostilities. Occasionally they had a slight
skirmish, as when Fanny considered herself patted on the back by
that lady, or as when Mrs Merdle looked particularly young and
well; but Mrs Merdle always soon terminated those passages of arms
by sinking among her cushions with the gracefullest indifference,
and finding her attention otherwise engaged. Society (for that
mysterious creature sat upon the Seven Hills too) found Miss Fanny
vastly improved by her engagement. She was much more accessible,
much more free and engaging, much less exacting; insomuch that she
now entertained a host of followers and admirers, to the bitter
indignation of ladies with daughters to marry, who were to be
regarded as Having revolted from Society on the Miss Dorrit
grievance, and erected a rebellious standard. Enjoying the flutter
she caused. Miss Dorrit not only haughtily moved through it in her
own proper person, but haughtily, even Ostentatiously, led Mr
Sparkler through it too: seeming to say to them all, 'If I think
proper to march among you in triumphal procession attended by this
weak captive in bonds, rather than a stronger one, that is my
business. Enough that I choose to do it!' Mr Sparkler for his
part, questioned nothing; but went wherever he was taken, did
whatever he was told, felt that for his bride-elect to be
distinguished was for him to be distinguished on the easiest terms,
and was truly grateful for being so openly acknowledged.

The winter passing on towards the spring while this condition of
affairs prevailed, it became necessary for Mr Sparkler to repair to
England, and take his appointed part in the expression and
direction of its genius, learning, commerce, spirit, and sense.
The land of Shakespeare, Milton, Bacon, Newton, Watt, the land of
a host of past and present abstract philosophers, natural
philosophers, and subduers of Nature and Art in their myriad forms,
called to Mr Sparkler to come and take care of it, lest it should
perish. Mr Sparkler, unable to resist the agonised cry from the
depths of his country's soul, declared that he must go.

It followed that the question was rendered pressing when, where,
and how Mr Sparkler should be married to the foremost girl in all
this world with no nonsense about her. Its solution, after some
little mystery and secrecy, Miss Fanny herself announced to her
sister.

'Now, my child,' said she, seeking her out one day, 'I am going to
tell you something. It is only this moment broached; and naturally
I hurry to you the moment it IS broached.'

'Your marriage, Fanny?'

'My precious child,' said Fanny, 'don't anticipate me. Let me
impart my confidence to you, you flurried little thing, in my own
way. As to your guess, if I answered it literally, I should answer
no. For really it is not my marriage that is in question, half as
much as it is Edmund's.'

Little Dorrit looked, and perhaps not altogether without cause,
somewhat at a loss to understand this fine distinction.

'I am in no difficulty,' exclaimed Fanny, 'and in no hurry. I am
not wanted at any public office, or to give any vote anywhere else.

But Edmund is. And Edmund is deeply dejected at the idea of going
away by himself, and, indeed, I don't like that he should be
trusted by himself. For, if it's possible--and it generally is--to
do a foolish thing, he is sure to do it.'

As she concluded this impartial summary of the reliance that might
be safely placed upon her future husband, she took off, with an air
of business, the bonnet she wore, and dangled it by its strings
upon the ground.

'It is far more Edmund's question, therefore, than mine. However,
we need say no more about that. That is self-evident on the face
of it. Well, my dearest Amy! The point arising, is he to go by
himself, or is he not to go by himself, this other point arises,
are we to be married here and shortly, or are we to be married at
home months hence?'

'I see I am going to lose you, Fanny.'

'What a little thing you are,' cried Fanny, half tolerant and half
impatient, 'for anticipating one! Pray, my darling, hear me out.
That woman,' she spoke of Mrs Merdle, of course, 'remains here
until after Easter; so, in the case of my being married here and
going to London with Edmund, I should have the start of her. That
is something. Further, Amy. That woman being out of the way, I
don't know that I greatly object to Mr Merdle's proposal to Pa that
Edmund and I should take up our abode in that house -.you know--
where you once went with a dancer, my dear, until our own house can
be chosen and fitted up. Further still, Amy. Papa having always
intended to go to town himself, in the spring,--you see, if Edmund
and I were married here, we might go off to Florence, where papa
might join us, and we might all three travel home together. Mr
Merdle has entreated Pa to stay with him in that same mansion I
have mentioned, and I suppose he will. But he is master of his own
actions; and upon that point (which is not at all material) I can't
speak positively.'
The difference between papa's being master of his own actions and
Mr Sparkler's being nothing of the sort, was forcibly expressed by
Fanny in her manner of stating the case. Not that her sister
noticed it; for she was divided between regret at the coming
separation, and a lingering wish that she had been included in the
plans for visiting England.

'And these are the arrangements, Fanny dear?'

'Arrangements!' repeated Fanny. 'Now, really, child, you are a
little trying. You know I particularly guarded myself against
laying my words open to any such construction. What I said was,
that certain questions present themselves; and these are the
questions.'

Little Dorrit's thoughtful eyes met hers, tenderly and quietly.

'Now, my own sweet girl,' said Fanny, weighing her bonnet by the
strings with considerable impatience, 'it's no use staring. A
little owl could stare. I look to you for advice, Amy. What do
you advise me to do?'

'Do you think,' asked Little Dorrit, persuasively, after a short
hesitation, 'do you think, Fanny, that if you were to put it off
for a few months, it might be, considering all things, best?'

'No, little Tortoise,' retorted Fanny, with exceeding sharpness.
'I don't think anything of the kind.'

Here, she threw her bonnet from her altogether, and flounced into
a chair. But, becoming affectionate almost immediately, she
flounced out of it again, and kneeled down on the floor to take her
sister, chair and all, in her arms.

'Don't suppose I am hasty or unkind, darling, because I really am
not. But you are such a little oddity! You make one bite your
head off, when one wants to be soothing beyond everything. Didn't
I tell you, you dearest baby, that Edmund can't be trusted by
himself? And don't you know that he can't?'

'Yes, yes, Fanny. You said so, I know.'

'And you know it, I know,' retorted Fanny. 'Well, my precious
child! If he is not to be trusted by himself, it follows, I
suppose, that I should go with him?'

'It--seems so, love,' said Little Dorrit.

'Therefore, having heard the arrangements that are feasible to
carry out that object, am I to understand, dearest Amy, that on the
whole you advise me to make them?'

'It--seems so, love,' said Little Dorrit again.

'Very well,' cried Fanny with an air of resignation, 'then I
suppose it must be done! I came to you, my sweet, the moment I saw
the doubt, and the necessity of deciding. I have now decided. So
let it be.'

After yielding herself up, in this pattern manner, to sisterly
advice and the force of circumstances, Fanny became quite
benignant: as one who had laid her own inclinations at the feet of
her dearest friend, and felt a glow of conscience in having made
the sacrifice. 'After all, my Amy,' she said to her sister, 'you
are the best of small creatures, and full of good sense; and I
don't know what I shall ever do without you!'

With which words she folded her in a closer embrace, and a really
fond one.

'Not that I contemplate doing without You, Amy, by any means, for
I hope we shall ever be next to inseparable. And now, my pet, I am
going to give you a word of advice. When you are left alone here
with Mrs General--'

'I am to be left alone here with Mrs General?' said Little Dorrit,
quietly.

'Why, of course, my precious, till papa comes back! Unless you
call Edward company, which he certainly is not, even when he is
here, and still more certainly is not when he is away at Naples or
in Sicily. I was going to say--but you are such a beloved little
Marplot for putting one out--when you are left alone here with Mrs
General, Amy, don't you let her slide into any sort of artful
understanding with you that she is looking after Pa, or that Pa is
looking after her. She will if she can. I know her sly manner of
feeling her way with those gloves of hers. But don't you
comprehend her on any account. And if Pa should tell you when he
comes back, that he has it in contemplation to make Mrs General
your mama (which is not the less likely because I am going away),
my advice to you is, that you say at once," Papa, I beg to object
most strongly. Fanny cautioned me about this, and she objected,
and I object." I don't mean to say that any objection from you,
Amy, is likely to be of the smallest effect, or that I think you
likely to make it with any degree of firmness. But there is a
principle involved--a filial principle--and I implore you not to
submit to be mother-in-lawed by Mrs General, without asserting it
in making every one about you as uncomfortable as possible. I
don't expect you to stand by it--indeed, I know you won't, Pa being
concerned--but I wish to rouse you to a sense of duty. As to any
help from me, or as to any opposition that I can offer to such a
match, you shall not be left in the lurch , my love. Whatever
weight I may derive from my position as a married girl not wholly
devoid of attractions--used, as that position always shall be, to
oppose that woman--I will bring to bear, you May depend upon it, on
the head and false hair (for I am confident it's not all real, ugly
as it is and unlikely as it appears that any One in their Senses
would go to the expense of buying it) of Mrs General!'
Little Dorrit received this counsel without venturing to oppose it
but without giving Fanny any reason to believe that she intended to
act upon it. Having now, as it were, formally wound up her single
life and arranged her worldly affairs, Fanny proceeded with
characteristic ardour to prepare for the serious change in her
condition.

The preparation consisted in the despatch of her maid to Paris
under the protection of the Courier, for the purchase of that
outfit for a bride on which it would be extremely low, in the
present narrative, to bestow an English name, but to which (on a
vulgar principle it observes of adhering to the language in which
it professes to be written) it declines to give a French one. The
rich and beautiful wardrobe purchased by these agents, in the
course of a few weeks made its way through the intervening country,
bristling with custom-houses, garrisoned by an immense army of
shabby mendicants in uniform who incessantly repeated the Beggar's
Petition over it, as if every individual warrior among them were
the ancient Belisarius: and of whom there were so many Legions,
that unless the Courier had expended just one bushel and a half of
silver money relieving their distresses, they would have worn the
wardrobe out before it got to Rome, by turning it over and over.
Through all such dangers, however, it was triumphantly brought,
inch by inch, and arrived at its journey's end in fine condition.

There it was exhibited to select companies of female viewers, in
whose gentle bosoms it awakened implacable feelings. Concurrently,
active preparations were made for the day on which some of its
treasures were to be publicly displayed. Cards of breakfast-
invitation were sent out to half the English in the city of
Romulus; the other half made arrangements to be under arms, as
criticising volunteers, at various outer points of the solemnity.
The most high and illustrious English Signor Edgardo Dorrit, came
post through the deep mud and ruts (from forming a surface under
the improving Neapolitan nobility), to grace the occasion. The
best hotel and all its culinary myrmidons, were set to work to
prepare the feast. The drafts of Mr Dorrit almost constituted a
run on the Torlonia Bank. The British Consul hadn't had such a
marriage in the whole of his Consularity.

The day came, and the She-Wolf in the Capitol might have snarled
with envy to see how the Island Savages contrived these things now-
a-days. The murderous-headed statues of the wicked Emperors of the
Soldiery, whom sculptors had not been able to flatter out of their
villainous hideousness, might have come off their pedestals to run
away with the Bride. The choked old fountain, where erst the
gladiators washed, might have leaped into life again to honour the
ceremony. The Temple of Vesta might have sprung up anew from its
ruins, expressly to lend its countenance to the occasion. Might
have done; but did not. Like sentient things--even like the lords
and ladies of creation sometimes--might have done much, but did
nothing. The celebration went off with admirable pomp; monks in
black robes, white robes, and russet robes stopped to look after
the carriages; wandering peasants in fleeces of sheep, begged and
piped under the house-windows; the English volunteers defiled; the
day wore on to the hour of vespers; the festival wore away; the
thousand churches rang their bells without any reference to it; and
St Peter denied that he had anything to do with it.

But by that time the Bride was near the end of the first day's
journey towards Florence. It was the peculiarity of the nuptials
that they were all Bride. Nobody noticed the Bridegroom. Nobody
noticed the first Bridesmaid. Few could have seen Little Dorrit
(who held that post) for the glare, even supposing many to have
sought her. So, the Bride had mounted into her handsome chariot,
incidentally accompanied by the Bridegroom; and after rolling for
a few minutes smoothly over a fair pavement, had begun to jolt
through a Slough of Despond, and through a long, long avenue of
wrack and ruin. Other nuptial carriages are said to have gone the
same road, before and since.

If Little Dorrit found herself left a little lonely and a little
low that night, nothing would have done so much against her feeling
of depression as the being able to sit at work by her father, as in
the old time, and help him to his supper and his rest. But that
was not to be thought of now, when they sat in the state-equipage
with Mrs General on the coach-box. And as to supper! If Mr Dorrit
had wanted supper, there was an Italian cook and there was a Swiss
confectioner, who must have put on caps as high as the Pope's
Mitre, and have performed the mysteries of Alchemists in a copper-
saucepaned laboratory below, before he could have got it.

He was sententious and didactic that night. If he had been simply
loving, he would have done Little Dorrit more good; but she
accepted him as he was--when had she not accepted him as he was !--
and made the most and best of him. Mrs General at length retired.
Her retirement for the night was always her frostiest ceremony, as
if she felt it necessary that the human imagination should be
chilled into stone to prevent its following her. When she had gone
through her rigid preliminaries, amounting to a sort of genteel
platoon-exercise, she withdrew. Little Dorrit then put her arm
round her father's neck, to bid him good night.

'Amy, my dear,' said Mr Dorrit, taking her by the hand, 'this is
the close of a day, that has--ha--greatly impressed and gratified
me.'
'A little tired you, dear, too?'

'No,' said Mr Dorrit, 'no: I am not sensible of fatigue when it
arises from an occasion so--hum--replete with gratification of the
purest kind.'

Little Dorrit was glad to find him in such heart, and smiled from
her own heart.

'My dear,' he continued, 'this is an occasion--ha--teeming with a
good example. With a good example, my favourite and attached child
--hum--to you.'

Little Dorrit, fluttered by his words, did not know what to say,
though he stopped as if he expected her to say something.

'Amy,' he resumed; 'your dear sister, our Fanny, has contracted ha
hum--a marriage, eminently calculated to extend the basis of our--
ha--connection, and to--hum--consolidate our social relations. My
love, I trust that the time is not far distant when some--ha--
eligible partner may be found for you.'

'Oh no! Let me stay with you. I beg and pray that I may stay with
you! I want nothing but to stay and take care of you!' She said
it like one in sudden alarm.

'Nay, Amy, Amy,' said Mr Dorrit. 'This is weak and foolish, weak
and foolish. You have a--ha--responsibility imposed upon you by
your position. It is to develop that position, and be--hum --
worthy of that position. As to taking care of me; I can--ha--take
care of myself. Or,' he added after a moment, 'if I should need to
be taken care of, I--hum--can, with the--ha--blessing of
Providence, be taken care of, I--ha hum--I cannot, my dear child,
think of engrossing, and--ha--as it were, sacrificing you.'

O what a time of day at which to begin that profession of self-
denial; at which to make it, with an air of taking credit for it;
at which to believe it, if such a thing could be!

'Don't speak, Amy. I positively say I cannot do it. I--ha--must
not do it. My--hum--conscience would not allow it. I therefore,
my love, take the opportunity afforded by this gratifying and
impressive occasion of--ha--solemnly remarking, that it is now a
cherished wish and purpose of mine to see you--ha--eligibly (I
repeat eligibly) married.'

'Oh no, dear! Pray!'

'Amy,' said Mr Dorrit, 'I am well persuaded that if the topic were
referred to any person of superior social knowledge, of superior
delicacy and sense--let us say, for instance, to--ha--Mrs General--
that there would not be two opinions as to the--hum--affectionate
character and propriety of my sentiments. But, as I know your
loving and dutiful nature from--hum--from experience, I am quite
satisfied that it is necessary to say no more. I have--hum--no
husband to propose at present, my dear: I have not even one in
view. I merely wish that we should--ha--understand each other.
Hum. Good night, my dear and sole remaining daughter. Good night.

God bless you!'

If the thought ever entered Little Dorrit's head that night, that
he could give her up lightly now in his prosperity, and when he had
it in his mind to replace her with a second wife, she drove it
away. Faithful to him still, as in the worst times through which
she had borne him single-handed, she drove the thought away; and
entertained no harder reflection, in her tearful unrest, than that
he now saw everything through their wealth, and through the care he
always had upon him that they should continue rich, and grow
richer.

They sat in their equipage of state, with Mrs General on the box,
for three weeks longer, and then he started for Florence to join
Fanny. Little Dorrit would have been glad to bear him company so
far, only for the sake of her own love, and then to have turned
back alone, thinking of dear England. But, though the Courier had
gone on with the Bride, the Valet was next in the line; and the
succession would not have come to her, as long as any one could be
got for money.

Mrs General took life easily--as easily, that is, as she could take
anything--when the Roman establishment remained in their sole
occupation; and Little Dorrit would often ride out in a hired
carriage that was left them, and alight alone and wander among the
ruins of old Rome. The ruins of the vast old Amphitheatre, of the
old Temples, of the old commemorative Arches, of the old trodden
highways, of the old tombs, besides being what they were, to her
were ruins of the old Marshalsea--ruins of her own old life--ruins
of the faces and forms that of old peopled it--ruins of its loves,
hopes, cares, and joys. Two ruined spheres of action and suffering
were before the solitary girl often sitting on some broken
fragment; and in the lonely places, under the blue sky, she saw
them both together.

Up, then, would come Mrs General; taking all the colour out of
everything, as Nature and Art had taken it out of herself; writing
Prunes and Prism, in Mr Eustace's text, wherever she could lay a
hand; looking everywhere for Mr Eustace and company, and seeing
nothing else; scratching up the driest little bones of antiquity,
and bolting them whole without any human visitings--like a Ghoule
in gloves.

CHAPTER 16

Getting on

The newly married pair, on their arrival in Harley Street,
Cavendish Square, London, were received by the Chief Butler. That
great man was not interested in them, but on the whole endured
them. People must continue to be married and given in marriage, or
Chief Butlers would not be wanted. As nations are made to be
taxed, so families are made to be butlered. The Chief Butler, no
doubt, reflected that the course of nature required the wealthy
population to be kept up, on his account.

He therefore condescended to look at the carriage from the Hall-
door without frowning at it, and said, in a very handsome way, to
one of his men, 'Thomas, help with the luggage.' He even escorted
the Bride up-stairs into Mr Merdle's presence; but this must be
considered as an act of homage to the sex (of which he was an
admirer, being notoriously captivated by the charms of a certain
Duchess), and not as a committal of himself with the family.

Mr Merdle was slinking about the hearthrug, waiting to welcome Mrs
Sparkler. His hand seemed to retreat up his sleeve as he advanced
to do so, and he gave her such a superfluity of coat-cuff that it
was like being received by the popular conception of Guy Fawkes.
When he put his lips to hers, besides, he took himself into custody
by the wrists, and backed himself among the ottomans and chairs and
tables as if he were his own Police officer, saying to himself,
'Now, none of that! Come! I've got you, you know, and you go
quietly along with me!'

Mrs Sparkler, installed in the rooms of state--the innermost
sanctuary of down, silk, chintz, and fine linen--felt that so far
her triumph was good, and her way made, step by step. On the day
before her marriage, she had bestowed on Mrs Merdle's maid with an
air of gracious indifference, in Mrs Merdle's presence, a trifling
little keepsake (bracelet, bonnet, and two dresses, all new) about
four times as valuable as the present formerly made by Mrs Merdle
to her. She was now established in Mrs Merdle's own rooms, to
which some extra touches had been given to render them more worthy
of her occupation. In her mind's eye, as she lounged there,
surrounded by every luxurious accessory that wealth could obtain or
invention devise, she saw the fair bosom that beat in unison with
the exultation of her thoughts, competing with the bosom that had
been famous so long, outshining it, and deposing it. Happy? Fanny
must have been happy. No more wishing one's self dead now.

The Courier had not approved of Mr Dorrit's staying in the house of
a friend, and had preferred to take him to an hotel in Brook
Street, Grosvenor Square. Mr Merdle ordered his carriage to be
ready early in the morning that he might wait upon Mr Dorrit
immediately after breakfast.
Bright the carriage looked, sleek the horses looked, gleaming the
harness looked, luscious and lasting the liveries looked. A rich,
responsible turn-out. An equipage for a Merdle. Early people
looked after it as it rattled along the streets, and said, with awe
in their breath, 'There he goes!'

There he went, until Brook Street stopped him. Then, forth from
its magnificent case came the jewel; not lustrous in itself, but
quite the contrary.

Commotion in the office of the hotel. Merdle! The landlord,
though a gentleman of a haughty spirit who had just driven a pair
of thorough-bred horses into town, turned out to show him up-
stairs. The clerks and servants cut him off by back-passages, and
were found accidentally hovering in doorways and angles, that they
might look upon him. Merdle! O ye sun, moon, and stars, the great
man! The rich man, who had in a manner revised the New Testament,
and already entered into the kingdom of Heaven. The man who could
have any one he chose to dine with him, and who had made the money!

As he went up the stairs, people were already posted on the lower
stairs, that his shadow might fall upon them when he came down. So
were the sick brought out and laid in the track of the Apostle--who
had NOT got into the good society, and had NOT made the money.

Mr Dorrit, dressing-gowned and newspapered, was at his breakfast.
The Courier, with agitation in his voice, announced 'Miss
Mairdale!' Mr Dorrit's overwrought heart bounded as he leaped up.

'Mr Merdle, this is--ha--indeed an honour. Permit me to express
the--hum--sense, the high sense, I entertain of this--ha hum--
highly gratifying act of attention. I am well aware, sir, of the
many demands upon your time, and its--ha--enormous value,' Mr
Dorrit could not say enormous roundly enough for his own
satisfaction. 'That you should--ha--at this early hour, bestow any
of your priceless time upon me, is--ha--a compliment that I
acknowledge with the greatest esteem.' Mr Dorrit positively
trembled in addressing the great man.

Mr Merdle uttered, in his subdued, inward, hesitating voice, a few
sounds that were to no purpose whatever; and finally said, 'I am
glad to see you, sir.'

'You are very kind,' said Mr Dorrit. 'Truly kind.' By this time
the visitor was seated, and was passing his great hand over his
exhausted forehead. 'You are well, I hope, Mr Merdle?'

'I am as well as I--yes, I am as well as I usually am,' said Mr
Merdle.

'Your occupations must be immense.'

'Tolerably so. But--Oh dear no, there's not much the matter with
me,' said Mr Merdle, looking round the room.

'A little dyspeptic?' Mr Dorrit hinted.

'Very likely. But I--Oh, I am well enough,' said Mr Merdle.

There were black traces on his lips where they met, as if a little
train of gunpowder had been fired there; and he looked like a man
who, if his natural temperament had been quicker, would have been
very feverish that morning. This, and his heavy way of passing his
hand over his forehead, had prompted Mr Dorrit's solicitous
inquiries.

'Mrs Merdle,' Mr Dorrit insinuatingly pursued, 'I left, as you will
be prepared to hear, the--ha--observed of all observers, the--hum--
admired of all admirers, the leading fascination and charm of
Society in Rome. She was looking wonderfully well when I quitted
it.'

'Mrs Merdle,' said Mr Merdle, 'is generally considered a very
attractive woman. And she is, no doubt. I am sensible of her
being SO.'

'Who can be otherwise?' responded Mr Dorrit.

Mr Merdle turned his tongue in his closed mouth--it seemed rather
a stiff and unmanageable tongue--moistened his lips, passed his
hand over his forehead again, and looked all round the room again,
principally under the chairs.

'But,' he said, looking Mr Dorrit in the face for the first time,
and immediately afterwards dropping his eyes to the buttons of Mr
Dorrit's waistcoat; 'if we speak of attractions, your daughter
ought to be the subject of our conversation. She is extremely
beautiful. Both in face and figure, she is quite uncommon. When
the young people arrived last night, I was really surprised to see
such charms.'

Mr Dorrit's gratification was such that he said--ha--he could not
refrain from telling Mr Merdle verbally, as he had already done by
letter, what honour and happiness he felt in this union of their
families. And he offered his hand. Mr Merdle looked at the hand
for a little while, took it on his for a moment as if his were a
yellow salver or fish-slice, and then returned it to Mr Dorrit.

'I thought I would drive round the first thing,' said Mr Merdle,
'to offer my services, in case I can do anything for you; and to
say that I hope you will at least do me the honour of dining with
me to-day, and every day when you are not better engaged during
your stay in town.'

Mr Dorrit was enraptured by these attentions.

'Do you stay long, sir?'

'I have not at present the intention,' said Mr Dorrit, 'of --ha--
exceeding a fortnight.'

'That's a very short stay, after so long a journey,' returned Mr
Merdle.

'Hum. Yes,' said Mr Dorrit. 'But the truth is--ha--my dear Mr
Merdle, that I find a foreign life so well suited to my health and
taste, that I--hum--have but two objects in my present visit to
London. First, the--ha--the distinguished happiness and--ha --
privilege which I now enjoy and appreciate; secondly, the
arrangement--hum--the laying out, that is to say, in the best way,
of--ha, hum--my money.'

'Well, sir,' said Mr Merdle, after turning his tongue again, 'if I
can be of any use to you in that respect, you may command me.'

Mr Dorrit's speech had had more hesitation in it than usual, as he
approached the ticklish topic, for he was not perfectly clear how
so exalted a potentate might take it. He had doubts whether
reference to any individual capital, or fortune, might not seem a
wretchedly retail affair to so wholesale a dealer. Greatly
relieved by Mr Merdle's affable offer of assistance, he caught at
it directly, and heaped acknowledgments upon him.

'I scarcely--ha--dared,' said Mr Dorrit, 'I assure you, to hope for
so--hum--vast an advantage as your direct advice and assistance.
Though of course I should, under any circumstances, like the--ha,
hum--rest of the civilised world, have followed in Mr Merdle's
train.'

'You know we may almost say we are related, sir,' said Mr Merdle,
curiously interested in the pattern of the carpet, 'and, therefore,
you may consider me at your service.'

'Ha. Very handsome, indeed!' cried Mr Dorrit. 'Ha. Most
handsome!'

'it would not,' said Mr Merdle, 'be at the present moment easy for
what I may call a mere outsider to come into any of the good
things--of course I speak of my own good things--'

'Of course, of course!' cried Mr Dorrit, in a tone implying that
there were no other good things.

'--Unless at a high price. At what we are accustomed to term a
very long figure.'

Mr Dorrit laughed in the buoyancy of his spirit. Ha, ha, ha! Long
figure. Good. Ha. Very expressive to be sure!

'However,' said Mr Merdle, 'I do generally retain in my own hands
the power of exercising some preference--people in general would be
pleased to call it favour--as a sort of compliment for my care and
trouble.'
'And public spirit and genius,' Mr Dorrit suggested.

Mr Merdle, with a dry, swallowing action, seemed to dispose of
those qualities like a bolus; then added, 'As a sort of return for
it. I will see, if you please, how I can exert this limited power
(for people are jealous, and it is limited), to your advantage.'
'You are very good,' replied Mr Dorrit. 'You are very good.'

'Of course,' said Mr Merdle, 'there must be the strictest integrity
and uprightness in these transactions; there must be the purest
faith between man and man; there must be unimpeached and
unimpeachable confidence; or business could not be carried on.'

Mr Dorrit hailed these generous sentiments with fervour.

'Therefore,' said Mr Merdle, 'I can only give you a preference to
a certain extent.'

'I perceive. To a defined extent,' observed Mr Dorrit.

'Defined extent. And perfectly above-board. As to my advice,
however,' said Mr Merdle, 'that is another matter. That, such as
it is--'

Oh! Such as it was! (Mr Dorrit could not bear the faintest
appearance of its being depreciated, even by Mr Merdle himself.)

'--That, there is nothing in the bonds of spotless honour between
myself and my fellow-man to prevent my parting with, if I choose.
And that,' said Mr Merdle, now deeply intent upon a dust-cart that
was passing the windows, 'shall be at your command whenever you
think proper.'

New acknowledgments from Mr Dorrit. New passages of Mr Merdle's
hand over his forehead. Calm and silence. Contemplation of Mr
Dorrit's waistcoat buttons by Mr Merdle.

'My time being rather precious,' said Mr Merdle, suddenly getting
up, as if he had been waiting in the interval for his legs and they
had just come, 'I must be moving towards the City. Can I take you
anywhere, sir? I shall be happy to set you down, or send you on.
My carriage is at your disposal.'

Mr Dorrit bethought himself that he had business at his banker's.
His banker's was in the City. That was fortunate; Mr Merdle would
take him into the City. But, surely, he might not detain Mr Merdle
while he assumed his coat? Yes, he might and must; Mr Merdle
insisted on it. So Mr Dorrit, retiring into the next room, put
himself under the hands of his valet, and in five minutes came back
glorious.

Then said Mr Merdle, 'Allow me, sir. Take my arm!' Then leaning
on Mr Merdle's arm, did Mr Dorrit descend the staircase, seeing the
worshippers on the steps, and feeling that the light of Mr Merdle
shone by reflection in himself. Then the carriage, and the ride
into the City; and the people who looked at them; and the hats that
flew off grey heads; and the general bowing and crouching before
this wonderful mortal the like of which prostration of spirit was
not to be seen--no, by high Heaven, no! It may be worth thinking
of by Fawners of all denominations--in Westminster Abbey and Saint
Paul's Cathedral put together, on any Sunday in the year. It was
a rapturous dream to Mr Dorrit to find himself set aloft in this
public car of triumph, making a magnificent progress to that
befitting destination, the golden Street of the Lombards.

There Mr Merdle insisted on alighting and going his way a-foot, and
leaving his poor equipage at Mr Dorrit's disposition. So the dream
increased in rapture when Mr Dorrit came out of the bank alone, and
people looked at him in default of Mr Merdle, and when, with the
ears of his mind, he heard the frequent exclamation as he rolled
glibly along, 'A wonderful man to be Mr Merdle's friend!'

At dinner that day, although the occasion was not foreseen and
provided for, a brilliant company of such as are not made of the
dust of the earth, but of some superior article for the present
unknown, shed their lustrous benediction upon Mr Dorrit's
daughter's marriage. And Mr Dorrit's daughter that day began, in
earnest, her competition with that woman not present; and began it
so well that Mr Dorrit could all but have taken his affidavit, if
required, that Mrs Sparkler had all her life been lying at full
length in the lap of luxury, and had never heard of such a rough
word in the English tongue as Marshalsea.

Next day, and the day after, and every day, all graced by more
dinner company, cards descended on Mr Dorrit like theatrical snow.
As the friend and relative by marriage of the illustrious Merdle,
Bar, Bishop, Treasury, Chorus, Everybody, wanted to make or improve
Mr Dorrit's acquaintance. In Mr Merdle's heap of offices in the
City, when Mr Dorrit appeared at any of them on his business taking
him Eastward (which it frequently did, for it throve amazingly),
the name of Dorrit was always a passport to the great presence of
Merdle. So the dream increased in rapture every hour, as Mr Dorrit
felt increasingly sensible that this connection had brought him
forward indeed.

Only one thing sat otherwise than auriferously, and at the same
time lightly, on Mr Dorrit's mind. It was the Chief Butler. That
stupendous character looked at him, in the course of his official
looking at the dinners, in a manner that Mr Dorrit considered
questionable. He looked at him, as he passed through the hall and
up the staircase, going to dinner, with a glazed fixedness that Mr
Dorrit did not like. Seated at table in the act of drinking, Mr
Dorrit still saw him through his wine-glass, regarding him with a
cold and ghostly eye. It misgave him that the Chief Butler must
have known a Collegian, and must have seen him in the College--
perhaps had been presented to him. He looked as closely at the
Chief Butler as such a man could be looked at, and yet he did not
recall that he had ever seen him elsewhere. Ultimately he was
inclined to think that there was no reverence in the man, no
sentiment in the great creature. But he was not relieved by that;
for, let him think what he would, the Chief Butler had him in his
supercilious eye, even when that eye was on the plate and other
table-garniture; and he never let him out of it. To hint to him
that this confinement in his eye was disagreeable, or to ask him
what he meant, was an act too daring to venture upon; his severity
with his employers and their visitors being terrific, and he never
permitting himself to be approached with the slightest liberty.

CHAPTER 17

Missing

The term of Mr Dorrit's visit was within two days of being out, and
he was about to dress for another inspection by the Chief Butler
(whose victims were always dressed expressly for him), when one of
the servants of the hotel presented himself bearing a card. Mr
Dorrit, taking it, read:

'Mrs Finching.'

The servant waited in speechless deference.

'Man, man,' said Mr Dorrit, turning upon him with grievous
indignation, 'explain your motive in bringing me this ridiculous
name. I am wholly unacquainted with it. Finching, sir?' said Mr
Dorrit, perhaps avenging himself on the Chief Butler by Substitute.

'ha! What do you mean by Finching?'

The man, man, seemed to mean Flinching as much as anything else,
for he backed away from Mr Dorrit's severe regard, as he replied,
'A lady, sir.'

'I know no such lady, sir,' said Mr Dorrit. 'Take this card away.
I know no Finching of either sex.'

'Ask your pardon, sir. The lady said she was aware she might be
unknown by name. But she begged me to say, sir, that she had
formerly the honour of being acquainted with Miss Dorrit. The lady
said, sir, the youngest Miss Dorrit.'

Mr Dorrit knitted his brows and rejoined, after a moment or two,
'Inform Mrs Finching, sir,' emphasising the name as if the innocent
man were solely responsible for it, 'that she can come up.'

He had reflected, in his momentary pause, that unless she were
admitted she might leave some message, or might say something
below, having a disgraceful reference to that former state of
existence. Hence the concession, and hence the appearance of
Flora, piloted in by the man, man.

'I have not the pleasure,' said Mr Dorrit, standing with the card
in his hand, and with an air which imported that it would scarcely
have been a first-class pleasure if he had had it, 'of knowing
either this name, or yourself, madam. Place a chair, sir.' The
responsible man, with a start, obeyed, and went out on tiptoe.
Flora, putting aside her veil with a bashful tremor upon her,
proceeded to introduce herself. At the same time a singular
combination of perfumes was diffused through the room, as if some
brandy had been put by mistake in a lavender-water bottle, or as if
some lavender-water had been put by mistake in a brandy-bottle.

'I beg Mr Dorrit to offer a thousand apologies and indeed they
would be far too few for such an intrusion which I know must appear
extremely bold in a lady and alone too, but I thought it best upon
the whole however difficult and even apparently improper though Mr
F.'s Aunt would have willingly accompanied me and as a character of
great force and spirit would probably have struck one possessed of
such a knowledge of life as no doubt with so many changes must have
been acquired, for Mr F. himself said frequently that although well
educated in the neighbourhood of Blackheath at as high as eighty
guineas which is a good deal for parents and the plate kept back
too on going away but that is more a meanness than its value that
he had learnt more in his first years as a commercial traveller
with a large commission on the sale of an article that nobody would
hear of much less buy which preceded the wine trade a long time
than in the whole six years in that academy conducted by a college
Bachelor, though why a Bachelor more clever than a married man I do
not see and never did but pray excuse me that is not the point.'

Mr Dorrit stood rooted to the carpet, a statue of mystification.

'I must openly admit that I have no pretensions,' said Flora, 'but
having known the dear little thing which under altered
circumstances appears a liberty but is not so intended and Goodness
knows there was no favour in half-a-crown a-day to such a needle as
herself but quite the other way and as to anything lowering in it
far from it the labourer is worthy of his hire and I am sure I only
wish he got it oftener and more animal food and less rheumatism in
the back and legs poor soul.'

'Madam,' said Mr Dorrit, recovering his breath by a great effort,
as the relict of the late Mr Finching stopped to take hers;
'madam,' said Mr Dorrit, very red in the face, 'if I understand you
to refer to--ha--to anything in the antecedents of--hum--a daughter
of mine, involving--ha hum--daily compensation, madam, I beg to
observe that the--ha--fact, assuming it--ha--to be fact, never was
within my knowledge. Hum. I should not have permitted it. Ha.
Never! Never!'

'Unnecessary to pursue the subject,' returned Flora, 'and would not
have mentioned it on any account except as supposing it a
favourable and only letter of introduction but as to being fact no
doubt whatever and you may set your mind at rest for the very dress
I have on now can prove it and sweetly made though there is no
denying that it would tell better on a better figure for my own is
much too fat though how to bring it down I know not, pray excuse me
I am roving off again.'
Mr Dorrit backed to his chair in a stony way, and seated himself,
as Flora gave him a softening look and played with her parasol.

'The dear little thing,' said Flora, 'having gone off perfectly
limp and white and cold in my own house or at least papa's for
though not a freehold still a long lease at a peppercorn on the
morning when Arthur--foolish habit of our youthful days and Mr
Clennam far more adapted to existing circumstances particularly
addressing a stranger and that stranger a gentleman in an elevated
station--communicated the glad tidings imparted by a person of name
of Pancks emboldens me.'

At the mention of these two names, Mr Dorrit frowned, stared,
frowned again, hesitated with his fingers at his lips, as he had
hesitated long ago, and said, 'Do me the favour to--ha--state your
pleasure, madam.'

'Mr Dorrit,' said Flora, 'you are very kind in giving me permission
and highly natural it seems to me that you should be kind for
though more stately I perceive a likeness filled out of course but
a likeness still, the object of my intruding is my own without the
slightest consultation with any human being and most decidedly not
with Arthur--pray excuse me Doyce and Clennam I don't know what I
am saying Mr Clennam solus--for to put that individual linked by a
golden chain to a purple time when all was ethereal out of any
anxiety would be worth to me the ransom of a monarch not that I
have the least idea how much that would come to but using it as the
total of all I have in the world and more.'

Mr Dorrit, without greatly regarding the earnestness of these
latter words, repeated, 'State your pleasure, madam.'

'It's not likely I well know,' said Flora, 'but it's possible and
being possible when I had the gratification of reading in the
papers that you had arrived from Italy and were going back I made
up my mind to try it for you might come across him or hear
something of him and if so what a blessing and relief to all!'

'Allow me to ask, madam,' said Mr Dorrit, with his ideas in wild
confusion, 'to whom--ha--To whom,' he repeated it with a raised
voice in mere desperation, 'you at present allude?'

'To the foreigner from Italy who disappeared in the City as no
doubt you have read in the papers equally with myself,' said Flora,
'not referring to private sources by the name of Pancks from which
one gathers what dreadfully ill-natured things some people are
wicked enough to whisper most likely judging others by themselves
and what the uneasiness and indignation of Arthur--quite unable to
overcome it Doyce and Clennam--cannot fail to be.'

It happened, fortunately for the elucidation of any intelligible
result, that Mr Dorrit had heard or read nothing about the matter.
This caused Mrs Finching, with many apologies for being in great
practical difficulties as to finding the way to her pocket among
the stripes of her dress at length to produce a police handbill,
setting forth that a foreign gentleman of the name of Blandois,
last from Venice, had unaccountably disappeared on such a night in
such a part of the city of London; that he was known to have
entered such a house, at such an hour; that he was stated by the
inmates of that house to have left it, about so many minutes before
midnight; and that he had never been beheld since. This, with
exact particulars of time and locality, and with a good detailed
description of the foreign gentleman who had so mysteriously
vanished, Mr Dorrit read at large.

'Blandois!' said Mr Dorrit. 'Venice! And this description! I
know this gentleman. He has been in my house. He is intimately
acquainted with a gentleman of good family (but in indifferent
circumstances), of whom I am a--hum--patron.'

'Then my humble and pressing entreaty is the more,' said Flora,
'that in travelling back you will have the kindness to look for
this foreign gentleman along all the roads and up and down all the
turnings and to make inquiries for him at all the hotels and
orange-trees and vineyards and volcanoes and places for he must be
somewhere and why doesn't he come forward and say he's there and
clear all parties up?'

'Pray, madam,' said Mr Dorrit, referring to the handbill again,
'who is Clennam and Co.? Ha. I see the name mentioned here, in
connection with the occupation of the house which Monsieur Blandois
was seen to enter: who is Clennam and Co.? Is it the individual of
whom I had formerly--hum--some--ha--slight transitory knowledge,
and to whom I believe you have referred? Is it--ha--that person?'

'It's a very different person indeed,' replied Flora, 'with no
limbs and wheels instead and the grimmest of women though his
mother.'

'Clennam and Co. a--hum--a mother!' exclaimed Mr Dorrit.

'And an old man besides,' said Flora.

Mr Dorrit looked as if he must immediately be driven out of his
mind by this account. Neither was it rendered more favourable to
sanity by Flora's dashing into a rapid analysis of Mr Flintwinch's
cravat, and describing him, without the lightest boundary line of
separation between his identity and Mrs Clennam's, as a rusty screw
in gaiters. Which compound of man and woman, no limbs, wheels,
rusty screw, grimness, and gaiters, so completely stupefied Mr
Dorrit, that he was a spectacle to be pitied.
'But I would not detain you one moment longer,' said Flora, upon
whom his condition wrought its effect, though she was quite
unconscious of having produced it, 'if you would have the goodness
to give your promise as a gentleman that both in going back to
Italy and in Italy too you would look for this Mr Blandois high and
low and if you found or heard of him make him come forward for the
clearing of all parties.'
By that time Mr Dorrit had so far recovered from his bewilderment,
as to be able to say, in a tolerably connected manner, that he
should consider that his duty. Flora was delighted with her
success, and rose to take her leave.

'With a million thanks,' said she, 'and my address upon my card in
case of anything to be communicated personally, I will not send my
love to the dear little thing for it might not be acceptable, and
indeed there is no dear little thing left in the transformation so
why do it but both myself and Mr F.'s Aunt ever wish her well and
lay no claim to any favour on our side you may be sure of that but
quite the other way for what she undertook to do she did and that
is more than a great many of us do, not to say anything of her
doing it as Well as it could be done and I myself am one of them
for I have said ever since I began to recover the blow of Mr F's
death that I would learn the Organ of which I am extremely fond but
of which I am ashamed to say I do not yet know a note, good
evening!'

When Mr Dorrit, who attended her to the room-door, had had a little
time to collect his senses, he found that the interview had
summoned back discarded reminiscences which jarred with the Merdle
dinner-table. He wrote and sent off a brief note excusing himself
for that day, and ordered dinner presently in his own rooms at the
hotel. He had another reason for this. His time in London was
very nearly out, and was anticipated by engagements; his plans were
made for returning; and he thought it behoved his importance to
pursue some direct inquiry into the Blandois disappearance, and be
in a condition to carry back to Mr Henry Gowan the result of his
own personal investigation. He therefore resolved that he would
take advantage of that evening's freedom to go down to Clennam and
Co.'s, easily to be found by the direction set forth in the
handbill; and see the place, and ask a question or two there
himself.

Having dined as plainly as the establishment and the Courier would
let him, and having taken a short sleep by the fire for his better
recovery from Mrs Finching, he set out in a hackney-cabriolet
alone. The deep bell of St Paul's was striking nine as he passed
under the shadow of Temple Bar, headless and forlorn in these
degenerate days.

As he approached his destination through the by-streets and water-
side ways, that part of London seemed to him an uglier spot at such
an hour than he had ever supposed it to be. Many long years had
passed since he had seen it; he had never known much of it; and it
wore a mysterious and dismal aspect in his eyes. So powerfully was
his imagination impressed by it, that when his driver stopped,
after having asked the way more than once, and said to the best of
his belief this was the gateway they wanted, Mr Dorrit stood
hesitating, with the coach-door in his hand, half afraid of the
dark look of the place.

Truly, it looked as gloomy that night as even it had ever looked.
Two of the handbills were posted on the entrance wall, one on
either side, and as the lamp flickered in the night air, shadows
passed over them, not unlike the shadows of fingers following the
lines. A watch was evidently kept upon the place. As Mr Dorrit
paused, a man passed in from over the way, and another man passed
out from some dark corner within; and both looked at him in
passing, and both remained standing about.

As there was only one house in the enclosure, there was no room for
uncertainty, so he went up the steps of that house and knocked.
There was a dim light in two windows on the first-floor. The door
gave back a dreary, vacant sound, as though the house were empty;
but it was not, for a light was visible, and a step was audible,
almost directly. They both came to the door, and a chain grated,
and a woman with her apron thrown over her face and head stood in
the aperture.

'Who is it?' said the woman.

Mr Dorrit, much amazed by this appearance, replied that he was from
Italy, and that he wished to ask a question relative to the missing
person, whom he knew.

'Hi!' cried the woman, raising a cracked voice. 'Jeremiah!'

Upon this, a dry old man appeared, whom Mr Dorrit thought he
identified by his gaiters, as the rusty screw. The woman was Under
apprehensions of the dry old man, for she whisked her apron away as
he approached, and disclosed a pale affrighted face. 'Open the
door, you fool,' said the old man; 'and let the gentleman in.'

Mr Dorrit, not without a glance over his shoulder towards his
driver and the cabriolet, walked into the dim hall. 'Now, sir,'
said Mr Flintwinch, 'you can ask anything here you think proper;
there are no secrets here, sir.'

Before a reply could be made, a strong stern voice, though a
woman's, called from above, 'Who is it?'

'Who is it?' returned Jeremiah. 'More inquiries. A gentleman from
Italy.'

'Bring him up here!'

Mr Flintwinch muttered, as if he deemed that unnecessary; but,
turning to Mr Dorrit, said, 'Mrs Clennam. She will do as she
likes. I'll show you the way.' He then preceded Mr Dorrit up the
blackened staircase; that gentleman, not unnaturally looking behind
him on the road, saw the woman following, with her apron thrown
over her head again in her former ghastly manner.

Mrs Clennam had her books open on her little table. 'Oh!' said she
abruptly, as she eyed her visitor with a steady look. 'You are
from Italy, sir, are you. Well?'
Mr Dorrit was at a loss for any more distinct rejoinder at the
moment than 'Ha--well?'

'Where is this missing man? Have you come to give us information
where he is? I hope you have?'

'So far from it, I--hum--have come to seek information.'
'Unfortunately for us, there is none to be got here. Flintwinch,
show the gentleman the handbill. Give him several to take away.
Hold the light for him to read it.'

Mr Flintwinch did as he was directed, and Mr Dorrit read it
through, as if he had not previously seen it; glad enough of the
opportunity of collecting his presence of mind, which the air of
the house and of the people in it had a little disturbed. While
his eyes were on the paper, he felt that the eyes of Mr Flintwinch
and of Mrs Clennam were on him. He found, when he looked up, that
this sensation was not a fanciful one.

'Now you know as much,' said Mrs Clennam, 'as we know, sir. Is Mr
Blandois a friend of yours?'

'No--a--hum--an acquaintance,' answered Mr Dorrit.

'You have no commission from him, perhaps?'

'I? Ha. Certainly not.'

The searching look turned gradually to the floor, after taking Mr
Flintwinch's face in its way. Mr Dorrit, discomfited by finding
that he was the questioned instead of the questioner, applied
himself to the reversal of that unexpected order of things.

'I am--ha--a gentleman of property, at present residing in Italy
with my family, my servants, and--hum--my rather large
establishment. Being in London for a short time on affairs
connected with--ha--my estate, and hearing of this strange
disappearance, I wished to make myself acquainted with the
circumstances at first-hand, because there is--ha hum--an English
gentleman in Italy whom I shall no doubt see on my return, who has
been in habits of close and daily intimacy with Monsieur Blandois.
Mr Henry Gowan. You may know the name.'

'Never heard of it.'
Mrs Clennam said it, and Mr Flintwinch echoed it.

'Wishing to--ha--make the narrative coherent and consecutive to
him,' said Mr Dorrit, 'may I ask--say, three questions?'

'Thirty, if you choose.'

'Have you known Monsieur Blandois long?'

'Not a twelvemonth. Mr Flintwinch here, will refer to the books
and tell you when, and by whom at Paris he was introduced to us.
If that,' Mrs Clennam added, 'should be any satisfaction to you.
It is poor satisfaction to us.'

'Have you seen him often?'

'No. Twice. Once before, and--'
'That once,' suggested Mr Flintwinch.

'And that once.'

'Pray, madam,' said Mr Dorrit, with a growing fancy upon him as he
recovered his importance, that he was in some superior way in the
Commission of the Peace; 'pray, madam, may I inquire, for the
greater satisfaction of the gentleman whom I have the honour to--
ha--retain, or protect or let me say to--hum--know--to know--Was
Monsieur Blandois here on business on the night indicated in this
present sheet?'

'On what he called business,' returned Mrs Clennam.

'Is--ha--excuse me--is its nature to be communicated?'

'No.'

It was evidently impracticable to pass the barrier of that reply.

'The question has been asked before,' said Mrs Clennam, 'and the
answer has been, No. We don't choose to publish our transactions,
however unimportant, to all the town. We say, No.'

'I mean, he took away no money with him, for example,' said Mr
Dorrit.

'He took away none of ours, sir, and got none here.'

'I suppose,' observed Mr Dorrit, glancing from Mrs Clennam to Mr
Flintwinch, and from Mr Flintwinch to Mrs Clennam, 'you have no way
of accounting to yourself for this mystery?'

'Why do you suppose so?' rejoined Mrs Clennam.

Disconcerted by the cold and hard inquiry, Mr Dorrit was unable to
assign any reason for his supposing so.

'I account for it, sir,' she pursued after an awkward silence on Mr
Dorrit's part, 'by having no doubt that he is travelling somewhere,
or hiding somewhere.'

'Do you know--ha--why he should hide anywhere?'

'No.'

It was exactly the same No as before, and put another barrier up.
'You asked me if I accounted for the disappearance to myself,' Mrs
Clennam sternly reminded him, 'not if I accounted for it to you.
I do not pretend to account for it to you, sir. I understand it to
be no more my business to do that, than it is yours to require
that.'

Mr Dorrit answered with an apologetic bend of his head. As he
stepped back, preparatory to saying he had no more to ask, he could
not but observe how gloomily and fixedly she sat with her eyes
fastened on the ground, and a certain air upon her of resolute
waiting; also, how exactly the self-same expression was reflected
in Mr Flintwinch, standing at a little distance from her chair,
with his eyes also on the ground, and his right hand softly rubbing
his chin.

At that moment, Mistress Affery (of course, the woman with the
apron) dropped the candlestick she held, and cried out, 'There! O
good Lord! there it is again. Hark, Jeremiah! Now!'

If there were any sound at all, it was so slight that she must have
fallen into a confirmed habit of listening for sounds; but Mr
Dorrit believed he did hear a something, like the falling of dry
leaves. The woman's terror, for a very short space, seemed to
touch the three; and they all listened.

Mr Flintwinch was the first to stir. 'Affery, my woman,' said he,
sidling at her with his fists clenched, and his elbows quivering
with impatience to shake her, 'you are at your old tricks. You'll
be walking in your sleep next, my woman, and playing the whole
round of your distempered antics. You must have some physic. When
I have shown this gentleman out, I'll make you up such a
comfortable dose, my woman; such a comfortable dose!'

It did not appear altogether comfortable in expectation to Mistress
Affery; but Jeremiah, without further reference to his healing
medicine, took another candle from Mrs Clennam's table, and said,
'Now, sir; shall I light you down?'

Mr Dorrit professed himself obliged, and went down. Mr Flintwinch
shut him out, and chained him out, without a moment's loss of time.

He was again passed by the two men, one going out and the other
coming in; got into the vehicle he had left waiting, and was driven
away.

Before he had gone far, the driver stopped to let him know that he
had given his name, number, and address to the two men, on their
joint requisition; and also the address at which he had taken Mr
Dorrit up, the hour at which he had been called from his stand and
the way by which he had come. This did not make the night's
adventure run any less hotly in Mr Dorrit's mind, either when he
sat down by his fire again, or when he went to bed. All night he
haunted the dismal house, saw the two people resolutely waiting,
heard the woman with her apron over her face cry out about the
noise, and found the body of the missing Blandois, now buried in
the cellar, and now bricked up in a wall.

CHAPTER 18

A Castle in the Air

Manifold are the cares of wealth and state. Mr Dorrit's
satisfaction in remembering that it had not been necessary for him
to announce himself to Clennam and Co., or to make an allusion to
his having had any knowledge of the intrusive person of that name,
had been damped over-night, while it was still fresh, by a debate
that arose within him whether or no he should take the Marshalsea
in his way back, and look at the old gate. He had decided not to
do so; and had astonished the coachman by being very fierce with
him for proposing to go over London Bridge and recross the river by
Waterloo Bridge--a course which would have taken him almost within
sight of his old quarters. Still, for all that, the question had
raised a conflict in his breast; and, for some odd reason or no
reason, he was vaguely dissatisfied. Even at the Merdle dinner-
table next day, he was so out of sorts about it that he continued
at intervals to turn it over and over, in a manner frightfully
inconsistent with the good society surrounding him. It made him
hot to think what the Chief Butler's opinion of him would have
been, if that illustrious personage could have plumbed with that
heavy eye of his the stream of his meditations.

The farewell banquet was of a gorgeous nature, and wound up his
visit in a most brilliant manner. Fanny combined with the
attractions of her youth and beauty, a certain weight of self-
sustainment as if she had been married twenty years. He felt that
he could leave her with a quiet mind to tread the paths of
distinction, and wished--but without abatement of patronage, and
without prejudice to the retiring virtues of his favourite child--
that he had such another daughter.

'My dear,' he told her at parting, 'our family looks to you
to--ha--assert its dignity and--hum--maintain its importance. I
know you will never disappoint it.'

'No, papa,' said Fanny, 'you may rely upon that, I think. My best
love to dearest Amy, and I will write to her very soon.'

'Shall I convey any message to--ha--anybody else?' asked Mr Dorrit,
in an insinuating manner.

'Papa,' said Fanny, before whom Mrs General instantly loomed, 'no,
I thank you. You are very kind, Pa, but I must beg to be excused.
There is no other message to send, I thank you, dear papa, that it
would be at all agreeable to you to take.'

They parted in an outer drawing-room, where only Mr Sparkler waited
on his lady, and dutifully bided his time for shaking hands. When
Mr Sparkler was admitted to this closing audience, Mr Merdle came
creeping in with not much more appearance of arms in his sleeves
than if he had been the twin brother of Miss Biffin, and insisted
on escorting Mr Dorrit down-stairs. All Mr Dorrit's protestations
being in vain, he enjoyed the honour of being accompanied to the
hall-door by this distinguished man, who (as Mr Dorrit told him in
shaking hands on the step) had really overwhelmed him with
attentions and services during this memorable visit. Thus they
parted; Mr Dorrit entering his carriage with a swelling breast, not
at all sorry that his Courier, who had come to take leave in the
lower regions, should have an opportunity of beholding the grandeur
of his departure.

The aforesaid grandeur was yet full upon Mr Dorrit when he alighted
at his hotel. Helped out by the Courier and some half-dozen of the
hotel servants, he was passing through the hall with a serene
magnificence, when lo! a sight presented itself that struck him
dumb and motionless. John Chivery, in his best clothes, with his
tall hat under his arm, his ivory-handled cane genteelly
embarrassing his deportment, and a bundle of cigars in his hand!

'Now, young man,' said the porter. 'This is the gentleman. This
young man has persisted in waiting, sir, saying you would be glad
to see him.'

Mr Dorrit glared on the young man, choked, and said, in the mildest
of tones, 'Ah! Young John! It is Young John, I think; is it not?'

'Yes, sir,' returned Young John.

'I--ha--thought it was Young john!' said Mr Dorrit. 'The young man
may come up,' turning to the attendants, as he passed on: 'oh yes,
he may come up. Let Young John follow. I will speak to him
above.'

Young John followed, smiling and much gratified. Mr Dorrit's rooms
were reached. Candles were lighted. The attendants withdrew.

'Now, sir,' said Mr Dorrit, turning round upon him and seizing him
by the collar when they were safely alone. 'What do you mean by
this?'

The amazement and horror depicted in the unfortunate john's face--
for he had rather expected to be embraced next--were of that
powerfully expressive nature that Mr Dorrit withdrew his hand and
merely glared at him.

'How dare you do this?' said Mr Dorrit. 'How do you presume to
come here? How dare you insult me?'

'I insult you, sir?' cried Young John. 'Oh!'

'Yes, sir,' returned Mr Dorrit. 'Insult me. Your coming here is
an affront, an impertinence, an audacity. You are not wanted here.

Who sent you here? What--ha--the Devil do you do here?'

'I thought, sir,' said Young John, with as pale and shocked a face
as ever had been turned to Mr Dorrit's in his life--even in his
College life: 'I thought, sir, you mightn't object to have the
goodness to accept a bundle--'

'Damn your bundle, sir!' cried Mr Dorrit, in irrepressible rage.
'I--hum--don't smoke.'

'I humbly beg your pardon, sir. You used to.'

'Tell me that again,' cried Mr Dorrit, quite beside himself, 'and
I'll take the poker to you!'

John Chivery backed to the door.

'Stop, sir!' cried Mr Dorrit. 'Stop! Sit down. Confound you,

sit down!'

John Chivery dropped into the chair nearest the door, and Mr Dorrit
walked up and down the room; rapidly at first; then, more slowly.
Once, he went to the window, and stood there with his forehead
against the glass. All of a sudden, he turned and said:

'What else did you come for, Sir?'

'Nothing else in the world, sir. Oh dear me! Only to say, Sir,
that I hoped you was well, and only to ask if Miss Amy was Well?'

'What's that to you, sir?' retorted Mr Dorrit.

'It's nothing to me, sir, by rights. I never thought of lessening
the distance betwixt us, I am sure. I know it's a liberty, sir,
but I never thought you'd have taken it ill. Upon my word and
honour, sir,' said Young John, with emotion, 'in my poor way, I am
too proud to have come, I assure you, if I had thought so.'

Mr Dorrit was ashamed. He went back to the window, and leaned his
forehead against the glass for some time. When he turned, he had
his handkerchief in his hand, and he had been wiping his eyes with
it, and he looked tired and ill.

'Young John, I am very sorry to have been hasty with you, but--ha--
some remembrances are not happy remembrances, and--hum--you
shouldn't have come.'

'I feel that now, sir,' returned John Chivery; 'but I didn't
before, and Heaven knows I meant no harm, sir.'

'No. No,' said Mr Dorrit. 'I am--hum--sure of that. Ha. Give me
your hand, Young John, give me your hand.'

Young John gave it; but Mr Dorrit had driven his heart out of it,
and nothing could change his face now, from its white, shocked
look.

'There!' said Mr Dorrit, slowly shaking hands with him. 'Sit down
again, Young John.'

'Thank you, sir--but I'd rather stand.'

Mr Dorrit sat down instead. After painfully holding his head a
little while, he turned it to his visitor, and said, with an effort
to be easy:

'And how is your father, Young John? How--ha--how are they all,
Young John?'

'Thank you, sir, They're all pretty well, sir. They're not any
ways complaining.'

'Hum. You are in your--ha--old business I see, John?' said Mr
Dorrit, with a glance at the offending bundle he had anathematised.

'Partly, sir. I am in my'--John hesitated a little--'father's
business likewise.'

'Oh indeed!' said Mr Dorrit. 'Do you--ha hum--go upon the ha--'

'Lock, sir? Yes, sir.'

'Much to do, John?'

'Yes, sir; we're pretty heavy at present. I don't know how it is,
but we generally ARE pretty heavy.'

'At this time of the year, Young John?'

'Mostly at all times of the year, sir. I don't know the time that
makes much difference to us. I wish you good night, sir.'

'Stay a moment, John--ha--stay a moment. Hum. Leave me the
cigars, John, I--ha--beg.'

'Certainly, sir.' John put them, with a trembling hand, on the
table.

'Stay a moment, Young John; stay another moment. It would be
a--ha--a gratification to me to send a little--hum--Testimonial, by
such a trusty messenger, to be divided among--ha hum--them--them--
according to their wants. Would you object to take

it, John?'

'Not in any ways, sir. There's many of them, I'm sure, that would
be the better for it.'

'Thank you, John. I--ha--I'll write it, John.'

His hand shook so that he was a long time writing it, and wrote it
in a tremulous scrawl at last. It was a cheque for one hundred
pounds. He folded it up, put it in Young john's hand, and pressed
the hand in his.

'I hope you'll--ha--overlook--hum--what has passed, John.'

'Don't speak of it, sir, on any accounts. I don't in any ways bear
malice, I'm sure.'

But nothing while John was there could change John's face to its
natural colour and expression, or restore John's natural manner.

'And, John,' said Mr Dorrit, giving his hand a final pressure, and
releasing it, 'I hope we--ha--agree that we have spoken together in
confidence; and that you will abstain, in going out, from saying
anything to any one that might--hum--suggest that--ha--once I--'

'Oh! I assure you, sir,' returned John Chivery, 'in my poor humble
way, sir, I'm too proud and honourable to do it, sir.'

Mr Dorrit was not too proud and honourable to listen at the door
that he might ascertain for himself whether John really went
straight out, or lingered to have any talk with any one. There was
no doubt that he went direct out at the door, and away down the
street with a quick step. After remaining alone for an hour, Mr
Dorrit rang for the Courier, who found him with his chair on the
hearth-rug, sitting with his back towards him and his face to the
fire. 'You can take that bundle of cigars to smoke on the journey,
if you like,' said Mr Dorrit, with a careless wave of his hand.
'Ha--brought by--hum--little offering from--ha--son of old tenant
of mine.'

Next morning's sun saw Mr Dorrit's equipage upon the Dover road,
where every red-jacketed postilion was the sign of a cruel house,
established for the unmerciful plundering of travellers. The whole
business of the human race, between London and Dover, being
spoliation, Mr Dorrit was waylaid at Dartford, pillaged at
Gravesend, rifled at Rochester, fleeced at Sittingbourne, and
sacked at Canterbury. However, it being the Courier's business to
get him out of the hands of the banditti, the Courier brought him
off at every stage; and so the red-jackets went gleaming merrily
along the spring landscape, rising and falling to a regular
measure, between Mr Dorrit in his snug corner and the next chalky
rise in the dusty highway.

Another day's sun saw him at Calais. And having now got the
Channel between himself and John Chivery, he began to feel safe,
and to find that the foreign air was lighter to breathe than the
air of England.

On again by the heavy French roads for Paris. Having now quite
recovered his equanimity, Mr Dorrit, in his snug corner, fell to
castle-building as he rode along. It was evident that he had a
very large castle in hand. All day long he was running towers up,
taking towers down, adding a wing here, putting on a battlement
there, looking to the walls, strengthening the defences, giving
ornamental touches to the interior, making in all respects a superb
castle of it. His preoccupied face so clearly denoted the pursuit
in which he was engaged, that every cripple at the post-houses, not
blind, who shoved his little battered tin-box in at the carriage
window for Charity in the name of Heaven, Charity in the name of
our Lady, Charity in the name of all the Saints, knew as well what
work he was at, as their countryman Le Brun could have known it
himself, though he had made that English traveller the subject of
a special physiognomical treatise.

Arrived at Paris, and resting there three days, Mr Dorrit strolled
much about the streets alone, looking in at the shop-windows, and
particularly the jewellers' windows. Ultimately, he went into the
most famous jeweller's, and said he wanted to buy a little gift for
a lady.

It was a charming little woman to whom he said it--a sprightly
little woman, dressed in perfect taste, who came out of a green
velvet bower to attend upon him, from posting up some dainty little
books of account which one could hardly suppose to be ruled for the
entry of any articles more commercial than kisses, at a dainty
little shining desk which looked in itself like a sweetmeat.

For example, then, said the little woman, what species of gift did
Monsieur desire? A love-gift?

Mr Dorrit smiled, and said, Eh, well! Perhaps. What did he know?
It was always possible; the sex being so charming. Would she show
him some?

Most willingly, said the little woman. Flattered and enchanted to
show him many. But pardon! To begin with, he would have the great
goodness to observe that there were love-gifts, and there were
nuptial gifts. For example, these ravishing ear-rings and this
necklace so superb to correspond, were what one called a love-
gift. These brooches and these rings, of a beauty so gracious and
celestial, were what one called, with the permission of Monsieur,
nuptial gifts.

Perhaps it would be a good arrangement, Mr Dorrit hinted, smiling,
to purchase both, and to present the love-gift first, and to finish
with the nuptial offering?

Ah Heaven! said the little woman, laying the tips of the fingers
of her two little hands against each other, that would be generous
indeed, that would be a special gallantry! And without doubt the

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