Home | Site Map
| Little Dorrit - Table of Contents
The time being come for the renewal of his acquaintance with the
Meagles family, Clennam, pursuant to contract made between himself
and Mr Meagles within the precincts of Bleeding Heart Yard, turned
his face on a certain Saturday towards Twickenham, where Mr Meagles
had a cottage-residence of his own. The weather being fine and
dry, and any English road abounding in interest for him who had
been so long away, he sent his valise on by the coach, and set out
to walk. A walk was in itself a new enjoyment to him, and one that
had rarely diversified his life afar off.
He went by Fulham and Putney, for the pleasure of strolling over
the heath. It was bright and shining there; and when he found
himself so far on his road to Twickenham, he found himself a long
way on his road to a number of airier and less substantial
destinations. They had risen before him fast, in the healthful
exercise and the pleasant road. It is not easy to walk alone in
the country without musing upon something. And he had plenty of
unsettled subjects to meditate upon, though he had been walking to
the Land's End.
First, there was the subject seldom absent from his mind, the
question, what he was to do henceforth in life; to what occupation
he should devote himself, and in what direction he had best seek
it. He was far from rich, and every day of indecision and inaction
made his inheritance a source of greater anxiety to him. As often
as he began to consider how to increase this inheritance, or to lay
it by, so often his misgiving that there was some one with an
unsatisfied claim upon his justice, returned; and that alone was a
subject to outlast the longest walk. Again, there was the subject
of his relations with his mother, which were now upon an equable
and peaceful but never confidential footing, and whom he saw
several times a week. Little Dorrit was a leading and a constant
subject: for the circumstances of his life, united to those of her
own story, presented the little creature to him as the only person
between whom and himself there were ties of innocent reliance on
one hand, and affectionate protection on the other; ties of
compassion, respect, unselfish interest, gratitude, and pity.
Thinking of her, and of the possibility of her father's release
from prison by the unbarring hand of death--the only change of
circumstance he could foresee that might enable him to be such a
friend to her as he wished to be, by altering her whole manner of
life, smoothing her rough road, and giving her a home--he regarded
her, in that perspective, as his adopted daughter, his poor child
of the Marshalsea hushed to rest. If there were a last subject in
his thoughts, and it lay towards Twickenham, its form was so
indefinite that it was little more than the pervading atmosphere in
which these other subjects floated before him.
He had crossed the heath and was leaving it behind when he gained
upon a figure which had been in advance of him for some time, and
which, as he gained upon it, he thought he knew. He derived this
impression from something in the turn of the head, and in the
figure's action of consideration, as it went on at a sufficiently
sturdy walk. But when the man--for it was a man's figure--pushed
his hat up at the back of his head, and stopped to consider some
object before him, he knew it to be Daniel Doyce.
'How do you do, Mr Doyce?' said Clennam, overtaking him. 'I am
glad to see you again, and in a healthier place than the
'Ha! Mr Meagles's friend!' exclaimed that public criminal, coming
out of some mental combinations he had been making, and offering
his hand. 'I am glad to see you, sir. Will you excuse me if I
forget your name?'
'Readily. It's not a celebrated name. It's not Barnacle.'
'No, no,' said Daniel, laughing. 'And now I know what it is. It's
Clennam. How do you do, Mr Clennam?'
'I have some hope,' said Arthur, as they walked on together, 'that
we may be going to the same place, Mr Doyce.'
'Meaning Twickenham?' returned Daniel. 'I am glad to hear it.'
They were soon quite intimate, and lightened the way with a variety
of conversation. The ingenious culprit was a man of great modesty
and good sense; and, though a plain man, had been too much
accustomed to combine what was original and daring in conception
with what was patient and minute in execution, to be by any means
an ordinary man. It was at first difficult to lead him to speak
about himself, and he put off Arthur's advances in that direction
by admitting slightly, oh yes, he had done this, and he had done
that, and such a thing was of his making, and such another thing
was his discovery, but it was his trade, you see, his trade; until,
as he gradually became assured that his companion had a real
interest in his account of himself, he frankly yielded to it. Then
it appeared that he was the son of a north-country blacksmith, and
had originally been apprenticed by his widowed mother to a lock-
maker; that he had 'struck out a few little things' at the lock-
maker's, which had led to his being released from his indentures
with a present, which present had enabled him to gratify his ardent
wish to bind himself to a working engineer, under whom he had
laboured hard, learned hard, and lived hard, seven years. His time
being out, he had 'worked in the shop' at weekly wages seven or
eight years more; and had then betaken himself to the banks of the
Clyde, where he had studied, and filed, and hammered, and improved
his knowledge, theoretical and practical, for six or seven years
more. There he had had an offer to go to Lyons, which he had
accepted; and from Lyons had been engaged to go to Germany, and in
Germany had had an offer to go to St Petersburg, and there had done
very well indeed--never better. However, he had naturally felt a
preference for his own country, and a wish to gain distinction
there, and to do whatever service he could do, there rather than
elsewhere. And so he had come home. And so at home he had
established himself in business, and had invented and executed, and
worked his way on, until, after a dozen years of constant suit and
service, he had been enrolled in the Great British Legion of
Honour, the Legion of the Rebuffed of the Circumlocution Office,
and had been decorated with the Great British Order of Merit, the
Order of the Disorder of the Barnacles and Stiltstalkings.
'it is much to be regretted,' said Clennam, 'that you ever turned
your thoughts that way, Mr Doyce.'
'True, sir, true to a certain extent. But what is a man to do? if
he has the misfortune to strike out something serviceable to the
nation, he must follow where it leads him.'
'Hadn't he better let it go?' said Clennam.
'He can't do it,' said Doyce, shaking his head with a thoughtful
smile. 'It's not put into his head to be buried. It's put into
his head to be made useful. You hold your life on the condition
that to the last you shall struggle hard for it. Every man holds
a discovery on the same terms.'
'That is to say,' said Arthur, with a growing admiration of his
quiet companion, 'you are not finally discouraged even now?'
'I have no right to be, if I am,' returned the other. 'The thing
is as true as it ever was.'
When they had walked a little way in silence, Clennam, at once to
change the direct point of their conversation and not to change it
too abruptly, asked Mr Doyce if he had any partner in his business
to relieve him of a portion of its anxieties?
'No,' he returned, 'not at present. I had when I first entered on
it, and a good man he was. But he has been dead some years; and as
I could not easily take to the notion of another when I lost him,
I bought his share for myself and have gone on by myself ever
since. And here's another thing,' he said, stopping for a moment
with a good-humoured laugh in his eyes, and laying his closed right
hand, with its peculiar suppleness of thumb, on Clennam's arm, 'no
inventor can be a man of business, you know.'
'No?' said Clennam.
'Why, so the men of business say,' he answered, resuming the walk
and laughing outright. 'I don't know why we unfortunate creatures
should be supposed to want common sense, but it is generally taken
for granted that we do. Even the best friend I have in the world,
our excellent friend over yonder,' said Doyce, nodding towards
Twickenham, 'extends a sort of protection to me, don't you know, as
a man not quite able to take care of himself?'
Arthur Clennam could not help joining in the good-humoured laugh,
for he recognised the truth of the description.
'So I find that I must have a partner who is a man of business and
not guilty of any inventions,' said Daniel Doyce, taking off his
hat to pass his hand over his forehead, 'if it's only in deference
to the current opinion, and to uphold the credit of the Works. I
don't think he'll find that I have been very remiss or confused in
my way of conducting them; but that's for him to say--whoever he
is--not for me.'
'You have not chosen him yet, then?'
'No, sir, no. I have only just come to a decision to take one.
The fact is, there's more to do than there used to be, and the
Works are enough for me as I grow older. What with the books and
correspondence, and foreign journeys for which a Principal is
necessary, I can't do all. I am going to talk over the best way of
negotiating the matter, if I find a spare half-hour between this
and Monday morning, with my--my Nurse and protector,' said Doyce,
with laughing eyes again. 'He is a sagacious man in business, and
has had a good apprenticeship to it.'
After this, they conversed on different subjects until they arrived
at their journey's end. A composed and unobtrusive self-
sustainment was noticeable in Daniel Doyce--a calm knowledge that
what was true must remain true, in spite of all the Barnacles in
the family ocean, and would be just the truth, and neither more nor
less when even that sea had run dry--which had a kind of greatness
in it, though not of the official quality.
As he knew the house well, he conducted Arthur to it by the way
that showed it to the best advantage. It was a charming place
(none the worse for being a little eccentric), on the road by the
river, and just what the residence of the Meagles family ought to
be. It stood in a garden, no doubt as fresh and beautiful in the
May of the Year as Pet now was in the May of her life; and it was
defended by a goodly show of handsome trees and spreading
evergreens, as Pet was by Mr and Mrs Meagles. It was made out of
an old brick house, of which a part had been altogether pulled
down, and another part had been changed into the present cottage;
so there was a hale elderly portion, to represent Mr and Mrs
Meagles, and a young picturesque, very pretty portion to represent
Pet. There was even the later addition of a conservatory
sheltering itself against it, uncertain of hue in its deep-stained
glass, and in its more transparent portions flashing to the sun's
rays, now like fire and now like harmless water drops; which might
have stood for Tattycoram. Within view was the peaceful river and
the ferry-boat, to moralise to all the inmates saying: Young or
old, passionate or tranquil, chafing or content, you, thus runs the
current always. Let the heart swell into what discord it will,
thus plays the rippling water on the prow of the ferry-boat ever
the same tune. Year after year, so much allowance for the drifting
of the boat, so many miles an hour the flowing of the stream, here
the rushes, there the lilies, nothing uncertain or unquiet, upon
this road that steadily runs away; while you, upon your flowing
road of time, are so capricious and distracted.
The bell at the gate had scarcely sounded when Mr Meagles came out
to receive them. Mr Meagles had scarcely come out, when Mrs
Meagles came out. Mrs Meagles had scarcely come out, when Pet came
out. Pet scarcely had come out, when Tattycoram came out. Never
had visitors a more hospitable reception.
'Here we are, you see,' said Mr Meagles, 'boxed up, Mr Clennam,
within our own home-limits, as if we were never going to expand--
that is, travel--again. Not like Marseilles, eh? No allonging and
'A different kind of beauty, indeed!' said Clennam, looking about
'But, Lord bless me!' cried Mr Meagles, rubbing his hands with a
relish, 'it was an uncommonly pleasant thing being in quarantine,
wasn't it? Do you know, I have often wished myself back again? We
were a capital party.'
This was Mr Meagles's invariable habit. Always to object to
everything while he was travelling, and always to want to get back
to it when he was not travelling.
'If it was summer-time,' said Mr Meagles, 'which I wish it was on
your account, and in order that you might see the place at its
best, you would hardly be able to hear yourself speak for birds.
Being practical people, we never allow anybody to scare the birds;
and the birds, being practical people too, come about us in
myriads. We are delighted to see you, Clennam (if you'll allow me,
I shall drop the Mister); I heartily assure you, we are delighted.'
'I have not had so pleasant a greeting,' said Clennam--then he
recalled what Little Dorrit had said to him in his own room, and
faithfully added 'except once--since we last walked to and fro,
looking down at the Mediterranean.'
'Ah!' returned Mr Meagles. 'Something like a look out, that was,
wasn't it? I don't want a military government, but I shouldn't
mind a little allonging and marshonging--just a dash of it--in this
neighbourhood sometimes. It's Devilish still.'
Bestowing this eulogium on the retired character of his retreat
with a dubious shake of the head, Mr Meagles led the way into the
house. It was just large enough, and no more; was as pretty within
as it was without, and was perfectly well-arranged and comfortable.
Some traces of the migratory habits of the family were to be
observed in the covered frames and furniture, and wrapped-up
hangings; but it was easy to see that it was one of Mr Meagles's
whims to have the cottage always kept, in their absence, as if they
were always coming back the day after to-morrow. Of articles
collected on his various expeditions, there was such a vast
miscellany that it was like the dwelling of an amiable Corsair.
There were antiquities from Central Italy, made by the best modern
houses in that department of industry; bits of mummy from Egypt
(and perhaps Birmingham); model gondolas from Venice; model
villages from Switzerland; morsels of tesselated pavement from
Herculaneum and Pompeii, like petrified minced veal; ashes out of
tombs, and lava out of Vesuvius; Spanish fans, Spezzian straw hats,
Moorish slippers, Tuscan hairpins, Carrara sculpture, Trastaverini
scarves, Genoese velvets and filigree, Neapolitan coral, Roman
cameos, Geneva jewellery, Arab lanterns, rosaries blest all round
by the Pope himself, and an infinite variety of lumber. There were
views, like and unlike, of a multitude of places; and there was one
little picture-room devoted to a few of the regular sticky old
Saints, with sinews like whipcord, hair like Neptune's, wrinkles
like tattooing, and such coats of varnish that every holy personage
served for a fly-trap, and became what is now called in the vulgar
tongue a Catch-em-alive O. Of these pictorial acquisitions Mr
Meagles spoke in the usual manner. He was no judge, he said,
except of what pleased himself; he had picked them up, dirt-cheap,
and people had considered them rather fine. One man, who at any
rate ought to know something of the subject, had declared that
'Sage, Reading' (a specially oily old gentleman in a blanket, with
a swan's-down tippet for a beard, and a web of cracks all over him
like rich pie-crust), to be a fine Guercino. As for Sebastian del
Piombo there, you would judge for yourself; if it were not his
later manner, the question was, Who was it? Titian, that might or
might not be--perhaps he had only touched it. Daniel Doyce said
perhaps he hadn't touched it, but Mr Meagles rather declined to
overhear the remark.
When he had shown all his spoils, Mr Meagles took them into his own
snug room overlooking the lawn, which was fitted up in part like a
dressing-room and in part like an office, and in which, upon a kind
of counter-desk, were a pair of brass scales for weighing gold, and
a scoop for shovelling out money.
'Here they are, you see,' said Mr Meagles. 'I stood behind these
two articles five-and-thirty years running, when I no more thought
of gadding about than I now think of--staying at home. When I left
the Bank for good, I asked for them, and brought them away with me.
I mention it at once, or you might suppose that I sit in my
counting-house (as Pet says I do), like the king in the poem of the
four-and-twenty blackbirds, counting out my money.'
Clennam's eyes had strayed to a natural picture on the wall, of two
pretty little girls with their arms entwined. 'Yes, Clennam,' said
Mr Meagles, in a lower voice. 'There they both are. It was taken
some seventeen years ago. As I often say to Mother, they were
'Their names?' said Arthur.
'Ah, to be sure! You have never heard any name but Pet. Pet's
name is Minnie; her sister's Lillie.'
'Should you have known, Mr Clennam, that one of them was meant for
me?' asked Pet herself, now standing in the doorway.
'I might have thought that both of them were meant for you, both
are still so like you. Indeed,' said Clennam, glancing from the
fair original to the picture and back, 'I cannot even now say which
is not your portrait.'
'D'ye hear that, Mother?' cried Mr Meagles to his wife, who had
followed her daughter. 'It's always the same, Clennam; nobody can
decide. The child to your left is Pet.'
The picture happened to be near a looking-glass. As Arthur looked
at it again, he saw, by the reflection of the mirror, Tattycoram
stop in passing outside the door, listen to what was going on, and
pass away with an angry and contemptuous frown upon her face, that
changed its beauty into ugliness.
'But come!' said Mr Meagles. 'You have had a long walk, and will
be glad to get your boots off. As to Daniel here, I suppose he'd
never think of taking his boots off, unless we showed him a boot-
'Why not?' asked Daniel, with a significant smile at Clennam.
'Oh! You have so many things to think about,' returned Mr Meagles,
clapping him on the shoulder, as if his weakness must not be left
to itself on any account. 'Figures, and wheels, and cogs, and
levers, and screws, and cylinders, and a thousand things.'
'In my calling,' said Daniel, amused, 'the greater usually includes
the less. But never mind, never mind! Whatever pleases you,
Clennam could not help speculating, as he seated himself in his
room by the fire, whether there might be in the breast of this
honest, affectionate, and cordial Mr Meagles, any microscopic
portion of the mustard-seed that had sprung up into the great tree
of the Circumlocution Office. His curious sense of a general
superiority to Daniel Doyce, which seemed to be founded, not so
much on anything in Doyce's personal character as on the mere fact
of his being an originator and a man out of the beaten track of
other men, suggested the idea. It might have occupied him until he
went down to dinner an hour afterwards, if he had not had another
question to consider, which had been in his mind so long ago as
before he was in quarantine at Marseilles, and which had now
returned to it, and was very urgent with it. No less a question
than this: Whether he should allow himself to fall in love with
He was twice her age. (He changed the leg he had crossed over the
other, and tried the calculation again, but could not bring out the
total at less.) He was twice her age. Well! He was young in
appearance, young in health and strength, young in heart. A man
was certainly not old at forty; and many men were not in
circumstances to marry, or did not marry, until they had attained
that time of life. On the other hand, the question was, not what
he thought of the point, but what she thought of it.
He believed that Mr Meagles was disposed to entertain a ripe regard
for him, and he knew that he had a sincere regard for Mr Meagles
and his good wife. He could foresee that to relinquish this
beautiful only child, of whom they were so fond, to any husband,
would be a trial of their love which perhaps they never yet had had
the fortitude to contemplate. But the more beautiful and winning
and charming she, the nearer they must always be to the necessity
of approaching it. And why not in his favour, as well as in
When he had got so far, it came again into his head that the
question was, not what they thought of it, but what she thought of
Arthur Clennam was a retiring man, with a sense of many
deficiencies; and he so exalted the merits of the beautiful Minnie
in his mind, and depressed his own, that when he pinned himself to
this point, his hopes began to fail him. He came to the final
resolution, as he made himself ready for dinner, that he would not
allow himself to fall in love with Pet.
There were only five, at a round table, and it was very pleasant
indeed. They had so many places and people to recall, and they
were all so easy and cheerful together (Daniel Doyce either sitting
out like an amused spectator at cards, or coming in with some
shrewd little experiences of his own, when it happened to be to the
purpose), that they might have been together twenty times, and not
have known so much of one another.
'And Miss Wade,' said Mr Meagles, after they had recalled a number
of fellow-travellers. 'Has anybody seen Miss Wade?'
'I have,' said Tattycoram.
She had brought a little mantle which her young mistress had sent
for, and was bending over her, putting it on, when she lifted up
her dark eyes and made this unexpected answer.
'Tatty!' her young mistress exclaimed. 'You seen Miss Wade?--
'Here, miss,' said Tattycoram.
An impatient glance from Tattycoram seemed, as Clennam saw it, to
answer 'With my eyes!' But her only answer in words was: 'I met
her near the church.'
'What was she doing there I wonder!' said Mr Meagles. 'Not going
to it, I should think.'
'She had written to me first,' said Tattycoram.
'Oh, Tatty!' murmured her mistress, 'take your hands away. I feel
as if some one else was touching me!'
She said it in a quick involuntary way, but half playfully, and not
more petulantly or disagreeably than a favourite child might have
done, who laughed next moment. Tattycoram set her full red lips
together, and crossed her arms upon her bosom.
'Did you wish to know, sir,' she said, looking at Mr Meagles, 'what
Miss Wade wrote to me about?'
'Well, Tattycoram,' returned Mr Meagles, 'since you ask the
question, and we are all friends here, perhaps you may as well
mention it, if you are so inclined.'
'She knew, when we were travelling, where you lived,' said
Tattycoram, 'and she had seen me not quite--not quite--'
'Not quite in a good temper, Tattycoram?' suggested Mr Meagles,
shaking his head at the dark eyes with a quiet caution. 'Take a
little time--count five-and-twenty, Tattycoram.'
She pressed her lips together again, and took a long deep breath.
'So she wrote to me to say that if I ever felt myself hurt,' she
looked down at her young mistress, 'or found myself worried,' she
looked down at her again, 'I might go to her, and be considerately
treated. I was to think of it, and could speak to her by the
church. So I went there to thank her.'
'Tatty,' said her young mistress, putting her hand up over her
shoulder that the other might take it, 'Miss Wade almost frightened
me when we parted, and I scarcely like to think of her just now as
having been so near me without my knowing it. Tatty dear!'
Tatty stood for a moment, immovable.
'Hey?' cried Mr Meagles. 'Count another five-and-twenty,
She might have counted a dozen, when she bent and put her lips to
the caressing hand. It patted her cheek, as it touched the owner's
beautiful curls, and Tattycoram went away.
'Now there,' said Mr Meagles softly, as he gave a turn to the dumb-
waiter on his right hand to twirl the sugar towards himself.
'There's a girl who might be lost and ruined, if she wasn't among
practical people. Mother and I know, solely from being practical,
that there are times when that girl's whole nature seems to roughen
itself against seeing us so bound up in Pet. No father and mother
were bound up in her, poor soul. I don't like to think of the way
in which that unfortunate child, with all that passion and protest
in her, feels when she hears the Fifth Commandment on a Sunday. I
am always inclined to call out, Church, Count five-and-twenty,
Besides his dumb-waiter, Mr Meagles had two other not dumb waiters
in the persons of two parlour-maids with rosy faces and bright
eyes, who were a highly ornamental part of the table decoration.
'And why not, you see?' said Mr Meagles on this head. 'As I always
say to Mother, why not have something pretty to look at, if you
have anything at all?'
A certain Mrs Tickit, who was Cook and Housekeeper when the family
were at home, and Housekeeper only when the family were away,
completed the establishment. Mr Meagles regretted that the nature
of the duties in which she was engaged, rendered Mrs Tickit
unpresentable at present, but hoped to introduce her to the new
visitor to-morrow. She was an important part of the Cottage, he
said, and all his friends knew her. That was her picture up in the
corner. When they went away, she always put on the silk-gown and
the jet-black row of curls represented in that portrait (her hair
was reddish-grey in the kitchen), established herself in the
breakfast-room, put her spectacles between two particular leaves of
Doctor Buchan's Domestic Medicine, and sat looking over the blind
all day until they came back again. It was supposed that no
persuasion could be invented which would induce Mrs Tickit to
abandon her post at the blind, however long their absence, or to
dispense with the attendance of Dr Buchan; the lucubrations of
which learned practitioner, Mr Meagles implicitly believed she had
never yet consulted to the extent of one word in her life.
In the evening they played an old-fashioned rubber; and Pet sat
looking over her father's hand, or singing to herself by fits and
starts at the piano. She was a spoilt child; but how could she be
otherwise? Who could be much with so pliable and beautiful a
creature, and not yield to her endearing influence? Who could pass
an evening in the house, and not love her for the grace and charm
of her very presence in the room? This was Clennam's reflection,
notwithstanding the final conclusion at which he had arrived up-
In making it, he revoked. 'Why, what are you thinking of, my good
sir?' asked the astonished Mr Meagles, who was his partner.
'I beg your pardon. Nothing,' returned Clennam.
'Think of something, next time; that's a dear fellow,' said Mr
Pet laughingly believed he had been thinking of Miss Wade.
'Why of Miss Wade, Pet?' asked her father.
'Why, indeed!' said Arthur Clennam.
Pet coloured a little, and went to the piano again.
As they broke up for the night, Arthur overheard Doyce ask his host
if he could give him half an hour's conversation before breakfast
in the morning? The host replying willingly, Arthur lingered
behind a moment, having his own word to add to that topic.
'Mr Meagles,' he said, on their being left alone, 'do you remember
when you advised me to go straight to London?'
'And when you gave me some other good advice which I needed at that
'I won't say what it was worth,' answered Mr Meagles: 'but of
course I remember our being very pleasant and confidential
'I have acted on your advice; and having disembarrassed myself of
an occupation that was painful to me for many reasons, wish to
devote myself and what means I have, to another pursuit.'
'Right! You can't do it too soon,' said Mr Meagles.
'Now, as I came down to-day, I found that your friend, Mr Doyce, is
looking for a partner in his business--not a partner in his
mechanical knowledge, but in the ways and means of turning the
business arising from it to the best account.'
'Just so,' said Mr Meagles, with his hands in his pockets, and with
the old business expression of face that had belonged to the scales
'Mr Doyce mentioned incidentally, in the course of our
conversation, that he was going to take your valuable advice on the
subject of finding such a partner. If you should think our views
and opportunities at all likely to coincide, perhaps you will let
him know my available position. I speak, of course, in ignorance
of the details, and they may be unsuitable on both sides.'
'No doubt, no doubt,' said Mr Meagles, with the caution belonging
to the scales and scoop.
'But they will be a question of figures and accounts--'
'Just so, just so,' said Mr Meagles, with arithmetical solidity
belonging to the scales and scoop.
'--And I shall be glad to enter into the subject, provided Mr Doyce
responds, and you think well of it. If you will at present,
therefore, allow me to place it in your hands, you will much oblige
'Clennam, I accept the trust with readiness,' said Mr Meagles.
'And without anticipating any of the points which you, as a man of
business, have of course reserved, I am free to say to you that I
think something may come of this. Of one thing you may be
perfectly certain. Daniel is an honest man.'
'I am so sure of it that I have promptly made up my mind to speak
'You must guide him, you know; you must steer him; you must direct
him; he is one of a crotchety sort,' said Mr Meagles, evidently
meaning nothing more than that he did new things and went new ways;
'but he is as honest as the sun, and so good night!'
Clennam went back to his room, sat down again before his fire, and
made up his mind that he was glad he had resolved not to fall in
love with Pet. She was so beautiful, so amiable, so apt to receive
any true impression given to her gentle nature and her innocent
heart, and make the man who should be so happy as to communicate
it, the most fortunate and enviable of all men, that he was very
glad indeed he had come to that conclusion.
But, as this might have been a reason for coming to the opposite
conclusion, he followed out the theme again a little way in his
mind; to justify himself, perhaps.
'Suppose that a man,' so his thoughts ran, 'who had been of age
some twenty years or so; who was a diffident man, from the
circumstances of his youth; who was rather a grave man, from the
tenor of his life; who knew himself to be deficient in many little
engaging qualities which he admired in others, from having been
long in a distant region, with nothing softening near him; who had
no kind sisters to present to her; who had no congenial home to
make her known in; who was a stranger in the land; who had not a
fortune to compensate, in any measure, for these defects; who had
nothing in his favour but his honest love and his general wish to
do right--suppose such a man were to come to this house, and were
to yield to the captivation of this charming girl, and were to
persuade himself that he could hope to win her; what a weakness it
He softly opened his window, and looked out upon the serene river.
Year after year so much allowance for the drifting of the ferry-
boat, so many miles an hour the flowing of the stream, here the
rushes, there the lilies, nothing uncertain or unquiet.
Why should he be vexed or sore at heart? It was not his weakness
that he had imagined. It was nobody's, nobody's within his
knowledge; why should it trouble him? And yet it did trouble him.
And he thought--who has not thought for a moment, sometimes?--that
it might be better to flow away monotonously, like the river, and
to compound for its insensibility to happiness with its
insensibility to pain.