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The Pupil of the Marshalsea
The day was sunny, and the Marshalsea, with the hot noon striking
upon it, was unwontedly quiet. Arthur Clennam dropped into a
solitary arm-chair, itself as faded as any debtor in the jail, and
yielded himself to his thoughts.
In the unnatural peace of having gone through the dreaded arrest,
and got there,--the first change of feeling which the prison most
commonly induced, and from which dangerous resting-place so many
men had slipped down to the depths of degradation and disgrace by
so many ways,--he could think of some passages in his life, almost
as if he were removed from them into another state of existence.
Taking into account where he was, the interest that had first
brought him there when he had been free to keep away, and the
gentle presence that was equally inseparable from the walls and
bars about him and from the impalpable remembrances of his later
life which no walls or bars could imprison, it was not remarkable
that everything his memory turned upon should bring him round again
to Little Dorrit. Yet it was remarkable to him; not because of the
fact itself, but because of the reminder it brought with it, how
much the dear little creature had influenced his better
None of us clearly know to whom or to what we are indebted in this
wise, until some marked stop in the whirling wheel of life brings
the right perception with it. It comes with sickness, it comes
with sorrow, it comes with the loss of the dearly loved, it is one
of the most frequent uses of adversity. It came to Clennam in his
adversity, strongly and tenderly. 'When I first gathered myself
together,' he thought, 'and set something like purpose before my
jaded eyes, whom had I before me, toiling on, for a good object's
sake, without encouragement, without notice, against ignoble
obstacles that would have turned an army of received heroes and
heroines? One weak girl! When I tried to conquer my misplaced
love, and to be generous to the man who was more fortunate than I,
though he should never know it or repay me with a gracious word, in
whom had I watched patience, self-denial, self-subdual, charitable
construction, the noblest generosity of the affections? In the
same poor girl! If I, a man, with a man's advantages and means and
energies, had slighted the whisper in my heart, that if my father
had erred, it was my first duty to conceal the fault and to repair
it, what youthful figure with tender feet going almost bare on the
damp ground, with spare hands ever working, with its slight shape
but half protected from the sharp weather, would have stood before
me to put me to shame? Little Dorrit's.' So always as he sat
alone in the faded chair, thinking. Always, Little Dorrit. Until
it seemed to him as if he met the reward of having wandered away
from her, and suffered anything to pass between him and his
remembrance of her virtues.
His door was opened, and the head of the elder Chivery was put in
a very little way, without being turned towards him.
'I am off the Lock, Mr Clennam, and going out. Can I do anything
'Many thanks. Nothing.'
'You'll excuse me opening the door,' said Mr Chivery; 'but I
couldn't make you hear.'
'Did you knock?'
Rousing himself, Clennam observed that the prison had awakened from
its noontide doze, that the inmates were loitering about the shady
yard, and that it was late in the afternoon. He had been thinking
'Your things is come,' said Mr Chivery, 'and my son is going to
carry 'em up. I should have sent 'em up but for his wishing to
carry 'em himself. Indeed he would have 'em himself, and so I
couldn't send 'em up. Mr Clennam, could I say a word to you?'
'Pray come in,' said Arthur; for Mr Chivery's head was still put in
at the door a very little way, and Mr Chivery had but one ear upon
him, instead of both eyes. This was native delicacy in Mr Chivery
--true politeness; though his exterior had very much of a turnkey
about it, and not the least of a gentleman.
'Thank you, sir,' said Mr Chivery, without advancing; 'it's no odds
me coming in. Mr Clennam, don't you take no notice of my son (if
you'll be so good) in case you find him cut up anyways difficult.
My son has a 'art, and my son's 'art is in the right place. Me and
his mother knows where to find it, and we find it sitiwated
With this mysterious speech, Mr Chivery took his ear away and shut
the door. He might have been gone ten minutes, when his son
'Here's your portmanteau,' he said to Arthur, putting it carefully
'It's very kind of you. I am ashamed that you should have the
He was gone before it came to that; but soon returned, saying
exactly as before, 'Here's your black box:' which he also put down
'I am very sensible of this attention. I hope we may shake hands
now, Mr John.'
Young John, however, drew back, turning his right wrist in a socket
made of his left thumb and middle-finger and said as he had said at
first, 'I don't know as I can. No; I find I can't!' He then stood
regarding the prisoner sternly, though with a swelling humour in
his eyes that looked like pity.
'Why are you angry with me,' said Clennam, 'and yet so ready to do
me these kind services? There must be some mistake between us. If
I have done anything to occasion it I am sorry.'
'No mistake, sir,' returned John, turning the wrist backwards and
forwards in the socket, for which it was rather tight. 'No
mistake, sir, in the feelings with which my eyes behold you at the
present moment! If I was at all fairly equal to your weight, Mr
Clennam--which I am not; and if you weren't under a cloud--which
you are; and if it wasn't against all rules of the Marshalsea--
which it is; those feelings are such, that they would stimulate me,
more to having it out with you in a Round on the present spot than
to anything else I could name.'
Arthur looked at him for a moment in some wonder, and some little
anger. 'Well, well!' he said. 'A mistake, a mistake!' Turning
away, he sat down with a heavy sigh in the faded chair again.
Young John followed him with his eyes, and, after a short pause,
cried out, 'I beg your pardon!'
'Freely granted,' said Clennam, waving his hand without raising his
sunken head. 'Say no more. I am not worth it.'
'This furniture, sir,' said Young John in a voice of mild and soft
explanation, 'belongs to me. I am in the habit of letting it out
to parties without furniture, that have the room. It an't much,
but it's at your service. Free, I mean. I could not think of
letting you have it on any other terms. You're welcome to it for
Arthur raised his head again to thank him, and to say he could not
accept the favour. John was still turning his wrist, and still
contending with himself in his former divided manner.
'What is the matter between us?' said Arthur.
'I decline to name it, sir,' returned Young John, suddenly turning
loud and sharp. 'Nothing's the matter.'
Arthur looked at him again, in vain, for an explanation of his
behaviour. After a while, Arthur turned away his head again.
Young John said, presently afterwards, with the utmost mildness:
'The little round table, sir, that's nigh your elbow, was--you know
whose--I needn't mention him--he died a great gentleman. I bought
it of an individual that he gave it to, and that lived here after
him. But the individual wasn't any ways equal to him. Most
individuals would find it hard to come up to his level.'
Arthur drew the little table nearer, rested his arm upon it, and
kept it there.
'Perhaps you may not be aware, sir,' said Young John, 'that I
intruded upon him when he was over here in London. On the whole he
was of opinion that it WAS an intrusion, though he was so good as
to ask me to sit down and to inquire after father and all other old
friends. Leastways humblest acquaintances. He looked, to me, a
good deal changed, and I said so when I came back. I asked him if
Miss Amy was well--'
'And she was?'
'I should have thought you would have known without putting the
question to such as me,' returned Young John, after appearing to
take a large invisible pill. 'Since you do put me the question, I
am sorry I can't answer it. But the truth is, he looked upon the
inquiry as a liberty, and said, "What was that to me?" It was then
I became quite aware I was intruding: of which I had been fearful
before. However, he spoke very handsome afterwards; very
They were both silent for several minutes: except that Young John
remarked, at about the middle of the pause, 'He both spoke and
acted very handsome.'
It was again Young John who broke the silence by inquiring:
'If it's not a liberty, how long may it be your intentions, sir, to
go without eating and drinking?'
'I have not felt the want of anything yet,' returned Clennam. 'I
have no appetite just now.'
'The more reason why you should take some support, sir,' urged
Young John. 'If you find yourself going on sitting here for hours
and hours partaking of no refreshment because you have no appetite,
why then you should and must partake of refreshment without an
appetite. I'm going to have tea in my own apartment. If it's not
a liberty, please to come and take a cup. Or I can bring a tray
here in two minutes.'
Feeling that Young John would impose that trouble on himself if he
refused, and also feeling anxious to show that he bore in mind both
the elder Mr Chivery's entreaty, and the younger Mr Chivery's
apology, Arthur rose and expressed his willingness to take a cup of
tea in Mr john's apartment. Young John locked his door for him as
they went out, slided the key into his pocket with great dexterity,
and led the way to his own residence.
It was at the top of the house nearest to the gateway. It was the
room to which Clennam had hurried on the day when the enriched
family had left the prison for ever, and where he had lifted her
insensible from the floor. He foresaw where they were going as
soon as their feet touched the staircase. The room was so far
changed that it was papered now, and had been repainted, and was
far more comfortably furnished; but he could recall it just as he
had seen it in that single glance, when he raised her from the
ground and carried her down to the carriage.
Young John looked hard at him, biting his fingers.
'I see you recollect the room, Mr Clennam?'
'I recollect it well, Heaven bless her!'
Oblivious of the tea, Young John continued to bite his fingers and
to look at his visitor, as long as his visitor continued to glance
about the room. Finally, he made a start at the teapot, gustily
rattled a quantity of tea into it from a canister, and set off for
the common kitchen to fill it with hot water.
The room was so eloquent to Clennam in the changed circumstances of
his return to the miserable Marshalsea; it spoke to him so
mournfully of her, and of his loss of her; that it would have gone
hard with him to resist it, even though he had not been alone.
Alone, he did not try. He had his hand on the insensible wall as
tenderly as if it had been herself that he touched, and pronounced
her name in a low voice. He stood at the window, looking over the
prison-parapet with its grim spiked border, and breathed a
benediction through the summer haze towards the distant land where
she was rich and prosperous.
Young John was some time absent, and, when he came back, showed
that he had been outside by bringing with him fresh butter in a
cabbage leaf, some thin slices of boiled ham in another cabbage
leaf, and a little basket of water-cresses and salad herbs. When
these were arranged upon the table to his satisfaction, they sat
down to tea.
Clennam tried to do honour to the meal, but unavailingly. The ham
sickened him, the bread seemed to turn to sand in his mouth. He
could force nothing upon himself but a cup of tea.
'Try a little something green,' said Young John, handing him the
He took a sprig or so of water-cress, and tried again; but the
bread turned to a heavier sand than before, and the ham (though it
was good enough of itself) seemed to blow a faint simoom of ham
through the whole Marshalsea.
'Try a little more something green, sir,' said Young John; and
again handed the basket.
It was so like handing green meat into the cage of a dull
imprisoned bird, and John had so evidently brought the little
basket as a handful of fresh relief from the stale hot paving-
stones and bricks of the jail, that Clennam said, with a smile, 'It
was very kind of you to think of putting this between the wires;
but I cannot even get this down to-day.'
As if the difficulty were contagious, Young John soon pushed away
his own plate, and fell to folding the cabbage-leaf that had
contained the ham. When he had folded it into a number of layers,
one over another, so that it was small in the palm of his hand, he
began to flatten it between both his hands, and to eye Clennam
'I wonder,' he at length said, compressing his green packet with
some force, 'that if it's not worth your while to take care of
yourself for your own sake, it's not worth doing for some one
'Truly,' returned Arthur, with a sigh and a smile, 'I don't know
'Mr Clennam,' said John, warmly, 'I am surprised that a gentleman
who is capable of the straightforwardness that you are capable of,
should be capable of the mean action of making me such an answer.
Mr Clennam, I am surprised that a gentleman who is capable of
having a heart of his own, should be capable of the heartlessness
of treating mine in that way. I am astonished at it, sir. Really
and truly I am astonished!'
Having got upon his feet to emphasise his concluding words, Young
John sat down again, and fell to rolling his green packet on his
right leg; never taking his eyes off Clennam, but surveying him
with a fixed look of indignant reproach.
'I had got over it, sir,' said John. 'I had conquered it, knowing
that it must be conquered, and had come to the resolution to think
no more about it. I shouldn't have given my mind to it again, I
hope, if to this prison you had not been brought, and in an hour
unfortunate for me, this day!' (In his agitation Young John
adopted his mother's powerful construction of sentences.) 'When you
first came upon me, sir, in the Lodge, this day, more as if a Upas
tree had been made a capture of than a private defendant, such
mingled streams of feelings broke loose again within me, that
everything was for the first few minutes swept away before them,
and I was going round and round in a vortex. I got out of it. I
struggled, and got out of it. If it was the last word I had to
speak, against that vortex with my utmost powers I strove, and out
of it I came. I argued that if I had been rude, apologies was due,
and those apologies without a question of demeaning, I did make.
And now, when I've been so wishful to show that one thought is next
to being a holy one with me and goes before all others--now, after
all, you dodge me when I ever so gently hint at it, and throw me
back upon myself. For, do not, sir,' said Young John, 'do not be
so base as to deny that dodge you do, and thrown me back upon
myself you have!'
All amazement, Arthur gazed at him like one lost, only saying,
'What is it? What do you mean, John?' But, John, being in that
state of mind in which nothing would seem to be more impossible to
a certain class of people than the giving of an answer, went ahead
'I hadn't,' John declared, 'no, I hadn't, and I never had the
audaciousness to think, I am sure, that all was anything but lost.
I hadn't, no, why should I say I hadn't if I ever had, any hope
that it was possible to be so blest, not after the words that
passed, not even if barriers insurmountable had not been raised!
But is that a reason why I am to have no memory, why I am to have
no thoughts, why I am to have no sacred spots, nor anything?'
'What can you mean?' cried Arthur.
'It's all very well to trample on it, sir,' John went on, scouring
a very prairie of wild words, 'if a person can make up his mind to
be guilty of the action. It's all very well to trample on it, but
it's there. It may be that it couldn't be trampled upon if it
wasn't there. But that doesn't make it gentlemanly, that doesn't
make it honourable, that doesn't justify throwing a person back
upon himself after he has struggled and strived out of himself like
a butterfly. The world may sneer at a turnkey, but he's a man--
when he isn't a woman, which among female criminals he's expected
Ridiculous as the incoherence of his talk was, there was yet a
truthfulness in Young john's simple, sentimental character, and a
sense of being wounded in some very tender respect, expressed in
his burning face and in the agitation of his voice and manner,
which Arthur must have been cruel to disregard. He turned his
thoughts back to the starting-point of this unknown injury; and in
the meantime Young John, having rolled his green packet pretty
round, cut it carefully into three pieces, and laid it on a plate
as if it were some particular delicacy.
'It seems to me just possible,' said Arthur, when he had retraced
the conversation to the water-cresses and back again, 'that you
have made some reference to Miss Dorrit.'
'It is just possible, sir,' returned John Chivery.
'I don't understand it. I hope I may not be so unlucky as to make
you think I mean to offend you again, for I never have meant to
offend you yet, when I say I don't understand it.'
'Sir,' said Young John, 'will you have the perfidy to deny that you
know and long have known that I felt towards Miss Dorrit, call it
not the presumption of love, but adoration and sacrifice ?'
'Indeed, John, I will not have any perfidy if I know it; why you
should suspect me of it I am at a loss to think. Did you ever hear
from Mrs Chivery, your mother, that I went to see her once?'
'No, sir,' returned John, shortly. 'Never heard of such a thing.'
'But I did. Can you imagine why?'
'No, sir,' returned John, shortly. 'I can't imagine why.'
'I will tell you. I was solicitous to promote Miss Dorrit's
happiness; and if I could have supposed that Miss Dorrit returned
Poor John Chivery turned crimson to the tips of his ears. 'Miss
Dorrit never did, sir. I wish to be honourable and true, so far as
in my humble way I can, and I would scorn to pretend for a moment
that she ever did, or that she ever led me to believe she did; no,
nor even that it was ever to be expected in any cool reason that
she would or could. She was far above me in all respects at all
times. As likewise,' added John, 'similarly was her gen-teel
His chivalrous feeling towards all that belonged to her made him so
very respectable, in spite of his small stature and his rather weak
legs, and his very weak hair, and his poetical temperament, that a
Goliath might have sat in his place demanding less consideration at
'You speak, john,' he said, with cordial admiration, 'like a Man.'
'Well, sir,' returned John, brushing his hand across his eyes,
'then I wish you'd do the same.'
He was quick with this unexpected retort, and it again made Arthur
regard him with a wondering expression of face.
'Leastways,' said John, stretching his hand across the tea-tray,
'if too strong a remark, withdrawn! But, why not, why not? When
I say to you, Mr Clennam, take care of yourself for some one else's
sake, why not be open, though a turnkey? Why did I get you the
room which I knew you'd like best? Why did I carry up your things?
Not that I found 'em heavy; I don't mention 'em on that accounts;
far from it. Why have I cultivated you in the manner I have done
since the morning? On the ground of your own merits? No. They're
very great, I've no doubt at all; but not on the ground of them.
Another's merits have had their weight, and have had far more
weight with Me. Then why not speak free?'
'Unaffectedly, John,' said Clennam, 'you are so good a fellow and
I have so true a respect for your character, that if I have
appeared to be less sensible than I really am of the fact that the
kind services you have rendered me to-day are attributable to my
having been trusted by Miss Dorrit as her friend--I confess it to
be a fault, and I ask your forgiveness.'
'Oh! why not,' John repeated with returning scorn, 'why not speak
'I declare to you,' returned Arthur, 'that I do not understand you.
Look at me. Consider the trouble I have been in. Is it likely
that I would wilfully add to my other self-reproaches, that of
being ungrateful or treacherous to you. I do not understand you.'
john's incredulous face slowly softened into a face of doubt. He
rose, backed into the garret-window of the room, beckoned Arthur to
come there, and stood looking at him thoughtfully.
'Mr Clennam, do you mean to say that you don't know?'
'Lord,' said Young John, appealing with a gasp to the spikes on the
wall. 'He says, What!'
Clennam looked at the spikes, and looked at John; and looked at the
spikes, and looked at John.
'He says What! And what is more,' exclaimed Young John, surveying
him in a doleful maze, 'he appears to mean it! Do you see this
'Of course I see this window.'
'See this room?'
'Why, of course I see this room.'
'That wall opposite, and that yard down below? They have all been
witnesses of it, from day to day, from night to night, from week to
week, from month to month. For how often have I seen Miss Dorrit
here when she has not seen me!'
'Witnesses of what?' said Clennam.
'Of Miss Dorrit's love.'
'You,' said John. And touched him with the back of his hand upon
the breast, and backed to his chair, and sat down on it with a pale
face, holding the arms, and shaking his head at him.
If he had dealt Clennam a heavy blow, instead of laying that light
touch upon him, its effect could not have been to shake him more.
He stood amazed; his eyes looking at John; his lips parted, and
seeming now and then to form the word 'Me!' without uttering it;
his hands dropped at his sides; his whole appearance that of a man
who has been awakened from sleep, and stupefied by intelligence
beyond his full comprehension.
'Me!' he at length said aloud.
'Ah!' groaned Young John. 'You!'
He did what he could to muster a smile, and returned, 'Your fancy.
You are completely mistaken.'
'I mistaken, sir!' said Young John. 'I completely mistaken on
that subject! No, Mr Clennam, don't tell me so. On any other, if
you like, for I don't set up to be a penetrating character, and am
well aware of my own deficiencies. But, I mistaken on a point
that has caused me more smart in my breast than a flight of
savages' arrows could have done! I mistaken on a point that
almost sent me into my grave, as I sometimes wished it would, if
the grave could only have been made compatible with the tobacco-
business and father and mother's feelings! I mistaken on a point
that, even at the present moment, makes me take out my pocket-
handkercher like a great girl, as people say: though I am sure I
don't know why a great girl should be a term of reproach, for every
rightly constituted male mind loves 'em great and small. Don't
tell me so, don't tell me so!'
Still highly respectable at bottom, though absurd enough upon the
surface, Young John took out his pocket-handkerchief with a genuine
absence both of display and concealment, which is only to be seen
in a man with a great deal of good in him, when he takes out his
pocket-handkerchief for the purpose of wiping his eyes. Having
dried them, and indulged in the harmless luxury of a sob and a
sniff, he put it up again.
The touch was still in its influence so like a blow that Arthur
could not get many words together to close the subject with. He
assured John Chivery when he had returned his handkerchief to his
pocket, that he did all honour to his disinterestedness and to the
fidelity of his remembrance of Miss Dorrit. As to the impression
on his mind, of which he had just relieved it--here John
interposed, and said, 'No impression! Certainty!'--as to that,
they might perhaps speak of it at another time, but would say no
more now. Feeling low-spirited and weary, he would go back to his
room, with john's leave, and come out no more that night. John
assented, and he crept back in the shadow of the wall to his own
The feeling of the blow was still so strong upon him that, when the
dirty old woman was gone whom he found sitting on the stairs
outside his door, waiting to make his bed, and who gave him to
understand while doing it, that she had received her instructions
from Mr Chivery, 'not the old 'un but the young 'un,' he sat down
in the faded arm-chair, pressing his head between his hands, as if
he had been stunned. Little Dorrit love him! More bewildering to
him than his misery, far.
Consider the improbability. He had been accustomed to call her his
child, and his dear child, and to invite her confidence by dwelling
upon the difference in their respective ages, and to speak of
himself as one who was turning old. Yet she might not have thought
him old. Something reminded him that he had not thought himself
so, until the roses had floated away upon the river.
He had her two letters among other papers in his box, and he took
them out and read them. There seemed to be a sound in them like
the sound of her sweet voice. It fell upon his ear with many tones
of tenderness, that were not insusceptible of the new meaning. Now
it was that the quiet desolation of her answer,'No, No, No,' made
to him that night in that very room--that night when he had been
shown the dawn of her altered fortune, and when other words had
passed between them which he had been destined to remember in
humiliation and a prisoner, rushed into his mind.
Consider the improbability.
But it had a preponderating tendency, when considered, to become
fainter. There was another and a curious inquiry of his own
heart's that concurrently became stronger. In the reluctance he
had felt to believe that she loved any one; in his desire to set
that question at rest; in a half-formed consciousness he had had
that there would be a kind of nobleness in his helping her love for
any one, was there no suppressed something on his own side that he
had hushed as it arose? Had he ever whispered to himself that he
must not think of such a thing as her loving him, that he must not
take advantage of her gratitude, that he must keep his experience
in remembrance as a warning and reproof; that he must regard such
youthful hopes as having passed away, as his friend's dead daughter
had passed away; that he must be steady in saying to himself that
the time had gone by him, and he was too saddened and old?
He had kissed her when he raised her from the ground on the day
when she had been so consistently and expressively forgotten.
Quite as he might have kissed her, if she had been conscious? No
The darkness found him occupied with these thoughts. The darkness
also found Mr and Mrs Plornish knocking at his door. They brought
with them a basket, filled with choice selections from that stock
in trade which met with such a quick sale and produced such a slow
return. Mrs Plornish was affected to tears. Mr Plornish amiably
growled, in his philosophical but not lucid manner, that there was
ups you see, and there was downs. It was in vain to ask why ups,
why downs; there they was, you know. He had heerd it given for a
truth that accordin' as the world went round, which round it did
rewolve undoubted, even the best of gentlemen must take his turn of
standing with his ed upside down and all his air a flying the wrong
way into what you might call Space. Wery well then. What Mr
Plornish said was, wery well then. That gentleman's ed would come
up-ards when his turn come, that gentleman's air would be a
pleasure to look upon being all smooth again, and wery well then!
It has been already stated that Mrs Plornish, not being
philosophical, wept. It further happened that Mrs Plornish, not
being philosophical, was intelligible. It may have arisen out of
her softened state of mind, out of her sex's wit, out of a woman's
quick association of ideas, or out of a woman's no association of
ideas, but it further happened somehow that Mrs Plornish's
intelligibility displayed itself upon the very subject of Arthur's
'The way father has been talking about you, Mr Clennam,' said Mrs
Plornish, 'you hardly would believe. It's made him quite poorly.
As to his voice, this misfortune has took it away. You know what
a sweet singer father is; but he couldn't get a note out for the
children at tea, if you'll credit what I tell you.'
While speaking, Mrs Plornish shook her head, and wiped her eyes,
and looked retrospectively about the room.
'As to Mr Baptist,' pursued Mrs Plornish, 'whatever he'll do when
he comes to know of it, I can't conceive nor yet imagine. He'd
have been here before now, you may be sure, but that he's away on
confidential business of your own. The persevering manner in which
he follows up that business, and gives himself no rest from it--it
really do,' said Mrs Plornish, winding up in the Italian manner,
'as I say to him, Mooshattonisha padrona.'
Though not conceited, Mrs Plornish felt that she had turned this
Tuscan sentence with peculiar elegance. Mr Plornish could not
conceal his exultation in her accomplishments as a linguist.
'But what I say is, Mr Clennam,' the good woman went on, 'there's
always something to be thankful for, as I am sure you will yourself
admit. Speaking in this room, it's not hard to think what the
present something is. It's a thing to be thankful for, indeed,
that Miss Dorrit is not here to know it.'
Arthur thought she looked at him with particular expression.
'It's a thing,' reiterated Mrs Plornish, 'to be thankful for,
indeed, that Miss Dorrit is far away. It's to be hoped she is not
likely to hear of it. If she had been here to see it, sir, it's
not to be doubted that the sight of you,' Mrs Plornish repeated
those words--'not to be doubted, that the sight of you--in
misfortune and trouble, would have been almost too much for her
affectionate heart. There's nothing I can think of, that would
have touched Miss Dorrit so bad as that.'
Of a certainty Mrs Plornish did look at him now, with a sort of
quivering defiance in her friendly emotion.
'Yes!' said she. 'And it shows what notice father takes, though at
his time of life, that he says to me this afternoon, which Happy
Cottage knows I neither make it up nor any ways enlarge, "Mary,
it's much to be rejoiced in that Miss Dorrit is not on the spot to
behold it." Those were father's words. Father's own words was,
"Much to be rejoiced in, Mary, that Miss Dorrit is not on the spot
to behold it." I says to father then, I says to him, "Father, you
are right!" That,' Mrs Plornish concluded, with the air of a very
precise legal witness, 'is what passed betwixt father and me. And
I tell you nothing but what did pass betwixt me and father.'
Mr Plornish, as being of a more laconic temperament, embraced this
opportunity of interposing with the suggestion that she should now
leave Mr Clennam to himself. 'For, you see,' said Mr Plornish,
gravely, 'I know what it is, old gal;' repeating that valuable
remark several times, as if it appeared to him to include some
great moral secret. Finally, the worthy couple went away arm in
Little Dorrit, Little Dorrit. Again, for hours. Always Little
Happily, if it ever had been so, it was over, and better over.
Granted that she had loved him, and he had known it and had
suffered himself to love her, what a road to have led her away
upon--the road that would have brought her back to this miserable
place! He ought to be much comforted by the reflection that she
was quit of it forever; that she was, or would soon be, married
(vague rumours of her father's projects in that direction had
reached Bleeding Heart Yard, with the news of her sister's
marriage); and that the Marshalsea gate had shut for ever on all
those perplexed possibilities of a time that was gone.
Dear Little Dorrit.
Looking back upon his own poor story, she was its vanishing-point.
Every thing in its perspective led to her innocent figure. He had
travelled thousands of miles towards it; previous unquiet hopes and
doubts had worked themselves out before it; it was the centre of
the interest of his life; it was the termination of everything that
was good and pleasant in it; beyond, there was nothing but mere
waste and darkened sky.
As ill at ease as on the first night of his lying down to sleep
within those dreary walls, he wore the night out with such
thoughts. What time Young John lay wrapt in peaceful slumber,
after composing and arranging the following monumental inscription
on his pillow--
RESPECT THE TOMB OF
JOHN CHIVERY, JUNIOR,
WHO DIED AT AN ADVANCED AGE
NOT NECESSARY TO MENTION.
HE ENCOUNTERED HIS RIVAL IN A DISTRESSED STATE,
AND FELT INCLINED
TO HAVE A ROUND WITH HIM;
BUT, FOR THE SAKE OF THE LOVED ONE, CONQUERED THOSE FEELINGS
OF BITTERNESS, AND BECAME