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    Chapter 3

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    CHAPTER 3

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    It was a Sunday evening in London, gloomy, close, and stale.
    Maddening church bells of all degrees of dissonance, sharp and
    flat, cracked and clear, fast and slow, made the brick-and-mortar
    echoes hideous. Melancholy streets, in a penitential garb of soot,
    steeped the souls of the people who were condemned to look at them
    out of windows, in dire despondency. In every thoroughfare, up
    almost every alley, and down almost every turning, some doleful
    bell was throbbing, jerking, tolling, as if the Plague were in the
    city and the dead-carts were going round. Everything was bolted
    and barred that could by possibility furnish relief to an
    overworked people. No pictures, no unfamiliar animals, no rare
    plants or flowers, no natural or artificial wonders of the ancient
    world--all TABOO with that enlightened strictness, that the ugly
    South Sea gods in the British Museum might have supposed themselves
    at home again. Nothing to see but streets, streets, streets.
    Nothing to breathe but streets, streets, streets. Nothing to
    change the brooding mind, or raise it up. Nothing for the spent
    toiler to do, but to compare the monotony of his seventh day with
    the monotony of his six days, think what a weary life he led, and
    make the best of it--or the worst, according to the probabilities.

    At such a happy time, so propitious to the interests of religion
    and morality, Mr Arthur Clennam, newly arrived from Marseilles by
    way of Dover, and by Dover coach the Blue-eyed Maid, sat in the
    window of a coffee-house on Ludgate Hill. Ten thousand responsible
    houses surrounded him, frowning as heavily on the streets they
    composed, as if they were every one inhabited by the ten young men
    of the Calender's story, who blackened their faces and bemoaned
    their miseries every night. Fifty thousand lairs surrounded him
    where people lived so unwholesomely that fair water put into their
    crowded rooms on Saturday night, would be corrupt on Sunday
    morning; albeit my lord, their county member, was amazed that they
    failed to sleep in company with their butcher's meat. Miles of
    close wells and pits of houses, where the inhabitants gasped for
    air, stretched far away towards every point of the compass.
    Through the heart of the town a deadly sewer ebbed and flowed, in
    the place of a fine fresh river. What secular want could the
    million or so of human beings whose daily labour, six days in the
    week, lay among these Arcadian objects, from the sweet sameness of
    which they had no escape between the cradle and the grave--what
    secular want could they possibly have upon their seventh day?
    Clearly they could want nothing but a stringent policeman.

    Mr Arthur Clennam sat in the window of the coffee-house on Ludgate
    Hill, counting one of the neighbouring bells, making sentences and
    burdens of songs out of it in spite of himself, and wondering how
    many sick people it might be the death of in the course of the
    year. As the hour approached, its changes of measure made it more
    and more exasperating. At the quarter, it went off into a
    condition of deadly-lively importunity, urging the populace in a
    voluble manner to Come to church, Come to church, Come to church!
    At the ten minutes, it became aware that the congregation would be
    scanty, and slowly hammered out in low spirits, They WON'T come,
    they WON'T come, they WON'T come! At the five minutes, it
    abandoned hope, and shook every house in the neighbourhood for
    three hundred seconds, with one dismal swing per second, as a groan
    of despair.

    'Thank Heaven!' said Clennam, when the hour struck, and the bell
    stopped.

    But its sound had revived a long train of miserable Sundays, and
    the procession would not stop with the bell, but continued to march
    on. 'Heaven forgive me,' said he, 'and those who trained me. How
    I have hated this day!'

    There was the dreary Sunday of his childhood, when he sat with his
    hands before him, scared out of his senses by a horrible tract
    which commenced business with the poor child by asking him in its
    title, why he was going to Perdition?--a piece of curiosity that he
    really, in a frock and drawers, was not in a condition to satisfy--
    and which, for the further attraction of his infant mind, had a
    parenthesis in every other line with some such hiccupping reference
    as 2 Ep. Thess. c. iii, v. 6 & 7. There was the sleepy Sunday of
    his boyhood, when, like a military deserter, he was marched to
    chapel by a picquet of teachers three times a day, morally
    handcuffed to another boy; and when he would willingly have
    bartered two meals of indigestible sermon for another ounce or two
    of inferior mutton at his scanty dinner in the flesh. There was
    the interminable Sunday of his nonage; when his mother, stern of
    face and unrelenting of heart, would sit all day behind a Bible--
    bound, like her own construction of it, in the hardest, barest, and
    straitest boards, with one dinted ornament on the cover like the
    drag of a chain, and a wrathful sprinkling of red upon the edges of
    the leaves--as if it, of all books! were a fortification against
    sweetness of temper, natural affection, and gentle intercourse.
    There was the resentful Sunday of a little later, when he sat down
    glowering and glooming through the tardy length of the day, with a
    sullen sense of injury in his heart, and no more real knowledge of
    the beneficent history of the New Testament than if he had been
    bred among idolaters. There was a legion of Sundays, all days of
    unserviceable bitterness and mortification, slowly passing before
    him.
    'Beg pardon, sir,' said a brisk waiter, rubbing the table. 'Wish
    see bed-room?'

    'Yes. I have just made up my mind to do it.'

    'Chaymaid!' cried the waiter. 'Gelen box num seven wish see room!'

    'Stay!' said Clennam, rousing himself. 'I was not thinking of what
    I said; I answered mechanically. I am not going to sleep here. I
    am going home.'

    'Deed, sir? Chaymaid! Gelen box num seven, not go sleep here,
    gome.'

    He sat in the same place as the day died, looking at the dull
    houses opposite, and thinking, if the disembodied spirits of former
    inhabitants were ever conscious of them, how they must pity
    themselves for their old places of imprisonment. Sometimes a face
    would appear behind the dingy glass of a window, and would fade
    away into the gloom as if it had seen enough of life and had
    vanished out of it. Presently the rain began to fall in slanting
    lines between him and those houses, and people began to collect
    under cover of the public passage opposite, and to look out
    hopelessly at the sky as the rain dropped thicker and faster. Then
    wet umbrellas began to appear, draggled skirts, and mud. What the
    mud had been doing with itself, or where it came from, who could
    say? But it seemed to collect in a moment, as a crowd will, and in
    five minutes to have splashed all the sons and daughters of Adam.
    The lamplighter was going his rounds now; and as the fiery jets
    sprang up under his touch, one might have fancied them astonished
    at being suffered to introduce any show of brightness into such a
    dismal scene.

    Mr Arthur Clennam took up his hat and buttoned his coat, and walked
    out. In the country, the rain would have developed a thousand
    fresh scents, and every drop would have had its bright association
    with some beautiful form of growth or life. In the city, it
    developed only foul stale smells, and was a sickly, lukewarm, dirt-
    stained, wretched addition to the gutters.

    He crossed by St Paul's and went down, at a long angle, almost to
    the water's edge, through some of the crooked and descending
    streets which lie (and lay more crookedly and closely then) between
    the river and Cheapside. Passing, now the mouldy hall of some
    obsolete Worshipful Company, now the illuminated windows of a
    Congregationless Church that seemed to be waiting for some
    adventurous Belzoni to dig it out and discover its history; passing
    silent warehouses and wharves, and here and there a narrow alley
    leading to the river, where a wretched little bill,
    FOUND DROWNED, was weeping on the wet wall; he came at last to the
    house he sought. An old brick house, so dingy as to be all but
    black, standing by itself within a gateway. Before it, a square
    court-yard where a shrub or two and a patch of grass were as rank
    (which is saying much) as the iron railings enclosing them were
    rusty; behind it, a jumble of roots. It was a double house, with
    long, narrow, heavily-framed windows. Many years ago, it had had
    it in its mind to slide down sideways; it had been propped up,
    however, and was leaning on some half-dozen gigantic crutches:
    which gymnasium for the neighbouring cats, weather-stained, smoke-
    blackened, and overgrown with weeds, appeared in these latter days
    to be no very sure reliance.

    'Nothing changed,' said the traveller, stopping to look round.
    'Dark and miserable as ever. A light in my mother's window, which
    seems never to have been extinguished since I came home twice a
    year from school, and dragged my box over this pavement. Well,
    well, well!'

    He went up to the door, which had a projecting canopy in carved
    work of festooned jack-towels and children's heads with water on
    the brain, designed after a once-popular monumental pattern, and
    knocked. A shuffling step was soon heard on the stone floor of the
    hall, and the door was opened by an old man, bent and dried, but
    with keen eyes.

    He had a candle in his hand, and he held it up for a moment to
    assist his keen eyes. 'Ah, Mr Arthur?' he said, without any
    emotion, 'you are come at last? Step in.'

    Mr Arthur stepped in and shut the door.

    'Your figure is filled out, and set,' said the old man, turning to
    look at him with the light raised again, and shaking his head; 'but
    you don't come up to your father in my opinion. Nor yet your
    mother.'

    'How is my mother?'

    'She is as she always is now. Keeps her room when not actually
    bedridden, and hasn't been out of it fifteen times in as many
    years, Arthur.' They had walked into a spare, meagre dining-room.
    The old man had put the candlestick upon the table, and, supporting
    his right elbow with his left hand, was smoothing his leathern jaws
    while he looked at the visitor. The visitor offered his hand. The
    old man took it coldly enough, and seemed to prefer his jaws, to
    which he returned as soon as he could.

    'I doubt if your mother will approve of your coming home on the
    Sabbath, Arthur,' he said, shaking his head warily.

    'You wouldn't have me go away again?'

    'Oh! I? I? I am not the master. It's not what _I_ would have.
    I have stood between your father and mother for a number of years.
    I don't pretend to stand between your mother and you.'

    'Will you tell her that I have come home?'

    'Yes, Arthur, yes. Oh, to be sure! I'll tell her that you have
    come home. Please to wait here. You won't find the room changed.'

    He took another candle from a cupboard, lighted it, left the first
    on the table, and went upon his errand. He was a short, bald old
    man, in a high-shouldered black coat and waistcoat, drab breeches,
    and long drab gaiters. He might, from his dress, have been either
    clerk or servant, and in fact had long been both. There was
    nothing about him in the way of decoration but a watch, which was
    lowered into the depths of its proper pocket by an old black
    ribbon, and had a tarnished copper key moored above it, to show
    where it was sunk. His head was awry, and he had a one-sided,
    crab-like way with him, as if his foundations had yielded at about
    the same time as those of the house, and he ought to have been
    propped up in a similar manner.

    'How weak am I,' said Arthur Clennam, when he was gone, 'that I
    could shed tears at this reception! I, who have never experienced
    anything else; who have never expected anything else.' He not only
    could, but did. It was the momentary yielding of a nature that had
    been disappointed from the dawn of its perceptions, but had not
    quite given up all its hopeful yearnings yet. He subdued it, took
    up the candle, and examined the room. The old articles of
    furniture were in their old places; the Plagues of Egypt, much the
    dimmer for the fly and smoke plagues of London, were framed and
    glazed upon the walls. There was the old cellaret with nothing in
    it, lined with lead, like a sort of coffin in compartments; there
    was the old dark closet, also with nothing in it, of which he had
    been many a time the sole contents, in days of punishment, when he
    had regarded it as the veritable entrance to that bourne to which
    the tract had found him galloping. There was the large, hard-
    featured clock on the sideboard, which he used to see bending its
    figured brows upon him with a savage joy when he was behind-hand
    with his lessons, and which, when it was wound up once a week with
    an iron handle, used to sound as if it were growling in ferocious
    anticipation of the miseries into which it would bring him. But
    here was the old man come back, saying, 'Arthur, I'll go before and
    light you.'

    Arthur followed him up the staircase, which was panelled off into
    spaces like so many mourning tablets, into a dim bed-chamber, the
    floor of which had gradually so sunk and settled, that the fire-
    place was in a dell. On a black bier-like sofa in this hollow,
    propped up behind with one great angular black bolster like the
    block at a state execution in the good old times, sat his mother in
    a widow's dress.

    She and his father had been at variance from his earliest
    remembrance. To sit speechless himself in the midst of rigid
    silence, glancing in dread from the one averted face to the other,
    had been the peacefullest occupation of his childhood. She gave
    him one glassy kiss, and four stiff fingers muffled in worsted.
    This embrace concluded, he sat down on the opposite side of her
    little table. There was a fire in the grate, as there had been
    night and day for fifteen years. There was a kettle on the hob, as
    there had been night and day for fifteen years. There was a little
    mound of damped ashes on the top of the fire, and another little
    mound swept together under the grate, as there had been night and
    day for fifteen years. There was a smell of black dye in the
    airless room, which the fire had been drawing out of the crape and
    stuff of the widow's dress for fifteen months, and out of the bier-
    like sofa for fifteen years.

    'Mother, this is a change from your old active habits.'

    'The world has narrowed to these dimensions, Arthur,' she rep lied,
    glancing round the room. 'It is well for me that I never set my
    heart upon its hollow vanities.'

    The old influence of her presence and her stern strong voice, so
    gathered about her son, that he felt conscious of a renewal of the
    timid chill and reserve of his childhood.

    'Do you never leave your room, mother?'

    'What with my rheumatic affection, and what with its attendant
    debility or nervous weakness--names are of no matter now--I have
    lost the use of my limbs. I never leave my room. I have not been
    outside this door for--tell him for how long,' she said, speaking
    over her shoulder.

    'A dozen year next Christmas,' returned a cracked voice out of the
    dimness behind.

    'Is that Affery?' said Arthur, looking towards it.

    The cracked voice replied that it was Affery: and an old woman came
    forward into what doubtful light there was, and kissed her hand
    once; then subsided again into the dimness.

    'I am able,' said Mrs Clennam, with a slight motion of her worsted-
    muffled right hand toward a chair on wheels, standing before a tall
    writing cabinet close shut up, 'I am able to attend to my business
    duties, and I am thankful for the privilege. It is a great
    privilege. But no more of business on this day. It is a bad
    night, is it not?'

    'Yes, mother.'

    'Does it snow?'

    'Snow, mother? And we only yet in September?'

    'All seasons are alike to me,' she returned, with a grim kind of
    luxuriousness. 'I know nothing of summer and winter, shut up here.

    The Lord has been pleased to put me beyond all that.' With her
    cold grey eyes and her cold grey hair, and her immovable face, as
    stiff as the folds of her stony head-dress,--her being beyond the
    reach of the seasons seemed but a fit sequence to her being beyond
    the reach of all changing emotions.

    On her little table lay two or three books, her handkerchief, a
    pair of steel spectacles newly taken off, and an old-fashioned gold
    watch in a heavy double case. Upon this last object her son's eyes
    and her own now rested together.

    'I see that you received the packet I sent you on my father's
    death, safely, mother.'

    'You see.'

    'I never knew my father to show so much anxiety on any subject, as
    that his watch should be sent straight to you.'

    'I keep it here as a remembrance of your father.'

    'It was not until the last, that he expressed the wish; when he
    could only put his hand upon it, and very indistinctly say to me
    "your mother." A moment before, I thought him wandering in his
    mind, as he had been for many hours--I think he had no
    consciousness of pain in his short illness--when I saw him turn
    himself in his bed and try to open it.'

    'Was your father, then, not wandering in his mind when he tried to
    open it?'

    'No. He was quite sensible at that time.'

    Mrs Clennam shook her head; whether in dismissal of the deceased or
    opposing herself to her son's opinion, was not clearly expressed.

    'After my father's death I opened it myself, thinking there might
    be, for anything I knew, some memorandum there. However, as I need
    not tell you, mother, there was nothing but the old silk watch-
    paper worked in beads, which you found (no doubt) in its place
    between the cases, where I found and left it.'

    Mrs Clennam signified assent; then added, 'No more of business on
    this day,' and then added, 'Affery, it is nine o'clock.'

    Upon this, the old woman cleared the little table, went out of the
    room, and quickly returned with a tray on which was a dish of
    little rusks and a small precise pat of butter, cool, symmetrical,
    white, and plump. The old man who had been standing by the door in
    one attitude during the whole interview, looking at the mother up-
    stairs as he had looked at the son down-stairs, went out at the
    same time, and, after a longer absence, returned with another tray
    on which was the greater part of a bottle of port wine (which, to
    judge by his panting, he had brought from the cellar), a lemon, a
    sugar-basin, and a spice box. With these materials and the aid of
    the kettle, he filled a tumbler with a hot and odorous mixture,
    measured out and compounded with as much nicety as a physician's
    prescription. Into this mixture Mrs Clennam dipped certain of the
    rusks, and ate them; while the old woman buttered certain other of
    the rusks, which were to be eaten alone. When the invalid had
    eaten all the rusks and drunk all the mixture, the two trays were
    removed; and the books and the candle, watch, handkerchief, and
    spectacles were replaced upon the table. She then put on the
    spectacles and read certain passages aloud from a book--sternly,
    fiercely, wrathfully--praying that her enemies (she made them by
    her tone and manner expressly hers) might be put to the edge of the
    sword, consumed by fire, smitten by plagues and leprosy, that their
    bones might be ground to dust, and that they might be utterly
    exterminated. As she read on, years seemed to fall away from her
    son like the imaginings of a dream, and all the old dark horrors of
    his usual preparation for the sleep of an innocent child to
    overshadow him.

    She shut the book and remained for a little time with her face
    shaded by her hand. So did the old man, otherwise still unchanged

    in attitude; so, probably, did the old woman in her dimmer part of
    the room. Then the sick woman was ready for bed.

    'Good night, Arthur. Affery will see to your accommodation. Only
    touch me, for my hand is tender.' He touched the worsted muffling
    of her hand--that was nothing; if his mother had been sheathed in
    brass there would have been no new barrier between them--and
    followed the old man and woman down-stairs.

    The latter asked him, when they were alone together among the heavy
    shadows of the dining-room, would he have some supper?

    'No, Affery, no supper.'

    'You shall if you like,' said Affery. 'There's her tomorrow's
    partridge in the larder--her first this year; say the word and I'll
    cook it.'

    No, he had not long dined, and could eat nothing.

    'Have something to drink, then,' said Affery; 'you shall have some
    of her bottle of port, if you like. I'll tell Jeremiah that you
    ordered me to bring it you.'

    No; nor would he have that, either.

    'It's no reason, Arthur,' said the old woman, bending over him to
    whisper, 'that because I am afeared of my life of 'em, you should
    be. You've got half the property, haven't you?'

    'Yes, yes.'

    'Well then, don't you be cowed. You're clever, Arthur, an't you?
    '
    He nodded, as she seemed to expect an answer in the affirmative.
    'Then stand up against them! She's awful clever, and none but a
    clever one durst say a word to her. HE'S a clever one--oh, he's a
    clever one!--and he gives it her when he has a mind to't, he does!'

    'Your husband does?'

    'Does? It makes me shake from head to foot, to hear him give it
    her. My husband, Jeremiah Flintwinch, can conquer even your
    mother. What can he be but a clever one to do that!'

    His shuffling footstep coming towards them caused her to retreat to
    the other end of the room. Though a tall, hard-favoured, sinewy
    old woman, who in her youth might have enlisted in the Foot Guards
    without much fear of discovery, she collapsed before the little
    keen-eyed crab-like old man.

    'Now, Affery,' said he, 'now, woman, what are you doing? Can't you
    find Master Arthur something or another to pick at?'

    Master Arthur repeated his recent refusal to pick at anything.

    'Very well, then,' said the old man; 'make his bed. Stir
    yourself.' His neck was so twisted that the knotted ends of his
    white cravat usually dangled under one ear; his natural acerbity
    and energy, always contending with a second nature of habitual
    repression, gave his features a swollen and suffused look; and
    altogether, he had a weird appearance of having hanged himself at
    one time or other, and of having gone about ever since, halter and
    all, exactly as some timely hand had cut him down.

    'You'll have bitter words together to-morrow, Arthur; you and your
    mother,' said Jeremiah. 'Your having given up the business on your
    father's death--which she suspects, though we have left it to you
    to tell her--won't go off smoothly.'

    'I have given up everything in life for the business, and the time
    came for me to give up that.'

    'Good!' cried Jeremiah, evidently meaning Bad. 'Very good! only
    don't expect me to stand between your mother and you, Arthur. I
    stood between your mother and your father, fending off this, and
    fending off that, and getting crushed and pounded betwixt em; and
    I've done with such work.'

    'You will never be asked to begin it again for me, Jeremiah.'

    ' Good. I'm glad to hear it; because I should have had to decline
    it, if I had been. That's enough--as your mother says--and more
    than enough of such matters on a Sabbath night. Affery, woman,
    have you found what you want yet?'

    She had been collecting sheets and blankets from a press, and
    hastened to gather them up, and to reply, 'Yes, Jeremiah.' Arthur
    Clennam helped her by carrying the load himself, wished the old man
    good night, and went up-stairs with her to the top of the house.

    They mounted up and up, through the musty smell of an old close
    house, little used, to a large garret bed-room. Meagre and spare,
    like all the other rooms, it was even uglier and grimmer than the
    rest, by being the place of banishment for the worn-out furniture.
    Its movables were ugly old chairs with worn-out seats, and ugly old
    chairs without any seats; a threadbare patternless carpet, a maimed
    table, a crippled wardrobe, a lean set of fire-irons like the
    skeleton of a set deceased, a washing-stand that looked as if it
    had stood for ages in a hail of dirty soapsuds, and a bedstead with
    four bare atomies of posts, each terminating in a spike, as if for
    the dismal accommodation of lodgers who might prefer to impale
    themselves. Arthur opened the long low window, and looked out upon
    the old blasted and blackened forest of chimneys, and the old red
    glare in the sky, which had seemed to him once upon a time but a
    nightly reflection of the fiery environment that was presented to
    his childish fancy in all directions, let it look where it would.

    He drew in his head again, sat down at the bedside, and looked on
    at Affery Flintwinch making the bed.

    'Affery, you were not married when I went away.'

    She screwed her mouth into the form of saying 'No,' shook her head,
    and proceeded to get a pillow into its case.

    'How did it happen?'

    'Why, Jeremiah, o' course,' said Affery, with an end of the pillow-
    case between her teeth.

    'Of course he proposed it, but how did it all come about? I should
    have thought that neither of you would have married; least of all
    should I have thought of your marrying each other.'

    'No more should I,' said Mrs Flintwinch, tying the pillow tightly
    in its case.

    'That's what I mean. When did you begin to think otherwise?'

    'Never begun to think otherwise at all,' said Mrs Flintwinch.

    Seeing, as she patted the pillow into its place on the bolster,
    that he was still looking at her as if waiting for the rest of her
    reply, she gave it a great poke in the middle, and asked, 'How
    could I help myself?'

    'How could you help yourself from being married!'

    'O' course,' said Mrs Flintwinch. 'It was no doing o' mine. I'D
    never thought of it. I'd got something to do, without thinking,
    indeed! She kept me to it (as well as he) when she could go about,
    and she could go about then.'
    'Well?'

    'Well?' echoed Mrs Flintwinch. 'That's what I said myself. Well!
    What's the use of considering? If them two clever ones have made
    up their minds to it, what's left for me to do? Nothing.'

    'Was it my mother's project, then?'

    'The Lord bless you, Arthur, and forgive me the wish!' cried
    Affery, speaking always in a low tone. 'If they hadn't been both
    of a mind in it, how could it ever have been? Jeremiah never
    courted me; t'ant likely that he would, after living in the house
    with me and ordering me about for as many years as he'd done. He
    said to me one day, he said, "Affery," he said, "now I am going to
    tell you something. What do you think of the name of Flintwinch?"
    "What do I think of it?" I says. "Yes," he said, "because you're
    going to take it," he said. "Take it?" I says. "Jere-MI-ah?" Oh!
    he's a clever one!'

    Mrs Flintwinch went on to spread the upper sheet over the bed, and
    the blanket over that, and the counterpane over that, as if she had
    quite concluded her story.
    'Well?' said Arthur again.

    'Well?' echoed Mrs Flintwinch again. 'How could I help myself? He
    said to me, "Affery, you and me must be married, and I'll tell you
    why. She's failing in health, and she'll want pretty constant
    attendance up in her room, and we shall have to be much with her,
    and there'll be nobody about now but ourselves when we're away from
    her, and altogether it will be more convenient. She's of my
    opinion," he said, "so if you'll put your bonnet on next Monday
    morning at eight, we'll get it over."' Mrs Flintwinch tucked up the
    bed.

    'Well?'

    'Well?' repeated Mrs Flintwinch, 'I think so! I sits me down and
    says it. Well!--Jeremiah then says to me, "As to banns, next
    Sunday being the third time of asking (for I've put 'em up a
    fortnight), is my reason for naming Monday. She'll speak to you
    about it herself, and now she'll find you prepared, Affery." That
    same day she spoke to me, and she said, "So, Affery, I understand
    that you and Jeremiah are going to be married. I am glad of it,
    and so are you, with reason. It is a very good thing for you, and
    very welcome under the circumstances to me. He is a sensible man,
    and a trustworthy man, and a persevering man, and a pious man."
    What could I say when it had come to that? Why, if it had been--a
    smothering instead of a wedding,' Mrs Flintwinch cast about in her
    mind with great pains for this form of expression, 'I couldn't have
    said a word upon it, against them two clever ones.'

    'In good faith, I believe so.'
    'And so you may, Arthur.'

    'Affery, what girl was that in my mother's room just now?'

    'Girl?' said Mrs Flintwinch in a rather sharp key.

    'It was a girl, surely, whom I saw near you--almost hidden in the
    dark corner?'

    'Oh! She? Little Dorrit? She's nothing; she's a whim of--hers.'
    It was a peculiarity of Affery Flintwinch that she never spoke of
    Mrs Clennam by name. 'But there's another sort of girls than that
    about. Have you forgot your old sweetheart? Long and long ago,
    I'll be bound.'

    'I suffered enough from my mother's separating us, to remember her.

    I recollect her very well.'

    'Have you got another?'

    'No.'

    'Here's news for you, then. She's well to do now, and a widow.
    And if you like to have her, why you can.'

    'And how do you know that, Affery?'

    'Them two clever ones have been speaking about it.--There's
    Jeremiah on the stairs!' She was gone in a moment.

    Mrs Flintwinch had introduced into the web that his mind was busily
    weaving, in that old workshop where the loom of his youth had
    stood, the last thread wanting to the pattern. The airy folly of
    a boy's love had found its way even into that house, and he had
    been as wretched under its hopelessness as if the house had been a
    castle of romance. Little more than a week ago at Marseilles, the
    face of the pretty girl from whom he had parted with regret, had
    had an unusual interest for him, and a tender hold upon him,
    because of some resemblance, real or imagined, to this first face
    that had soared out of his gloomy life into the bright glories of
    fancy. He leaned upon the sill of the long low window, and looking
    out upon the blackened forest of chimneys again, began to dream;
    for it had been the uniform tendency of this man's life--so much
    was wanting in it to think about, so much that might have been
    better directed and happier to speculate upon--to make him a
    dreamer, after all.
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    Chapter 4
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