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    Chapter 12

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    Chapter 13
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    CHAPTER 12

    Bleeding Heart Yard

    In London itself, though in the old rustic road towards a suburb of
    note where in the days of William Shakespeare, author and stage-
    player, there were Royal hunting-seats--howbeit no sport is left
    there now but for hunters of men--Bleeding Heart Yard was to be
    found; a place much changed in feature and in fortune, yet with
    some relish of ancient greatness about it. Two or three mighty
    stacks of chimneys, and a few large dark rooms which had escaped
    being walled and subdivided out of the recognition of their old
    proportions, gave the Yard a character. It was inhabited by poor
    people, who set up their rest among its faded glories, as Arabs of
    the desert pitch their tents among the fallen stones of the
    Pyramids; but there was a family sentimental feeling prevalent in
    the Yard, that it had a character.

    As if the aspiring city had become puffed up in the very ground on
    which it stood, the ground had so risen about Bleeding Heart Yard
    that you got into it down a flight of steps which formed no part of
    the original approach, and got out of it by a low gateway into a
    maze of shabby streets, which went about and about, tortuously
    ascending to the level again. At this end of the Yard and over the
    gateway, was the factory of Daniel Doyce, often heavily beating
    like a bleeding heart of iron, with the clink of metal upon metal.
    The opinion of the Yard was divided respecting the derivation of
    its name. The more practical of its inmates abided by the
    tradition of a murder; the gentler and more imaginative
    inhabitants, including the whole of the tender sex, were loyal to
    the legend of a young lady of former times closely imprisoned in
    her chamber by a cruel father for remaining true to her own true
    love, and refusing to marry the suitor he chose for her. The
    legend related how that the young lady used to be seen up at her
    window behind the bars, murmuring a love-lorn song of which the
    burden was, 'Bleeding Heart, Bleeding Heart, bleeding away,' until
    she died. It was objected by the murderous party that this Refrain
    was notoriously the invention of a tambour-worker, a spinster and
    romantic, still lodging in the Yard. But, forasmuch as all
    favourite legends must be associated with the affections, and as
    many more people fall in love than commit murder--which it may be
    hoped, howsoever bad we are, will continue until the end of the
    world to be the dispensation under which we shall live--the
    Bleeding Heart, Bleeding Heart, bleeding away story, carried the
    day by a great majority. Neither party would listen to the
    antiquaries who delivered learned lectures in the neighbourhood,
    showing the Bleeding Heart to have been the heraldic cognisance of
    the old family to whom the property had once belonged. And,
    considering that the hour-glass they turned from year to year was
    filled with the earthiest and coarsest sand, the Bleeding Heart
    Yarders had reason enough for objecting to be despoiled of the one
    little golden grain of poetry that sparkled in it.

    Down in to the Yard, by way of the steps, came Daniel Doyce, Mr
    Meagles, and Clennam. Passing along the Yard, and between the open
    doors on either hand, all abundantly garnished with light children
    nursing heavy ones, they arrived at its opposite boundary, the
    gateway. Here Arthur Clennam stopped to look about him for the
    domicile of Plornish, plasterer, whose name, according to the
    custom of Londoners, Daniel Doyce had never seen or heard of to
    that hour.

    It was plain enough, nevertheless, as Little Dorrit had said; over
    a lime-splashed gateway in the corner, within which Plornish kept
    a ladder and a barrel or two. The last house in Bleeding Heart
    Yard which she had described as his place of habitation, was a
    large house, let off to various tenants; but Plornish ingeniously
    hinted that he lived in the parlour, by means of a painted hand
    under his name, the forefinger of which hand (on which the artist
    had depicted a ring and a most elaborate nail of the genteelest
    form) referred all inquirers to that apartment.

    Parting from his companions, after arranging another meeting with
    Mr Meagles, Clennam went alone into the entry, and knocked with his
    knuckles at the parlour-door. It was opened presently by a woman
    with a child in her arms, whose unoccupied hand was hastily
    rearranging the upper part of her dress. This was Mrs Plornish,
    and this maternal action was the action of Mrs Plornish during a
    large part of her waking existence.

    Was Mr Plornish at home? 'Well, sir,' said Mrs Plornish, a civil
    woman, 'not to deceive you, he's gone to look for a job.'

    'Not to deceive you' was a method of speech with Mrs Plornish. She
    would deceive you, under any circumstances, as little as might be;
    but she had a trick of answering in this provisional form.

    'Do you think he will be back soon, if I wait for him?'

    'I have been expecting him,' said Mrs Plornish, 'this half an hour,
    at any minute of time. Walk in, sir.'
    Arthur entered the rather dark and close parlour (though it was
    lofty too), and sat down in the chair she placed for him.

    'Not to deceive you, sir, I notice it,' said Mrs Plornish, 'and I
    take it kind of you.'

    He was at a loss to understand what she meant; and by expressing as
    much in his looks, elicited her explanation.

    'It ain't many that comes into a poor place, that deems it worth
    their while to move their hats,' said Mrs Plornish. 'But people
    think more of it than people think.'

    Clennam returned, with an uncomfortable feeling in so very slight
    a courtesy being unusual, Was that all! And stooping down to pinch
    the cheek of another young child who was sitting on the floor,
    staring at him, asked Mrs Plornish how old that fine boy was?

    'Four year just turned, sir,' said Mrs Plornish. 'He IS a fine
    little fellow, ain't he, sir? But this one is rather sickly.' She
    tenderly hushed the baby in her arms, as she said it. 'You
    wouldn't mind my asking if it happened to be a job as you was come
    about, sir, would you?' asked Mrs Plornish wistfully.

    She asked it so anxiously, that if he had been in possession of any
    kind of tenement, he would have had it plastered a foot deep rather
    than answer No. But he was obliged to answer No; and he saw a
    shade of disappointment on her face, as she checked a sigh, and
    looked at the low fire. Then he saw, also, that Mrs Plornish was
    a young woman, made somewhat slatternly in herself and her
    belongings by poverty; and so dragged at by poverty and the
    children together, that their united forces had already dragged her
    face into wrinkles.

    'All such things as jobs,' said Mrs Plornish, 'seems to me to have
    gone underground, they do indeed.' (Herein Mrs Plornish limited
    her remark to the plastering trade, and spoke without reference to
    the Circumlocution Office and the Barnacle Family.)

    'Is it so difficult to get work?' asked Arthur Clennam.

    'Plornish finds it so,' she returned. 'He is quite unfortunate.
    Really he is.'
    Really he was. He was one of those many wayfarers on the road of
    life, who seem to be afflicted with supernatural corns, rendering
    it impossible for them to keep up even with their lame competitors.

    A willing, working, soft hearted, not hard-headed fellow, Plornish
    took his fortune as smoothly as could be expected; but it was a
    rough one. It so rarely happened that anybody seemed to want him,
    it was such an exceptional case when his powers were in any
    request, that his misty mind could not make out how it happened.
    He took it as it came, therefore; he tumbled into all kinds of
    difficulties, and tumbled out of them; and, by tumbling through
    life, got himself considerably bruised.

    'It's not for want of looking after jobs, I am sure,' said Mrs
    Plornish, lifting up her eyebrows, and searching for a solution of
    the problem between the bars of the grate; 'nor yet for want of
    working at them when they are to be got. No one ever heard my
    husband complain of work.'

    Somehow or other, this was the general misfortune of Bleeding Heart
    Yard. From time to time there were public complaints, pathetically
    going about, of labour being scarce--which certain people seemed to
    take extraordinarily ill, as though they had an absolute right to
    it on their own terms--but Bleeding Heart Yard, though as willing
    a Yard as any in Britain, was never the better for the demand.
    That high old family, the Barnacles, had long been too busy with
    their great principle to look into the matter; and indeed the
    matter had nothing to do with their watchfulness in out-generalling
    all other high old families except the Stiltstalkings.

    While Mrs Plornish spoke in these words of her absent lord, her
    lord returned. A smooth-cheeked, fresh-coloured, sandy-whiskered
    man of thirty. Long in the legs, yielding at the knees, foolish in
    the face, flannel-jacketed, lime-whitened.

    'This is Plornish, sir.'

    'I came,' said Clennam, rising, 'to beg the favour of a little
    conversation with you on the subject of the Dorrit family.'

    Plornish became suspicious. Seemed to scent a creditor. Said,
    'Ah, yes. Well. He didn't know what satisfaction he could give
    any gentleman, respecting that family. What might it be about,

    'I know you better,' said Clennam, smiling, 'than you suppose.'

    Plornish observed, not Smiling in return, And yet he hadn't the
    pleasure of being acquainted with the gentleman, neither.

    'No,' said Arthur, 'I know your kind offices at second hand, but on
    the best authority; through Little Dorrit.--I mean,' he explained,
    'Miss Dorrit.'

    'Mr Clennam, is it? Oh! I've heard of you, Sir.'

    'And I of you,' said Arthur.

    'Please to sit down again, Sir, and consider yourself welcome.--
    Why, yes,' said Plornish, taking a chair, and lifting the elder
    child upon his knee, that he might have the moral support of
    speaking to a stranger over his head, 'I have been on the wrong
    side of the Lock myself, and in that way we come to know Miss
    Dorrit. Me and my wife, we are well acquainted with Miss Dorrit.'
    'Intimate!' cried Mrs Plornish. Indeed, she was so proud of the
    acquaintance, that she had awakened some bitterness of spirit in
    the Yard by magnifying to an enormous amount the sum for which Miss
    Dorrit's father had become insolvent. The Bleeding Hearts resented
    her claiming to know people of such distinction.

    'It was her father that I got acquainted with first. And through
    getting acquainted with him, you see--why--I got acquainted with
    her,' said Plornish tautologically.

    'I see.'

    'Ah! And there's manners! There's polish! There's a gentleman to
    have run to seed in the Marshalsea jail! Why, perhaps you are not
    aware,' said Plornish, lowering his voice, and speaking with a
    perverse admiration of what he ought to have pitied or despised,
    'not aware that Miss Dorrit and her sister dursn't let him know
    that they work for a living. No!' said Plornish, looking with a
    ridiculous triumph first at his wife, and then all round the room.
    'Dursn't let him know it, they dursn't!'

    'Without admiring him for that,' Clennam quietly observed, 'I am
    very sorry for him.' The remark appeared to suggest to Plornish,
    for the first time, that it might not be a very fine trait of
    character after all. He pondered about it for a moment, and gave
    it up.

    'As to me,' he resumed, 'certainly Mr Dorrit is as affable with me,
    I am sure, as I can possibly expect. Considering the differences
    and distances betwixt us, more so. But it's Miss Dorrit that we
    were speaking of.'

    'True. Pray how did you introduce her at my mother's!'

    Mr Plornish picked a bit of lime out of his whisker, put it between
    his lips, turned it with his tongue like a sugar-plum, considered,
    found himself unequal to the task of lucid explanation, and
    appealing to his wife, said, 'Sally, you may as well mention how it
    was, old woman.'

    'Miss Dorrit,' said Sally, hushing the baby from side to side, and
    laying her chin upon the little hand as it tried to disarrange the
    gown again, 'came here one afternoon with a bit of writing, telling
    that how she wished for needlework, and asked if it would be
    considered any ill-conwenience in case she was to give her address
    here.' (Plornish repeated, her address here, in a low voice, as if
    he were making responses at church.) 'Me and Plornish says, No,
    Miss Dorrit, no ill-conwenience,' (Plornish repeated, no ill-
    conwenience,) 'and she wrote it in, according. Which then me and
    Plornish says, Ho Miss Dorrit!' (Plornish repeated, Ho Miss
    Dorrit.) 'Have you thought of copying it three or four times, as
    the way to make it known in more places than one? No, says Miss
    Dorrit, I have not, but I will. She copied it out according, on
    this table, in a sweet writing, and Plornish, he took it where he
    worked, having a job just then,' (Plornish repeated job just then,)
    'and likewise to the landlord of the Yard; through which it was
    that Mrs Clennam first happened to employ Miss Dorrit.' Plornish
    repeated, employ Miss Dorrit; and Mrs Plornish having come to an
    end, feigned to bite the fingers of the little hand as she kissed

    'The landlord of the Yard,' said Arthur Clennam, 'is--'

    'He is Mr Casby, by name, he is,' said Plornish, 'and Pancks, he
    collects the rents. That,' added Mr Plornish, dwelling on the
    subject with a slow thoughtfulness that appeared to have no
    connection with any specific object, and to lead him nowhere, 'that
    is about what they are, you may believe me or not, as you think

    'Ay?' returned Clennam, thoughtful in his turn. 'Mr Casby, too!
    An old acquaintance of mine, long ago!'

    Mr Plornish did not see his road to any comment on this fact, and
    made none. As there truly was no reason why he should have the
    least interest in it, Arthur Clennam went on to the present purport
    of his visit; namely, to make Plornish the instrument of effecting
    Tip's release, with as little detriment as possible to the self-
    reliance and self-helpfulness of the young man, supposing him to
    possess any remnant of those qualities: without doubt a very wide
    stretch of supposition. Plornish, having been made acquainted with
    the cause of action from the Defendant's own mouth, gave Arthur to
    understand that the Plaintiff was a 'Chaunter'--meaning, not a
    singer of anthems, but a seller of horses--and that he (Plornish)
    considered that ten shillings in the pound 'would settle handsome,'
    and that more would be a waste of money. The Principal and
    instrument soon drove off together to a stable-yard in High
    Holborn, where a remarkably fine grey gelding, worth, at the lowest
    figure, seventy-five guineas (not taking into account the value of
    the shot he had been made to swallow for the improvement of his
    form), was to be parted with for a twenty-pound note, in
    consequence of his having run away last week with Mrs Captain
    Barbary of Cheltenham, who wasn't up to a horse of his courage, and
    who, in mere spite, insisted on selling him for that ridiculous
    sum: or, in other words, on giving him away. Plornish, going up
    this yard alone and leaving his Principal outside, found a
    gentleman with tight drab legs, a rather old hat, a little hooked
    stick, and a blue neckerchief (Captain Maroon of Gloucestershire,
    a private friend of Captain Barbary); who happened to be there, in
    a friendly way, to mention these little circumstances concerning
    the remarkably fine grey gelding to any real judge of a horse and
    quick snapper-up of a good thing, who might look in at that address
    as per advertisement. This gentleman, happening also to be the
    Plaintiff in the Tip case, referred Mr Plornish to his solicitor,
    and declined to treat with Mr Plornish, or even to endure his
    presence in the yard, unless he appeared there with a twenty-pound
    note: in which case only, the gentleman would augur from
    appearances that he meant business, and might be induced to talk to
    him. On this hint, Mr Plornish retired to communicate with his
    Principal, and presently came back with the required credentials.
    Then said Captain Maroon, 'Now, how much time do you want to make
    the other twenty in? Now, I'll give you a month.' Then said
    Captain Maroon, when that wouldn't suit, 'Now, I'll tell what I'll
    do with you. You shall get me a good bill at four months, made
    payable at a banking-house, for the other twenty!' Then said
    Captain Maroon, when THAT wouldn't suit, 'Now, come; Here's the
    last I've got to say to you. You shall give me another ten down,
    and I'll run my pen clean through it.' Then said Captain Maroon
    when THAT wouldn't suit, 'Now, I'll tell you what it is, and this
    shuts it up; he has used me bad, but I'll let him off for another
    five down and a bottle of wine; and if you mean done, say done, and
    if you don't like it, leave it.' Finally said Captain Maroon, when
    THAT wouldn't suit either, 'Hand over, then!'--And in consideration
    of the first offer, gave a receipt in full and discharged the

    'Mr Plornish,' said Arthur, 'I trust to you, if you please, to keep
    my secret. If you will undertake to let the young man know that he
    is free, and to tell him that you were employed to compound for the
    debt by some one whom you are not at liberty to name, you will not
    only do me a service, but may do him one, and his sister also.'

    'The last reason, sir,' said Plornish, 'would be quite sufficient.
    Your wishes shall be attended to.'

    'A Friend has obtained his discharge, you can say if you please.
    A Friend who hopes that for his sister's sake, if for no one
    else's, he will make good use of his liberty.'

    'Your wishes, sir, shall be attended to.'

    'And if you will be so good, in your better knowledge of the
    family, as to communicate freely with me, and to point out to me
    any means by which you think I may be delicately and really useful
    to Little Dorrit, I shall feel under an obligation to you.'

    'Don't name it, sir,' returned Plornish, 'it'll be ekally a
    pleasure an a--it'l be ekally a pleasure and a--' Finding himself
    unable to balance his sentence after two efforts, Mr Plornish
    wisely dropped it. He took Clennam's card and appropriate
    pecuniary compliment.

    He was earnest to finish his commission at once, and his Principal
    was in the same mind. So his Principal offered to set him down at
    the Marshalsea Gate, and they drove in that direction over
    Blackfriars Bridge. On the way, Arthur elicited from his new
    friend a confused summary of the interior life of Bleeding Heart
    Yard. They was all hard up there, Mr Plornish said, uncommon hard
    up, to be sure. Well, he couldn't say how it was; he didn't know
    as anybody could say how it was; all he know'd was, that so it was.

    When a man felt, on his own back and in his own belly, that poor he
    was, that man (Mr Plornish gave it as his decided belief) know'd
    well that he was poor somehow or another, and you couldn't talk it
    out of him, no more than you could talk Beef into him. Then you
    see, some people as was better off said, and a good many such
    people lived pretty close up to the mark themselves if not beyond
    it so he'd heerd, that they was 'improvident' (that was the
    favourite word) down the Yard. For instance, if they see a man
    with his wife and children going to Hampton Court in a Wan, perhaps
    once in a year, they says, 'Hallo! I thought you was poor, my
    improvident friend!' Why, Lord, how hard it was upon a man! What
    was a man to do? He couldn't go mollancholy mad, and even if he
    did, you wouldn't be the better for it. In Mr Plornish's judgment
    you would be the worse for it. Yet you seemed to want to make a
    man mollancholy mad. You was always at it--if not with your right
    hand, with your left. What was they a doing in the Yard? Why,
    take a look at 'em and see. There was the girls and their mothers
    a working at their sewing, or their shoe-binding, or their
    trimming, or their waistcoat making, day and night and night and
    day, and not more than able to keep body and soul together after
    all--often not so much. There was people of pretty well all sorts
    of trades you could name, all wanting to work, and yet not able to
    get it. There was old people, after working all their lives, going
    and being shut up in the workhouse, much worse fed and lodged and
    treated altogether, than--Mr Plornish said manufacturers, but
    appeared to mean malefactors. Why, a man didn't know where to turn
    himself for a crumb of comfort. As to who was to blame for it, Mr
    Plornish didn't know who was to blame for it. He could tell you
    who suffered, but he couldn't tell you whose fault it was. It
    wasn't HIS place to find out, and who'd mind what he said, if he
    did find out? He only know'd that it wasn't put right by them what
    undertook that line of business, and that it didn't come right of
    itself. And, in brief, his illogical opinion was, that if you
    couldn't do nothing for him, you had better take nothing from him
    for doing of it; so far as he could make out, that was about what
    it come to. Thus, in a prolix, gently-growling, foolish way, did
    Plornish turn the tangled skein of his estate about and about, like
    a blind man who was trying to find some beginning or end to it;
    until they reached the prison gate. There, he left his Principal
    alone; to wonder, as he rode away, how many thousand Plornishes
    there might be within a day or two's journey of the Circumlocution
    Office, playing sundry curious variations on the same tune, which
    were not known by ear in that glorious institution.
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    Chapter 13
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