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    Chapter 13

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    Chapter 14
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    CHAPTER 13

    Patriarchal

    The mention of Mr Casby again revived in Clennam's memory the
    smouldering embers of curiosity and interest which Mrs Flintwinch
    had fanned on the night of his arrival. Flora Casby had been the
    beloved of his boyhood; and Flora was the daughter and only child
    of wooden-headed old Christopher (so he was still occasionally
    spoken of by some irreverent spirits who had had dealings with him,
    and in whom familiarity had bred its proverbial result perhaps),
    who was reputed to be rich in weekly tenants, and to get a good
    quantity of blood out of the stones of several unpromising courts
    and alleys.
    After some days of inquiry and research, Arthur Clennam became
    convinced that the case of the Father of the Marshalsea was indeed
    a hopeless one, and sorrowfully resigned the idea of helping him to
    freedom again. He had no hopeful inquiry to make at present,
    concerning Little Dorrit either; but he argued with himself that it
    might--for anything he knew--it might be serviceable to the poor
    child, if he renewed this acquaintance. It is hardly necessary to
    add that beyond all doubt he would have presented himself at Mr
    Casby's door, if there had been no Little Dorrit in existence; for
    we all know how we all deceive ourselves--that is to say, how
    people in general, our profounder selves excepted, deceive
    themselves--as to motives of action.

    With a comfortable impression upon him, and quite an honest one in
    its way, that he was still patronising Little Dorrit in doing what
    had no reference to her, he found himself one afternoon at the
    corner of Mr Casby's street. Mr Casby lived in a street in the
    Gray's Inn Road, which had set off from that thoroughfare with the
    intention of running at one heat down into the valley, and up again
    to the top of Pentonville Hill; but which had run itself out of
    breath in twenty yards, and had stood still ever since. There is
    no such place in that part now; but it remained there for many
    years, looking with a baulked countenance at the wilderness patched
    with unfruitful gardens and pimpled with eruptive summerhouses,
    that it had meant to run over in no time.

    'The house,' thought Clennam, as he crossed to the door, 'is as
    little changed as my mother's, and looks almost as gloomy. But the
    likeness ends outside. I know its staid repose within. The smell
    of its jars of old rose-leaves and lavender seems to come upon me
    even here.'

    When his knock at the bright brass knocker of obsolete shape
    brought a woman-servant to the door, those faded scents in truth
    saluted him like wintry breath that had a faint remembrance in it
    of the bygone spring. He stepped into the sober, silent, air-tight
    house--one might have fancied it to have been stifled by Mutes in
    the Eastern manner--and the door, closing again, seemed to shut out
    sound and motion. The furniture was formal, grave, and quaker-
    like, but well-kept; and had as prepossessing an aspect as
    anything, from a human creature to a wooden stool, that is meant
    for much use and is preserved for little, can ever wear. There was
    a grave clock, ticking somewhere up the staircase; and there was a
    songless bird in the same direction, pecking at his cage, as if he
    were ticking too. The parlour-fire ticked in the grate. There was
    only one person on the parlour-hearth, and the loud watch in his
    pocket ticked audibly.

    The servant-maid had ticked the two words 'Mr Clennam' so softly
    that she had not been heard; and he consequently stood, within the
    door she had closed, unnoticed. The figure of a man advanced in
    life, whose smooth grey eyebrows seemed to move to the ticking as
    the fire-light flickered on them, sat in an arm-chair, with his
    list shoes on the rug, and his thumbs slowly revolving over one
    another. This was old Christopher Casby--recognisable at a
    glance--as unchanged in twenty years and upward as his own solid
    furniture--as little touched by the influence of the varying
    seasons as the old rose-leaves and old lavender in his porcelain
    jars.

    Perhaps there never was a man, in this troublesome world, so
    troublesome for the imagination to picture as a boy. And yet he
    had changed very little in his progress through life. Confronting
    him, in the room in which he sat, was a boy's portrait, which
    anybody seeing him would have identified as Master Christopher
    Casby, aged ten: though disguised with a haymaking rake, for which
    he had had, at any time, as much taste or use as for a diving-bell;
    and sitting (on one of his own legs) upon a bank of violets, moved
    to precocious contemplation by the spire of a village church.
    There was the same smooth face and forehead, the same calm blue
    eye, the same placid air. The shining bald head, which looked so
    very large because it shone so much; and the long grey hair at its
    sides and back, like floss silk or spun glass, which looked so very
    benevolent because it was never cut; were not, of course, to be
    seen in the boy as in the old man. Nevertheless, in the Seraphic
    creature with the haymaking rake, were clearly to be discerned the
    rudiments of the Patriarch with the list shoes.

    Patriarch was the name which many people delighted to give him.
    Various old ladies in the neighbourhood spoke of him as The Last of
    the Patriarchs. So grey, so slow, so quiet, so impassionate, so
    very bumpy in the head, Patriarch was the word for him. He had
    been accosted in the streets, and respectfully solicited to become
    a Patriarch for painters and for sculptors; with so much
    importunity, in sooth, that it would appear to be beyond the Fine
    Arts to remember the points of a Patriarch, or to invent one.
    Philanthropists of both sexes had asked who he was, and on being
    informed, 'Old Christopher Casby, formerly Town-agent to Lord
    Decimus Tite Barnacle,' had cried in a rapture of disappointment,
    'Oh! why, with that head, is he not a benefactor to his species!
    Oh! why, with that head, is he not a father to the orphan and a
    friend to the friendless!' With that head, however, he remained
    old Christopher Casby, proclaimed by common report rich in house
    property; and with that head, he now sat in his silent parlour.
    Indeed it would be the height of unreason to expect him to be
    sitting there without that head.

    Arthur Clennam moved to attract his attention, and the grey
    eyebrows turned towards him.

    'I beg your pardon,' said Clennam, 'I fear you did not hear me
    announced?'

    'No, sir, I did not. Did you wish to see me, sir?'

    'I wished to pay my respects.'

    Mr Casby seemed a feather's weight disappointed by the last words,
    having perhaps prepared himself for the visitor's wishing to pay
    something else. 'Have I the pleasure, sir,' he proceeded--'take a
    chair, if you please--have I the pleasure of knowing--? Ah!
    truly, yes, I think I have! I believe I am not mistaken in
    supposing that I am acquainted with those features? I think I
    address a gentleman of whose return to this country I was informed
    by Mr Flintwinch?'

    'That is your present visitor.'

    'Really! Mr Clennam?'

    'No other, Mr Casby.'

    'Mr Clennam, I am glad to see you. How have you been since we
    met?'

    Without thinking it worth while to explain that in the course of
    some quarter of a century he had experienced occasional slight
    fluctuations in his health and spirits, Clennam answered generally
    that he had never been better, or something equally to the purpose;
    and shook hands with the possessor of 'that head' as it shed its
    patriarchal light upon him.

    'We are older, Mr Clennam,' said Christopher Casby.

    'We are--not younger,' said Clennam. After this wise remark he
    felt that he was scarcely shining with brilliancy, and became aware
    that he was nervous.

    'And your respected father,' said Mr Casby, 'is no more! I was
    grieved to hear it, Mr Clennam, I was grieved.'

    Arthur replied in the usual way that he felt infinitely obliged to
    him.

    'There was a time,' said Mr Casby, 'when your parents and myself
    were not on friendly terms. There was a little family
    misunderstanding among us. Your respected mother was rather
    jealous of her son, maybe; when I say her son, I mean your worthy
    self, your worthy self.'

    His smooth face had a bloom upon it like ripe wall-fruit. What
    with his blooming face, and that head, and his blue eyes, he seemed
    to be delivering sentiments of rare wisdom and virtue. In like
    manner, his physiognomical expression seemed to teem with
    benignity. Nobody could have said where the wisdom was, or where
    the virtue was, or where the benignity was; but they all seemed to
    be somewhere about him.
    'Those times, however,' pursued Mr Casby, 'are past and gone, past
    and gone. I do myself the pleasure of making a visit to your
    respected mother occasionally, and of admiring the fortitude and
    strength of mind with which she bears her trials, bears her
    trials.' When he made one of these little repetitions, sitting
    with his hands crossed before him, he did it with his head on one
    side, and a gentle smile, as if he had something in his thoughts
    too sweetly profound to be put into words. As if he denied himself
    the pleasure of uttering it, lest he should soar too high; and his
    meekness therefore preferred to be unmeaning.

    'I have heard that you were kind enough on one of those occasions,'
    said Arthur, catching at the opportunity as it drifted past him,
    'to mention Little Dorrit to my mother.'

    'Little--Dorrit? That's the seamstress who was mentioned to me by
    a small tenant of mine? Yes, yes. Dorrit? That's the name. Ah,
    yes, yes! You call her Little Dorrit?'

    No road in that direction. Nothing came of the cross-cut. It led
    no further.

    'My daughter Flora,' said Mr Casby, 'as you may have heard
    probably, Mr Clennam, was married and established in life, several
    years ago. She had the misfortune to lose her husband when she had
    been married a few months. She resides with me again. She will be
    glad to see you, if you will permit me to let her know that you are
    here.'

    'By all means,' returned Clennam. 'I should have preferred the
    request, if your kindness had not anticipated me.'

    Upon this Mr Casby rose up in his list shoes, and with a slow,
    heavy step (he was of an elephantine build), made for the door. He
    had a long wide-skirted bottle-green coat on, and a bottle-green
    pair of trousers, and a bottle-green waistcoat. The Patriarchs
    were not dressed in bottle-green broadcloth, and yet his clothes
    looked patriarchal.

    He had scarcely left the room, and allowed the ticking to become
    audible again, when a quick hand turned a latchkey in the house-
    door, opened it, and shut it. Immediately afterwards, a quick and
    eager short dark man came into the room with so much way upon him
    that he was within a foot of Clennam before he could stop.

    'Halloa!' he said.

    Clennam saw no reason why he should not say 'Halloa!' too.

    'What's the matter?' said the short dark man.

    'I have not heard that anything is the matter,' returned Clennam.

    'Where's Mr Casby?' asked the short dark man, looking about.
    'He will be here directly, if you want him.'

    '_I_ want him?' said the short dark man. 'Don't you?'
    This elicited a word or two of explanation from Clennam, during the
    delivery of which the short dark man held his breath and looked at
    him. He was dressed in black and rusty iron grey; had jet black
    beads of eyes; a scrubby little black chin; wiry black hair
    striking out from his head in prongs, like forks or hair-pins; and
    a complexion that was very dingy by nature, or very dirty by art,
    or a compound of nature and art. He had dirty hands and dirty
    broken nails, and looked as if he had been in the coals; he was in
    a perspiration, and snorted and sniffed and puffed and blew, like
    a little labouring steam-engine.

    'Oh!' said he, when Arthur told him how he came to be there. 'Very
    well. That's right. If he should ask for Pancks, will you be so
    good as to say that Pancks is come in?' And so, with a snort and
    a puff, he worked out by another door.

    Now, in the old days at home, certain audacious doubts respecting
    the last of the Patriarchs, which were afloat in the air, had, by
    some forgotten means, come in contact with Arthur's sensorium. He
    was aware of motes and specks of suspicion in the atmosphere of
    that time; seen through which medium, Christopher Casby was a mere
    Inn signpost, without any Inn--an invitation to rest and be
    thankful, when there was no place to put up at, and nothing
    whatever to be thankful for. He knew that some of these specks
    even represented Christopher as capable of harbouring designs in
    'that head,' and as being a crafty impostor. Other motes there
    were which showed him as a heavy, selfish, drifting Booby, who,
    having stumbled, in the course of his unwieldy jostlings against
    other men, on the discovery that to get through life with ease and
    credit, he had but to hold his tongue, keep the bald part of his
    head well polished, and leave his hair alone, had had just cunning
    enough to seize the idea and stick to it. It was said that his
    being town-agent to Lord Decimus Tite Barnacle was referable, not
    to his having the least business capacity, but to his looking so
    supremely benignant that nobody could suppose the property screwed
    or jobbed under such a man; also, that for similar reasons he now
    got more money out of his own wretched lettings, unquestioned, than
    anybody with a less nobby and less shining crown could possibly
    have done. In a word, it was represented (Clennam called to mind,
    alone in the ticking parlour) that many people select their models,
    much as the painters, just now mentioned, select theirs; and that,
    whereas in the Royal Academy some evil old ruffian of a Dog-stealer
    will annually be found embodying all the cardinal virtues, on
    account of his eyelashes, or his chin, or his legs (thereby
    planting thorns of confusion in the breasts of the more observant
    students of nature), so, in the great social Exhibition,
    accessories are often accepted in lieu of the internal character.

    Calling these things to mind, and ranging Mr Pancks in a row with
    them, Arthur Clennam leaned this day to the opinion, without quite
    deciding on it, that the last of the Patriarchs was the drifting
    Booby aforesaid, with the one idea of keeping the bald part of his
    head highly polished: and that, much as an unwieldy ship in the
    Thames river may sometimes be seen heavily driving with the tide,
    broadside on, stern first, in its own way and in the way of
    everything else, though making a great show of navigation, when all
    of a sudden, a little coaly steam-tug will bear down upon it, take
    it in tow, and bustle off with it; similarly the cumbrous Patriarch
    had been taken in tow by the snorting Pancks, and was now following
    in the wake of that dingy little craft.

    The return of Mr Casby with his daughter Flora, put an end to these
    meditations. Clennam's eyes no sooner fell upon the subject of his
    old passion than it shivered and broke to pieces.

    Most men will be found sufficiently true to themselves to be true
    to an old idea. It is no proof of an inconstant mind, but exactly
    the opposite, when the idea will not bear close comparison with the
    reality, and the contrast is a fatal shock to it. Such was
    Clennam's case. In his youth he had ardently loved this woman, and
    had heaped upon her all the locked-up wealth of his affection and
    imagination. That wealth had been, in his desert home, like
    Robinson Crusoe's money; exchangeable with no one, lying idle in
    the dark to rust, until he poured it out for her. Ever since that
    memorable time, though he had, until the night of his arrival, as
    completely dismissed her from any association with his Present or
    Future as if she had been dead (which she might easily have been
    for anything he knew), he had kept the old fancy of the Past
    unchanged, in its old sacred place. And now, after all, the last
    of the Patriarchs coolly walked into the parlour, saying in effect,
    'Be good enough to throw it down and dance upon it. This is
    Flora.'

    Flora, always tall, had grown to be very broad too, and short of
    breath; but that was not much. Flora, whom he had left a lily, had
    become a peony; but that was not much. Flora, who had seemed
    enchanting in all she said and thought, was diffuse and silly.
    That was much. Flora, who had been spoiled and artless long ago,
    was determined to be spoiled and artless now. That was a fatal
    blow.

    This is Flora!

    'I am sure,' giggled Flora, tossing her head with a caricature of
    her girlish manner, such as a mummer might have presented at her
    own funeral, if she had lived and died in classical antiquity, 'I
    am ashamed to see Mr Clennam, I am a mere fright, I know he'll find
    me fearfully changed, I am actually an old woman, it's shocking to
    be found out, it's really shocking!'

    He assured her that she was just what he had expected and that time
    had not stood still with himself.

    'Oh! But with a gentleman it's so different and really you look so
    amazingly well that you have no right to say anything of the kind,
    while, as to me, you know--oh!' cried Flora with a little scream,
    'I am dreadful!'

    The Patriarch, apparently not yet understanding his own part in the
    drama under representation, glowed with vacant serenity.

    'But if we talk of not having changed,' said Flora, who, whatever
    she said, never once came to a full stop, 'look at Papa, is not
    Papa precisely what he was when you went away, isn't it cruel and
    unnatural of Papa to be such a reproach to his own child, if we go
    on in this way much longer people who don't know us will begin to
    suppose that I am Papa's Mama!'

    That must be a long time hence, Arthur considered.

    'Oh Mr Clennam you insincerest of creatures,' said Flora, 'I
    perceive already you have not lost your old way of paying
    compliments, your old way when you used to pretend to be so
    sentimentally struck you know--at least I don't mean that, I--oh I
    don't know what I mean!' Here Flora tittered confusedly, and gave
    him one of her old glances.

    The Patriarch, as if he now began to perceive that his part in the
    piece was to get off the stage as soon as might be, rose, and went
    to the door by which Pancks had worked out, hailing that Tug by
    name. He received an answer from some little Dock beyond, and was
    towed out of sight directly.

    'You mustn't think of going yet,' said Flora--Arthur had looked at
    his hat, being in a ludicrous dismay, and not knowing what to do:
    'you could never be so unkind as to think of going, Arthur--I mean
    Mr Arthur--or I suppose Mr Clennam would be far more proper--but I
    am sure I don't know what I am saying--without a word about the
    dear old days gone for ever, when I come to think of it I dare say
    it would be much better not to speak of them and it's highly
    probable that you have some much more agreeable engagement and pray
    let Me be the last person in the world to interfere with it though
    there was a time, but I am running into nonsense again.'

    Was it possible that Flora could have been such a chatterer in the
    days she referred to? Could there have been anything like her
    present disjointed volubility in the fascinations that had
    captivated him?

    'Indeed I have little doubt,' said Flora, running on with
    astonishing speed, and pointing her conversation with nothing but
    commas, and very few of them, 'that you are married to some Chinese
    lady, being in China so long and being in business and naturally
    desirous to settle and extend your connection nothing was more
    likely than that you should propose to a Chinese lady and nothing
    was more natural I am sure than that the Chinese lady should accept
    you and think herself very well off too, I only hope she's not a
    Pagodian dissenter.'

    'I am not,' returned Arthur, smiling in spite of himself, 'married
    to any lady, Flora.'

    'Oh good gracious me I hope you never kept yourself a bachelor so
    long on my account!' tittered Flora; 'but of course you never did
    why should you, pray don't answer, I don't know where I'm running
    to, oh do tell me something about the Chinese ladies whether their
    eyes are really so long and narrow always putting me in mind of
    mother-of-pearl fish at cards and do they really wear tails down
    their back and plaited too or is it only the men, and when they
    pull their hair so very tight off their foreheads don't they hurt
    themselves, and why do they stick little bells all over their
    bridges and temples and hats and things or don't they really do
    it?' Flora gave him another of her old glances. Instantly she
    went on again, as if he had spoken in reply for some time.

    'Then it's all true and they really do! good gracious Arthur!--
    pray excuse me--old habit--Mr Clennam far more proper--what a
    country to live in for so long a time, and with so many lanterns
    and umbrellas too how very dark and wet the climate ought to be and
    no doubt actually is, and the sums of money that must be made by
    those two trades where everybody carries them and hangs them
    everywhere, the little shoes too and the feet screwed back in
    infancy is quite surprising, what a traveller you are!'

    In his ridiculous distress, Clennam received another of the old
    glances without in the least knowing what to do with it.

    'Dear dear,' said Flora, 'only to think of the changes at home
    Arthur--cannot overcome it, and seems so natural, Mr Clennam far
    more proper--since you became familiar with the Chinese customs and
    language which I am persuaded you speak like a Native if not better
    for you were always quick and clever though immensely difficult no
    doubt, I am sure the tea chests alone would kill me if I tried,
    such changes Arthur--I am doing it again, seems so natural, most
    improper--as no one could have believed, who could have ever
    imagined Mrs Finching when I can't imagine it myself!'

    'Is that your married name?' asked Arthur, struck, in the midst of
    all this, by a certain warmth of heart that expressed itself in her
    tone when she referred, however oddly, to the youthful relation in
    which they had stood to one another. 'Finching?'

    'Finching oh yes isn't it a dreadful name, but as Mr F. said when
    he proposed to me which he did seven times and handsomely consented
    I must say to be what he used to call on liking twelve months,
    after all, he wasn't answerable for it and couldn't help it could
    he, Excellent man, not at all like you but excellent man!'

    Flora had at last talked herself out of breath for one moment. One
    moment; for she recovered breath in the act of raising a minute
    corner of her pocket-handkerchief to her eye, as a tribute to the
    ghost of the departed Mr F., and began again.

    'No one could dispute, Arthur--Mr Clennam--that it's quite right
    you should be formally friendly to me under the altered
    circumstances and indeed you couldn't be anything else, at least I
    suppose not you ought to know, but I can't help recalling that
    there was a time when things were very different.'

    'My dear Mrs Finching,' Arthur began, struck by the good tone
    again.

    'Oh not that nasty ugly name, say Flora!'

    'Flora. I assure you, Flora, I am happy in seeing you once more,
    and in finding that, like me, you have not forgotten the old
    foolish dreams, when we saw all before us in the light of our youth
    and hope.'

    'You don't seem so,' pouted Flora, 'you take it very coolly, but
    however I know you are disappointed in me, I suppose the Chinese
    ladies--Mandarinesses if you call them so--are the cause or perhaps
    I am the cause myself, it's just as likely.'

    'No, no,' Clennam entreated, 'don't say that.'

    'Oh I must you know,' said Flora, in a positive tone, 'what
    nonsense not to, I know I am not what you expected, I know that
    very well.'

    In the midst of her rapidity, she had found that out with the quick
    perception of a cleverer woman. The inconsistent and profoundly
    unreasonable way in which she instantly went on, nevertheless, to
    interweave their long-abandoned boy and girl relations with their
    present interview, made Clennam feel as if he were light-headed.

    'One remark,' said Flora, giving their conversation, without the
    slightest notice and to the great terror of Clennam, the tone of a
    love-quarrel, 'I wish to make, one explanation I wish to offer,
    when your Mama came and made a scene of it with my Papa and when I
    was called down into the little breakfast-room where they were
    looking at one another with your Mama's parasol between them seated
    on two chairs like mad bulls what was I to do?'

    'My dear Mrs Finching,' urged Clennam--'all so long ago and so long
    concluded, is it worth while seriously to--'

    'I can't Arthur,' returned Flora, 'be denounced as heartless by the
    whole society of China without setting myself right when I have the
    opportunity of doing so, and you must be very well aware that there
    was Paul and Virginia which had to be returned and which was
    returned without note or comment, not that I mean to say you could
    have written to me watched as I was but if it had only come back
    with a red wafer on the cover I should have known that it meant
    Come to Pekin Nankeen and What's the third place, barefoot.'

    'My dear Mrs Finching, you were not to blame, and I never blamed
    you. We were both too young, too dependent and helpless, to do
    anything but accept our separation.--Pray think how long ago,'
    gently remonstrated Arthur.
    'One more remark,' proceeded Flora with unslackened volubility, 'I
    wish to make, one more explanation I wish to offer, for five days
    I had a cold in the head from crying which I passed entirely in the
    back drawing-room--there is the back drawing-room still on the
    first floor and still at the back of the house to confirm my
    words--when that dreary period had passed a lull succeeded years
    rolled on and Mr F. became acquainted with us at a mutual friend's,
    he was all attention he called next day he soon began to call three
    evenings a week and to send in little things for supper it was not
    love on Mr F.'s part it was adoration, Mr F. proposed with the full
    approval of Papa and what could I do?'

    'Nothing whatever,' said Arthur, with the cheerfulest readiness,
    'but what you did. Let an old friend assure you of his full
    conviction that you did quite right.'

    'One last remark,' proceeded Flora, rejecting commonplace life with
    a wave of her hand, 'I wish to make, one last explanation I wish to
    offer, there was a time ere Mr F. first paid attentions incapable
    of being mistaken, but that is past and was not to be, dear Mr
    Clennam you no longer wear a golden chain you are free I trust you
    may be happy, here is Papa who is always tiresome and putting in
    his nose everywhere where he is not wanted.'

    With these words, and with a hasty gesture fraught with timid
    caution--such a gesture had Clennam's eyes been familiar with in
    the old time--poor Flora left herself at eighteen years of age, a
    long long way behind again; and came to a full stop at last.

    Or rather, she left about half of herself at eighteen years of age
    behind, and grafted the rest on to the relict of the late Mr F.;
    thus making a moral mermaid of herself, which her once boy-lover
    contemplated with feelings wherein his sense of the sorrowful and
    his sense of the comical were curiously blended.

    For example. As if there were a secret understanding between
    herself and Clennam of the most thrilling nature; as if the first
    of a train of post-chaises and four, extending all the way to
    Scotland, were at that moment round the corner; and as if she
    couldn't (and wouldn't) have walked into the Parish Church with
    him, under the shade of the family umbrella, with the Patriarchal
    blessing on her head, and the perfect concurrence of all mankind;
    Flora comforted her soul with agonies of mysterious signalling,
    expressing dread of discovery. With the sensation of becoming more
    and more light-headed every minute, Clennam saw the relict of the
    late Mr F. enjoying herself in the most wonderful manner, by
    putting herself and him in their old places, and going through all
    the old performances--now, when the stage was dusty, when the
    scenery was faded, when the youthful actors were dead, when the
    orchestra was empty, when the lights were out. And still, through
    all this grotesque revival of what he remembered as having once
    been prettily natural to her, he could not but feel that it revived
    at sight of him, and that there was a tender memory in it.

    The Patriarch insisted on his staying to dinner, and Flora
    signalled 'Yes!' Clennam so wished he could have done more than
    stay to dinner--so heartily wished he could have found the Flora
    that had been, or that never had been--that he thought the least
    atonement he could make for the disappointment he almost felt
    ashamed of, was to give himself up to the family desire.
    Therefore, he stayed to dinner.

    Pancks dined with them. Pancks steamed out of his little dock at
    a quarter before six, and bore straight down for the Patriarch, who
    happened to be then driving, in an inane manner, through a stagnant
    account of Bleeding Heart Yard. Pancks instantly made fast to him
    and hauled him out.

    'Bleeding Heart Yard?' said Pancks, with a puff and a snort. 'It's
    a troublesome property. Don't pay you badly, but rents are very
    hard to get there. You have more trouble with that one place than
    with all the places belonging to you.'

    just as the big ship in tow gets the credit, with most spectators,
    of being the powerful object, so the Patriarch usually seemed to
    have said himself whatever Pancks said for him.

    'Indeed?' returned Clennam, upon whom this impression was so
    efficiently made by a mere gleam of the polished head that he spoke
    the ship instead of the Tug. 'The people are so poor there?'

    'You can't say, you know,' snorted Pancks, taking one of his dirty
    hands out of his rusty iron-grey pockets to bite his nails, if he
    could find any, and turning his beads of eyes upon his employer,
    'whether they're poor or not. They say they are, but they all say
    that. When a man says he's rich, you're generally sure he isn't.
    Besides, if they ARE poor, you can't help it. You'd be poor
    yourself if you didn't get your rents.'

    'True enough,' said Arthur.

    'You're not going to keep open house for all the poor of London,'
    pursued Pancks. 'You're not going to lodge 'em for nothing.
    You're not going to open your gates wide and let 'em come free.
    Not if you know it, you ain't.'

    Mr Casby shook his head, in Placid and benignant generality.

    'If a man takes a room of you at half-a-crown a week, and when the
    week comes round hasn't got the half-crown, you say to that man,
    Why have you got the room, then? If you haven't got the one thing,
    why have you got the other? What have you been and done with your
    money? What do you mean by it? What are you up to? That's what
    YOU say to a man of that sort; and if you didn't say it, more shame
    for you!' Mr Pancks here made a singular and startling noise,
    produced by a strong blowing effort in the region of the nose,
    unattended by any result but that acoustic one.

    'You have some extent of such property about the east and north-
    east here, I believe?' said Clennam, doubtful which of the two to
    address.

    'Oh, pretty well,' said Pancks. 'You're not particular to east or
    north-east, any point of the compass will do for you. What you
    want is a good investment and a quick return. You take it where
    you can find it. You ain't nice as to situation--not you.'

    There was a fourth and most original figure in the Patriarchal
    tent, who also appeared before dinner. This was an amazing little
    old woman, with a face like a staring wooden doll too cheap for
    expression, and a stiff yellow wig perched unevenly on the top of
    her head, as if the child who owned the doll had driven a tack
    through it anywhere, so that it only got fastened on. Another
    remarkable thing in this little old woman was, that the same child
    seemed to have damaged her face in two or three places with some
    blunt instrument in the nature of a spoon; her countenance, and
    particularly the tip of her nose, presenting the phenomena of
    several dints, generally answering to the bowl of that article. A
    further remarkable thing in this little old woman was, that she had
    no name but Mr F.'s Aunt.

    She broke upon the visitor's view under the following
    circumstances: Flora said when the first dish was being put on the
    table, perhaps Mr Clennam might not have heard that Mr F. had left
    her a legacy? Clennam in return implied his hope that Mr F. had
    endowed the wife whom he adored, with the greater part of his
    worldly substance, if not with all. Flora said, oh yes, she didn't
    mean that, Mr F. had made a beautiful will, but he had left her as
    a separate legacy, his Aunt. She then went out of the room to
    fetch the legacy, and, on her return, rather triumphantly presented
    'Mr F.'s Aunt.'

    The major characteristics discoverable by the stranger in Mr F.'s
    Aunt, were extreme severity and grim taciturnity; sometimes
    interrupted by a propensity to offer remarks in a deep warning
    voice, which, being totally uncalled for by anything said by
    anybody, and traceable to no association of ideas, confounded and
    terrified the Mind. Mr F.'s Aunt may have thrown in these
    observations on some system of her own, and it may have been
    ingenious, or even subtle: but the key to it was wanted.
    The neatly-served and well-cooked dinner (for everything about the
    Patriarchal household promoted quiet digestion) began with some
    soup, some fried soles, a butter-boat of shrimp sauce, and a dish
    of potatoes. The conversation still turned on the receipt of
    rents. Mr F.'s Aunt, after regarding the company for ten minutes
    with a malevolent gaze, delivered the following fearful remark:

    'When we lived at Henley, Barnes's gander was stole by tinkers.'
    Mr Pancks courageously nodded his head and said, 'All right,
    ma'am.' But the effect of this mysterious communication upon
    Clennam was absolutely to frighten him. And another circumstance
    invested this old lady with peculiar terrors. Though she was
    always staring, she never acknowledged that she saw any individual.

    The polite and attentive stranger would desire, say, to consult her
    inclinations on the subject of potatoes. His expressive action
    would be hopelessly lost upon her, and what could he do? No man
    could say, 'Mr F.'s Aunt, will you permit me?' Every man retired
    from the spoon, as Clennam did, cowed and baffled.

    There was mutton, a steak, and an apple-pie--nothing in the
    remotest way connected with ganders--and the dinner went on like a
    disenchanted feast, as it truly was. Once upon a time Clennam had
    sat at that table taking no heed of anything but Flora; now the
    principal heed he took of Flora was to observe, against his will,
    that she was very fond of porter, that she combined a great deal of
    sherry with sentiment, and that if she were a little overgrown, it
    was upon substantial grounds. The last of the Patriarchs had
    always been a mighty eater, and he disposed of an immense quantity
    of solid food with the benignity of a good soul who was feeding
    some one else. Mr Pancks, who was always in a hurry, and who
    referred at intervals to a little dirty notebook which he kept
    beside him (perhaps containing the names of the defaulters he meant
    to look up by way of dessert), took in his victuals much as if he
    were coaling; with a good deal of noise, a good deal of dropping
    about, and a puff and a snort occasionally, as if he were nearly
    ready to steam away.

    All through dinner, Flora combined her present appetite for eating
    and drinking with her past appetite for romantic love, in a way
    that made Clennam afraid to lift his eyes from his plate; since he
    could not look towards her without receiving some glance of
    mysterious meaning or warning, as if they were engaged in a plot.
    Mr F.'s Aunt sat silently defying him with an aspect of the
    greatest bitterness, until the removal of the cloth and the
    appearance of the decanters, when she originated another
    observation--struck into the conversation like a clock, without
    consulting anybody.

    Flora had just said, 'Mr Clennam, will you give me a glass of port
    for Mr F.'s Aunt?'

    'The Monument near London Bridge,' that lady instantly proclaimed,
    'was put up arter the Great Fire of London; and the Great Fire of
    London was not the fire in which your uncle George's workshops was
    burned down.'

    Mr Pancks, with his former courage, said, 'Indeed, ma'am? All
    right!' But appearing to be incensed by imaginary contradiction,
    or other ill-usage, Mr F.'s Aunt, instead of relapsing into
    silence, made the following additional proclamation:

    'I hate a fool!'

    She imparted to this sentiment, in itself almost Solomonic, so
    extremely injurious and personal a character by levelling it
    straight at the visitor's head, that it became necessary to lead Mr
    F.'s Aunt from the room. This was quietly done by Flora; Mr F.'s
    Aunt offering no resistance, but inquiring on her way out, 'What he
    come there for, then?' with implacable animosity.

    When Flora returned, she explained that her legacy was a clever old
    lady, but was sometimes a little singular, and 'took dislikes'--
    peculiarities of which Flora seemed to be proud rather than
    otherwise. As Flora's good nature shone in the case, Clennam had
    no fault to find with the old lady for eliciting it, now that he
    was relieved from the terrors of her presence; and they took a
    glass or two of wine in peace. Foreseeing then that the Pancks
    would shortly get under weigh, and that the Patriarch would go to
    sleep, he pleaded the necessity of visiting his mother, and asked
    Mr Pancks in which direction he was going?

    'Citywards, sir,' said Pancks.
    'Shall we walk together?' said Arthur.

    'Quite agreeable,' said Pancks.

    Meanwhile Flora was murmuring in rapid snatches for his ear, that
    there was a time and that the past was a yawning gulf however and
    that a golden chain no longer bound him and that she revered the
    memory of the late Mr F. and that she should be at home to-morrow
    at half-past one and that the decrees of Fate were beyond recall
    and that she considered nothing so improbable as that he ever
    walked on the north-west side of Gray's-Inn Gardens at exactly four
    o'clock in the afternoon. He tried at parting to give his hand in
    frankness to the existing Flora--not the vanished Flora, or the
    mermaid--but Flora wouldn't have it, couldn't have it, was wholly
    destitute of the power of separating herself and him from their
    bygone characters. He left the house miserably enough; and so much
    more light-headed than ever, that if it had not been his good
    fortune to be towed away, he might, for the first quarter of an
    hour, have drifted anywhere.

    When he began to come to himself, in the cooler air and the absence
    of Flora, he found Pancks at full speed, cropping such scanty
    pasturage of nails as he could find, and snorting at intervals.
    These, in conjunction with one hand in his pocket and his roughened
    hat hind side before, were evidently the conditions under which he
    reflected.

    'A fresh night!' said Arthur.

    'Yes, it's pretty fresh,' assented Pancks. 'As a stranger you feel
    the climate more than I do, I dare say. Indeed I haven't got time
    to feel it.'

    'You lead such a busy life?'

    'Yes, I have always some of 'em to look up, or something to look
    after. But I like business,' said Pancks, getting on a little
    faster. 'What's a man made for?'

    'For nothing else?' said Clennam.

    Pancks put the counter question, 'What else?' It packed up, in the
    smallest compass, a weight that had rested on Clennam's life; and
    he made no answer.

    'That's what I ask our weekly tenants,' said Pancks. 'Some of 'em
    will pull long faces to me, and say, Poor as you see us, master,
    we're always grinding, drudging, toiling, every minute we're awake.

    I say to them, What else are you made for? It shuts them up. They
    haven't a word to answer. What else are you made for? That
    clinches it.'

    'Ah dear, dear, dear!' sighed Clennam.

    'Here am I,' said Pancks, pursuing his argument with the weekly
    tenant. 'What else do you suppose I think I am made for? Nothing.

    Rattle me out of bed early, set me going, give me as short a time
    as you like to bolt my meals in, and keep me at it. Keep me always
    at it, and I'll keep you always at it, you keep somebody else
    always at it. There you are with the Whole Duty of Man in a
    commercial country.'

    When they had walked a little further in silence, Clennam said:
    'Have you no taste for anything, Mr Pancks?'

    'What's taste?' drily retorted Pancks.

    'Let us say inclination.'

    'I have an inclination to get money, sir,' said Pancks, 'if you
    will show me how.' He blew off that sound again, and it occurred
    to his companion for the first time that it was his way of
    laughing. He was a singular man in all respects; he might not have
    been quite in earnest, but that the short, hard, rapid manner in
    which he shot out these cinders of principles, as if it were done
    by mechanical revolvency, seemed irreconcilable with banter.

    'You are no great reader, I suppose?' said Clennam.

    'Never read anything but letters and accounts. Never collect
    anything but advertisements relative to next of kin. If that's a
    taste, I have got that. You're not of the Clennams of Cornwall, Mr
    Clennam?'

    'Not that I ever heard of.'
    'I know you're not. I asked your mother, sir. She has too much
    character to let a chance escape her.'

    'Supposing I had been of the Clennams of Cornwall?'
    'You'd have heard of something to your advantage.'

    'Indeed! I have heard of little enough to my advantage for some
    time.'

    'There's a Cornish property going a begging, sir, and not a Cornish
    Clennam to have it for the asking,' said Pancks, taking his note-
    book from his breast pocket and putting it in again. 'I turn off
    here. I wish you good night.'

    'Good night!' said Clennam. But the Tug, suddenly lightened, and
    untrammelled by having any weight in tow, was already puffing away
    into the distance.

    They had crossed Smithfield together, and Clennam was left alone at
    the corner of Barbican. He had no intention of presenting himself
    in his mother's dismal room that night, and could not have felt
    more depressed and cast away if he had been in a wilderness. He
    turned slowly down Aldersgate Street, and was pondering his way
    along towards Saint Paul's, purposing to come into one of the great
    thoroughfares for the sake of their light and life, when a crowd of
    people flocked towards him on the same pavement, and he stood aside
    against a shop to let them pass. As they came up, he made out that
    they were gathered around a something that was carried on men's
    shoulders. He soon saw that it was a litter, hastily made of a
    shutter or some such thing; and a recumbent figure upon it, and the
    scraps of conversation in the crowd, and a muddy bundle carried by
    one man, and a muddy hat carried by another, informed him that an
    accident had occurred. The litter stopped under a lamp before it
    had passed him half-a-dozen paces, for some readjustment of the
    burden; and, the crowd stopping too, he found himself in the midst
    of the array.

    'An accident going to the Hospital?' he asked an old man beside
    him, who stood shaking his head, inviting conversation.

    'Yes,' said the man, 'along of them Mails. They ought to be
    prosecuted and fined, them Mails. They come a racing out of Lad
    Lane and Wood Street at twelve or fourteen mile a hour, them Mails
    do. The only wonder is, that people ain't killed oftener by them
    Mails.'

    'This person is not killed, I hope?'

    'I don't know!' said the man, 'it an't for the want of a will in
    them Mails, if he an't.' The speaker having folded his arms, and
    set in comfortably to address his depreciation of them Mails to any
    of the bystanders who would listen, several voices, out of pure
    sympathy with the sufferer, confirmed him; one voice saying to
    Clennam, 'They're a public nuisance, them Mails, sir;' another, 'I
    see one on 'em pull up within half a inch of a boy, last night;'
    another, 'I see one on 'em go over a cat, sir--and it might have
    been your own mother;' and all representing, by implication, that
    if he happened to possess any public influence, he could not use it
    better than against them Mails.

    'Why, a native Englishman is put to it every night of his life, to
    save his life from them Mails,' argued the first old man; 'and he
    knows when they're a coming round the corner, to tear him limb from
    limb. What can you expect from a poor foreigner who don't know
    nothing about 'em!'

    'Is this a foreigner?' said Clennam, leaning forward to look.

    In the midst of such replies as 'Frenchman, sir,' 'Porteghee, sir,'
    'Dutchman, sir,' 'Prooshan, sir,' and other conflicting testimony,
    he now heard a feeble voice asking, both in Italian and in French,
    for water. A general remark going round, in reply, of 'Ah, poor
    fellow, he says he'll never get over it; and no wonder!' Clennam
    begged to be allowed to pass, as he understood the poor creature.
    He was immediately handed to the front, to speak to him.

    'First, he wants some water,' said he, looking round. (A dozen
    good fellows dispersed to get it.) 'Are you badly hurt, my friend?'
    he asked the man on the litter, in Italian.

    'Yes, sir; yes, yes, yes. It's my leg, it's my leg. But it
    pleases me to hear the old music, though I am very bad.'

    'You are a traveller! Stay! See, the water! Let me give you
    some.' They had rested the litter on a pile of paving stones. It
    was at a convenient height from the ground, and by stooping he
    could lightly raise the head with one hand and hold the glass to
    his lips with the other. A little, muscular, brown man, with black
    hair and white teeth. A lively face, apparently. Earrings in his
    ears.

    'That's well. You are a traveller?'

    'Surely, sir.'

    'A stranger in this city?'

    'Surely, surely, altogether. I am arrived this unhappy evening.'

    'From what country?'
    'Marseilles.'

    'Why, see there! I also! Almost as much a stranger here as you,
    though born here, I came from Marseilles a little while ago. Don't
    be cast down.' The face looked up at him imploringly, as he rose
    from wiping it, and gently replaced the coat that covered the
    writhing figure. 'I won't leave you till you shall be well taken
    care of. Courage! You will be very much better half an hour
    hence.'

    'Ah! Altro, Altro!' cried the poor little man, in a faintly
    incredulous tone; and as they took him up, hung out his right hand
    to give the forefinger a back-handed shake in the air.

    Arthur Clennam turned; and walking beside the litter, and saying an
    encouraging word now and then, accompanied it to the neighbouring
    hospital of Saint Bartholomew. None of the crowd but the bearers
    and he being admitted, the disabled man was soon laid on a table in
    a cool, methodical way, and carefully examined by a surgeon who was
    as near at hand, and as ready to appear as Calamity herself. 'He
    hardly knows an English word,' said Clennam; 'is he badly hurt?'

    'Let us know all about it first,' said the surgeon, continuing his
    examination with a businesslike delight in it, 'before we
    pronounce.'

    After trying the leg with a finger, and two fingers, and one hand
    and two hands, and over and under, and up and down, and in this
    direction and in that, and approvingly remarking on the points of
    interest to another gentleman who joined him, the surgeon at last
    clapped the patient on the shoulder, and said, 'He won't hurt.
    He'll do very well. It's difficult enough, but we shall not want
    him to part with his leg this time.' Which Clennam interpreted to
    the patient, who was full of gratitude, and, in his demonstrative
    way, kissed both the interpreter's hand and the surgeon's several
    times.

    'It's a serious injury, I suppose?' said Clennam.

    'Ye-es,' replied the surgeon, with the thoughtful pleasure of an
    artist contemplating the work upon his easel. 'Yes, it's enough.
    There's a compound fracture above the knee, and a dislocation
    below. They are both of a beautiful kind.' He gave the patient a
    friendly clap on the shoulder again, as if he really felt that he
    was a very good fellow indeed, and worthy of all commendation for
    having broken his leg in a manner interesting to science.

    'He speaks French?' said the surgeon.

    'Oh yes, he speaks French.'

    'He'll be at no loss here, then.--You have only to bear a little
    pain like a brave fellow, my friend, and to be thankful that all
    goes as well as it does,' he added, in that tongue, 'and you'll
    walk again to a marvel. Now, let us see whether there's anything
    else the matter, and how our ribs are?'

    There was nothing else the matter, and our ribs were sound.
    Clennam remained until everything possible to be done had been
    skilfully and promptly done--the poor belated wanderer in a strange
    land movingly besought that favour of him--and lingered by the bed
    to which he was in due time removed, until he had fallen into a
    doze. Even then he wrote a few words for him on his card, with a
    promise to return to-morrow, and left it to be given to him when he
    should awake.
    All these proceedings occupied so long that it struck eleven
    o'clock at night as he came out at the Hospital Gate. He had hired
    a lodging for the present in Covent Garden, and he took the nearest
    way to that quarter, by Snow Hill and Holborn.

    Left to himself again, after the solicitude and compassion of his
    last adventure, he was naturally in a thoughtful mood. As
    naturally, he could not walk on thinking for ten minutes without
    recalling Flora. She necessarily recalled to him his life, with
    all its misdirection and little happiness.

    When he got to his lodging, he sat down before the dying fire, as
    he had stood at the window of his old room looking out upon the
    blackened forest of chimneys, and turned his gaze back upon the
    gloomy vista by which he had come to that stage in his existence.
    So long, so bare, so blank. No childhood; no youth, except for one
    remembrance; that one remembrance proved, only that day, to be a
    piece of folly.

    It was a misfortune to him, trifle as it might have been to
    another. For, while all that was hard and stern in his
    recollection, remained Reality on being proved--was obdurate to the
    sight and touch, and relaxed nothing of its old indomitable
    grimness--the one tender recollection of his experience would not
    bear the same test, and melted away. He had foreseen this, on the
    former night, when he had dreamed with waking eyes. but he had not
    felt it then; and he had now.

    He was a dreamer in such wise, because he was a man who had, deep-
    rooted in his nature, a belief in all the gentle and good things
    his life had been without. Bred in meanness and hard dealing, this
    had rescued him to be a man of honourable mind and open hand. Bred
    in coldness and severity, this had rescued him to have a warm and
    sympathetic heart. Bred in a creed too darkly audacious to pursue,
    through its process of reserving the making of man in the image of
    his Creator to the making of his Creator in the image of an erring
    man, this had rescued him to judge not, and in humility to be
    merciful, and have hope and charity.

    And this saved him still from the whimpering weakness and cruel
    selfishness of holding that because such a happiness or such a
    virtue had not come into his little path, or worked well for him,
    therefore it was not in the great scheme, but was reducible, when
    found in appearance, to the basest elements. A disappointed mind
    he had, but a mind too firm and healthy for such unwholesome air.
    Leaving himself in the dark, it could rise into the light, seeing
    it shine on others and hailing it.

    Therefore, he sat before his dying fire, sorrowful to think upon
    the way by which he had come to that night, yet not strewing poison
    on the way by which other men had come to it. That he should have
    missed so much, and at his time of life should look so far about
    him for any staff to bear him company upon his downward journey and
    cheer it, was a just regret. He looked at the fire from which the
    blaze departed, from which the afterglow subsided, in which the
    ashes turned grey, from which they dropped to dust, and thought,
    'How soon I too shall pass through such changes, and be gone!'

    To review his life was like descending a green tree in fruit and
    flower, and seeing all the branches wither and drop off, one by
    one, as he came down towards them.

    'From the unhappy suppression of my youngest days, through the
    rigid and unloving home that followed them, through my departure,
    my long exile, my return, my mother's welcome, my intercourse with
    her since, down to the afternoon of this day with poor Flora,' said
    Arthur Clennam, 'what have I found!'

    His door was softly opened, and these spoken words startled him,
    and came as if they were an answer:

    'Little Dorrit.'
    Next Chapter
    Chapter 14
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