Meet us on:
 
Entire Site
    Try our fun game

    Dueling book covers…may the best design win!

    Random Quote
    "Do the one thing you think you cannot do. Fail at it. Try again. Do better the second time. The only people who never tumble are those who never mount the high wire. This is your moment. Own it."
     

    Subscribe to Our Newsletter

    Follow us on Twitter

    Never miss a good book again! Follow Read Print on Twitter

    Chapter 3

    • Rate it:
    • Average Rating: 4.5 out of 5 based on 2 ratings
    • 7 Favorites on Read Print
    Launch Reading Mode Next Chapter
    Chapter 39
    Previous Chapter
    CHAPTER 3

    On the Road

    The bright morning sun dazzled the eyes, the snow had ceased, the
    mists had vanished, the mountain air was so clear and light that
    the new sensation of breathing it was like the having entered on a
    new existence. To help the delusion, the solid ground itself
    seemed gone, and the mountain, a shining waste of immense white
    heaps and masses, to be a region of cloud floating between the blue
    sky above and the earth far below.

    Some dark specks in the snow, like knots upon a little thread,
    beginning at the convent door and winding away down the descent in
    broken lengths which were not yet pieced together, showed where the
    Brethren were at work in several places clearing the track.
    Already the snow had begun to be foot-thawed again about the door.
    Mules were busily brought out, tied to the rings in the wall, and
    laden; strings of bells were buckled on, burdens were adjusted, the
    voices of drivers and riders sounded musically. Some of the
    earliest had even already resumed their journey; and, both on the
    level summit by the dark water near the convent, and on the
    downward way of yesterday's ascent, little moving figures of men
    and mules, reduced to miniatures by the immensity around, went with
    a clear tinkling of bells and a pleasant harmony of tongues.

    In the supper-room of last night, a new fire, piled upon the
    feathery ashes of the old one, shone upon a homely breakfast of
    loaves, butter, and milk. It also shone on the courier of the
    Dorrit family, making tea for his party from a supply he had
    brought up with him, together with several other small stores which
    were chiefly laid in for the use of the strong body of
    inconvenience. Mr Gowan and Blandois of Paris had already
    breakfasted, and were walking up and down by the lake, smoking
    their cigars.
    'Gowan, eh?' muttered Tip, otherwise Edward Dorrit, Esquire,
    turning over the leaves of the book, when the courier had left them
    to breakfast. 'Then Gowan is the name of a puppy, that's all I
    have got to say! If it was worth my while, I'd pull his nose. But
    it isn't worth my while--fortunately for him. How's his wife, Amy?

    I suppose you know. You generally know things of that sort.'

    'She is better, Edward. But they are not going to-day.'

    'Oh! They are not going to-day! Fortunately for that fellow too,'
    said Tip, 'or he and I might have come into collision.'

    'It is thought better here that she should lie quiet to-day, and
    not be fatigued and shaken by the ride down until to-morrow.'

    'With all my heart. But you talk as if you had been nursing her.
    You haven't been relapsing into (Mrs General is not here) into old
    habits, have you, Amy?'

    He asked her the question with a sly glance of observation at Miss
    Fanny, and at his father too.

    'I have only been in to ask her if I could do anything for her,
    Tip,' said Little Dorrit.

    'You needn't call me Tip, Amy child,' returned that young gentleman
    with a frown; 'because that's an old habit, and one you may as well
    lay aside.'

    'I didn't mean to say so, Edward dear. I forgot. It was so
    natural once, that it seemed at the moment the right word.'

    'Oh yes!' Miss Fanny struck in. 'Natural, and right word, and
    once, and all the rest of it! Nonsense, you little thing! I know
    perfectly well why you have been taking such an interest in this
    Mrs Gowan. You can't blind me.'

    'I will not try to, Fanny. Don't be angry.'

    'Oh! angry!' returned that young lady with a flounce. 'I have no
    patience' (which indeed was the truth).
    'Pray, Fanny,' said Mr Dorrit, raising his eyebrows, 'what do you
    mean? Explain yourself.'

    'Oh! Never mind, Pa,' replied Miss Fanny, 'it's no great matter.
    Amy will understand me. She knew, or knew of, this Mrs Gowan
    before yesterday, and she may as well admit that she did.'

    'My child,' said Mr Dorrit, turning to his younger daughter, 'has
    your sister--any--ha--authority for this curious statement?'

    'However meek we are,' Miss Fanny struck in before she could
    answer, 'we don't go creeping into people's rooms on the tops of
    cold mountains, and sitting perishing in the frost with people,
    unless we know something about them beforehand. It's not very hard
    to divine whose friend Mrs Gowan is.'

    'Whose friend?' inquired her father.

    'Pa, I am sorry to say,' returned Miss Fanny, who had by this time
    succeeded in goading herself into a state of much ill-usage and
    grievance, which she was often at great pains to do: 'that I
    believe her to be a friend of that very objectionable and
    unpleasant person, who, with a total absence of all delicacy, which
    our experience might have led us to expect from him, insulted us
    and outraged our feelings in so public and wilful a manner on an
    occasion to which it is understood among us that we will not more
    pointedly allude.'

    'Amy, my child,' said Mr Dorrit, tempering a bland severity with a
    dignified affection, 'is this the case?'

    Little Dorrit mildly answered, yes it was.

    'Yes it is!' cried Miss Fanny. 'Of course! I said so! And now,
    Pa, I do declare once for all'--this young lady was in the habit of
    declaring the same thing once for all every day of her life, and
    even several times in a day--'that this is shameful! I do declare
    once for all that it ought to be put a stop to. Is it not enough
    that we have gone through what is only known to ourselves, but are
    we to have it thrown in our faces, perseveringly and
    systematically, by the very person who should spare our feelings
    most? Are we to be exposed to this unnatural conduct every moment
    of our lives? Are we never to be permitted to forget? I say
    again, it is absolutely infamous!'

    'Well, Amy,' observed her brother, shaking his head, 'you know I
    stand by you whenever I can, and on most occasions. But I must
    say, that, upon my soul, I do consider it rather an unaccountable
    mode of showing your sisterly affection, that you should back up a
    man who treated me in the most ungentlemanly way in which one man
    can treat another. And who,' he added convincingly, must be a low-
    minded thief, you know, or he never could have conducted himself as
    he did.'

    'And see,' said Miss Fanny, 'see what is involved in this! Can we
    ever hope to be respected by our servants? Never. Here are our
    two women, and Pa's valet, and a footman, and a courier, and all
    sorts of dependents, and yet in the midst of these, we are to have
    one of ourselves rushing about with tumblers of cold water, like a
    menial! Why, a policeman,' said Miss Fanny, 'if a beggar had a fit
    in the street, could but go plunging about with tumblers, as this
    very Amy did in this very room before our very eyes last night!'

    'I don't so much mind that, once in a way,' remarked Mr Edward;
    'but your Clennam, as he thinks proper to call himself, is another
    thing.'
    'He is part of the same thing,' returned Miss Fanny, 'and of a
    piece with all the rest. He obtruded himself upon us in the first
    instance. We never wanted him. I always showed him, for one, that
    I could have dispensed with his company with the greatest pleasure.

    He then commits that gross outrage upon our feelings, which he
    never could or would have committed but for the delight he took in
    exposing us; and then we are to be demeaned for the service of his
    friends! Why, I don't wonder at this Mr Gowan's conduct towards
    you. What else was to be expected when he was enjoying our past
    misfortunes--gloating over them at the moment!'
    'Father--Edward--no indeed!' pleaded Little Dorrit. 'Neither Mr
    nor Mrs Gowan had ever heard our name. They were, and they are,
    quite ignorant of our history.'

    'So much the worse,' retorted Fanny, determined not to admit
    anything in extenuation, 'for then you have no excuse. If they had
    known about us, you might have felt yourself called upon to
    conciliate them. That would have been a weak and ridiculous
    mistake, but I can respect a mistake, whereas I can't respect a
    wilful and deliberate abasing of those who should be nearest and
    dearest to us. No. I can't respect that. I can do nothing but
    denounce that.'

    'I never offend you wilfully, Fanny,' said Little Dorrit, 'though
    you are so hard with me.'

    'Then you should be more careful, Amy,' returned her sister. 'If
    you do such things by accident, you should be more careful. If I
    happened to have been born in a peculiar place, and under peculiar
    circumstances that blunted my knowledge of propriety, I fancy I
    should think myself bound to consider at every step, "Am I going,
    ignorantly, to compromise any near and dear relations?" That is
    what I fancy I should do, if it was my case.'

    Mr Dorrit now interposed, at once to stop these painful subjects by
    his authority, and to point their moral by his wisdom.

    'My dear,' said he to his younger daughter, 'I beg you to--ha--to
    say no more. Your sister Fanny expresses herself strongly, but not
    without considerable reason. You have now a--hum--a great position
    to support. That great position is not occupied by yourself alone,
    but by--ha--by me, and--ha hum--by us. Us. Now, it is incumbent
    upon all people in an exalted position, but it is particularly so
    on this family, for reasons which I--ha--will not dwell upon, to
    make themselves respected. To be vigilant in making themselves
    respected. Dependants, to respect us, must be--ha--kept at a
    distance and--hum--kept down. Down. Therefore, your not exposing
    yourself to the remarks of our attendants by appearing to have at
    any time dispensed with their services and performed them for
    yourself, is--ha--highly important.'

    'Why, who can doubt it?' cried Miss Fanny. 'It's the essence of
    everything.'
    'Fanny,' returned her father, grandiloquently, 'give me leave, my
    dear. We then come to--ha--to Mr Clennam. I am free to say that
    I do not, Amy, share your sister's sentiments--that is to say
    altogether--hum--altogether--in reference to Mr Clennam. I am
    content to regard that individual in the light of--ha--generally--
    a well-behaved person. Hum. A well-behaved person. Nor will I
    inquire whether Mr Clennam did, at any time, obtrude himself on--
    ha--my society. He knew my society to be--hum--sought, and his
    plea might be that he regarded me in the light of a public
    character. But there were circumstances attending my--ha--slight
    knowledge of Mr Clennam (it was very slight), which,' here Mr
    Dorrit became extremely grave and impressive, 'would render it
    highly indelicate in Mr Clennam to--ha--to seek to renew
    communication with me or with any member of my family under
    existing circumstances. If Mr Clennam has sufficient delicacy to
    perceive the impropriety of any such attempt, I am bound as a
    responsible gentleman to--ha--defer to that delicacy on his part.
    If, on the other hand, Mr Clennam has not that delicacy, I cannot
    for a moment--ha--hold any correspondence with so--hum--coarse a
    mind. In either case, it would appear that Mr Clennam is put
    altogether out of the question, and that we have nothing to do with
    him or he with us. Ha--Mrs General!'

    The entrance of the lady whom he announced, to take her place at
    the breakfast-table, terminated the discussion. Shortly
    afterwards, the courier announced that the valet, and the footman,
    and the two maids, and the four guides, and the fourteen mules,
    were in readiness; so the breakfast party went out to the convent
    door to join the cavalcade.

    Mr Gowan stood aloof with his cigar and pencil, but Mr Blandois was
    on the spot to pay his respects to the ladies. When he gallantly
    pulled off his slouched hat to Little Dorrit, she thought he had
    even a more sinister look, standing swart and cloaked in the snow,
    than he had in the fire-light over-night. But, as both her father
    and her sister received his homage with some favour, she refrained
    from expressing any distrust of him, lest it should prove to be a
    new blemish derived from her prison birth.

    Nevertheless, as they wound down the rugged way while the convent
    was yet in sight, she more than once looked round, and descried Mr
    Blandois, backed by the convent smoke which rose straight and high
    from the chimneys in a golden film, always standing on one jutting
    point looking down after them. Long after he was a mere black
    stick in the snow, she felt as though she could yet see that smile
    of his, that high nose, and those eyes that were too near it. And
    even after that, when the convent was gone and some light morning
    clouds veiled the pass below it, the ghastly skeleton arms by the
    wayside seemed to be all pointing up at him.

    More treacherous than snow, perhaps, colder at heart, and harder to
    melt, Blandois of Paris by degrees passed out of her mind, as they
    came down into the softer regions. Again the sun was warm, again
    the streams descending from glaciers and snowy caverns were
    refreshing to drink at, again they came among the pine-trees, the
    rocky rivulets, the verdant heights and dales, the wooden chalets
    and rough zigzag fences of Swiss country. Sometimes the way so
    widened that she and her father could ride abreast. And then to
    look at him, handsomely clothed in his fur and broadcloths, rich,
    free, numerously served and attended, his eyes roving far away
    among the glories of the landscape, no miserable screen before them
    to darken his sight and cast its shadow on him, was enough.

    Her uncle was so far rescued from that shadow of old, that he wore
    the clothes they gave him, and performed some ablutions as a
    sacrifice to the family credit, and went where he was taken, with
    a certain patient animal enjoyment, which seemed to express that
    the air and change did him good. In all other respects, save one,
    he shone with no light but such as was reflected from his brother.
    His brother's greatness, wealth, freedom, and grandeur, pleased him
    without any reference to himself. Silent and retiring, he had no
    use for speech when he could hear his brother speak; no desire to
    be waited on, so that the servants devoted themselves to his
    brother. The only noticeable change he originated in himself, was
    an alteration in his manner to his younger niece. Every day it
    refined more and more into a marked respect, very rarely shown by
    age to youth, and still more rarely susceptible, one would have
    said, of the fitness with which he invested it. On those occasions
    when Miss Fanny did declare once for all, he would take the next
    opportunity of baring his grey head before his younger niece, and
    of helping her to alight, or handing her to the carriage, or
    showing her any other attention, with the profoundest deference.
    Yet it never appeared misplaced or forced, being always heartily
    simple, spontaneous, and genuine. Neither would he ever consent,
    even at his brother's request, to be helped to any place before
    her, or to take precedence of her in anything. So jealous was he
    of her being respected, that, on this very journey down from the
    Great Saint Bernard, he took sudden and violent umbrage at the
    footman's being remiss to hold her stirrup, though standing near
    when she dismounted; and unspeakably astonished the whole retinue
    by charging at him on a hard-headed mule, riding him into a corner,
    and threatening to trample him to death.

    They were a goodly company, and the Innkeepers all but worshipped
    them. Wherever they went, their importance preceded them in the
    person of the courier riding before, to see that the rooms of state
    were ready. He was the herald of the family procession. The great
    travelling-carriage came next: containing, inside, Mr Dorrit, Miss
    Dorrit, Miss Amy Dorrit, and Mrs General; outside, some of the
    retainers, and (in fine weather) Edward Dorrit, Esquire, for whom
    the box was reserved. Then came the chariot containing Frederick
    Dorrit, Esquire, and an empty place occupied by Edward Dorrit,
    Esquire, in wet weather. Then came the fourgon with the rest of
    the retainers, the heavy baggage, and as much as it could carry of
    the mud and dust which the other vehicles left behind.

    These equipages adorned the yard of the hotel at Martigny, on the
    return of the family from their mountain excursion. Other vehicles
    were there, much company being on the road, from the patched
    Italian Vettura--like the body of a swing from an English fair put
    upon a wooden tray on wheels, and having another wooden tray
    without wheels put atop of it--to the trim English carriage. But
    there was another adornment of the hotel which Mr Dorrit had not
    bargained for. Two strange travellers embellished one of his
    rooms.

    The Innkeeper, hat in hand in the yard, swore to the courier that
    he was blighted, that he was desolated, that he was profoundly
    afflicted, that he was the most miserable and unfortunate of
    beasts, that he had the head of a wooden pig. He ought never to
    have made the concession, he said, but the very genteel lady had so
    passionately prayed him for the accommodation of that room to dine
    in, only for a little half-hour, that he had been vanquished. The
    little half-hour was expired, the lady and gentleman were taking
    their little dessert and half-cup of coffee, the note was paid, the
    horses were ordered, they would depart immediately; but, owing to
    an unhappy destiny and the curse of Heaven, they were not yet gone.

    Nothing could exceed Mr Dorrit's indignation, as he turned at the
    foot of the staircase on hearing these apologies. He felt that the
    family dignity was struck at by an assassin's hand. He had a sense
    of his dignity, which was of the most exquisite nature. He could
    detect a design upon it when nobody else had any perception of the
    fact. His life was made an agony by the number of fine scalpels
    that he felt to be incessantly engaged in dissecting his dignity.

    'Is it possible, sir,' said Mr Dorrit, reddening excessively, 'that
    you have--ha--had the audacity to place one of my rooms at the
    disposition of any other person?'

    Thousands of pardons! It was the host's profound misfortune to
    have been overcome by that too genteel lady. He besought
    Monseigneur not to enrage himself. He threw himself on Monseigneur
    for clemency. If Monseigneur would have the distinguished goodness
    to occupy the other salon especially reserved for him, for but five
    minutes, all would go well.

    'No, sir,' said Mr Dorrit. 'I will not occupy any salon. I will
    leave your house without eating or drinking, or setting foot in it.

    How do you dare to act like this? Who am I that you--ha--separate
    me from other gentlemen?'

    Alas! The host called all the universe to witness that Monseigneur
    was the most amiable of the whole body of nobility, the most
    important, the most estimable, the most honoured. If he separated
    Monseigneur from others, it was only because he was more
    distinguished, more cherished, more generous, more renowned.

    'Don't tell me so, sir,' returned Mr Dorrit, in a mighty heat.
    'You have affronted me. You have heaped insults upon me. How dare
    you? Explain yourself.'

    Ah, just Heaven, then, how could the host explain himself when he
    had nothing more to explain; when he had only to apologise, and
    confide himself to the so well-known magnanimity of Monseigneur!

    'I tell you, sir,' said Mr Dorrit, panting with anger, 'that you
    separate me--ha--from other gentlemen; that you make distinctions
    between me and other gentlemen of fortune and station. I demand of
    you, why? I wish to know on--ha--what authority, on whose
    authority. Reply sir. Explain. Answer why.'

    Permit the landlord humbly to submit to Monsieur the Courier then,
    that Monseigneur, ordinarily so gracious, enraged himself without
    cause. There was no why. Monsieur the Courier would represent to
    Monseigneur, that he deceived himself in suspecting that there was
    any why, but the why his devoted servant had already had the honour
    to present to him. The very genteel lady--

    'Silence!' cried Mr Dorrit. 'Hold your tongue! I will hear no
    more of the very genteel lady; I will hear no more of you. Look at
    this family--my family--a family more genteel than any lady. You
    have treated this family with disrespect; you have been insolent to
    this family. I'll ruin you. Ha--send for the horses, pack the
    carriages, I'll not set foot in this man's house again!'

    No one had interfered in the dispute, which was beyond the French
    colloquial powers of Edward Dorrit, Esquire, and scarcely within
    the province of the ladies. Miss Fanny, however, now supported her
    father with great bitterness; declaring, in her native tongue, that
    it was quite clear there was something special in this man's
    impertinence; and that she considered it important that he should
    be, by some means, forced to give up his authority for making
    distinctions between that family and other wealthy families. What
    the reasons of his presumption could be, she was at a loss to
    imagine; but reasons he must have, and they ought to be torn from
    him.

    All the guides, mule-drivers, and idlers in the yard, had made
    themselves parties to the angry conference, and were much impressed
    by the courier's now bestirring himself to get the carriages out.
    With the aid of some dozen people to each wheel, this was done at
    a great cost of noise; and then the loading was proceeded with,
    pending the arrival of the horses from the post-house.

    But the very genteel lady's English chariot being already horsed
    and at the inn-door, the landlord had slipped up-stairs to
    represent his hard case. This was notified to the yard by his now
    coming down the staircase in attendance on the gentleman and the
    lady, and by his pointing out the offended majesty of Mr Dorrit to
    them with a significant motion of his hand.

    'Beg your pardon,' said the gentleman, detaching himself from the
    lady, and coming forward. 'I am a man of few words and a bad hand
    at an explanation--but lady here is extremely anxious that there
    should be no Row. Lady--a mother of mine, in point of fact--wishes
    me to say that she hopes no Row.'

    Mr Dorrit, still panting under his injury, saluted the gentleman,
    and saluted the lady, in a distant, final, and invincible manner.

    'No, but really--here, old feller; you!' This was the gentleman's
    way of appealing to Edward Dorrit, Esquire, on whom he pounced as
    a great and providential relief. 'Let you and I try to make this
    all right. Lady so very much wishes no Row.'

    Edward Dorrit, Esquire, led a little apart by the button, assumed
    a diplomatic expression of countenance in replying, 'Why you must
    confess, that when you bespeak a lot of rooms beforehand, and they
    belong to you, it's not pleasant to find other people in 'em.'

    'No,' said the other, 'I know it isn't. I admit it. Still, let
    you and I try to make it all right, and avoid Row. The fault is
    not this chap's at all, but my mother's. Being a remarkably fine
    woman with no bigodd nonsense about her--well educated, too--she
    was too many for this chap. Regularly pocketed him.'

    'If that's the case--' Edward Dorrit, Esquire, began.

    'Assure you 'pon my soul 'tis the case. Consequently,' said the
    other gentleman, retiring on his main position, 'why Row?'

    'Edmund,' said the lady from the doorway, 'I hope you have
    explained, or are explaining, to the satisfaction of this gentleman
    and his family that the civil landlord is not to blame?'

    'Assure you, ma'am,' returned Edmund, 'perfectly paralysing myself
    with trying it on.' He then looked steadfastly at Edward Dorrit,
    Esquire, for some seconds, and suddenly added, in a burst of
    confidence, 'Old feller! Is it all right?'

    'I don't know, after all,' said the lady, gracefully advancing a
    step or two towards Mr Dorrit, 'but that I had better say myself,
    at once, that I assured this good man I took all the consequences
    on myself of occupying one of a stranger's suite of rooms during
    his absence, for just as much (or as little) time as I could dine
    in. I had no idea the rightful owner would come back so soon, nor
    had I any idea that he had come back, or I should have hastened to
    make restoration of my ill-gotten chamber, and to have offered my
    explanation and apology. I trust in saying this--'

    For a moment the lady, with a glass at her eye, stood transfixed
    and speechless before the two Miss Dorrits. At the same moment,
    Miss Fanny, in the foreground of a grand pictorial composition,
    formed by the family, the family equipages, and the family
    servants, held her sister tight under one arm to detain her on the
    spot, and with the other arm fanned herself with a distinguished
    air, and negligently surveyed the lady from head to foot.

    The lady, recovering herself quickly--for it was Mrs Merdle and she
    was not easily dashed--went on to add that she trusted in saying
    this, she apologised for her boldness, and restored this well-
    behaved landlord to the favour that was so very valuable to him.
    Mr Dorrit, on the altar of whose dignity all this was incense, made
    a gracious reply; and said that his people should--ha--countermand
    his horses, and he would--hum--overlook what he had at first
    supposed to be an affront, but now regarded as an honour. Upon
    this the bosom bent to him; and its owner, with a wonderful command
    of feature, addressed a winning smile of adieu to the two sisters,
    as young ladies of fortune in whose favour she was much
    prepossessed, and whom she had never had the gratification of
    seeing before.

    Not so, however, Mr Sparkler. This gentleman, becoming transfixed
    at the same moment as his lady-mother, could not by any means unfix
    himself again, but stood stiffly staring at the whole composition
    with Miss Fanny in the Foreground. On his mother saying, 'Edmund,
    we are quite ready; will you give me your arm?' he seemed, by the
    motion of his lips, to reply with some remark comprehending the
    form of words in which his shining talents found the most frequent
    utterance, but he relaxed no muscle. So fixed was his figure, that
    it would have been matter of some difficulty to bend him
    sufficiently to get him in the carriage-door, if he had not
    received the timely assistance of a maternal pull from within. He
    was no sooner within than the pad of the little window in the back
    of the chariot disappeared, and his eye usurped its place. There
    it remained as long as so small an object was discernible, and
    probably much longer, staring (as though something inexpressibly
    surprising should happen to a codfish) like an ill-executed eye in
    a large locket.

    This encounter was so highly agreeable to Miss Fanny, and gave her
    so much to think of with triumph afterwards, that it softened her
    asperities exceedingly. When the procession was again in motion
    next day, she occupied her place in it with a new gaiety; and
    showed such a flow of spirits indeed, that Mrs General looked
    rather surprised.

    Little Dorrit was glad to be found no fault with, and to see that
    Fanny was pleased; but her part in the procession was a musing
    part, and a quiet one. Sitting opposite her father in the
    travelling-carriage, and recalling the old Marshalsea room, her
    present existence was a dream. All that she saw was new and
    wonderful, but it was not real; it seemed to her as if those
    visions of mountains and picturesque countries might melt away at
    any moment, and the carriage, turning some abrupt corner, bring up
    with a jolt at the old Marshalsea gate.

    To have no work to do was strange, but not half so strange as
    having glided into a corner where she had no one to think for,
    nothing to plan and contrive, no cares of others to load herself
    with. Strange as that was, it was far stranger yet to find a space
    between herself and her father, where others occupied themselves in
    taking care of him, and where she was never expected to be. At
    first, this was so much more unlike her old experience than even
    the mountains themselves, that she had been unable to resign
    herself to it, and had tried to retain her old place about him.
    But he had spoken to her alone, and had said that people--ha--
    people in an exalted position, my dear, must scrupulously exact
    respect from their dependents; and that for her, his daughter, Miss
    Amy Dorrit, of the sole remaining branch of the Dorrits of
    Dorsetshire, to be known to--hum--to occupy herself in fulfilling
    the functions of--ha hum--a valet, would be incompatible with that
    respect. Therefore, my dear, he--ha--he laid his parental
    injunctions upon her, to remember that she was a lady, who had now
    to conduct herself with--hum--a proper pride, and to preserve the
    rank of a lady; and consequently he requested her to abstain from
    doing what would occasion--ha--unpleasant and derogatory remarks.
    She had obeyed without a murmur. Thus it had been brought about
    that she now sat in her corner of the luxurious carriage with her
    little patient hands folded before her, quite displaced even from
    the last point of the old standing ground in life on which her feet
    had lingered.

    It was from this position that all she saw appeared unreal; the
    more surprising the scenes, the more they resembled the unreality
    of her own inner life as she went through its vacant places all day
    long. The gorges of the Simplon, its enormous depths and
    thundering waterfalls, the wonderful road, the points of danger
    where a loose wheel or a faltering horse would have been
    destruction, the descent into Italy, the opening of that beautiful
    land as the rugged mountain-chasm widened and let them out from a
    gloomy and dark imprisonment--all a dream--only the old mean
    Marshalsea a reality. Nay, even the old mean Marshalsea was shaken
    to its foundations when she pictured it without her father. She
    could scarcely believe that the prisoners were still lingering in
    the close yard, that the mean rooms were still every one tenanted,
    and that the turnkey still stood in the Lodge letting people in and
    out, all just as she well knew it to be.

    With a remembrance of her father's old life in prison hanging about
    her like the burden of a sorrowful tune, Little Dorrit would wake
    from a dream of her birth-place into a whole day's dream. The
    painted room in which she awoke, often a humbled state-chamber in
    a dilapidated palace, would begin it; with its wild red autumnal
    vine-leaves overhanging the glass, its orange-trees on the cracked
    white terrace outside the window, a group of monks and peasants in
    the little street below, misery and magnificence wrestling with
    each other upon every rood of ground in the prospect, no matter how
    widely diversified, and misery throwing magnificence with the
    strength of fate. To this would succeed a labyrinth of bare
    passages and pillared galleries, with the family procession already
    preparing in the quadrangle below, through the carriages and
    luggage being brought together by the servants for the day's
    journey. Then breakfast in another painted chamber, damp-stained
    and of desolate proportions; and then the departure, which, to her
    timidity and sense of not being grand enough for her place in the
    ceremonies, was always an uneasy thing. For then the courier (who
    himself would have been a foreign gentleman of high mark in the
    Marshalsea) would present himself to report that all was ready; and
    then her father's valet would pompously induct him into his
    travelling-cloak; and then Fanny's maid, and her own maid (who was
    a weight on Little Dorrit's mind--absolutely made her cry at first,
    she knew so little what to do with her), would be in attendance;
    and then her brother's man would complete his master's equipment;
    and then her father would give his arm to Mrs General, and her
    uncle would give his to her, and, escorted by the landlord and Inn
    servants, they would swoop down-stairs. There, a crowd would be
    collected to see them enter their carriages, which, amidst much
    bowing, and begging, and prancing, and lashing, and clattering,
    they would do; and so they would be driven madly through narrow
    unsavoury streets, and jerked out at the town gate.

    Among the day's unrealities would be roads where the bright red
    vines were looped and garlanded together on trees for many miles;
    woods of olives; white villages and towns on hill-sides, lovely
    without, but frightful in their dirt and poverty within; crosses by
    the way; deep blue lakes with fairy islands, and clustering boats
    with awnings of bright colours and sails of beautiful forms; vast
    piles of building mouldering to dust; hanging-gardens where the
    weeds had grown so strong that their stems, like wedges driven
    home, had split the arch and rent the wall; stone-terraced lanes,
    with the lizards running into and out of every chink; beggars of
    all sorts everywhere: pitiful, picturesque, hungry, merry; children
    beggars and aged beggars. Often at posting-houses and other
    halting places, these miserable creatures would appear to her the
    only realities of the day; and many a time, when the money she had
    brought to give them was all given away, she would sit with her
    folded hands, thoughtfully looking after some diminutive girl
    leading her grey father, as if the sight reminded her of something
    in the days that were gone.

    Again, there would be places where they stayed the week together in
    splendid rooms, had banquets every day, rode out among heaps of
    wonders, walked through miles of palaces, and rested in dark
    corners of great churches; where there were winking lamps of gold
    and silver among pillars and arches, kneeling figures dotted about
    at confessionals and on the pavements; where there was the mist and
    scent of incense; where there were pictures, fantastic images,
    gaudy altars, great heights and distances, all softly lighted
    through stained glass, and the massive curtains that hung in the
    doorways. From these cities they would go on again, by the roads
    of vines and olives, through squalid villages, where there was not
    a hovel without a gap in its filthy walls, not a window with a
    whole inch of glass or paper; where there seemed to be nothing to
    support life, nothing to eat, nothing to make, nothing to grow,
    nothing to hope, nothing to do but die.

    Again they would come to whole towns of palaces, whose proper
    inmates were all banished, and which were all changed into
    barracks: troops of idle soldiers leaning out of the state windows,
    where their accoutrements hung drying on the marble architecture,
    and showing to the mind like hosts of rats who were (happily)
    eating away the props of the edifices that supported them, and must
    soon, with them, be smashed on the heads of the other swarms of
    soldiers and the swarms of priests, and the swarms of spies, who
    were all the ill-looking population left to be ruined, in the
    streets below.

    Through such scenes, the family procession moved on to Venice. And
    here it dispersed for a time, as they were to live in Venice some
    few months in a palace (itself six times as big as the whole
    Marshalsea) on the Grand Canal.

    In this crowning unreality, where all the streets were paved with
    water, and where the deathlike stillness of the days and nights was
    broken by no sound but the softened ringing of church-bells, the
    rippling of the current, and the cry of the gondoliers turning the
    corners of the flowing streets, Little Dorrit, quite lost by her
    task being done, sat down to muse. The family began a gay life,
    went here and there, and turned night into day; but she was timid
    of joining in their gaieties, and only asked leave to be left
    alone.

    Sometimes she would step into one of the gondolas that were always
    kept in waiting, moored to painted posts at the door--when she
    could escape from the attendance of that oppressive maid, who was
    her mistress, and a very hard one--and would be taken all over the
    strange city. Social people in other gondolas began to ask each
    other who the little solitary girl was whom they passed, sitting in
    her boat with folded hands, looking so pensively and wonderingly
    about her. Never thinking that it would be worth anybody's while
    to notice her or her doings, Little Dorrit, in her quiet, scared,
    lost manner, went about the city none the less.

    But her favourite station was the balcony of her own room,
    overhanging the canal, with other balconies below, and none above.
    It was of massive stone darkened by ages, built in a wild fancy
    which came from the East to that collection of wild fancies; and
    Little Dorrit was little indeed, leaning on the broad-cushioned
    ledge, and looking over. As she liked no place of an evening half
    so well, she soon began to be watched for, and many eyes in passing
    gondolas were raised, and many people said, There was the little
    figure of the English girl who was always alone.

    Such people were not realities to the little figure of the English
    girl; such people were all unknown to her. She would watch the
    sunset, in its long low lines of purple and red, and its burning
    flush high up into the sky: so glowing on the buildings, and so
    lightening their structure, that it made them look as if their
    strong walls were transparent, and they shone from within. She
    would watch those glories expire; and then, after looking at the
    black gondolas underneath, taking guests to music and dancing,
    would raise her eyes to the shining stars. Was there no party of
    her own, in other times, on which the stars had shone? To think of
    that old gate now! She would think of that old gate, and of
    herself sitting at it in the dead of the night, pillowing Maggy's
    head; and of other places and of other scenes associated with those
    different times. And then she would lean upon her balcony, and
    look over at the water, as though they all lay underneath it. When
    she got to that, she would musingly watch its running, as if, in
    the general vision, it might run dry, and show her the prison
    again, and herself, and the old room , and the old inmates, and the
    old visitors: all lasting realities that had never changed.
    Next Chapter
    Chapter 39
    Previous Chapter
    If you're writing a Charles Dickens essay and need some advice, post your Charles Dickens essay question on our Facebook page where fellow bookworms are always glad to help!

    Top 5 Authors

    Top 5 Books

    Book Status
    Finished
    Want to read
    Abandoned

    Are you sure you want to leave this group?