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    Chapter 18

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    Chapter 53
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    CHAPTER 18

    A Castle in the Air

    Manifold are the cares of wealth and state. Mr Dorrit's
    satisfaction in remembering that it had not been necessary for him
    to announce himself to Clennam and Co., or to make an allusion to
    his having had any knowledge of the intrusive person of that name,
    had been damped over-night, while it was still fresh, by a debate
    that arose within him whether or no he should take the Marshalsea
    in his way back, and look at the old gate. He had decided not to
    do so; and had astonished the coachman by being very fierce with
    him for proposing to go over London Bridge and recross the river by
    Waterloo Bridge--a course which would have taken him almost within
    sight of his old quarters. Still, for all that, the question had
    raised a conflict in his breast; and, for some odd reason or no
    reason, he was vaguely dissatisfied. Even at the Merdle dinner-
    table next day, he was so out of sorts about it that he continued
    at intervals to turn it over and over, in a manner frightfully
    inconsistent with the good society surrounding him. It made him
    hot to think what the Chief Butler's opinion of him would have
    been, if that illustrious personage could have plumbed with that
    heavy eye of his the stream of his meditations.

    The farewell banquet was of a gorgeous nature, and wound up his
    visit in a most brilliant manner. Fanny combined with the
    attractions of her youth and beauty, a certain weight of self-
    sustainment as if she had been married twenty years. He felt that
    he could leave her with a quiet mind to tread the paths of
    distinction, and wished--but without abatement of patronage, and
    without prejudice to the retiring virtues of his favourite child--
    that he had such another daughter.

    'My dear,' he told her at parting, 'our family looks to you
    to--ha--assert its dignity and--hum--maintain its importance. I
    know you will never disappoint it.'

    'No, papa,' said Fanny, 'you may rely upon that, I think. My best
    love to dearest Amy, and I will write to her very soon.'

    'Shall I convey any message to--ha--anybody else?' asked Mr Dorrit,
    in an insinuating manner.

    'Papa,' said Fanny, before whom Mrs General instantly loomed, 'no,
    I thank you. You are very kind, Pa, but I must beg to be excused.
    There is no other message to send, I thank you, dear papa, that it
    would be at all agreeable to you to take.'

    They parted in an outer drawing-room, where only Mr Sparkler waited
    on his lady, and dutifully bided his time for shaking hands. When
    Mr Sparkler was admitted to this closing audience, Mr Merdle came
    creeping in with not much more appearance of arms in his sleeves
    than if he had been the twin brother of Miss Biffin, and insisted
    on escorting Mr Dorrit down-stairs. All Mr Dorrit's protestations
    being in vain, he enjoyed the honour of being accompanied to the
    hall-door by this distinguished man, who (as Mr Dorrit told him in
    shaking hands on the step) had really overwhelmed him with
    attentions and services during this memorable visit. Thus they
    parted; Mr Dorrit entering his carriage with a swelling breast, not
    at all sorry that his Courier, who had come to take leave in the
    lower regions, should have an opportunity of beholding the grandeur
    of his departure.

    The aforesaid grandeur was yet full upon Mr Dorrit when he alighted
    at his hotel. Helped out by the Courier and some half-dozen of the
    hotel servants, he was passing through the hall with a serene
    magnificence, when lo! a sight presented itself that struck him
    dumb and motionless. John Chivery, in his best clothes, with his
    tall hat under his arm, his ivory-handled cane genteelly
    embarrassing his deportment, and a bundle of cigars in his hand!

    'Now, young man,' said the porter. 'This is the gentleman. This
    young man has persisted in waiting, sir, saying you would be glad
    to see him.'

    Mr Dorrit glared on the young man, choked, and said, in the mildest
    of tones, 'Ah! Young John! It is Young John, I think; is it not?'

    'Yes, sir,' returned Young John.

    'I--ha--thought it was Young john!' said Mr Dorrit. 'The young man
    may come up,' turning to the attendants, as he passed on: 'oh yes,
    he may come up. Let Young John follow. I will speak to him
    above.'

    Young John followed, smiling and much gratified. Mr Dorrit's rooms
    were reached. Candles were lighted. The attendants withdrew.

    'Now, sir,' said Mr Dorrit, turning round upon him and seizing him
    by the collar when they were safely alone. 'What do you mean by
    this?'

    The amazement and horror depicted in the unfortunate john's face--
    for he had rather expected to be embraced next--were of that
    powerfully expressive nature that Mr Dorrit withdrew his hand and
    merely glared at him.

    'How dare you do this?' said Mr Dorrit. 'How do you presume to
    come here? How dare you insult me?'

    'I insult you, sir?' cried Young John. 'Oh!'

    'Yes, sir,' returned Mr Dorrit. 'Insult me. Your coming here is
    an affront, an impertinence, an audacity. You are not wanted here.

    Who sent you here? What--ha--the Devil do you do here?'

    'I thought, sir,' said Young John, with as pale and shocked a face
    as ever had been turned to Mr Dorrit's in his life--even in his
    College life: 'I thought, sir, you mightn't object to have the
    goodness to accept a bundle--'

    'Damn your bundle, sir!' cried Mr Dorrit, in irrepressible rage.
    'I--hum--don't smoke.'

    'I humbly beg your pardon, sir. You used to.'

    'Tell me that again,' cried Mr Dorrit, quite beside himself, 'and
    I'll take the poker to you!'

    John Chivery backed to the door.

    'Stop, sir!' cried Mr Dorrit. 'Stop! Sit down. Confound you,

    sit down!'

    John Chivery dropped into the chair nearest the door, and Mr Dorrit
    walked up and down the room; rapidly at first; then, more slowly.
    Once, he went to the window, and stood there with his forehead
    against the glass. All of a sudden, he turned and said:

    'What else did you come for, Sir?'

    'Nothing else in the world, sir. Oh dear me! Only to say, Sir,
    that I hoped you was well, and only to ask if Miss Amy was Well?'

    'What's that to you, sir?' retorted Mr Dorrit.

    'It's nothing to me, sir, by rights. I never thought of lessening
    the distance betwixt us, I am sure. I know it's a liberty, sir,
    but I never thought you'd have taken it ill. Upon my word and
    honour, sir,' said Young John, with emotion, 'in my poor way, I am
    too proud to have come, I assure you, if I had thought so.'

    Mr Dorrit was ashamed. He went back to the window, and leaned his
    forehead against the glass for some time. When he turned, he had
    his handkerchief in his hand, and he had been wiping his eyes with
    it, and he looked tired and ill.

    'Young John, I am very sorry to have been hasty with you, but--ha--
    some remembrances are not happy remembrances, and--hum--you
    shouldn't have come.'

    'I feel that now, sir,' returned John Chivery; 'but I didn't
    before, and Heaven knows I meant no harm, sir.'

    'No. No,' said Mr Dorrit. 'I am--hum--sure of that. Ha. Give me
    your hand, Young John, give me your hand.'

    Young John gave it; but Mr Dorrit had driven his heart out of it,
    and nothing could change his face now, from its white, shocked
    look.

    'There!' said Mr Dorrit, slowly shaking hands with him. 'Sit down
    again, Young John.'

    'Thank you, sir--but I'd rather stand.'

    Mr Dorrit sat down instead. After painfully holding his head a
    little while, he turned it to his visitor, and said, with an effort
    to be easy:

    'And how is your father, Young John? How--ha--how are they all,
    Young John?'

    'Thank you, sir, They're all pretty well, sir. They're not any
    ways complaining.'

    'Hum. You are in your--ha--old business I see, John?' said Mr
    Dorrit, with a glance at the offending bundle he had anathematised.

    'Partly, sir. I am in my'--John hesitated a little--'father's
    business likewise.'

    'Oh indeed!' said Mr Dorrit. 'Do you--ha hum--go upon the ha--'

    'Lock, sir? Yes, sir.'

    'Much to do, John?'

    'Yes, sir; we're pretty heavy at present. I don't know how it is,
    but we generally ARE pretty heavy.'

    'At this time of the year, Young John?'

    'Mostly at all times of the year, sir. I don't know the time that
    makes much difference to us. I wish you good night, sir.'

    'Stay a moment, John--ha--stay a moment. Hum. Leave me the
    cigars, John, I--ha--beg.'

    'Certainly, sir.' John put them, with a trembling hand, on the
    table.

    'Stay a moment, Young John; stay another moment. It would be
    a--ha--a gratification to me to send a little--hum--Testimonial, by
    such a trusty messenger, to be divided among--ha hum--them--them--
    according to their wants. Would you object to take

    it, John?'

    'Not in any ways, sir. There's many of them, I'm sure, that would
    be the better for it.'

    'Thank you, John. I--ha--I'll write it, John.'

    His hand shook so that he was a long time writing it, and wrote it
    in a tremulous scrawl at last. It was a cheque for one hundred
    pounds. He folded it up, put it in Young john's hand, and pressed
    the hand in his.

    'I hope you'll--ha--overlook--hum--what has passed, John.'

    'Don't speak of it, sir, on any accounts. I don't in any ways bear
    malice, I'm sure.'

    But nothing while John was there could change John's face to its
    natural colour and expression, or restore John's natural manner.

    'And, John,' said Mr Dorrit, giving his hand a final pressure, and
    releasing it, 'I hope we--ha--agree that we have spoken together in
    confidence; and that you will abstain, in going out, from saying
    anything to any one that might--hum--suggest that--ha--once I--'

    'Oh! I assure you, sir,' returned John Chivery, 'in my poor humble
    way, sir, I'm too proud and honourable to do it, sir.'

    Mr Dorrit was not too proud and honourable to listen at the door
    that he might ascertain for himself whether John really went
    straight out, or lingered to have any talk with any one. There was
    no doubt that he went direct out at the door, and away down the
    street with a quick step. After remaining alone for an hour, Mr
    Dorrit rang for the Courier, who found him with his chair on the
    hearth-rug, sitting with his back towards him and his face to the
    fire. 'You can take that bundle of cigars to smoke on the journey,
    if you like,' said Mr Dorrit, with a careless wave of his hand.
    'Ha--brought by--hum--little offering from--ha--son of old tenant
    of mine.'

    Next morning's sun saw Mr Dorrit's equipage upon the Dover road,
    where every red-jacketed postilion was the sign of a cruel house,
    established for the unmerciful plundering of travellers. The whole
    business of the human race, between London and Dover, being
    spoliation, Mr Dorrit was waylaid at Dartford, pillaged at
    Gravesend, rifled at Rochester, fleeced at Sittingbourne, and
    sacked at Canterbury. However, it being the Courier's business to
    get him out of the hands of the banditti, the Courier brought him
    off at every stage; and so the red-jackets went gleaming merrily
    along the spring landscape, rising and falling to a regular
    measure, between Mr Dorrit in his snug corner and the next chalky
    rise in the dusty highway.

    Another day's sun saw him at Calais. And having now got the
    Channel between himself and John Chivery, he began to feel safe,
    and to find that the foreign air was lighter to breathe than the
    air of England.

    On again by the heavy French roads for Paris. Having now quite
    recovered his equanimity, Mr Dorrit, in his snug corner, fell to
    castle-building as he rode along. It was evident that he had a
    very large castle in hand. All day long he was running towers up,
    taking towers down, adding a wing here, putting on a battlement
    there, looking to the walls, strengthening the defences, giving
    ornamental touches to the interior, making in all respects a superb
    castle of it. His preoccupied face so clearly denoted the pursuit
    in which he was engaged, that every cripple at the post-houses, not
    blind, who shoved his little battered tin-box in at the carriage
    window for Charity in the name of Heaven, Charity in the name of
    our Lady, Charity in the name of all the Saints, knew as well what
    work he was at, as their countryman Le Brun could have known it
    himself, though he had made that English traveller the subject of
    a special physiognomical treatise.

    Arrived at Paris, and resting there three days, Mr Dorrit strolled
    much about the streets alone, looking in at the shop-windows, and
    particularly the jewellers' windows. Ultimately, he went into the
    most famous jeweller's, and said he wanted to buy a little gift for
    a lady.

    It was a charming little woman to whom he said it--a sprightly
    little woman, dressed in perfect taste, who came out of a green
    velvet bower to attend upon him, from posting up some dainty little
    books of account which one could hardly suppose to be ruled for the
    entry of any articles more commercial than kisses, at a dainty
    little shining desk which looked in itself like a sweetmeat.

    For example, then, said the little woman, what species of gift did
    Monsieur desire? A love-gift?

    Mr Dorrit smiled, and said, Eh, well! Perhaps. What did he know?
    It was always possible; the sex being so charming. Would she show
    him some?

    Most willingly, said the little woman. Flattered and enchanted to
    show him many. But pardon! To begin with, he would have the great
    goodness to observe that there were love-gifts, and there were
    nuptial gifts. For example, these ravishing ear-rings and this
    necklace so superb to correspond, were what one called a love-
    gift. These brooches and these rings, of a beauty so gracious and
    celestial, were what one called, with the permission of Monsieur,
    nuptial gifts.

    Perhaps it would be a good arrangement, Mr Dorrit hinted, smiling,
    to purchase both, and to present the love-gift first, and to finish
    with the nuptial offering?

    Ah Heaven! said the little woman, laying the tips of the fingers
    of her two little hands against each other, that would be generous
    indeed, that would be a special gallantry! And without doubt the
    lady so crushed with gifts would find them irresistible.

    Mr Dorrit was not sure of that. But, for example, the sprightly
    little woman was very sure of it, she said. So Mr Dorrit bought a
    gift of each sort, and paid handsomely for it. As he strolled back
    to his hotel afterwards, he carried his head high: having plainly
    got up his castle now to a much loftier altitude than the two
    square towers of Notre Dame.

    Building away with all his might, but reserving the plans of his
    castle exclusively for his own eye, Mr Dorrit posted away for
    Marseilles. Building on, building on, busily, busily, from morning
    to night. Falling asleep, and leaving great blocks of building
    materials dangling in the air; waking again, to resume work and get
    them into their places. What time the Courier in the rumble,
    smoking Young john's best cigars, left a little thread of thin
    light smoke behind--perhaps as he built a castle or two with stray
    pieces of Mr Dorrit's money.

    Not a fortified town that they passed in all their journey was as
    strong, not a Cathedral summit was as high, as Mr Dorrit's castle.
    Neither the Saone nor the Rhone sped with the swiftness of that
    peerless building; nor was the Mediterranean deeper than its
    foundations; nor were the distant landscapes on the Cornice road,
    nor the hills and bay of Genoa the Superb, more beautiful. Mr
    Dorrit and his matchless castle were disembarked among the dirty
    white houses and dirtier felons of Civita Vecchia, and thence
    scrambled on to Rome as they could, through the filth that festered
    on the way.
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