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    Chapter 19

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    Chapter 54
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    CHAPTER 19

    The Storming of the Castle in the Air

    The sun had gone down full four hours, and it was later than most
    travellers would like it to be for finding themselves outside the
    walls of Rome, when Mr Dorrit's carriage, still on its last
    wearisome stage, rattled over the solitary Campagna. The savage
    herdsmen and the fierce-looking peasants who had chequered the way
    while the light lasted, had all gone down with the sun, and left
    the wilderness blank. At some turns of the road, a pale flare on
    the horizon, like an exhalation from the ruin-sown land, showed
    that the city was yet far off; but this poor relief was rare and
    short-lived. The carriage dipped down again into a hollow of the
    black dry sea, and for a long time there was nothing visible save
    its petrified swell and the gloomy sky.

    Mr Dorrit, though he had his castle-building to engage his mind,
    could not be quite easy in that desolate place. He was far more
    curious, in every swerve of the carriage, and every cry of the
    postilions, than he had been since he quitted London. The valet on
    the box evidently quaked. The Courier in the rumble was not
    altogether comfortable in his mind. As often as Mr Dorrit let down
    the glass and looked back at him (which was very often), he saw him
    smoking John Chivery out, it is true, but still generally standing
    up the while and looking about him, like a man who had his
    suspicions, and kept upon his guard. Then would Mr Dorrit, pulling
    up the glass again, reflect that those postilions were cut-throat
    looking fellows, and that he would have done better to have slept
    at Civita Vecchia, and have started betimes in the morning. But,
    for all this, he worked at his castle in the intervals.

    And now, fragments of ruinous enclosure, yawning window-gap and
    crazy wall, deserted houses, leaking wells, broken water-tanks,
    spectral cypress-trees, patches of tangled vine, and the changing
    of the track to a long, irregular, disordered lane where everything
    was crumbling away, from the unsightly buildings to the jolting
    road--now, these objects showed that they were nearing Rome. And
    now, a sudden twist and stoppage of the carriage inspired Mr Dorrit
    with the mistrust that the brigand moment was come for twisting him
    into a ditch and robbing him; until, letting down the glass again
    and looking out, he perceived himself assailed by nothing worse
    than a funeral procession, which came mechanically chaunting by,
    with an indistinct show of dirty vestments, lurid torches, swinging
    censers, and a great cross borne before a priest. He was an ugly
    priest by torchlight; of a lowering aspect, with an overhanging
    brow; and as his eyes met those of Mr Dorrit, looking bareheaded
    out of the carriage, his lips, moving as they chaunted, seemed to
    threaten that important traveller; likewise the action of his hand,
    which was in fact his manner of returning the traveller's
    salutation, seemed to come in aid of that menace. So thought Mr
    Dorrit, made fanciful by the weariness of building and travelling,
    as the priest drifted past him, and the procession straggled away,
    taking its dead along with it. Upon their so-different way went Mr
    Dorrit's company too; and soon, with their coach load of luxuries
    from the two great capitals of Europe, they were (like the Goths
    reversed) beating at the gates of Rome.

    Mr Dorrit was not expected by his own people that night. He had
    been; but they had given him up until to-morrow, not doubting that
    it was later than he would care, in those parts, to be out. Thus,
    when his equipage stopped at his own gate, no one but the porter
    appeared to receive him. Was Miss Dorrit from home? he asked.
    No. She was within. Good, said Mr Dorrit to the assembling
    servants; let them keep where they were; let them help to unload
    the carriage; he would find Miss Dorrit for himself.
    So he went up his grand staircase, slowly, and tired, and looked
    into various chambers which were empty, until he saw a light in a
    small ante-room. It was a curtained nook, like a tent, within two
    other rooms; and it looked warm and bright in colour, as he
    approached it through the dark avenue they made.

    There was a draped doorway, but no door; and as he stopped here,
    looking in unseen, he felt a pang. Surely not like jealousy? For
    why like jealousy? There was only his daughter and his brother
    there: he, with his chair drawn to the hearth, enjoying the warmth
    of the evening wood fire; she seated at a little table, busied with
    some embroidery work. Allowing for the great difference in the
    still-life of the picture, the figures were much the same as of
    old; his brother being sufficiently like himself to represent
    himself, for a moment, in the composition. So had he sat many a
    night, over a coal fire far away; so had she sat, devoted to him.
    Yet surely there was nothing to be jealous of in the old miserable
    poverty. Whence, then, the pang in his heart?

    'Do you know, uncle, I think you are growing young again?'

    Her uncle shook his head and said, 'Since when, my dear; since

    'I think,' returned Little Dorrit, plying her needle, 'that you
    have been growing younger for weeks past. So cheerful, uncle, and
    so ready, and so interested.'

    'My dear child--all you.'

    'All me, uncle!'

    'Yes, yes. You have done me a world of good. You have been so
    considerate of me, and so tender with me, and so delicate in trying
    to hide your attentions from me, that I--well, well, well! It's
    treasured up, my darling, treasured up.'

    'There is nothing in it but your own fresh fancy, uncle,' said
    Little Dorrit, cheerfully.

    'Well, well, well!' murmured the old man. 'Thank God!'

    She paused for an instant in her work to look at him, and her look
    revived that former pain in her father's breast; in his poor weak
    breast, so full of contradictions, vacillations, inconsistencies,
    the little peevish perplexities of this ignorant life, mists which
    the morning without a night only can clear away.

    'I have been freer with you, you see, my dove,' said the old man,
    'since we have been alone. I say, alone, for I don't count Mrs
    General; I don't care for her; she has nothing to do with me. But
    I know Fanny was impatient of me. And I don't wonder at it, or
    complain of it, for I am sensible that I must be in the way, though
    I try to keep out of it as well as I can. I know I am not fit
    company for our company. My brother William,' said the old man
    admiringly, 'is fit company for monarchs; but not so your uncle, my
    dear. Frederick Dorrit is no credit to William Dorrit, and he
    knows it quite well. Ah! Why, here's your father, Amy! My dear
    William, welcome back! My beloved brother, I am rejoiced to see

    (Turning his head in speaking, he had caught sight of him as he
    stood in the doorway.)

    Little Dorrit with a cry of pleasure put her arms about her
    father's neck, and kissed him again and again. Her father was a
    little impatient, and a little querulous. 'I am glad to find you
    at last, Amy,' he said. 'Ha. Really I am glad to find--hum--any
    one to receive me at last. I appear to have been--ha--so little
    expected, that upon my word I began--ha hum--to think it might be
    right to offer an apology for--ha--taking the liberty of coming
    back at all.'

    'It was so late, my dear William,' said his brother, 'that we had
    given you up for to-night.'

    'I am stronger than you, dear Frederick,' returned his brother with
    an elaboration of fraternity in which there was severity; 'and I
    hope I can travel without detriment at--ha--any hour I choose.'

    'Surely, surely,' returned the other, with a misgiving that he had
    given offence. 'Surely, William.'

    'Thank you, Amy,' pursued Mr Dorrit, as she helped him to put off
    his wrappers. 'I can do it without assistance. I--ha--need not
    trouble you, Amy. Could I have a morsel of bread and a glass of
    wine, or--hum--would it cause too much inconvenience?'

    'Dear father, you shall have supper in a very few minutes.'

    'Thank you, my love,' said Mr Dorrit, with a reproachful frost upon
    him; 'I--ha--am afraid I am causing inconvenience. Hum. Mrs
    General pretty well?'

    'Mrs General complained of a headache, and of being fatigued; and
    so, when we gave you up, she went to bed, dear.'

    Perhaps Mr Dorrit thought that Mrs General had done well in being
    overcome by the disappointment of his not arriving. At any rate,
    his face relaxed, and he said with obvious satisfaction, 'Extremely
    sorry to hear that Mrs General is not well.'

    During this short dialogue, his daughter had been observant of him,
    with something more than her usual interest. It would seem as
    though he had a changed or worn appearance in her eyes, and he
    perceived and resented it; for he said with renewed peevishness,
    when he had divested himself of his travelling-cloak, and had come
    to the fire:
    'Amy, what are you looking at? What do you see in me that causes
    you to--ha--concentrate your solicitude on me in that--hum--very
    particular manner?'

    'I did not know it, father; I beg your pardon. It gladdens my eyes
    to see you again; that's all.'

    'Don't say that's all, because--ha--that's not all. You--hum--you
    think,' said Mr Dorrit, with an accusatory emphasis, 'that I am not
    looking well.'
    'I thought you looked a little tired, love.'

    'Then you are mistaken,' said Mr Dorrit. 'Ha, I am not tired. Ha,
    hum. I am very much fresher than I was when I went away.'

    He was so inclined to be angry that she said nothing more in her
    justification, but remained quietly beside him embracing his arm.
    As he stood thus, with his brother on the other side, he fell into
    a heavy doze, of not a minute's duration, and awoke with a start.

    'Frederick,' he said, turning to his brother: 'I recommend you to
    go to bed immediately.'

    'No, William. I'll wait and see you sup.'

    'Frederick,' he retorted, 'I beg you to go to bed. I--ha--make it
    a personal request that you go to bed. You ought to have been in
    bed long ago. You are very feeble.'

    'Hah!' said the old man, who had no wish but to please him. 'Well,
    well, well! I dare say I am.'

    'My dear Frederick,' returned Mr Dorrit, with an astonishing
    superiority to his brother's failing powers, 'there can be no doubt
    of it. It is painful to me to see you so weak. Ha. It distresses
    me. Hum. I don't find you looking at all well. You are not fit
    for this sort of thing. You should be more careful, you should be
    very careful.'

    'Shall I go to bed?' asked Frederick.

    'Dear Frederick,' said Mr Dorrit, 'do, I adjure you! Good night,
    brother. I hope you will be stronger to-morrow. I am not at all
    pleased with your looks. Good night, dear fellow.' After
    dismissing his brother in this gracious way, he fell into a doze
    again before the old man was well out of the room: and he would
    have stumbled forward upon the logs, but for his daughter's
    restraining hold.

    'Your uncle wanders very much, Amy,' he said, when he was thus
    roused. 'He is less--ha--coherent, and his conversation is more--
    hum--broken, than I have--ha, hum--ever known. Has he had any
    illness since I have been gone?'
    'No, father.'

    'You--ha--see a great change in him, Amy?'

    'I have not observed it, dear.'

    'Greatly broken,' said Mr Dorrit. 'Greatly broken. My poor,
    affectionate, failing Frederick! Ha. Even taking into account
    what he was before, he is--hum--sadly broken!'

    His supper, which was brought to him there, and spread upon the
    little table where he had seen her working, diverted his attention.

    She sat at his side as in the days that were gone, for the first
    time since those days ended. They were alone, and she helped him
    to his meat and poured out his drink for him, as she had been used
    to do in the prison. All this happened now, for the first time
    since their accession to wealth. She was afraid to look at him
    much, after the offence he had taken; but she noticed two occasions
    in the course of his meal, when he all of a sudden looked at her,
    and looked about him, as if the association were so strong that he
    needed assurance from his sense of sight that they were not in the
    old prison-room. Both times, he put his hand to his head as if he
    missed his old black cap--though it had been ignominiously given
    away in the Marshalsea, and had never got free to that hour, but
    still hovered about the yards on the head of his successor.

    He took very little supper, but was a long time over it, and often
    reverted to his brother's declining state. Though he expressed the
    greatest pity for him, he was almost bitter upon him. He said that
    poor Frederick--ha hum--drivelled. There was no other word to
    express it; drivelled. Poor fellow! It was melancholy to reflect
    what Amy must have undergone from the excessive tediousness of his
    Society--wandering and babbling on, poor dear estimable creature,
    wandering and babbling on--if it had not been for the relief she
    had had in Mrs General. Extremely sorry, he then repeated with his
    former satisfaction, that that--ha--superior woman was poorly.

    Little Dorrit, in her watchful love, would have remembered the
    lightest thing he said or did that night, though she had had no
    subsequent reason to recall that night. She always remembered
    that, when he looked about him under the strong influence of the
    old association, he tried to keep it out of her mind, and perhaps
    out of his own too, by immediately expatiating on the great riches
    and great company that had encompassed him in his absence, and on
    the lofty position he and his family had to sustain. Nor did she
    fail to recall that there were two under-currents, side by side,
    pervading all his discourse and all his manner; one showing her how
    well he had got on without her, and how independent he was of her;
    the other, in a fitful and unintelligible way almost complaining of
    her, as if it had been possible that she had neglected him while he
    was away.

    His telling her of the glorious state that Mr Merdle kept, and of
    the court that bowed before him, naturally brought him to Mrs
    Merdle. So naturally indeed, that although there was an unusual
    want of sequence in the greater part of his remarks, he passed to
    her at once, and asked how she was.

    'She is very well. She is going away next week.'

    'Home?' asked Mr Dorrit.

    'After a few weeks' stay upon the road.'

    'She will be a vast loss here,' said Mr Dorrit. 'A vast--ha--
    acquisition at home. To Fanny, and to--hum--the rest of the--ha--
    great world.'

    Little Dorrit thought of the competition that was to be entered
    upon, and assented very softly.

    'Mrs Merdle is going to have a great farewell Assembly, dear, and
    a dinner before it. She has been expressing her anxiety that you
    should return in time. She has invited both you and me to her

    'She is--ha--very kind. When is the day?'

    'The day after to-morrow.'

    'Write round in the morning, and say that I have returned, and
    shall--hum--be delighted.'

    'May I walk with you up the stairs to your room, dear?'

    'No!' he answered, looking angrily round; for he was moving away,
    as if forgetful of leave-taking. 'You may not, Amy. I want no
    help. I am your father, not your infirm uncle!' He checked
    himself, as abruptly as he had broken into this reply, and said,
    'You have not kissed me, Amy. Good night, my dear! We must
    marry--ha--we must marry YOU, now.' With that he went, more slowly
    and more tired, up the staircase to his rooms, and, almost as soon
    as he got there, dismissed his valet. His next care was to look
    about him for his Paris purchases, and, after opening their cases
    and carefully surveying them, to put them away under lock and key.
    After that, what with dozing and what with castle-building, he lost
    himself for a long time, so that there was a touch of morning on
    the eastward rim of the desolate Campagna when he crept to bed.

    Mrs General sent up her compliments in good time next day, and
    hoped he had rested well after this fatiguing journey. He sent
    down his compliments, and begged to inform Mrs General that he had
    rested very well indeed, and was in high condition. Nevertheless,
    he did not come forth from his own rooms until late in the
    afternoon; and, although he then caused himself to be magnificently
    arrayed for a drive with Mrs General and his daughter, his
    appearance was scarcely up to his description of himself.
    As the family had no visitors that day, its four members dined
    alone together. He conducted Mrs General to the seat at his right
    hand with immense ceremony; and Little Dorrit could not but notice
    as she followed with her uncle, both that he was again elaborately
    dressed, and that his manner towards Mrs General was very
    particular. The perfect formation of that accomplished lady's
    surface rendered it difficult to displace an atom of its genteel
    glaze, but Little Dorrit thought she descried a slight thaw of
    triumph in a corner of her frosty eye.

    Notwithstanding what may be called in these pages the Pruney and
    Prismatic nature of the family banquet, Mr Dorrit several times
    fell asleep while it was in progress. His fits of dozing were as
    sudden as they had been overnight, and were as short and profound.
    When the first of these slumberings seized him, Mrs General looked
    almost amazed: but, on each recurrence of the symptoms, she told
    her polite beads, Papa, Potatoes, Poultry, Prunes, and Prism; and,
    by dint of going through that infallible performance very slowly,
    appeared to finish her rosary at about the same time as Mr Dorrit
    started from his sleep.

    He was again painfully aware of a somnolent tendency in Frederick
    (which had no existence out of his own imagination), and after
    dinner, when Frederick had withdrawn, privately apologised to Mrs
    General for the poor man. 'The most estimable and affectionate of
    brothers,' he said, 'but--ha, hum--broken up altogether.
    Unhappily, declining fast.'

    'Mr Frederick, sir,' quoth Mrs General, 'is habitually absent and
    drooping, but let us hope it is not so bad as that.'

    Mr Dorrit, however, was determined not to let him off. 'Fast
    declining, madam. A wreck. A ruin. Mouldering away before our
    eyes. Hum. Good Frederick!'

    'You left Mrs Sparkler quite well and happy, I trust?' said Mrs
    General, after heaving a cool sigh for Frederick.

    'Surrounded,' replied Mr Dorrit, 'by--ha--all that can charm the
    taste, and--hum--elevate the mind. Happy, my dear madam, in

    Mrs General was a little fluttered; seeming delicately to put the
    word away with her gloves, as if there were no knowing what it
    might lead to.

    'Fanny,' Mr Dorrit continued. 'Fanny, Mrs General, has high
    qualities. Ha. Ambition--hum--purpose, consciousness of--ha--
    position, determination to support that position--ha, hum--grace,
    beauty, and native nobility.'

    'No doubt,' said Mrs General (with a little extra stiffness).

    'Combined with these qualities, madam,' said Mr Dorrit, 'Fanny
    has--ha--manifested one blemish which has made me--hum--made me
    uneasy, and--ha--I must add, angry; but which I trust may now be
    considered at an end, even as to herself, and which is undoubtedly
    at an end as to--ha--others.'

    'To what, Mr Dorrit,' returned Mrs General, with her gloves again
    somewhat excited, 'can you allude? I am at a loss to--'

    'Do not say that, my dear madam,' interrupted Mr Dorrit.

    Mrs General's voice, as it died away, pronounced the words, 'at a
    loss to imagine.'

    After which Mr Dorrit was seized with a doze for about a minute,
    out of which he sprang with spasmodic nimbleness.

    'I refer, Mrs General, to that--ha--strong spirit of opposition,
    or--hum--I might say--ha--jealousy in Fanny, which has occasionally
    risen against the--ha--sense I entertain of--hum--the claims of--
    ha--the lady with whom I have now the honour of communing.'

    'Mr Dorrit,' returned Mrs General, 'is ever but too obliging, ever
    but too appreciative. If there have been moments when I have
    imagined that Miss Dorrit has indeed resented the favourable
    opinion Mr Dorrit has formed of my services, I have found, in that
    only too high opinion, my consolation and recompense.'

    'Opinion of your services, madam?' said Mr Dorrit.

    'Of,' Mrs General repeated, in an elegantly impressive manner, 'my

    'Of your services alone, dear madam?' said Mr Dorrit.

    'I presume,' retorted Mrs General, in her former impressive manner,
    'of my services alone. For, to what else,' said Mrs General, with
    a slightly interrogative action of her gloves, 'could I impute--'

    'To--ha--yourself, Mrs General. Ha, hum. To yourself and your
    merits,' was Mr Dorrit's rejoinder.

    'Mr Dorrit will pardon me,' said Mrs General, 'if I remark that
    this is not a time or place for the pursuit of the present
    conversation. Mr Dorrit will excuse me if I remind him that Miss
    Dorrit is in the adjoining room, and is visible to myself while I
    utter her name. Mr Dorrit will forgive me if I observe that I am
    agitated, and that I find there are moments when weaknesses I
    supposed myself to have subdued, return with redoubled power. Mr
    Dorrit will allow me to withdraw.'

    'Hum. Perhaps we may resume this--ha--interesting conversation,'
    said Mr Dorrit, 'at another time; unless it should be, what I hope
    it is not--hum--in any way disagreeable to--ah--Mrs General.'
    'Mr Dorrit,' said Mrs General, casting down her eyes as she rose
    with a bend, 'must ever claim my homage and obedience.'

    Mrs General then took herself off in a stately way, and not with
    that amount of trepidation upon her which might have been expected
    in a less remarkable woman. Mr Dorrit, who had conducted his part
    of the dialogue with a certain majestic and admiring condescension
    --much as some people may be seen to conduct themselves in Church,
    and to perform their part in the service--appeared, on the whole,
    very well satisfied with himself and with Mrs General too. On the
    return of that lady to tea, she had touched herself up with a
    little powder and pomatum, and was not without moral enchantment
    likewise: the latter showing itself in much sweet patronage of
    manner towards Miss Dorrit, and in an air of as tender interest in
    Mr Dorrit as was consistent with rigid propriety. At the close of
    the evening, when she rose to retire, Mr Dorrit took her by the
    hand as if he were going to lead her out into the Piazza of the
    people to walk a minuet by moonlight, and with great solemnity
    conducted her to the room door, where he raised her knuckles to his
    lips. Having parted from her with what may be conjectured to have
    been a rather bony kiss of a cosmetic flavour, he gave his daughter
    his blessing, graciously. And having thus hinted that there was
    something remarkable in the wind, he again went to bed.

    He remained in the seclusion of his own chamber next morning; but,
    early in the afternoon, sent down his best compliments to Mrs
    General, by Mr Tinkler, and begged she would accompany Miss Dorrit
    on an airing without him. His daughter was dressed for Mrs
    Merdle's dinner before he appeared. He then presented himself in
    a refulgent condition as to his attire, but looking indefinably
    shrunken and old. However, as he was plainly determined to be
    angry with her if she so much as asked him how he was, she only
    ventured to kiss his cheek, before accompanying him to Mrs Merdle's
    with an anxious heart.

    The distance that they had to go was very short, but he was at his
    building work again before the carriage had half traversed it. Mrs
    Merdle received him with great distinction; the bosom was in
    admirable preservation, and on the best terms with itself; the
    dinner was very choice; and the company was very select.

    It was principally English; saving that it comprised the usual
    French Count and the usual Italian Marchese--decorative social
    milestones, always to be found in certain places, and varying very
    little in appearance. The table was long, and the dinner was long;
    and Little Dorrit, overshadowed by a large pair of black whiskers
    and a large white cravat, lost sight of her father altogether,
    until a servant put a scrap of paper in her hand, with a whispered
    request from Mrs Merdle that she would read it directly. Mrs
    Merdle had written on it in pencil, 'Pray come and speak to Mr
    Dorrit, I doubt if he is well.'

    She was hurrying to him, unobserved, when he got up out of his
    chair, and leaning over the table called to her, supposing her to
    be still in her place:

    'Amy, Amy, my child!'

    The action was so unusual, to say nothing of his strange eager
    appearance and strange eager voice, that it instantaneously caused
    a profound silence.

    ' Amy, my dear,' he repeated. 'Will you go and see if Bob is on
    the lock?'

    She was at his side, and touching him, but he still perversely
    supposed her to be in her seat, and called out, still leaning over
    the table, 'Amy, Amy. I don't feel quite myself. Ha. I don't
    know what's the matter with me. I particularly wish to see Bob.
    Ha. Of all the turnkeys, he's as much my friend as yours. See if
    Bob is in the lodge, and beg him to come to me.'

    All the guests were now in consternation, and everybody rose.

    'Dear father, I am not there; I am here, by you.'

    'Oh! You are here, Amy! Good. Hum. Good. Ha. Call Bob. If he
    has been relieved, and is not on the lock, tell Mrs Bangham to go
    and fetch him.'

    She was gently trying to get him away; but he resisted, and would
    not go.

    'I tell you, child,' he said petulantly, 'I can't be got up the
    narrow stairs without Bob. Ha. Send for Bob. Hum. Send for
    Bob--best of all the turnkeys--send for Bob!'

    He looked confusedly about him, and, becoming conscious of the
    number of faces by which he was surrounded, addressed them:

    'Ladies and gentlemen, the duty--ha--devolves upon me of--hum--
    welcoming you to the Marshalsea! Welcome to the Marshalsea! The
    space is--ha--limited--limited--the parade might be wider; but you
    will find it apparently grow larger after a time--a time, ladies
    and gentlemen--and the air is, all things considered, very good.
    It blows over the--ha--Surrey hills. Blows over the Surrey hills.
    This is the Snuggery. Hum. Supported by a small subscription of
    the--ha--Collegiate body. In return for which--hot water--general
    kitchen--and little domestic advantages. Those who are habituated
    to the--ha--Marshalsea, are pleased to call me its father. I am
    accustomed to be complimented by strangers as the--ha--Father of
    the Marshalsea. Certainly, if years of residence may establish a
    claim to so--ha--honourable a title, I may accept the--hum--
    conferred distinction. My child, ladies and gentlemen. My
    daughter. Born here!'

    She was not ashamed of it, or ashamed of him. She was pale and
    frightened; but she had no other care than to soothe him and get
    him away, for his own dear sake. She was between him and the
    wondering faces, turned round upon his breast with her own face
    raised to his. He held her clasped in his left arm, and between
    whiles her low voice was heard tenderly imploring him to go away
    with her.

    'Born here,' he repeated, shedding tears. 'Bred here. Ladies and
    gentlemen, my daughter. Child of an unfortunate father, but--ha--
    always a gentleman. Poor, no doubt, but--hum--proud. Always
    proud. It has become a--hum--not infrequent custom for my--ha--
    personal admirers--personal admirers solely--to be pleased to
    express their desire to acknowledge my semi-official position here,
    by offering--ha--little tributes, which usually take the form of--
    ha--voluntary recognitions of my humble endeavours to--hum--to
    uphold a Tone here--a Tone--I beg it to be understood that I do not
    consider myself compromised. Ha. Not compromised. Ha. Not a
    beggar. No; I repudiate the title! At the same time far be it
    from me to--hum--to put upon the fine feelings by which my partial
    friends are actuated, the slight of scrupling to admit that those
    offerings are--hum--highly acceptable. On the contrary, they are
    most acceptable. In my child's name, if not in my own, I make the
    admission in the fullest manner, at the same time reserving--ha--
    shall I say my personal dignity? Ladies and gentlemen, God bless
    you all!'

    By this time, the exceeding mortification undergone by the Bosom
    had occasioned the withdrawal of the greater part of the company
    into other rooms. The few who had lingered thus long followed the
    rest, and Little Dorrit and her father were left to the servants
    and themselves. Dearest and most precious to her, he would come
    with her now, would he not? He replied to her fervid entreaties,
    that he would never be able to get up the narrow stairs without
    Bob; where was Bob, would nobody fetch Bob? Under pretence of
    looking for Bob, she got him out against the stream of gay company
    now pouring in for the evening assembly, and got him into a coach
    that had just set down its load, and got him home.

    The broad stairs of his Roman palace were contracted in his failing
    sight to the narrow stairs of his London prison; and he would
    suffer no one but her to touch him, his brother excepted. They got
    him up to his room without help, and laid him down on his bed. And
    from that hour his poor maimed spirit, only remembering the place
    where it had broken its wings, cancelled the dream through which it
    had since groped, and knew of nothing beyond the Marshalsea. When
    he heard footsteps in the street, he took them for the old weary
    tread in the yards. When the hour came for locking up, he supposed
    all strangers to be excluded for the night. When the time for
    opening came again, he was so anxious to see Bob, that they were
    fain to patch up a narrative how that Bob--many a year dead then,
    gentle turnkey--had taken cold, but hoped to be out to-morrow, or
    the next day, or the next at furthest.

    He fell away into a weakness so extreme that he could not raise his
    hand. But he still protected his brother according to his long
    usage; and would say with some complacency, fifty times a day, when
    he saw him standing by his bed, 'My good Frederick, sit down. You
    are very feeble indeed.'

    They tried him with Mrs General, but he had not the faintest
    knowledge of her. Some injurious suspicion lodged itself in his
    brain, that she wanted to supplant Mrs Bangham, and that she was
    given to drinking. He charged her with it in no measured terms;
    and was so urgent with his daughter to go round to the Marshal and
    entreat him to turn her out, that she was never reproduced after
    the first failure.
    Saving that he once asked 'if Tip had gone outside?' the
    remembrance of his two children not present seemed to have departed
    from him. But the child who had done so much for him and had been
    so poorly repaid, was never out of his mind. Not that he spared
    her, or was fearful of her being spent by watching and fatigue; he
    was not more troubled on that score than he had usually been. No;
    he loved her in his old way. They were in the jail again, and she
    tended him, and he had constant need of her, and could not turn
    without her; and he even told her, sometimes, that he was content
    to have undergone a great deal for her sake. As to her, she bent
    over his bed with her quiet face against his, and would have laid
    down her own life to restore him.

    When he had been sinking in this painless way for two or three
    days, she observed him to be troubled by the ticking of his watch--
    a pompous gold watch that made as great a to-do about its going as
    if nothing else went but itself and Time. She suffered it to run
    down; but he was still uneasy, and showed that was not what he
    wanted. At length he roused himself to explain that he wanted
    money to be raised on this watch. He was quite pleased when she
    pretended to take it away for the purpose, and afterwards had a
    relish for his little tastes of wine and jelly, that he had not had

    He soon made it plain that this was so; for, in another day or two
    he sent off his sleeve-buttons and finger-rings. He had an amazing
    satisfaction in entrusting her with these errands, and appeared to
    consider it equivalent to making the most methodical and provident
    arrangements. After his trinkets, or such of them as he had been
    able to see about him, were gone, his clothes engaged his
    attention; and it is as likely as not that he was kept alive for
    some days by the satisfaction of sending them, piece by piece, to
    an imaginary pawnbroker's.

    Thus for ten days Little Dorrit bent over his pillow, laying her
    cheek against his. Sometimes she was so worn out that for a few
    minutes they would slumber together. Then she would awake; to
    recollect with fast-flowing silent tears what it was that touched
    her face, and to see, stealing over the cherished face upon the
    pillow, a deeper shadow than the shadow of the Marshalsea Wall.

    Quietly, quietly, all the lines of the plan of the great Castle
    melted one after another. Quietly, quietly, the ruled and cross-
    ruled countenance on which they were traced, became fair and blank.

    Quietly, quietly, the reflected marks of the prison bars and of the
    zig-zag iron on the wall-top, faded away. Quietly, quietly, the
    face subsided into a far younger likeness of her own than she had
    ever seen under the grey hair, and sank to rest.

    At first her uncle was stark distracted. 'O my brother! O
    William, William! You to go before me; you to go alone; you to go,
    and I to remain! You, so far superior, so distinguished, so noble;
    I, a poor useless creature fit for nothing, and whom no one would
    have missed!'

    It did her, for the time, the good of having him to think of and to

    'Uncle, dear uncle, spare yourself, spare me!'

    The old man was not deaf to the last words. When he did begin to
    restrain himself, it was that he might spare her. He had no care
    for himself; but, with all the remaining power of the honest heart,
    stunned so long and now awaking to be broken, he honoured and
    blessed her.

    'O God,' he cried, before they left the room, with his wrinkled
    hands clasped over her. 'Thou seest this daughter of my dear dead
    brother! All that I have looked upon, with my half-blind and
    sinful eyes, Thou hast discerned clearly, brightly. Not a hair of
    her head shall be harmed before Thee. Thou wilt uphold her here to
    her last hour. And I know Thou wilt reward her hereafter!'

    They remained in a dim room near, until it was almost midnight,
    quiet and sad together. At times his grief would seek relief in a
    burst like that in which it had found its earliest expression; but,
    besides that his little strength would soon have been unequal to
    such strains, he never failed to recall her words, and to reproach
    himself and calm himself. The only utterance with which he
    indulged his sorrow, was the frequent exclamation that his brother
    was gone, alone; that they had been together in the outset of their
    lives, that they had fallen into misfortune together, that they had
    kept together through their many years of poverty, that they had
    remained together to that day; and that his brother was gone alone,

    They parted, heavy and sorrowful. She would not consent to leave
    him anywhere but in his own room, and she saw him lie down in his
    clothes upon his bed, and covered him with her own hands. Then she
    sank upon her own bed, and fell into a deep sleep: the sleep of
    exhaustion and rest, though not of complete release from a
    pervading consciousness of affliction. Sleep, good Little Dorrit.
    Sleep through the night!

    It was a moonlight night; but the moon rose late, being long past
    the full. When it was high in the peaceful firmament, it shone
    through half-closed lattice blinds into the solemn room where the
    stumblings and wanderings of a life had so lately ended. Two quiet
    figures were within the room; two figures, equally still and
    impassive, equally removed by an untraversable distance from the
    teeming earth and all that it contains, though soon to lie in it.

    One figure reposed upon the bed. The other, kneeling on the floor,
    drooped over it; the arms easily and peacefully resting on the
    coverlet; the face bowed down, so that the lips touched the hand
    over which with its last breath it had bent. The two brothers were
    before their Father; far beyond the twilight judgment of this
    world; high above its mists and obscurities.
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