Actions & Adventure
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Thrillers & Crime
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Actions & Adventure
History & Fiction
Thrillers & Crime
Romance & Love
Mystery & Detective
Time News Roman
CHAPTER 31. Spirit
Anybody may pass, any day, in the thronged thoroughfares of themetropolis, some meagre, wrinkled, yellow old man (who might be supposedto have dropped from the stars, if there were any star in the Heavensdull enough to be suspected of casting off so feeble a spark), creepingalong with a scared air, as though bewildered and a little frightenedby the noise and bustle. This old man is always a little old man. If hewere ever a big old man, he has shrunk into a little old man; if he werealways a little old man, he has dwindled into a less old man. His coatis a colour, and cut, that never was the mode anywhere, at any period.Clearly, it was not made for him, or for any individual mortal. Somewholesale contractor measured Fate for five thousand coats of suchquality, and Fate has lent this old coat to this old man, as one of along unfinished line of many old men. It has always large dull metalbuttons, similar to no other buttons. This old man wears a hat, athumbed and napless and yet an obdurate hat, which has never adapteditself to the shape of his poor head. His coarse shirt and his coarseneckcloth have no more individuality than his coat and hat; they havethe same character of not being his--of not being anybody's. Yet thisold man wears these clothes with a certain unaccustomed air of beingdressed and elaborated for the public ways; as though he passed thegreater part of his time in a nightcap and gown. And so, like thecountry mouse in the second year of a famine, come to see the townmouse, and timidly threading his way to the town-mouse's lodging througha city of cats, this old man passes in the streets.
Sometimes, on holidays towards evening, he will be seen to walk with aslightly increased infirmity, and his old eyes will glimmer with a moistand marshy light. Then the little old man is drunk. A very smallmeasure will overset him; he may be bowled off his unsteady legs witha half-pint pot. Some pitying acquaintance--chance acquaintancevery often--has warmed up his weakness with a treat of beer, and theconsequence will be the lapse of a longer time than usual before heshall pass again. For the little old man is going home to the Workhouse;and on his good behaviour they do not let him out often (though methinksthey might, considering the few years he has before him to go out in,under the sun); and on his bad behaviour they shut him up closer thanever in a grove of two score and nineteen more old men, every one ofwhom smells of all the others.
Mrs Plornish's father,--a poor little reedy piping old gentleman, likea worn-out bird; who had been in what he called the music-bindingbusiness, and met with great misfortunes, and who had seldom been ableto make his way, or to see it or to pay it, or to do anything at allwith it but find it no thoroughfare,--had retired of his own accord tothe Workhouse which was appointed by law to be the Good Samaritan of hisdistrict (without the twopence, which was bad political economy), onthe settlement of that execution which had carried Mr Plornish to theMarshalsea College. Previous to his son-in-law's difficulties coming tothat head, Old Nandy (he was always so called in his legal Retreat, buthe was Old Mr Nandy among the Bleeding Hearts) had sat in a corner ofthe Plornish fireside, and taken his bite and sup out of the Plornishcupboard. He still hoped to resume that domestic position when Fortuneshould smile upon his son-in-law; in the meantime, while she preservedan immovable countenance, he was, and resolved to remain, one of theselittle old men in a grove of little old men with a community of flavour.
But no poverty in him, and no coat on him that never was the mode, andno Old Men's Ward for his dwelling-place, could quench his daughter'sadmiration. Mrs Plornish was as proud of her father's talents as shecould possibly have been if they had made him Lord Chancellor. She hadas firm a belief in the sweetness and propriety of his manners as shecould possibly have had if he had been Lord Chamberlain. The poor littleold man knew some pale and vapid little songs, long out of date, aboutChloe, and Phyllis, and Strephon being wounded by the son of Venus;and for Mrs Plornish there was no such music at the Opera as the smallinternal flutterings and chirpings wherein he would discharge himselfof these ditties, like a weak, little, broken barrel-organ, ground bya baby. On his 'days out,' those flecks of light in his flat vista ofpollard old men,' it was at once Mrs Plornish's delight and sorrow,when he was strong with meat, and had taken his full halfpenny-worth ofporter, to say, 'Sing us a song, Father.' Then he would give them Chloe,and if he were in pretty good spirits, Phyllis also--Strephon he hadhardly been up to since he went into retirement--and then would MrsPlornish declare she did believe there never was such a singer asFather, and wipe her eyes.
If he had come from Court on these occasions, nay, if he had been thenoble Refrigerator come home triumphantly from a foreign court to bepresented and promoted on his last tremendous failure, Mrs Plornishcould not have handed him with greater elevation about Bleeding HeartYard. 'Here's Father,' she would say, presenting him to a neighbour.'Father will soon be home with us for good, now. Ain't Father lookingwell? Father's a sweeter singer than ever; you'd never have forgottenit, if you'd aheard him just now.' As to Mr Plornish, he had marriedthese articles of belief in marrying Mr Nandy's daughter, and onlywondered how it was that so gifted an old gentleman had not made afortune. This he attributed, after much reflection, to his musicalgenius not having been scientifically developed in his youth. 'For why,'argued Mr Plornish, 'why go a-binding music when you've got it inyourself? That's where it is, I consider.'
Old Nandy had a patron: one patron. He had a patron who in a certainsumptuous way--an apologetic way, as if he constantly took an admiringaudience to witness that he really could not help being more freewith this old fellow than they might have expected, on account of hissimplicity and poverty--was mightily good to him. Old Nandy hadbeen several times to the Marshalsea College, communicating with hisson-in-law during his short durance there; and had happily acquired tohimself, and had by degrees and in course of time much improved, thepatronage of the Father of that national institution.
Mr Dorrit was in the habit of receiving this old man as if the old manheld of him in vassalage under some feudal tenure. He made little treatsand teas for him, as if he came in with his homage from some outlyingdistrict where the tenantry were in a primitive state. It seemed as ifthere were moments when he could by no means have sworn but that the oldman was an ancient retainer of his, who had been meritoriously faithful.When he mentioned him, he spoke of him casually as his old pensioner. Hehad a wonderful satisfaction in seeing him, and in commenting on hisdecayed condition after he was gone. It appeared to him amazing that hecould hold up his head at all, poor creature. 'In the Workhouse, sir,the Union; no privacy, no visitors, no station, no respect, nospeciality. Most deplorable!'
It was Old Nandy's birthday, and they let him out. He said nothing aboutits being his birthday, or they might have kept him in; for such oldmen should not be born. He passed along the streets as usual to BleedingHeart Yard, and had his dinner with his daughter and son-in-law, andgave them Phyllis. He had hardly concluded, when Little Dorrit looked into see how they all were.
'Miss Dorrit,' said Mrs Plornish, 'here's Father! Ain't he looking nice?And such voice he's in!'
Little Dorrit gave him her hand, and smilingly said she had not seen himthis long time.
'No, they're rather hard on poor Father,' said Mrs Plornish with alengthening face, 'and don't let him have half as much change and freshair as would benefit him. But he'll soon be home for good, now. Won'tyou, Father?'
'Yes, my dear, I hope so. In good time, please God.'
Here Mr Plornish delivered himself of an oration which he invariablymade, word for word the same, on all such opportunities. It was couchedin the following terms:
'John Edward Nandy. Sir. While there's a ounce of wittles or drink ofany sort in this present roof, you're fully welcome to your share onit. While there's a handful of fire or a mouthful of bed in this presentroof, you're fully welcome to your share on it. If so be as there shouldbe nothing in this present roof, you should be as welcome to your shareon it as if it was something, much or little. And this is what I meanand so I don't deceive you, and consequently which is to stand out is toentreat of you, and therefore why not do it?'
To this lucid address, which Mr Plornish always delivered as if he hadcomposed it (as no doubt he had) with enormous labour, Mrs Plornish'sfather pipingly replied:
'I thank you kindly, Thomas, and I know your intentions well, which isthe same I thank you kindly for. But no, Thomas. Until such times asit's not to take it out of your children's mouths, which take it is, andcall it by what name you will it do remain and equally deprive, thoughmay they come, and too soon they can not come, no Thomas, no!'
Mrs Plornish, who had been turning her face a little away with a cornerof her apron in her hand, brought herself back to the conversation againby telling Miss Dorrit that Father was going over the water to pay hisrespects, unless she knew of any reason why it might not be agreeable.
Her answer was, 'I am going straight home, and if he will come with meI shall be so glad to take care of him--so glad,' said Little Dorrit,always thoughtful of the feelings of the weak, 'of his company.'
'There, Father!' cried Mrs Plornish. 'Ain't you a gay young man tobe going for a walk along with Miss Dorrit! Let me tie yourneck-handkerchief into a regular good bow, for you're a regular beauyourself, Father, if ever there was one.'
With this filial joke his daughter smartened him up, and gave him aloving hug, and stood at the door with her weak child in her arms, andher strong child tumbling down the steps, looking after her little oldfather as he toddled away with his arm under Little Dorrit's.
They walked at a slow pace, and Little Dorrit took him by the IronBridge and sat him down there for a rest, and they looked over at thewater and talked about the shipping, and the old man mentioned what hewould do if he had a ship full of gold coming home to him (his plan wasto take a noble lodging for the Plornishes and himself at a Tea Gardens,and live there all the rest of their lives, attended on by the waiter),and it was a special birthday of the old man. They were within fiveminutes of their destination, when, at the corner of her own street,they came upon Fanny in her new bonnet bound for the same port.
'Why, good gracious me, Amy!' cried that young lady starting. 'You nevermean it!'
'Mean what, Fanny dear?'
'Well! I could have believed a great deal of you,' returned the younglady with burning indignation, 'but I don't think even I could havebelieved this, of even you!'
'Fanny!' cried Little Dorrit, wounded and astonished.
'Oh! Don't Fanny me, you mean little thing, don't! The idea of comingalong the open streets, in the broad light of day, with a Pauper!'(firing off the last word as if it were a ball from an air-gun).
'I tell you not to Fanny me, for I'll not submit to it! I never knewsuch a thing. The way in which you are resolved and determined todisgrace us on all occasions, is really infamous. You bad little thing!'
'Does it disgrace anybody,' said Little Dorrit, very gently, 'to takecare of this poor old man?'
'Yes, miss,' returned her sister, 'and you ought to know it does.And you do know it does, and you do it because you know it does. Theprincipal pleasure of your life is to remind your family of theirmisfortunes. And the next great pleasure of your existence is to keeplow company. But, however, if you have no sense of decency, Ihave. You'll please to allow me to go on the other side of the way,unmolested.'
With this, she bounced across to the opposite pavement. The olddisgrace, who had been deferentially bowing a pace or two off (forLittle Dorrit had let his arm go in her wonder, when Fanny began), andwho had been hustled and cursed by impatient passengers for stopping theway, rejoined his companion, rather giddy, and said, 'I hope nothing'swrong with your honoured father, Miss? I hope there's nothing the matterin the honoured family?'
'No, no,' returned Little Dorrit. 'No, thank you. Give me your armagain, Mr Nandy. We shall soon be there now.'
So she talked to him as she had talked before, and they came to theLodge and found Mr Chivery on the lock, and went in. Now, it happenedthat the Father of the Marshalsea was sauntering towards the Lodge atthe moment when they were coming out of it, entering the prison arm inarm. As the spectacle of their approach met his view, he displayed theutmost agitation and despondency of mind; and--altogether regardless ofOld Nandy, who, making his reverence, stood with his hat in his hand, ashe always did in that gracious presence--turned about, and hurried in athis own doorway and up the staircase.
Leaving the old unfortunate, whom in an evil hour she had taken underher protection, with a hurried promise to return to him directly, LittleDorrit hastened after her father, and, on the staircase, found Fannyfollowing her, and flouncing up with offended dignity. The three cameinto the room almost together; and the Father sat down in his chair,buried his face in his hands, and uttered a groan.
'Of course,' said Fanny. 'Very proper. Poor, afflicted Pa! Now, I hopeyou believe me, Miss?'
'What is it, father?' cried Little Dorrit, bending over him. 'Have Imade you unhappy, father? Not I, I hope!'
'You hope, indeed! I dare say! Oh, you'--Fanny paused for a sufficientlystrong expression--'you Common-minded little Amy! You completeprison-child!'
He stopped these angry reproaches with a wave of his hand, and sobbedout, raising his face and shaking his melancholy head at his youngerdaughter, 'Amy, I know that you are innocent in intention. But youhave cut me to the soul.'
'Innocent in intention!' the implacable Fanny struck in. 'Stuff inintention! Low in intention! Lowering of the family in intention!'
'Father!' cried Little Dorrit, pale and trembling. 'I am very sorry.Pray forgive me. Tell me how it is, that I may not do it again!'
'How it is, you prevaricating little piece of goods!' cried Fanny. 'Youknow how it is. I have told you already, so don't fly in the face ofProvidence by attempting to deny it!'
'Hush! Amy,' said the father, passing his pocket-handkerchief severaltimes across his face, and then grasping it convulsively in the handthat dropped across his knee, 'I have done what I could to keep youselect here; I have done what I could to retain you a position here. Imay have succeeded; I may not. You may know it; you may not. I give noopinion. I have endured everything here but humiliation. That I havehappily been spared--until this day.'
Here his convulsive grasp unclosed itself, and he put hispocket-handkerchief to his eyes again. Little Dorrit, on the groundbeside him, with her imploring hand upon his arm, watched himremorsefully. Coming out of his fit of grief, he clenched hispocket-handkerchief once more.
'Humiliation I have happily been spared until this day. Through allmy troubles there has been that--Spirit in myself, and that--thatsubmission to it, if I may use the term, in those about me, which hasspared me--ha--humiliation. But this day, this minute, I have keenlyfelt it.'
'Of course! How could it be otherwise?' exclaimed the irrepressibleFanny. 'Careering and prancing about with a Pauper!' (air-gun again).
'But, dear father,' cried Little Dorrit, 'I don't justify myself forhaving wounded your dear heart--no! Heaven knows I don't!' She claspedher hands in quite an agony of distress. 'I do nothing but beg and prayyou to be comforted and overlook it. But if I had not known that youwere kind to the old man yourself, and took much notice of him, and werealways glad to see him, I would not have come here with him, father, Iwould not, indeed. What I have been so unhappy as to do, I have donein mistake. I would not wilfully bring a tear to your eyes, dear love!'said Little Dorrit, her heart well-nigh broken, 'for anything the worldcould give me, or anything it could take away.'
Fanny, with a partly angry and partly repentant sob, began to cryherself, and to say--as this young lady always said when she was half inpassion and half out of it, half spiteful with herself and half spitefulwith everybody else--that she wished she were dead.
The Father of the Marshalsea in the meantime took his younger daughterto his breast, and patted her head.
'There, there! Say no more, Amy, say no more, my child. I will forget itas soon as I can. I,' with hysterical cheerfulness, 'I--shall soon beable to dismiss it. It is perfectly true, my dear, that I am always gladto see my old pensioner--as such, as such--and that I do--ha--extend asmuch protection and kindness to the--hum--the bruised reed--I trust Imay so call him without impropriety--as in my circumstances, I can. Itis quite true that this is the case, my dear child. At the sametime, I preserve in doing this, if I may--ha--if I may use theexpression--Spirit. Becoming Spirit. And there are some things whichare,' he stopped to sob, 'irreconcilable with that, and woundthat--wound it deeply. It is not that I have seen my good Amyattentive, and--ha--condescending to my old pensioner--it is not _that_that hurts me. It is, if I am to close the painful subject by beingexplicit, that I have seen my child, my own child, my own daughter,coming into this College out of the public streets--smiling!smiling!--arm in arm with--O my God, a livery!'
This reference to the coat of no cut and no time, the unfortunategentleman gasped forth, in a scarcely audible voice, and with hisclenched pocket-handkerchief raised in the air. His excited feelingsmight have found some further painful utterance, but for a knock at thedoor, which had been already twice repeated, and to which Fanny (stillwishing herself dead, and indeed now going so far as to add, buried)cried 'Come in!'
'Ah, Young John!' said the Father, in an altered and calmed voice. 'Whatis it, Young John?'
'A letter for you, sir, being left in the Lodge just this minute, and amessage with it, I thought, happening to be there myself, sir, I wouldbring it to your room.' The speaker's attention was much distracted bythe piteous spectacle of Little Dorrit at her father's feet, with herhead turned away.
'Indeed, John? Thank you.'
'The letter is from Mr Clennam, sir--it's the answer--and the messagewas, sir, that Mr Clennam also sent his compliments, and word that hewould do himself the pleasure of calling this afternoon, hoping to seeyou, and likewise,' attention more distracted than before, 'Miss Amy.'
'Oh!' As the Father glanced into the letter (there was a bank-note init), he reddened a little, and patted Amy on the head afresh. 'Thankyou, Young John. Quite right. Much obliged to you for your attention. Noone waiting?'
'No, sir, no one waiting.'
'Thank you, John. How is your mother, Young John?'
'Thank you, sir, she's not quite as well as we could wish--in fact, wenone of us are, except father--but she's pretty well, sir.'
'Say we sent our remembrances, will you? Say kind remembrances, if youplease, Young John.'
'Thank you, sir, I will.' And Mr Chivery junior went his way, havingspontaneously composed on the spot an entirely new epitaph for himself,to the effect that Here lay the body of John Chivery, Who, Havingat such a date, Beheld the idol of his life, In grief and tears, Andfeeling unable to bear the harrowing spectacle, Immediately repaired tothe abode of his inconsolable parents, And terminated his existence byhis own rash act.
'There, there, Amy!' said the Father, when Young John had closed thedoor, 'let us say no more about it.' The last few minutes had improvedhis spirits remarkably, and he was quite lightsome. 'Where is my oldpensioner all this while? We must not leave him by himself any longer,or he will begin to suppose he is not welcome, and that would pain me.Will you fetch him, my child, or shall I?'
'If you wouldn't mind, father,' said Little Dorrit, trying to bring hersobbing to a close.
'Certainly I will go, my dear. I forgot; your eyes are rather red.There! Cheer up, Amy. Don't be uneasy about me. I am quite myself again,my love, quite myself. Go to your room, Amy, and make yourself lookcomfortable and pleasant to receive Mr Clennam.'
'I would rather stay in my own room, Father,' returned Little Dorrit,finding it more difficult than before to regain her composure. 'I wouldfar rather not see Mr Clennam.'
'Oh, fie, fie, my dear, that's folly. Mr Clennam is a very gentlemanlyman--very gentlemanly. A little reserved at times; but I will sayextremely gentlemanly. I couldn't think of your not being here toreceive Mr Clennam, my dear, especially this afternoon. So go andfreshen yourself up, Amy; go and freshen yourself up, like a good girl.'
Thus directed, Little Dorrit dutifully rose and obeyed: only pausingfor a moment as she went out of the room, to give her sister a kiss ofreconciliation. Upon which, that young lady, feeling much harassedin her mind, and having for the time worn out the wish with which shegenerally relieved it, conceived and executed the brilliant idea ofwishing Old Nandy dead, rather than that he should come bothering therelike a disgusting, tiresome, wicked wretch, and making mischief betweentwo sisters.
The Father of the Marshalsea, even humming a tune, and wearing his blackvelvet cap a little on one side, so much improved were his spirits, wentdown into the yard, and found his old pensioner standing there hat inhand just within the gate, as he had stood all this time. 'Come, Nandy!'said he, with great suavity. 'Come up-stairs, Nandy; you know the way;why don't you come up-stairs?' He went the length, on this occasion,of giving him his hand and saying, 'How are you, Nandy? Are you prettywell?' To which that vocalist returned, 'I thank you, honoured sir, I amall the better for seeing your honour.' As they went along the yard, theFather of the Marshalsea presented him to a Collegian of recent date.'An old acquaintance of mine, sir, an old pensioner.' And then said, 'Becovered, my good Nandy; put your hat on,' with great consideration.
His patronage did not stop here; for he charged Maggy to get the teaready, and instructed her to buy certain tea-cakes, fresh butter,eggs, cold ham, and shrimps: to purchase which collation he gave her abank-note for ten pounds, laying strict injunctions on her to be carefulof the change. These preparations were in an advanced stage of progress,and his daughter Amy had come back with her work, when Clennam presentedhimself; whom he most graciously received, and besought to join theirmeal.
'Amy, my love, you know Mr Clennam even better than I have the happinessof doing. Fanny, my dear, you are acquainted with Mr Clennam.' Fannyacknowledged him haughtily; the position she tacitly took up in all suchcases being that there was a vast conspiracy to insult the family by notunderstanding it, or sufficiently deferring to it, and here was one ofthe conspirators. 'This, Mr Clennam, you must know, is an old pensionerof mine, Old Nandy, a very faithful old man.' (He always spoke of him asan object of great antiquity, but he was two or three years younger thanhimself.) 'Let me see. You know Plornish, I think? I think my daughterAmy has mentioned to me that you know poor Plornish?'
'O yes!' said Arthur Clennam.
'Well, sir, this is Mrs Plornish's father.'
'Indeed? I am glad to see him.'
'You would be more glad if you knew his many good qualities, MrClennam.'
'I hope I shall come to know them through knowing him,' said Arthur,secretly pitying the bowed and submissive figure.
'It is a holiday with him, and he comes to see his old friends, who arealways glad to see him,' observed the Father of the Marshalsea. Then headded behind his hand, ('Union, poor old fellow. Out for the day.')
By this time Maggy, quietly assisted by her Little Mother, had spreadthe board, and the repast was ready. It being hot weather and the prisonvery close, the window was as wide open as it could be pushed. 'If Maggywill spread that newspaper on the window-sill, my dear,' remarked theFather complacently and in a half whisper to Little Dorrit, 'my oldpensioner can have his tea there, while we are having ours.'
So, with a gulf between him and the good company of about a foot inwidth, standard measure, Mrs Plornish's father was handsomely regaled.Clennam had never seen anything like his magnanimous protection by thatother Father, he of the Marshalsea; and was lost in the contemplation ofits many wonders.
The most striking of these was perhaps the relishing manner in which heremarked on the pensioner's infirmities and failings, as if he werea gracious Keeper making a running commentary on the decline of theharmless animal he exhibited.
'Not ready for more ham yet, Nandy? Why, how slow you are! (His lastteeth,' he explained to the company, 'are going, poor old boy.')
At another time, he said, 'No shrimps, Nandy?' and on his not instantlyreplying, observed, ('His hearing is becoming very defective. He'll bedeaf directly.')
At another time he asked him, 'Do you walk much, Nandy, about the yardwithin the walls of that place of yours?'
'No, sir; no. I haven't any great liking for that.'
'No, to be sure,' he assented. 'Very natural.' Then he privatelyinformed the circle ('Legs going.')
Once he asked the pensioner, in that general clemency which asked himanything to keep him afloat, how old his younger grandchild was?
'John Edward,' said the pensioner, slowly laying down his knife and forkto consider. 'How old, sir? Let me think now.'
The Father of the Marshalsea tapped his forehead ('Memory weak.')
'John Edward, sir? Well, I really forget. I couldn't say at this minute,sir, whether it's two and two months, or whether it's two and fivemonths. It's one or the other.'
'Don't distress yourself by worrying your mind about it,' he returned,with infinite forbearance. ('Faculties evidently decaying--old man rustsin the life he leads!')
The more of these discoveries that he persuaded himself he made in thepensioner, the better he appeared to like him; and when he got out ofhis chair after tea to bid the pensioner good-bye, on his intimatingthat he feared, honoured sir, his time was running out, he made himselflook as erect and strong as possible.
'We don't call this a shilling, Nandy, you know,' he said, putting onein his hand. 'We call it tobacco.'
'Honoured sir, I thank you. It shall buy tobacco. My thanks and duty toMiss Amy and Miss Fanny. I wish you good night, Mr Clennam.'
'And mind you don't forget us, you know, Nandy,' said the Father. 'Youmust come again, mind, whenever you have an afternoon. You must not comeout without seeing us, or we shall be jealous. Good night, Nandy. Bevery careful how you descend the stairs, Nandy; they are rather unevenand worn.' With that he stood on the landing, watching the old man down:and when he came into the room again, said, with a solemn satisfactionon him, 'A melancholy sight that, Mr Clennam, though one has theconsolation of knowing that he doesn't feel it himself. The poor oldfellow is a dismal wreck. Spirit broken and gone--pulverised--crushedout of him, sir, completely!'
As Clennam had a purpose in remaining, he said what he could responsiveto these sentiments, and stood at the window with their enunciator,while Maggy and her Little Mother washed the tea-service and cleared itaway. He noticed that his companion stood at the window with the air ofan affable and accessible Sovereign, and that, when any of his people inthe yard below looked up, his recognition of their salutes just stoppedshort of a blessing.
When Little Dorrit had her work on the table, and Maggy hers on thebedstead, Fanny fell to tying her bonnet as a preliminary to herdeparture. Arthur, still having his purpose, still remained. At thistime the door opened, without any notice, and Mr Tip came in. He kissedAmy as she started up to meet him, nodded to Fanny, nodded to hisfather, gloomed on the visitor without further recognition, and satdown.
'Tip, dear,' said Little Dorrit, mildly, shocked by this, 'don't yousee--'
'Yes, I see, Amy. If you refer to the presence of any visitor you havehere--I say, if you refer to that,' answered Tip, jerking his head withemphasis towards his shoulder nearest Clennam, 'I see!'
'Is that all you say?'
'That's all I say. And I suppose,' added the lofty young man, after amoment's pause, 'that visitor will understand me, when I say that's allI say. In short, I suppose the visitor will understand that he hasn'tused me like a gentleman.'
'I do not understand that,' observed the obnoxious personage referred towith tranquillity.
'No? Why, then, to make it clearer to you, sir, I beg to let you knowthat when I address what I call a properly-worded appeal, and an urgentappeal, and a delicate appeal, to an individual, for a small temporaryaccommodation, easily within his power--easily within his power,mind!--and when that individual writes back word to me that he begs tobe excused, I consider that he doesn't treat me like a gentleman.'
The Father of the Marshalsea, who had surveyed his son in silence, nosooner heard this sentiment, than he began in angry voice:--
'How dare you--' But his son stopped him.
'Now, don't ask me how I dare, father, because that's bosh. As to thefact of the line of conduct I choose to adopt towards the individualpresent, you ought to be proud of my showing a proper spirit.'
'I should think so!' cried Fanny.
'A proper spirit?' said the Father. 'Yes, a proper spirit; a becomingspirit. Is it come to this that my son teaches me--_me_--spirit!'
'Now, don't let us bother about it, father, or have any row on thesubject. I have fully made up my mind that the individual present hasnot treated me like a gentleman. And there's an end of it.'
'But there is not an end of it, sir,' returned the Father. 'But thereshall not be an end of it. You have made up your mind? You have made upyour mind?'
'Yes, _I_ have. What's the good of keeping on like that?'
'Because,' returned the Father, in a great heat, 'you had no right tomake up your mind to what is monstrous, to what is--ha--immoral, to whatis--hum--parricidal. No, Mr Clennam, I beg, sir. Don't ask me to desist;there is a--hum--a general principle involved here, which rises evenabove considerations of--ha--hospitality. I object to the assertion madeby my son. I--ha--I personally repel it.'
'Why, what is it to you, father?' returned the son, over his shoulder.
'What is it to me, sir? I have a--hum--a spirit, sir, that will notendure it. I,' he took out his pocket-handkerchief again and dabbed hisface. 'I am outraged and insulted by it. Let me suppose the case that Imyself may at a certain time--ha--or times, have made a--hum--an appeal,and a properly-worded appeal, and a delicate appeal, and an urgentappeal to some individual for a small temporary accommodation. Let mesuppose that that accommodation could have been easily extended, and wasnot extended, and that that individual informed me that he begged tobe excused. Am I to be told by my own son, that I therefore receivedtreatment not due to a gentleman, and that I--ha--I submitted to it?'
His daughter Amy gently tried to calm him, but he would not on anyaccount be calmed. He said his spirit was up, and wouldn't endure this.
Was he to be told that, he wished to know again, by his own son on hisown hearth, to his own face? Was that humiliation to be put upon him byhis own blood?
'You are putting it on yourself, father, and getting into all thisinjury of your own accord!' said the young gentleman morosely. 'What Ihave made up my mind about has nothing to do with you. What I said hadnothing to do with you. Why need you go trying on other people's hats?'
'I reply it has everything to do with me,' returned the Father. 'I pointout to you, sir, with indignation, that--hum--the--ha--delicacy andpeculiarity of your father's position should strike you dumb, sir, ifnothing else should, in laying down such--ha--such unnatural principles.Besides; if you are not filial, sir, if you discard that duty, youare at least--hum--not a Christian? Are you--ha--an Atheist? And is itChristian, let me ask you, to stigmatise and denounce an individualfor begging to be excused this time, when the same individualmay--ha--respond with the required accommodation next time? Is it thepart of a Christian not to--hum--not to try him again?' He had workedhimself into quite a religious glow and fervour.
'I see precious well,' said Mr Tip, rising, 'that I shall get nosensible or fair argument here to-night, and so the best thing I can dois to cut. Good night, Amy. Don't be vexed. I am very sorry it happenshere, and you here, upon my soul I am; but I can't altogether part withmy spirit, even for your sake, old girl.'
With those words he put on his hat and went out, accompanied by MissFanny; who did not consider it spirited on her part to take leave ofClennam with any less opposing demonstration than a stare, importingthat she had always known him for one of the large body of conspirators.
When they were gone, the Father of the Marshalsea was at first inclinedto sink into despondency again, and would have done so, but that agentleman opportunely came up within a minute or two to attend him tothe Snuggery. It was the gentleman Clennam had seen on the night of hisown accidental detention there, who had that impalpable grievance aboutthe misappropriated Fund on which the Marshal was supposed to batten.He presented himself as deputation to escort the Father to the Chair, itbeing an occasion on which he had promised to preside over the assembledCollegians in the enjoyment of a little Harmony.
'Such, you see, Mr Clennam,' said the Father, 'are the incongruitiesof my position here. But a public duty! No man, I am sure, would morereadily recognise a public duty than yourself.'
Clennam besought him not to delay a moment.
'Amy, my dear, if you can persuade Mr Clennam to stay longer, I canleave the honours of our poor apology for an establishment withconfidence in your hands, and perhaps you may do something towardserasing from Mr Clennam's mind the--ha--untoward and unpleasantcircumstance which has occurred since tea-time.'
Clennam assured him that it had made no impression on his mind, andtherefore required no erasure.
'My dear sir,' said the Father, with a removal of his black cap and agrasp of Clennam's hand, combining to express the safe receipt of hisnote and enclosure that afternoon, 'Heaven ever bless you!'
So, at last, Clennam's purpose in remaining was attained, and he couldspeak to Little Dorrit with nobody by. Maggy counted as nobody, and shewas by.