Little Dorrit

Little Dorrit

Little Dorrit/42

CHAPTER 4. A Letter from Little Dorrit

Dear Mr Clennam,

I write to you from my own room at Venice, thinking you will be glad tohear from me. But I know you cannot be so glad to hear from me as I amto write to you; for everything about you is as you have been accustomedto see it, and you miss nothing--unless it should be me, which can onlybe for a very little while together and very seldom--while everything inmy life is so strange, and I miss so much.

When we were in Switzerland, which appears to have been years ago,though it was only weeks, I met young Mrs Gowan, who was on a mountainexcursion like ourselves. She told me she was very well and very happy.She sent you the message, by me, that she thanked you affectionately andwould never forget you. She was quite confiding with me, and I loved heralmost as soon as I spoke to her. But there is nothing singular in that;who could help loving so beautiful and winning a creature! I could notwonder at any one loving her. No indeed.

It will not make you uneasy on Mrs Gowan's account, I hope--for Iremember that you said you had the interest of a true friend in her--ifI tell you that I wish she could have married some one better suited toher. Mr Gowan seems fond of her, and of course she is very fond of him,but I thought he was not earnest enough--I don't mean in that respect--Imean in anything. I could not keep it out of my mind that if I was MrsGowan (what a change that would be, and how I must alter to become likeher!) I should feel that I was rather lonely and lost, for the want ofsome one who was steadfast and firm in purpose. I even thought she feltthis want a little, almost without knowing it. But mind you are not madeuneasy by this, for she was 'very well and very happy.' And she lookedmost beautiful.

I expect to meet her again before long, and indeed have been expectingfor some days past to see her here. I will ever be as good a friend toher as I can for your sake. Dear Mr Clennam, I dare say you think littleof having been a friend to me when I had no other (not that I have anyother now, for I have made no new friends), but I think much of it, andI never can forget it.

I wish I knew--but it is best for no one to write to me--how Mr and MrsPlornish prosper in the business which my dear father bought for them,and that old Mr Nandy lives happily with them and his two grandchildren,and sings all his songs over and over again. I cannot quite keep backthe tears from my eyes when I think of my poor Maggy, and of the blankshe must have felt at first, however kind they all are to her, withouther Little Mother. Will you go and tell her, as a strict secret, with mylove, that she never can have regretted our separation more than I haveregretted it? And will you tell them all that I have thought of themevery day, and that my heart is faithful to them everywhere? O, if youcould know how faithful, you would almost pity me for being so far awayand being so grand!

You will be glad, I am sure, to know that my dear father is very wellin health, and that all these changes are highly beneficial to him, andthat he is very different indeed from what he used to be when you usedto see him. There is an improvement in my uncle too, I think, though henever complained of old, and never exults now. Fanny is very graceful,quick, and clever. It is natural to her to be a lady; she has adaptedherself to our new fortunes with wonderful ease.

This reminds me that I have not been able to do so, and that I sometimesalmost despair of ever being able to do so. I find that I cannot learn.Mrs General is always with us, and we speak French and speak Italian,and she takes pains to form us in many ways. When I say we speak Frenchand Italian, I mean they do. As for me, I am so slow that I scarcelyget on at all. As soon as I begin to plan, and think, and try, all myplanning, thinking, and trying go in old directions, and I begin to feelcareful again about the expenses of the day, and about my dear father,and about my work, and then I remember with a start that there are nosuch cares left, and that in itself is so new and improbable that itsets me wandering again. I should not have the courage to mention thisto any one but you.

It is the same with all these new countries and wonderful sights.They are very beautiful, and they astonish me, but I am not collectedenough--not familiar enough with myself, if you can quite understandwhat I mean--to have all the pleasure in them that I might have. WhatI knew before them, blends with them, too, so curiously. For instance,when we were among the mountains, I often felt (I hesitate to tell suchan idle thing, dear Mr Clennam, even to you) as if the Marshalsea mustbe behind that great rock; or as if Mrs Clennam's room where I haveworked so many days, and where I first saw you, must be just beyond thatsnow. Do you remember one night when I came with Maggy to your lodgingin Covent Garden? That room I have often and often fancied I have seenbefore me, travelling along for miles by the side of our carriage, whenI have looked out of the carriage-window after dark. We were shut outthat night, and sat at the iron gate, and walked about till morning.I often look up at the stars, even from the balcony of this room, andbelieve that I am in the street again, shut out with Maggy. It is thesame with people that I left in England.

When I go about here in a gondola, I surprise myself looking into othergondolas as if I hoped to see them. It would overcome me with joy tosee them, but I don't think it would surprise me much, at first. In myfanciful times, I fancy that they might be anywhere; and I almost expectto see their dear faces on the bridges or the quays.

Another difficulty that I have will seem very strange to you. It mustseem very strange to any one but me, and does even to me: I often feelthe old sad pity for--I need not write the word--for him. Changed as heis, and inexpressibly blest and thankful as I always am to know it, theold sorrowful feeling of compassion comes upon me sometimes with suchstrength that I want to put my arms round his neck, tell him how I lovehim, and cry a little on his breast. I should be glad after that, andproud and happy. But I know that I must not do this; that he would notlike it, that Fanny would be angry, that Mrs General would be amazed;and so I quiet myself. Yet in doing so, I struggle with the feeling thatI have come to be at a distance from him; and that even in the midst ofall the servants and attendants, he is deserted, and in want of me.

Dear Mr Clennam, I have written a great deal about myself, but I mustwrite a little more still, or what I wanted most of all to say in thisweak letter would be left out of it. In all these foolish thoughts ofmine, which I have been so hardy as to confess to you because I know youwill understand me if anybody can, and will make more allowance for methan anybody else would if you cannot--in all these thoughts, there isone thought scarcely ever--never--out of my memory, and that is thatI hope you sometimes, in a quiet moment, have a thought for me. I musttell you that as to this, I have felt, ever since I have been away, ananxiety which I am very anxious to relieve. I have been afraid that youmay think of me in a new light, or a new character. Don't do that, Icould not bear that--it would make me more unhappy than you can suppose.It would break my heart to believe that you thought of me in any waythat would make me stranger to you than I was when you were so good tome. What I have to pray and entreat of you is, that you will never thinkof me as the daughter of a rich person; that you will never think of meas dressing any better, or living any better, than when you firstknew me. That you will remember me only as the little shabby girl youprotected with so much tenderness, from whose threadbare dress you havekept away the rain, and whose wet feet you have dried at your fire.That you will think of me (when you think of me at all), and of my trueaffection and devoted gratitude, always without change, as of

Your poor child,


P.S.--Particularly remember that you are not to be uneasy about MrsGowan. Her words were, 'Very well and very happy.' And she looked mostbeautiful.