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Charles Dickens > Little Dorrit > Chapter 31

Little Dorrit

Chapter 31


Anybody may pass, any day, in the thronged thoroughfares of the
metropolis, some meagre, wrinkled, yellow old man (who might be
supposed to have dropped from the stars, if there were any star in
the Heavens dull enough to be suspected of casting off so feeble a
spark), creeping along with a scared air, as though bewildered and
a little frightened by the noise and bustle. This old man is
always a little old man. If he were ever a big old man, he has
shrunk into a little old man; if he were always a little old man,
he has dwindled into a less old man. His coat is 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. Some wholesale
contractor measured Fate for five thousand coats of such quality,
and Fate has lent this old coat to this old man, as one of a long
unfinished line of many old men. It has always large dull metal
buttons, similar to no other buttons. This old man wears a hat, a
thumbed and napless and yet an obdurate hat, which has never
adapted itself to the shape of his poor head. His coarse shirt and
his coarse neckcloth have no more individuality than his coat and
hat; they have the same character of not being his--of not being
anybody's. Yet this old man wears these clothes with a certain
unaccustomed air of being dressed and elaborated for the public
ways; as though he passed the greater part of his time in a
nightcap and gown. And so, like the country mouse in the second
year of a famine, come to see the town mouse, and timidly threading
his way to the town-mouse's lodging through a city of cats, this
old man passes in the streets.

Sometimes, on holidays towards evening, he will be seen to walk
with a slightly increased infirmity, and his old eyes will glimmer
with a moist and marshy light. Then the little old man is drunk.
A very small measure will overset him; he may be bowled off his
unsteady legs with a half-pint pot. Some pitying acquaintance--
chance acquaintance very often--has warmed up his weakness with a
treat of beer, and the consequence will be the lapse of a longer
time than usual before he shall 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 methinks they 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 than ever in a grove of
two score and nineteen more old men, every one of whom smells of
all the others.

Mrs Plornish's father,--a poor little reedy piping old gentleman,
like a worn-out bird; who had been in what he called the music-
binding business, and met with great misfortunes, and who had
seldom been able to make his way, or to see it or to pay it, or to
do anything at all with it but find it no thoroughfare,--had
retired of his own accord to the Workhouse which was appointed by
law to be the Good Samaritan of his district (without the twopence,
which was bad political economy), on the settlement of that
execution which had carried Mr Plornish to the Marshalsea College.
Previous to his son-in-law's difficulties coming to that head, Old
Nandy (he was always so called in his legal Retreat, but he was Old
Mr Nandy among the Bleeding Hearts) had sat in a corner of the
Plornish fireside, and taken his bite and sup out of the Plornish
cupboard. He still hoped to resume that domestic position when
Fortune should smile upon his son-in-law; in the meantime, while
she preserved an immovable countenance, he was, and resolved to
remain, one of these little 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,
and no Old Men's Ward for his dwelling-place, could quench his
daughter's admiration. Mrs Plornish was as proud of her father's
talents as she could possibly have been if they had made him Lord
Chancellor. She had as firm a belief in the sweetness and
propriety of his manners as she could possibly have had if he had
been Lord Chamberlain. The poor little old man knew some pale and
vapid little songs, long out of date, about Chloe, 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 small internal
flutterings and chirpings wherein he would discharge himself of
these ditties, like a weak, little, broken barrel-organ, ground by
a baby. On his 'days out,' those flecks of light in his flat vista
of pollard 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 of porter, 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 had hardly been up to since he went into
retirement--and then would Mrs Plornish declare she did believe
there never was such a singer as Father, and wipe her eyes.

If he had come from Court on these occasions, nay, if he had been
the noble Refrigerator come home triumphantly from a foreign court
to be presented and promoted on his last tremendous failure, Mrs
Plornish could not have handed him with greater elevation about
Bleeding Heart Yard. 'Here's Father,' she would say, presenting
him to a neighbour. 'Father will soon be home with us for good,
now. Ain't Father looking well? Father's a sweeter singer than
ever; you'd never have forgotten it, if you'd aheard him just now.'

As to Mr Plornish, he had married these articles of belief in
marrying Mr Nandy's daughter, and only wondered how it was that so
gifted an old gentleman had not made a fortune. This he
attributed, after much reflection, to his musical genius not having
been scientifically developed in his youth. 'For why,' argued Mr
Plornish, 'why go a-binding music when you've got it in yourself?
That's where it is, I consider.'

Old Nandy had a patron: one patron. He had a patron who in a
certain sumptuous way--an apologetic way, as if he constantly took
an admiring audience to witness that he really could not help being
more free with this old fellow than they might have expected, on
account of his simplicity and poverty--was mightily good to him.
Old Nandy had been several times to the Marshalsea College,
communicating with his son-in-law during his short durance there;
and had happily acquired to himself, and had by degrees and in
course of time much improved, the patronage of the Father of that
national institution.

Mr Dorrit was in the habit of receiving this old man as if the old
man held of him in vassalage under some feudal tenure. He made
little treats and teas for him, as if he came in with his homage
from some outlying district where the tenantry were in a primitive

It seemed as if there were moments when he could by no means have
sworn but that the old man was an ancient retainer of his, who had
been meritoriously faithful. When he mentioned him, he spoke of
him casually as his old pensioner. He had a wonderful satisfaction
in seeing him, and in commenting on his decayed condition after he
was gone. It appeared to him amazing that he could hold up his
head at all, poor creature. 'In the Workhouse, sir, the Union; no
privacy, no visitors, no station, no respect, no speciality. Most

It was Old Nandy's birthday, and they let him out. He said nothing
about its being his birthday, or they might have kept him in; for
such old men should not be born. He passed along the streets as
usual to Bleeding Heart Yard, and had his dinner with his daughter
and son-in-law, and gave them Phyllis. He had hardly concluded,
when Little Dorrit looked in to 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 him this long time.

'No, they're rather hard on poor Father,' said Mrs Plornish with a
lengthening face, 'and don't let him have half as much change and
fresh air as would benefit him. But he'll soon be home for good,
now. Won't you, Father?'

'Yes, my dear, I hope so. In good time, please God.'

Here Mr Plornish delivered himself of an oration which he
invariably made, word for word the same, on all such opportunities.

It was couched in the following terms:

'John Edward Nandy. Sir. While there's a ounce of wittles or
drink of any sort in this present roof, you're fully welcome to
your share on it. While there's a handful of fire or a mouthful of
bed in this present roof, you're fully welcome to your share on it.

If so be as there should be nothing in this present roof, you
should be as welcome to your share on it as if it was something,
much or little. And this is what I mean and so I don't deceive
you, and consequently which is to stand out is to entreat of you,
and therefore why not do it?'

To this lucid address, which Mr Plornish always delivered as if he
had composed it (as no doubt he had) with enormous labour, Mrs
Plornish's father pipingly replied:

'I thank you kindly, Thomas, and I know your intentions well, which
is the same I thank you kindly for. But no, Thomas. Until such
times as it's not to take it out of your children's mouths, which
take it is, and call it by what name you will it do remain and
equally deprive, though may 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
corner of her apron in her hand, brought herself back to the
conversation again by telling Miss Dorrit that Father was going
over the water to pay his respects, 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
me I shall be so glad to take care of him--so glad,' said Little
Dorrit, always thoughtful of the feelings of the weak, 'of his

'There, Father!' cried Mrs Plornish. 'Ain't you a gay young man to
be going for a walk along with Miss Dorrit! Let me tie your neck-
handkerchief into a regular good bow, for you're a regular beau
yourself, Father, if ever there was one.'

With this filial joke his daughter smartened him up, and gave him
a loving hug, and stood at the door with her weak child in her
arms, and her strong child tumbling down the steps, looking after
her little old father as he toddled away with his arm under Little

They walked at a slow pace, and Little Dorrit took him by the Iron
Bridge and sat him down there for a rest, and they looked over at
the water and talked about the shipping, and the old man mentioned
what he would do if he had a ship full of gold coming home to him
(his plan was to 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 five minutes 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
never mean it!'

'Mean what, Fanny dear?'

'Well! I could have believed a great deal of you,' returned the
young lady with burning indignation, 'but I don't think even I
could have believed 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
coming along 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
'O Fanny!'

'I tell you not to Fanny me, for I'll not submit to it! I never
knew such a thing. The way in which you are resolved and
determined to disgrace us on all occasions, is really infamous.
You bad little thing!'

'Does it disgrace anybody,' said Little Dorrit, very gently, 'to
take care 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.
The principal pleasure of your life is to remind your family of
their misfortunes. And the next great pleasure of your existence
is to keep low company. But, however, if you have no sense of
decency, I have. 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 old
disgrace, who had been deferentially bowing a pace or two off (for
Little Dorrit had let his arm go in her wonder, when Fanny began),
and who had been hustled and cursed by impatient passengers for
stopping the way, rejoined his companion, rather giddy, and said,
'I hope nothing's wrong with your honoured father, Miss? I hope
there's nothing the matter in the honoured family?'

'No, no,' returned Little Dorrit. 'No, thank you. Give me your
arm again, Mr Nandy. We shall soon be there now.'

So she talked to him as she had talked before, and they came to the
Lodge and found Mr Chivery on the lock, and went in. Now, it
happened that the Father of the Marshalsea was sauntering towards
the Lodge at the moment when they were coming out of it, entering
the prison arm in arm. As the spectacle of their approach met his
view, he displayed the utmost agitation and despondency of mind;
and--altogether regardless of Old Nandy, who, making his reverence,
stood with his hat in his hand, as he always did in that gracious
presence--turned about, and hurried in at his own doorway and up
the staircase.

Leaving the old unfortunate, whom in an evil hour she had taken
under her protection, with a hurried promise to return to him
directly, Little Dorrit hastened after her father, and, on the
staircase, found Fanny following her, and flouncing up with
offended dignity. The three came into 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 hope you believe me, Miss?'

'What is it, father?' cried Little Dorrit, bending over him. 'Have
I made you unhappy, father? Not I, I hope!'

'You hope, indeed! I dare say! Oh, you'--Fanny paused for a
sufficiently strong expression--'you Common-minded little Amy! You
complete prison-child!'

He stopped these angry reproaches with a wave of his hand, and
sobbed out, raising his face and shaking his melancholy head at his
younger daughter, 'Amy, I know that you are innocent in intention.
But you have cut me to the soul.'
'Innocent in intention!' the implacable Fanny struck in. 'Stuff in
intention! Low in intention! Lowering of the family in

'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

'How it is, you prevaricating little piece of goods!' cried Fanny.
'You know how it is. I have told you already, so don't fly in the
face of Providence by attempting to deny it!'

'Hush! Amy,' said the father, passing his pocket-handkerchief
several times across his face, and then grasping it convulsively in
the hand that dropped across his knee, 'I have done what I could to
keep you select here; I have done what I could to retain you a
position here. I may have succeeded; I may not. You may know it;
you may not. I give no opinion. I have endured everything here
but humiliation. That I have happily been spared--until this day.'

Here his convulsive grasp unclosed itself, and he put his pocket-
handkerchief to his eyes again. Little Dorrit, on the ground
beside him, with her imploring hand upon his arm, watched him
remorsefully. Coming out of his fit of grief, he clenched his
pocket-handkerchief once more.

'Humiliation I have happily been spared until this day. Through
all my troubles there has been that--Spirit in myself, and that--
that submission to it, if I may use the term, in those about me,
which has spared me--ha--humiliation. But this day, this minute,
I have keenly felt it.'

'Of course! How could it be otherwise?' exclaimed the
irrepressible Fanny. 'Careering and prancing about with a Pauper!'
(air-gun again).

'But, dear father,' cried Little Dorrit, 'I don't justify myself
for having wounded your dear heart--no! Heaven knows I don't!'
She clasped her hands in quite an agony of distress. 'I do nothing
but beg and pray you to be comforted and overlook it. But if I had
not known that you were kind to the old man yourself, and took much
notice of him, and were always glad to see him, I would not have
come here with him, father, I would not, indeed. What I have been
so unhappy as to do, I have done in mistake. I would not wilfully
bring a tear to your eyes, dear love!' said Little Dorrit, her
heart well-nigh broken, 'for anything the world could give me, or
anything it could take away.'

Fanny, with a partly angry and partly repentant sob, began to cry
herself, and to say--as this young lady always said when she was
half in passion and half out of it, half spiteful with herself and
half spiteful with everybody else--that she wished she were dead.

The Father of the Marshalsea in the meantime took his younger
daughter to his breast, and patted her head.
'There, there! Say no more, Amy, say no more, my child. I will
forget it as soon as I can. I,' with hysterical cheerfulness, 'I--
shall soon be able to dismiss it. It is perfectly true, my dear,
that I am always glad to see my old pensioner--as such, as such--
and that I do--ha--extend as much protection and kindness to the--
hum--the bruised reed--I trust I may so call him without
impropriety--as in my circumstances, I can. It is quite true that
this is the case, my dear child. At the same time, I preserve in
doing this, if I may--ha--if I may use the expression--Spirit.
Becoming Spirit. And there are some things which are,' he stopped
to sob, 'irreconcilable with that, and wound that--wound it deeply.

It is not that I have seen my good Amy attentive, 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 being explicit, 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 unfortunate
gentleman gasped forth, in a scarcely audible voice, and with his
clenched pocket-handkerchief raised in the air. His excited
feelings might have found some further painful utterance, but for
a knock at the door, which had been already twice repeated, and to
which Fanny (still wishing 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.
'What is it, Young John?'

'A letter for you, sir, being left in the Lodge just this minute,
and a message with it, I thought, happening to be there myself,
sir, I would bring it to your room.' The speaker's attention was
much distracted by the piteous spectacle of Little Dorrit at her
father's feet, with her head turned away.

'Indeed, John? Thank you.'

'The letter is from Mr Clennam, sir--it's the answer--and the
message was, sir, that Mr Clennam also sent his compliments, and
word that he would do himself the pleasure of calling this
afternoon, hoping to see you, and likewise,' attention more
distracted than before, 'Miss Amy.'

'Oh!' As the Father glanced into the letter (there was a bank-note
in it), he reddened a little, and patted Amy on the head afresh.
'Thank you, Young John. Quite right. Much obliged to you for your
attention. No one 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,
we none of us are, except father--but she's pretty well, sir.'
'Say we sent our remembrances, will you? Say kind remembrances, if
you please, Young John.'

'Thank you, sir, I will.' And Mr Chivery junior went his way,
having spontaneously composed on the spot an entirely new epitaph
for himself, to the effect that Here lay the body of John Chivery,
Who, Having at such a date, Beheld the idol of his life, In grief
and tears, And feeling unable to bear the harrowing spectacle,
Immediately repaired to the abode of his inconsolable parents, And
terminated his existence by his own rash act.

'There, there, Amy!' said the Father, when Young John had closed
the door, 'let us say no more about it.' The last few minutes had
improved his spirits remarkably, and he was quite lightsome.
'Where is my old pensioner 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
her sobbing 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 look comfortable 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 would far rather not see Mr Clennam.'

'Oh, fie, fie, my dear, that's folly. Mr Clennam is a very
gentlemanly man--very gentlemanly. A little reserved at times; but
I will say extremely gentlemanly. I couldn't think of your not
being here to receive Mr Clennam, my dear, especially this
afternoon. So go and freshen yourself up, Amy; go and freshen
yourself up, like a good girl.'

Thus directed, Little Dorrit dutifully rose and obeyed: only
pausing for a moment as she went out of the room, to give her
sister a kiss of reconciliation. Upon which, that young lady,
feeling much harassed in her mind, and having for the time worn out
the wish with which she generally relieved it, conceived and
executed the brilliant idea of wishing Old Nandy dead, rather than
that he should come bothering there like a disgusting, tiresome,
wicked wretch, and making mischief between two sisters.

The Father of the Marshalsea, even humming a tune, and wearing his
black velvet cap a little on one side, so much improved were his
spirits, went down into the yard, and found his old pensioner
standing there hat in hand 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 pretty well?' To which that
vocalist returned, 'I thank you, honoured sir, I am all the better
for seeing your honour.' As they went along the yard, the Father
of the Marshalsea presented him to a Collegian of recent date. 'An
old acquaintance of mine, sir, an old pensioner.' And then said,
'Be covered, my good Nandy; put your hat on,' with great

His patronage did not stop here; for he charged Maggy to get the
tea ready, and instructed her to buy certain tea-cakes, fresh
butter, eggs, cold ham, and shrimps: to purchase which collation he
gave her a bank-note for ten pounds, laying strict injunctions on
her to be careful of the change. These preparations were in an
advanced stage of progress, and his daughter Amy had come back with
her work, when Clennam presented himself; whom he most graciously
received, and besought to join their meal.

'Amy, my love, you know Mr Clennam even better than I have the
happiness of doing. Fanny, my dear, you are acquainted with Mr
Clennam.' Fanny acknowledged him haughtily; the position she
tacitly took up in all such cases being that there was a vast
conspiracy to insult the family by not understanding it, or
sufficiently deferring to it, and here was one of the conspirators.

'This, Mr Clennam, you must know, is an old pensioner of mine, Old
Nandy, a very faithful old man.' (He always spoke of him as an
object of great antiquity, but he was two or three years younger
than himself.) 'Let me see. You know Plornish, I think? I think
my daughter Amy 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,
Mr Clennam.'

'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
are always glad to see him,' observed the Father of the Marshalsea.

Then he added behind his hand, ('Union, poor old fellow. Out for
the day.')

By this time Maggy, quietly assisted by her Little Mother, had
spread the board, and the repast was ready. It being hot weather
and the prison very close, the window was as wide open as it could
be pushed. 'If Maggy will spread that newspaper on the window-
sill, my dear,' remarked the Father complacently and in a half
whisper to Little Dorrit, 'my old pensioner can have his tea there,
while we are having ours.'

So, with a gulf between him and the good company of about a foot in
width, standard measure, Mrs Plornish's father was handsomely
regaled. Clennam had never seen anything like his magnanimous
protection by that other Father, he of the Marshalsea; and was lost
in the contemplation of its many wonders.

The most striking of these was perhaps the relishing manner in
which he remarked on the pensioner's infirmities and failings, as
if he were a gracious Keeper making a running commentary on the
decline of the harmless animal he exhibited.

'Not ready for more ham yet, Nandy? Why, how slow you are! (His
last teeth,' he explained to the company, 'are going, poor old

At another time, he said, 'No shrimps, Nandy?' and on his not
instantly replying, observed, ('His hearing is becoming very
defective. He'll be deaf directly.')

At another time he asked him, 'Do you walk much, Nandy, about the
yard within 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 privately
informed the circle ('Legs going.')

Once he asked the pensioner, in that general clemency which asked
him anything to keep him afloat, how old his younger grandchild

'John Edward,' said the pensioner, slowly laying down his knife and
fork to 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 five months. 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 rusts in the life he leads!')

The more of these discoveries that he persuaded himself he made in
the pensioner, the better he appeared to like him; and when he got
out of his chair after tea to bid the pensioner good-bye, on his
intimating that he feared, honoured sir, his time was running out,
he made himself look as erect and strong as possible.

'We don't call this a shilling, Nandy, you know,' he said, putting
one in his hand. 'We call it tobacco.'

'Honoured sir, I thank you. It shall buy tobacco. My thanks and
duty to Miss Amy and Miss Fanny. I wish you good night, Mr

'And mind you don't forget us, you know, Nandy,' said the Father.
'You must come again, mind, whenever you have an afternoon. You
must not come out without seeing us, or we shall be jealous. Good
night, Nandy. Be very careful how you descend the stairs, Nandy;
they are rather uneven and 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 satisfaction on him, 'A melancholy sight
that, Mr Clennam, though one has the consolation of knowing that he
doesn't feel it himself. The poor old fellow is a dismal wreck.
Spirit broken and gone--pulverised--crushed out of him, sir,

As Clennam had a purpose in remaining, he said what he could
responsive to these sentiments, and stood at the window with their
enunciator, while Maggy and her Little Mother washed the tea-
service and cleared it away. He noticed that his companion stood
at the window with the air of an affable and accessible Sovereign,
and that, when any of his people in the yard below looked up, his
recognition of their salutes just stopped short of a blessing.

When Little Dorrit had her work on the table, and Maggy hers on the
bedstead, Fanny fell to tying her bonnet as a preliminary to her
departure. Arthur, still having his purpose, still remained. At
this time the door opened, without any notice, and Mr Tip came in.
He kissed Amy as she started up to meet him, nodded to Fanny,
nodded to his father, gloomed on the visitor without further
recognition, and sat down.

'Tip, dear,' said Little Dorrit, mildly, shocked by this, 'don't
you see--'

'Yes, I see, Amy. If you refer to the presence of any visitor you
have here--I say, if you refer to that,' answered Tip, jerking his
head with emphasis 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 a moment's pause, 'that visitor will understand me, when I
say that's all I say. In short, I suppose the visitor will
understand that he hasn't used me like a gentleman.'

'I do not understand that,' observed the obnoxious personage
referred to with tranquillity.

'No? Why, then, to make it clearer to you, sir, I beg to let you
know that when I address what I call a properly-worded appeal, and
an urgent appeal, and a delicate appeal, to an individual, for a
small temporary accommodation, easily within his power--easily
within his power, mind!--and when that individual writes back word
to me that he begs to be excused, I consider that he doesn't treat
me like a gentleman.'

The Father of the Marshalsea, who had surveyed his son in silence,
no sooner 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
the fact of the line of conduct I choose to adopt towards the
individual present, you ought to be proud of my showing a proper

'I should think so!' cried Fanny.

'A proper spirit?' said the Father. 'Yes, a proper spirit; a
becoming spirit. Is it come to this that my son teaches me--ME--

'Now, don't let us bother about it, father, or have any row on the
subject. I have fully made up my mind that the individual present
has not 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
there shall not be an end of it. You have made up your mind? You
have made up your 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
to make up your mind to what is monstrous, to what is--ha--immoral,
to what is--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 even above considerations of--ha--hospitality.
I object to the assertion made by my son. I--ha--I personally
repel it.'

'Why, what is it to you, father?' returned the son, over his

'What is it to me, sir? I have a--hum--a spirit, sir, that will
not endure it. I,' he took out his pocket-handkerchief again and
dabbed his face. 'I am outraged and insulted by it. Let me
suppose the case that I myself 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 urgent appeal to some individual for a
small temporary accommodation. Let me suppose that that
accommodation could have been easily extended, and was not
extended, and that that individual informed me that he begged to be
excused. Am I to be told by my own son, that I therefore received
treatment not due to a gentleman, and that I--ha--I submitted to

His daughter Amy gently tried to calm him, but he would not on any
account be calmed. He said his spirit was up, and wouldn't endure

Was he to be told that, he wished to know again, by his own son on
his own hearth, to his own face? Was that humiliation to be put
upon him by his own blood?

'You are putting it on yourself, father, and getting into all this
injury of your own accord!' said the young gentleman morosely.
'What I have made up my mind about has nothing to do with you.
What I said had nothing 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
point out to you, sir, with indignation, that--hum--the--ha--
delicacy and peculiarity of your father's position should strike
you dumb, sir, if nothing else should, in laying down such--ha--
such unnatural principles. Besides; if you are not filial, sir, if
you discard that duty, you are at least--hum--not a Christian? Are
you--ha--an Atheist? And is it Christian, let me ask you, to
stigmatise and denounce an individual for begging to be excused
this time, when the same individual may--ha--respond with the
required accommodation next time? Is it the part of a Christian
not to--hum--not to try him again?' He had worked himself into
quite a religious glow and fervour.

'I see precious well,' said Mr Tip, rising, 'that I shall get no
sensible or fair argument here to-night, and so the best thing I
can do is to cut. Good night, Amy. Don't be vexed. I am very
sorry it happens here, and you here, upon my soul I am; but I can't
altogether part with my spirit, even for your sake, old girl.'

With those words he put on his hat and went out, accompanied by
Miss Fanny; who did not consider it spirited on her part to take
leave of Clennam with any less opposing demonstration than a stare,
importing that 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
inclined to sink into despondency again, and would have done so,
but that a gentleman opportunely came up within a minute or two to
attend him to the Snuggery. It was the gentleman Clennam had seen
on the night of his own accidental detention there, who had that
impalpable grievance about the misappropriated Fund on which the
Marshal was supposed to batten. He presented himself as deputation
to escort the Father to the Chair, it being an occasion on which he
had promised to preside over the assembled Collegians in the
enjoyment of a little Harmony.

'Such, you see, Mr Clennam,' said the Father, 'are the
incongruities of my position here. But a public duty! No man, I
am sure, would more readily 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 can
leave the honours of our poor apology for an establishment with
confidence in your hands, and perhaps you may do something towards
erasing from Mr Clennam's mind the--ha--untoward and unpleasant
circumstance which has occurred since tea-time.'

Clennam assured him that it had made no impression on his mind, and
therefore required no erasure.

'My dear sir,' said the Father, with a removal of his black cap and
a grasp of Clennam's hand, combining to express the safe receipt of
his note and enclosure that afternoon, 'Heaven ever bless you!'

So, at last, Clennam's purpose in remaining was attained, and he
could speak to Little Dorrit with nobody by. Maggy counted as
nobody, and she was by.

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