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Charles Dickens > Little Dorrit > Chapter 36

Little Dorrit

Chapter 36

The Marshalsea becomes an Orphan

And now the day arrived when Mr Dorrit and his family were to leave
the prison for ever, and the stones of its much-trodden pavement
were to know them no more.

The interval had been short, but he had greatly complained of its
length, and had been imperious with Mr Rugg touching the delay. He
had been high with Mr Rugg, and had threatened to employ some one
else. He had requested Mr Rugg not to presume upon the place in
which he found him, but to do his duty, sir, and to do it with
promptitude. He had told Mr Rugg that he knew what lawyers and
agents were, and that he would not submit to imposition. On that
gentleman's humbly representing that he exerted himself to the
utmost, Miss Fanny was very short with him; desiring to know what
less he could do, when he had been told a dozen times that money
was no object, and expressing her suspicion that he forgot whom he
talked to.

Towards the Marshal, who was a Marshal of many years' standing, and
with whom he had never had any previous difference, Mr Dorrit
comported himself with severity. That officer, on personally
tendering his congratulations, offered the free use of two rooms in
his house for Mr Dorrit's occupation until his departure. Mr
Dorrit thanked him at the moment, and replied that he would think
of it; but the Marshal was no sooner gone than he sat down and
wrote him a cutting note, in which he remarked that he had never on
any former occasion had the honour of receiving his congratulations
(which was true, though indeed there had not been anything
particular to congratulate him upon), and that he begged, on behalf
of himself and family, to repudiate the Marshal's offer, with all
those thanks which its disinterested character and its perfect
independence of all worldly considerations demanded.

Although his brother showed so dim a glimmering of interest in
their altered fortunes that it was very doubtful whether he
understood them, Mr Dorrit caused him to be measured for new
raiment by the hosiers, tailors, hatters, and bootmakers whom he
called in for himself; and ordered that his old clothes should be
taken from him and burned. Miss Fanny and Mr Tip required no
direction in making an appearance of great fashion and elegance;
and the three passed this interval together at the best hotel in
the neighbourhood--though truly, as Miss Fanny said, the best was
very indifferent. In connection with that establishment, Mr Tip
hired a cabriolet, horse, and groom, a very neat turn out, which
was usually to be observed for two or three hours at a time gracing
the Borough High Street, outside the Marshalsea court-yard. A
modest little hired chariot and pair was also frequently to be seen
there; in alighting from and entering which vehicle, Miss Fanny
fluttered the Marshal's daughters by the display of inaccessible

A great deal of business was transacted in this short period.
Among other items, Messrs Peddle and Pool, solicitors, of Monument
Yard, were instructed by their client Edward Dorrit, Esquire, to
address a letter to Mr Arthur Clennam, enclosing the sum of twenty-
four pounds nine shillings and eightpence, being the amount of
principal and interest computed at the rate of five per cent. per
annum, in which their client believed himself to be indebted to Mr
Clennam. In making this communication and remittance, Messrs
Peddle and Pool were further instructed by their client to remind
Mr Clennam that the favour of the advance now repaid (including
gate-fees) had not been asked of him, and to inform him that it
would not have been accepted if it had been openly proffered in his
name. With which they requested a stamped receipt, and remained
his obedient servants. A great deal of business had likewise to be
done, within the so-soon-to-be-orphaned Marshalsea, by Mr Dorrit so
long its Father, chiefly arising out of applications made to him by
Collegians for small sums of money. To these he responded with the
greatest liberality, and with no lack of formality; always first
writing to appoint a time at which the applicant might wait upon
him in his room, and then receiving him in the midst of a vast
accumulation of documents, and accompanying his donation (for he
said in every such case, 'it is a donation, not a loan') with a
great deal of good counsel: to the effect that he, the expiring
Father of the Marshalsea, hoped to be long remembered, as an
example that a man might preserve his own and the general respect
even there.

The Collegians were not envious. Besides that they had a personal
and traditional regard for a Collegian of so many years' standing,
the event was creditable to the College, and made it famous in the
newspapers. Perhaps more of them thought, too, than were quite
aware of it, that the thing might in the lottery of chances have
happened to themselves, or that something of the sort might yet
happen to themselves some day or other. They took it very well.
A few were low at the thought of being left behind, and being left
poor; but even these did not grudge the family their brilliant
reverse. There might have been much more envy in politer places.
It seems probable that mediocrity of fortune would have been
disposed to be less magnanimous than the Collegians, who lived from
hand to mouth--from the pawnbroker's hand to the day's dinner.

They got up an address to him, which they presented in a neat frame
and glass (though it was not afterwards displayed in the family
mansion or preserved among the family papers); and to which he
returned a gracious answer. In that document he assured them, in
a Royal manner, that he received the profession of their attachment
with a full conviction of its sincerity; and again generally
exhorted them to follow his example--which, at least in so far as
coming into a great property was concerned, there is no doubt they
would have gladly imitated. He took the same occasion of inviting
them to a comprehensive entertainment, to be given to the whole
College in the yard, and at which he signified he would have the
honour of taking a parting glass to the health and happiness of all
those whom he was about to leave behind.

He did not in person dine at this public repast (it took place at
two in the afternoon, and his dinners now came in from the hotel at
six), but his son was so good as to take the head of the principal
table, and to be very free and engaging. He himself went about
among the company, and took notice of individuals, and saw that the
viands were of the quality he had ordered, and that all were
served. On the whole, he was like a baron of the olden time in a
rare good humour. At the conclusion of the repast, he pledged his
guests in a bumper of old Madeira; and told them that he hoped they
had enjoyed themselves, and what was more, that they would enjoy
themselves for the rest of the evening; that he wished them well;
and that he bade them welcome.

His health being drunk with acclamations, he was not so baronial
after all but that in trying to return thanks he broke down, in the
manner of a mere serf with a heart in his breast, and wept before
them all. After this great success, which he supposed to be a
failure, he gave them 'Mr Chivery and his brother officers;' whom
he had beforehand presented with ten pounds each, and who were all
in attendance. Mr Chivery spoke to the toast, saying, What you
undertake to lock up, lock up; but remember that you are, in the
words of the fettered African, a man and a brother ever. The list
of toasts disposed of, Mr Dorrit urbanely went through the motions
of playing a game of skittles with the Collegian who was the next
oldest inhabitant to himself; and left the tenantry to their

But all these occurrences preceded the final day. And now the day
arrived when he and his family were to leave the prison for ever,
and when the stones of its much-trodden pavement were to know them
no more.

Noon was the hour appointed for the departure. As it approached,
there was not a Collegian within doors, nor a turnkey absent. The
latter class of gentlemen appeared in their Sunday clothes, and the
greater part of the Collegians were brightened up as much as
circumstances allowed. Two or three flags were even displayed, and
the children put on odds and ends of ribbon. Mr Dorrit himself, at
this trying time, preserved a serious but graceful dignity. Much
of his great attention was given to his brother, as to whose
bearing on the great occasion he felt anxious.

'My dear Frederick,' said he, 'if you will give me your arm we will
pass among our friends together. I think it is right that we
should go out arm in arm, my dear Frederick.'

'Hah!' said Frederick. 'Yes, yes, yes, yes.'

'And if, my dear Frederick--if you could, without putting any great
constraint upon yourself, throw a little (pray excuse me,
Frederick), a little Polish into your usual demeanour--'

'William, William,' said the other, shaking his head, 'it's for you
to do all that. I don't know how. All forgotten, forgotten!'

'But, my dear fellow,' returned William, 'for that very reason, if
for no other, you must positively try to rouse yourself. What you
have forgotten you must now begin to recall, my dear Frederick.
Your position--'

'Eh?' said Frederick.

'Your position, my dear Frederick.'

'Mine?' He looked first at his own figure, and then at his
brother's, and then, drawing a long breath, cried, 'Hah, to be
sure! Yes, yes, yes.'
'Your position, my dear Frederick, is now a fine one. Your
position, as my brother, is a very fine one. And I know that it
belongs to your conscientious nature to try to become worthy of it,
my dear Frederick, and to try to adorn it. To be no discredit to
it, but to adorn it.'

'William,' said the other weakly, and with a sigh, 'I will do
anything you wish, my brother, provided it lies in my power. Pray
be so kind as to recollect what a limited power mine is. What
would you wish me to do to-day, brother? Say what it is, only say
what it is.'

'My dearest Frederick, nothing. It is not worth troubling so good
a heart as yours with.'

'Pray trouble it,' returned the other. 'It finds it no trouble,
William, to do anything it can for you.'

William passed his hand across his eyes, and murmured with august
satisfaction, 'Blessings on your attachment, my poor dear fellow!'
Then he said aloud, 'Well, my dear Frederick, if you will only try,
as we walk out, to show that you are alive to the occasion --that
you think about it--'

'What would you advise me to think about it?' returned his
submissive brother.

'Oh! my dear Frederick, how can I answer you? I can only say
what, in leaving these good people, I think myself.'

'That's it!' cried his brother. 'That will help me.'

'I find that I think, my dear Frederick, and with mixed emotions in
which a softened compassion predominates, What will they do without

'True,' returned his brother. 'Yes, yes, yes, yes. I'll think
that as we go, What will they do without my brother! Poor things!
What will they do without him!'

Twelve o'clock having just struck, and the carriage being reported
ready in the outer court-yard, the brothers proceeded down-stairs
arm-in-arm. Edward Dorrit, Esquire (once Tip), and his sister
Fanny followed, also arm-in-arm; Mr Plornish and Maggy, to whom had
been entrusted the removal of such of the family effects as were
considered worth removing, followed, bearing bundles and burdens to
be packed in a cart.

In the yard, were the Collegians and turnkeys. In the yard, were
Mr Pancks and Mr Rugg, come to see the last touch given to their
work. In the yard, was Young John making a new epitaph for
himself, on the occasion of his dying of a broken heart. In the
yard, was the Patriarchal Casby, looking so tremendously benevolent
that many enthusiastic Collegians grasped him fervently by the
hand, and the wives and female relatives of many more Collegians
kissed his hand, nothing doubting that he had done it all. In the
yard, was the man with the shadowy grievance respecting the Fund
which the Marshal embezzled, who had got up at five in the morning
to complete the copying of a perfectly unintelligible history of
that transaction, which he had committed to Mr Dorrit's care, as a
document of the last importance, calculated to stun the Government
and effect the Marshal's downfall. In the yard, was the insolvent
whose utmost energies were always set on getting into debt, who
broke into prison with as much pains as other men have broken out
of it, and who was always being cleared and complimented; while the
insolvent at his elbow--a mere little, snivelling, striving
tradesman, half dead of anxious efforts to keep out of debt--found
it a hard matter, indeed, to get a Commissioner to release him with
much reproof and reproach. In the yard, was the man of many
children and many burdens, whose failure astonished everybody; in
the yard, was the man of no children and large resources, whose
failure astonished nobody. There, were the people who were always
going out to-morrow, and always putting it off; there, were the
people who had come in yesterday, and who were much more jealous
and resentful of this freak of fortune than the seasoned birds.
There, were some who, in pure meanness of spirit, cringed and bowed
before the enriched Collegian and his family; there, were others
who did so really because their eyes, accustomed to the gloom of
their imprisonment and poverty, could not support the light of such
bright sunshine. There, were many whose shillings had gone into
his pocket to buy him meat and drink; but none who were now
obtrusively Hail fellow well met! with him, on the strength of
that assistance. It was rather to be remarked of the caged birds,
that they were a little shy of the bird about to be so grandly
free, and that they had a tendency to withdraw themselves towards
the bars, and seem a little fluttered as he passed.

Through these spectators the little procession, headed by the two
brothers, moved slowly to the gate. Mr Dorrit, yielding to the
vast speculation how the poor creatures were to get on without him,
was great, and sad, but not absorbed. He patted children on the
head like Sir Roger de Coverley
going to church, he spoke to people in the background by their
Christian names, he condescended to all present, and seemed for
their consolation to walk encircled by the legend in golden
characters, 'Be comforted, my people! Bear it!'

At last three honest cheers announced that he had passed the gate,
and that the Marshalsea was an orphan. Before they had ceased to
ring in the echoes of the prison walls, the family had got into
their carriage, and the attendant had the steps in his hand.

Then, and not before, 'Good Gracious!' cried Miss Fanny all at
once, 'Where's Amy!'

Her father had thought she was with her sister. Her sister had
thought she was 'somewhere or other.' They had all trusted to
finding her, as they had always done, quietly in the right place at
the right moment. This going away was perhaps the very first
action of their joint lives that they had got through without her.

A minute might have been consumed in the ascertaining of these
points, when Miss Fanny, who, from her seat in the carriage,
commanded the long narrow passage leading to the Lodge, flushed

'Now I do say, Pa,' cried she, 'that this is disgraceful!'

'What is disgraceful, Fanny?'

'I do say,' she repeated, 'this is perfectly infamous! Really
almost enough, even at such a time as this, to make one wish one
was dead! Here is that child Amy, in her ugly old shabby dress,
which she was so obstinate about, Pa, which I over and over again
begged and prayed her to change, and which she over and over again
objected to, and promised to change to-day, saying she wished to
wear it as long as ever she remained in there with you--which was
absolutely romantic nonsense of the lowest kind--here is that child
Amy disgracing us to the last moment and at the last moment, by
being carried out in that dress after all. And by that Mr Clennam

The offence was proved, as she delivered the indictment. Clennam
appeared at the carriage-door, bearing the little insensible figure
in his arms.

'She has been forgotten,' he said, in a tone of pity not free from
reproach. 'I ran up to her room (which Mr Chivery showed me) and
found the door open, and that she had fainted on the floor, dear
child. She appeared to have gone to change her dress, and to have
sunk down overpowered. It may have been the cheering, or it may
have happened sooner. Take care of this poor cold hand, Miss
Dorrit. Don't let it fall.'

'Thank you, sir,' returned Miss Dorrit, bursting into tears. 'I
believe I know what to do, if you will give me leave. Dear Amy,
open your eyes, that's a love! Oh, Amy, Amy, I really am so vexed
and ashamed! Do rouse yourself, darling! Oh, why are they not
driving on! Pray, Pa, do drive on!'

The attendant, getting between Clennam and the carriage-door, with
a sharp 'By your leave, sir!' bundled up the steps, and they drove


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