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Charles Dickens > Little Dorrit > Chapter 40

Little Dorrit

Chapter 40

A Letter from Little Dorrit

Dear Mr Clennam,

I write to you from my own room at Venice, thinking you will be
glad to hear from me. But I know you cannot be so glad to hear
from me as I am to write to you; for everything about you is as you
have been accustomed to see it, and you miss nothing--unless it
should be me, which can only be for a very little while together
and very seldom--while everything in my 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
mountain excursion like ourselves. She told me she was very well
and very happy. She sent you the message, by me, that she thanked
you affectionately and would never forget you. She was quite
confiding with me, and I loved her almost 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 not wonder at any one
loving her. No indeed.

It will not make you uneasy on Mrs Gowan's account, I hope--for I
remember that you said you had the interest of a true friend in
her--if I tell you that I wish she could have married some one
better suited to her. 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--I mean in anything. I could not keep
it out of my mind that if I was Mrs Gowan (what a change that would
be, and how I must alter to become like her!) I should feel that I
was rather lonely and lost, for the want of some one who was
steadfast and firm in purpose. I even thought she felt this want
a little, almost without knowing it. But mind you are not made
uneasy by this, for she was 'very well and very happy.' And she
looked most beautiful.

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

I wish I knew--but it is best for no one to write to me--how Mr and
Mrs Plornish 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 back the tears from my eyes when I think of my
poor Maggy, and of the blank she must have felt at first, however
kind they all are to her, without her Little Mother. Will you go
and tell her, as a strict secret, with my love, that she never can
have regretted our separation more than I have regretted it? And
will you tell them all that I have thought of them every day, and
that my heart is faithful to them everywhere? O, if you could know
how faithful, you would almost pity me for being so far away and
being so grand!

You will be glad, I am sure, to know that my dear father is very
well in health, and that all these changes are highly beneficial to
him, and that he is very different indeed from what he used to be
when you used to see him. There is an improvement in my uncle too,
I think, though he never 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 adapted herself to our new fortunes with
wonderful ease.

This reminds me that I have not been able to do so, and that I
sometimes almost 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 French and Italian, I mean they do. As for me,
I am so slow that I scarcely get on at all. As soon as I begin to
plan, and think, and try, all my planning, thinking, and trying go
in old directions, and I begin to feel careful 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 no such cares left,
and that in itself is so new and improbable that it sets me
wandering again. I should not have the courage to mention this to
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
collected enough--not familiar enough with myself, if you can quite
understand what I mean--to have all the pleasure in them that I
might have. What I knew before them, blends with them, too, so
curiously. For instance, when we were among the mountains, I often
felt (I hesitate to tell such an idle thing, dear Mr Clennam, even
to you) as if the Marshalsea must be behind that great rock; or as
if Mrs Clennam's room where I have worked so many days, and where
I first saw you, must be just beyond that snow. Do you remember
one night when I came with Maggy to your lodging in Covent Garden?
That room I have often and often fancied I have seen before me,
travelling along for miles by the side of our carriage, when I have
looked out of the carriage-window after dark. We were shut out
that 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, and believe that I am in the street again, shut out with
Maggy. It is the same with people that I left in England.

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

Another difficulty that I have will seem very strange to you. It
must seem very strange to any one but me, and does even to me: I
often feel the old sad pity for--I need not write the word--for
him. Changed as he is, and inexpressibly blest and thankful as I
always am to know it, the old sorrowful feeling of compassion comes
upon me sometimes with such strength that I want to put my arms
round his neck, tell him how I love him, and cry a little on his
breast. I should be glad after that, and proud and happy. But I
know that I must not do this; that he would not like 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 that I have
come to be at a distance from him; and that even in the midst of
all 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
must write a little more still, or what I wanted most of all to say
in this weak letter would be left out of it. In all these foolish
thoughts of mine, which I have been so hardy as to confess to you
because I know you will understand me if anybody can, and will make
more allowance for me than anybody else would if you cannot--in all
these thoughts, there is one thought scarcely ever--never--out of
my memory, and that is that I hope you sometimes, in a quiet
moment, have a thought for me. I must tell you that as to this, I
have felt, ever since I have been away, an anxiety which I am very
anxious to relieve. I have been afraid that you may think of me in
a new light, or a new character. Don't do that, I could 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 way that
would make me stranger to you than I was when you were so good to
me. What I have to pray and entreat of you is, that you will never
think of me as the daughter of a rich person; that you will never
think of me as dressing any better, or living any better, than when
you first knew me. That you will remember me only as the little
shabby girl you protected with so much tenderness, from whose
threadbare dress you have kept 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 true affection and devoted
gratitude, always without change, as of your poor child,        
             LITTLE DORRIT.

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

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