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Charles Dickens > Little Dorrit > Chapter 62

Little Dorrit

Chapter 62

Reaping the Whirlwind

With a precursory sound of hurried breath and hurried feet, Mr
Pancks rushed into Arthur Clennam's Counting-house. The Inquest
was over, the letter was public, the Bank was broken, the other
model structures of straw had taken fire and were turned to smoke.
The admired piratical ship had blown up, in the midst of a vast
fleet of ships of all rates, and boats of all sizes; and on the
deep was nothing but ruin; nothing but burning hulls, bursting
magazines, great guns self-exploded tearing friends and neighbours
to pieces, drowning men clinging to unseaworthy spars and going
down every minute, spent swimmers floating dead, and sharks.

The usual diligence and order of the Counting-house at the Works
were overthrown. Unopened letters and unsorted papers lay strewn
about the desk. In the midst of these tokens of prostrated energy
and dismissed hope, the master of the Counting-house stood idle in
his usual place, with his arms crossed on the desk, and his head
bowed down upon them.

Mr Pancks rushed in and saw him, and stood still. In another
minute, Mr Pancks's arms were on the desk, and Mr Pancks's head was
bowed down upon them; and for some time they remained in these
attitudes, idle and silent, with the width of the little room
between them. Mr Pancks was the first to lift up his head and

'I persuaded you to it, Mr Clennam. I know it. Say what you will.

You can't say more to me than I say to myself. You can't say more
than I deserve.'

'O, Pancks, Pancks!' returned Clennam, 'don't speak of deserving.
What do I myself deserve!'

'Better luck,' said Pancks.

'I,' pursued Clennam, without attending to him, 'who have ruined my
partner! Pancks, Pancks, I have ruined Doyce! The honest, self-
helpful, indefatigable old man who has worked his way all through
his life; the man who has contended against so much disappointment,
and who has brought out of it such a good and hopeful nature; the
man I have felt so much for, and meant to be so true and useful to;
I have ruined him--brought him to shame and disgrace--ruined him,
ruined him!'

The agony into which the reflection wrought his mind was so
distressing to see, that Mr Pancks took hold of himself by the hair
of his head, and tore it in desperation at the spectacle.

'Reproach me!' cried Pancks. 'Reproach me, sir, or I'll do myself
an injury. Say,--You fool, you villain. Say,--Ass, how could you
do it; Beast, what did you mean by it! Catch hold of me somewhere.

Say something abusive to me!' All the time, Mr Pancks was tearing
at his tough hair in a most pitiless and cruel manner.

'If you had never yielded to this fatal mania, Pancks,' said
Clennam, more in commiseration than retaliation, 'it would have
been how much better for you, and how much better for me!'

'At me again, sir!' cried Pancks, grinding his teeth in remorse.
'At me again!'
'If you had never gone into those accursed calculations, and
brought out your results with such abominable clearness,' groaned
Clennam, 'it would have been how much better for you, Pancks, and
how much better for me!'

'At me again, sir!' exclaimed Pancks, loosening his hold of his
hair; 'at me again, and again!'

Clennam, however, finding him already beginning to be pacified, had
said all he wanted to say, and more. He wrung his hand, only
adding, 'Blind leaders of the blind, Pancks! Blind leaders of the
blind! But Doyce, Doyce, Doyce; my injured partner!' That brought
his head down on the desk once more.

Their former attitudes and their former silence were once more
first encroached upon by Pancks.

'Not been to bed, sir, since it began to get about. Been high and
low, on the chance of finding some hope of saving any cinders from
the fire. All in vain. All gone. All vanished.'

'I know it,' returned Clennam, 'too well.'

Mr Pancks filled up a pause with a groan that came out of the very
depths of his soul.

'Only yesterday, Pancks,' said Arthur; 'only yesterday, Monday, I
had the fixed intention of selling, realising, and making an end of

'I can't say as much for myself, sir,' returned Pancks. 'Though
it's wonderful how many people I've heard of, who were going to
realise yesterday, of all days in the three hundred and sixty-five,
if it hadn't been too late!'

His steam-like breathings, usually droll in their effect, were more
tragic than so many groans: while from head to foot, he was in that
begrimed, besmeared, neglected state, that he might have been an
authentic portrait of Misfortune which could scarcely be discerned
through its want of cleaning.

'Mr Clennam, had you laid out--everything?' He got over the break
before the last word, and also brought out the last word itself
with great difficulty.


Mr Pancks took hold of his tough hair again, and gave it such a
wrench that he pulled out several prongs of it. After looking at
these with an eye of wild hatred, he put them in his pocket.

'My course,' said Clennam, brushing away some tears that had been
silently dropping down his face, 'must be taken at once. What
wretched amends I can make must be made. I must clear my
unfortunate partner's reputation. I must retain nothing for
myself. I must resign to our creditors the power of management I
have so much abused, and I must work out as much of my fault--or
crime--as is susceptible of being worked out in the rest of my

'Is it impossible, sir, to tide over the present?'

'Out of the question. Nothing can be tided over now, Pancks. The
sooner the business can pass out of my hands, the better for it.
There are engagements to be met, this week, which would bring the
catastrophe before many days were over, even if I would postpone it
for a single day by going on for that space, secretly knowing what
I know. All last night I thought of what I would do; what remains
is to do it.'

'Not entirely of yourself?' said Pancks, whose face was as damp as
if his steam were turning into water as fast as he dismally blew it
off. 'Have some legal help.'

'Perhaps I had better.'

'Have Rugg.'

'There is not much to do. He will do it as well as another.'

'Shall I fetch Rugg, Mr Clennam?'

'If you could spare the time, I should be much obliged to you.'

Mr Pancks put on his hat that moment, and steamed away to
Pentonville. While he was gone Arthur never raised his head from
the desk, but remained in that one position.

Mr Pancks brought his friend and professional adviser, Mr Rugg,
back with him. Mr Rugg had had such ample experience, on the road,
of Mr Pancks's being at that present in an irrational state of
mind, that he opened his professional mediation by requesting that
gentleman to take himself out of the way. Mr Pancks, crushed and
submissive, obeyed.

'He is not unlike what my daughter was, sir, when we began the
Breach of Promise action of Rugg and Bawkins, in which she was
Plaintiff,' said Mr Rugg. 'He takes too strong and direct an
interest in the case. His feelings are worked upon. There is no
getting on, in our profession, with feelings worked upon, sir.'

As he pulled off his gloves and put them in his hat, he saw, in a
side glance or two, that a great change had come over his client.

'I am sorry to perceive, sir,' said Mr Rugg, 'that you have been
allowing your own feelings to be worked upon. Now, pray don't,
pray don't. These losses are much to be deplored, sir, but we must
look 'em in the face.'
'If the money I have sacrificed had been all my own, Mr Rugg,'
sighed Mr Clennam, 'I should have cared far less.'

'Indeed, sir?' said Mr Rugg, rubbing his hands with a cheerful air.

'You surprise me. That's singular, sir. I have generally found,
in my experience, that it's their own money people are most
particular about. I have seen people get rid of a good deal of
other people's money, and bear it very well: very well indeed.'

With these comforting remarks, Mr Rugg seated himself on an office-
stool at the desk and proceeded to business.

'Now, Mr Clennam, by your leave, let us go into the matter. Let us
see the state of the case. The question is simple. The question
is the usual plain, straightforward, common-sense question. What
can we do for ourself? What can we do for ourself?'

'This is not the question with me, Mr Rugg,' said Arthur. 'You
mistake it in the beginning. It is, what can I do for my partner,
how can I best make reparation to him?'

'I am afraid, sir, do you know,' argued Mr Rugg persuasively, 'that
you are still allowing your feeling to be worked upon. I don't
like the term "reparation," sir, except as a lever in the hands of
counsel. Will you excuse my saying that I feel it my duty to offer
you the caution, that you really must not allow your feelings to be
worked upon?'

'Mr Rugg,' said Clennam, nerving himself to go through with what he
had resolved upon, and surprising that gentleman by appearing, in
his despondency, to have a settled determination of purpose; 'you
give me the impression that you will not be much disposed to adopt
the course I have made up my mind to take. If your disapproval of
it should render you unwilling to discharge such business as it
necessitates, I am sorry for it, and must seek other aid. But I
will represent to you at once, that to argue against it with me is

'Good, sir,' answered Mr Rugg, shrugging his shoulders.'Good, sir.
Since the business is to be done by some hands, let it be done by
mine. Such was my principle in the case of Rugg and Bawkins. Such
is my principle in most cases. '

Clennam then proceeded to state to Mr Rugg his fixed resolution.
He told Mr Rugg that his partner was a man of great simplicity and
integrity, and that in all he meant to do, he was guided above all
things by a knowledge of his partner's character, and a respect for
his feelings. He explained that his partner was then absent on an
enterprise of importance, and that it particularly behoved himself
publicly to accept the blame of what he had rashly done, and
publicly to exonerate his partner from all participation in the
responsibility of it, lest the successful conduct of that
enterprise should be endangered by the slightest suspicion wrongly
attaching to his partner's honour and credit in another country.
He told Mr Rugg that to clear his partner morally, to the fullest
extent, and publicly and unreservedly to declare that he, Arthur
Clennam, of that Firm, had of his own sole act, and even expressly
against his partner's caution, embarked its resources in the
swindles that had lately perished, was the only real atonement
within his power; was a better atonement to the particular man than
it would be to many men; and was therefore the atonement he had
first to make. With this view, his intention was to print a
declaration to the foregoing effect, which he had already drawn up;
and, besides circulating it among all who had dealings with the
House, to advertise it in the public papers. Concurrently with
this measure (the description of which cost Mr Rugg innumerable wry
faces and great uneasiness in his limbs), he would address a letter
to all the creditors, exonerating his partner in a solemn manner,
informing them of the stoppage of the House until their pleasure
could be known and his partner communicated with, and humbly
submitting himself to their direction. If, through their
consideration for his partner's innocence, the affairs could ever
be got into such train as that the business could be profitably
resumed, and its present downfall overcome, then his own share in
it should revert to his partner, as the only reparation he could
make to him in money value for the distress and loss he had
unhappily brought upon him, and he himself, at as mall a salary as
he could live upon, would ask to be allowed to serve the business
as a faithful clerk.

Though Mr Rugg saw plainly there was no preventing this from being
done, still the wryness of his face and the uneasiness of his limbs
so sorely required the propitiation of a Protest, that he made one.

'I offer no objection, sir,' said he, 'I argue no point with you.
I will carry out your views, sir; but, under protest.' Mr Rugg
then stated, not without prolixity, the heads of his protest.
These were, in effect, because the whole town, or he might say the
whole country, was in the first madness of the late discovery, and
the resentment against the victims would be very strong: those who
had not been deluded being certain to wax exceedingly wroth with
them for not having been as wise as they were: and those who had
been deluded being certain to find excuses and reasons for
themselves, of which they were equally certain to see that other
sufferers were wholly devoid: not to mention the great probability
of every individual sufferer persuading himself, to his violent
indignation, that but for the example of all the other sufferers he
never would have put himself in the way of suffering. Because such
a declaration as Clennam's, made at such a time, would certainly
draw down upon him a storm of animosity, rendering it impossible to
calculate on forbearance in the creditors, or on unanimity among
them; and exposing him a solitary target to a straggling cross-
fire, which might bring him down from half-a-dozen quarters at

To all this Clennam merely replied that, granting the whole
protest, nothing in it lessened the force, or could lessen the
force, of the voluntary and public exoneration of his partner. He
therefore, once and for all, requested Mr Rugg's immediate aid in
getting the business despatched. Upon that, Mr Rugg fell to work;
and Arthur, retaining no property to himself but his clothes and
books, and a little loose money, placed his small private banker's-
account with the papers of the business.

The disclosure was made, and the storm raged fearfully. Thousands
of people were wildly staring about for somebody alive to heap
reproaches on; and this notable case, courting publicity, set the
living somebody so much wanted, on a scaffold. When people who had
nothing to do with the case were so sensible of its flagrancy,
people who lost money by it could scarcely be expected to deal
mildly with it. Letters of reproach and invective showered in from
the creditors; and Mr Rugg, who sat upon the high stool every day
and read them all, informed his client within a week that he feared
there were writs out.

'I must take the consequences of what I have done,' said Clennam.
'The writs will find me here.'

On the very next morning, as he was turning in Bleeding Heart Yard
by Mrs Plornish's corner, Mrs Plornish stood at the door waiting
for him, and mysteriously besought him to step into Happy Cottage.
There he found Mr Rugg.

'I thought I'd wait for you here. I wouldn't go on to the
Counting-house this morning if I was you, sir.'

'Why not, Mr Rugg?'

'There are as many as five out, to my knowledge.'

'It cannot be too soon over,' said Clennam. 'Let them take me at

'Yes, but,' said Mr Rugg, getting between him and the door, 'hear
reason, hear reason. They'll take you soon enough, Mr Clennam, I
don't doubt; but, hear reason. It almost always happens, in these
cases, that some insignificant matter pushes itself in front and
makes much of itself. Now, I find there's a little one out--a mere
Palace Court jurisdiction--and I have reason to believe that a
caption may be made upon that. I wouldn't be taken upon that.'

'Why not?' asked Clennam.

'I'd be taken on a full-grown one, sir,' said Mr Rugg. 'It's as
well to keep up appearances. As your professional adviser, I
should prefer your being taken on a writ from one of the Superior
Courts, if you have no objection to do me that favour. It looks

'Mr Rugg,' said Arthur, in his dejection, 'my only wish is, that it
should be over. I will go on, and take my chance.'

'Another word of reason, sir!' cried Mr Rugg. 'Now, this is
reason. The other may be taste; but this is reason. If you should
be taken on a little one, sir, you would go to the Marshalsea.
Now, you know what the Marshalsea is. Very close. Excessively
confined. Whereas in the King's Bench--' Mr Rugg waved his right
hand freely, as expressing abundance of space.
'I would rather,' said Clennam, 'be taken to the Marshalsea than to
any other prison.'

'Do you say so indeed, sir?' returned Mr Rugg. 'Then this is
taste, too, and we may be walking.'

He was a little offended at first, but he soon overlooked it. They
walked through the Yard to the other end. The Bleeding Hearts were
more interested in Arthur since his reverses than formerly; now
regarding him as one who was true to the place and had taken up his
freedom. Many of them came out to look after him, and to observe
to one another, with great unctuousness, that he was 'pulled down
by it.' Mrs Plornish and her father stood at the top of the steps
at their own end, much depressed and shaking their heads.

There was nobody visibly in waiting when Arthur and Mr Rugg arrived
at the Counting-house. But an elderly member of the Jewish
persuasion, preserved in rum, followed them close, and looked in at
the glass before Mr Rugg had opened one of the day's letters.

'Oh!' said Mr Rugg, looking up. 'How do you do? Step in--Mr
Clennam, I think this is the gentleman I was mentioning.'

This gentleman explained the object of his visit to be 'a tyfling
madder ob bithznithz,' and executed his legal function.

'Shall I accompany you, Mr Clennam?' asked Mr Rugg politely,
rubbing his hands.

'I would rather go alone, thank you. Be so good as send me my
clothes.' Mr Rugg in a light airy way replied in the affirmative,
and shook hands with him. He and his attendant then went down-
stairs, got into the first conveyance they found, and drove to the
old gates.

'Where I little thought, Heaven forgive me,' said Clennam to
himself, 'that I should ever enter thus!'

Mr Chivery was on the Lock, and Young John was in the Lodge: either
newly released from it, or waiting to take his own spell of duty.
Both were more astonished on seeing who the prisoner was, than one
might have thought turnkeys would have been. The elder Mr Chivery
shook hands with him in a shame-faced kind of way, and said, 'I
don't call to mind, sir, as I was ever less glad to see you.' The
younger Mr Chivery, more distant, did not shake hands with him at
all; he stood looking at him in a state of indecision so observable
that it even came within the observation of Clennam with his heavy
eyes and heavy heart. Presently afterwards, Young John disappeared
into the jail.

As Clennam knew enough of the place to know that he was required to
remain in the Lodge a certain time, he took a seat in a corner, and
feigned to be occupied with the perusal of letters from his pocket.

They did not so engross his attention, but that he saw, with
gratitude, how the elder Mr Chivery kept the Lodge clear of
prisoners; how he signed to some, with his keys, not to come in,
how he nudged others with his elbows to go out, and how he made his
misery as easy to him as he could.

Arthur was sitting with his eyes fixed on the floor, recalling the
past, brooding over the present, and not attending to either, when
he felt himself touched upon the shoulder. It was by Young John;
and he said, 'You can come now.'

He got up and followed Young John. When they had gone a step or
two within the inner iron-gate, Young John turned and said to him:

'You want a room. I have got you one.'

'I thank you heartily.'

Young John turned again, and took him in at the old doorway, up the
old staircase, into the old room. Arthur stretched out his hand.
Young John looked at it, looked at him--sternly--swelled, choked,
and said:

'I don't know as I can. No, I find I can't. But I thought you'd
like the room, and here it is for you.'

Surprise at this inconsistent behaviour yielded when he was gone
(he went away directly) to the feelings which the empty room
awakened in Clennam's wounded breast, and to the crowding
associations with the one good and gentle creature who had
sanctified it. Her absence in his altered fortunes made it, and
him in it, so very desolate and so much in need of such a face of
love and truth, that he turned against the wall to weep, sobbing
out, as his heart relieved itself, 'O my Little Dorrit!'

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