Little dorrit, p.4

Little Dorrit, page 4

 

Little Dorrit
 



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  CHAPTER 3. Home

  It was a Sunday evening in London, gloomy, close, and stale. Maddeningchurch bells of all degrees of dissonance, sharp and flat, crackedand clear, fast and slow, made the brick-and-mortar echoes hideous.Melancholy streets, in a penitential garb of soot, steeped the souls ofthe people who were condemned to look at them out of windows, in diredespondency. In every thoroughfare, up almost every alley, and downalmost every turning, some doleful bell was throbbing, jerking, tolling,as if the Plague were in the city and the dead-carts were going round.Everything was bolted and barred that could by possibility furnishrelief to an overworked people. No pictures, no unfamiliar animals, norare plants or flowers, no natural or artificial wonders of the ancientworld--all _taboo_ with that enlightened strictness, that the ugly SouthSea gods in the British Museum might have supposed themselves at homeagain. Nothing to see but streets, streets, streets. Nothing to breathebut streets, streets, streets. Nothing to change the brooding mind,or raise it up. Nothing for the spent toiler to do, but to compare themonotony of his seventh day with the monotony of his six days, thinkwhat a weary life he led, and make the best of it--or the worst,according to the probabilities.

  At such a happy time, so propitious to the interests of religion andmorality, Mr Arthur Clennam, newly arrived from Marseilles by way ofDover, and by Dover coach the Blue-eyed Maid, sat in the window of acoffee-house on Ludgate Hill. Ten thousand responsible houses surroundedhim, frowning as heavily on the streets they composed, as if they wereevery one inhabited by the ten young men of the Calender's story, whoblackened their faces and bemoaned their miseries every night. Fiftythousand lairs surrounded him where people lived so unwholesomely thatfair water put into their crowded rooms on Saturday night, would becorrupt on Sunday morning; albeit my lord, their county member, wasamazed that they failed to sleep in company with their butcher's meat.Miles of close wells and pits of houses, where the inhabitants gaspedfor air, stretched far away towards every point of the compass. Throughthe heart of the town a deadly sewer ebbed and flowed, in the place ofa fine fresh river. What secular want could the million or so ofhuman beings whose daily labour, six days in the week, lay among theseArcadian objects, from the sweet sameness of which they had no escapebetween the cradle and the grave--what secular want could they possiblyhave upon their seventh day? Clearly they could want nothing but astringent policeman.

  Mr Arthur Clennam sat in the window of the coffee-house on Ludgate Hill,counting one of the neighbouring bells, making sentences and burdens ofsongs out of it in spite of himself, and wondering how many sickpeople it might be the death of in the course of the year. As the hourapproached, its changes of measure made it more and more exasperating.At the quarter, it went off into a condition of deadly-livelyimportunity, urging the populace in a voluble manner to Come to church,Come to church, Come to church! At the ten minutes, it became awarethat the congregation would be scanty, and slowly hammered out in lowspirits, They _won't_ come, they _won't_ come, they _won't_ come! At thefive minutes, it abandoned hope, and shook every house in theneighbourhood for three hundred seconds, with one dismal swing persecond, as a groan of despair.

  'Thank Heaven!' said Clennam, when the hour struck, and the bellstopped.

  But its sound had revived a long train of miserable Sundays, and theprocession would not stop with the bell, but continued to march on.'Heaven forgive me,' said he, 'and those who trained me. How I havehated this day!'

  There was the dreary Sunday of his childhood, when he sat with his handsbefore him, scared out of his senses by a horrible tract which commencedbusiness with the poor child by asking him in its title, why he wasgoing to Perdition?--a piece of curiosity that he really, in a frock anddrawers, was not in a condition to satisfy--and which, for the furtherattraction of his infant mind, had a parenthesis in every other linewith some such hiccupping reference as 2 Ep. Thess. c. iii, v. 6 &7. There was the sleepy Sunday of his boyhood, when, like a militarydeserter, he was marched to chapel by a picquet of teachers three timesa day, morally handcuffed to another boy; and when he would willinglyhave bartered two meals of indigestible sermon for another ounce ortwo of inferior mutton at his scanty dinner in the flesh. There was theinterminable Sunday of his nonage; when his mother, stern of face andunrelenting of heart, would sit all day behind a Bible--bound, like herown construction of it, in the hardest, barest, and straitest boards,with one dinted ornament on the cover like the drag of a chain, and awrathful sprinkling of red upon the edges of the leaves--as if it, ofall books! were a fortification against sweetness of temper, naturalaffection, and gentle intercourse. There was the resentful Sunday of alittle later, when he sat down glowering and glooming through the tardylength of the day, with a sullen sense of injury in his heart, and nomore real knowledge of the beneficent history of the New Testament thanif he had been bred among idolaters. There was a legion of Sundays,all days of unserviceable bitterness and mortification, slowly passingbefore him.

  'Beg pardon, sir,' said a brisk waiter, rubbing the table. 'Wish seebed-room?'

  'Yes. I have just made up my mind to do it.'

  'Chaymaid!' cried the waiter. 'Gelen box num seven wish see room!'

  'Stay!' said Clennam, rousing himself. 'I was not thinking of what Isaid; I answered mechanically. I am not going to sleep here. I am goinghome.'

  'Deed, sir? Chaymaid! Gelen box num seven, not go sleep here, gome.'

  He sat in the same place as the day died, looking at the dull housesopposite, and thinking, if the disembodied spirits of former inhabitantswere ever conscious of them, how they must pity themselves for their oldplaces of imprisonment. Sometimes a face would appear behind the dingyglass of a window, and would fade away into the gloom as if it had seenenough of life and had vanished out of it. Presently the rain began tofall in slanting lines between him and those houses, and people beganto collect under cover of the public passage opposite, and to look outhopelessly at the sky as the rain dropped thicker and faster. Then wetumbrellas began to appear, draggled skirts, and mud. What the mud hadbeen doing with itself, or where it came from, who could say? But itseemed to collect in a moment, as a crowd will, and in five minutes tohave splashed all the sons and daughters of Adam. The lamplighter wasgoing his rounds now; and as the fiery jets sprang up under his touch,one might have fancied them astonished at being suffered to introduceany show of brightness into such a dismal scene.

  Mr Arthur Clennam took up his hat and buttoned his coat, and walked out.In the country, the rain would have developed a thousand fresh scents,and every drop would have had its bright association with some beautifulform of growth or life. In the city, it developed only foul stalesmells, and was a sickly, lukewarm, dirt-stained, wretched addition tothe gutters.

  He crossed by St Paul's and went down, at a long angle, almost to thewater's edge, through some of the crooked and descending streets whichlie (and lay more crookedly and closely then) between the river andCheapside. Passing, now the mouldy hall of some obsolete WorshipfulCompany, now the illuminated windows of a Congregationless Church thatseemed to be waiting for some adventurous Belzoni to dig it out anddiscover its history; passing silent warehouses and wharves, and hereand there a narrow alley leading to the river, where a wretched littlebill, FOUND DROWNED, was weeping on the wet wall; he came at last to thehouse he sought. An old brick house, so dingy as to be all but black,standing by itself within a gateway. Before it, a square court-yardwhere a shrub or two and a patch of grass were as rank (which is sayingmuch) as the iron railings enclosing them were rusty; behind it,a jumble of roots. It was a double house, with long, narrow,heavily-framed windows. Many years ago, it had had it in its mind toslide down sideways; it had been propped up, however, and was leaning onsome half-dozen gigantic crutches: which gymnasium for the neighbouringcats, weather-stained, smoke-blackened, and overgrown with weeds,appeared in these latter days to be no very sure reliance.

  'Nothing changed,' said the traveller, stopping to look round. 'Dark andmiserable as ever. A light in my mother's
window, which seems never tohave been extinguished since I came home twice a year from school, anddragged my box over this pavement. Well, well, well!'

  He went up to the door, which had a projecting canopy in carved workof festooned jack-towels and children's heads with water on the brain,designed after a once-popular monumental pattern, and knocked. Ashuffling step was soon heard on the stone floor of the hall, and thedoor was opened by an old man, bent and dried, but with keen eyes.

  He had a candle in his hand, and he held it up for a moment to assisthis keen eyes. 'Ah, Mr Arthur?' he said, without any emotion, 'you arecome at last? Step in.'

  Mr Arthur stepped in and shut the door.

  'Your figure is filled out, and set,' said the old man, turning to lookat him with the light raised again, and shaking his head; 'but you don'tcome up to your father in my opinion. Nor yet your mother.'

  'How is my mother?'

  'She is as she always is now. Keeps her room when not actuallybedridden, and hasn't been out of it fifteen times in as many years,Arthur.' They had walked into a spare, meagre dining-room. The old manhad put the candlestick upon the table, and, supporting his right elbowwith his left hand, was smoothing his leathern jaws while he looked atthe visitor. The visitor offered his hand. The old man took it coldlyenough, and seemed to prefer his jaws, to which he returned as soon ashe could.

  'I doubt if your mother will approve of your coming home on the Sabbath,Arthur,' he said, shaking his head warily.

  'You wouldn't have me go away again?'

  'Oh! I? I? I am not the master. It's not what _I_ would have. I havestood between your father and mother for a number of years. I don'tpretend to stand between your mother and you.'

  'Will you tell her that I have come home?'

  'Yes, Arthur, yes. Oh, to be sure! I'll tell her that you have comehome. Please to wait here. You won't find the room changed.' He tookanother candle from a cupboard, lighted it, left the first on the table,and went upon his errand. He was a short, bald old man, in ahigh-shouldered black coat and waistcoat, drab breeches, and long drabgaiters. He might, from his dress, have been either clerk or servant,and in fact had long been both. There was nothing about him in the wayof decoration but a watch, which was lowered into the depths of itsproper pocket by an old black ribbon, and had a tarnished copper keymoored above it, to show where it was sunk. His head was awry, andhe had a one-sided, crab-like way with him, as if his foundations hadyielded at about the same time as those of the house, and he ought tohave been propped up in a similar manner.

  'How weak am I,' said Arthur Clennam, when he was gone, 'that I couldshed tears at this reception! I, who have never experienced anythingelse; who have never expected anything else.'

  He not only could, but did. It was the momentary yielding of a naturethat had been disappointed from the dawn of its perceptions, but had notquite given up all its hopeful yearnings yet. He subdued it, took up thecandle, and examined the room. The old articles of furniture were intheir old places; the Plagues of Egypt, much the dimmer for the fly andsmoke plagues of London, were framed and glazed upon the walls. Therewas the old cellaret with nothing in it, lined with lead, like a sort ofcoffin in compartments; there was the old dark closet, also with nothingin it, of which he had been many a time the sole contents, in days ofpunishment, when he had regarded it as the veritable entrance to thatbourne to which the tract had found him galloping. There was the large,hard-featured clock on the sideboard, which he used to see bending itsfigured brows upon him with a savage joy when he was behind-hand withhis lessons, and which, when it was wound up once a week with an ironhandle, used to sound as if it were growling in ferocious anticipationof the miseries into which it would bring him. But here was the old mancome back, saying, 'Arthur, I'll go before and light you.'

  Arthur followed him up the staircase, which was panelled off into spaceslike so many mourning tablets, into a dim bed-chamber, the floor ofwhich had gradually so sunk and settled, that the fire-place was in adell. On a black bier-like sofa in this hollow, propped up behind withone great angular black bolster like the block at a state execution inthe good old times, sat his mother in a widow's dress.

  She and his father had been at variance from his earliest remembrance.To sit speechless himself in the midst of rigid silence, glancing indread from the one averted face to the other, had been the peacefullestoccupation of his childhood. She gave him one glassy kiss, and fourstiff fingers muffled in worsted. This embrace concluded, he sat down onthe opposite side of her little table. There was a fire in the grate,as there had been night and day for fifteen years. There was a kettle onthe hob, as there had been night and day for fifteen years. There was alittle mound of damped ashes on the top of the fire, and another littlemound swept together under the grate, as there had been night and dayfor fifteen years. There was a smell of black dye in the airless room,which the fire had been drawing out of the crape and stuff of thewidow's dress for fifteen months, and out of the bier-like sofa forfifteen years.

  'Mother, this is a change from your old active habits.'

  'The world has narrowed to these dimensions, Arthur,' she replied,glancing round the room. 'It is well for me that I never set my heartupon its hollow vanities.'

  The old influence of her presence and her stern strong voice, sogathered about her son, that he felt conscious of a renewal of the timidchill and reserve of his childhood.

  'Do you never leave your room, mother?'

  'What with my rheumatic affection, and what with its attendant debilityor nervous weakness--names are of no matter now--I have lost the useof my limbs. I never leave my room. I have not been outside this doorfor--tell him for how long,' she said, speaking over her shoulder.

  'A dozen year next Christmas,' returned a cracked voice out of thedimness behind.

  'Is that Affery?' said Arthur, looking towards it.

  The cracked voice replied that it was Affery: and an old woman cameforward into what doubtful light there was, and kissed her hand once;then subsided again into the dimness.

  'I am able,' said Mrs Clennam, with a slight motion of herworsted-muffled right hand toward a chair on wheels, standing before atall writing cabinet close shut up, 'I am able to attend to my businessduties, and I am thankful for the privilege. It is a great privilege.But no more of business on this day. It is a bad night, is it not?'

  'Yes, mother.'

  'Does it snow?'

  'Snow, mother? And we only yet in September?'

  'All seasons are alike to me,' she returned, with a grim kind ofluxuriousness. 'I know nothing of summer and winter, shut up here.The Lord has been pleased to put me beyond all that.' With her cold greyeyes and her cold grey hair, and her immovable face, as stiff as thefolds of her stony head-dress,--her being beyond the reach of theseasons seemed but a fit sequence to her being beyond the reach of allchanging emotions.

  On her little table lay two or three books, her handkerchief, a pair ofsteel spectacles newly taken off, and an old-fashioned gold watch in aheavy double case. Upon this last object her son's eyes and her own nowrested together.

  'I see that you received the packet I sent you on my father's death,safely, mother.'

  'You see.'

  'I never knew my father to show so much anxiety on any subject, as thathis watch should be sent straight to you.'

  'I keep it here as a remembrance of your father.'

  'It was not until the last, that he expressed the wish; when he couldonly put his hand upon it, and very indistinctly say to me "yourmother." A moment before, I thought him wandering in his mind, as hehad been for many hours--I think he had no consciousness of pain in hisshort illness--when I saw him turn himself in his bed and try to openit.'

  'Was your father, then, not wandering in his mind when he tried to openit?'

  'No. He was quite sensible at that time.'

  Mrs Clennam shook her head; whether in dismissal of the deceased oropposing herself to her son's opinion, was not clearly expressed.

  'After my father
's death I opened it myself, thinking there might be,for anything I knew, some memorandum there. However, as I need not tellyou, mother, there was nothing but the old silk watch-paper worked inbeads, which you found (no doubt) in its place between the cases, whereI found and left it.'

  Mrs Clennam signified assent; then added, 'No more of business on thisday,' and then added, 'Affery, it is nine o'clock.'

  Upon this, the old woman cleared the little table, went out of the room,and quickly returned with a tray on which was a dish of little rusks anda small precise pat of butter, cool, symmetrical, white, and plump. Theold man who had been standing by the door in one attitude during thewhole interview, looking at the mother up-stairs as he had looked at theson down-stairs, went out at the same time, and, after a longer absence,returned with another tray on which was the greater part of a bottleof port wine (which, to judge by his panting, he had brought from thecellar), a lemon, a sugar-basin, and a spice box. With these materialsand the aid of the kettle, he filled a tumbler with a hot andodorous mixture, measured out and compounded with as much nicety as aphysician's prescription. Into this mixture Mrs Clennam dipped certainof the rusks, and ate them; while the old woman buttered certain otherof the rusks, which were to be eaten alone. When the invalid had eatenall the rusks and drunk all the mixture, the two trays were removed;and the books and the candle, watch, handkerchief, and spectacles werereplaced upon the table. She then put on the spectacles and read certainpassages aloud from a book--sternly, fiercely, wrathfully--praying thather enemies (she made them by her tone and manner expressly hers) mightbe put to the edge of the sword, consumed by fire, smitten by plaguesand leprosy, that their bones might be ground to dust, and that theymight be utterly exterminated. As she read on, years seemed to fallaway from her son like the imaginings of a dream, and all the old darkhorrors of his usual preparation for the sleep of an innocent child toovershadow him.

  She shut the book and remained for a little time with her face shaded byher hand. So did the old man, otherwise still unchanged in attitude; so,probably, did the old woman in her dimmer part of the room. Then thesick woman was ready for bed.

  'Good night, Arthur. Affery will see to your accommodation. Only touchme, for my hand is tender.' He touched the worsted muffling of herhand--that was nothing; if his mother had been sheathed in brass therewould have been no new barrier between them--and followed the old manand woman down-stairs.

  The latter asked him, when they were alone together among the heavyshadows of the dining-room, would he have some supper?

  'No, Affery, no supper.'

  'You shall if you like,' said Affery. 'There's her tomorrow's partridgein the larder--her first this year; say the word and I'll cook it.'

  No, he had not long dined, and could eat nothing.

  'Have something to drink, then,' said Affery; 'you shall have some ofher bottle of port, if you like. I'll tell Jeremiah that you ordered meto bring it you.'

  No; nor would he have that, either.

  'It's no reason, Arthur,' said the old woman, bending over him towhisper, 'that because I am afeared of my life of 'em, you should be.You've got half the property, haven't you?'

  'Yes, yes.'

  'Well then, don't you be cowed. You're clever, Arthur, an't you?'

  He nodded, as she seemed to expect an answer in the affirmative.

  'Then stand up against them! She's awful clever, and none but a cleverone durst say a word to her. _He's_ a clever one--oh, he's a cleverone!--and he gives it her when he has a mind to't, he does!'

  'Your husband does?'

  'Does? It makes me shake from head to foot, to hear him give it her. Myhusband, Jeremiah Flintwinch, can conquer even your mother. What can hebe but a clever one to do that!'

  His shuffling footstep coming towards them caused her to retreat to theother end of the room. Though a tall, hard-favoured, sinewy old woman,who in her youth might have enlisted in the Foot Guards without muchfear of discovery, she collapsed before the little keen-eyed crab-likeold man.

  'Now, Affery,' said he, 'now, woman, what are you doing? Can't you findMaster Arthur something or another to pick at?'

  Master Arthur repeated his recent refusal to pick at anything.

  'Very well, then,' said the old man; 'make his bed. Stir yourself.' Hisneck was so twisted that the knotted ends of his white cravat usuallydangled under one ear; his natural acerbity and energy, alwayscontending with a second nature of habitual repression, gave hisfeatures a swollen and suffused look; and altogether, he had a weirdappearance of having hanged himself at one time or other, and of havinggone about ever since, halter and all, exactly as some timely hand hadcut him down.

  'You'll have bitter words together to-morrow, Arthur; you and yourmother,' said Jeremiah. 'Your having given up the business on yourfather's death--which she suspects, though we have left it to you totell her--won't go off smoothly.'

  'I have given up everything in life for the business, and the time camefor me to give up that.'

  'Good!' cried Jeremiah, evidently meaning Bad. 'Very good! only don'texpect me to stand between your mother and you, Arthur. I stood betweenyour mother and your father, fending off this, and fending off that, andgetting crushed and pounded betwixt em; and I've done with such work.'

  'You will never be asked to begin it again for me, Jeremiah.'

  'Good. I'm glad to hear it; because I should have had to decline it, ifI had been. That's enough--as your mother says--and more than enough ofsuch matters on a Sabbath night. Affery, woman, have you found what youwant yet?'

  She had been collecting sheets and blankets from a press, and hastenedto gather them up, and to reply, 'Yes, Jeremiah.' Arthur Clennam helpedher by carrying the load himself, wished the old man good night, andwent up-stairs with her to the top of the house.

  They mounted up and up, through the musty smell of an old close house,little used, to a large garret bed-room. Meagre and spare, like all theother rooms, it was even uglier and grimmer than the rest, by being theplace of banishment for the worn-out furniture. Its movables were uglyold chairs with worn-out seats, and ugly old chairs without any seats;a threadbare patternless carpet, a maimed table, a crippled wardrobe,a lean set of fire-irons like the skeleton of a set deceased, awashing-stand that looked as if it had stood for ages in a hail ofdirty soapsuds, and a bedstead with four bare atomies of posts, eachterminating in a spike, as if for the dismal accommodation of lodgerswho might prefer to impale themselves. Arthur opened the long lowwindow, and looked out upon the old blasted and blackened forest ofchimneys, and the old red glare in the sky, which had seemed to him onceupon a time but a nightly reflection of the fiery environment that waspresented to his childish fancy in all directions, let it look where itwould.

  He drew in his head again, sat down at the bedside, and looked on atAffery Flintwinch making the bed.

  'Affery, you were not married when I went away.'

  She screwed her mouth into the form of saying 'No,' shook her head, andproceeded to get a pillow into its case.

  'How did it happen?'

  'Why, Jeremiah, o' course,' said Affery, with an end of the pillow-casebetween her teeth.

  'Of course he proposed it, but how did it all come about? I should havethought that neither of you would have married; least of all should Ihave thought of your marrying each other.'

  'No more should I,' said Mrs Flintwinch, tying the pillow tightly in itscase.

  'That's what I mean. When did you begin to think otherwise?'

  'Never begun to think otherwise at all,' said Mrs Flintwinch.

  Seeing, as she patted the pillow into its place on the bolster, that hewas still looking at her as if waiting for the rest of her reply,she gave it a great poke in the middle, and asked, 'How could I helpmyself?'

  'How could you help yourself from being married!'

  'O' course,' said Mrs Flintwinch. 'It was no doing o' mine. I'd neverthought of it. I'd got something to do, without thinking, indeed! Shekept me to it (as well as he) when she could go
about, and she could goabout then.'

  'Well?'

  'Well?' echoed Mrs Flintwinch. 'That's what I said myself. Well! What'sthe use of considering? If them two clever ones have made up their mindsto it, what's left for _me_ to do? Nothing.'

  'Was it my mother's project, then?'

  'The Lord bless you, Arthur, and forgive me the wish!' cried Affery,speaking always in a low tone. 'If they hadn't been both of a mind init, how could it ever have been? Jeremiah never courted me; t'ant likelythat he would, after living in the house with me and ordering meabout for as many years as he'd done. He said to me one day, he said,"Affery," he said, "now I am going to tell you something. What do youthink of the name of Flintwinch?" "What do I think of it?" I says."Yes," he said, "because you're going to take it," he said. "Take it?" Isays. "Jere-_mi_-ah?" Oh! he's a clever one!'

  Mrs Flintwinch went on to spread the upper sheet over the bed, and theblanket over that, and the counterpane over that, as if she had quiteconcluded her story.

  'Well?' said Arthur again.

  'Well?' echoed Mrs Flintwinch again. 'How could I help myself? He saidto me, "Affery, you and me must be married, and I'll tell you why. She'sfailing in health, and she'll want pretty constant attendance up inher room, and we shall have to be much with her, and there'll be nobodyabout now but ourselves when we're away from her, and altogether it willbe more convenient. She's of my opinion," he said, "so if you'll putyour bonnet on next Monday morning at eight, we'll get it over."' MrsFlintwinch tucked up the bed.

  'Well?'

  'Well?' repeated Mrs Flintwinch, 'I think so! I sits me down and saysit. Well!--Jeremiah then says to me, "As to banns, next Sunday being thethird time of asking (for I've put 'em up a fortnight), is my reason fornaming Monday. She'll speak to you about it herself, and now she'll findyou prepared, Affery." That same day she spoke to me, and she said, "So,Affery, I understand that you and Jeremiah are going to be married. Iam glad of it, and so are you, with reason. It is a very good thing foryou, and very welcome under the circumstances to me. He is a sensibleman, and a trustworthy man, and a persevering man, and a pious man."What could I say when it had come to that? Why, if it had been--asmothering instead of a wedding,' Mrs Flintwinch cast about in her mindwith great pains for this form of expression, 'I couldn't have said aword upon it, against them two clever ones.'

  'In good faith, I believe so.'

  'And so you may, Arthur.'

  'Affery, what girl was that in my mother's room just now?'

  'Girl?' said Mrs Flintwinch in a rather sharp key.

  'It was a girl, surely, whom I saw near you--almost hidden in the darkcorner?'

  'Oh! She? Little Dorrit? _She_'s nothing; she's a whim of--hers.' It was apeculiarity of Affery Flintwinch that she never spoke of Mrs Clennamby name. 'But there's another sort of girls than that about. Have youforgot your old sweetheart? Long and long ago, I'll be bound.'

  'I suffered enough from my mother's separating us, to remember her.I recollect her very well.'

  'Have you got another?'

  'No.'

  'Here's news for you, then. She's well to do now, and a widow. And ifyou like to have her, why you can.'

  'And how do you know that, Affery?'

  'Them two clever ones have been speaking about it.--There's Jeremiah onthe stairs!' She was gone in a moment.

  Mrs Flintwinch had introduced into the web that his mind was busilyweaving, in that old workshop where the loom of his youth had stood, thelast thread wanting to the pattern. The airy folly of a boy's love hadfound its way even into that house, and he had been as wretched underits hopelessness as if the house had been a castle of romance. Littlemore than a week ago at Marseilles, the face of the pretty girl fromwhom he had parted with regret, had had an unusual interest for him, anda tender hold upon him, because of some resemblance, real or imagined,to this first face that had soared out of his gloomy life into thebright glories of fancy. He leaned upon the sill of the long low window,and looking out upon the blackened forest of chimneys again, began todream; for it had been the uniform tendency of this man's life--so muchwas wanting in it to think about, so much that might have been betterdirected and happier to speculate upon--to make him a dreamer, afterall.

 

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