Little Dorrit 085


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‘He can live on very little, sir, and it is expected as he will be able, in time, to make a very good living. Mr Clennam got it him to do, and gives him odd jobs besides in at the Works next door–makes ‘em for him, in short, when he knows he wants ‘em.’

‘And what does he do with himself, now, when he ain’t hard at it?’ said Mr Pancks.

‘Why, not much as yet, sir, on accounts I suppose of not being able to walk much; but he goes about the Yard, and he chats without particular understanding or being understood, and he plays with the children, and he sits in the sun–he’ll sit down anywhere, as if it was an arm-chair–and he’ll sing, and he’ll laugh!’

‘Laugh!’ echoed Mr Pancks. ‘He looks to me as if every tooth in his head was always laughing.’

‘But whenever he gets to the top of the steps at t’other end of the Yard,’ said Mrs Plornish, ‘he’ll peep out in the curiousest way! So that some of us thinks he’s peeping out towards where his own country is, and some of us thinks he’s looking for somebody he don’t want to see, and some of us don’t know what to think.’

Mr Baptist seemed to have a general understanding of what she said; or perhaps his quickness caught and applied her slight action of peeping. In any case he closed his eyes and tossed his head with the air of a man who had sufficient reasons for what he did, and said in his own tongue, it didn’t matter. Altro!

‘What’s Altro?’ said Pancks.

‘Hem! It’s a sort of a general kind of expression, sir,’ said Mrs Plornish.

‘Is it?’ said Pancks. ‘Why, then Altro to you, old chap. Good afternoon. Altro!’

Mr Baptist in his vivacious way repeating the word several times, Mr Pancks in his duller way gave it him back once. From that time it became a frequent custom with Pancks the gipsy, as he went home jaded at night, to pass round by Bleeding Heart Yard, go quietly up the stairs, look in at Mr Baptist’s door, and, finding him in his room, to say, ‘Hallo, old chap! Altro!’ To which Mr Baptist would reply with innumerable bright nods and smiles, ‘Altro, signore, altro, altro, altro!’ After this highly condensed conversation, Mr Pancks would go his way with an appearance of being lightened and refreshed.

CHAPTER 26. Nobody’s State of Mind

If Arthur Clennam had not arrived at that wise decision firmly to restrain himself from loving Pet, he would have lived on in a state of much perplexity, involving difficult struggles with his own heart. Not the least of these would have been a contention, always waging within it, between a tendency to dislike Mr Henry Gowan, if not to regard him with positive repugnance, and a whisper that the inclination was unworthy. A generous nature is not prone to strong aversions, and is slow to admit them even dispassionately; but when it finds ill-will gaining upon it, and can discern between-whiles that its origin is not dispassionate, such a nature becomes distressed.

Therefore Mr Henry Gowan would have clouded Clennam’s mind, and would have been far oftener present to it than more agreeable persons and subjects but for the great prudence of his decision aforesaid. As it was, Mr Gowan seemed transferred to Daniel Doyce’s mind; at all events, it so happened that it usually fell to Mr Doyce’s turn, rather than to Clennam’s, to speak of him in the friendly conversations they held together. These were of frequent occurrence now; as the two partners shared a portion of a roomy house in one of the grave old-fashioned City streets, lying not far from the Bank of England, by London Wall.

Mr Doyce had been to Twickenham to pass the day. Clennam had excused himself. Mr Doyce was just come home. He put in his head at the door of Clennam’s sitting-room to say Good night.

‘Come in, come in!’ said Clennam.

‘I saw you were reading,’ returned Doyce, as he entered, ‘and thought you might not care to be disturbed.’

But for the notable resolution he had made, Clennam really might not have known what he had been reading; really might not have had his eyes upon the book for an hour past, though it lay open before him. He shut it up, rather quickly.

‘Are they well?’ he asked.

‘Yes,’ said Doyce; ‘they are well. They are all well.’

Daniel had an old workmanlike habit of carrying his pocket-handkerchief in his hat. He took it out and wiped his forehead with it, slowly repeating, ‘They are all well. Miss Minnie looking particularly well, I thought.’

‘Any company at the cottage?’

‘No, no company.’

‘And how did you get on, you four?’ asked Clennam gaily.

‘There were five of us,’ returned his partner. ‘There was What’s-his-name. He was there.’

‘Who is he?’ said Clennam.

‘Mr Henry Gowan.’

‘Ah, to be sure!’ cried Clennam with unusual vivacity, ‘Yes!–I forgot him.’

‘As I mentioned, you may remember,’ said Daniel Doyce, ‘he is always there on Sunday.’

‘Yes, yes,’ returned Clennam; ‘I remember now.’

Daniel Doyce, still wiping his forehead, ploddingly repeated. ‘Yes. He was there, he was there. Oh yes, he was there. And his dog. _He_ was there too.’


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