Little Dorrit Manuscript: Chapters 5 to 8

The autograph manuscript of Little Dorrit is now bound in 8 volumes (V&A MSL/1876/Forster/165/1 to 8).

The first volume is currently included in this transcription project.


Vol.1 f.044 recto (Ms. Chapter 4, later renumbered as 5)

Vol.1 f.044 recto (Ms. Chapter 4, later renumbered as 5)

Chapter IV 5

Family Matters Affairs

As the city clocks struck nine on Monday morning, Mrs Clennam was wheeled by Jeremiah Flintwinch of the cut-down aspect to her tall cabinet. When she had unlocked and opened it, and had settled herself at its desk, Jeremiah withdrew — as it might be, to hang himself more effectually—and her son appeared.

I hope you are Are you any better this morning, mother?”

She shook her head, with the same austere air of luxuriousness that she had shown over-night when speaking of the weather. “I shall never be better any more. It is well for me, Arthur, that I know it and can bear it.”

Sitting with her hands laid separately upon the desk, and the tall cabinet towering before her, she looked as if she were performing on a dumb church organ. Her son thought so (it was an old thought with him), while he took his seat beside it.

She opened a drawer or two, looked over some business papers, and put them back again. Her severe face had no thread of relaxation in it, by which any explorer could have been guided to the gloomy labyrinth of her thoughts [??????] and purposes.

“Shall I speak of our affairs, mother? Are you inclined to enter upon business?”

“Am I inclined, Arthur? Rather, are you? Your father has been dead a year and more. I have been at your disposal, and waiting your pleasure, ever since.”

“There was much to arrange before I could leave; and when I did leave, I travelled a little for rest and relief.”

She turned her face towards him, as not having heard or understood his last words.

“For rest and relief.”

She glanced round the sombre room, and appeared from the motion of her lips to repeat the words to herself, as calling it to witness how little of either it afforded her.

“Besides, mother, you being sole executrix, and having the direction and management of the estate, there remained little business, or I might say none, that I could transact, until you had had time to arrange matters to your satisfaction.”

“The accounts are made out,” she returned. “I have them here. The vouchers have all been examined and passed. You can inspect them when you like, Arthur; now, if you please.”

“It is quite enough, mother, to know that the business is completed. Shall I proceed then?”

“Why not?” she said, in her frozen way.

“Mother, our House has done less and less for some years past, and our dealings have been progressively on the decline. We have never shown much confidence, or invited much; we have attached no people to us; the track we have kept is not the track of the time; and we have been left

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[far ?? ??? ???? ????? >>>>>] [go often I'm known it ????????] far [from?] behind. I need not dwell [????] on this to you, mother. You know it necessarily.”

“I know what you mean,” she [responded] answered, in a qualified [??] tone.

“Even this old [??? fallen?] house in [?? ?????????] in which we speak,” pursued her son, “is [????????] is[??] an [?????? ???? ?? is house?] [??????? ???? ????? and] [of had ?????????? ??????????????] instance [????? ?????] of what I say. In my father’s earlier time, and in his uncle’s time before him, it was a place of business—really a place of business, and business resort. Now, it is [an ?????? ??????? ???????? ???] a mere anomaly and [???????] [incompetent?] incongruity [?? old f??? ????? ????? quite?] [????? ??????] here, out of date and [?? dated] out of purpose. All [???] our consignments [all] have long been made to Rovinghams” the commission-merchants; and although, [??? ????] as a check upon them, and [??] in the [?????? ??? ?????] stewardship [my ????? ?????] of my father’s resources, your [??????? ????? ?????????? ?????? ??????] judgment and watchfulness and energy [???????] have been [?? ???? of all ???????] actively [????]exerted, still [??? ????] [??????]those qualities would have influenced [his?] my father’s fortunes equally, [?? ????? ?????] if you had lived in any private dwelling: would they not [????]?”

[?? house?] Do you consider [??????],” she [????????] returned, without [??? ???? ???????] answering his question, “that a house serves no purpose, [??????] Arthur, in sheltering your infirm and afflicted [??????]—justly [?ff?????ted] infirm and righteously afflicted—mother?”

[???]I was speaking only of [??]business [?????? ???????? have ????? ?????????] purposes.”

[Why?] With what object [?????]?”

“I am coming to it.”

[???? ???? ???? ????? ???? ????? ???? ???? ??] I foresee,” she returned, [holding her ??????] fixing her eyes upon him, [????? ???? ??????] “what it is. [?????? ???? ?????? ???? ?????] But the Lord forbid that I should repine under any visitation. In my sinfulness I [deserve] merit bitter disappointment, and I accept it.”

“Mother, I grieve to hear you [?????????? ???? ???? ????] speak like this, though I have had my apprehensions that [??] you would [?????]—”

“You knew [it] I would. You knew me,” she [??????????][??????????]interrupted.

[????????????] Her son paused for a moment. He had struck fire out of her, and was [?? ??? ???? ?????? ?????? ?????] surprised. “Well [????]!” she said, [????????]relapsing into stone. “Go on. Let me hear.”

[??] You have anticipated, mother, that I decide for my part, to abandon the business. I have done with it. I will not take upon myself to advise you; [I?] you will continue it, I [???? ???]. see If I had any influence with you, I [?????] would simply use it to [????? ????? ????? ??????] soften your judgment of me in [?? ?????] causing you this disappointment: to represent to you that I [???? ????? ?????] have lived the half of a long [???????] term of [????] life, and have never before set my own will against yours. [???? ????? ????? ?????? ????????? ???? ???] I cannot say that I have been able to conform myself, in heart and spirit, to your [???? ????? ??????? ?? ??????] rules [??????]; I cannot say that I believe my forty years have been profitable [??] [???? ???? ?????] or pleasant to myself, or any one; [???? ????? ?????? ????? ?????? ????? ?????] [??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????] [??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????] [??????????????????????????????] [??????????????????????????????] but I have habitually submitted, and [???] I only ask you to remember it.”

Woe to the suppliant, if such [?????] a[????????] one there were or [had?] ever had been, who had any concession to look for in the [?????? ????? faces] inexorable face at the cabinet. Woe to the defaulter [??????] [?????] whose appeal lay to the tribunal [of those ???? eyes?] where those [????? ????? ???????] [??????????????]severe eyes presided. Great need had the rigid woman of [???] her mystical religion, [??] veiled in gloom and darkness, with lightnings of cursing, vengeance, and destruction, flashing [??????? ????????] through the sable clouds. Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors, was a [???????? f????] prayerall too [??????? ????? ??????? ??????] poor[?????? ????? ??????? ?????? ????? ????]in spirit for her. Smite Thou my debtors, Lord, wither them, [????]crush them [a]; do Thou as I would do, and Thou shalt have my worship: this [??????] was the [?????????] [???]impious tower of [????] [???] stone [???????????? ???????????????????????????? ???] [??????????] she built up [and ??? ??????] to [???????] scale Heaven.

“Have you [????] finished, Arthur, or have you [??????] anything more to [????] say to me? ? I think there can be nothing else. You have been [?????????????????] short, but [?????????????????????????????????????] very full of [??????????] matter!”

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Vol.1 f.046 recto

Vol.1 f.046 recto

Yes[?] [??] Mother, I have [????] [??????????????] yet something more to say. It has been [????????] It has been upon my mind, from night and day, this [????] long time. [this year] [????] It is far more difficult to say than what I have [???????????????????????] said. That concerned myself; this [???????????????????????????] concerns us all!”

[??? your father; ?????????????.] Us all! Who [??] are us all?”

Yes. [??] father you, me Yourself, myself, my dead father.”

She took her hands from the desk; folded them in her lap, and sat looking at them towards the fire with the impenetrability impenetrability of an old Egyptian sculpture [?????????????????????????]

“You knew knew my father [?????] infinitely better than I ever [????] knew him; and [????????????????????????????] his reserve reserve with me [???????] [???????????????????????????????????] yielded to you. You were much the stronger, mother, and directed him. As a child, I knew it as well as I know it now. I knew that your ascendancy over him was the cause of his going to China to take care of the business there, while you took care of it here (though I do not even now know whether these were really terms of separation that you agreed upon); and that it was your will that I should remain with you until I was twenty, and then go to him as I did. You will not be offended by my recalling this, after twenty years?”

“I am waiting to hear why you recall it.”

He lowered his voice, and said, with manifest reluctance, and against his will:

“I want to ask you, mother, whether it ever occurred to you to suspect—”

At the word Suspect, she turned her eyes momentarily upon her son, with a dark frown. She then suffered them to seek the fire, as before; but with the frown fixed above them, as if the sculptor of old Egypt had indented it in the hard granite face, to frown for ages.

“—that he had any secret remembrance which caused him trouble of mind—remorse? Whether you ever observed anything in his conduct suggesting that; or ever spoke to him upon it, or ever heard him hint at such a thing?”

“I do not understand what kind of secret remembrance you mean to infer that your father was a prey to,” she returned, after a silence. “You speak so mysteriously.”

“Is it possible, mother,” her son leaned forward to be the nearer to her while he whispered it, and laid his hand nervously upon her desk, “is it possible, mother, that he had unhappily wronged any one, and made no reparation?”

Looking at him wrathfully, she bent herself back in her chair to keep him further off, but gave him no reply.

“I am deeply sensible, mother, that if this thought has never at any time flashed upon you, it must seem cruel and unnatural in me, even in this confidence, to breathe it. But I cannot shake it off. Time and change (I have tried both before breaking silence) do nothing to wear it out. Remember, I was with my father. Remember, I saw his face when he gave the watch into my keeping, and struggled to express that he sent it as a token you would understand, to you. Remember, I saw him at the last with the pencil in his failing hand, trying to write some word for you to read, but to which he could give no shape. The more remote and cruel this vague suspicion that I have, the stronger the circumstances that could give it any semblance of probability to me. For Heaven’s sake, let us examine sacredly whether there is any wrong entrusted to us to set right. No one can help towards it, mother, but you.”

Still so recoiling in her chair that her overpoised weight moved it, from time to time, a little on its wheels, and gave her the appearance of a phantom of fierce aspect gliding away from him, she interposed her left arm, bent at the elbow with the back of her hand towards her face, between herself and him, and looked at him in a fixed silence “In grasping at money and in driving hard bargains—I have begun, and I must speak of such things now, mother—some one may have been grievously deceived, injured, ruined. You were the moving

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these[??????]w???erd???s[??????] [??????] has been [??????] into all my father’s dealings [??????] for more than two score years. You can set [??????]these doubts at rest, I[??????]think, if you will really help me to discover the truth. Will you, mother?” He stopped[??????] in the hope that she would speak [??????]. But her grey hair was not more immovable in its two folds, than[??????] were her [??????]firm lips. “If [??????] reparation can be made to any one, if restitution can be made to any one, [??????]let us know it and make it. Nay, mother, let if within my means, let me make it. [??????] I have seen so [??????] little happiness come of money; it has brought so [??????]

within my knowledge so little peace to this house, or to

any one belonging to it, that it is worth less to me than to another. It can buy me nothing that will not be a reproach and misery to me, if I am haunted by a suspicion that

it darkened my father’s last hours with remorse, and that it is not honestly and justly mine.”

There was a bell-rope hanging on the panelled wall, some two or three yards from the cabinet. By a swift and sudden action of her foot, she drove her wheeled chair rapidly back to it and pulled it violently—still holding her arm up in its shield-like posture, as if he were striking at her, and she warding off the blow.

A girl came hurrying in, frightened.

“Send Flintwinch here!”

In a moment the girl had withdrawn, and the old man stood within the door. “What! You’re hammer and tongs, already, you two?” he said, coolly stroking his face. “I thought you would be. I was pretty sure of it.”

“Flintwinch!” said the mother, “look at my son. Look at him!”

“Well, I am looking at him,” said Flintwinch.

She stretched out the arm with which she had shielded herself, and as she went on, pointed at the object of her anger.

“In the very hour of his return almost—before the shoe upon his foot is dry—he asperses his father’s memory to his mother! Asks his mother to become, with him, a spy upon his father’s transactions through a lifetime! Has misgivings that the goods of this world which we have painfully got together early and late, with wear and tear and toil and self-denial, are so much plunder; and asks to whom they shall be given up, as reparation and restitution!”

Although she said this raging, she said it in a voice so far from being beyond her control that it was even lower than her usual tone. She also spoke with great distinctness.

“Reparation!” said she. “Yes, truly! It is easy for him to talk of reparation, fresh from journeying and junketing in foreign lands, and living a life of vanity and pleasure. But let him look at me, in prison, and in bonds here. I endure without murmuring, because it is appointed that I shall so make reparation for my sins. Reparation! Is there none in this room? Has there been none here this fifteen years?”

Thus was she always balancing her bargains with the Majesty of heaven, posting up the entries to her credit, strictly keeping her set-off, and claiming her due. She was only remarkable in this, for the force and emphasis with which she did it. Thousands upon thousands do it, according to their varying manner, every day.

“Flintwinch, give me that book!”

The old man handed it to her from the table She put two fingers between the

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4 belonging to [???] [??] father's dealing has been [???? ??? ?? ?????? ???] from you

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