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'He shall be--ha--he shall be handsomely recompensed, sir,' said the Father, starting up and moving hurriedly about the room. 'Assure yourself, Mr Clennam, that everybody concerned shall be-- ha--shall be nobly rewarded. No one, my dear sir, shall say that he has an unsatisfied claim against me. I shall repay the--hum-- the advances I have had from you, sir, with peculiar pleasure. I beg to be informed at your earliest convenience, what advances you have made my son.'
He had no purpose in going about the room, but he was not still a moment.
'Everybody,' he said, 'shall be remembered. I will not go away from here in anybody's debt. All the people who have been--ha-- well behaved towards myself and my family, shall be rewarded. Chivery shall be rewarded. Young John shall be rewarded. I particularly wish, and intend, to act munificently, Mr Clennam.'
'Will you allow me,' said Arthur, laying his purse on the table, 'to supply any present contingencies, Mr Dorrit? I thought it best to bring a sum of money for the purpose.'
'Thank you, sir, thank you. I accept with readiness, at the present moment, what I could not an hour ago have conscientiously taken. I am obliged to you for the temporary accommodation. Exceedingly temporary, but well timed--well timed.' His hand had closed upon the money, and he carried it about with him. 'Be so kind, sir, as to add the amount to those former advances to which I have already referred; being careful, if you please, not to omit advances made to my son. A mere verbal statement of the gross amount is all I shall--ha--all I shall require.'
His eye fell upon his daughter at this point, and he stopped for a moment to kiss her, and to pat her head.
'It will be necessary to find a milliner, my love, and to make a speedy and complete change in your very plain dress. Something must be done with Maggy too, who at present is--ha--barely respectable, barely respectable. And your sister, Amy, and your brother. And my brother, your uncle--poor soul, I trust this will rouse him--messengers must be despatched to fetch them. They must be informed of this. We must break it to them cautiously, but they must be informed directly. We owe it as a duty to them and to ourselves, from this moment, not to let them--hum--not to let them do anything.'
This was the first intimation he had ever given, that he was privy to the fact that they did something for a livelihood.
He was still jogging about the room, with the purse clutched in his hand, when a great cheering arose in the yard. 'The news has spread already,' said Clennam, looking down from the window. 'Will you show yourself to them, Mr Dorrit? They are very earnest, and they evidently wish it.'
'I--hum--ha--I confess I could have desired, Amy my dear,' he said, jogging about in a more feverish flutter than before, 'to have made some change in my dress first, and to have bought a-- hum--a watch and chain. But if it must be done as it is, it--ha-- it must be done. Fasten the collar of my shirt, my dear. Mr Clennam, would you oblige me--hum--with a blue neckcloth you will find in that drawer at your elbow. Button my coat across at the chest, my love. It looks--ha--it looks broader, buttoned.'
With his trembling hand he pushed his grey hair up, and then, taking Clennam and his daughter for supporters, appeared at the window leaning on an arm of each. The Collegians cheered him very heartily, and he kissed his hand to them with great urbanity and protection. When he withdrew into the room again, he said 'Poor creatures!' in a tone of much pity for their miserable condition.
Little Dorrit was deeply anxious that he should lie down to compose himself. On Arthur's speaking to her of his going to inform Pancks that he might now appear as soon as he would, and pursue the joyful business to its close, she entreated him in a whisper to stay with her until her father should be quite calm and at rest. He needed no second entreaty; and she prepared her father's bed, and begged him to lie down. For another half-hour or more he would be persuaded to do nothing but go about the room, discussing with himself the probabilities for and against the Marshal's allowing the whole of the prisoners to go to the windows of the official residence which commanded the street, to see himself and family depart for ever in a carriage--which, he said, he thought would be a Sight for them. But gradually he began to droop and tire, and at last stretched himself upon the bed.
She took her faithful place beside him, fanning him and cooling his forehead; and he seemed to be falling asleep (always with the money in his hand), when he unexpectedly sat up and said:
'Mr Clennam, I beg your pardon. Am I to understand, my dear sir, that I could--ha--could pass through the Lodge at this moment, and--hum--take a walk?'
'I think not, Mr Dorrit,' was the unwilling reply. 'There are certain forms to be completed; and although your detention here is now in itself a form, I fear it is one that for a little longer has to be observed too.'
At this he shed tears again.
'It is but a few hours, sir,' Clennam cheerfully urged upon him.
'A few hours, sir,' he returned in a sudden passion. 'You talk very easily of hours, sir! How long do you suppose, sir, that an hour is to a man who is choking for want of air?'
It was his last demonstration for that time; as, after shedding some more tears and querulously complaining that he couldn't breathe, he slowly fell into a slumber. Clennam had abundant occupation for his thoughts, as he sat in the quiet room watching the father on his bed, and the daughter fanning his face. Little Dorrit had been thinking too. After softly putting his grey hair aside, and touching his forehead with her lips, she looked towards Arthur, who came nearer to her, and pursued in a low whisper the subject of her thoughts.
'Mr Clennam, will he pay all his debts before he leaves here?'
'No doubt. All.'
'All the debts for which he had been imprisoned here, all my life and longer?'
There was something of uncertainty and remonstrance in her look; something that was not all satisfaction. He wondered to detect it, and said:
'You are glad that he should do so?'
'Are you?' asked Little Dorrit, wistfully.
'Am I? Most heartily glad!'
'Then I know I ought to be.'
'And are you not?'
'It seems to me hard,' said Little Dorrit, 'that he should have lost so many years and suffered so much, and at last pay all the debts as well. It seems to me hard that he should pay in life and money both.'
'My dear child--' Clennam was beginning.
'Yes, I know I am wrong,' she pleaded timidly, 'don't think any worse of me; it has grown up with me here.'
The prison, which could spoil so many things, had tainted Little Dorrit's mind no more than this. Engendered as the confusion was, in compassion for the poor prisoner, her father, it was the first speck Clennam had ever seen, it was the last speck Clennam ever saw, of the prison atmosphere upon her.
He thought this, and forebore to say another word. With the thought, her purity and goodness came before him in their brightest light. The little spot made them the more beautiful.
Worn out with her own emotions, and yielding to the silence of the room, her hand slowly slackened and failed in its fanning movement, and her head dropped down on the pillow at her father's side. Clennam rose softly, opened and closed the door without a sound, and passed from the prison, carrying the quiet with him into the turbulent streets.
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Little Dorrit -- by Charles DickensBottom Content goes here. Wikipedia content requires these links..... Wikipedia content is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.