CHAPTER 5. Family 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.

'Are you any bet­ter this mor­ning, mot­her?'

She sho­ok her he­ad CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs, 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 CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs 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.

'Shall I spe­ak of our af CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs­fa­irs, 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 CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs 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 CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs 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 li CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs­ke, 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 at­tac CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs­hed no pe­op­le to us; the track we ha­ve kept is not the track of the ti­me; and we ha­ve be­en left far be­hind. I ne­ed not dwell on this to you, mot­her. You know it ne­ces­sa­rily.'

'I know what you me­an,' she an­s­we­red, in a qu­ali­fi­ed to­ne. 'Even this old ho­use in which we spe­ak,' pur­su­ed her son, 'is an in­s­tan­ce of what I say. In my fat­her's ear­li­er CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs 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 a me­re ano­maly and in­con­g­ru­ity he­re, out of da­te and out of pur­po­se. All our con­sig­n­ments ha­ve long be­en ma­de to Ro­vin­g­hams' the com­mis­si­on-mer­c­hants; and al­t­ho­ugh, as a CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs check upon them, and in the ste­war­d­s­hip of my fat­her's re­so­ur­ces, yo­ur jud­g­ment and wat­c­h­ful­ness ha­ve be­en ac­ti­vely exer­ted, still tho­se qu­ali­ti­es wo­uld ha­ve in­f­lu­en­ced my fat­her's for­tu­nes equ­al­ly, if you had li­ved in any pri­va­te dwel­ling: wo­uld they not?'

'Do you con­si­der,' she re­tur­ned, wit­ho­ut an­s­we CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs­ring his qu­es­ti­on, 'that a ho­use ser­ves no pur­po­se, Ar­t­hur, in shel­te­ring yo­ur in­firm and af­f­lic­ted-justly in­firm and rig­h­te­o­usly af­f­lic­ted-mot­her?'

'I was spe­aking only of bu­si­ness pur­po­ses.'

'With what obj­ect?'

'I am co­ming to it.'

'I fo­re­see,' she re­tur­ned, fi­xing her eyes upon him, 'what it is. But the Lord for­bid that I sho­uld re­pi­ne un CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs­der any vi­si­ta­ti­on. In my sin­ful­ness I 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 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 sto CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs­ne. '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; 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 CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs: 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 ha CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs­bi­tu­al­ly sub­mit­ted, and I only ask you to re­mem­ber it.'

Woe to the sup­pli­ant, if such a one the­re we­re or ever had be­en, who had any con­ces­si­on to lo­ok for in the ine­xo­rab­le fa­ce at the ca­bi­net. Woe to the de­fa­ul­ter who­se ap­pe­al lay to the tri­bu­nal whe­re tho­se se­ve­re eyes pre­si­ded. Gre­at ne­ed had the ri­gid wo­man of CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs 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 pra­yer too po­or in spi­rit for her. Smi­te Thou my deb­tors, Lord, wit­her them, crush them; do Thou as I wo­uld do, and Thou shalt ha­ve my wor­s­hip: this was the im CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs­pi­o­us to­wer of sto­ne she bu­ilt up 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 full of mat­ter!'

'Mother, I ha­ve yet so­met­hing mo­re to say. It has be­en upon my mind, night and day, this long ti­me. It is far mo­re dif­fi­cult to say than what I CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs ha­ve sa­id. That con­cer­ned myself; this con­cerns us all.'

'Us all! Who are us all?'

'Yourself, myself, my de­ad fat­her.'

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

'You knew my fat­her in­fi­ni­tely bet­ter than I ever knew him; and his re­ser­ve with me yi­el­ded to you CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs. 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 CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs 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 CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs 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-re CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs­mor­se? 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 for CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs­ward 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 CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs 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 ex CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs­p­ress 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 sem­b CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs­lan­ce 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 CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs 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 we CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs­re the mo­ving po­wer of all this mac­hi­nery be­fo­re my birth; yo­ur stron­ger spi­rit has be­en in­fu­sed 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 mo CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs­re 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, if wit­hin my me­ans, let ME ma­ke it. I ha­ve se­en so lit­tle hap­pi­ness co­me of mo­ney; it has bro­ught wit­hin my know­led­ge so lit­tle pe­ace to this ho­use, or CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs 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 ca CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs­bi­net. 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 CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs 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 CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs 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 te CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs­ar 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 CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs 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 ro CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs­om? 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 CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs.

'Flintwinch, gi­ve me that bo­ok!'

The old man han­ded it to her from the tab­le. She put two fin­gers bet­we­en the le­aves, clo­sed the bo­ok upon them, and held it up to her son in a thre­ate­ning way. 'In the days of old, Ar­t­hur, tre­ated of in this com­men­tary, the­re we­re pi­o­us men, be­lo­ved of the Lord, who wo­uld ha­ve cur­sed the­ir sons for less than this: who wo­uld ha­ve sent CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs them forth, and sent who­le na­ti­ons forth, if such had sup­por­ted them, to be avo­ided of God and man, and pe­rish, down to the baby at the bre­ast. But I only tell you that if you ever re­new that the­me with me, I will re­no­un­ce you; I will so dis­miss you thro­ugh that do­or­way, that you had bet­ter ha­ve be­en mot­her­less from yo­ur crad­le. I will ne­ver see or know you mo­re. And CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs if, af­ter all, you we­re to co­me in­to this dar­ke­ned ro­om to lo­ok upon me lying de­ad, my body sho­uld ble­ed, if I co­uld ma­ke it, when you ca­me ne­ar me.'

In part re­li­eved by the in­ten­sity of this thre­at, and in part (mon­s­t­ro­us as the fact is) by a ge­ne­ral im­p­res­si­on that it was in so­me sort a re­li­gi­o­us pro­ce­eding, she CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs han­ded back the bo­ok to the old man, and was si­lent.

'Now,' sa­id Jere­mi­ah; 'pre­mi­sing that I'm not go­ing to stand bet­we­en you two, will you let me ask (as I ha­ve be­en cal­led in, and ma­de a third) what is all this abo­ut?'

'Take yo­ur ver­si­on of it,' re­tur­ned Ar­t­hur, fin­ding it left to him to spe­ak, 'from my mot­her. Let it rest the­re. What I ha­ve sa CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs­id, was sa­id to my mot­her only.' 'Oh!' re­tur­ned the old man. 'From yo­ur mot­her? Ta­ke it from yo­ur mot­her? Well! But yo­ur mot­her men­ti­oned that you had be­en sus­pec­ting yo­ur fat­her. That's not du­ti­ful, Mr Ar­t­hur. Who will you be sus­pec­ting next?'

'Enough,' sa­id Mrs Clen­nam, tur­ning her fa­ce so that it was ad­dres­sed for the mo­ment to the old man only. 'Let no mo­re be CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs sa­id abo­ut this.'

'Yes, but stop a bit, stop a bit,' the old man per­sis­ted. 'Let us see how we stand. Ha­ve you told Mr Ar­t­hur that he mustn't lay of­fen­ces at his fat­her's do­or? That he has no right to do it? That he has no gro­und to go upon?'

'I tell him so now.'

'Ah! Exactly,' sa­id the old man. 'You tell him so now. You hadn't told him so be­fo­re, and you tell him so now. Ay, ay CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs! That's right! You know I sto­od bet­we­en you and his fat­her so long, that it se­ems as if de­ath had ma­de no dif­fe­ren­ce, and I was still stan­ding bet­we­en you. So I will, and so in fa­ir­ness I re­qu­ire to ha­ve that pla­inly put for­ward. Ar­t­hur, you ple­ase to he­ar that you ha­ve no right to mis­t­rust yo­ur fat­her, and ha­ve no gro­und to go CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs upon.'

He put his hands to the back of the whe­eled cha­ir, and mut­te­ring to him­self, slowly whe­eled his mis­t­ress back to her ca­bi­net. 'Now,' he re­su­med, stan­ding be­hind her: 'in ca­se I sho­uld go away le­aving things half do­ne, and so sho­uld be wan­ted aga­in when you co­me to the ot­her half and get in­to one of yo­ur flights, has Ar­t­hur told you what he me­ans to do abo CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs­ut the bu­si­ness?'

'He has re­lin­qu­is­hed it.'

'In fa­vo­ur of no­body, I sup­po­se?'

Mrs Clen­nam glan­ced at her son, le­aning aga­inst one of the win­dows.

He ob­ser­ved the lo­ok and sa­id, 'To my mot­her, of co­ur­se. She do­es what she ple­ases.'

'And if any ple­asu­re,' she sa­id af­ter a short pa­use, 'co­uld ari­se for me out of the di­sap­po­in­t­ment of my ex­pec­ta­ti CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs­ons that my son, in the pri­me of his li­fe, wo­uld in­fu­se new yo­uth and strength in­to it, and ma­ke it of gre­at pro­fit and po­wer, it wo­uld be in ad­van­cing an old and fa­it­h­ful ser­vant. Jere­mi­ah, the cap­ta­in de­serts the ship, but you and I will sink or flo­at with it.'

Jeremiah, who­se eyes glis­te­ned as if they saw mo­ney, dar­ted a sud­den lo­ok at CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs the son, which se­emed to say, 'I owe YOU no thanks for this; YOU ha­ve do­ne not­hing to­wards it!' and then told the mot­her that he than­ked her, and that Af­fery than­ked her, and that he wo­uld ne­ver de­sert her, and that Af­fery wo­uld ne­ver de­sert her. Fi­nal­ly, he ha­uled up his watch from its depths, and sa­id, 'Ele­ven. Ti­me for yo­ur oy­s­ters!' and with that chan­ge of su­bj­ect, which in­vol CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs­ved no chan­ge of ex­p­res­si­on or man­ner, rang the bell.

But Mrs Clen­nam, re­sol­ved to tre­at her­self with the gre­ater ri­go­ur for ha­ving be­en sup­po­sed to be unac­qu­a­in­ted with re­pa­ra­ti­on, re­fu­sed to eat her oy­s­ters when they we­re bro­ught. They lo­oked tem­p­ting; eight in num­ber, cir­cu­larly set out on a whi­te pla­te on a tray co­ve­red CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs with a whi­te nap­kin, flan­ked by a sli­ce of but­te­red French roll, and a lit­tle com­pact glass of co­ol wi­ne and wa­ter; but she re­sis­ted all per­su­asi­ons, and sent them down aga­in-pla­cing the act to her cre­dit, no do­ubt, in her Eter­nal Day-Bo­ok.

This re­fec­ti­on of oy­s­ters was not pre­si­ded over by Af­fery, but by the girl who had ap­pe­ared when the bell was rung; the CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs sa­me who had be­en in the dim­ly-lig­h­ted ro­om last night. Now that he had an op­por­tu­nity of ob­ser­ving her, Ar­t­hur fo­und that her di­mi­nu­ti­ve fi­gu­re, small fe­atu­res, and slight spa­re dress, ga­ve her the ap­pe­aran­ce of be­ing much yo­un­ger than she was. A wo­man, pro­bably of not less than two-and-twenty, she might ha­ve be­en pas­sed in the stre­et for lit CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs­tle mo­re than half that age. Not that her fa­ce was very yo­ut­h­ful, for in truth the­re was mo­re con­si­de­ra­ti­on and ca­re in it than na­tu­ral­ly be­lon­ged to her ut­most ye­ars; but she was so lit­tle and light, so no­ise­less and shy, and ap­pe­ared so con­s­ci­o­us of be­ing out of pla­ce among the three hard el­ders, that she had all the man­ner and much CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs of the ap­pe­aran­ce of a sub­du­ed child.

In a hard way, and in an un­cer­ta­in way that fluc­tu­ated bet­we­en pat­ro­na­ge and put­ting down, the sprin­k­ling from a wa­te­ring-pot and hydra­ulic pres­su­re, Mrs Clen­nam sho­wed an in­te­rest in this de­pen­dent. Even in the mo­ment of her en­t­ran­ce, upon the vi­olent rin­ging of the bell, when the mot­her shi­el­ded her­self with that sin­gu CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs­lar ac­ti­on from the son, Mrs Clen­nam's eyes had had so­me in­di­vi­du­al re­cog­ni­ti­on in them, which se­emed re­ser­ved for her. As the­re are deg­re­es of har­d­ness in the har­dest me­tal, and sha­des of co­lo­ur in black it­self, so, even in the as­pe­rity of Mrs Clen­nam's de­me­ano­ur to­wards all the rest of hu­ma­nity and to­wards Lit­tle Dor­rit CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs, the­re was a fi­ne gra­da­ti­on.

Little Dor­rit let her­self out to do ne­ed­le­work. At so much a day-or at so lit­tle-from eight to eight, Lit­tle Dor­rit was to be hi­red. Pun­c­tu­al to the mo­ment, Lit­tle Dor­rit ap­pe­ared; pun­c­tu­al to the mo­ment, Lit­tle Dor­rit va­nis­hed. What be­ca­me of Lit­tle Dor­rit bet­we­en the two eights was a mystery.

Another of the mo­ral CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs phe­no­me­na of Lit­tle Dor­rit. Be­si­des her con­si­de­ra­ti­on mo­ney, her da­ily con­t­ract in­c­lu­ded me­als. She had an ex­t­ra­or­di­nary re­pug­nan­ce to di­ning in com­pany; wo­uld ne­ver do so, if it we­re pos­sib­le to es­ca­pe. Wo­uld al­ways ple­ad that she had this bit of work to be­gin first, or that bit of work to fi­nish first; and wo­uld, of a CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs cer­ta­inty, sche­me and plan-not very cun­ningly, it wo­uld se­em, for she de­ce­ived no one-to di­ne alo­ne. Suc­ces­sful in this, happy in car­rying off her pla­te an­y­w­he­re, to ma­ke a tab­le of her lap, or a box, or the gro­und, or even as was sup­po­sed, to stand on tip-toe, di­ning mo­de­ra­tely at a man­tel-shelf; the gre­at an­xi­ety of Lit­tle Dor­rit's day was set CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs at rest.

It was not easy to ma­ke out Lit­tle Dor­rit's fa­ce; she was so re­ti­ring, pli­ed her ne­ed­le in such re­mo­ved cor­ners, and star­ted away so sca­red if en­co­un­te­red on the sta­irs. But it se­emed to be a pa­le tran­s­pa­rent fa­ce, qu­ick in ex­p­res­si­on, tho­ugh not be­a­uti­ful in fe­atu­re, its soft ha­zel eyes ex­cep­ted. A de­li­ca­tely CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs bent he­ad, a tiny form, a qu­ick lit­tle pa­ir of busy hands, and a shabby dress-it must ne­eds ha­ve be­en very shabby to lo­ok at all so, be­ing so ne­at-we­re Lit­tle Dor­rit as she sat at work.

For the­se par­ti­cu­lars or ge­ne­ra­li­ti­es con­cer­ning Lit­tle Dor­rit, Mr Ar­t­hur was in­deb­ted in the co­ur­se of the day to his own eyes and to Mrs Af CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs­fery's ton­gue. If Mrs Af­fery had had any will or way of her own, it wo­uld pro­bably ha­ve be­en un­fa­vo­urab­le to Lit­tle Dor­rit. But as 'them two cle­ver ones'-Mrs Af­fery's per­pe­tu­al re­fe­ren­ce, in whom her per­so­na­lity was swal­lo­wed up-we­re ag­re­ed to ac­cept Lit­tle Dor­rit as a mat­ter of co­ur­se, she had not­hing for it but to fol­low su CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs­it. Si­mi­larly, if the two cle­ver ones had ag­re­ed to mur­der Lit­tle Dor­rit by can­d­le­light, Mrs Af­fery, be­ing re­qu­ired to hold the can­d­le, wo­uld no do­ubt ha­ve do­ne it.

In the in­ter­vals of ro­as­ting the par­t­rid­ge for the in­va­lid cham­ber, and pre­pa­ring a ba­king-dish of be­ef and pud­ding for the di­ning-ro­om, Mrs Af­fery ma­de the com­mu CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs­ni­ca­ti­ons abo­ve set forth; in­va­ri­ably put­ting her he­ad in at the do­or aga­in af­ter she had ta­ken it out, to en­for­ce re­sis­tan­ce to the two cle­ver ones. It ap­pe­ared to ha­ve be­co­me a per­fect pas­si­on with Mrs Flin­t­winch, that the only son sho­uld be pit­ted aga­inst them.

In the co­ur­se of the day, too, Ar­t­hur lo­oked thro­ugh the who­le ho­use. Dull and CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs dark he fo­und it. The ga­unt ro­oms, de­ser­ted for ye­ars upon ye­ars, se­emed to ha­ve set­tled down in­to a glo­omy let­hargy from which not­hing co­uld ro­use them aga­in. The fur­ni­tu­re, at on­ce spa­re and lum­be­ring, hid in the ro­oms rat­her than fur­nis­hed them, and the­re was no co­lo­ur in all the ho­use; such co­lo­ur as had ever be­en the­re, had long ago CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs star­ted away on lost sun­be­ams-got it­self ab­sor­bed, per­haps, in­to flo­wers, but­ter­f­li­es, plu­ma­ge of birds, pre­ci­o­us sto­nes, what not. The­re was not one stra­ight flo­or from the fo­un­da­ti­on to the ro­of; the ce­ilings we­re so fan­tas­ti­cal­ly clo­uded by smo­ke and dust, that old wo­men might ha­ve told for­tu­nes in them bet­ter than in gro­uts of tea; the de­ad CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs-cold he­arths sho­wed no tra­ces of ha­ving ever be­en war­med but in he­aps of so­ot that had tum­b­led down the chim­neys, and ed­di­ed abo­ut in lit­tle dusky whir­l­winds when the do­ors we­re ope­ned. In what had on­ce be­en a dra­wing-ro­om, the­re we­re a pa­ir of me­ag­re mir­rors, with dis­mal pro­ces­si­ons of black fi­gu­res car­rying black gar­lands, wal­king ro CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs­und the fra­mes; but even the­se we­re short of he­ads and legs, and one un­der­ta­ker-li­ke Cu­pid had swung ro­und on its own axis and got up­si­de down, and anot­her had fal­len off al­to­get­her. The ro­om Ar­t­hur Clen­nam's de­ce­ased fat­her had oc­cu­pi­ed for bu­si­ness pur­po­ses, when he first re­mem­be­red him, was so unal­te­red that he might ha­ve be­en ima­gi­ned CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs still to ke­ep it in­vi­sibly, as his vi­sib­le re­lict kept her ro­om up-sta­irs; Jere­mi­ah Flin­t­winch still go­ing bet­we­en them ne­go­ti­ating. His pic­tu­re, dark and glo­omy, ear­nestly spe­ec­h­less on the wall, with the eyes in­tently lo­oking at his son as they had lo­oked when li­fe de­par­ted from them, se­emed to ur­ge him aw­ful­ly to the task he had at­tem­p­ted; but CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs as to any yi­el­ding on the part of his mot­her, he had now no ho­pe, and as to any ot­her me­ans of set­ting his dis­t­rust at rest, he had aban­do­ned ho­pe a long ti­me.

Down in the cel­lars, as up in the bed-cham­bers, old obj­ects that he well re­mem­be­red we­re chan­ged by age and de­cay, but we­re still in the­ir old pla­ces; even to empty be­er-casks ho­ary with CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs cob­webs, and empty wi­ne-bot­tles with fur and fun­gus cho­king up the­ir thro­ats. The­re, too, among unu­su­al bot­tle-racks and pa­le slants of light from the yard abo­ve, was the strong ro­om sto­red with old led­gers, which had as musty and cor­rupt a smell as if they we­re re­gu­larly ba­lan­ced, in the de­ad small ho­urs, by a nightly re­sur­rec­ti­on of old bo­ok-ke­epers.

The ba­king-dish was ser­ved CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs up in a pe­ni­ten­ti­al man­ner on a shrun­ken cloth at an end of the di­ning-tab­le, at two o'clock, when he di­ned with Mr Flin­t­winch, the new par­t­ner. Mr Flin­t­winch in­for­med him that his mot­her had re­co­ve­red her equ­ani­mity now, and that he ne­ed not fe­ar her aga­in al­lu­ding to what had pas­sed in the mor­ning. 'And don't you lay of­fen­ces at yo­ur CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs fat­her's do­or, Mr Ar­t­hur,' ad­ded Jere­mi­ah, 'once for all, don't do it! Now, we ha­ve do­ne with the su­bj­ect.'

Mr Flin­t­winch had be­en al­re­ady re­ar­ran­ging and dus­ting his own par­ti­cu­lar lit­tle of­fi­ce, as if to do ho­no­ur to his ac­ces­si­on to new dig­nity. He re­su­med this oc­cu­pa­ti­on when he was rep­le­te with be­ef, had suc­ked up all the CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs gravy in the ba­king-dish with the flat of his kni­fe, and had drawn li­be­ral­ly on a bar­rel of small be­er in the scul­lery. Thus ref­res­hed, he tuc­ked up his shirt-sle­eves and went to work aga­in; and Mr Ar­t­hur, wat­c­hing him as he set abo­ut it, pla­inly saw that his fat­her's pic­tu­re, or his fat­her's gra­ve, wo­uld be as com­mu­ni­ca­ti­ve with him as CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs this old man.

'Now, Af­fery, wo­man,' sa­id Mr Flin­t­winch, as she cros­sed the hall. 'You hadn't ma­de Mr Ar­t­hur's bed when I was up the­re last. Stir yo­ur­self. Bus­t­le.'

But Mr Ar­t­hur fo­und the ho­use so blank and dre­ary, and was so un­wil­ling to as­sist at anot­her im­p­la­cab­le con­sig­n­ment of his mot­her's ene­mi­es (per­haps him­self among them) to mor­tal dis­fi CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs­gu­re­ment and im­mor­tal ru­in, that he an­no­un­ced his in­ten­ti­on of lod­ging at the cof­fee-ho­use whe­re he had left his lug­ga­ge. Mr Flin­t­winch ta­king kindly to the idea of get­ting rid of him, and his mot­her be­ing in­dif­fe­rent, be­yond con­si­de­ra­ti­ons of sa­ving, to most do­mes­tic ar­ran­ge­ments that we­re not bo­un­ded by the walls of her own cham­ber, he easily CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs car­ri­ed this po­int wit­ho­ut new of­fen­ce. Da­ily bu­si­ness ho­urs we­re ag­re­ed upon, which his mot­her, Mr Flin­t­winch, and he, we­re to de­vo­te to­get­her to a ne­ces­sary chec­king of bo­oks and pa­pers; and he left the ho­me he had so la­tely fo­und, with dep­res­sed he­art.

But Lit­tle Dor­rit?

The bu­si­ness ho­urs, al­lo­wing for in­ter­vals of in­va CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs­lid re­gi­men of oy­s­ters and par­t­rid­ges, du­ring which Clen­nam ref­res­hed him­self with a walk, we­re from ten to six for abo­ut a for­t­night. So­me­ti­mes Lit­tle Dor­rit was em­p­lo­yed at her ne­ed­le, so­me­ti­mes not, so­me­ti­mes ap­pe­ared as a hum­b­le vi­si­tor: which must ha­ve be­en her cha­rac­ter on the oc­ca­si­on of his ar­ri­val. His ori CHAPTER 5. Family Affairs­gi­nal cu­ri­osity aug­men­ted every day, as he wat­c­hed for her, saw or did not see her, and spe­cu­la­ted abo­ut her. In­f­lu­en­ced by his pre­do­mi­nant idea, he even fell in­to a ha­bit of dis­cus­sing with him­self the pos­si­bi­lity of her be­ing in so­me way as­so­ci­ated with it. At last he re­sol­ved to watch Lit­tle Dor­rit and know mo­re of her story.

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