Little Dorrit HTML version

The mention of Mr Casby again revived in Clennam's memory the smouldering
embers of curiosity and interest which Mrs Flintwinch had fanned on the night of
his arrival. Flora Casby had been the beloved of his boyhood; and Flora was the
daughter and only child of wooden-headed old Christopher (so he was still
occasionally spoken of by some irreverent spirits who had had dealings with him,
and in whom familiarity had bred its proverbial result perhaps), who was reputed
to be rich in weekly tenants, and to get a good quantity of blood out of the stones
of several unpromising courts and alleys. After some days of inquiry and
research, Arthur Clennam became convinced that the case of the Father of the
Marshalsea was indeed a hopeless one, and sorrowfully resigned the idea of
helping him to freedom again. He had no hopeful inquiry to make at present,
concerning Little Dorrit either; but he argued with himself that it might--for
anything he knew--it might be serviceable to the poor child, if he renewed this
acquaintance. It is hardly necessary to add that beyond all doubt he would have
presented himself at Mr Casby's door, if there had been no Little Dorrit in
existence; for we all know how we all deceive ourselves--that is to say, how
people in general, our profounder selves excepted, deceive themselves--as to
motives of action.
With a comfortable impression upon him, and quite an honest one in its way, that
he was still patronising Little Dorrit in doing what had no reference to her, he
found himself one afternoon at the corner of Mr Casby's street. Mr Casby lived in
a street in the Gray's Inn Road, which had set off from that thoroughfare with the
intention of running at one heat down into the valley, and up again to the top of
Pentonville Hill; but which had run itself out of breath in twenty yards, and had
stood still ever since. There is no such place in that part now; but it remained
there for many years, looking with a baulked countenance at the wilderness
patched with unfruitful gardens and pimpled with eruptive summerhouses, that it
had meant to run over in no time.
'The house,' thought Clennam, as he crossed to the door, 'is as little changed as
my mother's, and looks almost as gloomy. But the likeness ends outside. I know
its staid repose within. The smell of its jars of old rose-leaves and lavender
seems to come upon me even here.'
When his knock at the bright brass knocker of obsolete shape brought a woman-
servant to the door, those faded scents in truth saluted him like wintry breath that
had a faint remembrance in it of the bygone spring. He stepped into the sober,
silent, air-tight house--one might have fancied it to have been stifled by Mutes in
the Eastern manner--and the door, closing again, seemed to shut out sound and
motion. The furniture was formal, grave, and quaker- like, but well-kept; and had
as prepossessing an aspect as anything, from a human creature to a wooden
stool, that is meant for much use and is preserved for little, can ever wear. There
was a grave clock, ticking somewhere up the staircase; and there was a
songless bird in the same direction, pecking at his cage, as if he were ticking too.