Little Dorrit HTML version
The Father of the Marshalsea in two or three
The brothers William and Frederick Dorrit, walking up and down the College-
yard--of course on the aristocratic or Pump side, for the Father made it a point of
his state to be chary of going among his children on the Poor side, except on
Sunday mornings, Christmas Days, and other occasions of ceremony, in the
observance whereof he was very punctual, and at which times he laid his hand
upon the heads of their infants, and blessed those young insolvents with a
benignity that was highly edifying--the brothers, walking up and down the
College-yard together, were a memorable sight. Frederick the free, was so
humbled, bowed, withered, and faded; William the bond, was so courtly,
condescending, and benevolently conscious of a position; that in this regard only,
if in no other, the brothers were a spectacle to wonder at.
They walked up and down the yard on the evening of Little Dorrit's Sunday
interview with her lover on the Iron Bridge. The cares of state were over for that
day, the Drawing Room had been well attended, several new presentations had
taken place, the three-and- sixpence accidentally left on the table had
accidentally increased to twelve shillings, and the Father of the Marshalsea
refreshed himself with a whiff of cigar. As he walked up and down, affably
accommodating his step to the shuffle of his brother, not proud in his superiority,
but considerate of that poor creature, bearing with him, and breathing toleration
of his infirmities in every little puff of smoke that issued from his lips and aspired
to get over the spiked wall, he was a sight to wonder at.
His brother Frederick of the dim eye, palsied hand, bent form, and groping mind,
submissively shuffled at his side, accepting his patronage as he accepted every
incident of the labyrinthian world in which he had got lost. He held the usual
screwed bit of whitey- brown paper in his hand, from which he ever and again
unscrewed a spare pinch of snuff. That falteringly taken, he would glance at his
brother not unadmiringly, put his hands behind him, and shuffle on so at his side
until he took another pinch, or stood still to look about him--perchance suddenly
missing his clarionet. The College visitors were melting away as the shades of
night drew on, but the yard was still pretty full, the Collegians being mostly out,
seeing their friends to the Lodge. As the brothers paced the yard, William the
bond looked about him to receive salutes, returned them by graciously lifting off
his hat, and, with an engaging air, prevented Frederick the free from running
against the company, or being jostled against the wall. The Collegians as a body
were not easily impressible, but even they, according to their various ways of
wondering, appeared to find in the two brothers a sight to wonder at.
'You are a little low this evening, Frederick,' said the Father of the Marshalsea.
'Anything the matter?'
'The matter?' He stared for a moment, and then dropped his head and eyes
again. 'No, William, no. Nothing is the matter.'
'If you could be persuaded to smarten yourself up a little, Frederick--'