Little Dorrit HTML version

A Puzzle
Mr Clennam did not increase in favour with the Father of the Marshalsea in the
ratio of his increasing visits. His obtuseness on the great Testimonial question
was not calculated to awaken admiration in the paternal breast, but had rather a
tendency to give offence in that sensitive quarter, and to be regarded as a
positive shortcoming in point of gentlemanly feeling. An impression of
disappointment, occasioned by the discovery that Mr Clennam scarcely
possessed that delicacy for which, in the confidence of his nature, he had been
inclined to give him credit, began to darken the fatherly mind in connection with
that gentleman. The father went so far as to say, in his private family circle, that
he feared Mr Clennam was not a man of high instincts. He was happy, he
observed, in his public capacity as leader and representative of the College, to
receive Mr Clennam when he called to pay his respects; but he didn't find that he
got on with him personally. There appeared to be something (he didn't know what
it was) wanting in him. Howbeit, the father did not fail in any outward show of
politeness, but, on the contrary, honoured him with much attention; perhaps
cherishing the hope that, although not a man of a sufficiently brilliant and
spontaneous turn of mind to repeat his former testimonial unsolicited, it might still
be within the compass of his nature to bear the part of a responsive gentleman,
in any correspondence that way tending.
In the threefold capacity, of the gentleman from outside who had been
accidentally locked in on the night of his first appearance, of the gentleman from
outside who had inquired into the affairs of the Father of the Marshalsea with the
stupendous idea of getting him out, and of the gentleman from outside who took
an interest in the child of the Marshalsea, Clennam soon became a visitor of
He was not surprised by the attentions he received from Mr Chivery when that
officer was on the lock, for he made little distinction between Mr Chivery's
politeness and that of the other turnkeys. It was on one particular afternoon that
Mr Chivery surprised him all at once, and stood forth from his companions in bold
Mr Chivery, by some artful exercise of his power of clearing the Lodge, had
contrived to rid it of all sauntering Collegians; so that Clennam, coming out of the
prison, should find him on duty alone.
'(Private) I ask your pardon, sir,' said Mr Chivery in a secret manner; 'but which
way might you be going?'
'I am going over the Bridge.' He saw in Mr Chivery, with some astonishment,
quite an Allegory of Silence, as he stood with his key on his lips.
'(Private) I ask your pardon again,' said Mr Chivery, 'but could you go round by
Horsemonger Lane? Could you by any means find time to look in at that
address?' handing him a little card, printed for circulation among the connection
of Chivery and Co., Tobacconists, Importers of pure Havannah Cigars, Bengal
Cheroots, and fine- flavoured Cubas, Dealers in Fancy Snuffs, &C. &C.