Little Dorrit HTML version

Conspirators and Others
The private residence of Mr Pancks was in Pentonville, where he lodged on the
second-floor of a professional gentleman in an extremely small way, who had an
inner-door within the street door, poised on a spring and starting open with a click
like a trap; and who wrote up in the fan-light, RUGG, GENERAL AGENT,
This scroll, majestic in its severe simplicity, illuminated a little slip of front garden
abutting on the thirsty high-road, where a few of the dustiest of leaves hung their
dismal heads and led a life of choking. A professor of writing occupied the first-
floor, and enlivened the garden railings with glass-cases containing choice
examples of what his pupils had been before six lessons and while the whole of
his young family shook the table, and what they had become after six lessons
when the young family was under restraint. The tenancy of Mr Pancks was
limited to one airy bedroom; he covenanting and agreeing with Mr Rugg his
landlord, that in consideration of a certain scale of payments accurately defined,
and on certain verbal notice duly given, he should be at liberty to elect to share
the Sunday breakfast, dinner, tea, or supper, or each or any or all of those
repasts or meals of Mr and Miss Rugg (his daughter) in the back-parlour.
Miss Rugg was a lady of a little property which she had acquired, together with
much distinction in the neighbourhood, by having her heart severely lacerated
and her feelings mangled by a middle-aged baker resident in the vicinity, against
whom she had, by the agency of Mr Rugg, found it necessary to proceed at law
to recover damages for a breach of promise of marriage. The baker having been,
by the counsel for Miss Rugg, witheringly denounced on that occasion up to the
full amount of twenty guineas, at the rate of about eighteen- pence an epithet,
and having been cast in corresponding damages, still suffered occasional
persecution from the youth of Pentonville. But Miss Rugg, environed by the
majesty of the law, and having her damages invested in the public securities,
was regarded with consideration.
In the society of Mr Rugg, who had a round white visage, as if all his blushes had
been drawn out of him long ago, and who had a ragged yellow head like a worn-
out hearth broom; and in the society of Miss Rugg, who had little nankeen spots,
like shirt buttons, all over her face, and whose own yellow tresses were rather
scrubby than luxuriant; Mr Pancks had usually dined on Sundays for some few
years, and had twice a week, or so, enjoyed an evening collation of bread, Dutch
cheese, and porter. Mr Pancks was one of the very few marriageable men for
whom Miss Rugg had no terrors, the argument with which he reassured himself
being twofold; that is to say, firstly, 'that it wouldn't do twice,' and secondly, 'that
he wasn't worth it.' Fortified within this double armour, Mr Pancks snorted at Miss
Rugg on easy terms.
Up to this time, Mr Pancks had transacted little or no business at his quarters in
Pentonville, except in the sleeping line; but now that he had become a fortune-
teller, he was often closeted after midnight with Mr Rugg in his little front-parlour
office, and even after those untimely hours, burnt tallow in his bed-room. Though