Little Dorrit HTML version

A frequently recurring doubt, whether Mr Pancks's desire to collect information
relative to the Dorrit family could have any possible bearing on the misgivings he
had imparted to his mother on his return from his long exile, caused Arthur
Clennam much uneasiness at this period. What Mr Pancks already knew about
the Dorrit family, what more he really wanted to find out, and why he should
trouble his busy head about them at all, were questions that often perplexed him.
Mr Pancks was not a man to waste his time and trouble in researches prompted
by idle curiosity. That he had a specific object Clennam could not doubt. And
whether the attainment of that object by Mr Pancks's industry might bring to light,
in some untimely way, secret reasons which had induced his mother to take Little
Dorrit by the hand, was a serious speculation.
Not that he ever wavered either in his desire or his determination to repair a
wrong that had been done in his father's time, should a wrong come to light, and
be reparable. The shadow of a supposed act of injustice, which had hung over
him since his father's death, was so vague and formless that it might be the result
of a reality widely remote from his idea of it. But, if his apprehensions should
prove to be well founded, he was ready at any moment to lay down all he had,
and begin the world anew. As the fierce dark teaching of his childhood had never
sunk into his heart, so that first article in his code of morals was, that he must
begin, in practical humility, with looking well to his feet on Earth, and that he
could never mount on wings of words to Heaven. Duty on earth, restitution on
earth, action on earth; these first, as the first steep steps upward. Strait was the
gate and narrow was the way; far straiter and narrower than the broad high road
paved with vain professions and vain repetitions, motes from other men's eyes
and liberal delivery of others to the judgment--all cheap materials costing
absolutely nothing.
No. It was not a selfish fear or hesitation that rendered him uneasy, but a mistrust
lest Pancks might not observe his part of the understanding between them, and,
making any discovery, might take some course upon it without imparting it to him.
On the other hand, when he recalled his conversation with Pancks, and the little
reason he had to suppose that there was any likelihood of that strange
personage being on that track at all, there were times when he wondered that he
made so much of it. Labouring in this sea, as all barks labour in cross seas, he
tossed about and came to no haven.
The removal of Little Dorrit herself from their customary association, did not
mend the matter. She was so much out, and so much in her own room, that he
began to miss her and to find a blank in her place. He had written to her to
inquire if she were better, and she had written back, very gratefully and earnestly
telling him not to be uneasy on her behalf, for she was quite well; but he had not
seen her, for what, in their intercourse, was a long time.
He returned home one evening from an interview with her father, who had
mentioned that she was out visiting--which was what he always said when she
was hard at work to buy his supper--and found Mr Meagles in an excited state