Little Dorrit HTML version

Mrs Flintwinch goes on Dreaming
The house in the city preserved its heavy dulness through all these transactions,
and the invalid within it turned the same unvarying round of life. Morning, noon,
and night, morning, noon, and night, each recurring with its accompanying
monotony, always the same reluctant return of the same sequences of
machinery, like a dragging piece of clockwork.
The wheeled chair had its associated remembrances and reveries, one may
suppose, as every place that is made the station of a human being has. Pictures
of demolished streets and altered houses, as they formerly were when the
occupant of the chair was familiar with them, images of people as they too used
to be, with little or no allowance made for the lapse of time since they were seen;
of these, there must have been many in the long routine of gloomy days. To stop
the clock of busy existence at the hour when we were personally sequestered
from it, to suppose mankind stricken motionless when we were brought to a
stand-still, to be unable to measure the changes beyond our view by any larger
standard than the shrunken one of our own uniform and contracted existence, is
the infirmity of many invalids, and the mental unhealthiness of almost all
What scenes and actors the stern woman most reviewed, as she sat from
season to season in her one dark room, none knew but herself. Mr Flintwinch,
with his wry presence brought to bear upon her daily like some eccentric
mechanical force, would perhaps have screwed it out of her, if there had been
less resistance in her; but she was too strong for him. So far as Mistress Affery
was concerned, to regard her liege-lord and her disabled mistress with a face of
blank wonder, to go about the house after dark with her apron over her head,
always to listen for the strange noises and sometimes to hear them, and never to
emerge from her ghostly, dreamy, sleep- waking state, was occupation enough
for her.
There was a fair stroke of business doing, as Mistress Affery made out, for her
husband had abundant occupation in his little office, and saw more people than
had been used to come there for some years. This might easily be, the house
having been long deserted; but he did receive letters, and comers, and keep
books, and correspond. Moreover, he went about to other counting-houses, and
to wharves, and docks, and to the Custom House,' and to Garraway's Coffee
House, and the Jerusalem Coffee House, and on 'Change; so that he was much
in and out. He began, too, sometimes of an evening, when Mrs Clennam
expressed no particular wish for his society, to resort to a tavern in the
neighbourhood to look at the shipping news and closing prices in the evening
paper, and even to exchange Small socialities with mercantile Sea Captains who
frequented that establishment. At some period of every day, he and Mrs
Clennam held a council on matters of business; and it appeared to Affery, who
was always groping about, listening and watching, that the two clever ones were
making money.