Little Dorrit HTML version

More Fortune-Telling
Maggy sat at her work in her great white cap with its quantity of opaque frilling
hiding what profile she had (she had none to spare), and her serviceable eye
brought to bear upon her occupation, on the window side of the room. What with
her flapping cap, and what with her unserviceable eye, she was quite partitioned
off from her Little Mother, whose seat was opposite the window. The tread and
shuffle of feet on the pavement of the yard had much diminished since the taking
of the Chair, the tide of Collegians having set strongly in the direction of
Harmony. Some few who had no music in their souls, or no money in their
pockets, dawdled about; and the old spectacle of the visitor-wife and the
depressed unseasoned prisoner still lingered in corners, as broken cobwebs and
such unsightly discomforts draggle in corners of other places. It was the quietest
time the College knew, saving the night hours when the Collegians took the
benefit of the act of sleep. The occasional rattle of applause upon the tables of
the Snuggery, denoted the successful termination of a morsel of Harmony; or the
responsive acceptance, by the united children, of some toast or sentiment
offered to them by their Father. Occasionally, a vocal strain more sonorous than
the generality informed the listener that some boastful bass was in blue water, or
in the hunting field, or with the reindeer, or on the mountain, or among the
heather; but the Marshal of the Marshalsea knew better, and had got him hard
and fast.
As Arthur Clennam moved to sit down by the side of Little Dorrit, she trembled so
that she had much ado to hold her needle. Clennam gently put his hand upon her
work, and said, 'Dear Little Dorrit, let me lay it down.'
She yielded it to him, and he put it aside. Her hands were then nervously
clasping together, but he took one of them. 'How seldom I have seen you lately,
Little Dorrit!'
'I have been busy, sir.'
'But I heard only to-day,' said Clennam, 'by mere accident, of your having been
with those good people close by me. Why not come to me, then?'
'I--I don't know. Or rather, I thought you might be busy too. You generally are
now, are you not?'
He saw her trembling little form and her downcast face, and the eyes that
drooped the moment they were raised to his--he saw them almost with as much
concern as tenderness.
'My child, your manner is so changed!'
The trembling was now quite beyond her control. Softly withdrawing her hand,
and laying it in her other hand, she sat before him with her head bent and her
whole form trembling.
'My own Little Dorrit,' said Clennam, compassionately.
She burst into tears. Maggy looked round of a sudden, and stared for at least a
minute; but did not interpose. Clennam waited some little while before he spoke