Little Dorrit HTML version

4. Mrs Flintwinch has a Dream
When Mrs Flintwinch dreamed, she usually dreamed, unlike the son of her old
mistress, with her eyes shut. She had a curiously vivid dream that night, and
before she had left the son of her old mistress many hours. In fact it was not at all
like a dream; it was so very real in every respect. It happened in this wise.
The bed-chamber occupied by Mr and Mrs Flintwinch was within a few paces of
that to which Mrs Clennam had been so long confined. It was not on the same
floor, for it was a room at the side of the house, which was approached by a
steep descent of a few odd steps, diverging from the main staircase nearly
opposite to Mrs Clennam's door. It could scarcely be said to be within call, the
walls, doors, and panelling of the old place were so cumbrous; but it was within
easy reach, in any undress, at any hour of the night, in any temperature. At the
head of the bed and within a foot of Mrs Flintwinch's ear, was a bell, the line of
which hung ready to Mrs Clennam's hand. Whenever this bell rang, up started
Affery, and was in the sick room before she was awake.
Having got her mistress into bed, lighted her lamp, and given her good night, Mrs
Flintwinch went to roost as usual, saving that her lord had not yet appeared. It
was her lord himself who became-- unlike the last theme in the mind, according
to the observation of most philosophers--the subject of Mrs Flintwinch's dream. It
seemed to her that she awoke after sleeping some hours, and found Jeremiah
not yet abed. That she looked at the candle she had left burning, and, measuring
the time like King Alfred the Great, was confirmed by its wasted state in her belief
that she had been asleep for some considerable period. That she arose
thereupon, muffled herself up in a wrapper, put on her shoes, and went out on
the staircase, much surprised, to look for Jeremiah.
The staircase was as wooden and solid as need be, and Affery went straight
down it without any of those deviations peculiar to dreams. She did not skim over
it, but walked down it, and guided herself by the banisters on account of her
candle having died out. In one corner of the hall, behind the house-door, there
was a little waiting-room, like a well-shaft, with a long narrow window in it as if it
had been ripped up. In this room, which was never used, a light was burning.
Mrs Flintwinch crossed the hall, feeling its pavement cold to her stockingless
feet, and peeped in between the rusty hinges on the door, which stood a little
open. She expected to see Jeremiah fast asleep or in a fit, but he was calmly
seated in a chair, awake, and in his usual health. But what--hey?--Lord forgive
us!--Mrs Flintwinch muttered some ejaculation to this effect, and turned giddy.
For, Mr Flintwinch awake, was watching Mr Flintwinch asleep. He sat on one side
of the small table, looking keenly at himself on the other side with his chin sunk
on his breast, snoring. The waking Flintwinch had his full front face presented to
his wife; the sleeping Flintwinch was in profile. The waking Flintwinch was the old
original; the sleeping Flintwinch was the double. just as she might have
distinguished between a tangible object and its reflection in a glass, Affery made
out this difference with her head going round and round.