Little Dorrit HTML version
5. Family Affairs
As the city clocks struck nine on Monday morning, Mrs Clennam was wheeled by
Jeremiah Flintwinch of the cut-down aspect to her tall cabinet. When she had
unlocked and opened it, and had settled herself at its desk, Jeremiah withdrew--
as it might be, to hang himself more effectually--and her son appeared.
'Are you any better this morning, mother?'
She shook her head, with the same austere air of luxuriousness that she had
shown over-night when speaking of the weather.
'I shall never be better any more. It is well for me, Arthur, that I know it and can
Sitting with her hands laid separately upon the desk, and the tall cabinet towering
before her, she looked as if she were performing on a dumb church organ. Her
son thought so (it was an old thought with him), while he took his seat beside it.
She opened a drawer or two, looked over some business papers, and put them
back again. Her severe face had no thread of relaxation in it, by which any
explorer could have been guided to the gloomy labyrinth of her thoughts.
'Shall I speak of our affairs, mother? Are you inclined to enter upon business?'
'Am I inclined, Arthur? Rather, are you? Your father has been dead a year and
more. I have been at your disposal, and waiting your pleasure, ever since.'
'There was much to arrange before I could leave; and when I did leave, I
travelled a little for rest and relief.'
She turned her face towards him, as not having heard or understood his last
words. 'For rest and relief.'
She glanced round the sombre room, and appeared from the motion of her lips to
repeat the words to herself, as calling it to witness how little of either it afforded
'Besides, mother, you being sole executrix, and having the direction and
management of the estate, there remained little business, or I might say none,
that I could transact, until you had had time to arrange matters to your
'The accounts are made out,' she returned. 'I have them here. The vouchers
have all been examined and passed. You can inspect them when you like,
Arthur; now, if you please.'
'It is quite enough, mother, to know that the business is completed. Shall I
'Why not?' she said, in her frozen way.
'Mother, our House has done less and less for some years past, and our dealings
have been progressively on the decline. We have never shown much confidence,
or invited much; we have attached no people to us; the track we have kept is not
the track of the time; and we have been left far behind. I need not dwell on this to
you, mother. You know it necessarily.'
'I know what you mean,' she answered, in a qualified tone. 'Even this old house
in which we speak,' pursued her son, 'is an instance of what I say. In my father's
earlier time, and in his uncle's time before him, it was a place of business--really