And thus ever, by day and night, under the sun and under the stars, climbing the dusty hills and toiling along the weary plains, journeying by land and journeying by sea, coming and going so strangely, to meet and to act and react on one another, move all we restless travellers through the pilgrimage of life.

28 Dec 2015

My chapter by chapter summary of the second half of Charles Dickens' masterpiece: Little Dorrit.
  1. Chapter 1 - Fellow Travelers
  2. Chapter 2 - Mrs General
  3. Chapter 3 - On the road
  4. Chapter 4 - A Letter from Little Dorrit
  5. Chapter 5 - Something Wrong Somewhere
  6. Chapter 6 - Something Right Somewhere
  7. Chapter 7 - Mostly, Prunes and Prism
  8. Chapter 8 - The Dowager Mrs Gowan is reminded that 'It Never Does'
  9. Chapter 9 - Appearance and Dissapearance
  10. Chapter 10 - The Dreams of Mrs. Flintwinch Thicken
  11. Chapter 11 - A Letter from Little Dorrit
  12. Chapter 12 - In which a Great Patriotic Conference is holden
  13. Chapter 13 - The Progress of an Epidemic
  14. Chapter 14 - Taking Advice
  15. Chapter 15 - No just Cause or Impediment why these Two Persons Should not be joined together
  16. Chapter 16 - Getting On
  17. Chapter 17 - Missing
  18. Chapter 18 - A Castle in the Air
  19. Chapter 19 - The Storming of the Castle in the Air
  20. Chapter 20 - Introduces the next
Chapter 1 - Fellow Travelers-- 28 Oct 2007

Book two begins in much the same way as book one. A group of travelers have taken a journey and are stopping for the evening at a convent at the top of a mountain. There appear to be three distinct groups of people, two traveling from France to Italy, and the other party going in the opposite direction. The route would appear to be popular during the more mild months of the year. However, winter is almost upon the convent and very few people travel there during the harsh winter season.

Describing how the view of the convent changes as seen from the valley floor in the morning, to being at the walls as the sun sets:

Shining metal spires and church-roofs, distant and rarely seen, had sparkled in the view; ... Mountain-peaks of great celebrity in the valleys, whence no trace of their existence was visible sometimes for months together, had been since morning plain and near in the blue sky. And now, when it was dark below, though they seemed solemnly to recede, like spectres who were going to vanish, as the red dye of the sunset faded out of them and left them coldly white, they were yet distinctly defined in their loneliness above the mists and shadows. Seen from these solitudes ... the ascending Night came up the mountain like a rising water. When it at last rose to the walls of the convent of the Great Saint Bernard, it was as if that weather-beaten structure were another Ark, and floated on the shadowy waves.
After they are ushered inside and shown to a sitting room to await dinner, one of the members attempts to make some conversation with a female member of the other party, but little progress is made. The various groups don't appear particularly interested in talking. What little is said are mostly polite insults. The manner of speech of certain members of each party and the mannerisms of some of the characters was very reminiscent of characters from the first part of the book. However, Dickens is very careful not to name names. He calls them by names that are descriptive of their actions currently, such as "the Chief", "the insinuating traveler", "the lady", "the artist traveler", etc.. Only Mrs General is named by name, and I don't believe we've met her before.

During dinner, one of the females (who has just recently been married) passes out and is taken to her room by her husband. After dinner, a shy young woman (whom I guess to be Little Dorrit) goes to the room to visit her. She is sleeping, and the young woman remarks, "She is very pretty ... It was a curious thing to say, but it had some hidden meaning, for it filled her eyes with tears". After gently waking her up, the young bride says she is feeling better and is surprised when the other young woman announces that she has a message to deliver. The young woman delivers the message (which takes the form of a short letter). After the bride reads it, she hands it back to the young woman and asks her to tell her caller, "say I was very well and very happy. And that I thanked him affectionately, and would never forget him".

Upon leaving the room, the young woman is met by one of the other travelers. One who is very polite and kind, but for some reason she has an immediate aversion to him. As the chapter draws to a close, we see this last traveler sign his name on the guestbook. The travelers listed are:
The Dorrit family:

The young married couple: And finally, the mysterious traveler who was politely rude to some of the gentleman (most likely Edward and/or Henry), and who also creeped out Amy:
Chapter 2 - Mrs General-- 09 Mar 2010

This chapter introduces us to Mrs General - "the daughter of a clerical dignity" who married late in life to an older man. When he passed away, she found he had left her nothing. As a result, she advertised herself as a woman who could nurture a young woman through the social mazes. She must have been a force to be reckoned with, because the agency couldn't wait to be rid of her and advertised her as "a prodigy of piety, learning, virtue, and gentility".

She eventually found a young 14yo girl whom she helped to cultivate and eventually marry off. No sooner was she married than the young woman found Mrs General "both inconvenient and expensive", and immediately advertised her with such high praise that nobody could possibly not want to hire her.

Naturally, this is where Mr Dorrit and Mrs General's paths cross. He is looking for someone to tutor his daughters in the way of high society and she seems the perfect fit. Mrs General accepts the position on one condition: "on terms of perfect equality, as a companion, protector, Mentor, and friend."

"Msr General had no opinions. Her way of forming a mind was to prevent it from forming opinions." Similarly, she couldn't dismiss the fact that there were improprieties in the world, but she did her best to ignore them and encouraged others to do so as well.

This does NOT bode well for poor little Amy. I just don't see these two getting along at all

Chapter 3 - On the road-- 07 Aug 2013

Amy's sister is upset with her. Her father listens for a bit and offers some wisdom to try and settle the debate:

It is incumbent upon all people in an exalted position, but it is particularly so on this family, for reasons which I - ha - will not dwell upon, to make themselves respected. To be vigilant in making themselves respected. Dependents, to respect us, must be - ha - kept at a distance and -hum - kept down. Down. Therefore, your not exposing yourself to the remarks of our attendants by appearing to have at any time dispensed with their services and performed them for yourself, is - ha - highly important.
Ouch. A bit harsh, especially considering Amy was just trying to help someone. But poor Amy is only a girl born in a prison and doesn't understand such things ...

After this discussion, the family (or rather the family servants) pack up, and they leave the convent, heading down into the valley. As they arrive in town, they are told that a woman is dining in one of their rooms and will be done shortly. The innkeeper apologizes profusely, but Mr. Dorrit is greatly offended and practically rips the man's head off and is preparing to leave and never darken the door of the establishment again. He is far too important to be treated this way. Just then the woman comes out and apologizes personally to Mr. Dorrit and he - seeing as she is a woman of class - graciously accepts and life goes on.

The next day as they are again traveling, Amy feels as if this is all a wonderful dream and that she is going to wake up back at the Marshalsea prison. She's sad and feels out of place. Her father no longer allows her to wait on him (as it is unbecoming of a lady), and she has no one else to care for. She begins to spend her days quietly musing about how the only reality is the prison and the people she knew there.

Chapter 4 - A Letter from Little Dorrit-- 07 Aug 2013

Amy pens a letter to Mr. Clennam. She passes along the message from Mrs. Gowan and then informs him how she misses everyone from her old life. Especially Maggy. But she insists that it's best that no one write back to her.

I'm starting to think Amy was much happier in her old life. If she wasn't such a timid girl I wonder if she might not rebel at how different her father has become.

In the letter, Amy really opens up and is pouring her heart out. She shares how she misses everyone, and keeps expecting it to all be a dream. Then of Mr. Clennam she entreats:

I have been afraid that you may think of me in a new light, or a new character. Don't do that, I could not bear that ... never think of me as the daughter of a rich person; that you will never think of me as dressing any better, or living any better, than when you first knew me. That you will remember me only as the little shabby girl you protected with so much tenderness.
Chapter 5 - Something Wrong Somewhere-- 28 Aug 2013

After residing in Venice for a month or two, Mr. Dorrit calls for a meeting with Mrs. General. He asks her if she notices a difference between Fanny and Amy. Her response:

'Fanny,', returned Mrs General, 'has force of character and self-reliance. Amy, none
Rather than tell Mrs General of all the sacrifice and hard work Amy has done (on his behalf) while he was in prison, he simply replies with "True, madam". Way to go, dad... He does at least admit to Mrs General that even though Amy vexes his thoughts, she is his favorite. However, he is worried something is wrong with her. She doesn't share his tastes and doesn't like to go out with them (the family). What is Mr. Dorrit to do? At this point Mrs. General actually has some good advice: Talk to her yourself and tell her this. He agrees and immediately sends for her.

Sadly Mr. Dorrit is unable to say anything nice. His sentiment: 'Amy, you are a disappointment. You don't act as someone becoming your station in life. Get over it and act like the rest of us'. To which Amy meekly replies: "I hope I shall do better soon." Mrs. General chimes in with her own bit of advice:

May I take this opportunity of remarking, as an instance in point, that it is scarcely delicate to look at vagrants with the attention which I have seen bestowed upon them by a very dear young friend of mine? They should not be looked at. Nothing disagreeable should ever be looked at. Apart from such a habit standing in the way of that graceful equanimity of surface which is so expressive of good breeding, it hardly seems compatible with refinement of mind. A truly refined mind will seem to be ignorant of the existence of anything that is not perfectly proper, placid, and pleasant.
Amy is sad and can sense that her father is unhappy. She wishes to comfort him like old times, but knows she can't. He finally blurts out: 'Amy, you hurt me.' He says her sister and brother have adapted and do nothing to remind him of the prison, but that Amy - with her sadness and remorse is constantly reminding him of the Marshalsea. He rants that he is doing this for her, his favorite child. He wants the best for her. Too bad he's so poor at expressing it.

All of this before breakfast. During breakfast Amy expresses that she wishes to go visit the Gowans. After some debate of whether the Gowans are worthy of a visit, Mr. Dorrit (on the advice of Mrs. General) agrees. Mainly because Edward says the Gowans keep highly respected visitors. After Amy leaves, Mr. Dorrit, his other two children, and his brother are in the room. His brother bursts into a rage against Amy's father telling him how cruel he's being to her. Finall someone with some sense!

'To the winds with the family credit!' cried the old man, with great scorn and indignation. 'Brother, I protest against pride. I protest against ingratitude. I protest against any one of us here who have known what we have known, and have seen what we have seen, setting up any pretension that puts Amy at a moment's disadvantage, or to the cost of a moment's pain. We may know that it's a base pretension by its having that effect. It ought to bring a judgment on us. Brother, I protest against it in the sight of God!'
Chapter 6 - Something Right Somewhere-- 28 Aug 2013

Mr. Gowan is described as a very splenetic (grouchy, disagreeable) fellow. As he is traveling with Blandois in Venice, he can't decide if he likes or hates the man. Since his wife Minnie seems to dislike him, he naturally takes a liking to him and decides to encourage Blandois. With this backdrop, we now switch to Amy and Fanny paying a visit to Mrs. Gowan (remember, both the Dorrits and Gowans are in Venice right now). No one can paint a picture quite like Dickens. When describing the residence of Minnie, he states:

The house, on a little desert island, looked as if it had broken away from somewhere else, and had floated by chance into its present anchorage in company with a vince almost as much in want of training as the poor wretches who were lying under its leaves. The features of the surrounding picture were, a church with hoarding and scaffolding about it, which had been under suppositious repair so long that the means of repair looked a hundred years old, and had themselves fallen into decay; a quantity of washed linen, spread to dry in the sun; a number of houses at odds with one another and grotesquely out of the perpendicular, like rotten pre-Adamite cheese cut into fantastic shapes and full of mites; and a feverish bewilderment of windows, with their lattice-blinds all hanging askew, and something dragged and dirty dangling out of most of them ... On the first-floor of the house was a Bank ... Below the Bank was a suite of three or four rooms with barred windows, which had the appearance of a jail for criminal rats. Above the Bank was Mrs. Gowan's residence.
They enter, exchange pleasantries with Minnie and then are shown in to see Mr. Gowan - who, as it happens, is painting someone. And the model? None of that Mr. Blandois! And also in the painting is "Lion", a large St. Bernard. The dog notices Blandois looking at Amy and begins to grown. Blandois rushes out, Gowan beats the dog, and Fanny screams.

The sisters leave. As their boat makes its way home, another gondola starts following them. It's "Young Sparkler" - a hopeful caller of Fanny's. Fanny reveals to Amy that she plans to use Sparkler because she detests his mother due to the fact that his mother looked down on the Dorrit family while they were in the Marshalsea prison. Amy wisely holds her tongue. Oh ... Sparkler is the son of the Merdle's (I think?)

Sparkler comes to dinner that night and is pleasantly received. He tells Mr. Dorrit that Mr. Gowan is accepting jobs to paint. Mr. Dorrit says he'd like his portrait - and if it's good, his whole family. We then get an excellent line from the mind of young Sparkler. He wants to pay Fanny a compliment:

[An] exquisitely bold and original thought presented itself to Mr. Sparkler, that there was an opening here for saying there were some of the family (emphasising 'some' in a marked manner) to whom no painter could render justice. But for want of a form of words in which to express the idea, it returned to the skies.
To finish the evening (and the chapter), the Dorrit's go with Sparkler to the opera. Afterwards, Blandois comes up to Amy outside and informs her (quietly) that the dog Lion is dead - it had been poisoned. Was it Blandois or Gowan?
Chapter 7 - Mostly, Prunes and Prism-- 27 Sep 2013

The chapter begins with Little Dorrit dutifully submitting to Mrs. Generals tutelage and showing almost puppy-like devotion to her sister Fanny. Fanny confides in Amy (in a condescending manner as always) that she believes Mrs. General has designs on their father. And "pa" is so taken with Mrs. General as a paragon of society that he's ready to fall in love. In other words - General is a gold digger! I hadn't considered that, but it makes sense. Fanny seems to have some good insight for once!

Mr. Dorrit asks Blandois to inform Mr. Gowan he wishes his portrait painted. Gowan is offended - "Why should I take patronage?" However, he soon realizes he must eat, and so he agrees. Mr. Gowan says he will begin once they both get to Rome. You know - so as not to be rushed. Mr. Gowan skillfully worms his way into dinner invitations and thus gets his foot in the door of the Dorrit family. I wonder where he thinks this will lead (another gold digger perhaps).

Meanwhile, Little Dorrit and Mrs. Gowan find a sisterhood in their dislike of Blandois:

They had a new assurance of congeniality in the aversion which each perceived that the other felt towards Blandois of Paris; an aversion amounting to the repugnance and horror of a natural antipathy towards an odious creature of the reptile kind.
Mrs. Gowan whispers to Amy: "Blandois killed the dog". Amy agrees. Sadly no one else will think ill of Blandois.

Finally, Amy remarks that the coming and going of so many members of society (into and out of the Dorrit household) has a remarkable resemblance to life in the Marshalsea prison. People come and go, act polite, and yet never really want to be there.

Chapter 8 - The Dowager Mrs Gowan is reminded that 'It Never Does'-- 27 Sep 2013

The chapter opens with partners in business Daniel Doyce and Mr. Clennam meeting at the bleeding heart yard. Clennam asks Doyce to explain his invention. He does so. In fact, he does it so thoroughly that it takes him several days to get through his explanation. But alas, he has failed to realize it and the Circumlocution Office has beaten him down. Mr. Clennam, however, is young and full of energy and is ready to give the invention a go.

So Arthur [Clennam] resume the long and hopeless labour of striving to make way with the Circumlocution Office. ... he was resolved to stick to the Great Department; and so the work of form-filling, corresponding, minuting, memorandum-making, signing, counter-signing, counter-counter-signing, referring backwards and forwards, and referring sideways, crosswise, and zig-zag, recommenced.
We then switch to Mrs. Gowan paying a visit to the Meagles to talk about their married children Henry & Pet. Although everyone is outwardly polite, their dialog is harsh and full of innuendo. It's obvious they don't get along. I'm not sure what the purpose of the meeting was - other than to establish that the in-laws dislike each other.
Chapter 9 - Appearance and Dissapearance-- 27 Sep 2013

The Meagles inform Arthur that they are leaving the country for a while in order to avoid problems with their new in-laws. Who can blame them after their last meeting? They're going to go visit Pet and their son-in-law. And so they leave.

Arthur visits their home now and again to check on things. On one of his visits, Mrs. Tickit (the Meagle's housekeeper) tells Arthur she thought she saw Tattycoram watching the house. But she was very tired at the time and when she went outside to verify, Tattycoram was nowhere to be seen. Arthur dismisses the story until, on his way home, he also sees Tattycoram. She is accompanied by a shady looking fellow. Arthur decides to follow them (discreetly). After a time they meet someone - a Miss Wade (you may recall that she has appeared in book 1 in chapters 2, 16, and 27. She has met Tatty and seems to be haughty and cruel and have some dark purpose). Arthur overhears a partial conversation that makes no sense to him. Miss Wade is evidently paying the man for something. He asks for money and she says she'll have some by morning. The man leaves alone, after which Tatty and Miss Wade move on together - followed by Arthur.

To the surprise of Arthur, they enter the house of Flora (whom Arthur knows - his old childhood sweetheard). He follows them in and meets with Flora. They are not with her, so he assumes they must be downstairs with Mr Casby (Flora's landlord). Flora rattles on, never taking a breath and never letting Arthur get in a word edgewise. Finally Arthur manages to ask about the other guests. She takes him downstairs to see Mr. Casby. Unfortunately, they have already left, and Mr. Casby doesn't know where they've gone or where they're staying, saying only that Miss Wade tends to travel quite a bit.

Arthur then goes to visit Pancks (who collects rent for Mr. Casby). Arthur asks if Pancks knows where Miss Wade is or if Mr. Casby knows more than he's saying. Pancks only knows that Casby knows more than he's teeling, and that he gave Miss Wade some money tonight. He also shares his thoughts of her character:

She writhes under her life. A woman more angry, passionate, reckless, and revengeful never lived.
Chapter 10 - The Dreams of Mrs. Flintwinch Thicken-- 07 Mar 2014

Arthur decides to go visit his mother. As he enters the narrow street approaching the home, he is startled as another man passes. "Pardon me." It is none other than the man who had been talking to Miss Wade the other night. The man quickly rounds a corner. Arthur attempts to follow, but loses sight of the man. But the plot thickens! Arthur again spies the man. And he's knocking on Arthur's mother's door.

Arthur lost no time in also going to the door to confront the man. When the door opens, his mother calls them both up. The stranger is Blandois! Somehow i'm not surprised.

Arthur tells Blandois: "If I were the master of this house, I would waste no time in placing you on the outside of it!" Arthur's mother apologizes and waits for Mr. Flintwinch to arrive, as the business with Mr. Blandois concerns him. When Flintwinch arrives, Blandois gives him a hug...

The amazement, suspicion, resentment, and shame, with which Arthur looked on at all this, struck him dumb.
Arthur's mother dismisses him, and he reluctantly leaves. Ouch.
Chapter 11 - A Letter from Little Dorrit-- 07 Mar 2014

Amy lets Mr. Clennam know that Mrs. Gowan (Minnie) feels very lonely. Also (big shock here) - Mr. Gowan isn't much of a painter.

On account of Mr Gowan's painting Papa's picture (which I am not quite convinced I should have known from the lineness if I had not seem him doing it)...
In fact, this is as close as I've ever seen Amy come to saying something bad about someone:
Mr Gowan's unsettled and dissatisfied way, he applies himself to his profession very little. He does nothing steadily or patiently; but equally takes things up and throws them down, and does them, or leaves them undone, without caring about them.
It turns out that Mrs. Gowan just had a child. And her parents (the Meagles) are visiting. Mr. Meagles doesn't like Mr. Gowan but is trying his best to be civil.

In the letter, Amy then moves on to discuss herself and their family trip so far. She tells Arthur that even though the family fortunes have changed, she still dreams of herself as a poor girl in the prison - and she misses her home.

So dearly do I love the scene of my poverty and your kindness. O so dearly, O so dearly.
Chapter 12 - In which a Great Patriotic Conference is holden-- 16 Mar 2014

The name of Merdle becomes more famous by the day. And why is this? It's not because he's ever helped or inspired anymore. But simply because he managed to amass a great deal of wealth. And owing to his fame, he begins to throw lavish dinner parties. One in particular is the subject of this chapter. It includes several Barnacles (of Cicumlocution Office fame). As Mr. Merdle awaits his guests' arrival:

Mr. Merdle's right hand was filled with the evening paper, and the evening paper was full of Mr. Merdle. His wonderful enterprise, his wonderful wealth, his wonderful Bank, were the fattening food of the evening paper that night. The wonderful Bank, of which he was the chief projector, establisher, and manager, was the latest of the many Merdle wonders. So modest was Mr. Merdle withal, in the midst of these splendid achievements, that he looked far more like a man in possession of his house under a distraint [seizure of someone's property in order to obtain payment], than a commercial Colossus bestriding his own hearthrug, which the little ships were sailing into dinner.
Dickens really shines here. He goes on at length describing the guests and their interactions and maneuverings around each other. His sentences run on for a page or more and do their best to confuse and exhaust the reader - thus serving to show the general state of things at the party prior to dinner having actually begun.

Dinner finally does begin, and we see how it is a reflection of Mr. Merdle. All show and no substance.
It was a dinner to provoke an appetite, though he has not had one. The rarest dishes, sumptiously cooked and sumptiously served; the choicest fruits; the most exquisite wines; marvels of workmanship in gold and silver, china and glass; innumerable things delicious to the senses of taste, smell, and sight, were insinuated into its composition. O, what a wonderful man this Merdle, what a great man, what a master man, how blessedly and enviably endowed - in one word, what a rich man! He took his usual poor eighteenpennyworth of food in his usual indigestive way, and had as little to say for himself as ever a wonderful man had.
Lord Decimus (one of the newest additions to the Barnacle/Circumlocution office) then asks a very interesting question over the dinner table. 'Tell me about Mr. Dorrit'. After some humming and hawing, the gist of the response is that Mr. Dorrit took out a loan, defaulted, and went to debtors prison. Then many years later, a 'fairy' endowed him with a huge sum of money and Mr. Dorrit had the audacity to want to pay off his debt after so many years. But you can be proud - the Cimcumlocution office buried him under paperwork and it was an impressive sight to see! Finally after six months and many thousands of documents later, all the details were finalized and the debt was paid. (Thus showing the great need for a Circumlocution office to exist).

Mr. Merdle then says Mr. Dorrit has two daughters, and that his wife knows the Dorrit's, and that Mr. Sparkler (Mr. Merdle's his son-in-law) has been smitten by Amy's older sister. I feel that the Barnacles will now try to use this to their advantage and get their hooks into the Dorrits.
A kind of analogical illustration of those physical laws, in virtue of which Like flies to Like. He regarded this power of attraction in wealth to draw wealth to it, as something remarkably interesting and curious - something indefinably allied to the loadstone and gravitation ... it was indeed highly important to Society that one in the trying situation of unexpectedly finding himself invested with a power for good or for evil in Society, should become, as it were, merged in the superior power of a more legitimate and more gigantic growth, the influence of which (as in the case of our friend at whose board we sat) was habitually exercised in harmony with the best interests of Society.
Three hours later, everyone at the dinner party is getting anxious. The whole point of the party (every well knew) was so that Lord Decimus and Mr. Merdle could converse. But neither party seemed willing to approach the other, and every attempt by the guests to gently nudge them together had so far been rebuffed.
They were still looming at opposite ends of the perspective, each with an absurd pretence of not having the other on his mind, which could not have been more transparently ridiculous though his real mind had been chalked on his back.
Finally, after contriving a means to get them alone in the same room, everyone at the party heaves a collective sigh of relief.
And now the rest of the company, highly excited and interested formed in one group round the fire in the next drawing-room, and pretended to be chatting easily on the infinite variety of small topics, while everybody's thoughts and eyes were secretly straying towards the secluded pair.
Finally the party wraps up and (I just love this visual) as the guests leave, hoping for a hint of the conversations result, "Merdle, as usual, oozed sluggishly and muddily about his drawing-room, saying never a word." A few days later it is announced that Edmund Sparkler (remember, Mr. Merdle's son in law) has been named as a Lord of the Circumlocution Office! And thus another web has been woven with hopes of catching Mr. Dorrit (and, more the point, his money).
Chapter 13 - The Progress of an Epidemic-- 23 Aug 2014

The name of Merdle spreads far and wide: "Nobody, as aforesaid, knew what he had done; but everybody knew him to be the greatest that had appeared."

Switching gears to Mr. Pancks collecting the rent and then visiting the shop of the Plornish's (who would make a good profit with their store if only their patrons would pay for the things they "purchased"). Suddenly Mr. Baptist arrives. He's very agitated, and says he has just seen someone. A very bad man. But he refuses to say who it is or why he's frightened. But it's a party at the Plornish's store. Next Mr. Clennam arrives after a long day at the Circumlocution Office and announces he has a letter from Amy. Maggie (who works for the Plornish's now) is very excited at this news.

Arthur and Mr. Pancks leave together to go have supper at Arthur's home. On the way, Pancks brings up Baptist's strange behavior and asks Arthur to talk to Baptist about the matter. After a short conversation, Pancks turns to the subject of Mr. Merdle and investments. He says he's "done the calculation" and that it works out.

In those moments, Mr. Pancks began to give out the dangerous infection with which he was laden. It is the manner of communicating these diseases; it is the subtle way in which they go about ... "I tell you, Mr. Clennam, I've gone into it," said Pancks. "He's a man of immense resources - enormous capital - government influence. They're the best schemes afloat. They're safe. They're certain" ... Of whom Mr. Pancks had taken the prevalent disease, he could no more have told than if he had unconsciously taken a fever. Bred at first, as many physical diseases are, in the wickedness of men, and then disseminated in their ignorance, these epidemics, after a period, get communicated to many sufferers who are neither ignorant nor wicked. Mr Pancks might, or might not, have caught the illness himself from a subject of this class; but in this category he appeared before Clennam, and the infection he threw off was all the more virulent.
Arthur then relates the interview he recently had with his mother. To which Pancks simply states: 'Invest. Get rich. Take care of your own.' Why do I feel a grave misgiving about investing with Mr. Merdle? Arthur wisely asks: "What if it doesn't work out?"
"Can't be done, sir", returned Pancks. "I have looked into it. Name up everywhere - immense resources - enormous capital - great position - high connection - government influence. Can't be done!"
After Pancks leaves, Arthur muses about what he's heard.
Wherever he went, he saw, or heard, or touched, the celebrated name of Merdle; he found it difficult even to remain at his desk a couple of hours, without having it presented to one of his bodily senses through some agency or other. He began to think it was curious too that it should be everywhere, and that nobody but he should seem to have any mistrust of it ... Such symptoms, when a disease of the kind is rife, are usually the signs of sickening.
Chapter 14 - Taking Advice-- 23 Aug 2014

Fanny comes home in a bad mood. When Amy tries to console her, Fanny starts throwing insults like the loving sister we know her to be.

'Dear Fanny, what is the matter? Tell me.' 'Matter, you little Mold,' said Fanny 'If you were not the blindest of the blind, you would have no occasion to ask me. The idea of daring to pretend to assert that you have eyes in your head, and yet ask me what's the matter!' ... Poor Little Dorrit, not seeing her way to the offering of any soothing words that would escape repudiation, deemed it best to remain quiet.
After calming down, Fanny decides to ask Amy for some advice. Shocking? Not really, for she goes on to say how even though the family is wealthy, none but herself has any proper social graces and she is in a quandary of trying to decide if she wants to "carry the family through". Fanny confides that she may very well marry Mr. Sparkler for no other reason than to torment his mother.
Thenceforward, Amy observed Mr. Sparkler's treatment by his enslaver [Fanny], with new reasons for attaching importance to all that passed between them ... he had no greater will of his own than a boat has when it is towed by a steam-ship; and he followed his cruel mistress through rough and smooth, on equally strong compulsion.
A few weeks later, they are engaged.
Chapter 15 - No just Cause or Impediment why these Two Persons Should not be joined together-- 27 Aug 2014

When Mr. Dorrit learns of the engagement, he is very pleased. Mainly because it furthers the Dorrit family name to have Fanny attached to the Merdle's.

To sum the whole up shortly, he received Mr Sparkler's offer very much as he would have received three or four half-crowns from him in the days that were gone.
He speaks to Mrs. Merdle to make sure she approves. She is "charmed". He then corresponds with Mr. Merdle and fins that he also approves of the marriage of his son Edmund.

Mr. Dorrit then tells Fanny it is time to announce the engagement to Mrs. General. However, Fanny doesn't want anything to do with her. And in fact, gets into a heated exchange with her father, who seems quite taken aback with Fanny's response. Mr. Dorrit insists and summons Mrs. General immediately. I can only assume that this supports Fanny's theory that Mr. Dorrit is quite taken with Mrs. General. Does he wish Mrs. General's approval of the marriage? It seems that a union between Mr. Dorrit and Mrs. General may not be far off.

Mrs. General offers congratulations. Fanny is relieved that there were no objections, and leaves the room with a backhanded compliment to Mrs. General:
I hope you will always approve of my proceedings after I have left home and that my sister also may long remain the favoured object of your condescension, Mrs. General.
Now the questions of where and when to get married must be addressed. Fanny asks Amy her opinion. Should she get married now, where they are, or wait a few months and get married back in England in the spring? Both seem to have political and "societal" pros and cons in Fanny's mind. She's more interested in how this can benefit her best socially, rather than what would make her fiancé most happy. Amy suggests waiting, which of course Fanny thinks is the wrong answer. I'm sure had Amy suggested they get married now Fanny would still have objected. It's funny seeing the Fanny/Amy interaction.

Fanny then insists that if 'Pa' tells Amy he is considering marrying Mrs. General that Amy must object (since Fanny won't be there to do it). Fanny knows that Amy won't do it with any conviction because Amy never stands up to her father and wouldn't dream of disagreeing with him on anything. So she settles with hoping that Amy will at least mention that Fanny objects.
Little Dorrit received this counsel without venturing to oppose it but without giving Fanny any reason to believe that she intended to act upon it.
Dickens goes on for two pages about the over-the-top wedding preparations. Afterwards, Amy is near her father, feeling sad, and longing for days when she could comfort him. But now he has servants to take care of any need he has, and he doesn't seem to be in need of anything. Seeing Amy nearby, and oblivious to the reason for her feelings (thinking she is perhaps sad that she's not getting married), he says:
Your dear sister, our Fanny, has contracted ha hum - a marriage, eminently calculated to extend the basis of our - ha - connection, and to - hum - consolidate our social relations. My love, I trust that the time is not far distant when some - ha - eligible partner may be found for you.
She objects. He insists. This only serves to worsen her sadness, loneliness, and isolation.
If the thought ever entered Little Dorrit's head that night, that he could give her up lightly now in his prosperity, and when he had it in his mind to replace her with a second wife, she drove it away. Faithful to him still, as in the worst times through which she had borne him single-handed, she drove the thought away; and entertained no harder reflection, in her tearful unrest, than that he now saw everything through their wealth.
Chapter 16 - Getting On-- 16 Sep 2014

"As nations are made to be taxed, so families are made to be butlered".

The newly married couple arrives in London. The new Mrs. Sparkler (Fanny) makes a point of outdoing Mrs. Merdle in the wealth department by bestowing a lavish gift of clothing and jewelry on her maid. She is quite pleased with herself. I can tell this civil catfight between Fanny and her new mother-in-law is going to be an ongoing concern for the remainder of the story.

After their arrival, Mr. Merdle takes a carriage to the hotel where Mr. Dorrit is staying and pays him a visit.

That you should - ha - at this early hour, bestow any of your priceless time up on me, is - ha - a compliment that I acknowledge with the greatest esteem.
The two men congratulate each other on a fine union and Mr. Merdle offers to help Mr. Dorrit with any financial matters he may have with his newfound wealth. (Hmmmm! Should we be nervous?)

The meeting is odd. Mr. Merdle seems distracted. Sick. Almost like he's showing signs of delusion (extreme stress maybe)? He keeps licking his lips and staring into space, jumping at shadows, and feeling generally irritable. Despite this, his manners are impeccable. Mr. Dorrit, for his part, is pleased to no end about the prospect of free financial advice from Mr. Merdle himself.

During dinner, Fanny continues her efforts to climb the social ladder:
And Mr. Dorrit's daughter that day began, in earnest, her competition with that woman not present; and began it so well that Mr. Dorrit could all but have taken his affidavit, if required, that Mrs. Sparkler had all her life been lying at full length in the lap of luxury and had never heard of such a rough word in the English tongue as Marshalsea.
Mr. Dorrit is receiving a lot of attention for being so close to Mr. Merdle. I think this could come back to haunt him later on (if/when Mr. Merdle's affairs all come crashing down).
Chapter 17 - Missing-- 16 Sep 2014

We begin with a surprise visit by Flora - who comes to see Mr. Dorrit. Just to remind you: Flora was once Arthur's sweetheart (and was semi-recently widowed when her husband passed away). She also has a tendency to construct the most amazingly confusing sentences.

I beg Mr Dorrit to offer a thousand apologies and indeed they would be far too few for such an intrusion which I know must appear extremely bold in a lady and alone too, but I thought it best upon the whole however difficult and even apparently improper though Mr F.'s Aunt would have willingly accompanied me and as a character of great force and spirit would probably have struck one possessed of such a knowledge of life as no doubt with so many changes must have been acquired, for Mr F himself said frequently that although well educated in the neighbourhood of Blackheath at as high as eighty guineas which is a good deal for parents and the plate kept back too on going away but that is more a meanness that its value that he had learnt more in his first years as a commercial traveller with a large commission on the sale of an article that nobody would hear of much less buy which preceded the wine trade a long time than in the whole six years in that academy conducted by a college Bachelor, though why a Bachelor more clever than a married man I do not see and never did but pray excuse me that is not the point.

Mr. Dorrit stood rooted to the carpet, a statue of mystification.
I also find myself in a state of mystification. What does she want? After another page and a half, Mr. Dorrit kindly (but firmly) interrupts her and asks: "Do me the favour to - ha - state your pleasure, madam." Another page and a half, ad we almost have her point: "To the foreigner from Italy who disappeared in the City as no doubt you have read in the papers." But it turns out Mr. Dorrit does NOT know of whom she speaks. We eventually learn that is it Mr. Blandois.

Mr. Dorrit agrees to seek him out on his return to Italy and is finally able to get Flora moving towards the door. And after she leaves, in a turn most unusual for him, Mr. Dorrit decides to visit Arthur's mother's house, which is the last known sighting of Mr. Blandois. Upon meeting with Mrs Clennam, he states his reason for the visit:
I wished to make myself acquainted with the circumstances at first-hand, because there is - ha - hum - an English gentleman in Italy whom I shall no doubt see on my return, who has been in habits of close and daily intimacy with Monsieur Blandois. Mr. Henry Gowan. You have know the name.
Upon inquiring if Mrs. Clennam knows why he disappeared or why he might want to: "No." Having nothing else to ask, and nothing else forthcoming, Mr. Dorrit takes his leave. After he arrives back home, we get a nice reference to Poe:
This did not make the night's adventure run any less hotly in Mr Dorrit's mind, either when he sad down by his fire again, or when he went to bed. All night he haunted the dismal house, saw the two people resolutely waiting, heard the woman with her apron over her face cry out about the noise, and found the body of the missing Blandois, now buried in the cellar, and now bricked up in a wall.
Chapter 18 - A Castle in the Air-- 27 Dec 2015

The next day, Mr. Dorrit is feeling very out of sorts because on his way back from the Clennam household he was tempted to visit the Marshalsea prison. He did not, but is confused and annoyed that he wanted to do so.

The Merdles throw a farewell banquet for the Dorrit family as Mr. Dorrit prepares to leave and Fanny prepares to stay behind with her new family. In parting, Mr. Dorrit tells Fanny:

'My dear,' he told her at parting, 'our family looks to you to -- ha -- assert its dignity and -- hum -- maintain its importance. I know you will never disappoint it.'
As Mr. Dorrit arrives back at his apartments, he is very surprised to see a visitor: "Young John" Chivery. He greets him cordially, but once alone, he seizes him by the collar and demands to know why he has come. Recall that young Mr. Chivery is the son of the turnkey at Marshalsea and had a "thing" for Amy. Combine this visit with Mr. Dorrit's feelings about the prison last night and it is quite understandable that he's upset.
Your coming here is an affront, an impertinence, an audacity. You are not wanted here.
It turns out he only wanted to give Mr. Dorrit a departing gift and ask after Amy. Mr. Dorrit feels ashamed and apologizes. He then makes a half-hearted attempt at small talk. Finally he writes a check for one hundred pounds to be divided among the Marshalsea poor. It's his way of trying to sooth his nerves and cover his confusion over his feelings for the Marshalsea prison.

Finally underway, Mr. Dorrit feels his spirits lighten the further he gets from Little John Chivery and the memories of the Marshalsea. He describes the foreign air as being lighter to breathe than the air in England.

It's quite clear now why Mr. Dorrit has chosen to do so much traveling. I think that he would never again visit England - with its reminders of the past - if he could help it.

As they arrive in Paris, he buys a lavish gift of jewelry. He doesn't mention who they are for, but Mrs. General comes to mind.

Oh, and to tie into the chapter title - on his journey, Mr. Dorrit passes the time (as they travel) by mentally creating, building, tearing down, and fixing up grand castles and structures.
Chapter 19 - The Storming of the Castle in the Air-- 27 Dec 2015

Mr. Dorrit returns to Rome. When he arrives, he seems Amy and his brother sitting by the fire and is suddenly reminded of the time when he was in prison and she and he would sit by the fire.

So had he sat many a night, over a coal fire far away; so had she sat, devoted to him. Yet surely there was nothing to be jealous of in the old miserable poverty. Whence, then, the pang in his heart?

She paused for an instant in her work to look at him, and her look revived that former pain in her father's breast; in his poor weak breast, so full of contradictions, vacillations, inconsistencies, the little peevish perplexities of this ignorant life, mists which the morning without a night only can clear away.
I wonder if he will ever realize that it's not his wealth that brings happiness, but his family. Especially Little Dorrit.

Although his brother is doing well and Mr. Dorrit is tired, in his mind, he projects his own infirmity upon his brother. In fact, he yells at his brother for looking ill and being tired and commands him to get some rest. All the while, Mr. Dorrit keeps dozing off in the middle of conversations, and then suddenly awakes unaware of what just happened. Clearly, he wishes that he was his brother - content with his station in life and happy to spend time with Amy not not worry about money or politics.

Finally alone, he sits down to supper with Amy:
She sat at his side as in the days that were gone, for the first time since those days ended. They were alone, and she helped him to his meat and poured out his drink for him, as she had been used to do in the prison. All this happened now, for the first tie since their accession to wealth. She was afraid to look at him much, after the offence he had taken; but she noticed two occasions in the course of his meal, when he all of a sudden looked at her, and looked about him, as if the association were so strong that he needed assurance from his sense of sight that they were not in the old prison-room.
The next day at a family dinner, Mr. Dorrit keeps falling asleep for a moment and then waking up. No one comments - except Mr. Dorrit himself. And he simply complains of his his brothers health must be declining fast.

The next day the Dorrits have dinner at the Merdle residence. While there, Mr. Dorrit takes very ill, and in fact thinks he's back at the prison.
'Amy, my dear,' he repeated. 'Will you go and see if Bob is on the lock?' ... 'Amy, Amy. I don't feel quite myself. Ha. I don't know what's the matter with me. I particularly wish to see Bob. Ha. Of all the turnkeys, he's as much my friend as yours. See if Bob is in the lodge, and beg him to come to me.' All the guests were now in consternation, and everybody rose ... He looked confusedly about him, and, becoming conscious of the number of faces by which he was surrounded, addressed them: 'Ladies and gentlemen, the duty -- ha -- devolves upon me of -- hum -- welcoming you to the Marshalsea! Welcome to the Marshalsea! The space is -- ha -- limited -- the parade might be wider; but you will find it apparently grow larger after a time -- a time, ladies and gentlemen -- and the air is, all things considered, very good. It blows over the -- ha -- Surrey hills. Blows over the Surrey hills. This is the Sunggery. Hum. Supported by a small subscription of the -- ha -- Collegiate body. In return for which -- hot water -- general kitchen -- and little domestic advantages. Those who are habituated to the -- ha -- Marshalsea, are pleased to call me its father.
He then goes on to begin asking for "donations" to help his daughter. Most of the guests are embarrassed and mortified, and quickly take their leave. The chapter title now becomes clear. His mind is being ravaged.

Amy takes him home and nurses him, staying constantly by his side over the next several days. Unfortunately, he never recovers, and quietly passes away in his room a few days later.

What now will happen to all of his vast wealth, and the many enterprises in which he was involved? And most importantly, what will become of Little Dorrit?
Chapter 20 - Introduces the next-- 28 Dec 2015

The chapter begins with Arthur Clennam arriving in Calais by way of a ship. When he arrives:

After slipping among oozy piles and planks, stumbling up wet steps and encountering many salt difficulties, the passengers entered on their comfortless peregrination along the pier; where all the French vagabonds and English outlaws in the town (half the population) attended to prevent their recovery from bewilderment.
Mr. Pancks had given Arthur an address to this locale, and when he arrives, rather than giving his own name, he announces himself as Monsieur Blandois. Curious. A few moments later a woman arrives. It is Miss Wade (whom Arthur saw having a whispered conversation with Blandois earlier in the story - see Chapter 9). She appears to know Arthur, and coldly asks him what he wants and why he used a false name.

Arthur explains that Mr. Blandois has gone missing and that he saw Blandois meet with Miss Wade in an alley. Miss Wade has not heard of the disappearance and asks why Arthur has come to her about it. He relates that shortly after Blandois visiter with his mother that he (Blandois) disappeared and Arthur is trying to locate him. Unfortunately Miss Wade has no idea. She relates that she was simply using him for some unrelated business and has had nothing else to do with him. I get the impression that the "unrelated business" might have been some seedy cutthroat work that she'd rather not talk about, and she doesn't seem to care about his whereabouts.

This has gotten Miss Wade into a mood, and she is reminded of her near hatred of Mr. Gowan (whom she once loved), and so she calls forth her maid. It's none other than Tattycoram (which we also knew from Chapter 9). Tattycoram asks after the Meagles (remember, they are related to Mr. Gowan). At this point Miss Wade becomes very angry and begins to berate Tattyoram for being ungrateful for being "rescued" from them, to which Tattyoarm replies:
You are reproaching me, underhanded, with having nobody but you to look to. And because I have nobody but you to look to, you think you are to make me do, or not do, everything you please, and are to put any affront upon me. You are as bad as they were, every bit. But I will not be quite tamed, and made submissive.
Go Tattycoram! Way to stand up for yourself. As the two women begin to argue and bicker, Arthur takes his leave and returns to England, not having found what he was looking for.