Becky’s theme is trees for this month’s Square photo challenge.
Today I am going with four seasons – summer, autumn, winter, and spring
Arthur followed him up the staircase, which was panelled off into spaces like so many mourning tablets, into a dim bed-chamber, the floor of which had gradually so sunk and settled, that the fire-place was in a dell. On a black bier-like sofa in this hollow, propped up behind with one great angular black bolster like the block at a state execution in the good old times, sat his mother in a widow’s dress.
She and his father had been at variance from his earliest remembrance. To sit speechless himself in the midst of rigid silence, glancing in dread from the one averted face to the other, had been the peacefullest occupation of his childhood. She gave him one glassy kiss, and four stiff fingers muffled in worsted. This embrace concluded, he sat down on the opposite side of her little table. There was a fire in the grate, as there had been night and day for fifteen years. There was a kettle on the hob, as there had been night and day for fifteen years. There was a little mound of damped ashes on the top of the fire, and another little mound swept together under the grate, as there had been night and day for fifteen years. There was a smell of black dye in the airless room, which the fire had been drawing out of the crape and stuff of the widow’s dress for fifteen months, and out of the bier-like sofa for fifteen years.
‘Mother, this is a change from your old active habits.’
‘The world has narrowed to these dimensions, Arthur,’ she replied, glancing round the room. ‘It is well for me that I never set my heart upon its hollow vanities.’
The old influence of her presence and her stern strong voice, so gathered about her son, that he felt conscious of a renewal of the timid chill and reserve of his childhood.
‘Do you never leave your room, mother?’
‘What with my rheumatic affection, and what with its attendant debility or nervous weakness—names are of no matter now—I have lost the use of my limbs. I never leave my room. I have not been outside this door for—tell him for how long,’ she said, speaking over her shoulder.
‘A dozen year next Christmas,’ returned a cracked voice out of the dimness behind.
‘Is that Affery?’ said Arthur, looking towards it.
The cracked voice replied that it was Affery: and an old woman came forward into what doubtful light there was, and kissed her hand once; then subsided again into the dimness.
‘I am able,’ said Mrs Clennam, with a slight motion of her worsted-muffled right hand toward a chair on wheels, standing before a tall writing cabinet close shut up, ‘I am able to attend to my business duties, and I am thankful for the privilege. It is a great privilege. But no more of business on this day. It is a bad night, is it not?’
‘Does it snow?’
‘Snow, mother? And we only yet in September?’
‘All seasons are alike to me,’ she returned, with a grim kind of luxuriousness.
‘I know nothing of summer and winter, shut up here. The Lord has been pleased to put me beyond all that.’ With her cold grey eyes and her cold grey hair, and her immovable face, as stiff as the folds of her stony head-dress,—her being beyond the reach of the seasons seemed but a fit sequence to her being beyond the reach of all changing emotions.
On her little table lay two or three books, her handkerchief, a pair of steel spectacles newly taken off, and an old-fashioned gold watch in a heavy double case. Upon this last object her son’s eyes and her own now rested together.
‘I see that you received the packet I sent you on my father’s death, safely, mother.’
I chose this snippet from Little Dorrit Chapter 3 because of the “seasons” connections to Mrs Clennam. Dickens depicted a lot with this hardened character and he was possibly reminding us that it is a good thing to “feel” and there is a natural ebb and flow with various seasons. Author Mel London noted that humans “constantly change, that life is complex, unpredictable, and a frequently illogical series of events” will come our way throughout the life span. There are natural ups and downs (like changing seasons) and it is good to “still” feel – and not everything is a major crisis – somethings are expected because we are social creatures with emotions and personalities.
This little scene from Chapter 3 is also significant in introducing the symbolic watch, which connected to Mrs. Clennam’s ongoing toxic guilt and her warped, oppressive religion. Perhaps this is Dickens’ reminder that some religious behavior (man-made rules) lead to an angry outlook with a vengeful God who does not forgive (more here at Victorian Web) compared to having an alive faith that brings grace and joy. There is a difference between religion and faith and sometimes we all need to pause and ponder the difference.