Little Dorrit Part 2, Chapters 30-31 Summary

Charles Dickens

Part 2, Chapters 30-31 Summary

Pancks and Cavalletto escort Rigaud to Mrs. Clennam’s house. Pancks tells Mrs. Clennam that he is to blame for Arthur’s speculating in Merdle’s business, but Mrs. Clennam does not care to hear about her son and dismisses both Pancks and Cavalletto. She confronts Rigaud with his crime, but he dismisses it. He demands two thousand pounds for the information that he has. He is in possession of some papers that Mrs. Clennam wants returned to her. Rigaud begins to tell the story of the Clennam family, but Mrs. Clennam takes it up to tell herself, confessing first that she is not Arthur’s mother. Arthur’s father was raised by a very strict uncle, Gilbert Clennam, who commanded his nephew to marry a woman raised as strictly as he had been. Arthur’s father, however, fell in love with another woman and was secretly married to her. They had a son, Arthur. Gilbert Clennam drove Arthur’s mother away and Arthur was raised by Mrs. Clennam in such a way that the evil of his birth might be driven away. Arthur’s mother became a singer in the same theatre as Frederick Dorrit, who became her protector and patron. On his deathbed, Gilbert Clennam regretted his harshness and left his fortune to the youngest daughter of the patron of Arthur’s mother, or of the patron’s brother, should he have no children. This means that Amy Dorrit is the heir to Gilbert Clennam’s fortune, which is what the papers stolen from Mrs. Clennam proclaim, but she does not know how Rigaud got them. Affery cries out that she knows, having seen someone whom she thought was Flintwinch take them, but in fact it was Flintwinch’s twin brother, which explains Affery’s confusion in thinking she saw two Flintwinches. When Rigaud says that he has delivered the packet of papers to the Marshalsea to be handed to Arthur if no one else claims them, Mrs. Clennam rises out of her wheelchair, orders Rigaud to remain in the house, and runs out into the street. Rigaud lights a cigar and waits.

Mrs. Clennam runs through the London streets, asking the way to the Marshalsea. A group of boys tease her until she is rescued by Young John, who takes her to the Marshalsea. Amy is there and has the packet, which Mrs. Clennam orders her to open and read about her inheritance. Mrs. Clennam begs her to forgive her, which Amy readily does. Mrs. Clennam and Amy hurry back to the Clennam home to catch Rigaud, whom they see smoking in the window just as the house collapses. Affery had already left to follow Mrs. Clennam, so only Rigaud and Flintwinch are assumed to be in the house. Rigaud’s body is discovered, but not Flintwinch’s. It is learned much later that Flintwinch had escaped through the cellar and has gone to the Continent.