With Pet? repeated Mr Meagles in his injured vein. Pet, however, being close behind him, touched him on the shoulder, and Mr Meagles immediately forgave Marseilles from the bottom of his heart.
Pet was about twenty. A fair girl with rich brown hair hanging free in natural ringlets. A lovely girl, with a frank face, and wonderful eyes; so large, so soft, so bright, set to such perfection in her kind good head. She was round and fresh and dimpled and spoilt, and there was in Pet an air of timidity and dependence which was the best weakness in the world, and gave her the only crowning charm a girl so pretty and pleasant could have been without.
Now, I ask you, said Mr Meagles in the blandest confidence, falling back a step himself, and handing his daughter a step forward to illustrate his question: I ask you simply, as between man and man, you know, DID you ever hear of such damned nonsense as putting Pet in quarantine?
It has had the result of making even quarantine enjoyable. Come! said Mr Meagles, thats something to be sure. I am obliged to you for that remark. Now, Pet, my darling, you had better go along with Mother and get ready for the boat. The officer of health, and a variety of humbugs in cocked hats, are coming off to let us out of this at last: and all we jail-birds are to breakfast together in something approaching to a Christian style again, before we take wing for our different destinations. Tattycoram, stick you close to your young mistress.
He spoke to a handsome girl with lustrous dark hair and eyes, and very neatly dressed, who replied with a half-curtsy as she passed off in the train of Mrs Meagles and Pet. They crossed the bare scorched terrace all three together, and disappeared through a staring white archway. Mr Meagless companion, a grave dark man of forty, still stood looking towards this archway after they were gone; until Mr Meagles tapped him on the arm.
I beg your pardon, said he, starting.
Not at all, said Mr Meagles.
They took one silent turn backward and forward in the shade of the wall, getting, at the height on which the quarantine barracks are placed, what cool refreshment of sea breeze there was at seven in the morning. Mr Meagless companion resumed the conversation.
May I ask you, he said, what is the name of
Tattycoram? Mr Meagles struck in. I have not the least idea.
I thought, said the other, that
Tattycoram? suggested Mr Meagles again.
Thank youthat Tattycoram was a name; and I have several times wondered at the oddity of it.
Why, the fact is, said Mr Meagles, Mrs Meagles and myself are, you see, practical people.
That you have frequently mentioned in the course of the agreeable and interesting conversations we have had together, walking up and down on these stones, said the other, with a half smile breaking through the gravity of his dark face.
Practical people. So one day, five or six years ago now, when we took Pet to church at the Foundlingyou have heard of the Foundling Hospital in London? Similar to the Institution for the Found Children in Paris?
I have seen it.
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