than that, there’s no saying when we may come home again; and it would never do to take him away for an indefinite time. The cottage is not what it was. It only holds two little people less than it ever did, Pet, and her poor unfortunate maid Tattycoram; but it seems empty now. Once out of it, there’s no knowing when we may come back to it. No, Arthur, I’ll be pulled through by Mother.’

They would do best by themselves perhaps, after all, Clennam thought; therefore did not press his proposal.

‘If you would come down and stay here for a change, when it wouldn’t trouble you,’ Mr Meagles resumed, ‘I should be glad to think—and so would Mother too, I know—that you were brightening up the old place with a bit of life it was used to when it was full, and that the Babies on the wall there had a kind eye upon them sometimes. You so belong to the spot, and to them, Arthur, and we should every one of us have been so happy if it had fallen out—but, let us see—how’s the weather for travelling now?’ Mr Meagles broke off, cleared his throat, and got up to look out of the window.

They agreed that the weather was of high promise; and Clennam kept the talk in that safe direction until it had become easy again, when he gently diverted it to Henry Gowan and his quick sense and agreeable qualities when he was delicately dealt With; he likewise dwelt on the indisputable affection he entertained for his wife. Clennam did not fail of his effect upon good Mr Meagles, whom these commendations greatly cheered; and who took Mother to witness that the single and cordial desire of his heart in reference to their daughter’s husband, was harmoniously to exchange friendship for friendship, and confidence for confidence. Within a few hours the cottage furniture began to be wrapped up for preservation in the family absence—or, as Mr Meagles expressed it, the house began to put its hair in papers—and within a few days Father and Mother were gone, Mrs Tickit and Dr Buchan were posted, as of yore, behind the parlour blind, and Arthur’s solitary feet were rustling among the dry fallen leaves in the garden walks.

As he had a liking for the spot, he seldom let a week pass without paying a visit. Sometimes, he went down alone from Saturday to Monday; sometimes his partner accompanied him; sometimes, he merely strolled for an hour or two about the house and garden, saw that all was right, and returned to London again. At all times, and under all circumstances, Mrs Tickit, with her dark row of curls, and Dr Buchan, sat in the parlour window, looking out for the family return.

On one of his visits Mrs Tickit received him with the words, ‘I have something to tell you, Mr Clennam, that will surprise you.’ So surprising was the something in question, that it actually brought Mrs Tickit out of the parlour window and produced her in the garden walk, when Clennam went in at the gate on its being opened for him.

‘What is it, Mrs Tickit?’ said he.

‘Sir,’ returned that faithful housekeeper, having taken him into the parlour and closed the door; ‘if ever I saw the led away and deluded child in my life, I saw her identically in the dusk of yesterday evening.’

‘You don’t mean Tatty—’

‘Coram yes I do!’ quoth Mrs Tickit, clearing the disclosure at a leap.


‘Mr Clennam,’ returned Mrs Tickit, ‘I was a little heavy in my eyes, being that I was waiting longer than customary for my cup of tea which was then preparing by Mary Jane. I was not sleeping, nor what a person would term correctly, dozing. I was more what a person would strictly call watching with my eyes closed.’

Without entering upon an inquiry into this curious abnormal condition, Clennam said, ‘Exactly. Well?’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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