He came to the final resolution, as he made himself ready for dinner, that he would not allow himself to fall in love with Pet.
There were only five, at a round table, and it was very pleasant indeed. They had so many places and people to recall, and they were all so easy and cheerful together (Daniel Doyce either sitting out like an amused spectator at cards, or coming in with some shrewd little experiences of his own, when it happened to be to the purpose), that they might have been together twenty times, and not have known so much of one another.
'And Miss Wade,' said Mr Meagles, after they had recalled a number of fellow-travellers. 'Has anybody seen Miss Wade?'
'I have,' said Tattycoram.
She had brought a little mantle which her young mistress had sent for, and was bending over her, putting it on, when she lifted up her dark eyes and made this unexpected answer.
'Tatty!' her young mistress exclaimed. 'You seen Miss Wade?-- where?'
'Here, miss,' said Tattycoram.
An impatient glance from Tattycoram seemed, as Clennam saw it, to answer 'With my eyes!' But her only answer in words was: 'I met her near the church.'
'What was she doing there I wonder!' said Mr Meagles. 'Not going to it, I should think.'
'She had written to me first,' said Tattycoram.
'Oh, Tatty!' murmured her mistress, 'take your hands away. I feel as if some one else was touching me!'
She said it in a quick involuntary way, but half playfully, and not more petulantly or disagreeably than a favourite child might have done, who laughed next moment. Tattycoram set her full red lips together, and crossed her arms upon her bosom. 'Did you wish to know, sir,' she said, looking at Mr Meagles, 'what Miss Wade wrote to me about?'
'Well, Tattycoram,' returned Mr Meagles, 'since you ask the question, and we are all friends here, perhaps you may as well mention it, if you are so inclined.'
'She knew, when we were travelling, where you lived,' said Tattycoram, 'and she had seen me not quite--not quite--'
'Not quite in a good temper, Tattycoram?' suggested Mr Meagles, shaking his head at the dark eyes with a quiet caution. 'Take a little time--count five-and-twenty, Tattycoram.'
She pressed her lips together again, and took a long deep breath.
'So she wrote to me to say that if I ever felt myself hurt,' she looked down at her young mistress, 'or found myself worried,' she looked down at her again, 'I might go to her, and be considerately treated. I was to think of it, and could speak to her by the church. So I went there to thank her.'
'Tatty,' said her young mistress, putting her hand up over her shoulder that the other might take it, 'Miss Wade almost frightened me when we parted, and I scarcely like to think of her just now as having been so near me without my knowing it. Tatty dear!'
Tatty stood for a moment, immovable.
'Hey?' cried Mr Meagles. 'Count another five-and-twenty, Tattycoram.'
She might have counted a dozen, when she bent and put her lips to the caressing hand. It patted her cheek, as it touched the owner's beautiful curls, and Tattycoram went away.
'Now there,' said Mr Meagles softly, as he gave a turn to the dumb- waiter on his right hand to twirl the sugar towards himself. 'There's a girl who might be lost and ruined, if she wasn't among practical people. Mother and I know, solely from being practical, that there are times when that girl's whole nature seems to roughen itself against seeing us so bound up in Pet. No father and mother were bound up in her, poor soul. I don't like to think of the way in which that unfortunate child, with all that passion and protest in her, feels when she hears the Fifth Commandment on a Sunday. I am always inclined to call out, Church, Count five-and-twenty, Tattycoram.'
Besides his dumb-waiter, Mr Meagles had two other not dumb waiters in the persons of two parlour-maids with rosy faces and bright eyes, who were a highly ornamental part of the table decoration. 'And why not, you see?' said Mr Meagles on this head.