The business was of too modest a character to support a life-size Highlander, but it maintained a little one on a bracket on the door-post, who looked like a fallen Cherub that had found it necessary to take to a kilt. From the portal thus decorated, one Sunday after an early dinner of baked viands, Young John issued forth on his usual Sunday errand; not empty-handed, but with his offering of cigars. He was neatly attired in a plum-coloured coat, with as large a collar of black velvet as his figure could carry; a silken waistcoat, bedecked with golden sprigs; a chaste neckerchief much in vogue at that day, representing a preserve of lilac pheasants on a buff ground; pantaloons so highly decorated with side-stripes that each leg was a three-stringed lute; and a hat of state very high and hard. When the prudent Mrs Chivery perceived that in addition to these adornments her John carried a pair of white kid gloves, and a cane like a little finger-post, surmounted by an ivory hand marshalling him the way that he should go; and when she saw him, in this heavy marching order, turn the corner to the right; she remarked to Mr Chivery, who was at home at the time, that she thought she knew which way the wind blew.
The Collegians were entertaining a considerable number of visitors that Sunday afternoon, and their Father kept his room for the purpose of receiving presentations. After making the tour of the yard, Little Dorrit's lover with a hurried heart went up-stairs, and knocked with his knuckles at the Father's door.
'Come in, come in!' said a gracious voice. The Father's voice, her father's, the Marshalsea's father's. He was seated in his black velvet cap, with his newspaper, three-and-sixpence accidentally left on the table, and two chairs arranged. Everything prepared for holding his Court.
'Ah, Young John! How do you do, how do you do!'
'Pretty well, I thank you, sir. I hope you are the same.'
'Yes, John Chivery; yes. Nothing to complain of.'
'I have taken the liberty, sir, of--'
'Eh?' The Father of the Marshalsea always lifted up his eyebrows at this point, and became amiably distraught and smilingly absent in mind.
'--A few cigars, sir.'
'Oh!' (For the moment, excessively surprised.) 'Thank you, Young John, thank you. But really, I am afraid I am too-- No? Well then, I will say no more about it. Put them on the mantelshelf, if you please, Young John. And sit down, sit down. You are not a stranger, John.'
'Thank you, sir, I am sure-- Miss;' here Young John turned the great hat round and round upon his left-hand, like a slowly twirling mouse-cage; 'Miss Amy quite well, sir?' 'Yes, John, yes; very well. She is out.' 'Indeed, sir?'
'Yes, John. Miss Amy is gone for an airing. My young people all go out a good deal. But at their time of life, it's natural, John.'
'Very much so, I am sure, sir.'
'An airing. An airing. Yes.' He was blandly tapping his fingers on the table, and casting his eyes up at the window. 'Amy has gone for an airing on the Iron Bridge. She has become quite partial to the Iron Bridge of late, and seems to like to walk there better than anywhere.' He returned to conversation. 'Your father is not on duty at present, I think, John?'
'No, sir, he comes on later in the afternoon.' Another twirl of the great hat, and then Young John said, rising, 'I am afraid I must wish you good day, sir.'
'So soon? Good day, Young John. Nay, nay,' with the utmost condescension, 'never mind your glove, John. Shake hands with it on. You are no stranger here, you know.'
Highly gratified by the kindness of his reception, Young John descended the staircase. On his way down he met some Collegians bringing up visitors to be presented, and at that moment Mr Dorrit happened to call over the banisters with particular distinctness, 'Much obliged to you for your little testimonial, John!'
Little Dorrit's lover very soon laid down his penny on the tollplate of the Iron Bridge, and came upon it looking about him for the well-known and well-beloved figure.