He had scarcely set foot upon it, when he saw Little Dorrit walking on before him. It was a pleasant day, with a light breeze blowing, and she seemed to have that minute come there for air. He had left her in her father's room within an hour.
It was a timely chance, favourable to his wish of observing her face and manner when no one else was by. He quickened his pace; but before he reached her, she turned her head.
'Have I startled you?' he asked.
'I thought I knew the step,' she answered, hesitating.
'And did you know it, Little Dorrit? You could hardly have expected mine.'
'I did not expect any. But when I heard a step, I thought it-- sounded like yours.'
'Are you going further?'
'No, sir, I am only walking her for a little change.'
They walked together, and she recovered her confiding manner with him, and looked up in his face as she said, after glancing around:
'It is so strange. Perhaps you can hardly understand it. I sometimes have a sensation as if it was almost unfeeling to walk here.'
'To see the river, and so much sky, and so many objects, and such change and motion. Then to go back, you know, and find him in the same cramped place.'
'Ah yes! But going back, you must remember that you take with you the spirit and influence of such things to cheer him.'
'Do I? I hope I may! I am afraid you fancy too much, sir, and make me out too powerful. If you were in prison, could I bring such comfort to you?' 'Yes, Little Dorrit, I am sure of it.'
He gathered from a tremor on her lip, and a passing shadow of great agitation on her face, that her mind was with her father. He remained silent for a few moments, that she might regain her composure. The Little Dorrit, trembling on his arm, was less in unison than ever with Mrs Chivery's theory, and yet was not irreconcilable with a new fancy which sprung up within him, that there might be some one else in the hopeless--newer fancy still--in the hopeless unattainable distance.
They turned, and Clennam said, Here was Maggy coming! Little Dorrit looked up, surprised, and they confronted Maggy, who brought herself at sight of them to a dead stop. She had been trotting along, so preoccupied and busy that she had not recognised them until they turned upon her. She was now in a moment so conscience- stricken that her very basket partook of the change.
'Maggy, you promised me to stop near father.'
'So I would, Little Mother, only he wouldn't let me. If he takes and sends me out I must go. If he takes and says, "Maggy, you hurry away and back with that letter, and you shall have a sixpence if the answer's a good 'un," I must take it. Lor, Little Mother, what's a poor thing of ten year old to do? And if Mr Tip--if he happens to be a coming in as I come out, and if he says "Where are you going, Maggy?" and if I says, "I'm a going So and So," and if he says, "I'll have a Try too," and if he goes into the George and writes a letter and if he gives it me and says, "Take that one to the same place, and if the answer's a good 'un I'll give you a shilling," it ain't my fault, mother!'
Arthur read, in Little Dorrit's downcast eyes, to whom she foresaw that the letters were addressed.
'I'm a going So and So. There! That's where I am a going to,' said Maggy. 'I'm a going So and So. It ain't you, Little Mother, that's got anything to do with it--it's you, you know,' said Maggy, addressing Arthur. 'You'd better come, So and So, and let me take and give 'em to you.'
'We will not be so particular as that, Maggy. Give them me here,' said Clennam in a low voice.
'Well, then, come across the road,' answered Maggy in a very loud whisper. 'Little Mother wasn't to know nothing of it, and she would never have known nothing of it if you had only gone So and So, instead of bothering and loitering about. It ain't my fault. I must do what I am told. They ought to be ashamed of themselves for telling me.'
Clennam crossed to the other side, and hurriedly opened the letters.