Something must be done with Maggy too, who at present is--ha--barely respectable, barely respectable. And your sister, Amy, and your brother. And my brother, your uncle--poor soul, I trust this will rouse him--messengers must be despatched to fetch them. They must be informed of this. We must break it to them cautiously, but they must be informed directly. We owe it as a duty to them and to ourselves, from this moment, not to let them--hum--not to let them do anything.'
This was the first intimation he had ever given, that he was privy to the fact that they did something for a livelihood.
He was still jogging about the room, with the purse clutched in his hand, when a great cheering arose in the yard. 'The news has spread already,' said Clennam, looking down from the window. 'Will you show yourself to them, Mr Dorrit? They are very earnest, and they evidently wish it.'
'I--hum--ha--I confess I could have desired, Amy my dear,' he said, jogging about in a more feverish flutter than before, 'to have made some change in my dress first, and to have bought a-- hum--a watch and chain. But if it must be done as it is, it--ha-- it must be done. Fasten the collar of my shirt, my dear. Mr Clennam, would you oblige me--hum--with a blue neckcloth you will find in that drawer at your elbow. Button my coat across at the chest, my love. It looks--ha--it looks broader, buttoned.'
With his trembling hand he pushed his grey hair up, and then, taking Clennam and his daughter for supporters, appeared at the window leaning on an arm of each. The Collegians cheered him very heartily, and he kissed his hand to them with great urbanity and protection. When he withdrew into the room again, he said 'Poor creatures!' in a tone of much pity for their miserable condition.
Little Dorrit was deeply anxious that he should lie down to compose himself. On Arthur's speaking to her of his going to inform Pancks that he might now appear as soon as he would, and pursue the joyful business to its close, she entreated him in a whisper to stay with her until her father should be quite calm and at rest. He needed no second entreaty; and she prepared her father's bed, and begged him to lie down. For another half-hour or more he would be persuaded to do nothing but go about the room, discussing with himself the probabilities for and against the Marshal's allowing the whole of the prisoners to go to the windows of the official residence which commanded the street, to see himself and family depart for ever in a carriage--which, he said, he thought would be a Sight for them. But gradually he began to droop and tire, and at last stretched himself upon the bed.
She took her faithful place beside him, fanning him and cooling his forehead; and he seemed to be falling asleep (always with the money in his hand), when he unexpectedly sat up and said:
'Mr Clennam, I beg your pardon. Am I to understand, my dear sir, that I could--ha--could pass through the Lodge at this moment, and--hum--take a walk?'
'I think not, Mr Dorrit,' was the unwilling reply. 'There are certain forms to be completed; and although your detention here is now in itself a form, I fear it is one that for a little longer has to be observed too.'
At this he shed tears again.
'It is but a few hours, sir,' Clennam cheerfully urged upon him.
'A few hours, sir,' he returned in a sudden passion. 'You talk very easily of hours, sir! How long do you suppose, sir, that an hour is to a man who is choking for want of air?'
It was his last demonstration for that time; as, after shedding some more tears and querulously complaining that he couldn't breathe, he slowly fell into a slumber. Clennam had abundant occupation for his thoughts, as he sat in the quiet room watching the father on his bed, and the daughter fanning his face. Little Dorrit had been thinking too. After softly putting his grey hair aside, and touching his forehead with her lips, she looked towards Arthur, who came nearer to her, and pursued in a low whisper the subject of her thoughts.