'The fact is, besides, Arthur,' said Mr Meagles, the old cloud coming over his face, 'that my son-in-law is already in debt again, and that I suppose I must clear him again. It may be as well, even on this account, that I should step over there, and look him up in a friendly way. Then again, here's Mother foolishly anxious (and yet naturally too) about Pet's state of health, and that she should not be left to feel lonesome at the present time. It's undeniably a long way off, Arthur, and a strange place for the poor love under all the circumstances. Let her be as well cared for as any lady in that land, still it is a long way off. just as Home is Home though it's never so Homely, why you see,' said Mr Meagles, adding a new version to the proverb, 'Rome is Rome, though it's never so Romely.'
'All perfectly true,' observed Arthur, 'and all sufficient reasons for going.'
'I am glad you think so; it decides me. Mother, my dear, you may get ready. We have lost our pleasant interpreter (she spoke three foreign languages beautifully, Arthur; you have heard her many a time), and you must pull me through it, Mother, as well as you can.
I require a deal of pulling through, Arthur,' said Mr Meagles, shaking his head, 'a deal of pulling through. I stick at everything beyond a noun-substantive--and I stick at him, if he's at all a tight one.'
'Now I think of it,' returned Clennam, 'there's Cavalletto. He shall go with you, if you like. I could not afford to lose him, but you will bring him safe back.'
'Well! I am much obliged to you, my boy,' said Mr Meagles, turning it over, 'but I think not. No, I think I'll be pulled through by Mother. Cavallooro (I stick at his very name to start with, and it sounds like the chorus to a comic song) is so necessary to you, that I don't like the thought of taking him away. More 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.