Sometimes, he went down alone from Saturday to Monday; sometimes his partner accompanied him; sometimes, he merely strolled for an hour or two about the house and garden, saw that all was right, and returned to London again. At all times, and under all circumstances, Mrs Tickit, with her dark row of curls, and Dr Buchan, sat in the parlour window, looking out for the family return.
On one of his visits Mrs Tickit received him with the words, 'I have something to tell you, Mr Clennam, that will surprise you.' So surprising was the something in question, that it actually brought Mrs Tickit out of the parlour window and produced her in the garden walk, when Clennam went in at the gate on its being opened for him.
'What is it, Mrs Tickit?' said he.
'Sir,' returned that faithful housekeeper, having taken him into the parlour and closed the door; 'if ever I saw the led away and deluded child in my life, I saw her identically in the dusk of yesterday evening.'
'You don't mean Tatty--'
'Coram yes I do!' quoth Mrs Tickit, clearing the disclosure at a leap.
'Mr Clennam,' returned Mrs Tickit, 'I was a little heavy in my eyes, being that I was waiting longer than customary for my cup of tea which was then preparing by Mary Jane. I was not sleeping, nor what a person would term correctly, dozing. I was more what a person would strictly call watching with my eyes closed.'
Without entering upon an inquiry into this curious abnormal condition, Clennam said, 'Exactly. Well?'
'Well, sir,' proceeded Mrs Tickit, 'I was thinking of one thing and thinking of another. just as you yourself might. just as anybody might.' 'Precisely so,' said Clennam. 'Well?'
'And when I do think of one thing and do think of another,' pursued Mrs Tickit, 'I hardly need to tell you, Mr Clennam, that I think of the family. Because, dear me! a person's thoughts,' Mrs Tickit said this with an argumentative and philosophic air, 'however they may stray, will go more or less on what is uppermost in their minds. They will do it, sir, and a person can't prevent them.'
Arthur subscribed to this discovery with a nod.
'You find it so yourself, sir, I'll be bold to say,' said Mrs Tickit, 'and we all find it so. It an't our stations in life that changes us, Mr Clennam; thoughts is free!--As I was saying, I was thinking of one thing and thinking of another, and thinking very much of the family. Not of the family in the present times only, but in the past times too. For when a person does begin thinking of one thing and thinking of another in that manner, as it's getting dark, what I say is, that all times seem to be present, and a person must get out of that state and consider before they can say which is which.'
He nodded again; afraid to utter a word, lest it should present any new opening to Mrs Tickit's conversational powers.
'In consequence of which,' said Mrs Tickit, 'when I quivered my eyes and saw her actual form and figure looking in at the gate, I let them close again without so much as starting, for that actual form and figure came so pat to the time when it belonged to the house as much as mine or your own, that I never thought at the moment of its having gone away. But, sir, when I quivered my eyes again, and saw that it wasn't there, then it all flooded upon me with a fright, and I jumped up.'
'You ran out directly?' said Clennam.
'I ran out,' assented Mrs Tickit, 'as fast as ever my feet would carry me; and if you'll credit it, Mr Clennam, there wasn't in the whole shining Heavens, no not so much as a finger of that young woman.'
Passing over the absence from the firmament of this novel constellation, Arthur inquired of Mrs Tickit if she herself went beyond the gate?
'Went to and fro, and high and low,' said Mrs Tickit, 'and saw no sign of her!'
He then asked Mrs Tickit how long a space of time she supposed there might have been between the two sets of ocular quiverings she had experienced? Mrs Tickit, though minutely circumstantial in her reply, had no settled opinion between five seconds and ten minutes.