'Whose question is?'
'Mine,' said Mr Meagles. 'And not only mine but Clennam's question, and other people's question. Now, I am sure,' continued Mr Meagles, whose heart was overflowing with Pet, 'that you can't have any unkind feeling towards my daughter; it's impossible. Well! It's her question, too; being one in which a particular friend of hers is nearly interested. So here I am, frankly to say that is the question, and to ask, Now, did he?'
'Upon my word,' she returned, 'I seem to be a mark for everybody who knew anything of a man I once in my life hired, and paid, and dismissed, to aim their questions at!'
'Now, don't,' remonstrated Mr Meagles, 'don't! Don't take offence, because it's the plainest question in the world, and might be asked of any one. The documents I refer to were not his own, were wrongfully obtained, might at some time or other be troublesome to an innocent person to have in keeping, and are sought by the people to whom they really belong. He passed through Calais going to London, and there were reasons why he should not take them with him then, why he should wish to be able to put his hand upon them readily, and why he should distrust leaving them with people of his own sort. Did he leave them here? I declare if I knew how to avoid giving you offence, I would take any pains to do it. I put the question personally, but there's nothing personal in it. I might put it to any one; I have put it already to many people. Did he leave them here? Did he leave anything here?'
'Then unfortunately, Miss Wade, you know nothing about them?'
'I know nothing about them. I have now answered your unaccountable question. He did not leave them here, and I know nothing about them.'
'There!' said Mr Meagles rising. 'I am sorry for it; that's over; and I hope there is not much harm done.--Tattycoram well, Miss Wade?'
'Harriet well? O yes!'
'I have put my foot in it again,' said Mr Meagles, thus corrected. 'I can't keep my foot out of it here, it seems. Perhaps, if I had thought twice about it, I might never have given her the jingling name. But, when one means to be good-natured and sportive with young people, one doesn't think twice. Her old friend leaves a kind word for her, Miss Wade, if you should think proper to deliver it.'
She said nothing as to that; and Mr Meagles, taking his honest face out of the dull room, where it shone like a sun, took it to the Hotel where he had left Mrs Meagles, and where he made the Report: 'Beaten, Mother; no effects!' He took it next to the London Steam Packet, which sailed in the night; and next to the Marshalsea.
The faithful John was on duty when Father and Mother Meagles presented themselves at the wicket towards nightfall. Miss Dorrit was not there then, he said; but she had been there in the morning, and invariably came in the evening. Mr Clennam was slowly mending; and Maggy and Mrs Plornish and Mr Baptist took care of him by turns. Miss Dorrit was sure to come back that evening before the bell rang. There was the room the Marshal had lent her, up-stairs, in which they could wait for her, if they pleased. Mistrustful that it might be hazardous to Arthur to see him without preparation, Mr Meagles accepted the offer; and they were left shut up in the room, looking down through its barred window into the jail.
The cramped area of the prison had such an effect on Mrs Meagles that she began to weep, and such an effect on Mr Meagles that he began to gasp for air. He was walking up and down the room, panting, and making himself worse by laboriously fanning himself with her handkerchief, when he turned towards the opening door.
'Eh? Good gracious!' said Mr Meagles, 'this is not Miss Dorrit! Why, Mother, look! Tattycoram!'
No other. And in Tattycoram's arms was an iron box some two feet square. Such a box had Affery Flintwinch seen, in the first of her dreams, going out of the old house in the dead of the night under Double's arm. This, Tattycoram put on the ground at her old master's feet: this, Tattycoram fell on her knees by, and beat her hands upon, crying half in exultation and half in despair, half in laughter and half in tears, 'Pardon, dear Master; take me back, dear Mistress; here it is!'
'Tatty!' exclaimed Mr Meagles.