Charles Dickens

He said gently, 'Tattycoram, come to me a moment, my good girl.'

She went up to the window.

'You see that young lady who was here just now--that little, quiet, fragile figure passing along there, Tatty? Look. The people stand out of the way to let her go by. The men--see the poor, shabby fellows--pull off their hats to her quite politely, and now she glides in at that doorway. See her, Tattycoram?'

'Yes, sir.'

'I have heard tell, Tatty, that she was once regularly called the child of this place. She was born here, and lived here many years.

I can't breathe here. A doleful place to be born and bred in, Tattycoram?'

'Yes indeed, sir!'

'If she had constantly thought of herself, and settled with herself that everybody visited this place upon her, turned it against her, and cast it at her, she would have led an irritable and probably an useless existence. Yet I have heard tell, Tattycoram, that her young life has been one of active resignation, goodness, and noble service. Shall I tell you what I consider those eyes of hers, that were here just now, to have always looked at, to get that expression?'

'Yes, if you please, sir.'

'Duty, Tattycoram. Begin it early, and do it well; and there is no antecedent to it, in any origin or station, that will tell against us with the Almighty, or with ourselves.'

They remained at the window, Mother joining them and pitying the prisoners, until she was seen coming back. She was soon in the room, and recommended that Arthur, whom she had left calm and composed, should not be visited that night.

'Good!' said Mr Meagles, cheerily. 'I have not a doubt that's best. I shall trust my remembrances then, my sweet nurse, in your hands, and I well know they couldn't be in better. I am off again to-morrow morning.'

Little Dorrit, surprised, asked him where?

'My dear,' said Mr Meagles, 'I can't live without breathing. This place has taken my breath away, and I shall never get it back again until Arthur is out of this place.'

'How is that a reason for going off again to-morrow morning?'

'You shall understand,' said Mr Meagles. 'To-night we three will put up at a City Hotel. To-morrow morning, Mother and Tattycoram will go down to Twickenham, where Mrs Tickit, sitting attended by Dr Buchan in the parlour-window, will think them a couple of ghosts; and I shall go abroad again for Doyce. We must have Dan here. Now, I tell you, my love, it's of no use writing and planning and conditionally speculating upon this and that and the other, at uncertain intervals and distances; we must have Doyce here. I devote myself at daybreak to-morrow morning, to bringing Doyce here. It's nothing to me to go and find him. I'm an old traveller, and all foreign languages and customs are alike to me--I never understand anything about any of 'em. Therefore I can't be put to any inconvenience. Go at once I must, it stands to reason; because I can't live without breathing freely; and I can't breathe freely until Arthur is out of this Marshalsea. I am stifled at the present moment, and have scarcely breath enough to say this much, and to carry this precious box down-stairs for you.'

They got into the street as the bell began to ring, Mr Meagles carrying the box. Little Dorrit had no conveyance there: which rather surprised him. He called a coach for her and she got into it, and he placed the box beside her when she was seated. In her joy and gratitude she kissed his hand.

'I don't like that, my dear,' said Mr Meagles. 'It goes against my feeling of what's right, that YOU should do homage to ME--at the Marshalsea Gate.'

She bent forward, and kissed his cheek.

'You remind me of the days,' said Mr Meagles, suddenly drooping-- 'but she's very fond of him, and hides his faults, and thinks that no one sees them--and he certainly is well connected and of a very good family!'

It was the only comfort he had in the loss of his daughter, and if he made the most of it, who could blame him?



On a healthy autumn day, the Marshalsea prisoner, weak but otherwise restored, sat listening to a voice that read to him.