You are sure you will not take it?'
'You are quite sure you will not take half of it?'
'Never, dear Little Dorrit!'
As she looked at him silently, there was something in her affectionate face that he did not quite comprehend: something that could have broken into tears in a moment, and yet that was happy and proud.
'You will be sorry to hear what I have to tell you about Fanny. Poor Fanny has lost everything. She has nothing left but her husband's income. All that papa gave her when she married was lost as your money was lost. It was in the same hands, and it is all gone.'
Arthur was more shocked than surprised to hear it. 'I had hoped it might not be so bad,' he said: 'but I had feared a heavy loss there, knowing the connection between her husband and the defaulter.'
'Yes. It is all gone. I am very sorry for Fanny; very, very, very sorry for poor Fanny. My poor brother too!' 'Had he property in the same hands?'
'Yes! And it's all gone.--How much do you think my own great fortune is?'
As Arthur looked at her inquiringly, with a new apprehension on him, she withdrew her hand, and laid her face down on the spot where it had rested.
'I have nothing in the world. I am as poor as when I lived here. When papa came over to England, he confided everything he had to the same hands, and it is all swept away. O my dearest and best, are you quite sure you will not share my fortune with me now?'
Locked in his arms, held to his heart, with his manly tears upon her own cheek, she drew the slight hand round his neck, and clasped it in its fellow-hand.
' Never to part, my dearest Arthur; never any more, until the last!
I never was rich before, I never was proud before, I never was happy before, I am rich in being taken by you, I am proud in having been resigned by you, I am happy in being with you in this prison, as I should be happy in coming back to it with you, if it should be the will of GOD, and comforting and serving you with all my love and truth. I am yours anywhere, everywhere! I love you dearly! I would rather pass my life here with you, and go out daily, working for our bread, than I would have the greatest fortune that ever was told, and be the greatest lady that ever was honoured. O, if poor papa may only know how blest at last my heart is, in this room where he suffered for so many years!'
Maggy had of course been staring from the first, and had of course been crying her eyes out long before this. Maggy was now so overjoyed that, after hugging her little mother with all her might, she went down-stairs like a clog-hornpipe to find somebody or other to whom to impart her gladness. Whom should Maggy meet but Flora and Mr F.'s Aunt opportunely coming in? And whom else, as a consequence of that meeting, should Little Dorrit find waiting for herself, when, a good two or three hours afterwards, she went out?
Flora's eyes were a little red, and she seemed rather out of spirits. Mr F.'s Aunt was so stiffened that she had the appearance of being past bending by any means short of powerful mechanical pressure. Her bonnet was cocked up behind in a terrific manner; and her stony reticule was as rigid as if it had been petrified by the Gorgon's head, and had got it at that moment inside. With these imposing attributes, Mr F.'s Aunt, publicly seated on the steps of the Marshal's official residence, had been for the two or three hours in question a great boon to the younger inhabitants of the Borough, whose sallies of humour she had considerably flushed herself by resenting at the point of her umbrella, from time to time.
'Painfully aware, Miss Dorrit, I am sure,' said Flora, 'that to propose an adjournment to any place to one so far removed by fortune and so courted and caressed by the best society must ever appear intruding even if not a pie-shop far below your present sphere and a back-parlour though a civil man but if for the sake of Arthur--cannot overcome it more improper now than ever late Doyce and Clennam--one last remark I might wish to make one last explanation I might wish to offer perhaps your good nature might excuse under pretence of three kidney ones the humble place of conversation.'
Rightly interpreting this rather obscure speech, Little Dorrit returned that she was quite at Flora's disposition.