'Bring him for'ard, and I'll chuck him out o' winder!'
Flora tried in vain to soothe the excellent woman by explaining that they were going home to dinner. Mr F.'s Aunt persisted in replying, 'Bring him for'ard and I'll chuck him out o' winder!' Having reiterated this demand an immense number of times, with a sustained glare of defiance at Little Dorrit, Mr F.'s Aunt folded her arms, and sat down in the corner of the pie-shop parlour; steadfastly refusing to budge until such time as 'he' should have been 'brought for'ard,' and the chucking portion of his destiny accomplished.
In this condition of things, Flora confided to Little Dorrit that she had not seen Mr F.'s Aunt so full of life and character for weeks; that she would find it necessary to remain there 'hours perhaps,' until the inexorable old lady could be softened; and that she could manage her best alone. They parted, therefore, in the friendliest manner, and with the kindest feeling on both sides.
Mr F.'s Aunt holding out like a grim fortress, and Flora becoming in need of refreshment, a messenger was despatched to the hotel for the tumbler already glanced at, which was afterwards replenished. With the aid of its content, a newspaper, and some skimming of the cream of the pie-stock, Flora got through the remainder of the day in perfect good humour; though occasionally embarrassed by the consequences of an idle rumour which circulated among the credulous infants of the neighbourhood, to the effect that an old lady had sold herself to the pie-shop to be made up, and was then sitting in the pie-shop parlour, declining to complete her contract. This attracted so many young persons of both sexes, and, when the shades of evening began to fall, occasioned so much interruption to the business, that the merchant became very pressing in his proposals that Mr F.'s Aunt should be removed. A conveyance was accordingly brought to the door, which, by the joint efforts of the merchant and Flora, this remarkable woman was at last induced to enter; though not without even then putting her head out of the window, and demanding to have him 'brought for'ard' for the purpose originally mentioned. As she was observed at this time to direct baleful glances towards the Marshalsea, it has been supposed that this admirably consistent female intended by 'him,' Arthur Clennam.
This, however, is mere speculation; who the person was, who, for the satisfaction of Mr F.'s Aunt's mind, ought to have been brought forward and never was brought forward, will never be positively known.
The autumn days went on, and Little Dorrit never came to the Marshalsea now and went away without seeing him. No, no, no.
One morning, as Arthur listened for the light feet that every morning ascended winged to his heart, bringing the heavenly brightness of a new love into the room where the old love had wrought so hard and been so true; one morning, as he listened, he heard her coming, not alone.
'Dear Arthur,' said her delighted voice outside the door, 'I have some one here. May I bring some one in?'
He had thought from the tread there were two with her. He answered 'Yes,' and she came in with Mr Meagles. Sun-browned and jolly Mr Meagles looked, and he opened his arms and folded Arthur in them, like a sun-browned and jolly father.
'Now I am all right,' said Mr Meagles, after a minute or so. 'Now it's over. Arthur, my dear fellow, confess at once that you expected me before.' 'I did,' said Arthur; 'but Amy told me--' 'Little Dorrit. Never any other name.' (It was she who whispered it.)
'--But my Little Dorrit told me that, without asking for any further explanation, I was not to expect you until I saw you.'
'And now you see me, my boy,' said Mr Meagles, shaking him by the hand stoutly; 'and now you shall have any explanation and every explanation. The fact is, I was here--came straight to you from the Allongers and Marshongers, or I should be ashamed to look you in the face this day,--but you were not in company trim at the moment, and I had to start off again to catch Doyce.'
'Poor Doyce!' sighed Arthur.