'Why, my God!' she said, recoiling, 'you're a woman!'
'Don't mind that!' said Little Dorrit, clasping one of her hands that had suddenly released hers. 'I am not afraid of you.'
'Then you had better be,' she answered. 'Have you no mother?'
'Yes, a very dear one.'
'Go home to him, and be afraid of me. Let me go. Good night!'
'I must thank you first; let me speak to you as if I really were a child.'
'You can't do it,' said the woman. 'You are kind and innocent; but you can't look at me out of a child's eyes. I never should have touched you, but I thought that you were a child.' And with a strange, wild cry, she went away.
No day yet in the sky, but there was day in the resounding stones of the streets; in the waggons, carts, and coaches; in the workers going to various occupations; in the opening of early shops; in the traffic at markets; in the stir of the riverside. There was coming day in the flaring lights, with a feebler colour in them than they would have had at another time; coming day in the increased sharpness of the air, and the ghastly dying of the night.
They went back again to the gate, intending to wait there now until it should be opened; but the air was so raw and cold that Little Dorrit, leading Maggy about in her sleep, kept in motion. Going round by the Church, she saw lights there, and the door open; and went up the steps and looked in.
'Who's that?' cried a stout old man, who was putting on a nightcap as if he were going to bed in a vault.
'It's no one particular, sir,' said Little Dorrit.
'Stop!' cried the man. 'Let's have a look at you!'
This caused her to turn back again in the act of going out, and to present herself and her charge before him.
'I thought so!' said he. 'I know YOU.'
'We have often seen each other,' said Little Dorrit, recognising the sexton, or the beadle, or the verger, or whatever he was, 'when I have been at church here.'
'More than that, we've got your birth in our Register, you know; you're one of our curiosities.'
'Indeed!' said Little Dorrit.
'To be sure. As the child of the--by-the-bye, how did you get out so early?'
'We were shut out last night, and are waiting to get in.'
'You don't mean it? And there's another hour good yet! Come into the vestry. You'll find a fire in the vestry, on account of the painters. I'm waiting for the painters, or I shouldn't be here, you may depend upon it. One of our curiosities mustn't be cold when we have it in our power to warm her up comfortable. Come along.'
He was a very good old fellow, in his familiar way; and having stirred the vestry fire, he looked round the shelves of registers for a particular volume. 'Here you are, you see,' he said, taking it down and turning the leaves. 'Here you'll find yourself, as large as life. Amy, daughter of William and Fanny Dorrit. Born, Marshalsea Prison, Parish of St George. And we tell people that you have lived there, without so much as a day's or a night's absence, ever since. Is it true?'
'Quite true, till last night.' 'Lord!' But his surveying her with an admiring gaze suggested Something else to him, to wit: 'I am sorry to see, though, that you are faint and tired. Stay a bit. I'll get some cushions out of the church, and you and your friend shall lie down before the fire.
Don't be afraid of not going in to join your father when the gate opens. I'll call you.'
He soon brought in the cushions, and strewed them on the ground.
'There you are, you see. Again as large as life. Oh, never mind thanking. I've daughters of my own. And though they weren't born in the Marshalsea Prison, they might have been, if I had been, in my ways of carrying on, of your father's breed. Stop a bit. I must put something under the cushion for your head. Here's a burial volume. just the thing! We have got Mrs Bangham in this book. But what makes these books interesting to most people is-- not who's in 'em, but who isn't--who's coming, you know, and when. That's the interesting question.'
Commendingly looking back at the pillow he had improvised, he left them to their hour's repose.