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    Chapter 28

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    Chapter 29
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    CHAPTER 28

    Nobody's Disappearance

    Not resting satisfied with the endeavours he had made to recover
    his lost charge, Mr Meagles addressed a letter of remonstrance,
    breathing nothing but goodwill, not only to her, but to Miss Wade
    too. No answer coming to these epistles, or to another written to
    the stubborn girl by the hand of her late young mistress, which
    might have melted her if anything could (all three letters were
    returned weeks afterwards as having been refused at the house-
    door), he deputed Mrs Meagles to make the experiment of a personal
    interview. That worthy lady being unable to obtain one, and being
    steadfastly denied admission, Mr Meagles besought Arthur to essay
    once more what he could do. All that came of his compliance was,
    his discovery that the empty house was left in charge of the old
    woman, that Miss Wade was gone, that the waifs and strays of
    furniture were gone, and that the old woman would accept any number
    of half-crowns and thank the donor kindly, but had no information
    whatever to exchange for those coins, beyond constantly offering
    for perusal a memorandum relative to fixtures, which the house-
    agent's young man had left in the hall.

    Unwilling, even under this discomfiture, to resign the ingrate and
    leave her hopeless, in case of her better dispositions obtaining
    the mastery over the darker side of her character, Mr Meagles, for
    six successive days, published a discreetly covert advertisement in
    the morning papers, to the effect that if a certain young person
    who had lately left home without reflection, would at any time
    apply to his address at Twickenham, everything would be as it had
    been before, and no reproaches need be apprehended. The unexpected
    consequences of this notification suggested to the dismayed Mr
    Meagles for the first time that some hundreds of young persons must
    be leaving their homes without reflection every day; for shoals of
    wrong young people came down to Twickenham, who, not finding
    themselves received with enthusiasm, generally demanded
    compensation by way of damages, in addition to coach-hire there and
    back. Nor were these the only uninvited clients whom the
    advertisement produced. The swarm of begging-letter writers, who
    would seem to be always watching eagerly for any hook, however
    small, to hang a letter upon, wrote to say that having seen the
    advertisement, they were induced to apply with confidence for
    various sums, ranging from ten shillings to fifty pounds: not
    because they knew anything about the young person, but because they
    felt that to part with those donations would greatly relieve the
    advertiser's mind. Several projectors, likewise, availed
    themselves of the same opportunity to correspond with Mr Meagles;
    as, for example, to apprise him that their attention having been
    called to the advertisement by a friend, they begged to state that
    if they should ever hear anything of the young person, they would
    not fail to make it known to him immediately, and that in the
    meantime if he would oblige them with the funds necessary for
    bringing to perfection a certain entirely novel description of
    Pump, the happiest results would ensue to mankind.

    Mr Meagles and his family, under these combined discouragements,
    had begun reluctantly to give up Tattycoram as irrecoverable, when
    the new and active firm of Doyce and Clennam, in their private
    capacities, went down on a Saturday to stay at the cottage until
    Monday. The senior partner took the coach, and the junior partner
    took his walking-stick.

    A tranquil summer sunset shone upon him as he approached the end of
    his walk, and passed through the meadows by the river side. He had
    that sense of peace, and of being lightened of a weight of care,
    which country quiet awakens in the breasts of dwellers in towns.
    Everything within his view was lovely and placid. The rich foliage
    of the trees, the luxuriant grass diversified with wild flowers,
    the little green islands in the river, the beds of rushes, the
    water-lilies floating on the surface of the stream, the distant
    voices in boats borne musically towards him on the ripple of the
    water and the evening air, were all expressive of rest. In the
    occasional leap of a fish, or dip of an oar, or twittering of a
    bird not yet at roost, or distant barking of a dog, or lowing of a
    cow--in all such sounds, there was the prevailing breath of rest,
    which seemed to encompass him in every scent that sweetened the
    fragrant air. The long lines of red and gold in the sky, and the
    glorious track of the descending sun, were all divinely calm. Upon
    the purple tree-tops far away, and on the green height near at hand
    up which the shades were slowly creeping, there was an equal hush.
    Between the real landscape and its shadow in the water, there was
    no division; both were so untroubled and clear, and, while so
    fraught with solemn mystery of life and death, so hopefully
    reassuring to the gazer's soothed heart, because so tenderly and
    mercifully beautiful.

    Clennam had stopped, not for the first time by many times, to look
    about him and suffer what he saw to sink into his soul, as the
    shadows, looked at, seemed to sink deeper and deeper into the
    water. He was slowly resuming his way, when he saw a figure in the
    path before him which he had, perhaps, already associated with the
    evening and its impressions.

    Minnie was there, alone. She had some roses in her hand, and
    seemed to have stood still on seeing him, waiting for him. Her
    face was towards him, and she appeared to have been coming from the
    opposite direction. There was a flutter in her manner, which
    Clennam had never seen in it before; and as he came near her, it
    entered his mind all at once that she was there of a set purpose to
    speak to him.

    She gave him her hand, and said, 'You wonder to see me here by
    myself? But the evening is so lovely, I have strolled further than
    I meant at first. I thought it likely I might meet you, and that
    made me more confident. You always come this way, do you not?'

    As Clennam said that it was his favourite way, he felt her hand
    falter on his arm, and saw the roses shake.

    'Will you let me give you one, Mr Clennam? I gathered them as I
    came out of the garden. Indeed, I almost gathered them for you,
    thinking it so likely I might meet you. Mr Doyce arrived more than
    an hour ago, and told us you were walking down.'

    His own hand shook, as he accepted a rose or two from hers and
    thanked her. They were now by an avenue of trees. Whether they
    turned into it on his movement or on hers matters little. He never
    knew how that was.

    'It is very grave here,' said Clennam, 'but very pleasant at this
    hour. Passing along this deep shade, and out at that arch of light
    at the other end, we come upon the ferry and the cottage by the
    best approach, I think.'
    In her simple garden-hat and her light summer dress, with her rich
    brown hair naturally clustering about her, and her wonderful eyes
    raised to his for a moment with a look in which regard for him and
    trustfulness in him were strikingly blended with a kind of timid
    sorrow for him, she was so beautiful that it was well for his
    peace--or ill for his peace, he did not quite know which--that he
    had made that vigorous resolution he had so often thought about.

    She broke a momentary silence by inquiring if he knew that papa had
    been thinking of another tour abroad? He said he had heard it
    mentioned. She broke another momentary silence by adding, with
    some hesitation, that papa had abandoned the idea.

    At this, he thought directly, 'they are to be married.'

    'Mr Clennam,' she said, hesitating more timidly yet, and speaking
    so low that he bent his head to hear her. 'I should very much like
    to give you my confidence, if you would not mind having the
    goodness to receive it. I should have very much liked to have
    given it to you long ago, because--I felt that you were becoming so
    much our friend.'

    'How can I be otherwise than proud of it at any time! Pray give it
    to me. Pray trust me.'

    'I could never have been afraid of trusting you,' she returned,
    raising her eyes frankly to his face. 'I think I would have done
    so some time ago, if I had known how. But I scarcely know how,
    even now.'

    'Mr Gowan,' said Arthur Clennam, 'has reason to be very happy. God
    bless his wife and him!'

    She wept, as she tried to thank him. He reassured her, took her
    hand as it lay with the trembling roses in it on his arm, took the
    remaining roses from it, and put it to his lips. At that time, it
    seemed to him, he first finally resigned the dying hope that had
    flickered in nobody's heart so much to its pain and trouble; and
    from that time he became in his own eyes, as to any similar hope or
    prospect, a very much older man who had done with that part of
    life.

    He put the roses in his breast and they walked on for a little
    while, slowly and silently, under the umbrageous trees. Then he
    asked her, in a voice of cheerful kindness, was there anything else
    that she would say to him as her friend and her father's friend,
    many years older than herself; was there any trust she would repose
    in him, any service she would ask of him, any little aid to her
    happiness that she could give him the lasting gratification of
    believing it was in his power to render?

    She was going to answer, when she was so touched by some little
    hidden sorrow or sympathy--what could it have been?--that she said,
    bursting into tears again: 'O Mr Clennam! Good, generous, Mr
    Clennam, pray tell me you do not blame me.'

    'I blame you?' said Clennam. 'My dearest girl! I blame you? No!'

    After clasping both her hands upon his arm, and looking
    confidentially up into his face, with some hurried words to the
    effect that she thanked him from her heart (as she did, if it be
    the source of earnestness), she gradually composed herself, with
    now and then a word of encouragement from him, as they walked on
    slowly and almost silently under the darkening trees.

    'And, now, Minnie Gowan,' at length said Clennam, smiling; 'will
    you ask me nothing?'

    'Oh! I have very much to ask of you.'

    'That's well! I hope so; I am not disappointed.'

    'You know how I am loved at home, and how I love home. You can
    hardly think it perhaps, dear Mr Clennam,' she spoke with great
    agitation, 'seeing me going from it of my own free will and choice,
    but I do so dearly love it!'

    'I am sure of that,' said Clennam. 'Can you suppose I doubt it?'

    'No, no. But it is strange, even to me, that loving it so much and
    being so much beloved in it, I can bear to cast it away. It seems
    so neglectful of it, so unthankful.'

    'My dear girl,' said Clennam, 'it is in the natural progress and
    change of time. All homes are left so.'

    'Yes, I know; but all homes are not left with such a blank in them
    as there will be in mine when I am gone. Not that there is any
    scarcity of far better and more endearing and more accomplished
    girls than I am; not that I am much, but that they have made so
    much of me!'

    Pet's affectionate heart was overcharged, and she sobbed while she
    pictured what would happen.

    'I know what a change papa will feel at first, and I know that at
    first I cannot be to him anything like what I have been these many
    years. And it is then, Mr Clennam, then more than at any time,
    that I beg and entreat you to remember him, and sometimes to keep
    him company when you can spare a little while; and to tell him that
    you know I was fonder of him when I left him, than I ever was in
    all my life. For there is nobody--he told me so himself when he
    talked to me this very day--there is nobody he likes so well as
    you, or trusts so much.'

    A clue to what had passed between the father and daughter dropped
    like a heavy stone into the well of Clennam's heart, and swelled
    the water to his eyes. He said, cheerily, but not quite so
    cheerily as he tried to say, that it should be done--that he gave
    her his faithful promise.

    'If I do not speak of mama,' said Pet, more moved by, and more
    pretty in, her innocent grief, than Clennam could trust himself
    even to consider--for which reason he counted the trees between
    them and the fading light as they slowly diminished in number--'it
    is because mama will understand me better in this action, and will
    feel my loss in a different way, and will look forward in a
    different manner. But you know what a dear, devoted mother she is,
    and you will remember her too; will you not?'

    Let Minnie trust him, Clennam said, let Minnie trust him to do all
    she wished.

    'And, dear Mr Clennam,' said Minnie, 'because papa and one whom I
    need not name, do not fully appreciate and understand one another
    yet, as they will by-and-by; and because it will be the duty, and
    the pride, and pleasure of my new life, to draw them to a better
    knowledge of one another, and to be a happiness to one another, and
    to be proud of one another, and to love one another, both loving me
    so dearly; oh, as you are a kind, true man! when I am first
    separated from home (I am going a long distance away), try to
    reconcile papa to him a little more, and use your great influence
    to keep him before papa's mind free from prejudice and in his real
    form. Will you do this for me, as you are a noble-hearted friend?'

    Poor Pet! Self-deceived, mistaken child! When were such changes
    ever made in men's natural relations to one another: when was such
    reconcilement of ingrain differences ever effected! It has been
    tried many times by other daughters, Minnie; it has never
    succeeded; nothing has ever come of it but failure.

    So Clennam thought. So he did not say; it was too late. He bound
    himself to do all she asked, and she knew full well that he would
    do it.

    They were now at the last tree in the avenue. She stopped, and
    withdrew her arm. Speaking to him with her eyes lifted up to his,
    and with the hand that had lately rested on his sleeve trembling by
    touching one of the roses in his breast as an additional appeal to
    him, she said:

    'Dear Mr Clennam, in my happiness--for I am happy, though you have
    seen me crying--I cannot bear to leave any cloud between us. If
    you have anything to forgive me (not anything that I have wilfully
    done, but any trouble I may have caused you without meaning it, or
    having it in my power to help it), forgive me to-night out of your
    noble heart!'

    He stooped to meet the guileless face that met his without
    shrinking. He kissed it, and answered, Heaven knew that he had
    nothing to forgive. As he stooped to meet the innocent face once
    again, she whispered, 'Good-bye!' and he repeated it. It was
    taking leave of all his old hopes--all nobody's old restless
    doubts. They came out of the avenue next moment, arm-in-arm as
    they had entered it: and the trees seemed to close up behind them
    in the darkness, like their own perspective of the past.

    The voices of Mr and Mrs Meagles and Doyce were audible directly,
    speaking near the garden gate. Hearing Pet's name among them,
    Clennam called out, 'She is here, with me.' There was some little
    wondering and laughing until they came up; but as soon as they had
    all come together, it ceased, and Pet glided away.

    Mr Meagles, Doyce, and Clennam, without speaking, walked up and
    down on the brink of the river, in the light of the rising moon,
    for a few minutes; and then Doyce lingered behind, and went into
    the house. Mr Meagles and Clennam walked up and down together for
    a few minutes more without speaking, until at length the former
    broke silence.

    'Arthur,' said he, using that familiar address for the first time
    in their communication, 'do you remember my telling you, as we
    walked up and down one hot morning, looking over the harbour at
    Marseilles, that Pet's baby sister who was dead seemed to Mother
    and me to have grown as she had grown, and changed as she had
    changed?'

    'Very well.'

    'You remember my saying that our thoughts had never been able to
    separate those twin sisters, and that, in our fancy, whatever Pet
    was, the other was?'

    'Yes, very well.'

    'Arthur,' said Mr Meagles, much subdued, 'I carry that fancy
    further to-night. I feel to-night, my dear fellow, as if you had
    loved my dead child very tenderly, and had lost her when she was
    like what Pet is now.'

    'Thank you!' murmured Clennam, 'thank you!' And pressed his hand.

    'Will you come in?' said Mr Meagles, presently.

    'In a little while.'

    Mr Meagles fell away, and he was left alone. When he had walked on
    the river's brink in the peaceful moonlight for some half an hour,
    he put his hand in his breast and tenderly took out the handful of
    roses. Perhaps he put them to his heart, perhaps he put them to
    his lips, but certainly he bent down on the shore and gently
    launched them on the flowing river. Pale and unreal in the
    moonlight, the river floated them away.
    The lights were bright within doors when he entered, and the faces
    on which they shone, his own face not excepted, were soon quietly
    cheerful. They talked of many subjects (his partner never had had
    such a ready store to draw upon for the beguiling of the time), and
    so to bed, and to sleep. While the flowers, pale and unreal in the
    moonlight, floated away upon the river; and thus do greater things
    that once were in our breasts, and near our hearts, flow from us to
    the eternal seas.
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    Chapter 29
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