He might have released the little light hand after fervently kissing it again; but that, with a very gentle lingering where it was, it seemed to court being retained. He took it in both of his, and it lay softly on his breast.
'Dear Little Dorrit, it is not my imprisonment only that will soon be over. This sacrifice of you must be ended. We must learn to part again, and to take our different ways so wide asunder. You have not forgotten what we said together, when you came back?'
'O no, I have not forgotten it. But something has been--You feel quite strong to-day, don't you?'
The hand he held crept up a little nearer his face.
'Do you feel quite strong enough to know what a great fortune I have got?'
'I shall be very glad to be told. No fortune can be too great or good for Little Dorrit.'
'I have been anxiously waiting to tell you. I have been longing and longing to tell you. 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.