She had, though--over and over again. For it was Toby's constant topic.
'When things is very bad,' said Trotty; 'very bad indeed, I mean; almost at the worst; then it's "Toby Veck, Toby Veck, job coming soon, Toby! Toby Veck, Toby Veck, job coming soon, Toby!" That way.'
'And it comes--at last, father,' said Meg, with a touch of sadness in her pleasant voice.
'Always,' answered the unconscious Toby. 'Never fails.'
While this discourse was holding, Trotty made no pause in his attack upon the savoury meat before him, but cut and ate, and cut and drank, and cut and chewed, and dodged about, from tripe to hot potato, and from hot potato back again to tripe, with an unctuous and unflagging relish. But happening now to look all round the street--in case anybody should be beckoning from any door or window, for a porter--his eyes, in coming back again, encountered Meg: sitting opposite to him, with her arms folded and only busy in watching his progress with a smile of happiness.
'Why, Lord forgive me!' said Trotty, dropping his knife and fork. 'My dove! Meg! why didn't you tell me what a beast I was?'
'Sitting here,' said Trotty, in penitent explanation, 'cramming, and stuffing, and gorging myself; and you before me there, never so much as breaking your precious fast, nor wanting to, when--'
'But I have broken it, father,' interposed his daughter, laughing, 'all to bits. I have had my dinner.'
'Nonsense,' said Trotty. 'Two dinners in one day! It an't possible! You might as well tell me that two New Year's Days will come together, or that I have had a gold head all my life, and never changed it.'
'I have had my dinner, father, for all that,' said Meg, coming nearer to him. 'And if you'll go on with yours, I'll tell you how and where; and how your dinner came to be brought; and--and something else besides.'
Toby still appeared incredulous; but she looked into his face with her clear eyes, and laying her hand upon his shoulder, motioned him to go on while the meat was hot. So Trotty took up his knife and fork again, and went to work. But much more slowly than before, and shaking his head, as if he were not at all pleased with himself.
'I had my dinner, father,' said Meg, after a little hesitation, 'with--with Richard. His dinner-time was early; and as he brought his dinner with him when he came to see me, we--we had it together, father.'
Trotty took a little beer, and smacked his lips. Then he said, 'Oh!'--because she waited.
'And Richard says, father--' Meg resumed. Then stopped.
'What does Richard say, Meg?' asked Toby.
'Richard says, father--' Another stoppage.
'Richard's a long time saying it,' said Toby.
'He says then, father,' Meg continued, lifting up her eyes at last, and speaking in a tremble, but quite plainly; 'another year is nearly gone, and where is the use of waiting on from year to year, when it is so unlikely we shall ever be better off than we are now? He says we are poor now, father, and we shall be poor then, but we are young now, and years will make us old before we know it. He says that if we wait: people in our condition: until we see our way quite clearly, the way will be a narrow one indeed--the common way--the Grave, father.'
A bolder man than Trotty Veck must needs have drawn upon his boldness largely, to deny it.