Trotty held his peace.
'And how hard, father, to grow old, and die, and think we might have cheered and helped each other! How hard in all our lives to love each other; and to grieve, apart, to see each other working, changing, growing old and grey. Even if I got the better of it, and forgot him (which I never could), oh father dear, how hard to have a heart so full as mine is now, and live to have it slowly drained out every drop, without the recollection of one happy moment of a woman's life, to stay behind and comfort me, and make me better!'
Trotty sat quite still. Meg dried her eyes, and said more gaily: that is to say, with here a laugh, and there a sob, and here a laugh and sob together:
'So Richard says, father; as his work was yesterday made certain for some time to come, and as I love him, and have loved him full three years--ah! longer than that, if he knew it!--will I marry him on New Year's Day; the best and happiest day, he says, in the whole year, and one that is almost sure to bring good fortune with it. It's a short notice, father--isn't it?--but I haven't my fortune to be settled, or my wedding dresses to be made, like the great ladies, father, have I? And he said so much, and said it in his way; so strong and earnest, and all the time so kind and gentle; that I said I'd come and talk to you, father. And as they paid the money for that work of mine this morning (unexpectedly, I am sure!) and as you have fared very poorly for a whole week, and as I couldn't help wishing there should be something to make this day a sort of holiday to you as well as a dear and happy day to me, father, I made a little treat and brought it to surprise you.'
'And see how he leaves it cooling on the step!' said another voice.
It was the voice of this same Richard, who had come upon them unobserved, and stood before the father and daughter; looking down upon them with a face as glowing as the iron on which his stout sledge-hammer daily rung. A handsome, well-made, powerful youngster he was; with eyes that sparkled like the red-hot droppings from a furnace fire; black hair that curled about his swarthy temples rarely; and a smile--a smile that bore out Meg's eulogium on his style of conversation.
'See how he leaves it cooling on the step!' said Richard. 'Meg don't know what he likes. Not she!'
Trotty, all action and enthusiasm, immediately reached up his hand to Richard, and was going to address him in great hurry, when the house-door opened without any warning, and a footman very nearly put his foot into the tripe.
'Out of the vays here, will you! You must always go and be a- settin on our steps, must you! You can't go and give a turn to none of the neighbours never, can't you! WILL you clear the road, or won't you?'
Strictly speaking, the last question was irrelevant, as they had already done it.
'What's the matter, what's the matter!' said the gentleman for whom the door was opened; coming out of the house at that kind of light- heavy pace--that peculiar compromise between a walk and a jog-trot- -with which a gentleman upon the smooth down-hill of life, wearing creaking boots, a watch-chain, and clean linen, MAY come out of his house: not only without any abatement of his dignity, but with an expression of having important and wealthy engagements elsewhere.