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Little Dorrit

16.
Nobody's Weakness
The time being come for the renewal of his acquaintance with the Meagles
family, Clennam, pursuant to contract made between himself and Mr Meagles
within the precincts of Bleeding Heart Yard, turned his face on a certain Saturday
towards Twickenham, where Mr Meagles had a cottage-residence of his own.
The weather being fine and dry, and any English road abounding in interest for
him who had been so long away, he sent his valise on by the coach, and set out
to walk. A walk was in itself a new enjoyment to him, and one that had rarely
diversified his life afar off.
He went by Fulham and Putney, for the pleasure of strolling over the heath. It
was bright and shining there; and when he found himself so far on his road to
Twickenham, he found himself a long way on his road to a number of airier and
less substantial destinations. They had risen before him fast, in the healthful
exercise and the pleasant road. It is not easy to walk alone in the country without
musing upon something. And he had plenty of unsettled subjects to meditate
upon, though he had been walking to the Land's End.
First, there was the subject seldom absent from his mind, the question, what he
was to do henceforth in life; to what occupation he should devote himself, and in
what direction he had best seek it. He was far from rich, and every day of
indecision and inaction made his inheritance a source of greater anxiety to him.
As often as he began to consider how to increase this inheritance, or to lay it by,
so often his misgiving that there was some one with an unsatisfied claim upon his
justice, returned; and that alone was a subject to outlast the longest walk. Again,
there was the subject of his relations with his mother, which were now upon an
equable and peaceful but never confidential footing, and whom he saw several
times a week. Little Dorrit was a leading and a constant subject: for the
circumstances of his life, united to those of her own story, presented the little
creature to him as the only person between whom and himself there were ties of
innocent reliance on one hand, and affectionate protection on the other; ties of
compassion, respect, unselfish interest, gratitude, and pity. Thinking of her, and
of the possibility of her father's release from prison by the unbarring hand of
death--the only change of circumstance he could foresee that might enable him
to be such a friend to her as he wished to be, by altering her whole manner of
life, smoothing her rough road, and giving her a home--he regarded her, in that
perspective, as his adopted daughter, his poor child of the Marshalsea hushed to
rest. If there were a last subject in his thoughts, and it lay towards Twickenham,
its form was so indefinite that it was little more than the pervading atmosphere in
which these other subjects floated before him.
He had crossed the heath and was leaving it behind when he gained upon a
figure which had been in advance of him for some time, and which, as he gained
upon it, he thought he knew. He derived this impression from something in the
turn of the head, and in the figure's action of consideration, as it went on at a
sufficiently sturdy walk. But when the man--for it was a man's figure--pushed his
 
 
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