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Summary Chapter 2

Mr. Clennam asks Mr. Meagles if the French people were yelling. Mr. Meagles denies this. Mr. Clennam was referring to the regular people, not the ones locked up in the prison. He considers the French to be a disgruntled group.

Mr. Meagles remarks it is better for people to protest than to be quarantined. Mr. Clennam assures him they’ll be out today. His companion doesn’t understand why they were quarantined. Mr. Clennam replies that it is because they come from the East, which is known to be plague-proned.

Mr. Meagles complains that the paranoia over the plague has affected his health. His wife assures him it is all over. He can’t understand why they would put his lovely daughter Pet in quarantine. Mr. Clennam says it made quarantine more enjoyable.

Mr. Meagles orders Pet to help her mother get prepared for their departure. He orders Tattycoram, Pet’s maidservant, to keep close to her mistress. Mr. Clennam remarks on Tattycoram’s unusual name. Mr. Meagles explains that they had taken Pet to a foundling hospital to hear the choir. Mrs. Meagles had felt sorry for the orphans. He had proposed adopting one of them to be a servant. They had to prepare themselves for the expected defects of a child raised in a foundling home. They adopted Tattycoram, whose name had been Harriet Beadle. They originally called her Hatty, which changed to Tatty. Loathing beadles, they called her Coram.

Mr. Clennam asks if the Meagles have other children. Mr. Meagle confirms that Pet is an only child, though she did have a twin sister that died as a toddler. However, Pet and her sister were so much alike, the Meagles don’t really feel like they’ve lost a child. Mr. Meagles claims that Pet is very mature because she experienced death young, and she is the child of older parents. They spend much of their time traveling around the world.

Mr. Meagles asks Mr. Clennam where he is going, but Mr. Clennam doesn’t know. Mr. Meagles suggests London. His companion claims he doesn’t have desires, which makes it difficult for him to decide on what to do. His desires were crushed out of him. Mr. Meagles advises he rekindle them. Mr. Clennam relates how he is the only child of strict parents who priced everything. They made sacrifices for things they didn’t even desire.

The travelers are finally released and allowed to go on the boat. Most spend their last night together, having become friendly during their captivity. An Englishwoman, Miss Wade, sits apart. Mr. Meagles remarks how a prisoner can forgive his prison once he is free. Miss Wade doubts this is true. She would want to burn the prison down.

After making this one comment, she withdraws from the others. Pet goes up to her and asks if she is meeting anyone. Miss Wade answers no. Pet tells her that her father is going to the post and wonders if she would like him to inquire if there are any letters for her. The other woman replies there will be no letters. Pet replies that her father is concerned about Miss Wade being alone and has offered his services. Miss Wade declines.

Miss Wade bids Pet and her father a cold farewell, giving them a dire warning about people they might meet on the road—which frightens Pet. Miss Wade comes across Tattycoram, who is sobbing. The maidservant distrusts her because she is afraid of her.

Tattycoram complains that though she is younger, she is forced to serve Pet—a coddled girl who thinks of nobody but herself. She is planning on running away. She asks Miss Wade to leave her alone. When her temper is bad, she can control it if she is alone. She retracts what she said, saying the Meagles are kind to her.

Charles Dickens