CHAPTER 26. Nobody's State of Mind
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CHAPTER 26. Nobody's State of Mind



If Ar­t­hur Clen­nam had not ar­ri­ved at that wi­se de­ci­si­on firmly to res­t­ra­in him­self from lo­ving Pet, he wo­uld ha­ve li­ved on in a sta­te of much per­p­le­xity, in­vol­ving dif­fi­cult strug­gles with his own he­art. Not the le­ast of the­se wo­uld ha­ve be­en a con­ten­ti­on, al­ways wa­ging wit­hin it, bet­we­en a ten­dency to dis­li­ke Mr Henry Go­wan, if not to re­gard him with po­si­ti­ve re­pug­nan­ce, and a whis­per that the in­c­li­na­ti­on was un­worthy. A ge­ne­ro­us na­tu­re is not pro­ne to strong aver­si­ons, and is slow to ad­mit them even dis­pas­si­ona­tely; but when it finds ill-will ga­ining upon it, and can dis­cern bet­we­en-whi­les that its ori­gin is not dis­pas­si­ona­te, such a na­tu­re be­co­mes dis­t­res­sed.

Therefore Mr Henry Go­wan wo­uld ha­ve clo­uded Clen­nam's mind, and wo­uld ha­ve be­en far of­te­ner pre­sent to it than mo­re ag­re­e­ab­le per­sons and su­bj­ects but for the gre­at pru­den­ce of his de­ci­si­on afo­re­sa­id. As it was, Mr Go­wan se­emed tran­s­fer­red to Da­ni­el Doy­ce's mind; at all events, it so hap­pe­ned that it usu­al­ly fell to Mr Doy­ce's turn, rat­her than to Clen­nam's, to spe­ak of him in the fri­endly con­ver­sa­ti­ons they held to­get­her. The­se we­re of fre­qu­ent oc­cur­ren­ce now; as the two par­t­ners sha­red a por­ti­on of a ro­omy ho­use in one of the gra­ve old-fas­hi­oned City stre­ets, lying not far from the Bank of En­g­land, by Lon­don Wall.

Mr Doy­ce had be­en to Twic­ken­ham to pass the day. Clen­nam had ex­cu­sed him­self. Mr Doy­ce was just co­me ho­me. He put in his he­ad at the do­or of Clen­nam's sit­ting-ro­om to say Go­od night.

'Come in, co­me in!' sa­id Clen­nam.

'I saw you we­re re­ading,' re­tur­ned Doy­ce, as he en­te­red, 'and tho­ught you might not ca­re to be dis­tur­bed.'

But for the no­tab­le re­so­lu­ti­on he had ma­de, Clen­nam re­al­ly might not ha­ve known what he had be­en re­ading; re­al­ly might not ha­ve had his eyes upon the bo­ok for an ho­ur past, tho­ugh it lay open be­fo­re him. He shut it up, rat­her qu­ickly.

'Are they well?' he as­ked.

'Yes,' sa­id Doy­ce; 'they are well. They are all well.'

Daniel had an old wor­k­man­li­ke ha­bit of car­rying his poc­ket-han­d­ker­c­hi­ef in his hat. He to­ok it out and wi­ped his fo­re­he­ad with it, slowly re­pe­ating, 'They are all well. Miss Min­nie lo­oking par­ti­cu­larly well, I tho­ught.'

'Any com­pany at the cot­ta­ge?'

'No, no com­pany.' 'And how did you get on, you fo­ur?' as­ked Clen­nam ga­ily.

'There we­re fi­ve of us,' re­tur­ned his par­t­ner. 'The­re was What's-his-na­me. He was the­re.' 'Who is he?' sa­id Clen­nam.

'Mr Henry Go­wan.'

'Ah, to be su­re!' cri­ed Clen­nam with unu­su­al vi­va­city, 'Yes!-I for­got him.'

'As I men­ti­oned, you may re­mem­ber,' sa­id Da­ni­el Doy­ce, 'he is al­ways the­re on Sun­day.'

'Yes, yes,' re­tur­ned Clen­nam; 'I re­mem­ber now.'

Daniel Doy­ce, still wi­ping his fo­re­he­ad, plod­dingly re­pe­ated. 'Yes. He was the­re, he was the­re. Oh yes, he was the­re. And his dog. He was the­re too.'

'Miss Me­ag­les is qu­ite at­tac­hed to-the-dog,' ob­ser­ved Clen­nam.

'Quite so,' as­sen­ted his par­t­ner. 'Mo­re at­tac­hed to the dog than I am to the man.'

'You me­an Mr-?'

'I me­an Mr Go­wan, most de­ci­dedly,' sa­id Da­ni­el Doy­ce.

There was a gap in the con­ver­sa­ti­on, which Clen­nam de­vo­ted to win­ding up his watch.

'Perhaps you are a lit­tle hasty in yo­ur jud­g­ment,' he sa­id. 'Our jud­g­men­ts-I am sup­po­sing a ge­ne­ral ca­se-'

'Of co­ur­se,' sa­id Doy­ce.

'Are so li­ab­le to be in­f­lu­en­ced by many con­si­de­ra­ti­ons, which, al­most wit­ho­ut our kno­wing it, are un­fa­ir, that it is ne­ces­sary to ke­ep a gu­ard upon them. For in­s­tan­ce, Mr-'

'Gowan,' qu­i­etly sa­id Doy­ce, upon whom the ut­te­ran­ce of the na­me al­most al­ways de­vol­ved.

'Is yo­ung and han­d­so­me, easy and qu­ick, has ta­lent, and has se­en a go­od de­al of va­ri­o­us kinds of li­fe. It might be dif­fi­cult to gi­ve an un­sel­fish re­ason for be­ing pre­pos­ses­sed aga­inst him.'

'Not dif­fi­cult for me, I think, Clen­nam,' re­tur­ned his par­t­ner. 'I see him brin­ging pre­sent an­xi­ety, and, I fe­ar, fu­tu­re sor­row, in­to my old fri­end's ho­use. I see him we­aring de­eper li­nes in­to my old fri­end's fa­ce, the ne­arer he draws to, and the of­te­ner he lo­oks at, the fa­ce of his da­ug­h­ter. In short, I see him with a net abo­ut the pretty and af­fec­ti­ona­te cre­atu­re whom he will ne­ver ma­ke happy.' 'We don't know,' sa­id Clen­nam, al­most in the to­ne of a man in pa­in, 'that he will not ma­ke her happy.'

'We don't know,' re­tur­ned his par­t­ner, 'that the earth will last anot­her hun­d­red ye­ars, but we think it highly pro­bab­le.'

'Well, well!' sa­id Clen­nam, 'we must be ho­pe­ful, and we must at le­ast try to be, if not ge­ne­ro­us (which, in this ca­se, we ha­ve no op­por­tu­nity of be­ing), just. We will not dis­pa­ra­ge this gen­t­le­man, be­ca­use he is suc­ces­sful in his ad­dres­ses to the be­a­uti­ful obj­ect of his am­bi­ti­on; and we will not qu­es­ti­on her na­tu­ral right to bes­tow her lo­ve on one whom she finds worthy of it.'



'Maybe, my fri­end,' sa­id Doy­ce. 'May­be al­so, that she is too yo­ung and pet­ted, too con­fi­ding and inex­pe­ri­en­ced, to dis­c­ri­mi­na­te well.'

'That,' sa­id Clen­nam, 'wo­uld be far be­yond our po­wer of cor­rec­ti­on.'

Daniel Doy­ce sho­ok his he­ad gra­vely, and re­j­o­ined, 'I fe­ar so.'

'Therefore, in a word,' sa­id Clen­nam, 'we sho­uld ma­ke up our minds that it is not worthy of us to say any ill of Mr Go­wan. It wo­uld be a po­or thing to gra­tify a pre­j­udi­ce aga­inst him. And I re­sol­ve, for my part, not to dep­re­ci­ate him.'

'I am not qu­ite so su­re of myself, and the­re­fo­re I re­ser­ve my pri­vi­le­ge of obj­ec­ting to him,' re­tur­ned the ot­her. 'But, if I am not su­re of myself, I am su­re of you, Clen­nam, and I know what an up­right man you are, and how much to be res­pec­ted. Go­od night, MY fri­end and par­t­ner!' He sho­ok his hand in sa­ying this, as if the­re had be­en so­met­hing se­ri­o­us at the bot­tom of the­ir con­ver­sa­ti­on; and they se­pa­ra­ted.

By this ti­me they had vi­si­ted the fa­mily on se­ve­ral oc­ca­si­ons, and had al­ways ob­ser­ved that even a pas­sing al­lu­si­on to Mr Henry Go­wan when he was not among them, bro­ught back the clo­ud which had ob­s­cu­red Mr Me­ag­les's sun­s­hi­ne on the mor­ning of the chan­ce en­co­un­ter at the Ferry. If Clen­nam had ever ad­mit­ted the for­bid­den pas­si­on in­to his bre­ast, this pe­ri­od might ha­ve be­en a pe­ri­od of re­al tri­al; un­der the ac­tu­al cir­cum­s­tan­ces, do­ub­t­less it was not­hing-not­hing.

Equally, if his he­art had gi­ven en­ter­ta­in­ment to that pro­hi­bi­ted gu­est, his si­lent fig­h­ting of his way thro­ugh the men­tal con­di­ti­on of this pe­ri­od might ha­ve be­en a lit­tle me­ri­to­ri­o­us. In the con­s­tant ef­fort not to be bet­ra­yed in­to a new pha­se of the be­set­ting sin of his ex­pe­ri­en­ce, the pur­su­it of sel­fish obj­ects by low and small me­ans, and to hold in­s­te­ad to so­me high prin­cip­le of ho­no­ur and ge­ne­ro­sity, the­re might ha­ve be­en a lit­tle me­rit. In the re­so­lu­ti­on not even to avo­id Mr Me­ag­les's ho­use, lest, in the sel­fish spa­ring of him­self, he sho­uld bring any slight dis­t­ress upon the da­ug­h­ter thro­ugh ma­king her the ca­use of an es­t­ran­ge­ment which he be­li­eved the fat­her wo­uld reg­ret, the­re might ha­ve be­en a lit­tle me­rit. In the mo­dest trut­h­ful­ness of al­ways ke­eping in vi­ew the gre­ater equ­ality of Mr Go­wan's ye­ars and the gre­ater at­trac­ti­ons of his per­son and man­ner, the­re might ha­ve be­en a lit­tle me­rit. In do­ing all this and much mo­re, in a per­fectly unaf­fec­ted way and with a man­ful and com­po­sed con­s­tancy, whi­le the pa­in wit­hin him (pe­cu­li­ar as his li­fe and his­tory) was very sharp, the­re might ha­ve be­en so­me qu­i­et strength of cha­rac­ter. But, af­ter the re­so­lu­ti­on he had ma­de, of co­ur­se he co­uld ha­ve no such me­rits as the­se; and such a sta­te of mind was no­body's-no­body's.

Mr Go­wan ma­de it no con­cern of his whet­her it was no­body's or so­me­body's. He pre­ser­ved his per­fect se­re­nity of man­ner on all oc­ca­si­ons, as if the pos­si­bi­lity of Clen­nam's pre­su­ming to ha­ve de­ba­ted the gre­at qu­es­ti­on we­re too dis­tant and ri­di­cu­lo­us to be ima­gi­ned. He had al­ways an af­fa­bi­lity to bes­tow on Clen­nam and an ease to tre­at him with, which might of it­self (in the sup­po­si­ti­ti­o­us ca­se of his not ha­ving ta­ken that sa­ga­ci­o­us co­ur­se) ha­ve be­en a very un­com­for­tab­le ele­ment in his sta­te of mind.

'I qu­ite reg­ret you we­re not with us yes­ter­day,' sa­id Mr Henry Go­wan, cal­ling on Clen­nam the next mor­ning. 'We had an ag­re­e­ab­le day up the ri­ver the­re.'

So he had he­ard, Ar­t­hur sa­id.

'From yo­ur par­t­ner?' re­tur­ned Henry Go­wan. 'What a de­ar old fel­low he is!'

'I ha­ve a gre­at re­gard for him.'

'By Jove, he is the fi­nest cre­atu­re!' sa­id Go­wan. 'So fresh, so gre­en, trusts in such won­der­ful things!'

Here was one of the many lit­tle ro­ugh po­ints that had a ten­dency to gra­te on Clen­nam's he­aring. He put it asi­de by me­rely re­pe­ating that he had a high re­gard for Mr Doy­ce.

'He is char­ming! To see him mo­oning along to that ti­me of li­fe, la­ying down not­hing by the way and pic­king up not­hing by the way, is de­lig­h­t­ful. It warms a man. So un­s­po­ilt, so sim­p­le, such a go­od so­ul! Upon my li­fe Mr Clen­nam, one fe­els des­pe­ra­tely worldly and wic­ked in com­pa­ri­son with such an in­no­cent cre­atu­re. I spe­ak for myself, let me add, wit­ho­ut in­c­lu­ding you. You are ge­nu­ine al­so.'

'Thank you for the com­p­li­ment,' sa­id Clen­nam, ill at ease; 'you are too, I ho­pe?'

'So so,' re­j­o­ined the ot­her. 'To be can­did with you, to­le­rably. I am not a gre­at im­pos­tor. Buy one of my pic­tu­res, and I as­su­re you, in con­fi­den­ce, it will not be worth the mo­ney. Buy one of anot­her man's-any gre­at pro­fes­sor who be­ats me hol­low-and the chan­ces are that the mo­re you gi­ve him, the mo­re he'll im­po­se upon you. They all do it.' 'All pa­in­ters?'

'Painters, wri­ters, pat­ri­ots, all the rest who ha­ve stands in the mar­ket. Gi­ve al­most any man I know ten po­unds, and he will im­po­se upon you to a cor­res­pon­ding ex­tent; a tho­usand po­un­ds-to a cor­res­pon­ding ex­tent; ten tho­usand po­un­ds-to a cor­res­pon­ding ex­tent. So gre­at the suc­cess, so gre­at the im­po­si­ti­on. But what a ca­pi­tal world it is!' cri­ed Go­wan with warm en­t­hu­si­asm. 'What a jol­ly, ex­cel­lent, lo­vab­le world it is!'

'I had rat­her tho­ught,' sa­id Clen­nam, 'that the prin­cip­le you men­ti­on was chi­efly ac­ted on by-'

'By the Bar­nac­les?' in­ter­rup­ted Go­wan, la­ug­hing.

'By the po­li­ti­cal gen­t­le­men who con­des­cend to ke­ep the Cir­cum­lo­cu­ti­on Of­fi­ce.'

'Ah! Don't be hard upon the Bar­nac­les,' sa­id Go­wan, la­ug­hing af­resh, 'they are dar­ling fel­lows! Even po­or lit­tle Cla­ren­ce, the born idi­ot of the fa­mily, is the most ag­re­e­ab­le and most en­de­aring bloc­k­he­ad! And by Jupi­ter, with a kind of cle­ver­ness in him too that wo­uld as­to­nish you!'

'It wo­uld. Very much,' sa­id Clen­nam, drily.

'And af­ter all,' cri­ed Go­wan, with that cha­rac­te­ris­tic ba­lan­cing of his which re­du­ced ever­y­t­hing in the wi­de world to the sa­me light we­ight, 'tho­ugh I can't deny that the Cir­cum­lo­cu­ti­on Of­fi­ce may ul­ti­ma­tely ship­w­reck ever­y­body and ever­y­t­hing, still, that will pro­bably not be in our ti­me-and it's a scho­ol for gen­t­le­men.'

'It's a very dan­ge­ro­us, un­sa­tis­fac­tory, and ex­pen­si­ve scho­ol to the pe­op­le who pay to ke­ep the pu­pils the­re, I am af­ra­id,' sa­id Clen­nam, sha­king his he­ad.

'Ah! You are a ter­rib­le fel­low,' re­tur­ned Go­wan, airily. 'I can un­der­s­tand how you ha­ve frig­h­te­ned that lit­tle don­key, Cla­ren­ce, the most es­ti­mab­le of mo­on-cal­ves (I re­al­ly lo­ve him) ne­arly out of his wits. But eno­ugh of him, and of all the rest of them. I want to pre­sent you to my mot­her, Mr Clen­nam. Pray do me the fa­vo­ur to gi­ve me the op­por­tu­nity.'

In no­body's sta­te of mind, the­re was not­hing Clen­nam wo­uld ha­ve de­si­red less, or wo­uld ha­ve be­en mo­re at a loss how to avo­id.

'My mot­her li­ves in a most pri­mi­ti­ve man­ner down in that dre­ary red-brick dun­ge­on at Ham­p­ton Co­urt,' sa­id Go­wan. 'If you wo­uld ma­ke yo­ur own ap­po­in­t­ment, sug­gest yo­ur own day for per­mit­ting me to ta­ke you the­re to din­ner, you wo­uld be bo­red and she wo­uld be char­med. Re­al­ly that's the sta­te of the ca­se.'

What co­uld Clen­nam say af­ter this? His re­ti­ring cha­rac­ter in­c­lu­ded a gre­at de­al that was sim­p­le in the best sen­se, be­ca­use un­p­rac­ti­sed and unu­sed; and in his sim­p­li­city and mo­desty, he co­uld only say that he was happy to pla­ce him­self at Mr Go­wan's dis­po­sal. Ac­cor­dingly he sa­id it, and the day was fi­xed. And a dre­aded day it was on his part, and a very un­wel­co­me day when it ca­me and they went down to Ham­p­ton Co­urt to­get­her.

The ve­ne­rab­le in­ha­bi­tants of that ve­ne­rab­le pi­le se­emed, in tho­se ti­mes, to be en­cam­ped the­re li­ke a sort of ci­vi­li­sed gip­si­es. The­re was a tem­po­rary air abo­ut the­ir es­tab­lis­h­ments, as if they we­re go­ing away the mo­ment they co­uld get an­y­t­hing bet­ter; the­re was al­so a dis­sa­tis­fi­ed air abo­ut them­sel­ves, as if they to­ok it very ill that they had not al­re­ady got so­met­hing much bet­ter. Gen­te­el blinds and ma­kes­hifts we­re mo­re or less ob­ser­vab­le as so­on as the­ir do­ors we­re ope­ned; scre­ens not half high eno­ugh, which ma­de di­ning-ro­oms out of ar­c­hed pas­sa­ges, and war­ded off ob­s­cu­re cor­ners whe­re fo­ot­boys slept at nights with the­ir he­ads among the kni­ves and forks; cur­ta­ins which cal­led upon you to be­li­eve that they didn't hi­de an­y­t­hing; pa­nes of glass which re­qu­es­ted you not to see them; many obj­ects of va­ri­o­us forms, fe­ig­ning to ha­ve no con­nec­ti­on with the­ir gu­ilty sec­ret, a bed; dis­gu­ised traps in walls, which we­re cle­arly co­al-cel­lars; af­fec­ta­ti­ons of no tho­ro­ug­h­fa­res, which we­re evi­dently do­ors to lit­tle kit­c­hens. Men­tal re­ser­va­ti­ons and ar­t­ful myste­ri­es grew out of the­se things. Cal­lers lo­oking ste­adily in­to the eyes of the­ir re­ce­ivers, pre­ten­ded not to smell co­oking three fe­et off; pe­op­le, con­f­ron­ting clo­sets ac­ci­den­tal­ly left open, pre­ten­ded not to see bot­tles; vi­si­tors with the­ir he­ads aga­inst a par­ti­ti­on of thin can­vas, and a pa­ge and a yo­ung fe­ma­le at high words on the ot­her si­de, ma­de be­li­eve to be sit­ting in a pri­me­val si­len­ce. The­re was no end to the small so­ci­al ac­com­mo­da­ti­on-bil­ls of this na­tu­re which the gip­si­es of gen­ti­lity we­re con­s­tantly dra­wing upon, and ac­cep­ting for, one anot­her.

Some of the­se Bo­he­mi­ans we­re of an ir­ri­tab­le tem­pe­ra­ment, as con­s­tantly so­ured and ve­xed by two men­tal tri­als: the first, the con­s­ci­o­us­ness that they had ne­ver got eno­ugh out of the pub­lic; the se­cond, the con­s­ci­o­us­ness that the pub­lic we­re ad­mit­ted in­to the bu­il­ding. Un­der the lat­ter gre­at wrong, a few suf­fe­red dre­ad­ful­ly-par­ti­cu­larly on Sun­days, when they had for so­me ti­me ex­pec­ted the earth to open and swal­low the pub­lic up; but which de­si­rab­le event had not yet oc­cur­red, in con­se­qu­en­ce of so­me rep­re­hen­sib­le la­xity in the ar­ran­ge­ments of the Uni­ver­se.

Mrs Go­wan's do­or was at­ten­ded by a fa­mily ser­vant of se­ve­ral ye­ars' stan­ding, who had his own crow to pluck with the pub­lic con­cer­ning a si­tu­ati­on in the Post-Of­fi­ce which he had be­en for so­me ti­me ex­pec­ting, and to which he was not yet ap­po­in­ted. He per­fectly knew that the pub­lic co­uld ne­ver ha­ve got him in, but he grimly gra­ti­fi­ed him­self with the idea that the pub­lic kept him out. Un­der the in­f­lu­en­ce of this inj­ury (and per­haps of so­me lit­tle stra­it­ness and ir­re­gu­la­rity in the mat­ter of wa­ges), he had grown neg­lec­t­ful of his per­son and mo­ro­se in mind; and now be­hol­ding in Clen­nam one of the deg­ra­ded body of his op­pres­sors, re­ce­ived him with ig­no­miny. Mrs Go­wan, ho­we­ver, re­ce­ived him with con­des­cen­si­on. He fo­und her a co­urtly old lady, for­merly a Be­a­uty, and still suf­fi­ci­ently well-fa­vo­ured to ha­ve dis­pen­sed with the pow­der on her no­se and a cer­ta­in im­pos­sib­le blo­om un­der each eye. She was a lit­tle lofty with him; so was anot­her old lady, dark-bro­wed and high-no­sed, and who must ha­ve had so­met­hing re­al abo­ut her or she co­uld not ha­ve exis­ted, but it was cer­ta­inly not her ha­ir or her te­eth or her fi­gu­re or her com­p­le­xi­on; so was a grey old gen­t­le­man of dig­ni­fi­ed and sul­len ap­pe­aran­ce; both of whom had co­me to din­ner. But, as they had all be­en in the Bri­tish Em­bas­sy way in sundry parts of the earth, and as a Bri­tish Em­bas­sy can­not bet­ter es­tab­lish a cha­rac­ter with the Cir­cum­lo­cu­ti­on Of­fi­ce than by tre­ating its com­pat­ri­ots with il­li­mi­tab­le con­tempt (else it wo­uld be­co­me li­ke the Em­bas­si­es of ot­her co­un­t­ri­es), Clen­nam felt that on the who­le they let him off lightly.

The dig­ni­fi­ed old gen­t­le­man tur­ned out to be Lord Lan­cas­ter Stil­t­s­tal­king, who had be­en ma­in­ta­ined by the Cir­cum­lo­cu­ti­on Of­fi­ce for many ye­ars as a rep­re­sen­ta­ti­ve of the Bri­tan­nic Ma­j­esty ab­ro­ad.

This nob­le Ref­ri­ge­ra­tor had iced se­ve­ral Euro­pe­an co­urts in his ti­me, and had do­ne it with such com­p­le­te suc­cess that the very na­me of En­g­lis­h­man yet struck cold to the sto­machs of fo­re­ig­ners who had the dis­tin­gu­is­hed ho­no­ur of re­mem­be­ring him at a dis­tan­ce of a qu­ar­ter of a cen­tury.

He was now in re­ti­re­ment, and hen­ce (in a pon­de­ro­us whi­te cra­vat, li­ke a stiff snow-drift) was so ob­li­ging as to sha­de the din­ner. The­re was a whis­per of the per­va­ding Bo­he­mi­an cha­rac­ter in the no­ma­dic na­tu­re of the ser­vi­ce and its cu­ri­o­us ra­ces of pla­tes and dis­hes; but the nob­le Ref­ri­ge­ra­tor, in­fi­ni­tely bet­ter than pla­te or por­ce­la­in, ma­de it su­perb. He sha­ded the din­ner, co­oled the wi­nes, chil­led the gravy, and blig­h­ted the ve­ge­tab­les.

There was only one ot­her per­son in the ro­om: a mic­ros­co­pi­cal­ly small fo­ot­boy, who wa­ited on the ma­le­vo­lent man who hadn't got in­to the Post-Of­fi­ce. Even this yo­uth, if his jac­ket co­uld ha­ve be­en un­but­to­ned and his he­art la­id ba­re, wo­uld ha­ve be­en se­en, as a dis­tant ad­he­rent of the Bar­nac­le fa­mily, al­re­ady to as­pi­re to a si­tu­ati­on un­der Go­ver­n­ment.

Mrs Go­wan with a gen­t­le me­lan­c­holy upon her, oc­ca­si­oned by her son's be­ing re­du­ced to co­urt the swi­nish pub­lic as a fol­lo­wer of the low Arts, in­s­te­ad of as­ser­ting his bir­t­h­right and put­ting a ring thro­ugh its no­se as an ac­k­now­led­ged Bar­nac­le, he­aded the con­ver­sa­ti­on at din­ner on the evil days. It was then that Clen­nam le­ar­ned for the first ti­me what lit­tle pi­vots this gre­at world go­es ro­und upon.

'If John Bar­nac­le,' sa­id Mrs Go­wan, af­ter the de­ge­ne­racy of the ti­mes had be­en fully as­cer­ta­ined, 'if John Bar­nac­le had but aban­do­ned his most un­for­tu­na­te idea of con­ci­li­ating the mob, all wo­uld ha­ve be­en well, and I think the co­untry wo­uld ha­ve be­en pre­ser­ved.' The old lady with the high no­se as­sen­ted; but ad­ded that if Augus­tus Stil­t­s­tal­king had in a ge­ne­ral way or­de­red the ca­valry out with in­s­t­ruc­ti­ons to char­ge, she tho­ught the co­untry wo­uld ha­ve be­en pre­ser­ved.

The nob­le Ref­ri­ge­ra­tor as­sen­ted; but ad­ded that if Wil­li­am Bar­nac­le and Tu­dor Stil­t­s­tal­king, when they ca­me over to one anot­her and for­med the­ir ever-me­mo­rab­le co­ali­ti­on, had boldly muz­zled the new­s­pa­pers, and ren­de­red it pe­nal for any Edi­tor-per­son to pre­su­me to dis­cuss the con­duct of any ap­po­in­ted aut­ho­rity ab­ro­ad or at ho­me, he tho­ught the co­untry wo­uld ha­ve be­en pre­ser­ved.

It was ag­re­ed that the co­untry (anot­her word for the Bar­nac­les and Stil­t­s­tal­kings) wan­ted pre­ser­ving, but how it ca­me to want pre­ser­ving was not so cle­ar. It was only cle­ar that the qu­es­ti­on was all abo­ut John Bar­nac­le, Augus­tus Stil­t­s­tal­king, Wil­li­am Bar­nac­le and Tu­dor Stil­t­s­tal­king, Tom, Dick, or Harry Bar­nac­le or Stil­t­s­tal­king, be­ca­use the­re was no­body el­se but mob. And this was the fe­atu­re of the con­ver­sa­ti­on which im­p­res­sed Clen­nam, as a man not used to it, very di­sag­re­e­ably: ma­king him do­ubt if it we­re qu­ite right to sit the­re, si­lently he­aring a gre­at na­ti­on nar­ro­wed to such lit­tle bo­unds. Re­mem­be­ring, ho­we­ver, that in the Par­li­amen­tary de­ba­tes, whet­her on the li­fe of that na­ti­on's body or the li­fe of its so­ul, the qu­es­ti­on was usu­al­ly all abo­ut and bet­we­en John Bar­nac­le, Augus­tus Stil­t­s­tal­king, Wil­li­am Bar­nac­le and Tu­dor Stil­t­s­tal­king, Tom, Dick, or Harry Bar­nac­le or Stil­t­s­tal­king, and no­body el­se; he sa­id not­hing on the part of mob, bet­hin­king him­self that mob was used to it.

Mr Henry Go­wan se­emed to ha­ve a ma­li­ci­o­us ple­asu­re in pla­ying off the three tal­kers aga­inst each ot­her, and in se­e­ing Clen­nam star­t­led by what they sa­id. Ha­ving as sup­re­me a con­tempt for the class that had thrown him off as for the class that had not ta­ken him on, he had no per­so­nal dis­qu­i­et in an­y­t­hing that pas­sed. His he­althy sta­te of mind ap­pe­ared even to de­ri­ve a gra­ti­fi­ca­ti­on from Clen­nam's po­si­ti­on of em­bar­ras­sment and iso­la­ti­on among the go­od com­pany; and if Clen­nam had be­en in that con­di­ti­on with which No­body was in­ces­santly con­ten­ding, he wo­uld ha­ve sus­pec­ted it, and wo­uld ha­ve strug­gled with the sus­pi­ci­on as a me­an­ness, even whi­le he sat at the tab­le.

In the co­ur­se of a co­up­le of ho­urs the nob­le Ref­ri­ge­ra­tor, at no ti­me less than a hun­d­red ye­ars be­hind the pe­ri­od, got abo­ut fi­ve cen­tu­ri­es in ar­re­ars, and de­li­ve­red so­lemn po­li­ti­cal orac­les ap­prop­ri­ate to that epoch. He fi­nis­hed by fre­ezing a cup of tea for his own drin­king, and re­ti­ring at his lo­west tem­pe­ra­tu­re. Then Mrs Go­wan, who had be­en ac­cus­to­med in her days of a va­cant arm-cha­ir be­si­de her to which to sum­mon sta­te to re­ta­in her de­vo­ted sla­ves, one by one, for short audi­en­ces as marks of her es­pe­ci­al fa­vo­ur, in­vi­ted Clen­nam with a turn of her fan to ap­pro­ach the pre­sen­ce. He obe­yed, and to­ok the tri­pod re­cently va­ca­ted by Lord Lan­cas­ter Stil­t­s­tal­king.

'Mr Clen­nam,' sa­id Mrs Go­wan, 'apart from the hap­pi­ness I ha­ve in be­co­ming known to you, tho­ugh in this odi­o­usly in­con­ve­ni­ent pla­ce-a me­re bar­rack-the­re is a su­bj­ect on which I am dying to spe­ak to you. It is the su­bj­ect in con­nec­ti­on with which my son first had, I be­li­eve, the ple­asu­re of cul­ti­va­ting yo­ur ac­qu­a­in­tan­ce.'

Clennam in­c­li­ned his he­ad, as a ge­ne­ral­ly su­itab­le reply to what he did not yet qu­ite un­der­s­tand.

'First,' sa­id Mrs Go­wan, 'now, is she re­al­ly pretty?'

In no­body's dif­fi­cul­ti­es, he wo­uld ha­ve fo­und it very dif­fi­cult to an­s­wer; very dif­fi­cult in­de­ed to smi­le, and say 'Who?'

'Oh! You know!' she re­tur­ned. 'This fla­me of Henry's. This un­for­tu­na­te fancy. The­re! If it is a po­int of ho­no­ur that I sho­uld ori­gi­na­te the na­me-Miss Mic­k­les-Mig­gles.'

'Miss Me­ag­les,' sa­id Clen­nam, 'is very be­a­uti­ful.'

'Men are so of­ten mis­ta­ken on tho­se po­ints,' re­tur­ned Mrs Go­wan, sha­king her he­ad, 'that I can­didly con­fess to you I fe­el an­y­t­hing but su­re of it, even now; tho­ugh it is so­met­hing to ha­ve Henry cor­ro­bo­ra­ted with so much gra­vity and em­p­ha­sis. He pic­ked the pe­op­le up at Ro­me, I think?'

The phra­se wo­uld ha­ve gi­ven no­body mor­tal of­fen­ce. Clen­nam rep­li­ed, 'Excu­se me, I do­ubt if I un­der­s­tand yo­ur ex­p­res­si­on.'

'Picked the pe­op­le up,' sa­id Mrs Go­wan, tap­ping the sticks of her clo­sed fan (a lar­ge gre­en one, which she used as a hand-sc­re­en) on her lit­tle tab­le. 'Ca­me upon them. Fo­und them out. Stum­b­led UP aga­inst them.'

'The pe­op­le?'

'Yes. The Mig­gles pe­op­le.'

'I re­al­ly can­not say,' sa­id Clen­nam, 'whe­re my fri­end Mr Me­ag­les first pre­sen­ted Mr Henry Go­wan to his da­ug­h­ter.'

'I am pretty su­re he pic­ked her up at Ro­me; but ne­ver mind whe­re-so­mew­he­re. Now (this is en­ti­rely bet­we­en our­sel­ves), is she very ple­be­i­an?'

'Really, ma'am,' re­tur­ned Clen­nam, 'I am so un­do­ub­tedly ple­be­i­an myself, that I do not fe­el qu­ali­fi­ed to jud­ge.'

'Very ne­at!' sa­id Mrs Go­wan, co­ol­ly un­fur­ling her scre­en. 'Very happy! From which I in­fer that you sec­retly think her man­ner equ­al to her lo­oks?'

Clennam, af­ter a mo­ment's stif­fness, bo­wed.

'That's com­for­ting, and I ho­pe you may be right. Did Henry tell me you had tra­vel­led with them?' 'I tra­vel­led with my fri­end Mr Me­ag­les, and his wi­fe and da­ug­h­ter, du­ring so­me months.' (No­body's he­art might ha­ve be­en wrung by the re­mem­b­ran­ce.)

'Really com­for­ting, be­ca­use you must ha­ve had a lar­ge ex­pe­ri­en­ce of them. You see, Mr Clen­nam, this thing has be­en go­ing on for a long ti­me, and I find no im­p­ro­ve­ment in it. The­re­fo­re to ha­ve the op­por­tu­nity of spe­aking to one so well in­for­med abo­ut it as yo­ur­self, is an im­men­se re­li­ef to me. Qu­ite a bo­on. Qu­ite a bles­sing, I am su­re.'

'Pardon me,' re­tur­ned Clen­nam, 'but I am not in Mr Henry Go­wan's con­fi­den­ce. I am far from be­ing so well in­for­med as you sup­po­se me to be. Yo­ur mis­ta­ke ma­kes my po­si­ti­on a very de­li­ca­te one. No word on this to­pic has ever pas­sed bet­we­en Mr Henry Go­wan and myself.'

Mrs Go­wan glan­ced at the ot­her end of the ro­om, whe­re her son was pla­ying ecar­te on a so­fa, with the old lady who was for a char­ge of ca­valry.

'Not in his con­fi­den­ce? No,' sa­id Mrs Go­wan. 'No word has pas­sed bet­we­en you? No. That I can ima­gi­ne. But the­re are unex­p­res­sed con­fi­den­ces, Mr Clen­nam; and as you ha­ve be­en to­get­her in­ti­ma­tely among the­se pe­op­le, I can­not do­ubt that a con­fi­den­ce of that sort exists in the pre­sent ca­se. Per­haps you ha­ve he­ard that I ha­ve suf­fe­red the ke­enest dis­t­ress of mind from Henry's ha­ving ta­ken to a pur­su­it which-well!' shrug­ging her sho­ul­ders, 'a very res­pec­tab­le pur­su­it, I da­re say, and so­me ar­tists are, as ar­tists, qu­ite su­pe­ri­or per­sons; still, we ne­ver yet in our fa­mily ha­ve go­ne be­yond an Ama­te­ur, and it is a par­do­nab­le we­ak­ness to fe­el a lit­tle-'

As Mrs Go­wan bro­ke off to he­ave a sigh, Clen­nam, ho­we­ver re­so­lu­te to be mag­na­ni­mo­us, co­uld not ke­ep down the tho­ught that the­re was mighty lit­tle dan­ger of the fa­mily's ever go­ing be­yond an Ama­te­ur, even as it was.

'Henry,' the mot­her re­su­med, 'is self-wil­led and re­so­lu­te; and as the­se pe­op­le na­tu­ral­ly stra­in every ner­ve to catch him, I can en­ter­ta­in very lit­tle ho­pe, Mr Clen­nam, that the thing will be bro­ken off. I ap­pre­hend the girl's for­tu­ne will be very small; Henry might ha­ve do­ne much bet­ter; the­re is scar­cely an­y­t­hing to com­pen­sa­te for the con­nec­ti­on: still, he acts for him­self; and if I find no im­p­ro­ve­ment wit­hin a short ti­me, I see no ot­her co­ur­se than to re­sign myself and ma­ke the best of the­se pe­op­le. I am in­fi­ni­tely ob­li­ged to you for what you ha­ve told me.' As she shrug­ged her sho­ul­ders, Clen­nam stiffly bo­wed aga­in. With an une­asy flush upon his fa­ce, and he­si­ta­ti­on in his man­ner, he then sa­id in a still lo­wer to­ne than he had adop­ted yet:

'Mrs Go­wan, I scar­cely know how to ac­qu­it myself of what I fe­el to be a duty, and yet I must ask you for yo­ur kind con­si­de­ra­ti­on in at­tem­p­ting to dis­c­har­ge it. A mis­con­cep­ti­on on yo­ur part, a very gre­at mis­con­cep­ti­on if I may ven­tu­re to call it so, se­ems to re­qu­ire set­ting right. You ha­ve sup­po­sed Mr Me­ag­les and his fa­mily to stra­in every ner­ve, I think you sa­id-'

'Every ner­ve,' re­pe­ated Mrs Go­wan, lo­oking at him in calm ob­s­ti­nacy, with her gre­en fan bet­we­en her fa­ce and the fi­re.

'To se­cu­re Mr Henry Go­wan?'

The lady pla­cidly as­sen­ted.

'Now that is so far,' sa­id Ar­t­hur, 'from be­ing the ca­se, that I know Mr Me­ag­les to be un­hap­py in this mat­ter; and to ha­ve in­ter­po­sed all re­aso­nab­le ob­s­tac­les with the ho­pe of put­ting an end to it.'

Mrs Go­wan shut up her gre­at gre­en fan, tap­ped him on the arm with it, and tap­ped her smi­ling lips. 'Why, of co­ur­se,' sa­id she. 'Just what I me­an.'

Arthur wat­c­hed her fa­ce for so­me ex­p­la­na­ti­on of what she did me­an.

'Are you re­al­ly se­ri­o­us, Mr Clen­nam? Don't you see?'

Arthur did not see; and sa­id so.

'Why, don't I know my son, and don't I know that this is exactly the way to hold him?' sa­id Mrs Go­wan, con­tem­p­tu­o­usly; 'and do not the­se Mig­gles pe­op­le know it, at le­ast as well as I? Oh, shrewd pe­op­le, Mr Clen­nam: evi­dently pe­op­le of bu­si­ness! I be­li­eve Mig­gles be­lon­ged to a Bank. It ought to ha­ve be­en a very pro­fi­tab­le Bank, if he had much to do with its ma­na­ge­ment. This is very well do­ne, in­de­ed.'

'I beg and en­t­re­at you, ma'am-' Ar­t­hur in­ter­po­sed.

'Oh, Mr Clen­nam, can you re­al­ly be so cre­du­lo­us?'

It ma­de such a pa­in­ful im­p­res­si­on upon him to he­ar her tal­king in this ha­ughty to­ne, and to see her pat­ting her con­tem­p­tu­o­us lips with her fan, that he sa­id very ear­nestly, 'Be­li­eve me, ma'am, this is unj­ust, a per­fectly gro­un­d­less sus­pi­ci­on.'

'Suspicion?' re­pe­ated Mrs Go­wan. 'Not sus­pi­ci­on, Mr Clen­nam, Cer­ta­inty. It is very kno­wingly do­ne in­de­ed, and se­ems to ha­ve ta­ken YOU in com­p­le­tely.' She la­ug­hed; and aga­in sat tap­ping her lips with her fan, and tos­sing her he­ad, as if she ad­ded, 'Don't tell me. I know such pe­op­le will do an­y­t­hing for the ho­no­ur of such an al­li­an­ce.'

At this op­por­tu­ne mo­ment, the cards we­re thrown up, and Mr Henry Go­wan ca­me ac­ross the ro­om sa­ying, 'Mot­her, if you can spa­re Mr Clen­nam for this ti­me, we ha­ve a long way to go, and it's get­ting la­te.' Mr Clen­nam the­re­upon ro­se, as he had no cho­ice but to do; and Mrs Go­wan sho­wed him, to the last, the sa­me lo­ok and the sa­me tap­ped con­tem­p­tu­o­us lips.

'You ha­ve had a por­ten­to­usly long audi­en­ce of my mot­her,' sa­id Go­wan, as the do­or clo­sed upon them. 'I fer­vently ho­pe she has not bo­red you?'

'Not at all,' sa­id Clen­nam.

They had a lit­tle open pha­eton for the jo­ur­ney, and we­re so­on in it on the ro­ad ho­me. Go­wan, dri­ving, lig­h­ted a ci­gar; Clen­nam dec­li­ned one. Do what he wo­uld, he fell in­to such a mo­od of ab­s­t­rac­ti­on that Go­wan sa­id aga­in, 'I am very much af­ra­id my mot­her has bo­red you?' To which he ro­used him­self to an­s­wer, 'Not at all!' and so­on re­lap­sed aga­in.

In that sta­te of mind which ren­de­red no­body une­asy, his tho­ug­h­t­ful­ness wo­uld ha­ve tur­ned prin­ci­pal­ly on the man at his si­de. He wo­uld ha­ve tho­ught of the mor­ning when he first saw him ro­oting out the sto­nes with his he­el, and wo­uld ha­ve as­ked him­self, 'Do­es he jerk me out of the path in the sa­me ca­re­less, cru­el way?' He wo­uld ha­ve tho­ught, had this in­t­ro­duc­ti­on to his mot­her be­en bro­ught abo­ut by him be­ca­use he knew what she wo­uld say, and that he co­uld thus pla­ce his po­si­ti­on be­fo­re a ri­val and lof­tily warn him off, wit­ho­ut him­self re­po­sing a word of con­fi­den­ce in him? He wo­uld ha­ve tho­ught, even if the­re we­re no such de­sign as that, had he bro­ught him the­re to play with his rep­res­sed emo­ti­ons, and tor­ment him? The cur­rent of the­se me­di­ta­ti­ons wo­uld ha­ve be­en sta­yed so­me­ti­mes by a rush of sha­me, be­aring a re­mon­s­t­ran­ce to him­self from his own open na­tu­re, rep­re­sen­ting that to shel­ter such sus­pi­ci­ons, even for the pas­sing mo­ment, was not to hold the high, unen­vi­o­us co­ur­se he had re­sol­ved to ke­ep. At tho­se ti­mes, the stri­ving wit­hin him wo­uld ha­ve be­en har­dest; and lo­oking up and cat­c­hing Go­wan's eyes, he wo­uld ha­ve star­ted as if he had do­ne him an inj­ury.

Then, lo­oking at the dark ro­ad and its un­cer­ta­in obj­ects, he wo­uld ha­ve gra­du­al­ly tra­iled off aga­in in­to thin­king, 'Whe­re are we dri­ving, he and I, I won­der, on the dar­ker ro­ad of li­fe? How will it be with us, and with her, in the ob­s­cu­re dis­tan­ce?' Thin­king of her, he wo­uld ha­ve be­en tro­ub­led anew with a rep­ro­ac­h­ful mis­gi­ving that it was not even lo­yal to her to dis­li­ke him, and that in be­ing so easily pre­j­udi­ced aga­inst him he was less de­ser­ving of her than at first.

'You are evi­dently out of spi­rits,' sa­id Go­wan; 'I am very much af­ra­id my mot­her must ha­ve bo­red you dre­ad­ful­ly.' 'Be­li­eve me, not at all,' sa­id Clen­nam. 'It's not­hing-not­hing!'


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