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Little Dorrit

Little Dorrit

Little Dorrit/17

CHAPTER 16. Nobody's Weakness

The time being come for the renewal of his acquaintance with the Meaglesfamily, Clennam, pursuant to contract made between himself and MrMeagles within the precincts of Bleeding Heart Yard, turned his faceon a certain Saturday towards Twickenham, where Mr Meagles had acottage-residence of his own. The weather being fine and dry, and anyEnglish 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 initself a new enjoyment to him, and one that had rarely diversified hislife afar off.

He went by Fulham and Putney, for the pleasure of strolling over theheath. It was bright and shining there; and when he found himself so faron his road to Twickenham, he found himself a long way on his road toa number of airier and less substantial destinations. They had risenbefore him fast, in the healthful exercise and the pleasant road. It isnot easy to walk alone in the country without musing upon something. Andhe had plenty of unsettled subjects to meditate upon, though he had beenwalking 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 shoulddevote himself, and in what direction he had best seek it. He was farfrom rich, and every day of indecision and inaction made his inheritancea source of greater anxiety to him. As often as he began to consider howto increase this inheritance, or to lay it by, so often his misgivingthat 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, whichwere now upon an equable and peaceful but never confidential footing,and whom he saw several times a week. Little Dorrit was a leading and aconstant subject: for the circumstances of his life, united to those ofher own story, presented the little creature to him as the only personbetween whom and himself there were ties of innocent reliance on onehand, and affectionate protection on the other; ties of compassion,respect, unselfish interest, gratitude, and pity. Thinking of her, andof the possibility of her father's release from prison by the unbarringhand of death--the only change of circumstance he could foresee thatmight enable him to be such a friend to her as he wished to be, byaltering her whole manner of life, smoothing her rough road, andgiving her a home--he regarded her, in that perspective, as his adopteddaughter, his poor child of the Marshalsea hushed to rest. If there werea last subject in his thoughts, and it lay towards Twickenham, its formwas so indefinite that it was little more than the pervading atmospherein which these other subjects floated before him.

He had crossed the heath and was leaving it behind when he gained upon afigure which had been in advance of him for some time, and which, ashe gained upon it, he thought he knew. He derived this impressionfrom something in the turn of the head, and in the figure's action ofconsideration, as it went on at a sufficiently sturdy walk. But whenthe man--for it was a man's figure--pushed his hat up at the back of hishead, and stopped to consider some object before him, he knew it to beDaniel Doyce.

'How do you do, Mr Doyce?' said Clennam, overtaking him. 'I am glad tosee you again, and in a healthier place than the Circumlocution Office.'

'Ha! Mr Meagles's friend!' exclaimed that public criminal, coming out ofsome mental combinations he had been making, and offering his hand. 'Iam glad to see you, sir. Will you excuse me if I forget your name?'

'Readily. It's not a celebrated name. It's not Barnacle.'

'No, no,' said Daniel, laughing. 'And now I know what it is. It'sClennam. How do you do, Mr Clennam?'

'I have some hope,' said Arthur, as they walked on together, 'that wemay be going to the same place, Mr Doyce.'

'Meaning Twickenham?' returned Daniel. 'I am glad to hear it.'

They were soon quite intimate, and lightened the way with a variety ofconversation. The ingenious culprit was a man of great modesty and goodsense; and, though a plain man, had been too much accustomed to combinewhat was original and daring in conception with what was patient andminute in execution, to be by any means an ordinary man. It was at firstdifficult to lead him to speak about himself, and he put off Arthur'sadvances in that direction by admitting slightly, oh yes, he had donethis, and he had done that, and such a thing was of his making, andsuch another thing was his discovery, but it was his trade, you see, histrade; until, as he gradually became assured that his companion had areal interest in his account of himself, he frankly yielded to it. Thenit appeared that he was the son of a north-country blacksmith, and hadoriginally been apprenticed by his widowed mother to a lock-maker; thathe had 'struck out a few little things' at the lock-maker's, which hadled to his being released from his indentures with a present, whichpresent had enabled him to gratify his ardent wish to bind himself toa working engineer, under whom he had laboured hard, learned hard, andlived hard, seven years. His time being out, he had 'worked in the shop'at weekly wages seven or eight years more; and had then betakenhimself to the banks of the Clyde, where he had studied, and filed, andhammered, and improved his knowledge, theoretical and practical, for sixor seven years more. There he had had an offer to go to Lyons, which hehad accepted; and from Lyons had been engaged to go to Germany, and inGermany had had an offer to go to St Petersburg, and there had done verywell indeed--never better. However, he had naturally felt a preferencefor his own country, and a wish to gain distinction there, and to dowhatever service he could do, there rather than elsewhere. And so he hadcome home. And so at home he had established himself in business, andhad invented and executed, and worked his way on, until, after a dozenyears of constant suit and service, he had been enrolled in theGreat British Legion of Honour, the Legion of the Rebuffed of theCircumlocution Office, and had been decorated with the Great BritishOrder of Merit, the Order of the Disorder of the Barnacles andStiltstalkings.

'It is much to be regretted,' said Clennam, 'that you ever turned yourthoughts that way, Mr Doyce.'

'True, sir, true to a certain extent. But what is a man to do? if hehas the misfortune to strike out something serviceable to the nation,he must follow where it leads him.'

'Hadn't he better let it go?' said Clennam.

'He can't do it,' said Doyce, shaking his head with a thoughtful smile.'It's not put into his head to be buried. It's put into his head to bemade useful. You hold your life on the condition that to the last youshall struggle hard for it. Every man holds a discovery on the sameterms.'

'That is to say,' said Arthur, with a growing admiration of his quietcompanion, 'you are not finally discouraged even now?'

'I have no right to be, if I am,' returned the other. 'The thing is astrue as it ever was.'

When they had walked a little way in silence, Clennam, at once tochange the direct point of their conversation and not to change ittoo abruptly, asked Mr Doyce if he had any partner in his business torelieve him of a portion of its anxieties?

'No,' he returned, 'not at present. I had when I first entered on it,and a good man he was. But he has been dead some years; and as I couldnot easily take to the notion of another when I lost him, I boughthis share for myself and have gone on by myself ever since. And here'sanother thing,' he said, stopping for a moment with a good-humouredlaugh in his eyes, and laying his closed right hand, with its peculiarsuppleness of thumb, on Clennam's arm, 'no inventor can be a man ofbusiness, you know.'

'No?' said Clennam.

'Why, so the men of business say,' he answered, resuming the walk andlaughing outright. 'I don't know why we unfortunate creatures shouldbe supposed to want common sense, but it is generally taken for grantedthat we do. Even the best friend I have in the world, our excellentfriend over yonder,' said Doyce, nodding towards Twickenham, 'extendsa sort of protection to me, don't you know, as a man not quite able totake care of himself?'

Arthur Clennam could not help joining in the good-humoured laugh, for herecognised the truth of the description.

'So I find that I must have a partner who is a man of business and notguilty of any inventions,' said Daniel Doyce, taking off his hat to passhis hand over his forehead, 'if it's only in deference to the currentopinion, and to uphold the credit of the Works. I don't think he'll findthat I have been very remiss or confused in my way of conducting them;but that's for him to say--whoever he is--not for me.'

'You have not chosen him yet, then?'

'No, sir, no. I have only just come to a decision to take one. The factis, there's more to do than there used to be, and the Works are enoughfor me as I grow older. What with the books and correspondence, andforeign journeys for which a Principal is necessary, I can't do all. Iam going to talk over the best way of negotiating the matter, if I finda spare half-hour between this and Monday morning, with my--my Nurse andprotector,' said Doyce, with laughing eyes again. 'He is a sagacious manin business, and has had a good apprenticeship to it.'

After this, they conversed on different subjects until they arrived attheir journey's end. A composed and unobtrusive self-sustainment wasnoticeable in Daniel Doyce--a calm knowledge that what was true mustremain true, in spite of all the Barnacles in the family ocean, andwould be just the truth, and neither more nor less when even that seahad run dry--which had a kind of greatness in it, though not of theofficial quality.

As he knew the house well, he conducted Arthur to it by the way thatshowed it to the best advantage. It was a charming place (none the worsefor being a little eccentric), on the road by the river, and just whatthe residence of the Meagles family ought to be. It stood in a garden,no doubt as fresh and beautiful in the May of the Year as Pet now wasin the May of her life; and it was defended by a goodly show of handsometrees and spreading evergreens, as Pet was by Mr and Mrs Meagles. Itwas made out of an old brick house, of which a part had been altogetherpulled down, and another part had been changed into the present cottage;so there was a hale elderly portion, to represent Mr and Mrs Meagles,and a young picturesque, very pretty portion to represent Pet. There waseven the later addition of a conservatory sheltering itself against it,uncertain of hue in its deep-stained glass, and in its more transparentportions flashing to the sun's rays, now like fire and now like harmlesswater drops; which might have stood for Tattycoram. Within view wasthe peaceful river and the ferry-boat, to moralise to all the inmatessaying: Young or old, passionate or tranquil, chafing or content, you,thus runs the current always. Let the heart swell into what discord itwill, thus plays the rippling water on the prow of the ferry-boat everthe same tune. Year after year, so much allowance for the drifting ofthe boat, so many miles an hour the flowing of the stream, here therushes, there the lilies, nothing uncertain or unquiet, upon this roadthat steadily runs away; while you, upon your flowing road of time, areso capricious and distracted.

The bell at the gate had scarcely sounded when Mr Meagles came out toreceive them. Mr Meagles had scarcely come out, when Mrs Meagles cameout. Mrs Meagles had scarcely come out, when Pet came out. Pet scarcelyhad come out, when Tattycoram came out. Never had visitors a morehospitable reception.

'Here we are, you see,' said Mr Meagles, 'boxed up, Mr Clennam, withinour own home-limits, as if we were never going to expand--that is,travel--again. Not like Marseilles, eh? No allonging and marshonginghere!'

'A different kind of beauty, indeed!' said Clennam, looking about him.

'But, Lord bless me!' cried Mr Meagles, rubbing his hands with a relish,'it was an uncommonly pleasant thing being in quarantine, wasn't it?Do you know, I have often wished myself back again? We were a capitalparty.'

This was Mr Meagles's invariable habit. Always to object to everythingwhile he was travelling, and always to want to get back to it when hewas not travelling.

'If it was summer-time,' said Mr Meagles, 'which I wish it was on youraccount, and in order that you might see the place at its best, youwould hardly be able to hear yourself speak for birds. Being practicalpeople, we never allow anybody to scare the birds; and the birds, beingpractical people too, come about us in myriads. We are delighted to seeyou, Clennam (if you'll allow me, I shall drop the Mister); I heartilyassure you, we are delighted.'

'I have not had so pleasant a greeting,' said Clennam--then he recalledwhat Little Dorrit had said to him in his own room, and faithfullyadded 'except once--since we last walked to and fro, looking down at theMediterranean.'

'Ah!' returned Mr Meagles. 'Something like a look out, _that_ was, wasn'tit? I don't want a military government, but I shouldn't mind a littleallonging and marshonging--just a dash of it--in this neighbourhoodsometimes. It's Devilish still.'

Bestowing this eulogium on the retired character of his retreat with adubious shake of the head, Mr Meagles led the way into the house. It wasjust large enough, and no more; was as pretty within as it was without,and was perfectly well-arranged and comfortable. Some traces of themigratory habits of the family were to be observed in the covered framesand furniture, and wrapped-up hangings; but it was easy to see that itwas one of Mr Meagles's whims to have the cottage always kept, in theirabsence, as if they were always coming back the day after to-morrow. Ofarticles collected on his various expeditions, there was such a vastmiscellany that it was like the dwelling of an amiable Corsair. Therewere antiquities from Central Italy, made by the best modern houses inthat department of industry; bits of mummy from Egypt (and perhapsBirmingham); model gondolas from Venice; model villages fromSwitzerland; morsels of tesselated pavement from Herculaneum andPompeii, like petrified minced veal; ashes out of tombs, and lava out ofVesuvius; Spanish fans, Spezzian straw hats, Moorish slippers, Tuscanhairpins, Carrara sculpture, Trastaverini scarves, Genoese velvets andfiligree, Neapolitan coral, Roman cameos, Geneva jewellery, Arablanterns, rosaries blest all round by the Pope himself, and an infinitevariety of lumber. There were views, like and unlike, of a multitude ofplaces; and there was one little picture-room devoted to a few of theregular sticky old Saints, with sinews like whipcord, hair likeNeptune's, wrinkles like tattooing, and such coats of varnish that everyholy personage served for a fly-trap, and became what is now called inthe vulgar tongue a Catch-em-alive O. Of these pictorial acquisitions MrMeagles spoke in the usual manner. He was no judge, he said, except ofwhat pleased himself; he had picked them up, dirt-cheap, and people_had_ considered them rather fine. One man, who at any rate ought toknow something of the subject, had declared that 'Sage, Reading' (aspecially oily old gentleman in a blanket, with a swan's-down tippet fora beard, and a web of cracks all over him like rich pie-crust), to be afine Guercino. As for Sebastian del Piombo there, you would judge foryourself; if it were not his later manner, the question was, Who was it?Titian, that might or might not be--perhaps he had only touched it.Daniel Doyce said perhaps he hadn't touched it, but Mr Meagles ratherdeclined to overhear the remark.

When he had shown all his spoils, Mr Meagles took them into his ownsnug room overlooking the lawn, which was fitted up in part like adressing-room and in part like an office, and in which, upon a kind ofcounter-desk, were a pair of brass scales for weighing gold, and a scoopfor shovelling out money.

'Here they are, you see,' said Mr Meagles. 'I stood behind these twoarticles five-and-thirty years running, when I no more thought ofgadding about than I now think of--staying at home. When I left the Bankfor good, I asked for them, and brought them away with me. I mention itat once, or you might suppose that I sit in my counting-house (as Petsays I do), like the king in the poem of the four-and-twenty blackbirds,counting out my money.'

Clennam's eyes had strayed to a natural picture on the wall, of twopretty little girls with their arms entwined. 'Yes, Clennam,' saidMr Meagles, in a lower voice. 'There they both are. It was taken someseventeen years ago. As I often say to Mother, they were babies then.'

'Their names?' said Arthur.

'Ah, to be sure! You have never heard any name but Pet. Pet's name isMinnie; her sister's Lillie.'

'Should you have known, Mr Clennam, that one of them was meant for me?'asked Pet herself, now standing in the doorway.

'I might have thought that both of them were meant for you, bothare still so like you. Indeed,' said Clennam, glancing from the fairoriginal to the picture and back, 'I cannot even now say which is notyour portrait.'

'D'ye hear that, Mother?' cried Mr Meagles to his wife, who had followedher daughter. 'It's always the same, Clennam; nobody can decide. Thechild to your left is Pet.'

The picture happened to be near a looking-glass. As Arthur looked atit again, he saw, by the reflection of the mirror, Tattycoram stop inpassing outside the door, listen to what was going on, and pass awaywith an angry and contemptuous frown upon her face, that changed itsbeauty into ugliness.

'But come!' said Mr Meagles. 'You have had a long walk, and will be gladto get your boots off. As to Daniel here, I suppose he'd never think oftaking _his_ boots off, unless we showed him a boot-jack.'

'Why not?' asked Daniel, with a significant smile at Clennam.

'Oh! You have so many things to think about,' returned Mr Meagles,clapping him on the shoulder, as if his weakness must not be left toitself on any account. 'Figures, and wheels, and cogs, and levers, andscrews, and cylinders, and a thousand things.'

'In my calling,' said Daniel, amused, 'the greater usually includes theless. But never mind, never mind! Whatever pleases you, pleases me.'

Clennam could not help speculating, as he seated himself in his roomby the fire, whether there might be in the breast of this honest,affectionate, and cordial Mr Meagles, any microscopic portion ofthe mustard-seed that had sprung up into the great tree of theCircumlocution Office. His curious sense of a general superiority toDaniel Doyce, which seemed to be founded, not so much on anythingin Doyce's personal character as on the mere fact of his being anoriginator and a man out of the beaten track of other men, suggested theidea. It might have occupied him until he went down to dinner an hourafterwards, if he had not had another question to consider, whichhad been in his mind so long ago as before he was in quarantine atMarseilles, and which had now returned to it, and was very urgent withit. No less a question than this: Whether he should allow himself tofall in love with Pet?

He was twice her age. (He changed the leg he had crossed over the other,and tried the calculation again, but could not bring out the total atless.) He was twice her age. Well! He was young in appearance, youngin health and strength, young in heart. A man was certainly not oldat forty; and many men were not in circumstances to marry, or did notmarry, until they had attained that time of life. On the other hand, thequestion was, not what he thought of the point, but what she thought ofit.

He believed that Mr Meagles was disposed to entertain a ripe regard forhim, and he knew that he had a sincere regard for Mr Meagles and hisgood wife. He could foresee that to relinquish this beautiful onlychild, of whom they were so fond, to any husband, would be a trialof their love which perhaps they never yet had had the fortitude tocontemplate. But the more beautiful and winning and charming she, thenearer they must always be to the necessity of approaching it. And whynot in his favour, as well as in another's?

When he had got so far, it came again into his head that the questionwas, not what they thought of it, but what she thought of it.

Arthur Clennam was a retiring man, with a sense of many deficiencies;and he so exalted the merits of the beautiful Minnie in his mind, anddepressed his own, that when he pinned himself to this point, his hopesbegan to fail him. He came to the final resolution, as he made himselfready for dinner, that he would not allow himself to fall in love withPet.

There were only five, at a round table, and it was very pleasant indeed.They had so many places and people to recall, and they were all so easyand cheerful together (Daniel Doyce either sitting out like an amusedspectator at cards, or coming in with some shrewd little experiences ofhis own, when it happened to be to the purpose), that they might havebeen together twenty times, and not have known so much of one another.

'And Miss Wade,' said Mr Meagles, after they had recalled a number offellow-travellers. 'Has anybody seen Miss Wade?'

'I have,' said Tattycoram.

She had brought a little mantle which her young mistress had sent for,and was bending over her, putting it on, when she lifted up her darkeyes and made this unexpected answer.

'Tatty!' her young mistress exclaimed. 'You seen Miss Wade?--where?'

'Here, miss,' said Tattycoram.

'How?'

An impatient glance from Tattycoram seemed, as Clennam saw it, to answer'With my eyes!' But her only answer in words was: 'I met her near thechurch.'

'What was she doing there I wonder!' said Mr Meagles. 'Not going to it,I should think.'

'She had written to me first,' said Tattycoram.

'Oh, Tatty!' murmured her mistress, 'take your hands away. I feel as ifsome one else was touching me!'

She said it in a quick involuntary way, but half playfully, and not morepetulantly or disagreeably than a favourite child might have done, wholaughed next moment. Tattycoram set her full red lips together, andcrossed her arms upon her bosom.

'Did you wish to know, sir,' she said, looking at Mr Meagles, 'what MissWade wrote to me about?'

'Well, Tattycoram,' returned Mr Meagles, 'since you ask the question,and we are all friends here, perhaps you may as well mention it, if youare so inclined.'

'She knew, when we were travelling, where you lived,' said Tattycoram,'and she had seen me not quite--not quite--'

'Not quite in a good temper, Tattycoram?' suggested Mr Meagles,shaking his head at the dark eyes with a quiet caution. 'Take a littletime--count five-and-twenty, Tattycoram.'

She pressed her lips together again, and took a long deep breath.

'So she wrote to me to say that if I ever felt myself hurt,' she lookeddown at her young mistress, 'or found myself worried,' she looked downat her again, 'I might go to her, and be considerately treated. I wasto think of it, and could speak to her by the church. So I went there tothank her.'

'Tatty,' said her young mistress, putting her hand up over her shoulderthat the other might take it, 'Miss Wade almost frightened me when weparted, and I scarcely like to think of her just now as having been sonear me without my knowing it. Tatty dear!'

Tatty stood for a moment, immovable.

'Hey?' cried Mr Meagles. 'Count another five-and-twenty, Tattycoram.'

She might have counted a dozen, when she bent and put her lips to thecaressing hand. It patted her cheek, as it touched the owner's beautifulcurls, and Tattycoram went away.

'Now there,' said Mr Meagles softly, as he gave a turn to thedumb-waiter on his right hand to twirl the sugar towards himself.'There's a girl who might be lost and ruined, if she wasn't amongpractical people. Mother and I know, solely from being practical, thatthere are times when that girl's whole nature seems to roughen itselfagainst seeing us so bound up in Pet. No father and mother were boundup in her, poor soul. I don't like to think of the way in which thatunfortunate child, with all that passion and protest in her, feels whenshe hears the Fifth Commandment on a Sunday. I am always inclined tocall out, Church, Count five-and-twenty, Tattycoram.'

Besides his dumb-waiter, Mr Meagles had two other not dumb waiters inthe persons of two parlour-maids with rosy faces and bright eyes, whowere a highly ornamental part of the table decoration. 'And why not, yousee?' said Mr Meagles on this head. 'As I always say to Mother, whynot have something pretty to look at, if you have anything at all?'

A certain Mrs Tickit, who was Cook and Housekeeper when the family wereat home, and Housekeeper only when the family were away, completed theestablishment. Mr Meagles regretted that the nature of the duties inwhich she was engaged, rendered Mrs Tickit unpresentable at present,but hoped to introduce her to the new visitor to-morrow. She was animportant part of the Cottage, he said, and all his friends knew her.That was her picture up in the corner. When they went away, she alwaysput on the silk-gown and the jet-black row of curls represented in thatportrait (her hair was reddish-grey in the kitchen), established herselfin the breakfast-room, put her spectacles between two particular leavesof Doctor Buchan's Domestic Medicine, and sat looking over the blind allday until they came back again. It was supposed that no persuasion couldbe invented which would induce Mrs Tickit to abandon her post at theblind, however long their absence, or to dispense with the attendanceof Dr Buchan; the lucubrations of which learned practitioner, Mr Meaglesimplicitly believed she had never yet consulted to the extent of oneword in her life.

In the evening they played an old-fashioned rubber; and Pet sat lookingover her father's hand, or singing to herself by fits and starts at thepiano. She was a spoilt child; but how could she be otherwise? Who couldbe much with so pliable and beautiful a creature, and not yield to herendearing influence? Who could pass an evening in the house, and notlove her for the grace and charm of her very presence in the room? Thiswas Clennam's reflection, notwithstanding the final conclusion at whichhe had arrived up-stairs.

In making it, he revoked. 'Why, what are you thinking of, my good sir?'asked the astonished Mr Meagles, who was his partner. 'I beg yourpardon. Nothing,' returned Clennam. 'Think of something, next time;that's a dear fellow,' said Mr Meagles. Pet laughingly believed he hadbeen thinking of Miss Wade. 'Why of Miss Wade, Pet?' asked her father.'Why, indeed!' said Arthur Clennam. Pet coloured a little, and went tothe piano again.

As they broke up for the night, Arthur overheard Doyce ask his host ifhe could give him half an hour's conversation before breakfast in themorning? The host replying willingly, Arthur lingered behind a moment,having his own word to add to that topic.

'Mr Meagles,' he said, on their being left alone, 'do you remember whenyou advised me to go straight to London?'

'Perfectly well.'

'And when you gave me some other good advice which I needed at that time?'

'I won't say what it was worth,' answered Mr Meagles: 'but of course Iremember our being very pleasant and confidential together.'

'I have acted on your advice; and having disembarrassed myself of anoccupation that was painful to me for many reasons, wish to devotemyself and what means I have, to another pursuit.'

'Right! You can't do it too soon,' said Mr Meagles.

'Now, as I came down to-day, I found that your friend, Mr Doyce, islooking for a partner in his business--not a partner in his mechanicalknowledge, but in the ways and means of turning the business arisingfrom it to the best account.'

'Just so,' said Mr Meagles, with his hands in his pockets, and withthe old business expression of face that had belonged to the scales andscoop.

'Mr Doyce mentioned incidentally, in the course of our conversation,that he was going to take your valuable advice on the subject of findingsuch a partner. If you should think our views and opportunities at alllikely to coincide, perhaps you will let him know my available position.I speak, of course, in ignorance of the details, and they may beunsuitable on both sides.'

'No doubt, no doubt,' said Mr Meagles, with the caution belonging to thescales and scoop.

'But they will be a question of figures and accounts--'

'Just so, just so,' said Mr Meagles, with arithmetical soliditybelonging to the scales and scoop.

'--And I shall be glad to enter into the subject, provided Mr Doyceresponds, and you think well of it. If you will at present, therefore,allow me to place it in your hands, you will much oblige me.'

'Clennam, I accept the trust with readiness,' said Mr Meagles. 'Andwithout anticipating any of the points which you, as a man of business,have of course reserved, I am free to say to you that I think somethingmay come of this. Of one thing you may be perfectly certain. Daniel isan honest man.'

'I am so sure of it that I have promptly made up my mind to speak toyou.'

'You must guide him, you know; you must steer him; you must direct him;he is one of a crotchety sort,' said Mr Meagles, evidently meaningnothing more than that he did new things and went new ways; 'but he isas honest as the sun, and so good night!'

Clennam went back to his room, sat down again before his fire, and madeup his mind that he was glad he had resolved not to fall in love withPet. She was so beautiful, so amiable, so apt to receive any trueimpression given to her gentle nature and her innocent heart, and makethe man who should be so happy as to communicate it, the most fortunateand enviable of all men, that he was very glad indeed he had come tothat conclusion.

But, as this might have been a reason for coming to the oppositeconclusion, he followed out the theme again a little way in his mind; tojustify himself, perhaps.

'Suppose that a man,' so his thoughts ran, 'who had been of age sometwenty years or so; who was a diffident man, from the circumstances ofhis youth; who was rather a grave man, from the tenor of his life; whoknew himself to be deficient in many little engaging qualities whichhe admired in others, from having been long in a distant region, withnothing softening near him; who had no kind sisters to present to her;who had no congenial home to make her known in; who was a stranger inthe land; who had not a fortune to compensate, in any measure, forthese defects; who had nothing in his favour but his honest love and hisgeneral wish to do right--suppose such a man were to come to this house,and were to yield to the captivation of this charming girl, and were topersuade himself that he could hope to win her; what a weakness it wouldbe!'

He softly opened his window, and looked out upon the serene river. Yearafter year so much allowance for the drifting of the ferry-boat, somany miles an hour the flowing of the stream, here the rushes, there thelilies, nothing uncertain or unquiet.

Why should he be vexed or sore at heart? It was not his weakness that hehad imagined. It was nobody's, nobody's within his knowledge; why shouldit trouble him? And yet it did trouble him. And he thought--who has notthought for a moment, sometimes?--that it might be better to flow awaymonotonously, like the river, and to compound for its insensibility tohappiness with its insensibility to pain.