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    Chapter 16

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    Chapter 17
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    CHAPTER 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 hat up at the back of his head, and stopped to consider some
    object before him, he knew it to be Daniel Doyce.

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

    'Ha! Mr Meagles's friend!' exclaimed that public criminal, coming
    out of some mental combinations he had been making, and offering
    his hand. 'I am 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's
    Clennam. How do you do, Mr Clennam?'

    'I have some hope,' said Arthur, as they walked on together, 'that
    we may 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
    of conversation. The ingenious culprit was a man of great modesty
    and good sense; and, though a plain man, had been too much
    accustomed to combine what was original and daring in conception
    with what was patient and minute in execution, to be by any means
    an ordinary man. It was at first difficult to lead him to speak
    about himself, and he put off Arthur's advances in that direction
    by admitting slightly, oh yes, he had done this, and he had done
    that, and such a thing was of his making, and such another thing
    was his discovery, but it was his trade, you see, his trade; until,
    as he gradually became assured that his companion had a real
    interest in his account of himself, he frankly yielded to it. Then
    it appeared that he was the son of a north-country blacksmith, and
    had originally been apprenticed by his widowed mother to a lock-
    maker; that he had 'struck out a few little things' at the lock-
    maker's, which had led to his being released from his indentures
    with a present, which present had enabled him to gratify his ardent
    wish to bind himself to a working engineer, under whom he had
    laboured hard, learned hard, and lived hard, seven years. His time
    being out, he had 'worked in the shop' at weekly wages seven or
    eight years more; and had then betaken himself to the banks of the
    Clyde, where he had studied, and filed, and hammered, and improved
    his knowledge, theoretical and practical, for six or seven years
    more. There he had had an offer to go to Lyons, which he had
    accepted; and from Lyons had been engaged to go to Germany, and in
    Germany had had an offer to go to St Petersburg, and there had done
    very well indeed--never better. However, he had naturally felt a
    preference for his own country, and a wish to gain distinction
    there, and to do whatever service he could do, there rather than
    elsewhere. And so he had come home. And so at home he had
    established himself in business, and had invented and executed, and
    worked his way on, until, after a dozen years of constant suit and
    service, he had been enrolled in the Great British Legion of
    Honour, the Legion of the Rebuffed of the Circumlocution Office,
    and had been decorated with the Great British Order of Merit, the
    Order of the Disorder of the Barnacles and Stiltstalkings.

    'it is much to be regretted,' said Clennam, 'that you ever turned
    your thoughts that way, Mr Doyce.'

    'True, sir, true to a certain extent. But what is a man to do? if
    he has 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 be made useful. You hold your life on the condition
    that to the last you shall struggle hard for it. Every man holds
    a discovery on the same terms.'

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

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

    When they had walked a little way in silence, Clennam, at once to
    change the direct point of their conversation and not to change it
    too abruptly, asked Mr Doyce if he had any partner in his business
    to relieve 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 could not easily take to the notion of another when I lost him,
    I bought his share for myself and have gone on by myself ever
    since. And here's another thing,' he said, stopping for a moment
    with a good-humoured laugh in his eyes, and laying his closed right
    hand, with its peculiar suppleness of thumb, on Clennam's arm, 'no
    inventor can be a man of business, you know.'

    'No?' said Clennam.

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

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

    'So I find that I must have a partner who is a man of business and
    not guilty of any inventions,' said Daniel Doyce, taking off his
    hat to pass his hand over his forehead, 'if it's only in deference
    to the current opinion, and to uphold the credit of the Works. I
    don't think he'll find that 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 fact is, there's more to do than there used to be, and the
    Works are enough for me as I grow older. What with the books and
    correspondence, and foreign journeys for which a Principal is
    necessary, I can't do all. I am going to talk over the best way of
    negotiating the matter, if I find a spare half-hour between this
    and Monday morning, with my--my Nurse and protector,' said Doyce,
    with laughing eyes again. 'He is a sagacious man in business, and
    has had a good apprenticeship to it.'

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

    As he knew the house well, he conducted Arthur to it by the way
    that showed it to the best advantage. It was a charming place
    (none the worse for being a little eccentric), on the road by the
    river, and just what the 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 was in the May of her life; and it was
    defended by a goodly show of handsome trees and spreading
    evergreens, as Pet was by Mr and Mrs Meagles. It was made out of
    an old brick house, of which a part had been altogether pulled
    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 was even the later addition of a conservatory
    sheltering itself against it, uncertain of hue in its deep-stained
    glass, and in its more transparent portions flashing to the sun's
    rays, now like fire and now like harmless water drops; which might
    have stood for Tattycoram. Within view was the peaceful river and
    the ferry-boat, to moralise to all the inmates saying: Young or
    old, passionate or tranquil, chafing or content, you, thus runs the
    current always. Let the heart swell into what discord it will,
    thus plays the rippling water on the prow of the ferry-boat ever
    the same tune. Year after year, so much allowance for the drifting
    of the boat, so many miles an hour the flowing of the stream, here
    the rushes, there the lilies, nothing uncertain or unquiet, upon
    this road that steadily runs away; while you, upon your flowing
    road of time, are so capricious and distracted.

    The bell at the gate had scarcely sounded when Mr Meagles came out
    to receive them. Mr Meagles had scarcely come out, when Mrs
    Meagles came out. Mrs Meagles had scarcely come out, when Pet came
    out. Pet scarcely had come out, when Tattycoram came out. Never
    had visitors a more hospitable reception.

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

    '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 capital party.'

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

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

    'I have not had so pleasant a greeting,' said Clennam--then he
    recalled what Little Dorrit had said to him in his own room, and
    faithfully added 'except once--since we last walked to and fro,
    looking down at the Mediterranean.'

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

    Bestowing this eulogium on the retired character of his retreat
    with a dubious shake of the head, Mr Meagles led the way into the
    house. It was just large enough, and no more; was as pretty within
    as it was without, and was perfectly well-arranged and comfortable.

    Some traces of the migratory habits of the family were to be
    observed in the covered frames and furniture, and wrapped-up
    hangings; but it was easy to see that it was one of Mr Meagles's
    whims to have the cottage always kept, in their absence, as if they
    were always coming back the day after to-morrow. Of articles
    collected on his various expeditions, there was such a vast
    miscellany that it was like the dwelling of an amiable Corsair.
    There were antiquities from Central Italy, made by the best modern
    houses in that department of industry; bits of mummy from Egypt
    (and perhaps Birmingham); model gondolas from Venice; model
    villages from Switzerland; morsels of tesselated pavement from
    Herculaneum and Pompeii, like petrified minced veal; ashes out of
    tombs, and lava out of Vesuvius; Spanish fans, Spezzian straw hats,
    Moorish slippers, Tuscan hairpins, Carrara sculpture, Trastaverini
    scarves, Genoese velvets and filigree, Neapolitan coral, Roman
    cameos, Geneva jewellery, Arab lanterns, rosaries blest all round
    by the Pope himself, and an infinite variety of lumber. There were
    views, like and unlike, of a multitude of places; and there was one
    little picture-room devoted to a few of the regular sticky old
    Saints, with sinews like whipcord, hair like Neptune's, wrinkles
    like tattooing, and such coats of varnish that every holy personage
    served for a fly-trap, and became what is now called in the vulgar
    tongue a Catch-em-alive O. Of these pictorial acquisitions Mr
    Meagles spoke in the usual manner. He was no judge, he said,
    except of what pleased himself; he had picked them up, dirt-cheap,
    and people had considered them rather fine. One man, who at any
    rate ought to know something of the subject, had declared that
    'Sage, Reading' (a specially oily old gentleman in a blanket, with
    a swan's-down tippet for a beard, and a web of cracks all over him
    like rich pie-crust), to be a fine Guercino. As for Sebastian del
    Piombo there, you would judge for yourself; 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 rather declined to
    overhear the remark.

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

    'Here they are, you see,' said Mr Meagles. 'I stood behind these
    two articles five-and-thirty years running, when I no more thought
    of gadding about than I now think of--staying at home. When I left
    the Bank for good, I asked for them, and brought them away with me.

    I mention it at once, or you might suppose that I sit in my
    counting-house (as Pet says 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 two
    pretty little girls with their arms entwined. 'Yes, Clennam,' said
    Mr Meagles, in a lower voice. 'There they both are. It was taken
    some seventeen 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 is Minnie; 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, both
    are still so like you. Indeed,' said Clennam, glancing from the
    fair original to the picture and back, 'I cannot even now say which
    is not your portrait.'
    'D'ye hear that, Mother?' cried Mr Meagles to his wife, who had
    followed her daughter. 'It's always the same, Clennam; nobody can
    decide. The child to your left is Pet.'

    The picture happened to be near a looking-glass. As Arthur looked
    at it again, he saw, by the reflection of the mirror, Tattycoram
    stop in passing outside the door, listen to what was going on, and
    pass away with an angry and contemptuous frown upon her face, that
    changed its beauty into ugliness.

    'But come!' said Mr Meagles. 'You have had a long walk, and will
    be glad to get your boots off. As to Daniel here, I suppose he'd
    never think of taking 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
    to itself on any account. 'Figures, and wheels, and cogs, and
    levers, and screws, and cylinders, and a thousand things.'

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

    Clennam could not help speculating, as he seated himself in his
    room by the fire, whether there might be in the breast of this
    honest, affectionate, and cordial Mr Meagles, any microscopic
    portion of the mustard-seed that had sprung up into the great tree
    of the Circumlocution Office. His curious sense of a general
    superiority to Daniel Doyce, which seemed to be founded, not so
    much on anything in Doyce's personal character as on the mere fact
    of his being an originator and a man out of the beaten track of
    other men, suggested the idea. It might have occupied him until he
    went down to dinner an hour afterwards, if he had not had another
    question to consider, which had been in his mind so long ago as
    before he was in quarantine at Marseilles, and which had now
    returned to it, and was very urgent with it. No less a question
    than this: Whether he should allow himself to fall 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 at less.) He was twice her age. Well! He was young in
    appearance, young in health and strength, young in heart. A man
    was certainly not old at forty; and many men were not in
    circumstances to marry, or did not marry, until they had attained
    that time of life. On the other hand, the question was, not what
    he thought of the point, but what she thought of it.

    He believed that Mr Meagles was disposed to entertain a ripe regard
    for him, and he knew that he had a sincere regard for Mr Meagles
    and his good wife. He could foresee that to relinquish this
    beautiful only child, of whom they were so fond, to any husband,
    would be a trial of their love which perhaps they never yet had had
    the fortitude to contemplate. But the more beautiful and winning
    and charming she, the nearer they must always be to the necessity
    of approaching it. And why not in his favour, as well as in
    another's?

    When he had got so far, it came again into his head that the
    question was, 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, and depressed his own, that when he pinned himself to
    this point, his hopes began to fail him. He came to the final
    resolution, as he made himself ready for dinner, that he would not
    allow himself to fall in love with Pet.

    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 easy and cheerful together (Daniel Doyce either sitting
    out like an amused spectator at cards, or coming in with some
    shrewd little experiences of his own, when it happened to be to the
    purpose), that they might have been together twenty times, and not
    have known so much of one another.

    'And Miss Wade,' said Mr Meagles, after they had recalled a number
    of fellow-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 dark eyes 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 the church.'

    '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 if some one else was touching me!'

    She said it in a quick involuntary way, but half playfully, and not
    more petulantly or disagreeably than a favourite child might have
    done, who laughed next moment. Tattycoram set her full red lips
    together, and crossed her arms upon her bosom.
    'Did you wish to know, sir,' she said, looking at Mr Meagles, 'what
    Miss Wade 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 you are 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
    little time--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
    looked down at her young mistress, 'or found myself worried,' she
    looked down at her again, 'I might go to her, and be considerately
    treated. I was to think of it, and could speak to her by the
    church. So I went there to thank her.'

    'Tatty,' said her young mistress, putting her hand up over her
    shoulder that the other might take it, 'Miss Wade almost frightened
    me when we parted, and I scarcely like to think of her just now as
    having been so near 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
    the caressing hand. It patted her cheek, as it touched the owner's
    beautiful curls, and Tattycoram went away.

    'Now there,' said Mr Meagles softly, as he gave a turn to the dumb-
    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 among
    practical people. Mother and I know, solely from being practical,
    that there are times when that girl's whole nature seems to roughen
    itself against seeing us so bound up in Pet. No father and mother
    were bound up in her, poor soul. I don't like to think of the way
    in which that unfortunate child, with all that passion and protest
    in her, feels when she hears the Fifth Commandment on a Sunday. I
    am always inclined to call out, Church, Count five-and-twenty,
    Tattycoram.'

    Besides his dumb-waiter, Mr Meagles had two other not dumb waiters
    in the persons of two parlour-maids with rosy faces and bright
    eyes, who were a highly ornamental part of the table decoration.
    'And why not, you see?' said Mr Meagles on this head. 'As I always
    say to Mother, why not have something pretty to look at, if you
    have anything at all?'
    A certain Mrs Tickit, who was Cook and Housekeeper when the family
    were at home, and Housekeeper only when the family were away,
    completed the establishment. Mr Meagles regretted that the nature
    of the duties in which she was engaged, rendered Mrs Tickit
    unpresentable at present, but hoped to introduce her to the new
    visitor to-morrow. She was an important 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 always put on the silk-gown and
    the jet-black row of curls represented in that portrait (her hair
    was reddish-grey in the kitchen), established herself in the
    breakfast-room, put her spectacles between two particular leaves of
    Doctor Buchan's Domestic Medicine, and sat looking over the blind
    all day until they came back again. It was supposed that no
    persuasion could be invented which would induce Mrs Tickit to
    abandon her post at the blind, however long their absence, or to
    dispense with the attendance of Dr Buchan; the lucubrations of
    which learned practitioner, Mr Meagles implicitly believed she had
    never yet consulted to the extent of one word in her life.

    In the evening they played an old-fashioned rubber; and Pet sat
    looking over her father's hand, or singing to herself by fits and
    starts at the piano. She was a spoilt child; but how could she be
    otherwise? Who could be much with so pliable and beautiful a
    creature, and not yield to her endearing influence? Who could pass
    an evening in the house, and not love her for the grace and charm
    of her very presence in the room? This was Clennam's reflection,
    notwithstanding the final conclusion at which he 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 your pardon. Nothing,' returned Clennam.

    'Think of something, next time; that's a dear fellow,' said Mr
    Meagles.

    Pet laughingly believed he had been thinking of Miss Wade.

    'Why of Miss Wade, Pet?' asked her father.

    'Why, indeed!' said Arthur Clennam.

    Pet coloured a little, and went to the piano again.

    As they broke up for the night, Arthur overheard Doyce ask his host
    if he could give him half an hour's conversation before breakfast
    in the morning? 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
    when you 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 I remember our being very pleasant and confidential
    together.'

    'I have acted on your advice; and having disembarrassed myself of
    an occupation that was painful to me for many reasons, wish to
    devote myself 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, is
    looking for a partner in his business--not a partner in his
    mechanical knowledge, but in the ways and means of turning the
    business arising from it to the best account.'

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

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

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

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

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

    '--And I shall be glad to enter into the subject, provided Mr Doyce
    responds, 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.
    'And without 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 something may come of this. Of one thing you may be
    perfectly certain. Daniel is an honest man.'

    'I am so sure of it that I have promptly made up my mind to speak
    to you.'
    '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
    meaning nothing more than that he did new things and went new ways;
    'but he is as honest as the sun, and so good night!'
    Clennam went back to his room, sat down again before his fire, and
    made up his mind that he was glad he had resolved not to fall in
    love with Pet. She was so beautiful, so amiable, so apt to receive
    any true impression given to her gentle nature and her innocent
    heart, and make the man who should be so happy as to communicate
    it, the most fortunate and enviable of all men, that he was very
    glad indeed he had come to that conclusion.

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

    'Suppose that a man,' so his thoughts ran, 'who had been of age
    some twenty years or so; who was a diffident man, from the
    circumstances of his youth; who was rather a grave man, from the
    tenor of his life; who knew himself to be deficient in many little
    engaging qualities which he admired in others, from having been
    long in a distant region, with nothing 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 in the land; who had not a
    fortune to compensate, in any measure, for these defects; who had
    nothing in his favour but his honest love and his general 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 to
    persuade himself that he could hope to win her; what a weakness it
    would be!'

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

    Why should he be vexed or sore at heart? It was not his weakness
    that he had imagined. It was nobody's, nobody's within his
    knowledge; why should it trouble him? And yet it did trouble him.
    And he thought--who has not thought for a moment, sometimes?--that
    it might be better to flow away monotonously, like the river, and
    to compound for its insensibility to happiness with its
    insensibility to pain.
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    Chapter 17
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