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    Chapter 17

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    Chapter 18
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    CHAPTER 17

    Nobody's Rival

    Before breakfast in the morning, Arthur walked out to look about
    him. As the morning was fine and he had an hour on his hands, he
    crossed the river by the ferry, and strolled along a footpath
    through some meadows. When he came back to the towing-path, he
    found the ferry-boat on the opposite side, and a gentleman hailing
    it and waiting to be taken over.

    This gentleman looked barely thirty. He was well dressed, of a
    sprightly and gay appearance, a well-knit figure, and a rich dark
    complexion. As Arthur came over the stile and down to the water's
    edge, the lounger glanced at him for a moment, and then resumed his
    occupation of idly tossing stones into the water with his foot.
    There was something in his way of spurning them out of their places
    with his heel, and getting them into the required position, that
    Clennam thought had an air of cruelty in it. Most of us have more
    or less frequently derived a similar impression from a man's manner
    of doing some very little thing: plucking a flower, clearing away
    an obstacle, or even destroying an insentient object.

    The gentleman's thoughts were preoccupied, as his face showed, and
    he took no notice of a fine Newfoundland dog, who watched him
    attentively, and watched every stone too, in its turn, eager to
    spring into the river on receiving his master's sign. The ferry-
    boat came over, however, without his receiving any sign, and when
    it grounded his master took him by the collar and walked him into
    it.

    'Not this morning,' he said to the dog. 'You won't do for ladies'
    company, dripping wet. Lie down.'

    Clennam followed the man and the dog into the boat, and took his
    seat. The dog did as he was ordered. The man remained standing,
    with his hands in his pockets, and towered between Clennam and the
    prospect. Man and dog both jumped lightly out as soon as they
    touched the other side, and went away. Clennam was glad to be rid
    of them.

    The church clock struck the breakfast hour as he walked up the
    little lane by which the garden-gate was approached. The moment he
    pulled the bell a deep loud barking assailed him from within the
    wall.

    'I heard no dog last night,' thought Clennam. The gate was opened
    by one of the rosy maids, and on the lawn were the Newfoundland dog
    and the man.

    'Miss Minnie is not down yet, gentlemen,' said the blushing
    portress, as they all came together in the garden. Then she said
    to the master of the dog, 'Mr Clennam, sir,' and tripped away.

    'Odd enough, Mr Clennam, that we should have met just now,' said
    the man. Upon which the dog became mute. 'Allow me to introduce
    myself--Henry Gowan. A pretty place this, and looks wonderfully
    well this morning!'

    The manner was easy, and the voice agreeable; but still Clennam
    thought, that if he had not made that decided resolution to avoid
    falling in love with Pet, he would have taken a dislike to this
    Henry Gowan.

    'It's new to you, I believe?' said this Gowan, when Arthur had
    extolled the place.
    'Quite new. I made acquaintance with it only yesterday afternoon.'

    'Ah! Of course this is not its best aspect. It used to look
    charming in the spring, before they went away last time. I should
    like you to have seen it then.'

    But for that resolution so often recalled, Clennam might have
    wished him in the crater of Mount Etna, in return for this
    civility.

    'I have had the pleasure of seeing it under many circumstances
    during the last three years, and it's--a Paradise.'

    It was (at least it might have been, always excepting for that wise
    resolution) like his dexterous impudence to call it a Paradise. He
    only called it a Paradise because he first saw her coming, and so
    made her out within her hearing to be an angel, Confusion to him!
    And ah! how beaming she looked, and how glad! How she caressed
    the dog, and how the dog knew her! How expressive that heightened
    colour in her face, that fluttered manner, her downcast eyes, her
    irresolute happiness! When had Clennam seen her look like this?
    Not that there was any reason why he might, could, would, or should
    have ever seen her look like this, or that he had ever hoped for
    himself to see her look like this; but still--when had he ever
    known her do it!

    He stood at a little distance from them. This Gowan when he had
    talked about a Paradise, had gone up to her and taken her hand.
    The dog had put his great paws on her arm and laid his head against
    her dear bosom. She had laughed and welcomed them, and made far
    too much of the dog, far, far, too much--that is to say, supposing
    there had been any third person looking on who loved her.

    She disengaged herself now, and came to Clennam, and put her hand
    in his and wished him good morning, and gracefully made as if she
    would take his arm and be escorted into the house. To this Gowan
    had no objection. No, he knew he was too safe.

    There was a passing cloud on Mr Meagles's good-humoured face when
    they all three (four, counting the dog, and he was the most
    objectionable but one of the party) came in to breakfast. Neither
    it, nor the touch of uneasiness on Mrs Meagles as she directed her
    eyes towards it, was unobserved by Clennam.

    'Well, Gowan,' said Mr Meagles, even suppressing a sigh; 'how goes
    the world with you this morning?'

    'Much as usual, sir. Lion and I being determined not to waste
    anything of our weekly visit, turned out early, and came over from
    Kingston, my present headquarters, where I am making a sketch or
    two.' Then he told how he had met Mr Clennam at the ferry, and
    they had come over together.

    'Mrs Gowan is well, Henry?' said Mrs Meagles. (Clennam became
    attentive.)

    'My mother is quite well, thank you.' (Clennam became
    inattentive.) 'I have taken the liberty of making an addition to
    your family dinner-party to-day, which I hope will not be
    inconvenient to you or to Mr Meagles. I couldn't very well get out
    of it,' he explained, turning to the latter. 'The young fellow
    wrote to propose himself to me; and as he is well connected, I
    thought you would not object to my transferring him here.'

    'Who is the young fellow?' asked Mr Meagles with peculiar
    complacency.

    'He is one of the Barnacles. Tite Barnacle's son, Clarence
    Barnacle, who is in his father's Department. I can at least
    guarantee that the river shall not suffer from his visit. He won't
    set it on fire.'

    'Aye, aye?' said Meagles. 'A Barnacle is he? We know something of
    that family, eh, Dan? By George, they are at the top of the tree,
    though! Let me see. What relation will this young fellow be to
    Lord Decimus now? His Lordship married, in seventeen ninety-seven,
    Lady Jemima Bilberry, who was the second daughter by the third
    marriage--no! There I am wrong! That was Lady Seraphina--Lady
    Jemima was the first daughter by the second marriage of the
    fifteenth Earl of Stiltstalking with the Honourable Clementina
    Toozellem. Very well. Now this young fellow's father married a
    Stiltstalking and his father married his cousin who was a Barnacle.

    The father of that father who married a Barnacle, married a
    Joddleby.--I am getting a little too far back, Gowan; I want to
    make out what relation this young fellow is to Lord Decimus.'

    'That's easily stated. His father is nephew to Lord Decimus.'

    'Nephew--to--Lord--Decimus,' Mr Meagles luxuriously repeated with
    his eyes shut, that he might have nothing to distract him from the
    full flavour of the genealogical tree. 'By George, you are right,
    Gowan. So he is.'

    'Consequently, Lord Decimus is his great uncle.'

    'But stop a bit!' said Mr Meagles, opening his eyes with a fresh
    discovery. 'Then on the mother's side, Lady Stiltstalking is his
    great aunt.'

    'Of course she is.'

    'Aye, aye, aye?' said Mr Meagles with much interest. 'Indeed,
    indeed? We shall be glad to see him. We'll entertain him as well
    as we can, in our humble way; and we shall not starve him, I hope,
    at all events.'

    In the beginning of this dialogue, Clennam had expected some great
    harmless outburst from Mr Meagles, like that which had made him
    burst out of the Circumlocution Office, holding Doyce by the
    collar. But his good friend had a weakness which none of us need
    go into the next street to find, and which no amount of
    Circumlocution experience could long subdue in him. Clennam looked
    at Doyce; but Doyce knew all about it beforehand, and looked at his
    plate, and made no sign, and said no word.

    'I am much obliged to you,' said Gowan, to conclude the subject.
    'Clarence is a great ass, but he is one of the dearest and best
    fellows that ever lived!'

    It appeared, before the breakfast was over, that everybody whom
    this Gowan knew was either more or less of an ass, or more or less
    of a knave; but was, notwithstanding, the most lovable, the most
    engaging, the simplest, truest, kindest, dearest, best fellow that
    ever lived. The process by which this unvarying result was
    attained, whatever the premises, might have been stated by Mr Henry
    Gowan thus: 'I claim to be always book-keeping, with a peculiar
    nicety, in every man's case, and posting up a careful little
    account of Good and Evil with him. I do this so conscientiously,
    that I am happy to tell you I find the most worthless of men to be
    the dearest old fellow too: and am in a condition to make the
    gratifying report, that there is much less difference than you are
    inclined to suppose between an honest man and a scoundrel.' The
    effect of this cheering discovery happened to be, that while he
    seemed to be scrupulously finding good in most men, he did in
    reality lower it where it was, and set it up where it was not; but
    that was its only disagreeable or dangerous feature.

    It scarcely seemed, however, to afford Mr Meagles as much
    satisfaction as the Barnacle genealogy had done. The cloud that
    Clennam had never seen upon his face before that morning,
    frequently overcast it again; and there was the same shadow of
    uneasy observation of him on the comely face of his wife. More
    than once or twice when Pet caressed the dog, it appeared to
    Clennam that her father was unhappy in seeing her do it; and, in
    one particular instance when Gowan stood on the other side of the
    dog, and bent his head at the same time, Arthur fancied that he saw
    tears rise to Mr Meagles's eyes as he hurried out of the room. It
    was either the fact too, or he fancied further, that Pet herself
    was not insensible to these little incidents; that she tried, with
    a more delicate affection than usual, to express to her good father
    how much she loved him; that it was on this account that she fell
    behind the rest, both as they went to church and as they returned
    from it, and took his arm. He could not have sworn but that as he
    walked alone in the garden afterwards, he had an instantaneous
    glimpse of her in her father's room, clinging to both her parents
    with the greatest tenderness, and weeping on her father's shoulder.

    The latter part of the day turning out wet, they were fain to keep
    the house, look over Mr Meagles's collection, and beguile the time
    with conversation. This Gowan had plenty to say for himself, and
    said it in an off-hand and amusing manner. He appeared to be an
    artist by profession, and to have been at Rome some time; yet he
    had a slight, careless, amateur way with him--a perceptible limp,
    both in his devotion to art and his attainments--which Clennam
    could scarcely understand.

    He applied to Daniel Doyce for help, as they stood together,
    looking out of window.

    'You know Mr Gowan?' he said in a low voice.

    'I have seen him here. Comes here every Sunday when they are at
    home.'

    'An artist, I infer from what he says?'

    'A sort of a one,' said Daniel Doyce, in a surly tone.

    'What sort of a one?' asked Clennam, with a smile.

    'Why, he has sauntered into the Arts at a leisurely Pall-Mall
    pace,' said Doyce, 'and I doubt if they care to be taken quite so
    coolly.'

    Pursuing his inquiries, Clennam found that the Gowan family were a
    very distant ramification of the Barnacles; and that the paternal
    Gowan, originally attached to a legation abroad, had been pensioned
    off as a Commissioner of nothing particular somewhere or other, and
    had died at his post with his drawn salary in his hand, nobly
    defending it to the last extremity. In consideration of this
    eminent public service, the Barnacle then in power had recommended
    the Crown to bestow a pension of two or three hundred a-year on his
    widow; to which the next Barnacle in power had added certain shady
    and sedate apartments in the Palaces at Hampton Court, where the
    old lady still lived, deploring the degeneracy of the times in
    company with several other old ladies of both sexes. Her son, Mr
    Henry Gowan, inheriting from his father, the Commissioner, that
    very questionable help in life, a very small independence, had been
    difficult to settle; the rather, as public appointments chanced to
    be scarce, and his genius, during his earlier manhood, was of that
    exclusively agricultural character which applies itself to the
    cultivation of wild oats. At last he had declared that he would
    become a Painter; partly because he had always had an idle knack
    that way, and partly to grieve the souls of the Barnacles-in-chief
    who had not provided for him. So it had come to pass successively,
    first, that several distinguished ladies had been frightfully
    shocked; then, that portfolios of his performances had been handed
    about o' nights, and declared with ecstasy to be perfect Claudes,
    perfect Cuyps, perfect phaenomena; then, that Lord Decimus had
    bought his picture, and had asked the President and Council to
    dinner at a blow, and had said, with his own magnificent gravity,
    'Do you know, there appears to me to be really immense merit in
    that work?' and, in short, that people of condition had absolutely
    taken pains to bring him into fashion. But, somehow, it had all
    failed. The prejudiced public had stood out against it
    obstinately. They had determined not to admire Lord Decimus's
    picture. They had determined to believe that in every service,
    except their own, a man must qualify himself, by striving early and
    late, and by working heart and soul, might and main. So now Mr
    Gowan, like that worn-out old coffin which never was Mahomet's nor
    anybody else's, hung midway between two points: jaundiced and
    jealous as to the one he had left: jaundiced and jealous as to the
    other that he couldn't reach.

    Such was the substance of Clennam's discoveries concerning him,
    made that rainy Sunday afternoon and afterwards.

    About an hour or so after dinner time, Young Barnacle appeared,
    attended by his eye-glass; in honour of whose family connections,
    Mr Meagles had cashiered the pretty parlour-maids for the day, and
    had placed on duty in their stead two dingy men. Young Barnacle
    was in the last degree amazed and disconcerted at sight of Arthur,
    and had murmured involuntarily, 'Look here! upon my soul, you
    know!' before his presence of mind returned.

    Even then, he was obliged to embrace the earliest opportunity of
    taking his friend into a window, and saying, in a nasal way that
    was a part of his general debility:

    'I want to speak to you, Gowan. I say. Look here. Who is that
    fellow?'

    'A friend of our host's. None of mine.'

    'He's a most ferocious Radical, you know,' said Young Barnacle.

    'Is he? How do you know?'

    'Ecod, sir, he was Pitching into our people the other day in the
    most tremendous manner. Went up to our place and Pitched into my
    father to that extent that it was necessary to order him out. Came
    back to our Department, and Pitched into me. Look here. You never
    saw such a fellow.'

    'What did he want?'

    'Ecod, sir,' returned Young Barnacle, 'he said he wanted to know,
    you know! Pervaded our Department--without an appointment--and
    said he wanted to know!'

    The stare of indignant wonder with which Young Barnacle accompanied
    this disclosure, would have strained his eyes injuriously but for
    the opportune relief of dinner. Mr Meagles (who had been extremely
    solicitous to know how his uncle and aunt were) begged him to
    conduct Mrs Meagles to the dining-room. And when he sat on Mrs
    Meagles's right hand, Mr Meagles looked as gratified as if his
    whole family were there.

    All the natural charm of the previous day was gone. The eaters of
    the dinner, like the dinner itself, were lukewarm, insipid,
    overdone--and all owing to this poor little dull Young Barnacle.
    Conversationless at any time, he was now the victim of a weakness
    special to the occasion, and solely referable to Clennam. He was
    under a pressing and continual necessity of looking at that
    gentleman, which occasioned his eye-glass to get into his soup,
    into his wine-glass, into Mrs Meagles's plate, to hang down his
    back like a bell-rope, and be several times disgracefully restored
    to his bosom by one of the dingy men. Weakened in mind by his
    frequent losses of this instrument, and its determination not to
    stick in his eye, and more and more enfeebled in intellect every
    time he looked at the mysterious Clennam, he applied spoons to his
    eyes, forks, and other foreign matters connected with the furniture
    of the dinner-table. His discovery of these mistakes greatly
    increased his difficulties, but never released him from the
    necessity of looking at Clennam. And whenever Clennam spoke, this
    ill-starred young man was clearly seized with a dread that he was
    coming, by some artful device, round to that point of wanting to
    know, you know.

    It may be questioned, therefore, whether any one but Mr Meagles had
    much enjoyment of the time. Mr Meagles, however, thoroughly
    enjoyed Young Barnacle. As a mere flask of the golden water in the
    tale became a full fountain when it was poured out, so Mr Meagles
    seemed to feel that this small spice of Barnacle imparted to his
    table the flavour of the whole family-tree. In its presence, his
    frank, fine, genuine qualities paled; he was not so easy, he was
    not so natural, he was striving after something that did not belong
    to him, he was not himself. What a strange peculiarity on the part
    of Mr Meagles, and where should we find another such case!

    At last the wet Sunday wore itself out in a wet night; and Young
    Barnacle went home in a cab, feebly smoking; and the objectionable
    Gowan went away on foot, accompanied by the objectionable dog. Pet
    had taken the most amiable pains all day to be friendly with
    Clennam, but Clennam had been a little reserved since breakfast--
    that is to say, would have been, if he had loved her.

    When he had gone to his own room, and had again thrown himself into
    the chair by the fire, Mr Doyce knocked at the door, candle in
    hand, to ask him how and at what hour he proposed returning on the
    morrow? After settling this question, he said a word to Mr Doyce
    about this Gowan--who would have run in his head a good deal, if he
    had been his rival.

    'Those are not good prospects for a painter,' said Clennam.

    'No,' returned Doyce.

    Mr Doyce stood, chamber-candlestick in hand, the other hand in his
    pocket, looking hard at the flame of his candle, with a certain
    quiet perception in his face that they were going to say something
    more.
    'I thought our good friend a little changed, and out of spirits,
    after he came this morning?' said Clennam.

    'Yes,' returned Doyce.

    'But not his daughter?' said Clennam.

    'No,' said Doyce.

    There was a pause on both sides. Mr Doyce, still looking at the
    flame of his candle, slowly resumed:

    'The truth is, he has twice taken his daughter abroad in the hope
    of separating her from Mr Gowan. He rather thinks she is disposed
    to like him, and he has painful doubts (I quite agree with him, as
    I dare say you do) of the hopefulness of such a marriage.'

    'There--' Clennam choked, and coughed, and stopped.

    'Yes, you have taken cold,' said Daniel Doyce. But without looking
    at him.

    'There is an engagement between them, of course?' said Clennam
    airily.

    'No. As I am told, certainly not. It has been solicited on the
    gentleman's part, but none has been made. Since their recent
    return, our friend has yielded to a weekly visit, but that is the
    utmost. Minnie would not deceive her father and mother. You have
    travelled with them, and I believe you know what a bond there is
    among them, extending even beyond this present life. All that
    there is between Miss Minnie and Mr Gowan, I have no doubt we see.'

    'Ah! We see enough!' cried Arthur.

    Mr Doyce wished him Good Night in the tone of a man who had heard
    a mournful, not to say despairing, exclamation, and who sought to
    infuse some encouragement and hope into the mind of the person by
    whom it had been uttered. Such tone was probably a part of his
    oddity, as one of a crotchety band; for how could he have heard
    anything of that kind, without Clennam's hearing it too?

    The rain fell heavily on the roof, and pattered on the ground, and
    dripped among the evergreens and the leafless branches of the
    trees. The rain fell heavily, drearily. It was a night of tears.

    If Clennam had not decided against falling in love with Pet; if he
    had had the weakness to do it; if he had, little by little,
    persuaded himself to set all the earnestness of his nature, all the
    might of his hope, and all the wealth of his matured character, on
    that cast; if he had done this and found that all was lost; he
    would have been, that night, unutterably miserable. As it was-- As
    it was, the rain fell heavily, drearily.
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