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    Chapter 12

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    Chapter 47
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    CHAPTER 12

    In which a Great Patriotic Conference is holden

    The famous name of Merdle became, every day, more famous in the
    land. Nobody knew that the Merdle of such high renown had ever
    done any good to any one, alive or dead, or to any earthly thing;
    nobody knew that he had any capacity or utterance of any sort in
    him, which had ever thrown, for any creature, the feeblest
    farthing-candle ray of light on any path of duty or diversion, pain
    or pleasure, toil or rest, fact or fancy, among the multiplicity of
    paths in the labyrinth trodden by the sons of Adam; nobody had the
    smallest reason for supposing the clay of which this object of
    worship was made, to be other than the commonest clay, with as
    clogged a wick smouldering inside of it as ever kept an image of
    humanity from tumbling to pieces. All people knew (or thought they
    knew) that he had made himself immensely rich; and, for that reason
    alone, prostrated themselves before him, more degradedly and less
    excusably than the darkest savage creeps out of his hole in the
    ground to propitiate, in some log or reptile, the Deity of his
    benighted soul.

    Nay, the high priests of this worship had the man before them as a
    protest against their meanness. The multitude worshipped on
    trust--though always distinctly knowing why--but the officiators at
    the altar had the man habitually in their view. They sat at his
    feasts, and he sat at theirs. There was a spectre always attendant
    on him, saying to these high priests, 'Are such the signs you
    trust, and love to honour; this head, these eyes, this mode of
    speech, the tone and manner of this man? You are the levers of the
    Circumlocution Office, and the rulers of men. When half-a-dozen of
    you fall out by the ears, it seems that mother earth can give birth
    to no other rulers. Does your qualification lie in the superior
    knowledge of men which accepts, courts, and puffs this man? Or, if
    you are competent to judge aright the signs I never fail to show
    you when he appears among you, is your superior honesty your
    qualification?' Two rather ugly questions these, always going
    about town with Mr Merdle; and there was a tacit agreement that
    they must be stifled. In Mrs Merdle's absence abroad, Mr Merdle
    still kept the great house open for the passage through it of a
    stream Of visitors. A few of these took affable possession of the
    establishment. Three or four ladies of distinction and liveliness
    used to say to one another, 'Let us dine at our dear Merdle's next
    Thursday. Whom shall we have?' Our dear Merdle would then receive
    his instructions; and would sit heavily among the company at table
    and wander lumpishly about his drawing-rooms afterwards, only
    remarkable for appearing to have nothing to do with the
    entertainment beyond being in its way.

    The Chief Butler, the Avenging Spirit of this great man's life,
    relaxed nothing of his severity. He looked on at these dinners
    when the bosom was not there, as he looked on at other dinners when
    the bosom was there; and his eye was a basilisk to Mr Merdle. He
    was a hard man, and would never bate an ounce of plate or a bottle
    of wine. He would not allow a dinner to be given, unless it was up
    to his mark. He set forth the table for his own dignity. If the
    guests chose to partake of what was served, he saw no objection;
    but it was served for the maintenance of his rank. As he stood by
    the sideboard he seemed to announce, 'I have accepted office to
    look at this which is now before me, and to look at nothing less
    than this.' If he missed the presiding bosom, it was as a part of
    his own state of which he was, from unavoidable circumstances,
    temporarily deprived. just as he might have missed a centre-piece,
    or a choice wine-cooler, which had been sent to the Banker's.

    Mr Merdle issued invitations for a Barnacle dinner. Lord Decimus
    was to be there, Mr Tite Barnacle was to be there, the pleasant
    young Barnacle was to be there; and the Chorus of Parliamentary
    Barnacles who went about the provinces when the House was up,
    warbling the praises of their Chief, were to be represented there.
    It was understood to be a great occasion. Mr Merdle was going to
    take up the Barnacles. Some delicate little negotiations had
    occurred between him and the noble Decimus--the young Barnacle of
    engaging manners acting as negotiator--and Mr Merdle had decided to
    cast the weight of his great probity and great riches into the
    Barnacle scale. jobbery was suspected by the malicious; perhaps
    because it was indisputable that if the adherence of the immortal
    Enemy of Mankind could have been secured by a job, the Barnacles
    would have jobbed him--for the good of the country, for the good of
    the country.

    Mrs Merdle had written to this magnificent spouse of hers, whom it
    was heresy to regard as anything less than all the British
    Merchants since the days of Whittington rolled into one, and gilded
    three feet deep all over--had written to this spouse of hers,
    several letters from Rome, in quick succession, urging upon him
    with importunity that now or never was the time to provide for
    Edmund Sparkler. Mrs Merdle had shown him that the case of Edmund
    was urgent, and that infinite advantages might result from his
    having some good thing directly. In the grammar of Mrs Merdle's
    verbs on this momentous subject, there was only one mood, the
    Imperative; and that Mood had only one Tense, the Present. Mrs
    Merdle's verbs were so pressingly presented to Mr Merdle to
    conjugate, that his sluggish blood and his long coat-cuffs became
    quite agitated.

    In which state of agitation, Mr Merdle, evasively rolling his eyes
    round the Chief Butler's shoes without raising them to the index of
    that stupendous creature's thoughts, had signified to him his
    intention of giving a special dinner: not a very large dinner, but
    a very special dinner. The Chief Butler had signified, in return,
    that he had no objection to look on at the most expensive thing in
    that way that could be done; and the day of the dinner was now
    come.

    Mr Merdle stood in one of his drawing-rooms, with his back to the
    fire, waiting for the arrival of his important guests. He seldom
    or never took the liberty of standing with his back to the fire
    unless he was quite alone. In the presence of the Chief Butler, he
    could not have done such a deed. He would have clasped himself by
    the wrists in that constabulary manner of his, and have paced up
    and down the hearthrug, or gone creeping about among the rich
    objects of furniture, if his oppressive retainer had appeared in
    the room at that very moment. The sly shadows which seemed to dart
    out of hiding when the fire rose, and to dart back into it when the
    fire fell, were sufficient witnesses of his making himself so easy.

    They were even more than sufficient, if his uncomfortable glances
    at them might be taken to mean anything.

    Mr Merdle's right hand was filled with the evening paper, and the
    evening paper was full of Mr Merdle. His wonderful enterprise, his
    wonderful wealth, his wonderful Bank, were the fattening food of
    the evening paper that night. The wonderful Bank, of which he was
    the chief projector, establisher, and manager, was the latest of
    the many Merdle wonders. So modest was Mr Merdle withal, in the
    midst of these splendid achievements, that he looked far more like
    a man in possession of his house under a distraint, than a
    commercial Colossus bestriding his own hearthrug, while the little
    ships were sailing into dinner.

    Behold the vessels coming into port! The engaging young Barnacle
    was the first arrival; but Bar overtook him on the staircase. Bar,
    strengthened as usual with his double eye-glass and his little jury
    droop, was overjoyed to see the engaging young Barnacle; and opined
    that we were going to sit in Banco, as we lawyers called it, to
    take a special argument?

    'Indeed,' said the sprightly young Barnacle, whose name was
    Ferdinand; 'how so?'

    'Nay,' smiled Bar. 'If you don't know, how can I know? You are in
    the innermost sanctuary of the temple; I am one of the admiring
    concourse on the plain without.'

    Bar could be light in hand, or heavy in hand, according to the
    customer he had to deal with. With Ferdinand Barnacle he was
    gossamer. Bar was likewise always modest and self-depreciatory--in
    his way. Bar was a man of great variety; but one leading thread
    ran through the woof of all his patterns. Every man with whom he
    had to do was in his eyes a jury-man; and he must get that jury-man
    over, if he could.

    'Our illustrious host and friend,' said Bar; 'our shining
    mercantile star;--going into politics?'

    'Going? He has been in Parliament some time, you know,' returned
    the engaging young Barnacle.

    'True,' said Bar, with his light-comedy laugh for special jury-men,
    which was a very different thing from his low-comedy laugh for
    comic tradesmen on common juries: 'he has been in Parliament for
    some time. Yet hitherto our star has been a vacillating and
    wavering star? Humph?'

    An average witness would have been seduced by the Humph? into an
    affirmative answer, But Ferdinand Barnacle looked knowingly at Bar
    as he strolled up-stairs, and gave him no answer at all.

    'Just so, just so,' said Bar, nodding his head, for he was not to
    be put off in that way, 'and therefore I spoke of our sitting in
    Banco to take a special argument--meaning this to be a high and
    solemn occasion, when, as Captain Macheath says, "the judges are
    met: a terrible show!" We lawyers are sufficiently liberal, you
    see, to quote the Captain, though the Captain is severe upon us.
    Nevertheless, I think I could put in evidence an admission of the
    Captain's,' said Bar, with a little jocose roll of his head; for,
    in his legal current of speech, he always assumed the air of
    rallying himself with the best grace in the world; 'an admission of
    the Captain's that Law, in the gross, is at least intended to be
    impartial. For what says the Captain, if I quote him correctly--
    and if not,' with a light-comedy touch of his double eye-glass on
    his companion's shoulder, 'my learned friend will set me right:

    "Since laws were made for every degree,
    To curb vice in others as well as in me,
    I wonder we ha'n't better company
    Upon Tyburn Tree!"'

    These words brought them to the drawing-room, where Mr Merdle stood
    before the fire. So immensely astounded was Mr Merdle by the
    entrance of Bar with such a reference in his mouth, that Bar
    explained himself to have been quoting Gay. 'Assuredly not one of
    our Westminster Hall authorities,' said he, 'but still no
    despicable one to a man possessing the largely-practical Mr
    Merdle's knowledge of the world.'

    Mr Merdle looked as if he thought he would say something, but
    subsequently looked as if he thought he wouldn't. The interval
    afforded time for Bishop to be announced.
    Bishop came in with meekness, and yet with a strong and rapid step
    as if he wanted to get his seven-league dress-shoes on, and go
    round the world to see that everybody was in a satisfactory state.
    Bishop had no idea that there was anything significant in the
    occasion. That was the most remarkable trait in his demeanour. He
    was crisp, fresh, cheerful, affable, bland; but so surprisingly
    innocent.

    Bar sidled up to prefer his politest inquiries in reference to the
    health of Mrs Bishop. Mrs Bishop had been a little unfortunate in
    the article of taking cold at a Confirmation, but otherwise was
    well. Young Mr Bishop was also well. He was down, with his young
    wife and little family, at his Cure of Souls. The representatives
    of the Barnacle Chorus dropped in next, and Mr Merdle's physician
    dropped in next. Bar, who had a bit of one eye and a bit of his
    double eye-glass for every one who came in at the door, no matter
    with whom he was conversing or what he was talking about, got among
    them all by some skilful means, without being seen to get at them,
    and touched each individual gentleman of the jury on his own
    individual favourite spot. With some of the Chorus, he laughed
    about the sleepy member who had gone out into the lobby the other
    night, and voted the wrong way: with others, he deplored that
    innovating spirit in the time which could not even be prevented
    from taking an unnatural interest in the public service and the
    public money: with the physician he had a word to say about the
    general health; he had also a little information to ask him for,
    concerning a professional man of unquestioned erudition and
    polished manners--but those credentials in their highest
    development he believed were the possession of other professors of
    the healing art (jury droop)--whom he had happened to have in the
    witness-box the day before yesterday, and from whom he had elicited
    in cross-examination that he claimed to be one of the exponents of
    this new mode of treatment which appeared to Bar to--eh?--well, Bar
    thought so; Bar had thought, and hoped, Physician would tell him
    so. Without presuming to decide where doctors disagreed, it did
    appear to Bar, viewing it as a question of common sense and not of
    so-called legal penetration, that this new system was--might be, in
    the presence of so great an authority--say, Humbug? Ah! Fortified
    by such encouragement, he could venture to say Humbug; and now
    Bar's mind was relieved.

    Mr Tite Barnacle, who, like Dr johnson's celebrated acquaintance,
    had only one idea in his head and that was a wrong one, had
    appeared by this time. This eminent gentleman and Mr Merdle,
    seated diverse ways and with ruminating aspects on a yellow ottoman
    in the light of the fire, holding no verbal communication with each
    other, bore a strong general resemblance to the two cows in the
    Cuyp picture over against them.

    But now, Lord Decimus arrived. The Chief Butler, who up to this
    time had limited himself to a branch of his usual function by
    looking at the company as they entered (and that, with more of
    defiance than favour), put himself so far out of his way as to come
    up-stairs with him and announce him. Lord Decimus being an
    overpowering peer, a bashful young member of the Lower House who
    was the last fish but one caught by the Barnacles, and who had been
    invited on this occasion to commemorate his capture, shut his eyes
    when his Lordship came in.

    Lord Decimus, nevertheless, was glad to see the Member. He was
    also glad to see Mr Merdle, glad to see Bishop, glad to see Bar,
    glad to see Physician, glad to see Tite Barnacle, glad to see
    Chorus, glad to see Ferdinand his private secretary. Lord Decimus,
    though one of the greatest of the earth, was not remarkable for
    ingratiatory manners, and Ferdinand had coached him up to the point
    of noticing all the fellows he might find there, and saying he was
    glad to see them. When he had achieved this rush of vivacity and
    condescension, his Lordship composed himself into the picture after
    Cuyp, and made a third cow in the group.

    Bar, who felt that he had got all the rest of the jury and must now
    lay hold of the Foreman, soon came sidling up, double eye-glass in
    hand. Bar tendered the weather, as a subject neatly aloof from
    official reserve, for the Foreman's consideration. Bar said that
    he was told (as everybody always is told, though who tells them,
    and why, will ever remain a mystery), that there was to be no wall-
    fruit this year. Lord Decimus had not heard anything amiss of his
    peaches, but rather believed, if his people were correct, he was to
    have no apples. No apples? Bar was lost in astonishment and
    concern. It would have been all one to him, in reality, if there
    had not been a pippin on the surface of the earth, but his show of
    interest in this apple question was positively painful. Now, to
    what, Lord Decimus--for we troublesome lawyers loved to gather
    information, and could never tell how useful it might prove to us--
    to what, Lord Decimus, was this to be attributed? Lord Decimus
    could not undertake to propound any theory about it. This might
    have stopped another man; but Bar, sticking to him fresh as ever,
    said, 'As to pears, now?'

    Long after Bar got made Attorney-General, this was told of him as
    a master-stroke. Lord Decimus had a reminiscence about a pear-tree
    formerly growing in a garden near the back of his dame's house at
    Eton, upon which pear-tree the only joke of his life perennially
    bloomed. It was a joke of a compact and portable nature, turning
    on the difference between Eton pears and Parliamentary pairs; but
    it was a joke, a refined relish of which would seem to have
    appeared to Lord Decimus impossible to be had without a thorough
    and intimate acquaintance with the tree. Therefore, the story at
    first had no idea of such a tree, sir, then gradually found it in
    winter, carried it through the changing season, saw it bud, saw it
    blossom, saw it bear fruit, saw the fruit ripen; in short,
    cultivated the tree in that diligent and minute manner before it
    got out of the bed-room window to steal the fruit, that many thanks
    had been offered up by belated listeners for the trees having been
    planted and grafted prior to Lord Decimus's time. Bar's interest
    in apples was so overtopped by the wrapt suspense in which he
    pursued the changes of these pears, from the moment when Lord
    Decimus solemnly opened with 'Your mentioning pears recalls to my
    remembrance a pear-tree,' down to the rich conclusion, 'And so we
    pass, through the various changes of life, from Eton pears to
    Parliamentary pairs,' that he had to go down-stairs with Lord
    Decimus, and even then to be seated next to him at table in order
    that he might hear the anecdote out. By that time, Bar felt that
    he had secured the Foreman, and might go to dinner with a good
    appetite.

    It was a dinner to provoke an appetite, though he had not had one.
    The rarest dishes, sumptuously cooked and sumptuously served; the
    choicest fruits; the most exquisite wines; marvels of workmanship
    in gold and silver, china and glass; innumerable things delicious
    to the senses of taste, smell, and sight, were insinuated into its
    composition. O, what a wonderful man this Merdle, what a great
    man, what a master man, how blessedly and enviably endowed--in one
    word, what a rich man!

    He took his usual poor eighteenpennyworth of food in his usual
    indigestive way, and had as little to say for himself as ever a
    wonderful man had. Fortunately Lord Decimus was one of those
    sublimities who have no occasion to be talked to, for they can be
    at any time sufficiently occupied with the contemplation of their
    own greatness. This enabled the bashful young Member to keep his
    eyes open long enough at a time to see his dinner. But, whenever
    Lord Decimus spoke, he shut them again.

    The agreeable young Barnacle, and Bar, were the talkers of the
    party. Bishop would have been exceedingly agreeable also, but that
    his innocence stood in his way. He was so soon left behind. When
    there was any little hint of anything being in the wind, he got
    lost directly. Worldly affairs were too much for him; he couldn't
    make them out at all.

    This was observable when Bar said, incidentally, that he was happy
    to have heard that we were soon to have the advantage of enlisting
    on the good side, the sound and plain sagacity--not demonstrative
    or ostentatious, but thoroughly sound and practical--of our friend
    Mr Sparkler.

    Ferdinand Barnacle laughed, and said oh yes, he believed so. A
    vote was a vote, and always acceptable.

    Bar was sorry to miss our good friend Mr Sparkler to-day, Mr
    Merdle.

    'He is away with Mrs Merdle,' returned that gentleman, slowly
    coming out of a long abstraction, in the course of which he had
    been fitting a tablespoon up his sleeve. 'It is not indispensable
    for him to be on the spot.'

    'The magic name of Merdle,' said Bar, with the jury droop, 'no
    doubt will suffice for all.'

    'Why--yes--I believe so,' assented Mr Merdle, putting the spoon
    aside, and clumsily hiding each of his hands in the coat-cuff of
    the other hand. 'I believe the people in my interest down there
    will not make any difficulty.'

    'Model people!' said Bar.
    'I am glad you approve of them,' said Mr Merdle.

    'And the people of those other two places, now,' pursued Bar, with
    a bright twinkle in his keen eye, as it slightly turned in the
    direction of his magnificent neighbour; 'we lawyers are always
    curious, always inquisitive, always picking up odds and ends for
    our patchwork minds, since there is no knowing when and where they
    may fit into some corner;--the people of those other two places
    now? Do they yield so laudably to the vast and cumulative
    influence of such enterprise and such renown; do those little rills
    become absorbed so quietly and easily, and, as it were by the
    influence of natural laws, so beautifully, in the swoop of the
    majestic stream as it flows upon its wondrous way enriching the
    surrounding lands; that their course is perfectly to be calculated,
    and distinctly to be predicated?'

    Mr Merdle, a little troubled by Bar's eloquence, looked fitfully
    about the nearest salt-cellar for some moments, and then said
    hesitating:

    'They are perfectly aware, sir, of their duty to Society. They
    will return anybody I send to them for that purpose.'

    'Cheering to know,' said Bar. 'Cheering to know.'

    The three places in question were three little rotten holes in this
    Island, containing three little ignorant, drunken, guzzling, dirty,
    out-of-the-way constituencies, that had reeled into Mr Merdle's
    pocket. Ferdinand Barnacle laughed in his easy way, and airily
    said they were a nice set of fellows. Bishop, mentally
    perambulating among paths of peace, was altogether swallowed up in
    absence of mind.

    'Pray,' asked Lord Decimus, casting his eyes around the table,
    'what is this story I have heard of a gentleman long confined in a
    debtors' prison proving to be of a wealthy family, and having come
    into the inheritance of a large sum of money? I have met with a
    variety of allusions to it. Do you know anything of it,
    Ferdinand?'

    'I only know this much,' said Ferdinand, 'that he has given the
    Department with which I have the honour to be associated;' this
    sparkling young Barnacle threw off the phrase sportively, as who
    should say, We know all about these forms of speech, but we must
    keep it up, we must keep the game alive; 'no end of trouble, and
    has put us into innumerable fixes.'

    'Fixes?' repeated Lord Decimus, with a majestic pausing and
    pondering on the word that made the bashful Member shut his eyes
    quite tight. 'Fixes?'

    'A very perplexing business indeed,' observed Mr Tite Barnacle,
    with an air of grave resentment.

    'What,' said Lord Decimus, 'was the character of his business; what
    was the nature of these--a--Fixes, Ferdinand?'

    'Oh, it's a good story, as a story,' returned that gentleman; 'as
    good a thing of its kind as need be. This Mr Dorrit (his name is
    Dorrit) had incurred a responsibility to us, ages before the fairy
    came out of the Bank and gave him his fortune, under a bond he had
    signed for the performance of a contract which was not at all
    performed. He was a partner in a house in some large way--spirits,
    or buttons, or wine, or blacking, or oatmeal, or woollen, or pork,
    or hooks and eyes, or iron, or treacle, or shoes, or something or
    other that was wanted for troops, or seamen, or somebody--and the
    house burst, and we being among the creditors, detainees were
    lodged on the part of the Crown in a scientific manner, and all the
    rest Of it. When the fairy had appeared and he wanted to pay us
    off, Egad we had got into such an exemplary state of checking and
    counter-checking, signing and counter-signing, that it was six
    months before we knew how to take the money, or how to give a
    receipt for it. It was a triumph of public business,' said this
    handsome young Barnacle, laughing heartily, 'You never saw such a
    lot of forms in your life. "Why," the attorney said to me one day,
    "if I wanted this office to give me two or three thousand pounds
    instead of take it, I couldn't have more trouble about it." "You
    are right, old fellow," I told him, "and in future you'll know that
    we have something to do here."' The pleasant young Barnacle
    finished by once more laughing heartily. He was a very easy,
    pleasant fellow indeed, and his manners were exceedingly winning.

    Mr Tite Barnacle's view of the business was of a less airy
    character. He took it ill that Mr Dorrit had troubled the
    Department by wanting to pay the money, and considered it a grossly
    informal thing to do after so many years. But Mr Tite Barnacle was
    a buttoned-up man, and consequently a weighty one. All buttoned-up
    men are weighty. All buttoned-up men are believed in. Whether or
    no the reserved and never-exercised power of unbuttoning,
    fascinates mankind; whether or no wisdom is supposed to condense
    and augment when buttoned up, and to evaporate when unbuttoned; it
    is certain that the man to whom importance is accorded is the
    buttoned-up man. Mr Tite Barnacle never would have passed for half
    his current value, unless his coat had been always buttoned-up to
    his white cravat.

    'May I ask,' said Lord Decimus, 'if Mr Darrit--or Dorrit--has any
    family?'

    Nobody else replying, the host said, 'He has two daughters, my
    lord.'

    'Oh! you are acquainted with him?' asked Lord Decimus.

    'Mrs Merdle is. Mr Sparkler is, too. In fact,' said Mr Merdle, 'I
    rather believe that one of the young ladies has made an impression
    on Edmund Sparkler. He is susceptible, and--I--think--the
    conquest--' Here Mr Merdle stopped, and looked at the table-cloth,
    as he usually did when he found himself observed or listened to.

    Bar was uncommonly pleased to find that the Merdle family, and this
    family, had already been brought into contact. He submitted, in a
    low voice across the table to Bishop, that it was a kind of
    analogical illustration of those physical laws, in virtue of which
    Like flies to Like. He regarded this power of attraction in wealth
    to draw wealth to it, as something remarkably interesting and
    curious--something indefinably allied to the loadstone and
    gravitation. Bishop, who had ambled back to earth again when the
    present theme was broached, acquiesced. He said it was indeed
    highly important to Society that one in the trying situation of
    unexpectedly finding himself invested with a power for good or for
    evil in Society, should become, as it were, merged in the superior
    power of a more legitimate and more gigantic growth, the influence
    of which (as in the case of our friend at whose board we sat) was
    habitually exercised in harmony with the best interests of Society.

    Thus, instead of two rival and contending flames, a larger and a
    lesser, each burning with a lurid and uncertain glare, we had a
    blended and a softened light whose genial ray diffused an equable
    warmth throughout the land. Bishop seemed to like his own way of
    putting the case very much, and rather dwelt upon it; Bar,
    meanwhile (not to throw away a jury-man), making a show of sitting
    at his feet and feeding on his precepts.

    The dinner and dessert being three hours long, the bashful Member
    cooled in the shadow of Lord Decimus faster than he warmed with
    food and drink, and had but a chilly time of it. Lord Decimus,
    like a tall tower in a flat country, seemed to project himself
    across the table-cloth, hide the light from the honourable Member,
    cool the honourable Member's marrow, and give him a woeful idea of
    distance. When he asked this unfortunate traveller to take wine,
    he encompassed his faltering steps with the gloomiest of shades;
    and when he said, 'Your health sir!' all around him was barrenness
    and desolation.

    At length Lord Decimus, with a coffee-cup in his hand, began to
    hover about among the pictures, and to cause an interesting
    speculation to arise in all minds as to the probabilities of his
    ceasing to hover, and enabling the smaller birds to flutter up-
    stairs; which could not be done until he had urged his noble
    pinions in that direction. After some delay, and several stretches
    of his wings which came to nothing, he soared to the drawing-rooms.

    And here a difficulty arose, which always does arise when two
    people are specially brought together at a dinner to confer with
    one another. Everybody (except Bishop, who had no suspicion of it)
    knew perfectly well that this dinner had been eaten and drunk,
    specifically to the end that Lord Decimus and Mr Merdle should have
    five minutes' conversation together. The opportunity so
    elaborately prepared was now arrived, and it seemed from that
    moment that no mere human ingenuity could so much as get the two
    chieftains into the same room. Mr Merdle and his noble guest
    persisted in prowling about at opposite ends of the perspective.
    It was in vain for the engaging Ferdinand to bring Lord Decimus to
    look at the bronze horses near Mr Merdle. Then Mr Merdle evaded,
    and wandered away. It was in vain for him to bring Mr Merdle to
    Lord Decimus to tell him the history of the unique Dresden vases.
    Then Lord Decimus evaded and wandered away, while he was getting
    his man up to the mark.

    'Did you ever see such a thing as this?' said Ferdinand to Bar when
    he had been baffled twenty times.

    'Often,' returned Bar.

    'Unless I butt one of them into an appointed corner, and you butt
    the other,' said Ferdinand,'it will not come off after all.'

    'Very good,' said Bar. 'I'll butt Merdle, if you like; but not my
    lord.'

    Ferdinand laughed, in the midst of his vexation. 'Confound them
    both!' said he, looking at his watch. 'I want to get away. Why
    the deuce can't they come together! They both know what they want
    and mean to do. Look at them!'

    They were still looming at opposite ends of the perspective, each
    with an absurd pretence of not having the other on his mind, which
    could not have been more transparently ridiculous though his real
    mind had been chalked on his back. Bishop, who had just now made
    a third with Bar and Ferdinand, but whose innocence had again cut
    him out of the subject and washed him in sweet oil, was seen to
    approach Lord Decimus and glide into conversation.

    'I must get Merdle's doctor to catch and secure him, I suppose,'
    said Ferdinand; 'and then I must lay hold of my illustrious
    kinsman, and decoy him if I can--drag him if I can't--to the
    conference.'

    'Since you do me the honour,' said Bar, with his slyest smile, to
    ask for my poor aid, it shall be yours with the greatest pleasure.
    I don't think this is to be done by one man. But if you will
    undertake to pen my lord into that furthest drawing-room where he
    is now so profoundly engaged, I will undertake to bring our dear
    Merdle into the presence, without the possibility of getting away.'

    'Done!' said Ferdinand.

    'Done!' said Bar.

    Bar was a sight wondrous to behold, and full of matter, when,
    jauntily waving his double eye-glass by its ribbon, and jauntily
    drooping to an Universe of jurymen, he, in the most accidental
    manner ever seen, found himself at Mr Merdle's shoulder, and
    embraced that opportunity of mentioning a little point to him, on
    which he particularly wished to be guided by the light of his
    practical knowledge. (Here he took Mr Merdle's arm and walked him
    gently away.) A banker, whom we would call A. B., advanced a
    considerable sum of money, which we would call fifteen thousand
    pounds, to a client or customer of his, whom he would call P. q.
    (Here, as they were getting towards Lord Decimus, he held Mr Merdle
    tight.) As a security for the repayment of this advance to P. Q.
    whom we would call a widow lady, there were placed in A. B.'s hands
    the title-deeds of a freehold estate, which we would call Blinkiter
    Doddles. Now, the point was this. A limited right of felling and
    lopping in the woods of Blinkiter Doddles, lay in the son of P. Q.
    then past his majority, and whom we would call X. Y.--but really
    this was too bad! In the presence of Lord Decimus, to detain the
    host with chopping our dry chaff of law, was really too bad!
    Another time! Bar was truly repentant, and would not say another
    syllable. Would Bishop favour him with half-a-dozen words? (He
    had now set Mr Merdle down on a couch, side by side with Lord
    Decimus, and to it they must go, now or never.)

    And now the rest of the company, highly excited and interested,
    always excepting Bishop, who had not the slightest idea that
    anything was going on, formed in one group round the fire in the
    next drawing-room, and pretended to be chatting easily on the
    infinite variety of small topics, while everybody's thoughts and
    eyes were secretly straying towards the secluded pair. The Chorus
    were excessively nervous, perhaps as labouring under the dreadful
    apprehension that some good thing was going to be diverted from
    them! Bishop alone talked steadily and evenly. He conversed with
    the great Physician on that relaxation of the throat with which
    young curates were too frequently afflicted, and on the means of
    lessening the great prevalence of that disorder in the church.
    Physician, as a general rule, was of opinion that the best way to
    avoid it was to know how to read, before you made a profession of
    reading. Bishop said dubiously, did he really think so? And
    Physician said, decidedly, yes he did.

    Ferdinand, meanwhile, was the only one of the party who skirmished
    on the outside of the circle; he kept about mid-way between it and
    the two, as if some sort of surgical operation were being performed
    by Lord Decimus on Mr Merdle, or by Mr Merdle on Lord Decimus, and
    his services might at any moment be required as Dresser. In fact,
    within a quarter of an hour Lord Decimus called to him 'Ferdinand!'
    and he went, and took his place in the conference for some five
    minutes more. Then a half-suppressed gasp broke out among the
    Chorus; for Lord Decimus rose to take his leave. Again coached up
    by Ferdinand to the point of making himself popular, he shook hands
    in the most brilliant manner with the whole company, and even said
    to Bar, 'I hope you were not bored by my pears?' To which Bar
    retorted, 'Eton, my lord, or Parliamentary?' neatly showing that he
    had mastered the joke, and delicately insinuating that he could
    never forget it while his life remained.

    All the grave importance that was buttoned up in Mr Tite Barnacle,
    took itself away next; and Ferdinand took himself away next, to the
    opera. Some of the rest lingered a little, marrying golden liqueur
    glasses to Buhl tables with sticky rings; on the desperate chance
    of Mr Merdle's saying something. But Merdle, as usual, oozed
    sluggishly and muddily about his drawing-room, saying never a word.

    In a day or two it was announced to all the town, that Edmund
    Sparkler, Esquire, son-in-law of the eminent Mr Merdle of worldwide
    renown, was made one of the Lords of the Circumlocution Office; and
    proclamation was issued, to all true believers, that this admirable
    appointment was to be hailed as a graceful and gracious mark of
    homage, rendered by the graceful and gracious Decimus, to that
    commercial interest which must ever in a great commercial country--
    and all the rest of it, with blast of trumpet. So, bolstered by
    this mark of Government homage, the wonderful Bank and all the
    other wonderful undertakings went on and went up; and gapers came
    to Harley Street, Cavendish Square, only to look at the house where
    the golden wonder lived.

    And when they saw the Chief Butler looking out at the hall-door in
    his moments of condescension, the gapers said how rich he looked,
    and wondered how much money he had in the wonderful Bank. But, if
    they had known that respectable Nemesis better, they would not have
    wondered about it, and might have stated the amount with the utmost
    precision.
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    Chapter 47
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