Little dorrit, p.27

Little Dorrit, page 27

 

Little Dorrit
 



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  CHAPTER 26. Nobody's State of Mind

  If Arthur Clennam had not arrived at that wise decision firmly torestrain himself from loving Pet, he would have lived on in a state ofmuch perplexity, involving difficult struggles with his own heart. Notthe least of these would have been a contention, always waging withinit, between a tendency to dislike Mr Henry Gowan, if not to regardhim with positive repugnance, and a whisper that the inclination wasunworthy. A generous nature is not prone to strong aversions, and isslow to admit them even dispassionately; but when it finds ill-willgaining upon it, and can discern between-whiles that its origin is notdispassionate, such a nature becomes distressed.

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

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

  'Come in, come in!' said Clennam.

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

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

  'Are they well?' he asked.

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

  Daniel had an old workmanlike habit of carrying his pocket-handkerchiefin his hat. He took it out and wiped his forehead with it, slowlyrepeating, 'They are all well. Miss Minnie looking particularly well, Ithought.'

  'Any company at the cottage?'

  'No, no company.'

  'And how did you get on, you four?' asked Clennam gaily.

  'There were five of us,' returned his partner. 'There wasWhat's-his-name. He was there.'

  'Who is he?' said Clennam.

  'Mr Henry Gowan.'

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

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

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

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

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

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

  'You mean Mr--?'

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

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

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

  'Of course,' said Doyce.

  'Are so liable to be influenced by many considerations, which, almostwithout our knowing it, are unfair, that it is necessary to keep a guardupon them. For instance, Mr--'

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

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

  'Not difficult for me, I think, Clennam,' returned his partner. 'I seehim bringing present anxiety, and, I fear, future sorrow, into my oldfriend's house. I see him wearing deeper lines into my old friend'sface, the nearer he draws to, and the oftener he looks at, the faceof his daughter. In short, I see him with a net about the pretty andaffectionate creature whom he will never make happy.'

  'We don't know,' said Clennam, almost in the tone of a man in pain,'that he will not make her happy.'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  Mr Gowan made it no concern of his whether it was nobody's orsomebody's. He preserved his perfect serenity of manner on alloccasions, as if the possibility of Clennam's presuming to have debatedthe great question were too distant and ridiculous to be imagined. Hehad always an affability to bestow on Clennam and an ease to treathim with, which might of itself (in the supposititious case of hisnot having taken that sagacious course) have been a very uncomfortableelement in his state of mind.

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

  So he had heard, Arthur said.

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

  'I have a great regard for him.'

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

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

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

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

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

  'All painters?'

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

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

  'By the Barnacles?' interrupted Gowan, laughing.

  'By the political gentlemen who condescend to keep the CircumlocutionOffice.'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  Mrs Gowan's door was attended by a family servant of several years'standing, who had his own crow to pluck with the public concerning asituation in the Post-Office which he had been for some time expecting,and to which he was not yet appointed. He perfectly knew that the publiccould never have got him in, but he grimly gratified himself with theidea that the public kept him out. Under the influence of this injury(and perhaps of some little straitness and irregularity in the matterof wages), he had grown neglectful of his person and morose in mind;and now beholding in Clennam one of the degraded body of his oppressors,received him with ignominy.

  Mrs Gowan, however, received him with condescension. He found her acourtly old lady, formerly a Beauty, and still sufficientlywell-favoured to have dispensed with the powder on her nose and acertain impossible bloom under each eye. She was a little lofty withhim; so was another old lady, dark-browed and high-nosed, and who musthave had something real about her or she could not have existed, but itwas certainly not her hair or her teeth or her figure or her complexion;so was a grey old gentleman of dignified and sullen appearance; both ofwhom had come to dinner. But, as they had all been in the BritishEmbassy way in sundry parts of the earth, and as a British Embassycannot better establish a character with the Circumlocution Office thanby treating its compatriots with illimitable contempt (else it wouldbecome like the Embassies of other countries), Clennam felt that on thewhole they let him off lightly.

  The dignified old gentleman turned out to be Lord LancasterStiltstalking, who had been maintained by the Circumlocution Office formany years as a representative of the Britannic Majesty abroad.This noble Refrigerator had iced several European courts in his time,and had done it with such complete success that the very name ofEnglishman yet struck cold to the stomachs of foreigners who had thedistinguished honour of remembering him at a distance of a quarter of acentury.

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

  There was only one other person in the room: a microscopically smallfootboy, who waited on the malevolent man who hadn't got into thePost-Office. Even this youth, if his jacket could have been unbuttonedand his heart laid b
are, would have been seen, as a distant adherent ofthe Barnacle family, already to aspire to a situation under Government.

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

  'If John Barnacle,' said Mrs Gowan, after the degeneracy of the timeshad been fully ascertained, 'if John Barnacle had but abandoned his mostunfortunate idea of conciliating the mob, all would have been well, andI think the country would have been preserved.'

  The old lady with the high nose assented; but added that if AugustusStiltstalking had in a general way ordered the cavalry out withinstructions to charge, she thought the country would have beenpreserved.

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

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

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

  In the course of a couple of hours the noble Refrigerator, at no timeless than a hundred years behind the period, got about five centuriesin arrears, and delivered solemn political oracles appropriate to thatepoch. He finished by freezing a cup of tea for his own drinking,and retiring at his lowest temperature.

  Then Mrs Gowan, who had been accustomed in her days of a vacantarm-chair beside her to which to summon state to retain her devotedslaves, one by one, for short audiences as marks of her especial favour,invited Clennam with a turn of her fan to approach the presence. Heobeyed, and took the tripod recently vacated by Lord LancasterStiltstalking.

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

  Clennam inclined his head, as a generally suitable reply to what he didnot yet quite understand.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  'The people?'

  'Yes. The Miggles people.'

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

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

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

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

  Clennam, after a moment's stiffness, bowed.

  'That's comforting, and I hope you may be right. Did Henry tell me youhad travelled with them?'

  'I travelled with my friend Mr Meagles, and his wife and daughter,during some months.' (Nobody's heart might have been wrung by theremembrance.)

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

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

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

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

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

  'Henry,' the mother resumed, 'is self-willed and resolute; and as thesepeople naturally strain every nerve to catch him, I can entertain verylittle hope, Mr Clennam, that the thing will be broken off. I apprehendthe girl's fortune will be very small; Henry might have done muchbetter; there is scarcely anything to compensate for the connection:still, he acts for himself; and if I find no improvement within a shorttime, I see no other course than to resign myself and make the best ofthese people. I am infinitely obliged to you for what you have toldme.'

  As she shrugged her shoulders, Clennam stiffly bowed again. With anuneasy flush upon his face, and hesitation in his manner, he then saidin a still lower tone than he had adopted yet:

  'Mrs Gowan, I scarcely know how to acquit myself of what I feel to be aduty, and yet I must ask you
for your kind consideration inattempting to discharge it. A misconception on your part, a very greatmisconception if I may venture to call it so, seems to require settingright. You have supposed Mr Meagles and his family to strain everynerve, I think you said--'

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

  'To secure Mr Henry Gowan?'

  The lady placidly assented.

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

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

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

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

  Arthur did not see; and said so.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  'Not at all,' said Clennam.

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

  In that state of mind which rendered nobody uneasy, his thoughtfulnesswould have turned principally on the man at his side. He would havethought of the morning when he first saw him rooting out the stones withhis heel, and would have asked himself, 'Does he jerk me out of thepath in the same careless, cruel way?' He would have thought, had thisintroduction to his mother been brought about by him because he knewwhat she would say, and that he could thus place his position beforea rival and loftily warn him off, without himself reposing a word ofconfidence in him? He would have thought, even if there were no suchdesign as that, had he brought him there to play with his repressedemotions, and torment him? The current of these meditations would havebeen stayed sometimes by a rush of shame, bearing a remonstrance tohimself from his own open nature, representing that to shelter suchsuspicions, even for the passing moment, was not to hold the high,unenvious course he had resolved to keep. At those times, the strivingwithin him would have been hardest; and looking up and catching Gowan'seyes, he would have started as if he had done him an injury.

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

  'You are evidently out of spirits,' said Gowan; 'I am very much afraidmy mother must have bored you dreadfully.'

  'Believe me, not at all,' said Clennam. 'It's nothing--nothing!'

 
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