'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.