'What I envy you, sir, is,' said Mr Rugg, 'allow me to take your hat--we are rather short of pegs--I'll put it in the corner, nobody will tread on it there--What I envy you, sir, is the luxury of your own feelings. I belong to a profession in which that luxury is sometimes denied us.'
Young John replied, with acknowledgments, that he only hoped he did what was right, and what showed how entirely he was devoted to Miss Dorrit. He wished to be unselfish; and he hoped he was. He wished to do anything as laid in his power to serve Miss Dorrit, altogether putting himself out of sight; and he hoped he did. It was but little that he could do, but he hoped he did it.
'Sir,' said Mr Rugg, taking him by the hand, 'you are a young man that it does one good to come across. You are a young man that I should like to put in the witness-box, to humanise the minds of the legal profession. I hope you have brought your appetite with you, and intend to play a good knife and fork?'
'Thank you, sir,' returned Young John, 'I don't eat much at present.'
Mr Rugg drew him a little apart. 'My daughter's case, sir,' said he, 'at the time when, in vindication of her outraged feelings and her sex, she became the plaintiff in Rugg and Bawkins. I suppose I could have put it in evidence, Mr Chivery, if I had thought it worth my while, that the amount of solid sustenance my daughter consumed at that period did not exceed ten ounces per week.' 'I think I go a little beyond that, sir,' returned the other, hesitating, as if he confessed it with some shame.
'But in your case there's no fiend in human form,' said Mr Rugg, with argumentative smile and action of hand. 'Observe, Mr Chivery!
No fiend in human form!' 'No, sir, certainly,' Young John added with simplicity, 'I should be very sorry if there was.'
'The sentiment,' said Mr Rugg, 'is what I should have expected from your known principles. It would affect my daughter greatly, sir, if she heard it. As I perceive the mutton, I am glad she didn't hear it. Mr Pancks, on this occasion, pray face me. My dear, face Mr Chivery. For what we are going to receive, may we (and Miss Dorrit) be truly thankful!'
But for a grave waggishness in Mr Rugg's manner of delivering this introduction to the feast, it might have appeared that Miss Dorrit was expected to be one of the company. Pancks recognised the sally in his usual way, and took in his provender in his usual way. Miss Rugg, perhaps making up some of her arrears, likewise took very kindly to the mutton, and it rapidly diminished to the bone. A bread-and-butter pudding entirely disappeared, and a considerable amount of cheese and radishes vanished by the same means. Then came the dessert.
Then also, and before the broaching of the rum and water, came Mr Pancks's note-book. The ensuing business proceedings were brief but curious, and rather in the nature of a conspiracy. Mr Pancks looked over his note-book, which was now getting full, studiously; and picked out little extracts, which he wrote on separate slips of paper on the table; Mr Rugg, in the meanwhile, looking at him with close attention, and Young John losing his uncollected eye in mists of meditation. When Mr Pancks, who supported the character of chief conspirator, had completed his extracts, he looked them over, corrected them, put up his note-book, and held them like a hand at cards.
'Now, there's a churchyard in Bedfordshire,' said Pancks. 'Who takes it?'
'I'll take it, sir,' returned Mr Rugg, 'if no one bids.'
Mr Pancks dealt him his card, and looked at his hand again.
'Now, there's an Enquiry in York,' said Pancks. 'Who takes it?'
'I'm not good for York,' said Mr Rugg.
'Then perhaps,' pursued Pancks, 'you'll be so obliging, John Chivery?' Young John assenting, Pancks dealt him his card, and consulted his hand again.
'There's a Church in London; I may as well take that. And a Family Bible; I may as well take that, too. That's two to me. Two to me,' repeated Pancks, breathing hard over his cards.