As it was, 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 than to Clennam's, to speak of him in the friendly conversations they held together. These were of frequent occurrence now; as the two partners shared a portion of a roomy house in one of the grave old-fashioned City streets, lying not far from the Bank of England, by London Wall.
Mr Doyce had been to Twickenham to pass the day. Clennam had excused himself. Mr Doyce was just come home. He put in his head at the door of Clennam's sitting-room to say Good night.
'Come in, come in!' said Clennam.
'I saw you were reading,' returned Doyce, as he entered, 'and thought you might not care to be disturbed.'
But for the notable resolution he had made, Clennam really might not have known what he had been reading; really might not have had his eyes upon the book for an hour past, though it lay open before him. He shut it 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- handkerchief in his hat. He took it out and wiped his forehead with it, slowly repeating, 'They are all well. Miss Minnie looking particularly well, I thought.'
'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 was What'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 forgot him.'
'As I mentioned, you may remember,' said Daniel Doyce, 'he is always there on Sunday.'
'Yes, yes,' returned Clennam; 'I remember now.'
Daniel Doyce, still wiping his forehead, ploddingly repeated. 'Yes. He was there, he was there. Oh yes, he was there. And his dog. He was there too.'
'Miss Meagles is quite attached to--the--dog,' observed Clennam.
'Quite so,' assented his partner. 'More attached to the dog than I am to the 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 up his watch.
'Perhaps you are a little hasty in your judgment,' he said. 'Our judgments--I am supposing a general case--'
'Of course,' said Doyce.
'Are so liable to be influenced by many considerations, which, almost without our knowing it, are unfair, that it is necessary to keep a guard upon them. For instance, Mr--'
'Gowan,' quietly said Doyce, upon whom the utterance of the name almost always devolved.
'Is young and handsome, easy and quick, has talent, and has seen a good deal of various kinds of life. It might be difficult to give an unselfish reason for being prepossessed against him.'
'Not difficult for me, I think, Clennam,' returned his partner. 'I see him bringing present anxiety, and, I fear, future sorrow, into my old friend's house. I see him wearing deeper lines into my old friend's face, the nearer he draws to, and the oftener he looks at, the face of his daughter. In short, I see him with a net about the pretty and affectionate 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 another hundred years, but we think it highly probable.'
'Well, well!' said Clennam, 'we must be hopeful, and we must at least try to be, if not generous (which, in this case, we have no opportunity of being), just. We will not disparage this gentleman, because he is successful in his addresses to the beautiful object of his ambition; and we will not question her natural right to bestow her love on one whom she finds worthy of it.'
'Maybe, my friend,' said Doyce. 'Maybe also, that she is too young and petted, 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 that it is not worthy of us to say any ill of Mr Gowan.