This guest was Clennam. But Clennam had made a promise he held sacred, among the trees that summer night, and, in the chivalry of his heart, regarded it as binding him to many implied obligations. In forgetfulness of himself, and delicate service to her on all occasions, he was never to fail; to begin it, he answered Mr Meagles cheerfully, 'I shall come, of course.'
His partner, Daniel Doyce, was something of a stumbling-block in Mr Meagles's way, the worthy gentleman being not at all clear in his own anxious mind but that the mingling of Daniel with official Barnacleism might produce some explosive combination, even at a marriage breakfast. The national offender, however, lightened him of his uneasiness by coming down to Twickenham to represent that he begged, with the freedom of an old friend, and as a favour to one, that he might not be invited. 'For,' said he, 'as my business with this set of gentlemen was to do a public duty and a public service, and as their business with me was to prevent it by wearing my soul out, I think we had better not eat and drink together with a show of being of one mind.' Mr Meagles was much amused by his friend's oddity; and patronised him with a more protecting air of allowance than usual, when he rejoined: 'Well, well, Dan, you shall have your own crotchety way.'
To Mr Henry Gowan, as the time approached, Clennam tried to convey by all quiet and unpretending means, that he was frankly and disinterestedly desirous of tendering him any friendship he would accept. Mr Gowan treated him in return with his usual ease, and with his usual show of confidence, which was no confidence at all.
'You see, Clennam,' he happened to remark in the course of conversation one day, when they were walking near the Cottage within a week of the marriage, 'I am a disappointed man. That you know already.'
'Upon my word,' said Clennam, a little embarrassed, 'I scarcely know how.'
'Why,' returned Gowan, 'I belong to a clan, or a clique, or a family, or a connection, or whatever you like to call it, that might have provided for me in any one of fifty ways, and that took it into its head not to do it at all. So here I am, a poor devil of an artist.'
Clennam was beginning, 'But on the other hand--' when Gowan took him up.
'Yes, yes, I know. I have the good fortune of being beloved by a beautiful and charming girl whom I love with all my heart.' ('Is there much of it?' Clennam thought. And as he thought it, felt ashamed of himself.)
'And of finding a father-in-law who is a capital fellow and a liberal good old boy. Still, I had other prospects washed and combed into my childish head when it was washed and combed for me, and I took them to a public school when I washed and combed it for myself, and I am here without them, and thus I am a disappointed man.'
Clennam thought (and as he thought it, again felt ashamed of himself), was this notion of being disappointed in life, an assertion of station which the bridegroom brought into the family as his property, having already carried it detrimentally into his pursuit? And was it a hopeful or a promising thing anywhere?
'Not bitterly disappointed, I think,' he said aloud. 'Hang it, no; not bitterly,' laughed Gowan. 'My people are not worth that--though they are charming fellows, and I have the greatest affection for them. Besides, it's pleasant to show them that I can do without them, and that they may all go to the Devil. And besides, again, most men are disappointed in life, somehow or other, and influenced by their disappointment. But it's a dear good world, and I love it!'
'It lies fair before you now,' said Arthur.
'Fair as this summer river,' cried the other, with enthusiasm, 'and by Jove I glow with admiration of it, and with ardour to run a race in it. It's the best of old worlds! And my calling! The best of old callings, isn't it?'
'Full of interest and ambition, I conceive,' said Clennam.
'And imposition,' added Gowan, laughing; 'we won't leave out the imposition.