At this remark the face of Mr Dorrit gloomed considerably. He was about (connecting the accrediting with an obtrusive person of the name of Clennam, whom he imperfectly remembered in some former state of existence) to black-ball the name of Gowan finally, when Edward Dorrit, Esquire, came into the conversation, with his glass in his eye, and the preliminary remark of 'I say--you there! Go out, will you!'--which was addressed to a couple of men who were handing the dishes round, as a courteous intimation that their services could be temporarily dispensed with.
Those menials having obeyed the mandate, Edward Dorrit, Esquire, proceeded.
'Perhaps it's a matter of policy to let you all know that these Gowans--in whose favour, or at least the gentleman's, I can't be supposed to be much prepossessed myself--are known to people of importance, if that makes any difference.'
'That, I would say,' observed the fair varnisher, 'Makes the greatest difference. The connection in question, being really people of importance and consideration--'
'As to that,' said Edward Dorrit, Esquire, 'I'll give you the means of judging for yourself. You are acquainted, perhaps, with the famous name of Merdle?'
'The great Merdle!' exclaimed Mrs General.
'THE Merdle,' said Edward Dorrit, Esquire. 'They are known to him.
Mrs Gowan--I mean the dowager, my polite friend's mother --is intimate with Mrs Merdle, and I know these two to be on their visiting list.'
'If so, a more undeniable guarantee could not be given,' said Mrs General to Mr Dorrit, raising her gloves and bowing her head, as if she were doing homage to some visible graven image.
'I beg to ask my son, from motives of--ah--curiosity,' Mr Dorrit observed, with a decided change in his manner, 'how he becomes possessed of this--hum--timely information?'
'It's not a long story, sir,' returned Edward Dorrit, Esquire, 'and you shall have it out of hand. To begin with, Mrs Merdle is the lady you had the parley with at what's-his-name place.'
'Martigny,' interposed Miss Fanny with an air of infinite languor.
'Martigny,' assented her brother, with a slight nod and a slight wink; in acknowledgment of which, Miss Fanny looked surprised, and laughed and reddened.
'How can that be, Edward?' said Mr Dorrit. 'You informed me that the name of the gentleman with whom you conferred was--ha-- Sparkler. Indeed, you showed me his card. Hum. Sparkler.'
'No doubt of it, father; but it doesn't follow that his mother's name must be the same. Mrs Merdle was married before, and he is her son. She is in Rome now; where probably we shall know more of her, as you decide to winter there. Sparkler is just come here. I passed last evening in company with Sparkler. Sparkler is a very good fellow on the whole, though rather a bore on one subject, in consequence of being tremendously smitten with a certain young lady.' Here Edward Dorrit, Esquire, eyed Miss Fanny through his glass across the table. 'We happened last night to compare notes about our travels, and I had the information I have given you from Sparkler himself.' Here he ceased; continuing to eye Miss Fanny through his glass, with a face much twisted, and not ornamentally so, in part by the action of keeping his glass in his eye, and in part by the great subtlety of his smile. 'Under these circumstances,' said Mr Dorrit, 'I believe I express the sentiments of--ha--Mrs General, no less than my own, when I say that there is no objection, but--ha hum--quite the contrary--to your gratifying your desire, Amy. I trust I may--ha--hail--this desire,' said Mr Dorrit, in an encouraging and forgiving manner, 'as an auspicious omen. It is quite right to know these people. It is a very proper thing. Mr Merdle's is a name of--ha--world- wide repute. Mr Merdle's undertakings are immense. They bring him in such vast sums of money that they are regarded as--hum--national benefits. Mr Merdle is the man of this time. The name of Merdle is the name of the age. Pray do everything on my behalf that is civil to Mr and Mrs Gowan, for we will--ha--we will certainly notice them.'
This magnificent accordance of Mr Dorrit's recognition settled the matter.