'Ah! Yes, to be sure!' said Mrs Gowan. 'You must remember that my poor fellow has always been accustomed to expectations. They may have been realised, or they may not have been realised--'
'Let us say, then, may not have been realised,' observed Mr Meagles.
The Dowager for a moment gave him an angry look; but tossed it off with her head and her fan, and pursued the tenor of her way in her former manner.
'It makes no difference. My poor fellow has been accustomed to that sort of thing, and of course you knew it, and were prepared for the consequences. I myself always clearly foresaw the consequences, and am not surprised. And you must not be surprised.
In fact, can't be surprised. Must have been prepared for it.'
Mr Meagles looked at his wife and at Clennam; bit his lip; and coughed.
'And now here's my poor fellow,' Mrs Gowan pursued, 'receiving notice that he is to hold himself in expectation of a baby, and all the expenses attendant on such an addition to his family! Poor Henry! But it can't be helped now; it's too late to help it now. Only don't talk of anticipating means, Papa Meagles, as a discovery; because that would be too much.'
'Too much, ma'am?' said Mr Meagles, as seeking an explanation.
'There, there!' said Mrs Gowan, putting him in his inferior place with an expressive action of her hand. 'Too much for my poor fellow's mother to bear at this time of day. They are fast married, and can't be unmarried. There, there! I know that! You needn't tell me that, Papa Meagles. I know it very well. What was it I said just now? That it was a great comfort they continued happy. It is to be hoped they will still continue happy. It is to be hoped Pretty One will do everything she can to make my poor fellow happy, and keep him contented. Papa and Mama Meagles, we had better say no more about it. We never did look at this subject from the same side, and we never shall. There, there! Now I am good.'
Truly, having by this time said everything she could say in maintenance of her wonderfully mythical position, and in admonition to Mr Meagles that he must not expect to bear his honours of alliance too cheaply, Mrs Gowan was disposed to forgo the rest. If Mr Meagles had submitted to a glance of entreaty from Mrs Meagles, and an expressive gesture from Clennam, he would have left her in the undisturbed enjoyment of this state of mind. But Pet was the darling and pride of his heart; and if he could ever have championed her more devotedly, or loved her better, than in the days when she was the sunlight of his house, it would have been now, when, as its daily grace and delight, she was lost to it.
'Mrs Gowan, ma'am,' said Mr Meagles, 'I have been a plain man all my life. If I was to try--no matter whether on myself, on somebody else, or both--any genteel mystifications, I should probably not succeed in them.'
'Papa Meagles,' returned the Dowager, with an affable smile, but with the bloom on her cheeks standing out a little more vividly than usual as the neighbouring surface became paler,'probably not.'
'Therefore, my good madam,' said Mr Meagles, at great pains to restrain himself, 'I hope I may, without offence, ask to have no such mystification played off upon me.' 'Mama Meagles,' observed Mrs Gowan, 'your good man is incomprehensible.'
Her turning to that worthy lady was an artifice to bring her into the discussion, quarrel with her, and vanquish her. Mr Meagles interposed to prevent that consummation.
'Mother,' said he, 'you are inexpert, my dear, and it is not a fair match. Let me beg of you to remain quiet. Come, Mrs Gowan, come! Let us try to be sensible; let us try to be good-natured; let us try to be fair. Don't you pity Henry, and I won't pity Pet. And don't be one-sided, my dear madam; it's not considerate, it's not kind. Don't let us say that we hope Pet will make Henry happy, or even that we hope Henry will make Pet happy,' (Mr Meagles himself did not look happy as he spoke the words,) 'but let us hope they will make each other happy.'
'Yes, sure, and there leave it, father,' said Mrs Meagles the kind- hearted and comfortable.