Bar's interest in apples was so overtopped by the wrapt suspense in which he pursued the changes of these pears, from the moment when Lord Decimus solemnly opened with 'Your mentioning pears recalls to my remembrance a pear-tree,' down to the rich conclusion, 'And so we pass, through the various changes of life, from Eton pears to Parliamentary pairs,' that he had to go down-stairs with Lord Decimus, and even then to be seated next to him at table in order that he might hear the anecdote out. By that time, Bar felt that he had secured the Foreman, and might go to dinner with a good appetite.
It was a dinner to provoke an appetite, though he had not had one. The rarest dishes, sumptuously cooked and sumptuously served; the choicest fruits; the most exquisite wines; marvels of workmanship in gold and silver, china and glass; innumerable things delicious to the senses of taste, smell, and sight, were insinuated into its composition. O, what a wonderful man this Merdle, what a great man, what a master man, how blessedly and enviably endowed--in one word, what a rich man!
He took his usual poor eighteenpennyworth of food in his usual indigestive way, and had as little to say for himself as ever a wonderful man had. Fortunately Lord Decimus was one of those sublimities who have no occasion to be talked to, for they can be at any time sufficiently occupied with the contemplation of their own greatness. This enabled the bashful young Member to keep his eyes open long enough at a time to see his dinner. But, whenever Lord Decimus spoke, he shut them again.
The agreeable young Barnacle, and Bar, were the talkers of the party. Bishop would have been exceedingly agreeable also, but that his innocence stood in his way. He was so soon left behind. When there was any little hint of anything being in the wind, he got lost directly. Worldly affairs were too much for him; he couldn't make them out at all.
This was observable when Bar said, incidentally, that he was happy to have heard that we were soon to have the advantage of enlisting on the good side, the sound and plain sagacity--not demonstrative or ostentatious, but thoroughly sound and practical--of our friend Mr Sparkler.
Ferdinand Barnacle laughed, and said oh yes, he believed so. A vote was a vote, and always acceptable.
Bar was sorry to miss our good friend Mr Sparkler to-day, Mr Merdle.
'He is away with Mrs Merdle,' returned that gentleman, slowly coming out of a long abstraction, in the course of which he had been fitting a tablespoon up his sleeve. 'It is not indispensable for him to be on the spot.'
'The magic name of Merdle,' said Bar, with the jury droop, 'no doubt will suffice for all.'
'Why--yes--I believe so,' assented Mr Merdle, putting the spoon aside, and clumsily hiding each of his hands in the coat-cuff of the other hand. 'I believe the people in my interest down there will not make any difficulty.'
'Model people!' said Bar. 'I am glad you approve of them,' said Mr Merdle.
'And the people of those other two places, now,' pursued Bar, with a bright twinkle in his keen eye, as it slightly turned in the direction of his magnificent neighbour; 'we lawyers are always curious, always inquisitive, always picking up odds and ends for our patchwork minds, since there is no knowing when and where they may fit into some corner;--the people of those other two places now? Do they yield so laudably to the vast and cumulative influence of such enterprise and such renown; do those little rills become absorbed so quietly and easily, and, as it were by the influence of natural laws, so beautifully, in the swoop of the majestic stream as it flows upon its wondrous way enriching the surrounding lands; that their course is perfectly to be calculated, and distinctly to be predicated?'
Mr Merdle, a little troubled by Bar's eloquence, looked fitfully about the nearest salt-cellar for some moments, and then said hesitating:
'They are perfectly aware, sir, of their duty to Society. They will return anybody I send to them for that purpose.'
'Cheering to know,' said Bar.