'Cheering to know.'
The three places in question were three little rotten holes in this Island, containing three little ignorant, drunken, guzzling, dirty, out-of-the-way constituencies, that had reeled into Mr Merdle's pocket. Ferdinand Barnacle laughed in his easy way, and airily said they were a nice set of fellows. Bishop, mentally perambulating among paths of peace, was altogether swallowed up in absence of mind.
'Pray,' asked Lord Decimus, casting his eyes around the table, 'what is this story I have heard of a gentleman long confined in a debtors' prison proving to be of a wealthy family, and having come into the inheritance of a large sum of money? I have met with a variety of allusions to it. Do you know anything of it, Ferdinand?'
'I only know this much,' said Ferdinand, 'that he has given the Department with which I have the honour to be associated;' this sparkling young Barnacle threw off the phrase sportively, as who should say, We know all about these forms of speech, but we must keep it up, we must keep the game alive; 'no end of trouble, and has put us into innumerable fixes.'
'Fixes?' repeated Lord Decimus, with a majestic pausing and pondering on the word that made the bashful Member shut his eyes quite tight. 'Fixes?'
'A very perplexing business indeed,' observed Mr Tite Barnacle, with an air of grave resentment.
'What,' said Lord Decimus, 'was the character of his business; what was the nature of these--a--Fixes, Ferdinand?'
'Oh, it's a good story, as a story,' returned that gentleman; 'as good a thing of its kind as need be. This Mr Dorrit (his name is Dorrit) had incurred a responsibility to us, ages before the fairy came out of the Bank and gave him his fortune, under a bond he had signed for the performance of a contract which was not at all performed. He was a partner in a house in some large way--spirits, or buttons, or wine, or blacking, or oatmeal, or woollen, or pork, or hooks and eyes, or iron, or treacle, or shoes, or something or other that was wanted for troops, or seamen, or somebody--and the house burst, and we being among the creditors, detainees were lodged on the part of the Crown in a scientific manner, and all the rest Of it. When the fairy had appeared and he wanted to pay us off, Egad we had got into such an exemplary state of checking and counter-checking, signing and counter-signing, that it was six months before we knew how to take the money, or how to give a receipt for it. It was a triumph of public business,' said this handsome young Barnacle, laughing heartily, 'You never saw such a lot of forms in your life. "Why," the attorney said to me one day, "if I wanted this office to give me two or three thousand pounds instead of take it, I couldn't have more trouble about it." "You are right, old fellow," I told him, "and in future you'll know that we have something to do here."' The pleasant young Barnacle finished by once more laughing heartily. He was a very easy, pleasant fellow indeed, and his manners were exceedingly winning.
Mr Tite Barnacle's view of the business was of a less airy character. He took it ill that Mr Dorrit had troubled the Department by wanting to pay the money, and considered it a grossly informal thing to do after so many years. But Mr Tite Barnacle was a buttoned-up man, and consequently a weighty one. All buttoned-up men are weighty. All buttoned-up men are believed in. Whether or no the reserved and never-exercised power of unbuttoning, fascinates mankind; whether or no wisdom is supposed to condense and augment when buttoned up, and to evaporate when unbuttoned; it is certain that the man to whom importance is accorded is the buttoned-up man. Mr Tite Barnacle never would have passed for half his current value, unless his coat had been always buttoned-up to his white cravat.
'May I ask,' said Lord Decimus, 'if Mr Darrit--or Dorrit--has any family?'
Nobody else replying, the host said, 'He has two daughters, my lord.'
'Oh! you are acquainted with him?' asked Lord Decimus.