In her mind's eye, as she lounged there, surrounded by every luxurious accessory that wealth could obtain or invention devise, she saw the fair bosom that beat in unison with the exultation of her thoughts, competing with the bosom that had been famous so long, outshining it, and deposing it. Happy? Fanny must have been happy. No more wishing one's self dead now.
The Courier had not approved of Mr Dorrit's staying in the house of a friend, and had preferred to take him to an hotel in Brook Street, Grosvenor Square. Mr Merdle ordered his carriage to be ready early in the morning that he might wait upon Mr Dorrit immediately after breakfast. Bright the carriage looked, sleek the horses looked, gleaming the harness looked, luscious and lasting the liveries looked. A rich, responsible turn-out. An equipage for a Merdle. Early people looked after it as it rattled along the streets, and said, with awe in their breath, 'There he goes!'
There he went, until Brook Street stopped him. Then, forth from its magnificent case came the jewel; not lustrous in itself, but quite the contrary.
Commotion in the office of the hotel. Merdle! The landlord, though a gentleman of a haughty spirit who had just driven a pair of thorough-bred horses into town, turned out to show him up- stairs. The clerks and servants cut him off by back-passages, and were found accidentally hovering in doorways and angles, that they might look upon him. Merdle! O ye sun, moon, and stars, the great man! The rich man, who had in a manner revised the New Testament, and already entered into the kingdom of Heaven. The man who could have any one he chose to dine with him, and who had made the money!
As he went up the stairs, people were already posted on the lower stairs, that his shadow might fall upon them when he came down. So were the sick brought out and laid in the track of the Apostle--who had NOT got into the good society, and had NOT made the money.
Mr Dorrit, dressing-gowned and newspapered, was at his breakfast. The Courier, with agitation in his voice, announced 'Miss Mairdale!' Mr Dorrit's overwrought heart bounded as he leaped up.
'Mr Merdle, this is--ha--indeed an honour. Permit me to express the--hum--sense, the high sense, I entertain of this--ha hum-- highly gratifying act of attention. I am well aware, sir, of the many demands upon your time, and its--ha--enormous value,' Mr Dorrit could not say enormous roundly enough for his own satisfaction. 'That you should--ha--at this early hour, bestow any of your priceless time upon me, is--ha--a compliment that I acknowledge with the greatest esteem.' Mr Dorrit positively trembled in addressing the great man.
Mr Merdle uttered, in his subdued, inward, hesitating voice, a few sounds that were to no purpose whatever; and finally said, 'I am glad to see you, sir.'
'You are very kind,' said Mr Dorrit. 'Truly kind.' By this time the visitor was seated, and was passing his great hand over his exhausted forehead. 'You are well, I hope, Mr Merdle?'
'I am as well as I--yes, I am as well as I usually am,' said Mr Merdle.
'Your occupations must be immense.'
'Tolerably so. But--Oh dear no, there's not much the matter with me,' said Mr Merdle, looking round the room.
'A little dyspeptic?' Mr Dorrit hinted.
'Very likely. But I--Oh, I am well enough,' said Mr Merdle.
There were black traces on his lips where they met, as if a little train of gunpowder had been fired there; and he looked like a man who, if his natural temperament had been quicker, would have been very feverish that morning. This, and his heavy way of passing his hand over his forehead, had prompted Mr Dorrit's solicitous inquiries.
'Mrs Merdle,' Mr Dorrit insinuatingly pursued, 'I left, as you will be prepared to hear, the--ha--observed of all observers, the--hum-- admired of all admirers, the leading fascination and charm of Society in Rome. She was looking wonderfully well when I quitted it.'
'Mrs Merdle,' said Mr Merdle, 'is generally considered a very attractive woman.