And she is, no doubt. I am sensible of her being SO.'
'Who can be otherwise?' responded Mr Dorrit.
Mr Merdle turned his tongue in his closed mouth--it seemed rather a stiff and unmanageable tongue--moistened his lips, passed his hand over his forehead again, and looked all round the room again, principally under the chairs.
'But,' he said, looking Mr Dorrit in the face for the first time, and immediately afterwards dropping his eyes to the buttons of Mr Dorrit's waistcoat; 'if we speak of attractions, your daughter ought to be the subject of our conversation. She is extremely beautiful. Both in face and figure, she is quite uncommon. When the young people arrived last night, I was really surprised to see such charms.'
Mr Dorrit's gratification was such that he said--ha--he could not refrain from telling Mr Merdle verbally, as he had already done by letter, what honour and happiness he felt in this union of their families. And he offered his hand. Mr Merdle looked at the hand for a little while, took it on his for a moment as if his were a yellow salver or fish-slice, and then returned it to Mr Dorrit.
'I thought I would drive round the first thing,' said Mr Merdle, 'to offer my services, in case I can do anything for you; and to say that I hope you will at least do me the honour of dining with me to-day, and every day when you are not better engaged during your stay in town.'
Mr Dorrit was enraptured by these attentions.
'Do you stay long, sir?'
'I have not at present the intention,' said Mr Dorrit, 'of --ha-- exceeding a fortnight.'
'That's a very short stay, after so long a journey,' returned Mr Merdle.
'Hum. Yes,' said Mr Dorrit. 'But the truth is--ha--my dear Mr Merdle, that I find a foreign life so well suited to my health and taste, that I--hum--have but two objects in my present visit to London. First, the--ha--the distinguished happiness and--ha -- privilege which I now enjoy and appreciate; secondly, the arrangement--hum--the laying out, that is to say, in the best way, of--ha, hum--my money.'
'Well, sir,' said Mr Merdle, after turning his tongue again, 'if I can be of any use to you in that respect, you may command me.'
Mr Dorrit's speech had had more hesitation in it than usual, as he approached the ticklish topic, for he was not perfectly clear how so exalted a potentate might take it. He had doubts whether reference to any individual capital, or fortune, might not seem a wretchedly retail affair to so wholesale a dealer. Greatly relieved by Mr Merdle's affable offer of assistance, he caught at it directly, and heaped acknowledgments upon him.
'I scarcely--ha--dared,' said Mr Dorrit, 'I assure you, to hope for so--hum--vast an advantage as your direct advice and assistance. Though of course I should, under any circumstances, like the--ha, hum--rest of the civilised world, have followed in Mr Merdle's train.'
'You know we may almost say we are related, sir,' said Mr Merdle, curiously interested in the pattern of the carpet, 'and, therefore, you may consider me at your service.'
'Ha. Very handsome, indeed!' cried Mr Dorrit. 'Ha. Most handsome!'
'it would not,' said Mr Merdle, 'be at the present moment easy for what I may call a mere outsider to come into any of the good things--of course I speak of my own good things--'
'Of course, of course!' cried Mr Dorrit, in a tone implying that there were no other good things.
'--Unless at a high price. At what we are accustomed to term a very long figure.'
Mr Dorrit laughed in the buoyancy of his spirit. Ha, ha, ha! Long figure. Good. Ha. Very expressive to be sure!
'However,' said Mr Merdle, 'I do generally retain in my own hands the power of exercising some preference--people in general would be pleased to call it favour--as a sort of compliment for my care and trouble.' 'And public spirit and genius,' Mr Dorrit suggested.
Mr Merdle, with a dry, swallowing action, seemed to dispose of those qualities like a bolus; then added, 'As a sort of return for it.