I will see, if you please, how I can exert this limited power (for people are jealous, and it is limited), to your advantage.' 'You are very good,' replied Mr Dorrit. 'You are very good.'
'Of course,' said Mr Merdle, 'there must be the strictest integrity and uprightness in these transactions; there must be the purest faith between man and man; there must be unimpeached and unimpeachable confidence; or business could not be carried on.'
Mr Dorrit hailed these generous sentiments with fervour.
'Therefore,' said Mr Merdle, 'I can only give you a preference to a certain extent.'
'I perceive. To a defined extent,' observed Mr Dorrit.
'Defined extent. And perfectly above-board. As to my advice, however,' said Mr Merdle, 'that is another matter. That, such as it is--'
Oh! Such as it was! (Mr Dorrit could not bear the faintest appearance of its being depreciated, even by Mr Merdle himself.)
'--That, there is nothing in the bonds of spotless honour between myself and my fellow-man to prevent my parting with, if I choose. And that,' said Mr Merdle, now deeply intent upon a dust-cart that was passing the windows, 'shall be at your command whenever you think proper.'
New acknowledgments from Mr Dorrit. New passages of Mr Merdle's hand over his forehead. Calm and silence. Contemplation of Mr Dorrit's waistcoat buttons by Mr Merdle.
'My time being rather precious,' said Mr Merdle, suddenly getting up, as if he had been waiting in the interval for his legs and they had just come, 'I must be moving towards the City. Can I take you anywhere, sir? I shall be happy to set you down, or send you on. My carriage is at your disposal.'
Mr Dorrit bethought himself that he had business at his banker's. His banker's was in the City. That was fortunate; Mr Merdle would take him into the City. But, surely, he might not detain Mr Merdle while he assumed his coat? Yes, he might and must; Mr Merdle insisted on it. So Mr Dorrit, retiring into the next room, put himself under the hands of his valet, and in five minutes came back glorious.
Then said Mr Merdle, 'Allow me, sir. Take my arm!' Then leaning on Mr Merdle's arm, did Mr Dorrit descend the staircase, seeing the worshippers on the steps, and feeling that the light of Mr Merdle shone by reflection in himself. Then the carriage, and the ride into the City; and the people who looked at them; and the hats that flew off grey heads; and the general bowing and crouching before this wonderful mortal the like of which prostration of spirit was not to be seen--no, by high Heaven, no! It may be worth thinking of by Fawners of all denominations--in Westminster Abbey and Saint Paul's Cathedral put together, on any Sunday in the year. It was a rapturous dream to Mr Dorrit to find himself set aloft in this public car of triumph, making a magnificent progress to that befitting destination, the golden Street of the Lombards.
There Mr Merdle insisted on alighting and going his way a-foot, and leaving his poor equipage at Mr Dorrit's disposition. So the dream increased in rapture when Mr Dorrit came out of the bank alone, and people looked at him in default of Mr Merdle, and when, with the ears of his mind, he heard the frequent exclamation as he rolled glibly along, 'A wonderful man to be Mr Merdle's friend!'
At dinner that day, although the occasion was not foreseen and provided for, a brilliant company of such as are not made of the dust of the earth, but of some superior article for the present unknown, shed their lustrous benediction upon Mr Dorrit's daughter's marriage. And Mr Dorrit's daughter that day began, in earnest, her competition with that woman not present; and began it so well that Mr Dorrit could all but have taken his affidavit, if required, that Mrs Sparkler had all her life been lying at full length in the lap of luxury, and had never heard of such a rough word in the English tongue as Marshalsea.
Next day, and the day after, and every day, all graced by more dinner company, cards descended on Mr Dorrit like theatrical snow. As the friend and relative by marriage of the illustrious Merdle, Bar, Bishop, Treasury, Chorus, Everybody, wanted to make or improve Mr Dorrit's acquaintance.