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Chapter 12 The Fellow of Delicacy

  • Mr. Stryver having made up his mind to that magnanimous bestowal of goo_ortune on the Doctor’s daughter, resolved to make her happiness known to he_efore he left town for the Long Vacation. After some mental debating of th_oint, he came to the conclusion that it would be as well to get all th_reliminaries done with, and they could then arrange at their leisure whethe_e should give her his hand a week or two before Michaelmas Term, or in th_ittle Christmas vacation between it and Hilary.
  • As to the strength of his case, he had not a doubt about it, but clearly sa_is way to the verdict. Argued with the jury on substantial worldl_rounds—the only grounds ever worth taking into account— it was a plain case, and had not a weak spot in it. He called himself for the plaintiff, there wa_o getting over his evidence, the counsel for the defendant threw up hi_rief, and the jury did not even turn to consider. After trying it, Stryver, C. J., was satisfied that no plainer case could be.
  • Accordingly, Mr. Stryver inaugurated the Long Vacation with a formal proposa_o take Miss Manette to Vauxhall Gardens; that failing, to Ranelagh; tha_naccountably failing too, it behoved him to present himself in Soho, an_here declare his noble mind.
  • Towards Soho, therefore, Mr. Stryver shouldered his way from the Temple, whil_he bloom of the Long Vacation’s infancy was still upon it. Anybody who ha_een him projecting himself into Soho while he was yet on Saint Dunstan’s sid_f Temple Bar, bursting in his full-blown way along the pavement, to th_ostlement of all weaker people, might have seen how safe and strong he was.
  • His way taking him past Tellson’s, and he both banking at Tellson’s an_nowing Mr. Lorry as the intimate friend of the Manettes, it entered Mr.
  • Stryver’s mind to enter the bank, and reveal to Mr. Lorry the brightness o_he Soho horizon. So, he pushed open the door with the weak rattle in it_hroat, stumbled down the two steps, got past the two ancient cashiers, an_houldered himself into the musty back closet where Mr. Lorry sat at grea_ooks ruled for figures, with perpendicular iron bars to his window as if tha_ere ruled for figures too, and everything under the clouds were a sum.
  • “Halloa!” said Mr. Stryver. “How do you do? I hope you are well!”
  • It was Stryver’s grand peculiarity that he always seemed too big for an_lace, or space. He was so much too big for Tellson’s, that old clerks i_istant corners looked up with looks of remonstrance, as though he squeeze_hem against the wall. The House itself, magnificently reading the paper quit_n the far-off perspective, lowered displeased, as if the Stryver head ha_een butted into its responsible waistcoat.
  • The discreet Mr. Lorry said, in a sample tone of the voice he would recommen_nder the circumstances, “How do you do, Mr. Stryver? How do you do, sir?” an_hook hands. There was a peculiarity in his manner of shaking hands, always t_e seen in any clerk at Tellson’s who shook hands with a customer when th_ouse pervaded the air. He shook in a self-abnegating way, as one who shoo_or Tellson and Co.
  • “Can I do anything for you, Mr. Stryver?” asked Mr. Lorry, in his busines_haracter.
  • “Why, no, thank you; this is a private visit to yourself, Mr. Lorry; I hav_ome for a private word.”
  • “Oh indeed!” said Mr. Lorry, bending down his ear, while his eye strayed t_he House afar off.
  • “I am going,” said Mr. Stryver, leaning his arms confidentially on the desk: whereupon, although it was a large double one, there appeared to be not hal_esk enough for him: “I am going to make an offer of myself in marriage t_our agreeable little friend, Miss Manette, Mr. Lorry.”
  • “Oh dear me!” cried Mr. Lorry, rubbing his chin, and looking at his visito_ubiously.
  • “Oh dear me, sir?” repeated Stryver, drawing back. “Oh dear you, sir? What ma_our meaning be, Mr. Lorry?”
  • “My meaning,” answered the man of business, “is, of course, friendly an_ppreciative, and that it does you the greatest credit, and— in short, m_eaning is everything you could desire. But—really, you know, Mr. Stryver—” Mr. Lorry paused, and shook his head at him in the oddest manner, as if h_ere compelled against his will to add, internally, ”you know there really i_o much too much of you!”
  • “Well!” said Stryver, slapping the desk with his contentious hand, opening hi_yes wider, and taking a long breath, “if I understand you, Mr. Lorry, I’ll b_anged!”
  • Mr. Lorry adjusted his little wig at both ears as a means towards that end, and bit the feather of a pen.
  • “D—n it all, sir!” said Stryver, staring at him, “am I not eligible?”
  • “Oh dear yes! Yes. Oh yes, you’re eligible!” said Mr. Lorry. “If you sa_ligible, you are eligible.”
  • “Am I not prosperous?” asked Stryver.
  • “Oh! if you come to prosperous, you are prosperous,” said Mr. Lorry.
  • “And advancing?”
  • “If you come to advancing you know,” said Mr. Lorry, delighted to be able t_ake another admission, “nobody can doubt that.”
  • “Then what on earth is your meaning, Mr. Lorry?” demanded Stryver, perceptibl_restfallen.
  • “Well! I—Were you going there now?” asked Mr. Lorry.
  • “Straight!” said Stryver, with a plump of his fist on the desk.
  • “Then I think I wouldn’t, if I was you.”
  • “Why?” said Stryver. “Now, I’ll put you in a corner,” forensically shaking _orefinger at him. “You are a man of business and bound to have a reason.
  • State your reason. Why wouldn’t you go?”
  • “Because,” said Mr. Lorry, “I wouldn’t go on such an object without havin_ome cause to believe that I should succeed.”
  • “D—n me!” cried Stryver, “but this beats everything.”
  • Mr. Lorry glanced at the distant House, and glanced at the angry Stryver.
  • “Here’s a man of business—a man of years—a man of experience—in a Bank,” sai_tryver; “and having summed up three leading reasons for complete success, h_ays there’s no reason at all! Says it with his head on!” Mr. Stryver remarke_pon the peculiarity as if it would have been infinitely less remarkable if h_ad said it with his head off.
  • “When I speak of success, I speak of success with the young lady; and when _peak of causes and reasons to make success probable, I speak of causes an_easons that will tell as such with the young lady. The young lady, my goo_ir,” said Mr. Lorry, mildly tapping the Stryver arm, “the young lady. Th_oung lady goes before all.”
  • “Then you mean to tell me, Mr. Lorry,” said Stryver, squaring his elbows, “that it is your deliberate opinion that the young lady at present in questio_s a mincing Fool?”
  • “Not exactly so. I mean to tell you, Mr. Stryver,” said Mr. Lorry, reddening, “that I will hear no disrespectful word of that young lady from any lips; an_hat if I knew any man—which I hope I do not— whose taste was so coarse, an_hose temper was so overbearing, that he could not restrain himself fro_peaking disrespectfully of that young lady at this desk, not even Tellson’_hould prevent my giving him a piece of my mind.”
  • The necessity of being angry in a suppressed tone had put Mr. Stryver’s blood- vessels into a dangerous state when it was his turn to be angry; Mr. Lorry’_eins, methodical as their courses could usually be, were in no better stat_ow it was his turn.
  • “That is what I mean to tell you, sir,” said Mr. Lorry. “Pray let there be n_istake about it.”
  • Mr. Stryver sucked the end of a ruler for a little while, and then stoo_itting a tune out of his teeth with it, which probably gave him th_oothache. He broke the awkward silence by saying:
  • “This is something new to me, Mr. Lorry. You deliberately advise me not to g_p to Soho and offer myself—myself, Stryver of the King’s Bench bar?”
  • “Do you ask me for my advice, Mr. Stryver?”
  • “Yes, I do.”
  • “Very good. Then I give it, and you have repeated it correctly.”
  • “And all I can say of it is,” laughed Stryver with a vexed laugh, “tha_his—ha, ha!—beats everything past, present, and to come.”
  • “Now understand me,” pursued Mr. Lorry. “As a man of business, I am no_ustified in saying anything about this matter, for, as a man of business, _now nothing of it. But, as an old fellow, who has carried Miss Manette in hi_rms, who is the trusted friend of Miss Manette and of her father too, and wh_as a great affection for them both, I have spoken. The confidence is not o_y seeking, recollect. Now, you think I may not be right?”
  • “Not I!” said Stryver, whistling. “I can’t undertake to find third parties i_ommon sense; I can only find it for myself. I suppose sense in certai_uarters; you suppose mincing bread-and-butter nonsense. It’s new to me, bu_ou are right, I dare say.”
  • “What I suppose, Mr. Stryver, I claim to characterise for myself—An_nderstand me, sir,” said Mr. Lorry, quickly flushing again, “I will not—no_ven at Tellson’s—have it characterised for me by any gentleman breathing.”
  • “There! I beg your pardon!” said Stryver.
  • “Granted. Thank you. Well, Mr. Stryver, I was about to say:—it might b_ainful to you to find yourself mistaken, it might be painful to Docto_anette to have the task of being explicit with you, it might be very painfu_o Miss Manette to have the task of being explicit with you. You know th_erms upon which I have the honour and happiness to stand with the family. I_ou please, committing you in no way, representing you in no way, I wil_ndertake to correct my advice by the exercise of a little new observation an_udgment expressly brought to bear upon it. If you should then be dissatisfie_ith it, you can but test its soundness for yourself; if, on the other hand, you should be satisfied with it, and it should be what it now is, it may spar_ll sides what is best spared. What do you say?”
  • “How long would you keep me in town?”
  • “Oh! It is only a question of a few hours. I could go to Soho in the evening, and come to your chambers afterwards.”
  • “Then I say yes,” said Stryver: “I won’t go up there now, I am not so hot upo_t as that comes to; I say yes, and I shall expect you to look in to-night.
  • Good morning.”
  • Then Mr. Stryver turned and burst out of the Bank, causing such a concussio_f air on his passage through, that to stand up against it bowing behind th_wo counters, required the utmost remaining strength of the two ancien_lerks. Those venerable and feeble persons were always seen by the public i_he act of bowing, and were popularly believed, when they had bowed a custome_ut, still to keep on bowing in the empty office until they bowed anothe_ustomer in.
  • The barrister was keen enough to divine that the banker would not have gone s_ar in his expression of opinion on any less solid ground than mora_ertainty. Unprepared as he was for the large pill he had to swallow, he go_t down. “And now,” said Mr. Stryver, shaking his forensic forefinger at th_emple in general, when it was down, “my way out of this, is, to put you al_n the wrong.”
  • It was a bit of the art of an Old Bailey tactician, in which he found grea_elief. “You shall not put me in the wrong, young lady,” said Mr. Stryver; “I’ll do that for you.”
  • Accordingly, when Mr. Lorry called that night as late as ten o’clock, Mr.
  • Stryver, among a quantity of books and papers littered out for the purpose, seemed to have nothing less on his mind than the subject of the morning. H_ven showed surprise when he saw Mr. Lorry, and was altogether in an absen_nd preoccupied state.
  • “Well!” said that good-natured emissary, after a full half-hour of bootles_ttempts to bring him round to the question. “I have been to Soho.”
  • “To Soho?” repeated Mr. Stryver, coldly. “Oh, to be sure! What am I thinkin_f!”
  • “And I have no doubt,” said Mr. Lorry, “that I was right in the conversatio_e had. My opinion is confirmed, and I reiterate my advice.”
  • “I assure you,” returned Mr. Stryver, in the friendliest way, “that I am sorr_or it on your account, and sorry for it on the poor father’s account. I kno_his must always be a sore subject with the family; let us say no more abou_t.”
  • “I don’t understand you,” said Mr. Lorry.
  • “I dare say not,” rejoined Stryver, nodding his head in a smoothing and fina_ay; “no matter, no matter.”
  • “But it does matter,” Mr. Lorry urged.
  • “No it doesn’t; I assure you it doesn’t. Having supposed that there was sens_here there is no sense, and a laudable ambition where there is not a laudabl_mbition, I am well out of my mistake, and no harm is done. Young women hav_ommitted similar follies often before, and have repented them in poverty an_bscurity often before. In an unselfish aspect, I am sorry that the thing i_ropped, because it would have been a bad thing for me in a worldly point o_iew; in a selfish aspect, I am glad that the thing has dropped, because i_ould have been a bad thing for me in a worldly point of view— it is hardl_ecessary to say I could have gained nothing by it. There is no harm at al_one. I have not proposed to the young lady, and, between ourselves, I am b_o means certain, on reflexion, that I ever should have committed myself t_hat extent. Mr. Lorry, you cannot control the mincing vanities an_iddinesses of empty-headed girls; you must not expect to do it, or you wil_lways be disappointed. Now, pray say no more about it. I tell you, I regre_t on account of others, but I am satisfied on my own account. And I am reall_ery much obliged to you for allowing me to sound you, and for giving me you_dvice; you know the young lady better than I do; you were right, it neve_ould have done.”
  • Mr. Lorry was so taken aback, that he looked quite stupidly at Mr. Stryve_houldering him towards the door, with an appearance of showering generosity, forbearance, and goodwill, on his erring head. “Make the best of it, my dea_ir,” said Stryver; “say no more about it; thank you again for allowing me t_ound you; good night!”
  • Mr. Lorry was out in the night, before he knew where he was. Mr. Stryver wa_ying back on his sofa, winking at his ceiling.