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.
“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.
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.