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Charles Dickens > Our Mutual Friend > Book 1 - 10

Our Mutual Friend

Book 1 - 10


There is excitement in the Veneering mansion. The mature young
lady is going to be married (powder and all) to the mature young
gentleman, and she is to be married from the Veneering house, and
the Veneerings are to give the breakfast. The Analytical, who
objects as a matter of principle to everything that occurs on the
premises, necessarily objects to the match; but his consent has
been dispensed with, and a spring-van is delivering its load of
greenhouse plants at the door, in order that to-morrow's feast may
be crowned with flowers.

The mature young lady is a lady of property. The mature young
gentleman is a gentleman of property. He invests his property. He
goes, in a condescending amateurish way, into the City, attends
meetings of Directors, and has to do with traffic in Shares. As is
well known to the wise in their generation, traffic in Shares is the
one thing to have to do with in this world. Have no antecedents,
no established character, no cultivation, no ideas, no manners;
have Shares. Have Shares enough to be on Boards of Direction in
capital letters, oscillate on mysterious business between London
and Paris, and be great. Where does he come from? Shares.
Where is he going to? Shares. What are his tastes? Shares. Has
he any principles? Shares. What squeezes him into Parliament?
Shares. Perhaps he never of himself achieved success in anything,
never originated anything, never produced anything? Sufficient
answer to all; Shares. O mighty Shares! To set those blaring
images so high, and to cause us smaller vermin, as under the
influence of henbane or opium, to cry out, night and day, 'Relieve
us of our money, scatter it for us, buy us and sell us, ruin us, only
we beseech ye take rank among the powers of the earth, and fatten
on us'!

While the Loves and Graces have been preparing this torch for
Hymen, which is to be kindled to-morrow, Mr Twemlow has
suffered much in his mind. It would seem that both the mature
young lady and the mature young gentleman must indubitably be
Veneering's oldest friends. Wards of his, perhaps? Yet that can
scarcely be, for they are older than himself. Veneering has been in
their confidence throughout, and has done much to lure them to the
altar. He has mentioned to Twemlow how he said to Mrs
Veneering, 'Anastatia, this must be a match.' He has mentioned to
Twemlow how he regards Sophronia Akershem (the mature young
lady) in the light of a sister, and Alfred Lammle (the mature young
gentleman) in the light of a brother. Twemlow has asked him
whether he went to school as a junior with Alfred? He has
answered, 'Not exactly.' Whether Sophronia was adopted by his
mother? He has answered, 'Not precisely so.' Twemlow's hand
has gone to his forehead with a lost air.

But, two or three weeks ago, Twemlow, sitting over his
newspaper, and over his dry-toast and weak tea, and over the
stable-yard in Duke Street, St James's, received a highly-perfumed
cocked-hat and monogram from Mrs Veneering, entreating her
dearest Mr T., if not particularly engaged that day, to come like a
charining soul and make a fourth at dinner with dear Mr Podsnap,
for the discussion of an interesting family topic; the last three
words doubly underlined and pointed with a note of admiration.
And Twemlow replying, 'Not engaged, and more than delighted,'
goes, and this takes place:

'My dear Twemlow,' says Veneering, 'your ready response to
Anastatia's unceremonious invitation is truly kind, and like an old,
old friend. You know our dear friend Podsnap?'

Twemlow ought to know the dear friend Podsnap who covered him
with so much confusion, and he says he does know him, and
Podsnap reciprocates. Apparently, Podsnap has been so wrought
upon in a short time, as to believe that he has been intimate in the
house many, many, many years. In the friendliest manner he is
making himself quite at home with his back to the fire, executing a
statuette of the Colossus at Rhodes. Twemlow has before noticed
in his feeble way how soon the Veneering guests become infected
with the Veneering fiction. Not, however, that he has the least
notion of its being his own case.

'Our friends, Alfred and Sophronia,' pursues Veneering the veiled
prophet: 'our friends Alfred and Sophronia, you will be glad to
hear, my dear fellows, are going to be married. As my wife and I
make it a family affair the entire direction of which we take upon
ourselves, of course our first step is to communicate the fact to our
family friends.'

('Oh!' thinks Twemlow, with his eyes on Podsnap, 'then there are
only two of us, and he's the other.')

'I did hope,' Veneering goes on, 'to have had Lady Tippins to meet
you; but she is always in request, and is unfortunately engaged.'

('Oh!' thinks Twemlow, with his eyes wandering, 'then there are
three of us, and SHE'S the other.')

'Mortimer Lightwood,' resumes Veneering, 'whom you both know,
is out of town; but he writes, in his whimsical manner, that as we
ask him to be bridegroom's best man when the ceremony takes
place, he will not refuse, though he doesn't see what he has to do
with it.'

('Oh!' thinks Twemlow, with his eyes rolling, 'then there are four of
us, and HE'S the other.')

'Boots and Brewer,' observes Veneering, 'whom you also know, I
have not asked to-day; but I reserve them for the occasion.'

('Then,' thinks Twemlow, with his eyes shut, 'there are si--' But
here collapses and does not completely recover until dinner is over
and the Analytical has been requested to withdraw.)

'We now come,' says Veneering, 'to the point, the real point, of our
little family consultation. Sophronia, having lost both father and
mother, has no one to give her away.'

'Give her away yourself,' says Podsnap.

'My dear Podsnap, no. For three reasons. Firstly, because I
couldn't take so much upon myself when I have respected family
friends to remember. Secondly, because I am not so vain as to
think that I look the part. Thirdly, because Anastatia is a little
superstitious on the subject and feels averse to my giving away
anybody until baby is old enough to be married.'

'What would happen if he did?' Podsnap inquires of Mrs Veneering.

'My dear Mr Podsnap, it's very foolish I know, but I have an
instinctive presentiment that if Hamilton gave away anybody else
first, he would never give away baby.' Thus Mrs Veneering; with
her open hands pressed together, and each of her eight aquiline
fingers looking so very like her one aquiline nose that the bran-new
jewels on them seem necessary for distinction's sake.

'But, my dear Podsnap,' quoth Veneering, 'there IS a tried friend of
our family who, I think and hope you will agree with me, Podsnap,
is the friend on whom this agreeable duty almost naturally
devolves. That friend,' saying the words as if the company were
about a hundred and fifty in number, 'is now among us. That
friend is Twemlow.'

'Certainly!' From Podsnap.

'That friend,' Veneering repeats with greater firmness, 'is our dear
good Twemlow. And I cannot sufficiently express to you, my dear
Podsnap, the pleasure I feel in having this opinion of mine and
Anastatia's so readily confirmed by you, that other equally familiar
and tried friend who stands in the proud position--I mean who
proudly stands in the position--or I ought rather to say, who places
Anastatia and myself in the proud position of himself standing in
the simple position--of baby's godfather.' And, indeed, Veneering
is much relieved in mind to find that Podsnap betrays no jealousy
of Twemlow's elevation.

So, it has come to pass that the spring-van is strewing flowers on
the rosy hours and on the staircase, and that Twemlow is surveying
the ground on which he is to play his distinguished part to-
morrow. He has already been to the church, and taken note of the
various impediments in the aisle, under the auspices of an
extremely dreary widow who opens the pews, and whose left hand
appears to be in a state of acute rheumatism, but is in fact
voluntarily doubled up to act as a money-box.

And now Veneering shoots out of the Study wherein he is
accustomed, when contemplative, to give his mind to the carving
and gilding of the Pilgrims going to Canterbury, in order to show
Twemlow the little flourish he has prepared for the trumpets of
fashion, describing how that on the seventeenth instant, at St
James's Church, the Reverend Blank Blank, assisted by the
Reverend Dash Dash, united in the bonds of matrimony, Alfred
Lammle Esquire, of Sackville Street, Piccadilly, to Sophronia, only
daughter of the late Horatio Akershem, Esquire, of Yorkshire.
Also how the fair bride was married from the house of Hamilton
Veneering, Esquire, of Stucconia, and was given away by Melvin
Twemlow, Esquire, of Duke Street, St James's, second cousin to
Lord Snigsworth, of Snigsworthy Park. While perusing which
composition, Twemlow makes some opaque approach to
perceiving that if the Reverend Blank Blank and the Reverend
Dash Dash fail, after this introduction, to become enrolled in the
list of Veneering's dearest and oldest friends, they will have none
but themselves to thank for it.

After which, appears Sophronia (whom Twemlow has seen twice
in his lifetime), to thank Twemlow for counterfeiting the late
Horatio Akershem Esquire, broadly of Yorkshire. And after her,
appears Alfred (whom Twemlow has seen once in his lifetime), to
do the same and to make a pasty sort of glitter, as if he were
constructed for candle-light only, and had been let out into daylight
by some grand mistake. And after that, comes Mrs Veneering, in a
pervadingly aquiline state of figure, and with transparent little
knobs on her temper, like the little transparent knob on the bridge
of her nose, 'Worn out by worry and excitement,' as she tells her
dear Mr Twemlow, and reluctantly revived with curacoa by the
Analytical. And after that, the bridesmaids begin to come by rail-
road from various parts of the country, and to come like adorable
recruits enlisted by a sergeant not present; for, on arriving at the
Veneering depot, they are in a barrack of strangers.

So, Twemlow goes home to Duke Street, St James's, to take a plate
of mutton broth with a chop in it, and a look at the marriage-
service, in order that he may cut in at the right place to-morrow;
and he is low, and feels it dull over the livery stable-yard, and is
distinctly aware of a dint in his heart, made by the most adorable
of the adorable bridesmaids. For, the poor little harmless
gentleman once had his fancy, like the rest of us, and she didn't
answer (as she often does not), and he thinks the adorable
bridesmaid is like the fancy as she was then (which she is not at
all), and that if the fancy had not married some one else for money,
but had married him for love, he and she would have been happy
(which they wouldn't have been), and that she has a tenderness for
him still (whereas her toughness is a proverb). Brooding over the
fire, with his dried little head in his dried little hands, and his dried
little elbows on his dried little knees, Twemlow is melancholy.
'No Adorable to bear me company here!' thinks he. 'No Adorable
at the club! A waste, a waste, a waste, my Twemlow!' And so
drops asleep, and has galvanic starts all over him.

Betimes next morning, that horrible old Lady Tippins (relict of the
late Sir Thomas Tippins, knighted in mistake for somebody else by
His Majesty King George the Third, who, while performing the
ceremony, was graciously pleased to observe, 'What, what, what?
Who, who, who? Why, why, why?') begins to be dyed and
varnished for the interesting occasion. She has a reputation for
giving smart accounts of things, and she must be at these people's
early, my dear, to lose nothing of the fun. Whereabout in the
bonnet and drapery announced by her name, any fragment of the
real woman may be concealed, is perhaps known to her maid; but
you could easily buy all you see of her, in Bond Street; or you
might scalp her, and peel her, and scrape her, and make two Lady
Tippinses out of her, and yet not penetrate to the genuine article.
She has a large gold eye-glass, has Lady Tippins, to survey the
proceedings with. If she had one in each eye, it might keep that
other drooping lid up, and look more uniform. But perennial youth
is in her artificial flowers, and her list of lovers is full.

'Mortimer, you wretch,' says Lady Tippins, turning the eyeglass
about and about, 'where is your charge, the bridegroom?'

'Give you my honour,' returns Mortimer, 'I don't know, and I don't

'Miserable! Is that the way you do your duty?'

'Beyond an impression that he is to sit upon my knee and be
seconded at some point of the solemnities, like a principal at a
prizefight, I assure you I have no notion what my duty is,' returns

Eugene is also in attendance, with a pervading air upon him of
having presupposed the ceremony to be a funeral, and of being
disappointed. The scene is the Vestry-room of St James's Church,
with a number of leathery old registers on shelves, that might be
bound in Lady Tippinses.

But, hark! A carriage at the gate, and Mortimer's man arrives,
looking rather like a spurious Mephistopheles and an
unacknowledged member of that gentleman's family. Whom Lady
Tippins, surveying through her eye-glass, considers a fine man,
and quite a catch; and of whom Mortimer remarks, in the lowest
spirits, as he approaches, 'I believe this is my fellow, confound
him!' More carriages at the gate, and lo the rest of the characters.
Whom Lady Tippins, standing on a cushion, surveying through the
eye-glass, thus checks off. 'Bride; five-and-forty if a day, thirty
shillings a yard, veil fifteen pound, pocket-handkerchief a present.
Bridesmaids; kept down for fear of outshining bride, consequently
not girls, twelve and sixpence a yard, Veneering's flowers, snub-
nosed one rather pretty but too conscious of her stockings, bonnets
three pound ten. Twemlow; blessed release for the dear man if she
really was his daughter, nervous even under the pretence that she
is, well he may be. Mrs Veneering; never saw such velvet, say two
thousand pounds as she stands, absolute jeweller's window, father
must have been a pawnbroker, or how could these people do it?
Attendant unknowns; pokey.'

Ceremony performed, register signed, Lady Tippins escorted out of
sacred edifice by Veneering, carriages rolling back to Stucconia,
servants with favours and flowers, Veneering's house reached,
drawing-rooms most magnificent. Here, the Podsnaps await the
happy party; Mr Podsnap, with his hair-brushes made the most of;
that imperial rocking-horse, Mrs Podsnap, majestically skittish.
Here, too, are Boots and Brewer, and the two other Buffers; each
Buffer with a flower in his button-hole, his hair curled, and his
gloves buttoned on tight, apparently come prepared, if anything
had happened to the bridegroom, to be married instantly. Here,
too, the bride's aunt and next relation; a widowed female of a
Medusa sort, in a stoney cap, glaring petrifaction at her fellow-
creatures. Here, too, the bride's trustee; an oilcake-fed style of
business-gentleman with mooney spectacles, and an object of
much interest. Veneering launching himself upon this trustee as
his oldest friend (which makes seven, Twemlow thought), and
confidentially retiring with him into the conservatory, it is
understood that Veneering is his co-trustee, and that they are
arranging about the fortune. Buffers are even overheard to whisper
Thir-ty Thou-sand Pou-nds! with a smack and a relish suggestive
of the very finest oysters. Pokey unknowns, amazed to find how
intimately they know Veneering, pluck up spirit, fold their arms,
and begin to contradict him before breakfast. What time Mrs
Veneering, carrying baby dressed as a bridesmaid, flits about
among the company, emitting flashes of many-coloured lightning
from diamonds, emeralds, and rubies.

The Analytical, in course of time achieving what he feels to be due
to himself in bringing to a dignified conclusion several quarrels he
has on hand with the pastrycook's men, announces breakfast.
Dining-room no less magnificent than drawing-room; tables
superb; all the camels out, and all laden. Splendid cake, covered
with Cupids, silver, and true-lovers' knots. Splendid bracelet,
produced by Veneering before going down, and clasped upon the
arrn of bride. Yet nobody seems to think much more of the
Veneerings than if they were a tolerable landlord and landlady
doing the thing in the way of business at so much a head. The
bride and bridegroom talk and laugh apart, as has always been
their manner; and the Buffers work their way through the dishes
with systematic perseverance, as has always been THEIR manner;
and the pokey unknowns are exceedingly benevolent to one another
in invitations to take glasses of champagne; but Mrs Podsnap,
arching her mane and rocking her grandest, has a far more
deferential audience than Mrs Veneering; and Podsnap all but does
the honours.

Another dismal circumstance is, that Veneering, having the
captivating Tippins on one side of him and the bride's aunt on the
other, finds it immensely difficult to keep the peace. For, Medusa,
besides unmistakingly glaring petrifaction at the fascinating
Tippins, follows every lively remark made by that dear creature,
with an audible snort: which may be referable to a chronic cold in
the head, but may also be referable to indignation and contempt.
And this snort being regular in its reproduction, at length comes to
be expected by the company, who make embarrassing pauses when
it is falling due, and by waiting for it, render it more emphatic
when it comes. The stoney aunt has likewise an injurious way of
rejecting all dishes whereof Lady Tippins partakes: saying aloud
when they are proffered to her, 'No, no, no, not for me. Take it
away!' As with a set purpose of implying a misgiving that if
nourished upon similar meats, she might come to be like that
charmer, which would be a fatal consummation. Aware of her
enemy, Lady Tippins tries a youthful sally or two, and tries the eye-
glass; but, from the impenetrable cap and snorting armour of the
stoney aunt all weapons rebound powerless.

Another objectionable circumstance is, that the pokey unknowns
support each other in being unimpressible. They persist in not
being frightened by the gold and silver camels, and they are
banded together to defy the elaborately chased ice-pails. They even
seem to unite in some vague utterance of the sentiment that the
landlord and landlady will make a pretty good profit out of this,
and they almost carry themselves like customers. Nor is there
compensating influence in the adorable bridesmaids; for, having
very little interest in the bride, and none at all in one another, those
lovely beings become, each one of her own account, depreciatingly
contemplative of the millinery present; while the bridegroom's
man, exhausted, in the back of his chair, appears to be improving
the occasion by penitentially contemplating all the wrong he has
ever done; the difference between him and his friend Eugene,
being, that the latter, in the back of HIS chair, appears to be
contemplating all the wrong he would like to do--particularly to the
present company.

In which state of affairs, the usual ceremonies rather droop and
flag, and the splendid cake when cut by the fair hand of the bride
has but an indigestible appearance. However, all the things
indispensable to be said are said, and all the things indispensable
to be done are done (including Lady Tippins's yawning, falling
asleep, and waking insensible), and there is hurried preparation for
the nuptial journey to the Isle of Wight, and the outer air teems
with brass bands and spectators. In full sight of whom, the
malignant star of the Analytical has pre-ordained that pain and
ridicule shall befall him. For he, standing on the doorsteps to
grace the departure, is suddenly caught a most prodigious thump
on the side of his head with a heavy shoe, which a Buffer in the
hall, champagne-flushed and wild of aim, has borrowed on the
spur of the moment from the pastrycook's porter, to cast after the
departing pair as an auspicious omen.

So they all go up again into the gorgeous drawing-rooms--all of
them flushed with breakfast, as having taken scarlatina sociably--
and there the combined unknowns do malignant things with their
legs to ottomans, and take as much as possible out of the splendid
furniture. And so, Lady Tippins, quite undetermined whether
today is the day before yesterday, or the day after to-morrow, or the
week after next, fades away; and Mortimer Lightwood and Eugene
fade away, and Twemlow fades away, and the stoney aunt goes
away--she declines to fade, proving rock to the last--and even the
unknowns are slowly strained off, and it is all over.

All over, that is to say, for the time being. But, there is another
time to come, and it comes in about a fortnight, and it comes to Mr
and Mrs Lammle on the sands at Shanklin, in the Isle of Wight.

Mr and Mrs Lammle have walked for some time on the Shanklin
sands, and one may see by their footprints that they have not
walked arm in arm, and that they have not walked in a straight
track, and that they have walked in a moody humour; for, the lady
has prodded little spirting holes in the damp sand before her with
her parasol, and the gentleman has trailed his stick after him. As if
he were of the Mephistopheles family indeed, and had walked with
a drooping tail.

'Do you mean to tell me, then, Sophronia--'

Thus he begins after a long silence, when Sophronia flashes
fiercely, and turns upon him.

'Don't put it upon ME, sir. I ask you, do YOU mean to tell me?'

Mr Lammle falls silent again, and they walk as before. Mrs
Lammle opens her nostrils and bites her under-lip; Mr Lammle
takes his gingerous whiskers in his left hand, and, bringing them
together, frowns furtively at his beloved, out of a thick gingerous

'Do I mean to say!' Mrs Lammle after a time repeats, with
indignation. 'Putting it on me! The unmanly disingenuousness!'

Mr Lammle stops, releases his whiskers, and looks at her. 'The

Mrs Lammle haughtily replies, without stopping, and without
looking back. 'The meanness.'

He is at her side again in a pace or two, and he retorts, 'That is not
what you said. You said disingenuousness.'

'What if I did?'

'There is no "if" in the case. You did.'

'I did, then. And what of it?'

'What of it?' says Mr Lammle. 'Have you the face to utter the word
to me?'

'The face, too!' replied Mrs Lammle, staring at him with cold
scorn. 'Pray, how dare you, sir, utter the word to me?'

'I never did.'

As this happens to be true, Mrs Lammle is thrown on the feminine
resource of saying, 'I don't care what you uttered or did not utter.'

After a little more walking and a little more silence, Mr Lammle
breaks the latter.

'You shall proceed in your own way. You claim a right to ask me
do I mean to tell you. Do I mean to tell you what?'

'That you are a man of property?'


'Then you married me on false pretences?'

'So be it. Next comes what you mean to say. Do you mean to say
you are a woman of property?'


'Then you married me on false pretences.'

'If you were so dull a fortune-hunter that you deceived yourself, or
if you were so greedy and grasping that you were over-willing to
be deceived by appearances, is it my fault, you adventurer?' the
lady demands, with great asperity.

'I asked Veneering, and he told me you were rich.'

'Veneering!' with great contempt.' And what does Veneering know
about me!'

'Was he not your trustee?'

'No. I have no trustee, but the one you saw on the day when you
fraudulently married me. And his trust is not a very difficult one,
for it is only an annuity of a hundred and fifteen pounds. I think
there are some odd shillings or pence, if you are very particular.'

Mr Lammle bestows a by no means loving look upon the partner of
his joys and sorrows, and he mutters something; but checks

'Question for question. It is my turn again, Mrs Lammle. What
made you suppose me a man of property?'

'You made me suppose you so. Perhaps you will deny that you
always presented yourself to me in that character?'

'But you asked somebody, too. Come, Mrs Lammle, admission for
admission. You asked somebody?'

'I asked Veneering.'

'And Veneering knew as much of me as he knew of you, or as
anybody knows of him.'

After more silent walking, the bride stops short, to say in a
passionate manner:

'I never will forgive the Veneerings for this!'

'Neither will I,' returns the bridegroom.

With that, they walk again; she, making those angry spirts in the
sand; he, dragging that dejected tail. The tide is low, and seems to
have thrown them together high on the bare shore. A gull comes
sweeping by their heads and flouts them. There was a golden
surface on the brown cliffs but now, and behold they are only damp
earth. A taunting roar comes from the sea, and the far-out rollers
mount upon one another, to look at the entrapped impostors, and to
join in impish and exultant gambols.

'Do you pretend to believe,' Mrs Lammle resumes, sternly, 'when
you talk of my marrying you for worldly advantages, that it was
within the bounds of reasonable probability that I would have
married you for yourself?'

'Again there are two sides to the question, Mrs Lammle. What do
you pretend to believe?'

'So you first deceive me and then insult me!' cries the lady, with a
heaving bosom.

'Not at all. I have originated nothing. The double-edged question
was yours.'

'Was mine!' the bride repeats, and her parasol breaks in her angry

His colour has turned to a livid white, and ominous marks have
come to light about his nose, as if the finger of the very devil
himself had, within the last few moments, touched it here and
there. But he has repressive power, and she has none.

'Throw it away,' he coolly recommends as to the parasol; 'you have
made it useless; you look ridiculous with it.'

Whereupon she calls him in her rage, 'A deliberate villain,' and so
casts the broken thing from her as that it strikes him in falling.
The finger-marks are something whiter for the instant, but he
walks on at her side.

She bursts into tears, declaring herself the wretchedest, the most
deceived, the worst-used, of women. Then she says that if she had
the courage to kill herself, she would do it. Then she calls him vile
impostor. Then she asks him, why, in the disappointment of his
base speculation, he does not take her life with his own hand,
under the present favourable circumstances. Then she cries again.
Then she is enraged again, and makes some mention of swindlers.
Finally, she sits down crying on a block of stone, and is in all the
known and unknown humours of her sex at once. Pending her
changes, those aforesaid marks in his face have come and gone,
now here now there, like white steps of a pipe on which the
diabolical performer has played a tune. Also his livid lips are
parted at last, as if he were breathless with running. Yet he is not.

'Now, get up, Mrs Lammle, and let us speak reasonably.'

She sits upon her stone, and takes no heed of him.

'Get up, I tell you.'

Raising her head, she looks contemptuously in his face, and
repeats, 'You tell me! Tell me, forsooth!'

She affects not to know that his eyes are fastened on her as she
droops her head again; but her whole figure reveals that she knows
it uneasily.

'Enough of this. Come! Do you hear? Get up.'

Yielding to his hand, she rises, and they walk again; but this time
with their faces turned towards their place of residence.

'Mrs Lammle, we have both been deceiving, and we have both
been deceived. We have both been biting, and we have both been
bitten. In a nut-shell, there's the state of the case.'

'You sought me out--'

'Tut! Let us have done with that. WE know very well how it was.
Why should you and I talk about it, when you and I can't disguise
it? To proceed. I am disappointed and cut a poor figure.'

'Am I no one?'

'Some one--and I was coming to you, if you had waited a moment.
You, too, are disappointed and cut a poor figure.'

'An injured figure!'

'You are now cool enough, Sophronia, to see that you can't be
injured without my being equally injured; and that therefore the
mere word is not to the purpose. When I look back, I wonder how
I can have been such a fool as to take you to so great an extent
upon trust.'

'And when I look back--' the bride cries, interrupting.

'And when you look back, you wonder how you can have been--
you'll excuse the word?'

'Most certainly, with so much reason.

'--Such a fool as to take ME to so great an extent upon trust. But
the folly is committed on both sides. I cannot get rid of you; you
cannot get rid of me. What follows?'

'Shame and misery,' the bride bitterly replies.

'I don't know. A mutual understanding follows, and I think it may
carry us through. Here I split my discourse (give me your arm,
Sophronia), into three heads, to make it shorter and plainer.
Firstly, it's enough to have been done, without the mortification of
being known to have been done. So we agree to keep the fact to
ourselves. You agree?'

'If it is possible, I do.'

'Possible! We have pretended well enough to one another. Can't
we, united, pretend to the world? Agreed. Secondly, we owe the
Veneerings a grudge, and we owe all other people the grudge of
wishing them to be taken in, as we ourselves have been taken in.

'Yes. Agreed.'

'We come smoothly to thirdly. You have called me an adventurer,
Sophronia. So I am. In plain uncomplimentary English, so I am.
So are you, my dear. So are many people. We agree to keep our
own secret, and to work together in furtherance of our own

'What schemes?'

'Any scheme that will bring us money. By our own schemes, I
mean our joint interest. Agreed?'

She answers, after a little hesitation, 'I suppose so. Agreed.'

'Carried at once, you see! Now, Sophronia, only half a dozen
words more. We know one another perfectly. Don't be tempted
into twitting me with the past knowledge that you have of me,
because it is identical with the past knowledge that I have of you,
and in twitting me, you twit yourself, and I don't want to hear you
do it. With this good understanding established between us, it is
better never done. To wind up all:--You have shown temper today,
Sophronia. Don't be betrayed into doing so again, because I have a
Devil of a temper myself.'

So, the happy pair, with this hopeful marriage contract thus signed,
sealed, and delivered, repair homeward. If, when those infernal
finger-marks were on the white and breathless countenance of
Alfred Lammle, Esquire, they denoted that he conceived the
purpose of subduing his dear wife Mrs Alfred Lammle, by at once
divesting her of any lingering reality or pretence of self-respect,
the purpose would seem to have been presently executed. The
mature young lady has mighty little need of powder, now, for her
downcast face, as he escorts her in the light of the setting sun to
their abode of bliss.

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