As to the strength of his case, he had not a doubt about it, butclearly saw his way to the verdict. Argued with the jury onsubstantial worldly grounds- the only grounds ever worth taking intoaccount-it was a plain case, and had not a weak spot in it. Hecalled himself for the plaintiff, there was no getting over hisevidence, the counsel for the defendant threw up his brief, and thejury 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 formalproposal to take Miss Manette to Vauxhall Gardens; that failing, toRanelagh; that unaccountably failing too, it beloved him to presenthimself in Soho, and there declare his noble mind.
Towards Soho, therefore, Mr. Stryver shouldered his way from theTemple, while the bloom of the Long Vacation's infancy was stillupon it. Anybody who had seen him projecting himself into Soho whilehe was yet on Saint Dunstan's side of Temple Bar, bursting in hisfull-blown way along the pavement, to the jostlement of all weakerpeople, might have seen how safe and strong he was.
His way taking him past Tellson's, and he both banking atTellson's and knowing Mr. Lorry as the intimate friend of theManettes, it entered Mr. Stryver's mind to enter the bank, andreveal to Mr. Lorry the brightness of the Soho horizon. So, bepushed open the door with the weak rattle in its throat, stumbled downthe two steps, got past the two ancient cashiers, and shoulderedhimself into the musty back closet where Mr. Lorry sat at greatbooks ruled for figures, with perpendicular iron bars to his window asif that were ruled for figures too, and everything under the cloudswere 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 forany place, or space. He was so much too big for Tellson's, that oldclerks in distant corners looked up with looks of remonstrance, asthough he squeezed them against the wall. The House itself,magnificently reading the paper quite in the far-off perspective,lowered displeased, as if the Stryver head had been butted into itsresponsible waistcoat.
The discreet Mr. Lorry said, in a sample tone of the voice hewould recommend under the circumstances, "How do you do, Mr.Stryver? How do you do, sir?" and shook hands. There was a peculiarityin his manner of shaking hands, always to be seen in any clerk atTellson's who shook hands with a customer when the House pervadedthe air. He shook in a self-abnegating way, as one who shook forTellson and Co.
"Can I do anything for you, Mr. Stryver?" asked Mr. Lorry, in hisbusiness character.
"Why, no, thank you; this is a private visit to yourself, Mr. Lorry;I have come for a private word."
"Oh indeed!" said Mr. Lorry, bending down his ear, while his eyestrayed to the House afar off.
"I am going," said Mr. Stryver, leaning his arms confidentially onthe desk: whereupon, although it was a large double one, thereappeared to be not half desk enough for him: "I am going to make anoffer of myself in marriage to your agreeable little friend, MissManette, Mr. Lorry."
"Oh dear me!" cried Mr. Lorry, rubbing his chin, and looking athis visitor dubiously.
"Oh dear me, sir?" repeated Stryver, drawing back. "Oh dear you,sir? What may your meaning be, Mr. Lorry?"
"My meaning," answered the man of business, "is, of course, friendlyand appreciative, and that it does you the greatest credit, and- inshort, my meaning is everything you could desire. But- really, youknow, Mr. Stryver--" Mr. Lorry paused, and shook his head at him inthe oddest manner, as if he were compelled against his will to add,internally, "you know there really is so much too much of you!"
"Well!" said Stryver, slapping the desk with his contentious hand,opening his eyes wider, and taking a long breath, "if I understandyou, Mr. Lorry, I'll be hanged!"
Mr. Lorry adjusted his little wig at both ears as a means towardsthat end, and bit the feather of a pen.
"D-n it all, sir!" said Stryver, staring at him, "am I noteligible?"
"Oh dear yes! Yes. Oh yes, you're eligible!" said Mr. Lorry. "If yousay eligible, 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 beable to make another admission, "nobody can doubt that."
"Then what on earth is your meaning, Mr. Lorry?" demanded Stryver,perceptibly crestfallen.
"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," forensicallyshaking a forefinger at him. "You are a man of business and bound tohave a reason. State your reason. Why wouldn't you go?"
"Because," said Mr. Lorry, "I wouldn't go on such an objectwithout having some 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 angryStryver.
"Here's a man of business- a man of years- a man of experience- in aBank," said Stryver; "and having summed up three leading reasons forcomplete success, he says there's no reason at all! Says it with hishead on!" Mr. Stryver remarked upon the peculiarity as if it wouldhave been infinitely less remarkable if he had said it with his headoff.
"When I speak of success, I speak of success with the young lady;and when I speak of causes and reasons to make success probable, Ispeak of causes and reasons that will tell as such with the younglady. The young lady, my good sir," said Mr. Lorry, mildly tapping theStryver arm, "the young lady. The young lady goes before all."
"Then you mean to tell me, Mr. Lorry," said Stryver, squaring hiselbows, "that it is your deliberate opinion that the young lady atpresent in question is 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 younglady from any lips; and that if I knew any man- which I hope I do not-whose taste was so coarse, and whose temper was so overbearing, thathe could not restrain himself from speaking disrespectfully of thatyoung lady at this desk, not even Tellson's should prevent my givinghim 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 tobe angry; Mr. Lorry's veins, methodical as their courses could usuallybe, were in no better state now it was his turn.
"That is what I mean to tell you, sir," said Mr. Lorry. "Pray letthere be no mistake about it."
Mr. Stryver sucked the end of a ruler for a little while, and thenstood hitting a tune out of his teeth with it, which probably gave himthe toothache. He broke the awkward silence by saying:
"This is something new to me, Mr. Lorry. You deliberately adviseme not to go up to Soho and offer myself- myself, Stryver of theKing'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,"that this- ha, ha!- beats everything past, present, and to come."
"Now understand me," pursued Mr. Lorry. "As a man of business, Iam not justified in saying anything about this matter, for, as a manof business, I know nothing of it. But, as an old fellow, who hascarried Miss Manette in his arms, who is the trusted friend of MissManette and of her father too, and who has a great affection forthem both, I have spoken. The confidence is not of my seeking,recollect. Now, you think I may not be right?"
"Not I!" said Stryver, whistling. "I can't undertake to find thirdparties in common sense; I can only find it for myself. I supposesense in certain quarters; you suppose mincing bread-and-butternonsense. It's new to me, but you are right, I dare say."
"What I suppose, Mr. Stryver, I claim to characterise for myself.And understand me, sir," said Mr. Lorry, quickly flushing again, "Iwill not- not even at Tellson's- have it characterised for me by anygentleman breathing."
"There! I beg your pardon!" said Stryver.
"Granted. Thank you. Well, Mr. Stryver, I was about to say:- itmight be painful to you to find yourself mistaken, it might be painfulto Doctor Manette to have the task of being explicit with you, itmight be very painful to Miss Manette to have the task of beingexplicit with you. You know the terms upon which I have the honour andhappiness to stand with the family. If you please, committing you inno way, representing you in no way, I will undertake to correct myadvice by the exercise of a little new observation and judgmentexpressly brought to bear upon it. If you should then bedissatisfied with it, you can but test its soundness for yourself; if,on the other hand, you should be satisfied with it, and it should bewhat it now is, it may spare all sides what is best spared. What doyou 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 theevening, and come to your chambers afterwards."
"Then I say yes," said Stryver: "I won't go up there now, I am notso hot upon it as that comes to; I say yes, and I shall expect youto look in to-night. Good morning."
Then Mr. Stryver turned and burst out of the Bank, causing such aconcussion of air on his passage through, that to stand up againstit bowing behind the two counters, required the utmost remainingstrength of the two ancient clerks. Those venerable and feeble personswere always seen by the public in the act of bowing, and werepopularly believed, when they had bowed a customer out, still tokeep on bowing in the empty office until they bowed another customerin.
The barrister was keen enough to divine that the banker would nothave gone so far in his expression of opinion on any less solid groundthan moral certainty. Unprepared as he was for the large pill he hadto swallow, he got it down. "And now," said Mr. Stryver, shaking hisforensic forefinger at the Temple in general, when it was down, "myway out of this, is, to put you all in the wrong."
It was a bit of the art of an Old Bailey tactician, in which befound great relief. "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 teno'clock, Mr. Stryver, among a quantity of books and papers litteredout for the purpose, seemed to have nothing less on his mind thanthe subject of the morning. He even showed surprise when he saw Mr.Lorry, and was altogether in an absent and preoccupied state.
"Well!" said that good-natured emissary, after a full half-hour ofbootless attempts to bring him round to the question. "I have beento Soho."
"To Soho?" repeated Mr. Stryver, coldly. "Oh, to be sure! What amI thinking of!"
"And I have no doubt," said Mr. Lorry, "that I was right in theconversation we had. My opinion is confirmed, and I reiterate myadvice."
"I assure you," returned Mr. Stryver, in the friendliest way,"that I am sorry for it on your account, and sorry for it on thepoor father's account. I know this must always be a sore subjectwith the family; let us say no more about it."
"I don't understand you," said Mr. Lorry.
"I dare say not," rejoined Stryver, nodding his head in asmoothing and final way; "no matter, no matter."
"But it does matter," Mr. Lorry urged.
"No it doesn't; I assure you it doesn't. Having supposed thatthere was sense where there is no sense, and a laudable ambition wherethere is not a laudable ambition, I am well out of my mistake, andno harm is done. Young women have committed similar follies oftenbefore, and have repented them in poverty and obscurity oftenbefore. In an unselfish aspect, I am sorry that the thing isdropped, because it would have been a bad thing for me in a worldlypoint of view; in a selfish aspect, I am glad that the thing hasdropped, because it would have been a bad thing for me in a worldlypoint of view- it is hardly necessary to say I could have gainednothing by it. There is no harm at all done. I have not proposed tothe young lady, and, between ourselves, I am by no means certain, onreflection, that I ever should have committed myself to that extent.Mr. Lorry, you cannot control the mincing vanities and giddinessesof empty-headed girls; you must not expect to do it, or you willalways be disappointed. Now, pray say no more about it. I tell you,I regret it on account of others, but I am satisfied on my ownaccount. And I am really very much obliged to you for allowing me tosound you, and for giving me your advice; you know the young ladybetter than I do; you were right, it never would have done."
Mr. Lorry was so taken aback, that he looked quite stupidly at Mr.Stryver shouldering him towards the door, with an appearance ofshowering generosity, forbearance, and goodwill, on his erring head."Make the best of it, my dear sir," said Stryver; "say no more aboutit; thank you again for allowing me to sound you; good night!"
Mr. Lorry was out in the night, before he knew where he was. Mr.Stryver was lying back on his sofa, winking at his ceiling.