‘Yes, yes, I know. I have the good fortune of being beloved by a beautiful and charming girl whom I love with all my heart.’ (’Is there much of it?’ Clennam thought. And as he thought it, felt ashamed of himself.)

‘And of finding a father-in-law who is a capital fellow and a liberal good old boy. Still, I had other prospects washed and combed into my childish head when it was washed and combed for me, and I took them to a public school when I washed and combed it for myself, and I am here without them, and thus I am a disappointed man.’

Clennam thought (and as he thought it, again felt ashamed of himself), was this notion of being disappointed in life, an assertion of station which the bridegroom brought into the family as his property, having already carried it detrimentally into his pursuit? And was it a hopeful or a promising thing anywhere?

‘Not bitterly disappointed, I think,’ he said aloud. ‘Hang it, no; not bitterly,’ laughed Gowan. ‘My people are not worth that—though they are charming fellows, and I have the greatest affection for them. Besides, it’s pleasant to show them that I can do without them, and that they may all go to the Devil. And besides, again, most men are disappointed in life, somehow or other, and influenced by their disappointment. But it’s a dear good world, and I love it!’

‘It lies fair before you now,’ said Arthur.

‘Fair as this summer river,’ cried the other, with enthusiasm, ‘and by Jove I glow with admiration of it, and with ardour to run a race in it. It’s the best of old worlds! And my calling! The best of old callings, isn’t it?’

‘Full of interest and ambition, I conceive,’ said Clennam.

‘And imposition,’ added Gowan, laughing; ‘we won’t leave out the imposition. I hope I may not break down in that; but there, my being a disappointed man may show itself. I may not be able to face it out gravely enough. Between you and me, I think there is some danger of my being just enough soured not to be able to do that.’

‘To do what?’ asked Clennam.

‘To keep it up. To help myself in my turn, as the man before me helps himself in his, and pass the bottle of smoke. To keep up the pretence as to labour, and study, and patience, and being devoted to my art, and giving up many solitary days to it, and abandoning many pleasures for it, and living in it, and all the rest of it—in short, to pass the bottle of smoke according to rule.’

‘But it is well for a man to respect his own vocation, whatever it is; and to think himself bound to uphold it, and to claim for it the respect it deserves; is it not?’ Arthur reasoned. ‘And your vocation, Gowan, may really demand this suit and service. I confess I should have thought that all Art did.’

‘What a good fellow you are, Clennam!’ exclaimed the other, stopping to look at him, as if with irrepressible admiration. ‘What a capital fellow! You have never been disappointed. That’s easy to see.’

It would have been so cruel if he had meant it, that Clennam firmly resolved to believe he did not mean it. Gowan, without pausing, laid his hand upon his shoulder, and laughingly and lightly went on:

‘Clennam, I don’t like to dispel your generous visions, and I would give any money (if I had any), to live in such a rose-coloured mist. But what I do in my trade, I do to sell. What all we fellows do, we do to sell. If we didn’t want to sell it for the most we can get for it, we shouldn’t do it. Being work, it has to be done; but it’s easily enough done. All the rest is hocus-pocus.

Now here’s one of the advantages, or disadvantages, of knowing a disappointed man. You hear the truth.’

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