No, but really! Our place is, said the easy young Barnacle, the most inoffensive place possible. Youll say we are a humbug. I wont say we are not; but all that sort of thing is intended to be, and must be. Dont you see?
I do not, said Clennam.
You dont regard it from the right point of view. It is the point of view that is the essential thing. Regard our place from the point of view that we only ask you to leave us alone, and we are as capital a Department as youll find anywhere.
Is your place there to be left alone? asked Clennam.
You exactly hit it, returned Ferdinand. It is there with the express intention that everything shall be left alone. That is what it means. That is what its for. No doubt theres a certain form to be kept up that its for something else, but its only a form. Why, good Heaven, we are nothing but forms! Think what a lot of our forms you have gone through. And you have never got any nearer to an end?
Never, said Clennam.
Look at it from the right point of view, and there you have us official and effectual. Its like a limited game of cricket. A field of outsiders are always going in to bowl at the Public Service, and we block the balls.
Clennam asked what became of the bowlers? The airy young Barnacle replied that they grew tired, got dead beat, got lamed, got their backs broken, died off, gave it up, went in for other games.
And this occasions me to congratulate myself again, he pursued, on the circumstance that our place has had nothing to do with your temporary retirement. It very easily might have had a hand in it; because it is undeniable that we are sometimes a most unlucky place, in our effects upon people who will not leave us alone. Mr Clennam, I am quite unreserved with you. As between yourself and myself, I know I may be. I was so, when I first saw you making the mistake of not leaving us alone; because I perceived that you were inexperienced and sanguine, and hadI hope youll not object to my sayingsome simplicity.
Not at all.
Some simplicity. Therefore I felt what a pity it was, and I went out of my way to hint to you (which really was not official, but I never am official when I can help it) something to the effect that if I were you, I wouldnt bother myself. However, you did bother yourself, and you have since bothered yourself. Now, dont do it any more.
I am not likely to have the opportunity, said Clennam.
Oh yes, you are! Youll leave here. Everybody leaves here. There are no ends of ways of leaving here. Now, dont come back to us. That entreaty is the second object of my call. Pray, dont come back to us. Upon my honour, said Ferdinand in a very friendly and confiding way, I shall be greatly vexed if you dont take warning by the past and keep away from us.
And the invention? said Clennam.
My good fellow, returned Ferdinand, if youll excuse the freedom of that form of address, nobody wants to know of the invention, and nobody cares twopence-halfpenny about it.
Nobody in the Office, that is to say?
Nor out of it. Everybody is ready to dislike and ridicule any invention. You have no idea how many people want to be left alone.
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