FLEDGEBY deserved Mr Alfred Lammles eulogium. He was the meanest cur existing, with a single pair of legs. And instinct (a word we all clearly understand) going largely on four legs, and reason always on two, meanness on four legs never attains the perfection of meanness on two.
The father of this young gentleman had been a money-lender, who had transacted professional business with the mother of this young gentleman, when he, the latter, was waiting in the vast dark ante-chambers of the present world to be born. The lady, a widow, being unable to pay the money-lender, married him; and in due course, Fledgeby was summoned out of the vast dark ante-chambers to come and be presented to the Registrar-General. Rather a curious speculation how Fledgehy would otherwise have disposed of his leisure until Doomsday.
Fledgebys mother offended her family by marrying Fledgebys father. It is one of the easiest achievements in life to offend your family when your family want to get rid of you. Fledgebys mothers family had been very much offended with her for being poor, and broke with her for becoming comparatively rich. Fledgebys mothers family was the Snigsworth family. She had even the high honour to be cousin to Lord Snigsworth so many times removed that the noble Earl would have had no compunction in removing her one time more and dropping her clean outside the cousinly pale; but cousin for all that.
Among her pre-matrimonial transactions with Fledgebys father, Fledgebys mother had raised money of him at a great disadvantage on a certain reversionary interest. The reversion falling in soon after they were married, Fledgebys father laid hold of the cash for his separate use and benefit. This led to subjective differences of opinion, not to say objective interchanges of boot-jacks, backgammon boards, and other such domestic missiles, between Fledgebys father and Fledgebys mother, and those led to Fledgebys mother spending as much money as she could, and to Fledgebys father doing all he couldnt to restrain her. Fledgebys childhood had been, in consequence, a stormy one; but the winds and the waves had gone down in the grave, and Fledgeby flourished alone.
He lived in chambers in the Albany, did Fledgeby, and maintained a spruce appearance. But his youthful fire was all composed of sparks from the grindstone; and as the sparks flew off, went out, and never warmed anything, be sure that Fledgeby had his tools at the grindstone, and turned it with a wary eye.
Mr Alfred Lammle came round to the Albany to breakfast with Fledgeby. Present on the table, one scanty pot of tea, one scanty loaf, two scanty pats of butter, two scanty rashers of bacon, two pitiful eggs, and an abundance of handsome china bought a second-hand bargain.
What did you think of Georgiana? asked Mr Lammle.
Why, Ill tell you, said Fledgeby, very deliberately.
Do, my boy.
You misunderstand me, said Fledgeby. I dont mean Ill tell you that. I mean Ill tell you something else.
Tell me anything, old fellow!
Ah, but there you misunderstand me again, said Fledgeby. I mean Ill tell you nothing.
Mr Lammle sparkled at him, but frowned at him too.
Look here, said Fledgeby. Youre deep and youre ready. Whether I am deep or not, never mind. I am not ready. But I can do one thing, Lammle, I can hold my tongue. And I intend always doing it.
You are a long-headed fellow, Fledgeby.
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