20. A New Lodger
The long vacation saunters on towards term-time like an idle river very leisurely strolling
down a flat country to the sea. Mr. Guppy saunters along with it congenially. He has
blunted the blade of his penknife and broken the point off by sticking that instrument into
his desk in every direction. Not that he bears the desk any ill will, but he must do
something, and it must be something of an unexciting nature, which will lay neither his
physical nor his intellectual energies under too heavy contribution. He finds that nothing
agrees with him so well as to make little gyrations on one leg of his stool, and stab his
desk, and gape.
Kenge and Carboy are out of town, and the articled clerk has taken out a shooting
license and gone down to his father's, and Mr. Guppy's two fellow-stipendiaries are
away on leave. Mr. Guppy and Mr. Richard Carstone divide the dignity of the office. But
Mr. Carstone is for the time being established in Kenge's room, whereat Mr. Guppy
chafes. So exceedingly that he with biting sarcasm informs his mother, in the
confidential moments when he sups with her off a lobster and lettuce in the Old Street
Road, that he is afraid the office is hardly good enough for swells, and that if he had
known there was a swell coming, he would have got it painted.
Mr. Guppy suspects everybody who enters on the occupation of a stool in Kenge and
Carboy's office of entertaining, as a matter of course, sinister designs upon him. He is
clear that every such person wants to depose him. If he be ever asked how, why, when,
or wherefore, he shuts up one eye and shakes his head. On the strength of these
profound views, he in the most ingenious manner takes infinite pains to counterplot
when there is no plot, and plays the deepest games of chess without any adversary.
It is a source of much gratification to Mr. Guppy, therefore, to find the new-comer
constantly poring over the papers in Jarndyce and Jarndyce, for he well knows that
nothing but confusion and failure can come of that. His satisfaction communicates itself
to a third saunterer through the long vacation in Kenge and Carboy's office, to wit,
Whether Young Smallweed (metaphorically called Small and eke Chick Weed, as it
were jocularly to express a fledgling) was ever a boy is much doubted in Lincoln's Inn.
He is now something under fifteen and an old limb of the law. He is facetiously
understood to entertain a passion for a lady at a cigar-shop in the neighbourhood of
Chancery Lane and for her sake to have broken off a contract with another lady, to
whom he had been engaged some years. He is a town-made article, of small stature
and weazen features, but may be perceived from a considerable distance by means of
his very tall hat. To become a Guppy is the object of his ambition. He dresses at that
gentleman (by whom he is patronized), talks at him, walks at him, founds himself
entirely on him. He is honoured with Mr. Guppy's particular confidence and occasionally
advises him, from the deep wells of his experience, on difficult points in private life.