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Little Dorrit

17.
Nobody's Rival
Before breakfast in the morning, Arthur walked out to look about him. As the
morning was fine and he had an hour on his hands, he crossed the river by the
ferry, and strolled along a footpath through some meadows. When he came back
to the towing-path, he found the ferry-boat on the opposite side, and a gentleman
hailing it and waiting to be taken over.
This gentleman looked barely thirty. He was well dressed, of a sprightly and gay
appearance, a well-knit figure, and a rich dark complexion. As Arthur came over
the stile and down to the water's edge, the lounger glanced at him for a moment,
and then resumed his occupation of idly tossing stones into the water with his
foot. There was something in his way of spurning them out of their places with his
heel, and getting them into the required position, that Clennam thought had an air
of cruelty in it. Most of us have more or less frequently derived a similar
impression from a man's manner of doing some very little thing: plucking a
flower, clearing away an obstacle, or even destroying an insentient object.
The gentleman's thoughts were preoccupied, as his face showed, and he took no
notice of a fine Newfoundland dog, who watched him attentively, and watched
every stone too, in its turn, eager to spring into the river on receiving his master's
sign. The ferry- boat came over, however, without his receiving any sign, and
when it grounded his master took him by the collar and walked him into it.
'Not this morning,' he said to the dog. 'You won't do for ladies' company, dripping
wet. Lie down.'
Clennam followed the man and the dog into the boat, and took his seat. The dog
did as he was ordered. The man remained standing, with his hands in his
pockets, and towered between Clennam and the prospect. Man and dog both
jumped lightly out as soon as they touched the other side, and went away.
Clennam was glad to be rid of them.
The church clock struck the breakfast hour as he walked up the little lane by
which the garden-gate was approached. The moment he pulled the bell a deep
loud barking assailed him from within the wall.
'I heard no dog last night,' thought Clennam. The gate was opened by one of the
rosy maids, and on the lawn were the Newfoundland dog and the man.
'Miss Minnie is not down yet, gentlemen,' said the blushing portress, as they all
came together in the garden. Then she said to the master of the dog, 'Mr
Clennam, sir,' and tripped away.
'Odd enough, Mr Clennam, that we should have met just now,' said the man.
Upon which the dog became mute. 'Allow me to introduce myself--Henry Gowan.
A pretty place this, and looks wonderfully well this morning!'
The manner was easy, and the voice agreeable; but still Clennam thought, that if
he had not made that decided resolution to avoid falling in love with Pet, he
would have taken a dislike to this Henry Gowan.
'It's new to you, I believe?' said this Gowan, when Arthur had extolled the place.
'Quite new. I made acquaintance with it only yesterday afternoon.'
 
 
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