Our Mutual Friend
10. A Marriage Contract
There is excitement in the Veneering mansion. The mature young lady is going to
be married (powder and all) to the mature young gentleman, and she is to be
married from the Veneering house, and the Veneerings are to give the breakfast.
The Analytical, who objects as a matter of principle to everything that occurs on
the premises, necessarily objects to the match; but his consent has been
dispensed with, and a spring-van is delivering its load of greenhouse plants at
the door, in order that to-morrow's feast may be crowned with flowers.
The mature young lady is a lady of property. The mature young gentleman is a
gentleman of property. He invests his property. He goes, in a condescending
amateurish way, into the City, attends meetings of Directors, and has to do with
traffic in Shares. As is well known to the wise in their generation, traffic in Shares
is the one thing to have to do with in this world. Have no antecedents, no
established character, no cultivation, no ideas, no manners; have Shares. Have
Shares enough to be on Boards of Direction in capital letters, oscillate on
mysterious business between London and Paris, and be great. Where does he
come from? Shares. Where is he going to? Shares. What are his tastes? Shares.
Has he any principles? Shares. What squeezes him into Parliament? Shares.
Perhaps he never of himself achieved success in anything, never originated
anything, never produced anything? Sufficient answer to all; Shares. O mighty
Shares! To set those blaring images so high, and to cause us smaller vermin, as
under the influence of henbane or opium, to cry out, night and day, 'Relieve us of
our money, scatter it for us, buy us and sell us, ruin us, only we beseech ye take
rank among the powers of the earth, and fatten on us'!
While the Loves and Graces have been preparing this torch for Hymen, which is
to be kindled to-morrow, Mr Twemlow has suffered much in his mind. It would
seem that both the mature young lady and the mature young gentleman must
indubitably be Veneering's oldest friends. Wards of his, perhaps? Yet that can
scarcely be, for they are older than himself. Veneering has been in their
confidence throughout, and has done much to lure them to the altar. He has
mentioned to Twemlow how he said to Mrs Veneering, 'Anastatia, this must be a
match.' He has mentioned to Twemlow how he regards Sophronia Akershem (the
mature young lady) in the light of a sister, and Alfred Lammle (the mature young
gentleman) in the light of a brother. Twemlow has asked him whether he went to
school as a junior with Alfred? He has answered, 'Not exactly.' Whether
Sophronia was adopted by his mother? He has answered, 'Not precisely so.'
Twemlow's hand has gone to his forehead with a lost air.
But, two or three weeks ago, Twemlow, sitting over his newspaper, and over his
dry-toast and weak tea, and over the stable-yard in Duke Street, St James's,