Our Mutual Friend HTML version

2. The Man From Somewhere
Mr and Mrs Veneering were bran-new people in a bran-new house in a bran-new
quarter of London. Everything about the Veneerings was spick and span new. All
their furniture was new, all their friends were new, all their servants were new,
their plate was new, their carriage was new, their harness was new, their horses
were new, their pictures were new, they themselves were new, they were as
newly married as was lawfully compatible with their having a bran-new baby, and
if they had set up a great-grandfather, he would have come home in matting from
the Pantechnicon, without a scratch upon him, French polished to the crown of
his head.
For, in the Veneering establishment, from the hall-chairs with the new coat of
arms, to the grand pianoforte with the new action, and upstairs again to the new
fire-escape, all things were in a state of high varnish and polish. And what was
observable in the furniture, was observable in the Veneerings--the surface smelt
a little too much of the workshop and was a trifle sticky.
There was an innocent piece of dinner-furniture that went upon easy castors and
was kept over a livery stable-yard in Duke Street, Saint James's, when not in
use, to whom the Veneerings were a source of blind confusion. The name of this
article was Twemlow. Being first cousin to Lord Snigsworth, he was in frequent
requisition, and at many houses might be said to represent the dining-table in its
normal state. Mr and Mrs Veneering, for example, arranging a dinner, habitually
started with Twemlow, and then put leaves in him, or added guests to him.
Sometimes, the table consisted of Twemlow and half a dozen leaves;
sometimes, of Twemlow and a dozen leaves; sometimes, Twemlow was pulled
out to his utmost extent of twenty leaves. Mr and Mrs Veneering on occasions of
ceremony faced each other in the centre of the board, and thus the parallel still
held; for, it always happened that the more Twemlow was pulled out, the further
he found himself from the center, and nearer to the sideboard at one end of the
room, or the window-curtains at the other.
But, it was not this which steeped the feeble soul of Twemlow in confusion. This
he was used to,and could take soundings of. The abyss to which he could find no
bottom, and from which started forth the engrossing and ever-swelling difficulty of
his life, was the insoluble question whether he was Veneering's oldest friend, or
newest friend. To the excogitation of this problem, the harmless gentleman had
devoted many anxious hours, both in his lodgings over the livery stable-yard, and
in the cold gloom, favourable to meditation, of Saint James's Square. Thus.
Twemlow had first known Veneering at his club, where Veneering then knew
nobody but the man who made them known to one another, who seemed to be
the most intimate friend he had in the world, and whom he had known two days--