He says no more until he has performed his task, which he achieves as Messrs. Guppy and Smallweed finish theirs, thus getting over the ground in excellent style and beating those two gentlemen easily by a veal and ham and a cabbage.
"Now, Small," says Mr. Guppy, "what would you recommend about pastry?"
"Marrow puddings," says Mr. Smallweed instantly.
"Aye, aye!" cries Mr. Jobling with an arch look. "You're there, are you? Thank you, Mr. Guppy, I don't know but what I WILL take a marrow pudding."
Three marrow puddings being produced, Mr. Jobling adds in a pleasant humour that he is coming of age fast. To these succeed, by command of Mr. Smallweed, "three Cheshires," and to those "three small rums." This apex of the entertainment happily reached, Mr. Jobling puts up his legs on the carpeted seat (having his own side of the box to himself), leans against the wall, and says, "I am grown up now, Guppy. I have arrived at maturity."
"What do you think, now," says Mr. Guppy, "about — you don't mind Smallweed?"
"Not the least in the worid. I have the pleasure of drinking his good health."
"Sir, to you!" says Mr. Smallweed.
"I was saying, what do you think NOW," pursues Mr. Guppy, "of enlisting?"
"Why, what I may think after dinner," returns Mr. Jobling, "is one thing, my dear Guppy, and what I may think before dinner is another thing. Still, even after dinner, I ask myself the question, What am I to do? How am I to live? Ill fo manger, you know," says Mr. Jobling, pronouncing that word as if he meant a necessary fixture in an English stable. "Ill fo manger. That's the French saying, and mangering is as necessary to me as it is to a Frenchman. Or more so."
Mr. Smallweed is decidedly of opinion "much more so."
"If any man had told me," pursues Jobling, "even so lately as when you and I had the frisk down in Lincolnshire, Guppy, and drove over to see that house at Castle Wold — "
Mr. Smallweed corrects him — Chesney Wold.
"Chesney Wold. (I thank my honourable friend for that cheer.) If any man had told me then that I should be as hard up at the present time as I literally find myself, I should have — well, I should have pitched into him," says Mr. Jobling, taking a little rum-and-water with an air of desperate resignation; "I should have let fly at his head."
"Still, Tony, you were on the wrong side of the post then," remonstrates Mr. Guppy. "You were talking about nothing else in the gig."
"Guppy," says Mr. Jobling, "I will not deny it. I was on the wrong side of the post. But I trusted to things coming round."
That very popular trust in flat things coming round! Not in their being beaten round, or worked round, but in their "coming" round! As though a lunatic should trust in the world's "coming" triangular!
"I had confident expectations that things would come round and be all square," says Mr. Jobling with some vagueness of expression and perhaps of meaning too. "But I was disappointed. They never did. And when it came to creditors making rows at the office and to people that the office dealt with making complaints about dirty trifles of borrowed money, why there was an end of that connexion. And of any new professional connexion too, for if I was to give a reference to-morrow, it would be mentioned and would sew me up. Then what's a fellow to do? I have been keeping out of the way and living cheap down about the market-gardens, but what's the use of living cheap when you have got no money? You might as well live dear."
"Better," Mr. Smallweed thinks.
"Certainly. It's the fashionable way; and fashion and whiskers have been my weaknesses, and I don't care who knows it," says Mr. Jobling. "They are great weaknesses — Damme, sir, they are great. Well," proceeds Mr. Jobling after a defiant visit to his rum-and- water, "what can a fellow do, I ask you, BUT enlist?"
Mr. Guppy comes more fully into the conversation to state what, in his opinion, a fellow can do. His manner is the gravely impressive manner of a man who has not committed himself in life otherwise than as he has become the victim of a tender sorrow of the heart.
"Jobling," says Mr. Guppy, "myself and our mutual friend Smallweed — "
Mr. Smallweed modestly observes, "Gentlemen both!" and drinks.
" — Have had a little conversation on this matter more than once since you — "
"Say, got the sack!" cries Mr. Jobling bitterly. "Say it, Guppy. You mean it."
"No-o-o! Left the Inn," Mr. Smallweed delicately suggests.
"Since you left the Inn, Jobling," says Mr. Guppy; "and I have mentioned to our mutual friend Smallweed a plan I have lately thought of proposing. You know Snagsby the stationer?"
"I know there is such a stationer," returns Mr. Jobling. "He was not ours, and I am not acquainted with him."
"He IS ours, Jobling, and I AM acquainted with him," Mr. Guppy retorts. "Well, sir! I have lately become better acquainted with him through some accidental circumstances that have made me a visitor of his in private life. Those circumstances it is not necessary to offer in argument. They may — or they may not — have some reference to a subject which may — or may not — have cast its shadow on my existence."
As it is Mr. Guppy's perplexing way with boastful misery to tempt his particular friends into this subject, and the moment they touch it, to turn on them with that trenchant severity about the chords in the human mind, both Mr. Jobling and Mr. Smallweed decline the pitfall by remaining silent.
"Such things may be," repeats Mr. Guppy, "or they may not be. They are no part of the case. It is enough to mention that both Mr. and Mrs. Snagsby are very willing to oblige me and that Snagsby has, in busy times, a good deal of copying work to give out. He has all Tulkinghorn's, and an excellent business besides. I believe if our mutual friend Smallweed were put into the box, he could prove this?"
Mr. Smallweed nods and appears greedy to be sworn.
"Now, gentlemen of the jury," says Mr. Guppy, " — I mean, now, Jobling — you may say this is a poor prospect of a living. Granted. But it's better than nothing, and better than enlistment. You want time. There must be time for these late affairs to blow over. You might live through it on much worse terms than by writing for Snagsby."
Mr. Jobling is about to interrupt when the sagacious Smallweed checks him with a dry cough and the words, "Hem! Shakspeare!"
"There are two branches to this subject, Jobling," says Mr. Guppy. "That is the first. I come to the second. You know Krook, the Chancellor, across the lane. Come, Jobling," says Mr. Guppy in his encouraging cross-examination-tone, "I think you know Krook, the Chancellor, across the lane?"
"I know him by sight," says Mr. Jobling.
"You know him by sight. Very well. And you know little Flite?"
"Everybody knows her," says Mr. Jobling.