BOOK THE SECOND: BIRDS OF A FEATHER
Chapter 5: Mercury Prompting
Fledgeby deserved Mr Alfred Lammle's eulogium. He was the
meanest cur existing, with a single pair of legs. And instinct (a
word we all clearly understand) going largely on four legs, and
reason always on two, meanness on four legs never attains the
perfection of meanness on two.
The father of this young gentleman had been a money-lender, who
had transacted professional business with the mother of this young
gentleman, when he, the latter, was waiting in the vast dark ante-
chambers of the present world to be born. The lady, a widow,
being unable to pay the money-lender, married him; and in due
course, Fledgeby was summoned out of the vast dark ante-
chambers to come and be presented to the Registrar-General.
Rather a curious speculation how Fledgehy would otherwise have
disposed of his leisure until Doomsday.
Fledgeby's mother offended her family by marrying Fledgeby's
father. It is one of the easiest achievements in life to offend your
family when your family want to get rid of you. Fledgeby's
mother's family had been very much offended with her for being
poor, and broke with her for becoming comparatively rich.
Fledgeby's mother's family was the Snigsworth family. She had
even the high honour to be cousin to Lord Snigsworth--so many
times removed that the noble Earl would have had no
compunction in removing her one time more and dropping her
clean outside the cousinly pale; but cousin for all that.
Among her pre-matrimonial transactions with Fledgeby's father,
Fledgeby's mother had raised money of him at a great
disadvantage on a certain reversionary interest. The reversion
falling in soon after they were married, Fledgeby's father laid hold
of the cash for his separate use and benefit. This led to subjective
differences of opinion, not to say objective interchanges of boot-
jacks, backgammon boards, and other such domestic missiles,
between Fledgeby's father and Fledgeby's mother, and those led to
Fledgeby's mother spending as much money as she could, and to
Fledgeby's father doing all he couldn't to restrain her. Fledgeby's
childhood had been, in consequence, a stormy one; but the winds
and the waves had gone down in the grave, and Fledgeby