The wedding of Henry Gowan and Minnie Meagles has a fixed date. A large amount of Barnacles plan to attend the affair, but not all of them. They are too numerous to be contained in a building. Also, being public servants, they are dispersed all over the world.
Mrs. Gowan confers with Mr. Meagles frequently to discuss additions to the guest list and her son’s debts.
Arthur plans to attend, despite not wanting to. He feels obligated by his promise to Pet. Daniel Doyce begs to be excluded, not thinking it wise to be in the room with a bunch of Barnacles when he currently has a problem with them.
Arthur sets out to befriend Henry Gowan. Henry tells him that he is a disappointed man, having willfully chosen a field that reduced him to poverty rather than one that would have caused him to be provided for by his family. Arthur points out that he was fortunate to win Minnie’s heart, and Henry agrees—adding he also has a liberal father-in-law. However, he is not bitterly disappointed in his life, and he likes showing his family that he can do without them. However, he doubts he will succeed much in his profession, not really willing to give it his all. He only cares about Art to make money. Arthur’s view of Gowan does not improve with this conversation.
Mr. Meagles acts proud and happy in front of the couple, but he falls into fits of gloom when they are not present. Pet would sometimes weep as she handled mementoes from the family’s travels. Mrs. Meagles also acts happy and reserves her crying for when she is in a store room.
The wedding day arrives. Most of the Circumlocution Office Barnacles attend, including Lord Decimus Tite Barnacle. One of them conducts the ceremony.
Mr. Meagles is not quite himself. Mrs. Gowan makes it clear, without saying it, that the Barnacles condescended to let Henry marry Minnie. Henry makes it clear he doesn’t need the Barnacles but hopes they will buy his pictures.
One of the Barnacles points out Arthur to his relatives, claiming he was the one who “wanted to know” and didn’t even have an appointment when he barged in.
After Henry and Minnie leave, the Barnacles depart. Mr. Meagles comments on the esteemed company they had, but the house’s occupants have fallen into a state of depression.