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Summary Chapter 17

Arthur ventures out the next morning, taking the ferry across the river. While waiting for it to take the return trip, he sees a gentleman waiting at the stop. He takes a dislike to him, thinking he looks cruel despite his genteel appearance. The man has a dog with him.

Arthur sees the man again at the Mealges’ house. He introduces himself as Henry Gowan. Arthur’s dislike of him increases. When Pet comes down, she looks very pleased to see Mr. Gowan. Arthur can see that the Meagles look uneasy.

Mr. Gowan tells Mr. Meagles that Clarence Barnacle will be joining them for dinner. Mr. Meagles is trying to figure out how this Barnacle is related to Lord Decimus. This is established.

Mr. Gowan admits that most of his friends are either asses or knaves, but they have other qualities that make them worth knowing.

Arthur notices that the Meagles seem to become more perturbed as the meal progresses. He notices that Pet is aware of her parents’ distress and is trying to be even more kinder and loving to them.

Gowan claims that he is an artist. Doyce tells Arthur that Gowan visits every Sunday. He is distantly related to the Barnacles. The family had tried to help him succeed as an artist, but the public was not impressed.

Clarence Barnacle informs Mr. Gowan that Arthur is a radical. He wanted information, and he persisted in bugging everyone to get it.

The dinner is dreadful. Mr. Barnacle is totally unnerved by Arthur’s presence. Mr. Meagles, though, enjoys his company—apparently impressed by the prestige of his family.

Doyce reveals to Arthur later that Mr. Meagles has taken Pet abroad twice hoping to make her forget about Mr. Gowan. It hasn’t been successful. There is no engagement between them, though Mr. Gowan has applied for it from Mr. Meagles. The only thing Mr. Meagles allows is Mr. Gowan to visit every Sunday.

Arthur Clennam is miserable, even though he convinced himself he does not love Pet.

Charles Dickens