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Whoa, whiplash. Guess we'll find out about Pancks and the Dorrit revelation later.
Mrs. Gowan goes to visit her dear friend Mrs. Merdle. And by that, we mean that Mrs. Merdle is the most popular girl at school... ahem, in society... and Mrs. Gowan wants to be cool by association.
Also, Mrs. Gowan wants to complete her neat trick of making it seem like she has always opposed her son Henry Gowan's marriage to Pet Meagles and that he is only marrying Pet because the Meagleses have somehow entrapped him.
Both Mrs. Gowan and Mrs. Merdle know that in reality, Mrs. Gowan wants Gowan to marry Pet because of her money, and that all of this is just a way to save face.
Still, Mrs. Merdle plays along, says that Mrs. Gowan couldn't really do anything about her son, and that society will understand, since the Meagleses are rich.
Good work, ladies. You have successfully completed your public relations training.
Mrs. Gowan is psyched that everything has gone off as planned and leaves.
Merdle comes home from work and his wife starts in on him.
Basically the gist of Mrs. Merdle's complaint is this: Merdle doesn't leave his business at the office. Instead of seeming cool and disengaged and carefree, he is constantly looking worried and like he is thinking about something.
This is way uncool, and society is not into it.
Merdle tries to defend himself by saying that with the amount of money he spends on society, society should just take his mood and stuff it.
But this doesn't fly with Mrs. Merdle, who illustrates Merdle's very high level of uncoolness by demonstrating that even Edmund Sparkler, her blithering idiot of a son (the one who proposed to Fanny), has heard people say that "the Shop sits heavily on [Merdle's] back rather – like Jew clothesman with too much business" (1.33.88).
OK, deep breath and let's just set the horrendous casual racism aside for a second. The point is that if even Edmund Sparkler has heard this, it must be all anyone talks about.