Part 12 out of 21
That sentinel, smartly giving his rolled shirt-sleeves an extra and a
final tuck on his shoulders, obeyed.
Sound of advancing voices, sound of advancing steps. Shuffle and
talk without. Momentary pause. Two peculiarly blunt knocks or
pokes at the door, as if the dead man arriving on his back were
striking at it with the soles of his motionless feet.
'That's the stretcher, or the shutter, whichever of the two they are
carrying,' said Miss Abbey, with experienced ear. 'Open, you Bob!'
Door opened. Heavy tread of laden men. A halt. A rush.
Stoppage of rush. Door shut. Baffled boots from the vexed souls
of disappointed outsiders.
'Come on, men!' said Miss Abbey; for so potent was she with her
subjects that even then the bearers awaited her permission. 'First
The entry being low, and the staircase being low, they so took up
the burden they had set down, as to carry that low. The recumbent
figure, in passing, lay hardly as high as the half door.
Miss Abbey started back at sight of it. 'Why, good God!' said she,
turning to her two companions, 'that's the very man who made the
declaration we have just had in our hands. That's Riderhood!'
THE SAME RESPECTED FRIEND IN MORE ASPECTS THAN ONE
In sooth, it is Riderhood and no other, or it is the outer husk and
shell of Riderhood and no other, that is borne into Miss Abbey's
first-floor bedroom. Supple to twist and turn as the Rogue has ever
been, he is sufficiently rigid now; and not without much shuffling
of attendant feet, and tilting of his bier this way and that way, and
peril even of his sliding off it and being tumbled in a heap over the
balustrades, can he be got up stairs.
'Fetch a doctor,' quoth Miss Abbey. And then, 'Fetch his daughter.'
On both of which errands, quick messengers depart.
The doctor-seeking messenger meets the doctor halfway, coming
under convoy of police. Doctor examines the dank carcase, and
pronounces, not hopefully, that it is worth while trying to
reanimate the same. All the best means are at once in action, and
everybody present lends a hand, and a heart and soul. No one has
the least regard for the man; with them all, he has been an object of
avoidance, suspicion, and aversion; but the spark of life within him
is curiously separable from himself now, and they have a deep
interest in it, probably because it IS life, and they are living and
In answer to the doctor's inquiry how did it happen, and was
anyone to blame, Tom Tootle gives in his verdict, unavoidable
accident and no one to blame but the sufferer. 'He was slinking
about in his boat,' says Tom, 'which slinking were, not to speak ill
of the dead, the manner of the man, when he come right athwart
the steamer's bows and she cut him in two.' Mr Tootle is so far
figurative, touching the dismemberment, as that he means the boat,
and not the man. For, the man lies whole before them.
Captain Joey, the bottle-nosed regular customer in the glazed hat,
is a pupil of the much-respected old school, and (having insinuated
himself into the chamber, in the execution of the impontant service
of carrying the drowned man's neck-kerchief) favours the doctor
with a sagacious old-scholastic suggestion that the body should be
hung up by the heels, 'sim'lar', says Captain Joey, 'to mutton in a
butcher's shop,' and should then, as a particularly choice
manoeuvre for promoting easy respiration, be rolled upon casks.
These scraps of the wisdom of the captain's ancestors are received
with such speechless indignation by Miss Abbey, that she instantly
seizes the Captain by the collar, and without a single word ejects
him, not presuming to remonstrate, from the scene.
There then remain, to assist the doctor and Tom, only those three
other regular customers, Bob Glamour, William Williams, and
Jonathan (family name of the latter, if any, unknown to man-kind),
who are quite enough. Miss Abbey having looked in to make sure
that nothing is wanted, descends to the bar, and there awaits the
result, with the gentle Jew and Miss Jenny Wren.
If you are not gone for good, Mr Riderhood, it would be something
to know where you are hiding at present. This flabby lump of
mortality that we work so hard at with such patient perseverance,
yields no sign of you. If you are gone for good, Rogue, it is very
solemn, and if you are coming back, it is hardly less so. Nay, in
the suspense and mystery of the latter question, involving that of
where you may be now, there is a solemnity even added to that of
death, making us who are in attendance alike afraid to look on you
and to look off you, and making those below start at the least
sound of a creaking plank in the floor.
Stay! Did that eyelid tremble? So the doctor, breathing low, and
closely watching, asks himself.
Did that nostril twitch?
This artificial respiration ceasing, do I feel any faint flutter under
my hand upon the chest?
Over and over again No. No. But try over and over again,
See! A token of life! An indubitable token of life! The spark may
smoulder and go out, or it may glow and expand, but see! The four
rough fellows, seeing, shed tears. Neither Riderhood in this world,
nor Riderhood in the other, could draw tears from them; but a
striving human soul between the two can do it easily.
He is struggling to come back. Now, he is almost here, now he is
far away again. Now he is struggling harder to get back. And yet-
-like us all, when we swoon--like us all, every day of our lives
when we wake--he is instinctively unwilling to be restored to the
consciousness of this existence, and would be left dormant, if he
Bob Gliddery returns with Pleasant Riderhood, who was out when
sought for, and hard to find. She has a shawl over her head, and
her first action, when she takes it off weeping, and curtseys to Miss
Abbey, is to wind her hair up.
'Thank you, Miss Abbey, for having father here.'
'I am bound to say, girl, I didn't know who it was,' returns Miss
Abbey; 'but I hope it would have been pretty much the same if I
Poor Pleasant, fortified with a sip of brandy, is ushered into the
first-floor chamber. She could not express much sentiment about
her father if she were called upon to pronounce his funeral oration,
but she has a greater tenderness for him than he ever had for her,
and crying bitterly when she sees him stretched unconscious, asks
the doctor, with clasped hands: 'Is there no hope, sir? O poor
father! Is poor father dead?'
To which the doctor, on one knee beside the body, busy and
watchful, only rejoins without looking round: 'Now, my girl, unless
you have the self-command to be perfectly quiet, I cannot allow
you to remain in the room.'
Pleasant, consequently, wipes her eyes with her back-hair, which is
in fresh need of being wound up, and having got it out of the way,
watches with terrified interest all that goes on. Her natural
woman's aptitude soon renders her able to give a little help.
Anticipating the doctor's want of this or that, she quietly has it
ready for him, and so by degrees is intrusted with the charge of
supporting her father's head upon her arm.
It is something so new to Pleasant to see her father an object of
sympathy and interest, to find any one very willing to tolerate his
society in this world, not to say pressingly and soothingly
entreating him to belong to it, that it gives her a sensation she
never experienced before. Some hazy idea that if affairs could
remain thus for a long time it would be a respectable change, floats
in her mind. Also some vague idea that the old evil is drowned out
of him, and that if he should happily come back to resume his
occupation of the empty form that lies upon the bed, his spirit will
be altered. In which state of mind she kisses the stony lips, and
quite believes that the impassive hand she chafes will revive a
tender hand, if it revive ever.
Sweet delusion for Pleasant Riderhood. But they minister to him
with such extraordinary interest, their anxiety is so keen, their
vigilance is so great, their excited joy grows so intense as the signs
of life strengthen, that how can she resist it, poor thing! And now
he begins to breathe naturally, and he stirs, and the doctor declares
him to have come back from that inexplicable journey where he
stopped on the dark road, and to be here.
Tom Tootle, who is nearest to the doctor when he says this, grasps
the doctor fervently by the hand. Bob Glamour, William Williams,
and Jonathan of the no surname, all shake hands with one another
round, and with the doctor too. Bob Glamour blows his nose, and
Jonathan of the no surname is moved to do likewise, but lacking a
pocket handkerchief abandons that outlet for his emotion. Pleasant
sheds tears deserving her own name, and her sweet delusion is at
There is intelligence in his eyes. He wants to ask a question. He
wonders where he is. Tell him.
'Father, you were run down on the river, and are at Miss Abbey
He stares at his daughter, stares all around him, closes his eyes,
and lies slumbering on her arm.
The short-lived delusion begins to fade. The low, bad,
unimpressible face is coming up from the depths of the river, or
what other depths, to the surface again. As he grows warm, the
doctor and the four men cool. As his lineaments soften with life,
their faces and their hearts harden to him.
'He will do now,' says the doctor, washing his hands, and looking
at the patient with growing disfavour.
'Many a better man,' moralizes Tom Tootle with a gloomy shake of
the head, 'ain't had his luck.'
'It's to be hoped he'll make a better use of his life,' says Bob
Glamour, 'than I expect he will.'
'Or than he done afore,' adds William Williams.
'But no, not he!' says Jonathan of the no surname, clinching the
They speak in a low tone because of his daughter, but she sees that
they have all drawn off, and that they stand in a group at the other
end of the room, shunning him. It would be too much to suspect
them of being sorry that he didn't die when he had done so much
towards it, but they clearly wish that they had had a better subject
to bestow their pains on. Intelligence is conveyed to Miss Abbey
in the bar, who reappears on the scene, and contemplates from a
distance, holding whispered discourse with the doctor. The spark
of life was deeply interesting while it was in abeyance, but now
that it has got established in Mr Riderhood, there appears to be a
general desire that circumstances had admitted of its being
developed in anybody else, rather than that gentleman.
'However,' says Miss Abbey, cheering them up, 'you have done
your duty like good and true men, and you had better come down
and take something at the expense of the Porters.'
This they all do, leaving the daughter watching the father. To
whom, in their absence, Bob Gliddery presents himself.
'His gills looks rum; don't they?' says Bob, after inspecting the
Pleasant faintly nods.
'His gills'll look rummer when he wakes; won't they?' says Bob.
Pleasant hopes not. Why?
'When he finds himself here, you know,' Bob explains. 'Cause
Miss Abbey forbid him the house and ordered him out of it. But
what you may call the Fates ordered him into it again. Which is
rumness; ain't it?'
'He wouldn't have come here of his own accord,' returns poor
Pleasant, with an effort at a little pride.
'No,' retorts Bob. 'Nor he wouldn't have been let in, if he had.'
The short delusion is quite dispelled now. As plainly as she sees
on her arm the old father, unimproved, Pleasant sees that
everybody there will cut him when he recovers consciousness. 'I'll
take him away ever so soon as I can,' thinks Pleasant with a sigh;
'he's best at home.'
Presently they all return, and wait for him to become conscious that
they will all be glad to get rid of him. Some clothes are got
together for him to wear, his own being saturated with water, and
his present dress being composed of blankets.
Becoming more and more uncomfortable, as though the prevalent
dislike were finding him out somewhere in his sleep and
expressing itself to him, the patient at last opens his eyes wide, and
is assisted by his daughter to sit up in bed.
'Well, Riderhood,' says the doctor, 'how do you feel?'
He replies gruffly, 'Nothing to boast on.' Having, in fact, returned
to life in an uncommonly sulky state.
'I don't mean to preach; but I hope,' says the doctor, gravely
shaking his head, 'that this escape may have a good effect upon
The patient's discontented growl of a reply is not intelligible; his
daughter, however, could interpret, if she would, that what he says
is, he 'don't want no Poll-Parroting'.
Mr Riderhood next demands his shirt; and draws it on over his
head (with his daughter's help) exactly as if he had just had a
'Warn't it a steamer?' he pauses to ask her.
'I'll have the law on her, bust her! and make her pay for it.'
He then buttons his linen very moodily, twice or thrice stopping to
examine his arms and hands, as if to see what punishment he has
received in the Fight. He then doggedly demands his other
garments, and slowly gets them on, with an appearance of great
malevolence towards his late opponent and all the spectators. He
has an impression that his nose is bleeding, and several times
draws the back of his hand across it, and looks for the result, in a
pugilistic manner, greatly strengthening that incongruous
'Where's my fur cap?' he asks in a surly voice, when he has
shuffled his clothes on.
'In the river,' somebody rejoins.
'And warn't there no honest man to pick it up? O' course there was
though, and to cut off with it arterwards. You are a rare lot, all on
Thus, Mr Riderhood: taking from the hands of his daughter, with
special ill-will, a lent cap, and grumbling as he pulls it down over
his ears. Then, getting on his unsteady legs, leaning heavily upon
her, and growling, 'Hold still, can't you? What! You must be a
staggering next, must you?' he takes his departure out of the ring in
which he has had that little turn-up with Death.
A HAPPY RETURN OF THE DAY
Mr and Mrs Wilfer had seen a full quarter of a hundred more
anniversaries of their wedding day than Mr and Mrs Lammle had
seen of theirs, but they still celebrated the occasion in the bosom of
their family. Not that these celebrations ever resulted in anything
particularly agreeable, or that the family was ever disappointed by
that circumstance on account of having looked forward to the
return of the auspicious day with sanguine anticipations of
enjoyment. It was kept morally, rather as a Fast than a Feast,
enabling Mrs Wilfer to hold a sombre darkling state, which
exhibited that impressive woman in her choicest colours.
The noble lady's condition on these delightful occasions was one
compounded of heroic endurance and heroic forgiveness. Lurid
indications of the better marriages she might have made, shone
athwart the awful gloom of her composure, and fitfully revealed the
cherub as a little monster unaccountably favoured by Heaven, who
had possessed himself of a blessing for which many of his
superiors had sued and contended in vain. So firmly had this his
position towards his treasure become established, that when the
anniversary arrived, it always found him in an apologetic state. It
is not impossible that his modest penitence may have even gone
the length of sometimes severely reproving him for that he ever
took the liberty of making so exalted a character his wife.
As for the children of the union, their experience of these festivals
had been sufficiently uncomfortable to lead them annually to wish,
when out of their tenderest years, either that Ma had married
somebody else instead of much-teased Pa, or that Pa had married
somebody else instead of Ma. When there came to be but two
sisters left at home, the daring mind of Bella on the next of these
occasions scaled the height of wondering with droll vexation 'what
on earth Pa ever could have seen in Ma, to induce him to make
such a little fool of himself as to ask her to have him.'
The revolving year now bringing the day round in its orderly
sequence, Bella arrived in the Boffin chariot to assist at the
celebration. It was the family custom when the day recurred, to
sacrifice a pair of fowls on the altar of Hymen; and Bella had sent a
note beforehand, to intimate that she would bring the votive
offering with her. So, Bella and the fowls, by the united energies
of two horses, two men, four wheels, and a plum-pudding carriage
dog with as uncomfortable a collar on as if he had been George the
Fourth, were deposited at the door of the parental dwelling. They
were there received by Mrs Wilfer in person, whose dignity on this,
as on most special occasions, was heightened by a mysterious
'I shall not require the carriage at night,' said Bella. 'I shall walk
The male domestic of Mrs Boffin touched his hat, and in the act of
departure had an awful glare bestowed upon him by Mrs Wilfer,
intended to carry deep into his audacious soul the assurance that,
whatever his private suspicions might be, male domestics in livery
were no rarity there.
'Well, dear Ma,' said Bella, 'and how do you do?'
'I am as well, Bella,' replied Mrs Wilfer, 'as can be expected.'
'Dear me, Ma,' said Bella; 'you talk as if one was just born!'
'That's exactly what Ma has been doing,' interposed Lavvy, over
the maternal shoulder, 'ever since we got up this morning. It's all
very well to laugh, Bella, but anything more exasperating it is
impossible to conceive.'
Mrs Wilfer, with a look too full of majesty to be accompanied by
any words, attended both her daughters to the kitchen, where the
sacrifice was to be prepared.
'Mr Rokesmith,' said she, resignedly, 'has been so polite as to place
his sitting-room at our disposal to-day. You will therefore, Bella,
be entertained in the humble abode of your parents, so far in
accordance with your present style of living, that there will be a
drawing-room for your reception as well as a dining-room. Your
papa invited Mr Rokesmith to partake of our lowly fare. In
excusing himself on account of a particular engagement, he offered
the use of his apartment.'
Bella happened to know that he had no engagement out of his own
room at Mr Boffin's, but she approved of his staying away. 'We
should only have put one another out of countenance,' she thought,
'and we do that quite often enough as it is.'
Yet she had sufficient curiosity about his room, to run up to it with
the least possible delay, and make a close inspection of its
contents. It was tastefully though economically furnished, and
very neatly arranged. There were shelves and stands of books,
English, French, and Italian; and in a portfolio on the writing-table
there were sheets upon sheets of memoranda and calculations in
figures, evidently referring to the Boffin property. On that table
also, carefully backed with canvas, varnished, mounted, and rolled
like a map, was the placard descriptive of the murdered man who
had come from afar to be her husband. She shrank from this
ghostly surprise, and felt quite frightened as she rolled and tied it
up again. Peeping about here and there, she came upon a print, a
graceful head of a pretty woman, elegantly framed, hanging in the
corner by the easy chair. 'Oh, indeed, sir!' said Bella, after
stopping to ruminate before it. 'Oh, indeed, sir! I fancy I can guess
whom you think THAT'S like. But I'll tell you what it's much
more like--your impudence!' Having said which she decamped:
not solely because she was offended, but because there was
nothing else to look at.
'Now, Ma,' said Bella, reappearing in the kitchen with some
remains of a blush, 'you and Lavvy think magnificent me fit for
nothing, but I intend to prove the contrary. I mean to be Cook
'Hold!' rejoined her majestic mother. 'I cannot permit it. Cook, in
'As for my dress, Ma,' returned Bella, merrily searching in a
dresser-drawer, 'I mean to apron it and towel it all over the front;
and as to permission, I mean to do without.'
'YOU cook?' said Mrs Wilfer. 'YOU, who never cooked when you
were at home?'
'Yes, Ma,' returned Bella; 'that is precisely the state of the case.'
She girded herself with a white apron, and busily with knots and
pins contrived a bib to it, coming close and tight under her chin, as
if it had caught her round the neck to kiss her. Over this bib her
dimples looked delightful, and under it her pretty figure not less so.
'Now, Ma,' said Bella, pushing back her hair from her temples
with both hands, 'what's first?'
'First,' returned Mrs Wilfer solemnly, 'if you persist in what I
cannot but regard as conduct utterly incompatible with the
equipage in which you arrived--'
('Which I do, Ma.')
'First, then, you put the fowls down to the fire.'
'To--be--sure!' cried Bella; 'and flour them, and twirl them round,
and there they go!' sending them spinning at a great rate. 'What's
'Next,' said Mrs Wilfer with a wave of her gloves, expressive of
abdication under protest from the culinary throne, 'I would
recommend examination of the bacon in the saucepan on the fire,
and also of the potatoes by the application of a fork. Preparation of
the greens will further become necessary if you persist in this
'As of course I do, Ma.'
Persisting, Bella gave her attention to one thing and forgot the
other, and gave her attention to the other and forgot the third, and
remembering the third was distracted by the fourth, and made
amends whenever she went wrong by giving the unfortunate fowls
an extra spin, which made their chance of ever getting cooked
exceedingly doubtful. But it was pleasant cookery too. Meantime
Miss Lavinia, oscillating between the kitchen and the opposite
room, prepared the dining-table in the latter chamber. This office
she (always doing her household spiriting with unwillingness)
performed in a startling series of whisks and bumps; laying the
table-cloth as if she were raising the wind, putting down the
glasses and salt-cellars as if she were knocking at the door, and
clashing the knives and forks in a skirmishing manner suggestive
of hand-to-hand conflict.
'Look at Ma,' whispered Lavinia to Bella when this was done, and
they stood over the roasting fowls. 'If one was the most dutiful
child in existence (of course on the whole one hopes one is), isn't
she enough to make one want to poke her with something wooden,
sitting there bolt upright in a corner?'
'Only suppose,' returned Bella, 'that poor Pa was to sit bolt upright
in another corner.'
'My dear, he couldn't do it,' said Lavvy. 'Pa would loll directly.
But indeed I do not believe there ever was any human creature who
could keep so bolt upright as Ma, 'or put such an amount of
aggravation into one back! What's the matter, Ma? Ain't you well,
'Doubtless I am very well,' returned Mrs Wilfer, turning her eyes
upon her youngest born, with scornful fortitude. 'What should be
the matter with Me?'
'You don't seem very brisk, Ma,' retorted Lavvy the bold.
'Brisk?' repeated her parent, 'Brisk? Whence the low expression,
Lavinia? If I am uncomplaining, if I am silently contented with my
lot, let that suffice for my family.'
'Well, Ma,' returned Lavvy, 'since you will force it out of me, I
must respectfully take leave to say that your family are no doubt
under the greatest obligations to you for having an annual
toothache on your wedding day, and that it's very disinterested in
you, and an immense blessing to them. Still, on the whole, it is
possible to be too boastful even of that boon.'
'You incarnation of sauciness,' said Mrs Wilfer, 'do you speak like
that to me? On this day, of all days in the year? Pray do you know
what would have become of you, if I had not bestowed my hand
upon R. W., your father, on this day?'
'No, Ma,' replied Lavvy, 'I really do not; and, with the greatest
respect for your abilities and information, I very much doubt if you
Whether or no the sharp vigour of this sally on a weak point of Mrs
Wilfer's entrenchments might have routed that heroine for the time,
is rendered uncertain by the arrival of a flag of truce in the person
of Mr George Sampson: bidden to the feast as a friend of the
family, whose affections were now understood to be in course of
transference from Bella to Lavinia, and whom Lavinia kept--
possibly in remembrance of his bad taste in having overlooked her
in the first instance--under a course of stinging discipline.
'I congratulate you, Mrs Wilfer,' said Mr George Sampson, who
had meditated this neat address while coming along, 'on the day.'
Mrs Wilfer thanked him with a magnanimous sigh, and again
became an unresisting prey to that inscrutable toothache.
'I am surprised,' said Mr Sampson feebly, 'that Miss Bella
condescends to cook.'
Here Miss Lavinia descended on the ill-starred young gentleman
with a crushing supposition that at all events it was no business of
his. This disposed of Mr Sampson in a melancholy retirement of
spirit, until the cherub arrived, whose amazement at the lovely
woman's occupation was great.
However, she persisted in dishing the dinner as well as cooking it,
and then sat down, bibless and apronless, to partake of it as an
illustrious guest: Mrs Wilfer first responding to her husband's
cheerful 'For what we are about to receive--'with a sepulchral
Amen, calculated to cast a damp upon the stoutest appetite.
'But what,' said Bella, as she watched the carving of the fowls,
'makes them pink inside, I wonder, Pa! Is it the breed?'
'No, I don't think it's the breed, my dear,' returned Pa. 'I rather
think it is because they are not done.'
'They ought to be,' said Bella.
'Yes, I am aware they ought to be, my dear,' rejoined her father,
So, the gridiron was put in requisition, and the good-tempered
cherub, who was often as un-cherubically employed in his own
family as if he had been in the employment of some of the Old
Masters, undertook to grill the fowls. Indeed, except in respect of
staring about him (a branch of the public service to which the
pictorial cherub is much addicted), this domestic cherub
discharged as many odd functions as his prototype; with the
difference, say, that he performed with a blacking-brush on the
family's boots, instead of performing on enormous wind
instruments and double-basses, and that he conducted himself with
cheerful alacrity to much useful purpose, instead of foreshortening
himself in the air with the vaguest intentions.
Bella helped him with his supplemental cookery, and made him
very happy, but put him in mortal terror too by asking him when
they sat down at table again, how he supposed they cooked fowls
at the Greenwich dinners, and whether he believed they really were
such pleasant dinners as people said? His secret winks and nods
of remonstrance, in reply, made the mischievous Bella laugh until
she choked, and then Lavinia was obliged to slap her on the back,
and then she laughed the more.
But her mother was a fine corrective at the other end of the table; to
whom her father, in the innocence of his good-fellowship, at
intervals appealed with: 'My dear, I am afraid you are not enjoying
'Why so, R. W.?' she would sonorously reply.
'Because, my dear, you seem a little out of sorts.'
'Not at all,' would be the rejoinder, in exactly the same tone.
'Would you take a merry-thought, my dear?'
'Thank you. I will take whatever you please, R. W.'
'Well, but my dear, do you like it?'
'I like it as well as I like anything, R. W.' The stately woman
would then, with a meritorious appearance of devoting herself to
the general good, pursue her dinner as if she were feeding
somebody else on high public grounds.
Bella had brought dessert and two bottles of wine, thus shedding
unprecedented splendour on the occasion. Mrs Wilfer did the
honours of the first glass by proclaiming: 'R. W. I drink to you.
'Thank you, my dear. And I to you.'
'Pa and Ma!' said Bella.
'Permit me,' Mrs Wilfer interposed, with outstretched glove. 'No. I
think not. I drank to your papa. If, however, you insist on
including me, I can in gratitude offer no objection.'
'Why, Lor, Ma,' interposed Lavvy the bold, 'isn't it the day that
made you and Pa one and the same? I have no patience!'
'By whatever other circumstance the day may be marked, it is not
the day, Lavinia, on which I will allow a child of mine to pounce
upon me. I beg--nay, command!--that you will not pounce. R. W.,
it is appropriate to recall that it is for you to command and for me
to obey. It is your house, and you are master at your own table.
Both our healths!' Drinking the toast with tremendous stiffness.
'I really am a little afraid, my dear,' hinted the cherub meekly, 'that
you are not enjoying yourself?'
'On the contrary,' returned Mrs Wilfer, 'quite so. Why should I
'I thought, my dear, that perhaps your face might--'
'My face might be a martyrdom, but what would that import, or
who should know it, if I smiled?'
And she did smile; manifestly freezing the blood of Mr George
Sampson by so doing. For that young gentleman, catching her
smiling eye, was so very much appalled by its expression as to cast
about in his thoughts concerning what he had done to bring it
down upon himself.
'The mind naturally falls,' said Mrs Wilfer, 'shall I say into a
reverie, or shall I say into a retrospect? on a day like this.'
Lavvy, sitting with defiantly folded arms, replied (but not audibly),
'For goodness' sake say whichever of the two you like best, Ma,
and get it over.'
'The mind,' pursued Mrs Wilfer in an oratorical manner, 'naturally
reverts to Papa and Mamma--I here allude to my parents--at a
period before the earliest dawn of this day. I was considered tall;
perhaps I was. Papa and Mamma were unquestionably tall. I have
rarely seen a finer women than my mother; never than my father.'
The irrepressible Lavvy remarked aloud, 'Whatever grandpapa
was, he wasn't a female.'
'Your grandpapa,' retorted Mrs Wilfer, with an awful look, and in
an awful tone, 'was what I describe him to have been, and would
have struck any of his grandchildren to the earth who presumed to
question it. It was one of mamma's cherished hopes that I should
become united to a tall member of society. It may have been a
weakness, but if so, it was equally the weakness, I believe, of King
Frederick of Prussia.' These remarks being offered to Mr George
Sampson, who had not the courage to come out for single combat,
but lurked with his chest under the table and his eyes cast down,
Mrs Wilfer proceeded, in a voice of increasing sternness and
impressiveness, until she should force that skulker to give himself
up. 'Mamma would appear to have had an indefinable foreboding
of what afterwards happened, for she would frequently urge upon
me, "Not a little man. Promise me, my child, not a little man.
Never, never, never, marry a little man!" Papa also would remark
to me (he possessed extraordinary humour),"that a family of
whales must not ally themselves with sprats." His company was
eagerly sought, as may be supposed, by the wits of the day, and our
house was their continual resort. I have known as many as three
copper-plate engravers exchanging the most exquisite sallies and
retorts there, at one time.' (Here Mr Sampson delivered himself
captive, and said, with an uneasy movement on his chair, that three
was a large number, and it must have been highly entertaining.)
'Among the most prominent members of that distinguished circle,
was a gentleman measuring six feet four in height. HE was NOT
an engraver.' (Here Mr Sampson said, with no reason whatever,
Of course not.) 'This gentleman was so obliging as to honour me
with attentions which I could not fail to understand.' (Here Mr
Sampson murmured that when it came to that, you could always
tell.) 'I immediately announced to both my parents that those
attentions were misplaced, and that I could not favour his suit.
They inquired was he too tall? I replied it was not the stature, but
the intellect was too lofty. At our house, I said, the tone was too
brilliant, the pressure was too high, to be maintained by me, a mere
woman, in every-day domestic life. I well remember mamma's
clasping her hands, and exclaiming "This will end in a little man!"'
(Here Mr Sampson glanced at his host and shook his head with
despondency.) 'She afterwards went so far as to predict that it
would end in a little man whose mind would be below the average,
but that was in what I may denominate a paroxysm of maternal
disappointment. Within a month,' said Mrs Wilfer, deepening her
voice, as if she were relating a terrible ghost story, 'within a-month,
I first saw R. W. my husband. Within a year, I married him. It is
natural for the mind to recall these dark coincidences on the
Mr Sampson at length released from the custody of Mrs Wilfer's
eye, now drew a long breath, and made the original and striking
remark that there was no accounting for these sort of
presentiments. R. W. scratched his head and looked apologetically
all round the table until he came to his wife, when observing her as
it were shrouded in a more sombre veil than before, he once more
hinted, 'My dear, I am really afraid you are not altogether enjoying
yourself?' To which she once more replied, 'On the contrary, R. W.
The wretched Mr Sampson's position at this agreeable entertainment
was truly pitiable. For, not only was he exposed defenceless
to the harangues of Mrs Wilfer, but he received the utmost
contumely at the hands of Lavinia; who, partly to show Bella that
she (Lavinia) could do what she liked with him, and partly to pay
him off for still obviously admiring Bella's beauty, led him
the life of a dog. Illuminated on the one hand by the stately
graces of Mrs Wilfer's oratory, and shadowed on the other by the
checks and frowns of the young lady to whom he had devoted
himself in his destitution, the sufferings of this young gentleman
were distressing to witness. If his mind for the moment reeled
under them, it may be urged, in extenuation of its weakness, that it
was constitutionally a knock-knee'd mind and never very strong
upon its legs.
The rosy hours were thus beguiled until it was time for Bella to
have Pa's escort back. The dimples duly tied up in the bonnet-
strings and the leave-taking done, they got out into the air, and the
cherub drew a long breath as if he found it refreshing.
'Well, dear Pa,' said Bella, 'the anniversary may be considered
'Yes, my dear,' returned the cherub, 'there's another of 'em gone.'
Bella drew his arm closer through hers as they walked along, and
gave it a number of consolatory pats. 'Thank you, my dear,' he
said, as if she had spoken; 'I am all right, my dear. Well, and how
do you get on, Bella?'
'I am not at all improved, Pa.'
'Ain't you really though?'
'No, Pa. On the contrary, I am worse.'
'Lor!' said the cherub.
'I am worse, Pa. I make so many calculations how much a year I
must have when I marry, and what is the least I can manage to do
with, that I am beginning to get wrinkles over my nose. Did you
notice any wrinkles over my nose this evening, Pa?'
Pa laughing at this, Bella gave him two or three shakes.
'You won't laugh, sir, when you see your lovely woman turning
haggard. You had better be prepared in time, I can tell you. I shall
not be able to keep my greediness for money out of my eyes long,
and when you see it there you'll be sorry, and serve you right for
not being warned in time. Now, sir, we entered into a bond of
confidence. Have you anything to impart?'
'I thought it was you who was to impart, my love.'
'Oh! did you indeed, sir? Then why didn't you ask me, the moment
we came out? The confidences of lovely women are not to be
slighted. However, I forgive you this once, and look here, Pa;
that's'--Bella laid the little forefinger of her right glove on her lip,
and then laid it on her father's lip--'that's a kiss for you. And now I
am going seriously to tell you--let me see how many--four secrets.
Mind! Serious, grave, weighty secrets. Strictly between
'Number one, my dear?' said her father, settling her arm
comfortably and confidentially.
'Number one,' said Bella, 'will electrify you, Pa. Who do you think
has'--she was confused here in spite of her merry way of beginning
'has made an offer to me?'
Pa looked in her face, and looked at the ground, and looked in her
face again, and declared he could never guess.
'You don't tell me so, my dear!'
'Mis--ter Roke--smith, Pa,' said Bella separating the syllables for
emphasis. 'What do you say to THAT?'
Pa answered quietly with the counter-question, 'What did YOU say
to that, my love?'
'I said No,' returned Bella sharply. 'Of course.'
'Yes. Of course,' said her father, meditating.
'And I told him why I thought it a betrayal of trust on his part, and
an affront to me,' said Bella.
'Yes. To be sure. I am astonished indeed. I wonder he committed
himself without seeing more of his way first. Now I think of it, I
suspect he always has admired you though, my dear.'
'A hackney coachman may admire me,' remarked Bella, with a
touch of her mother's loftiness.
'It's highly probable, my love. Number two, my dear?'
'Number two, Pa, is much to the same purpose, though not so
preposterous. Mr Lightwood would propose to me, if I would let
'Then I understand, my dear, that you don't intend to let him?'
Bella again saying, with her former emphasis, 'Why, of course not!'
her father felt himself bound to echo, 'Of course not.'
'I don't care for him,' said Bella.
'That's enough,' her father interposed.
'No, Pa, it's NOT enough,' rejoined Bella, giving him another
shake or two. 'Haven't I told you what a mercenary little wretch I
am? It only becomes enough when he has no money, and no
clients, and no expectations, and no anything but debts.'
'Hah!' said the cherub, a little depressed. 'Number three, my dear?'
'Number three, Pa, is a better thing. A generous thing, a noble
thing, a delightful thing. Mrs Boffin has herself told me, as a
secret, with her own kind lips--and truer lips never opened or
closed in this life, I am sure--that they wish to see me well
married; and that when I marry with their consent they will portion
me most handsomely.' Here the grateful girl burst out crying very
'Don't cry, my darling,' said her father, with his hand to his eyes;
'it's excusable in me to be a little overcome when I find that my
dear favourite child is, after all disappointments, to be so provided
for and so raised in the world; but don't YOU cry, don't YOU cry.
I am very thankful. I congratulate you with all my heart, my dear.'
The good soft little fellow, drying his eyes, here, Bella put her arms
round his neck and tenderly kissed him on the high road,
passionately telling him he was the best of fathers and the best of
friends, and that on her wedding-morning she would go down on
her knees to him and beg his pardon for having ever teased him or
seemed insensible to the worth of such a patient, sympathetic,
genial, fresh young heart. At every one of her adjectives she
redoubled her kisses, and finally kissed his hat off, and then
laughed immoderately when the wind took it and he ran after it.
When he had recovered his hat and his breath, and they were going
on again once more, said her father then: 'Number four, my dear?'
Bella's countenance fell in the midst of her mirth. 'After all,
perhaps I had better put off number four, Pa. Let me try once
more, if for never so short a time, to hope that it may not really be
The change in her, strengthened the cherub's interest in number
four, and he said quietly: 'May not be so, my dear? May not be
how, my dear?'
Bella looked at him pensively, and shook her head.
'And yet I know right well it is so, Pa. I know it only too well.'
'My love,' returned her father, 'you make me quite uncomfortable.
Have you said No to anybody else, my dear?'
'Yes to anybody?' he suggested, lifting up his eyebrows.
'Is there anybody else who would take his chance between Yes and
No, if you would let him, my dear?'
'Not that I know of, Pa.'
'There can't be somebody who won't take his chance when you
want him to?' said the cherub, as a last resource.
'Why, of course not, Pa, said Bella, giving him another shake or
'No, of course not,' he assented. 'Bella, my dear, I am afraid I must
either have no sleep to-night, or I must press for number four.'
'Oh, Pa, there is no good in number four! I am so sorry for it, I am
so unwilling to believe it, I have tried so earnestly not to see it, that
it is very hard to tell, even to you. But Mr Boffin is being spoilt by
prosperity, and is changing every day.'
'My dear Bella, I hope and trust not.'
'I have hoped and trusted not too, Pa; but every day he changes for
the worse, and for the worse. Not to me--he is always much the
same to me--but to others about him. Before my eyes he grows
suspicious, capricious, hard, tyrannical, unjust. If ever a good man
were ruined by good fortune, it is my benefactor. And yet, Pa,
think how terrible the fascination of money is! I see this, and hate
this, and dread this, and don't know but that money might make a
much worse change in me. And yet I have money always in my
thoughts and my desires; and the whole life I place before myself is
money, money, money, and what money can make of life!'
THE GOLDEN DUSTMAN FALLS INTO BAD COMPANY
Were Bella Wilfer's bright and ready little wits at fault, or was the
Golden Dustman passing through the furnace of proof and coming
out dross? Ill news travels fast. We shall know full soon.
On that very night of her return from the Happy Return, something
chanced which Bella closely followed with her eyes and ears.
There was an apartment at the side of the Boffin mansion, known
as Mr Boffin's room. Far less grand than the rest of the house, it
was far more comfortable, being pervaded by a certain air of
homely snugness, which upholstering despotism had banished to
that spot when it inexorably set its face against Mr Boffin's appeals
for mercy in behalf of any other chamber. Thus, although a room
of modest situation--for its windows gave on Silas Wegg's old
corner--and of no pretensions to velvet, satin, or gilding, it had got
itself established in a domestic position analogous to that of an
easy dressing-gown or pair of slippers; and whenever the family
wanted to enjoy a particularly pleasant fireside evening, they
enjoyed it, as an institution that must be, in Mr Boffin's room.
Mr and Mrs Boffin were reported sitting in this room, when Bella
got back. Entering it, she found the Secretary there too; in official
attendance it would appear, for he was standing with some papers
in his hand by a table with shaded candles on it, at which Mr
Boffin was seated thrown back in his easy chair.
'You are busy, sir,' said Bella, hesitating at the door.
'Not at all, my dear, not at all. You're one of ourselves. We never
make company of you. Come in, come in. Here's the old lady in
her usual place.'
Mrs Boffin adding her nod and smile of welcome to Mr Boffin's
words, Bella took her book to a chair in the fireside corner, by Mrs
Boffin's work-table. Mr Boffin's station was on the opposite side.
'Now, Rokesmith,' said the Golden Dustman, so sharply rapping
the table to bespeak his attention as Bella turned the leaves of her
book, that she started; 'where were we?'
'You were saying, sir,' returned the Secretary, with an air of some
reluctance and a glance towards those others who were present,
'that you considered the time had come for fixing my salary.'
'Don't be above calling it wages, man,' said Mr Boffin, testily.
'What the deuce! I never talked of any salary when I was in
'My wages,' said the Secretary, correcting himself.
'Rokesmith, you are not proud, I hope?' observed Mr Boffin, eyeing
'I hope not, sir.'
'Because I never was, when I was poor,' said Mr Boffin. 'Poverty
and pride don't go at all well together. Mind that. How can they
go well together? Why it stands to reason. A man, being poor, has
nothing to be proud of. It's nonsense.'
With a slight inclination of his head, and a look of some surprise,
the Secretary seemed to assent by forming the syllables of the word
'nonsense' on his lips.
'Now, concerning these same wages,' said Mr Boffin. 'Sit down.'
The Secretary sat down.
'Why didn't you sit down before?' asked Mr Boffin, distrustfully. 'I
hope that wasn't pride? But about these wages. Now, I've gone
into the matter, and I say two hundred a year. What do you think
of it? Do you think it's enough?'
'Thank you. It is a fair proposal.'
'I don't say, you know,' Mr Boffin stipulated, 'but what it may be
more than enough. And I'll tell you why, Rokesmith. A man of
property, like me, is bound to consider the market-price. At first I
didn't enter into that as much as I might have done; but I've got
acquainted with other men of property since, and I've got
acquainted with the duties of property. I mustn't go putting the
market-price up, because money may happen not to be an object
with me. A sheep is worth so much in the market, and I ought to
give it and no more. A secretary is worth so much in the market,
and I ought to give it and no more. However, I don't mind
stretching a point with you.'
'Mr Boffin, you are very good,' replied the Secretary, with an effort.
'Then we put the figure,' said Mr Boffin, 'at two hundred a year.
Then the figure's disposed of. Now, there must be no
misunderstanding regarding what I buy for two hundred a year. If
I pay for a sheep, I buy it out and out. Similarly, if I pay for a
secretary, I buy HIM out and out.'
'In other words, you purchase my whole time?'
'Certainly I do. Look here,' said Mr Boffin, 'it ain't that I want to
occupy your whole time; you can take up a book for a minute or
two when you've nothing better to do, though I think you'll a'most
always find something useful to do. But I want to keep you in
attendance. It's convenient to have you at all times ready on the
premises. Therefore, betwixt your breakfast and your supper,--on
the premises I expect to find you.'
The Secretary bowed.
'In bygone days, when I was in service myself,' said Mr Boffin, 'I
couldn't go cutting about at my will and pleasure, and you won't
expect to go cutting about at your will and pleasure. You've rather
got into a habit of that, lately; but perhaps it was for want of a right
specification betwixt us. Now, let there be a right specification
betwixt us, and let it be this. If you want leave, ask for it.'
Again the Secretary bowed. His manner was uneasy and
astonished, and showed a sense of humiliation.
'I'll have a bell,' said Mr Boffin, 'hung from this room to yours, and
when I want you, I'll touch it. I don't call to mind that I have
anything more to say at the present moment.'
The Secretary rose, gathered up his papers, and withdrew. Bella's
eyes followed him to the door, lighted on Mr Boffin complacently
thrown back in his easy chair, and drooped over her book.
'I have let that chap, that young man of mine,' said Mr Boffin,
taking a trot up and down the room, get above his work. It won't
do. I must have him down a peg. A man of property owes a duty
to other men of property, and must look sharp after his inferiors.'
Bella felt that Mrs Boffin was not comfortable, and that the eyes of
that good creature sought to discover from her face what attention
she had given to this discourse, and what impression it had made
upon her. For which reason Bella's eyes drooped more engrossedly
over her book, and she turned the page with an air of profound
absorption in it.
'Noddy,' said Mrs Boffin, after thoughtfully pausing in her work.
'My dear,' returned the Golden Dustman, stopping short in his trot.
'Excuse my putting it to you, Noddy, but now really! Haven't you
been a little strict with Mr Rokesmith to-night? Haven't you been
a little--just a little little--not quite like your old self?'
'Why, old woman, I hope so,' returned Mr Boffin, cheerfully, if not
'Hope so, deary?'
'Our old selves wouldn't do here, old lady. Haven't you found that
out yet? Our old selves would be fit for nothing here but to be
robbed and imposed upon. Our old selves weren't people of
fortune; our new selves are; it's a great difference.'
'Ah!' said Mrs Boffin, pausing in her work again, softly to draw a
long breath and to look at the fire. 'A great difference.'
'And we must be up to the difference,' pursued her husband; 'we
must be equal to the change; that's what we must be. We've got to
hold our own now, against everybody (for everybody's hand is
stretched out to be dipped into our pockets), and we have got to
recollect that money makes money, as well as makes everything
'Mentioning recollecting,' said Mrs Boffin, with her work
abandoned, her eyes upon the fire, and her chin upon her hand, 'do
you recollect, Noddy, how you said to Mr Rokesmith when he first
came to see us at the Bower, and you engaged him--how you said
to him that if it had pleased Heaven to send John Harmon to his
fortune safe, we could have been content with the one Mound
which was our legacy, and should never have wanted the rest?'
'Ay, I remember, old lady. But we hadn't tried what it was to have
the rest then. Our new shoes had come home, but we hadn't put
'em on. We're wearing 'em now, we're wearing 'em, and must step
Mrs Boffin took up her work again, and plied her needle in silence.
'As to Rokesmith, that young man of mine,' said Mr Boffin,
dropping his voice and glancing towards the door with an
apprehension of being overheard by some eavesdropper there, 'it's
the same with him as with the footmen. I have found out that you
must either scrunch them, or let them scrunch you. If you ain't
imperious with 'em, they won't believe in your being any better
than themselves, if as good, after the stories (lies mostly) that they
have heard of your beginnings. There's nothing betwixt stiffening
yourself up, and throwing yourself away; take my word for that,
Bella ventured for a moment to look stealthily towards him under
her eyelashes, and she saw a dark cloud of suspicion,
covetousness, and conceit, overshadowing the once open face.
'Hows'ever,' said he, 'this isn't entertaining to Miss Bella. Is it,
A deceiving Bella she was, to look at him with that pensively
abstracted air, as if her mind were full of her book, and she had not
heard a single word!
'Hah! Better employed than to attend to it,' said Mr Boffin. 'That's
right, that's right. Especially as you have no call to be told how to
value yourself, my dear.'
Colouring a little under this compliment, Bella returned, 'I hope
sir, you don't think me vain?'
'Not a bit, my dear,' said Mr Boffin. 'But I think it's very creditable
in you, at your age, to be so well up with the pace of the world, and
to know what to go in for. You are right. Go in for money, my
love. Money's the article. You'll make money of your good looks,
and of the money Mrs Boffin and me will have the pleasure of
settling upon you, and you'll live and die rich. That's the state to
live and die in!' said Mr Boffin, in an unctuous manner. R--r--
There was an expression of distress in Mrs Boffin's face, as, after
watching her husband's, she turned to their adopted girl, and said:
'Don't mind him, Bella, my dear.'
'Eh?' cried Mr Boffin. 'What! Not mind him?'
'I don't mean that,' said Mrs Boffin, with a worried look, 'but I
mean, don't believe him to be anything but good and generous,
Bella, because he is the best of men. No, I must say that much,
Noddy. You are always the best of men.'
She made the declaration as if he were objecting to it: which
assuredly he was not in any way.
'And as to you, my dear Bella,' said Mrs Boffin, still with that
distressed expression, 'he is so much attached to you, whatever he
says, that your own father has not a truer interest in you and can
hardly like you better than he does.'
'Says too!' cried Mr Boffin. 'Whatever he says! Why, I say so,
openly. Give me a kiss, my dear child, in saying Good Night, and
let me confirm what my old lady tells you. I am very fond of you,
my dear, and I am entirely of your mind, and you and I will take
care that you shall be rich. These good looks of yours (which you
have some right to be vain of; my dear, though you are not, you
know) are worth money, and you shall make money of 'em. The
money you will have, will be worth money, and you shall make
money of that too. There's a golden ball at your feet. Good night,
Somehow, Bella was not so well pleased with this assurance and
this prospect as she might have been. Somehow, when she put her
arms round Mrs Boffin's neck and said Good Night, she derived a
sense of unworthiness from the still anxious face of that good
woman and her obvious wish to excuse her husband. 'Why, what
need to excuse him?' thought Bella, sitting down in her own room.
'What he said was very sensible, I am sure, and very true, I am
sure. It is only what I often say to myself. Don't I like it then? No,
I don't like it, and, though he is my liberal benefactor, I disparage
him for it. Then pray,' said Bella, sternly putting the question to
herself in the looking-glass as usual, 'what do you mean by this,
you inconsistent little Beast?'
The looking-glass preserving a discreet ministerial silence when
thus called upon for explanation, Bella went to bed with a
weariness upon her spirit which was more than the weariness of
want of sleep. And again in the morning, she looked for the cloud,
and for the deepening of the cloud, upon the Golden Dustman's
She had begun by this time to be his frequent companion in his
morning strolls about the streets, and it was at this time that he
made her a party to his engaging in a curious pursuit. Having been
hard at work in one dull enclosure all his life, he had a child's
delight in looking at shops. It had been one of the first novelties
and pleasures of his freedom, and was equally the delight of his
wife. For many years their only walks in London had been taken
on Sundays when the shops were shut; and when every day in the
week became their holiday, they derived an enjoyment from the
variety and fancy and beauty of the display in the windows, which
seemed incapable of exhaustion. As if the principal streets were a
great Theatre and the play were childishly new to them, Mr and
Mrs Boffin, from the beginning of Bella's intimacy in their house,
had been constantly in the front row, charmed with all they saw
and applauding vigorously. But now, Mr Boffin's interest began to
centre in book-shops; and more than that--for that of itself would
not have been much--in one exceptional kind of book.
'Look in here, my dear,' Mr Boffin would say, checking Bella's arm
at a bookseller's window; 'you can read at sight, and your eyes are
as sharp as they're bright. Now, look well about you, my dear, and
tell me if you see any book about a Miser.'
If Bella saw such a book, Mr Boffin would instantly dart in and
buy it. And still, as if they had not found it, they would seek out
another book-shop, and Mr Boffin would say, 'Now, look well all
round, my dear, for a Life of a Miser, or any book of that sort; any
Lives of odd characters who may have been Misers.'
Bella, thus directed, would examine the window with the greatest
attention, while Mr Boffin would examine her face. The moment
she pointed out any book as being entitled Lives of eccentric
personages, Anecdotes of strange characters, Records of
remarkable individuals, or anything to that purpose, Mr Boffin's
countenance would light up, and he would instantly dart in and
buy it. Size, price, quality, were of no account. Any book that
seemed to promise a chance of miserly biography, Mr Boffin
purchased without a moment's delay and carried home. Happening
to be informed by a bookseller that a portion of the Annual
Register was devoted to 'Characters', Mr Boffin at once bought a
whole set of that ingenious compilation, and began to carry it home
piecemeal, confiding a volume to Bella, and bearing three himself.
The completion of this labour occupied them about a fortnight.
When the task was done, Mr Boffin, with his appetite for Misers
whetted instead of satiated, began to look out again.
It very soon became unnecessary to tell Bella what to look for, and
an understanding was established between her and Mr Boffin that
she was always to look for Lives of Misers. Morning after
morning they roamed about the town together, pursuing this
singular research. Miserly literature not being abundant, the
proportion of failures to successes may have been as a hundred to
one; still Mr Boffin, never wearied, remained as avaricious for
misers as he had been at the first onset. It was curious that Bella
never saw the books about the house, nor did she ever hear from
Mr Boffin one word of reference to their contents. He seemed to
save up his Misers as they had saved up their money. As they had
been greedy for it, and secret about it, and had hidden it, so he was
greedy for them, and secret about them, and hid them. But beyond
all doubt it was to be noticed, and was by Bella very clearly
noticed, that, as he pursued the acquisition of those dismal records
with the ardour of Don Quixote for his books of chivalry, he began
to spend his money with a more sparing hand. And often when he
came out of a shop with some new account of one of those
wretched lunatics, she would almost shrink from the sly dry
chuckle with which he would take her arm again and trot away. It
did not appear that Mrs Boffin knew of this taste. He made no
allusion to it, except in the morning walks when he and Bella were
always alone; and Bella, partly under the impression that he took
her into his confidence by implication, and partly in remembrance
of Mrs Boffin's anxious face that night, held the same reserve.
While these occurrences were in progress, Mrs Lammle made the
discovery that Bella had a fascinating influence over her. The
Lammles, originally presented by the dear Veneerings, visited the
Boffins on all grand occasions, and Mrs Lammle had not
previously found this out; but now the knowledge came upon her
all at once. It was a most extraordinary thing (she said to Mrs
Boffin); she was foolishly susceptible of the power of beauty, but it
wasn't altogether that; she never had been able to resist a natural
grace of manner, but it wasn't altogether that; it was more than
that, and there was no name for the indescribable extent and degree
to which she was captivated by this charming girl.
This charming girl having the words repeated to her by Mrs Boffin
(who was proud of her being admired, and would have done
anything to give her pleasure), naturally recognized in Mrs
Lammle a woman of penetration and taste. Responding to the
sentiments, by being very gracious to Mrs Lammle, she gave that
lady the means of so improving her opportunity, as that the
captivation became reciprocal, though always wearing an
appearance of greater sobriety on Bella's part than on the
enthusiastic Sophronia's. Howbeit, they were so much together
that, for a time, the Boffin chariot held Mrs Lammle oftener than
Mrs Boffin: a preference of which the latter worthy soul was not in
the least jealous, placidly remarking, 'Mrs Lammle is a younger
companion for her than I am, and Lor! she's more fashionable.'
But between Bella Wilfer and Georgiana Podsnap there was this
one difference, among many others, that Bella was in no danger of
being captivated by Alfred. She distrusted and disliked him.
Indeed, her perception was so quick, and her observation so sharp,
that after all she mistrusted his wife too, though with her giddy
vanity and wilfulness she squeezed the mistrust away into a corner
of her mind, and blocked it up there.
Mrs Lammle took the friendliest interest in Bella's making a good
match. Mrs Lammle said, in a sportive way, she really must show
her beautiful Bella what kind of wealthy creatures she and Alfred
had on hand, who would as one man fall at her feet enslaved.
Fitting occasion made, Mrs Lammle accordingly produced the
most passable of those feverish, boastful, and indefinably loose
gentlemen who were always lounging in and out of the City on
questions of the Bourse and Greek and Spanish and India and
Mexican and par and premium and discount and three-quarters and
seven-eighths. Who in their agreeable manner did homage to
Bella as if she were a compound of fine girl, thorough-bred horse,
well-built drag, and remarkable pipe. But without the least effect,
though even Mr Fledgeby's attractions were cast into the scale.
'I fear, Bella dear,' said Mrs Lammle one day in the chariot, 'that
you will be very hard to please.'
'I don't expect to be pleased, dear,' said Bella, with a languid turn
of her eyes.
'Truly, my love,' returned Sophronia, shaking her head, and smiling
her best smile, 'it would not be very easy to find a man worthy of
'The question is not a man, my dear,' said Bella, coolly, 'but an
'My love,' returned Mrs Lammle, 'your prudence amazes me--
where DID you study life so well!--you are right. In such a case as
yours, the object is a fitting establishment. You could not descend
to an inadequate one from Mr Boffin's house, and even if your
beauty alone could not command it, it is to be assumed that Mr and
Mrs Boffin will--'
'Oh! they have already,' Bella interposed.
'No! Have they really?'
A little vexed by a suspicion that she had spoken precipitately, and
withal a little defiant of her own vexation, Bella determined not to
'That is to say,' she explained, 'they have told me they mean to
portion me as their adopted child, if you mean that. But don't
'Mention it!' replied Mrs Lammle, as if she were full of awakened
feeling at the suggestion of such an impossibility. 'Men-tion it!'
'I don't mind telling you, Mrs Lammle--' Bella began again.
'My love, say Sophronia, or I must not say Bella.'
With a little short, petulant 'Oh!' Bella complied. 'Oh!--Sophronia
then--I don't mind telling you, Sophronia, that I am convinced I
have no heart, as people call it; and that I think that sort of thing is
'Brave girl!' murmured Mrs Lammle.
'And so,' pursued Bella, 'as to seeking to please myself, I don't;
except in the one respect I have mentioned. I am indifferent
'But you can't help pleasing, Bella,' said Mrs Lammle, rallying her
with an arch look and her best smile, 'you can't help making a
proud and an admiring husband. You may not care to please
yourself, and you may not care to please him, but you are not a free
agent as to pleasing: you are forced to do that, in spite of yourself,
my dear; so it may be a question whether you may not as well
please yourself too, if you can.'
Now, the very grossness of this flattery put Bella upon proving that
she actually did please in spite of herself. She had a misgiving that
she was doing wrong--though she had an indistinct foreshadowing
that some harm might come of it thereafter, she little thought what
consequences it would really bring about--but she went on with her
'Don't talk of pleasing in spite of one's self, dear,' said Bella. 'I
have had enough of that.'
'Ay?' cried Mrs Lammle. 'Am I already corroborated, Bella?'
'Never mind, Sophronia, we will not speak of it any more. Don't
ask me about it.'
This plainly meaning Do ask me about it, Mrs Lammle did as she
'Tell me, Bella. Come, my dear. What provoking burr has been
inconveniently attracted to the charming skirts, and with difficulty
'Provoking indeed,' said Bella, 'and no burr to boast of! But don't
'Shall I guess?'
'You would never guess. What would you say to our Secretary?'
'My dear! The hermit Secretary, who creeps up and down the back
stairs, and is never seen!'
'I don't know about his creeping up and down the back stairs,' said
Bella, rather contemptuously, 'further than knowing that he does no
such thing; and as to his never being seen, I should be content
never to have seen him, though he is quite as visible as you are.
But I pleased HIM (for my sins) and he had the presumption to tell
'The man never made a declaration to you, my dear Bella!'
'Are you sure of that, Sophronia?' said Bella. 'I am not. In fact, I
am sure of the contrary.'
'The man must be mad,' said Mrs Lammle, with a kind of resignation.
'He appeared to be in his senses,' returned Bella, tossing her head,
'and he had plenty to say for himself. I told him my opinion of his
declaration and his conduct, and dismissed him. Of course this
has all been very inconvenient to me, and very disagreeable. It has
remained a secret, however. That word reminds me to observe,
Sophronia, that I have glided on into telling you the secret, and that
I rely upon you never to mention it.'
'Mention it!' repeated Mrs Lammle with her former feeling. 'Men-
This time Sophronia was so much in earnest that she found it
necessary to bend forward in the carriage and give Bella a kiss. A
Judas order of kiss; for she thought, while she yet pressed Bella's
hand after giving it, 'Upon your own showing, you vain heartless
girl, puffed up by the doting folly of a dustman, I need have no
relenting towards YOU. If my husband, who sends me here,
should form any schemes for making YOU a victim, I should
certainly not cross him again.' In those very same moments, Bella
was thinking, 'Why am I always at war with myself? Why have I
told, as if upon compulsion, what I knew all along I ought to have
withheld? Why am I making a friend of this woman beside me, in
spite of the whispers against her that I hear in my heart?'
As usual, there was no answer in the looking-glass when she got
home and referred these questions to it. Perhaps if she had
consulted some better oracle, the result might have been more
satisfactory; but she did not, and all things consequent marched the
march before them.
On one point connected with the watch she kept on Mr Boffin, she
felt very inquisitive, and that was the question whether the
Secretary watched him too, and followed the sure and steady
change in him, as she did? Her very limited intercourse with Mr
Rokesmith rendered this hard to find out. Their communication
now, at no time extended beyond the preservation of commonplace
appearances before Mr and Mrs Boffin; and if Bella and the
Secretary were ever left alone together by any chance, he
immediately withdrew. She consulted his face when she could do
so covertly, as she worked or read, and could make nothing of it.
He looked subdued; but he had acquired a strong command of
feature, and, whenever Mr Boffin spoke to him in Bella's presence,
or whatever revelation of himself Mr Boffin made, the Secretary's
face changed no more than a wall. A slightly knitted brow, that
expressed nothing but an almost mechanical attention, and a
compression of the mouth, that might have been a guard against a
scornful smile--these she saw from morning to night, from day to
day, from week to week, monotonous, unvarying, set, as in a piece
The worst of the matter was, that it thus fell out insensibly--and
most provokingly, as Bella complained to herself, in her impetuous
little manner--that her observation of Mr Boffin involved a
continual observation of Mr Rokesmith. 'Won't THAT extract a
look from him?'--'Can it be possible THAT makes no impression
on him?' Such questions Bella would propose to herself, often as
many times in a day as there were hours in it. Impossible to know.
Always the same fixed face.
'Can he be so base as to sell his very nature for two hundred a
year?' Bella would think. And then, 'But why not? It's a mere
question of price with others besides him. I suppose I would sell
mine, if I could get enough for it.' And so she would come round
again to the war with herself.
A kind of illegibility, though a different kind, stole over Mr
Boffin's face. Its old simplicity of expression got masked by a
certain craftiness that assimilated even his good-humour to itself.
His very smile was cunning, as if he had been studying smiles
among the portraits of his misers. Saving an occasional burst of
impatience, or coarse assertion of his mastery, his good-humour
remained to him, but it had now a sordid alloy of distrust; and
though his eyes should twinkle and all his face should laugh, he
would sit holding himself in his own arms, as if he had an
inclination to hoard himself up, and must always grudgingly stand
on the defensive.
What with taking heed of these two faces, and what with feeling
conscious that the stealthy occupation must set some mark on her
own, Bella soon began to think that there was not a candid or a
natural face among them all but Mrs Boffin's. None the less
because it was far less radiant than of yore, faithfully reflecting in
its anxiety and regret every line of change in the Golden
'Rokesmith,' said Mr Boffin one evening when they were all in his
room again, and he and the Secretary had been going over some
accounts, 'I am spending too much money. Or leastways, you are
spending too much for me.'
'You are rich, sir.'
'I am not,' said Mr Boffin.
The sharpness of the retort was next to telling the Secretary that he
lied. But it brought no change of expression into the set face.
'I tell you I am not rich,' repeated Mr Boffin, 'and I won't have it.'
'You are not rich, sir?' repeated the Secretary, in measured words.
'Well,' returned Mr Boffin, 'if I am, that's my business. I am not
going to spend at this rate, to please you, or anybody. You
wouldn't like it, if it was your money.'
'Even in that impossible case, sir, I--'
'Hold your tongue!' said Mr Boffin. 'You oughtn't to like it in any
case. There! I didn't mean to he rude, but you put me out so, and
after all I'm master. I didn't intend to tell you to hold your tongue.
I beg your pardon. Don't hold your tongue. Only, don't contradict.
Did you ever come across the life of Mr Elwes?' referring to his
favourite subject at last.
'Ah, people called him a miser. People are always calling other
people something. Did you ever read about him?'
'I think so.'
'He never owned to being rich, and yet he might have bought me
twice over. Did you ever hear of Daniel Dancer?'
'Another miser? Yes.'
'He was a good 'un,' said Mr Boffin, 'and he had a sister worthy of
him. They never called themselves rich neither. If they HAD
called themselves rich, most likely they wouldn't have been so.'
'They lived and died very miserably. Did they not, sir?'
'No, I don't know that they did,' said Mr Boffin, curtly.
'Then they are not the Misers I mean. Those abject wretches--'
'Don't call names, Rokesmith,' said Mr Boffin.
'--That exemplary brother and sister--lived and died in the foulest
and filthiest degradation.'
'They pleased themselves,' said Mr Boffin, 'and I suppose they
could have done no more if they had spent their money. But
however, I ain't going to fling mine away. Keep the expenses
down. The fact is, you ain't enough here, Rokesmith. It wants
constant attention in the littlest things. Some of us will be dying in
a workhouse next.'
'As the persons you have cited,' quietly remarked the Secretary,
'thought they would, if I remember, sir.'
'And very creditable in 'em too,' said Mr Boffin. 'Very independent
in 'em! But never mind them just now. Have you given notice to
quit your lodgings?'
'Under your direction, I have, sir.'
'Then I tell you what,' said Mr Boffin; 'pay the quarter's rent--pay
the quarter's rent, it'll be the cheapest thing in the end--and come
here at once, so that you may be always on the spot, day and night,
and keep the expenses down. You'll charge the quarter's rent to
me, and we must try and save it somewhere. You've got some
lovely furniture; haven't you?'
'The furniture in my rooms is my own.'
'Then we shan't have to buy any for you. In case you was to think
it,' said Mr Boffin, with a look of peculiar shrewdness, 'so
honourably independent in you as to make it a relief to your mind,
to make that furniture over to me in the light of a set-off against the
quarter's rent, why ease your mind, ease your mind. I don't ask it,
but I won't stand in your way if you should consider it due to
yourself. As to your room, choose any empty room at the top of the
'Any empty room will do for me,' said the Secretary.
'You can take your pick,' said Mr Boffin, 'and it'll be as good as
eight or ten shillings a week added to your income. I won't deduct
for it; I look to you to make it up handsomely by keeping the
expenses down. Now, if you'll show a light, I'll come to your
office-room and dispose of a letter or two.'
On that clear, generous face of Mrs Boffin's, Bella had seen such
traces of a pang at the heart while this dialogue was being held,
that she had not the courage to turn her eyes to it when they were
left alone. Feigning to be intent on her embroidery, she sat plying
her needle until her busy hand was stopped by Mrs Boffin's hand
being lightly laid upon it. Yielding to the touch, she felt her hand
carried to the good soul's lips, and felt a tear fall on it.
'Oh, my loved husband!' said Mrs Boffin. 'This is hard to see and
hear. But my dear Bella, believe me that in spite of all the change
in him, he is the best of men.'
He came back, at the moment when Bella had taken the hand
comfortingly between her own.
'Eh?' said he, mistrustfully looking in at the door. 'What's she
'She is only praising you, sir,' said Bella.
'Praising me? You are sure? Not blaming me for standing on my
own defence against a crew of plunderers, who could suck me dry
by driblets? Not blaming me for getting a little hoard together?'
He came up to them, and his wife folded her hands upon his
shoulder, and shook her head as she laid it on her hands.
'There, there, there!' urged Mr Boffin, not unkindly. 'Don't take on,
'But I can't bear to see you so, my dear.'
'Nonsense! Recollect we are not our old selves. Recollect, we
must scrunch or be scrunched. Recollect, we must hold our own.
Recollect, money makes money. Don't you be uneasy, Bella, my
child; don't you be doubtful. The more I save, the more you shall
Bella thought it was well for his wife that she was musing with her
affectionate face on his shoulder; for there was a cunning light in
his eyes as he said all this, which seemed to cast a disagreeable
illumination on the change in him, and make it morally uglier.
THE GOLDEN DUSTMAN FALLS INTO WORSE COMPANY
It had come to pass that Mr Silas Wegg now rarely attended the
minion of fortune and the worm of the hour, at his (the worm's and
minion's) own house, but lay under general instructions to await
him within a certain margin of hours at the Bower. Mr Wegg took
this arrangement in great dudgeon, because the appointed hours
were evening hours, and those he considered precious to the
progress of the friendly move. But it was quite in character, he
bitterly remarked to Mr Venus, that the upstart who had trampled
on those eminent creatures, Miss Elizabeth, Master George, Aunt
Jane, and Uncle Parker, should oppress his literary man.
The Roman Empire having worked out its destruction, Mr Boffin
next appeared in a cab with Rollin's Ancient History, which
valuable work being found to possess lethargic properties, broke
down, at about the period when the whole of the army of
Alexander the Macedonian (at that time about forty thousand
strong) burst into tears simultaneously, on his being taken with a
shivering fit after bathing. The Wars of the Jews, likewise
languishing under Mr Wegg's generalship, Mr Boffin arrived in
another cab with Plutarch: whose Lives he found in the sequel
extremely entertaining, though he hoped Plutarch might not expect
him to believe them all. What to believe, in the course of his
reading, was Mr Boffin's chief literary difficulty indeed; for some
time he was divided in his mind between half, all, or none; at
length, when he decided, as a moderate man, to compound with
half, the question still remained, which half? And that stumbling-
block he never got over.
One evening, when Silas Wegg had grown accustomed to the
arrival of his patron in a cab, accompanied by some profane
historian charged with unutterable names of incomprehensible
peoples, of impossible descent, waging wars any number of years
and syllables long, and carrying illimitable hosts and riches about,
with the greatest ease, beyond the confines of geography--one
evening the usual time passed by, and no patron appeared. After
half an hour's grace, Mr Wegg proceeded to the outer gate, and
there executed a whistle, conveying to Mr Venus, if perchance
within hearing, the tidings of his being at home and disengaged.
Forth from the shelter of a neighbouring wall, Mr Venus then
'Brother in arms,' said Mr Wegg, in excellent spirits, 'welcome!'
In return, Mr Venus gave him a rather dry good evening.
'Walk in, brother,' said Silas, clapping him on the shoulder, 'and
take your seat in my chimley corner; for what says the ballad?
"No malice to dread, sir,
And no falsehood to fear,
But truth to delight me, Mr Venus,
And I forgot what to cheer.
Li toddle de om dee.
And something to guide,
My ain fireside, sir,
My ain fireside."'
With this quotation (depending for its neatness rather on the spirit
than the words), Mr Wegg conducted his guest to his hearth.
'And you come, brother,' said Mr Wegg, in a hospitable glow, 'you
come like I don't know what--exactly like it--I shouldn't know you
from it--shedding a halo all around you.'
'What kind of halo?' asked Mr Venus.
''Ope sir,' replied Silas. 'That's YOUR halo.'
Mr Venus appeared doubtful on the point, and looked rather
discontentedly at the fire.
'We'll devote the evening, brother,' exclaimed Wegg, 'to prosecute
our friendly move. And arterwards, crushing a flowing wine-cup--
which I allude to brewing rum and water--we'll pledge one
another. For what says the Poet?
"And you needn't Mr Venus be your black bottle,
For surely I'll be mine,
And we'll take a glass with a slice of lemon in it to which
For auld lang syne."'
This flow of quotation and hospitality in Wegg indicated his
observation of some little querulousness on the part of Venus.
'Why, as to the friendly move,' observed the last-named gentleman,
rubbing his knees peevishly, 'one of my objections to it is, that it
'Rome, brother,' returned Wegg: 'a city which (it may not be
generally known) originated in twins and a wolf; and ended in
Imperial marble: wasn't built in a day.'
'Did I say it was?' asked Venus.
'No, you did not, brother. Well-inquired.'
'But I do say,' proceeded Venus, 'that I am taken from among my
trophies of anatomy, am called upon to exchange my human
warious for mere coal-ashes warious, and nothing comes of it. I
think I must give up.'
'No, sir!' remonstrated Wegg, enthusiastically. 'No, Sir!
"Charge, Chester, charge,
On, Mr Venus, on!"
Never say die, sir! A man of your mark!'
'It's not so much saying it that I object to,' returned Mr Venus, 'as
doing it. And having got to do it whether or no, I can't afford to
waste my time on groping for nothing in cinders.'
'But think how little time you have given to the move, sir, after all,'
urged Wegg. 'Add the evenings so occupied together, and what do
they come to? And you, sir, harmonizer with myself in opinions,
views, and feelings, you with the patience to fit together on wires
the whole framework of society--I allude to the human skelinton--
you to give in so soon!'
'I don't like it,' returned Mr Venus moodily, as he put his head
between his knees and stuck up his dusty hair. 'And there's no
encouragement to go on.'
'Not them Mounds without,' said Mr Wegg, extending his right
hand with an air of solemn reasoning, 'encouragement? Not them
Mounds now looking down upon us?'
'They're too big,' grumbled Venus. 'What's a scratch here and a
scrape there, a poke in this place and a dig in the other, to them.
Besides; what have we found?'
'What HAVE we found?' cried Wegg, delighted to be able to
acquiesce. 'Ah! There I grant you, comrade. Nothing. But on the
contrary, comrade, what MAY we find? There you'll grant me.
'I don't like it,' pettishly returned Venus as before. 'I came into it
without enough consideration. And besides again. Isn't your own
Mr Boffin well acquainted with the Mounds? And wasn't he well
acquainted with the deceased and his ways? And has he ever
showed any expectation of finding anything?'
At that moment wheels were heard.
'Now, I should be loth,' said Mr Wegg, with an air of patient
injury, 'to think so ill of him as to suppose him capable of coming
at this time of night. And yet it sounds like him.'
A ring at the yard bell.
'It is him,' said Mr Wegg, 'and he it capable of it. I am sorry,
because I could have wished to keep up a little lingering fragment
of respect for him.'
Here Mr Boffin was heard lustily calling at the yard gate, 'Halloa!
'Keep your seat, Mr Venus,' said Wegg. 'He may not stop.' And
then called out, 'Halloa, sir! Halloa! I'm with you directly, sir!
Half a minute, Mr Boffin. Coming, sir, as fast as my leg will bring
me!' And so with a show of much cheerful alacrity stumped out to
the gate with a light, and there, through the window of a cab,
descried Mr Boffin inside, blocked up with books.
'Here! lend a hand, Wegg,' said Mr Boffin excitedly, 'I can't get out
till the way is cleared for me. This is the Annual Register, Wegg,
in a cab-full of wollumes. Do you know him?'
'Know the Animal Register, sir?' returned the Impostor, who had
caught the name imperfectly. 'For a trifling wager, I think I could
find any Animal in him, blindfold, Mr Boffin.'
'And here's Kirby's Wonderful Museum,' said Mr Boffin, 'and
Caulfield's Characters, and Wilson's. Such Characters, Wegg,
such Characters! I must have one or two of the best of 'em to-
night. It's amazing what places they used to put the guineas in,
wrapped up in rags. Catch hold of that pile of wollumes, Wegg, or
it'll bulge out and burst into the mud. Is there anyone about, to
'There's a friend of mine, sir, that had the intention of spending the
evening with me when I gave you up--much against my will--for
'Call him out,' cried Mr Boffin in a bustle; 'get him to bear a hand.
Don't drop that one under your arm. It's Dancer. Him and his
sister made pies of a dead sheep they found when they were out a
walking. Where's your friend? Oh, here's your friend. Would you
be so good as help Wegg and myself with these books? But don't
take Jemmy Taylor of Southwark, nor yet Jemmy Wood of
Gloucester. These are the two Jemmys. I'll carry them myself.'
Not ceasing to talk and bustle, in a state of great excitement, Mr
Boffin directed the removal and arrangement of the books,
appearing to be in some sort beside himself until they were all
deposited on the floor, and the cab was dismissed.
'There!' said Mr Boffin, gloating over them. 'There they are, like
the four-and-twenty fiddlers--all of a row. Get on your spectacles,
Wegg; I know where to find the best of 'em, and we'll have a taste
at once of what we have got before us. What's your friend's name?'
Mr Wegg presented his friend as Mr Venus.
'Eh?' cried Mr Boffin, catching at the name. 'Of Clerkenwell?'
'Of Clerkenwell, sir,' said Mr Venus.
'Why, I've heard of you,' cried Mr Boffin, 'I heard of you in the old
man's time. You knew him. Did you ever buy anything of him?'
With piercing eagerness.
'No, sir,' returned Venus.
'But he showed you things; didn't he?'
Mr Venus, with a glance at his friend, replied in the affirmative.
'What did he show you?' asked Mr Boffin, putting his hands
behind him, and eagerly advancing his head. 'Did he show you
boxes, little cabinets, pocket-books, parcels, anything locked or
sealed, anything tied up?'
Mr Venus shook his head.
'Are you a judge of china?'
Mr Venus again shook his head.
'Because if he had ever showed you a teapot, I should be glad to
know of it,' said Mr Boffin. And then, with his right hand at his
lips, repeated thoughtfully, 'a Teapot, a Teapot', and glanced over
the books on the floor, as if he knew there was something
interesting connected with a teapot, somewhere among them.
Mr Wegg and Mr Venus looked at one another wonderingly: and
Mr Wegg, in fitting on his spectacles, opened his eyes wide, over
their rims, and tapped the side of his nose: as an admonition to
Venus to keep himself generally wide awake.
'A Teapot,' repeated Mr Boffin, continuing to muse and survey the
books; 'a Teapot, a Teapot. Are you ready, Wegg?'
'I am at your service, sir,' replied that gentleman, taking his usual
seat on the usual settle, and poking his wooden leg under the table
before it. 'Mr Venus, would you make yourself useful, and take a
seat beside me, sir, for the conveniency of snuffing the candles?'
Venus complying with the invitation while it was yet being given,
Silas pegged at him with his wooden leg, to call his particular
attention to Mr Boffin standing musing before the fire, in the space
between the two settles.
'Hem! Ahem!' coughed Mr Wegg to attract his employer's
attention. 'Would you wish to commence with an Animal, sir--
from the Register?'
'No,' said Mr Boffin, 'no, Wegg.' With that, producing a little book
from his breast-pocket, he handed it with great care to the literary
gentlemen, and inquired, 'What do you call that, Wegg?'
'This, sir,' replied Silas, adjusting his spectacles, and referring to
the title-page, 'is Merryweather's Lives and Anecdotes of Misers.
Mr Venus, would you make yourself useful and draw the candles a
little nearer, sir?' This to have a special opportunity of bestowing a
stare upon his comrade.
'Which of 'em have you got in that lot?' asked Mr Boffin. 'Can you
find out pretty easy?'
'Well, sir,' replied Silas, turning to the table of contents and slowly
fluttering the leaves of the book, 'I should say they must be pretty
well all here, sir; here's a large assortment, sir; my eye catches
John Overs, sir, John Little, sir, Dick Jarrel, John Elwes, the
Reverend Mr Jones of Blewbury, Vulture Hopkins, Daniel Dancer-
'Give us Dancer, Wegg,' said Mr Boffin.
With another stare at his comrade, Silas sought and found the
'Page a hundred and nine, Mr Boffin. Chapter eight. Contents of
chapter, "His birth and estate. His garments and outward
appearance. Miss Dancer and her feminine graces. The Miser's
Mansion. The finding of a treasure. The Story of the Mutton Pies.
A Miser's Idea of Death. Bob, the Miser's cur. Griffiths and his
Master. How to turn a penny. A substitute for a Fire. The
Advantages of keeping a Snuff-box. The Miser dies without a
Shirt. The Treasures of a Dunghill--"'
'Eh? What's that?' demanded Mr Boffin.
'"The Treasures," sir,' repeated Silas, reading very distinctly, '"of a
Dunghill." Mr Venus, sir, would you obleege with the snuffers?'
This, to secure attention to his adding with his lips only, 'Mounds!'
Mr Boffin drew an arm-chair into the space where he stood, and
said, seating himself and slyly rubbing his hands:
'Give us Dancer.'
Mr Wegg pursued the biography of that eminent man through its
various phases of avarice and dirt, through Miss Dancer's death on
a sick regimen of cold dumpling, and through Mr Dancer's keeping
his rags together with a hayband, and warming his dinner by
sitting upon it, down to the consolatory incident of his dying naked
in a sack. After which he read on as follows:
'"The house, or rather the heap of ruins, in which Mr Dancer lived,
and which at his death devolved to the right of Captain Holmes,
was a most miserable, decayed building, for it had not been
repaired for more than half a century."'
(Here Mr Wegg eyes his comrade and the room in which they sat:
which had not been repaired for a long time.)
'"But though poor in external structure, the ruinous fabric was very
rich in the interior. It took many weeks to explore its whole
contents; and Captain Holmes found it a very agreeable task to
dive into the miser's secret hoards."'
(Here Mr Wegg repeated 'secret hoards', and pegged his comrade
'"One of Mr Dancer's richest escretoires was found to be a
dungheap in the cowhouse; a sum but little short of two thousand
five hundred pounds was contained in this rich piece of manure;
and in an old jacket, carefully tied, and strongly nailed down to the
manger, in bank notes and gold were found five hundred pounds
(Here Mr Wegg's wooden leg started forward under the table, and
slowly elevated itself as he read on.)
'"Several bowls were discovered filled with guineas and half-
guineas; and at different times on searching the corners of the
house they found various parcels of bank notes. Some were
crammed into the crevices of the wall"';