Part 20 out of 21
Bella's husband stepped back to Bella, took her in his arms (for she
was terrified by the unintelligible terror of the two men), and shut
the door of the little room. A hurry of voices succeeded, in which
Mr Inspector's voice was busiest; it gradually slackened and sank;
and Mr Inspector reappeared. 'Sharp's the word, sir!' he said,
looking in with a knowing wink. 'We'll get your lady out at once.'
Immediately, Bella and her husband were under the stars, making
their way back, alone, to the vehicle they had kept in waiting.
All this was most extraordinary, and Bella could make nothing of
it but that John was in the right. How in the right, and how
suspected of being in the wrong, she could not divine. Some
vague idea that he had never really assumed the name of Handford,
and that there was a remarkable likeness between him and that
mysterious person, was her nearest approach to any definite
explanation. But John was triumphant; that much was made
apparent; and she could wait for the rest.
When John came home to dinner next day, he said, sitting down on
the sofa by Bella and baby-Bella: 'My dear, I have a piece of news
to tell you. I have left the China House.'
As he seemed to like having left it, Bella took it for granted that
there was no misfortune in the case.
'In a word, my love,' said John, 'the China House is broken up and
abolished. There is no such thing any more.'
'Then, are you already in another House, John?'
'Yes, my darling. I am in another way of business. And I am
rather better off.'
The inexhaustible baby was instantly made to congratulate him,
and to say, with appropriate action on the part of a very limp arm
and a speckled fist: 'Three cheers, ladies and gemplemorums.
'I am afraid, my life,' said John, 'that you have become very much
attached to this cottage?'
'Afraid I have, John? Of course I have.'
'The reason why I said afraid,' returned John, 'is, because we must
'Yes, my dear, we must move. We must have our head-quarters in
London now. In short, there's a dwelling-house rent-free, attached
to my new position, and we must occupy it.'
'That's a gain, John.'
'Yes, my dear, it is undoubtedly a gain.'
He gave her a very blithe look, and a very sly look. Which
occasioned the inexhaustible baby to square at him with the
speckled fists, and demand in a threatening manner what he
'My love, you said it was a gain, and I said it was a gain. A very
innocent remark, surely.'
'I won't,' said the inexhaustible baby, '--allow--you--to--make--
game--of--my--venerable--Ma.' At each division administering a
soft facer with one of the speckled fists.
John having stooped down to receive these punishing visitations,
Bella asked him, would it be necessary to move soon? Why yes,
indeed (said John), he did propose that they should move very
soon. Taking the furniture with them, of course? (said Bella).
Why, no (said John), the fact was, that the house was--in a sort of
a kind of a way--furnished already.
The inexhaustible baby, hearing this, resumed the offensive, and
said: 'But there's no nursery for me, sir. What do you mean,
marble-hearted parent?' To which the marble-hearted parent
rejoined that there was a--sort of a kind of a--nursery, and it might
be 'made to do'. 'Made to do?' returned the Inexhaustible,
administering more punishment, 'what do you take me for?' And
was then turned over on its back in Bella's lap, and smothered with
'But really, John dear,' said Bella, flushed in quite a lovely manner
by these exercises, 'will the new house, just as it stands, do for
baby? That's the question.'
'I felt that to be the question,' he returned, 'and therefore I arranged
that you should come with me and look at it, to-morrow morning.'
Appointment made, accordingly, for Bella to go up with him to-
morrow morning; John kissed; and Bella delighted.
When they reached London in pursuance of their little plan, they
took coach and drove westward. Not only drove westward, but
drove into that particular westward division, which Bella had seen
last when she turned her face from Mr Boffin's door. Not only
drove into that particular division, but drove at last into that very
street. Not only drove into that very street, but stopped at last at
that very house.
'John dear!' cried Bella, looking out of window in a flutter. 'Do you
see where we are?'
'Yes, my love. The coachman's quite right.'
The house-door was opened without any knocking or ringing, and
John promptly helped her out. The servant who stood holding the
door, asked no question of John, neither did he go before them or
follow them as they went straight up-stairs. It was only her
husband's encircling arm, urging her on, that prevented Bella from
stopping at the foot of the staircase. As they ascended, it was seen
to be tastefully ornamented with most beautiful flowers.
'O John!' said Bella, faintly. 'What does this mean?'
'Nothing, my darling, nothing. Let us go on.'
Going on a little higher, they came to a charming aviary, in which
a number of tropical birds, more gorgeous in colour than the
flowers, were flying about; and among those birds were gold and
silver fish, and mosses, and water-lilies, and a fountain, and all
manner of wonders.
'O my dear John!' said Bella. 'What does this mean?'
'Nothing, my darling, nothing. Let us go on.'
They went on, until they came to a door. As John put out his hand
to open it, Bella caught his hand.
'I don't know what it means, but it's too much for me. Hold me,
John caught her up in his arm, and lightly dashed into the room
Behold Mr and Mrs Boffin, beaming! Behold Mrs Boffin clapping
her hands in an ecstacy, running to Bella with tears of joy pouring
down her comely face, and folding her to her breast, with the
words: 'My deary deary, deary girl, that Noddy and me saw
married and couldn't wish joy to, or so much as speak to! My
deary, deary, deary, wife of John and mother of his little child! My
loving loving, bright bright, Pretty Pretty! Welcome to your house
and home, my deary!'
SHOWING HOW THE GOLDEN DUSTMAN HELPED TO SCATTER DUST
In all the first bewilderment of her wonder, the most bewilderingly
wonderful thing to Bella was the shining countenance of Mr
Boffin. That his wife should be joyous, open-hearted, and genial,
or that her face should express every quality that was large and
trusting, and no quality that was little or mean, was accordant with
Bella's experience. But, that he, with a perfectly beneficent air and
a plump rosy face, should be standing there, looking at her and
John, like some jovial good spirit, was marvellous. For, how had
he looked when she last saw him in that very room (it was the
room in which she had given him that piece of her mind at
parting), and what had become of all those crooked lines of
suspicion, avarice, and distrust, that twisted his visage then?
Mrs Boffin seated Bella on the large ottoman, and seated herself
beside her, and John her husband seated himself on the other side
of her, and Mr Boffin stood beaming at every one and everything
he could see, with surpassing jollity and enjoyment. Mrs Boffin
was then taken with a laughing fit of clapping her hands, and
clapping her knees, and rocking herself to and fro, and then with
another laughing fit of embracing Bella, and rocking her to and
fro--both fits, of considerable duration.
'Old lady, old lady,' said Mr Boffin, at length; 'if you don't begin
somebody else must.'
'I'm a going to begin, Noddy, my dear,' returned Mrs Boffin. 'Only
it isn't easy for a person to know where to begin, when a person is
in this state of delight and happiness. Bella, my dear. Tell me,
'Who is this?' repeated Bella. 'My husband.'
'Ah! But tell me his name, deary!' cried Mrs Boffin.
'No, it ain't!' cried Mrs Boffin, clapping her hands, and shaking her
head. 'Not a bit of it.'
'Handford then,' suggested Bella.
'No, it ain't!' cried Mrs Boffin, again clapping her hands and
shaking her head. 'Not a bit of it.'
'At least, his name is John, I suppose?' said Bella.
'Ah! I should think so, deary!' cried Mrs Boffin. 'I should hope so!
Many and many is the time I have called him by his name of John.
But what's his other name, his true other name? Give a guess, my
'I can't guess,' said Bella, turning her pale face from one to
'I could,' cried Mrs Boffin, 'and what's more, I did! I found him
out, all in a flash as I may say, one night. Didn't I, Noddy?'
'Ay! That the old lady did!' said Mr Boffin, with stout pride in the
'Harkee to me, deary,' pursued Mrs Boffin, taking Bella's hands
between her own, and gently beating on them from time to time. 'It
was after a particular night when John had been disappointed--as
he thought--in his affections. It was after a night when John had
made an offer to a certain young lady, and the certain young lady
had refused it. It was after a particular night, when he felt himself
cast-away-like, and had made up his mind to go seek his fortune.
It was the very next night. My Noddy wanted a paper out of his
Secretary's room, and I says to Noddy, "I am going by the door,
and I'll ask him for it." I tapped at his door, and he didn't hear me.
I looked in, and saw him a sitting lonely by his fire, brooding over
it. He chanced to look up with a pleased kind of smile in my
company when he saw me, and then in a single moment every
grain of the gunpowder that had been lying sprinkled thick about
him ever since I first set eyes upon him as a man at the Bower,
took fire! Too many a time had I seen him sitting lonely, when he
was a poor child, to be pitied, heart and hand! Too many a time
had I seen him in need of being brightened up with a comforting
word! Too many and too many a time to be mistaken, when that
glimpse of him come at last! No, no! I just makes out to cry, "I
know you now! You're John!" And he catches me as I drops.--So
what,' says Mrs Boffin, breaking off in the rush of her speech to
smile most radiantly, 'might you think by this time that your
husband's name was, dear?'
'Not,' returned Bella, with quivering lips; 'not Harmon? That's not
'Don't tremble. Why not possible, deary, when so many things are
possible?' demanded Mrs Boffin, in a soothing tone.
'He was killed,' gasped Bella.
'Thought to be,' said Mrs Boffin. 'But if ever John Harmon drew
the breath of life on earth, that is certainly John Harmon's arm
round your waist now, my pretty. If ever John Harmon had a wife
on earth, that wife is certainly you. If ever John Harmon and his
wife had a child on earth, that child is certainly this.'
By a master-stroke of secret arrangement, the inexhaustible baby
here appeared at the door, suspended in mid-air by invisible
agency. Mrs Boffin, plunging at it, brought it to Bella's lap, where
both Mrs and Mr Boffin (as the saying is) 'took it out of' the
Inexhaustible in a shower of caresses. It was only this timely
appearance that kept Bella from swooning. This, and her
husband's earnestness in explaining further to her how it had come
to pass that he had been supposed to be slain, and had even been
suspected of his own murder; also, how he had put a pious fraud
upon her which had preyed upon his mind, as the time for its
disclosure approached, lest she might not make full allowance for
the object with which it had originated, and in which it had fully
'But bless ye, my beauty!' cried Mrs Boflin, taking him up short at
this point, with another hearty clap of her hands. 'It wasn't John
only that was in it. We was all of us in it.'
'I don't,' said Bella, looking vacantly from one to another, 'yet
'Of course you don't, my deary,' exclaimed Mrs Boffin. 'How can
you till you're told! So now I am a going to tell you. So you put
your two hands between my two hands again,' cried the
comfortable creature, embracing her, 'with that blessed little picter
lying on your lap, and you shall be told all the story. Now, I'm a
going to tell the story. Once, twice, three times, and the horses is
off. Here they go! When I cries out that night, "I know you now,
you're John! "--which was my exact words; wasn't they, John?'
'Your exact words,' said John, laying his hand on hers.
'That's a very good arrangement,' cried Mrs Boffin. 'Keep it there,
John. And as we was all of us in it, Noddy you come and lay yours
a top of his, and we won't break the pile till the story's done.'
Mr Boffin hitched up a chair, and added his broad brown right
hand to the heap.
'That's capital!' said Mrs Boffin, giving it a kiss. 'Seems quite a
family building; don't it? But the horses is off. Well! When I
cries out that night, "I know you now! you're John!" John catches
of me, it is true; but I ain't a light weight, bless ye, and he's forced
to let me down. Noddy, he hears a noise, and in he trots, and as
soon as I anyways comes to myself I calls to him, "Noddy, well I
might say as I did say, that night at the Bower, for the Lord be
thankful this is John!" On which he gives a heave, and down he
goes likewise, with his head under the writing-table. This brings
me round comfortable, and that brings him round comfortable, and
then John and him and me we all fall a crying for joy.'
'Yes! They cry for joy, my darling,' her husband struck in. 'You
understand? These two, whom I come to life to disappoint and
dispossess, cry for joy!'
Bella looked at him confusedly, and looked again at Mrs Boffin's
'That's right, my dear, don't you mind him,' said Mrs Boffin, 'stick
to me. Well! Then we sits down, gradually gets cool, and holds a
confabulation. John, he tells us how he is despairing in his mind
on accounts of a certain fair young person, and how, if I hadn't
found him out, he was going away to seek his fortune far and wide,
and had fully meant never to come to life, but to leave the property
as our wrongful inheritance for ever and a day. At which you
never see a man so frightened as my Noddy was. For to think that
he should have come into the property wrongful, however innocent,
and--more than that--might have gone on keeping it to his dying
day, turned him whiter than chalk.'
'And you too,' said Mr Boffin.
'Don't you mind him, neither, my deary,' resumed Mrs Boffin;
'stick to me. This brings up a confabulation regarding the certain
fair young person; when Noddy he gives it as his opinion that she
is a deary creetur. "She may be a leetle spoilt, and nat'rally spoilt,"
he says, "by circumstances, but that's only the surface, and I lay my
life," he says, "that she's the true golden gold at heart."
'So did you,' said Mr Boffin.
'Don't you mind him a single morsel, my dear,' proceeded Mrs
Boffin, 'but stick to me. Then says John, O, if he could but prove
so! Then we both of us ups and says, that minute, "Prove so!"'
With a start, Bella directed a hurried glance towards Mr Boffin.
But, he was sitting thoughtfully smiling at that broad brown hand
of his, and either didn't see it, or would take no notice of it.
'"Prove it, John!" we says,' repeated Mrs Boffin. '"Prove it and
overcome your doubts with triumph, and be happy for the first time
in your life, and for the rest of your life." This puts John in a state,
to be sure. Then we says, "What will content you? If she was to
stand up for you when you was slighted, if she was to show herself
of a generous mind when you was oppressed, if she was to be
truest to you when you was poorest and friendliest, and all this
against her own seeming interest, how would that do?" "Do?" says
John, "it would raise me to the skies." "Then," says my Noddy,
"make your preparations for the ascent, John, it being my firm
belief that up you go!"'
Bella caught Mr Boffin's twinkling eye for half an instant; but he
got it away from her, and restored it to his broad brown hand.
'From the first, you was always a special favourite of Noddy's,' said
Mrs Boffin, shaking her head. 'O you were! And if I had been
inclined to be jealous, I don't know what I mightn't have done to
you. But as I wasn't--why, my beauty,' with a hearty laugh and an
embrace, 'I made you a special favourite of my own too. But the
horses is coming round the corner. Well! Then says my Noddy,
shaking his sides till he was fit to make 'em ache again: "Look out
for being slighted and oppressed, John, for if ever a man had a
hard master, you shall find me from this present time to be such to
you. And then he began!' cried Mrs Boffin, in an ecstacy of
admiration. 'Lord bless you, then he began! And how he DID
begin; didn't he!'
Bella looked half frightened, and yet half laughed.
'But, bless you,' pursued Mrs Boffin, 'if you could have seen him of
a night, at that time of it! The way he'd sit and chuckle over
himself! The way he'd say "I've been a regular brown bear to-day,"
and take himself in his arms and hug himself at the thoughts of the
brute he had pretended. But every night he says to me: "Better
and better, old lady. What did we say of her? She'll come through
it, the true golden gold. This'll be the happiest piece of work we
ever done." And then he'd say, "I'll be a grislier old growler to-
morrow!" and laugh, he would, till John and me was often forced
to slap his back, and bring it out of his windpipes with a little
Mr Boffin, with his face bent over his heavy hand, made no sound,
but rolled his shoulders when thus referred to, as if he were vastly
'And so, my good and pretty,' pursued Mrs Boffin, 'you was
married, and there was we hid up in the church-organ by this
husband of yours; for he wouldn't let us out with it then, as was
first meant. "No," he says, "she's so unselfish and contented, that
I can't afford to be rich yet. I must wait a little longer." Then,
when baby was expected, he says, "She is such a cheerful, glorious
housewife that I can't afford to be rich yet. I must wait a little
longer." Then when baby was born, he says, "She is so much
better than she ever was, that I can't afford to be rich yet. I must
wait a little longer." And so he goes on and on, till I says outright,
"Now, John, if you don't fix a time for setting her up in her own
house and home, and letting us walk out of it, I'll turn Informer."
Then he says he'll only wait to triumph beyond what we ever
thought possible, and to show her to us better than even we ever
supposed; and he says, "She shall see me under suspicion of
having murdered myself, and YOU shall see how trusting and how
true she'll be." Well! Noddy and me agreed to that, and he was
right, and here you are, and the horses is in, and the story is done,
and God bless you my Beauty, and God bless us all!'
The pile of hands dispersed, and Bella and Mrs Boffin took a good
long hug of one another: to the apparent peril of the inexhaustible
baby, lying staring in Bella's lap.
'But IS the story done?' said Bella, pondering. 'Is there no more of
'What more of it should there be, deary?' returned Mrs Boffin, full
'Are you sure you have left nothing out of it?' asked Bella.
'I don't think I have,' said Mrs Boffin, archly.
'John dear,' said Bella, 'you're a good nurse; will you please hold
baby?' Having deposited the Inexhaustible in his arms with those
words, Bella looked hard at Mr Boffin, who had moved to a table
where he was leaning his head upon his hand with his face turned
away, and, quietly settling herself on her knees at his side, and
drawing one arm over his shoulder, said: 'Please I beg your pardon,
and I made a small mistake of a word when I took leave of you
last. Please I think you are better (not worse) than Hopkins, better
(not worse) than Dancer, better (not worse) than Blackberry Jones,
better (not worse) than any of them! Please something more!' cried
Bella, with an exultant ringing laugh as she struggled with him
and forced him to turn his delighted face to hers. 'Please I have
found out something not yet mentioned. Please I don't believe you
are a hard-hearted miser at all, and please I don't believe you ever
for one single minute were!'
At this, Mrs Boffin fairly screamed with rapture, and sat beating
her feet upon the floor, clapping her hands, and bobbing herself
backwards and forwards, like a demented member of some
'O, I understand you now, sir!' cried Bella. 'I want neither you nor
any one else to tell me the rest of the story. I can tell it to YOU,
now, if you would like to hear it.'
'Can you, my dear?' said Mr Boffin. 'Tell it then.'
'What?' cried Bella, holding him prisoner by the coat with both
hands. 'When you saw what a greedy little wretch you were the
patron of, you determined to show her how much misused and
misprized riches could do, and often had done, to spoil people; did
you? Not caring what she thought of you (and Goodness knows
THAT was of no consequence!) you showed her, in yourself, the
most detestable sides of wealth, saying in your own mind, "This
shallow creature would never work the truth out of her own weak
soul, if she had a hundred years to do it in; but a glaring instance
kept before her may open even her eyes and set her thinking." That
was what you said to yourself, was it, sir?'
'I never said anything of the sort,' Mr Boffin declared in a state of
the highest enjoyment.
'Then you ought to have said it, sir,' returned Bella, giving him two
pulls and one kiss, 'for you must have thought and meant it. You
saw that good fortune was turning my stupid head and hardening
my silly heart--was making me grasping, calculating, insolent,
insufferable--and you took the pains to be the dearest and kindest
fingerpost that ever was set up anywhere, pointing out the road
that I was taking and the end it led to. Confess instantly!'
'John,' said Mr Boffin, one broad piece of sunshine from head to
foot, 'I wish you'd help me out of this.'
'You can't be heard by counsel, sir,' returned Bella. 'You must
speak for yourself. Confess instantly!'
'Well, my dear,' said Mr Boffin, 'the truth is, that when we did go
in for the little scheme that my old lady has pinted out, I did put it
to John, what did he think of going in for some such general
scheme as YOU have pinted out? But I didn't in any way so word
it, because I didn't in any way so mean it. I only said to John,
wouldn't it be more consistent, me going in for being a reg'lar
brown bear respecting him, to go in as a reg'lar brown bear all
'Confess this minute, sir,' said Bella, 'that you did it to correct and
'Certainly, my dear child,' said Mr Boffin, 'I didn't do it to harm
you; you may be sure of that. And I did hope it might just hint a
caution. Still, it ought to be mentioned that no sooner had my old
lady found out John, than John made known to her and me that he
had had his eye upon a thankless person by the name of Silas
Wegg. Partly for the punishment of which Wegg, by leading him
on in a very unhandsome and underhanded game that he was
playing, them books that you and me bought so many of together
(and, by-the-by, my dear, he wasn't Blackberry Jones, but
Blewberry) was read aloud to me by that person of the name of
Silas Wegg aforesaid.'
Bella, who was still on her knees at Mr Boffin's feet, gradually
sank down into a sitting posture on the ground, as she meditated
more and more thoughtfully, with her eyes upon his beaming face.
'Still,' said Bella, after this meditative pause, 'there remain two
things that I cannot understand. Mrs Boffin never supposed any
part of the change in Mr Boffin to be real; did she?--You never did;
did you?' asked Bella, turning to her.
'No!' returned Mrs Boffin, with a most rotund and glowing
'And yet you took it very much to heart,' said Bella. 'I remember
its making you very uneasy, indeed.'
'Ecod, you see Mrs John has a sharp eye, John!' cried Mr Boffin,
shaking his head with an admiring air. 'You're right, my dear.
The old lady nearly blowed us into shivers and smithers, many
'Why?' asked Bella. 'How did that happen, when she was in your
'Why, it was a weakness in the old lady,' said Mr Boffin; 'and yet,
to tell you the whole truth and nothing but the truth, I'm rather
proud of it. My dear, the old lady thinks so high of me that she
couldn't abear to see and hear me coming out as a reg'lar brown
one. Couldn't abear to make-believe as I meant it! In consequence
of which, we was everlastingly in danger with her.'
Mrs Boffin laughed heartily at herself; but a certain glistening in
her honest eyes revealed that she was by no means cured of that
'I assure you, my dear,' said Mr Boffin, 'that on the celebrated day
when I made what has since been agreed upon to be my grandest
demonstration--I allude to Mew says the cat, Quack quack says the
duck, and Bow-wow-wow says the dog--I assure you, my dear,
that on that celebrated day, them flinty and unbeliving words hit
my old lady so hard on my account, that I had to hold her, to
prevent her running out after you, and defending me by saying I
was playing a part.'
Mrs Boffin laughed heartily again, and her eyes glistened again,
and it then appeared, not only that in that burst of sarcastic
eloquence Mr Boffin was considered by his two fellow-
conspirators to have outdone himself, but that in his own opinion it
was a remarkable achievement. 'Never thought of it afore the
moment, my dear!' he observed to Bella. 'When John said, if he
had been so happy as to win your affections and possess your
heart, it come into my head to turn round upon him with "Win her
affections and possess her heart! Mew says the cat, Quack quack
says the duck, and Bow-wow-wow says the dog." I couldn't tell
you how it come into my head or where from, but it had so much
the sound of a rasper that I own to you it astonished myself. I was
awful nigh bursting out a laughing though, when it made John
'You said, my pretty,' Mrs Boffin reminded Bella, 'that there was
one other thing you couldn't understand.'
'O yes!' cried Bella, covering her face with her hands; 'but that I
never shall be able to understand as long as I live. It is, how John
could love me so when I so little deserved it, and how you, Mr and
Mrs Boffin, could be so forgetful of yourselves, and take such
pains and trouble, to make me a little better, and after all to help
him to so unworthy a wife. But I am very very grateful.'
It was John Harmon's turn then--John Harmon now for good, and
John Rokesmith for nevermore--to plead with her (quite
unnecessarily) in behalf of his deception, and to tell her, over and
over again, that it had been prolonged by her own winning graces
in her supposed station of life. This led on to many interchanges of
endearment and enjoyment on all sides, in the midst of which the
Inexhaustible being observed staring, in a most imbecile manner,
on Mrs Boffin's breast, was pronounced to be supernaturally
intelligent as to the whole transaction, and was made to declare to
the ladies and gemplemorums, with a wave of the speckled fist
(with difficulty detached from an exceedingly short waist), 'I have
already informed my venerable Ma that I know all about it!'
Then, said John Harmon, would Mrs John Harmon come and see
her house? And a dainty house it was, and a tastefully beautiful;
and they went through it in procession; the Inexhaustible on Mrs
Boffin's bosom (still staring) occupying the middle station, and
Mr Boffin bringing up the rear. And on Bella's exquisite toilette
table was an ivory casket, and in the casket were jewels the like of
which she had never dreamed of, and aloft on an upper floor was a
nursery garnished as with rainbows; 'though we were hard put to
it,' said John Harmon, 'to get it done in so short a time.
The house inspected, emissaries removed the Inexhaustible, who
was shortly afterwards heard screaming among the rainbows;
whereupon Bella withdrew herself from the presence and
knowledge of gemplemorums, and the screaming ceased, and
smiling Peace associated herself with that young olive branch.
'Come and look in, Noddy!' said Mrs Boffin to Mr Boffin.
Mr Boffin, submitting to be led on tiptoe to the nursery door,
looked in with immense satisfaction, although there was nothing to
see but Bella in a musing state of happiness, seated in a little low
chair upon the hearth, with her child in her fair young arms, and
her soft eyelashes shading her eyes from the fire.
'It looks as if the old man's spirit had found rest at last; don't it?'
said Mrs Boffin.
'Yes, old lady.'
'And as if his money had turned bright again, after a long long rust
in the dark, and was at last a beginning to sparkle in the sunlight?'
'Yes, old lady.'
'And it makes a pretty and a promising picter; don't it?'
'Yes, old lady.'
But, aware at the instant of a fine opening for a point, Mr Boffin
quenched that observation in this--delivered in the grisliest
growling of the regular brown bear. 'A pretty and a hopeful picter?
Mew, Quack quack, Bow-wow!' And then trotted silently
downstairs, with his shoulders in a state of the liveliest
CHECKMATE TO THE FRIENDLY MOVE
Mr and Mrs John Harmon had so timed their taking possession of
their rightful name and their London house, that the event befel on
the very day when the last waggon-load of the last Mound was
driven out at the gates of Boffin's Bower. As it jolted away, Mr
Wegg felt that the last load was correspondingly removed from his
mind, and hailed the auspicious season when that black sheep,
Boffin, was to be closely sheared.
Over the whole slow process of levelling the Mounds, Silas had
kept watch with rapacious eyes. But, eyes no less rapacious had
watched the growth of the Mounds in years bygone, and had
vigilantly sifted the dust of which they were composed. No
valuables turned up. How should there be any, seeing that the old
hard jailer of Harmony Jail had coined every waif and stray into
money, long before?
Though disappointed by this bare result, Mr Wegg felt too sensibly
relieved by the close of the labour, to grumble to any great extent.
A foreman-representative of the dust contractors, purchasers of the
Mounds, had worn Mr Wegg down to skin and bone. This
supervisor of the proceedings, asserting his employers' rights to
cart off by daylight, nightlight, torchlight, when they would, must
have been the death of Silas if the work had lasted much longer.
Seeming never to need sleep himself, he would reappear, with a
tied-up broken head, in fantail hat and velveteen smalls, like an
accursed goblin, at the most unholy and untimely hours. Tired out
by keeping close ward over a long day's work in fog and rain,
Silas would have just crawled to bed and be dozing, when a
horrid shake and rumble under his pillow would announce an
approaching train of carts, escorted by this Demon of Unrest, to
fall to work again. At another time, he would be rumbled up out of
his soundest sleep, in the dead of the night; at another, would be
kept at his post eight-and-forty hours on end. The more his
persecutor besought him not to trouble himself to turn out, the
more suspicious was the crafty Wegg that indications had been
observed of something hidden somewhere, and that attempts were
on foot to circumvent him. So continually broken was his rest
through these means, that he led the life of having wagered to keep
ten thousand dog-watches in ten thousand hours, and looked
piteously upon himself as always getting up and yet never going to
bed. So gaunt and haggard had he grown at last, that his wooden
leg showed disproportionate, and presented a thriving appearance
in contrast with the rest of his plagued body, which might almost
have been termed chubby.
However, Wegg's comfort was, that all his disagreeables were now
over, and that he was immediately coming into his property. Of
late, the grindstone did undoubtedly appear to have been whirling
at his own nose rather than Boffin's, but Boffin's nose was now to
be sharpened fine. Thus far, Mr Wegg had let his dusty friend off
lightly, having been baulked in that amiable design of frequently
dining with him, by the machinations of the sleepless dustman. He
had been constrained to depute Mr Venus to keep their dusty
friend, Boffin, under inspection, while he himself turned lank and
lean at the Bower.
To Mr Venus's museum Mr Wegg repaired when at length the
Mounds were down and gone. It being evening, he found that
gentleman, as he expected, seated over his fire; but did not find
him, as he expected, floating his powerful mind in tea.
'Why, you smell rather comfortable here!' said Wegg, seeming to
take it ill, and stopping and sniffing as he entered.
'I AM rather comfortable, sir,' said Venus.
'You don't use lemon in your business, do you?' asked Wegg,
'No, Mr Wegg,' said Venus. 'When I use it at all, I mostly use it in
'What do you call cobblers' punch?' demanded Wegg, in a worse
humour than before.
'It's difficult to impart the receipt for it, sir,' returned Venus,
'because, however particular you may be in allotting your
materials, so much will still depend upon the individual gifts, and
there being a feeling thrown into it. But the groundwork is gin.'
'In a Dutch bottle?' said Wegg gloomily, as he sat himself down.
'Very good, sir, very good!' cried Venus. 'Will you partake, sir?'
'Will I partake?' returned Wegg very surlily. 'Why, of course I
will! WILL a man partake, as has been tormented out of his five
senses by an everlasting dustman with his head tied up! WILL he,
too! As if he wouldn't!'
'Don't let it put you out, Mr Wegg. You don't seem in your usual
'If you come to that, you don't seem in your usual spirits,' growled
Wegg. 'You seem to be setting up for lively.'
This circumstance appeared, in his then state of mind, to give Mr
Wegg uncommon offence.
'And you've been having your hair cut!' said Wegg, missing the
usual dusty shock.
'Yes, Mr Wegg. But don't let that put you out, either.'
'And I am blest if you ain't getting fat!' said Wegg, with
culminating discontent. 'What are you going to do next?'
'Well, Mr Wegg,' said Venus, smiling in a sprightly manner, 'I
suspect you could hardly guess what I am going to do next.'
'I don't want to guess,' retorted Wegg. 'All I've got to say is, that
it's well for you that the diwision of labour has been what it has
been. It's well for you to have had so light a part in this business,
when mine has been so heavy. You haven't had YOUR rest broke,
I'll be bound.'
'Not at all, sir,' said Venus. 'Never rested so well in all my life, I
'Ah!' grumbled Wegg, 'you should have been me. If you had been
me, and had been fretted out of your bed, and your sleep, and your
meals, and your mind, for a stretch of months together, you'd have
been out of condition and out of sorts.'
'Certainly, it has trained you down, Mr Wegg,' said Venus,
contemplating his figure with an artist's eye. 'Trained you down
very low, it has! So weazen and yellow is the kivering upon your
bones, that one might almost fancy you had come to give a look-in
upon the French gentleman in the corner, instead of me.'
Mr Wegg, glancing in great dudgeon towards the French
gentleman's corner, seemed to notice something new there, which
induced him to glance at the opposite corner, and then to put on his
glasses and stare at all the nooks and corners of the dim shop in
'Why, you've been having the place cleaned up!' he exclaimed.
'Yes, Mr Wegg. By the hand of adorable woman.'
'Then what you're going to do next, I suppose, is to get married?'
'That's it, sir.'
Silas took off his glasses again--finding himself too intensely
disgusted by the sprightly appearance of his friend and partner to
bear a magnified view of him and made the inquiry:
'To the old party?'
'Mr Wegg!' said Venus, with a sudden flush of wrath. 'The lady in
question is not a old party.'
'I meant,' exclaimed Wegg, testily, 'to the party as formerly
'Mr Wegg,' said Venus, 'in a case of so much delicacy, I must
trouble you to say what you mean. There are strings that must not
be played upon. No sir! Not sounded, unless in the most
respectful and tuneful manner. Of such melodious strings is Miss
Pleasant Riderhood formed.'
'Then it IS the lady as formerly objected?' said Wegg.
'Sir,' returned Venus with dignity, 'I accept the altered phrase. It is
the lady as formerly objected.'
'When is it to come off?' asked Silas.
'Mr Wegg,' said Venus, with another flush. 'I cannot permit it to
be put in the form of a Fight. I must temperately but firmly call
upon you, sir, to amend that question.'
'When is the lady,' Wegg reluctantly demanded, constraining his ill
temper in remembrance of the partnership and its stock in trade,
'a going to give her 'and where she has already given her 'art?'
'Sir,' returned Venus, 'I again accept the altered phrase, and with
pleasure. The lady is a going to give her 'and where she has
already given her 'art, next Monday.'
'Then the lady's objection has been met?' said Silas.
'Mr Wegg,' said Venus, 'as I did name to you, I think, on a former
occasion, if not on former occasions--'
'On former occasions,' interrupted Wegg.
'--What,' pursued Venus, 'what the nature of the lady's objection
was, I may impart, without violating any of the tender confidences
since sprung up between the lady and myself, how it has been met,
through the kind interference of two good friends of mine: one,
previously acquainted with the lady: and one, not. The pint was
thrown out, sir, by those two friends when they did me the great
service of waiting on the lady to try if a union betwixt the lady and
me could not be brought to bear--the pint, I say, was thrown out by
them, sir, whether if, after marriage, I confined myself to the
articulation of men, children, and the lower animals, it might not
relieve the lady's mind of her feeling respecting being as a lady--
regarded in a bony light. It was a happy thought, sir, and it took
'It would seem, Mr Venus,' observed Wegg, with a touch of
distrust, 'that you are flush of friends?'
'Pretty well, sir,' that gentleman answered, in a tone of placid
mystery. 'So-so, sir. Pretty well.'
'However,' said Wegg, after eyeing him with another touch of
distrust, 'I wish you joy. One man spends his fortune in one way,
and another in another. You are going to try matrimony. I mean to
'Indeed, Mr Wegg?'
'Change of air, sea-scenery, and my natural rest, I hope may bring
me round after the persecutions I have undergone from the
dustman with his head tied up, which I just now mentioned. The
tough job being ended and the Mounds laid low, the hour is come
for Boffin to stump up. Would ten to-morrow morning suit you,
partner, for finally bringing Boffin's nose to the grindstone?'
Ten to-morrow morning would quite suit Mr Venus for that
'You have had him well under inspection, I hope?' said Silas.
Mr Venus had had him under inspection pretty well every day.
'Suppose you was just to step round to-night then, and give him
orders from me--I say from me, because he knows I won't be
played with--to be ready with his papers, his accounts, and his
cash, at that time in the morning?' said Wegg. 'And as a matter of
form, which will be agreeable to your own feelings, before we go
out (for I'll walk with you part of the way, though my leg gives
under me with weariness), let's have a look at the stock in trade.'
Mr Venus produced it, and it was perfectly correct; Mr Venus
undertook to produce it again in the morning, and to keep tryst
with Mr Wegg on Boffin's doorstep as the clock struck ten. At a
certain point of the road between Clerkenwell and Boffin's house
(Mr Wegg expressly insisted that there should be no prefix to the
Golden Dustman's name) the partners separated for the night.
It was a very bad night; to which succeeded a very bad morning.
The streets were so unusually slushy, muddy, and miserable, in the
morning, that Wegg rode to the scene of action; arguing that a man
who was, as it were, going to the Bank to draw out a handsome
property, could well afford that trifling expense.
Venus was punctual, and Wegg undertook to knock at the door,
and conduct the conference. Door knocked at. Door opened.
'Boffin at home?'
The servant replied that MR Boffin was at home.
'He'll do,' said Wegg, 'though it ain't what I call him.'
The servant inquired if they had any appointment?
'Now, I tell you what, young fellow,' said Wegg, 'I won't have it.
This won't do for me. I don't want menials. I want Boffin.'
They were shown into a waiting-room, where the all-powerful
Wegg wore his hat, and whistled, and with his forefinger stirred up
a clock that stood upon the chimneypiece, until he made it strike.
In a few minutes they were shown upstairs into what used to be
Boffin's room; which, besides the door of entrance, had folding-
doors in it, to make it one of a suite of rooms when occasion
required. Here, Boffin was seated at a library-table, and here Mr
Wegg, having imperiously motioned the servant to withdraw, drew
up a chair and seated himself, in his hat, close beside him. Here,
also, Mr Wegg instantly underwent the remarkable experience of
having his hat twitched off his head and thrown out of a window,
which was opened and shut for the purpose.
'Be careful what insolent liberties you take in that gentleman's
presence,' said the owner of the hand which had done this, 'or I will
throw you after it.'
Wegg involuntarily clapped his hand to his bare head, and stared
at the Secretary. For, it was he addressed him with a severe
countenance, and who had come in quietly by the folding-doors.
'Oh!' said Wegg, as soon as he recovered his suspended power of
speech. 'Very good! I gave directions for YOU to be dismissed.
And you ain't gone, ain't you? Oh! We'll look into this presently.
'No, nor I ain't gone,' said another voice.
Somebody else had come in quietly by the folding-doors. Turning
his head, Wegg beheld his persecutor, the ever-wakeful dustman,
accoutred with fantail hat and velveteen smalls complete. Who,
untying his tied-up broken head, revealed a head that was whole,
and a face that was Sloppy's.
'Ha, ha, ha, gentlemen!' roared Sloppy in a peal of laughter, and
with immeasureable relish. 'He never thought as I could sleep
standing, and often done it when I turned for Mrs Higden! He
never thought as I used to give Mrs Higden the Police-news in
different voices! But I did lead him a life all through it, gentlemen,
I hope I really and truly DID!' Here, Mr Sloppy opening his mouth
to a quite alarming extent, and throwing back his head to peal
again, revealed incalculable buttons.
'Oh!' said Wegg, slightly discomfited, but not much as yet: 'one
and one is two not dismissed, is it? Bof--fin! Just let me ask a
question. Who set this chap on, in this dress, when the carting
began? Who employed this fellow?'
'I say!' remonstrated Sloppy, jerking his head forward. 'No fellows,
or I'll throw you out of winder!'
Mr Boffin appeased him with a wave of his hand, and said: 'I
employed him, Wegg.'
'Oh! You employed him, Boffin? Very good. Mr Venus, we raise
our terms, and we can't do better than proceed to business. Bof--
fin! I want the room cleared of these two scum.'
'That's not going to be done, Wegg,' replied Mr Boffin, sitting
composedly on the library-table, at one end, while the Secretary sat
composedly on it at the other.
'Bof--fin! Not going to be done?' repeated Wegg. 'Not at your
'No, Wegg,' said Mr Boffin, shaking his head good-humouredly.
'Not at my peril, and not on any other terms.'
Wegg reflected a moment, and then said: 'Mr Venus, will you be
so good as hand me over that same dockyment?'
'Certainly, sir,' replied Venus, handing it to him with much
politeness. 'There it is. Having now, sir, parted with it, I wish to
make a small observation: not so much because it is anyways
necessary, or expresses any new doctrine or discovery, as because
it is a comfort to my mind. Silas Wegg, you are a precious old
Mr Wegg, who, as if anticipating a compliment, had been beating
time with the paper to the other's politeness until this unexpected
conclusion came upon him, stopped rather abruptly.
'Silas Wegg,' said Venus, 'know that I took the liberty of taking Mr
Boffin into our concern as a sleeping partner, at a very early period
of our firm's existence.
'Quite true,' added Mr Boffin; 'and I tested Venus by making him a
pretended proposal or two; and I found him on the whole a very
honest man, Wegg.'
'So Mr Boffin, in his indulgence, is pleased to say,' Venus
remarked: 'though in the beginning of this dirt, my hands were not,
for a few hours, quite as clean as I could wish. But I hope I made
early and full amends.'
'Venus, you did,' said Mr Boffin. 'Certainly, certainly, certainly.'
Venus inclined his head with respect and gratitude. 'Thank you,
sir. I am much obliged to you, sir, for all. For your good opinion
now, for your way of receiving and encouraging me when I first
put myself in communication with you, and for the influence since
so kindly brought to bear upon a certain lady, both by yourself and
by Mr John Harmon.' To whom, when thus making mention of
him, he also bowed.
Wegg followed the name with sharp ears, and the action with
sharp eyes, and a certain cringing air was infusing itself into his
bullying air, when his attention was re-claimed by Venus.
'Everything else between you and me, Mr Wegg,' said Venus, 'now
explains itself, and you can now make out, sir, without further
words from me. But totally to prevent any unpleasantness or
mistake that might arise on what I consider an important point, to
be made quite clear at the close of our acquaintance, I beg the leave
of Mr Boffin and Mr John Harmon to repeat an observation which
I have already had the pleasure of bringing under your notice. You
are a precious old rascal!'
'You are a fool,' said Wegg, with a snap of his fingers, 'and I'd
have got rid of you before now, if I could have struck out any way
of doing it. I have thought it over, I can tell you. You may go, and
welcome. You leave the more for me. Because, you know,' said
Wegg, dividing his next observation between Mr Boffin and Mr
Harmon, 'I am worth my price, and I mean to have it. This getting
off is all very well in its way, and it tells with such an anatomical
Pump as this one,' pointing out Mr Venus, 'but it won't do with a
Man. I am here to be bought off, and I have named my figure.
Now, buy me, or leave me.'
'I'll leave you, Wegg, said Mr Boffin, laughing, 'as far as I am
'Bof--fin!' replied Wegg, turning upon him with a severe air, 'I
understand YOUR new-born boldness. I see the brass underneath
YOUR silver plating. YOU have got YOUR nose out of joint.
Knowing that you've nothing at stake, you can afford to come the
independent game. Why, you're just so much smeary glass to see
through, you know! But Mr Harmon is in another sitiwation.
What Mr Harmon risks, is quite another pair of shoes. Now, I've
heerd something lately about this being Mr Harmon--I make out
now, some hints that I've met on that subject in the newspaper--
and I drop you, Bof--fin, as beneath my notice. I ask Mr Harmon
whether he has any idea of the contents of this present paper?'
'It is a will of my late father's, of more recent date than the will
proved by Mr Boffin (address whom again, as you have addressed
him already, and I'll knock you down), leaving the whole of his
property to the Crown,' said John Harmon, with as much
indifference as was compatible with extreme sternness.
'Bight you are!' cried Wegg. 'Then,' screwing the weight of his
body upon his wooden leg, and screwing his wooden head very
much on one side, and screwing up one eye: 'then, I put the
question to you, what's this paper worth?'
'Nothing,' said John Harmon.
Wegg had repeated the word with a sneer, and was entering on
some sarcastic retort, when, to his boundless amazement, he found
himself gripped by the cravat; shaken until his teeth chattered;
shoved back, staggering, into a corner of the room; and pinned
'You scoundrel!' said John Harmon, whose seafaring hold was like
that of a vice.
'You're knocking my head against the wall,' urged Silas faintly.
'I mean to knock your head against the wall,' neturned John
Harmon, suiting his action to his words, with the heartiest good
will; 'and I'd give a thousand pounds for leave to knock your brains
out. Listen, you scoundrel, and look at that Dutch bottle.'
Sloppy held it up, for his edification.
'That Dutch bottle, scoundrel, contained the latest will of the many
wills made by my unhappy self-tormenting father. That will gives
everything absolutely to my noble benefactor and yours, Mr Boffin,
excluding and reviling me, and my sister (then already dead of a
broken heart), by name. That Dutch bottle was found by my noble
benefactor and yours, after he entered on possession of the estate.
That Dutch bottle distressed him beyond measure, because, though
I and my sister were both no more, it cast a slur upon our memory
which he knew we had done nothing in our miserable youth, to
deserve. That Dutch bottle, therefore, he buried in the Mound
belonging to him, and there it lay while you, you thankless wretch,
were prodding and poking--often very near it, I dare say. His
intention was, that it should never see the light; but he was afraid
to destroy it, lest to destroy such a document, even with his great
generous motive, might be an offence at law. After the discovery
was made here who I was, Mr Boffin, still restless on the subject,
told me, upon certain conditions impossible for such a hound as
you to appreciate, the secret of that Dutch bottle. I urged upon him
the necessity of its being dug up, and the paper being legally
produced and established. The first thing you saw him do, and the
second thing has been done without your knowledge.
Consequently, the paper now rattling in your hand as I shake you--
and I should like to shake the life out of you--is worth less than the
rotten cork of the Dutch bottle, do you understand?'
Judging from the fallen countenance of Silas as his head wagged
backwards and forwards in a most uncomfortable manner, he did
Now, scoundrel,' said John Harmon, taking another sailor-like turn
on his cravat and holding him in his corner at arms' length, 'I shall
make two more short speeches to you, because I hope they will
torment you. Your discovery was a genuine discovery (such as it
was), for nobody had thought of looking into that place. Neither
did we know you had made it, until Venus spoke to Mr Boffin,
though I kept you under good observation from my first appearance
here, and though Sloppy has long made it the chief occupation and
delight of his life, to attend you like your shadow. I tell you this,
that you may know we knew enough of you to persuade Mr Boffin
to let us lead you on, deluded, to the last possible moment, in order
that your disappointment might be the heaviest possible
disappointment. That's the first short speech, do you understand?'
Here, John Harmon assisted his comprehension with another
'Now, scoundrel,' he pursued, 'I am going to finish. You supposed
me just now, to be the possessor of my father's property.--So I am.
But through any act of my father's, or by any right I have? No.
Through the munificence of Mr Boffin. The conditions that he
made with me, before parting with the secret of the Dutch bottle,
were, that I should take the fortune, and that he should take his
Mound and no more. I owe everything I possess, solely to the
disinterestedness, uprightness, tenderness, goodness (there are no
words to satisfy me) of Mr and Mrs Boffin. And when, knowing
what I knew, I saw such a mud-worm as you presume to rise in
this house against this noble soul, the wonder is,' added John
Harmon through his clenched teeth, and with a very ugly turn
indeed on Wegg's cravat, 'that I didn't try to twist your head off,
and fling THAT out of window! So. That's the last short speech,
do you understand?'
Silas, released, put his hand to his throat, cleared it, and looked as
if he had a rather large fishbone in that region. Simultaneously
with this action on his part in his corner, a singular, and on the
surface an incomprehensible, movement was made by Mr Sloppy:
who began backing towards Mr Wegg along the wall, in the
manner of a porter or heaver who is about to lift a sack of flour or
'I am sorry, Wegg,' said Mr Boffin, in his clemency, 'that my old
lady and I can't have a better opinion of you than the bad one we
are forced to entertain. But I shouldn't like to leave you, after all
said and done, worse off in life than I found you. Therefore say in
a word, before we part, what it'll cost to set you up in another
'And in another place,' John Harmon struck in. 'You don't come
outside these windows.'
'Mr Boffin,' returned Wegg in avaricious humiliation: 'when I first
had the honour of making your acquaintance, I had got together a
collection of ballads which was, I may say, above price.'
'Then they can't be paid for,' said John Harmon, 'and you had better
not try, my dear sir.'
'Pardon me, Mr Boffin,' resumed Wegg, with a malignant glance in
the last speaker's direction, 'I was putting the case to you, who, if
my senses did not deceive me, put the case to me. I had a very
choice collection of ballads, and there was a new stock of
gingerbread in the tin box. I say no more, but would rather leave it
'But it's difficult to name what's right,' said Mr Boffin uneasily,
with his hand in his pocket, 'and I don't want to go beyond what's
right, because you really have turned out such a very bad fellow.
So artful, and so ungrateful you have been, Wegg; for when did I
ever injure you?'
'There was also,' Mr Wegg went on, in a meditative manner, 'a
errand connection, in which I was much respected. But I would
not wish to be deemed covetous, and I would rather leave it to you,
'Upon my word, I don't know what to put it at,' the Golden
'There was likewise,' resumed Wegg, 'a pair of trestles, for which
alone a Irish person, who was deemed a judge of trestles, offered
five and six--a sum I would not hear of, for I should have lost by it-
-and there was a stool, a umbrella, a clothes-horse, and a tray. But
I leave it to you, Mr Boffin.'
The Golden Dustman seeming to be engaged in some abstruse
calculation, Mr Wegg assisted him with the following additional
'There was, further, Miss Elizabeth, Master George, Aunt Jane,
and Uncle Parker. Ah! When a man thinks of the loss of such
patronage as that; when a man finds so fair a garden rooted up by
pigs; he finds it hard indeed, without going high, to work it into
money. But I leave it wholly to you, sir.'
Mr Sloppy still continued his singular, and on the surface his
'Leading on has been mentioned,' said Wegg with a melancholy
air, 'and it's not easy to say how far the tone of my mind may have
been lowered by unwholesome reading on the subject of Misers,
when you was leading me and others on to think you one yourself,
sir. All I can say is, that I felt my tone of mind a lowering at the
time. And how can a man put a price upon his mind! There was
likewise a hat just now. But I leave the ole to you, Mr Boffin.'
'Come!' said Mr Boffin. 'Here's a couple of pound.'
'In justice to myself, I couldn't take it, sir.'
The words were but out of his mouth when John Harmon lifted his
finger, and Sloppy, who was now close to Wegg, backed to Wegg's
back, stooped, grasped his coat collar behind with both hands, and
deftly swung him up like the sack of flour or coals before
mentioned. A countenance of special discontent and amazement
Mr Wegg exhibited in this position, with his buttons almost as
prominently on view as Sloppy's own, and with his wooden leg in
a highly unaccommodating state. But, not for many seconds was
his countenance visible in the room; for, Sloppy lightly trotted out
with him and trotted down the staircase, Mr Venus attending to
open the street door. Mr Sloppy's instructions had been to deposit
his burden in the road; but, a scavenger's cart happening to stand
unattended at the corner, with its little ladder planted against the
wheel, Mr S. found it impossible to resist the temptation of
shooting Mr Silas Wegg into the cart's contents. A somewhat
difficult feat, achieved with great dexterity, and with a prodigious
WHAT WAS CAUGHT IN THE TRAPS THAT WERE SET
How Bradley Headstone had been racked and riven in his mind
since the quiet evening when by the river-side he had risen, as it
were, out of the ashes of the Bargeman, none but he could have
told. Not even he could have told, for such misery can only be felt.
First, he had to bear the combined weight of the knowledge of
what he had done, of that haunting reproach that he might have
done it so much better, and of the dread of discovery. This was
load enough to crush him, and he laboured under it day and night.
It was as heavy on him in his scanty sleep, as in his red-eyed
waking hours. It bore him down with a dread unchanging
monotony, in which there was not a moment's variety. The
overweighted beast of burden, or the overweighted slave, can for
certain instants shift the physical load, and find some slight respite
even in enforcing additional pain upon such a set of muscles or
such a limb. Not even that poor mockery of relief could the
wretched man obtain, under the steady pressure of the infernal
atmosphere into which he had entered.
Time went by, and no visible suspicion dogged him; time went by,
and in such public accounts of the attack as were renewed at
intervals, he began to see Mr Lightwood (who acted as lawyer for
the injured man) straying further from the fact, going wider of the
issue, and evidently slackening in his zeal. By degrees, a
glimmering of the cause of this began to break on Bradley's sight.
Then came the chance meeting with Mr Milvey at the railway
station (where he often lingered in his leisure hours, as a place
where any fresh news of his deed would be circulated, or any
placard referring to it would be posted), and then he saw in the
light what he had brought about.
For, then he saw that through his desperate attempt to separate
those two for ever, he had been made the means of uniting them.
That he had dipped his hands in blood, to mark himself a
miserable fool and tool. That Eugene Wrayburn, for his wife's
sake, set him aside and left him to crawl along his blasted course.
He thought of Fate, or Providence, or be the directing Power what
it might, as having put a fraud upon him--overreached him--and in
his impotent mad rage bit, and tore, and had his fit.
New assurance of the truth came upon him in the next few
following days, when it was put forth how the wounded man had
been married on his bed, and to whom, and how, though always in
a dangerous condition, he was a shade better. Bradley would far
rather have been seized for his murder, than he would have read
that passage, knowing himself spared, and knowing why.
But, not to be still further defrauded and overreached--which he
would be, if implicated by Riderhood, and punished by the law for
his abject failure, as though it had been a success--he kept close in
his school during the day, ventured out warily at night, and went
no more to the railway station. He examined the advertisements in
the newspapers for any sign that Riderhood acted on his hinted
threat of so summoning him to renew their acquaintance, but found
none. Having paid him handsomely for the support and
accommodation he had had at the Lock House, and knowing him
to be a very ignorant man who could not write, he began to doubt
whether he was to be feared at all, or whether they need ever meet
All this time, his mind was never off the rack, and his raging sense
of having been made to fling himself across the chasm which
divided those two, and bridge it over for their coming together,
never cooled down. This horrible condition brought on other fits.
He could not have said how many, or when; but he saw in the faces
of his pupils that they had seen him in that state, and that they
were possessed by a dread of his relapsing.
One winter day when a slight fall of snow was feathering the sills
and frames of the schoolroom windows, he stood at his black
board, crayon in hand, about to commence with a class; when,
reading in the countenances of those boys that there was something
wrong, and that they seemed in alarm for him, he turned his eyes
to the door towards which they faced. He then saw a slouching
man of forbidding appearance standing in the midst of the school,
with a bundle under his arm; and saw that it was Riderhood.
He sat down on a stool which one of his boys put for him, and he
had a passing knowledge that he was in danger of falling, and that
his face was becoming distorted. But, the fit went off for that time,
and he wiped his mouth, and stood up again.
'Beg your pardon, governor! By your leave!' said Riderhood,
knuckling his forehead, with a chuckle and a leer. 'What place
may this be?'
'This is a school.'
'Where young folks learns wot's right?' said Riderhood, gravely
nodding. 'Beg your pardon, governor! By your leave! But who
teaches this school?'
'You're the master, are you, learned governor?'
'Yes. I am the master.'
'And a lovely thing it must be,' said Riderhood, 'fur to learn young
folks wot's right, and fur to know wot THEY know wot you do it.
Beg your pardon, learned governor! By your leave!--That there
black board; wot's it for?'
'It is for drawing on, or writing on.'
'Is it though!' said Riderhood. 'Who'd have thought it, from the
looks on it! WOULD you be so kind as write your name upon it,
learned governor?' (In a wheedling tone.)
Bradley hesitated for a moment; but placed his usual signature,
enlarged, upon the board.
'I ain't a learned character myself,' said Riderhood, surveying the
class, 'but I do admire learning in others. I should dearly like to
hear these here young folks read that there name off, from the
The arms of the class went up. At the miserable master's nod, the
shrill chorus arose: 'Bradley Headstone!'
'No?' cried Riderhood. 'You don't mean it? Headstone! Why,
that's in a churchyard. Hooroar for another turn!'
Another tossing of arms, another nod, and another shrill chorus:
'I've got it now!' said Riderhood, after attentively listening, and
internally repeating: 'Bradley. I see. Chris'en name, Bradley
sim'lar to Roger which is my own. Eh? Fam'ly name, Headstone,
sim'lar to Riderhood which is my own. Eh?'
Shrill chorus. 'Yes!'
'Might you be acquainted, learned governor,' said Riderhood, 'with
a person of about your own heighth and breadth, and wot 'ud pull
down in a scale about your own weight, answering to a name
sounding summat like Totherest?'
With a desperation in him that made him perfectly quiet, though
his jaw was heavily squared; with his eyes upon Riderhood; and
with traces of quickened breathing in his nostrils; the schoolmaster
replied, in a suppressed voice, after a pause: 'I think I know the
man you mean.'
'I thought you knowed the man I mean, learned governor. I want
With a half glance around him at his pupils, Bradley returned:
'Do you suppose he is here?'
'Begging your pardon, learned governor, and by your leave,' said
Riderhood, with a laugh, 'how could I suppose he's here, when
there's nobody here but you, and me, and these young lambs wot
you're a learning on? But he is most excellent company, that man,
and I want him to come and see me at my Lock, up the river.'
'I'll tell him so.'
'D'ye think he'll come?' asked Riderhood.
'I am sure he will.'
'Having got your word for him,' said Riderhood, 'I shall count
upon him. P'raps you'd so fur obleege me, learned governor, as tell
him that if he don't come precious soon, I'll look him up.'
'He shall know it.'
'Thankee. As I says a while ago,' pursued Riderhood, changing his
hoarse tone and leering round upon the class again, 'though not a
learned character my own self, I do admire learning in others, to be
sure! Being here and having met with your kind attention, Master,
might I, afore I go, ask a question of these here young lambs of
'If it is in the way of school,' said Bradley, always sustaining his
dark look at the other, and speaking in his suppressed voice, 'you
'Oh! It's in the way of school!' cried Riderhood. 'I'll pound it,
Master, to be in the way of school. Wot's the diwisions of water,
my lambs? Wot sorts of water is there on the land?'
Shrill chorus: 'Seas, rivers, lakes, and ponds.'
'Seas, rivers, lakes, and ponds,' said Riderhood. 'They've got all
the lot, Master! Blowed if I shouldn't have left out lakes, never
having clapped eyes upon one, to my knowledge. Seas, rivers,
lakes, and ponds. Wot is it, lambs, as they ketches in seas, rivers,
lakes, and ponds?'
Shrill chorus (with some contempt for the ease of the question):
'Good a-gin!' said Riderhood. 'But wot else is it, my lambs, as they
sometimes ketches in rivers?'
Chorus at a loss. One shrill voice: 'Weed!'
'Good agin!' cried Riderhood. 'But it ain't weed neither. You'll
never guess, my dears. Wot is it, besides fish, as they sometimes
ketches in rivers? Well! I'll tell you. It's suits o' clothes.'
Bradley's face changed.
'Leastways, lambs,' said Riderhood, observing him out of the
corners of his eyes, 'that's wot I my own self sometimes ketches in
rivers. For strike me blind, my lambs, if I didn't ketch in a river
the wery bundle under my arm!'
The class looked at the master, as if appealing from the irregular
entrapment of this mode of examination. The master looked at the
examiner, as if he would have torn him to pieces.
'I ask your pardon, learned governor,' said Riderhood, smearing his
sleeve across his mouth as he laughed with a relish, 'tain't fair to
the lambs, I know. It wos a bit of fun of mine. But upon my soul I
drawed this here bundle out of a river! It's a Bargeman's suit of
clothes. You see, it had been sunk there by the man as wore it, and
I got it up.'
'How do you know it was sunk by the man who wore it?' asked
'Cause I see him do it,' said Riderhood.
They looked at each other. Bradley, slowly withdrawing his eyes,
turned his face to the black board and slowly wiped his name out.
'A heap of thanks, Master,' said Riderhood, 'for bestowing so much
of your time, and of the lambses' time, upon a man as hasn't got no
other recommendation to you than being a honest man. Wishing to
see at my Lock up the river, the person as we've spoke of, and as
you've answered for, I takes my leave of the lambs and of their
learned governor both.'
With those words, he slouched out of the school, leaving the
master to get through his weary work as he might, and leaving the
whispering pupils to observe the master's face until he fell into the
fit which had been long impending.
The next day but one was Saturday, and a holiday. Bradley rose
early, and set out on foot for Plashwater Weir Mill Lock. He rose
so early that it was not yet light when he began his journey. Before
extinguishing the candle by which he had dressed himself, he
made a little parcel of his decent silver watch and its decent guard,
and wrote inside the paper: 'Kindly take care of these for me.' He
then addressed the parcel to Miss Peecher, and left it on the most
protected corner of the little seat in her little porch.
It was a cold hard easterly morning when he latched the garden
gate and turned away. The light snowfall which had feathered his
schoolroom windows on the Thursday, still lingered in the air, and
was falling white, while the wind blew black. The tardy day did
not appear until he had been on foot two hours, and had traversed a
greater part of London from east to west. Such breakfast as he
had, he took at the comfortless public-house where he had parted
from Riderhood on the occasion of their night-walk. He took it,
standing at the littered bar, and looked loweringly at a man who
stood where Riderhood had stood that early morning.
He outwalked the short day, and was on the towing-path by the
river, somewhat footsore, when the night closed in. Still two or
three miles short of the Lock, he slackened his pace then, but went
steadily on. The ground was now covered with snow, though
thinly, and there were floating lumps of ice in the more exposed
parts of the river, and broken sheets of ice under the shelter of the
banks. He took heed of nothing but the ice, the snow, and the
distance, until he saw a light ahead, which he knew gleamed from
the Lock House window. It arrested his steps, and he looked all
around. The ice, and the snow, and he, and the one light, had
absolute possession of the dreary scene. In the distance before
him, lay the place where he had struck the worse than useless
blows that mocked him with Lizzie's presence there as Eugene's
wife. In the distance behind him, lay the place where the children
with pointing arms had seemed to devote him to the demons in
crying out his name. Within there, where the light was, was the
man who as to both distances could give him up to ruin. To these
limits had his world shrunk.
He mended his pace, keeping his eyes upon the light with a strange
intensity, as if he were taking aim at it. When he approached it so
nearly as that it parted into rays, they seemed to fasten themselves
to him and draw him on. When he struck the door with his hand,
his foot followed so quickly on his hand, that he was in the room
before he was bidden to enter.
The light was the joint product of a fire and a candle. Between the
two, with his feet on the iron fender, sat Riderhood, pipe in mouth.
He looked up with a surly nod when his visitor came in. His
visitor looked down with a surly nod. His outer clothing removed,
the visitor then took a seat on the opposite side of the fire.
'Not a smoker, I think?' said Riderhood, pushing a bottle to him
across the table.
They both lapsed into silence, with their eyes upon the fire.
'You don't need to be told I am here,' said Bradley at length. 'Who
is to begin?'
'I'll begin,' said Riderhood, 'when I've smoked this here pipe out.'
He finished it with great deliberation, knocked out the ashes on the
hob, and put it by.
'I'll begin,' he then repeated, 'Bradley Headstone, Master, if you
'Wish it? I wish to know what you want with me.'
'And so you shall.' Riderhood had looked hard at his hands and
his pockets, apparently as a precautionary measure lest he should
have any weapon about him. But, he now leaned forward, turning
the collar of his waistcoat with an inquisitive finger, and asked,
'Why, where's your watch?'
'I have left it behind.'
'I want it. But it can be fetched. I've took a fancy to it.'
Bradley answered with a contemptuous laugh.
'I want it,' repeated Riderhood, in a louder voice, 'and I mean to
'That is what you want of me, is it?'
'No,' said Riderhood, still louder; 'it's on'y part of what I want of
you. I want money of you.'
'Everythink else!' roared Riderhood, in a very loud and furious
way. 'Answer me like that, and I won't talk to you at all.'
Bradley looked at him.
'Don't so much as look at me like that, or I won't talk to you at all,'
vociferated Riderhood. 'But, instead of talking, I'll bring my hand
down upon you with all its weight,' heavily smiting the table with
great force, 'and smash you!'
'Go on,' said Bradley, after moistening his lips.
'O! I'm a going on. Don't you fear but I'll go on full-fast enough
for you, and fur enough for you, without your telling. Look here,
Bradley Headstone, Master. You might have split the T'other
governor to chips and wedges, without my caring, except that I
might have come upon you for a glass or so now and then. Else
why have to do with you at all? But when you copied my clothes,
and when you copied my neckhankercher, and when you shook
blood upon me after you had done the trick, you did wot I'll be
paid for and paid heavy for. If it come to be throw'd upon you, you
was to be ready to throw it upon me, was you? Where else but in
Plashwater Weir Mill Lock was there a man dressed according as
described? Where else but in Plashwater Weir Mill Lock was
there a man as had had words with him coming through in his
boat? Look at the Lock-keeper in Plashwater Weir Mill Lock, in
them same answering clothes and with that same answering red
neckhankercher, and see whether his clothes happens to be bloody
or not. Yes, they do happen to be bloody. Ah, you sly devil!'
Bradley, very white, sat looking at him in silence.
'But two could play at your game,' said Riderhood, snapping his
fingers at him half a dozen times, 'and I played it long ago; long
afore you tried your clumsy hand at it; in days when you hadn't
begun croaking your lecters or what not in your school. I know to
a figure how you done it. Where you stole away, I could steal
away arter you, and do it knowinger than you. I know how you
come away from London in your own clothes, and where you
changed your clothes, and hid your clothes. I see you with my own
eyes take your own clothes from their hiding-place among them
felled trees, and take a dip in the river to account for your dressing
yourself, to any one as might come by. I see you rise up Bradley
Headstone, Master, where you sat down Bargeman. I see you pitch
your Bargeman's bundle into the river. I hooked your Bargeman's
bundle out of the river. I've got your Bargeman's clothes, tore this
way and that way with the scuffle, stained green with the grass,
and spattered all over with what bust from the blows. I've got
them, and I've got you. I don't care a curse for the T'other
governor, alive or dead, but I care a many curses for my own self.
And as you laid your plots agin me and was a sly devil agin me, I'll
be paid for it--I'll be paid for it--I'll be paid for it--till I've drained
Bradley looked at the fire, with a working face, and was silent for a
while. At last he said, with what seemed an inconsistent
composure of voice and feature:
'You can't get blood out of a stone, Riderhood.'
'I can get money out of a schoolmaster though.'
'You can't get out of me what is not in me. You can't wrest from
me what I have not got. Mine is but a poor calling. You have had
more than two guineas from me, already. Do you know how long
it has taken me (allowing for a long and arduous training) to earn
such a sum?'
'I don't know, nor I don't care. Yours is a 'spectable calling. To
save your 'spectability, it's worth your while to pawn every article
of clothes you've got, sell every stick in your house, and beg and
borrow every penny you can get trusted with. When you've done
that and handed over, I'll leave you. Not afore.'
'How do you mean, you'll leave me?'
'I mean as I'll keep you company, wherever you go, when you go
away from here. Let the Lock take care of itself. I'll take care of
you, once I've got you.'
Bradley again looked at the fire. Eyeing him aside, Riderhood took
up his pipe, refilled it, lighted it, and sat smoking. Bradley leaned
his elbows on his knees, and his head upon his hands, and looked
at the fire with a most intent abstraction.
'Riderhood,' he said, raising himself in his chair, after a long
silence, and drawing out his purse and putting it on the table. 'Say
I part with this, which is all the money I have; say I let you have
my watch; say that every quarter, when I draw my salary, I pay you
a certain portion of it.'
'Say nothink of the sort,' retorted Riderhood, shaking his head as
he smoked. 'You've got away once, and I won't run the chance
agin. I've had trouble enough to find you, and shouldn't have
found you, if I hadn't seen you slipping along the street overnight,
and watched you till you was safe housed. I'll have one settlement
with you for good and all.'
'Riderhood, I am a man who has lived a retired life. I have no
resources beyond myself. I have absolutely no friends.'
'That's a lie,' said Riderhood. 'You've got one friend as I knows of;
one as is good for a Savings-Bank book, or I'm a blue monkey!'
Bradley's face darkened, and his hand slowly closed on the purse
and drew it back, as he sat listening for what the other should go
on to say.
'I went into the wrong shop, fust, last Thursday,' said Riderhood.
'Found myself among the young ladies, by George! Over the young
ladies, I see a Missis. That Missis is sweet enough upon you,
Master, to sell herself up, slap, to get you out of trouble. Make her
do it then.'
Bradley stared at him so very suddenly that Riderhood, not quite
knowing how to take it, affected to be occupied with the encircling
smoke from his pipe; fanning it away with his hand, and blowing
'You spoke to the mistress, did you?' inquired Bradley, with that
former composure of voice and feature that seemed inconsistent,
and with averted eyes.
'Poof! Yes,' said Riderhood, withdrawing his attention from the
smoke. 'I spoke to her. I didn't say much to her. She was put in a
fluster by my dropping in among the young ladies (I never did set
up for a lady's man), and she took me into her parlour to hope as
there was nothink wrong. I tells her, "O no, nothink wrong. The
master's my wery good friend." But I see how the land laid, and
that she was comfortable off.'
Bradley put the purse in his pocket, grasped his left wrist with his
right hand, and sat rigidly contemplating the fire.
'She couldn't live more handy to you than she does,' said
Riderhood, 'and when I goes home with you (as of course I am a
going), I recommend you to clean her out without loss of time.
You can marry her, arter you and me have come to a settlement.
She's nice-looking, and I know you can't be keeping company with
no one else, having been so lately disapinted in another quarter.'
Not one other word did Bradley utter all that night. Not once did
he change his attitude, or loosen his hold upon his wrist. Rigid
before the fire, as if it were a charmed flame that was turning him
old, he sat, with the dark lines deepening in his face, its stare
becoming more and more haggard, its surface turning whiter and
whiter as if it were being overspread with ashes, and the very
texture and colour of his hair degenerating.
Not until the late daylight made the window transparent, did this
decaying statue move. Then it slowly arose, and sat in the window
Riderhood had kept his chair all night. In the earlier part of the
night he had muttered twice or thrice that it was bitter cold; or that
the fire burnt fast, when he got up to mend it; but, as he could elicit
from his companion neither sound nor movement, he had
afterwards held his peace. He was making some disorderly
preparations for coffee, when Bradley came from the window and
put on his outer coat and hat.
'Hadn't us better have a bit o' breakfast afore we start?' said
Riderhood. 'It ain't good to freeze a empty stomach, Master.'
Without a sign to show that he heard, Bradley walked out of the
Lock House. Catching up from the table a piece of bread, and
taking his Bargeman's bundle under his arm, Riderhood
immediately followed him. Bradley turned towards London.
Riderhood caught him up, and walked at his side.
The two men trudged on, side by side, in silence, full three miles.
Suddenly, Bradley turned to retrace his course. Instantly,
Riderhood turned likewise, and they went back side by side.
Bradley re-entered the Lock House. So did Riderhood. Bradley sat
down in the window. Riderhood warmed himself at the fire. After
an hour or more, Bradley abruptly got up again, and again went
out, but this time turned the other way. Riderhood was close after
him, caught him up in a few paces, and walked at his side.
This time, as before, when he found his attendant not to be shaken
off, Bradley suddenly turned back. This time, as before, Riderhood
turned back along with him. But, not this time, as before, did they
go into the Lock House, for Bradley came to a stand on the snow-
covered turf by the Lock, looking up the river and down the river.
Navigation was impeded by the frost, and the scene was a mere
white and yellow desert.
'Come, come, Master,' urged Riderhood, at his side. 'This is a dry
game. And where's the good of it? You can't get rid of me, except
by coming to a settlement. I am a going along with you wherever
Without a word of reply, Bradley passed quickly from him over
the wooden bridge on the lock gates. 'Why, there's even less sense
in this move than t'other,' said Riderhood, following. 'The Weir's
there, and you'll have to come back, you know.'
Without taking the least notice, Bradley leaned his body against a
post, in a resting attitude, and there rested with his eyes cast down.
'Being brought here,' said Riderhood, gruffly, 'I'll turn it to some
use by changing my gates.' With a rattle and a rush of water, he
then swung-to the lock gates that were standing open, before
opening the others. So, both sets of gates were, for the moment,
'You'd better by far be reasonable, Bradley Headstone, Master,'
said Riderhood, passing him, 'or I'll drain you all the dryer for it,
when we do settle.--Ah! Would you!'
Bradley had caught him round the body. He seemed to be girdled
with an iron ring. They were on the brink of the Lock, about
midway between the two sets of gates.
'Let go!' said Riderhood, 'or I'll get my knife out and slash you
wherever I can cut you. Let go!'
Bradley was drawing to the Lock-edge. Riderhood was drawing
away from it. It was a strong grapple, and a fierce struggle, arm
and leg. Bradley got him round, with his back to the Lock, and
still worked him backward.
'Let go!' said Riderhood. 'Stop! What are you trying at? You can't
drown Me. Ain't I told you that the man as has come through
drowning can never be drowned? I can't be drowned.'
'I can be!' returned Bradley, in a desperate, clenched voice. 'I am
resolved to be. I'll hold you living, and I'll hold you dead. Come
Riderhood went over into the smooth pit, backward, and Bradley
Headstone upon him. When the two were found, lying under the
ooze and scum behind one of the rotting gates, Riderhood's hold
had relaxed, probably in falling, and his eyes were staring upward.
But, he was girdled still with Bradley's iron ring, and the rivets of
the iron ring held tight.
PERSONS AND THINGS IN GENERAL
Mr and Mrs John Harmon's first delightful occupation was, to set
all matters right that had strayed in any way wrong, or that might,
could, would, or should, have strayed in any way wrong, while
their name was in abeyance. In tracing out affairs for which John's
fictitious death was to be considered in any way responsible, they
used a very broad and free construction; regarding, for instance, the
dolls' dressmaker as having a claim on their protection, because of
her association with Mrs Eugene Wrayburn, and because of Mrs
Eugene's old association, in her turn, with the dark side of the
story. It followed that the old man, Riah, as a good and
serviceable friend to both, was not to be disclaimed. Nor even Mr
Inspector, as having been trepanned into an industrious hunt on a
false scent. It may be remarked, in connexion with that worthy
officer, that a rumour shortly afterwards pervaded the Force, to the
effect that he had confided to Miss Abbey Potterson, over a jug of
mellow flip in the bar of the Six Jolly Fellowship Porters, that he
'didn't stand to lose a farthing' through Mr Harmon's coming to
life, but was quite as well satisfied as if that gentleman had been
barbarously murdered, and he (Mr Inspector) had pocketed the
In all their arrangements of such nature, Mr and Mrs John Harmon
derived much assistance from their eminent solicitor, Mr Mortimer
Lightwood; who laid about him professionally with such unwonted
despatch and intention, that a piece of work was vigorously
pursued as soon as cut out; whereby Young Blight was acted on as
by that transatlantic dram which is poetically named An Eye-
Opener, and found himself staring at real clients instead of out of
window. The accessibility of Riah proving very useful as to a few
hints towards the disentanglement of Eugene's affairs, Lightwood
applied himself with infinite zest to attacking and harassing Mr
Fledgeby: who, discovering himself in danger of being blown into
the air by certain explosive transactions in which he had been
engaged, and having been sufficiently flayed under his beating,
came to a parley and asked for quarter. The harmless Twemlow
profited by the conditions entered into, though he little thought it.
Mr Riah unaccountably melted; waited in person on him over the
stable yard in Duke Street, St James's, no longer ravening but mild,
to inform him that payment of interest as heretofore, but henceforth
at Mr Lightwood's offices, would appease his Jewish rancour; and
departed with the secret that Mr John Harmon had advanced the
money and become the creditor. Thus, was the sublime
Snigsworth's wrath averted, and thus did he snort no larger amount
of moral grandeur at the Corinthian column in the print over the
fireplace, than was normally in his (and the British) constitution.
Mrs Wilfer's first visit to the Mendicant's bride at the new abode of
Mendicancy, was a grand event. Pa had been sent for into the
City, on the very day of taking possession, and had been stunned
with astonishment, and brought-to, and led about the house by
one ear, to behold its various treasures, and had been enraptured
and enchanted. Pa had also been appointed Secretary, and had
been enjoined to give instant notice of resignation to Chicksey,
Veneering, and Stobbles, for ever and ever. But Ma came later,
and came, as was her due, in state.
The carriage was sent for Ma, who entered it with a bearing worthy
of the occasion, accompanied, rather than supported, by Miss
Lavinia, who altogether declined to recognize the maternal
majesty. Mr George Sampson meekly followed. He was received
in the vehicle, by Mrs Wilfer, as if admitted to the honour of
assisting at a funeral in the family, and she then issued the order,
'Onward!' to the Mendicant's menial.
'I wish to goodness, Ma,' said Lavvy, throwing herself back among
the cushions, with her arms crossed, 'that you'd loll a little.'
'How!' repeated Mrs Wilfer. 'Loll!'
'I hope,' said the impressive lady, 'I am incapable of it.'
'I am sure you look so, Ma. But why one should go out to dine
with one's own daughter or sister, as if one's under-petticoat was
a blackboard, I do NOT understand.'
'Neither do I understand,' retorted Mrs Wilfer, with deep scorn,
'how a young lady can mention the garment in the name of which
you have indulged. I blush for you.'
'Thank you, Ma,' said Lavvy, yawning, 'but I can do it for myself, I
am obliged to you, when there's any occasion.'
Here, Mr Sampson, with the view of establishing harmony, which
he never under any circumstances succeeded in doing, said with an
agreeable smile: 'After all, you know, ma'am, we know it's there.'
And immediately felt that he had committed himself.
'We know it's there!' said Mrs Wilfer, glaring.
'Really, George,' remonstrated Miss Lavinia, 'I must say that I don't
understand your allusions, and that I think you might be more
delicate and less personal.'
'Go it!' cried Mr Sampson, becoming, on the shortest notice, a prey
to despair. 'Oh yes! Go it, Miss Lavinia Wilfer!'
'What you may mean, George Sampson, by your omnibus-driving
expressions, I cannot pretend to imagine. Neither,' said Miss
Lavinia, 'Mr George Sampson, do I wish to imagine. It is enough
for me to know in my own heart that I am not going to--' having
imprudently got into a sentence without providing a way out of it,
Miss Lavinia was constrained to close with 'going to it'. A weak
conclusion which, however, derived some appearance of strength
'Oh yes!' cried Mr Sampson, with bitterness. 'Thus it ever is. I
'If you mean to say,' Miss Lavvy cut him short, that you never
brought up a young gazelle, you may save yourself the trouble,
because nobody in this carriage supposes that you ever did. We
know you better.' (As if this were a home-thrust.)
'Lavinia,' returned Mr Sampson, in a dismal vein, I did not mean to
say so. What I did mean to say,was, that I never expected to retain
my favoured place in this family, after Fortune shed her beams
upon it. Why do you take me,' said Mr Sampson, 'to the glittering
halls with which I can never compete, and then taunt me with my
moderate salary? Is it generous? Is it kind?'
The stately lady, Mrs Wilfer, perceiving her opportunity of
delivering a few remarks from the throne, here took up the
'Mr Sampson,' she began, 'I cannot permit you to misrepresent the
intentions of a child of mine.'
'Let him alone, Ma,' Miss Lavvy interposed with haughtiness. 'It
is indifferent to me what he says or does.'
'Nay, Lavinia,' quoth Mrs Wilfer, 'this touches the blood of the
family. If Mr George Sampson attributes, even to my youngest
('I don't see why you should use the word "even", Ma,' Miss Lavvy
interposed, 'because I am quite as important as any of the others.')
'Peace!' said Mrs Wilfer, solemnly. 'I repeat, if Mr George
Sampson attributes, to my youngest daughter, grovelling motives,
he attributes them equally to the mother of my youngest daughter.
That mother repudiates them, and demands of Mr George
Sampson, as a youth of honour, what he WOULD have? I may be
mistaken--nothing is more likely--but Mr George Sampson,'
proceeded Mrs Wilfer, majestically waving her gloves, 'appears to
me to be seated in a first-class equipage. Mr George Sampson
appears to me to be on his way, by his own admission, to a
residence that may be termed Palatial. Mr George Sampson
appears to me to be invited to participate in the--shall I say the--
Elevation which has descended on the family with which he is
ambitious, shall I say to Mingle? Whence, then, this tone on Mr
'It is only, ma'am,' Mr Sampson explained, in exceedingly low
spirits, 'because, in a pecuniary sense, I am painfully conscious of
my unworthiness. Lavinia is now highly connected. Can I hope
that she will still remain the same Lavinia as of old? And is it not
pardonable if I feel sensitive, when I see a disposition on her part
to take me up short?'
'If you are not satisfied with your position, sir,' observed Miss
Lavinia, with much politeness, 'we can set you down at any turning
you may please to indicate to my sister's coachman.'
'Dearest Lavinia,' urged Mr Sampson, pathetically, 'I adore you.'
'Then if you can't do it in a more agreeable manner,' returned the
young lady, 'I wish you wouldn't.'
'I also,' pursued Mr Sampson, 'respect you, ma'am, to an extent
which must ever be below your merits, I am well aware, but still
up to an uncommon mark. Bear with a wretch, Lavinia, bear with
a wretch, ma'am, who feels the noble sacrifices you make for him,
but is goaded almost to madness,' Mr Sampson slapped his
forehead, 'when he thinks of competing with the rich and
'When you have to compete with the rich and influential, it will
probably be mentioned to you,' said Miss Lavvy, 'in good time. At