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Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens

Part 15 out of 21

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'Oh!' said Fledgeby. 'Then you think, Mrs Lammle, that if Lammle
got time, he wouldn't burst up?--To use an expression,' Mr
Fledgeby apologetically explained, 'which is adopted in the Money

'Indeed yes. Truly, truly, yes!'

'That makes all the difference,' said Fledgeby. 'I'll make a point of
seeing Riah at once.'

'Blessings on you, dearest Mr Fledgeby!'

'Not at all,' said Fledgeby. She gave him her hand. 'The hand,'
said Mr Fledgeby, 'of a lovely and superior-minded female is ever
the repayment of a--'

'Noble action!' said Mrs Lammle, extremely anxious to get rid of

'It wasn't what I was going to say,' returned Fledgeby, who never
would, under any circumstances, accept a suggested expression,
'but you're very complimentary. May I imprint a--a one--upon it?
Good morning!'

'I may depend upon your promptitude, dearest Mr Fledgeby?'

Said Fledgeby, looking back at the door and respectfully kissing
his hand, 'You may depend upon it.'

In fact, Mr Fledgeby sped on his errand of mercy through the
streets, at so brisk a rate that his feet might have been winged by
all the good spirits that wait on Generosity. They might have taken
up their station in his breast, too, for he was blithe and merry.
There was quite a fresh trill in his voice, when, arriving at the
counting-house in St Mary Axe, and finding it for the moment
empty, he trolled forth at the foot of the staircase: 'Now, Judah,
what are you up to there?'

The old man appeared, with his accustomed deference.

'Halloa!' said Fledgeby, falling back, with a wink. 'You mean
mischief, Jerusalem!'

The old man raised his eyes inquiringly.

'Yes you do,' said Fledgeby. 'Oh, you sinner! Oh, you dodger!
What! You're going to act upon that bill of sale at Lammle's, are
you? Nothing will turn you, won't it? You won't be put off for
another single minute, won't you?'

Ordered to immediate action by the master's tone and look, the old
man took up his hat from the little counter where it lay.

'You have been told that he might pull through it, if you didn't go
in to win, Wide-Awake; have you?' said Fledgeby. 'And it's not
your game that he should pull through it; ain't it? You having got
security, and there being enough to pay you? Oh, you Jew!'

The old man stood irresolute and uncertain for a moment, as if
there might be further instructions for him in reserve.

'Do I go, sir?' he at length asked in a low voice.

'Asks me if he is going!' exclaimed Fledgeby. 'Asks me, as if he
didn't know his own purpose! Asks me, as if he hadn't got his hat
on ready! Asks me, as if his sharp old eye--why, it cuts like a
knife--wasn't looking at his walking-stick by the door!'

'Do I go, sir?'

'Do you go?' sneered Fledgeby. 'Yes, you do go. Toddle, Judah!'

Chapter 13


Fascination Fledgeby, left alone in the counting-house, strolled
about with his hat on one side, whistling, and investigating the
drawers, and prying here and there for any small evidences of his
being cheated, but could find none. 'Not his merit that he don't
cheat me,' was Mr Fledgeby's commentary delivered with a wink,
'but my precaution.' He then with a lazy grandeur asserted his
rights as lord of Pubsey and Co. by poking his cane at the stools
and boxes, and spitting in the fireplace, and so loitered royally to
the window and looked out into the narrow street, with his small
eyes just peering over the top of Pubsey and Co.'s blind. As a
blind in more senses than one, it reminded him that he was alone
in the counting-house with the front door open. He was moving
away to shut it, lest he should be injudiciously identified with the
establishment, when he was stopped by some one coming to the

This some one was the dolls' dressmaker, with a little basket on
her arm, and her crutch stick in her hand. Her keen eyes had
espied Mr Fledgeby before Mr Fledgeby had espied her, and he
was paralysed in his purpose of shutting her out, not so much by
her approaching the door, as by her favouring him with a shower of
nods, the instant he saw her. This advantage she improved by
hobbling up the steps with such despatch that before Mr Fledgeby
could take measures for her finding nobody at home, she was face
to face with him in the counting-house.

'Hope I see you well, sir,' said Miss Wren. 'Mr Riah in?'

Fledgeby had dropped into a chair, in the attitude of one waiting
wearily. 'I suppose he will be back soon,' he replied; 'he has cut
out and left me expecting him back, in an odd way. Haven't I seen
you before?'

'Once before--if you had your eyesight,' replied Miss Wren; the
conditional clause in an under-tone.

'When you were carrying on some games up at the top of the
house. I remember. How's your friend?'

'I have more friends than one, sir, I hope,' replied Miss Wren.
'Which friend?'

'Never mind,' said Mr Fledgeby, shutting up one eye, 'any of your
friends, all your friends. Are they pretty tolerable?'

Somewhat confounded, Miss Wren parried the pleasantry, and sat
down in a corner behind the door, with her basket in her lap. By-
and-by, she said, breaking a long and patient silence:

'I beg your pardon, sir, but I am used to find Mr Riah at this time,
and so I generally come at this time. I only want to buy my poor
little two shillings' worth of waste. Perhaps you'll kindly let me
have it, and I'll trot off to my work.'

'I let you have it?' said Fledgeby, turning his head towards her; for
he had been sitting blinking at the light, and feeling his cheek.
'Why, you don't really suppose that I have anything to do with the
place, or the business; do you?'

'Suppose?' exclaimed Miss Wren. 'He said, that day, you were the

'The old cock in black said? Riah said? Why, he'd say anything.'

'Well; but you said so too,' returned Miss Wren. 'Or at least you
took on like the master, and didn't contradict him.'

'One of his dodges,' said Mr Fledgeby, with a cool and
contemptuous shrug. 'He's made of dodges. He said to me,
"Come up to the top of the house, sir, and I'll show you a
handsome girl. But I shall call you the master." So I went up to
the top of the house and he showed me the handsome girl (very
well worth looking at she was), and I was called the master. I
don't know why. I dare say he don't. He loves a dodge for its own
sake; being,' added Mr Fledgeby, after casting about for an
expressive phrase, 'the dodgerest of all the dodgers.'

'Oh my head!' cried the dolls' dressmaker, holding it with both her
hands, as if it were cracking. 'You can't mean what you say.'

'I can, my little woman, retorted Fledgeby, 'and I do, I assure you.

This repudiation was not only an act of deliberate policy on
Fledgeby's part, in case of his being surprised by any other caller,
but was also a retort upon Miss Wren for her over-sharpness, and a
pleasant instance of his humour as regarded the old Jew. 'He has
got a bad name as an old Jew, and he is paid for the use of it, and
I'll have my money's worth out of him.' This was Fledgeby's
habitual reflection in the way of business, and it was sharpened
just now by the old man's presuming to have a secret from him:
though of the secret itself, as annoying somebody else whom he
disliked, he by no means disapproved.

Miss Wren with a fallen countenance sat behind the door looking
thoughtfully at the ground, and the long and patient silence had
again set in for some time, when the expression of Mr Fledgeby's
face betokened that through the upper portion of the door, which
was of glass, he saw some one faltering on the brink of the
counting-house. Presently there was a rustle and a tap, and then
some more rustling and another tap. Fledgeby taking no notice,
the door was at length softly opened, and the dried face of a mild
little elderly gentleman looked in.

'Mr Riah?' said this visitor, very politely.

'I am waiting for him, sir,' returned Mr Fledgeby. 'He went out and
left me here. I expect him back every minute. Perhaps you had
better take a chair.'

The gentleman took a chair, and put his hand to his forehead, as if
he were in a melancholy frame of mind. Mr Fledgeby eyed him
aside, and seemed to relish his attitude.

'A fine day, sir,' remarked Fledgeby.

The little dried gentleman was so occupied with his own depressed
reflections that he did not notice the remark until the sound of Mr
Fledgeby's voice had died out of the counting-house. Then he
started, and said: 'I beg your pardon, sir. I fear you spoke to me?'

'I said,' remarked Fledgeby, a little louder than before, 'it was a
fine day.'

'I beg your pardon. I beg your pardon. Yes.'

Again the little dried gentleman put his hand to his forehead, and
again Mr Fledgeby seemed to enjoy his doing it. When the
gentleman changed his attitude with a sigh, Fledgeby spake with a

'Mr Twemlow, I think?'

The dried gentleman seemed much surprised.

'Had the pleasure of dining with you at Lammle's,' said Fledgeby.
'Even have the honour of being a connexion of yours. An
unexpected sort of place this to meet in; but one never knows,
when one gets into the City, what people one may knock up
against. I hope you have your health, and are enjoying yourself.'

There might have been a touch of impertinence in the last words;
on the other hand, it might have been but the native grace of Mr
Fledgeby's manner. Mr Fledgeby sat on a stool with a foot on the
rail of another stool, and his hat on. Mr Twemlow had uncovered
on looking in at the door, and remained so. Now the conscientious
Twemlow, knowing what he had done to thwart the gracious
Fledgeby, was particularly disconcerted by this encounter. He was
as ill at ease as a gentleman well could be. He felt himself bound
to conduct himself stiffly towards Fledgeby, and he made him a
distant bow. Fledgeby made his small eyes smaller in taking
special note of his manner. The dolls' dressmaker sat in her corner
behind the door, with her eyes on the ground and her hands folded
on her basket, holding her crutch-stick between them, and
appearing to take no heed of anything.

'He's a long time,' muttered Mr Fledgeby, looking at his watch.
'What time may you make it, Mr Twemlow?'

Mr Twemlow made it ten minutes past twelve, sir.

'As near as a toucher,' assented Fledgeby. 'I hope, Mr Twemlow,
your business here may be of a more agreeable character than

'Thank you, sir,' said Mr Twemlow.

Fledgeby again made his small eyes smaller, as he glanced with
great complacency at Twemlow, who was timorously tapping the
table with a folded letter.

'What I know of Mr Riah,' said Fledgeby, with a very disparaging
utterance of his name, 'leads me to believe that this is about the
shop for disagreeable business. I have always found him the
bitingest and tightest screw in London.'

Mr Twemlow acknowledged the remark with a little distant bow.
It evidently made him nervous.

'So much so,' pursued Fledgeby, 'that if it wasn't to be true to a
friend, nobody should catch me waiting here a single minute. But
if you have friends in adversity, stand by them. That's what I say
and act up to.'

The equitable Twemlow felt that this sentiment, irrespective of the
utterer, demanded his cordial assent. 'You are very right, sir,' he
rejoined with spirit. 'You indicate the generous and manly course.

'Glad to have your approbation,' returned Fledgeby. 'It's a
coincidence, Mr Twemlow;' here he descended from his perch, and
sauntered towards him; 'that the friends I am standing by to-day
are the friends at whose house I met you! The Lammles. She's a
very taking and agreeable woman?'

Conscience smote the gentle Twemlow pale. 'Yes,' he said. 'She is.'

'And when she appealed to me this morning, to come and try what
I could do to pacify their creditor, this Mr Riah--that I certainly
have gained some little influence with in transacting business for
another friend, but nothing like so much as she supposes--and
when a woman like that spoke to me as her dearest Mr Fledgeby,
and shed tears--why what could I do, you know?'

Twemlow gasped 'Nothing but come.'

'Nothing but come. And so I came. But why,' said Fledgeby,
putting his hands in his pockets and counterfeiting deep
meditation, 'why Riah should have started up, when I told him that
the Lammles entreated him to hold over a Bill of Sale he has on all
their effects; and why he should have cut out, saying he would be
back directly; and why he should have left me here alone so long; I
cannot understand.'

The chivalrous Twemlow, Knight of the Simple Heart, was not in a
condition to offer any suggestion. He was too penitent, too
remorseful. For the first time in his life he had done an
underhanded action, and he had done wrong. He had secretly
interposed against this confiding young man, for no better real
reason than because the young man's ways were not his ways.

But, the confiding young man proceeded to heap coals of fire on
his sensitive head.

'I beg your pardon, Mr Twemlow; you see I am acquainted with
the nature of the affairs that are transacted here. Is there anything I
can do for you here? You have always been brought up as a
gentleman, and never as a man of business;' another touch of
possible impertinence in this place; 'and perhaps you are but a
poor man of business. What else is to be expected!'

'I am even a poorer man of business than I am a man, sir,' returned
Twemlow, 'and I could hardly express my deficiency in a stronger
way. I really do not so much as clearly understand my position in
the matter on which I am brought here. But there are reasons
which make me very delicate of accepting your assistance. I am
greatly, greatly, disinclined to profit by it. I don't deserve it.'

Good childish creature! Condemned to a passage through the
world by such narrow little dimly-lighted ways, and picking up so
few specks or spots on the road!

'Perhaps,' said Fledgeby, 'you may be a little proud of entering on
the topic,--having been brought up as a gentleman.'

'It's not that, sir,' returned Twemlow, 'it's not that. I hope I
distinguish between true pride and false pride.'

'I have no pride at all, myself,' said Fledgeby, 'and perhaps I don't
cut things so fine as to know one from t'other. But I know this is a
place where even a man of business needs his wits about him; and
if mine can be of any use to you here, you're welcome to them.'

'You are very good,' said Twemlow, faltering. 'But I am most

'I don't, you know,' proceeded Fledgeby with an ill-favoured
glance, 'entertain the vanity of supposing that my wits could be of
any use to you in society, but they might be here. You cultivate
society and society cultivates you, but Mr Riah's not society. In
society, Mr Riah is kept dark; eh, Mr Twemlow?'

Twemlow, much disturbed, and with his hand fluttering about his
forehead, replied: 'Quite true.'

The confiding young man besought him to state his case. The
innocent Twemlow, expecting Fledgeby to be astounded by what
he should unfold, and not for an instant conceiving the possibility
of its happening every day, but treating of it as a terrible
phenomenon occurring in the course of ages, related how that he
had had a deceased friend, a married civil officer with a family,
who had wanted money for change of place on change of post, and
how he, Twemlow, had 'given him his name,' with the usual, but in
the eyes of Twemlow almost incredible result that he had been left
to repay what he had never had. How, in the course of years, he
had reduced the principal by trifling sums, 'having,' said
Twemlow, 'always to observe great economy, being in the
enjoyment of a fixed income limited in extent, and that depending
on the munificence of a certain nobleman,' and had always pinched
the full interest out of himself with punctual pinches. How he had
come, in course of time, to look upon this one only debt of his life
as a regular quarterly drawback, and no worse, when 'his name'
had some way fallen into the possession of Mr Riah, who had sent
him notice to redeem it by paying up in full, in one plump sum, or
take tremendous consequences. This, with hazy remembrances of
how he had been carried to some office to 'confess judgment' (as
he recollected the phrase), and how he had been carried to another
office where his life was assured for somebody not wholly
unconnected with the sherry trade whom he remembered by the
remarkable circumstance that he had a Straduarius violin to
dispose of, and also a Madonna, formed the sum and substance of
Mr Twemlow's narrative. Through which stalked the shadow of
the awful Snigsworth, eyed afar off by money-lenders as Security
in the Mist, and menacing Twemlow with his baronial truncheon.

To all, Mr Fledgeby listened with the modest gravity becoming a
confiding young man who knew it all beforehand, and, when it
was finished, seriously shook his head. 'I don't like, Mr
Twemlow,' said Fledgeby, 'I don't like Riah's calling in the
principal. If he's determined to call it in, it must come.'

'But supposing, sir,' said Twemlow, downcast, 'that it can't come?'

'Then,' retorted Fledgeby, 'you must go, you know.'

'Where?' asked Twemlow, faintly.

'To prison,' returned Fledgeby. Whereat Mr Twemlow leaned his
innocent head upon his hand, and moaned a little moan of distress
and disgrace.

'However,' said Fledgeby, appearing to pluck up his spirits, 'we'll
hope it's not so bad as that comes to. If you'll allow me, I'll
mention to Mr Riah when he comes in, who you are, and I'll tell
him you're my friend, and I'll say my say for you, instead of your
saying it for yourself; I may be able to do it in a more business-like
way. You won't consider it a liberty?'

'I thank you again and again, sir,' said Twemlow. 'I am strong,
strongly, disinclined to avail myself of your generosity, though my
helplessness yields. For I cannot but feel that I--to put it in the
mildest form of speech--that I have done nothing to deserve it.'

'Where CAN he be?' muttered Fledgeby, referring to his watch
again. 'What CAN he have gone out for? Did you ever see him,
Mr Twemlow?'


'He is a thorough Jew to look at, but he is a more thorough Jew to
deal with. He's worst when he's quiet. If he's quiet, I shall take it
as a very bad sign. Keep your eye upon him when he comes in,
and, if he's quiet, don't be hopeful. Here he is!--He looks quiet.'

With these words, which had the effect of causing the harmless
Twemlow painful agitation, Mr Fledgeby withdrew to his former
post, and the old man entered the counting-house.

'Why, Mr Riah,' said Fledgeby, 'I thought you were lost!'

The old man, glancing at the stranger, stood stock-still. He
perceived that his master was leading up to the orders he was to
take, and he waited to understand them.

'I really thought,' repeated Fledgeby slowly, 'that you were lost, Mr
Riah. Why, now I look at you--but no, you can't have done it; no,
you can't have done it!'

Hat in hand, the old man lifted his head, and looked distressfully at
Fledgeby as seeking to know what new moral burden he was to

'You can't have rushed out to get the start of everybody else, and
put in that bill of sale at Lammle's?' said Fledgeby. 'Say you
haven't, Mr Riah.'

'Sir, I have,' replied the old man in a low voice.

'Oh my eye!' cried Fledgeby. 'Tut, tut, tut! Dear, dear, dear! Well!
I knew you were a hard customer, Mr Riah, but I never thought
you were as hard as that.'

'Sir,' said the old man, with great uneasiness, 'I do as I am
directed. I am not the principal here. I am but the agent of a
superior, and I have no choice, no power.'

'Don't say so,' retorted Fledgeby, secretly exultant as the old man
stretched out his hands, with a shrinking action of defending
himself against the sharp construction of the two observers. 'Don't
play the tune of the trade, Mr Riah. You've a right to get in your
debts, if you're determined to do it, but don't pretend what every
one in your line regularly pretends. At least, don't do it to me.
Why should you, Mr Riah? You know I know all about you.'

The old man clasped the skirt of his long coat with his disengaged
hand, and directed a wistful look at Fledgeby.

'And don't,' said Fledgeby, 'don't, I entreat you as a favour, Mr
Riah, be so devilish meek, for I know what'll follow if you are.
Look here, Mr Riah. This gentleman is Mr Twemlow.'

The Jew turned to him and bowed. That poor lamb bowed in
return; polite, and terrified.

'I have made such a failure,' proceeded Fledgeby, 'in trying to do
anything with you for my friend Lammle, that I've hardly a hope of
doing anything with you for my friend (and connexion indeed) Mr
Twemlow. But I do think that if you would do a favour for
anybody, you would for me, and I won't fail for want of trying, and
I've passed my promise to Mr Twemlow besides. Now, Mr Riah,
here is Mr Twemlow. Always good for his interest, always
coming up to time, always paying his little way. Now, why should
you press Mr Twemlow? You can't have any spite against Mr
Twemlow! Why not be easy with Mr Twemlow?'

The old man looked into Fledgeby's little eyes for any sign of leave
to be easy with Mr Twemlow; but there was no sign in them.

'Mr Twemlow is no connexion of yours, Mr Riah,' said Fledgeby;
'you can't want to be even with him for having through life gone in
for a gentleman and hung on to his Family. If Mr Twemlow has a
contempt for business, what can it matter to you?'

'But pardon me,' interposed the gentle victim, 'I have not. I
should consider it presumption.'

'There, Mr Riah!' said Fledgeby, 'isn't that handsomely said?
Come! Make terms with me for Mr Twemlow.'

The old man looked again for any sign of permission to spare the
poor little gentleman. No. Mr Fledgeby meant him to be racked.

'I am very sorry, Mr Twemlow,' said Riah. 'I have my
instructions. I am invested with no authority for diverging from
them. The money must be paid.'

'In full and slap down, do you mean, Mr Riah?' asked Fledgeby, to
make things quite explicit.

'In full, sir, and at once,' was Riah's answer.

Mr Fledgeby shook his head deploringly at Twemlow, and mutely
expressed in reference to the venerable figure standing before him
with eyes upon the ground: 'What a Monster of an Israelite this is!'

'Mr Riah,' said Fledgeby.

The old man lifted up his eyes once more to the little eyes in Mr
Fledgeby's head, with some reviving hope that the sign might be
coming yet.

'Mr Riah, it's of no use my holding back the fact. There's a certain
great party in the background in Mr Twemlow's case, and you
know it.

'I know it,' the old man admitted.

'Now, I'll put it as a plain point of business, Mr Riah. Are you
fully determined (as a plain point of business) either to have that
said great party's security, or that said great party's money?'

'Fully determined,' answered Riah, as he read his master's face,
and learnt the book.

'Not at all caring for, and indeed as it seems to me rather enjoying,'
said Fledgeby, with peculiar unction, 'the precious kick-up and row
that will come off between Mr Twemlow and the said great party?'

This required no answer, and received none. Poor Mr Twemlow,
who had betrayed the keenest mental terrors since his noble
kinsman loomed in the perspective, rose with a sigh to take his
departure. 'I thank you very much, sir,' he said, offering Fledgeby
his feverish hand. 'You have done me an unmerited service.
Thank you, thank you!'

'Don't mention it,' answered Fledgeby. 'It's a failure so far, but I'll
stay behind, and take another touch at Mr Riah.'

'Do not deceive yourself Mr Twemlow,' said the Jew, then
addressing him directly for the first time. 'There is no hope for
you. You must expect no leniency here. You must pay in full, and
you cannot pay too promptly, or you will be put to heavy charges.
Trust nothing to me, sir. Money, money, money.' When he had
said these words in an emphatic manner, he acknowledged Mr
Twemlow's still polite motion of his head, and that amiable little
worthy took his departure in the lowest spirits.

Fascination Fledgeby was in such a merry vein when the counting-
house was cleared of him, that he had nothing for it but to go to the
window, and lean his arms on the frame of the blind, and have his
silent laugh out, with his back to his subordinate. When he turned
round again with a composed countenance, his subordinate still
stood in the same place, and the dolls' dressmaker sat behind the
door with a look of horror.

'Halloa!' cried Mr Fledgeby, 'you're forgetting this young lady, Mr
Riah, and she has been waiting long enough too. Sell her her
waste, please, and give her good measure if you can make up your
mind to do the liberal thing for once.'

He looked on for a time, as the Jew filled her little basket with
such scraps as she was used to buy; but, his merry vein coming on
again, he was obliged to turn round to the window once more, and
lean his arms on the blind.

'There, my Cinderella dear,' said the old man in a whisper, and
with a worn-out look, 'the basket's full now. Bless you! And get
you gone!'

'Don't call me your Cinderella dear,' returned Miss Wren. 'O you
cruel godmother!'

She shook that emphatic little forefinger of hers in his face at
parting, as earnestly and reproachfully as she had ever shaken it at
her grim old child at home.

'You are not the godmother at all!' said she. 'You are the Wolf in
the Forest, the wicked Wolf! And if ever my dear Lizzie is sold
and betrayed, I shall know who sold and betrayed her!'

Chapter 14


Having assisted at a few more expositions of the lives of Misers,
Mr Venus became almost indispensable to the evenings at the
Bower. The circumstance of having another listener to the
wonders unfolded by Wegg, or, as it were, another calculator to
cast up the guineas found in teapots, chimneys, racks and mangers,
and other such banks of deposit, seemed greatly to heighten Mr
Boffin's enjoyment; while Silas Wegg, for his part, though of a
jealous temperament which might under ordinary circumstances
have resented the anatomist's getting into favour, was so very
anxious to keep his eye on that gentleman--lest, being too much
left to himself, he should be tempted to play any tricks with the
precious document in his keeping--that he never lost an
opportunity of commending him to Mr Boffin's notice as a third
party whose company was much to be desired. Another friendly
demonstration towards him Mr Wegg now regularly gratified.
After each sitting was over, and the patron had departed, Mr Wegg
invariably saw Mr Venus home. To be sure, he as invariably
requested to be refreshed with a sight of the paper in which he was
a joint proprietor; but he never failed to remark that it was the great
pleasure he derived from Mr Venus's improving society which had
insensibly lured him round to Clerkenwell again, and that, finding
himself once more attracted to the spot by the social powers of Mr
V., he would beg leave to go through that little incidental
procedure, as a matter of form. 'For well I know, sir,' Mr Wegg
would add, 'that a man of your delicate mind would wish to be
checked off whenever the opportunity arises, and it is not for me to
baulk your feelings.'

A certain rustiness in Mr Venus, which never became so
lubricated by the oil of Mr Wegg but that he turned under the
screw in a creaking and stiff manner, was very noticeable at about
this period. While assisting at the literary evenings, he even went
so far, on two or three occasions, as to correct Mr Wegg when he
grossly mispronounced a word, or made nonsense of a passage;
insomuch that Mr Wegg took to surveying his course in the day,
and to making arrangements for getting round rocks at night
instead of running straight upon them. Of the slightest anatomical
reference he became particularly shy, and, if he saw a bone ahead,
would go any distance out of his way rather than mention it by

The adverse destinies ordained that one evening Mr Wegg's
labouring bark became beset by polysyllables, and embarrassed
among a perfect archipelago of hard words. It being necessary to
take soundings every minute, and to feel the way with the greatest
caution, Mr Wegg's attention was fully employed. Advantage was
taken of this dilemma by Mr Venus, to pass a scrap of paper into
Mr Boffin's hand, and lay his finger on his own lip.

When Mr Boffin got home at night he found that the paper
contained Mr Venus's card and these words: 'Should be glad to be
honoured with a call respecting business of your own, about dusk
on an early evening.'

The very next evening saw Mr Boffin peeping in at the preserved
frogs in Mr Venus's shop-window, and saw Mr Venus espying Mr
Boffin with the readiness of one on the alert, and beckoning that
gentleman into his interior. Responding, Mr Boffin was invited to
seat himself on the box of human miscellanies before the fire, and
did so, looking round the place with admiring eyes. The fire being
low and fitful, and the dusk gloomy, the whole stock seemed to be
winking and blinking with both eyes, as Mr Venus did. The
French gentleman, though he had no eyes, was not at all behind-
hand, but appeared, as the flame rose and fell, to open and shut his
no eyes, with the regularity of the glass-eyed dogs and ducks and
birds. The big-headed babies were equally obliging in lending
their grotesque aid to the general effect.

'You see, Mr Venus, I've lost no time,' said Mr Boffin. 'Here I am.'

'Here you are, sir,' assented Mr Venus.

'I don't like secrecy,' pursued Mr Boffin--'at least, not in a general
way I don't--but I dare say you'll show me good reason for being
secret so far.'

'I think I shall, sir,' returned Venus.

'Good,' said Mr Boffin. 'You don't expect Wegg, I take it for

'No, sir. I expect no one but the present company.'

Mr Boffin glanced about him, as accepting under that inclusive
denomination the French gentleman and the circle in which he
didn't move, and repeated, 'The present company.'

'Sir,' said Mr Venus, 'before entering upon business, I shall have to
ask you for your word and honour that we are in confidence.'

'Let's wait a bit and understand what the expression means,'
answered Mr Boffin. 'In confidence for how long? In confidence
for ever and a day?'

'I take your hint, sir,' said Venus; 'you think you might consider
the business, when you came to know it, to be of a nature
incompatible with confidence on your part?'

'I might,' said Mr Boffin with a cautious look.

'True, sir. Well, sir,' observed Venus, after clutching at his dusty
hair, to brighten his ideas, 'let us put it another way. I open the
business with you, relying upon your honour not to do anything in
it, and not to mention me in it, without my knowledge.'

'That sounds fair,' said Mr Boffin. 'I agree to that.'

'I have your word and honour, sir?'

'My good fellow,' retorted Mr Boffin, 'you have my word; and how
you can have that, without my honour too, I don't know. I've
sorted a lot of dust in my time, but I never knew the two things go
into separate heaps.'

This remark seemed rather to abash Mr Venus. He hesitated, and
said, 'Very true, sir;' and again, 'Very true, sir,' before resuming the
thread of his discourse.

'Mr Boffin, if I confess to you that I fell into a proposal of which
you were the subject, and of which you oughtn't to have been the
subject, you will allow me to mention, and will please take into
favourable consideration, that I was in a crushed state of mind at
the time.'

The Golden Dustman, with his hands folded on the top of his stout
stick, with his chin resting upon them, and with something leering
and whimsical in his eyes, gave a nod, and said, 'Quite so, Venus.'

'That proposal, sir, was a conspiring breach of your confidence, to
such an extent, that I ought at once to have made it known to you.
But I didn't, Mr Boffin, and I fell into it.'

Without moving eye or finger, Mr Boffin gave another nod, and
placidly repeated, 'Quite so, Venus.'

'Not that I was ever hearty in it, sir,' the penitent anatomist went
on, 'or that I ever viewed myself with anything but reproach for
having turned out of the paths of science into the paths of--' he was
going to say 'villany,' but, unwilling to press too hard upon
himself, substituted with great emphasis--'Weggery.'

Placid and whimsical of look as ever, Mr Boffin answered:

'Quite so, Venus.'

'And now, sir,' said Venus, 'having prepared your mind in the
rough, I will articulate the details.' With which brief professional
exordium, he entered on the history of the friendly move, and truly
recounted it. One might have thought that it would have extracted
some show of surprise or anger, or other emotion, from Mr Boffin,
but it extracted nothing beyond his former comment:

'Quite so, Venus.'

'I have astonished you, sir, I believe?' said Mr Venus, pausing

Mr Boffin simply answered as aforesaid: 'Quite so, Venus.'

By this time the astonishment was all on the other side. It did not,
however, so continue. For, when Venus passed to Wegg's
discovery, and from that to their having both seen Mr Boffin dig up
the Dutch bottle, that gentleman changed colour, changed his
attitude, became extremely restless, and ended (when Venus
ended) by being in a state of manifest anxiety, trepidation, and

'Now, sir,' said Venus, finishing off; 'you best know what was in
that Dutch bottle, and why you dug it up, and took it away. I don't
pretend to know anything more about it than I saw. All I know is
this: I am proud of my calling after all (though it has been attended
by one dreadful drawback which has told upon my heart, and
almost equally upon my skeleton), and I mean to live by my
calling. Putting the same meaning into other words, I do not mean
to turn a single dishonest penny by this affair. As the best amends
I can make you for having ever gone into it, I make known to you,
as a warning, what Wegg has found out. My opinion is, that
Wegg is not to be silenced at a modest price, and I build that
opinion on his beginning to dispose of your property the moment
he knew his power. Whether it's worth your while to silence him
at any price, you will decide for yourself, and take your measures
accordingly. As far as I am concerned, I have no price. If I am
ever called upon for the truth, I tell it, but I want to do no more
than I have now done and ended.'

'Thank'ee, Venus!' said Mr Boffin, with a hearty grip of his hand;
'thank'ee, Venus, thank'ee, Venus!' And then walked up and down
the little shop in great agitation. 'But look here, Venus,' he by-
and-by resumed, nervously sitting down again; 'if I have to buy
Wegg up, I shan't buy him any cheaper for your being out of it.
Instead of his having half the money--it was to have been half, I
suppose? Share and share alike?'

'It was to have been half, sir,' answered Venus.

'Instead of that, he'll now have all. I shall pay the same, if not
more. For you tell me he's an unconscionable dog, a ravenous

'He is,' said Venus.

'Don't you think, Venus,' insinuated Mr Boffin, after looking at the
fire for a while--'don't you feel as if--you might like to pretend to be
in it till Wegg was bought up, and then ease your mind by handing
over to me what you had made believe to pocket?'

'No I don't, sir,' returned Venus, very positively.

'Not to make amends?' insinuated Mr Boffin.

'No, sir. It seems to me, after maturely thinking it over, that the
best amends for having got out of the square is to get back into the

'Humph!' mused Mr Boffin. 'When you say the square, you mean--'

'I mean,' said Venus, stoutly and shortly, 'the right.'

'It appears to me,' said Mr Boffin, grumbling over the fire in an
injured manner, 'that the right is with me, if it's anywhere. I have
much more right to the old man's money than the Crown can ever
have. What was the Crown to him except the King's Taxes?
Whereas, me and my wife, we was all in all to him.'

Mr Venus, with his head upon his hands, rendered melancholy by
the contemplation of Mr Boffin's avarice, only murmured to steep
himself in the luxury of that frame of mind: 'She did not wish so to
regard herself, nor yet to be so regarded.'

'And how am I to live,' asked Mr Boffin, piteously, 'if I'm to be
going buying fellows up out of the little that I've got? And how am
I to set about it? When am I to get my money ready? When am I
to make a bid? You haven't told me when he threatens to drop
down upon me.'

Venus explained under what conditions, and with what views, the
dropping down upon Mr Boffin was held over until the Mounds
should be cleared away. Mr Boffin listened attentively. 'I
suppose,' said he, with a gleam of hope, 'there's no doubt about the
genuineness and date of this confounded will?'

'None whatever,' said Mr Venus.

'Where might it be deposited at present?' asked Mr Boffin, in a
wheedling tone.

'It's in my possession, sir.'

'Is it?' he cried, with great eagerness. 'Now, for any liberal sum of
money that could be agreed upon, Venus, would you put it in the

'No, sir, I wouldn't,' interrupted Mr Venus.

'Nor pass it over to me?'

'That would be the same thing. No, sir,' said Mr Venus.

The Golden Dustman seemed about to pursue these questions,
when a stumping noise was heard outside, coming towards the
door. 'Hush! here's Wegg!' said Venus. 'Get behind the young
alligator in the corner, Mr Boffin, and judge him for yourself. I
won't light a candle till he's gone; there'll only be the glow of the
fire; Wegg's well acquainted with the alligator, and he won't take
particular notice of him. Draw your legs in, Mr Boffin, at present I
see a pair of shoes at the end of his tail. Get your head well behind
his smile, Mr Boffin, and you'll lie comfortable there; you'll find
plenty of room behind his smile. He's a little dusty, but he's very
like you in tone. Are you right, sir?'

Mr Boffin had but whispered an affirmative response, when
Wegg came stumping in. 'Partner,' said that gentleman in a
sprightly manner, 'how's yourself?'

'Tolerable,' returned Mr Venus. 'Not much to boast of.'

'In-deed!' said Wegg: 'sorry, partner, that you're not picking up
faster, but your soul's too large for your body, sir; that's where it is.
And how's our stock in trade, partner? Safe bind, safe find,
partner? Is that about it?'

'Do you wish to see it?' asked Venus.

'If you please, partner,' said Wegg, rubbing his hands. 'I wish to
see it jintly with yourself. Or, in similar words to some that was
set to music some time back:

"I wish you to see it with your eyes,
And I will pledge with mine."'

Turning his back and turning a key, Mr Venus produced the
document, holding on by his usual corner. Mr Wegg, holding on
by the opposite corner, sat down on the seat so lately vacated by
Mr Boffin, and looked it over. 'All right, sir,' he slowly and
unwillingly admitted, in his reluctance to loose his hold, 'all right!'
And greedily watched his partner as he turned his back again, and
turned his key again.

'There's nothing new, I suppose?' said Venus, resuming his low
chair behind the counter.

'Yes there is, sir,' replied Wegg; 'there was something new this
morning. That foxey old grasper and griper--'

'Mr Boffin?' inquired Venus, with a glance towards the alligator's
yard or two of smile.

'Mister be blowed!' cried Wegg, yielding to his honest indignation.
'Boffin. Dusty Boffin. That foxey old grunter and grinder, sir,
turns into the yard this morning, to meddle with our property, a
menial tool of his own, a young man by the name of Sloppy. Ecod,
when I say to him, "What do you want here, young man? This is a
private yard," he pulls out a paper from Boffin's other blackguard,
the one I was passed over for. "This is to authorize Sloppy to
overlook the carting and to watch the work." That's pretty strong, I
think, Mr Venus?'

'Remember he doesn't know yet of our claim on the property,'
suggested Venus.

'Then he must have a hint of it,' said Wegg, 'and a strong one that'll
jog his terrors a bit. Give him an inch, and he'll take an ell. Let
him alone this time, and what'll he do with our property next? I
tell you what, Mr Venus; it comes to this; I must be overbearing
with Boffin, or I shall fly into several pieces. I can't contain myself
when I look at him. Every time I see him putting his hand in his
pocket, I see him putting it into my pocket. Every time I hear him
jingling his money, I hear him taking liberties with my money.
Flesh and blood can't bear it. No,' said Mr Wegg, greatly
exasperated, 'and I'll go further. A wooden leg can't bear it!'

'But, Mr Wegg,' urged Venus, 'it was your own idea that he should
not be exploded upon, till the Mounds were carted away.'

'But it was likewise my idea, Mr Venus,' retorted Wegg, 'that if he
came sneaking and sniffing about the property, he should be
threatened, given to understand that he has no right to it, and be
made our slave. Wasn't that my idea, Mr Venus?'

'It certainly was, Mr Wegg.'

'It certainly was, as you say, partner,' assented Wegg, put into a
better humour by the ready admission. 'Very well. I consider his
planting one of his menial tools in the yard, an act of sneaking and
sniffing. And his nose shall be put to the grindstone for it.'

'It was not your fault, Mr Wegg, I must admit,' said Venus, 'that he
got off with the Dutch bottle that night.'

'As you handsomely say again, partner! No, it was not my fault.
I'd have had that bottle out of him. Was it to be borne that he
should come, like a thief in the dark, digging among stuff that was
far more ours than his (seeing that we could deprive him of every
grain of it, if he didn't buy us at our own figure), and carrying off
treasure from its bowels? No, it was not to be borne. And for that,
too, his nose shall be put to the grindstone.'

'How do you propose to do it, Mr Wegg?'

'To put his nose to the grindstone? I propose,' returned that
estimable man, 'to insult him openly. And, if looking into this eye
of mine, he dares to offer a word in answer, to retort upon him
before he can take his breath, "Add another word to that, you dusty
old dog, and you're a beggar."'

'Suppose he says nothing, Mr Wegg?'

'Then,' replied Wegg, 'we shall have come to an understanding
with very little trouble, and I'll break him and drive him, Mr
Venus. I'll put him in harness, and I'll bear him up tight, and I'll
break him and drive him. The harder the old Dust is driven, sir,
the higher he'll pay. And I mean to be paid high, Mr Venus, I
promise you.'

'You speak quite revengefully, Mr Wegg.'

'Revengefully, sir? Is it for him that I have declined and falled,
night after night? Is it for his pleasure that I've waited at home of
an evening, like a set of skittles, to be set up and knocked over, set
up and knocked over, by whatever balls--or books--he chose to
bring against me? Why, I'm a hundred times the man he is, sir;
five hundred times!'

Perhaps it was with the malicious intent of urging him on to his
worst that Mr Venus looked as if he doubted that.

'What? Was it outside the house at present ockypied, to its
disgrace, by that minion of fortune and worm of the hour,' said
Wegg, falling back upon his strongest terms of reprobation, and
slapping the counter, 'that I, Silas Wegg, five hundred times the
man he ever was, sat in all weathers, waiting for a errand or a
customer? Was it outside that very house as I first set eyes upon
him, rolling in the lap of luxury, when I was selling halfpenny
ballads there for a living? And am I to grovel in the dust for HIM
to walk over? No!'

There was a grin upon the ghastly countenance of the French
gentleman under the influence of the firelight, as if he were
computing how many thousand slanderers and traitors array
themselves against the fortunate, on premises exactly answering
to those of Mr Wegg. One might have fancied that the big-headed
babies were toppling over with their hydrocephalic attempts to
reckon up the children of men who transform their benefactors into
their injurers by the same process. The yard or two of smile on the
part of the alligator might have been invested with the meaning,
'All about this was quite familiar knowledge down in the depths of
the slime, ages ago.'

'But,' said Wegg, possibly with some slight perception to the
foregoing effect, 'your speaking countenance remarks, Mr Venus,
that I'm duller and savager than usual. Perhaps I HAVE allowed
myself to brood too much. Begone, dull Care! 'Tis gone, sir. I've
looked in upon you, and empire resumes her sway. For, as the
song says--subject to your correction, sir--

"When the heart of a man is depressed with cares,
The mist is dispelled if Venus appears.
Like the notes of a fiddle, you sweetly, sir, sweetly,
Raises our spirits and charms our ears."

Good-night, sir.'

'I shall have a word or two to say to you, Mr Wegg, before long,'
remarked Venus, 'respecting my share in the project we've been
speaking of.'

'My time, sir,' returned Wegg, 'is yours. In the meanwhile let it be
fully understood that I shall not neglect bringing the grindstone to
bear, nor yet bringing Dusty Boffin's nose to it. His nose once
brought to it, shall be held to it by these hands, Mr Venus, till the
sparks flies out in showers.'

With this agreeable promise Wegg stumped out, and shut the
shop-door after him. 'Wait till I light a candle, Mr Boffin,' said
Venus, 'and you'll come out more comfortable.' So, he lighting a
candle and holding it up at arm's length, Mr Boffin disengaged
himself from behind the alligator's smile, with an expression of
countenance so very downcast that it not only appeared as if the
alligator had the whole of the joke to himself, but further as if it
had been conceived and executed at Mr Boffin's expense.

'That's a treacherous fellow,' said Mr Boffin, dusting his arms and
legs as he came forth, the alligator having been but musty
company. 'That's a dreadful fellow.'

'The alligator, sir?' said Venus.

'No, Venus, no. The Serpent.'

'You'll have the goodness to notice, Mr Boffin,' remarked Venus,
'that I said nothing to him about my going out of the affair
altogether, because I didn't wish to take you anyways by surprise.
But I can't be too soon out of it for my satisfaction, Mr Boffin, and
I now put it to you when it will suit your views for me to retire?'

'Thank'ee, Venus, thank'ee, Venus; but I don't know what to say,'
returned Mr Boflin, 'I don't know what to do. He'll drop down on
me any way. He seems fully determined to drop down; don't he?'

Mr Venus opined that such was clearly his intention.

'You might be a sort of protection for me, if you remained in it,'
said Mr Boffin; 'you might stand betwixt him and me, and take the
edge off him. Don't you feel as if you could make a show of
remaining in it, Venus, till I had time to turn myself round?'

Venus naturally inquired how long Mr Boffin thought it might take
him to turn himself round?

'I am sure I don't know,' was the answer, given quite at a loss.
'Everything is so at sixes and sevens. If I had never come into the
property, I shouldn't have minded. But being in it, it would be very
trying to be turned out; now, don't you acknowledge that it would,

Mr Venus preferred, he said, to leave Mr Boffin to arrive at his
own conclusions on that delicate question.

'I am sure I don't know what to do,' said Mr Boffin. 'If I ask
advice of any one else, it's only letting in another person to be
bought out, and then I shall be ruined that way, and might as well
have given up the property and gone slap to the workhouse. If I
was to take advice of my young man, Rokesmith, I should have to
buy HIM out. Sooner or later, of course, he'd drop down upon me,
like Wegg. I was brought into the world to be dropped down
upon, it appears to me.'

Mr Venus listened to these lamentations in silence, while Mr
Boffin jogged to and fro, holding his pockets as if he had a pain in

'After all, you haven't said what you mean to do yourself, Venus.
When you do go out of it, how do you mean to go?'

Venus replied that as Wegg had found the document and handed it
to him, it was his intention to hand it back to Wegg, with the
declaration that he himself would have nothing to say to it, or do
with it, and that Wegg must act as he chose, and take the

'And then he drops down with his whole weight upon ME!' cried
Mr Boffin, ruefully. 'I'd sooner be dropped upon by you than by
him, or even by you jintly, than by him alone!'

Mr Venus could only repeat that it was his fixed intention to
betake himself to the paths of science, and to walk in the same all
the days of his life; not dropping down upon his fellow-creatures
until they were deceased, and then only to articulate them to the
best of his humble ability.

'How long could you be persuaded to keep up the appearance of
remaining in it?' asked Mr Boffin, retiring on his other idea.
'Could you be got to do so, till the Mounds are gone?'

No. That would protract themental uneasiness of Mr Venus too
long, he said.

'Not if I was to show you reason now?' demanded Mr Boffin; 'not if
I was to show you good and sufficient reason?'

If by good and sufficient reason Mr Boffin meant honest and
unimpeachable reason, that might weigh with Mr Venus against
his personal wishes and convenience. But he must add that he saw
no opening to the possibility of such reason being shown him.

'Come and see me, Venus,' said Mr Boffin, 'at my house.'

'Is the reason there, sir?' asked Mr Venus, with an incredulous
smile and blink.

'It may be, or may not be,' said Mr Boffin, 'just as you view it. But
in the meantime don't go out of the matter. Look here. Do this.
Give me your word that you won't take any steps with Wegg,
without my knowledge, just as I have given you my word that I
won't without yours.'

'Done, Mr Boffin!' said Venus, after brief consideration.

'Thank'ee, Venus, thank'ee, Venus! Done!'

'When shall I come to see you, Mr Boffin.'

'When you like. The sooner the better. I must be going now.
Good-night, Venus.'

'Good-night, sir.'

'And good-night to the rest of the present company,' said Mr
Boffin, glancing round the shop. 'They make a queer show, Venus,
and I should like to be better acquainted with them some day.
Good-night, Venus, good-night! Thankee, Venus, thankee,
Venus!' With that he jogged out into the street, and jogged upon
his homeward way.

'Now, I wonder,' he meditated as he went along, nursing his stick,
'whether it can be, that Venus is setting himself to get the better of
Wegg? Whether it can be, that he means, when I have bought
Wegg out, to have me all to himself and to pick me clean to the

It was a cunning and suspicious idea, quite in the way of his
school of Misers, and he looked very cunning and suspicious as he
went jogging through the streets. More than once or twice, more
than twice or thrice, say half a dozen times, he took his stick from
the arm on which he nursed it, and hit a straight sharp rap at the
air with its head. Possibly the wooden countenance of Mr Silas
Wegg was incorporeally before him at those moments, for he hit
with intense satisfaction.

He was within a few streets of his own house, when a little private
carriage, coming in the contrary direction, passed him, turned
round, and passed him again. It was a little carriage of eccentric
movement, for again he heard it stop behind him and turn round,
and again he saw it pass him. Then it stopped, and then went on,
out of sight. But, not far out of sight, for, when he came to the
corner of his own street, there it stood again.

There was a lady's face at the window as he came up with this
carriage, and he was passing it when the lady softly called to him
by his name.

'I beg your pardon, Ma'am?' said Mr Boffin, coming to a stop.

'It is Mrs Lammle,' said the lady.

Mr Boffin went up to the window, and hoped Mrs Lammle was

'Not very well, dear Mr Boffin; I have fluttered myself by being--
perhaps foolishly--uneasy and anxious. I have been waiting for
you some time. Can I speak to you?'

Mr Boffin proposed that Mrs Lammle should drive on to his house,
a few hundred yards further.

'I would rather not, Mr Boffin, unless you particularly wish it. I
feel the difficulty and delicacy of the matter so much that I would
rather avoid speaking to you at your own home. You must think
this very strange?'

Mr Boffin said no, but meant yes.

'It is because I am so grateful for the good opinion of all my
friends, and am so touched by it, that I cannot bear to run the risk
of forfeiting it in any case, even in the cause of duty. I have asked
my husband (my dear Alfred, Mr Boffin) whether it is the cause of
duty, and he has most emphatically said Yes. I wish I had asked
him sooner. It would have spared me much distress.'

('Can this be more dropping down upon me!' thought Mr Boffin,
quite bewildered.)

'It was Alfred who sent me to you, Mr Boffin. Alfred said, "Don't
come back, Sophronia, until you have seen Mr Boffin, and told him
all. Whatever he may think of it, he ought certainly to know it."
Would you mind coming into the carriage?'

Mr Boffin answered, 'Not at all,' and took his seat at Mrs Lammle's

'Drive slowly anywhere,' Mrs Lammle called to her coachman, 'and
don't let the carriage rattle.'

'It MUST he more dropping down, I think,' said Mr Boffin to
himself. 'What next?'

Chapter 15


The breakfast table at Mr Boffin's was usually a very pleasant one,
and was always presided over by Bella. As though he began each
new day in his healthy natural character, and some waking hours
were necessary to his relapse into the corrupting influences of his
wealth, the face and the demeanour of the Golden Dustman were
generally unclouded at that meal. It would have been easy to
believe then, that there was no change in him. It was as the day
went on that the clouds gathered, and the brightness of the
mornmg became obscured. One might have said that the shadows
of avarice and distrust lengthened as his own shadow lengthened,
and that the night closed around him gradually.

But, one morning long afterwards to be remembered, it was black
midnight with the Golden Dustman when he first appeared. His
altered character had never been so grossly marked. His bearing
towards his Secretary was so charged with insolent distrust and
arrogance, that the latter rose and left the table before breakfast
was half done. The look he directed at the Secretary's retiring
figure was so cunningly malignant, that Bella would have sat
astounded and indignant, even though he had not gone the length
of secretly threatening Rokesmith with his clenched fist as he
closed the door. This unlucky morning, of all mornings in the year,
was the morning next after Mr Boffin's interview with Mrs
Lammle in her little carriage.

Bella looked to Mrs Boffin's face for comment on, or explanation
of, this stormy humour in her husband, but none was there. An
anxious and a distressed observation of her own face was all she
could read in it. When they were left alone together--which was
not until noon, for Mr Boffin sat long in his easy-chair, by turns
jogging up and down the breakfast-room, clenching his fist and
muttering--Bella, in consternation, asked her what had happened,
what was wrong? 'I am forbidden to speak to you about it, Bella
dear; I mustn't tell you,' was all the answer she could get. And
still, whenever, in her wonder and dismay, she raised her eyes to
Mrs Boffin's face, she saw in it the same anxious and distressed
observation of her own.

Oppressed by her sense that trouble was impending, and lost in
speculations why Mrs Boffin should look at her as if she had any
part in it, Bella found the day long and dreary. It was far on in the
afternoon when, she being in her own room, a servant brought her
a message from Mr Boffin begging her to come to his.

Mrs Boffin was there, seated on a sofa, and Mr Boffin was jogging
up and down. On seeing Bella he stopped, beckoned her to him,
and drew her arm through his. 'Don't be alarmed, my dear,' he
said, gently; 'I am not angry with you. Why you actually tremble!
Don't be alarmed, Bella my dear. I'll see you righted.'

'See me righted?' thought Bella. And then repeated aloud in a tone
of astonishment: 'see me righted, sir?'

'Ay, ay!' said Mr Boffin. 'See you righted. Send Mr Rokesmith
here, you sir.'

Bella would have been lost in perplexity if there had been pause
enough; but the servant found Mr Rokesmith near at hand, and he
almost immediately presented himself.

'Shut the door, sir!' said Mr Boffin. 'I have got something to say to
you which I fancy you'll not be pleased to hear.'

'I am sorry to reply, Mr Boffin,' returned the Secretary, as, having
closed the door, he turned and faced him, 'that I think that very

'What do you mean?' blustered Mr Boffin.

'I mean that it has become no novelty to me to hear from your lips
what I would rather not hear.'

'Oh! Perhaps we shall change that,' said Mr Boffin with a
threatening roll of his head.

'I hope so,' returned the Secretary. He was quiet and respectful;
but stood, as Bella thought (and was glad to think), on his
manhood too.

'Now, sir,' said Mr Boffin, 'look at this young lady on my arm.

Bella involuntarily raising her eyes, when this sudden reference
was made to herself, met those of Mr Rokesmith. He was pale
and seemed agitated. Then her eyes passed on to Mrs Boffin's, and
she met the look again. In a flash it enlightened her, and she
began to understand what she had done.

'I say to you, sir,' Mr Boffin repeated, 'look at this young lady on
my arm.

'I do so,' returned the Secretary.

As his glance rested again on Bella for a moment, she thought
there was reproach in it. But it is possible that the reproach was
within herself.

'How dare you, sir,' said Mr Boffin, 'tamper, unknown to me, with
this young lady? How dare you come out of your station, and your
place in my house, to pester this young lady with your impudent

'I must decline to answer questions,' said the Secretary, 'that are
so offensively asked.'

'You decline to answer?' retorted Mr Boffin. 'You decline to
answer, do you? Then I'll tell you what it is, Rokesmith; I'll
answer for you. There are two sides to this matter, and I'll take 'em
separately. The first side is, sheer Insolence. That's the first side.'

The Secretary smiled with some bitterness, as though he would
have said, 'So I see and hear.'

'It was sheer Insolence in you, I tell you,' said Mr Boffin, 'even to
think of this young lady. This young lady was far above YOU.
This young lady was no match for YOU. This young lady was
lying in wait (as she was qualified to do) for money, and you had
no money.'

Bella hung her head and seemed to shrink a little from Mr Boffin's
protecting arm.

'What are you, I should like to know,' pursued Mr Boffin, 'that you
were to have the audacity to follow up this young lady? This
young lady was looking about the market for a good bid; she
wasn't in it to be snapped up by fellows that had no money to lay
out; nothing to buy with.'

'Oh, Mr Boffin! Mrs Boffin, pray say something for me!'
murmured Bella, disengaging her arm, and covering her face with
her hands.

'Old lady,' said Mr Boflin, anticipating his wife, 'you hold your
tongue. Bella, my dear, don't you let yourself be put out. I'll right

'But you don't, you don't right me!' exclaimed Bella, with great
emphasis. 'You wrong me, wrong me!'

'Don't you be put out, my dear,' complacently retorted Mr Boffin.
'I'll bring this young man to book. Now, you Rokesmith! You
can't decline to hear, you know, as well as to answer. You hear me
tell you that the first side of your conduct was Insolence--Insolence
and Presumption. Answer me one thing, if you can. Didn't this
young lady tell you so herself?'

'Did I, Mr Rokesmith?' asked Bella with her face still covered. 'O
say, Mr Rokesmith! Did I?'

'Don't be distressed, Miss Wilfer; it matters very little now.'

'Ah! You can't deny it, though!' said Mr Boffin, with a knowing
shake of his head.

'But I have asked him to forgive me since,' cried Bella; 'and I
would ask him to forgive me now again, upon my knees, if it
would spare him!'

Here Mrs Boffin broke out a-crying.

'Old lady,' said Mr Boffin, 'stop that noise! Tender-hearted in
you, Miss Bella; but I mean to have it out right through with this
young man, having got him into a corner. Now, you Rokesmith. I
tell you that's one side of your conduct--Insolence and
Presumption. Now, I'm a-coming to the other, which is much
worse. This was a speculation of yours.'

'I indignantly deny it.'

'It's of no use your denying it; it doesn't signify a bit whether you
deny it or not; I've got a head upon my shoulders, and it ain't a
baby's. What!' said Mr Boffin, gathering himself together in his
most suspicious attitude, and wrinkling his face into a very map of
curves and corners. 'Don't I know what grabs are made at a man
with money? If I didn't keep my eyes open, and my pockets
buttoned, shouldn't I be brought to the workhouse before I knew
where I was? Wasn't the experience of Dancer, and Elwes, and
Hopkins, and Blewbury Jones, and ever so many more of 'em,
similar to mine? Didn't everybody want to make grabs at what
they'd got, and bring 'em to poverty and ruin? Weren't they forced
to hide everything belonging to 'em, for fear it should be snatched
from 'em? Of course they was. I shall be told next that they didn't
know human natur!'

'They! Poor creatures,' murmured the Secretary.

'What do you say?' asked Mr Boffin, snapping at him. 'However,
you needn't be at the trouble of repeating it, for it ain't worth
hearing, and won't go down with ME. I'm a-going to unfold your
plan, before this young lady; I'm a-going to show this young lady
the second view of you; and nothing you can say will stave it off.
(Now, attend here, Bella, my dear.) Rokesmith, you're a needy
chap. You're a chap that I pick up in the street. Are you, or ain't

'Go on, Mr Boflin; don't appeal to me.'

'Not appeal to YOU,' retorted Mr Boffin as if he hadn't done so.
'No, I should hope not! Appealing to YOU, would be rather a rum
course. As I was saying, you're a needy chap that I pick up in the
street. You come and ask me in the street to take you for a
Secretary, and I take you. Very good.'

'Very bad,' murmured the Secretary.

'What do you say?' asked Mr Boffin, snapping at him again.

He returned no answer. Mr Boffin, after eyeing him with a
comical look of discomfited curiosity, was fain to begin afresh.

'This Rokesmith is a needy young man that I take for my Secretary
out of the open street. This Rokesmith gets acquainted with my
affairs, and gets to know that I mean to settle a sum of money on
this young lady. "Oho!" says this Rokesmith;' here Mr Boffin
clapped a finger against his nose, and tapped it several times with
a sneaking air, as embodying Rokesmith confidentially
confabulating with his own nose; '"This will be a good haul; I'll go
in for this!" And so this Rokesmith, greedy and hungering, begins
a-creeping on his hands and knees towards the money. Not so bad
a speculation either: for if this young lady had had less spirit, or
had had less sense, through being at all in the romantic line, by
George he might have worked it out and made it pay! But
fortunately she was too many for him, and a pretty figure he cuts
now he is exposed. There he stands!' said Mr Boffin, addressing
Rokesmith himself with ridiculous inconsistency. 'Look at him!'

'Your unfortunate suspicions, Mr Boffin--' began the Secretary.

'Precious unfortunate for you, I can tell you,' said Mr Boffin.

'--are not to be combated by any one, and I address myself to no
such hopeless task. But I will say a word upon the truth.'

'Yah! Much you care about the truth,' said Mr Boffin, with a snap
of his fingers.

'Noddy! My dear love!' expostulated his wife.

'Old lady,' returned Mr Boffin, 'you keep still. I say to this
Rokesmith here, much he cares about the truth. I tell him again,
much he cares about the truth.'

'Our connexion being at an end, Mr Boffin,' said the Secretary, 'it
can be of very little moment to me what you say.'

'Oh! You are knowing enough,' retorted Mr Boffin, with a sly
look, 'to have found out that our connexion's at an end, eh? But
you can't get beforehand with me. Look at this in my hand. This
is your pay, on your discharge. You can only follow suit. You
can't deprive me of the lead. Let's have no pretending that you
discharge yourself. I discharge you.'

'So that I go,' remarked the Secretary, waving the point aside with
his hand, 'it is all one to me.'

'Is it?' said Mr Boffin. 'But it's two to me, let me tell you.
Allowing a fellow that's found out, to discharge himself, is one
thing; discharging him for insolence and presumption, and
likewise for designs upon his master's money, is another. One and
one's two; not one. (Old lady, don't you cut in. You keep still.)'

'Have you said all you wish to say to me?' demanded the Secretary.

'I don't know whether I have or not,' answered Mr Boffin. 'It

'Perhaps you will consider whether there are any other strong
expressions that you would like to bestow upon me?'

'I'll consider that,' said Mr Boffin, obstinately, 'at my convenience,
and not at yours. You want the last word. It may not be suitable
to let you have it.'

'Noddy! My dear, dear Noddy! You sound so hard!' cried poor
Mrs Boffin, not to be quite repressed.

'Old lady,' said her husband, but without harshness, 'if you cut in
when requested not, I'll get a pillow and carry you out of the room
upon it. What do you want to say, you Rokesmith?'

'To you, Mr Boffin, nothing. But to Miss Wilfer and to your good
kind wife, a word.'

'Out with it then,' replied Mr Boffin, 'and cut it short, for we've
had enough of you.'

'I have borne,' said the Secretary, in a low voice, 'with my false
position here, that I might not be separated from Miss Wilfer. To
be near her, has been a recompense to me from day to day, even for
the undeserved treatment I have had here, and for the degraded
aspect in which she has often seen me. Since Miss Wilfer rejected
me, I have never again urged my suit, to the best of my belief, with
a spoken syllable or a look. But I have never changed in my
devotion to her, except--if she will forgive my saying so--that it is
deeper than it was, and better founded.'

'Now, mark this chap's saying Miss Wilfer, when he means L.s.d.!'
cried Mr Boffin, with a cunning wink. 'Now, mark this chap's
making Miss Wilfer stand for Pounds, Shillings, and Pence!'

'My feeling for Miss Wilfer,' pursued the Secretary, without
deigning to notice him, 'is not one to be ashamed of. I avow it. I
love her. Let me go where I may when I presently leave this house,
I shall go into a blank life, leaving her.'

'Leaving L.s.d. behind me,' said Mr Boffin, by way of commentary,
with another wink.

'That I am incapable,' the Secretary went on, still without heeding
him, 'of a mercenary project, or a mercenary thought, in connexion
with Miss Wilfer, is nothing meritorious in me, because any prize
that I could put before my fancy would sink into insignificance
beside her. If the greatest wealth or the highest rank were hers, it
would only be important in my sight as removing her still farther
from me, and making me more hopeless, if that could be. Say,'
remarked the Secretary, looking full at his late master, 'say that
with a word she could strip Mr Boffin of his fortune and take
possession of it, she would be of no greater worth in my eyes than
she is.'

'What do you think by this time, old lady,' asked Mr Boffin,
turning to his wife in a bantering tone, 'about this Rokesmith here,
and his caring for the truth? You needn't say what you think, my
dear, because I don't want you to cut in, but you can think it all the
same. As to taking possession of my property, I warrant you he
wouldn't do that himself if he could.'

'No,' returned the Secretary, with another full look.

'Ha, ha, ha!' laughed Mr Boffin. 'There's nothing like a good 'un
while you ARE about it.'

'I have been for a moment,' said the Secretary, turning from him
and falling into his former manner, 'diverted from the little I have
to say. My interest in Miss Wilfer began when I first saw her;
even began when I had only heard of her. It was, in fact, the cause
of my throwing myself in Mr Boffin's way, and entering his
service. Miss Wilfer has never known this until now. I mention it
now, only as a corroboration (though I hope it may be needless) of
my being free from the sordid design attributed to me.'

'Now, this is a very artful dog,' said Mr Boffin, with a deep look.
'This is a longer-headed schemer than I thought him. See how
patiently and methodically he goes to work. He gets to know about
me and my property, and about this young lady, and her share in
poor young John's story, and he puts this and that together, and he
says to himself, "I'll get in with Boffin, and I'll get in with this
young lady, and I'll work 'em both at the same time, and I'll bring
my pigs to market somewhere." I hear him say it, bless you! I
look at him, now, and I see him say it!'

Mr Boffin pointed at the culprit, as it were in the act, and hugged
himself in his great penetration.

'But luckily he hadn't to deal with the people he supposed, Bella,
my dear!' said Mr Boffin. 'No! Luckily he had to deal with you,
and with me, and with Daniel and Miss Dancer, and with Elwes,
and with Vulture Hopkins, and with Blewbury Jones and all the
rest of us, one down t'other come on. And he's beat; that's what he
is; regularly beat. He thought to squeeze money out of us, and he
has done for himself instead, Bella my dear!'

Bella my dear made no response, gave no sign of acquiescence.
When she had first covered her face she had sunk upon a chair
with her hands resting on the back of it, and had never moved
since. There was a short silence at this point, and Mrs Boffin
softly rose as if to go to her. But, Mr Boffin stopped her with a
gesture, and she obediently sat down again and stayed where she

'There's your pay, Mister Rokesmith,' said the Golden Dustman,
jerking the folded scrap of paper he had in his hand, towards his
late Secretary. 'I dare say you can stoop to pick it up, after what
you have stooped to here.'

'I have stooped to nothing but this,' Rokesmith answered as he
took it from the ground; 'and this is mine, for I have earned it by
the hardest of hard labour.'

'You're a pretty quick packer, I hope,' said Mr Boffin; 'because the
sooner you are gone, bag and baggage, the better for all parties.'

'You need have no fear of my lingering.'

'There's just one thing though,' said Mr Boffin, 'that I should like to
ask you before we come to a good riddance, if it was only to show
this young lady how conceited you schemers are, in thinking that
nobody finds out how you contradict yourselves.'

'Ask me anything you wish to ask,' returned Rokesmith, 'but use
the expedition that you recommend.'

'You pretend to have a mighty admiration for this young lady?' said
Mr Boffin, laying his hand protectingly on Bella's head without
looking down at her.

'I do not pretend.'

'Oh! Well. You HAVE a mighty admiration for this young lady--
since you are so particular?'


'How do you reconcile that, with this young lady's being a weak-
spirited, improvident idiot, not knowing what was due to herself,
flinging up her money to the church-weathercocks, and racing off
at a splitting pace for the workhouse?'

'I don't understand you.'

'Don't you? Or won't you? What else could you have made this
young lady out to be, if she had listened to such addresses as

'What else, if I had been so happy as to win her affections and
possess her heart?'

'Win her affections,' retorted Mr Boffin, with ineffable contempt,
'and possess her heart! Mew says the cat, Quack-quack says the
duck, Bow-wow-wow says the dog! Win her affections and
possess her heart! Mew, Quack-quack, Bow-wow!'

John Rokesmith stared at him in his outburst, as if with some faint
idea that he had gone mad.

'What is due to this young lady,' said Mr Boffin, 'is Money, and
this young lady right well knows it.'

'You slander the young lady.'

'YOU slander the young lady; you with your affections and hearts
and trumpery,' returned Mr Boffin. 'It's of a piece with the rest of
your behaviour. I heard of these doings of yours only last night, or
you should have heard of 'em from me, sooner, take your oath of it.
I heard of 'em from a lady with as good a headpiece as the best,
and she knows this young lady, and I know this young lady, and
we all three know that it's Money she makes a stand for--money,
money, money--and that you and your affections and hearts are a
Lie, sir!'

'Mrs Boffin,' said Rokesmith, quietly turning to her, 'for your
delicate and unvarying kindness I thank you with the warmest
gratitude. Good-bye! Miss Wilfer, good-bye!'

'And now, my dear,' said Mr Boffin, laying his hand on Bella's
head again, 'you may begin to make yourself quite comfortable,
and I hope you feel that you've been righted.'

But, Bella was so far from appearing to feel it, that she shrank
from his hand and from the chair, and, starting up in an incoherent
passion of tears, and stretching out her arms, cried, 'O Mr
Rokesmith, before you go, if you could but make me poor again!
O! Make me poor again, Somebody, I beg and pray, or my heart
will break if this goes on! Pa, dear, make me poor again and take
me home! I was bad enough there, but I have been so much worse
here. Don't give me money, Mr Boffin, I won't have money. Keep
it away from me, and only let me speak to good little Pa, and lay
my head upon his shoulder, and tell him all my griefs. Nobody
else can understand me, nobody else can comfort me, nobody else
knows how unworthy I am, and yet can love me like a little child.
I am better with Pa than any one--more innocent, more sorry, more
glad!' So, crying out in a wild way that she could not bear this,
Bella drooped her head on Mrs Boffin's ready breast.

John Rokesmith from his place in the room, and Mr Boffin from
his, looked on at her in silence until she was silent herself. Then
Mr Boffin observed in a soothing and comfortable tone, 'There, my
dear, there; you are righted now, and it's ALL right. I don't
wonder, I'm sure, at your being a little flurried by having a scene
with this fellow, but it's all over, my dear, and you're righted, and
it's--and it's ALL right!' Which Mr Boffin repeated with a highly
satisfied air of completeness and finality.

'I hate you!' cried Bella, turning suddenly upon him, with a stamp
of her little foot--'at least, I can't hate you, but I don't like you!'

'HUL--LO!' exclaimed Mr Boffin in an amazed under-tone.

'You're a scolding, unjust, abusive, aggravating, bad old creature!'
cried Bella. 'I am angry with my ungrateful self for calling you
names; but you are, you are; you know you are!'

Mr Boffin stared here, and stared there, as misdoubting that he
must be in some sort of fit.

'I have heard you with shame,' said Bella. 'With shame for myself,
and with shame for you. You ought to be above the base tale-
bearing of a time-serving woman; but you are above nothing now.'

Mr Boffin, seeming to become convinced that this was a fit, rolled
his eyes and loosened his neckcloth.

'When I came here, I respected you and honoured you, and I soon
loved you,' cried Bella. 'And now I can't bear the sight of you. At
least, I don't know that I ought to go so far as that--only you're a--
you're a Monster!' Having shot this bolt out with a great
expenditure of force, Bella hysterically laughed and cried together.

'The best wish I can wish you is,' said Bella, returning to the
charge, 'that you had not one single farthing in the world. If any
true friend and well-wisher could make you a bankrupt, you would
be a Duck; but as a man of property you are a Demon!'

After despatching this second bolt with a still greater expenditure
of force, Bella laughed and cried still more.

'Mr Rokesmith, pray stay one moment. Pray hear one word from
me before you go! I am deeply sorry for the reproaches you have
borne on my account. Out of the depths of my heart I earnestly and
truly beg your pardon.'

As she stepped towards him, he met her. As she gave him her
hand, he put it to his lips, and said, 'God bless you!' No laughing
was mixed with Bella's crying then; her tears were pure and

'There is not an ungenerous word that I have heard addressed to
you--heard with scorn and indignation, Mr Rokesmith--but it has
wounded me far more than you, for I have deserved it, and you
never have. Mr Rokesmith, it is to me you owe this perverted
account of what passed between us that night. I parted with the
secret, even while I was angry with myself for doing so. It was
very bad in me, but indeed it was not wicked. I did it in a moment
of conceit and folly--one of my many such moments--one of my
many such hours--years. As I am punished for it severely, try to
forgive it!'

'I do with all my soul.'

'Thank you. O thank you! Don't part from me till I have said one
other word, to do you justice. The only fault you can be truly
charged with, in having spoken to me as you did that night--with
how much delicacy and how much forbearance no one but I can
know or be grateful to you for--is, that you laid yourself open to be
slighted by a worldly shallow girl whose head was turned, and
who was quite unable to rise to the worth of what you offered her.
Mr Rokesmith, that girl has often seen herself in a pitiful and poor
light since, but never in so pitiful and poor a light as now, when
the mean tone in which she answered you--sordid and vain girl that
she was--has been echoed in her ears by Mr Boffin.'

He kissed her hand again.

'Mr Boffin's speeches were detestable to me, shocking to me,' said
Bella, startling that gentleman with another stamp of her little foot.
'It is quite true that there was a time, and very lately, when I
deserved to be so "righted," Mr Rokesmith; but I hope that I shall
never deserve it again!'

He once more put her hand to his lips, and then relinquished it, and
left the room. Bella was hurrying back to the chair in which she
had hidden her face so long, when, catching sight of Mrs Boffin by
the way, she stopped at her. 'He is gone,' sobbed Bella indignantly,
despairingly, in fifty ways at once, with her arms round Mrs
Boffin's neck. 'He has been most shamefully abused, and most
unjustly and most basely driven away, and I am the cause of it!'

All this time, Mr Boffin had been rolling his eyes over his loosened
neckerchief, as if his fit were still upon him. Appearing now to
think that he was coming to, he stared straight before him for a
while, tied his neckerchief again, took several long inspirations,
swallowed several times, and ultimately exclaimed with a deep
sigh, as if he felt himself on the whole better: 'Well!'

No word, good or bad, did Mrs Boffin say; but she tenderly took
care of Bella, and glanced at her husband as if for orders. Mr
Boffin, without imparting any, took his seat on a chair over against
them, and there sat leaning forward, with a fixed countenance, his
legs apart, a hand on each knee, and his elbows squared, until
Bella should dry her eyes and raise her head, which in the fulness
of time she did.

'I must go home,' said Bella, rising hurriedly. 'I am very grateful
to you for all you have done for me, but I can't stay here.'

'My darling girl!' remonstrated Mrs Boffin.

'No, I can't stay here,' said Bella; 'I can't indeed.--Ugh! you vicious
old thing!' (This to Mr Boffin.)

'Don't be rash, my love,' urged Mrs Boffin. 'Think well of what
you do.'

'Yes, you had better think well,' said Mr Boffin.

'I shall never more think well of YOU,' cried Bella, cutting him
short, with intense defiance in her expressive little eyebrows, and
championship of the late Secretary in every dimple. 'No! Never
again! Your money has changed you to marble. You are a hard-
hearted Miser. You are worse than Dancer, worse than Hopkins,
worse than Blackberry Jones, worse than any of the wretches. And
more!' proceeded Bella, breaking into tears again, 'you were wholly
undeserving of the Gentleman you have lost.'

'Why, you don't mean to say, Miss Bella,' the Golden Dustman
slowly remonstrated, 'that you set up Rokesmith against me?'

'I do!' said Bella. 'He is worth a Million of you.'

Very pretty she looked, though very angry, as she made herself as
tall as she possibly could (which was not extremely tall), and
utterly renounced her patron with a lofty toss of her rich brown

'I would rather he thought well of me,' said Bella, 'though he swept
the street for bread, than that you did, though you splashed the
mud upon him from the wheels of a chariot of pure gold.--There!'

'Well I'm sure!' cried Mr Boffin, staring.

'And for a long time past, when you have thought you set yourself
above him, I have only seen you under his feet,' said Bella--'There!
And throughout I saw in him the master, and I saw in you the
man--There! And when you used him shamefully, I took his part
and loved him--There! I boast of it!'

After which strong avowal Bella underwent reaction, and cried to
any extent, with her face on the back of her chair.

'Now, look here,' said Mr Boffin, as soon as he could find an
opening for breaking the silence and striking in. 'Give me your
attention, Bella. I am not angry.'

'I AM!' said Bella.

'I say,' resumed the Golden Dustman, 'I am not angry, and I mean
kindly to you, and I want to overlook this. So you'll stay where you
are, and we'll agree to say no more about it.'

'No, I can't stay here,' cried Bella, rising hurriedly again; 'I can't
think of staying here. I must go home for good.'

'Now, don't be silly,' Mr Boffin reasoned. 'Don't do what you can't
undo; don't do what you're sure to be sorry for.'

'I shall never be sorry for it,' said Bella; 'and I should always be
sorry, and should every minute of my life despise myself if I
remained here after what has happened.'

'At least, Bella,' argued Mr Boffin, 'let there be no mistake about it.
Look before you leap, you know. Stay where you are, and all's
well, and all's as it was to be. Go away, and you can never come

'I know that I can never come back, and that's what I mean,' said

'You mustn't expect,' Mr Boffin pursued, 'that I'm a-going to settle
money on you, if you leave us like this, because I am not. No,
Bella! Be careful! Not one brass farthing.'

'Expect!' said Bella, haughtily. 'Do you think that any power on
earth could make me take it, if you did, sir?'

But there was Mrs Boffin to part from, and, in the full flush of her
dignity, the impressible little soul collapsed again. Down upon her
knees before that good woman, she rocked herself upon her breast,
and cried, and sobbed, and folded her in her arms with all her

'You're a dear, a dear, the best of dears!' cried Bella. 'You're the
best of human creatures. I can never be thankful enough to you,
and I can never forget you. If I should live to be blind and deaf I
know I shall see and hear you, in my fancy, to the last of my dim
old days!'

Mrs Boffin wept most heartily, and embraced her with all
fondness; but said not one single word except that she was her dear
girl. She said that often enough, to be sure, for she said it over and
over again; but not one word else.

Bella broke from her at length, and was going weeping out of the
room, when in her own little queer affectionate way, she half
relented towards Mr Boffin.

'I am very glad,' sobbed Bella, 'that I called you names, sir,
because you richly deserved it. But I am very sorry that I called
you names, because you used to be so different. Say good-bye!'

'Good-bye,' said Mr Boffin, shortly.

'If I knew which of your hands was the least spoilt, I would ask
you to let me touch it,' said Bella, 'for the last time. But not
because I repent of what I have said to you. For I don't. It's true!'

'Try the left hand,' said Mr Boffin, holding it out in a stolid
manner; 'it's the least used.'

'You have been wonderfully good and kind to me,' said Bella, 'and
I kiss it for that. You have been as bad as bad could be to Mr
Rokesmith, and I throw it away for that. Thank you for myself,
and good-bye!'

'Good-bye,' said Mr Boffin as before.

Bella caught him round the neck and kissed him, and ran out for

She ran up-stairs, and sat down on the floor in her own room, and
cried abundantly. But the day was declining and she had no time
to lose. She opened all the places where she kept her dresses;
selected only those she had brought with her, leaving all the rest;
and made a great misshapen bundle of them, to be sent for

'I won't take one of the others,' said Bella, tying the knots of the
bundle very tight, in the severity of her resolution. 'I'll leave all the
presents behind, and begin again entirely on my own account.'
That the resolution might be thoroughly carried into practice, she
even changed the dress she wore, for that in which she had come to
the grand mansion. Even the bonnet she put on, was the bonnet
that had mounted into the Boffin chariot at Holloway.

'Now, I am complete,' said Bella. 'It's a little trying, but I have
steeped my eyes in cold water, and I won't cry any more. You have
been a pleasant room to me, dear room. Adieu! We shall never
see each other again.'

With a parting kiss of her fingers to it, she softly closed the door
and went with a light foot down the great staircase, pausing and
listening as she went, that she might meet none of the household.
No one chanced to be about, and she got down to the hall in quiet.
The door of the late Secretary's room stood open. She peeped in as
she passed, and divined from the emptiness of his table, and the
general appearance of things, that he was already gone. Softly
opening the great hall door, and softly closing it upon herself, she
turned and kissed it on the outside--insensible old combination of
wood and iron that it was!--before she ran away from the house at
a swift pace.

'That was well done!' panted Bella, slackening in the next street,
and subsiding into a walk. 'If I had left myself any breath to cry
with, I should have cried again. Now poor dear darling little Pa,
you are going to see your lovely woman unexpectedly.'

Chapter 16


The City looked unpromising enough, as Bella made her way
along its gritty streets. Most of its money-mills were slackening
sail, or had left off grinding for the day. The master-millers had
already departed, and the journeymen were departing. There was a
jaded aspect on the business lanes and courts, and the very
pavements had a weary appearance, confused by the tread of a
million of feet. There must be hours of night to temper down the
day's distraction of so feverish a place. As yet the worry of the
newly-stopped whirling and grinding on the part of the money-
mills seemed to linger in the air, and the quiet was more like the
prostration of a spent giant than the repose of one who was
renewing his strength.

If Bella thought, as she glanced at the mighty Bank, how agreeable
it would be to have an hour's gardening there, with a bright copper
shovel, among the money, still she was not in an avaricious vein.
Much improved in that respect, and with certain half-formed
images which had little gold in their composition, dancing before
her bright eyes, she arrived in the drug-flavoured region of
Mincing Lane, with the sensation of having just opened a drawer
in a chemist's shop.

The counting-house of Chicksey, Veneering, and Stobbles was
pointed out by an elderly female accustomed to the care of offices,
who dropped upon Bella out of a public-house, wiping her mouth,
and accounted for its humidity on natural principles well known to
the physical sciences, by explaining that she had looked in at the
door to see what o'clock it was. The counting-house was a wall-
eyed ground floor by a dark gateway, and Bella was considering,
as she approached it, could there be any precedent in the City for
her going in and asking for R. Wilfer, when whom should she see,
sitting at one of the windows with the plate-glass sash raised, but
R. Wilfer himself, preparing to take a slight refection.

On approaching nearer, Bella discerned that the refection had the
appearance of a small cottage-loaf and a pennyworth of milk.
Simultaneously with this discovery on her part, her father
discovered her, and invoked the echoes of Mincing Lane to exclaim
'My gracious me!'

He then came cherubically flying out without a hat, and embraced

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