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Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens

Part 16 out of 21

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her, and handed her in. 'For it's after hours and I am all alone, my
dear,' he explained, 'and am having--as I sometimes do when they
are all gone--a quiet tea.'

Looking round the office, as if her father were a captive and this
his cell, Bella hugged him and choked him to her heart's content.

'I never was so surprised, my dear!' said her father. 'I couldn't
believe my eyes. Upon my life, I thought they had taken to lying!
The idea of your coming down the Lane yourself! Why didn't you
send the footman down the Lane, my dear?'

'I have brought no footman with me, Pa.'

'Oh indeed! But you have brought the elegant turn-out, my love?'

'No, Pa.'

'You never can have walked, my dear?'

'Yes, I have, Pa.'

He looked so very much astonished, that Bella could not make up
her mind to break it to him just yet.

'The consequence is, Pa, that your lovely woman feels a little faint,
and would very much like to share your tea.'

The cottage loaf and the pennyworth of milk had been set forth on
a sheet of paper on the window-seat. The cherubic pocket-knife,
with the first bit of the loaf still on its point, lay beside them where
it had been hastily thrown down. Bella took the bit off, and put it
in her mouth. 'My dear child,' said her father, 'the idea of your
partaking of such lowly fare! But at least you must have your own
loaf and your own penn'orth. One moment, my dear. The Dairy
is just over the way and round the corner.'

Regardless of Bella's dissuasions he ran out, and quickly returned
with the new supply. 'My dear child,' he said, as he spread it on
another piece of paper before her, 'the idea of a splendid--!' and
then looked at her figure, and stopped short.

'What's the matter, Pa?'

'--of a splendid female,' he resumed more slowly, 'putting up with
such accommodation as the present!--Is that a new dress you have
on, my dear?'

'No, Pa, an old one. Don't you remember it?'

'Why, I THOUGHT I remembered it, my dear!'

'You should, for you bought it, Pa.'

'Yes, I THOUGHT I bought it my dear!' said the cherub, giving
himself a little shake, as if to rouse his faculties.

'And have you grown so fickle that you don't like your own taste,
Pa dear?'

'Well, my love,' he returned, swallowing a bit of the cottage loaf
with considerable effort, for it seemed to stick by the way: 'I should
have thought it was hardly sufficiently splendid for existing

'And so, Pa,' said Bella, moving coaxingly to his side instead of
remaining opposite, 'you sometimes have a quiet tea here all alone?
I am not in the tea's way, if I draw my arm over your shoulder like
this, Pa?'

'Yes, my dear, and no, my dear. Yes to the first question, and
Certainly Not to the second. Respecting the quiet tea, my dear,
why you see the occupations of the day are sometimes a little
wearing; and if there's nothing interposed between the day and
your mother, why SHE is sometimes a little wearing, too.'

'I know, Pa.'

'Yes, my dear. So sometimes I put a quiet tea at the window here,
with a little quiet contemplation of the Lane (which comes
soothing), between the day, and domestic--'

'Bliss,' suggested Bella, sorrowfully.

'And domestic Bliss,' said her father, quite contented to accept the

Bella kissed him. 'And it is in this dark dingy place of captivity,
poor dear, that you pass all the hours of your life when you are not
at home?'

'Not at home, or not on the road there, or on the road here, my love.
Yes. You see that little desk in the corner?'

'In the dark corner, furthest both from the light and from the
fireplace? The shabbiest desk of all the desks?'

'Now, does it really strike you in that point of view, my dear?' said
her father, surveying it artistically with his head on one side: 'that's
mine. That's called Rumty's Perch.'

'Whose Perch?' asked Bella with great indignation.

'Rumty's. You see, being rather high and up two steps they call it
a Perch. And they call ME Rumty.'

'How dare they!' exclaimed Bella.

'They're playful, Bella my dear; they're playful. They're more or
less younger than I am, and they're playful. What does it matter?
It might be Surly, or Sulky, or fifty disagreeable things that I really
shouldn't like to be considered. But Rumty! Lor, why not Rumty?'

To inflict a heavy disappointment on this sweet nature, which had
been, through all her caprices, the object of her recognition, love,
and admiration from infancy, Bella felt to be the hardest task of her
hard day. 'I should have done better,' she thought, 'to tell him at
first; I should have done better to tell him just now, when he had
some slight misgiving; he is quite happy again, and I shall make
him wretched.'

He was falling back on his loaf and milk, with the pleasantest
composure, and Bella stealing her arm a little closer about him,
and at the same time sticking up his hair with an irresistible
propensity to play with him founded on the habit of her whole life,
had prepared herself to say: 'Pa dear, don't be cast down, but I
must tell you something disagreeable!' when he interrupted her in
an unlooked-for manner.

'My gracious me!' he exclaimed, invoking the Mincing Lane
echoes as before. 'This is very extraordinary!'

'What is, Pa?'

'Why here's Mr Rokesmith now!'

'No, no, Pa, no,' cried Bella, greatly flurried. 'Surely not.'

'Yes there is! Look here!'

Sooth to say, Mr Rokesmith not only passed the window, but came
into the counting-house. And not only came into the counting-
house, but, finding himself alone there with Bella and her father,
rushed at Bella and caught her in his arms, with the rapturous
words 'My dear, dear girl; my gallant, generous, disinterested,
courageous, noble girl!' And not only that even, (which one might
have thought astonishment enough for one dose), but Bella, after
hanging her head for a moment, lifted it up and laid it on his
breast, as if that were her head's chosen and lasting resting-place!

'I knew you would come to him, and I followed you,' said
Rokesmith. 'My love, my life! You ARE mine?'

To which Bella responded, 'Yes, I AM yours if you think me worth
taking!' And after that, seemed to shrink to next to nothing in the
clasp of his arms, partly because it was such a strong one on his
part, and partly because there was such a yielding to it on hers.

The cherub, whose hair would have done for itself under the
influence of this amazing spectacle, what Bella had just now done
for it, staggered back into the window-seat from which he had
risen, and surveyed the pair with his eyes dilated to their utmost.

'But we must think of dear Pa,' said Bella; 'I haven't told dear Pa;
let us speak to Pa.' Upon which they turned to do so.

'I wish first, my dear,' remarked the cherub faintly, 'that you'd have
the kindness to sprinkle me with a little milk, for I feel as if I was--

In fact, the good little fellow had become alarmingly limp, and his
senses seemed to be rapidly escaping, from the knees upward.
Bella sprinkled him with kisses instead of milk, but gave him a
little of that article to drink; and he gradually revived under her
caressing care.

'We'll break it to you gently, dearest Pa,' said Bella.

'My dear,' returned the cherub, looking at them both, 'you broke so
much in the first--Gush, if I may so express myself--that I think I
am equal to a good large breakage now.'

'Mr Wilfer,' said John Rokesmith, excitedly and joyfully, 'Bella
takes me, though I have no fortune, even no present occupation;
nothing but what I can get in the life before us. Bella takes me!'

'Yes, I should rather have inferred, my dear sir,' returned the
cherub feebly, 'that Bella took you, from what I have within these
few minutes remarked.'

'You don't know, Pa,' said Bella, 'how ill I have used him!'

'You don't know, sir,' said Rokesmith, 'what a heart she has!'

'You don't know, Pa,' said Bella, 'what a shocking creature I was
growing, when he saved me from myself!'

'You don't know, sir,' said Rokesmith, 'what a sacrifice she has
made for me!'

'My dear Bella,' replied the cherub, still pathetically scared, 'and
my dear John Rokesmith, if you will allow me so to call you--'

'Yes do, Pa, do!' urged Bella. 'I allow you, and my will is his law.
Isn't it--dear John Rokesmith?'

There was an engaging shyness in Bella, coupled with an engaging
tenderness of love and confidence and pride, in thus first calling
him by name, which made it quite excusable in John Rokesmith to
do what he did. What he did was, once more to give her the
appearance of vanishing as aforesaid.

'I think, my dears,' observed the cherub, 'that if you could make it
convenient to sit one on one side of me, and the other on the other,
we should get on rather more consecutively, and make things
rather plainer. John Rokesmith mentioned, a while ago, that he
had no present occupation.'

'None,' said Rokesmith.

'No, Pa, none,' said Bella.

'From which I argue,' proceeded the cherub, 'that he has left Mr

'Yes, Pa. And so--'

'Stop a bit, my dear. I wish to lead up to it by degrees. And that
Mr Boffin has not treated him well?'

'Has treated him most shamefully, dear Pa!' cried Bella with a
flashing face.

'Of which,' pursued the cherub, enjoining patience with his hand, 'a
certain mercenary young person distantly related to myself, could
not approve? Am I leading up to it right?'

'Could not approve, sweet Pa,' said Bella, with a tearful laugh and
a joyful kiss.

'Upon which,' pursued the cherub, 'the certain mercenary young
person distantly related to myself, having previously observed and
mentioned to myself that prosperity was spoiling Mr Boffin, felt
that she must not sell her sense of what was right and what was
wrong, and what was true and what was false, and what was just
and what was unjust, for any price that could be paid to her by any
one alive? Am I leading up to it right?'

With another tearful laugh Bella joyfully kissed him again.

'And therefore--and therefore,' the cherub went on in a glowing
voice, as Bella's hand stole gradually up his waistcoat to his neck,
'this mercenary young person distantly related to myself, refused
the price, took off the splendid fashions that were part of it, put on
the comparatively poor dress that I had last given her, and trusting
to my supporting her in what was right, came straight to me. Have
I led up to it?'

Bella's hand was round his neck by this time, and her face was on

'The mercenary young person distantly related to myself,' said her
good father, 'did well! The mercenary young person distantly
related to myself, did not trust to me in vain! I admire this
mercenary young person distantly related to myself, more in this
dress than if she had come to me in China silks, Cashmere shawls,
and Golconda diamonds. I love this young person dearly. I say to
the man of this young person's heart, out of my heart and with all
of it, "My blessing on this engagement betwixt you, and she brings
you a good fortune when she brings you the poverty she has
accepted for your sake and the honest truth's!"'

The stanch little man's voice failed him as he gave John Rokesmith
his hand, and he was silent, bending his face low over his
daughter. But, not for long. He soon looked up, saying in a
sprightly tone:

'And now, my dear child, if you think you can entertain John
Rokesmith for a minute and a half, I'll run over to the Dairy, and
fetch HIM a cottage loaf and a drink of milk, that we may all have
tea together.'

It was, as Bella gaily said, like the supper provided for the three
nursery hobgoblins at their house in the forest, without their
thunderous low growlings of the alarming discovery, 'Somebody's
been drinking MY milk!' It was a delicious repast; by far the most
delicious that Bella, or John Rokesmith, or even R. Wilfer had ever
made. The uncongenial oddity of its surroundings, with the two
brass knobs of the iron safe of Chicksey, Veneering, and Stobbles
staring from a corner, like the eyes of some dull dragon, only made
it the more delightful.

'To think,' said the cherub, looking round the office with
unspeakable enjoyment, 'that anything of a tender nature should
come off here, is what tickles me. To think that ever I should have
seen my Bella folded in the arms of her future husband, HERE,
you know!'

It was not until the cottage loaves and the milk had for some time
disappeared, and the foreshadowings of night were creeping over
Mincing Lane, that the cherub by degrees became a little nervous,
and said to Bella, as he cleared his throat:

'Hem!--Have you thought at all about your mother, my dear?'

'Yes, Pa.'

'And your sister Lavvy, for instance, my dear?'

'Yes, Pa. I think we had better not enter into particulars at home. I
think it will be quite enough to say that I had a difference with Mr
Boffin, and have left for good.'

'John Rokesmith being acquainted with your Ma, my love,' said
her father, after some slight hesitation, 'I need have no delicacy in
hinting before him that you may perhaps find your Ma a little

'A little, patient Pa?' said Bella with a tuneful laugh: the tunefuller
for being so loving in its tone.

'Well! We'll say, strictly in confidence among ourselves, wearing;
we won't qualify it,' the cherub stoutly admitted. 'And your
sister's temper is wearing.'

'I don't mind, Pa.'

'And you must prepare yourself you know, my precious,' said her
father, with much gentleness, 'for our looking very poor and
meagre at home, and being at the best but very uncomfortable,
after Mr Boffin's house.'

'I don't mind, Pa. I could bear much harder trials--for John.'

The closing words were not so softly and blushingly said but that
John heard them, and showed that he heard them by again
assisting Bella to another of those mysterious disappearances.

'Well!' said the cherub gaily, and not expressing disapproval, 'when
you--when you come back from retirement, my love, and reappear
on the surface, I think it will be time to lock up and go.'

If the counting-house of Chicksey, Veneering, and Stobbles had
ever been shut up by three happier people, glad as most people
were to shut it up, they must have been superlatively happy indeed.
But first Bella mounted upon Rumty's Perch, and said, 'Show me
what you do here all day long, dear Pa. Do you write like this?'
laying her round cheek upon her plump left arm, and losing sight
of her pen in waves of hair, in a highly unbusiness-like manner.
Though John Rokesmith seemed to like it.

So, the three hobgoblins, having effaced all traces of their feast,
and swept up the crumbs, came out of Mincing Lane to walk to
Holloway; and if two of the hobgoblins didn't wish the distance
twice as long as it was, the third hobgoblin was much mistaken.
Indeed, that modest spirit deemed himself so much in the way of
their deep enjoyment of the journey, that he apologetically
remarked: 'I think, my dears, I'll take the lead on the other side of
the road, and seem not to belong to you.' Which he did,
cherubically strewing the path with smiles, in the absence of

It was almost ten o'clock when they stopped within view of Wilfer
Castle; and then, the spot being quiet and deserted, Bella began a
series of disappearances which threatened to last all night.

'I think, John,' the cherub hinted at last, 'that if you can spare me
the young person distantly related to myself, I'll take her in.'

'I can't spare her,' answered John, 'but I must lend her to you.'--My
Darling!' A word of magic which caused Bella instantly to
disappear again.

'Now, dearest Pa,' said Bella, when she became visible, 'put your
hand in mine, and we'll run home as fast as ever we can run, and
get it over. Now, Pa. Once!--'

'My dear,' the cherub faltered, with something of a craven air, 'I
was going to observe that if your mother--'

'You mustn't hang back, sir, to gain time,' cried Bella, putting out
her right foot; 'do you see that, sir? That's the mark; come up to the
mark, sir. Once! Twice! Three times and away, Pa!' Off she
skimmed, bearing the cherub along, nor ever stopped, nor suffered
him to stop, until she had pulled at the bell. 'Now, dear Pa,' said
Bella, taking him by both ears as if he were a pitcher, and
conveying his face to her rosy lips, 'we are in for it!'

Miss Lavvy came out to open the gate, waited on by that attentive
cavalier and friend of the family, Mr George Sampson. 'Why, it's
never Bella!' exclaimed Miss Lavvy starting back at the sight. And
then bawled, 'Ma! Here's Bella!'

This produced, before they could get into the house, Mrs Wilfer.
Who, standing in the portal, received them with ghostly gloom,
and all her other appliances of ceremony.

'My child is welcome, though unlooked for,' said she, at the time
presenting her cheek as if it were a cool slate for visitors to enrol
themselves upon. 'You too, R. W., are welcome, though late.
Does the male domestic of Mrs Boffin hear me there?' This deep-
toned inquiry was cast forth into the night, for response from the
menial in question.

'There is no one waiting, Ma, dear,' said Bella.

'There is no one waiting?' repeated MrsWilfer in majestic accents.

'No, Ma, dear.'

A dignified shiver pervaded Mrs Wilfer's shoulders and gloves, as
who should say, 'An Enigma!' and then she marched at the head of
the procession to the family keeping-room, where she observed:

'Unless, R. W.': who started on being solemnly turned upon: 'you
have taken the precaution of making some addition to our frugal
supper on your way home, it will prove but a distasteful one to
Bella. Cold neck of mutton and a lettuce can ill compete with the
luxuries of Mr Boffin's board.'

'Pray don't talk like that, Ma dear,' said Bella; 'Mr Boffin's board is
nothing to me.'

But, here Miss Lavinia, who had been intently eyeing Bella's
bonnet, struck in with 'Why, Bella!'

'Yes, Lavvy, I know.'

The Irrepressible lowered her eyes to Bella's dress, and stooped to
look at it, exclaiming again: 'Why, Bella!'

'Yes, Lavvy, I know what I have got on. I was going to tell Ma
when you interrupted. I have left Mr Boffin's house for good, Ma,
and I have come home again.'

Mrs Wilfer spake no word, but, having glared at her offspring for a
minute or two in an awful silence, retired into her corner of state
backward, and sat down: like a frozen article on sale in a Russian

'In short, dear Ma,' said Bella, taking off the depreciated bonnet
and shaking out her hair, 'I have had a very serious difference with
Mr Boffin on the subject of his treatment of a member of his
household, and it's a final difference, and there's an end of all.'

'And I am bound to tell you, my dear,' added R. W., submissively,
'that Bella has acted in a truly brave spirit, and with a truly right
feeling. And therefore I hope, my dear, you'll not allow yourself to
be greatly disappointed.'

'George!' said Miss Lavvy, in a sepulchral, warning voice, founded
on her mother's; 'George Sampson, speak! What did I tell you
about those Boffins?'

Mr Sampson perceiving his frail bark to be labouring among
shoals and breakers, thought it safest not to refer back to any
particular thing that he had been told, lest he should refer back to
the wrong thing. With admirable seamanship he got his bark into
deep water by murmuring 'Yes indeed.'

'Yes! I told George Sampson, as George Sampson tells you, said
Miss Lavvy, 'that those hateful Boffins would pick a quarrel with
Bella, as soon as her novelty had worn off. Have they done it, or
have they not? Was I right, or was I wrong? And what do you say
to us, Bella, of your Boffins now?'

'Lavvy and Ma,' said Bella, 'I say of Mr and Mrs Boffin what I
always have said; and I always shall say of them what I always
have said. But nothing will induce me to quarrel with any one to-
night. I hope you are not sorry to see me, Ma dear,' kissing her;
'and I hope you are not sorry to see me, Lavvy,' kissing her too;
'and as I notice the lettuce Ma mentioned, on the table, I'll make
the salad.'

Bella playfully setting herself about the task, Mrs Wilfer's
impressive countenance followed her with glaring eyes, presenting
a combination of the once popular sign of the Saracen's Head, with
a piece of Dutch clock-work, and suggesting to an imaginative
mind that from the composition of the salad, her daughter might
prudently omit the vinegar. But no word issued from the majestic
matron's lips. And this was more terrific to her husband (as
perhaps she knew) than any flow of eloquence with which she
could have edified the company.

'Now, Ma dear,' said Bella in due course, 'the salad's ready, and it's
past supper-time.'

Mrs Wilfer rose, but remained speechless. 'George!' said Miss
Lavinia in her voice of warning, 'Ma's chair!' Mr Sampson flew to
the excellent lady's back, and followed her up close chair in hand,
as she stalked to the banquet. Arrived at the table, she took her
rigid seat, after favouring Mr Sampson with a glare for himself,
which caused the young gentleman to retire to his place in much

The cherub not presuming to address so tremendous an object,
transacted her supper through the agency of a third person, as
'Mutton to your Ma, Bella, my dear'; and 'Lavvy, I dare say your
Ma would take some lettuce if you were to put it on her plate.'
Mrs Wilfer's manner of receiving those viands was marked by
petrified absence of mind; in which state, likewise, she partook of
them, occasionally laying down her knife and fork, as saying
within her own spirit, 'What is this I am doing?' and glaring at one
or other of the party, as if in indignant search of information. A
magnetic result of such glaring was, that the person glared at could
not by any means successfully pretend to he ignorant of the fact:
so that a bystander, without beholding Mrs Wilfer at all, must have
known at whom she was glaring, by seeing her refracted from the
countenance of the beglared one.

Miss Lavinia was extremely affable to Mr Sampson on this special
occasion, and took the opportunity of informing her sister why.

'It was not worth troubling you about, Bella, when you were in a
sphere so far removed from your family as to make it a matter in
which you could be expected to take very little interest,' said
Lavinia with a toss of her chin; 'but George Sampson is paying his
addresses to me.'

Bella was glad to hear it. Mr Sampson became thoughtfully red,
and felt called upon to encircle Miss Lavinia's waist with his arm;
but, encountering a large pin in the young lady's belt, scarified a
finger, uttered a sharp exclamation, and attracted the lightning of
Mrs Wilfer's glare.

'George is getting on very well,' said Miss Lavinia which might
not have been supposed at the moment--'and I dare say we shall be
married, one of these days. I didn't care to mention it when you
were with your Bof--' here Miss Lavinia checked herself in a
bounce, and added more placidly, 'when you were with Mr and
Mrs Boffin; but now I think it sisterly to name the circumstance.'

'Thank you, Lavvy dear. I congratulate you.'

'Thank you, Bella. The truth is, George and I did discuss whether I
should tell you; but I said to George that you wouldn't be much
interested in so paltry an affair, and that it was far more likely you
would rather detach yourself from us altogether, than have him
added to the rest of us.'

'That was a mistake, dear Lavvy,' said Bella.

'It turns out to be,' replied Miss Lavinia; 'but circumstances have
changed, you know, my dear. George is in a new situation, and his
prospects are very good indeed. I shouldn't have had the courage
to tell you so yesterday, when you would have thought his
prospects poor, and not worth notice; but I feel quite bold tonight.'

'When did you begin to feel timid, Lavvy? inquired Bella, with a

'I didn't say that I ever felt timid, Bella,' replied the Irrepressible.
'But perhaps I might have said, if I had not been restrained by
delicacy towards a sister's feelings, that I have for some time felt
independent; too independent, my dear, to subject myself to have
my intended match (you'll prick yourself again, George) looked
down upon. It is not that I could have blamed you for looking
down upon it, when you were looking up to a rich and great match,
Bella; it is only that I was independent.'

Whether the Irrepressible felt slighted by Bella's declaration that
she would not quarrel, or whether her spitefulness was evoked by
Bella's return to the sphere of Mr George Sampson's courtship, or
whether it was a necessary fillip to her spirits that she should come
into collision with somebody on the present occasion,--anyhow she
made a dash at her stately parent now, with the greatest

'Ma, pray don't sit staring at me in that intensely aggravating
manner! If you see a black on my nose, tell me so; if you don't,
leave me alone.'

'Do you address Me in those words?' said Mrs Wilfer. 'Do you

'Don't talk about presuming, Ma, for goodness' sake. A girl who is
old enough to be engaged, is quite old enough to object to be stared
at as if she was a Clock.'

'Audacious one!' said Mrs Wilfer. 'Your grandmamma, if so
addressed by one of her daughters, at any age, would have insisted
on her retiring to a dark apartment.'

'My grandmamma,' returned Lavvy, folding her arms and leaning
back in her chair, 'wouldn't have sat staring people out of
countenance, I think.'

'She would!' said Mrs Wilfer.

'Then it's a pity she didn't know better,' said Lavvy. 'And if my
grandmamma wasn't in her dotage when she took to insisting on
people's retiring to dark apartments, she ought to have been. A
pretty exhibition my grandmamma must have made of herself! I
wonder whether she ever insisted on people's retiring into the ball
of St Paul's; and if she did, how she got them there!'

'Silence!' proclaimed Mrs Wilfer. 'I command silence!'

'I have not the slightest intention of being silent, Ma,' returned
Lavinia coolly, 'but quite the contrary. I am not going to be eyed as
if I had come from the Boffins, and sit silent under it. I am not
going to have George Sampson eyed as if HE had come from the
Boffins, and sit silent under it. If Pa thinks proper to be eyed as if
HE had come from the Boffins also, well and good. I don't choose
to. And I won't!'

Lavinia's engineering having made this crooked opening at Bella,
Mrs Wilfer strode into it.

'You rebellious spirit! You mutinous child! Tell me this, Lavinia.
If in violation of your mother's sentiments, you had condescended
to allow yourself to be patronized by the Boffins, and if you had
come from those halls of slavery--'

'That's mere nonsense, Ma,' said Lavinia.

'How!' exclaimed Mrs Wilfer, with sublime severity.

'Halls of slavery, Ma, is mere stuff and nonsense,' returned the
unmoved Irrepressible.

'I say, presumptuous child, if you had come from the
neighbourhood of Portland Place, bending under the yoke of
patronage and attended by its domestics in glittering garb to visit
me, do you think my deep-seated feelings could have been
expressed in looks?'

'All I think about it, is,' returned Lavinia, 'that I should wish them
expressed to the right person.'

'And if,' pursued her mother, 'if making light of my warnings that
the face of Mrs Boffin alone was a face teeming with evil, you had
clung to Mrs Boffin instead of to me, and had after all come home
rejected by Mrs Boffin, trampled under foot by Mrs Boffin, and
cast out by Mrs Boffin, do you think my feelings could have been
expressed in looks?'

Lavinia was about replying to her honoured parent that she might
as well have dispensed with her looks altogether then, when Bella
rose and said, 'Good night, dear Ma. I have had a tiring day, and
I'll go to bed.' This broke up the agreeable party. Mr George
Sampson shortly afterwards took his leave, accompanied by Miss
Lavinia with a candle as far as the hall, and without a candle as far
as the garden gate; Mrs Wilfer, washing her hands of the Boffins,
went to bed after the manner of Lady Macbeth; and R. W. was left
alone among the dilapidations of the supper table, in a melancholy

But, a light footstep roused him from his meditations, and it was
Bella's. Her pretty hair was hanging all about her, and she had
tripped down softly, brush in hand, and barefoot, to say good-night
to him.

'My dear, you most unquestionably ARE a lovely woman,' said the
cherub, taking up a tress in his hand.

'Look here, sir,' said Bella; 'when your lovely woman marries, you
shall have that piece if you like, and she'll make you a chain of it.
Would you prize that remembrance of the dear creature?'

'Yes, my precious.'

'Then you shall have it if you're good, sir. I am very, very sorry,
dearest Pa, to have brought home all this trouble.'

'My pet,' returned her father, in the simplest good faith, 'don't
make yourself uneasy about that. It really is not worth mentioning,
because things at home would have taken pretty much the same
turn any way. If your mother and sister don't find one subject to
get at times a little wearing on, they find another. We're never out
of a wearing subject, my dear, I assure you. I am afraid you find
your old room with Lavvy, dreadfully inconvenient, Bella?'

'No I don't, Pa; I don't mind. Why don't I mind, do you think, Pa?'

'Well, my child, you used to complain of it when it wasn't such a
contrast as it must be now. Upon my word, I can only answer,
because you are so much improved.'

'No, Pa. Because I am so thankful and so happy!'

Here she choked him until her long hair made him sneeze, and
then she laughed until she made him laugh, and then she choked
him again that they might not be overheard.

'Listen, sir,' said Bella. 'Your lovely woman was told her fortune
to night on her way home. It won't be a large fortune, because if
the lovely woman's Intended gets a certain appointment that he
hopes to get soon, she will marry on a hundred and fifty pounds a
year. But that's at first, and even if it should never be more, the
lovely woman will make it quite enough. But that's not all, sir. In
the fortune there's a certain fair man--a little man, the fortune-teller
said--who, it seems, will always find himself near the lovely
woman, and will always have kept, expressly for him, such a
peaceful corner in the lovely woman's little house as never was.
Tell me the name of that man, sir.'

'Is he a Knave in the pack of cards?' inquired the cherub, with a
twinkle in his eyes.

'Yes!' cried Bella, in high glee, choking him again. 'He's the
Knave of Wilfers! Dear Pa, the lovely woman means to look
forward to this fortune that has been told for her, so delightfully,
and to cause it to make her a much better lovely woman than she
ever has been yet. What the little fair man is expected to do, sir, is
to look forward to it also, by saying to himself when he is in
danger of being over-worried, "I see land at last!"

'I see land at last!' repeated her father.

'There's a dear Knave of Wilfers!' exclaimed Bella; then putting out
her small white bare foot, 'That's the mark, sir. Come to the mark.
Put your boot against it. We keep to it together, mind! Now, sir,
you may kiss the lovely woman before she runs away, so thankful
and so happy. O yes, fair little man, so thankful and so happy!'

Chapter 17


Amazement sits enthroned upon the countenances of Mr and Mrs
Alfred Lammle's circle of acquaintance, when the disposal of their
first-class furniture and effects (including a Billiard Table in
capital letters), 'by auction, under a bill of sale,' is publicly
announced on a waving hearthrug in Sackville Street. But, nobody
is half so much amazed as Hamilton Veneering, Esquire, M.P. for
Pocket-Breaches, who instantly begins to find out that the
Lammles are the only people ever entered on his soul's register,
who are NOT the oldest and dearest friends he has in the world.
Mrs Veneering, W.M.P. for Pocket-Breaches, like a faithful wife
shares her husband's discovery and inexpressible astonishment.
Perhaps the Veneerings twain may deem the last unutterable
feeling particularly due to their reputation, by reason that once
upon a time some of the longer heads in the City are whispered to
have shaken themselves, when Veneering's extensive dealings and
great wealth were mentioned. But, it is certain that neither Mr nor
Mrs Veneering can find words to wonder in, and it becomes
necessary that they give to the oldest and dearest friends they have
in the world, a wondering dinner.

For, it is by this time noticeable that, whatever befals, the
Veneerings must give a dinner upon it. Lady Tippins lives in a
chronic state of invitation to dine with the Veneerings, and in a
chronic state of inflammation arising from the dinners. Boots and
Brewer go about in cabs, with no other intelligible business on
earth than to beat up people to come and dine with the Veneerings.
Veneering pervades the legislative lobbies, intent upon entrapping
his fellow-legislators to dinner. Mrs Veneering dined with five-
and-twenty bran-new faces over night; calls upon them all to day;
sends them every one a dinner-card to-morrow, for the week after
next; before that dinner is digested, calls upon their brothers and
sisters, their sons and daughters, their nephews and nieces, their
aunts and uncles and cousins, and invites them all to dinner. And
still, as at first, howsoever, the dining circle widens, it is to be
observed that all the diners are consistent in appearing to go to the
Veneerings, not to dine with Mr and Mrs Veneering (which would
seem to be the last thing in their minds), but to dine with one

Perhaps, after all,--who knows?--Veneering may find this dining,
though expensive, remunerative, in the sense that it makes
champions. Mr Podsnap, as a representative man, is not alone in
caring very particularly for his own dignity, if not for that of his
acquaintances, and therefore in angrily supporting the
acquaintances who have taken out his Permit, lest, in their being
lessened, he should be. The gold and silver camels, and the ice-
pails, and the rest of the Veneering table decorations, make a
brilliant show, and when I, Podsnap, casually remark elsewhere
that I dined last Monday with a gorgeous caravan of camels, I find
it personally offensive to have it hinted to me that they are broken-
kneed camels, or camels labouring under suspicion of any sort. 'I
don't display camels myself, I am above them: I am a more solid
man; but these camels have basked in the light of my countenance,
and how dare you, sir, insinuate to me that I have irradiated any
but unimpeachable camels?'

The camels are polishing up in the Analytical's pantry for the
dinner of wonderment on the occasion of the Lammles going to
pieces, and Mr Twemlow feels a little queer on the sofa at his
lodgings over the stable yard in Duke Street, Saint James's, in
consequence of having taken two advertised pills at about mid-day,
on the faith of the printed representation accompanying the box
(price one and a penny halfpenny, government stamp included),
that the same 'will be found highly salutary as a precautionary
measure in connection with the pleasures of the table.' To whom,
while sickly with the fancy of an insoluble pill sticking in his
gullet, and also with the sensation of a deposit of warm gum
languidly wandering within him a little lower down, a servant
enters with the announcement that a lady wishes to speak with

'A lady!' says Twemlow, pluming his ruffled feathers. 'Ask the
favour of the lady's name.'

The lady's name is Lammle. The lady will not detain Mr
Twemlow longer than a very few minutes. The lady is sure that
Mr Twemlow will do her the kindness to see her, on being told that
she particularly desires a short interview. The lady has no doubt
whatever of Mr Twemlow's compliance when he hears her name.
Has begged the servant to be particular not to mistake her name.
Would have sent in a card, but has none.

'Show the lady in.' Lady shown in, comes in.

Mr Twemlow's little rooms are modestly furnished, in an old-
fashioned manner (rather like the housekeeper's room at
Snigsworthy Park), and would be bare of mere ornament, were it
not for a full-length engraving of the sublime Snigsworth over the
chimneypiece, snorting at a Corinthian column, with an enormous
roll of paper at his feet, and a heavy curtain going to tumble down
on his head; those accessories being understood to represent the
noble lord as somehow in the act of saving his country.

'Pray take a seat, Mrs Lammle.' Mrs Lammle takes a seat and
opens the conversation.

'I have no doubt, Mr Twemlow, that you have heard of a reverse of
fortune having befallen us. Of course you have heard of it, for no
kind of news travels so fast--among one's friends especially.'

Mindful of the wondering dinner, Twemlow, with a little twinge,
admits the imputation.

'Probably it will not,' says Mrs Lammle, with a certain hardened
manner upon her, that makes Twemlow shrink, 'have surprised you
so much as some others, after what passed between us at the house
which is now turned out at windows. I have taken the liberty of
calling upon you, Mr Twemlow, to add a sort of postscript to what
I said that day.'

Mr Twemlow's dry and hollow cheeks become more dry and
hollow at the prospect of some new complication.

'Really,' says the uneasy little gentleman, 'really, Mrs Lammle, I
should take it as a favour if you could excuse me from any further
confidence. It has ever been one of the objects of my life--which,
unfortunately, has not had many objects--to be inoffensive, and to
keep out of cabals and interferences.'

Mrs Lammle, by far the more observant of the two, scarcely finds it
necessary to look at Twemlow while he speaks, so easily does she
read him.

'My postscript--to retain the term I have used'--says Mrs Lammle,
fixing her eyes on his face, to enforce what she says herself--
'coincides exactly with what you say, Mr Twemlow. So far from
troubling you with any new confidence, I merely wish to remind
you what the old one was. So far from asking you for interference,
I merely wish to claim your strict neutrality.'

Twemlow going on to reply, she rests her eyes again, knowing her
ears to be quite enough for the contents of so weak a vessel.

'I can, I suppose,' says Twemlow, nervously, 'offer no reasonable
objection to hearing anything that you do me the honour to wish to
say to me under those heads. But if I may, with all possible
delicacy and politeness, entreat you not to range beyond them, I--I
beg to do so.'

'Sir,' says Mrs Lammle, raising her eyes to his face again, and
quite daunting him with her hardened manner, 'I imparted to you a
certain piece of knowledge, to be imparted again, as you thought
best, to a certain person.'

'Which I did,' says Twemlow.

'And for doing which, I thank you; though, indeed, I scarcely know
why I turned traitress to my husband in the matter, for the girl is a
poor little fool. I was a poor little fool once myself; I can find no
better reason.' Seeing the effect she produces on him by her
indifferent laugh and cold look, she keeps her eyes upon him as
she proceeds. 'Mr Twemlow, if you should chance to see my
husband, or to see me, or to see both of us, in the favour or
confidence of any one else--whether of our common acquaintance
or not, is of no consequence--you have no right to use against us
the knowledge I intrusted you with, for one special purpose which
has been accomplished. This is what I came to say. It is not a
stipulation; to a gentleman it is simply a reminder.'

Twemlow sits murmuring to himself with his hand to his forehead.

'It is so plain a case,' Mrs Lammle goes on, 'as between me (from
the first relying on your honour) and you, that I will not waste
another word upon it.' She looks steadily at Mr Twemlow, until,
with a shrug, he makes her a little one-sided bow, as though saying
'Yes, I think you have a right to rely upon me,' and then she
moistens her lips, and shows a sense of relief.

'I trust I have kept the promise I made through your servant, that I
would detain you a very few minutes. I need trouble you no
longer, Mr Twemlow.'

'Stay!' says Twemlow, rising as she rises. 'Pardon me a moment. I
should never have sought you out, madam, to say what I am going
to say, but since you have sought me out and are here, I will throw
it off my mind. Was it quite consistent, in candour, with our
taking that resolution against Mr Fledgeby, that you should
afterwards address Mr Fledgeby as your dear and confidential
friend, and entreat a favour of Mr Fledgeby? Always supposing
that you did; I assert no knowledge of my own on the subject; it
has been represented to me that you did.'

'Then he told you?' retorts Mrs Lammle, who again has saved her
eyes while listening, and uses them with strong effect while


'It is strange that he should have told you the truth,' says Mrs
Lammle, seriously pondering. 'Pray where did a circumstance so
very extraordinary happen?'

Twemlow hesitates. He is shorter than the lady as well as weaker,
and, as she stands above him with her hardened manner and her
well-used eyes, he finds himself at such a disadvantage that he
would like to be of the opposite sex.

'May I ask where it happened, Mr Twemlow? In strict

'I must confess,' says the mild little gentleman, coming to his
answer by degrees, 'that I felt some compunctions when Mr
Fledgeby mentioned it. I must admit that I could not regard myself
in an agreeable light. More particularly, as Mr Fledgeby did, with
great civility, which I could not feel that I deserved from him,
render me the same service that you had entreated him to render

It is a part of the true nobility of the poor gentleman's soul to say
this last sentence. 'Otherwise,' he has reffected, 'I shall assume the
superior position of having no difficulties of my own, while I know
of hers. Which would be mean, very mean.

'Was Mr Fledgeby's advocacy as effectual in your case as in ours?'
Mrs Lammle demands.

'As ineffectual.'

'Can you make up your mind to tell me where you saw Mr
Fledgeby, Mr Twemlow?'

'I beg your pardon. I fully intended to have done so. The
reservation was not intentional. I encountered Mr Fledgeby, quite
by accident, on the spot.--By the expression, on the spot, I mean at
Mr Riah's in Saint Mary Axe.'

'Have you the misfortune to be in Mr Riah's hands then?'

'Unfortunately, madam,' returns Twemlow, 'the one money
obligation to which I stand committed, the one debt of my life (but
it is a just debt; pray observe that I don't dispute it), has fallen into
Mr Riah's hands.'

'Mr Twemlow,' says Mrs Lammle, fixing his eyes with hers: which
he would prevent her doing if he could, but he can't; 'it has fallen
into Mr Fledgeby's hands. Mr Riah is his mask. It has fallen into
Mr Fledgeby's hands. Let me tell you that, for your guidance. The
information may be of use to you, if only to prevent your credulity,
in judging another man's truthfulness by your own, from being
imposed upon.'

'Impossible!' cries Twemlow, standing aghast. 'How do you
know it?'

'I scarcely know how I know it. The whole train of circumstances
seemed to take fire at once, and show it to me.'

'Oh! Then you have no proof.'

'It is very strange,' says Mrs Lammle, coldly and boldly, and with
some disdain, 'how like men are to one another in some things,
though their characters are as different as can be! No two men can
have less affinity between them, one would say, than Mr Twemlow
and my husband. Yet my husband replies to me "You have no
proof," and Mr Twemlow replies to me with the very same words!'

'But why, madam?' Twemlow ventures gently to argue. 'Consider
why the very same words? Because they state the fact. Because
you HAVE no proof.'

'Men are very wise in their way,' quoth Mrs Lammle, glancing
haughtily at the Snigsworth portrait, and shaking out her dress
before departing; 'but they have wisdom to learn. My husband,
who is not over-confiding, ingenuous, or inexperienced, sees this
plain thing no more than Mr Twemlow does--because there is no
proof! Yet I believe five women out of six, in my place, would see
it as clearly as I do. However, I will never rest (if only in
remembrance of Mr Fledgeby's having kissed my hand) until my
husband does see it. And you will do well for yourself to see it
from this time forth, Mr Twemlow, though I CAN give you no

As she moves towards the door, Mr Twemlow, attending on her,
expresses his soothing hope that the condition of Mr Lammle's
affairs is not irretrievable.

'I don't know,' Mrs Lammle answers, stopping, and sketching out
the pattern of the paper on the wall with the point of her parasol; 'it
depends. There may be an opening for him dawning now, or there
may be none. We shall soon find out. If none, we are bankrupt
here, and must go abroad, I suppose.'

Mr Twemlow, in his good-natured desire to make the best of it,
remarks that there are pleasant lives abroad.

'Yes,' returns Mrs Lammle, still sketching on the wall; 'but I doubt
whether billiard-playing, card-playing, and so forth, for the means
to live under suspicion at a dirty table-d'hote, is one of them.'

It is much for Mr Lammle, Twemlow politely intimates (though
greatly shocked), to have one always beside him who is attached to
him in all his fortunes, and whose restraining influence will
prevent him from courses that would be discreditable and ruinous.
As he says it, Mrs Lammle leaves off sketching, and looks at him.

'Restraining influence, Mr Twemlow? We must eat and drink, and
dress, and have a roof over our heads. Always beside him and
attached in all his fortunes? Not much to boast of in that; what can
a woman at my age do? My husband and I deceived one another
when we married; we must bear the consequences of the
deception--that is to say, bear one another, and bear the burden of
scheming together for to-day's dinner and to-morrow's breakfast--
till death divorces us.'

With those words, she walks out into Duke Street, Saint James's.
Mr Twemlow returning to his sofa, lays down his aching head on
its slippery little horsehair bolster, with a strong internal conviction
that a painful interview is not the kind of thing to be taken after the
dinner pills which are so highly salutary in connexion with the
pleasures of the table.

But, six o'clock in the evening finds the worthy little gentleman
getting better, and also getting himself into his obsolete little silk
stockings and pumps, for the wondering dinner at the Veneerings.
And seven o'clock in the evening finds him trotting out into Duke
Street, to trot to the corner and save a sixpence in coach-hire.

Tippins the divine has dined herself into such a condition by this
time, that a morbid mind might desire her, for a blessed change, to
sup at last, and turn into bed. Such a mind has Mr Eugene
Wrayburn, whom Twemlow finds contemplating Tippins with the
moodiest of visages, while that playful creature rallies him on
being so long overdue at the woolsack. Skittish is Tippins with
Mortimer Lightwood too, and has raps to give him with her fan for
having been best man at the nuptials of these deceiving what's-
their-names who have gone to pieces. Though, indeed, the fan is
generally lively, and taps away at the men in all directions, with
something of a grisly sound suggestive of the clattering of Lady
Tippins's bones.

A new race of intimate friends has sprung up at Veneering's since
he went into Parliament for the public good, to whom Mrs
Veneering is very attentive. These friends, like astronomical
distances, are only to be spoken of in the very largest figures.
Boots says that one of them is a Contractor who (it has been
calculated) gives employment, directly and indirectly, to five
hundred thousand men. Brewer says that another of them is a
Chairman, in such request at so many Boards, so far apart, that he
never travels less by railway than three thousand miles a week.
Buffer says that another of them hadn't a sixpence eighteen months
ago, and, through the brilliancy of his genius in getting those
shares issued at eighty-five, and buying them all up with no money
and selling them at par for cash, has now three hundred and
seventy-five thousand pounds--Buffer particularly insisting on the
odd seventy-five, and declining to take a farthing less. With
Buffer, Boots, and Brewer, Lady Tippins is eminently facetious on
the subject of these Fathers of the Scrip-Church: surveying them
through her eyeglass, and inquiring whether Boots and Brewer and
Buffer think they will make her fortune if she makes love to them?
with other pleasantries of that nature. Veneering, in his different
way, is much occupied with the Fathers too, piously retiring with
them into the conservatory, from which retreat the word
'Committee' is occasionally heard, and where the Fathers instruct
Veneering how he must leave the valley of the piano on his left,
take the level of the mantelpiece, cross by an open cutting at the
candelabra, seize the carrying-traffic at the console, and cut up the
opposition root and branch at the window curtains.

Mr and Mrs Podsnap are of the company, and the Fathers descry in
Mrs Podsnap a fine woman. She is consigned to a Father--Boots's
Father, who employs five hundred thousand men--and is brought
to anchor on Veneering's left; thus affording opportunity to the
sportive Tippins on his right (he, as usual, being mere vacant
space), to entreat to be told something about those loves of
Navvies, and whether they really do live on raw beefsteaks, and
drink porter out of their barrows. But, in spite of such little
skirmishes it is felt that this was to be a wondering dinner, and that
the wondering must not be neglected. Accordingly, Brewer, as the
man who has the greatest reputation to sustain, becomes the
interpreter of the general instinct.

'I took,' says Brewer in a favourable pause, 'a cab this morning,
and I rattled off to that Sale.'

Boots (devoured by envy) says, 'So did I.'

Buffer says, 'So did I'; but can find nobody to care whether he did
or not.

'And what was it like?' inquires Veneering.

'I assure you,' replies Brewer, looking about for anybody else to
address his answer to, and giving the preference to Lightwood; 'I
assure you, the things were going for a song. Handsome things
enough, but fetching nothing.'

'So I heard this afternoon,' says Lightwood.

Brewer begs to know now, would it be fair to ask a professional
man how--on--earth--these--people--ever--did--come--TO--such--
A--total smash? (Brewer's divisions being for emphasis.)

Lightwood replies that he was consulted certainly, but could give
no opinion which would pay off the Bill of Sale, and therefore
violates no confidence in supposing that it came of their living
beyond their means.

'But how,' says Veneering, 'CAN people do that!'

Hah! That is felt on all hands to be a shot in the bull's eye. How
CAN people do that! The Analytical Chemist going round with
champagne, looks very much as if HE could give them a pretty
good idea how people did that, if he had a mind.

'How,' says Mrs Veneering, laying down her fork to press her
aquiline hands together at the tips of the fingers, and addressing
the Father who travels the three thousand miles per week: 'how a
mother can look at her baby, and know that she lives beyond her
husband's means, I cannot imagine.'

Eugene suggests that Mrs Lammle, not being a mother, had no
baby to look at.

'True,' says Mrs Veneering, 'but the principle is the same.'

Boots is clear that the principle is the same. So is Buffer. It is the
unfortunate destiny of Buffer to damage a cause by espousing it.
The rest of the company have meekly yielded to the proposition
that the principle is the same, until Buffer says it is; when instantly
a general murmur arises that the principle is not the same.

'But I don't understand,' says the Father of the three hundred and
seventy-five thousand pounds, '--if these people spoken of,
occupied the position of being in society--they were in society?'

Veneering is bound to confess that they dined here, and were even
married from here.

'Then I don't understand,' pursues the Father, 'how even their living
beyond their means could bring them to what has been termed a
total smash. Because, there is always such a thing as an
adjustment of affairs, in the case of people of any standing at all.'

Eugene (who would seem to be in a gloomy state of
suggestiveness), suggests, 'Suppose you have no means and live
beyond them?'

This is too insolvent a state of things for the Father to entertain. It
is too insolvent a state of things for any one with any self-respect to
entertain, and is universally scouted. But, it is so amazing how
any people can have come to a total smash, that everybody feels
bound to account for it specially. One of the Fathers says, 'Gaming
table.' Another of the Fathers says, 'Speculated without knowing
that speculation is a science.' Boots says 'Horses.' Lady Tippins
says to her fan, 'Two establishments.' Mr Podsnap, saying
nothing, is referred to for his opinion; which he delivers as follows;
much flushed and extremely angry:

'Don't ask me. I desire to take no part in the discussion of these
people's affairs. I abhor the subject. It is an odious subject, an
offensive subject, a subject that makes me sick, and I--' And with
his favourite right-arm flourish which sweeps away everything and
settles it for ever, Mr Podsnap sweeps these inconveniently
unexplainable wretches who have lived beyond their means and
gone to total smash, off the face of the universe.

Eugene, leaning back in his chair, is observing Mr Podsnap with
an irreverent face, and may be about to offer a new suggestion,
when the Analytical is beheld in collision with the Coachman; the
Coachman manifesting a purpose of coming at the company with a
silver salver, as though intent upon making a collection for his wife
and family; the Analytical cutting him off at the sideboard. The
superior stateliness, if not the superior generalship, of the
Analytical prevails over a man who is as nothing off the box; and
the Coachman, yielding up his salver, retires defeated.

Then, the Analytical, perusing a scrap of paper lying on the salver,
with the air of a literary Censor, adjusts it, takes his time about
going to the table with it, and presents it to Mr Eugene Wrayburn.
Whereupon the pleasant Tippins says aloud, 'The Lord Chancellor
has resigned!'

With distracting coolness and slowness--for he knows the curiosity
of the Charmer to be always devouring--Eugene makes a pretence
of getting out an eyeglass, polishing it, and reading the paper with
difficulty, long after he has seen what is written on it. What is
written on it in wet ink, is:

'Young Blight.'

'Waiting?' says Eugene over his shoulder, in confidence, with the

'Waiting,' returns the Analytical in responsive confidence.

Eugene looks 'Excuse me,' towards Mrs Veneering, goes out, and
finds Young Blight, Mortimer's clerk, at the hall-door.

'You told me to bring him, sir, to wherever you was, if he come
while you was out and I was in,' says that discreet young
gentleman, standing on tiptoe to whisper; 'and I've brought him.'

'Sharp boy. Where is he?' asks Eugene.

'He's in a cab, sir, at the door. I thought it best not to show him,
you see, if it could be helped; for he's a-shaking all over, like--
Blight's simile is perhaps inspired by the surrounding dishes of
sweets--'like Glue Monge.'

'Sharp boy again,' returns Eugene. 'I'll go to him.'

Goes out straightway, and, leisurely leaning his arms on the open
window of a cab in waiting, looks in at Mr Dolls: who has brought
his own atmosphere with him, and would seem from its odour to
have brought it, for convenience of carriage, in a rum-cask.

'Now Dolls, wake up!'

'Mist Wrayburn? Drection! Fifteen shillings!'

After carefully reading the dingy scrap of paper handed to him, and
as carefully tucking it into his waistcoat pocket, Eugene tells out
the money; beginning incautiously by telling the first shilling into
Mr Dolls's hand, which instantly jerks it out of window; and
ending by telling the fifteen shillings on the seat.

'Give him a ride back to Charing Cross, sharp boy, and there get
rid of him.'

Returning to the dining-room, and pausing for an instant behind
the screen at the door, Eugene overhears, above the hum and
clatter, the fair Tippins saying: 'I am dying to ask him what he
was called out for!'

'Are you?' mutters Eugene, 'then perhaps if you can't ask him,
you'll die. So I'll be a benefactor to society, and go. A stroll and a
cigar, and I can think this over. Think this over.' Thus, with a
thoughtful face, he finds his hat and cloak, unseen of the
Analytical, and goes his way.



Chapter 1


Plashwater Weir Mill Lock looked tranquil and pretty on an
evening in the summer time. A soft air stirred the leaves of the
fresh green trees, and passed like a smooth shadow over the river,
and like a smoother shadow over the yielding grass. The voice of
the falling water, like the voices of the sea and the wind, were as
an outer memory to a contemplative listener; but not particularly so
to Mr Riderhood, who sat on one of the blunt wooden levers of his
lock-gates, dozing. Wine must be got into a butt by some agency
before it can be drawn out; and the wine of sentiment never having
been got into Mr Riderhood by any agency, nothing in nature
tapped him.

As the Rogue sat, ever and again nodding himself off his balance,
his recovery was always attended by an angry stare and growl, as
if, in the absence of any one else, he had aggressive inclinations
towards himself. In one of these starts the cry of 'Lock, ho! Lock!'
prevented his relapse into a doze. Shaking himself as he got up
like the surly brute he was, he gave his growl a responsive twist at
the end, and turned his face down-stream to see who hailed.

It was an amateur-sculler, well up to his work though taking it
easily, in so light a boat that the Rogue remarked: 'A little less on
you, and you'd a'most ha' been a Wagerbut'; then went to work at
his windlass handles and sluices, to let the sculler in. As the latter
stood in his boat, holding on by the boat-hook to the woodwork at
the lock side, waiting for the gates to open, Rogue Riderhood
recognized his 'T'other governor,' Mr Eugene Wrayburn; who was,
however, too indifferent or too much engaged to recognize him.

The creaking lock-gates opened slowly, and the light boat passed
in as soon as there was room enough, and the creaking lock-gates
closed upon it, and it floated low down in the dock between the
two sets of gates, until the water should rise and the second gates
should open and let it out. When Riderhood had run to his second
windlass and turned it, and while he leaned against the lever of
that gate to help it to swing open presently, he noticed, lying to rest
under the green hedge by the towing-path astern of the Lock, a

The water rose and rose as the sluice poured in, dispersing the
scum which had formed behind the lumbering gates, and sending
the boat up, so that the sculler gradually rose like an apparition
against the light from the bargeman's point of view. Riderhood
observed that the bargeman rose too, leaning on his arm, and
seemed to have his eyes fastened on the rising figure.

But, there was the toll to be taken, as the gates were now
complaining and opening. The T'other governor tossed it ashore,
twisted in a piece of paper, and as he did so, knew his man.

'Ay, ay? It's you, is it, honest friend?' said Eugene, seating himself
preparatory to resuming his sculls. 'You got the place, then?'

'I got the place, and no thanks to you for it, nor yet none to Lawyer
Lightwood,' gruffly answered Riderhood.

'We saved our recommendation, honest fellow,' said Eugene, 'for
the next candidate--the one who will offer himself when you are
transported or hanged. Don't be long about it; will you be so

So imperturbable was the air with which he gravely bent to his
work that Riderhood remained staring at him, without having
found a retort, until he had rowed past a line of wooden objects by
the weir, which showed like huge teetotums standing at rest in the
water, and was almost hidden by the drooping boughs on the left
bank, as he rowed away, keeping out of the opposing current. It
being then too late to retort with any effect--if that could ever have
been done--the honest man confined himself to cursing and
growling in a grim under-tone. Having then got his gates shut, he
crossed back by his plank lock-bridge to the towing-path side of
the river.

If, in so doing, he took another glance at the bargeman, he did it by
stealth. He cast himself on the grass by the Lock side, in an
indolent way, with his back in that direction, and, having gathered
a few blades, fell to chewing them. The dip of Eugene Wrayburn's
sculls had become hardly audible in his ears when the bargeman
passed him, putting the utmost width that he could between them,
and keeping under the hedge. Then, Riderhood sat up and took a
long look at his figure, and then cried: 'Hi--I--i! Lock, ho! Lock!
Plashwater Weir Mill Lock!'

The bargeman stopped, and looked back.

'Plashwater Weir Mill Lock, T'otherest gov--er--nor--or--or--or!'
cried Mr Riderhood, with his hands to his mouth.

The bargeman turned back. Approaching nearer and nearer, the
bargeman became Bradley Headstone, in rough water-side second-
hand clothing.

'Wish I may die,' said Riderhood, smiting his right leg, and
laughing, as he sat on the grass, 'if you ain't ha' been a imitating
me, T'otherest governor! Never thought myself so good-looking

Truly, Bradley Headstone had taken careful note of the honest
man's dress in the course of that night-walk they had had together.
He must have committed it to memory, and slowly got it by heart.
It was exactly reproduced in the dress he now wore. And whereas,
in his own schoolmaster clothes, he usually looked as if they were
the clothes of some other man, he now looked, in the clothes of
some other man or men, as if they were his own.

'THIS your Lock?' said Bradley, whose surprise had a genuine air;
'they told me, where I last inquired, it was the third I should come
to. This is only the second.'

'It's my belief, governor,' returned Riderhood, with a wink and
shake of his head, 'that you've dropped one in your counting. It
ain't Locks as YOU'VE been giving your mind to. No, no!'

As he expressively jerked his pointing finger in the direction the
boat had taken, a flush of impatience mounted into Bradley's face,
and he looked anxiously up the river.

'It ain't Locks as YOU'VE been a reckoning up,' said Riderhood,
when the schoolmaster's eyes came back again. 'No, no!'

'What other calculations do you suppose I have been occupied
with? Mathematics?'

'I never heerd it called that. It's a long word for it. Hows'ever,
p'raps you call it so,' said Riderhood, stubbornly chewing his grass.

'It. What?'

'I'll say them, instead of it, if you like,' was the coolly growled
reply. 'It's safer talk too.'

'What do you mean that I should understand by them?'

'Spites, affronts, offences giv' and took, deadly aggrawations, such
like,' answered Riderhood.

Do what Bradley Headstone would, he could not keep that former
flush of impatience out of his face, or so master his eyes as to
prevent their again looking anxiously up the river.

'Ha ha! Don't be afeerd, T'otherest,' said Riderhood. 'The T'other's
got to make way agin the stream, and he takes it easy. You can
soon come up with him. But wot's the good of saying that to you!
YOU know how fur you could have outwalked him betwixt
anywheres about where he lost the tide--say Richmond--and this, if
you had a mind to it.'

'You think I have been following him?' said Bradley.

'I KNOW you have,' said Riderhood.

'Well! I have, I have,' Bradley admitted. 'But,' with another
anxious look up the river, 'he may land.'

'Easy you! He won't be lost if he does land,' said Riderhood. 'He
must leave his boat behind him. He can't make a bundle or a
parcel on it, and carry it ashore with him under his arm.'

'He was speaking to you just now,' said Bradley, kneeling on one
knee on the grass beside the Lock-keeper. 'What did he say?'

'Cheek,' said Riderhood.


'Cheek,' repeated Riderhood, with an angry oath; 'cheek is what he
said. He can't say nothing but cheek. I'd ha' liked to plump down
aboard of him, neck and crop, with a heavy jump, and sunk him.'

Bradley turned away his haggard face for a few moments, and then
said, tearing up a tuft of grass:

'Damn him!'

'Hooroar!' cried Riderhood. 'Does you credit! Hooroar! I cry
chorus to the T'otherest.'

'What turn,' said Bradley, with an effort at self-repression that
forced him to wipe his face, 'did his insolence take to-day?'

'It took the turn,' answered Riderhood, with sullen ferocity, 'of
hoping as I was getting ready to be hanged.'

'Let him look to that,' cried Bradley. 'Let him look to that! It will
be bad for him when men he has injured, and at whom he has
jeered, are thinking of getting hanged. Let HIM get ready for HIS
fate, when that comes about. There was more meaning in what he
said than he knew of, or he wouldn't have had brains enough to say
it. Let him look to it; let him look to it! When men he has
wronged, and on whom he has bestowed his insolence, are getting
ready to be hanged, there is a death-bell ringing. And not for

Riderhood, looking fixedly at him, gradually arose from his
recumbent posture while the schoolmaster said these words with
the utmost concentration of rage and hatred. So, when the words
were all spoken, he too kneeled on one knee on the grass, and the
two men looked at one another.

'Oh!' said Riderhood, very deliberately spitting out the grass he had
been chewing. 'Then, I make out, T'otherest, as he is a-going to

'He left London,' answered Bradley, 'yesterday. I have hardly a
doubt, this time, that at last he is going to her.'

'You ain't sure, then?'

'I am as sure here,' said Bradley, with a clutch at the breast of his
coarse shirt, 'as if it was written there;' with a blow or a stab at the

'Ah! But judging from the looks on you,' retorted Riderhood,
completely ridding himself of his grass, and drawing his sleeve
across his mouth, 'you've made ekally sure afore, and have got
disapinted. It has told upon you.'

'Listen,' said Bradley, in a low voice, bending forward to lay his
hand upon the Lock-keeper's shoulder. 'These are my holidays.'

'Are they, by George!' muttered Riderhood, with his eyes on the
passion-wasted face. 'Your working days must be stiff 'uns, if
these is your holidays.'

'And I have never left him,' pursued Bradley, waving the
interruption aside with an impatient hand, 'since they began. And
I never will leave him now, till I have seen him with her.'

'And when you have seen him with her?' said Riderhood.

'--I'll come back to you.'

Riderhood stiffened the knee on which he had been resting, got up,
and looked gloomily at his new friend. After a few moments they
walked side by side in the direction the boat had taken, as if by
tacit consent; Bradley pressing forward, and Riderhood holding
back; Bradley getting out his neat prim purse into his hand (a
present made him by penny subscription among his pupils); and
Riderhood, unfolding his arms to smear his coat-cuff across his
mouth with a thoughtful air.

'I have a pound for you,' said Bradley.

'You've two,' said Riderhood.

Bradley held a sovereign between his fingers. Slouching at his
side with his eyes upon the towing-path, Riderhood held his left
hand open, with a certain slight drawing action towards himself.
Bradley dipped in his purse for another sovereign, and two chinked
in Riderhood's hand, the drawing action of which, promptly
strengthening, drew them home to his pocket.

'Now, I must follow him,' said Bradley Headstone. 'He takes this
river-road--the fool!--to confuse observation, or divert attention, if
not solely to baffle me. But he must have the power of making
himself invisible before he can shake Me off.'

Riderhood stopped. 'If you don't get disapinted agin, T'otherest,
maybe you'll put up at the Lock-house when you come back?'

'I will.'

Riderhood nodded, and the figure of the bargeman went its way
along the soft turf by the side of the towing-path, keeping near the
hedge and moving quickly. They had turned a point from which a
long stretch of river was visible. A stranger to the scene might
have been certain that here and there along the line of hedge a
figure stood, watching the bargeman, and waiting for him to come
up. So he himself had often believed at first, until his eyes became
used to the posts, bearing the dagger that slew Wat Tyler, in the
City of London shield.

Within Mr Riderhood's knowledge all daggers were as one. Even
to Bradley Headstone, who could have told to the letter without
book all about Wat Tyler, Lord Mayor Walworth, and the King,
that it is dutiful for youth to know, there was but one subject living
in the world for every sharp destructive instrument that summer
evening. So, Riderhood looking after him as he went, and he with
his furtive hand laid upon the dagger as he passed it, and his eyes
upon the boat, were much upon a par.

The boat went on, under the arching trees, and over their tranquil
shadows in the water. The bargeman skulking on the opposite
bank of the stream, went on after it. Sparkles of light showed
Riderhood when and where the rower dipped his blades, until,
even as he stood idly watching, the sun went down and the
landscape was dyed red. And then the red had the appearance of
fading out of it and mounting up to Heaven, as we say that blood,
guiltily shed, does.

Turning back towards his Lock (he had not gone out of view of it),
the Rogue pondered as deeply as it was within the contracted
power of such a fellow to do. 'Why did he copy my clothes? He
could have looked like what he wanted to look like, without that.'
This was the subject-matter in his thoughts; in which, too, there
came lumbering up, by times, like any half floating and half
sinking rubbish in the river, the question, Was it done by accident?
The setting of a trap for finding out whether it was accidentally
done, soon superseded, as a practical piece of cunning, the
abstruser inquiry why otherwise it was done. And he devised a

Rogue Riderhood went into his Lock-house, and brought forth, into
the now sober grey light, his chest of clothes. Sitting on the grass
beside it, he turned out, one by one, the articles it contained, until
he came to a conspicuous bright red neckerchief stained black here
and there by wear. It arrested his attention, and he sat pausing
over it, until he took off the rusty colourless wisp that he wore
round his throat, and substituted the red neckerchief, leaving the
long ends flowing. 'Now,' said the Rogue, 'if arter he sees me in
this neckhankecher, I see him in a sim'lar neckhankecher, it won't
be accident!' Elated by his device, he carried his chest in again and
went to supper.

'Lock ho! Lock!' It was a light night, and a barge coming down
summoned him out of a long doze. In due course he had let the
barge through and was alone again, looking to the closing of his
gates, when Bradley Headstone appeared before him, standing on
the brink of the Lock.

'Halloa!' said Riderhood. 'Back a' ready, T'otherest?'

'He has put up for the night, at an Angler's Inn,' was the fatigued
and hoarse reply. 'He goes on, up the river, at six in the morning. I
have come back for a couple of hours' rest.'

'You want 'em,' said Riderhood, making towards the schoolmaster
by his plank bridge.

'I don't want them,' returned Bradley, irritably, 'because I would
rather not have them, but would much prefer to follow him all
night. However, if he won't lead, I can't follow. I have been
waiting about, until I could discover, for a certainty, at what time
he starts; if I couldn't have made sure of it, I should have stayed
there.--This would be a bad pit for a man to be flung into with his
hands tied. These slippery smooth walls would give him no
chance. And I suppose those gates would suck him down?'

'Suck him down, or swaller him up, he wouldn't get out,' said
Riderhood. 'Not even, if his hands warn't tied, he wouldn't. Shut
him in at both ends, and I'd give him a pint o' old ale ever to come
up to me standing here.'

Bradley looked down with a ghastly relish. 'You run about the
brink, and run across it, in this uncertain light, on a few inches
width of rotten wood,' said he. 'I wonder you have no thought of
being drowned.'

'I can't be!' said Riderhood.

'You can't be drowned?'

'No!' said Riderhood, shaking his head with an air of thorough
conviction, 'it's well known. I've been brought out o' drowning,
and I can't be drowned. I wouldn't have that there busted
B'lowbridger aware on it, or her people might make it tell agin' the
damages I mean to get. But it's well known to water-side
characters like myself, that him as has been brought out o
drowning, can never be drowned.'

Bradley smiled sourly at the ignorance he would have corrected in
one of his pupils, and continued to look down into the water, as if
the place had a gloomy fascination for him.

'You seem to like it,' said Riderhood.

He took no notice, but stood looking down, as if he had not heard
the words. There was a very dark expression on his face; an
expression that the Rogue found it hard to understand. It was
fierce, and full of purpose; but the purpose might have been as
much against himself as against another. If he had stepped back
for a spring, taken a leap, and thrown himself in, it would have
been no surprising sequel to the look. Perhaps his troubled soul,
set upon some violence, did hover for the moment between that
violence and another.

'Didn't you say,' asked Riderhood, after watching him for a while
with a sidelong glance, 'as you had come back for a couple o'
hours' rest?' But, even then he had to jog him with his elbow
before he answered.

'Eh? Yes.'

'Hadn't you better come in and take your couple o' hours' rest?'

'Thank you. Yes.'

With the look of one just awakened, he followed Riderhood into
the Lock-house, where the latter produced from a cupboard some
cold salt beef and half a loaf, some gin in a bottle, and some water
in a jug. The last he brought in, cool and dripping, from the river.

'There, T'otherest,' said Riderhood, stooping over him to put it on
the table. 'You'd better take a bite and a sup, afore you takes your
snooze.' The draggling ends of the red neckerchief caught the
schoolmaster's eyes. Riderhood saw him look at it.

'Oh!' thought that worthy. 'You're a-taking notice, are you?
Come! You shall have a good squint at it then.' With which
reflection he sat down on the other side of the table, threw open his
vest, and made a pretence of re-tying the neckerchief with much

Bradley ate and drank. As he sat at his platter and mug,
Riderhood saw him, again and yet again, steal a look at the
neckerchief, as if he were correcting his slow observation and
prompting his sluggish memory. 'When you're ready for your
snooze,' said that honest creature, 'chuck yourself on my bed in
the corner, T'otherest. It'll be broad day afore three. I'll call you

'I shall require no calling,' answered Bradley. And soon
afterwards, divesting himself only of his shoes and coat, laid
himself down.

Riderhood, leaning back in his wooden arm-chair with his arms
folded on his breast, looked at him lying with his right hand
clenched in his sleep and his teeth set, until a film came over his
own sight, and he slept too. He awoke to find that it was daylight,
and that his visitor was already astir, and going out to the river-
side to cool his head:--'Though I'm blest,' muttered Riderhood at
the Lock-house door, looking after him, 'if I think there's water
enough in all the Thames to do THAT for you!' Within five
minutes he had taken his departure, and was passing on into the
calm distance as he had passed yesterday. Riderhood knew when
a fish leaped, by his starting and glancing round.

'Lock ho! Lock!' at intervals all day, and 'Lock ho! Lock!' thrice in
the ensuing night, but no return of Bradley. The second day was
sultry and oppressive. In the afternoon, a thunderstorm came up,
and had but newly broken into a furious sweep of rain when he
rushed in at the door, like the storm itself.

'You've seen him with her!' exclaimed Riderhood, starting up.

'I have.'


'At his journey's end. His boat's hauled up for three days. I heard
him give the order. Then, I saw him wait for her and meet her. I
saw them'--he stopped as though he were suffocating, and began
again--'I saw them walking side by side, last night.'

'What did you do?'


'What are you going to do?'

He dropped into a chair, and laughed. Immediately afterwards, a
great spirt of blood burst from his nose.

'How does that happen?' asked Riderhood.

'I don't know. I can't keep it back. It has happened twice--three
times--four times--I don't know how many times--since last night.
I taste it, smell it, see it, it chokes me, and then it breaks out like

He went into the pelting rain again with his head bare, and,
bending low over the river, and scooping up the water with his two
hands, washed the blood away. All beyond his figure, as
Riderhood looked from the door, was a vast dark curtain in solemn
movement towards one quarter of the heavens. He raised his head
and came back, wet from head to foot, but with the lower parts of
his sleeves, where he had dipped into the river, streaming water.

'Your face is like a ghost's,' said Riderhood.

'Did you ever see a ghost?' was the sullen retort.

'I mean to say, you're quite wore out.'

'That may well be. I have had no rest since I left here. I don't
remember that I have so much as sat down since I left here.'

'Lie down now, then,' said Riderhood.

'I will, if you'll give me something to quench my thirst first.'

The bottle and jug were again produced, and he mixed a weak
draught, and another, and drank both in quick succession. 'You
asked me something,' he said then.

'No, I didn't,' replied Riderhood.

'I tell you,' retorted Bradley, turning upon him in a wild and
desperate manner, 'you asked me something, before I went out to
wash my face in the river.

'Oh! Then?' said Riderhood, backing a little. 'I asked you wot you
wos a-going to do.'

'How can a man in this state know?' he answered, protesting with
both his tremulous hands, with an action so vigorously angry that
he shook the water from his sleeves upon the floor, as if he had
wrung them. 'How can I plan anything, if I haven't sleep?'

'Why, that's what I as good as said,' returned the other. 'Didn't I
say lie down?'

'Well, perhaps you did.'

'Well! Anyways I says it again. Sleep where you slept last; the
sounder and longer you can sleep, the better you'll know arterwards
what you're up to.'

His pointing to the truckle bed in the corner, seemed gradually to
bring that poor couch to Bradley's wandering remembrance. He
slipped off his worn down-trodden shoes, and cast himself heavily,
all wet as he was, upon the bed.

Riderhood sat down in his wooden arm-chair, and looked through
the window at the lightning, and listened to the thunder. But, his
thoughts were far from being absorbed by the thunder and the
lightning, for again and again and again he looked very curiously
at the exhausted man upon the bed. The man had turned up the
collar of the rough coat he wore, to shelter himself from the storm,
and had buttoned it about his neck. Unconscious of that, and of
most things, he had left the coat so, both when he had laved his
face in the river, and when he had cast himself upon the bed;
though it would have been much easier to him if he had
unloosened it.

The thunder rolled heavily, and the forked lightning seemed to
make jagged rents in every part of the vast curtain without, as
Riderhood sat by the window, glancing at the bed. Sometimes, he
saw the man upon the bed, by a red light; sometimes, by a blue;
sometimes, he scarcely saw him in the darkness of the storm;
sometimes he saw nothing of him in the blinding glare of
palpitating white fire. Anon, the rain would come again with a
tremendous rush, and the river would seem to rise to meet it, and a
blast of wind, bursting upon the door, would flutter the hair and
dress of the man, as if invisible messengers were come around the
bed to carry him away. From all these phases of the storm,
Riderhood would turn, as if they were interruptions--rather striking
interruptions possibly, but interruptions still--of his scrutiny of the

'He sleeps sound,' he said within himself; 'yet he's that up to me
and that noticing of me that my getting out of my chair may wake
him, when a rattling peal won't; let alone my touching of him.'

He very cautiously rose to his feet. 'T'otherest,' he said, in a low,
calm voice, 'are you a lying easy? There's a chill in the air,
governor. Shall I put a coat over you?'

No answer.

'That's about what it is a'ready, you see,' muttered Riderhood in a
lower and a different voice; 'a coat over you, a coat over you!'

The sleeper moving an arm, he sat down again in his chair, and
feigned to watch the storm from the window. It was a grand
spectacle, but not so grand as to keep his eyes, for half a minute
together, from stealing a look at the man upon the bed.

It was at the concealed throat of the sleeper that Riderhood so often
looked so curiously, until the sleep seemed to deepen into the
stupor of the dead-tired in mind and body. Then, Riderhood came
from the window cautiously, and stood by the bed.

'Poor man!' he murmured in a low tone, with a crafty face, and a
very watchful eye and ready foot, lest he should start up; 'this here
coat of his must make him uneasy in his sleep. Shall I loosen it for
him, and make him more comfortable? Ah! I think I ought to do
it, poor man. I think I will.'

He touched the first button with a very cautious hand, and a step
backward. But, the sleeper remaining in profound
unconsciousness, he touched the other buttons with a more assured
hand, and perhaps the more lightly on that account. Softly and
slowly, he opened the coat and drew it back.

The draggling ends of a bright-red neckerchief were then disclosed,
and he had even been at the pains of dipping parts of it in some
liquid, to give it the appearance of having become stained by wear.
With a much-perplexed face, Riderhood looked from it to the
sleeper, and from the sleeper to it, and finally crept back to his
chair, and there, with his hand to his chin, sat long in a brown
study, looking at both.

Chapter 2


Mr and Mrs Lammle had come to breakfast with Mr and Mrs
Boffin. They were not absolutely uninvited, but had pressed
themselves with so much urgency on the golden couple, that
evasion of the honour and pleasure of their company would have
been difficult, if desired. They were in a charming state of mind,
were Mr and Mrs Lammle, and almost as fond of Mr and Mrs
Boffin as of one another.

'My dear Mrs Boffin,' said Mrs Lammle, 'it imparts new life to me,
to see my Alfred in confidential communication with Mr Boffin.
The two were formed to become intimate. So much simplicity
combined with so much force of character, such natural sagacity
united to such amiability and gentleness--these are the
distinguishing characteristics of both.'

This being said aloud, gave Mr Lammle an opportunity, as he
came with Mr Boffin from the window to the breakfast table, of
taking up his dear and honoured wife.

'My Sophronia,' said that gentleman, 'your too partial estimate of
your husband's character--'

'No! Not too partial, Alfred,' urged the lady, tenderly moved;
'never say that.'

'My child, your favourable opinion, then, of your husband--you
don't object to that phrase, darling?'

'How can I, Alfred?'

'Your favourable opinion then, my Precious, does less than justice
to Mr Boffin, and more than justice to me.'

'To the first charge, Alfred, I plead guilty. But to the second, oh
no, no!'

'Less than justice to Mr Boffin, Sophronia,' said Mr Lammle,
soaring into a tone of moral grandeur, 'because it represents Mr
Boffin as on my lower level; more than justice to me, Sophronia,
because it represents me as on Mr Boffin's higher level. Mr Boffin
bears and forbears far more than I could.'

'Far more than you could for yourself, Alfred?'

'My love, that is not the question.'

'Not the question, Lawyer?' said Mrs Lammle, archly.

'No, dear Sophronia. From my lower level, I regard Mr Boffin as
too generous, as possessed of too much clemency, as being too
good to persons who are unworthy of him and ungrateful to him.
To those noble qualities I can lay no claim. On the contrary, they
rouse my indignation when I see them in action.'


'They rouse my indignation, my dear, against the unworthy
persons, and give me a combative desire to stand between Mr
Boffin and all such persons. Why? Because, in my lower nature I
am more worldly and less delicate. Not being so magnanimous as
Mr Boffin, I feel his injuries more than he does himself, and feel
more capable of opposing his injurers.'

It struck Mrs Lammle that it appeared rather difficult this morning
to bring Mr and Mrs Boffin into agreeable conversation. Here had
been several lures thrown out, and neither of them had uttered a
word. Here were she, Mrs Lammle, and her husband discoursing
at once affectingly and effectively, but discoursing alone.
Assuming that the dear old creatures were impressed by what they
heard, still one would like to be sure of it, the more so, as at least
one of the dear old creatures was somewhat pointedly referred to.
If the dear old creatures were too bashful or too dull to assume
their required places in the discussion, why then it would seem
desirable that the dear old creatures should be taken by their heads
and shoulders and brought into it.

'But is not my husband saying in effect,' asked Mrs Lammie,
therefore, with an innocent air, of Mr and Mrs Boffin, 'that he
becomes unmindful of his own temporary misfortunes in his
admiration of another whom he is burning to serve? And is not
that making an admission that his nature is a generous one? I am
wretched in argument, but surely this is so, dear Mr and Mrs

Still, neither Mr and Mrs Boffin said a word. He sat with his eyes
on his plate, eating his muffins and ham, and she sat shyly looking
at the teapot. Mrs Lammle's innocent appeal was merely thrown
into the air, to mingle with the steam of the urn. Glancing towards
Mr and Mrs Boffin, she very slightly raised her eyebrows, as
though inquiring of her husband: 'Do I notice anything wrong

Mr Lammle, who had found his chest effective on a variety of
occasions, manoeuvred his capacious shirt front into the largest
demonstration possible, and then smiling retorted on his wife,

'Sophronia, darling, Mr and Mrs Boffin will remind you of the old
adage, that self-praise is no recommendation.'

'Self-praise, Alfred? Do you mean because we are one and the

'No, my dear child. I mean that you cannot fail to remember, if you
reflect for a single moment, that what you are pleased to
compliment me upon feeling in the case of Mr Boffin, you have
yourself confided to me as your own feeling in the case of Mrs

('I shall be beaten by this Lawyer,' Mrs Lammle gaily whispered to
Mrs Boffin. 'I am afraid I must admit it, if he presses me, for it's
damagingly true.')

Several white dints began to come and go about Mr Lammle's
nose, as he observed that Mrs Boffin merely looked up from the
teapot for a moment with an embarrassed smile, which was no
smile, and then looked down again.

'Do you admit the charge, Sophronia?' inquired Alfred, in a
rallying tone.

'Really, I think,' said Mrs Lammle, still gaily, 'I must throw myself
on the protection of the Court. Am I bound to answer that
question, my Lord?' To Mr Boffin.

'You needn't, if you don't like, ma'am,' was his answer. 'It's not of
the least consequence.'

Both husband and wife glanced at him, very doubtfully. His
manner was grave, but not coarse, and derived some dignity from a
certain repressed dislike of the tone of the conversation.

Again Mrs Lammle raised her eyebrows for instruction from her
husband. He replied in a slight nod, 'Try 'em again.'

'To protect myself against the suspicion of covert self-laudation,
my dear Mrs Boffin,' said the airy Mrs Lammle therefore, 'I must
tell you how it was.'

'No. Pray don't,' Mr Boffin interposed.

Mrs Lammie turned to him laughingly. 'The Court objects?'

'Ma'am,' said Mr Boffin, 'the Court (if I am the Court) does object.

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