Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Books, poems, drama…

Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens

Part 3 out of 21

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 2.3 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

'Oh!' says Mr Wegg, with a sort of sense of being introduced; 'I
dare say you were all right enough in your own country, but I hope
no objections will be taken to my saying that the Frenchman was
never yet born as I should wish to match.'

At this moment the greasy door is violently pushed inward, and a
boy follows it, who says, after having let it slam:

'Come for the stuffed canary.'

'It's three and ninepence,' returns Venus; 'have you got the money?'

The boy produces four shillings. Mr Venus, always in exceedingly
low spirits and making whimpering sounds, peers about for the
stuffed canary. On his taking the candle to assist his search, Mr
Wegg observes that he has a convenient little shelf near his knees,
exclusively appropriated to skeleton hands, which have very much
the appearance of wanting to lay hold of him. From these Mr
Venus rescues the canary in a glass case, and shows it to the boy.

'There!' he whimpers. 'There's animation! On a twig, making up
his mind to hop! Take care of him; he's a lovely specimen.--And
three is four.'

The boy gathers up his change and has pulled the door open by a
leather strap nailed to it for the purpose, when Venus cries out:

'Stop him! Come back, you young villain! You've got a tooth
among them halfpence.'

'How was I to know I'd got it? You giv it me. I don't want none of
your teeth; I've got enough of my own.' So the boy pipes, as he
selects it from his change, and throws it on the counter.

'Don't sauce ME, in the wicious pride of your youth,' Mr Venus
retorts pathetically.' Don't hit ME because you see I'm down. I'm
low enough without that. It dropped into the till, I suppose. They
drop into everything. There was two in the coffee-pot at breakfast
time. Molars.'

'Very well, then,' argues the boy, 'what do you call names for?'

To which Mr Venus only replies, shaking his shock of dusty hair,
and winking his weak eyes, 'Don't sauce ME, in the wicious pride
of your youth; don't hit ME, because you see I'm down. You've no
idea how small you'd come out, if I had the articulating of you.'

This consideration seems to have its effect on the boy, for he goes
out grumbling.

'Oh dear me, dear me!' sighs Mr Venus, heavily, snuffing the
candle, 'the world that appeared so flowery has ceased to blow!
You're casting your eye round the shop, Mr Wegg. Let me show
you a light. My working bench. My young man's bench. A Wice.
Tools. Bones, warious. Skulls, warious. Preserved Indian baby.
African ditto. Bottled preparations, warious. Everything within
reach of your hand, in good preservation. The mouldy ones a-top.
What's in those hampers over them again, I don't quite remember.
Say, human warious. Cats. Articulated English baby. Dogs.
Ducks. Glass eyes, warious. Mummied bird. Dried cuticle,
warious. Oh, dear me! That's the general panoramic view.'

Having so held and waved the candle as that all these
heterogeneous objects seemed to come forward obediently when
they were named, and then retire again, Mr Venus despondently
repeats, 'Oh dear me, dear me!' resumes his seat, and with
drooping despondency upon him, falls to pouring himself out more
tea.

'Where am I?' asks Mr Wegg.

'You're somewhere in the back shop across the yard, sir; and
speaking quite candidly, I wish I'd never bought you of the
Hospital Porter.'

'Now, look here, what did you give for me?'

'Well,' replies Venus, blowing his tea: his head and face peering
out of the darkness, over the smoke of it, as if he were modernizing
the old original rise in his family: 'you were one of a warious lot,
and I don't know.'

Silas puts his point in the improved form of 'What will you take
for me?'

'Well,' replies Venus, still blowing his tea, 'I'm not prepared, at a
moment's notice, to tell you, Mr Wegg.'

'Come! According to your own account I'm not worth much,'
Wegg reasons persuasively.

'Not for miscellaneous working in, I grant you, Mr Wegg; but you
might turn out valuable yet, as a--' here Mr Venus takes a gulp of
tea, so hot that it makes him choke, and sets his weak eyes
watering; 'as a Monstrosity, if you'll excuse me.'

Repressing an indignant look, indicative of anything but a
disposition to excuse him, Silas pursues his point.

'I think you know me, Mr Venus, and I think you know I never
bargain.'

Mr Venus takes gulps of hot tea, shutting his eyes at every gulp,
and opening them again in a spasmodic manner; but does not
commit himself to assent.

'I have a prospect of getting on in life and elevating myself by my
own independent exertions,' says Wegg, feelingly, 'and I shouldn't
like--I tell you openly I should NOT like--under such
circumstances, to be what I may call dispersed, a part of me here,
and a part of me there, but should wish to collect myself like a
genteel person.'

'It's a prospect at present, is it, Mr Wegg? Then you haven't got the
money for a deal about you? Then I'll tell you what I'll do with
you; I'll hold you over. I am a man of my word, and you needn't be
afraid of my disposing of you. I'll hold you over. That's a promise.
Oh dear me, dear me!'

Fain to accept his promise, and wishing to propitiate him, Mr
Wegg looks on as he sighs and pours himself out more tea, and
then says, trying to get a sympathetic tone into his voice:

'You seem very low, Mr Venus. Is business bad?'

'Never was so good.'

'Is your hand out at all?'

'Never was so well in. Mr Wegg, I'm not only first in the trade, but
I'm THE trade. You may go and buy a skeleton at the West End if
you like, and pay the West End price, but it'll be my putting
together. I've as much to do as I can possibly do, with the
assistance of my young man, and I take a pride and a pleasure in
it.'

Mr Venus thus delivers hmself, his right hand extended, his
smoking saucer in his left hand, protesting as though he were
going to burst into a flood of tears.

'That ain't a state of things to make you low, Mr Venus.'

'Mr Wegg, I know it ain't. Mr Wegg, not to name myself as a
workman without an equal, I've gone on improving myself in my
knowledge of Anatomy, till both by sight and by name I'm perfect.
Mr Wegg, if you was brought here loose in a bag to be articulated,
I'd name your smallest bones blindfold equally with your largest,
as fast as I could pick 'em out, and I'd sort 'em all, and sort your
wertebrae, in a manner that would equally surprise and charm you.'

'Well,' remarks Silas (though not quite so readily as last time),
'THAT ain't a state of things to be low about.--Not for YOU to be
low about, leastways.'

'Mr Wegg, I know it ain't; Mr Wegg, I know it ain't. But it's the
heart that lowers me, it is the heart! Be so good as take and read
that card out loud.'

Silas receives one from his hand, which Venus takes from a
wonderful litter in a drawer, and putting on his spectacles, reads:

'"Mr Venus,'

'Yes. Go on.'

'"Preserver of Animals and Birds,"'

'Yes. Go on.'

'"Articulator of human bones."'

'That's it,' with a groan. 'That's it! Mr Wegg, I'm thirty-two, and a
bachelor. Mr Wegg, I love her. Mr Wegg, she is worthy of being
loved by a Potentate!' Here Silas is rather alarmed by Mr Venus's
springing to his feet in the hurry of his spirits, and haggardly
confronting him with his hand on his coat collar; but Mr Venus,
begging pardon, sits down again, saying, with the calmness of
despair, 'She objects to the business.'

'Does she know the profits of it?'

'She knows the profits of it, but she don't appreciate the art of it,
and she objects to it. "I do not wish," she writes in her own
handwriting, "to regard myself, nor yet to be regarded, in that
boney light".'

Mr Venus pours himself out more tea, with a look and in an
attitude of the deepest desolation.

'And so a man climbs to the top of the tree, Mr Wegg, only to see
that there's no look-out when he's up there! I sit here of a night
surrounded by the lovely trophies of my art, and what have they
done for me? Ruined me. Brought me to the pass of being
informed that "she does not wish to regard herself, nor yet to be
regarded, in that boney light"!' Having repeated the fatal
expressions, Mr Venus drinks more tea by gulps, and offers an
explanation of his doing so.

'It lowers me. When I'm equally lowered all over, lethargy sets in.
By sticking to it till one or two in the morning, I get oblivion.
Don't let me detain you, Mr Wegg. I'm not company for any one.'

'It is not on that account,' says Silas, rising, 'but because I've got an
appointment. It's time I was at Harmon's.'

'Eh?' said Mr Venus. 'Harmon's, up Battle Bridge way?'

Mr Wegg admits that he is bound for that port.

'You ought to be in a good thing, if you've worked yourself in
there. There's lots of money going, there.'

'To think,' says Silas, 'that you should catch it up so quick, and
know about it. Wonderful!'

'Not at all, Mr Wegg. The old gentleman wanted to know the
nature and worth of everything that was found in the dust; and
many's the bone, and feather, and what not, that he's brought to
me.'

'Really, now!'

'Yes. (Oh dear me, dear me!) And he's buried quite in this
neighbourhood, you know. Over yonder.'

Mr Wegg does not know, but he makes as if he did, by
responsively nodding his head. He also follows with his eyes, the
toss of Venus's head: as if to seek a direction to over yonder.

'I took an interest in that discovery in the river,' says Venus. (She
hadn't written her cutting refusal at that time.) I've got up there--
never mind, though.'

He had raised the candle at arm's length towards one of the dark
shelves, and Mr Wegg had turned to look, when he broke off.

'The old gentleman was well known all round here. There used to
be stories about his having hidden all kinds of property in those
dust mounds. I suppose there was nothing in 'em. Probably you
know, Mr Wegg?'

'Nothing in 'em,' says Wegg, who has never heard a word of this
before.

'Don't let me detain you. Good night!'

The unfortunate Mr Venus gives him a shake of the hand with a
shake of his own head, and drooping down in his chair, proceeds
to pour himself out more tea. Mr Wegg, looking back over his
shoulder as he pulls the door open by the strap, notices that the
movement so shakes the crazy shop, and so shakes a momentary
flare out of the candle, as that the babies--Hindoo, African, and
British--the 'human warious', the French gentleman, the green
glass-eyed cats, the dogs, the ducks, and all the rest of the
collection, show for an instant as if paralytically animated; while
even poor little Cock Robin at Mr Venus's elbow turns over on his
innocent side. Next moment, Mr Wegg is stumping under the
gaslights and through the mud.

Chapter 8

MR BOFFIN IN CONSULTATION

Whosoever had gone out of Fleet Street into the Temple at the date
of this history, and had wandered disconsolate about the Temple
until he stumbled on a dismal churchyard, and had looked up at the
dismal windows commanding that churchyard until at the most
dismal window of them all he saw a dismal boy, would in him
have beheld, at one grand comprehensive swoop of the eye, the
managing clerk, junior clerk, common-law clerk, conveyancing
clerk, chancery clerk, every refinement and department of clerk, of
Mr Mortimer Lightwood, erewhile called in the newspapers
eminent solicitor.

Mr Boffin having been several times in communication with this
clerkly essence, both on its own ground and at the Bower, had no
difficulty in identifying it when he saw it up in its dusty eyrie. To
the second floor on which the window was situated, he ascended,
much pre-occupied in mind by the uncertainties besetting the
Roman Empire, and much regretting the death of the amiable
Pertinax: who only last night had left the Imperial affairs in a state
of great confusion, by falling a victim to the fury of the praetorian
guards.

'Morning, morning, morning!' said Mr Boffin, with a wave of his
hand, as the office door was opened by the dismal boy, whose
appropriate name was Blight. 'Governor in?'

'Mr Lightwood gave you an appointment, sir, I think?'

'I don't want him to give it, you know,' returned Mr Boffin; 'I'll pay
my way, my boy.'

'No doubt, sir. Would you walk in? Mr Lightwood ain't in at the
present moment, but I expect him back very shortly. Would you
take a seat in Mr Lightwood's room, sir, while I look over our
Appointment Book?' Young Blight made a great show of fetching
from his desk a long thin manuscript volume with a brown paper
cover, and running his finger down the day's appointments,
murmuring, 'Mr Aggs, Mr Baggs, Mr Caggs, Mr Daggs, Mr
Faggs, Mr Gaggs, Mr Boffin. Yes, sir; quite right. You are a little
before your time, sir. Mr Lightwood will be in directly.'

'I'm not in a hurry,' said Mr Boffin

'Thank you, sir. I'll take the opportunity, if you please, of entering
your name in our Callers' Book for the day.' Young Blight made
another great show of changing the volume, taking up a pen,
sucking it, dipping it, and running over previous entries before he
wrote. As, 'Mr Alley, Mr Balley, Mr Calley, Mr Dalley, Mr
Falley, Mr Galley, Mr Halley, Mr Lalley, Mr Malley. And Mr
Boffin.'

'Strict system here; eh, my lad?' said Mr Boffin, as he was booked.

'Yes, sir,' returned the boy. 'I couldn't get on without it.'

By which he probably meant that his mind would have been
shattered to pieces without this fiction of an occupation. Wearing
in his solitary confinement no fetters that he could polish, and
being provided with no drinking-cup that he could carve, be had
fallen on the device of ringing alphabetical changes into the two
volumes in question, or of entering vast numbers of persons out of
the Directory as transacting business with Mr Lightwood. It was
the more necessary for his spirits, because, being of a sensitive
temperament, he was apt to consider it personally disgraceful to
himself that his master had no clients.

'How long have you been in the law, now?' asked Mr Boffin, with
a pounce, in his usual inquisitive way.

'I've been in the law, now, sir, about three years.'

'Must have been as good as born in it!' said Mr Boffin, with
admiration. 'Do you like it?'

'I don't mind it much,' returned Young Blight, heaving a sigh, as if
its bitterness were past.

'What wages do you get?'

'Half what I could wish,' replied young Blight.

'What's the whole that you could wish?'

'Fifteen shillings a week,' said the boy.

'About how long might it take you now, at a average rate of going,
to be a Judge?' asked Mr Boffin, after surveying his small stature
in silence.

The boy answered that he had not yet quite worked out that little
calculation.

'I suppose there's nothing to prevent your going in for it?' said Mr
Boffin.

The boy virtually replied that as he had the honour to be a Briton
who never never never, there was nothing to prevent his going in
for it. Yet he seemed inclined to suspect that there might be
something to prevent his coming out with it.

'Would a couple of pound help you up at all?' asked Mr Boffin.

On this head, young Blight had no doubt whatever, so Mr Boffin
made him a present of that sum of money, and thanked him for his
attention to his (Mr Boffin's) affairs; which, he added, were now,
he believed, as good as settled.

Then Mr Boffin, with his stick at his ear, like a Familiar Spirit
explaining the office to him, sat staring at a little bookcase of Law
Practice and Law Reports, and at a window, and at an empty blue
bag, and at a stick of sealing-wax, and a pen, and a box of wafers,
and an apple, and a writing-pad--all very dusty--and at a number of
inky smears and blots, and at an imperfectly-disguised gun-case
pretending to be something legal, and at an iron box labelled
HARMON ESTATE, until Mr Lightwood appeared.

Mr Lightwood explained that he came from the proctor's, with
whom he had been engaged in transacting Mr Boffin's affairs.

'And they seem to have taken a deal out of you!' said Mr Boffin,
with commiseration.

Mr Lightwood, without explaining that his weariness was chronic,
proceeded with his exposition that, all forms of law having been at
length complied with, will of Harmon deceased having been
proved, death of Harmon next inheriting having been proved, &c.,
and so forth, Court of Chancery having been moved, &c. and so
forth, he, Mr Lightwood, had now the gratification, honour, and
happiness, again &c. and so forth, of congratulating Mr Boffin on
coming into possession as residuary legatee, of upwards of one
hundred thousand pounds, standing in the books of the Governor
and Company of the Bank of England, again &c. and so forth.

'And what is particularly eligible in the property Mr Boffin, is, that
it involves no trouble. There are no estates to manage, no rents to
return so much per cent upon in bad times (which is an extremely
dear way of getting your name into the newspapers), no voters to
become parboiled in hot water with, no agents to take the cream off
the milk before it comes to table. You could put the whole in a
cash-box to-morrow morning, and take it with you to--say, to the
Rocky Mountains. Inasmuch as every man,' concluded Mr
Lightwood, with an indolent smile, 'appears to be under a fatal
spell which obliges him, sooner or later, to mention the Rocky
Mountains in a tone of extreme familiarity to some other man, I
hope you'll excuse my pressing you into the service of that gigantic
range of geographical bores.'

Without following this last remark very closely, Mr Boffin cast his
perplexed gaze first at the ceiling, and then at the carpet.

'Well,' he remarked, 'I don't know what to say about it, I am sure. I
was a'most as well as I was. It's a great lot to take care of.'

'My dear Mr Boffin, then DON'T take care of it!'

'Eh?' said that gentleman.

'Speaking now,' returned Mortimer, 'with the irresponsible
imbecility of a private individual, and not with the profundity of a
professional adviser, I should say that if the circumstance of its
being too much, weighs upon your mind, you have the haven of
consolation open to you that you can easily make it less. And if
you should be apprehensive of the trouble of doing so, there is the
further haven of consolation that any number of people will take
the trouble off your hands.'

'Well! I don't quite see it,' retorted Mr Boffin, still perplexed.
'That's not satisfactory, you know, what you're a-saying.'

'Is Anything satisfactory, Mr Boffin?' asked Mortimer, raising his
eyebrows.

'I used to find it so,' answered Mr Boffin, with a wistful look.
'While I was foreman at the Bower--afore it WAS the Bower--I
considered the business very satisfactory. The old man was a
awful Tartar (saying it, I'm sure, without disrespect to his memory)
but the business was a pleasant one to look after, from before
daylight to past dark. It's a'most a pity,' said Mr Boffin, rubbing
his ear, 'that he ever went and made so much money. It would
have been better for him if he hadn't so given himself up to it. You
may depend upon it,' making the discovery all of a sudden, 'that
HE found it a great lot to take care of!'

Mr Lightwood coughed, not convinced.

'And speaking of satisfactory,' pursued Mr Boffin, 'why, Lord
save us! when we come to take it to pieces, bit by bit, where's the
satisfactoriness of the money as yet? When the old man does right
the poor boy after all, the poor boy gets no good of it. He gets
made away with, at the moment when he's lifting (as one may say)
the cup and sarser to his lips. Mr Lightwood, I will now name to
you, that on behalf of the poor dear boy, me and Mrs Boffin have
stood out against the old man times out of number, till he has
called us every name be could lay his tongue to. I have seen him,
after Mrs Boffin has given him her mind respecting the claims of
the nat'ral affections, catch off Mrs Boffin's bonnet (she wore, in
general, a black straw, perched as a matter of convenience on the
top of her head), and send it spinning across the yard. I have
indeed. And once, when he did this in a manner that amounted to
personal, I should have given him a rattler for himself, if Mrs
Boffin hadn't thrown herself betwixt us, and received flush on the
temple. Which dropped her, Mr Lightwood. Dropped her.'

Mr Lightwood murmured 'Equal honour--Mrs Boffin's head and
heart.'

'You understand; I name this,' pursued Mr Boffin, 'to show you,
now the affairs are wound up, that me and Mrs Boffin have ever
stood as we were in Christian honour bound, the children's friend.
Me and Mrs Boffin stood the poor girl's friend; me and Mrs Boffin
stood the poor boy's friend; me and Mrs Boffin up and faced the
old man when we momently expected to be turned out for our
pains. As to Mrs Boffin,' said Mr Boffin lowering his voice, 'she
mightn't wish it mentioned now she's Fashionable, but she went so
far as to tell him, in my presence, he was a flinty-hearted rascal.'

Mr Lightwood murmured 'Vigorous Saxon spirit--Mrs Boffin's
ancestors--bowmen--Agincourt and Cressy.'

'The last time me and Mrs Boffin saw the poor boy,' said Mr
Boffin, warming (as fat usually does) with a tendency to melt, 'he
was a child of seven year old. For when he came back to make
intercession for his sister, me and Mrs Boffin were away
overlooking a country contract which was to be sifted before
carted, and he was come and gone in a single hour. I say he was a
child of seven year old. He was going away, all alone and forlorn,
to that foreign school, and he come into our place, situate up the
yard of the present Bower, to have a warm at our fire. There was
his little scanty travelling clothes upon him. There was his little
scanty box outside in the shivering wind, which I was going to
carry for him down to the steamboat, as the old man wouldn't hear
of allowing a sixpence coach-money. Mrs Boffin, then quite a
young woman and pictur of a full-blown rose, stands him by her,
kneels down at the fire, warms her two open hands, and falls to
rubbing his cheeks; but seeing the tears come into the child's eyes,
the tears come fast into her own, and she holds him round the
neck, like as if she was protecting him, and cries to me, "I'd give
the wide wide world, I would, to run away with him!" I don't say
but what it cut me, and but what it at the same time heightened my
feelings of admiration for Mrs Boffin. The poor child clings to her
for awhile, as she clings to him, and then, when the old man calls,
he says "I must go! God bless you!" and for a moment rests his
heart against her bosom, and looks up at both of us, as if it was in
pain--in agony. Such a look! I went aboard with him (I gave him
first what little treat I thought he'd like), and I left him when he
had fallen asleep in his berth, and I came back to Mrs Boffin. But
tell her what I would of how I had left him, it all went for nothing,
for, according to her thoughts, he never changed that look that he
had looked up at us two. But it did one piece of good. Mrs Boffin
and me had no child of our own, and had sometimes wished that
how we had one. But not now. "We might both of us die," says
Mrs Boffin, "and other eyes might see that lonely look in our
child." So of a night, when it was very cold, or when the wind
roared, or the rain dripped heavy, she would wake sobbing, and
call out in a fluster, "Don't you see the poor child's face? O shelter
the poor child!"--till in course of years it gently wore out, as many
things do.'

'My dear Mr Boffin, everything wears to rags,' said Mortimer, with
a light laugh.

'I won't go so far as to say everything,' returned Mr Boffin, on
whom his manner seemed to grate, 'because there's some things
that I never found among the dust. Well, sir. So Mrs Boffin and
me grow older and older in the old man's service, living and
working pretty hard in it, till the old man is discovered dead in his
bed. Then Mrs Boffin and me seal up his box, always standing on
the table at the side of his bed, and having frequently heerd tell of
the Temple as a spot where lawyer's dust is contracted for, I come
down here in search of a lawyer to advise, and I see your young
man up at this present elevation, chopping at the flies on the
window-sill with his penknife, and I give him a Hoy! not then
having the pleasure of your acquaintance, and by that means come
to gain the honour. Then you, and the gentleman in the
uncomfortable neck-cloth under the little archway in Saint Paul's
Churchyard--'

'Doctors' Commons,' observed Lightwood.

'I understood it was another name,' said Mr Boffin, pausing, 'but
you know best. Then you and Doctor Scommons, you go to work,
and you do the thing that's proper, and you and Doctor S. take
steps for finding out the poor boy, and at last you do find out the
poor boy, and me and Mrs Boffin often exchange the observation,
"We shall see him again, under happy circumstances." But it was
never to be; and the want of satisfactoriness is, that after all the
money never gets to him.'

'But it gets,' remarked Lightwood, with a languid inclination of the
head, 'into excellent hands.'

'It gets into the hands of me and Mrs Boffin only this very day and
hour, and that's what I am working round to, having waited for
this day and hour a' purpose. Mr Lightwood, here has been a
wicked cruel murder. By that murder me and Mrs Boffin
mysteriously profit. For the apprehension and conviction of the
murderer, we offer a reward of one tithe of the property--a reward
of Ten Thousand Pound.'

'Mr Boffin, it's too much.'

'Mr Lightwood, me and Mrs Boffin have fixed the sum together,
and we stand to it.'

'But let me represent to you,' returned Lightwood, 'speaking now
with professional profundity, and not with individual imbecility,
that the offer of such an immense reward is a temptation to forced
suspicion, forced construction of circumstances, strained
accusation, a whole tool-box of edged tools.'

'Well,' said Mr Boffin, a little staggered, 'that's the sum we put o'
one side for the purpose. Whether it shall be openly declared in the
new notices that must now be put about in our names--'

'In your name, Mr Boffin; in your name.'

'Very well; in my name, which is the same as Mrs Boffin's, and
means both of us, is to be considered in drawing 'em up. But this
is the first instruction that I, as the owner of the property, give to
my lawyer on coming into it.'

'Your lawyer, Mr Boffin,' returned Lightwood, making a very short
note of it with a very rusty pen, 'has the gratification of taking the
instruction. There is another?'

'There is just one other, and no more. Make me as compact a little
will as can be reconciled with tightness, leaving the whole of the
property to "my beloved wife, Henerietty Boffin, sole executrix".
Make it as short as you can, using those words; but make it tight.'

At some loss to fathom Mr Boffin's notions of a tight will,
Lightwood felt his way.

'I beg your pardon, but professional profundity must be exact.
When you say tight--'

'I mean tight,' Mr Boffin explained.

'Exactly so. And nothing can be more laudable. But is the
tightness to bind Mrs Boffin to any and what conditions?'

'Bind Mrs Boffin?' interposed her husband. 'No! What are you
thinking of! What I want is, to make it all hers so tight as that her
hold of it can't be loosed.'

'Hers freely, to do what she likes with? Hers absolutely?'

'Absolutely?' repeated Mr Boffin, with a short sturdy laugh. 'Hah!
I should think so! It would be handsome in me to begin to bind
Mrs Boffin at this time of day!'

So that instruction, too, was taken by Mr Lightwood; and Mr
Lightwood, having taken it, was in the act of showing Mr Boffin
out, when Mr Eugene Wrayburn almost jostled him in the door-
way. Consequently Mr Lightwood said, in his cool manner, 'Let
me make you two known to one another,' and further signified that
Mr Wrayburn was counsel learned in the law, and that, partly in
the way of business and partly in the way of pleasure, he had
imparted to Mr Wrayburn some of the interesting facts of Mr
Boffin's biography.

'Delighted,' said Eugene--though he didn't look so--'to know Mr
Boffin.'

'Thankee, sir, thankee,' returned that gentleman. 'And how do
YOU like the law?'

'A--not particularly,' returned Eugene.

'Too dry for you, eh? Well, I suppose it wants some years of
sticking to, before you master it. But there's nothing like work.
Look at the bees.'

'I beg your pardon,' returned Eugene, with a reluctant smile, 'but
will you excuse my mentioning that I always protest against being
referred to the bees?'

'Do you!' said Mr Boffin.

'I object on principle,' said Eugene, 'as a biped--'

'As a what?' asked Mr Boffin.

'As a two-footed creature;--I object on principle, as a two-footed
creature, to being constantly referred to insects and four-footed
creatures. I object to being required to model my proceedings
according to the proceedings of the bee, or the dog, or the spider, or
the camel. I fully admit that the camel, for instance, is an
excessively temperate person; but he has several stomachs to
entertain himself with, and I have only one. Besides, I am not
fitted up with a convenient cool cellar to keep my drink in.'

'But I said, you know,' urged Mr Boffin, rather at a loss for an
answer, 'the bee.'

'Exactly. And may I represent to you that it's injudicious to say the
bee? For the whole case is assumed. Conceding for a moment that
there is any analogy between a bee, and a man in a shirt and
pantaloons (which I deny), and that it is settled that the man is to
learn from the bee (which I also deny), the question still remains,
what is he to learn? To imitate? Or to avoid? When your friends
the bees worry themselves to that highly fluttered extent about their
sovereign, and become perfectly distracted touching the slightest
monarchical movement, are we men to learn the greatness of Tuft-
hunting, or the littleness of the Court Circular? I am not clear, Mr
Boffin, but that the hive may be satirical.'

'At all events, they work,' said Mr Boffin.

'Ye-es,' returned Eugene, disparagingly, 'they work; but don't you
think they overdo it? They work so much more than they need--
they make so much more than they can eat--they are so incessantly
boring and buzzing at their one idea till Death comes upon them--
that don't you think they overdo it? And are human labourers to
have no holidays, because of the bees? And am I never to have
change of air, because the bees don't? Mr Boffin, I think honey
excellent at breakfast; but, regarded in the light of my conventional
schoolmaster and moralist, I protest against the tyrannical humbug
of your friend the bee. With the highest respect for you.'

'Thankee,' said Mr Boffin. 'Morning, morning!'

But, the worthy Mr Boffin jogged away with a comfortless
impression he could have dispensed with, that there was a deal of
unsatisfactoriness in the world, besides what he had recalled as
appertaining to the Harmon property. And he was still jogging
along Fleet Street in this condition of mind, when he became aware
that he was closely tracked and observed by a man of genteel
appearance.

'Now then?' said Mr Boffin, stopping short, with his meditations
brought to an abrupt check, 'what's the next article?'

'I beg your pardon, Mr Boffin.'

'My name too, eh? How did you come by it? I don't know you.'

'No, sir, you don't know me.'

Mr Boffin looked full at the man, and the man looked full at him.

'No,' said Mr Boffin, after a glance at the pavement, as if it were
made of faces and he were trying to match the man's, 'I DON'T
know you.'

'I am nobody,' said the stranger, 'and not likely to be known; but
Mr Boffin's wealth--'

'Oh! that's got about already, has it?' muttered Mr Boffin.

'--And his romantic manner of acquiring it, make him conspicuous.
You were pointed out to me the other day.'

'Well,' said Mr Boffin, 'I should say I was a disappintment to you
when I WAS pinted out, if your politeness would allow you to
confess it, for I am well aware I am not much to look at. What
might you want with me? Not in the law, are you?'

'No, sir.'

'No information to give, for a reward?'

'No, sir.'

There may have been a momentary mantling in the face of the man
as he made the last answer, but it passed directly.

'If I don't mistake, you have followed me from my lawyer's and
tried to fix my attention. Say out! Have you? Or haven't you?'
demanded Mr Boffin, rather angry.

'Yes.'

'Why have you?'

'If you will allow me to walk beside you, Mr Boffin, I will tell you.
Would you object to turn aside into this place--I think it is called
Clifford's Inn--where we can hear one another better than in the
roaring street?'

('Now,' thought Mr Boffin, 'if he proposes a game at skittles, or
meets a country gentleman just come into property, or produces
any article of jewellery he has found, I'll knock him down!' With
this discreet reflection, and carrying his stick in his arms much as
Punch carries his, Mr Boffin turned into Clifford's Inn aforesaid.)

'Mr Boffin, I happened to be in Chancery Lane this morning, when
I saw you going along before me. I took the liberty of following
you, trying to make up my mind to speak to you, till you went into
your lawyer's. Then I waited outside till you came out.'

('Don't quite sound like skittles, nor yet country gentleman, nor yet
jewellery,' thought Mr Boffin, 'but there's no knowing.')

'I am afraid my object is a bold one, I am afraid it has little of the
usual practical world about it, but I venture it. If you ask me, or if
you ask yourself--which is more likely--what emboldens me, I
answer, I have been strongly assured, that you are a man of
rectitude and plain dealing, with the soundest of sound hearts, and
that you are blessed in a wife distinguished by the same qualities.'

'Your information is true of Mrs Boffin, anyhow,' was Mr Boffin's
answer, as he surveyed his new friend again. There was
something repressed in the strange man's manner, and he walked
with his eyes on the ground--though conscious, for all that, of Mr
Boffin's observation--and he spoke in a subdued voice. But his
words came easily, and his voice was agreeable in tone, albeit
constrained.

'When I add, I can discern for myself what the general tongue says
of you--that you are quite unspoiled by Fortune, and not uplifted--I
trust you will not, as a man of an open nature, suspect that I mean
to flatter you, but will believe that all I mean is to excuse myself,
these being my only excuses for my present intrusion.'

('How much?' thought Mr Boffin. 'It must be coming to money.
How much?')

'You will probably change your manner of living, Mr Boffin, in
your changed circumstances. You will probably keep a larger
house, have many matters to arrange, and be beset by numbers of
correspondents. If you would try me as your Secretary--'

'As WHAT?' cried Mr Boffin, with his eyes wide open.

'Your Secretary.'

'Well,' said Mr Boffin, under his breath, 'that's a queer thing!'

'Or,' pursued the stranger, wondering at Mr Boffin's wonder, 'if you
would try me as your man of business under any name, I know you
would find me faithful and grateful, and I hope you would find me
useful. You may naturally think that my immediate object is
money. Not so, for I would willingly serve you a year--two years--
any term you might appoint--before that should begin to be a
consideration between us.'

'Where do you come from?' asked Mr Boffin.

'I come,' returned the other, meeting his eye, 'from many countries.'

Boffin's acquaintances with the names and situations of foreign
lands being limited in extent and somewhat confused in quality, he
shaped his next question on an elastic model.

'From--any particular place?'

'I have been in many places.'

'What have you been?' asked Mr Boffin.

Here again he made no great advance, for the reply was, 'I have
been a student and a traveller.'

'But if it ain't a liberty to plump it out,' said Mr Boffin, 'what do
you do for your living?'

'I have mentioned,' returned the other, with another look at him,
and a smile, 'what I aspire to do. I have been superseded as to
some slight intentions I had, and I may say that I have now to
begin life.'

Not very well knowing how to get rid of this applicant, and
feeling the more embarrassed because his manner and appearance
claimed a delicacy in which the worthy Mr Boffin feared he
himself might be deficient, that gentleman glanced into the mouldy
little plantation or cat-preserve, of Clifford's Inn, as it was that day,
in search of a suggestion. Sparrows were there, cats were there,
dry-rot and wet-rot were there, but it was not otherwise a
suggestive spot.

'All this time,' said the stranger, producing a little pocket-book and
taking out a card, 'I have not mentioned my name. My name is
Rokesmith. I lodge at one Mr Wilfer's, at Holloway.'

Mr Boffin stared again.

'Father of Miss Bella Wilfer?' said he.

'My landlord has a daughter named Bella. Yes; no doubt.'

Now, this name had been more or less in Mr Boffin's thoughts all
the morning, and for days before; therefore he said:

'That's singular, too!' unconsciously staring again, past all bounds
of good manners, with the card in his hand. 'Though, by-the-bye, I
suppose it was one of that family that pinted me out?'

'No. I have never been in the streets with one of them.'

'Heard me talked of among 'em, though?'

'No. I occupy my own rooms, and have held scarcely any
communication with them.'

'Odder and odder!' said Mr Boffin. 'Well, sir, to tell you the truth, I
don't know what to say to you.'

'Say nothing,' returned Mr Rokesmith; 'allow me to call on you in a
few days. I am not so unconscionable as to think it likely that you
would accept me on trust at first sight, and take me out of the very
street. Let me come to you for your further opinion, at your
leisure.'

'That's fair, and I don't object,' said Mr Boffin; 'but it must be on
condition that it's fully understood that I no more know that I shall
ever be in want of any gentleman as Secretary--it WAS Secretary
you said; wasn't it?'

'Yes.'

Again Mr Boffin's eyes opened wide, and he stared at the applicant
from head to foot, repeating 'Queer!--You're sure it was Secretary?
Are you?'

'I am sure I said so.'

--'As Secretary,' repeated Mr Boffin, meditating upon the word; 'I
no more know that I may ever want a Secretary, or what not, than I
do that I shall ever be in want of the man in the moon. Me and
Mrs Boffin have not even settled that we shall make any change in
our way of life. Mrs Boffin's inclinations certainly do tend towards
Fashion; but, being already set up in a fashionable way at the
Bower, she may not make further alterations. However, sir, as you
don't press yourself, I wish to meet you so far as saying, by all
means call at the Bower if you like. Call in the course of a week or
two. At the same time, I consider that I ought to name, in addition
to what I have already named, that I have in my employment a
literary man--WITH a wooden leg--as I have no thoughts of
parting from.'

'I regret to hear I am in some sort anticipated,' Mr Rokesmith
answered, evidently having heard it with surprise; 'but perhaps
other duties might arise?'

'You see,' returned Mr Boffin, with a confidential sense of dignity,
'as to my literary man's duties, they're clear. Professionally he
declines and he falls, and as a friend he drops into poetry.'

Without observing that these duties seemed by no means clear to
Mr Rokesmith's astonished comprehension, Mr Boffin went on:

'And now, sir, I'll wish you good-day. You can call at the Bower
any time in a week or two. It's not above a mile or so from you,
and your landlord can direct you to it. But as he may not know it
by it's new name of Boffin's Bower, say, when you inquire of him,
it's Harmon's; will you?'

'Harmoon's,' repeated Mr Rokesmith, seeming to have caught the
sound imperfectly, 'Harmarn's. How do you spell it?'

'Why, as to the spelling of it,' returned Mr Boffin, with great
presence of mind, 'that's YOUR look out. Harmon's is all you've
got to say to HIM. Morning, morning, morning!' And so departed,
without looking back.

Chapter 9

MR AND MRS BOFFIN IN CONSULTATION

Betaking himself straight homeward, Mr Boffin, without further let
or hindrance, arrived at the Bower, and gave Mrs Boffin (in a
walking dress of black velvet and feathers, like a mourning coach-
horse) an account of all he had said and done since breakfast.

'This brings us round, my dear,' he then pursued, 'to the question
we left unfinished: namely, whether there's to be any new go-in for
Fashion.'

'Now, I'll tell you what I want, Noddy,' said Mrs Boffin, smoothing
her dress with an air of immense enjoyment, 'I want Society.'

'Fashionable Society, my dear?'

'Yes!' cried Mrs Boffin, laughing with the glee of a child. 'Yes!
It's no good my being kept here like Wax-Work; is it now?'

'People have to pay to see Wax-Work, my dear,' returned her
husband, 'whereas (though you'd be cheap at the same money) the
neighbours is welcome to see YOU for nothing.'

'But it don't answer,' said the cheerfial Mrs Boffin. 'When we
worked like the neighbours, we suited one another. Now we have
left work off; we have left off suiting one another.'

'What, do you think of beginning work again?' Mr Boffin hinted.

'Out of the question! We have come into a great fortune, and we
must do what's right by our fortune; we must act up to it.'

Mr Boffin, who had a deep respect for his wife's intuitive wisdom,
replied, though rather pensively: 'I suppose we must.'

'It's never been acted up to yet, and, consequently, no good has
come of it,' said Mrs Boffin.

'True, to the present time,' Mr Boffin assented, with his former
pensiveness, as he took his seat upon his settle. 'I hope good may
be coming of it in the future time. Towards which, what's your
views, old lady?'

Mrs Boffin, a smiling creature, broad of figure and simple of
nature, with her hands folded in her lap, and with buxom creases
in her throat, proceeded to expound her views.

'I say, a good house in a good neighbourhood, good things about
us, good living, and good society. I say, live like our means,
without extravagance, and be happy.'

'Yes. I say be happy, too,' assented the still pensive Mr Boffin.
'Lor-a-mussy!' exclaimed Mrs Boffin, laughing and clapping her
hands, and gaily rocking herself to and fro, 'when I think of me in a
light yellow chariot and pair, with silver boxes to the wheels--'

'Oh! you was thinking of that, was you, my dear?'

'Yes!' cried the delighted creature. 'And with a footman up behind,
with a bar across, to keep his legs from being poled! And with a
coachman up in front, sinking down into a seat big enough for
three of him, all covered with upholstery in green and white! And
with two bay horses tossing their heads and stepping higher than
they trot long-ways! And with you and me leaning back inside, as
grand as ninepence! Oh-h-h-h My! Ha ha ha ha ha!'

Mrs Boffin clapped her hands again, rocked herself again, beat her
feet upon the floor, and wiped the tears of laughter from her eyes.

'And what, my old lady,' inquired Mr Boffin, when he also had
sympathetically laughed: 'what's your views on the subject of the
Bower?'

'Shut it up. Don't part with it, but put somebody in it, to keep it.'

'Any other views?'

'Noddy,' said Mrs Boffin, coming from her fashionable sofa to his
side on the plain settle, and hooking her comfortable arm through
his, 'Next I think--and I really have been thinking early and late--of
the disappointed girl; her that was so cruelly disappointed, you
know, both of her husband and his riches. Don't you think we
might do something for her? Have her to live with us? Or
something of that sort?'

'Ne-ver once thought of the way of doing it!' cried Mr Boffin,
smiting the table in his admiration. 'What a thinking steam-ingein
this old lady is. And she don't know how she does it. Neither does
the ingein!'

Mrs Boffin pulled his nearest ear, in acknowledgment of this piece
of philosophy, and then said, gradually toning down to a motherly
strain: 'Last, and not least, I have taken a fancy. You remember
dear little John Harmon, before he went to school? Over yonder
across the yard, at our fire? Now that he is past all benefit of the
money, and it's come to us, I should like to find some orphan child,
and take the boy and adopt him and give him John's name, and
provide for him. Somehow, it would make me easier, I fancy. Say
it's only a whim--'

'But I don't say so,' interposed her husband.

'No, but deary, if you did--'

'I should be a Beast if I did,' her husband interposed again.

'That's as much as to say you agree? Good and kind of you, and
like you, deary! And don't you begin to find it pleasant now,' said
Mrs Boffin, once more radiant in her comely way from head to
foot, and once more smoothing her dress with immense enjoyment,
'don't you begin to find it pleasant already, to think that a child will
be made brighter, and better, and happier, because of that poor sad
child that day? And isn't it pleasant to know that the good will be
done with the poor sad child's own money?'

'Yes; and it's pleasant to know that you are Mrs Boffin,' said her
husband, 'and it's been a pleasant thing to know this many and
many a year!' It was ruin to Mrs Boffin's aspirations, but, having
so spoken, they sat side by side, a hopelessly Unfashionable pair.

These two ignorant and unpolished people had guided themselves
so far on in their journey of life, by a religious sense of duty and
desire to do right. Ten thousand weaknesses and absurdities might
have been detected in the breasts of both; ten thousand vanities
additional, possibly, in the breast of the woman. But the hard
wrathful and sordid nature that had wrung as much work out of
them as could be got in their best days, for as little money as could
be paid to hurry on their worst, had never been so warped but that
it knew their moral straightness and respected it. In its own
despite, in a constant conflict with itself and them, it had done so.
And this is the eternal law. For, Evil often stops short at itself and
dies with the doer of it; but Good, never.

Through his most inveterate purposes, the dead Jailer of Harmony
Jail had known these two faithful servants to be honest and true.
While he raged at them and reviled them for opposing him with the
speech of the honest and true, it had scratched his stony heart, and
he had perceived the powerlessness of all his wealth to buy them if
he had addressed himself to the attempt. So, even while he was
their griping taskmaster and never gave them a good word, he had
written their names down in his will. So, even while it was his
daily declaration that he mistrusted all mankind--and sorely indeed
he did mistrust all who bore any resemblance to himself--he was as
certain that these two people, surviving him, would be trustworthy
in all things from the greatest to the least, as he was that he must
surely die.

Mr and Mrs Boffin, sitting side by side, with Fashion withdrawn
to an immeasurable distance, fell to discussing how they could best
find their orphan. Mrs Boffin suggested advertisement in the
newspapers, requesting orphans answering annexed description to
apply at the Bower on a certain day; but Mr Boffin wisely
apprehending obstruction of the neighbouring thoroughfares by
orphan swarms, this course was negatived. Mrs Boffin next
suggested application to their clergyman for a likely orphan. Mr
Boffin thinking better of this scheme, they resolved to call upon the
reverend gentleman at once, and to take the same opportunity of
making acquaintance with Miss Bella Wilfer. In order that these
visits might be visits of state, Mrs Boffin's equipage was ordered
out.

This consisted of a long hammer-headed old horse, formerly used
in the business, attached to a four-wheeled chaise of the same
period, which had long been exclusively used by the Harmony Jail
poultry as the favourite laying-place of several discreet hens. An
unwonted application of corn to the horse, and of paint and varnish
to the carriage, when both fell in as a part of the Boffin legacy, had
made what Mr Boffin considered a neat turn-out of the whole; and
a driver being added, in the person of a long hammer-headed
young man who was a very good match for the horse, left nothing
to be desired. He, too, had been formerly used in the business, but
was now entombed by an honest jobbing tailor of the district in a
perfect Sepulchre of coat and gaiters, sealed with ponderous
buttons.

Behind this domestic, Mr and Mrs Boffin took their seats in the
back compartment of the vehicle: which was sufficiently
commodious, but had an undignified and alarming tendency, in
getting over a rough crossing, to hiccup itself away from the front
compartment. On their being descried emerging from the gates of
the Bower, the neighbourhood turned out at door and window to
salute the Boffins. Among those who were ever and again left
behind, staring after the equipage, were many youthful spirits, who
hailed it in stentorian tones with such congratulations as 'Nod-dy
Bof-fin!' 'Bof-fin's mon-ey!' 'Down with the dust, Bof-fin!' and
other similar compliments. These, the hammer-headed young man
took in such ill part that he often impaired the majesty of the
progress by pulling up short, and making as though he would
alight to exterminate the offenders; a purpose from which he only
allowed himself to be dissuaded after long and lively arguments
with his employers.

At length the Bower district was left behind, and the peaceful
dwelling of the Reverend Frank Milvey was gained. The Reverend
Frank Milvey's abode was a very modest abode, because his
income was a very modest income. He was officially accessible to
every blundering old woman who had incoherence to bestow upon
him, and readily received the Boffins. He was quite a young man,
expensively educated and wretchedly paid, with quite a young wife
and half a dozen quite young children. He was under the necessity
of teaching and translating from the classics, to eke out his scanty
means, yet was generally expected to have more time to spare than
the idlest person in the parish, and more money than the richest.
He accepted the needless inequalities and inconsistencies of his
life, with a kind of conventional submission that was almost
slavish; and any daring layman who would have adjusted such
burdens as his, more decently and graciously, would have had
small help from him.

With a ready patient face and manner, and yet with a latent smile
that showed a quick enough observation of Mrs Boffin's dress, Mr
Milvey, in his little book-room--charged with sounds and cries as
though the six children above were coming down through the
ceiling, and the roasting leg of mutton below were coming up
through the floor--listened to Mrs Boffin's statement of her want of
an orphan.

'I think,' said Mr Milvey, 'that you have never had a child of your
own, Mr and Mrs Boffin?'

Never.

'But, like the Kings and Queens in the Fairy Tales, I suppose you
have wished for one?'

In a general way, yes.

Mr Milvey smiled again, as he remarked to himself 'Those kings
and queens were always wishing for children.' It occurring to him,
perhaps, that if they had been Curates, their wishes might have
tended in the opposite direction.

'I think,' he pursued, 'we had better take Mrs Milvey into our
Council. She is indispensable to me. If you please, I'll call her.'

So, Mr Milvey called, 'Margaretta, my dear!' and Mrs Milvey came
down. A pretty, bright little woman, something worn by anxiety,
who had repressed many pretty tastes and bright fancies, and
substituted in their stead, schools, soup, flannel, coals, and all the
week-day cares and Sunday coughs of a large population, young
and old. As gallantly had Mr Milvey repressed much in himself
that naturally belonged to his old studies and old fellow-students,
and taken up among the poor and their children with the hard
crumbs of life.

'Mr and Mrs Boffin, my dear, whose good fortune you have heard
of.'

Mrs Milvey, with the most unaffected grace in the world,
congratulated them, and was glad to see them. Yet her engaging
face, being an open as well as a perceptive one, was not without
her husband's latent smile.

'Mrs Boffin wishes to adopt a little boy, my dear.'

Mrs Milvey, looking rather alarmed, her husband added:

'An orphan, my dear.'

'Oh!' said Mrs Milvey, reassured for her own little boys.

'And I was thinking, Margaretta, that perhaps old Mrs Goody's
grandchild might answer the purpose.

'Oh my DEAR Frank! I DON'T think that would do!'

'No?'

'Oh NO!'

The smiling Mrs Boffin, feeling it incumbent on her to take part in
the conversation, and being charmed with the emphatic little wife
and her ready interest, here offered her acknowledgments and
inquired what there was against him?

'I DON'T think,' said Mrs Milvey, glancing at the Reverend Frank'
--and I believe my husband will agree with me when he considers it
again--that you could possibly keep that orphan clean from snuff.
Because his grandmother takes so MANY ounces, and drops it
over him.'

'But he would not be living with his grandmother then,
Margaretta,' said Mr Milvey.

'No, Frank, but it would be impossible to keep her from Mrs
Boffin's house; and the MORE there was to eat and drink there, the
oftener she would go. And she IS an inconvenient woman. I
HOPE it's not uncharitable to remember that last Christmas Eve
she drank eleven cups of tea, and grumbled all the time. And she
is NOT a grateful woman, Frank. You recollect her addressing a
crowd outside this house, about her wrongs, when, one night after
we had gone to bed, she brought back the petticoat of new flannel
that had been given her, because it was too short.'

'That's true,' said Mr Milvey. 'I don't think that would do. Would
little Harrison--'

'Oh, FRANK! ' remonstrated his emphatic wife.

'He has no grandmother, my dear.'

'No, but I DON'T think Mrs Boffin would like an orphan who
squints so MUCH.'

'That's true again,' said Mr Milvey, becoming haggard with
perplexity. 'If a little girl would do--'

'But, my DEAR Frank, Mrs Boffin wants a boy.'

'That's true again,' said Mr Milvey. 'Tom Bocker is a nice boy'
(thoughtfully).

'But I DOUBT, Frank,' Mrs Milvey hinted, after a little hesitation,
'if Mrs Boffin wants an orphan QUITE nineteen, who drives a cart
and waters the roads.'

Mr Milvey referred the point to Mrs Boffin in a look; on that
smiling lady's shaking her black velvet bonnet and bows, he
remarked, in lower spirits, 'that's true again.'

'I am sure,' said Mrs Boffin, concerned at giving so much trouble,
'that if I had known you would have taken so much pains, sir--and
you too, ma' am--I don't think I would have come.'

'PRAY don't say that!' urged Mrs Milvey.

'No, don't say that,' assented Mr Milvey, 'because we are so much
obliged to you for giving us the preference.' Which Mrs Milvey
confirmed; and really the kind, conscientious couple spoke, as if
they kept some profitable orphan warehouse and were personally
patronized. 'But it is a responsible trust,' added Mr Milvey, 'and
difficult to discharge. At the same time, we are naturally very
unwilling to lose the chance you so kindly give us, and if you could
afford us a day or two to look about us,--you know, Margaretta, we
might carefully examine the workhouse, and the Infant School, and
your District.'

'To be SURE!' said the emphatic little wife.

'We have orphans, I know,' pursued Mr Milvey, quite with the air
as if he might have added, 'in stock,' and quite as anxiously as if
there were great competition in the business and he were afraid of
losing an order, 'over at the clay-pits; but they are employed by
relations or friends, and I am afraid it would come at last to a
transaction in the way of barter. And even if you exchanged
blankets for the child--or books and firing--it would be impossible
to prevent their being turned into liquor.'

Accordingly, it was resolved that Mr and Mrs Milvey should
search for an orphan likely to suit, and as free as possible from the
foregoing objections, and should communicate again with Mrs
Boffin. Then, Mr Boffin took the liberty of mentioning to Mr
Milvey that if Mr Milvey would do him the kindness to be
perpetually his banker to the extent of 'a twenty-pound note or so,'
to be expended without any reference to him, he would be heartily
obliged. At this, both Mr Milvey and Mrs Milvey were quite as
much pleased as if they had no wants of their own, but only knew
what poverty was, in the persons of other people; and so the
interview terminated with satisfaction and good opinion on all
sides.

'Now, old lady,' said Mr Boffin, as they resumed their seats behind
the hammer-headed horse and man: 'having made a very agreeable
visit there, we'll try Wilfer's.'

It appeared, on their drawing up at the family gate, that to try
Wilfer's was a thing more easily projected than done, on account of
the extreme difficulty of getting into that establishment; three pulls
at the bell producing no external result; though each was attended
by audible sounds of scampering and rushing within. At the fourth
tug--vindictively administered by the hammer-headed young man--
Miss Lavinia appeared, emerging from the house in an accidental
manner, with a bonnet and parasol, as designing to take a
contemplative walk. The young lady was astonished to find
visitors at the gate, and expressed her feelings in appropriate
action.

'Here's Mr and Mrs Boffin!' growled the hammer-headed young
man through the bars of the gate, and at the same time shaking it,
as if he were on view in a Menagerie; 'they've been here half an
hour.'

'Who did you say?' asked Miss Lavinia.

'Mr and Mrs BOFFIN' returned the young man, rising into a roar.

Miss Lavinia tripped up the steps to the house-door, tripped down
the steps with the key, tripped across the little garden, and opened
the gate. 'Please to walk in,' said Miss Lavinia, haughtily. 'Our
servant is out.'

Mr and Mrs Boffin complying, and pausing in the little hall until
Miss Lavinia came up to show them where to go next, perceived
three pairs of listening legs upon the stairs above. Mrs Wilfer's
legs, Miss Bella's legs, Mr George Sampson's legs.

'Mr and Mrs Boffin, I think?' said Lavinia, in a warning voice.
Strained attention on the part of Mrs Wilfer's legs, of Miss Bella's
legs, of Mr George Sampson's legs.

'Yes, Miss.'

'If you'll step this way--down these stairs--I'll let Ma know.'
Excited flight of Mrs Wilfer's legs, of Miss Bella's legs, of Mr
George Sampson's legs.

After waiting some quarter of an hour alone in the family sitting-
room, which presented traces of having been so hastily arranged
after a meal, that one might have doubted whether it was made tidy
for visitors, or cleared for blindman's buff, Mr and Mrs Boffin
became aware of the entrance of Mrs Wilfer, majestically faint, and
with a condescending stitch in her side: which was her company
manner.

'Pardon me,' said Mrs Wilfer, after the first salutations, and as soon
as she had adjusted the handkerchief under her chin, and waved
her gloved hands, 'to what am I indebted for this honour?'

'To make short of it, ma'am,' returned Mr Boffin, 'perhaps you may
be acquainted with the names of me and Mrs Boffin, as having
come into a certain property.'

'I have heard, sir,' returned Mrs Wilfer, with a dignified bend of
her head, 'of such being the case.'

'And I dare say, ma'am,' pursued Mr Boffin, while Mrs Boffin
added confirmatory nods and smiles, 'you are not very much
inclined to take kindly to us?'

'Pardon me,' said Mrs Wilfer. ''Twere unjust to visit upon Mr and
Mrs Boffin, a calamity which was doubtless a dispensation.' These
words were rendered the more effective by a serenely heroic
expression of suffering.

'That's fairly meant, I am sure,' remarked the honest Mr Boffin;
'Mrs Boffin and me, ma'am, are plain people, and we don't want to
pretend to anything, nor yet to go round and round at anything
because there's always a straight way to everything. Consequently,
we make this call to say, that we shall be glad to have the honour
and pleasure of your daughter's acquaintance, and that we shall be
rejoiced if your daughter will come to consider our house in the
light of her home equally with this. In short, we want to cheer your
daughter, and to give her the opportunity of sharing such pleasures
as we are a going to take ourselves. We want to brisk her up, and
brisk her about, and give her a change.'

'That's it!' said the open-hearted Mrs Boffin. 'Lor! Let's be
comfortable.'

Mrs Wilfer bent her head in a distant manner to her lady visitor,
and with majestic monotony replied to the gentleman:

'Pardon me. I have several daughters. Which of my daughters am
I to understand is thus favoured by the kind intentions of Mr Boffin
and his lady?'

'Don't you see?' the ever-smiling Mrs Boffin put in. 'Naturally,
Miss Bella, you know.'

'Oh-h!' said Mrs Wilfer, with a severely unconvinced look. 'My
daughter Bella is accessible and shall speak for herself.' Then
opening the door a little way, simultaneously with a sound of
scuttling outside it, the good lady made the proclamation, 'Send
Miss Bella to me!' which proclamation, though grandly formal, and
one might almost say heraldic, to hear, was in fact enunciated with
her maternal eyes reproachfully glaring on that young lady in the
flesh--and in so much of it that she was retiring with difficulty into
the small closet under the stairs, apprehensive of the emergence of
Mr and Mrs Boffin.

'The avocations of R. W., my husband,' Mrs Wilfer explained, on
resuming her seat, 'keep him fully engaged in the City at this time
of the day, or he would have had the honour of participating in
your reception beneath our humble roof.'

'Very pleasant premises!' said Mr Boffin, cheerfully.

'Pardon me, sir,' returned Mrs Wilfer, correcting him, 'it is the
abode of conscious though independent Poverty.'

Finding it rather difficult to pursue the conversation down this
road, Mr and Mrs Boffin sat staring at mid-air, and Mrs Wilfer sat
silently giving them to understand that every breath she drew
required to be drawn with a self-denial rarely paralleled in history,
until Miss Bella appeared: whom Mrs Wilfer presented, and to
whom she explained the purpose of the visitors.

'I am much obliged to you, I am sure,' said Miss Bella, coldly
shaking her curls, 'but I doubt if I have the inclination to go out at
all.'

'Bella!' Mrs Wilfer admonished her; 'Bella, you must conquer this.'

'Yes, do what your Ma says, and conquer it, my dear,' urged Mrs
Boffin, 'because we shall be so glad to have you, and because you
are much too pretty to keep yourself shut up.' With that, the
pleasant creature gave her a kiss, and patted her on her dimpled
shoulders; Mrs Wilfer sitting stiffly by, like a functionary presiding
over an interview previous to an execution.

'We are going to move into a nice house,' said Mrs Boffin, who
was woman enough to compromise Mr Boffin on that point, when
he couldn't very well contest it; 'and we are going to set up a nice
carriage, and we'll go everywhere and see everything. And you
mustn't,' seating Bella beside her, and patting her hand, 'you
mustn't feel a dislike to us to begin with, because we couldn't help
it, you know, my dear.'

With the natural tendency of youth to yield to candour and sweet
temper, Miss Bella was so touched by the simplicity of this address
that she frankly returned Mrs Boffin's kiss. Not at all to the
satisfaction of that good woman of the world, her mother, who
sought to hold the advantageous ground of obliging the Boffins
instead of being obliged.

'My youngest daughter, Lavinia,' said Mrs Wilfer, glad to make a
diversion, as that young lady reappeared. 'Mr George Sampson, a
friend of the family.'

The friend of the family was in that stage of tender passion which
bound him to regard everybody else as the foe of the family. He
put the round head of his cane in his mouth, like a stopper, when
he sat down. As if he felt himself full to the throat with affronting
sentiments. And he eyed the Boffins with implacable eyes.

'If you like to bring your sister with you when you come to stay
with us,' said Mrs Boffin, 'of course we shall be glad. The better
you please yourself, Miss Bella, the better you'll please us.'

'Oh, my consent is of no consequence at all, I suppose?' cried Miss
Lavinia.

'Lavvy,' said her sister, in a low voice, 'have the goodness to be
seen and not heard.'

'No, I won't,' replied the sharp Lavinia. 'I'm not a child, to be taken
notice of by strangers.'

'You ARE a child.'

'I'm not a child, and I won't be taken notice of. "Bring your sister,"
indeed!'

'Lavinia!' said Mrs Wilfer. 'Hold! I will not allow you to utter in
my presence the absurd suspicion that any strangers--I care not
what their names--can patronize my child. Do you dare to
suppose, you ridiculous girl, that Mr and Mrs Boffin would enter
these doors upon a patronizing errand; or, if they did, would
remain within them, only for one single instant, while your mother
had the strength yet remaining in her vital frame to request them to
depart? You little know your mother if you presume to think so.'

'It's all very fine,' Lavinia began to grumble, when Mrs Wilfer
repeated:

'Hold! I will not allow this. Do you not know what is due to
guests? Do you not comprehend that in presuming to hint that this
lady and gentleman could have any idea of patronizing any
member of your family--I care not which--you accuse them of an
impertinence little less than insane?'

'Never mind me and Mrs Boffin, ma'am,' said Mr Boffin,
smilingly: 'we don't care.'

'Pardon me, but I do,' returned Mrs Wilfer.

Miss Lavinia laughed a short laugh as she muttered, 'Yes, to be
sure.'

'And I require my audacious child,' proceeded Mrs Wilfer, with a
withering look at her youngest, on whom it had not the slightest
effect, 'to please to be just to her sister Bella; to remember that her
sister Bella is much sought after; and that when her sister Bella
accepts an attention, she considers herself to be conferring qui-i-ite
as much honour,'--this with an indignant shiver,--'as she receives.'

But, here Miss Bella repudiated, and said quietly, 'I can speak for
myself; you know, ma. You needn't bring ME in, please.'

'And it's all very well aiming at others through convenient me,'
said the irrepressible Lavinia, spitefully; 'but I should like to ask
George Sampson what he says to it.'

'Mr Sampson,' proclaimed Mrs Wilfer, seeing that young
gentleman take his stopper out, and so darkly fixing him with her
eyes as that he put it in again: 'Mr Sampson, as a friend of this
family and a frequenter of this house, is, I am persuaded, far too
well-bred to interpose on such an invitation.'

This exaltation of the young gentleman moved the conscientious
Mrs Boffin to repentance for having done him an injustice in her
mind, and consequently to saying that she and Mr Boffin would at
any time be glad to see him; an attention which he handsomely
acknowledged by replying, with his stopper unremoved, 'Much
obliged to you, but I'm always engaged, day and night.'

However, Bella compensating for all drawbacks by responding to
the advances of the Boffins in an engaging way, that easy pair were
on the whole well satisfied, and proposed to the said Bella that as
soon as they should be in a condition to receive her in a manner
suitable to their desires, Mrs Boffin should return with notice of
the fact. This arrangement Mrs Wilfer sanctioned with a stately
inclination of her head and wave of her gloves, as who should say,
'Your demerits shall be overlooked, and you shall be mercifully
gratified, poor people.'

'By-the-bye, ma'am,' said Mr Boffin, turning back as he was
going, 'you have a lodger?'

'A gentleman,' Mrs Wilfer answered, qualifying the low
expression, 'undoubtedly occupies our first floor.'

'I may call him Our Mutual Friend,' said Mr Boffin. 'What sort of
a fellow IS Our Mutual Friend, now? Do you like him?'

'Mr Rokesmith is very punctual, very quiet, a very eligible inmate.'

'Because,' Mr Boffin explained, 'you must know that I'm not
particularly well acquainted with Our Mutual Friend, for I have
only seen him once. You give a good account of him. Is he at
home?'

'Mr Rokesmith is at home,' said Mrs Wilfer; 'indeed,' pointing
through the window, 'there he stands at the garden gate. Waiting
for you, perhaps?'

'Perhaps so,' replied Mr Boffin. 'Saw me come in, maybe.'

Bella had closely attended to this short dialogue. Accompanying
Mrs Boffin to the gate, she as closely watched what followed.

'How are you, sir, how are you?' said Mr Boffin. 'This is Mrs
Boffin. Mr Rokesmith, that I told you of; my dear.'

She gave him good day, and he bestirred himself and helped her to
her seat, and the like, with a ready hand.

'Good-bye for the present, Miss Bella,' said Mrs Boffin, calling out
a hearty parting. 'We shall meet again soon! And then I hope I
shall have my little John Harmon to show you.'

Mr Rokesmith, who was at the wheel adjusting the skirts of her
dress, suddenly looked behind him, and around him, and then
looked up at her, with a face so pale that Mrs Boffin cried:

'Gracious!' And after a moment, 'What's the matter, sir?'

'How can you show her the Dead?' returned Mr Rokesmith.

'It's only an adopted child. One I have told her of. One I'm going
to give the name to!'

'You took me by surprise,' said Mr Rokesmith, 'and it sounded like
an omen, that you should speak of showing the Dead to one so
young and blooming.'

Now, Bella suspected by this time that Mr Rokesmith admired her.
Whether the knowledge (for it was rather that than suspicion)
caused her to incline to him a little more, or a little less, than she
had done at first; whether it rendered her eager to find out more
about him, because she sought to establish reason for her distrust,
or because she sought to free him from it; was as yet dark to her
own heart. But at most times he occupied a great amount of her
attention, and she had set her attention closely on this incident.

That he knew it as well as she, she knew as well as he, when they
were left together standing on the path by the garden gate.

'Those are worthy people, Miss Wilfer.'

'Do you know them well?' asked Bella.

He smiled, reproaching her, and she coloured, reproaching herself
--both, with the knowledge that she had meant to entrap him into an
answer not true--when he said 'I know OF them.'

'Truly, he told us he had seen you but once.'

'Truly, I supposed he did.'

Bella was nervous now, and would have been glad to recall her
question.

'You thought it strange that, feeling much interested in you, I
should start at what sounded like a proposal to bring you into
contact with the murdered man who lies in his grave. I might have
known--of course in a moment should have known--that it could
not have that meaning. But my interest remains.'

Re-entering the family-room in a meditative state, Miss Bella was
received by the irrepressible Lavinia with:

'There, Bella! At last I hope you have got your wishes realized--by
your Boffins. You'll be rich enough now--with your Boffins. You
can have as much flirting as you like--at your Boffins. But you
won't take ME to your Boffins, I can tell you--you and your Boffins
too!'

'If,' quoth Mr George Sampson, moodily pulling his stopper out,
'Miss Bella's Mr Boffin comes any more of his nonsense to ME, I
only wish him to understand, as betwixt man and man, that he
does it at his per--' and was going to say peril; but Miss Lavinia,
having no confidence in his mental powers, and feeling his oration
to have no definite application to any circumstances, jerked his
stopper in again, with a sharpness that made his eyes water.

And now the worthy Mrs Wilfer, having used her youngest
daughter as a lay-figure for the edification of these Boffins, became
bland to her, and proceeded to develop her last instance of force of
character, which was still in reserve. This was, to illuminate the
family with her remarkable powers as a physiognomist; powers
that terrified R. W. when ever let loose, as being always fraught
with gloom and evil which no inferior prescience was aware of.
And this Mrs Wilfer now did, be it observed, in jealousy of these
Boffins, in the very same moments when she was already reflecting
how she would flourish these very same Boffins and the state they
kept, over the heads of her Boffinless friends.

'Of their manners,' said Mrs Wilfer, 'I say nothing. Of their
appearance, I say nothing. Of the disinterestedness of their
intentions towards Bella, I say nothing. But the craft, the secrecy,
the dark deep underhanded plotting, written in Mrs Boffin's
countenance, make me shudder.'

As an incontrovertible proof that those baleful attributes were all
there, Mrs Wilfer shuddered on the spot.

Chapter 10

A MARRIAGE CONTRACT

There is excitement in the Veneering mansion. The mature young
lady is going to be married (powder and all) to the mature young
gentleman, and she is to be married from the Veneering house, and
the Veneerings are to give the breakfast. The Analytical, who
objects as a matter of principle to everything that occurs on the
premises, necessarily objects to the match; but his consent has
been dispensed with, and a spring-van is delivering its load of
greenhouse plants at the door, in order that to-morrow's feast may
be crowned with flowers.

The mature young lady is a lady of property. The mature young
gentleman is a gentleman of property. He invests his property. He
goes, in a condescending amateurish way, into the City, attends
meetings of Directors, and has to do with traffic in Shares. As is
well known to the wise in their generation, traffic in Shares is the
one thing to have to do with in this world. Have no antecedents,
no established character, no cultivation, no ideas, no manners;
have Shares. Have Shares enough to be on Boards of Direction in
capital letters, oscillate on mysterious business between London
and Paris, and be great. Where does he come from? Shares.
Where is he going to? Shares. What are his tastes? Shares. Has
he any principles? Shares. What squeezes him into Parliament?
Shares. Perhaps he never of himself achieved success in anything,
never originated anything, never produced anything? Sufficient
answer to all; Shares. O mighty Shares! To set those blaring
images so high, and to cause us smaller vermin, as under the
influence of henbane or opium, to cry out, night and day, 'Relieve
us of our money, scatter it for us, buy us and sell us, ruin us, only
we beseech ye take rank among the powers of the earth, and fatten
on us'!

While the Loves and Graces have been preparing this torch for
Hymen, which is to be kindled to-morrow, Mr Twemlow has
suffered much in his mind. It would seem that both the mature
young lady and the mature young gentleman must indubitably be
Veneering's oldest friends. Wards of his, perhaps? Yet that can
scarcely be, for they are older than himself. Veneering has been in
their confidence throughout, and has done much to lure them to the
altar. He has mentioned to Twemlow how he said to Mrs
Veneering, 'Anastatia, this must be a match.' He has mentioned to
Twemlow how he regards Sophronia Akershem (the mature young
lady) in the light of a sister, and Alfred Lammle (the mature young
gentleman) in the light of a brother. Twemlow has asked him
whether he went to school as a junior with Alfred? He has
answered, 'Not exactly.' Whether Sophronia was adopted by his
mother? He has answered, 'Not precisely so.' Twemlow's hand
has gone to his forehead with a lost air.

But, two or three weeks ago, Twemlow, sitting over his
newspaper, and over his dry-toast and weak tea, and over the
stable-yard in Duke Street, St James's, received a highly-perfumed
cocked-hat and monogram from Mrs Veneering, entreating her
dearest Mr T., if not particularly engaged that day, to come like a
charining soul and make a fourth at dinner with dear Mr Podsnap,
for the discussion of an interesting family topic; the last three
words doubly underlined and pointed with a note of admiration.
And Twemlow replying, 'Not engaged, and more than delighted,'
goes, and this takes place:

'My dear Twemlow,' says Veneering, 'your ready response to
Anastatia's unceremonious invitation is truly kind, and like an old,
old friend. You know our dear friend Podsnap?'

Twemlow ought to know the dear friend Podsnap who covered him
with so much confusion, and he says he does know him, and
Podsnap reciprocates. Apparently, Podsnap has been so wrought
upon in a short time, as to believe that he has been intimate in the
house many, many, many years. In the friendliest manner he is
making himself quite at home with his back to the fire, executing a
statuette of the Colossus at Rhodes. Twemlow has before noticed
in his feeble way how soon the Veneering guests become infected
with the Veneering fiction. Not, however, that he has the least
notion of its being his own case.

'Our friends, Alfred and Sophronia,' pursues Veneering the veiled
prophet: 'our friends Alfred and Sophronia, you will be glad to
hear, my dear fellows, are going to be married. As my wife and I
make it a family affair the entire direction of which we take upon
ourselves, of course our first step is to communicate the fact to our
family friends.'

('Oh!' thinks Twemlow, with his eyes on Podsnap, 'then there are
only two of us, and he's the other.')

'I did hope,' Veneering goes on, 'to have had Lady Tippins to meet
you; but she is always in request, and is unfortunately engaged.'

('Oh!' thinks Twemlow, with his eyes wandering, 'then there are
three of us, and SHE'S the other.')

'Mortimer Lightwood,' resumes Veneering, 'whom you both know,
is out of town; but he writes, in his whimsical manner, that as we
ask him to be bridegroom's best man when the ceremony takes
place, he will not refuse, though he doesn't see what he has to do
with it.'

('Oh!' thinks Twemlow, with his eyes rolling, 'then there are four of
us, and HE'S the other.')

'Boots and Brewer,' observes Veneering, 'whom you also know, I
have not asked to-day; but I reserve them for the occasion.'

('Then,' thinks Twemlow, with his eyes shut, 'there are si--' But
here collapses and does not completely recover until dinner is over
and the Analytical has been requested to withdraw.)

'We now come,' says Veneering, 'to the point, the real point, of our
little family consultation. Sophronia, having lost both father and
mother, has no one to give her away.'

'Give her away yourself,' says Podsnap.

'My dear Podsnap, no. For three reasons. Firstly, because I
couldn't take so much upon myself when I have respected family
friends to remember. Secondly, because I am not so vain as to
think that I look the part. Thirdly, because Anastatia is a little
superstitious on the subject and feels averse to my giving away
anybody until baby is old enough to be married.'

'What would happen if he did?' Podsnap inquires of Mrs Veneering.

'My dear Mr Podsnap, it's very foolish I know, but I have an
instinctive presentiment that if Hamilton gave away anybody else
first, he would never give away baby.' Thus Mrs Veneering; with
her open hands pressed together, and each of her eight aquiline
fingers looking so very like her one aquiline nose that the bran-new
jewels on them seem necessary for distinction's sake.

'But, my dear Podsnap,' quoth Veneering, 'there IS a tried friend of
our family who, I think and hope you will agree with me, Podsnap,
is the friend on whom this agreeable duty almost naturally
devolves. That friend,' saying the words as if the company were
about a hundred and fifty in number, 'is now among us. That
friend is Twemlow.'

'Certainly!' From Podsnap.

'That friend,' Veneering repeats with greater firmness, 'is our dear
good Twemlow. And I cannot sufficiently express to you, my dear
Podsnap, the pleasure I feel in having this opinion of mine and
Anastatia's so readily confirmed by you, that other equally familiar
and tried friend who stands in the proud position--I mean who
proudly stands in the position--or I ought rather to say, who places
Anastatia and myself in the proud position of himself standing in
the simple position--of baby's godfather.' And, indeed, Veneering
is much relieved in mind to find that Podsnap betrays no jealousy
of Twemlow's elevation.

So, it has come to pass that the spring-van is strewing flowers on
the rosy hours and on the staircase, and that Twemlow is surveying
the ground on which he is to play his distinguished part to-
morrow. He has already been to the church, and taken note of the
various impediments in the aisle, under the auspices of an
extremely dreary widow who opens the pews, and whose left hand
appears to be in a state of acute rheumatism, but is in fact
voluntarily doubled up to act as a money-box.

And now Veneering shoots out of the Study wherein he is
accustomed, when contemplative, to give his mind to the carving
and gilding of the Pilgrims going to Canterbury, in order to show
Twemlow the little flourish he has prepared for the trumpets of
fashion, describing how that on the seventeenth instant, at St
James's Church, the Reverend Blank Blank, assisted by the
Reverend Dash Dash, united in the bonds of matrimony, Alfred
Lammle Esquire, of Sackville Street, Piccadilly, to Sophronia, only
daughter of the late Horatio Akershem, Esquire, of Yorkshire.
Also how the fair bride was married from the house of Hamilton
Veneering, Esquire, of Stucconia, and was given away by Melvin
Twemlow, Esquire, of Duke Street, St James's, second cousin to
Lord Snigsworth, of Snigsworthy Park. While perusing which
composition, Twemlow makes some opaque approach to
perceiving that if the Reverend Blank Blank and the Reverend
Dash Dash fail, after this introduction, to become enrolled in the
list of Veneering's dearest and oldest friends, they will have none
but themselves to thank for it.

After which, appears Sophronia (whom Twemlow has seen twice
in his lifetime), to thank Twemlow for counterfeiting the late
Horatio Akershem Esquire, broadly of Yorkshire. And after her,
appears Alfred (whom Twemlow has seen once in his lifetime), to
do the same and to make a pasty sort of glitter, as if he were
constructed for candle-light only, and had been let out into daylight
by some grand mistake. And after that, comes Mrs Veneering, in a
pervadingly aquiline state of figure, and with transparent little
knobs on her temper, like the little transparent knob on the bridge
of her nose, 'Worn out by worry and excitement,' as she tells her
dear Mr Twemlow, and reluctantly revived with curacoa by the
Analytical. And after that, the bridesmaids begin to come by rail-
road from various parts of the country, and to come like adorable
recruits enlisted by a sergeant not present; for, on arriving at the
Veneering depot, they are in a barrack of strangers.

So, Twemlow goes home to Duke Street, St James's, to take a plate
of mutton broth with a chop in it, and a look at the marriage-
service, in order that he may cut in at the right place to-morrow;
and he is low, and feels it dull over the livery stable-yard, and is
distinctly aware of a dint in his heart, made by the most adorable
of the adorable bridesmaids. For, the poor little harmless
gentleman once had his fancy, like the rest of us, and she didn't
answer (as she often does not), and he thinks the adorable
bridesmaid is like the fancy as she was then (which she is not at
all), and that if the fancy had not married some one else for money,
but had married him for love, he and she would have been happy
(which they wouldn't have been), and that she has a tenderness for
him still (whereas her toughness is a proverb). Brooding over the
fire, with his dried little head in his dried little hands, and his dried
little elbows on his dried little knees, Twemlow is melancholy.
'No Adorable to bear me company here!' thinks he. 'No Adorable
at the club! A waste, a waste, a waste, my Twemlow!' And so
drops asleep, and has galvanic starts all over him.

Betimes next morning, that horrible old Lady Tippins (relict of the
late Sir Thomas Tippins, knighted in mistake for somebody else by
His Majesty King George the Third, who, while performing the
ceremony, was graciously pleased to observe, 'What, what, what?
Who, who, who? Why, why, why?') begins to be dyed and
varnished for the interesting occasion. She has a reputation for
giving smart accounts of things, and she must be at these people's
early, my dear, to lose nothing of the fun. Whereabout in the
bonnet and drapery announced by her name, any fragment of the
real woman may be concealed, is perhaps known to her maid; but
you could easily buy all you see of her, in Bond Street; or you
might scalp her, and peel her, and scrape her, and make two Lady
Tippinses out of her, and yet not penetrate to the genuine article.
She has a large gold eye-glass, has Lady Tippins, to survey the
proceedings with. If she had one in each eye, it might keep that
other drooping lid up, and look more uniform. But perennial youth
is in her artificial flowers, and her list of lovers is full.

'Mortimer, you wretch,' says Lady Tippins, turning the eyeglass
about and about, 'where is your charge, the bridegroom?'

'Give you my honour,' returns Mortimer, 'I don't know, and I don't
care.'

'Miserable! Is that the way you do your duty?'

'Beyond an impression that he is to sit upon my knee and be
seconded at some point of the solemnities, like a principal at a
prizefight, I assure you I have no notion what my duty is,' returns
Mortimer.

Eugene is also in attendance, with a pervading air upon him of
having presupposed the ceremony to be a funeral, and of being
disappointed. The scene is the Vestry-room of St James's Church,
with a number of leathery old registers on shelves, that might be
bound in Lady Tippinses.

But, hark! A carriage at the gate, and Mortimer's man arrives,
looking rather like a spurious Mephistopheles and an
unacknowledged member of that gentleman's family. Whom Lady
Tippins, surveying through her eye-glass, considers a fine man,
and quite a catch; and of whom Mortimer remarks, in the lowest
spirits, as he approaches, 'I believe this is my fellow, confound
him!' More carriages at the gate, and lo the rest of the characters.
Whom Lady Tippins, standing on a cushion, surveying through the
eye-glass, thus checks off. 'Bride; five-and-forty if a day, thirty
shillings a yard, veil fifteen pound, pocket-handkerchief a present.
Bridesmaids; kept down for fear of outshining bride, consequently
not girls, twelve and sixpence a yard, Veneering's flowers, snub-
nosed one rather pretty but too conscious of her stockings, bonnets
three pound ten. Twemlow; blessed release for the dear man if she
really was his daughter, nervous even under the pretence that she
is, well he may be. Mrs Veneering; never saw such velvet, say two
thousand pounds as she stands, absolute jeweller's window, father
must have been a pawnbroker, or how could these people do it?
Attendant unknowns; pokey.'

Ceremony performed, register signed, Lady Tippins escorted out of
sacred edifice by Veneering, carriages rolling back to Stucconia,
servants with favours and flowers, Veneering's house reached,
drawing-rooms most magnificent. Here, the Podsnaps await the
happy party; Mr Podsnap, with his hair-brushes made the most of;
that imperial rocking-horse, Mrs Podsnap, majestically skittish.
Here, too, are Boots and Brewer, and the two other Buffers; each
Buffer with a flower in his button-hole, his hair curled, and his
gloves buttoned on tight, apparently come prepared, if anything
had happened to the bridegroom, to be married instantly. Here,
too, the bride's aunt and next relation; a widowed female of a
Medusa sort, in a stoney cap, glaring petrifaction at her fellow-
creatures. Here, too, the bride's trustee; an oilcake-fed style of
business-gentleman with mooney spectacles, and an object of
much interest. Veneering launching himself upon this trustee as
his oldest friend (which makes seven, Twemlow thought), and
confidentially retiring with him into the conservatory, it is
understood that Veneering is his co-trustee, and that they are
arranging about the fortune. Buffers are even overheard to whisper
Thir-ty Thou-sand Pou-nds! with a smack and a relish suggestive
of the very finest oysters. Pokey unknowns, amazed to find how
intimately they know Veneering, pluck up spirit, fold their arms,
and begin to contradict him before breakfast. What time Mrs
Veneering, carrying baby dressed as a bridesmaid, flits about
among the company, emitting flashes of many-coloured lightning
from diamonds, emeralds, and rubies.

The Analytical, in course of time achieving what he feels to be due
to himself in bringing to a dignified conclusion several quarrels he
has on hand with the pastrycook's men, announces breakfast.
Dining-room no less magnificent than drawing-room; tables
superb; all the camels out, and all laden. Splendid cake, covered
with Cupids, silver, and true-lovers' knots. Splendid bracelet,
produced by Veneering before going down, and clasped upon the
arrn of bride. Yet nobody seems to think much more of the
Veneerings than if they were a tolerable landlord and landlady
doing the thing in the way of business at so much a head. The
bride and bridegroom talk and laugh apart, as has always been
their manner; and the Buffers work their way through the dishes
with systematic perseverance, as has always been THEIR manner;
and the pokey unknowns are exceedingly benevolent to one another
in invitations to take glasses of champagne; but Mrs Podsnap,
arching her mane and rocking her grandest, has a far more
deferential audience than Mrs Veneering; and Podsnap all but does
the honours.

Another dismal circumstance is, that Veneering, having the
captivating Tippins on one side of him and the bride's aunt on the
other, finds it immensely difficult to keep the peace. For, Medusa,
besides unmistakingly glaring petrifaction at the fascinating
Tippins, follows every lively remark made by that dear creature,
with an audible snort: which may be referable to a chronic cold in
the head, but may also be referable to indignation and contempt.
And this snort being regular in its reproduction, at length comes to
be expected by the company, who make embarrassing pauses when
it is falling due, and by waiting for it, render it more emphatic
when it comes. The stoney aunt has likewise an injurious way of
rejecting all dishes whereof Lady Tippins partakes: saying aloud
when they are proffered to her, 'No, no, no, not for me. Take it
away!' As with a set purpose of implying a misgiving that if
nourished upon similar meats, she might come to be like that
charmer, which would be a fatal consummation. Aware of her
enemy, Lady Tippins tries a youthful sally or two, and tries the eye-
glass; but, from the impenetrable cap and snorting armour of the
stoney aunt all weapons rebound powerless.

Another objectionable circumstance is, that the pokey unknowns
support each other in being unimpressible. They persist in not
being frightened by the gold and silver camels, and they are
banded together to defy the elaborately chased ice-pails. They even
seem to unite in some vague utterance of the sentiment that the
landlord and landlady will make a pretty good profit out of this,

Book of the day: