Our mutual friend, p.8
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       Our Mutual Friend, p.8
 

           Charles Dickens

  Chapter 8

  MR BOFFIN IN CONSULTATION

  Whosoever had gone out of Fleet Street into the Temple at the date ofthis history, and had wandered disconsolate about the Temple until hestumbled on a dismal churchyard, and had looked up at the dismal windowscommanding that churchyard until at the most dismal window of themall he saw a dismal boy, would in him have beheld, at one grandcomprehensive swoop of the eye, the managing clerk, junior clerk,common-law clerk, conveyancing clerk, chancery clerk, every refinementand department of clerk, of Mr Mortimer Lightwood, erewhile called inthe newspapers eminent solicitor.

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

  'Morning, morning, morning!' said Mr Boffin, with a wave of his hand, asthe office door was opened by the dismal boy, whose appropriate name wasBlight. '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 paymy way, my boy.'

  'No doubt, sir. Would you walk in? Mr Lightwood ain't in at the presentmoment, but I expect him back very shortly. Would you take a seat in MrLightwood's room, sir, while I look over our Appointment Book?'Young Blight made a great show of fetching from his desk a long thinmanuscript volume with a brown paper cover, and running his finger downthe day's appointments, murmuring, 'Mr Aggs, Mr Baggs, Mr Caggs, MrDaggs, Mr Faggs, Mr Gaggs, Mr Boffin. Yes, sir; quite right. You are alittle 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 enteringyour name in our Callers' Book for the day.' Young Blight made anothergreat show of changing the volume, taking up a pen, sucking it, dippingit, and running over previous entries before he wrote. As, 'Mr Alley,Mr Balley, Mr Calley, Mr Dalley, Mr Falley, Mr Galley, Mr Halley, MrLalley, 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 topieces without this fiction of an occupation. Wearing in his solitaryconfinement no fetters that he could polish, and being provided with nodrinking-cup that he could carve, he had fallen on the device of ringingalphabetical changes into the two volumes in question, or of enteringvast numbers of persons out of the Directory as transacting businesswith Mr Lightwood. It was the more necessary for his spirits, because,being of a sensitive temperament, he was apt to consider it personallydisgraceful to himself that his master had no clients.

  'How long have you been in the law, now?' asked Mr Boffin, with apounce, 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 itsbitterness 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 bea Judge?' asked Mr Boffin, after surveying his small stature in silence.

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

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

  The boy virtually replied that as he had the honour to be a Briton whonever never never, there was nothing to prevent his going in for it. Yethe seemed inclined to suspect that there might be something to preventhis 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 hima 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 goodas settled.

  Then Mr Boffin, with his stick at his ear, like a Familiar Spiritexplaining the office to him, sat staring at a little bookcase of LawPractice and Law Reports, and at a window, and at an empty blue bag, andat 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 smearsand blots, and at an imperfectly-disguised gun-case pretending to besomething legal, and at an iron box labelled HARMON ESTATE, until MrLightwood appeared.

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

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

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

  'And what is particularly eligible in the property Mr Boffin, is, thatit involves no trouble. There are no estates to manage, no rents toreturn so much per cent upon in bad times (which is an extremely dearway of getting your name into the newspapers), no voters to becomeparboiled in hot water with, no agents to take the cream off themilk before it comes to table. You could put the whole in a cash-boxto-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 someother man, I hope you'll excuse my pressing you into the service of thatgigantic range of geographical bores.'

  Without following this last remark very closely, Mr Boffin cast hisperplexed 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. Iwas 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 imbecilityof a private individual, and not with the profundity of a professionaladviser, I should say that if the circumstance of its being too much,weighs upon your mind, you have the haven of consolation open to youthat you can easily make it less. And if you should be apprehensive ofthe trouble of doing so, there is the further haven of consolation thatany 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 hiseyebrows.

  'I used to find it so,' answered Mr Boffin, with a wistful look. 'WhileI was foreman at the Bower--afore it WAS the Bower--I considered thebusiness very satisfactory. The old man was a awful Tartar (sayingit, I'm sure, without disrespect to his memory) but the business wasa pleasant one to look after, from before daylight to past dark. It'sa'most a pity,' said Mr Boffin, rubbing his ear, 'that he ever went andmade so much money. It would have been better for him if he hadn't sogiven himself up to it. You may depend upon it,' making the discoveryall of a sudden, 'that HE found it a great lot to take care of!'
r />   Mr Lightwood coughed, not convinced.

  'And speaking of satisfactory,' pursued Mr Boffin, 'why, Lord saveus! when we come to take it to pieces, bit by bit, where's thesatisfactoriness of the money as yet? When the old man does right thepoor boy after all, the poor boy gets no good of it. He gets made awaywith, at the moment when he's lifting (as one may say) the cup andsarser to his lips. Mr Lightwood, I will now name to you, that on behalfof the poor dear boy, me and Mrs Boffin have stood out against the oldman times out of number, till he has called us every name he could layhis tongue to. I have seen him, after Mrs Boffin has given him her mindrespecting the claims of the nat'ral affections, catch off Mrs Boffin'sbonnet (she wore, in general, a black straw, perched as a matter ofconvenience on the top of her head), and send it spinning acrossthe yard. I have indeed. And once, when he did this in a manner thatamounted to personal, I should have given him a rattler for himself, ifMrs Boffin hadn't thrown herself betwixt us, and received flush on thetemple. 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 theaffairs are wound up, that me and Mrs Boffin have ever stood as we werein Christian honour bound, the children's friend. Me and Mrs Boffinstood the poor girl's friend; me and Mrs Boffin stood the poor boy'sfriend; me and Mrs Boffin up and faced the old man when we momentlyexpected to be turned out for our pains. As to Mrs Boffin,' said MrBoffin lowering his voice, 'she mightn't wish it mentioned now she'sFashionable, but she went so far as to tell him, in my presence, he wasa flinty-hearted rascal.'

  Mr Lightwood murmured 'Vigorous Saxon spirit--Mrs Boffin'sancestors--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 childof seven year old. For when he came back to make intercession for hissister, me and Mrs Boffin were away overlooking a country contract whichwas to be sifted before carted, and he was come and gone in a singlehour. I say he was a child of seven year old. He was going away, allalone 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 hislittle scanty box outside in the shivering wind, which I was going tocarry for him down to the steamboat, as the old man wouldn't hear ofallowing a sixpence coach-money. Mrs Boffin, then quite a young womanand pictur of a full-blown rose, stands him by her, kneels down at thefire, warms her two open hands, and falls to rubbing his cheeks; butseeing the tears come into the child's eyes, the tears come fast intoher own, and she holds him round the neck, like as if she was protectinghim, and cries to me, "I'd give the wide wide world, I would, to runaway with him!" I don't say but what it cut me, and but what it at thesame time heightened my feelings of admiration for Mrs Boffin. The poorchild clings to her for awhile, as she clings to him, and then, whenthe old man calls, he says "I must go! God bless you!" and for a momentrests his heart against her bosom, and looks up at both of us, as if itwas in pain--in agony. Such a look! I went aboard with him (I gave himfirst what little treat I thought he'd like), and I left him when he hadfallen asleep in his berth, and I came back to Mrs Boffin. But tellher 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 lookedup at us two. But it did one piece of good. Mrs Boffin and me had nochild of our own, and had sometimes wished that how we had one. But notnow. "We might both of us die," says Mrs Boffin, "and other eyes mightsee that lonely look in our child." So of a night, when it was verycold, or when the wind roared, or the rain dripped heavy, she wouldwake sobbing, and call out in a fluster, "Don't you see the poor child'sface? O shelter the poor child!"--till in course of years it gently woreout, as many things do.'

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

  'I won't go so far as to say everything,' returned Mr Boffin, on whomhis manner seemed to grate, 'because there's some things that I neverfound among the dust. Well, sir. So Mrs Boffin and me grow older andolder 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 meseal 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'sdust is contracted for, I come down here in search of a lawyer toadvise, and I see your young man up at this present elevation, choppingat 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 thatmeans come to gain the honour. Then you, and the gentleman in theuncomfortable neck-cloth under the little archway in Saint Paul'sChurchyard--'

  'Doctors' Commons,' observed Lightwood.

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

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

  'It gets into the hands of me and Mrs Boffin only this very day andhour, and that's what I am working round to, having waited for this dayand hour a' purpose. Mr Lightwood, here has been a wicked cruelmurder. By that murder me and Mrs Boffin mysteriously profit. For theapprehension and conviction of the murderer, we offer a reward of onetithe 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 westand to it.'

  'But let me represent to you,' returned Lightwood, 'speaking now withprofessional profundity, and not with individual imbecility, that theoffer of such an immense reward is a temptation to forced suspicion,forced construction of circumstances, strained accusation, a wholetool-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 newnotices 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 meansboth of us, is to be considered in drawing 'em up. But this is the firstinstruction that I, as the owner of the property, give to my lawyer oncoming into it.'

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

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

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

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

  'I mean tight,' Mr Boffin explained.

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

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

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

  'Absolutely?' repeated Mr Boffin, with a short sturdy laugh. 'Hah! Ishould think so! It would be handsome in me to begin to bind Mrs Boffinat 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 EugeneWrayburn almost jostled him in the door-way. Consequently Mr Lightwoodsaid, in his cool manner, '
Let me make you two known to one another,'and further signified that Mr Wrayburn was counsel learned in thelaw, and that, partly in the way of business and partly in the way ofpleasure, he had imparted to Mr Wrayburn some of the interesting factsof 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 likethe law?'

  'A--not particularly,' returned Eugene.

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

  'I beg your pardon,' returned Eugene, with a reluctant smile, 'but willyou excuse my mentioning that I always protest against being referred tothe 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-footedcreature, to being constantly referred to insects and four-footedcreatures. I object to being required to model my proceedings accordingto 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 temperateperson; but he has several stomachs to entertain himself with, and Ihave only one. Besides, I am not fitted up with a convenient cool cellarto 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 thebee? For the whole case is assumed. Conceding for a moment that there isany analogy between a bee, and a man in a shirt and pantaloons (whichI 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 tothat highly fluttered extent about their sovereign, and become perfectlydistracted touching the slightest monarchical movement, are we men tolearn the greatness of Tuft-hunting, or the littleness of theCourt Circular? I am not clear, Mr Boffin, but that the hive may besatirical.'

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

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

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

  But, the worthy Mr Boffin jogged away with a comfortless impression hecould have dispensed with, that there was a deal of unsatisfactorinessin the world, besides what he had recalled as appertaining to the Harmonproperty. And he was still jogging along Fleet Street in this conditionof mind, when he became aware that he was closely tracked and observedby a man of genteel appearance.

  'Now then?' said Mr Boffin, stopping short, with his meditations broughtto 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 madeof 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 MrBoffin's wealth--'

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

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

  'Well,' said Mr Boffin, 'I should say I was a disappintment to you whenI WAS pinted out, if your politeness would allow you to confess it, forI 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 hemade the last answer, but it passed directly.

  'If I don't mistake, you have followed me from my lawyer's and triedto fix my attention. Say out! Have you? Or haven't you?' demanded MrBoffin, 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 calledClifford's Inn--where we can hear one another better than in the roaringstreet?'

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

  'Mr Boffin, I happened to be in Chancery Lane this morning, when I sawyou going along before me. I took the liberty of following you, tryingto 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 yetjewellery,' thought Mr Boffin, 'but there's no knowing.')

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

  'Your information is true of Mrs Boffin, anyhow,' was Mr Boffin'sanswer, as he surveyed his new friend again. There was somethingrepressed in the strange man's manner, and he walked with his eyeson the ground--though conscious, for all that, of Mr Boffin'sobservation--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 ofyou--that you are quite unspoiled by Fortune, and not uplifted--I trustyou will not, as a man of an open nature, suspect that I mean to flatteryou, but will believe that all I mean is to excuse myself, these beingmy 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 yourchanged circumstances. You will probably keep a larger house, have manymatters to arrange, and be beset by numbers of correspondents. If youwould 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 youwould try me as your man of business under any name, I know you wouldfind me faithful and grateful, and I hope you would find me useful. Youmay naturally think that my immediate object is money. Not so, forI would willingly serve you a year--two years--any term you mightappoint--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 landsbeing limited in extent and somewhat confused in quality, he shaped hisnext 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 astudent and a traveller.'

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

  'I have mentioned,' returned the other, with another look at him, anda smile, 'what I aspire to do. I have been superseded as to some slightintentions 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 themore embarrassed because his manner and appearance claimed a delicacyin which the worthy Mr Boffin feared he himself might be deficient, thatgentleman glanced into the mouldy little plantation or cat-preserve, ofClifford's Inn, as it was that day, in search of a suggestion. Sparrowswere there, cats were there, dry-rot and wet-rot were there, but it wasnot otherwise a suggestive spot.

  'All this time,' said the stranger, producing a little pocket-book andtaking 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 themorning, and for days before; therefore he said:

  'That's singular, too!' unconsciously staring again, past all bounds ofgood manners, with the card in his hand. 'Though, by-the-bye, I supposeit 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 communicationwith them.'

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

  'Say nothing,' returned Mr Rokesmith; 'allow me to call on you in a fewdays. I am not so unconscionable as to think it likely that you wouldaccept 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 oncondition that it's fully understood that I no more know that I shallever be in want of any gentleman as Secretary--it WAS Secretary yousaid; wasn't it?'

  'Yes.'

  Again Mr Boffin's eyes opened wide, and he stared at the applicant fromhead 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 nomore know that I may ever want a Secretary, or what not, than I do thatI shall ever be in want of the man in the moon. Me and Mrs Boffin havenot even settled that we shall make any change in our way of life. MrsBoffin's inclinations certainly do tend towards Fashion; but, beingalready set up in a fashionable way at the Bower, she may not makefurther alterations. However, sir, as you don't press yourself, I wishto meet you so far as saying, by all means call at the Bower if youlike. Call in the course of a week or two. At the same time, I considerthat I ought to name, in addition to what I have already named, that Ihave in my employment a literary man--WITH a wooden leg--as I have nothoughts 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 mightarise?'

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

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

  'And now, sir, I'll wish you good-day. You can call at the Bower anytime in a week or two. It's not above a mile or so from you, and yourlandlord can direct you to it. But as he may not know it by its newname 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 soundimperfectly, 'Harmarn's. How do you spell it?'

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

 
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