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Charles Dickens > Our Mutual Friend > Book 1 - 15

Our Mutual Friend

Book 1 - 15


Mr and Mrs Boffin sat after breakfast, in the Bower, a prey to
prosperity. Mr Boffin's face denoted Care and Complication.
Many disordered papers were before him, and he looked at them
about as hopefully as an innocent civilian might look at a crowd of
troops whom he was required at five minutes' notice to manoeuvre
and review. He had been engaged in some attempts to make notes
of these papers; but being troubled (as men of his stamp often are)
with an exceedingly distrustful and corrective thumb, that busy
member had so often interposed to smear his notes, that they were
little more legible than the various impressions of itself; which
blurred his nose and forehead. It is curious to consider, in such a
case as Mr Boffin's, what a cheap article ink is, and how far it may
be made to go. As a grain of musk will scent a drawer for many
years, and still lose nothing appreciable of its original weight, so a
halfpenny-worth of ink would blot Mr Boffin to the roots of his
hair and the calves of his legs, without inscribing a line on the
paper before him, or appearing to diminish in the inkstand.

Mr Boffin was in such severe literary difficulties that his eyes were
prominent and fixed, and his breathing was stertorous, when, to
the great relief of Mrs Boffin, who observed these symptoms with
alarm, the yard bell rang.

'Who's that, I wonder!' said Mrs Boffin.

Mr Boffin drew a long breath, laid down his pen, looked at his
notes as doubting whether he had the pleasure of their
acquaintance, and appeared, on a second perusal of their
countenances, to be confirmed in his impression that he had not,
when there was announced by the hammer-headed young man:

'Mr Rokesmith.'

'Oh!' said Mr Boffin. 'Oh indeed! Our and the Wilfers' Mutual
Friend, my dear. Yes. Ask him to come in.'

Mr Rokesmith appeared.

'Sit down, sir,' said Mr Boffin, shaking hands with him. 'Mrs
Boffin you're already acquainted with. Well, sir, I am rather
unprepared to see you, for, to tell you the truth, I've been so busy
with one thing and another, that I've not had time to turn your offer

'That's apology for both of us: for Mr Boffin, and for me as well,'
said the smiling Mrs Boffin. 'But Lor! we can talk it over now;
can't us?'

Mr Rokesmith bowed, thanked her, and said he hoped so.

'Let me see then,' resumed Mr Boffin, with his hand to his chin. 'It
was Secretary that you named; wasn't it?'

'I said Secretary,' assented Mr Rokesmith.

'It rather puzzled me at the time,' said Mr Boffin, 'and it rather
puzzled me and Mrs Boffin when we spoke of it afterwards,
because (not to make a mystery of our belief) we have always
believed a Secretary to be a piece of furniture, mostly of mahogany,
lined with green baize or leather, with a lot of little drawers in it.
Now, you won't think I take a liberty when I mention that you
certainly ain't THAT.'

Certainly not, said Mr Rokesmith. But he had used the word in
the sense of Steward.

'Why, as to Steward, you see,' returned Mr Boffin, with his hand
still to his chin, 'the odds are that Mrs Boffin and me may never go
upon the water. Being both bad sailors, we should want a Steward
if we did; but there's generally one provided.'

Mr Rokesmith again explained; defining the duties he sought to
undertake, as those of general superintendent, or manager, or
overlooker, or man of business.

'Now, for instance--come!' said Mr Boffin, in his pouncing way. 'If
you entered my employment, what would you do?'

'I would keep exact accounts of all the expenditure you sanctioned,
Mr Boffin. I would write your letters, under your direction. I
would transact your business with people in your pay or
employment. I would,' with a glance and a half-smile at the table,
'arrange your papers--'

Mr Boffin rubbed his inky ear, and looked at his wife.

'--And so arrange them as to have them always in order for
immediate reference, with a note of the contents of each outside it.'

'I tell you what,' said Mr Boffin, slowly crumpling his own blotted
note in his hand; 'if you'll turn to at these present papers, and see
what you can make of 'em, I shall know better what I can make of

No sooner said than done. Relinquishing his hat and gloves, Mr
Rokesmith sat down quietly at the table, arranged the open papers
into an orderly heap, cast his eyes over each in succession, folded
it, docketed it on the outside, laid it in a second heap, and, when
that second heap was complete and the first gone, took from his
pocket a piece of string and tied it together with a remarkably
dexterous hand at a running curve and a loop.

'Good!' said Mr Boffin. 'Very good! Now let us hear what they're
all about; will you be so good?'

John Rokesmith read his abstracts aloud. They were all about the
new house. Decorator's estimate, so much. Furniture estimate, so
much. Estimate for furniture of offices, so much. Coach-maker's
estimate, so much. Horse-dealer's estimate, so much. Harness-
maker's estimate, so much. Goldsmith's estimate, so much.
Total, so very much. Then came correspondence. Acceptance of
Mr Boffin's offer of such a date, and to such an effect. Rejection of
Mr Boffin's proposal of such a date and to such an effect.
Concerning Mr Boffin's scheme of such another date to such
another effect. All compact and methodical.

'Apple-pie order!' said Mr Boffin, after checking off each
inscription with his hand, like a man beating time. 'And whatever
you do with your ink, I can't think, for you're as clean as a whistle
after it. Now, as to a letter. Let's,' said Mr Boffin, rubbing his
hands in his pleasantly childish admiration, 'let's try a letter next.'

'To whom shall it be addressed, Mr Boffin?'

'Anyone. Yourself.'

Mr Rokesmith quickly wrote, and then read aloud:

'"Mr Boffin presents his compliments to Mr John Rokesmith, and
begs to say that he has decided on giving Mr John Rokesmith a
trial in the capacity he desires to fill. Mr Boffin takes Mr John
Rokesmith at his word, in postponing to some indefinite period,
the consideration of salary. It is quite understood that Mr Boffin is
in no way committed on that point. Mr Boffin has merely to add,
that he relies on Mr John Rokesmith's assurance that he will be
faithful and serviceable. Mr John Rokesmith will please enter on
his duties immediately."'

'Well! Now, Noddy!' cried Mrs Boffin, clapping her hands, 'That
IS a good one!'

Mr Boffin was no less delighted; indeed, in his own bosom, he
regarded both the composition itself and the device that had given
birth to it, as a very remarkable monument of human ingenuity.

'And I tell you, my deary,' said Mrs Boffin, 'that if you don't close
with Mr Rokesmith now at once, and if you ever go a muddling
yourself again with things never meant nor made for you, you'll
have an apoplexy--besides iron-moulding your linen--and you'll
break my heart.'

Mr Boffin embraced his spouse for these words of wisdom, and
then, congratulating John Rokesmith on the brilliancy of his
achievements, gave him his hand in pledge of their new relations.
So did Mrs Boffin.

'Now,' said Mr Boffin, who, in his frankness, felt that it did not
become him to have a gentleman in his employment five minutes,
without reposing some confidence in him, 'you must be let a little
more into our affairs, Rokesmith. I mentioned to you, when I
made your acquaintance, or I might better say when you made
mine, that Mrs Boffin's inclinations was setting in the way of
Fashion, but that I didn't know how fashionable we might or might
not grow. Well! Mrs Boffin has carried the day, and we're going
in neck and crop for Fashion.'

'I rather inferred that, sir,' replied John Rokesmith, 'from the scale
on which your new establishment is to be maintained.'

'Yes,' said Mr Boffin, 'it's to be a Spanker. The fact is, my literary
man named to me that a house with which he is, as I may say,
connected--in which he has an interest--'

'As property?' inquired John Rokesmith.

'Why no,' said Mr Boffin, 'not exactly that; a sort of a family tie.'

'Association?' the Secretary suggested.

'Ah!' said Mr Boffin. 'Perhaps. Anyhow, he named to me that the
house had a board up, "This Eminently Aristocratic Mansion to be
let or sold." Me and Mrs Boffin went to look at it, and finding it
beyond a doubt Eminently Aristocratic (though a trifle high and
dull, which after all may be part of the same thing) took it. My
literary man was so friendly as to drop into a charming piece of
poetry on that occasion, in which he complimented Mrs Boffin on
coming into possession of--how did it go, my dear?'

Mrs Boffin replied:

     '"The gay, the gay and festive scene,
     The halls, the halls of dazzling light."'

'That's it! And it was made neater by there really being two halls
in the house, a front 'un and a back 'un, besides the servants'. He
likewise dropped into a very pretty piece of poetry to be sure,
respecting the extent to which he would be willing to put himself
out of the way to bring Mrs Boffin round, in case she should ever
get low in her spirits in the house. Mrs Boffin has a wonderful
memory. Will you repeat it, my dear?'

Mrs Boffin complied, by reciting the verses in which this obliging
offer had been made, exactly as she had received them.

     '"I'll tell thee how the maiden wept, Mrs Boffin,
     When her true love was slain ma'am,
     And how her broken spirit slept, Mrs Boffin,
     And never woke again ma'am.
     I'll tell thee (if agreeable to Mr Boffin) how the steed drew
     And left his lord afar;
     And if my tale (which I hope Mr Boffin might excuse) should
        make you sigh,
     I'll strike the light guitar."'

'Correct to the letter!' said Mr Boffin. 'And I consider that the
poetry brings us both in, in a beautiful manner.'

The effect of the poem on the Secretary being evidently to astonish
him, Mr Boffin was confirmed in his high opinion of it, and was
greatly pleased.

'Now, you see, Rokesmith,' he went on, 'a literary man--WITH a
wooden leg--is liable to jealousy. I shall therefore cast about for
comfortable ways and means of not calling up Wegg's jealousy,
but of keeping you in your department, and keeping him in his.'

'Lor!' cried Mrs Boffin. 'What I say is, the world's wide enough for
all of us!'

'So it is, my dear,' said Mr Boffin, 'when not literary. But when so,
not so. And I am bound to bear in mind that I took Wegg on, at a
time when I had no thought of being fashionable or of leaving the
Bower. To let him feel himself anyways slighted now, would be to
be guilty of a meanness, and to act like having one's head turned
by the halls of dazzling light. Which Lord forbid! Rokesmith,
what shall we say about your living in the house?'

'In this house?'

'No, no. I have got other plans for this house. In the new house?'

'That will be as you please, Mr Boffin. I hold myself quite at your
disposal. You know where I live at present.'

'Well!' said Mr Boffin, after considering the point; 'suppose you
keep as you are for the present, and we'll decide by-and-by. You'll
begin to take charge at once, of all that's going on in the new
house, will you?'

'Most willingly. I will begin this very day. Will you give me the

Mr Boffin repeated it, and the Secretary wrote it down in his
pocket-book. Mrs Boffin took the opportunity of his being so
engaged, to get a better observation of his face than she had yet
taken. It impressed her in his favour, for she nodded aside to Mr
Boffin, 'I like him.'

'I will see directly that everything is in train, Mr Boffin.'

'Thank'ee. Being here, would you care at all to look round the

'I should greatly like it. I have heard so much of its story.'

'Come!' said Mr Boffin. And he and Mrs Boffin led the way.

A gloomy house the Bower, with sordid signs on it of having been,
through its long existence as Harmony Jail, in miserly holding.
Bare of paint, bare of paper on the walls, bare of furniture, bare of
experience of human life. Whatever is built by man for man's
occupation, must, like natural creations, fulfil the intention of its
existence, or soon perish. This old house had wasted--more from
desuetude than it would have wasted from use, twenty years for

A certain leanness falls upon houses not sufficiently imbued with
life (as if they were nourished upon it), which was very noticeable
here. The staircase, balustrades, and rails, had a spare look--an air
of being denuded to the bone--which the panels of the walls and
the jambs of the doors and windows also bore. The scanty
moveables partook of it; save for the cleanliness of the place, the
dust--into which they were all resolving would have lain thick on
the floors; and those, both in colour and in grain, were worn like
old faces that had kept much alone.

The bedroom where the clutching old man had lost his grip on life,
was left as he had left it. There was the old grisly four-post
bedstead, without hangings, and with a jail-like upper rim of iron
and spikes; and there was the old patch-work counterpane. There
was the tight-clenched old bureau, receding atop like a bad and
secret forehead; there was the cumbersome old table with twisted
legs, at the bed-side; and there was the box upon it, in which the
will had lain. A few old chairs with patch-work covers, under
which the more precious stuff to be preserved had slowly lost its
quality of colour without imparting pleasure to any eye, stood
against the wall. A hard family likeness was on all these things.

'The room was kept like this, Rokesmith,' said Mr Boffin, 'against
the son's return. In short, everything in the house was kept exactly
as it came to us, for him to see and approve. Even now, nothing is
changed but our own room below-stairs that you have just left.
When the son came home for the last time in his life, and for the
last time in his life saw his father, it was most likely in this room
that they met.'

As the Secretary looked all round it, his eyes rested on a side door
in a corner.

'Another staircase,' said Mr Boffin, unlocking the door, 'leading
down into the yard. We'll go down this way, as you may like to
see the yard, and it's all in the road. When the son was a little
child, it was up and down these stairs that he mostly came and
went to his father. He was very timid of his father. I've seen him
sit on these stairs, in his shy way, poor child, many a time. Mr and
Mrs Boffin have comforted him, sitting with his little book on
these stairs, often.'

'Ah! And his poor sister too,' said Mrs Boffin. 'And here's the
sunny place on the white wall where they one day measured one
another. Their own little hands wrote up their names here, only
with a pencil; but the names are here still, and the poor dears gone
for ever.'

'We must take care of the names, old lady,' said Mr Boffin. 'We
must take care of the names. They shan't be rubbed out in our
time, nor yet, if we can help it, in the time after us. Poor little

'Ah, poor little children!' said Mrs Boffin.

They had opened the door at the bottom of the staircase giving on
the yard, and they stood in the sunlight, looking at the scrawl of the
two unsteady childish hands two or three steps up the staircase.
There was something in this simple memento of a blighted
childhood, and in the tenderness of Mrs Boffin, that touched the

Mr Boffin then showed his new man of business the Mounds, and
his own particular Mound which had been left him as his legacy
under the will before he acquired the whole estate.

'It would have been enough for us,' said Mr Boffin, 'in case it had
pleased God to spare the last of those two young lives and
sorrowful deaths. We didn't want the rest.'

At the treasures of the yard, and at the outside of the house, and at
the detached building which Mr Boffin pointed out as the residence
of himself and his wife during the many years of their service, the
Secretary looked with interest. It was not until Mr Boffin had
shown him every wonder of the Bower twice over, that he
remembered his having duties to discharge elsewhere.

'You have no instructions to give me, Mr Boffin, in reference to
this place?'

'Not any, Rokesmith. No.'

'Might I ask, without seeming impertinent, whether you have any
intention of selling it?'

'Certainly not. In remembrance of our old master, our old master's
children, and our old service, me and Mrs Boffin mean to keep it
up as it stands.'

The Secretary's eyes glanced with so much meaning in them at the
Mounds, that Mr Boffin said, as if in answer to a remark:

'Ay, ay, that's another thing. I may sell THEM, though I should be
sorry to see the neighbourhood deprived of 'em too. It'll look but a
poor dead flat without the Mounds. Still I don't say that I'm going
to keep 'em always there, for the sake of the beauty of the
landscape. There's no hurry about it; that's all I say at present. I
ain't a scholar in much, Rokesmith, but I'm a pretty fair scholar in
dust. I can price the Mounds to a fraction, and I know how they
can be best disposed of; and likewise that they take no harm by
standing where they do. You'll look in to-morrow, will you be so

'Every day. And the sooner I can get you into your new house,
complete, the better you will be pleased, sir?'

'Well, it ain't that I'm in a mortal hurry,' said Mr Boffin; 'only
when you DO pay people for looking alive, it's as well to know
that they ARE looking alive. Ain't that your opinion?'

'Quite!' replied the Secretary; and so withdrew.

'Now,' said Mr Boffin to himself; subsiding into his regular series
of turns in the yard, 'if I can make it comfortable with Wegg, my
affairs will be going smooth.'

The man of low cunning had, of course, acquired a mastery over
the man of high simplicity. The mean man had, of course, got the
better of the generous man. How long such conquests last, is
another matter; that they are achieved, is every-day experience, not
even to be flourished away by Podsnappery itself. The
undesigning Boffin had become so far immeshed by the wily Wegg
that his mind misgave him he was a very designing man indeed in
purposing to do more for Wegg. It seemed to him (so skilful was
Wegg) that he was plotting darkly, when he was contriving to do
the very thing that Wegg was plotting to get him to do. And thus,
while he was mentally turning the kindest of kind faces on Wegg
this morning, he was not absolutely sure but that he might
somehow deserve the charge of turning his back on him.

For these reasons Mr Boffin passed but anxious hours until
evening came, and with it Mr Wegg, stumping leisurely to the
Roman Empire. At about this period Mr Boffin had become
profoundly interested in the fortunes of a great military leader
known to him as Bully Sawyers, but perhaps better known to fame
and easier of identification by the classical student, under the less
Britannic name of Belisarius. Even this general's career paled in
interest for Mr Boffin before the clearing of his conscience with
Wegg; and hence, when that literary gentleman had according to
custom eaten and drunk until he was all a-glow, and when he took
up his book with the usual chirping introduction, 'And now, Mr
Boffin, sir, we'll decline and we'll fall!' Mr Boffin stopped him.

'You remember, Wegg, when I first told you that I wanted to make
a sort of offer to you?'

'Let me get on my considering cap, sir,' replied that gentleman,
turning the open book face downward. 'When you first told me
that you wanted to make a sort of offer to me? Now let me think.'
(as if there were the least necessity) 'Yes, to be sure I do, Mr
Boffin. It was at my corner. To be sure it was! You had first
asked me whether I liked your name, and Candour had compelled
a reply in the negative case. I little thought then, sir, how familiar
that name would come to be!'

'I hope it will be more familiar still, Wegg.'

'Do you, Mr Boffin? Much obliged to you, I'm sure. Is it your
pleasure, sir, that we decline and we fall?' with a feint of taking up
the book.

'Not just yet awhile, Wegg. In fact, I have got another offer to
make you.'

Mr Wegg (who had had nothing else in his mind for several
nights) took off his spectacles with an air of bland surprise.

'And I hope you'll like it, Wegg.'

'Thank you, sir,' returned that reticent individual. 'I hope it may
prove so. On all accounts, I am sure.' (This, as a philanthropic

'What do you think,' said Mr Boffin, 'of not keeping a stall,

'I think, sir,' replied Wegg, 'that I should like to be shown the
gentleman prepared to make it worth my while!'

'Here he is,' said Mr Boffin.

Mr Wegg was going to say, My Benefactor, and had said My
Bene, when a grandiloquent change came over him.

'No, Mr Boffin, not you sir. Anybody but you. Do not fear, Mr
Boffin, that I shall contaminate the premises which your gold has
bought, with MY lowly pursuits. I am aware, sir, that it would not
become me to carry on my little traffic under the windows of your
mansion. I have already thought of that, and taken my measures.
No need to be bought out, sir. Would Stepney Fields be
considered intrusive? If not remote enough, I can go remoter. In
the words of the poet's song, which I do not quite remember:

     Thrown on the wide world, doom'd to wander and roam,
     Bereft of my parents, bereft of a home,
     A stranger to something and what's his name joy,
     Behold little Edmund the poor Peasant boy.

--And equally,' said Mr Wegg, repairing the want of direct
application in the last line, 'behold myself on a similar footing!'

'Now, Wegg, Wegg, Wegg,' remonstrated the excellent Boffin.
'You are too sensitive.'

'I know I am, sir,' returned Wegg, with obstinate magnanimity. 'I
am acquainted with my faults. I always was, from a child, too

'But listen,' pursued the Golden Dustman; 'hear me out, Wegg.
You have taken it into your head that I mean to pension you off.'

'True, sir,' returned Wegg, still with an obstinate magnanimity. 'I
am acquainted with my faults. Far be it from me to deny them. I
HAVE taken it into my head.'

'But I DON'T mean it.'

The assurance seemed hardly as comforting to Mr Wegg, as Mr
Boffin intended it to be. Indeed, an appreciable elongation of his
visage might have been observed as he replied:

'Don't you, indeed, sir?'

'No,' pursued Mr Boffin; 'because that would express, as I
understand it, that you were not going to do anything to deserve
your money. But you are; you are.'

'That, sir,' replied Mr Wegg, cheering up bravely, 'is quite another
pair of shoes. Now, my independence as a man is again elevated.
Now, I no longer

     Weep for the hour,
     When to Boffinses bower,
     The Lord of the valley with offers came;
     Neither does the moon hide her light
     From the heavens to-night,
     And weep behind her clouds o'er any individual in the present
     Company's shame.

--Please to proceed, Mr Boffin.'

'Thank'ee, Wegg, both for your confidence in me and for your
frequent dropping into poetry; both of which is friendly. Well,
then; my idea is, that you should give up your stall, and that I
should put you into the Bower here, to keep it for us. It's a
pleasant spot; and a man with coals and candles and a pound a
week might be in clover here.'

'Hem! Would that man, sir--we will say that man, for the purposes
of argueyment;' Mr Wegg made a smiling demonstration of great
perspicuity here; 'would that man, sir, be expected to throw any
other capacity in, or would any other capacity be considered extra?
Now let us (for the purposes of argueyment) suppose that man to
be engaged as a reader: say (for the purposes of argunyment) in the
evening. Would that man's pay as a reader in the evening, be
added to the other amount, which, adopting your language, we will
call clover; or would it merge into that amount, or clover?'

'Well,' said Mr Boffin, 'I suppose it would be added.'

'I suppose it would, sir. You are right, sir. Exactly my own views,
Mr Boffin.' Here Wegg rose, and balancing himself on his wooden
leg, fluttered over his prey with extended hand. 'Mr Boffin,
consider it done. Say no more, sir, not a word more. My stall and
I are for ever parted. The collection of ballads will in future be
reserved for private study, with the object of making poetry
tributary'--Wegg was so proud of having found this word, that he
said it again, with a capital letter--'Tributary, to friendship. Mr
Boffin, don't allow yourself to be made uncomfortable by the pang
it gives me to part from my stock and stall. Similar emotion was
undergone by my own father when promoted for his merits from
his occupation as a waterman to a situation under Government.
His Christian name was Thomas. His words at the time (I was
then an infant, but so deep was their impression on me, that I
committed them to memory) were:

     Then farewell my trim-built wherry,
     Oars and coat and badge farewell!
     Never more at Chelsea Ferry,
     Shall your Thomas take a spell!

--My father got over it, Mr Boffin, and so shall I.'

While delivering these valedictory observations, Wegg continually
disappointed Mr Boffin of his hand by flourishing it in the air. He
now darted it at his patron, who took it, and felt his mind relieved
of a great weight: observing that as they had arranged their joint
affairs so satisfactorily, he would now he glad to look into those
of Bully Sawyers. Which, indeed, had been left over-night in a
very unpromising posture, and for whose impending expedition
against the Persians the weather had been by no means favourable
all day.

Mr Wegg resumed his spectacles therefore. But Sawyers was not
to be of the party that night; for, before Wegg had found his place,
Mrs Boffin's tread was heard upon the stairs, so unusually heavy
and hurried, that Mr Boffin would have started up at the sound,
anticipating some occurrence much out of the common course,
even though she had not also called to him in an agitated tone.

Mr Boffin hurried out, and found her on the dark staircase,
panting, with a lighted candle in her hand.

'What's the matter, my dear?'

'I don't know; I don't know; but I wish you'd come up-stairs.'

Much surprised, Mr Boffin went up stairs and accompanied Mrs
Boffin into their own room: a second large room on the same floor
as the room in which the late proprietor had died. Mr Boffin
looked all round him, and saw nothing more unusual than various
articles of folded linen on a large chest, which Mrs Boffin had been

'What is it, my dear? Why, you're frightened! YOU frightened?'

'I am not one of that sort certainly,' said Mrs Boffin, as she sat
down in a chair to recover herself, and took her husband's arm; 'but
it's very strange!'

'What is, my dear?'

'Noddy, the faces of the old man and the two children are all over
the house to-night.'

'My dear?' exclaimed Mr Boffin. But not without a certain
uncomfortable sensation gliding down his back.

'I know it must sound foolish, and yet it is so.'

'Where did you think you saw them?'

'I don't know that I think I saw them anywhere. I felt them.'

'Touched them?'

'No. Felt them in the air. I was sorting those things on the chest,
and not thinking of the old man or the children, but singing to
myself, when all in a moment I felt there was a face growing out of
the dark.'

'What face?' asked her husband, looking about him.

'For a moment it was the old man's, and then it got younger. For a
moment it was both the children's, and then it got older. For a
moment it was a strange face, and then it was all the faces.'

'And then it was gone?'

'Yes; and then it was gone.'

'Where were you then, old lady?'

'Here, at the chest. Well; I got the better of it, and went on sorting,
and went on singing to myself. "Lor!" I says, "I'll think of
something else--something comfortable--and put it out of my
head." So I thought of the new house and Miss Bella Wilfer, and
was thinking at a great rate with that sheet there in my hand, when
all of a sudden, the faces seemed to be hidden in among the folds
of it and I let it drop.'

As it still lay on the floor where it had fallen, Mr Boffin picked it
up and laid it on the chest.

'And then you ran down stairs?'

'No. I thought I'd try another room, and shake it off. I says to
myself, "I'll go and walk slowly up and down the old man's room
three times, from end to end, and then I shall have conquered it." I
went in with the candle in my hand; but the moment I came near
the bed, the air got thick with them.'

'With the faces?'

'Yes, and I even felt that they were in the dark behind the side-
door, and on the little staircase, floating away into the yard. Then,
I called you.'

Mr Boffin, lost in amazement, looked at Mrs Boffin. Mrs Boffin,
lost in her own fluttered inability to make this out, looked at Mr

'I think, my dear,' said the Golden Dustman, 'I'll at once get rid of
Wegg for the night, because he's coming to inhabit the Bower, and
it might be put into his head or somebody else's, if he heard this
and it got about that the house is haunted. Whereas we know
better. Don't we?'

'I never had the feeling in the house before,' said Mrs Boffin; 'and I
have been about it alone at all hours of the night. I have been in
the house when Death was in it, and I have been in the house when
Murder was a new part of its adventures, and I never had a fright
in it yet.'

'And won't again, my dear,' said Mr Boffin. 'Depend upon it, it
comes of thinking and dwelling on that dark spot.'

'Yes; but why didn't it come before?' asked Mrs Boffin.

This draft on Mr Boffin's philosophy could only be met by that
gentleman with the remark that everything that is at all, must begin
at some time. Then, tucking his wife's arm under his own, that she
might not be left by herself to be troubled again, he descended to
release Wegg. Who, being something drowsy after his plentiful
repast, and constitutionally of a shirking temperament, was well
enough pleased to stump away, without doing what he had come to
do, and was paid for doing.

Mr Boffin then put on his hat, and Mrs Boffin her shawl; and the
pair, further provided with a bunch of keys and a lighted lantern,
went all over the dismal house--dismal everywhere, but in their
own two rooms--from cellar to cock-loft. Not resting satisfied with
giving that much chace to Mrs Boffin's fancies, they pursued them
into the yard and outbuildings, and under the Mounds. And
setting the lantern, when all was done, at the foot of one of the
Mounds, they comfortably trotted to and fro for an evening walk, to
the end that the murky cobwebs in Mrs Boffin's brain might be
blown away.

There, my dear!' said Mr Boffin when they came in to supper.
'That was the treatment, you see. Completely worked round,
haven't you?'

'Yes, deary,' said Mrs Boffin, laying aside her shawl. 'I'm not
nervous any more. I'm not a bit troubled now. I'd go anywhere
about the house the same as ever. But--'

'Eh!' said Mr Boffin.

'But I've only to shut my eyes.'

'And what then?'

'Why then,' said Mrs Boffin, speaking with her eyes closed, and
her left hand thoughtfully touching her brow, 'then, there they are!
The old man's face, and it gets younger. The two children's faces,
and they get older. A face that I don't know. And then all the

Opening her eyes again, and seeing her husband's face across the
table, she leaned forward to give it a pat on the cheek, and sat
down to supper, declaring it to be the best face in the world.

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