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.

Charles Dickens
Classic Literature Library
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