'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.

Charles Dickens
Classic Literature Library
Classic Authors

All Pages of This Book