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.